RESTORATION OF THE BEROSUS CANON

By Professor JULIUS OPPERT

[Extracted from Transactions of the Second Session, International Congress of Orientalists, 1876, pp. 46-60.]
 

I SHALL concisely unfold my discoveries in Babylonian chronology, which fix, in an undeniable way, and in accordance with the highly valuable statement made by Mr. George Smith, the commencement of the historical times of Babylon at 2517 BC. The Chaldaeans knew the period of 1805 years, or 22,325 synodical months, equal to 24,227 draconitic months, after which the eclipses return in the same order. This period is quoted in the texts of Sargon, who states its end in 712 BC.1 Prof. Schrader, in his reply to my views, confessed this point to be unattackable.

The date of 2517 BC as the date of the Aryan conquest stated by Berosus is confirmed by the famous list of the same author, combined [p.47] with some valuable information given by Herodotus. The real figures of the Berosian dynastic canon are thus handed down in the Armenian text of Eusebius:

Medes ............................................ 234 years.2
Elamites ............................................ 224   "
Chaldaeans ............................................ 458    "
Arabians ............................................ 245    "
Semiramis ............................................ 42       "
Assyrians ............................................ 526    "
Duration of the Median Empire (Herod, i. 130) ............................................ 228    "
    1957

These 1957 years, added to 560 BC, the date of the end of the Median empire, will give exactly 2517 BC for the date of the Aryan invasion. The statement is corroborated by the cuneiform inscriptions. As the capture of Susa took place in 648 BC, the capture of Babylon by the Elamites, and the accession of this dynasty 1635 years before, falls in the year 2283 BC, which date, added to 234 of the first dynasty, equally leads us to 2517 BC.

The canon of Berosus, restored only so far as it was applicable to Babylon, runs thus:

  ............................................ BC. BC.
Medians ............................................ 25172283
Elamites ............................................ 22832059
Chaldaeans ............................................ 20591601
Arabians ............................................ 16011356
Semiramis ............................................ 13561314
Assyrians ............................................ 1314788
Phul, the Chaldaean ............................................ 788 (?)

[p.48]

This date of 788 BC, established by M. de Saulcy, for the definitive accession of Phul and Arbaces,3 is clearly confirmed by the eponymous list, which gives for the last annual officer of Assumirar 792 BC, three years before the downfall of Ninive. This is, moreover, the only date possible that will agree with the Solar eclipse of the 13th of June, 809 BC, and the sole date reconcilable with the unimpugnable testimony of Biblical history.

I regret that I cannot now explain that the scanty Assyrian chronological texts can neither be understood nor interpreted without the aid of the historical texts of the Kings, and that all chronology neglecting or disdaining these statements will be overthrown.

Diodorus (ii. 32) states that the Chaldaeans admitted from the oldest time until Alexander, a period of more than 473,000 years to have elapsed. As the antediluvian times fill up 432,000, they admitted 41,000 years from the Deluge to Alexander. Berosus gives to the two first fabulous kings 5100, and to the other monarchs of the mythical period 34,080,4 together 39,180 years. From 2517 BC to Alexander 330 BC are 2187 years; in all 473,367 years. But how can the evidently cyclical number of 39,180 years be explained?

As the Babylonians knew the period of the moon, they did not ignore the so-called Sothiac period, in which time the commencement of the year of 365 days turns backwards through all seasons. This period is known to be of 1461 short, or 1460 (4x365) Julian years. [p.49] Now, the number of 39,180 years, attributed to the first postdiluvian heroic dynasty, is nothing else but

12 Sothiac periods of 1460 = 17,520
12 Lunar periods of 1805 = 21,660
  39,180 years.

Moreover, the Egyptian Sothiac period finishes in 139. In counting backwards we arrive to the dates of 1322, 2782, 4242, 5702, 7162, 8622, 10,082, 11,542 BC. Searching the Chaldaean lunar periods retrospectively, they give the following dates: 712, 2517 BC, and for the mythical time 4322, 6127, 7932, 9737, 11,542 BC.

This marvellous coincidence is not a mere hazard. I have neither invented nor changed a single number. The chronology of Berosus is therefore restored. The Babylonians placed the Deluge in the year 41,697 BC.

In all cases the reader can take for granted that the date of 11,512 BC reposes on a real historical tradition, and that the two periods, the Chaldaean moon period and the Sothiac period (whether it was Egyptian or not), have the same origin. By mathematical calculation I have been enabled to fix the date of a double phenomenon which struck the sight of men, consisting in an eclipse, and in an apparition of Sirius,5 visible only during this eclipse, on Tuesday, [p.50] 27th of April, Julian, or the 28th of January, Gregorian. But as at this epoch Sirius was not visible to Northern or Middle Egypt; on account of the equinoctial precession, civilization must start from a more southern point.


