Lenzi: On the Restoration of the Temples
by Estéban Trujillo de Gutiérrez
“There is also some evidence that the Seleucids, at least at times, accommodated themselves to Mesopotamian traditions. Perhaps the most famous example of this is Antiochus I’s royal inscription of 268 BCE.
In this archaizing inscription Antiochus I appropriated the traditional language of kingship, utilized throughout earlier Mesopotamian royal inscriptions, in order to present his own rule in the linguistic garb of an indigenous king.
The opening lines read: “I am Antiochus, great king, strong king, king of the inhabited world, king of Babylon, king of the lands, the provider of Esagil and Ezida, foremost son of Seleucus, the king, the Macedonian, king of Babylon.”
Even if we were to interpret all of these Seleucid activities as exploiting indigenous traditions to further their own rule, we should probably only conclude from this that the Seleucids were doing what a long line of earlier Mesopotamian rulers—indigenous or otherwise—had done.
But, we need not imagine the Seleucid appropriation or support of Mesopotamian institutions as a simple one-way, top-down mechanism of exploitation. There may be indications that some of the local elites encouraged the rulers to adopt Mesopotamian ways, either explicitly or implicitly.
For example, several historians have suggested that Berossus’ Babylonaica was explicitly written to encourage the foreign Seleucids, especially Antiochus I, to sympathize with and support Mesopotamian traditions.
(See Stanley Mayer Burstein, The Babyloniaca of Berossus (Sources from the Ancient Near East I/5; Malibu: Undena Publications, 1978), 5-6, who believes Berossus’ departure for Cos late in his life may indicate Berossus’ disappointment with the Seleucid policies toward Babylon.
See also Paul-Alain Beaulieu, “The Historical Background of the Uruk Prophecy,” in The Tablet and the Scroll: Near Eastern Studies in Honor of William W. Hallo, ed. M. Cohen, D. Snell and D. Weisberg (Bethesda: CDL Press, 1993), 49.
But see Amélie Kuhrt, “Berossus’ Babylonaika and Seleucid Rule in Babylonia,” in Hellenism in the East, 32-56, who contends Berossus may have written in order to provide the Seleucids with local ideological support for their regime, especially in order for them to rebut claims made by Ptolemaic authors such as Manetho and Hecataeus (55-56)).
And recently Paul-Alain Beaulieu has set the Uruk Prophecy within a larger religious agenda and interpreted the enigmatic text as an implicit attempt to persuade Antiochus I to support the Uruk temple, thereby furthering the newly revived cult of Anu and Antu.
(He writes, “The Uruk Prophecy is therefore a rewriting of historical material with the purpose of vindicating the establishment (presented as the reestablishment) of a new cult (i.e. the cult of Anu as reorganized in the third century by the priesthood of the Bīt Rēs), to present the ruler who will foster this cultic revival (i.e. one of the contemporary Seleucid rulers [which Beaulieu later identifies as Antiochus I]) as a new Nebuchadnezzar, to obliquely suggest that his father was a neglectful, and therefore malevolent, ruler (as Nabopolassar had been), and to predict an everlasting rule for his dynasty, even a rule of divine character” (Beaulieu, “Uruk Prophecy,” 49).”
Alan Lenzi, The Uruk List of Kings and Sages and Late Mesopotamian Scholarship, JANER 8.2, Brill, Leiden, 2008. pp. 155-7.