The recent publication of Late Babylonian tablets from Āl-Yāḫūdu (“Judahtown”) and its vicinity, from the collection of David Sofer, by Laurie Pearce and Cornelia Wunsch (CUSAS 28) provides important evidence for the life of Judean exiles in Babylonia in the period stretching from 572 to 477 B.C.E. This group of tablets, and another group from the same geographical area to be published by Wunsch (BaAr 6), will certainly furnish material for extensive studies on the lives of Judeans in the Babylonian exile in the years to come.1
The present study aims in a different direction. Its goal is to explore the implications of the tablets published by Pearce and Wunsch for one of the key episodes in the history of Babylonia in the early Achaemenid period – the rebellions against Darius I at the beginning of his rule (522–520 B.C.E.). Specifically, the present study will deal with the beginning of the rule of Nebuchadnezzar (Nabû-kudurrī-uṣur) IV, the second of the two Babylonian leaders who rose against Darius (each presenting himself as Nebuchadnezzar son of Nabonidus [Nabu-naʾʾid]), and with the question whether the rule of Vahyazdata, the second of the two Persian leaders each of whom presented himself as Bardiya, son of Cyrus the Great, was recognized in Babylonia.2
2 The Beginning of the Rule of Nebuchadnezzar IV
a Chronological Background
The general narrative of the rebellions against Darius I is provided by the famous inscription left by this king on the face of a rock at Mount Behistun in western Iran. The fact that the Behistun inscription is written in three languages – Old Persian, Akkadian and Elamite – was instrumental in the decipherment of the cuneiform script.3
According to the Behistun inscription, Cambyses, son of Cyrus the Great (529–522 B.C.E.), secretly killed his brother Bardiya before embarking on his conquest of Egypt. When Cambyses was in Egypt, a Median dignitary Gaumata proclaimed himself to be Bardiya and started a rebellion on day 14 of the month Addaru. He managed to draw the army and the provinces of the Achaemenid empire to his side, and seized the throne on day 9 of the month Duʾūzu, after which Cambyses died a natural death. Darius, with a few supporters and with the help of the deity Ahura Mazda, confronted Gaumata in a battle and killed him on day 10 of the month Tašrītu (Malbran-Labat 1994: 94–95, 108–110, §§ 10–12).4
Of course, Darius’s self-serving presentation of the events in the Behistun inscription need not be taken at face value. The inscription itself is accompanied by a relief, depicting Darius I and the rebels whom he vanquished (conveniently, the rebels are identified by cuneiform captions).5 Based on Gaumata’s appearance in the relief, especially on his dress and footwear, Stefan Zawadzki argued that he was actually not a Mede but a Persian, and probably the real Bardiya son of Cyrus whom Darius murdered in order to seize the throne (Zawadzki 1994: 127–130; and see there for earlier studies dealing with the identity of Gaumata).
However, the chronological data on Gaumata’s rebellion, provided by the Behistun inscription, generally fit the evidence of everyday commercial and legal tablets written in Babylonia. The latest tablets whose date formulae mention Cambyses as the reigning king belong to the first month (Nisannu) of his eighth regnal year, which spanned the Julian dates March 27–April 24, 522 B.C.E. (Parker / Dubberstein 1956: 14; Lorenz 2008: 23–25, 28).6 If Cambyses died sometime during the Babylonian year 522/1 B.C.E., then the rebellion of Gaumata – conventionally termed Bardiya I in modern scholarship7 – must have begun on day 14 of Addaru of the preceding Babylonian year (March 11, 522 B.C.E.) and lasted until day 10 of Tašrītu of the same year in which Cambyses died (September 29, 522 B.C.E.). If Gaumata proclaimed himself king (Bardiya I) on day 14 of Addaru, then the second half of the month would be considered, in Babylonian terms, his accession year (mu.nam.sag.lugal.la, šanat rēš šarrūti), and the new year beginning with the month Nisannu would be considered the first regnal year of Bardiya I. Indeed, over thirty tablets dated to the months Ayāru through Tašrītu (II–VII) of the first regnal year of Bardiya are known from Babylonia (Zawadzki 1994: 138–139).8 The significance of day 9 of Duʾūzu, mentioned in the Behistun inscription as the date when Gaumata seized the kingship, is not clear. Yet, the general chronological framework of his rebellion provided by the Behistun inscription appears sound.
The Behistun inscription tells that after Gaumata was killed, a series of rebels rose against Darius I, each presenting himself as the king of a specific realm within the Achaemenid empire (Elam, Media, Armenia, etc.). In Babylonia, a certain Nidintu-Bēl son of Kīn-zēr proclaimed himself Nebuchadnezzar, son of Nabonidus, the last pre-Achaemenid king of Babylonia (in modern scholarship, he is termed Nebuchadnezzar III). Darius made his way to Babylonia, defeating Nidintu-Bēl in two battles: first on the bank of the Tigris on day 26 of the month Kissilīmu, and second near the town Zazannu on the Euphrates, on day 2 of the month Ṭebētu. Nidintu-Bēl escaped to Babylon, but was eventually captured by Darius and put to death; the date of this event is not specified (Malbran-Labat 1994: 95–97, 110–112, §§15–19).9
While further revolts were ongoing in Persia and Media, Babylonia rebelled once more against Darius I. An Urarṭian named Araḫa son of Ḫaldita rose in Ur and proclaimed himself Nebuchadnezzar son of Nabonidus (known in modern scholarship as Nebuchadnezzar IV). Darius sent against him an army commanded by one of his supporters, Vindafrana, who defeated and captured Araḫa on day 22 of the month Araḫsamnu. Later, on an order of Darius, Araḫa was put to death (Malbran-Labat 1994: 102–103, 118, §39).10
Logically, the date of the defeat of Araḫa (Nebuchadnezzar IV) must belong to the year following after the defeat of Nidintu-Bēl (Nebuchadnezzar III). In 1994, Zawadzki listed twelve Babylonian tablets dated to the months Tašrītu through Kissilīmu (VII–IX) of the accession year of Nebuchadnezzar, and thirty-seven tablets dated to the months Ayāru through Tašrītu (II–VII) of the first regnal year of Nebuchadnezzar. All those tablets belong, on prosopographic grounds, to the early Achaemenid period, which excludes the possibility that Nebuchadnezzar II is referred to (Zawadzki 1994: 139–141).11 It appears that the tablets dated to the accession year of Nebuchadnezzar belong to the reign of Nidintu-Bēl, who proclaimed himself Nebuchadnezzar III around the time of the defeat of Bardiya I on Tašrītu 10 (September 29, 522 B.C.E.) and ruled until shortly after Ṭebētu 2 of the same Babylonian year (December 18, 522 B.C.E.).
