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The Seleucid Accessions Chronicle (BCHP 10)

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Coin of the Seleucid king Seleucus II Callinicus.
Seleucus II Callinicus
The Chronicle concerning the reign of Antiochus II, the accession of Seleucus II and the accession of Seleucus III (the "Seleucid Accessions Chronicle"; BCHP 10 or ABC 13) is one of the historiographical texts from ancient Babylonia. For a very brief introduction to the literary genre of chronicles, go here.

The cuneiform tablet (BM 32171 = 76-11-17, 1898) is in the British Museum. On this website, a first reading is proposed by Bert van der Spek of the Free University of Amsterdam (Netherlands) and Irving Finkel of the British Museum. Please notice that this is a preliminary edition.

This web publication is intended to invite suggestions for better readings, comments and interpretations (go here to contact Van der Spek).

Babylonian Chronicles
Text and translation
General commentary


Coin of the Seleucid king Seleucus III Keraunos or Soter.
Seleucus III Keraunos

General commentary

The year numbers of this chronicle are lost. Yet there are some clues for dates. The clearest statements are lines 7' and 8'of the reverse. Here we read about a king, son of an Antiochus, followed by a Seleucus, son of a Seleucus, who ascended the throne. For the king of line 7' we have the following options: Since line 8' mentions a Seleucus, son of Seleucus, one is compelled to regard the king of line 7' as Seleucus II. It also seems very clear that the death of Seleucus II is reported and the subsequent mourning (about his death) in Babylonia in this very line. Line 8' then reports the succession to the throne of his son Seleucus III Keraunos in the same year. It must all have happened before the month Tebêtu (month X). As the Babylonian King List of the Hellenistic Period assigns year 87 as the first full year of Seleucus III, the death of Seleucus II and ascension to the throne of Seleucus III must have occurred in SE 86 before month X = before 14 January 225 BCE (cf. Oelsner 1986: 273 n. i).

Now we can turn to the previous section (lines 5'-6'). This entry concerns a Seleucus, not (yet) king, son of PN, who ascends the throne. The event must be placed before SE 86. Since no co-ruler is attested for the reign of Seleucus II [note], the Seleucus who obtained the throne can be no other than Seleucus II.

The first document dated to Seleucus II is a tablet from Uruk (BRM II 17) dated to 22 Simanu (III) SE 67 = 11 July 245. According to the colophon of the Astronomical Diary concerning month I-VI of SE 66, Seleucus succeeded immediately to his father Antiochus II in month V (AD II, p. 69, No. -245 B Lower edge: "Regular observations from  Nisanu (I) to Ulûlu (VI), Antiochus king; from Abu (V) to Ulûlu (VI), Seleucus, his son, king.")

The Babylonian king list attributes year SE 67 as the first full year of Seleucus II, which means that Seleucus II ascended the throne the year before. All this suggests that lines rev. 5'-6' must refer to SE 66 (246/5 BCE). The main problem with this conclusion is that the eventful year of SE 66 only contained this dry information, a year which was the start of the Laodicean war (246-241) and the invasion of Egyptian troops into Babylon, which is reported in the following chronicle, the Invasion of Ptolemy III chronicle; BCHP 11.

Since the reverse of the tablet does not treat consecutive years (viz. years 66 and 86 SE), it is not necessary to assume that the events of rev. 1'-4' refer to SE 65. It may well treat events of years earlier. The same is true for the obverse. Since, however, Seleucus, the epistates of Seleucia, is mentioned in obv. 5', whom we know to have been in office during the Ptolemaic invasion in Babylonia in 246 (Invasion of Ptolemy III chronicle; BCHP 11, r. 9'), we should not place the events too early. Hence, events of the reign of Antiochus II will be at issue. In that case the "Antiochus, son of [PN]" of line obv. 9' will be Antiochus Hierax or Antiochus, son of Antiochus II and Berenice Phernephorus (see below). The chronicle deals in the preserved section with local affairs (the epistates of Seleucia, Babylon and its temple Esagila, the Lamassu-rabi Gate). This makes it difficult to find clues about dates. 


