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Ptolemy III Chronicle (BCHP 11)

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Coin of the Seleucid king Seleucus II Callinicus.
Seleucus II Callinicus
The Chronicle concerning the invasion of Ptolemy III (the "Ptolemy III Chronicle"; BCHP 11) is one of the historiographical texts from ancient Babylonia. It tells how king Ptolemy III Euergetes invaded Mesopotamia and laid siege to Babylon in 246/245 BCE. For a very brief introduction to the literary genre of chronicles, go here.

The cuneiform tablet (BM 34428) is in the British Museum. On this website, a 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
Commentary obverse
Commentary reverse
Related documents


Coin of Ptolemy III Euergetes. British Museum, London (Britain). Photo Jona Lendering.
Ptolemy III Euergetes
(British Museum)

Commentary reverse

The restoration we propose may seem speculative, but are practically certain in view of the parallel cases in which offerings are performed in the Greek fashion, sometimes accompanied by the consumption of a meal on the spot. See Ruin of Esagila Chronicle (BCHP 6) commentary ad obv. 6'.

"Immediately they ate bread there". Ruin of Esagila Chronicle (BCHP 6) commentary ad obv. 9'.

5’-6’, 8’ 
SUII-su = qat-su, qassu, "his hand" literally means: "he himself; he personally". Cf. CAD Q p. 188, s.v. qâtu 4.

šu-ut ERÍN.MEŠ, "those of the troops". In our view, an opposition is made between the chief guardian and the men of the army. It seems a little bit like: The chief guardian was safe in the palace, while the common soldiers, who defended him, were massacred.

It must be noted that the Akkadian here is fairly careless, especially in the changing of object and object, plural and singular. This is in particular the case of the phrase TA ERIN.MES-šú ina AN.BAR kak-ku di-ku-', "... by his troops with iron weapons were killed". "His" is grammatically supposed to belong to "he himself", but that is apparently not the case. From the context it seems clear that the chief guardian is "he himself", "his troops" are the troops of Xanthippus. That view is corroborated by the fact that constantly the Ptolemaic (Hanaean) troops are described as being clad in iron panoply.

The section either concerns month XI or XII. We do not know whether a new month was introduced in the lacuna. In view of the fact at the end of the obverse as well as at the beginning of the reverse actions within Esagila are mentioned, I assume that the entire passage refers to offerings being performed by Xanthippus after his entrance in the city. The fact that his soldiers entered the temple in arms, and that he performed offerings in the Greek fashion, will have offended the Babylonians, and the more so after he had massacred the Babylonian civilian population two days before. 

Seleucus, the pahat (epistates) of Seleucia, is also mentioned in the Seleucid accessions Chronicle (BCHP 10): 5'-6'. He seems to have come to relieve the royal palace, but to no avail. 

It is unclear who the [l]úGAL ERÍN.MEŠ (rab ummani or rab ûqu = "commander of the troops; general; stratêgos") was. He cannot be the (sole) subject of di-i-ku-', which is plural ("they were killed, defeated"). The subject may have been the troops of the governor Seleucus, who just had arrived in Babylon, who had been defeated by (TA) the general, who will have been Xanthippus (suggestion by M. Passehl, Adelaide). In any case, TA fits the traces (one Winkelhaken). 

KAK.MEŠ is probably an error for kak-ku, like in rev. 6'. One might think of kak-<ku>-MEŠ or TUKUL.MEŠ, "weapons". KAK = sikkatu conveys no meaning here.

ma-nu-ú, construct case of manû, "to count". Cf  CAD M1, p. 221, 225-6, s.v. manû, 7) "to assign, to deliver persons or objects to the responsibility of (ina/ana qât) another person". Cf. the Astronomical Diaries, where the verb is simply used for the appointment of officials: AD III, p. 216, no. -132 B rev. 25; p. 248, no. –129 A2 obv. 17’. See also Del Monte 1997 (TBE) 124 and 131 (suggestion M. Stol).

These lines seem to refer to street fighting in Seleucia (on the Euphrates?).

No verb is preserved. The lines are reconstructed on the basis of lines rev. 5'-6' and 7'-8'.

This line is equally difficult to understand. The restoration at the beginning is speculative. We do not know which troops are intended here. 

to part six (related texts)
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