Araḫa must have proclaimed himself Nebuchadnezzar IV sometime after the death of Nidintu-Bēl, but since he was presenting himself as the same person – Nebuchadnezzar son of Nabonidus – he would probably continue the time-reckoning of the reign established by Nidintu-Bēl. Thus, the year which began with day 1 of the month Nisannu after the final defeat of Nidintu-Bēl (April 14, 521 B.C.E.) would be counted as year 1 of Nebuchadnezzar son of Nabonidus (now Nebuchadnezzar IV). The tablets dated to the months Ayāru through Tašrītu of the first regnal year of Nebuchadnezzar must therefore belong to the reign of this king, provided that their dating to the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II can be excluded (Zawadzki 1994: 133–137).12
In 2008, Jürgen Lorenz was able to count already twenty-two published Babylonian tablets dated to the months Ulūlu through Kissilīmu (VI–IX) of the accession year of Nebuchadnezzar III, and forty-eight published tablets dated to the months Ayāru through Araḫsamnu (II–VIII) of the first regnal year of Nebuchadnezzar IV (Lorenz 2008: 87–88).13 In addition, Lorenz mentioned an unpublished tablet from the collection of Martin Schøyen, MS 2259/29, written in a town or village called Bīt-Nargia on day 18 of Nisannu, the first regnal year of Nebuchadnezzar – hence, Nebuchadnezzar IV (May 1, 521 B.C.E.).14 In Lorenz’s opinion, the early date of this tablet might suggest that Araḫa had actually proclaimed himself king before the beginning of the Babylonian year (Lorenz 2008: 8, 11, nn. 36, 50).15 This would eliminate the need to suppose that Araḫa (Nebuchadnezzar IV) continued the time-reckoning established in the short-lived reign of Nidintu-Bēl as Nebuchadnezzar III.
Thirteen more tablets from Uruk from the first regnal year of Nebuchadnezzar IV, published by Eckart Frahm and Michael Jursa in 2011, fall within the period of time covered by previously known tablets from the reign of this king. Consequently, they have no further implications for the chronology of his reign (for a list of these tablets, see YOS 21, pp. 53–54).
b The evidence of CUSAS 28, 50
To the picture presented above, one must now add the tablet published by Pearce and Wunsch as CUSAS 28, 50. The date formula of this tablet mentions that it was written in a settlement called Āl-šarri (“Kingstown”) in the intercalary Addaru of the first regnal year of Nebuchadnezzar (day not specified).16 Prosopographic considerations exclude the possibility of dating in the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II.16 Hence, the reign of Nebuchadnezzar IV is the only option.
However, the Behistun inscription mentions that Nebuchadnezzar IV (Araḫa) was finally defeated on day 22 of Araḫsamnu, and the latest known Babylonian document from the reign of this king dates a week earlier.17 It would be very difficult to suppose that his rule lasted four months more, until the end of the Babylonian year (where the intercalary Addaru should be placed). Furthermore, the Babylonian year which was counted as the first regnal year of Nebuchadnezzar IV (521/0 B.C.E.) is not known to have an intercalary month. The preceding Babylonian year, counted as the accession year of Nebuchadnezzar III (522/1 B.C.E.), had the intercalary Addaru (Parker / Dubberstein 1956: 7, 30).18 It would be problematic to assume that two successive Babylonian years in the 6th century B.C.E. were intercalated.
Rather, as proposed by Pearce and Wunsch, the date of CUSAS 28, 50 belongs probably to the intercalary Addaru of the accession year of Nebuchadnezzar IV, which must be the same as the accession year of Nebuchadnezzar III (CUSAS 28, p. xxxix, n. **). The intercalary Addaru of that year corresponds to the Julian dates March 15–April 13, 521 B.C.E. This means that Araḫa had already proclaimed himself Nebuchadnezzar before the beginning of the new Babylonian year on April 14, 521 B.C.E. But how can one explain the reference to year 1 of Nebuchadnezzar in the date formula of CUSAS 28, 50?
The most reasonable solution seems that the scribe committed a mistake. Writing at the end of the Babylonian year, and knowing that a new king was enthroned, he anticipated the upcoming year (to be counted as the first regnal year of Nebuchadnezzar IV) and mistakenly mentioned it in the date formula, instead of the accession year of the same king which had not yet ended.
A parallel to this situation can be found in Dar. 146, a tablet from the archive of the Ebabbar temple of Sippar. This tablet mentions “34 mašīḫu-measures of barley (for) the regular offerings, as the regular offerings of the bakers for the month Addaru, on the account of Bulṭâ, given to Bān-zēri” (ll. 1–4).20 The tablet is dated to “day 3 of Addaru, year 4 of Darius (I), king of Babylon, king of the lands” (ll. 10–12).21 The year numeral 4 in l. 10 is absolutely clear in Johann Strassmaier’s published hand-copy, and Arminius Bongenaar’s collation of the tablet established the same reading. Nonetheless, since Bulṭâ mentioned here appears to be the overseer of the bakers (šāpiru ša nuḫatimmī) of the Ebabbar, and since he was succeeded in the office by a certain Nabû-nāṣir by the month Duʾūzu of the fourth regnal year of Darius I, Bongenaar found no better solution than to read the year numeral in the date formula of Dar. 146 as 3, against the hand-copy and the collation (Bongenaar 1997: 182).
