UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Babylonian History by Berosus

fromto fromto

The Deluge
IChaldean /
IIMedian /
Akkadian ?
IIIElamite /
258 ?
IVChaldean /
[ 2nd Isin ] ??
92451601-15181356-12731157 1026

VIILower Assyrian8122788-


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 Lyncellus.

The writings and notices of Berosus were collected and published in Germany by Richter in 1825, and in England by Cory, in his 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 than any published system has correctly restored the dates of Berosus; the materials are insufficient for such a work.

Berosus (also spelled Berossus) was a priest of Babylon, who lived about three centuries BC, and from ancient records compiled a work in which he gave lists of kings whose reigns extended from 2000 BC to the conquest of the Babylonian monarchy. Berosus, a priest of Bel at Babylon, in the reign of Antiochus II (BC 261-246), compiled, from the archives in the temple of the god, a "History of Babylon" or "Chaldaea." Of this work, as of Manetho's, there are today only some fragments, which have been preserved by Josephus, Polyhistor, etc., by Eusebius and the other chroniclers, and by the Christian fathers. Their value must be tried by the same standards which have been applied to Manetho-confirmation by contemporary records or monuments, and agreement with other historic testimony of proved authenticity.

These lists are lost, but fragments remain in the works of other writers, showing that a Chaldean dynasty ruled from about 2000 BC to 1543 BC, which was succeeded by an Arabian dynasty that lasted 245 years. This was followed by one of forty-five kings, probably Assyrian, who held sway during more than five centuries, to 772 B.C., after which came the reign of the noted king Pul, who is called in the Scriptures an Assyrian. This reign ended at the famous Era of Na-bo-nas'sar, 747 BC, which is important, because Babylonia then resumed its ancient independence, that had been absorbed in the Assyrian empire since 1250 BC, and because this date is fixed by certain astronomical phenomena observed by Ptolemy, the Alexandrian astronomer. By what is called the Canon of Ptolemy, the line of Babylonian kings becomes known to us from the year 747 B.C. to 330 BC, when Babylon became a part of the dominions of Alexander the Great.

Berosus furnishes no such list of kings as Manetho; but he gives a compendious statement of the dynasties that had reigned in Babylonia. Like Manetho, he begins with a mythical period, but one far surpassing the Egyptian in the extravagance of its chronology, which is manifestly adapted to a conventional system of arithmetic. From the destruction of Chaos by Bel, the god of light and air, to the Deluge, from which Xisuthrus was saved in an ark, he reckons 432,000 years. The only tradition of this period worth mentioning is that which ascribes the origin of civilization to Oannes, a being with the upper part of a man and the tail of a fish, who came up from the Indian Sea, and to six other similar fish-men - a tradition which, if worth anything, indicates the belief of the priests of Babylon that their civilization began on the shores of the Persian Gulf.

From the Deluge of Xisuthrus to the capture of Babylon by Cyrus and the fall of the Babylonian empire, Berosus reckoned Eight Dynasties, which, though the numbers of years assigned to them are imperfect, were evidently intended to fill up the cycle of 10 sars, or 36,000 years. The First Dynasty is obviously mythical, consisting of 86 demigods, whom he calls Chaldaeans, and who reigned at Babylon for 34,080 years; a number doubtless assigned so as to complete, with the length of the period which Berosus regarded as historical, the above total of 36,000 years.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:48:28 ZULU