Academic journal article The Journal of the American Oriental Society

Dating Problems in Cuneiform Tablets concerning the Reign of Antigonus Monophthalmus. (Brief Communications)

Academic journal article The Journal of the American Oriental Society

Dating Problems in Cuneiform Tablets concerning the Reign of Antigonus Monophthalmus. (Brief Communications)

Article excerpt

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]]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. …

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