Re: [ANE-2] Re: Origins of the Book of Kings
I do not think that your theory that the entirety of this fragment is of
Greek origin is correct, but rather that Berossus drew on both Greek and
cuneiform sources here. A Greek literary source for some of this material is
obvious for the tradition relating to the city of Tarsus: the creation of a
temple to Hercules with brass pillars recording his great deeds, the
etiology of Tarsus as an Assyrian foundation. There is clearly some confusion
between these alleged pillars of Hercules at Tarsus and identical brass
pillars containing his great deeds in the temple of Hercules at Tartessos /
Gadira at the Straits of Gibraltar (see Strabo).
But once this offending material is removed, the remainder conforms more
closely to Assyrian records than your posting suggests. In the main account
of the cilician campaign, we read that Sennacherib "invaded the land of the
Cilicians" and that he "left a statue of himself in the battlefield [not at
Tarsus] and ordered that an account of his courage and heroic deeds be
inscribed in Chaldean script for future generations." This portion before the
digression on Tarsus agrees well with Assyrian accounts. Really the only
added detail we have is the presence of Greeks in Cilicia - Abydenus FGrH
685 F5 mentions Greek warships.
Now let us consider Berossus' source for Sennacherib's Cilician campaign.
The only Greek tradition about Sennacherib outside of Berossus that I
recall is an account of his campaign against Egypt at Herodotus, Histories
2.141, and this source was Egyptian, not Greek, presumably (as elsewhere) from
written sources translated (paraphrased) by Egyptian priests. So I think we
can discount your fanciful notion that "He [Berossus] knew something of
this campaign most probably from floating Greek traditions since what 'he
reports' clearly did not come from an Assyrian text..." Kindly provide some
sort of evidence for these "floating Greek traditions" you invoke, how they
arrived at Babylon, and how they managed to convey so much accurate
information about an obscure Assyrian campaign through a period of 400 years.
Leaving that theory aside, we should instead consider the possibility that
Sennacherib's Cilician campaign derived from a cuneiform source. Edgecomb,
you and I are all in agreement that Berossus did not comb through the
ruins of Nineveh. The research methods of Berossus are well known: he pored
through the extensive library at Babylon, where he served as priest and had
access to the many texts surviving there. So I think it safe to say that he
found an account of Sennacherib's campaign in the temple library. Really,
the only question is whether this was his usual source, the Babylonian
Chronicles, or some other literary source. Now the immediately preceding
account of the three year reign of Belibos (Bel-ibni) is taken almost word for
word from the Babylonian Chronicles, which would favor a continued reliance
on the same source. This is an economical solution. The Babylonian
Chronicles recorded the reigns of both Babylonian and Assyrian kings, depending
on who ruled Babylonia at the time. But since Sennacherib did not rule over
Babylonia during the entirety of his reign, the Babylonian Chronicle
reported his reign twice, first for 704-703 CE and then for 688-681 BCE, with
the Cilician campaign in the interval when Babylonia was under local rule.
So this favors a different cuneiform source for the reign of Sennacherib
preserved in the temple library, and ultimately deriving from Assyrian records
which likely had once existed in inscriptional form. The role of the
Ionians in the Cilician affair is an important detail preserved only here;
compare Sargon's interactions with the adventurer Yamani (whose name is cognate
with Yavan/Ionian) only a few years earlier. Note that Berossus also
reported on Sennacherib's campaign against Jerusalem in 701 BCE (FGrH 680 F7a =
Josephus, Antiquities 10.20) which also fell outside the period of
Sennacherib's reign covered by the Babylonian chronicle, so it seems certain that
Berossus drew on an additional source or sources deriving from Assyrian
records for Sennacherib's reign - unless you want to also ascribe this episode
in Berossus to "floating Greek traditions."
Regarding your statement that "the biblical authors knew this period of
Assyrian history in more vivid detail than did Berossus (e.g., they knew the
titles held by Neo-Assyrian magnates; turtanu, rab-saqe, rab-sa-eris)."
(1) How do you reconcile your statement about what detail Berossus did or
did not contain with your earlier statement that his "work is completely
(2) Would you please provide evidence that the biblical authors understood
these as Assyrian titles rather than misunderstood them as proper names?