However, if one assumes that the scribe of Dar. 146 made a mistake, anticipating the year which was to begin in less than a month from the time of his writing, then it is possible to understand the date formula of the tablet as it stands, while attributing it, in fact, to the third regnal year of Darius I (then, the Julian date of the tablet is March 14, 518 B.C.E.). The presence of the same kind of scribal mistake – specification of a year which was about to begin instead of the current year – in two tablets, CUSAS 28, 50 and Dar. 146, opens the possibility for recognition of similar mistakes in other Late Babylonian tablets in the future.19
The tablets from the collection of David Sofer published in CUSAS 28 and those from the collection of Martin Schøyen to be published in BaAr 6 stem from the same geographical area, located “to the east and southeast of Babylon, beyond the city of Nippur, delimited to the east by the river Tigris and to the south by the marshlands” (CUSAS 28, p. 7). The tablets CUSAS 28, 50 and MS 2259/29 (BaAr 6, 75) indicate that the rule of Araḫa (Nebuchadnezzar IV) was recognized in this area before it was recognized elsewhere in Babylonia.20 Consequently, it appears that Araḫa’s original power base was located in southern Babylonia. The statement of the Akkadian version of the Behistun inscription that his rebellion originated in Ur seems to be not far from the truth.21
Interestingly, another tablet from the collection of David Sofer, CUSAS 28, 69, is dated to day 27 of the intercalary Addaru of the accession year of Darius I (April 10, 521 B.C.E.). It was written in the town of Našar (also known as Bīt-Našar).25 Apparently, this town was located in the general vicinity of Āl-šarri.22 The fact that Darius I was recognized as the reigning king in (Bīt-)Našar while Nebuchadnezzar IV was recognized as such in Āl-šarri reflects the political fragmentation of Babylonia during the troubled period of 522–520 B.C.E.23 Unfortunately, it is not clear what the administrative and social relations were between Āl-šarri and (Bīt-)Našar, and it is impossible to tell what caused the difference in the political allegiance of the two towns at the beginning of the rebellion of Nebuchadnezzar IV.24
3 Was Vahyazdata Recognized in Babylonia as Bardiya II?
a Chronological Background
According to the Behistun inscription, when Darius I suppressed the revolts which took place in his accession year, a Persian named Vahyazdata proclaimed himself Bardiya son of Cyrus (in modern scholarship he is termed Bardiya II). Darius sent his supporters with troops to subdue Vahyazdata, and after a series of battles which took place on day 12 of Ayāru, day 5 of Duʾūzu, day 13 of Ṭebētu and day 7 of Addaru, that goal was achieved (Malbran-Labat 1994: 100–102, 116–118, §§33–37). The statement in §35 of the Behistun inscription that Vahyazdata was impaled after the defeat of Duʾūzu 5 indicates that the battles of Ṭebētu 13 and Addaru 7 took place in the preceding year, which must be the accession year of Darius I (522/1 B.C.E.). Those battles were fought in the eastern parts of the Achaemenid empire, Arachosia and Sattagydia, in the Indus River region, whereas the battles of Ayāru 12 and Duʾūzu 5, belonging already to the first regnal year of Darius I (521/0 B.C.E.), were fought in Persia.25
Traditionally, it has been assumed that only the rule of Bardiya I (Gaumata), but not of Bardiya II (Vahyazdata), was recognized in Babylonia. The fact that some Babylonian tablets are dated to the accession year of Bardiya, and others – to his first regnal year, was attributed to the circumstance that Bardiya I proclaimed himself king in Persia on Addaru 14 (March 11, 522 B.C.E.), just two weeks before the beginning of the new Babylonian year. In the first month of the new year, Cambyses, although staying far away in Egypt (and perhaps already dead), was still recognized in Babylonia as the reigning king. When the news of Cambyses’s dethronement or death made their way to Babylonia and Bardiya I was recognized as the new king, the Babylonian scribes initially thought that the reign of Bardiya I had just begun and dated their tablets to his accession year. According to the traditional view, only after a couple of months did the Babylonian scribes recognize that Bardiya I was actually enthroned at the end of the previous year, and started recording the current year as year 1 of his reign (Poebel 1939: 124–126; Parker / Dubberstein 1956: 14–15; Graziani 1991: xvi–xvii; Zawadzki 1994: 131, n. 25).
However, Lorenz proposed a different chronological arrangement. In his view, all the Babylonian tablets dated to the first regnal year of Bardiya belong to the reign of Bardiya I (Gaumata), i.e., to the Babylonian year 522/1 B.C.E. (in its final months, that year was recorded in Babylonia as the accession year of Darius I).26 The next Babylonian year, 521/0 B.C.E., was recognized in its initial months, according to Lorenz, as the accession year of Bardiya II, i.e., Vahyazdata (Lorenz 2008: 7, 10).27 Lorenz’s argument that Vahyazdata was recognized as the king in Babylonia stems from a passage in the Behistun inscription, according to which the Persian troops that went with Darius to subdue Babylonia switched to Vahyazdata’s side (Malbran-Labat 1994: 100, 116, §33).28 Pearce and Wunsch admitted “the possibility that year 0 (the accession year in Babylonian tablets – Y.B.) may refer to Bardiya II in 521” (CUSAS 28, p. xxxix, n. *).
