Oriental literary sources

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sean_m
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Re: Oriental literary sources

Post by sean_m »

agesilaus, I think that the narrative of Gaugamela in the Astronomical Diary is a connected historical narrative, although a concise one. One of the gaps contains several sentences of description of the fighting, which is unusually wordy for the diaries. Perhaps most important, the Diary is polished to emphasize details which support a particular story and remove irrelevant or dissonant ones, at least if you believe Rollinger and Ruffing (and as I am writing a doctoral thesis under the former's supervision this gets me into murky waters). I plan to write a summary of that article on my blog for people with less German which fills in some of the details of the cuneiform text and how it can be interpreted which they assume readers understand. There are plenty of times where Herodotus or Thucydides or Xenophon brushes over six months of scheming and fighting in a few words.

That memorial inscription in Egypt is absolutely a narrative, although "connected" and "historical" could be debated: it is just that the narrator wants to tell a story of how his patron god saved him when he suffered a disaster in Asia, not of how Darius fought the battle of Issos or Alexander conquered/liberated Egypt.
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Re: Oriental literary sources

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I'll have to wait for the summary, my German can get me kicked off karaoke for tackling Rammstein but won't get me through the intricacies of that article, sadly. I will not go down the route of semantics re 'literary', you have a broader definition than mine that is all, I do wonder if the value of the Astronomical Diary entry is not over played simply because it appears to be Oriental, it was written after the battle when Alexander had already triumphed, after all. Interesting nevertheless and the good news is that the BM have not sorted through half of their tablets yet and there are the ones from Persepolis and elsewhere too, who knows what might turn up, an invitation to Olympias' funeral at Amphipolis, perhaps! :lol:
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Re: Oriental literary sources

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I have a hard time seeing the Astronomical Diary as “over played” when there are plenty of books and chapters on the battle of Gaugamela by professional historians which don't acknowledge that it exists at all! (Examples: Sabin's Lost Battles, Heckel and Yardley's Alexander the Great: Historical Sources in Translation). In the end, it is our only contemporary source, and our only source among Darius' former supporters, so now that good transcriptions and translations are available any attempt to understand what happened on that day which does not place it front and centre is flawed.

My idea is that the most important question is whether the parts of the Diary dealing with Gaugamela and its aftermath are raw data preserved by accident which we can take as more or less fact (like the series of kings in the dates of Aramaic documents from Bactria or cuneiform ones from Babylonia), or a politicized story like the ones in the Greek and Latin narratives. If you ask Bert van der Speck you will get one answer, if you ask Rollinger and Ruffing you will get another, so the responsible thing to do is to listen to both cases. I brought the article up because the OP is located in Germany, so can presumably read their argument.
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Re: Oriental literary sources

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sean_m wrote:I have a hard time seeing the Astronomical Diary as “over played” when there are plenty of books and chapters on the battle of Gaugamela by professional historians which don't acknowledge that it exists at all! (Examples: Sabin's Lost Battles, Heckel and Yardley's Alexander the Great: Historical Sources in Translation). In the end, it is our only contemporary source, and our only source among Darius' former supporters, so now that good transcriptions and translations are available any attempt to understand what happened on that day which does not place it front and centre is flawed.
Have to agree there. Not to mention that had we not the 'Diadoch Chronicle' we'd have no knowledge of the war between Antigonos and Seleukos in the east over 310-309/8. This seems to have been just as large a campaign as that against Eumenes and it is unknown to the Greco-Macedonian corpus. Alexander Meeus once penned a paper called "What We Do Not Know About the Age of the Diadochi: The Methodological Consequences of the Gaps in the Evidence". It is instructive reading.

Diodorus 18-20 may have its issues (particularly the two missing archon years early in book 18) but the Sicilian makes a good fist of following action across many fronts and, by and large, the chronology is logical. Especially after he sorts out matching his archon years with his sources' method of writing in campaigning seasons a la Thukydides.
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Re: Oriental literary sources

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sean_m wrote: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....
Just to correct/clarify ... actually we know quite a lot about the neo-Assyrian empire. It's one of my loves, albeit I'm not an Assyriologist. But I love the neo-Assyrian period (brutal as they are), but have a special interest in the Sargonid dynasty (Sargon II -- Ashurbanipal). One of our largest collections of ANE tablets is Ashurbanipal's library, of which we have 20,000+ tablets.

