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Dating problems in cuneiform tablets concerning the reign of Antigonus Monophthalmus. (Brief Communications).

In the course of research on cuneiform tablets no fewer than three years have been identified with the first year of Antigonus Monophthalmus (317/16, 316/15, and 315/14 B.C.). Thanks to a better knowledge of the astronomical goal-year texts, a better reading of the Saros Tablet, and the recent publication of a new Saros cycle text, the so-called Solar Saros, the correct equation (1 Antigonus = 317/16 B.C.) is now clear.

The death of Alexander the Great in June 323 B.C. posed a major threat to the unity of the newly conquered empire. After long and difficult deliberations Philip (III) Arrhidaeus, Alexander's feeble-minded half-brother, and Alexander IV, Alexander's posthumous son, were proclaimed joint kings under the tutelage of some of Alexander's generals. Although real power rested in the hands of these generals, all documents, on papyrus or clay, were dated to the regnal years of Philip and (after Philip's death) those of Alexander IV. In date formulas of cuneiform tablets Antigonus Monophthalmus also appears. He is never called king, but "strategos" ([[blank].sup.lu]rab uqu). (1)

Legal and administrative cuneiform documents were dated with Antigonus' name from 3 Antigonus until 9 Antigonus. Thanks to two astronomical tablets, the well-known Saros Canon LBAT 1428 and the recently published Solar Saros TAPS 81,6 24, Antigonus' reign can be exactly dated. Both cuneiform texts are so-called Saros Cycle Texts, which present eclipse possibilities arranged in an eighteen-year cycle. The Saros Canon lists possible lunar eclipses and the Solar Saros the possibilities for solar eclipses. Since both lunar and solar eclipses can occur twice (occasionally thrice) a year. every year of each cycle is recorded in the Saros Cycle Texts. This means they not only give the exact number of Antigonus' regnal years, but also place his reign in a wider chronological context. The Solar Saros is especially important in this respect because this text adopts the contemporary dating methods. Thanks to the Saros Cycle Texts, Antigonus' reign can now be dated without any doubt: 3 Antigonus corresponds to 315/14 B.C ., the year when Seleucus left Babylon for Egypt and Antigonus assumed power in Babylonia. This chronology is widely accepted and therefore adopted in Parker and Dubberstein's Babylonian Chronology, the basic work on the chronology of cuneiform texts from the Neo-Babylonian period onwards. (2)

Although the Saros Canon was already published at the end of the nineteenth century, the equation 3 Antigonus = 315/14 B.C. was not self-evident in the past.

According to H. Bengtson, (3) there were no fewer than three candidates for Antigonus' first year:

317/16 B.C. on the basis of the Saros Canon

316/15 B.C. on the basis of the Saros Tablet (called "eighteen year list" by Bengtson))

315/14 B.C. based on the astronomical tablet LBAT 1216

Although the chronology of the Saros Canon is widely accepted, the problems caused by the Saros Tablet and LBAT 1216 have complicated chronological studies. The difference with the Saros Tablet was never resolved and the solution to LBAT 1216 was not known in general academic circles. In the following I intend to discuss the content of the two cuneiform tablets that caused this chronological confusion. I will examine their original publication and interpretation to see why they are different from the chronology that is accepted today.

The Saros Tablet lists regnal years of the kings ruling in Babylonia from 567/66 B.C. until 99/98 B.C. at intervals of eighteen years. The text was first partly (Sp. II 48 only) published in 1884 by Pinches in PSBA 6 (1884): 202. A few years later Strassmaier corrected three of the numbers in ZA 7 (1892): 199-200 and joined the tablet with Sp. II 955 in ZA 8 (1893): 106. The corrections concerning the regnal years of Arta-xerxes II (18 instead of 8 in obv. 11', and 36 instead of 26 in obv. 12') proved to be exact and were generally accepted. Strassmaier also corrected obv. 15' from 3 Antigonus to 2 Antigonus. Consequently the chronology of the Saros Tablet was now different from that of the Saros Canon: since the date of obv. 15' could only be identified with 315/14 B.C. (eighteen years after 3 Darius III or 333/32 B.C., and eighteen years before 15 SE or 297/96 B.C.), reading 2 Antigonus in the Saros Tablet resulted unarguably in the equation 1 Antigonus = 316/15 B.C. instead of 1 Antigonus = 317/16 B.C. Des pite this chronological problem, Strassmaier's correction of obv. 15' has been widely accepted until this day. (5) Study and collation of the tablet in the British Museum finally resulted in the solution of the chronological problem: as can be seen on the copy included above, a small additional wedge can be discerned at the beginning of obv. 15'. This means that Pinches' original reading "3 Antigonus" was correct after all and no parallel dating system with one year of difference existed. Bengtson's second hypothesis, 1 Antigonus = 316/15 B.C., can therefore be discarded.

