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The Alexander Chronicle (BCHP 1): Another reading

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Bust of Alexander the Great, from Delos, now in the Louvre, Paris (France). Photo Marco Prins.
Bust of Alexander the Great, from Delos, now in the Louvre.
The Babylonian Alexander Chronicle (BCHP 1; a.k.a. ABC 8, Chronicle 8) is one of the historiographical texts from ancient Babylonia. It deals with events from the reigns of the Persian king Darius III Codomannus and his Macedonian successor Alexander the Great.

The cuneiform tablet (BM 36304) is in the British Museum and was first published by A.K. Grayson in 1975 in a book called Assyrian and Babylonian Chronicles. On this website, a new reading is proposed by Bert van der Spek of the Free University of Amsterdam (Netherlands). The official publication can be found in Achaemenid History XIII (2003).

An alternative reading, not by Van der Spek but published in Lendering (2004), is proposed here.

Babylonian Chronicles
Text and translation
Alternative reading


BCHP 1, the Alexander Chronicle, obverse. Photo Bert van der Spek.
BCHP 1: Alexander Chronicle (obverse; **)

Alternative reading

In Van der Spek's reconstruction, the horizontal lines in this tablet are interpreted as indications of years. However, as Van der Spek himself says (above), on several tablets the lines indicate months. The following text shows what happens when we read the obverse of the Alexander Chronicle in this fashion:
  1. [Month IV (July): Darius the king, from] his throne they removed him. Be[ssus]
  2. [sat on the throne and Artaxerxes] as his name they named him [note], and Alexander and his troops
  3. [pursued Bessus the rebel king. Alexander with] his few troops with the troops [of Bessus made battle.]
  4. [Bessus] killed [Darius the king]. The Hanaean troops, his troops, which [...]
  5. [... from Babylon (???) to (?) ] Darius, the king, had gone, [were released.]
  6. [Month V, d]ay 15] Kidinnu was killed by the sword. In the month VI (September), on the [nth] day [X happened]
  7. [Month VII (October): The king was in] the land of -zu-ia-a-nu, a city of the land of Gutium.
  8. [.....]
  9. [Month VIII (November): From] the palace of Babylon they brought out their goods
  10. [.......... for] the making of the xx [............]
  11. [................] for the performance of the festival of Bl to the [Babylon]ians they gave.
  12. [Month IX (25 Nov - 24 Dec): ........]-Bl, his son, to the office of satrap
  13. [he appointed .............] evil to the king they plotted.
The weakness of this reconstruction is line 8, where two months are dealt with in one line. This may have happened in line 10 too. It can not be excluded that the events now mentioned in months VIII and IX in fact belong to IX and X.

Month IV, Du'zu, suits the date given by Arrian of Nicomedia for the death of Darius, Hecatambaeon.

Bessus is immediately called Artaxerxes, and not after several weeks, as Arrian says.

-zu-ia-a-nu may or may not be identical to Susia, modern Tus, north of Mashad.

This may refer to the official version of the execution of Philotas and Parmenion.

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