A Contemporary Account of the Death of Alexander

On the last day of the month Aiiâru in the fourteenth year of his reign, Alexander died in Babylon. The only contemporary source describing the event is the Astronomical Diary, a day-by-day account of celestial phenomena, written by the officials of the Esagila temple complex. The diary mentions other events as well, e.g., the level of the Euphrates, the weather, the food prices, incidents concerning Babylon and its temples, and political events - after all, the celestial phenomena were omens of important political changes.

The following is the Diary of the second month, Aiiâru, of 323 BCE. Unfortunately, the death of Alexander occurred in a clouded week; there are almost no observations. Because the tablet, which is now in the British Museum, is a bit damaged, entire days are missing. Still, this is the only contemporary source for the death of Alexander.

More information about Alexander's death can be found here.

A Contemporary Account of the Death of Alexander

[Year fourteen of Alexander, Month Two]

[The first part is missing.]

Night of the fourteenth, beginning of the night, the moon was [lacuna] in front of Theta Ophiuchi.note

[Night of the eighteenth,] first part of the night, Mercury was fourteen fingers above Saturn.

[lacuna] crossed the sky.

The twenty-first: clouds crossed the sky.

Night of the twenty-second: clouds [crossed the sky; lacuna]

[Night of the twenty-third: lacuna] 2 2/3 cubits; clouds were in the sky.

The twenty-fourth: clouds [were in the sky].

[lacuna] clouds crossed the sky.

Night of the twenty-seventh: clouds crossed the sky.

The twenty-seventh: [lacuna]

[The night of the twenty-eighth?; lacuna] stood to the east.

The twenty-ninth: The king died. Clouds.note

[That month, the equivalent for 1 shekel of silver was: lacuna] note cress, 1 sût 4 qa; sesame 3 1/2 qa.

[At that time; lacuna] Saturn was in Gemini, at the end of the month in Cancer; Mars was in Virgo.

[lacuna] the Gate of Bêl [lacuna] note