Dynastic prophecy

In mid-July 330, the Persian king Darius III Codomannus was killed; this meant the end of the Achaemenid Empire, which was now taken over by the Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great. One of the most tantalizing descriptions of Darius' death is the Dynastic Prophecy, which was written on a clay tablet found int Babylon. It is now in the British Museum.

It seems to prove that at least one Babylonian believed that Darius III was not dead and would return victoriously. World history offers many examples of popular leaders who are believed not to have died: a brief catalogue would include the miraculously saved king Croesus of Lydia, the last pharaoh of independent Egypt Nectanebo II, king Arthur of the Britons, the German emperor Frederick, and, in our own age, Adolf Hitler and Elvis Presley.

It would be interesting if we could say that Darius also belonged to this exclusive company, and several scholars have believed that the text does indeed prove that Darius was considered to be alive somewhere and would one day return to overthrow the Macedonians. 

Unfortunately, there is a long break in the text (line 10) and we are not permitted to identify the king who fits the army in the second part of the text with Darius, as has often been suggested. If Darius is not the "he" of the second part of the prophecy, another identification has to be made. The words can refer to Alexander, to several native leaders, but also to Seleucus, who defeated several Greek armies.

The relevant lines are quoted below in the translation by Bert van der Spek.


A Dubious Source on Alexander the Great: the Dynastic Prophecy

[v.4] For two years [he will exercise kingship].note

[v.5] That king a eunuch [will murder].

[v.6] A certain prince [......]note

[v.7] will set out and [seize] the thr[one]

[v.8] Five years [he will exercise] king[ship]

[v.9] Troops of the land of Hani [......]note

[v.10] will set out a[nd? .. ]./-ship?\ th[ey will?  ...]

[v.11] [his] troop[s they will defeat;]

[v.12] booty from him they will take [and his spoils]

[v.13] they will plunder. Later [his] tr[oops ...]

[v.14] will assemble and his weapons he will ra[ise (...)]

[v.15] Enlil, Šamaš and [Marduk(?)]note

[v.16] will go at the side of his army [(...);]

[v.17] the overthrow of the Hanaean troops he will [bring about].

[v.18] His extensive booty he will car[ry off and]

[v.19] into his palace he [will bring it]       

[v.20] The people who had [experienced] misfortune

[v.21] [will enjoy] well-being.

[v.22] The heart of the land [will be happy]

[v.23] Tax exemption [he will grant to Babylonia]