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The Historical Sections of the Astronomical Diaries in Context: Developments in A Late Babylonian Scientific Text Corpus1

  • Reinhard Pirngruber (a1)


The article addresses developments within the Astronomical Diaries, as regards their formal structure and the content of their historical sections, with a particular emphasis on ominous references. Although both the total number and length of historical sections increased significantly over time, the number of ominous references declined. A relationship can be posited between this development and on-going changes in the prevailing scientific worldview in first millennium B.C. Babylonia. The Diaries were deeply embedded in Babylonian traditions of knowledge production, rendering untenable assessments that deny any impact of Babylonian science of divination on them; at the same time, a characterization of the Diaries as a kind of database for diviners falls equally short.



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This article is a revised version of a chapter of my unpublished PhD thesis “The impact of empire on market prices in Babylon in the Late Achaemenid and Seleucid periods, c. 400–140 B.C.” (VU Amsterdam 2012) written within the framework of the project “On the efficiency of markets for agricultural products in preindustrial societies: The case of Babylonia c. 400 – c. 60 BC” directed by R. J. van der Spek and financed by “The Netherlands” Organization for Scientific Research' (NWO). I would like to express my gratitude to R. J. van der Spek, M. Jursa, and especially C. Waerzeggers for their useful remarks and suggestions. I am also thankful to the participants of the 56th RAI (Barcelona 2010) for their feedback on my talk “History and divination”, which lies at the basis of this contribution. In this paper “AD” is used to stand for “Astronomical Diary”.



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Alex.—Alexander; Art—Artaxerxes; Dar.—Darius ; Nbk—Nebukadnezzar; P.A.—Philip Arrhidaeus; SE—Seleucid Era

ADART: Sachs, A./Hunger, H., Astronomical Diaries and Related Texts from Babylonia. Volumes: I: 652–262 B.C., Vienna 1988; II: 261-165 B.C., Vienna 1989; III 164-61 B.C., Vienna 1996, V: Lunar and planetary texts, Vienna 2001; VI: Goal Years texts, Vienna 2006

SAA VIII = Hunger, H., Astrological reports to Assyrian kings, Helsinki 1992

SAAX: Parpola, S., Letters from Assyrian and Babylonian scholars, Helsinki 1993

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The Historical Sections of the Astronomical Diaries in Context: Developments in A Late Babylonian Scientific Text Corpus1

  • Reinhard Pirngruber (a1)


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