It must be noted that Lorenz’s proposal, admitted as a possibility by Pearce and Wunsch, contradicts the data provided by the Behistun inscription. If, as the Behistun inscription says, the supporters of Vahyazdata fought the supporters of Darius I in the eastern parts of the Achaemenid empire on Ṭebētu 13 and Addaru 7 of what must be the accession year of Darius I (December 29, 522 B.C.E., and February 21, 521 B.C.E., respectively), then Vahyazdata’s accession year as Bardiya II must have been the same as the accession year of Darius I – 522/1 B.C.E., not 521/0 B.C.E.
In addition, the Babylonian tablets dated to the accession year of Bardiya, including a few tablets published in CUSAS 28, raise difficulties for Lorenz’s proposal.29 It is to the evidence of those tablets that we will now turn.
b The evidence of Babylonian tablets, including those published in CUSAS 28
Before the publication of CUSAS 28, the total number of Babylonian tablets dated to the accession year of Bardiya stood at six (Graziani 1–5; YOS 21, 196). One of those tablets was written in Borsippa, on day 3 of the month Simānu (Graziani 2). Two tablets were written in the city of Babylon, on an unspecified day of the month Ayāru and on day 6 of Simānu (Graziani 1, 3). The tablet YOS 21, 196 was written in Uruk, but the month name in its date formula is broken off. Two more tablets were written in Uruk on days 15 and 25 of the month Duʾūzu (Graziani 4–5).30
Now, tablets written in the city of Babylon in the initial months of the Babylonian year 521/0 B.C.E. indicate that it was recognized as the first regnal year of Darius I from day 22 of Nisannu to day 8 of Ayāru, and then from an unspecified day of Simānu to day 15 of Duʾūzu. From day 6 of Ulūlu, tablets written in Babylon were dated to the first regnal year of Nebuchadnezzar IV, and from day 22 of Ṭebētu – to the first regnal year of Darius I (Lorenz 2008: 23). Lorenz’s proposal would require one to assume that the supporters of Darius I held control of the city of Babylon until Ayāru 8, then lost it to the supporters of Bardiya II until Simānu 6, then seized it again only to lose it to the supporters of Nebuchadnezzar IV on Ulūlu 6. This would mean that Babylon changed sides three times in five months and six days.
Similarly, tablets written in Uruk in the initial months of the Babylonian year 521/0 B.C.E. indicate that it was recognized as the first regnal year of Darius I from day 4 of Nisannu to an unspecified day in Ayāru, and then on day 10 of Abu. From day 16 of Abu, tablets written in Uruk were dated to the first regnal year of Nebuchadnezzar IV, and from day 11 of Addaru – to the first regnal year of Darius I (Lorenz 2008: 29).31 Lorenz’s proposal would require one to assume that the supporters of Darius I controlled Uruk until the month Ayāru or Simānu, then lost it to the supporters of Bardiya II who controlled the city in the month Duʾūzu, then took control of Uruk again by Abu 10 and lost it to the supporters of Nebuchadnezzar IV by Abu 16. This would mean that Uruk changed sides three times in four and a half months.32
The assumption of such frequent changes of control over key Babylonian cities seems difficult to accept, at least insofar as an alternative scenario can be proposed, requiring less shifts of power in Babylon and Uruk. Indeed, if one posits that the tablets from Babylon dated to Ayāru and Simānu of the accession year of Bardiya belong to the reign of Bardiya I (hence to the Babylonian year 522/1 B.C.E.), they fall shortly before day 27 of Duʾūzu, which is the date of the earliest tablets from Babylon dated to the first regnal year of Bardiya I. The last known tablet from Babylon with a complete date formula mentioning the eighth regnal year of Cambyses was written on day 23 of Nisannu, and there is no evidence that Darius I or Nebuchadnezzar III was recognized in Babylon in the months Ayāru and Simānu (Lorenz 2008: 23). Hence, it is perfectly reasonable to suppose that the scribes in Babylon recognized Bardiya I (Gaumata) as the king from the month Ayāru of 522/1 B.C.E. onwards, but learned only after Simānu 6 that the current year was his year 1 and not his accession year.33
In Uruk, the situation is somewhat more complicated. Lorenz (2008: 28) listed the tablet YBC 3984, dated to day 21 of Abu, as the earliest tablet from Uruk dated to the first regnal year of Bardiya I. That tablet has now been published as YOS 21, 198. However, the tablet YOS 21, 197 (which was not known to Lorenz) mentions expenses of the Eanna temple in the month Simānu of the first regnal year of Bardiya (I), without specifying the day.38 If the tablets Graziani 4–5, dated to the month Duʾūzu of the accession year of Bardiya, belong to the reign of Bardiya I (522/1 B.C.E.), then they must be placed between YOS 21, 197 and 198, both of which are dated to the first regnal year of Bardiya I.
Still, the last known tablet from Uruk dated to the eighth regnal year of Cambyses was written on day 12 of Nisannu, and there is no evidence that Darius I or Nebuchadnezzar III was recognized in Uruk in the months Ayāru, Simānu and Duʾūzu (Lorenz 2008: 28). Thus, it is perfectly reasonable to assume that Bardiya I was recognized as the only king in Uruk in the months Simānu-Abu of 522/1 B.C.E. and that all the tablets from Uruk dated to Bardiya must be placed in this period. As the tablet YOS 21, 197 indicates, at least some scribes in Uruk knew that the year 522/1 B.C.E. should be reckoned as the first regnal year of Bardiya I already in the month Simānu – probably in the second half of that month.34 The tablet YOS 21, 196, mentioning the accession year of Bardiya (I), should then belong to the first half of Simānu, 522/1 B.C.E. (although dating this tablet to the preceding month Ayāru is also possible). The tablets Graziani 4–5, dated to days 15 and 25 of Duʾūzu of the accession year of Bardiya (I), appear to have been written by scribes who either paid no attention to the news that the year 522/1 B.C.E. should be reckoned as the first regnal year of Bardiya I, or mistakenly employed the older dating style a month after those news had reached Uruk.35
The group of tablets published in CUSAS 28 includes only one tablet dated to the first regnal year of Darius I, which was written in the last month of that year (Addaru), on day 10 (CUSAS 28, 70). Two tablets from the collection of David Sofer are dated to days 4 and 15 of Tašrītu of the first regnal year of Nebuchadnezzar IV (CUSAS 28, 49 and 86).36 The tablet CUSAS 28, 49 was written in Āl-šarri.37 The tablets CUSAS 28, 70 and 86 were written in the town (Bīt-)Našar. Taken together with the evidence of CUSAS 28, 50 and BaAr 6, 75, discussed above, the tablets CUSAS 28, 49 and 86 indicate that the area covered by the Late Babylonian tablets in the collections of David Sofer and Martin Schøyen was under the control of Nebuchadnezzar IV from the last month of the year 522/1 B.C.E. and the first month of the year 521/0 B.C.E. (March 15–May 12, 521 B.C.E.) down to at least the seventh month of the latter year (October 8–November 5, 521 B.C.E.). The tablet CUSAS 28, 70 indicates that by day 10 of Addaru of the same Babylonian year (March 13, 520 B.C.E.), this geographical area was already controlled by Darius I.
