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The Antiochus Cylinder, Babylonian Scholarship and Seleucid Imperial Ideology

Stevens, Kathryn

The Antiochus Cylinder, Babylonian Scholarship and Seleucid Imperial Ideology Thumbnail


Kathryn Stevens


With few surviving Greek sources from Hellenistic Babylonia, we are often ill-informed about the details of Seleucid imperialism ‘on the ground’ — in particular, about the Seleucids' relationship with the Babylonian priestly elites and Babylonian cult and culture. This makes the cuneiform sources all the more important. One of the most intriguing is the Antiochus (or Borsippa) Cylinder, a clay cylinder in the form of a traditional Mesopotamian royal inscription recording Antiochus I's restoration of a Babylonian temple. Although the Cylinder was previously seen as evidence for the adoption of Babylonian cultural forms by the Seleucids, recent readings have analysed it as a product of interaction between Babylonian tradition and Seleucid imperial ideology. Yet the accuracy of such readings crucially depends on situating the Cylinder correctly within its cultural context. Here the inscription is reassessed with close reference to earlier and contemporary Mesopotamian sources. While evidence for ‘copy-and-paste’ redaction imposes significant methodological constraints on textual analysis, certain elements of the Cylinder which are non-traditional from a Babylonian perspective can persuasively be interpreted in terms of Seleucid royal ideology. Ultimately, however, we must question the extent to which the inscription's ideological maneouvres are broadly ‘Babylonian’ or ‘imperial’, rather than shaped by and targeted at a specific local context.


Stevens, K. (2014). The Antiochus Cylinder, Babylonian Scholarship and Seleucid Imperial Ideology. The Journal of Hellenic Studies, 134, 66-88.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 20, 2014
Online Publication Date Dec 9, 2014
Publication Date Dec 9, 2014
Deposit Date Sep 8, 2014
Publicly Available Date Apr 14, 2015
Journal Journal of Hellenic Studies
Print ISSN 0075-4269
Electronic ISSN 2041-4099
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 134
Pages 66-88
Keywords Seleucid Babylonia, Hellenistic kingship, Cross-cultural interaction (Hellenistic), Antiochus I, Borsippa Cylinder.


Accepted Journal Article (489 Kb)

Copyright Statement
Copyright © The Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies 2014. This paper has been published in a revised form, subsequent to editorial input by Cambridge University Press in 'The Journal of Hellenic Studies' (134: (2014) 66-88)

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