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Antiochus, Bactria, and India (BCHP 7)

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Coin of the Seleucid king Antiochus III the Great. British Museum, London (Britain). Photo Marco Prins.
Antiochus III the Great
(British Museum, London)
The Babylonian Chronicle concerning Antiochus, Bactria, and India ("Antiochus and India chronicle"; BCHP 7 or ABC 13A) is one of the historiographical texts from ancient Babylonia. It is important because it mentions a Seleucid crown prince, probably the future king Antiochus I Soter, ordering repairs in Babylon and preparing for war.

The cuneiform tablets (BM 32310 [76-11-17, 2039] + 32398 [S† 76-11-17,2131] + 32384) are  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 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





The tablet has lost too many pieces, so that every reconstruction must remain provisional. 

The date of the tablet is difficult to recover, but there are some clues. A king Seleucus is mentioned, and a certain Antiochus. That makes the time of Antiochus, the Crown Prince, a suitable option. In addition, the crude hand writing of the scribe is very similar to the other tablets dating to Antiochus, the Crown Prince. Finally, the word "Greek" is written E-man-/na-a-a\ (rev. 5’), an idiosyncratic spelling, which also occurs in other documents of this period. Hence, it is likely that this tablet dates to the period.

Though details are not clear, the document seems to record repair work on the Esagila, which was indeed a concern of Antiochus I (cf. Antiochus and Sin chronicle [BCHP 5] and Ruin of Esagila chronicle [BCHP 6]). The fact that Seleucus is in Syria and that Bactria and India are mentioned as well, make it sure that the tablet postdates Seleucus' return from India ca. 302 BCE. We know that Antiochus took part in the Battle of Ipsus in 301. The chronicle may relate these events, but it is not at all certain. Another option would be the battle of Corupedium (281 BCE), but Antiochus was not present there. He ruled the Eastern satrapies on behalf of his father.

Finally, the First Syrian War comes to mind (ca. 274 BCE). In that period Antiochus was king, and the Astronomical diaries report that Antiochus went from Sardes to Ebir Nari in order to fight against the troops of Egypt. On 24 Addaru 38 SE (26 March 273) "the satrap of Babylonia brought out much silver, cloth, goods, and utensils from Babylon and Seleucia, the royal city, and twenty elephants, which the satrap of Bactria had sent to the king, to Ebir Nari, to (ana muhhi) the king" (AD I, p. 345, No. –273B ‘Rev. 30’- 32’).

If we have to date our chronicle in this period, we must assume that ...]Si LUGAL in obv.13’ is not Seleucus, so that the si must be the end of some Akkadian word, or the end of a name. Royal names ending in si, relevant for this period, are difficult to find. In the Diadochi Chronicle Pi-líp-i-si (obv. 26=7’) and Pi-il-i-si (obv. 33=14’) are preserved for Philippos (Philip III Arridaeus). 

Antiochus and Seleucus are never spelled with -si. If a Ptolemy was intended, we should expect "king of Egypt", rather than "king". In no Akkadian text the name Ptolemy is completely preserved. The fact remains that the chronicle's script is similar to the other documents that belong to the period of Antiochus as crown prince. 


The interpretation of this line is difficult. The first sign can be LÚ (lit. "man", as determinative used for occupations and ethnic identities) or the second part of LUGAL. kap-du is difficult to read, and ana a-ma-ru is uncertain as well. The signs ma and ba are hardly distinguishable in the late script.

ina ku-šá-[ar-ti ...  is only one of the options. kušartu means "repair" (CAD K 598). Note that the cuneiform script also allows the reading ina TUKUL šá [... , "by the weapon of [..."

A store house for valuables was located in the Juniper garden. See commentary Juniper garden chronicle (BCHP 8).

ana @i-bu-tu šá šarri: see CAD @, p. 170b, "at the request of the king".

Reading very doubtful. gišpi is clearly visible, but the rest not. The only word of a wooden object (GIŠ) starting with pi is pitnu, “cabinet, cupboard” (AHw II, p. 869 s.v. pitnu(m), “Kasten, Truhe; Saiteninstrument.”

Si: Abbreviation of Si-lu-(uk-)ku. Royal names are more often abbreviated in chronicles and diaries. It does not seem to be the end of a personal name, e.g. Antiochus. Antiochus is never written with si at the end. The normal spelling is with -su; occasionally -su is omitted.

e-bir ÍD = ebir nâri = "the other side of the river, Transpotamia, Transeuphratene". It is the name of the satrapy west of the Euphrates and comprises Syria and Palestine. Aramaic ‘Abar Nahara. Antioch on the Orontes was located in this satrapy. If taken literally, the phrase may refer to Asia Minor as well.

Elephants from Bactria and India. Seleucus I had obtained 500 elephants from Sandrocottus (Chandragupta Maurya), king of Magadha, in about 303 BCE (Strabo of Amasia 15.2.9). These elephants (480 surviving) were used in the battle of Ipsus in Asia Minor (Diodorus of Sicily, Library, 20.113.4), which terminated the Fourth Diadoch War (307-301), in which the coalition of Seleucus, Ptolemy, Cassander and Lysimachus defeated the troops of Antigonus Monophthalmus and his son Demetrius Poliorcetes. Antigonus died on the battle field, 81 years of age. The phrase may refer to preparations for this battle in Syria.

i-nap?-pal is difficult to read. If read correctly, the word is derived from napâlu, "to destroy". The present tense (which can render the future tense as well) is unusual in a chronicle text, but also occurs in the previous chronicle.


This phrase occurs more often. Cf. Ruin of Esagila Chronicle (BCHP 6).

E-man-/na-a-a\, “the Greek”. For the peculiar spelling, see Juniper Garden Chronicle (BCHP 8).

"The troops of Antiochus". Antiochus, the son of Seleucus, took part in the battle of Ipsus in 301. He commanded the cavalry, but was defeated by Demetrius. The latter, however, pursued him too far, so that Seleucus could station his elephants between Demetrius' cavalry and his infantry (Plutarch, Demetrius, 29.3). The final victory was for the coalition.

m]a?-la-gi-im. The signs are easy to read, except the broken first one. The word must be part of a personal of geographical name. Nevertheless, it is difficult to find any. The same name may be present in the End of Seleucus Chronicle (BCHP 9) rev. 5’.

Troops are defeated or killed. Again hard to decide which battle is at issue. 

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