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Berosus

period kings history babylonia inscriptions

BEROSUS was a Chaldean priest who lived in the time of Alexander the Great and his immediate successors. He translated the history of his native country, Babylonia, into the Greek language, and dedicated the work to one of the Greek kings of Syria named Antiochus. His work is principally known through the fragments of Polyhistor and Apollodorus, two writers in the 1st century before the Christian era, who are quoted by Eusebius and Syncellus.

The work of Berosus professed to commence with the creation of the universe, and the history was carried down to his own time. A few quotations at second or third hand, and the bare outlines of his system of chronology, are all that has been transmitted to us through the copyists of Berosus ; but the close connection throughout between his story and the Bible, and the knowledge that he drew his information from the records of Babylonia, have always invested these fragments with great importance, - an importance which has been increased of late, since the discovery of several cuneiform inscriptions confirming different parts of his history.

The history of Berosus first described the chaos before the creation, presided over by the female Thalatth or Omoroca (the chaotic sea), called Tiamat and Tisallat in the inscriptions ; she was destroyed by Belus, and then the gods created the heavens and the earth. After this he gave the chronology of the Babylonian kingdom as follows :- The later part of the scheme of Berosus is lost, but detached extracts are quoted by some ancient historians.

In comparing the notices of Berosus with the Babylonian and Assyrian inscriptions, considerable difficulty is met with on account of the deficient information on both sides. The absence of chronological landmarks in the inscriptions, and the doubts as to the length of the third and fourth periods of Berosus, are serious difficulties in the way of the chronology, but in tke absence of more satisfactory information the list of Berosus must be taken as the framework of Babylonian chronology.

The first period of Berosus, reaching from the creation to the flood, is said to have included 10 reigns and 432,000 years. The last two of these names are the only ones found with any certainty in the cuneiform inscriptions, - these are Ubara-tutu and Adra-hasis, the Otiartes and Xisuthrus of Berosus. The deluge, which closed this period, is described in Berosus, and in the cuneiform inscriptions of the Izdubar legends.

The next period given by Berosus includes 86 kings, and a period of 34,080 or 33,091 years, - the number is uncertain, and certainly unhistorical. It is probable that the later sovereigns of this period were historical, and some of the names which are preserved are ordinary Babylonian compounds. Three names in a fragment of BabyIonian chronology appear to belong to this period, - these are Ilu-kassat, Mulagununna, Abilkisu, who are given as successive sovereigns; and there is another probable king of the period, Izdubar, who most likely represents the Biblical Nimrod. During this period the language and people of Babylonia are supposed to have been Turanian, and in round numbers it may be said to end about 2400 B.C.

About 2400 B.C., according to Berosus, Babylonia was overrun by a conquering tribe called by him "Modes." He has preserved in connection with this event the name of Zoroaster, and has given the dynasty 8 kings, the length of the period being placed variously at 234, 224, and 190 years. Where our authorities differ so much we can only make shift with a round number, and say the period was probably about 200 years, from 2400 to 2200 B.C. There is one name in the inscriptions supposed to belong to this period, - that of Kiidur-nanhundi, king of Elam, who conquered Babylonia about 2280 B.C. Nothing is known as to the race here called Medes by Berosus, but it is conjectured that they were Elamites.

The next period of Berosus included 11 kings, the duration of the dynasty not being preserved. In the margin we have the number 48 years, but nothing is known of the origin of this number, and it appears too small for 11 kings. Perhaps we may provisionally allow about 200 years for this dynasty, 2200 to 2000 B.C. Nothing is known of the race or names of the monarchs.

About 2000 B.C. commenced a period including, according to Berosus, 49 kings and 458 years. The kings are called Chaldean, and appear to correspond with a famous line of sovereigns reigning at the cities of rr, Karrak, and Larsa, commencing with the reign of Urukh, king of Ur. The centre of Babylonian power in their time lay in the south of the country, and many of the well-known temples and other buildings in this region were raised during their dominion. One of the monarchs in this period bore the name of Sargon ; he was very celebrated, and of /din a story is related similar to that of the infancy of Moses. He is said to have been concealed by his mother in an ark and floated on the River Euphrates. This great period ended with the defeat of Rim-agu, king of Larsa, by Hammurabi, who established a new dynasty, and made Babylon the capital about 1550 B.C.

The dynasty founded by Hammurabi appears to be the Arabian line of Berosus, which lasted under 9 kings for 245 years. Many of the kings of this period are known from the inscriptions. They first had extensive relations with the Assyrians, and about 1300 B.C. Tugulti-ninip, king of Assyria, conquered Babylon, and expelled the last Arab monarch. From this time commenced the direct influence of Assyria in Babylonia, and the period of this dynasty is counted by Berosus as 526 years. It probably ended with the time of Pul, a great king and conqueror, about whose personality and date there is much difference of opinion.

The next epoch in Babylonian history is that of Nabonasser, whose era commenced 747 B.C. From his time the history of Babylonia presents a constant series of conquests by the Assyrians, and revolts against them by the Babylonians, down to the time of Nabopolassar, who, after quelling a revolt in Babylonia, was made ruler of the country by the king of Assyria, and afterwards revolting against his master took Nineveh in concert with the Medes.

Nebuchadnezzar, son of Nabopolassar, who ascended the throne of Babylon 605 B.C., was one of the most celebrated kings in history, and is mentioned at length by Berosus, who then notices the revolutions at Babylon until the taking of the city by Cyrus 539 B.C.

The history of Berosus continued down to the conquest of Alexander the Great, and the reign of his patron An tiochus.

The writings and notices of Berosus were collected and published in Germany by Richter in 1825, and in England by Cory, in Ids Ancient Fragments. Later and excellent extracts and notices have been given by Canon Rawlinson and M. Lenormant, while the chronology of Berosus has exercised the ingenuity of Brandis, Oppert, Lenormant, Rawlinson, Hincks, and many other scholars. There is. however, no probability that.any published system has correctly restored the dates of Berosus; the materials are at present insufficient for such a work. (a. s.)

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