But you are correct in general, that there are certain periods for which we know a fair bit and others for which we don't. Same with various cultures. Nor is it always predictable. While yes, we do generally know less the further back we go, as I tell my students, I can tell them more about life in Babylon c. 1750 BCE (Hammurabi) than I can about life in Europe c. 500 CE. :-) It's all about what was preserved.
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Re: Oriental literary sources

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What I meant by 'overplayed' is that it is given an excessive authority simply on its chronological proximity and the appearance of not belonging to the Greek tradition. The issues are those you have mentioned; is it simple data of a contemporary view of the battle; is it informed by the ANE tradition of the mighty warrior's (in this case Alexander) having his foes flee in panic; or does it reflect an initial Greek version? Should someone start a thread on this alone? It certainly deserves one.

Paralus, sometimes I think you have trouble deciding which you are more fond of, wagons or Diodoros :D He is in the process of something of a makeover reputationally, but the more they allow Diodoros to mould his material, the further we get from the root sources. That said, condensing 64 books(?) into possibly six, if you believe he used Hieronymos directly is an awe inspiring task. But perhaps Paralus is right and Diodoros used an intermediate source, which might explain the loss of a Greek account of the Babylon War; Diodoros' source might have been a selection rather than an epitome with no interest in Seleukos' career other than when it touched that of Ptolemy, say. Could bear investigation...
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Re: Oriental literary sources

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agesilaos wrote:Paralus, sometimes I think you have trouble deciding which you are more fond of, wagons or Diodoros :D He is in the process of something of a makeover reputationally, but the more they allow Diodoros to mould his material, the further we get from the root sources. That said, condensing 64 books(?) into possibly six, if you believe he used Hieronymos directly is an awe inspiring task. But perhaps Paralus is right and Diodoros used an intermediate source, which might explain the loss of a Greek account of the Babylon War; Diodoros' source might have been a selection rather than an epitome with no interest in Seleukos' career other than when it touched that of Ptolemy, say. Could bear investigation...
Diodoros in a photo finish. I think it's near certain the Sicilian utilised an intermediary. There is too much in Books 18-20 that smacks of material other than what Hieronymus would (could) write. While the Sicilian history is neatly explained, claims that Hieronymus wrote the gushing passages about Ptolemy (for example) as a prisoner in Egypt following Ipsos do not wash (Lane Fox).

Were this intermediary interested in Mediterranean history rather than eastern matters is tempting. Just as tempting as another beer at the Ocean View Hotel here at Urunga though. Either way, that war finds no mention outside of those tablets - as does quite a bit of Seleukos' doings. Really makes you appreciate Diodorus when he deserts us after Book 20.

As Dr Reames says: Comes down to what"s preserved.
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Re: Oriental literary sources

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I would just be happy if it became accepted that the Astronomical Diary, Arrian, and Rufus are the three sources which one must discuss at length in any serious analysis of Alexander's Babylonian campaign. The first part of my introduction to the diaries as texts for people who can't read Babylonian or German is here and my summary of the German paper should be up next week.
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sean_m wrote: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....
Just to correct/clarify ... actually we know quite a lot about the neo-Assyrian empire. It's one of my loves, albeit I'm not an Assyriologist. But I love the neo-Assyrian period (brutal as they are), but have a special interest in the Sargonid dynasty (Sargon II -- Ashurbanipal). One of our largest collections of ANE tablets is Ashurbanipal's library, of which we have 20,000+ tablets.
Er, could you have another look at what I wrote? I am pretty sure that I gave the Neo-Assyrian empire as an example of a period which we know relatively well, as opposed to our utter ignorance of what was happening in most of the world, although it is always possible that I mistyped. Sadly archaeologists are not so optimstic as they used to be about being able to tell stories about people, as oppose to pottery typologies or haplogroups or language families, in places and times which are not as well covered by text. Archaeology is not my field at all, but serious archaeologists of places and times which have not left us many texts, such as Britain in the fifth and sixth centuries CE, sound pretty bleak.
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Re: Oriental literary sources

Post by sean_m »

Paralus wrote:
sean_m wrote:I have a hard time seeing the Astronomical Diary as “over played” when there are plenty of books and chapters on the battle of Gaugamela by professional historians which don't acknowledge that it exists at all! (Examples: Sabin's Lost Battles, Heckel and Yardley's Alexander the Great: Historical Sources in Translation). In the end, it is our only contemporary source, and our only source among Darius' former supporters, so now that good transcriptions and translations are available any attempt to understand what happened on that day which does not place it front and centre is flawed.
Have to agree there. Not to mention that had we not the 'Diadoch Chronicle' we'd have no knowledge of the war between Antigonos and Seleukos in the east over 310-309/8. This seems to have been just as large a campaign as that against Eumenes and it is unknown to the Greco-Macedonian corpus. Alexander Meeus once penned a paper called "What We Do Not Know About the Age of the Diadochi: The Methodological Consequences of the Gaps in the Evidence". It is instructive reading.
We do not seem to have After Alexander: The Time of the Diadochi (323-281 BC) (Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2013) sadly and Dr. Meeus does not seem to have posted it online. Maybe one day or by interlibrary loan ...