LBAT 1216 (BM 32154 = S [dagger] 76-11-17, 1881)

The astronomical text LBAT 1216 is a goal-year text for the year 81 SE (231/30 B.c.), first mentioned and discussed by Kugler in his book on Babylonian astronomy and published by Schaumberger on the basis of Kugler's papers in 1933. (6) A goal-year text deals with the phenomena (7) of all planets and the moon of one given year (in the future). Since these phenomena return periodically (each planet has a specific period (8) these predictions could easily be made on the basis of earlier observations. Each paragraph of the goal-year text refers to one planet. (9)

Lines 10-13 of the goal-year text LBAT 1216 present the phenomena of Jupiter: the account of the observations starts in 1. 10 with the date 19 Nisannu 10 SE (mu-10-kam [Se.sup.m] lugal bar 19; 11 May 302 B.C.) and continues with 18 [Du.sup.[contains]]uzu and 24 Addaru of 14 Antigonus ([mu]-14kam [An.sup.m]-ti-gu-nu-us) in 11. 12-13. Since it all involves observations of Jupiter, Kugler concluded that Antigonus reconquered Babylonia during the year 302/1 B.C. and that the chronology was adapted in the course of that year according to his regnal years. The first strange aspect of this hypothesis is the absence of the royal title "lugal" after Antigonus' name: Antigonus had been the first to proclaim himself king in 306 B.C. and 1. 10 two lines higher does mention the royal title of his enemy Seleucus. Secondly, the equation 10 SE = 14 Antigonus would mean that 1 Antigonus was 315/14 B.C., yet another date for the beginning of Antigonus' reign. (10)

Kugler's interpretation of this tablet and its political consequences were immediately adopted by Smith (11) and Beloch. (12) Except for Olmstead, (13) later commentators using the goal-year text LBAT 1216 also accepted Kugler's theory. (14)

The mistake in Kugler's hypothesis can only be detected by comparing his interpretation with other goal-year texts. As can be seen in the texts mentioned below, the seventy-one-year period is not the only period used to predict the phenomena of Jupiter for a given year. A period of eighty-three years normally follows the first paragraph of a goal-year text:
LBAT 1233: 106 SE - 71 = 35 SE (obv. 1)
 - 83 = 23 SE (obv. 4)
LBAT 1249: 135 SE - 71 = [6]4 SE (obv. 1)
 - 83 = 52 SE (obv. 5)
LBAT 1253: 142 SE - 71 = 71 SE (obv. 1)
 - 83 = 59 SE (obv. 6)
LBAT 1263: 160 SE - 71 = 89 SE (obv. 1)
 - 83 = 77 SE (obv. 4)
LBAT 1264: 167 SE - 71 = 96 SE (obv. 1)
 - 83 = 84 SE (obv. 3)
LBAT 1275: 184 SE - 71 = 113 SE (obv. 1)
 - 83 = 101 SE (obv. 4)


The only difference between these tablets and LBAT 1216 visible on the copies is the absence of a dividing line that normally marks the end of a paragraph. Collation in the British Museum, however, made clear that such a line is indeed present on the original of LBAT 1216 between 1. 11 and 1. 12. This means that the date at the beginning of 1. 12 was not 10 SE or seventy-one years before the goal-year 81 SE (= 23 1/30 B.C.), but twelve years earlier, 3 14/13 B.C. or 4 Antigonus according to the chronology of the Saros Canon. A closer look at [mu]-l4-kam [An.sup.m]-ti-gu-nu-us in 1. 12 may lead to another possible reading. The first trace of a cuneiform sign is not necessarily a "Winkelhaken" (read as the number "10" by Kugler), but can also be interpreted as the last (and only preserved) diagonal wedge of the MU sign. This hypothesis results in the reading [m]u-4-kdm [An.sup.m]-ti-gu-nu us, an interpretation that is completely consistent with the astronomical content of a goal-year text (two periods for the planet Jup iter, respectively seventy-one and eighty-three years) and the chronological system based on the Saros Canon (1 Antigonus = 3 17/16 B.C.; in 314/13 B.C. Antigonus was not yet king).

Sachs included the goal-year text LBAT 1216 as text 12 in his article on the classification of the non-mathematical astronomical texts. (15) Although he did point out that predicting the phenomena of Jupiter normally required two periods, he followed Kugler's interpretation as far as LBAT 1216 is concerned by noting there were no indications of an eighty-three-year period in this text. Oelsner (16) was the first to notice Kugler's mistake, but his remark remained unnoticed in academic literature. Kuhrt (17) recently made the same objection in her review of Mehl's Seleukos Nikator. She was followed by Lund, (18) but still ignored by Orth. (19)

The correct interpretations of the goal-year text LBAT 1216 and the Saros Tablet BM 34576 no longer show chronological problems. Both texts can be integrated without any problem into the chronology of Antigonus' reign provided by the Saros Cycle Texts as shown in Table 2.

