home   :    index    :    ancient Mesopotamia    :     Babylonian Chronicles      :     article by Bert van der Spek

Ptolemy III Chronicle (BCHP 11): Related texts

Ancient-Warfare.com, the online home of Ancient Warfare magazine
Coin of Ptolemy III Euergetes. British Museum, London (Britain). Photo Jona Lendering.
Ptolemy III Euergetes
(British Museum)
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 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
General commentary
Commentary obverse
Commentary reverse
Related documents


BM132276. Photo Bert van der Spek.
BM 132276 (AD -245 A), obv. (British Museum).**

Related documents

Two documents are related to the Ptolemy III Chronicle:
  1. Astronomical Diary concerning the year SE 66 = 246/5 BCE
  2. Babylonian King List of the Hellenistic Period

Astronomical Diary concerning SE 66

Astronomical Diary II, p. 66-72, No. –245

  1. = BM 132276 (1958-4-12, 10) + MNB 1874!
  2. = Rm 767 + 818 + BM 41633 (= 81-6-25,249) + BM 77244 (= 83-6-30, 24)

BM132276, reverse. Photo Bert van der Spek.
BM 132276 (AD -245 A), rev. (British Museum).**

RM 767, obverse. Photo Bert van der Spek.RM 767 (AD -245 B), obverse (British Museum).**

Description of the tablet

Of this diary two parts are extant, labelled A and B.
  • A consists of two fragments, one the upper left part, now in Paris (MNB 1874!), and the other, adjoining at the right side, now in the British Museum (BM 132276 (1958-4-12,10)). Cf photograph AD II, plate 82.
  • B consists of four fragments which are joined: Rm 767 + 818 + BM 41633 (= 81-6-25,249) + 77244 (= 83-6-30,24). BM 132276 I collated on 23 March 2004. This fragment is a thick and heavy fragment of 3.8 cm thickness, height 9 cm. and width 9 cm (at dividing line on obverse). The dividing line on the reverse measures 7.5 cm.

RM 767, edge. Photo Bert van der Spek.
RM 767 (AD -245 B), edge (British Museum).**
  • Photo Pl. 82 f.; copy J.-M. Durand, TBER p. 83 (MNB 1874sic);
  • Photo pl. 83; Copy: LBAT 274 (BM 41633 only); date discussed in Iraq 16, 206. It is difficult to say how much space is lost on the right edge.

@ = tsade; & = tet
line numbers with link refer to commentary
Nisannu SE 66 = 4 April-3 May 246
1 MU 66.KAM mAn-ti-'-ku-su LUGAL BAR (…) Year 66, Antiochus king. Nisannu (…)
11 (… ) ITI BI UD 6.KAM BD š .SAG.[L  ….. (…) That month, the 6th (9 April 246 BC). The wall of Esagi[la …..]
12 [.. .. .SAG].L ul x x il-lik-'u U4-mu šu- SIG4.HI.A ina lb-bi DU-'u ITI BI UD 11.K[AM …..] 12 [to Esag]ila not x x they went. That day: bricks within it they made. That month,  day 11 (14 April) […..]
13 [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..] x [ mS]i-lu-kumAn-ti-'-ku-su u fA-pa-am-mu DUMU.MEŠ-š ina .SAG.L x[…..] [.. .. .. .. .. ..] x  [S]eleucus, Antiochus and Apame, his children, in Esagila x[…..]

Simnu SE 66 = 2 June – 1 July 246
3' [ITI BI] mSi-lu-ku A š mAn-ti-'-ku-su L[UGAL .. .. .. .. ..] iš-ta-nak-/kan\ [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..] [That month,] Seleucus, son of Antiochus, the k[ing …..] established […..]
4' [.. .. .. ..] lš-tam-mu .SAG.L lda-ta-b[a-ar-ra l] E.KI.MEŠ ki-niš-t .SAG.L x x x x x x x x x x x [.. ..] [.. .. .. ..] the shatammu of Esagila, the datab[arra and the] Babylonians (of) the kinishtu of Esagila  x x x x
5' [.. .. .. ..] DI š ina IGI-ma mLam--di-ke' a-n[a .. .. .. .. ..].MEŠ ma-du-tu ina lb-bi D-' NINDA.HI.A K-' ni-gu-t ina lb-bi | GAR-an [.. .. .. ..] x the estate? which in the past Laodice t[o ….,] numerous [offering]s within it  they made. They ate bread; a festival was held in it.

Abu SE 66 = 31 July – 29 August 246
5' [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ].SAG.GL GL-ši ITI BI UD 20.KAM ina E.KI it-ti-šem-m[u um-mamAn-ti-'-ku-su LUGAL GAL-] [….. within E]sagila occurred. That month, the 20th, (19 August) it was heard in  Babylon [as follows: "Antiochus, the great king,
6' [NAM.MEŠ .. .. .. .. .. .. hat-t]?u pu-luh-tum ina KUR GL-ši [has died". ….]x  and fear was in the land.

TEXT: B Lower edge
na-@ar š gi-n-e š TA BAR EN KIN mAn-ti-'-ku-su LUGAL TA IZI EN KIN mSi-/lu\-k[u] /A-š\ LUG[AL] Regular observations from Nisannu to Ullu, Antiochus king; from Abu to Ullu, Seleucus, his son, king.


