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Chronology of Babylonia and Assyria

The following article was originally based on content from the 1911 Encyclopędia Britannica, so it became partly obsolete. (An suggested updating below that text has been offered, by removing some of the conflicting numbers and offering much more absolute dates, mainly solar and lunar eclipse records.)

The later chronology of Assyria has long been fixed, thanks to the lists of limmi, or archons, who gave their names in succession to their years of office. Several copies of these lists from the library of Nineveh are in existence, the earliest of which goes back to 911 B.C., while the latest comes down to the middle of the reign of Assur-bani-pal. The beginning of a king's reign is noted in the lists, and in some of them the chief events of the year are added to the name of its archon, Assyrian chronology is, therefore, certain from 911 B.C. to 666, and an eclipse of the sun which is stated to have been visible in the month Sivan, 763 B.C., is one that has been calculated to have taken place on the 15th of June of that tear. The system of reckoning time by limmi was of Assyrian. origin, and recent discoveries have made it clear that it went back to the first days of the monarchy. Even in the distant colony at Kara Euyuk near Kaisariyeh (Caesarea) in Cappadocia cuneiform tablets show that the Assyrian settlers used it in the 15th century B.C. In Babylonia a different system was adopted. Here the years were dated by the chief events that distinguished them, as was also the case in Egypt in the epoch of the Old Empire. What the event should be was determined by the government and notified to all its officials; one of these notices, sent to the Babylonian officials in Canaan in the reign of Samsuiluna, the son of Khammurabi, has been found in the Lebanon. A careful register of the dates was kept, divided into reigns, from which dynastic lists were afterwards compiled, giving the duration of each king's reign as well as that of the several dynasties. Two of these dynastic compilations have been discovered, unfortunately in an imperfect state.

In addition to the chronological tables, works of a more ambitious and literary character were also attempted of the nature of chronicles. One of these is the so-called "Synchronous History of Assyria and Babylonia," consisting of brief notices, written by an Assyrian, of the occasions on which the kings of the two countries had entered into relation, hostile or otherwise, with one another; a second is the Babylonian Chronicle discovered by Dr Th. G. Pinches, which gave a synopsis of Babylonian history from a Babylonian point of view, and was compiled in the reign of Darius. It is interesting to note that its author says of the battle of Khalule, which we know from the Assyrian inscriptions to have taken place in 691 or 690 B,C., that he does "not know the year" when it was fought: the records of Assyria had been already lost, even in Babylonia. The early existence of an accurate system of dating is not surprising; it was necessitated by the fact that Babylonia was a great trading community, in which it was not only needful that commercial and legal documents should be dated, but also that it should be possible to refer lasily to the dates of former business transactions. The Babylonian and Assyrian kings had consequently no difficulty in determining the age of their predecessors or of past events. Nabonidus (Nabunaid), who was more of an antiquarian than a politician, and spent his time in excavating the older temples of his country and ascertaining the names of their builders, tells us that Naram-Sin, the son of Sargon of Akkad, lived 3200 years before himself (i.e. 3750 B.c.), and Sagarakti-suryas 800 years; and we learn from Sennacherib that Shalmaneser I. reigned 600 years earlier, and that Tiglath-pileser I. fought with Merodach-nadin-akhi (Marduk-nadin-akh~) of Babylon 418 years before the campaign of 689 B.c.; while, according to Tiglath-pileser I., the high-priest Samas-Hadad, son of IsmeDagon, built the temple of Anu and Hadad at Assur 701 years before his own time. Shalmaneser I. in his turn states that the high-priest Samas-Hadad, the son of Bel-kabi, governed Assur 580 years previously, and that 159 years before this the highpriest Erisum was reigning there. The raid of the Elamite king Kutur-Nakhkhuntë is placed by Assur-bani-pal 1635 years before his own conquest of Susa, and Khammurabi is said by Nabonidus to have preceded Burna-buryas by 700 years.