The traces are difficult to read. Grayson’s maš is not confirmed by collation, since more horizontal wedges cross the vertical one; šú seems certain. GAZ ("to kill, to defeat") is a possiblity, but tum (so Grayson), and lugal ("king") are possible as well.

The completion of the traces is unproven, but chosen on the basis of the Invasion of Ptolemy III chronicle (BCHP 11) obv. 7’.

I have no suggestion for a completion. The city of Antioch in question will be Antioch on the Orontes.

Seleucus, the epistates of Seleucia, is also mentioned in the Ptolemy III Chronicle (BCHP 11), rev. 9'. The peculiar feature of the name of the city is that it is called: "Seleucia, the royal city, which is on the Euphratessic and the King's Canal" (Invasion of Ptolemy III chronicle; BCHP 11: obv. 3', 7'-8', 13'-14'; rev. 11', 12'). As is well known, Seleucia, the capital city, the city of kingship, was situated on the confluence of the Tigris and the King's Canal (Nar Malchas). One could surmise that the city of Zeugma, also called Seleucia, on the upper Euphrates was meant, but I do not believe this. Zeugma was certainly not a "city of kingship", it was not situated on the "King's Canal" and the context suggests a city close-by, i.e. Seleucia on the Tigris, 60 km away from Babylon. A third option would be that there really was a big city on the connection of the Euphrates and the King's Canal (the King's canal connected the Euphrates with the Tigris), but such a city is unknown and if such a city really would have existed, it would have been detected archaeologically and have been mentioned more often in the sources, cuneiform as well as classical. 

As a matter of fact, a city of Seleucia on the Euphrates (not called "city of kingship") is mentioned a few times in the Astronomical Diaries from the Parthian period. 

  • AD III, p. 317, No. –119 D Upper edge 2-3: (Diary concerning Month I +?, 192 SE = 20 April – 19 May120 BC and later): "[...Se]leucia which is on the Euphrates [....A]rsaces, the king."
  • AD III, p. 389, No. –105 A Rev. 3'-4': (Diary concerning Month IV, 206 SE = 14 July – 11 August 106 BC): "That Month, the placing of gypsum on E[sagila took place. The satrap of Akkad(?) from Seleucia?, which is in the Eu]phrates entered Babylon. That day, the shatammu of Es[sagila and the Babylonians provided cattle and sheep for offerings]."
  • AD III, p. 391, No. –105 A Rev. 21'-23': (Diary concerning Month V, 206 SE = 12 Aug. – 9 Sep. 106 BC): "That month, the placing of gypsum on Esagila [took place] as before. That month, [the satrap of Akkad] went out from Babylon to Seleucia which is on the Tigris!. That month, I heard that the Arabs [....] set out to the surroundings of Seleucia which is on the Euphrates!. Other Arabs went [....].”
  • AD III, p. 429, No. –93 A Rev’11-13: (Diary concerning Month IV, 218 SE = 1-30 July 94 BC): "[....] went out to the province of Media. That month, there were many sick and dead in the land. That month, [Babylonians?] began to dig the second canal, which is above Seleucia on the Euphrates on the mountain side (i-na i-di-i šá-di-i) [....], and he went there."
  • AD III, p. 431, No. –93 A Rev’ 23-26: (Diary concerning Month V, 218 SE = 31 July – 29 Aug. 94 BC): "[That month], I heard that Arsaces, king of kings, set out <to> the province of Media, as before. That month, pregnant women [(some ominous event). Babylonians?] dug the canal which is above Seleucia on the Euphrates, as before. A heavy work obligation (ilku) [was imposed. Parchment letters which were] written to the shatammu of Esagila and the Babylonians, were read in the House of Deliberation which is in the Juniper Garden. [ ...] the Babylonians whose names were written in this leather document, who ...., they made known to him."
What we learn from these passages is, that a Seleucia on the Euphrates and the King's Canal must have existed, that it was distinguished from Seleucia on the Tigris, that it was liable to attacks from Arabs, that it had a "mountainous side" and that there was "a second canal" upstream. Since the King's Canal branched off from the Euphrates near Sippar, one could imagine that Seleucia on the Euphrates was nothing more than a refounding of Sippar. The "second" canal then refers to the fact that more canals in the region connected the Euphrates and the Tigris. Another possibility is that it was an alternative name of Neapolis (which in turn might be a refoundation of Sippar) on the Euphrates and the King's Canal, leading to Seleucia on the Tigris, mentioned by Isidorus of Charax:
Next Neapolis on the Euphrates, 22 schoinoi [= 231 km, from Besechana polis, in which is a sanctuary of Atargatis?]. From there going down the Euphrates and the Narmalchas [= King's Canal?] to Seleucia on the Tigris 9 schoinoi (94.5 km).
[FGrH 781 F 2.1;
Tscherikower 1927, p. 92 #20]
This Menes or Eumenes (Minisu)  is otherwise unknown. Since the name is connected by the enclitic -ma to the previous sentence, Menes will have been someone of local importance, e.g. a citizen of Seleucia or Babylon. The following phrases also all have to do with Babylonia. 

