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Greek Community Chronicle (BCHP 14)

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BCHP 14: The Greek Community Chronicle. Photo Bert van der Spek.
BCHP 14: The Greek Community Chronicle (British Museum).**
The Babylonian Chronicle concerning the Greek Community in Babylon ("Greek Community Chronicle"; BCHP 14) is one of the historiographical texts from ancient Babylonia. It is important because it mentions how the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes settled Greeks in Babylon.

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




The month name can equally be read DU6 (VII = Tašrîtu) or ŠU (IV = Du'uzu). Since, however, in Astronomical diaries III, p. 27, No. -162 Rev. 11-12, it is stated that the politai went out from Babylon in month V, they cannot have returned a month before, as is reported in this chronicle (l. 12). Hence, the reading Tašrîtu must be considered practically certain.

Ia-’-man-na-a-a-ni, "Greeks", written over an erasure.

"who anoint with oil" = aleiphómenoi (from aleiphô, to anoint with oil) = youths undergoing gymnastic training (LSJ sv. aleiphô; suggestion professor Onno van Nijf, Groningen). Membership of a gymnasium was a mark of citizenship in the Greek world.

šá-kin (šá LUGAL), "the appointee [prefect; governor; stadholder] (of the king)". It is not quite clear what this title represents. He was not the satrap, since that title is rendered in Akkadian as GAL.UKKIN = muma’’ir. Del Monte argues that he was the governor of the royal slaves (arad šarrâni) in Babylonia.

Del Monte (1997, 38-9, 76-7, 86-7, 96-7) discerns three population groups in Babylon each with their own administrative institutions.

  1. The Babylonian citizens (DUMU.MEŠ E.KI, mârê Bâbili) under the šatammu and kiništu of the temple.
  2. The Greek citizens (politai, puli&ê or puli&ânu), under the authority of the “governor of Babylon” (pâhât E.KI = in my view the equivalent of the Greek term epistatês).
  3. The royal slaves (ÌR.MEŠ LUGAL, arad šarrâni) led by "the prefect of the king" (šaknu ša šarri). 
The distinction is neatly made in an astronomical diary relating a census held in 145 BC (king Demetrius II): "That month, at the com[mand of A]r-daya (=Arridaeus?), the general (= stratêgos) of Babylonia, they made a counting [... o]f the Babylonians (E.KI.MEŠ), the slaves of the king (ÌR.MEŠ LUGAL) [and of the] politai, who were in Babylon and Seleucia” (AD III, p. 97, No. -144 [Obv. Month VII 167 SE = 22 Sept. - 20 Oct. 145 BCE]).

As a matter of fact even more population groups may be discerned.

  1. "The people of the land" (UN.MEŠ KUR, nišê mâti) probably refers to the indigenous population living in the countryside, in Greek texts referred to as laoi; a parallel may be seen in the much discussed Hebrew term ‘am hâ-’ âre@.
  2. The temple slaves (širkê).
I find Del Monte’s ideas fruitful, though I suggest a few adaptations. The "prefect of the king" is apparently somehow related to the "people of the land", as may be derived from line 7 and from AD III, p. 27, No. -162 Rev. 15. Hence he may have been the governor of the people living in the villages outside the jurisdiction of the cities, the laoi and the laoi basilikoi. On the other hand, since this function is only mentioned in the first years of Antiochus V Eupator, he may also have been Philip, the regent of Antiochus V. Antiochus IV Epiphanes died in month IX 148 SE = December 164 BCE and was succeeded by his minor son Antiochus V. Antiochus IV appointed on his deathbed a certain Philip regent, although earlier Antiochus V was entrusted to Lysias (1 Maccabees, 6:14 en 55; Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 12.360-1). Lysias, however, defeated Philip swiftly in ca. 162 (1 Maccabees, 6:63; 2 Maccabees, 9:29; Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 12.379, 386, 389). Another option is Timarchus, who was satrap of Babylonia according to Appian (Syriaca, 47) or "Generalstatthalter des Ostens" in the interpretation of Bengtson (1944: 86-88).

ERÍN.MEŠ: restoration based on AD III, p. 26, no. –162 rev. 11.

l[ú]/bu??-le? \-e, "boulê". The reconstruction is hazardous, though the traces conform to it. The word boulê, however, is attested nowhere else in the cuneiform corpus, so that far reaching conclusions regarding this passage must await confirmation of other texts.

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