Classical authorities on the ancient Near East

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Before the decipherment of cuneiform text, knowledge of the history of the ancient Mesopotamia (Babylonia and Assyria) and was mostly dependent upon classical authorities. This history, however, was scanty and questionable.

Contents

Berossus

Had the native history of Berossus survived, this may not have been the case; all that is known of the Chaldaean historian's work, however, is derived from quotations in Josephus, Ptolemy, Eusebius, Jerome and George Syncellus. The authenticity of his list of 10 antediluvian kings who reigned for 120 sari or 432,000 years, has been partially confirmed by the inscriptions; but his 8 postdiluvian dynasties are difficult to reconcile with the monuments, and the numbers associated with them are probably corrupt. It is different with the 7th and 8th dynasties as given by Ptolemy in the Canon of Kings in his Almagest, which prove to have been recorded faithfully:

Herodotus

The account of Babylon given by Herodotus is not that of an eye-witness and not very extensive. In his Histories he mentions that he will devote a whole section to the history of Assyria, but this promise was unfulfilled, or perhaps the book has been lost. Herodotus' opinions are disputed by Ctesias, who, however, has mistaken mythology for history, and Greek romance owed to him its Ninus and Semiramis, its Ninyas and Sardanapalus.

Xenophon

Xenophon's account in the Anabasis gives information on the Achaemenid Empire of his time.

Homer

Some of the peoples mentioned in Homer's epics are thought to correspond to Anatolian groups attested by archaeology. The city of Troy (known also as Ilion) is thought to be the Wilusa of Hittite texts.

Old Testament

Another ancient authority of some value on ancient Near East history, is the Old Testament.

See also

References

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