Oriental literary sources

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Persian_Boge
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Oriental literary sources

Post by Persian_Boge »

Greetings,

if I may, I would like to ask you a question. Are there any reliable Oriental literary sources on Alexander the Great?


Best wishes,
Boge
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agesilaos
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Re: Oriental literary sources

Post by agesilaos »

No; there are some relevant cuneiform documents from Babylon but they are not 'literary', being rather astronomical diaries and the associated notes. I have not come across any epigraphic evidence from the east concerning Alexander, even Egypt is pretty bare with no more than lists of titles.
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Re: Oriental literary sources

Post by Persian_Boge »

Many thanks for your answer. I am aware about the astronomical diares and other evidence of this type; my interest was directed to the possibility of a number of reliable Oriental literary sources which can be used in a project. I myself did not find any (those I found are late and not worthy of trust), so I decided to ask this question here, in case I missed something.

Best wishes,
Boge
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Re: Oriental literary sources

Post by Jeanne Reames »

As Agesilaos said, finding ANE (Ancient Near Eastern) documents on Alexander can be tricky. There are, however, a couple, and we do have an Assyriologist who's been involved in the study of ATG's chronology. Tom Boiy, "Cuneiform Tablets and Aramaic Ostraca: Between the Low and High Chronologies of the Early Diadochoi Period." Published in the proceedings from the 2005 ATG Symposium in Calgary. Tom's a really nice guy. His academia.edu entry is below:

https://kuleuven.academia.edu/TomBoiy

There are a number of Persian oral stories about Alexander, and also entries on ATG from India, unsurprisingly, not all of them terribly complimentary. For more info on this, check out "In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great." The documentary has some real problems, but it's particularly useful for a couple of things. First, just showing the wide variety of landscape over which ATG convinced his army to follow him. But it also documents Iranian storytellers. Alexander also appears, btw, in the Qu`ran, and (almost certainly) in the book of Daniel, as the Two-Horned one.

But in terms of administrative documents about ATG, we don't have a lot, as he represented an interruption in record-keeping, and didn't live long enough to see it restored, which largely happened after his death. Remember that record-keeping and "history" in the ANE looked different than what we find in Greece (and Rome). ANE record-keeping is more along the lines of lists and chronologies and inscriptions.

Btw, for a really great intro to ANE studies, I'd recommend either Marc van de Meiroop's textbook, or the Blackwell Companion to the Ancient Near East, edited by Snell. The latter is much longer, and more topical, while van de Mieroop is more chronological. But I use both when I teach the ANE.

Blackwell also has a Companion to Ancient Macedonia which I also recommend.

Btw, there are also some Egyptian records on him. See the work of Stanley Burstien. :-)
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Persian_Boge
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Re: Oriental literary sources

Post by Persian_Boge »

Dr. Reames, many thanks for your answer. The works of Tom Boiy abd Stanley Burstien were unknown to me, therefore I will consult them with the first chance I have.

Best wishes,
Boge
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Re: Oriental literary sources

Post by agesilaos »

I have 'Between High and Low' his book but it is early diadochoi rather than Alexander, he may get a mention when discussing Alexander IV, if memory serves one always has an epithet the other never does and I think the Babylonian form of the name is distinct between them. If you do read his book bear in mind he is a Dutchman (I think); there is one particular syntactical glitch which reverses the meaning of what he means to say! If you are interested in the chronology of the early successors, however, it is a must read; I do not agree with his conclusions 100%, but I doubt he'll lose much sleep over that :shock: :lol:
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Re: Oriental literary sources

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agesilaos wrote:If you are interested in the chronology of the early successors, however, it is a must read; I do not agree with his conclusions 100%, but I doubt he'll lose much sleep over that :shock: :lol:
I can only agree on the 'must read'. It is a seminal work on early Hellenistic chronology, along with Stylianou's chronological appendix to "The Pax Macedonica and the Freedom of the Greeks of Asia" (Epeteris tou Kentrou Epistemonikon Ereunon 20,1994) and the recent addition of Alexander Meeus (The Chronology of the Third Diadoch War: Phoenix, LXVI 1-2, 2012), and is definitely required reading for those hooked on the chronological issues. Ed Anson - who maintains an "ongoing discussion" with Tom Boiy - would agree if only to disagree as he is probably the 'champion' of the 'Low' at present.