Acknowledging that Diodorus, while not the most sophisticated writer, used and shaped multiple sources does open the possibility that he was not tied to the limits of Ephorus etc., and it changes how we read his works to learn what we can from them.
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Re: Oriental literary sources

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Sean, I totally accept that all the evidence has to be assessed and would not deny the importance of the Babylonian texts, but they have a context outside the Graeco-Roman literary tradition familiar to bog-standard classicists of my ilk which makes them more difficult to approach, which is why we are lucky to have an Orientalist like yourself here. I look forward to reading your intro and summary; my course work is finally over next week and I can get on with the important things in life, like learning Akkadian :P

Archaeologists have become very mealy mouthed and pacific these days, Sir Mortimer Wheeler only had to find a fire and a pot sherd to imagine chariots dashing down the streets of Indus cities crushing children beneath their wheels, now a complete material and funereal culture change is ascribed to 'processes' and 'assimilation', no Hyskos, Dorian nor Anglo-Saxon conquests; possibly more accurate but so-o-o boring!
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Re: Oriental literary sources

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sean_m wrote:We do not seem to have After Alexander: The Time of the Diadochi (323-281 BC) (Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2013) sadly and Dr. Meeus does not seem to have posted it online. Maybe one day or by interlibrary loan...
Many an interesting essay in that book - Elisabetta Poddighe's Philip III’s Diagramma and the Greeks in 319 BC among them (along with Dr Meeus' contribution). Well worth investigation if not investing in! If you're interested in Alexander Meeus' contibution (or Poddighe's) send me your email address in a PM and I'll get then across to you.
sean_m wrote:Acknowledging that Diodorus, while not the most sophisticated writer, used and shaped multiple sources does open the possibility that he was not tied to the limits of Ephorus etc., and it changes how we read his works to learn what we can from them.
Indeed it does. Diodorus had his pet themes and this fed into his selection of material and how he 'worked' it. The over long digression into the Perdikkan commanders imprisoned by Antigonos, their machinations and escape is but one example. One would dearly love to know what was going on, politically, elsewhere rather than a moralising discourse on these men! One needs also to wonder at the constant depiction of Antigonos as a rebel and the sometimes pointed observations of him as ambitious, violent and harsh. Some of these may well be Diodorus' views especially as the One Eye was a perfect Diodoran subject (reach to far and fail utterly).
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Re: Oriental literary sources

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But consider that Hieronymos, the ultimate source (and given the detail of the Tales of Robin Docimos and his Merry men, just how much detail have we lost? Wail, why no emoticon for that?), was writing after Ipsos and the fall of Antigonos Monopthalmos, possibly under his grandson; it would be acceptable, I think, to paint him as the rogue that everyone knew he was by then. There is the two-fold benefit of contrasting his ambition punished, excusing Gonatos less ambitious programme, but also celebrating the awakening appreciation of Realpolitik.
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Re: Oriental literary sources

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agesilaos wrote:Sean, I totally accept that all the evidence has to be assessed and would not deny the importance of the Babylonian texts, but they have a context outside the Graeco-Roman literary tradition familiar to bog-standard classicists of my ilk which makes them more difficult to approach, which is why we are lucky to have an Orientalist like yourself here. I look forward to reading your intro and summary; my course work is finally over next week and I can get on with the important things in life, like learning Akkadian :P

Archaeologists have become very mealy mouthed and pacific these days, Sir Mortimer Wheeler only had to find a fire and a pot sherd to imagine chariots dashing down the streets of Indus cities crushing children beneath their wheels, now a complete material and funereal culture change is ascribed to 'processes' and 'assimilation', no Hyskos, Dorian nor Anglo-Saxon conquests; possibly more accurate but so-o-o boring!
Fair enough. I did not read some things which I should have when I wrote my MA because they were hard to get or in German or just not the sort of thing which I was used to tracking down. Two reasons that thoughtful people will always disagree about these things is that nobody can read everything, and that nobody can hold it all in working memory. One reason why I cite things on my blog is so that people with different backgrounds can 'see where I am coming from.'