Among the tablets published in CUSAS 28, two are dated to days 11[+x] and 13 of the month Simānu of the accession year of Bardiya (CUSAS 28, 76 and 75), and two are dated to days 9 and 23 of the month Ulūlu of the first regnal year of Bardiya (CUSAS 28, 100 and 74). All those tablets were written in (Bīt-)Našar.
Beside the group of tablets dated to the reign of Bardiya, the earliest tablets from the Babylonian year 522/1 B.C.E. included in CUSAS 28 are dated to the month Ṭebētu of the accession year of Darius I (December 17, 522–January 15, 521 B.C.E.).38 Hence, if one places all the tablets from the reign of Bardiya, included in CUSAS 28, in the months Simānu and Ulūlu of the same Babylonian year (May 25–June 22 and August 21–September 19, 522 B.C.E., respectively), then a reasonable historical scenario emerges. According to this scenario, Bardiya was recognized as the king in the relevant area of Babylonia in the first half of the year 522/1 B.C.E., and Darius I was recognized as the king at the end of that year (when, as shown by CUSAS 28, 50, he had already lost part of the area to Nebuchadnezzar IV).
In contrast, if one dates the tablets CUSAS 28, 75–76, written in the month Simānu of the accession year of Bardiya, to the Babylonian year 521/0 B.C.E. (i.e., between June 12 and July 10, 521 B.C.E.), then a more complicated historical scenario follows. According to this scenario, Nebuchadnezzar IV controlled the area covered by the Late Babylonian tablets in the collections of David Sofer and Martin Schøyen in the month Nisannu of the Babylonian year 521/0 B.C.E. (as indicated by BaAr 6, 75), then lost that area, or at least the town (Bīt-)Našar, to the supporters of Bardiya II by the month Simānu, and regained control over (Bīt-)Našar by the month Tašrītu (October 8–November 5, 521 B.C.E.).
The latter, more complicated scenario is not impossible, especially as there is no explicit evidence that Nebuchadnezzar IV controlled specifically (Bīt-)Našar around the beginning of the Babylonian year 521/0 B.C.E., and the tablets CUSAS 28, 50 and 69 indicate that the surrounding area was politically fragmented at the relevant point of time.39 Still, it appears more reasonable to prefer a simpler scenario, according to which all the tablets in CUSAS 28 dated to Bardiya belong to the reign of Bardiya I (Gaumata), hence to the year 522/1 B.C.E. It is not known when the scribes in (Bīt-)Našar and the surrounding area received the news that the year 522/1 B.C.E. should be reckoned as the first regnal year, rather than the accession year, of Bardiya I. However, the available data are compatible with the possibility that they received those news in the second half of the month Simānu (after the dates of CUSAS 28, 75–76), in accordance with the information provided by tablets from Uruk and Borsippa.
When the evidence of the tablets published in CUSAS 28 is joined by the simpler scenarios for the transfer of power in Babylon and Uruk in the year 521/0 B.C.E., and by the evidence of the Behistun inscription to the effect that the accession year of Bardiya II (Vahyazdata) was 522/1 B.C.E., one is compelled to reject Lorenz’s proposal. Consequently, it follows that all the tablets dated to the accession year of Bardiya belong to the reign of Bardiya I (hence to the Babylonian year 522/1 B.C.E.), and no tablet written in Babylonia proper belongs to the reign of Bardiya II.
The conclusions of the present study can be summarized as follows:
1. The tablet CUSAS 28, 50 was written in the intercalary Addaru of the Babylonian year 522/1 B.C.E. That month belonged properly to the accession year of Araḫa (Nebuchadnezzar IV), but the scribe, anticipating the first regnal year of the king which was about to begin, mistakenly recorded the year in the date formula as year 1 of Nebuchadnezzar (IV). A similar mistake was made by the scribe of the tablet Dar. 146 in Sippar at the end of the third regnal year of Darius I (519/8 B.C.E.). The tablet CUSAS 28, 50 shows that between March 15 and April 13, 521 B.C.E., part of the geographical area covered by the Late Babylonian tablets in the collections of David Sofer and Martin Schøyen – an area around (Bīt-)Našar, between the city of Nippur and the Tigris – was already under Araḫa’s control. However, the tablet CUSAS 28, 69 indicates that as late as April 10, 521 B.C.E., another part of the same area was still under the control of Darius I. In any event, the tablets CUSAS 28, 50 and MS 2259/29 (BaAr 6, 75) are the earliest known tablets from the reign of Nebuchadnezzar IV, and they suggest that the original power base of this ruler was located in southern Babylonia.40
2. According to the Behistun inscription, the rule of Vahyazdata as Bardiya II continued, at least, from Ṭebētu 13 of the Babylonian year 522/1 B.C.E. to Duʾūzu 5 of the Babylonian year 521/0 B.C.E. (i.e., from December 29, 522 to July 16, 521 B.C.E.). Thus, it is impossible to ascribe tablets of the accession year of Bardiya to the Babylonian year 521/0 B.C.E. on the assumption that it was the accession year of Bardiya II (as proposed by Lorenz in 2008). This conclusion is further strengthened by unnecessary complications which such dating of tablets from the accession year of Bardiya would introduce into the political history of Babylonian cities and territories – Babylon, Uruk and the area of (Bīt-)Našar and its vicinity – in the year 521/0 B.C.E. Therefore, one must conclude that all the Babylonian tablets dated to the reign of Bardiya belong to the reign of Gaumata as Bardiya I (in the Babylonian year 522/1 B.C.E.), and the reign of Vahyazdata as Bardiya II was not recognized in Babylonia, at least insofar as the currently available evidence indicates.
