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ABC 7: The Nabonidus Chronicle

Nabonidus' chronicle. British Museum, London (Britain). Photo Marco Prins.
Nabonidus Chronicle, obverse (British Museum; *)
The Nabonidus Chronicle is a historiographical text from ancient Babylonia. It describes the reign of Nabonidus, the last king of the Babylonian Empire, who lost his realm to the Persian king Cyrus the Great in 539 BCE. These pages present a scholarly edition; an easy-to-read version can be found here.
General Introduction Colum i-ii Column iii-iv Comment Literature

The notes to this web-edition are based on A.K. Grayson, Assyrian and Babylonian Chronicles (1975, 1977), but there are modifications, that are explained here.

Commentary: Obverse

These lines must contain details about the accession year and the first regnal year of Nabonidus. Smith assumed that lines 1-4 covered the events of the accession year and lines 5-8 the events of the first regnal year, but there is no way of knowing if this assumption is correct.

The sign is clearly TI.


[RJvdS:] The CAD S”, p. 28, s.v. sahāhu, “to tremble” reads š instead of x, and the translation has been adapted accordingly. What is meant, remains unclear.

Hu-me-e: this is clearly a place name (in Anatolia) and not a word meaning "rebels" (so Smith). Cf. Albright, BASOR 120 (1950) p.23 and Oppenheim ANET pp.305, n.2

It is impossible to identify the sign from the scanty traces. 

Between Abu and kurAm- Smith's copy shows a vertical wedge (which he transliterates ana). But this is not on the original. Ammanānu is also mentioned under the third year in a fragmentary text about Nabonidus (CT 46,48 iv 16).

[Grayson, Addenda:] The CT 46 mentioned in the commentary has been edited by Lambert, AfO 22 (1968-9), pp.1-8.

Smith read the last part of the line as a PN (Nab-Bel-dan-usur) but a Pn of this pattern is otherwise unknown. Similarly there is no known pattern Nab-Bēl-Dan or Bēl-Dan-usur. Thus the reading given in the translation is the only probable one.

[Grayson, Addenda:] Note Tallquist, APN (s.v.) who reads mdNab-tat!-tan-sur.

mu: This is clear on the original and Smith's copy but in his transliteration Smith has -ma. Amurru is also mentioned in Smith, BHT pl.VII ii 23 (Nabonidus Verse Account), where Tema is said to be in its midst.

[Grayson, Addenda:] Berger - see Weippert, Gttingische Gelehrte Anzeigen 224 (1972) p.160 and n.15 - reads [t]am-tim š kurAmurri(mar.tu). See W.G. Lambert, Proceedings of the Fifth Seminar for Arabian Studies (London, 1972) p.55.


[JL:] Grayson originally translated [uruA]-du-um-mu as Adummu, a country that is not known otherwise; in his Corrigenda, he preferred Edom.

ana ka-š[-di i]l-lik-ma: For the restoration, see Chron. 21 ii 7, 4', 9'; Chron. 22 iii 13, 20.

A possible restoration at the end of the line would be some form of the verb nadānu (e.g., it-t[a-di-nu].

kurA-gam-ta-nu: There was both the city Agamtānu (Ecbatana) and the surrounding district called by the same name. The city is referred to here and the KUR must be a mistake for URU. Or has URU been omited before KUR? Cf. uru kurA-ga-ma-ta-nu Cyrus 60:16. Also note uru kurA-ga-ma-ta-nu VAB 3, p.39:60 (Dar.I). After āl šarru--tu one expects illik "he went". The scribe has mistakely omitted the verb. Cf. Oppenheim, ANET pp.305.

[JL:] An alternative explanation for the fact that the scribe confuses KUR and URU is that Ecbatana, although the capital and main gathering place of the Medes, was not a city in the Babylonian sense of the word, with temples and a wall. Although Herodotus (Histories, 1.98-99) mentions walls, none of these have been identified, and -given the fairy tale nature of Herodotus' Medikos Logos- it is unlikely that they will ever be found. The scribe's confusion may be a reflection of the actual situation.