Modern critical revision with suggested updating as follow:

It is generally accepted by the archaeological consnsus that the son of Sargon of Akkad cannot be placed as high as in 3750 BCE. As the reign of King Nabonidus ended by the accession of Cyrus in Babylonia around 539 or 538 BCE, the years may have been given by actual modern half years. The Jewish chronology[?] and the Old Testament has the same situation with the same dilemma. Their "years" may have been commenced both by the first day of Nisanu[?] (Nisan) and that of Tashritu[?] (Tishri[?]) in their remote histories. Therefore, it is likely that the correct interval is not 3200 but 1600. It is probably a rounded figure. One must be careful with the several intervals between rulers and events cited by the above mentioned unearthed documents. We cannot prove that a totally reliable chronological list was available for all the scribes, and they have been versed historians. They may have been pressed to give a figure but not enough time for a thorough research. Many of the figures contradict to each other, etc.

We start our list of Babylonian kings[?] with a significant ruler of Erech called Lugalzaggisi[?], placing him from 2411 to 2376. He was a contemporary of Urukagina[?] king of Lagash (reigned 2407-2399) and Sargon (2399-2343) king of Akkad.

After Sargon, the next king was Rimush[?](...). His contemporary in Ur was Ka-kug[?] or Ka-ku (2376-2341). The son and successor of Rimush was Manishtusu[?] (2334-2329), whose Assyrian viceroy was Abazu[?], son of Nuabu[?].

In this period the rulers of Kish were Simudarra[?] or Simudar (2399-2369), a contemporary of Sargon. After him Usi-watar[?] (2369-2362), Eshtarmuti[?] (2362-2351), Ishme-shamash[?] (2351-2340), and Nannia[?] (2340-2243) reigned in Kish.

In Akkad, after Manishtusu, the following kings reigned:

2329-2282 Naram-sin[?]
2282-2257 Shar-kali-sharri[?]

He was contemporary with the first Gutian[?] king, Erridupizir[?], and he later defeated Sarlagab, another king of Gutium[?].

2257-???? Igigi[?], Nanum[?], and Imi[?], pretenders
????-2254 Elulu[?], a pretender, maybe King Elul(u)mesh of Gutium.
2254-2233 Dudu[?]
2233-2218 Shu-durul[?]

Shu-durul was the last ruler. (Agade/Akkad was defeated by Erech. Then Erech dominated until 2194, then eight Median-Elamite[?] usurper tyrants ruled for 224 years, according to Berossos[?], from 2194 to 1970 BCE. Some of them are listed here.)

Erech:

2219-2212 Ur-nigin[?](ak)
2212-2206 Ur-gigir[?](ak)
2206-2200 Kudda or Gudea
2200-2195 Puzur-ili[?]
2195 (?) Lugal-melam[?] (?)
2195-2189 Ur-utu[?](k)
2189-2179 Utu-khegal[?] or Utu-khengal

He was a contemporary of Tirigan, the last king of the Guti[?].

During this period the Gutian[?] or Guti kings flourished as follow:

2280-2277 Erridupizir[?], the first ruler.
2277-2274 Imta[?]
2274-2268 Inkishush[?]
2268-2265 Sarlagab[?]
2265-2259 Shulme'[?]
2259-2253 Elulmesh[?] or Elulu-mesh
2253-2248 Inimabakesh[?]
2248-2242 Igeshaush[?]
2242-2227 Iarlangab[?] or Iarlagab
2227-2224 Ibate[?]

Ibate's name curiously reminds one to Ibates[?], one of the earliest ancestors in the Irish and the Scottish pedigrees.

2224-2221 Iarlangab[?]
2221-2220 Kurum[?]
2220-2217 Habil-kin[?]
2217-2215 La'erabum[?]
2215-2213 Irarum[?]
2213-2212 Ibranum[?]
2212-2210 Hablum[?]
2210-2203 Puzur-sin[?]
2203-2196 Iarlaganda[?]
2196-2189 Si'u or Si'um[?]
2189-2189 Tirigan[?]

