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Ruin of Esagila chronicle (BCHP 6)

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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 Babylonian Ruin of Esagila chronicle (BCHP 6) is one of the historiographical texts from ancient Babylonia. It describes how a Seleucid crown prince (probably Antiochus, the son of king Seleucus Nicator) fell during a sacrifice on the ruin of Esagila.

The cuneiform tablets (BM 32248 + 32456 + 32477 + 32543 + 76-11-17 unnumbered) 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 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
Commentary (obv)
Commentary (rev)


BCHP 6: The Ruin of the Esagila Chronicle, reverse. Photo Bert van der Spek.
BCHP 6: The Ruin of the Esagila Chronicle, reverse. Photo Bert van der Spek.
BCHP 6: The Ruin of the Esagila Chronicle, reverse. Photo Bert van der Spek.
BCHP 6: Ruin of Esagila Chronicle: three details

Commentary reverse

The reverse is very difficult to read and defies a reasonable translation. It is hardly a normal chronicle text, but looks more like the minutes of a court proceeding. The script is very careless and probably contains many mistakes. The chronicle is written in crude signs, which are often difficult to read even if they are not damaged. So it looks as though the text was written by an unexperienced hand, and it may have been a school text. 

The section starting with line 3’ deals with a serious conflict. Somebody may have been arrested in order to be put to death. The son of the king seems to intend to release him, but another man tries to prevent that by denouncing him, apparently in fear of the fact that the person to be released will in turn denounce the denouncer. The charge had something to do with workmen who did not do their job correctly and the question seems to be: who is responsible? The son of the king is invited to take a look himself. It may perhaps have to do with problems with the workmen working on the restoration of Esagila and Ezida (see obverse). Perhaps there was some sabotage.

Incidents with dogs occur often in the Astronomical diaries. They were treated as ominous events.

i-te-ri-šú-pa-ta-nu possibly an Iranian title. The element pa-ta may be a rendering of pati, 'leader'. A possible candidate is the *âthravapati, mentioned by Briant (1996, 260).

pi-ri-il-tum = pirištum ("secret") is a possible interpretation, but not certain. Another word or a female personal name may also be at issue. One might also consider a mistake for piri@tu, "lie".

The CAD distinguishes a single interrogative word akkâ’iki, "how much?" (CAD A1, 274a) from akkâ’i A, interr. "how", with , "how, to what extent, for what reason," and from akkâ’i B, adv. "as soon as", but also always constructed with (CAD A1, 272-2). In AD III, p. 454. no. –87C: 30’ the expression ak-ka-’-i šá is used to introduce the indirect speech: the content of a letter, which is read out loud in the theatre. A similar kind of usage may be at stake here. Here it would be the content of the slander mentioned in line 4’.

9’, 15’, 16’
LAGABxIM does not exist, but LAGABxIM = BUN = nappahtu = "revolution" (CAD N1, 306). LAGABxIM is also the ideographical writing of nappahu = "bellows" (used by smiths) (ibid. 307). úLAGABxIM may then either mean "revolutionary; rebel" or "metal worker" (= nappâhu, of which the standard ideographical writing, however, is SIMUG). 

ma-re-šá-nu, possibly plural of  maršu which refers to some sort of mistreatment in relation to denouncing (ABL 43, rev. 9 = Parpola, LAS no. 309; cf.CAD M1, 297 s.v. maršu D) (???). 

a-man-na-ku-nu is difficult to understand. Perhaps scribal error for *um-man-ku-nu? Or is it a verbal form of manû, "to count; to hand over; to deliver" (CAD M1, p. 221-7)?

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