The same passagem with minor variations, occrus in ii.10-12, 19-21, 23-25. The only phrase not found in the parallel passages is: urigall is-ruq-ma bīta ip-qid. Also cf. iii.8. Further, note the similar statements in Chron. 17 iii 5f., 8f., 14, 15.

mār šarri: Smith mistakenly omits mār in his transliteration.

l illikuku: see the note to Chron.17 iii 5f.

The interpretation offered here of ki šal-mu is tentative since the meaning is uncertain. The phrase also appears in Chron. 17 ii 4.

The last part of the line is broken but from the parallels it is apparent that nothing is missing.

This space was probably left blank because the scribe did not have information about the eighth year at hand. He no doubt planned to fill in the information later when he had found out from some other source what had occured in the eighth year. For some reason he never did this. Cf. the examples of omitted numerals discussed in the note to Chron. 1 i. 25.

[JL:] Grayson consistently translated the Babylonian month names with their Jewish names (more...); since this assumes a knowledge of the Bible that is no longer common, I have reverted. this.

See the parallel passage ii.5-8 and the notes to those lines.

The scribe mistakenly omitted ina.

The scribe mistakenly omitted Bābliki.

See the commentary to Chron 1 iv.22.


[JL]: Dur-Karašu means "Walled Camp".

i-bir-ma: The sign is definitely BIR, not RAB (as Smith mistakenly copied).

[JL:] Grayson originally read the name in the name of the kingdom that was conquered by Cyrus as kur/Lu\-u[d-di?], adopting a suggestion by Sydney Smith. However, in his Corrigenda, he wrote:
Regarding the problem of whether or not Lydia can be read here - Since completion of the manuscript it has come to my attention that a collation by W.G. Lambert and A. Sachs quoted by Galling, Studien, p. 22 reads: ZU-x[...]. In view of this, I have again collated the passage. A further trace at the end of the line, on the edge, was observed and could stand for [il-li]k. But the preceding traces are ambiguous. At best, one can say it is not impossible to read:
ana kur/Lu!?-!?\-du? il-li]k
but such a reading is suggested by historical probability rather than any clear indication from the traces. Neither a reading SA nor IŠ (for Sapardu or Išpardu - cf. Smith, Isaiah, p.36 and nn.73-74) is possible. During this recent collation I was fortunately able to examine the tablet with W.G. Lambert and E. Sollberger and derived much benefit therefrom. But sole responsibility for the opinion expressed here is mine.
That Urartu (ana kur/-\[raš-tu il-li]k) must be meant, has been shown by J. Oelsner, "Review", Archiv fr Orientforschung 46/47 (1999/2000) 373-380 and has therefore been adopted in this web edition. Cf. R. Rollinger, "The Median 'Empire', the End of Urartu, and Cyrus' Campaign in 547" in: Proceedings of the First International Conference on Ancient Cultural Relations between Iran and West Asia (2004).

<<A$>> A scribal error.

[RJvdS:] Grayson translated dku as "he defeated", perhaps because he believed that this line referred to Croesus, who (according to Herodotus, Histories, 1.86) survived an execution attempt. The normal meaning of this word, however, is "to kill".

The last part of the line is broken but there is probably nothing missing. Cf. the note to ii.8.

See the notes to ii.5-8. In order to reproduce the full phrase as found in the parallel passages, the scribe would have written a great deal on the edge at the end of ii.19. Perhaps part of the phrase was omitted. The same comment applies to ii.23.

The sign preceding šakin māti looks very much like L and thus it could be a determinative (so Smith).

See the notes to ii.5-8 and ii.19-21., the online home of Ancient Warfare magazine

>> to part five (Comment Reverse) >>

General Introduction Colum i-ii Column iii-iv Comment Literature
A.K. Grayson
Webedition by Jona Lendering
Online 2008
Revision: 21 Jan 2009
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