I would also agree with Dr Reames on the "Companion" volumes by Blackwell. The Companion to Macedonia I have in digitised form as well as the papers mentioned should you be interested.

Agesilaos, I do recall you coming up with some 'contorted' convolutions for the Greek mainland in this eclectic chronology but the detail escapes me now. That's possibly a good thing. Either way, to my mind (and the fellows' minds above excluding Anson), Eumenes' death is clearly early in 316 (January); Seleukos' flight summer 316; Antigonos' return west November 316 and Kassandros' presiding over the Nemean games 315. On these (esp. Seleukos and Kassandros) all other events depend.
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Re: Oriental literary sources

Post by sean_m »

Persian_Boge wrote:Many thanks for your answer. I am aware about the astronomical diares and other evidence of this type; my interest was directed to the possibility of a number of reliable Oriental literary sources which can be used in a project. I myself did not find any (those I found are late and not worthy of trust), so I decided to ask this question here, in case I missed something.

Best wishes,
Boge
If you see the votive inscription in Egypt or the Astronomical Diaries as something other than literary, your view might be challenged by R. Rollinger and Kai Ruffing, “'Panik' im Heer- Dareios III, die Schlacht von Gaugamela, und die Mondfinsternis vom 20. September 331 v. Chr.” Iranica Antiqua 47 (2012) pp. 101-116. Many of the Greek sources which tell stories about Alexander also use fewer words than we might wish ...

Edit: Link, for Pothosians who can read German.
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Re: Oriental literary sources

Post by agesilaos »

Well, Para, old boy, I'm not sure where we got got to in that discussion either! The year of the deaths of Olympias and Eumenes was controversial I recall and we circled what constituted a long siege of Pydna; Anson had a whole article on it in Ancient History Bulletin but I could not get a copy (the digitisation project seems to have fallen by the wayside). Might have to wander through that thread again, but the thing I think I wanted to say was that even if one may not concur with Boiy's conclusions he presents all the evidence clearly and impartially; it is one of those areas where much is a matter of interpretation, especially where nothing else informs Diodoros' account.

Sean, using your link I found this www.academia.edu/12802683/Ἀλέξανδρος_De ... _Monuments which is certainly in Persian_Boge's area of interest, sadly the main article is in Russian!
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Re: Oriental literary sources

Post by Jeanne Reames »

I had the pleasure to hear a colloquium in Calgary back in 2005 (?) with Ed Anson, Tom Boiy, and Pat Wheatley, on the chronology of the early Successor period, down to 301. I was lost inside about 10 minutes. :-D I am SO not a math person.

But anyway, it was actually a very good-natured debate between the three, with a lot of joking, as they're friends. So no, I don't think Tom would take it personally if you disagreed with him. Ed and Pat don't agree with all his conclusions, either. But it is nice to have an Assyriologist in our ranks who can read Akkadian.
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Re: Oriental literary sources

Post by Paralus »

It's not so much the 'math' but rather the conga line of Macedonian identities flitting here, there and everywhere. It is something more than a surprise that Diodorus gets them all named and placed in a chronological context (when he's not moralising over escapees from Antigonid custody and the like). Trying to follow the doings of Dioskourides, Polemaios, Ptolemaios, sundry Philips and Telesophori as Diodorus flits from Asia to Greece can become mind bending.

Tom Boiy freely admits that his 'eclectic' chronology does not satisfactorily address some actions in Greece proper but, on the whole, it is far more preferable to either the classical "high" or "low". I've little doubt of the pegs I mentioned above though Ed Anson will (and has) disagreed. The cuneiform evidence, on the whole, supports Tom Boiy's conclusions - most crucially the death of Perdikkas which, happily, Diodorus also gets right even with missing archon years.
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Re: Oriental literary sources

Post by Jeanne Reames »