...]x.MEŠ-šú. MEŠ is the plural determinative for nouns as well as for verbs. šú means "his" or "him". So the interpretation is either something like "they [(verb)] him" or "his [(noun)](pl)" .

Here is the crucial sentence of the obverse, which may give a clue to the date. The Antiochus mentioned in this text is not called king. That is a meaningful observation. On the reverse Seleucus II is only called king at the moment he was king (viz. when he died (rev. 7')), while he lacked the title in line 5' when he still had to ascend the throne. The same is true of Seleucus II in rev. 8'. If the use of the word LUGAL in this document is coherent, the Antiochus of obv. 8' was not a king, but a royal prince. If so, the royal prince Antiochus Hierax is a good candidate. As we learn from the Astronomical Diaries, Seleucus (II) and Antiochus were in Babylonia in the later years of Antiochus' II reign because of the latter's grant of a Babylonian estate to his ex-wife Laodice and their sons (see below). The event may have been a matter of local importance as well. Perhaps it was stated that Antiochus executed the Menes of line 7'. The deed seems to have caused distress in Esagila. 

Quite another option would be that mention is made of the murder of Antiochus, the son of  Antiochus II and Berenice Phernephorus. The death of the king would then have been mentioned in line 2' or even earlier. 

The death of Antiochus II, son of Antiochus I, was reported in month Abu (V) of year 66 SE. If the GAZ of line 2' refers to the death of Antiochus II, or if we should not press the argument about the missing of the royal title in line 8' too far, and assume that the king himself had died, then it was reported in Babylonia that the king was murdered and that he had not died a natural death. Since this would also mean that this section must have dealt with SE 66, like the section after the dividing line, it seems better to reject this option.

J.-J. Glassner, CM No. 34, interprets the sign KU at the beginning of line 9 not as TUKUL = kakku, "weapon", often used in combination with the verb GAZ = dâku, "to kill, to defeat" (with a weapon, or with weapons), but as the syllabic sign ku and takes it as the end of the personal name Si-lu]-ku, and translates: "Antiochos, fils d’[Antiochos (Ier?), le roi], mit [Séleu]cos (?) à mort". He thinks that the paragraph concerns year 45 SE and reports the assassination of crown prince Seleucus in 266/5 BC. The section on the reverse between the dividing lines (lines 5'-6') would then refer to year 66 SE, the ascension of Seleucus II to the throne, with which we agree. The third section, rev. 7'-10', would then refer to SE 67 (?).

