Keeping Watch in Babylon

The Astronomical Diaries in Context


This volume of collected essays, the first of its kind in any language, investigates the Astronomical Diaries from ancient Babylon, a collection of almost 1000 clay tablets which, over a period of some five hundred years (6th century to 1st century BCE), record observations of selected astronomical phenomena as well as the economy and history of Mesopotamia and surrounding regions. The volume asks who the scholars were, what motivated them to ‘keep watch in Babylon’ and how their approach changed in the course of the collection’s long history. Contributors come from a range of disciplinary backgrounds, including Assyriology, Classics, ancient history, the history of science and the history of religion.

"Babylon has always exerted a magical charm on everyone who has been told of its splendour and grandeur. Nobody who has succumbed to this charm, whether he is a layman who just wants to browse a little in his search for old secrets, or a scholar who wants to inform himself about the latest academic research, will be disappointed by this volume." - Erlend Gehlken, Universität Frankfurt/Main, in: Bryn Mawr Classical Review February 2 (2020)

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Johannes Haubold is Professor of Classics at Princeton University. He has published several books on ancient Greek and Mesopotamian literature and culture (e.g. Greece and Mesopotamia: Dialogues in Literature, Cambridge 2013).
John Steele is Professor of the History of the Exact Sciences in Antiquity in the Department of Egyptology and Assyriology at Brown University. He has published extensively on Babylonian astronomy (e.g. A Brief History of Astronomy in the Middle East, London 2008).
Kathryn Stevens is Associate Professor of Classics and Ancient History at Durham University. She has published on various aspects of Greek and Babylonian cultural and intellectual history (e.g. Between Greece and Babylonia: Hellenistic Intellectual History in Cross-Cultural Perspective, Cambridge 2019).
List of Tables and Figures


1 The Early History of the Astronomical Diaries
John Steele
2 Babylonian Market Predictions
Mathieu Ossendrijver
3 Logging History in Achaemenid, Hellenistic and Parthian Babylonia: Historical Entries in Dated Astronomical Diaries
Christopher Tuplin
4 Who Wrote the Babylonian Astronomical Diaries?
Eleanor Robson
5 The Astronomical Diaries and Religion in Seleucid and Parthian Babylon: The Case of the Prophet of Nanāya
Lucinda Dirven
6 The Museum Context of the Astronomical Diaries
Reinhard Pirngruber
7 From Babylon to Baḫtar: The Geography of the Astronomical Diaries
Kathryn Stevens
8 Royal Presence in the Astronomical Diaries
Marijn Visscher
9 History and Historiography in the Early Parthian Diaries
Johannes Haubold
10 The Relationship between Greco-Macedonian Citizens and the “Council of Elders” in the Arsacid Period: New Evidence from Astronomical Diary BM 35269 + 35347 + 35358
Yasuyuki Mitsuma
Students of Assyriology, Classics, the history of science, and the history of ancient religion. Most readers are likely to be professional scholars or graduate students.
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