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Juniper garden chronicle (BCHP 8)

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Antiochus I Soter as crown prince. Coin from the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara (Turkey). Photo Marco Prins.
Coin of Antiochus I Soter (Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara)
The Chronicle concerning a service field (bît ilki) near the Juniper garden ("Juniper garden chronicle"; BCHP 8) is one of the historiographical texts from ancient Babylonia.

The cuneiform tablet (BM 32266) 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




The nature of this tablet is not easy to establish. In view of line 22’ it seems to be a chronicle, but the rest of the tablet more looks like a kind of court proceeding and has much in common with the Ruin of Esagila chronicle (BCHP 6). The substance of the conflict seems to be that a certain Greek mustered people (temple personnel) who worked on a service estate of a temple (for the army). The complaint may have been that the service was supposed to be done for the temple, not the king. The story has a happy end thanks to the digging of a new canal for the irrigation; possibly not more than a mere eyewash.

It is difficult to date this tablet. It seems that the Antiochus and Sin chronicle (BCHP 5 = ABC 11), the Antiochus and India chronicle (BCHP 7 = ABC 13A) and this one were written by one and the same scribe. All three have the same peculiar spelling for the word "Greek" as E-man-na-a (Antiochus and Sin chronicle [BCHP 5] rev. 2’; Juniper garden chronicle [BCHP 8] rev. 5’ and this one rev. 13’), instead of the common Ia-man-na-a-a.

Furthermore in two chronicles mention is made of India (Antiochus and Sin chronicle [BCHP 5] obv. 14 and Juniper garden chronicle [BCHP 8] obv. 14). The removal of the debris of Esagila is mentioned in two of the documents (Antiochus and Sin chronicle [BCHP 5] obv. 5; Juniper garden chronicle [BCHP 8]: rev. 22’). Finally the Juniper Garden is mentioned in Antiochus and India chronicle (BCHP 7): rev. 8 and the Gold theft chronicle (BCHP 15) obv. 8 and rev. 19.

All three may then deal with Antiochus, the crown prince (Antiochus and Sin chronicle [BCHP 5] obv. 6, 10, rev. 3’, 6’ and 11’; Antiochus and India chronicle [BCHP 7] rev. 10’ [name alone]; Juniper garden chronicle [BCHP 8]: obv. 14’ [title alone?]. The Ruin of Esagila chronicle (BCHP 6) also concerns Antiochus, the crown prince, but in this document the word "Greek" is spelled kurIa-a-ma-nu (obv. 7’).

The spelling E-man-na-a-a is also attested in Astronomical diary No. -324 A Obv’ 15, unfortunately in a broken context, concerning months I-VI of the 12th year of Alexander the Great = 7 April to 30 September 325 BCE. The name of that scribe is partly known: he was the astronomer [....]-Bel?, son of Mušallim-Bel, probably the same person or the brother of Bel-apla-iddin, son of Mušallim-Bel, descendant of Mušezibu (= possibly Belephantes, the Chaldaean who warned Alexander the Great for his predicted death in Babylon; Van der Spek 2003, 333; Lendering 2004, 344). The writing with E-ma-na-a-a is attested in an administrative document (BM 79001) dated to year 4 or 5 of Antigonus Monophthalmus.

Obv. 7’
É dul-lu (bît dulli) can be either "cultivated field" or "workshop(?)" (CAD D p. 177 s.v. dullu in bît dullu). It seems that in this broken context the interpretation workshop is te be preferred in view of the mentioning of silver jewelry in the previous line. 

Obv. 8’, 9’, Rev. 13’, 16’, 18’
bît ilki, "real estate encumbered with an ilku obligation" (CAD I/J 81a s.v. ilku A in bît ilki). Ilku refers to "services performed for a higher authority in return for land held"; "delivery of part of the yield of land held from a higher authority, also payment in money or manufactured objects in lieu of  produce". (CAD I/J, p. 73, s.v. ilku A). The word is well-known since the Old Babylonian period (bît ilki not attested after the Old Babylonian period). In more recent periods of  Mesopotamian history, in the Murashû archive from Nippur (end of 5th century BCE), the word was used an annual tax levied on military fiefs in lieu of military obligations (cf. Stolper 1985, 25). The expression ilku alâku = to perform the ilku duty, referring to military or other obligations or to deliveries (CAD I/J s.v. ilku A p. 76-78 passim); see also CAD A1, p. 309, s.v. alâku 3c, "to serve, to do service".

Obv. 8’, Rev. 19’
The Juniper Garden occurs very often in Late Babylonian documents. It was an important garden in which important building were located, like the Council house of the Shatammu and the Kinishtu. It occurs in the astronomical diaries in the following passages:

  • AD I, no. -277 C Obv.3’ (VIII 30 SE = 22 October-19 November 278 BCE; broken context)
  • AD I, no. -270B Rev.15’ (24 XII 41 SE = 24 March 270 BCE: the ritual of the covering of the kettle drum performed in this garden.
  • AD II, no. -240 Obv.7’  (VIII 71 SE = 1-29 November 241 BCE; thieves are interrogated in the Juniper Garden, and convicted.
  • AD II, no -168 A Rev.19’ (VIII. 143 SE = 15 November-13 December 169 BCE; Location of  "the old store house (bît bušê)". Valuables are moved to? the "new store house" which is located adjoining the east wall of the old store house. In the Juniper Garden chronicle this storehouse is apparently also at issue.
  • AD III, no -140 A Rev.8’ (24 III 171 SE = 4 July 141 BCE; broken context. Possibly visited by Antiochus, son of Ariobarzanes, who was appointed general of Akkad by the new Parthian conquerors.
  • AD III, no. -93 A Rev. 25 (V 218 SE = 31 July-29 Aug. 94 BCE; location of the bît milki, "the House of Deliberation", where the shatammu and the kinishtu met and received letters from the king.
  • AD III, no. -79 Rev.4’ (II 232 SE = 28 April-27 May 80 BCE; the šatammu, the "Babylonians" = the kiništu, and valuables are mentioned in a broken context. The storehouse and the House of Deliberation were apparently still there.
Administrative documents:
The Rahimesu Archive:
CT 49, 150 (= Van der Spek 1998c, no. 13): 23-26 (1 XI 218 SE = 24 January 93 BC): "the Juniper Garden, surrounding the temple", probably referring to the temple mentioned before: Eturkalamma, the temple of Ištar.  Same formula in BRM I 99 (= Van der Spek 1998c, no. 18) : 26-28 (14 XII2 218 SE = 15 April 93 BC)

From this chronicle we learn now (if correctly read) that the Juniper garden, containing the House of Deliberation, the Store House (old and new), and the temple of Ištar of Babylon, was situated near the Uraš Gate. There was also room for a so called "service estate" (bît ilki).

Rev 17'
Esabad, "House of the Open Ear", temple of Gula, goddess of healing and a patroness of doctors, in West Babylon (George 1993, 137, no.944). As we noted above, there were two temples of Gula in Babylon. From this chronicle one would be inclined to think that Esabad was situated in the Juniper Garden as well.

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