FOOTNOTES

1 The passage runs as follows:

ultu yume rukuti adi igidti Sin
inde a diebus remotis usque ad nodiperiodum Luni.

This translation is supported by almost all Assyriologists, as MM. Menant, Lenormant, Delitzsch, Schrader, Eneberg, and other scholars. It agrees with the clause in the mutilated stele of Lamaca now at Berlin, which can be easily restored:

[ultu] yume rukuti Sibit (mat) Assur
inde a diebus remotis fundatioms Assyriae,
[adi muan] na
usque ad hunc annum.

Traces of the an in the second line are still visible on the stone. The first passage is one of the most intelligible: ultu from, and adi until to, are the well-known correlatives; igidti is expressed by l, as in the syllabaries; and Sin is written AN. SUS. KI, as in the Zurich bilingual tablet, and Norris's Dict. p. 938. No one has understood until now, the king Until, who Mr. Smith now finds in the clause where he formerly discovered Arabian tribes.

2 There is not a single number invented or changed. The corrupt Armenian text gives for the Median dynasty two numbers, 234 and 224; for the second, not named, the number is wanting in the text; but a marginal note gives 48. This 48 is only 224 misunderstood. The reign of Semiramis is not stated. All the ancient documents give 42 years. It is easy to change numbers, but more difficult to explain those which exist. The two numbers, 234 and 224, were believed to be identical, on account of their almost equal value. It is possible that the number 224, now well confirmed, was rejected by the compiler, on account of the curious coincidence that the first two dynasties according to this computation together lasted 458 years, which is the same number of years as the third dynasty itself lasted. But these coincidences abound in history. The Roman Republic and the Parthian Empire both had a duration of the Solomonian number of 480 years. The three Prussian princes, the Grand Elector, Frederick I., Frederick William I., reigned together 100 years, as did their immediate successors Frederick II., Frederick William II., and Frederick William III. And in Berlin there is certainly neither myth nor cycle.

3 Arbaka, not easily explainable by any Iranian language, is an aryanization of the Median erbek, the first, the foregoing. With regard to Phul, some scholars have had the idea of identifying him with Tiglathpileser. This opinion is rejected by all testimonies; and it is only supported by the axiom that all Biblical statements must be wrong. Nevertheless, there are a great many Biblical statements which are true; they are consistent with themselves, and repose on a historical chronology. It can be shown, by mathematical demonstration, that there existed a real era from the Solomonian temple, connected traditionally with a presumed date of the Exodus. This unavoidable supposition of a fixed era explains the whole actually historical epoch of the king's synchronisms.

4 In the corrupt text of the Armenian, as it is now, the 6100 years are confounded with the 34,080 years. But it can easily be shown that this 6100 years are necessary to make out the 473,000 years. Moreover, there ought to be the statement of the remaining pretended 28,980 years, which is wanting.

5 The latitude of Sirius is austral 39 28', and as it was in 1000 AD it approached to its nearest point to the equator, the epoch of 11,542 BC. coincides almost with its most southern possible position, viz. 62 30' austral declension. The star was therefore invisible to all regions more northern than 27 30' LB. Thebes is situated at 25 42' boreal latitude. Sirius at this time rose only 1 48' over the horizon; it may be, in consequence, regarded as almost invisible in the morning or the night, on account of the fog which darkens the horizon in those climates. We obtain the half arc ε of the parallel circle described by the astre in admitting its declension (δ), the latitude of the spot (λ), by the equation:

cos ε = tg δ tg λ.

The arc ε will be in this instance 22 24', and Sirius remained only 3 hours over the horizon of Thebes. But as the longitude l of the sun on the 28th of January was 307, in quoting to the obliquity of the ecliptic at this epoch, the right ascension (α) of the sun will be given by the figure:

cot α = cot l cos ω.

We obtain therefore the right ascension of the sun 309 6'. That of Sirius being then almost 274, we find that the astre remained in the sky from 8h. 15m. until llh. 15m. in this date. It is highly probable that during this time the eclipse took place, which rendered the sudden apparition of Sirius perceptible to men. These considerations exclude also a more southern spot than Thebes. We may therefore suppose that Thebes, or any place in the neighbourhood, was already, in these remotest epochs, one of the cradles of human civilization. All the calculations concerning this matter are contained in a larger work which soon, I hope, will appear.