BCHP 20 (Euphrates Chronicle)

The Chronicle Concering the Digging of the Euphrates (BCHP 20) is a Mesopotamian chronicle written in ancient Babylonia in the Hellenistic Period.

Euphrates Chronicle, Obverse

The Chronicle Concering the Digging of the Euphrates (BCHP 20, "Euphrates Chronicle") is a Mesopotamian chronicle written in ancient Babylonia in the Hellenistic Period. It describes the digging out of the Euphrates in 94 BCE and, therefore, belongs to the reign of the Parthian king Mithradates II.Today, the cuneiform tablet (BM 35031) is in the British Museum

On this webpage, a new reading of this text is proposed. The official publication will be in I.L. Finkel,  R.J. van der Spek, R. Pirngruber, Babylonian Chronographic Texts from the Hellenistic Period (2020; = BCHP; Writings of the Ancient World).

Description of the tablet

Euphrates Chronicle, Reverse

The document is the right upper part of a round tablet of irregular and unusual shape. The obverse is flat, the reverse is clumsily made and is skewed at the edge. The height of the obverse is 5.4 cm, its width 5.1 cm. The lines do not follow a straight direction at the edges.

The tablet is obviously neither shaped nor written by an experienced hand. 

General commentary

The text really seems to be a chronicle, since the tablet starts with historical information and no astronomical data is preserved. In view of the unusual format of the tablet, it may be considered a rough draft.

The chronicle obviously concerns the Parthian period. The Mithradates mentioned in line 1, is certainly not an Arsacid king because kings are always named by their royal name Arsaces. However, it seems certain that the events described in this chronicle refer to the digging of a canal upstream from Babylon, a project that is also mentioned in the Astronomical Diaries and can be dated to the summer of 94 BCE.

 


Obverse

[Obv.1] [Year n, month MN. That month. Mithrad]ates?

[Obv.2] [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ] x x

[Obv.3] [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ] which/of the people

[Obv.4] [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ]x from Babylon

[Obv.5] [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..] to dig out of the Euphrates

[Obv.6] [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..] he began.

[Obv.7] [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Mithradat]es?? the garrison commander

[Obv.8] [. .. .. .. .. .. ..]x the people, who from /Babylon?\

[Obv.9] [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ]s to Sippar (or: the Euphrates)

Reverse

[Rev.1'] [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..] x x

[Rev.2'] [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ] below

[Rev.3'] [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..] .. .. ..

------------------------------------------

[Rev.4'] [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..Mithra]/dates??\ the garrison commander

[Rev.5'] [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..] x x x of/which the king

[Rev.6'] [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..]s the Euphrates

[Rev.7'] [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..] from Borsippa

[Rev.8'] [.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. a]s previously

[Remainder lost]