Tirigan reigned only for 40 days, according to Jacobsen. His chrononolgical table (1934: 208 ff.) has placed the accession of Ur-Nammu[?] (Dynasty III of Ur[?]) ten years after the end of Utu-khegal[?]'s reign. His fall may or may not have coincided with his lost battle against Erech. This famous battle took place on the day of an eclipse of the moon, on the 14th day of the month Duzu[?] or Tammuz, from the first watch to the middle watch. See Schoch[?] (1927: B6-B8), and Thorkild Jacobsen[?], The Sumerian King List (Chicago, 1934: 203). This is the first eclipse record in the Near East that is identifiable with high probability. It took place on August 13, 2189 BC, with a magnitude of 120% which is remarkable.

After the defeat of Gutium, the Third Dynasty of Ur[?] was fourishing:

2179-2161 Ur-Nammu[?] or Ur-Engur[?]
2161-2113 Shulgi[?]

A double (solar and lunar) eclipse took place 23 years after Shulgi's accession to the throne. Prof. Jacob Klein[?] of Bar-Ilan University[?] in his book Three Sulgi hymns (1981: 59 and 81) tells that the first 23 years of his reing was peaceful, and that the sun was eclipsed on the horizon, just like the moon on the sky, during the first battles of Sulgi. (Most historians do not feel confident about their own astronomical profiency, therefore the extreme importance of this double eclipse record remained unnoticed. Another difficulty is that the reading has a questionmark.) Z.A. Simon adds that the lunar eclipse is mentioned first in the poem, because the worship of Sin (The moon) was predominant for them, and that the record is poetic, not that of an astronomer. This rare phaenomena[?] occurred on May 9, 2138 BCE (solar eclipse), with a magnitude of 34%. The lunar eclipse took place on May 24, 2138 BCE.

2113-2104 Amar-Sin[?] or Bur-Sin. His viceroy in Assyria was Zariqum[?].
2104-2095 Shu-Sin[?]

An eclipse of the moon observed in the month Simanu[?] (Sivan[?]) may be placed near the end of Shu-sin's reign, called patricide eclipse[?] in the literature. The clipse "drew through" and "equalized" the first watch, meaning that has coincided with it, then touched the second watch. It took place on July 25, 2095 BCE. Refer to Carl Schoch[?], Die Ur-Finsternis (Berlin, 1927: B6-B8). Professor Peter J. Huber[?], Astronomy and Ancient Chronology in the journal Accadica (Vol. 119-120 deals with this issue about the omen EAE 20-III. We have learned from him that it may have belonged the the death of Shulgi, or it may have been another king, for the name is not mentioned. (Therefore, it could have belonged to Shu-sin, we believe, also adding that the expression will wrong him does not necessarily mean murdering a king. We note here that the data evaluated by Huber (page 166) "rejects the middle chronologies on the 1% level... this is a strong argument against the correctness of the middle chronologies." (Editor's note: those are still in common use.)

2095-2070 Ibbi-Sin[?]

Ibbi-Sin's reign lasted for 24 or 26 years (S. Langdon and John K. Fotheringham[?], The Venus tablets of Ammizaduga[?], 1928). An eclipse of the moon caused terror shortly before his fall, in the month Addaru[?] or Adar. The real eclipse had a magnitude of 153%. (Schoch describes this eclipse as well, proposing a different candidate.)

A few years before the fall of Ibbi-Sin, another city started to flourish: Isin[?]. Its first ruler had emerged several years earlier. The kings of Isin are as follow:

2083-2050 Ishbi-erra[?]
2050-2040 Shu-ilishu[?]
2040-2019 Iddin-dagan[?]
2019-2000 Ishme-dagan[?]
2000-1989 Lipit-Ishtar[?]
1989-1961 Un-ninurta[?]
1961-1940 Bur-sin[?] or Amar-sin[?]
1940-1935 Lipit-enlil[?]
1935-1927 Erra-imitti[?] or Ura-imitti
1927-1927 Tabbaya[?]
1927-1903 Enlil-bani[?]
1903-1900 Zambiya[?]
1900-1896 Iter-pisha[?]
1896-1892 Ur-dulkugga[?]
1892-1881 Sin-magir[?]
1881-1858 Damiq-ilishu[?]

