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The Diadochi Chronicle (BCHP 3): Description

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Coin of Seleucus, struck 310 BCE in Babylon. British Museum, London (Britain). Photo Marco Prins.
Coin of Seleucus minted in 310 in Babylon (British Museum)
The Babylonian Diadochi Chronicle (BCHP 3; a.k.a. ABC 10, Chronicle 10) is one of the historiographical texts from ancient Babylonia. It deals with the history of the Diadochi, the successors of Alexander the Great, and the Babylonian war between the generals Seleucus and Antigonus Monophthalmus.

The following webpages offer a preliminary new edition by Bert van der Spek, Free University, Amsterdam (Holland), and Irving L. Finkel, British Museum, London.* They are currently working on a new edition of all published and unpublished chronicles of the Hellenistic period and wish to thank Cornelia Wunsch for her comments and suggestions. Especially her idea that the fragments are part of an original four-columned tablet is very illuminating and Van der Spek and Finkel accept this as the most likely solution of many problems.

Previous editions

  • S. Smith, Babylonian Historical Texts relating to the capture and downfall of Babylon (1924, London) 124-149; copy plates xv – xvii;
  • A.K. Grayson, Assyrian and Babylonian Chronicles, (1975, Locust Valley) 115-119; photographs plate xviii;
  • J.J. Glassner, Chroniques mésopotamiens, (1993, Paris)207-209;
  • G.F. Del Monte, Testi dalla Babilonia Ellenistica. Volume I. Testi Cronografici (Studi ellenistici 9) (1997, Pisa, Roma) 183-194.
Babylonian Chronicles
Previous editions
Text and translation
Related texts


BCHP 3, the Chronicle of the Diadochi, obverse. Photo Bert van der Spek.
BCHP 3, the Chronicle of the
Diadochi, obverse
(British Museum).**

Description of the tablet

The tablet as preserved consists of two fragments, which were edited as separate fragments in the previous publications. Irving Finkel, however, found out that the fragments join. The upper part (BM 36313) is almost completely destroyed, probably by a spade when the tablet was dug up. The upper edge of it, however, is preserved, so that we have an idea about the length of the tablet and the number of lines. The lower part (BM 34660) is inscribed on both sides.

The total length of the tablet as we have it is 17 cm, the upper fragment ca. 7.5 cm, the lower part 9.5 cm. The width is about 6 to 6.5 cm. The upper edge is inscribed with the last lines of the reverse. The thickness of the tablet at the left side is 2 cm, at the right side 3.8 cm. The thickness only increases, so that at least the right half of the tablet is lost, but probably more.

BCHP 3, the Chronicle of the Diadochi, reverse. Photo Bert van der Spek.
Chronicle of the Diadochi,
reverse. **

Probably two thirds to three fourths of the tablet are lost. Cornelia Wunsch, who studied the tablet intensively, concluded that it is most likely that the tablet was a four-columned document. In two lines we are able to reconstruct the entire content: rev. 14’ and 32’. So we know that the lines of the columns consisted of approximately 28-29 signs (single vertical wedges, being a personal marker or the sign for ana = "to", not included).

At the lower side of the tablet is not much lost, in view of the curvature, which returns to nearly the thickness of the upper edge. Since there are traces on the very end of the tablet, which seems to be the beginning of the edge, line 41' might well be the last line of the obverse.

I suggest a new numbering of the lines, which takes the traces of the upper part into account and gives a better idea of the size of the original text. The line numbering of Grayson's edition is added.

to part two (text and translation)

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