The following table arranges by month the final stages of the reign of Cambyses, the events of the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar III–IV and Bardiya I–II and the early stage of the reign of Darius I, as attested in the Behistun inscription, in addition to the dates of chronologically important tablets from Babylon, Uruk and the area of (Bīt-)Našar belonging to the relevant period.41
The research underlying this article was carried out during my stay as a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, in the academic year 2013–2014. I am grateful to the US-Israel Educational Foundation for providing me with a post-doctoral grant which made my stay at Berkeley possible. I would also like to thank Drs. Laurie E. Pearce and Cornelia Wunsch for putting their editions of the tablets discussed in this article at my disposal before publication, and for the numerous discussions of those tablets and related matters. Finally, I am grateful to a reviewer for AoF who made some valuable comments on an initial draft of this article. The abbreviations used follow those in Lorenz (2008: xxii), with the addition of YOS 21 (Frahm / Jursa 2011), CUSAS 28 (Pearce / Wunsch 2014) and BaAr 6 (Wunsch forthcoming).
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Some implications of the tablets from Āl-Yāḫūdu and its vicinity for the understanding of Judean life in the Babylonian exile were already discussed prior to the tablets’ publication (Joannès / Lemaire 1996; Joannès / Lemaire 1999; Abraham 2005–2006; Abraham 2007; Lambert 2007; Pearce 2006; Pearce 2011; Pearce 2014; Magdalene / Wunsch 2011; Zadok 2014: 113–114).
The corrigenda to the Julian dates of some tablets in CUSAS 28 posted by Pearce online (https://www.academia.edu/10981661/_2015_Corrigenda_to_CUSAS_28._appearing_in_second_press_run_; accessed October 8, 2014) do not bear on the dates of the tablets and the events discussed in the present study.
For discussions of the narrative of the Behistun inscription, with comparisons to the narrative of Darius’s rise to power presented by Herodotus (III, 61–88), see Dandamaev (1989: 103–129); Briant (2002: 97–128). On the role played by the Behistun inscription in the decipherment of cuneiform, see Pope (1999: 106–114).
The present study is based on the Akkadian version of the Behistun inscription. References to the Old Persian and the Elamite versions (Schmitt 2009: 36–91; Grillot-Susini et al. 1993) will be made only if they contain significant differences from the Akkadian version.
The problem of tablets dated to the accession year of Bardiya will be discussed in the following section of the present study. Note that the tablet BM 59425 (Graziani 34) should be probably dated to the month Duʾūzu, rather than Araḫsamnu, of the first regnal year of Bardiya I (see Zawadzki 1994: 139, n. 108; Lorenz 2008: 19, n. 79). The tablet BM 41455, dated to day 19 of Nisannu, the first regnal year of Bardiya, was written in Iran and not in Babylonia (see below, n. 31).
The Old Persian and the Elamite versions mention Araḫa as an Armenian, and the place in which he proclaimed himself king as Dubala (Schmitt 2009: 72–73, §49; Grillot-Susini et al. 1993: 33–34, 54, §39). The term Urarṭu (Urašṭu) is used in Late Babylonian sources to designate the region of Armenia (Zadok 1985: 320–321), but the name of Araḫa’s father mentions the ancient Urarṭian deity Ḫaldi, which suggests Urarṭian ethnic origin (Dandamaev 1989: 123). As for the location of Araḫa’s original power base, it is true that a town Dubal is known in the vicinity of Sippar (Zawadzki 1994: 137, n. 65; Lorenz 2008: 8). However, the existence of another Dubal(a) in southern Babylonia, in the vicinity of Ur, is also possible (Zawadzki 1994: 137; Zadok 1985: 120 mentions the possible identification of the southern Dubala with byt dblʾ in the Aramaic ostracon from Aššur, dating to the 7th century B.C.E.). Babylonian tablets included in CUSAS 28 and BaAr 6, discussed below, suggest that the original power base of Araḫa was located in southern Babylonia.
The same chronological scheme, though based on a smaller number of Babylonian tablets dated to the accession year of Nebuchadnezzar (III) and to the first regnal year of Nebuchadnezzar (IV), was already proposed by Poebel (1939: 134–141) and accepted by Parker / Dubberstein (1956: 15–16).
The single tablet from Araḫsamnu of the first regnal year of Nebuchadnezzar IV is Nbk. 19 from Sippar, dated to day 15 of that month – a week before the defeat of Araḫa (Nebuchadnezzar IV) according to the Behistun inscription. More interesting are two tablets from Kutha, dated to days 10 and 12 of the month Ulūlu of the accession year of Nebuchadnezzar III (BM 15468 and 15434; Lorenz 2008: 121–122). They demonstrate that the rebellion of Nebuchadnezzar III had actually begun a month before the defeat of Bardiya I (Lorenz 2008: 6). Interestingly, in Babylon and Borsippa, located ca. 30 and 50 km southwest of Kutha, respectively, tablets were dated to the reign of Bardiya I in the month Ulūlu of his first regnal year, which was the same as Ulūlu of the accession year of Nebuchadnezzar III (August 21 – September 19, 522 B.C.E.) – see Lorenz (2008: 23–24).