Abbreviations follow those used in The Chicago Assyrian Dictionary. Other abbreviations: CPh = Classical Philology; SE = Seleucid Era; TAPS = Transactions of the American Philosophical Society; TAVO = Tubinger Atlas des vorderen Orients.

(1.) Also in Palestine documents were dated to Antigonus, as is clear in three Aramaic ostraca from Idumaea (I. Eph[al.sup.[subset]] and J. Naveh, Aramaic Ostraca of the Fourth Century BC from Idumaea [Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, 1996), nos. 56, 108, and 128; for the reading "Antigonus," see R. Zadok, "Antigonos Monophthalmos in Documents from Idumaea," NABU 1997/54).

(2.) R. A. Parker and W. H. Dubberstein, Babylonian Chronology 626 B.C.-A.D. 75 (Providence: Brown Univ. Press, 1956), 36. For a complete survey of the dating methods in the early Hellenistic period, see now T. Boiy, "Dating Methods during the Early Hellenistic Period," JCS 52 (2000): 115-21.

(3.) H. Bengtson, Die Strategie in der hellenistischen Zeit: Ein Beitrag zum antiken Staatsrecht, vol. 1 (Munich: C. H. Beck, 1964), 111-12.

(4.) My thanks are due to the Trustees of the British Museum for permission to publish this tablet and especially to C. Walker for his friendly cooperation and help.

(5.) See, e.g., E. Meyer, Forschungen zur alten Geschichte, II: Zur Geschichte des 5. Jahrhunderts v. Chr. (Halle: Niemeyer, 1899), 457 and the table opposite this page; F. X. Kugler, Sternkunde und Sterndienst in Babel: Assyriologische, astronomische und astralmyrhologische Untersuchungen, vol. 2: Natur, Mythus und Geschichte als Grundlagen babylonischer Zeitordnung nebst eingehender Untersuchungen der alteren Sternkunde und Meteorologie (Munster: Aschendorffschen Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1909-24), 364 n. 1; S. Smith, "The Chronology of Philip Arrhidaeus, Antigonus and Alexander IV," RA 22 (1925): 183; A. T. Olmstead, "Cuneiform Texts and Hellenistic Chronology," CPh 32 (1937): 5; H. Bengtson, Die Strategie, 102; A. B. Bosworth, "Philip III Arrhidaeus and the Chronology of the Successors," Chiron 22 (1992): 64--65. Only J. Oppert. "Die Schaltmonate bei den Babyloniem und die agyptisch-chaldaische Ara des Nabonassar," ZDMG 51 (1897): 158, preferred Pinches' reading, 3 Antigonus.

(6.) F. X. Kugler, Sternkunde und Sterndienst, 2: 438, and Von Moses bis Paulus: Forschungen zur Geschichte Israels nach biblischen und profangeschichtlichen insbesondere neuen keilinschriftlichen Quellen (Munster: Aschendorffschcn Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1922), 305-7; F. X. Kugler and P. J. Schaumberger, "Drei planetarische Hilfstafeln," AnOr 6 (1933): 4-7, followed by a new discussion of the text by F. X. Kugler and P. J. Schaumberger, "Drei babylonische Planetentafeln der Seleukidenzeit," Or. NS 2 (1933): 100-105.

(7.) Also called Greek-Letter Phenomena because A. Sachs, "A Classification of the Babylonian Astronomical Tablets of the Seleucid Period", JCS 2 (1948): 274, indicated them with Greek letters. For a survey of the Greek-Letter Phenomena see, e.g., O. Neugebauer, A History of Ancient Mathematical Astronomy (Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1975), 386.

(8.) Jupiter, 71 and 83 years; Venus, 8 years; Mercury, 46 years; Saturn, 59 years; Mars, 47 and 79 years; moon, 18 years.

(9.) For the classification of the non-mathematical astronomical texts, see Sachs, JCS 2 (1948): 271-90.

(10.) In his first discussion Kugler, Sternkunde und Sterndienst, 2: 438, read "year 15," resulting, according to him, in the same chronological system used in the Saros Tablet. He later changed this reading to 14 (Von Moses bis Paulus, 305).

(11.) S. Smith, RA 22 (1925): 183.

(12.) K. J. Beloch, Griechische Geschichte IV,2 (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1927), 246-47.

(13.) A. T. Olmstead, CPh 32 (1937): 5.

