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Gold theft chronicle (BCHP 15)

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Coin of Antiochus V Eupator.
Antiochus V Eupator
The Chronicle Concering the Theft of Gold from the Day One Temple, or Gold Theft Chronicle (BCHP 15), is one of the historiographical texts from ancient Babylonia. The tablet can be dated to SE 150/151 (=162/1 BCE) ands belongs therefore to the brief reign of the Seleucid king Antiochus V Eupator (164-162). For a very brief introduction to the literary genre of chronicles, go here.

The cuneiform tablet (BM 32510 = 76-11-17,2251) is in the British Museum. On this website, a new 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 version of what will be the chronicle's very first edition. This web publication is therefore intended to invite suggestions for better readings, comments and interpretations (go here to contact Van der Spek).

Babylonian Chronicles
Text and translation




General commentary

The chronicle is to be dated to Antiochus IV or later, but probably to Antiochus V. An Antiochus is mentioned in Rev. 11. The mentioning of politai makes Antiochus IV the first candidate and the content of the tablet reminds us of the temple robbery mentioned in the Astronomical Diary II, 476/7, No. -168 A 12'-20' relating events of the month Arahsamna (VIII) of SE 143 = 15 November-13 December 169 BCE. In that diary the appointment of a zazakku (financial official, prostates) is reported, which seems to be a new function. In our chronicle the zazakku is in function, so that this chronicle postdates this diary.

This diary also concerns temple robbery but our chronicle obviously refers another incident. Theft of temple property is recorded fairly regularly (cf. Joannès 2000). The fact that the chronicle mentions a "governor of the king" (šakin ša šarri), points to the reign of Antiochus V. That office is only recorded during his reign and may regard the guardian of the minor king, appointed by Antiochus IV on his deathbed, Philip or Lysias (1 Maccabees, 6.14-15; 2 Maccabees, 9.29).

Since it is likely that the death of an Antiochus is mentioned, the death of Antiochus V will be at issue. If so, the chronicle should be dated to a month between 1 VIII 150 and 22 VI 151 SE = 29 October 162-9 September 161 BCE (cf. Van der Spek 1997/98: 167-8). The death of Antiochus V was violent. His reign had been contested from the start by Demetrius I Soter, son of Seleucus IV, who was kept in Rome as hostage. He escaped, landed in Tripolis, acquired a lot of support and Antiochus, who just had conquered Antioch from Philippus, was handed over to Demetrius and upon his orders executed (1 Maccabees, 7:1ff; 2 Maccabees 14:1ff; Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 12.389; Livy, Periochae, 46; Eusebius, Chron. 1 253).


4, 10.
É UD.1.KAM, "Day-one-temple", or "First-Day-temple", is likely to be an alternative name of the New Year Temple (Bît Akiti), though there are some doubts. The name only occurs in late texts. The first attestation is AD II, p. 202, no. -204 C rev. 17. This astronomical diary reports that king Antiochus III the Great on 8 Nisannu (I) of year SE 107 (7 March 205 BCE) left the royal palace of Babylon, made offerings to Marduk in Esagila and subsequently entered the "Day-One-Temple". From this passage it is fairly clear that this temple must be the New-Year's Festival temple. The 8th of Nisan is a day of importance for the king in the New Year ritual (cf. above Seleucus III Chronicle, BCHP 12 = ABC 13b : 3' with commentary).

Nevertheless, some doubts are in order. In one text the Day-One-Temple is mentioned alongside the Akitu-temple in an administrative document from the Rahimesu Archive (93 BCE), AB 244: 8 and 14 (McEwan 1981b: 133 (copy), 132 (transcription), 134 (translation) = Van der Spek 1998a, p. 234, no. 23). Otherwise the Akitu-temple is not mentioned anymore. In view of the above mentioned diary concerning Antiochus III it is likely, however, that both names refer to the same building.

Note, that the traditional translation of É UD.1.KAM, "Day-One-Temple", is not unequivocal either. UD.1.KAM is also the ideographical rendering of  ûmakkal, "during one whole day" (AHw III, 1412: "ein Tag, einen Tag lang," Borger, ABZ, p. 153, no. 381, and Borger MZ (2003), nr. 596) p. 380 and 382, "ganztägig, alltäglich".  UD-1-KAM may also be the rendering of ûmu, "day" (Borger, ibidem and  BiOr 30, 182a). Hence, a translation "All-Day-Temple" should also be considered.