Next week I will go over exactly how van der Spek and Rollinger/Ruffing parse line 17', because that line is a bit more complicated than "if a man strikes his father ..." or "Shamkhatu opened her mouth and spoke to Enkidu."

You know, in the Cyrus Cylinder the king boasts that by Marduk's command the kings of the world brought him heavy tribute and kissed his feet. That sort of thing got Robert E. Howard declaiming speeches which startled his neighbours out the open window, but academic historians today tend to be more excited about other things.
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Re: Oriental literary sources

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agesilaos wrote:But consider that Hieronymos, the ultimate source, was writing after Ipsos and the fall of Antigonos Monopthalmos, possibly under his grandson; it would be acceptable, I think, to paint him as the rogue that everyone knew he was by then. There is the two-fold benefit of contrasting his ambition punished, excusing Gonatos less ambitious programme, but also celebrating the awakening appreciation of Realpolitik.
The "Hieronyman industry" aside, we really do not know when Hieronymus wrote his work. It was long and long winded if we can believe Dionysius of Halikarnassos (De comp. verb. 4.30) and so likely took the Kardian some time. He may well have begun to write after Ipsos but he may not. Either way, the likelihood is that it was certainly 'polished' and finished under Gonotas if nothing else. Certainly he was still writing near the end of his life as he clearly recorded Pyrrhos' adventures in Italy (and Sicily one would suspect). An inconvenient fact for those who see Hieronymus as a recorder only of those events he took part in or had direct knowledge of and so used other sources for mainland history.

I disagree that Hieronymus was somehow free to criticise Antingonos Monophthalmos. All Successor monarchies attempted to legitimise their dynasty with claims of continuance of the Argaeds. Monophthalmos and Gonatas (as well as Kassandros) both issued coins displaying their 'Heraklid descent' just as did the Argeads before them. They were the legitimate continuators of that line. Achieving legitimacy in the rule of Macedonia also legitimised their larger ambition to control Alexander's empire. Stories of Monophthalmos' 'low birth" and rising from same are propaganda aimed at discrediting these claims.

The Antigonid progonoi monument on Delos also speaks against this line of reasoning. Like all Hellenistic rulers an Antigonid king (Gonatas being the almost certain candidate) displayed all of his royal forebears for the world to see. It numbered twenty statues. Gonatas hardly had such a number of royal predecessors (nor any of the other Antigonid kings). While we might strongly suspect that it contained Argead rulers before Antigonid rule, you can be absolutely certain it included Monophthalmos.

It's not really conceivable that Hieronymus could report stories of Monophthalmos' low birth, for example, much less blacken the first of the dynasty as an overly ambitious and harsh person (the opposite of the ideal Hellenistic king) who was also a 'rebel' against the central authority. To undermine the founder of the dynasty in such a fasion undermines the legitmacy of the whole. Not something Gonatas might have approved of.
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Re: Oriental literary sources

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I did say 'ultimate source', though quite who the intermediary might be I would not like to venture, I would still state that Hieronymos lies behind these books at whatever remove; were it just details like Alketas' death, or the Merry men then one might hazard Duris with his 'tragical history' but there is just too much sober fact; to my mind this period of history told in depth cannot fail to be dramatic, even 'Deadbat' Boycott could not endull this period. As you know I am wary of judging the author on biases that we cannot check, little besides Diodoros preserves H (if even he does :? ), I hear your concerns and they are not unreasonable, I just do not share them to the same degree.

You are absolutely right that we do not know when H set stylus to papyrus, he almost certainly kept notebooks throughout the period and must have used other sources too, as you say. Gonatas would not deny Monopthalmos his place as an ancestor but grandad must have been a shadowy figure to him, Demetrios gets a consistently good press, I think. Nor are Antigonos' traits unkingly; none of the successors had royal blood, myths about Ptolemy notwithstanding and they all had their moments of cruelty and cunning and the Greeks loved a dirty trick. I don't think H was writing for philosophers nor influenced by them as much as later more rhetorical writers (of whom Quintillian would approve). Of course that is only my opinion, it seems a much more modern, or amoral age than that before or after, then again Lysimachos is my favourite , so I must be a black-hearted rogue.
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