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The Antiochus Cylinder, the online home of Ancient Warfare magazine
The Antiochus Cylinder. British Museum, London (Britain). Photo Bert van der Spek.
The Antiochus Cylinder 1 **
The Antiochus Cylinder. British Museum, London (Britain). Photo Bert van der Spek.
The Antiochus Cylinder 2 **
The Antiochus Cylinder. British Museum, London (Britain). Photo Bert van der Spek.
The Antiochus Cylinder 3 **
The Antiochus Cylinder. British Museum, London (Britain). Photo Bert van der Spek.
The Antiochus Cylinder 4 **
The Antiochus Cylinder. British Museum, London (Britain). Photo Bert van der Spek.
The Antiochus Cylinder 5 **
The Antiochus Cylinder. British Museum, London (Britain). Photo Bert van der Spek.
The Antiochus Cylinder 6 **
The Antiochus Cylinder. British Museum, London (Britain). Photo Bert van der Spek.
The Antiochus Cylinder 7 **

Pinches' drawing

The Cylinder of Antiochus I Soter from the Ezida Temple in Borsippa (Antiochus Cylinder) is one of the historiographical texts from ancient Babylonia. It describes how the Seleucid crown prince Antiochus, the son of king Seleucus Nicator, rebuilt the Ezida Temple and prays for divine protection. For a very brief introduction to the literary genre of chronicles, go here.

The cuneiform text itself (BM 36277) is now in the British Museum.

On this website, a new reading is proposed by 
Marten Stol and Bert van der Spek of the Free University of Amsterdam (Netherlands). 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).

Previous editions

  • Strassmaier, J.N. 1882, Verhandlungen des 5. Internationalen Orientalistenkongresses II.1 (Berlin), Beilage zu I 14: 139ff.
  • V R 66 = Pinches, Th.G. 1884, The Cuneiform Inscriptions of Western Asia, Vol. V (London) no. 66; his drawing can be found here.
Transliterations and translations:
  • Weissbach, F.H. 1911, Die Keilinschriften der Achmeniden, VAB 3 (Leipzig) 132-5
  • Kuhrt, A. & Sherwin-White, S. 1991, ‘Aspects of Seleucid royal ideology: the cylinder of Antiochus I from Borsippa’, Journal of Hellenic Studies 111, 71-86.
Translations only:
  • ANET3 = Pritchard, J.B. 1969, Ancient Near Eastern Texts relating to the Old Testament (Princeton) 317 (translation A.L. Oppenheim); also in: M.M. Austin 1981, The Hellenistic World from Alexander to the Roman conquest. A Selection of Ancient sources in translation (Cambridge) 310-1, no. 189.
  • Falkenstein, A. & Von Soden, W. 1953, Sumerische und akkadische Hymnen und Gebete (Zrich) 291-2, no. 38 (I 16 - II 29).
  • Foster, B.R. 1993, Before the Muses II  (Bethesda) 759; 2nd ed. (1996) II 744; 3rd edition (2005) 866. Translation of I 16 - II 29, ‘Prayer to Nab.’
  • Seux, M.-J. 1976, Hymnes et prires aux dieux de Babylonie et d’Assyrie (Paris) 525-6 (I 16 – II 29)
  • Stevens, K. 2012, "Collations to the Antiochus Cylinder (BM 36277)", in: Nouvelles Assyriologiques Brves et Utilitaires (NABU) 2012, p.46-7, no. 35
  • Stevens, K. 2014, "The Antiochus Cylinder, Babylonian Scholarship, and Seleucid Imperial Ideology" in Journal of Hellenic Studies 134, 66-88.

Description of the Cylinder

The document is a barrel-shaped clay cylinder, which had been buried in the foundations of the Ezida temple in Borsippa. This form of foundation document is found in considerable quantities since the second millennium. The script of this cylinder is deliberately archaising. It is inscribed in archaic ceremonial Babylonian cuneiform script that was used in the well-known Codex of Hammurabi and adopted in a number of royal inscriptions of Neo-Babylonian kings, esp. Nabopolassar, but also Nebuchadnezzar and Nabonidus (cf. Berger 1973). The script is quite different from the cuneiform script that was used for chronicles, diaries, rituals, scientific and administrative texts.

Previous editions
Description of the tablet
Text and translation

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 Antiochus cylinder is the latest one extant. Another late example is the Cyrus Cylinder, commemorating Cyrus' capture of Babylon in 539 BCE (Schaudig 2001: 550-6). This cylinder, however, was written in normal Neo-Babylonian script.

The Antiochus Cylinder was found by Hormuzd Rassam in 1880 in Ezida, the temple of the god Nab in Borsippa, in what must have been its original position "encased in some kiln-burnt bricks covered over with bitumen," in the "doorway" of Koldewey's Room A1: probably this was built into the eastern section of the wall between A1 and Court A, since the men of Daud Thoma, the chief foreman, seem to have destroyed much of the brickwork at this point. Rassam (1897: 270) mistakenly records this as a cylinder of Nebuchadnezzar II (Reade 1986: 109). The cylinder is now in the British Museum in London.

