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Document on land and tithes (BCHP 16)

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Coin of the Seleucid king Antiochus II Theos.
Antiochus II Theos
The Document concerning a tithe of arable land and shatammu Nergal-ina-teši-etir is one of the historiographical texts from ancient Babylonia. It can be dated to 75-90 SE (or 236-222 BCE) and therefore belongs to the reigns of the Seleucid kings Seleucus II Callinicus, Seleucus III Keraunos, and Antiochus III the Great. For a very brief introduction to the literary genre of chronicles, go here.

The cuneiform tablets (BM 33020 = 78-10-15,1 + BM 33028 = 78-10-15,9) are 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 note 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 tablet is probably not a chronicle, but an official document relating to a land grant, possibly the assignment by Antiochus II Theos to his (ex-)wife Laodice I, and her sons Seleucus (II Callinicus) and Antiochus (Hierax), who in turn donated this land to "the Babylonians, Borsippaeans and Cuthaeans".

This land grant was recorded on a tablet dated to SEB 139 (173/2 BCE), which dealt with an official proclamation concerning this land grant made by Nergal-ina-teši-etir, the shatammu of Esagila, which he made on 8 Adar SEB 75 = 21 March 236 BCE in the kinishtu of Esagila. This Nergal-ina-teši-etir is also mentioned in this document (rev. 1).

This tablet is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, MMA 86.11.229, and is known as "the Lehmann Text", because it was first partly published in a note of an article on a different subject by Lehmann-Haupt (Lehmann 1892, 330, nn. 1+2). A revised edition was given by Van der Spek (Van der Spek 1986: 241-8); see for an English translation based on this in: Sherwin-White & Kuhrt 1993: 128f. For a discussion see Van der Spek 1993, passim, esp. 69 and 76. A new edition by Ronald Wallenfels and Bert van der Spek will be published in one of the next volumes of CTMMA (Cuneiform Tablets from the Metropolitan Museum of Arts), together with a duplicate of the this text, which is in the British Museum.


Obverse 2’-5’: This passage will have contained an order to give a tithe to be paid for offerings in the temple.

5’-8’: Reference to the king who designated benefaction to the Babylonians, as written in documents which are in the É.LUGAL bît šarri, the royal office/treasury house. For bît šarri as the administrative office of the crown, see McEwan 1981: 138-9.

8’-13’: Difficult to understand. Perhaps the Babylonians of the kinishtu of Esagila designated sacrificial animals for the satraps of Babylonia, Susiana and two other “lands” to be sacrificed in the temple.

Reverse: The Shatammu possibly makes an assignment of land at the command of the satrap (or some other official) in favor of someone with a Greek name.

All these suggestions must be treated with the utmost caution. The lacunae are big and understanding the context is very difficult.


še.numun.meš šá l[ugal, “the arable land which the k[ing had given ...” may refer to the land grant of Antiochus II Theos

10-ú šá še.n[umun ..., “a tithe of the arable l[and ...,” may refer to the tithe mentioned in the Lehmann text, Van der Spek 1986: 9-10, u iš-&u-ru-’ šá 10-ú šá buru14.meš | [i-n]a /še\.numun.meš an-né-e-tú gál-ú ...., “and they (=Laodice, wife of Antiochus II, Seleucus and Antiochus, his sons) wrote that a tithe of the harvests | [fr]om these fields for sure ....”

UD LUGAL, “the philos of the king”(?). Cf. This expression, which might be an error for lú-erín lugal, may parallel the ud.meš of king Antiochus I in AD I, p. 344, no. -273B: r.29’. The expression in the diary is interpreted by Sidney Smith (BHT 157) as kine (pl.) and translated by him as hoi philoi, “the court.” Smith’s interpretation is based on a lexical text, Meissner, S.A.I. 5769 (= A III/3:46 = MSL 14 333). This interpretation is followed by Johannes Renger (Renger 1985: 258). Hermann Hunger, however, finds this interpretation unlikely “because UD is never used as a logogram for kênu, in spite of the fact that kênu is listed in A III/3:46 among possible readings of UD.” Hunger admits not to know the meaning of ud.meš in the diary in question (Hunger, AD I, p. 346). 

zib-tum = Zibbatum. zib.me is a ideographical rendering of zibbâti, (the constellation) Pisces. In an Old-Babylonian letter (VAS 16 127: 13, 15 and 19) the geographical name Zi-ib-ba-tumki occurs. The word may be related to zibbatu in its meaning “storage basin of a canal.” Cf. CAD Z, p. 102.

The end of the line is difficult to read. The last sign starts with one horizontal and two vertical wedges, which is the beginning of many signs. A verb is to be expected here, as it is the end of a sentence.


Nergal-(ina-)teši-etir, "Nergal, save from trouble!" We know this shatammu from several other documents, dating from SE 75 to 90 = 236-222/1 BCE. Cf. Van der Spek 2000: 439. It is remarkable that the name is spelled mdU.gur.sùh-sur-ru. In all cases the ina “from” is omitted and remarkably a phonetic complement ru is sometimes added, which is grammatically incorrect. It may be considered further evidence that the vowels at the end of Babylonian words were not pronounced in Late Babylonian.
  1. MMA 86.11.229, “the Lehmann Text,” a judicial document concerning a land grant of Antiochus II; see general commentary above. Date: 8.XII.75 SEB = 21 March 236 BCE.
  2. CT 49, 132: 7, a receipt of temple income, given “in accordance with the letter of Nergal-(ina-)teši-etir, the shatammu of Esagila and the Babylonians (of) the kinishtu of Esagila”. Date: 25.I.85 SEB = 28 April 227 BCE.
  3. CT 49, 168: 4, a similar receipt, dated 90 SE (=222/1 BCE)
  4. CT 49, 170: 4, a similar receipt, date lost
  5. BM 47737, a judicial chronicle (Joannès 2000: 194-200; cf. BCHP 17). A named individual and one of his brothers are convicted to death after interrogation under torture in the presence of the shatammu, the kinishtu and the judges of the temple, Date: 17.VI.90 = 19 September 222 BCE.

gal.[...]. An official is at issue here. We have chosen for gal.[ukkin], "satrap", but lúgal.[érin.meš] or lúgal.[ú-qu], “stratêgos”, or lúgal.[ka-sir], “garrison commander” is equally possible.

m&i-mug-ra-[te. This name probably reflects Timokrates. There are, however, other options: Demokrates (in that case the first sign should be read Di), or: Theokrates (in that case the m, like in Neo-Babylonian cuneiform, is not pronounced or is used as glottal stop). Since the Greek êta (a long vowel) is usually rendered in Babylonian cuneiform as a long vowel as well, like in the name Dêmêtrios (cf. Rutten 1935, no. VII:3, 10, 13, 16: mDi-e-mit-ri-su), we prefer to read &i in this name.

Bert van der Spek © 2005
Latest revision: 31 March 2006
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