The First Dynasty of Babylon was almost contemporary with Isin. Their chronology is debated, because there is a King List A and a Babylonian King List B[?]. Hereby we follow the regnal years of List A, because those are widely used, although we believe that the other list is better, at least for one or two reigns out of the first six. (The reigns in List B are longer, in general. Unfortunately, it is not available for the editor.)

First Babylonian Dynasty:

1959-1945 Su-abu[?] or Suum-abum[?]
1945-1909 Sumula-ilum[?]
1909-1895 Sabium[?] or Sabum[?]
1895-1877 Apil-Sin[?]
1877-1857 Sin-muballit[?]
1857-1814 Hammurabi

His other name was Hammurapi-ilu[?], meaning Hammurapi the god or perhaps Hammurapi is god. He could have been Amraphel king of Sinear[?] in the Jewish records and the Bible, a contemporary of Abraham.

1814-1776 Samsu-ilana[?]
1776-1748 Abi-eshuh[?] or Abieshu
1748-1711 Ammi-ditana[?]
1711-1690 Ammi-zaduga[?] or Ammisaduqa

His Venus-tablets[?] (i.e., several ancient versions on clay tablets) are famous, and several books had been published about them. Several dates have been offered but the old dates of many sourcebooks seens to be outdated and incorrect. There are further difficulties: the 21 years span of the detailed observations of the planet Venus may or may not coincide with the reign of this king, because his name is not mentioned, only the Year of the Golden Throne[?]. A few sources, some printed almost a century ago, claim that the original text mentions an occultation of the Venus by the moon. It seems to me a misinterpretation because the original texts in the book of Erica Reiner[?] and D. Pingree[?], The Venus Tablet of Ammisaduqa there is no such sentence. Prof. P.J. Huber's detailed calculations at this point also prefer 1659 for the fall of Babylon, based on the statistical probability of dating based on the planet's observations. He finds the presently accepted middle chronology too low from the astronomical point of view.

1690-1659 Samsu-ditana[?]

A text about the fall of Babylon[?] by the Hittites of Mursilis[?] I at the end of Samsuditana's reign tells about a twin eclipse is crucial for a correct Babylonian chronology. (The reading of the word Babylon is uncertain but why should a Babylonian tablet refer to another city?). The pair of lunar and solar eclipses occurred in the month Shimanu[?] (Sivan[?]). Professor Peter J. Huber has computed several options that would satisfy the conditions of the detailed description. The lunar eclipse took place on February 9, 1659 BCE. It started at 4:43 and ended at 6:47. The latter was invisible which safisfies the record which tells that the setting moon was still eclipsed. The solar eclipse occurred on February 23, 1659. It started at 10:26, has its maximum at 11:45, and ended at 13:04. See Peter Huber, Astronomical dating of Babylon I and Ur III in Monographic Journals of the Near East (1982: 41).

The Assyrian kings[?] of this period are as follow:

Zuabu
Nuabu, son of Zuabu
Abazu, viceroy of Manishtusu of Akkad, son of Nuabu, died c. 2330
Belu or Tillu, son of Abazu, died c. 2309
Asarah, son of Belu, died c. 2288
Ititi
Enlil-kabkabu
Ushpia, son of Asarah, died c. 2267
Apiashal, the 17th tent-dweller king, son of Ushpia, died c. 2246
Halu, son of Apiashal, died c. 2226
Samanu, son of Halu, died c. 2205
Haianu, son of Samanu, died c. 2184
Ilu-mer, son of Haianu, died c. 2164
Iakmesi, son of Ilu-mer, died c. 2143
Azuzu or Uzuzu
Urda or Urdahi
Zariqum (c. 2116-?), viceroy of Amar-sin
Iakmeni, son of Iakmesi, died c. 2122
Iazkur-ilu, son of Iakmeni, died c. 2101
Ilu-kapkapi, son of Iazkur-ilu, died c. 2080
Aminu, son of Ilu-kapkapi, died, c. 2060
Sulili, son of Aminu, died c. 2039. End of the dynasty.

(Coming soon)

See also: Babylonia and Assyria, Chronological Systems of Babylonia and Assyria[?]



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