Column 1


i.1. mAn-ti-’-ku-us LUGAL GAL-

Antiochus, the great king,


the mighty king, king of the world, king of Babylon, king of (all) countries,

i.3. za-ni-in .SAG.IL .ZI.DA

caretaker of Esagila and Ezida,

i.4. DUMUxUŠ (IBILA) SAG.KAL ša mSi-lu-uk-ku LUGAL

foremost son of Seleucus, the king,

i.5. lMa-ak-ka-du-na-a-a LUGAL E.KI

the Macedonian, king of Babylon,

i.6. a-na-ku i-nu-ma a-na e-p-eš15

am I. When I desired8 to build

i.7. .SAG.IL .ZI.DA

Esagila and Ezida,

i.8. Š-bi ub-lam-ma SIG4.HI.A

the (first) bricks

i.9. .SAG.IL .ZI.DA

of Esagila and Ezida

i.10. i-na KUR Ha-at-tim ina ŠUII-i el-le-ti

in the land of Hatti with my pure hand(s)

i.11. i-na .GIŠ ru-uš-ti al-bi-in-ma

I moulded with fine quality oil and

i.12. a-na na-di-e uš-š š .SAG.IL

for the laying of the foundation of Esagila

i.13. .ZI.DA ub-bi-il ina ITI ŠE UD 20.KAM

and Ezida I transported them. In the month of Addaru, on the 20th day,

i.14. MU 43.KAM uš-šu š .ZI.DA

of year 43 (SE, 27 March 268 BCE) , I laid16 the foundation of Ezida,

i.15. ki-i-ni dAG š q-reb BAR.SP.KI

the true temple, the temple of Nab, which is in Borsippa.

i.16. ad-de-e uš-ši-šu dAG DUMUxUŠ și-i-ri

O Nab, lofty son,

i.17. IGI.GL.LA DINGIR.MEŠ muš-tar-hu

the wise one of the gods, the proud one,

i.18. ša a-na ta-na-da-a-ti

who is eminently worthy19 of praise,

i.19. šit-ku-nu DUMUxUŠ reš-tu-

firstborn son

i.20. ša dAMAR.UD i-lit-ti dE4-ru6--a

of Marduk, offspring of Era,

i.21. šar-rat pa-ti-qt nab-ni-ti

the queen, who creates offspring,

i.22. ha-diš nap-li-is-ma

regard me joyfully and,

i.23. i-na q-bi-ti-ka și-ir-ti

at your lofty command

i.24. ša la in-nen-nu- q-bit-su

which is unchanging,

i.25. šu-um-qu-ut ma-a-ti a-a-bi-i

may the overthrow of the country of my enemy,

i.26. ka-š-du ir-ni-it-ti-i

the achievement of my triumphs,

i.27. UGU na-ki-ri -š-uz-zu i-na li-i-ti

the predominance over the enemy through victory,

i.28. LUGAL--tu mi-š-ri pa-le-e

kingship of justice, a reign

i.29. bu-a-ri MU.AN.NA.MEŠ țu-ub š

of prosperity, years of happiness,

i.30. še-b-e lit-tu-tu lu ši-ri-ik-ti

(and) the full enjoyment of very old age be the gift

Column 2


ii.1. LUGAL--ti š mAn-ti-’-ku-us

for the kingship of Antiochus

ii.2. Si-lu-uk-ku LUGAL DUMU-šu

and king Seleucus, his son,

ii.3. a-na da-ra-a-ti DUMU ru-b-e

for ever. O Son of the Prince (Marduk),


Nab, son of Esagila,

ii.5. bu-kr dASAR.RI reš-tu-

first-born son of Marduk,

ii.6. i-lit-ti dE4-ru6--a šar-rat

offspring of queen Era:

ii.7. a-na .ZI.DA ki-i-ni

at your entry10 into Ezida, the true house,

ii.8.  dA-nu-ti-ka šu-bat țu-<ubŠA-bi-ka

the house of your Anu-ship, the dwelling of your heart's desire,

ii.9. i-na hi-da-a-t ri-š-a-t

with rejoicing and jubilation,

ii.10. i-na e-re-bi-ka i-na q-bi-ti-ka

may - at your true11 command,

ii.11. kit-ti ša la uš-tam-sa-ku li-ri-ku u4-mi-i

which cannot be annulled - my days be long,

ii.12. li-mi-da! MU.AN.NA-ti-ia

my years many,

ii.13. li-kun gišGU.ZA--a li-il-bi-ir

may my throne be secure, my reign long-lasting,

ii.14. pa-lu--a i-na gišDA-ka și-i-ri

on your sublime writing board

ii.15. mu-kin pal-lu!-uk-ku! AN-e u KI-tim

which sets the boundary of heaven and earth.

ii.16. i-na pi-i-ka el-li liš-tak-ka-nu

May my good (fate)17 constantly be established in your pure mouth,

ii.17. du-un-q-i KUR.KUR.MEŠ TA și-it dUTU-ši

may my hands19 conquer18 the countries from sunrise

ii.18. a-di e-re-eb dUTU-ši lik-š-du

to sunset

ii.19. ŠUII-a-a man-da-at-ti-ši-nu lu-us-ni-iq-ma

that I might inventory their tribute

ii.20. a-na šuk-lu-lu .SAG.IL

and bring21 it to make perfect Esagila

ii.21. .ZI.DA lu-bi-il dAG

and Ezida. O Nab,

ii.22. DUMUxUŠ SAG.KAL a-na .ZI.DA

foremost son, when you enter23 Ezida,

ii.23.  ki-i-ni i-na e-re-bi-ka

the true house,

ii.24. SIG5-tim An-ti-’-ku-us LUGAL KUR.KUR

may good (fate) for Antiochus, king of (all) countries,

ii.25. mSi-lu-uk-ku LUGAL DUMU-š

king Seleucus, his son,

ii.26. fAs-ta-ar-ta-ni-ik-ku

(and) Stratonice,

ii.27. hi-rat-su šar-ra-at

his consort, the queen,

ii.28. da-mi-iq-ti-š-nu

may their good (fate),

ii.29. li-iš-š-kin i-na pi-i-ka

be established by your command (lit: in/by your mouth).

>> to part two (commentary) >>

Bert van der Spek and Marten Stol
for Livius.Org, 2008
Revision: 24 Feb 2015
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