Antiochus II was born in 286 BCE as son of Antiochus I Soter and Stratonice I (according to Eusebius Chronica I 251 he died in 246 at the age of 40 years). He was married to Laodice, either the daughter of Antiochus I and an earlier wife (Polyaenus 8.50), thus his half-sister, or the daughter of Achaeus, the brother of his father, thus his cousin (Eus. Chron. I 251 = Porphyrius, FGrH 260 F 32,6). At the death of his father Antiochus I in 261 BC in the "Second Syrian War" (260-253) with Egypt he tried to gain southern Syria, Palestine and Phoenicia from Ptolemy II Philadelphus using all the military forces of Babylonia and the Orient (Hieronymus, In Dan. XI. 6), but to no avail. In September 254 Stratonice died at Sardes (AD I p. 32-3, No. -253 A110, B16') and though it is uncertain whether it has anything to do with it, soon after her death a complete renversement took place. Antiochus made peace with Egypt, he repudiated his wife Laodice and married Berenice, the daughter of Ptolemy II. About the same time (as a kind of Widergutmachung) the Seleucid king sold a tract of land to Laodice in NW Asia Minor and gave another piece of land in Babylonia to Laodice and her sons Seleucus and Antiochus (Cf. Van der Spek 1993: 71-73). The political situation for Laodice and her sons was not promising. They had to expect that the succession would go in the line of Berenice and her son Antiochus, who was a pais nêpios at the death of his father (Polyaenus 8.50). 

Laodice and her children tried to get a firm basis in Babylonia. Not only did they convey Antiochus’ land grant to the Babylonians, Borsippaeans and Cuthaeans, but they also seem to have been present repeatedly in Babylonia and Seleucus may have been in Babylon when his father died (see the Astronomical Diaries, below).

Shortly before his death, Antiochus again effected a complete reversal of his policy. Probably at the instigation of his ex-wife Laodice (who continued to be called "wife" in the Babylonian sources), he now repudiated Berenice and her son. Soon afterwards he died at Ephesus. Classical sources disagree about the question if he was poisoned by his wife Laodice, so that he could not change his mind again (Phylarchus, FGrH 81 F 24; Appian, Syriaca, 65; Pliny, NH, 7. 53; Val. Max. 9. 14 Ext. 1 FGrH 260 F 43), or that he simply died (Eusebius, Chronica, I 251; Polyaenus 8.50). The Babylonian King List of the Hellenistic Period (BM 35603, see below) reports that the news of Antiochus' death reached Babylon in August 246 BCE, in month Abu (=V) of year 66 SE. The diary is even more specific: the news reached Babylon on the 20th of Abu = 19 August. His actual death will have taken place at least three weeks earlier, so it may have occurred in SE 66, month IV.



The sign SAR renders habâtu, “to plunder,” as well as ša&âru, "to write".

The Lamassu-rabi Gate is the southern gate of Esagila (George 1992, 391f).

Grayson read URU Se-lu-ku-a-a, "The Seleucian", but that is certainly wrong.

URU Sa?]-at-ta-a-gu, must be a city (URU SIG, "renowned city"). One would expect Ephesos, which is clearly impossible. A city in the neighbourhood of Babylonia comes to mind: Sittakê, the capital of Sittacene. According to K. Kessler (2002) this was a city of military colonists from Sattagydia and was called  URU Sattagû, "city of the Sattagydians" in Akkadian. Sattagydia is called KUR Sa-at-ta-gu-ú in the Behistun Inscription of Darius I (DB I 6,6; II 21,41; III 46,81; 48,84).  The fact that Seleucus and his brother Antiochus and his sister Apame were in Babylon prior to the death of their father Antiochus, makes it well possible that Seleucus was in Sittacene (perhaps he had to flee), and ascended the throne there. 

See General commentary.


BRM II 26, a sale of immovables from Uruk, is dated to 1 Ulûlu (VI) 86 SE, Siluku LUGAL = 18 September 226 BC; this king is probably still Seleucus II. The colophon of the Astronomical Diary II, p. 133, No. -226 A lower edge, concerning months I-III of SE 85, also has only Seleucus II; a document containing a division of a house from Uruk (A 3695 = Weisberg 1991, no. 46), dated to 10 Šabatu (XI) SE 85 = 4 January 226 BC, contains only Siluku LUGAL in the date formula (line 37).
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