The study of Beaulieu (2014) on the reign of Nebuchadnezzar IV as it is reflected in some Babylonian tablets from Uruk was submitted for publication before Lorenz’s book appeared in print, and thus did not take into consideration the new evidence cited by Lorenz.
One of the witnesses of CUSAS 28, 50, Adad-râm son of Adad-šūru, and the scribe, Bēl-lēʾi son of Mīnu-ana-Bēl-dannu, descendant of Ša-nāšišu, are also attested in CUSAS 28, 51, dated to the second regnal year of Cambyses (528/7 B.C.E.). In addition, the scribe Bēl-lēʾi is attested in CUSAS 28, 48, dated to the fourth regnal year of Cambyses (526/5 B.C.E.).
Yet, it would be difficult to assume that the reign of Nebuchadnezzar III was recognized anywhere in Babylonia in the last month of the Babylonian year 522/1 B.C.E. – or, indeed, even a few weeks after his final defeat on Ṭebētu 2 of that year (December 18, 522 B.C.E.). This point was convincingly argued by Zawadzki (1995b). On the tablet discussed by Zawadzki in this context, VS 4, 9, see also Lorenz (2008: 74), who dates it to the first regnal year of Nebuchadnezzar II (604/3 B.C.E.).
Mistakes made the other way, when a scribe mentioned a year that had ended shortly before the actual date of the writing, can be found in two tablets from Nippur from the month Nisannu of the first regnal year of Darius II (423/2 B.C.E.), which the scribes mistakenly recorded as mu.sag “accession year” (see the comments of Albert T. Clay to his hand-copies of BE 10, 7 and 11; in BE 10, 7: 20, the scribe corrected the sign sag into 1 and added the number determinative kam).
For the forthcoming publication of MS 2259/29 as BaAr 6, 75, see above, n. 14. Other than CUSAS 28, 50 and BaAr 6, 75, the earliest tablets dated to the reign of Araḫa come from Sippar and belong to the month Ayāru and to day 8 of the month Simānu, year 1 of Nebuchadnezzar IV (Zawadzki 1994: 135–136, 144; Zawadzki 1995c; Lorenz 2008: 88). Zawadzki mentioned in his study a group of tablets from Sippar, dated between the months Simānu and Araḫsamnu of the year 1 of Darius I, which was the same Babylonian year as year 1 of Nebuchadnezzar IV, i.e., 521/0 B.C.E. (Zawadzki 1994: 137, 144–145). However, Lorenz’s collations of several of those tablets established that they are actually not dated to year 1 of Darius I (Lorenz 2008: 21, n. 92). According to the remaining tablets, the rule of Darius I was recognized in Sippar from day 14 of Simānu to day 17 of Abu of his first regnal year, after which the date formulae mention the first regnal year of Nebuchadnezzar IV from day 9 of Ulūlu to day 15 of Araḫsamnu, and switch back to mention the first regnal year of Darius I from the month Kissilīmu onwards (Lorenz 2008: 21–22, 27–28). The emerging picture is that Araḫa controlled Sippar, as Nebuchadnezzar IV, from Ayāru to day 8 of Simānu; then the city was taken over by the supporters of Darius I, until the month Abu; and from the month Ulūlu to Araḫsamnu it was controlled again by Araḫa, until his final defeat. The fact that Araḫa was able to retain power after a temporary loss of Sippar suggests that his original power base lay elsewhere.
(19) ... uru šá mNa-šar itiše.diri.še.<kin>.ku5 (20) ud.27.kam mNi-ri-˹a˺-mi-šú lugal (CUSAS 28, 69: 19–20). The sign ni at the beginning of the king’s name seems to be a scribal mistake for kak (dà), from which it differs by a single vertical wedge. For the interpretation of the record PN lugal as a reference to the king’s accession year, see the commentary of Pearce and Wunsch to l. 20 (CUSAS 28, p. 209).
As were the other toponyms in the tablets included in CUSAS 28 and BaAr 6. For the town (Bīt-)Našar, see CUSAS 28, p. 6. Three tablets written in (Bīt-)Našar are dated to the month Ṭebētu of the accession year of Darius I (CUSAS 28, 73, 87, 88), and one tablet is dated to the regular Addaru of the same year (CUSAS 28, 89). Thus, the rule of Darius I was recognized in (Bīt-)Našar in the last four months of his accession year (December 17, 522 – April 13, 521 B.C.E.).
Since the date formula of CUSAS 28, 50 does not specify the day on which the tablet was written, it is theoretically possible that it was written between days 28 and 30 of the intercalary Addaru (April 11–13, 521 B.C.E.), and that the rule of Araḫa (Nebuchadnezzar IV) was established in Āl-šarri and its vicinity – including (Bīt-)Našar – only at that time, whereupon the rule of Darius I was no longer recognized. However, on purely statistical grounds, it is more likely that CUSAS 28, 50 predates CUSAS 28, 69 by a few days or weeks, and the recognition of Darius I in (Bīt-)Našar was contemporaneous with the recognition of Nebuchadnezzar IV in Āl-šarri.
Pearce and Wunsch (CUSAS 28, p. 176) argued that Āl-šarri-ša-qašti-eššeti “Kingstown of the new bowfief,” mentioned in the tablet CUSAS 28, 47 from the accession year of Cambyses (530/29 B.C.E.), is the same town as Āl-šarri, and that the longer name recorded in CUSAS 28, 47 was due to the foundation of this town shortly before the date of the tablet. However, the toponym Āl-šarri is attested already in the document BaAr 6, 2, dated to the sixth regnal year of Cyrus, 533/2 B.C.E. (see CUSAS 28, pp. xxxviii, 312). Thus, it appears that Āl-šarri-ša-qašti-eššeti was a different settlement than Āl-šarri, and the latter was founded earlier than the former.
