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"Politai" Chronicle (BCHP 13)

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Coin of Antiochus IV Epiphanes.
Antiochus IV Ephiphanes
The first Babylonian document on the politai (Greek citizens of Babylon), the Politai Chronicle (BCHP 13), is one of the historiographical texts from ancient Babylonia. The tablet can be dated to SE 140 (=172/1 BCE) ands belongs, therefore, to the reign of the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164). For a very brief introduction to the literary genre of chronicles, go here.

The cuneiform tablet (BM 46120 = 81-7-6,572) 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




This chronicle is the first cuneiform document mentioning the puli&e, i.e. the Babylonian rendering of the Greek word politai, which probably stands for Greek or Hellenized citizens. Elsewhere I have argued that this Greek colony with special rights was introduced in or shortly before SE 139 = 173/2 BC (Van der Spek 1986: 68-78; 1987: 65-70; 2001; 2005). So far politai were only mentioned in the Astronomical Diaries.

Boiy (2004: 204-9) argues that the first reference to politai in the diaries was in the diary concerning the visit of Antiochus III the Great to Babylon in February 187 BCE (month XI, 124 SEB). During that visit, the king made offerings in the temple, visited the New Year Temple (Day One Temple) and received (?) the robe of Nebuchadnezzar. It is stated: 
U4 BI pa-h[at] E.KI [….] | […. KÙ].GI ana mAn LUGAL GAR.MEŠ
That day (4.XI = 14 February 187), the pah[atu (epistatês, governor) [and the politai (?)] presented (pl!) [a … of go]ld to king Antiochus.
[AD II, p. 330/1, no. -187A r. 9’-10’]

Boiy argues that politai must have been mentioned in the break in view of the fact that pahatu and politai are mentioned very often together in the Astronomical diaries. The argument is reasonable, but confirmation of the suggestion by other documents is required.

This chronicle is the first non-diary text which mentions the politai. The first certain attestation of politai in the Diaries is the diary of Month V 143 SEB concerning the victories of Antiochus IV Epiphanes in Egypt and the performance of a pompê (procession) by the politai
A14.  ....... ITU BI al-te-me um-[ma]
A15. mAn LUGAL ina URU.MEŠ šá KUR Me-luh-ha šal-&a-niš GIN.GIN-a[k] pu-li-&e-e pu-up-pe-e u ép-še-e-tú šá GIM ú-@ur-túIa-a-man-nu x [....]
A14. That month I  heard as follows:
A15. King Antiochus marched victoriously through the cities of Egypt. The politai (pu-li-te-e) [established] a pompê (pu-up-pe-e) and a ritual in the Greek fashion.
AD II, p. 470, No. -168 A1 Obv.’ 14-15 (BM 41581 = 81-6-25, 195+197); cf. Van der Spek 1986: 74; 1987: 67.

Antiochus IV conquered Egypt in the summer of 169 BC and the news of his victories reached Babylon in month Abu (V), 143 SEB = 17 August- 15 September, 169 BC (= month XI [Gorpiaios] 143 SEM).

See for more information the Greek Community Chronicle (BCHP 14).

The upper edge is very difficult to read. Our transliteration is very uncertain.

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