Secondly, the phrase "Day-One-Temple" might also refer to the first day of each month, hence be a "New Moon Temple". However it may be, services were not only held on 1 Nisannu or the first day of another month, but during the entire year, as is clear from the Rahimesu document mentioned above, where money is spent for offerings in the Day-One-Temple from 15 Addaru (XII) to 15 Intercalary Addaru (XII2) 218 SE.

In view of the uncertainties it is advisable to translate É UD.1.KAM as "Day-One-Temple", rather than as Akitu temple or New Year Temple.

For the translation of TA as "by", see comment at the Ptolemy III chronicle (BCHP 11: obv. 11', rev. 8', 10', 14'.) and Demetrius and Arabia fragment rev.1'). 

KUR = kašâdu = "to reach, to arrive; to conquer; to capture (an enemy), to arrest (a criminal)"; kuššudu, "to chase away; to pursue; to approach; to make prisoner" (CAD K 271). The difficulty of this line is that a man seems to be arrested (@a-bit), who was caught (KUR) a half year before. Perhaps the meaning is that since a half year he was on the run from the governor and was now captured.

zazakku: see above, General Commentary

EN pi-qit za-zak-ku, "the trustee of the zazakku". EN pi-qit is a construct case in which case the meaning is "representative, trustee", "Beauftragter" (cf. AHw I: 120) of someone else (i.c. the zazakku). The title also occurs in plural and as an overseer or clerk of certain profession groups, as in BRM I 88. See Boiy 2004: 211, who translates "clerk" and Bongenaar 1997: 151, n. 170. The bêl piqittu Eanna in Uruk, however, was an important royal overseer of the temple entrusted with the leasing of temple land. See e.g. YBT VI 40 and 41 (Cocquerillat 1968: 108-9; 39 sqq.; cf. Van der Spek 1987: 72) A bêl piqitti Esagila with the same kind of function is attested as well: CT 56, 463, cf. Bongenaar 1997: 62).

EN pi-qit may also be an error for EN pi-qit-ti (as the final vowel probably was not pronounced), so that we can translate: "the trustee (supervisor), the zazakku, etc." It seems to be a list of high functionaries, in which a "clerk" is not fitting.

The scribe wrote "12", but the context requires "22".

šá ina IGI-ma ina lìb-bi-šú-nu LÁ, "with which it had been weighed in the past". For the use of ša ... ina libbišunu, “with whichpl”, with an instrumental meaning: see the astronomical text AO 6478 (Thureau-Dangin, RA 10, 1913, 215-225; translation: Schaumberger ZA 50, 1952, 214-229) (suggestion M. Ossendrijver).

, “when, as soon as, after” (cf. CAD K p. 316). In Middle and Late Babylonian texts the conjunction , “when”, used as introduction to temporal subordinate clauses, is not constructed at the beginning of the sentence, but immediately before the verb. Cf. W. Von Soden, Grundriss der akkadischen Grammatik. Analecta Orientalia 33. (Rome 1969), p. 276, § 172 e. (suggestion M. Ossendrijver).


gišI.LU = gišKUN4 = simmiltu = ladder, rack (Borger, 2003 [MZ], p. 203, no. 252). The rack of interrogation is also mentioned in a diary referring to similar (or the same?) events: AD II, p. 476, no. -168A rev. 18'. See also the commentary on the Chronicle of the Diadochi (BCHP 3) 30=11' with other references.

MÁ.MEŠ. The signs look like RI.MEŠ, but this conveys no meaning. In astronomical diary AD III, no. -132A r. 19-20  the scribe wrote the sign MÁ = (eleppu, "ship") in a way that it can hardly be distinguished from RI. Cf. Labat 1963  no. 122 () and no. 86 (ri).

Map of Babylon in the age of Alexander the Great. Design Jona Lendering. Babylon

The exact meaning of the phrase escapes us. It may refer to repair of ships in harbour upstream of Babylon just outside the palace, which was situated on the river on the north wall of Babylon (see map).

ig-da-áš-ru-ú: perf, of kašâru A, "to repair (ruined or damaged walls, buildings, etc.)" or kašâru C, "to replace" (CAD K 284-5)?

The phrase "I heard" suggests that something happened to Antiochus far away from Babylon. Antiochus V was murdered in Antioch by Demetrius I. See general commentary.

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