Paralus wrote:It's not so much the 'math' but rather the conga line of Macedonian identities flitting here, there and everywhere. It is something more than a surprise that Diodorus gets them all named and placed in a chronological context (when he's not moralising over escapees from Antigonid custody and the like). Trying to follow the doings of Dioskourides, Polemaios, Ptolemaios, sundry Philips and Telesophori as Diodorus flits from Asia to Greece can become mind bending.
Ha, yes, there is that. It doesn't help that I'm really an Argead specialist, and prefer dealing with The Crazy that comes before Philip rather than The Crazy that comes after Alexander. :-D Although I do understand the fascination with the Hellenistic era. At least there are more sources (even if that's not saying a lot).
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Re: Oriental literary sources

Post by sean_m »

Jeanne Reames wrote:Ha, yes, there is that. It doesn't help that I'm really an Argead specialist, and prefer dealing with The Crazy that comes before Philip rather than The Crazy that comes after Alexander. :-D Although I do understand the fascination with the Hellenistic era. At least there are more sources (even if that's not saying a lot).
Oh yes! It is a bit terrifying to think that the periods of ancient history which we know relatively well, like the Neo-Assyrian Empire, the eastern Mediterranean in the period from 336 to 301 BCE, or the 50 years or so before Philippi, are shadowy islands in a sea of darkness. There is so much that we do not know we do not know. Still, trying to figure out as much of the little that we can know as possible gives us all something to do.

I can't call myself any kind of serious specialist in Alexander or Macedonia, but I poke in on this forum now and then.
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Re: Oriental literary sources

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Paralus wrote:It's not so much the 'math' but rather the conga line of Macedonian identities flitting here, there and everywhere. It is something more than a surprise that Diodorus gets them all named and placed in a chronological context (when he's not moralising over escapees from Antigonid custody and the like). Trying to follow the doings of Dioskourides, Polemaios, Ptolemaios, sundry Philips and Telesophori as Diodorus flits from Asia to Greece can become mind bending.
Though the funny thing was, when I last read Diodorus 18-20, I found that his narrative of the period was much clearer than any of the modern ones I have read. That does not mean that he is right of course- the arguments that he lost track of the ends of some years then had to catch up sound overwhelming, and he does let events in some areas fall out of his story for years at a time- but in general I think he did a good job of trying to describe wars and intrigues in an area stretching from Bactria to Epirus. But I have read too many accounts of military operations in +XX which are much wordier but not any clearer than "the King of Anshan gathered his armies and marched to Babylon" or "the infantry on both sides advanced to fight. The battle lines moved back and forth many times, for great were the heroic deeds on both sides, and the bloodshed was terrible. The king's general saw his enemy ..."
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Re: Oriental literary sources

Post by agesilaos »

Sean, just for clarification, when we (I anyway)refer to 'literary sources' we mean those that give a connected historical narrative; that does not mean that the whole has survived for us to read , of course! The 'Hellenika Oxyrhynchos' is a very small fragment but remains a 'literary source' by virtue of the original's nature. The historical information appended to the Astronomical Diaries does not fall into this category, important though it is. Nor do King Lists, the Chronicles do but so far as I am aware, whilst we have fragmentary Diadoch Chronicles none are extant for Alexander. This is purely a matter of definition, so as long as someone defines what they include in 'literary' they may expand on the accepted definition, but it is useful to be told, semantic arguments are seldom edifying. :lol:

Diodoros seems to hang together until you get done to the nitty-gritty then his contradictions either whet the appetite or overwhelm you. Moderns seldom get things more cogent since they ultimately base their accounts upon Diodoros or have to expend much ink on why they believe he has erred, which interrupts the narrative flow but some find interesting. I love it, as does Paralus for one, and I doubt we will ever see things the same way, but as long as ones view remains consistent with the evidence we have (and we all pray for more to emerge - for the problems that may throw up try the POxy 1748 thread, that does get involved :P ) then one cannot really say that the other person is 'wrong' only that you disagree - and if they point out a flaw in your own reasoning that is one the most helpful things; everyone gets a little blind when it comes to their own theories and some remain so no matter what! Tantae religio suaderet malae.

One name that deserves a mention is R M Errington whose two papers 'From Babylon to Triparadeisus' JHS 1970 (90) pp 49-77 and 'Diodorus Siculus and the Chronology of the EarlyDiadochoi 320-311 B.C. - Hermes 105 (1977), 496-500, two of the earliest articles that kick started the debate, which had lain dormant after the thirties.
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