(14.) H. Bengtson, Die Strategie, 112; D. Must "Lo stato dei Seleucidi: Dinastia popoli citt'a da Seleuco I ad Antioco III," SCO 15 (1966): 89; A. Mehl, Seleukos Nikator und sein Reich, vol. 1: Seleukos' Leben und die Entwicklung seiner Machtsposition (Louvain, 1986), 196-98; J. D. Gauger, "Mesopotamien und Babylonien," in Kleines Worterbuch des Hellenismus, ed. H. H. Schmitt and E. Vogt (Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1988), 446 n. 1; R. A. Billows, Antigonos the One-Eyed and the Creation of the Hellenistic State (Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press, 1990), 178; J. D. Grainger, The Cities of Seleukid Syria (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1990), 32; W. Orth, Die Diadochenzeit im Spiegel der historischen Geographie, TAVO Beih. B80 (Wiesbaden: Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag, 1993), 114.

(15.) See n. 9, above.

(16.) J. Oelsner, "Keilschriftliche Beitrage zur politischen Geschichte Babyloniens in den ersten Jahrzehnten der griechisehen Herrschaft (331-305 v.u.Z.)," AoF 1(1974): 133 and n. 18.

(17.) A. Kuhrt, review of A. Mehl, Seleukos Nikator, BiOr 46 (1989): 508.

(18.) H. S. Lund, Lysimachus: A Study in Early Hellenistic Kingship (London: Routledge, 1992), 74.

(19.) W. Orth, Die Diadocheazeit, 114.
Table 1

Antigonus' Regnal Years according to the Solar Saros and the Saros Canon

 B.C. Solar Saros Saros Canon

317/16 [Phil.] 7 Antig. 1
316/15 8 2
315/14 Antig. 3 3
314/13 4 4
313/12 5 5
312/11 6 6
311/10 (Alex.) 6 [Sel.] 1
Table 2

Antigonus' Regnal Years

 B.C. LBAT 1216 Saros Tablet Solar Saros Saros Canon

317/16 [Phil.] 7 Antig. 1
316/15 8 2
315/14 Antig. 3 Antig. 3 3
314/13 Antig. 4 4 4
313/12 5 5
312/11 6 6
311/10 (Alex.) 6 [Sel.] 1
Obv. 1' [38] [[na.sup.md]-nig-d][LEFT CEILING] [18]
 u[RIGHT CEILING]-[[uru.sub.3]]
 [7] [[n.sup.md]]a-i [18]
 [8] [[ku.sup.m]]-ras 1[LEFT CEILING]8[RIGHT CEILING]
 [9] [da.sup.m]-ra-mus 1[LEFT CEILING]8[RIGHT CEILING]
5' 27 [da.sup.m]-ra-mus 18
 9 [hi.sup.m]-si-ar-su 18
 6 [ar.sup.m]-tak-sat-su 1[LEFT CEILING]8[RIGHT CEILING]
 [24] [ar.sup.m]-tak-sat-s] [18]
 [LEFT CEILING]u[RIGHT CEILING]
 [1] [[blank].sup.[LEFT CEILING] [18]
 m[RIGHT CEILING]]
 [da-ra-mus]
10' 19 [da.sup.m]-ra-mus 1[LEFT CEILING]8[RIGHT CEILING]
 1[LEFT CEILING]8[RIGHT CEILING]
 [ar.sup.m]-tak-sat-su 1[LEFT CEILING]8[RIGHT CEILING]
 36 [ar.sup.m]-tak-sat-su 18
 8 [u.sup.m]-ma-su 18
 3 [da.sup.m]-ra-mus 18
15' 3 [an.sup.m]-ti-gu 18
 15 [se.sup.m] 18
 33 [se.sup.m] 18
 [LEFT CEILING]5[RIGHT CEILING]1
 [se.sup.m] 18
 69 [se.sup.m] 18
Rev. 1 87 18
 105 18
 123 18
 141 18
5 159 18
 177 18
 195 18
 213 18


Obv. 1' (567/66 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar II)
 (549/48 B.C., Nabonidus)
 (531/30 B.C., Cyrus)
 (513/12 B.C., Darius I)
5' (495/94 B.C.)
 (477/76 B.C., Xerxes)
 (459/58 B.C., Artaxerxes I)
 (441/40 B.C.)
 (423/22 B.C., Darius II)
10' (405/4 B.C.)
 (387/86 B.C., Artaxerxes II)
 (369/68 B.C.)
 (351/50 B.C., Artaxerxes III)
 (333/32 B.C., Darius III)
15' (315/14 B.C., Antigonus)
 (297/96 B.C., Seleucus)
 (279/78 B.C.)
 (261/60 B.C.)
 (243/42 B.C.)
Rev. 1 (225/24 B.C.)
 (207/6 B.C.)
 (189/88 B.C.)
 (171/70 B.C.)
5 (153/52 B.C.)
 (135/34 B.C.)
 (117/16 B.C.)
 (99/98 B.C.)
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Author:Boiy, Tom
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Geographic Code:4EUGR
Date:Oct 1, 2001
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