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The Seleucid Accessions Chronicle (BCHP 10)
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
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).
Text and translation
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
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.
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.
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).7’
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.
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,
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
The sign SAR renders habâtu, “to plunder,” as well as ša&âru, "to write".