A Obverse 12
One of the attestations in the diaries that repairs on Esagila were regularly being made.

fA-pa-am-mu. Hunger transliterated a masculine determinative here, but the feminine denominator (SAL = f) is clearly visible on the tablet. The name can be no other than Apam and we are relieved from previous attempts to create masculine names like Apames (Sherwin-White, Kuhrt 1993: 231) or Apammos (Van der Spek 1993a: 72 note 7, where I assumed that this Apammos was the son of Antiochus II and Berenice Phernephorus. We now know that the latter was also called Antiochus (Blmel 1992; Kobes 1995)).

The daughter in question was unquestionably a daughter of Antiochus and Laodice. Laodice gave birth to three daughters, Stratonice III, Laodice and the mother of Antipater, whose name was hitherto unknown (Porphyrius, FGrH 260 F 32,6; Polybius of Megalopolis, World History, 5.79.12). So we now know the name.

We cannot be certain from this line that the children were present in Babylon on this day. It may be that they attended the last day of the Akitu festival (1-11 Nisannu), but one must consider the possibility that someone presented offerings "[for the life of Antiochus, the king, and for S]eleucus, Antiochus and Apam in Esagila". Against this option plead two arguments:

  1. the construction with "in Esagila" in this part of the sentence is not paralleled by other descriptions of offerings for the life of kings;
  2. offerings "for the life of the king" are not attested in the diaries before 204 BCE.
The question remains open.

B Obverse 3' 
iš-ta-nak-/kan\  (Hunger read: iš ta ka ak) is the Gtn stem of the verb šaknu. This verb has a variety of meanings, of which "to place, to establish, to institute, to provide" are the most prominent (cf. CAD Š1, p. 116-157). The Gtn stem gives the verb an iterative meaning. Seleucus, the crown prince, seems to have instituted something on a regular basis, probably relating to the temple.

Dtabarra is an Old Persian loanword indicating "a high judicial official" (CAD D, p. 122 s.v.), "law-officer" (Stolper 1985: 91). "It is reasonable to believe that the title labels an officer in the satrapal service, homologous with the judges (DI.KUD.MEŠ) of Gobryas the satrap, mentioned in later texts of the (Murash) archive" (ibidem). Note the continued use of the Old Persian loanword dta, "law", in Seleucid Babylonia in CT 49, 102:7 (= Stolper 1993, p. 51, no. 17); 137: 29; 173:11 (= Stolper 1993, p. 25, no. 8); ZA 3 (1888) 150, no. 13:9 (= Stolper 1993, p. 28, no. 9. For a discussion: Stolper 1993, p. 60-3.

It is remarkable that the dtabara is inserted here between the shatammu and the kinishtu, though it is not without parallel. In CT 49, 118:2; 122:3; 123:3 and 182:3 a paqdu ("representative") of Nikanor is mentioned in the same place. The texts are letters about the payment of rations (for a discussion see Boiy 2000: 208). The persons in question probably are royal officials who kept an eye on the finances of the temple. In this case it may well have something to do with the land conveyance of Laodice and her sons to Babylon (see next line).

The Laodice here mentioned is Antiochus' wife. The line probably refers to the land grant, which Antiochus II had made to his wife Laodice and her sons, who in turn gave it to the Babylonians, as is registered in the Lehmann text [to be published]. Festivities were held on the occasion, offerings presented. The enigmatic phrase "they ate bread in it" occurs here again, which in other contexts points at a Greek practice. See Ruin of Esagila Chronicle (BCHP 6), line 9 with commentary.

Reverse 5'-6'
In view of the fact that the Babylonian King List of the Hellenistic Period mentions the report of Antiochus' death in this very month, it cannot be something else here. It is telling that this death caused fear in Babylonia. Together with the news of Antiochus' death, news on the struggle between the queens Berenice and Laodice may have arrived as well. A victory for Berenice must have been viewed with anxiety in view of the recent land grants by Laodice, who likely would be annulled (Cf. Van der Spek 1993).

Lower edge
This line may show that Seleucus II Callinicus was immediately accepted as king at the report of his father’s death. If the tablet is a later copy, it could have been constructed this way from hindsight.

Babylonian Kinglist, obverse; photo Marco Prins.
Babylonian Kinglist (BM 35603 obv; British Museum)

Babylonian Kinglist (BM 35603)

12 [M]U 66.KAM NE ina E.KI i[t]-te-e[š-me]
13 [vac.] um-ma mAn A šmAn LUGAL GAL- /NAM!\.[MEŠ]
12 [Ye]ar 66, Abu (31 July-29 August 246). It was heard in Babylon
13 as follows: "Antiochus, the son of Antiochus, the great king, /has died\."


Cf. for the news of Antiochus' death the diary above. The traces are hard to read, but since we have only the choice between NAM.MEŠ (rendering a natural death) or GAZ (rendering a violent death), a reading NAM better conforms to the traces.

home   :    index    :    ancient Mesopotamia
Babylonian Chronicles