For a discussion of the differences between the presentations of Vahyazdata’s rebellion in the Old Persian, Elamite and Akkadian versions of the Behistun inscription, see Dandamaev (1989: 118). The dates of the battles fought against Vahyazdata and the mention of his impalement after the defeat of Duʾūzu 5 (July 15, 521 B.C.E.) are common to all the three versions.
On the recognition of the accession year of Darius I in the tablets published in CUSAS 28, see above, n. 26. For other Babylonian tablets dated to the final four months (from Ṭebētu to the intercalary Addaru) of the accession year of Darius I, see Zawadzki (1994: 141–142); Lorenz (2008: 19–20).
This has nothing to do with the earlier proposal of Zadok (1976: 75–76) to the effect that the tablet BM 41455, belonging to the archive of the Babylonian family of Egibi but written in the town Ḫumadešu in Iran, is dated to day 19 of Nisannu of the first regnal year of Bardiya II, rather than Bardiya I (the tablet in question was published as Strassmaier 1889: 123–125, 148–149, no. 2 Sm., and Graziani 6). Zadok’s argument does not imply recognition of the reign of Bardiya II in Babylonia proper, and it postulates that the year 521/0 B.C.E. was reckoned as the first regnal year of Bardiya II, not his accession year (which is possible in light of the information provided by the Behistun inscription). Still, Zadok’s proposal appears problematic (see Zawadzki 1995a).
The mention that the troops in question were stationed in the palace of Babylon appears only in the Akkadian version of the Behistun inscription. The Old Persian and the Elamite versions mention the troops stationed in a palace but do not specify the location thereof (Schmitt 2009: 67, §40; Grillot-Susini et al. 1993: 31, 51, §33). However, the possibility that the troops in question were indeed stationed in Babylon cannot be excluded.
Lorenz (2008: 184) recognized that his proposal with regard to the tablets dated to the accession year of Bardiya would require several shifts of power in Babylonian cities in the first half of the year 521/0 B.C.E., but did not present a specific time-frame of those shifts.
Similarly, if the single tablet from Borsippa (ca. 20 km southwest of Babylon), dated to day 3 of Simānu of the accession year of Bardiya, is attributed to the reign of Bardiya I (i.e., to the year 522/1 B.C.E.), then its date falls just before day 20 of Simānu, which is the date of the earliest tablet from Borsippa dated to the first regnal year of Bardiya I, and shortly after the month Nisannu when the Babylonian year was still recorded as the eighth regnal year of Cambyses. There is no evidence that Darius I or Nebuchadnezzar III was recognized in Borsippa in Nisannu or Ayāru of 522/1 B.C.E. (Lorenz 2008: 24). Evidently, the scribes in Borsippa recognized Bardiya I as the king already in the beginning of Simānu, but learned only in the second half of the month that the current year was his year 1 and not his accession year.
(1) ˹še˺.zíz.àm šá mnunuz-ʾ-˹x x˺ (2) a-na maš-šar-ti a-na lúmuḫaldim.meš (3) id-di-nu itisig4mu.1.kam (4) mBar-zi-ia lugal tin.tirkilugal kur.kur “Emmer which Pirʾi-... gave as expenses (for the preparation of offerings) to the bakers; month Simānu of the first regnal year of Bardiya, king of Babylon, king of the lands” (YOS 21, 197: 1–4).
The latter possibility can be compared to the scribes in Nippur dating tablets to the accession year of Darius II a month after his first regnal year (423/2 B.C.E.) had already begun (see above, n. 22).
In CUSAS 28, 86, the number of the regnal year is broken off: (16) ... itidu6ud.15.kam (17) mu.[1.ka]m md+ag-níg.du-ùri (18) l[ugal] ˹e˺ki (ll. 16–18). However, the royal name Nebuchadnezzar is clear, and the tablet records a loan due to be paid back to Aḫīqar son of Rīmūt by Ubārāya son of Nabû-dalā and his partner. Aḫīqar son of Rīmūt was active in the reigns of Cyrus, Cambyses and Darius I (CUSAS 28, p. 259; for the dates of the relevant tablets, see ibid., pp. xxxv–xxxvi). Ubārāya son of Nabû-dalā is attested in BaAr 6, 41, a tablet dated to the seventh regnal year of Cyrus, 532/1 B.C.E. (see CUSAS 28, pp. xxxviii, 296). Hence, the tablet CUSAS 28, 86 must belong to the Achaemenid period, and the traces of the number determinative kam in l. 17 indicate that it was written in a numbered year of a king named Nebuchadnezzar. This can be only year 1 of Nebuchadnezzar IV. As for CUSAS 28, 49, the mention of year 1 of Nebuchadnezzar in its date formula is fully preserved, and the tablet was written by the scribe Bēl-lēʾi son of Mīnu-ana-Bēl-dannu, descendant of Ša-nāšišu, which indicates that it must belong to the early Achaemenid period – hence to the reign of Nebuchadnezzar IV (cf. above, n. 17).
However, CUSAS 28, 50 and 69 reflect fragmentation into a town acknowledging the rule of Nebuchadnezzar IV, and another nearby town acknowledging the rule of Darius I, shortly before the beginning of the Babylonian year 521/0 B.C.E. There is no evidence of Bardiya’s rule being recognized anywhere in Babylonia at the time.
Unless a reference to YOS 21 is provided, the dates of Babylonian tablets are mentioned according to Lorenz (2008: 23–29), but without separating the accession year and the first regnal year of Bardiya into two different years. For tablets dated to 522–520 B.C.E. from other Babylonian cities, see the lists provided by Lorenz; the dates of those tablets are consistent with the conclusions of the present study. The record “day x” means that in the relevant tablets, the day number either was not mentioned or has been broken off.