I think it is obvious by reading the fragments attributed to the
Babyloniaca of Berossus that he did not know nor publish _any_ inscription of
Sennacherib for the following details: the Assyrian king hastened to Cilicia in
person at the head of his army; he defeated Greeks/Ionians whose invasion of
Cilicia was the reason for his hurried march; he built a city after the
model of Babylon; he gave the city the name Tarsus (Tharsin); he built a
"temple of Sandes who is Heracles"; and before leaving the region he had a
memorial statue of himself set up on the battle field. None of this is found in
the inscriptions of Sennacherib.
First, contrary to Berossus Sennacherib did not march to Cilicia. He sent
a general against the prefect of Illubru, Kirua, who was charged with
inciting the people of Hilakku (Cilicia) to revolt in 696. Second, there were no
Greeks/Ionians involved. Third, he already calls the city of Tarus Tarus
in his inscription (URU Tar-zi/Ta-ar-First, contrary to Berossus Sennacherib
did not march to Cilicia. He sent a general against the prefect of Illubru,
Kirua, who was charged with inciting the people of Hilakku (Cilicia) to
revolt in 696. Second, there were no Greeks/Ionians involved. Third, he
already calls the city of Tarus Tarus in his inscription (URU Tar-zi/Ta-ar-<WBR>
The only specific detail about the Cilician campaign in Berossus that
seems to agree with the cuneiform record is the mention of a memorial stela
erected after the conclusion of the war, but Berossus gets his facts wrong
again. He has it that the stela was set up in Tarsus but Sennacherib plainly
states that it was put in Illubru after he had Kirua flayed in Nineveh.
Furthermore, Kevin P. Edgecomb is correct that Berossus could not possibly
have seen Sennacherib'Furthermore, Kevin P. Edgecomb is correct that
Berossus could not possibly have seen Sennacherib'<WBR>s inscriptions in Nineveh.
But one has to assume that with regards to the Cilician campaign whatever
Sennacherib ordered inscribed on a provincial stela left in Illubru (not
Tarsus) the account would not have
So what S. M. Burstein writes in SANE 1/5 (1978), p. 24, n. 79, that "If
the parenthetical 'so he reports' in book three section 2a and 'he said' in
2b derive from Berossus' original account, then he apparently claimed to be
citing a text of Sennacherib as his source for this campaign," is just
total nonsense when one looks at the facts. Berossus didn't obtain any of his
information about the episode of 696 from an authentic contemporary
cuneiform record of the Assyrian campaign. He knew something of this campaign most
probably from floating Greek traditions since what "he reports" clearly
did not come from an Assyrian text Sennacherib did not leave in Tarsus.
I therefore must disagree with you that Berossus "drew upon," as you say,
a cuneiform source in this particular case. This and other examples show
that he didn't know 9th-7th century Assyrian history very well, even at the
very point when Assyria was dominating Babylonia (e.g., Sennacherib was not
succeeded by a brother which is what Berossus reports in book three). The
biblical authors knew this period of Assyrian history in more vivid detail
than did Berossus (e.g., they knew the titles held by Neo-Assyrian magnates;
turtanu, rab-saqe, rab-sa-eris)I therefore must disagree with you that
Berossus "drew upon," as you say, a cuneiform source in this particular case.
This and other examples show that he didn't know 9th-7th century Assyrian his
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- The episodes you mention predate the Babylonian Chronicles and do not
involve the Mesopotamian empires.
There may be historical material in Kings not derived from the Babylonian
Ahab was described as going to fight the King of Aram in Ramath Gilead
east of the Jordan River (Ramath Gilead was supposed to be the birthplace of
Elijah the Tishbite). This would have been near the land of the Moabites.
Ahab was killed in the battle.
The Moabite stela claimed Mesha killed the son of Omri and took land from
Israel. Mesha of Moab may have sided with Aram at Ramath Gilead and used
the Aramaen victory to temporarily displace Israel as claimed in his stela.
2Kings 1:1 After Ahab's death, Moab rebelled against Israel.
In Kings 3 Israel claimed Mesha and Moab who used to be subservient had
rebelled and afterward Israel entered Moab with a large force attacking from
the direction of Edom to the south instead of Aram to the north put down
Was this history in Kings II not from Berossus?
David Q. Hall
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