Berossus was a Hellenistic
Hellenistic civilization
Hellenistic civilization represents the zenith of Greek influence in the ancient world from 323 BCE to about 146 BCE...

-era Babylonia
Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia , with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as a major power when Hammurabi Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as...

n writer, a priest of Bel Marduk
Marduk was the Babylonian name of a late-generation god from ancient Mesopotamia and patron deity of the city of Babylon, who, when Babylon became the political center of the Euphrates valley in the time of Hammurabi , started to...

 and astronomer writing in Greek
Koine Greek
Koine Greek is the universal dialect of the Greek language spoken throughout post-Classical antiquity , developing from the Attic dialect, with admixture of elements especially from Ionic....

, who was active at the beginning of the 3rd century BC. Versions of two excerpts of his writings survive, at several removes.

Life and work

Using ancient Babylonian records and texts that are lost to us, Berossus published the Babyloniaca (hereafter, History of Babylonia) in three books some time around 290-278 BC, under the patronage of the Macedon
Macedonia or Macedon was an ancient kingdom, centered in the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula, bordered by Epirus to the west, Paeonia to the north, the region of Thrace to the east and Thessaly to the south....

Seleucid Empire
The Seleucid Empire was a Greek-Macedonian state that was created out of the eastern conquests of Alexander the Great. At the height of its power, it included central Anatolia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, Persia, today's Turkmenistan, Pamir and parts of Pakistan.The Seleucid Empire was a major centre...

 king, Antiochus I Soter
Antiochus I Soter
Antiochus I Soter , was a king of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire. He reigned from 281 BC - 261 BC....

. Certain astrological
Astrology consists of a number of belief systems which hold that there is a relationship between astronomical phenomena and events in the human world...

 fragments recorded in Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

, Censorinus
Censorinus, Roman grammarian and miscellaneous writer, flourished during the 3rd century AD.He was the author of a lost work De Accentibus and of an extant treatise De Die Natali, written in 238, and dedicated to his patron Quintus Caerellius as a birthday gift...

, Flavius Josephus
Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

, and Marcus Vitruvius Pollio are also attributed to Berossus, but are of unknown provenance, or indeed are uncertain as to where they might fit into his History. Vitruvius
Marcus Vitruvius Pollio was a Roman writer, architect and engineer, active in the 1st century BC. He is best known as the author of the multi-volume work De Architectura ....

 credits him with the invention of the semi-circular sundial
A sundial is a device that measures time by the position of the Sun. In common designs such as the horizontal sundial, the sun casts a shadow from its style onto a surface marked with lines indicating the hours of the day. The style is the time-telling edge of the gnomon, often a thin rod or a...

 hollowed out of a cubical block. A statue of him was erected in Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

, perhaps attesting to his fame and scholarship as historian and astronomer-astrologer.

A separate work, Procreatio, is attributed to him in the Latin commentaries on Aratus
Aratus was a Greek didactic poet. He is best known today for being quoted in the New Testament. His major extant work is his hexameter poem Phaenomena , the first half of which is a verse setting of a lost work of the same name by Eudoxus of Cnidus. It describes the constellations and other...

, Commentariorium in Aratum Reliquiae, but there is no proof of this connection. However, a direct citation (name and title) is rare in antiquity, and it may have referred to Book 1 of his History.

He was born during or before Alexander the Great's reign over Babylon (330-323 BC), with the earliest date suggested as 340 BC. According to Vitruvius' de Architectura, he eventually moved to the island of Kos
Kos or Cos is a Greek island in the south Sporades group of the Dodecanese, next to the Gulf of Gökova/Cos. It measures by , and is from the coast of Bodrum, Turkey and the ancient region of Caria. Administratively the island forms a separate municipality within the Kos peripheral unit, which is...

 off the coast of Asia Minor and set up a school of astrology there, under the patronage of the king of Egypt. However, scholars have questioned whether it would have been possible to work under the Seleucids and then move on to a region under Ptolemaic
Claudius Ptolemy , was a Roman citizen of Egypt who wrote in Greek. He was a mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer, and poet of a single epigram in the Greek Anthology. He lived in Egypt under Roman rule, and is believed to have been born in the town of Ptolemais Hermiou in the...

 control late in life. It is not known when he died.

History of Babylonia

Reflections at several removes of the remains of Berossos' lost Babyloniaca can be glimpsed through two later Greek epitome
An epitome is a summary or miniature form; an instance that represents a larger reality, also used as a synonym for embodiment....

s that were used by the Christian Eusebius of Caesarea
Eusebius of Caesarea
Eusebius of Caesarea also called Eusebius Pamphili, was a Roman historian, exegete and Christian polemicist. He became the Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine about the year 314. Together with Pamphilus, he was a scholar of the Biblical canon...

, whose own original is lost but can be followed through a surviving Armenian translation
Armenian language
The Armenian language is an Indo-European language spoken by the Armenian people. It is the official language of the Republic of Armenia as well as in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The language is also widely spoken by Armenian communities in the Armenian diaspora...

. The reasons why Berossus wrote the History have not survived, though contemporaneous Greek historians generally did give reasons for the publication of their own histories. It is suggested that it was commissioned by Antiochus I, perhaps desiring a history of one of his newly-acquired lands, or by the Great Temple priests, seeking justification for the worship of Marduk
Marduk was the Babylonian name of a late-generation god from ancient Mesopotamia and patron deity of the city of Babylon, who, when Babylon became the political center of the Euphrates valley in the time of Hammurabi , started to...

 in Seleucid lands. Pure history writing per se was not a Babylonian concern, and Josephus
Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

 testifies to Berossus' reputation as an astrologer
An astrologer practices one or more forms of astrology. Typically an astrologer draws a horoscope for the time of an event, such as a person's birth, and interprets celestial points and their placements at the time of the event to better understand someone, determine the auspiciousness of an...

. The excerpts quoted relate mythology and history that relates to Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

 concerns. As historian and archaeologist W.G. Lambert
Wilfred G. Lambert
Wilfred G. Lambert, FBA was a historian and archaeologist, a specialist in Assyriology and Near Eastern Archaeology.Retired after long service from the University of Birmingham, he worked with the British Museum on their Catalogue of the Western Asiatic Seals Project, dealing with the...

 observes: "Of course Berossus may have written other works which are not quoted by Josephus and Eusebius because they lacked any Biblical interest". Lambert finds some statements in the Latin writers so clearly erroneous that it puts in doubt whether the writers had first-hand knowledge of Berossus' text.

Transmission and reception

Berossus' work was not popular in the Hellenistic period. The usual account of Mesopotamian history came from Ctesias
Ctesias of Cnidus was a Greek physician and historian from Cnidus in Caria. Ctesias, who lived in the 5th century BC, was physician to Artaxerxes Mnemon, whom he accompanied in 401 BC on his expedition against his brother Cyrus the Younger....

 of Cnidus's Persica, while most of the value of Berossos was seen to be his astrological writings. Most pagan
Paganism is a blanket term, typically used to refer to non-Abrahamic, indigenous polytheistic religious traditions....

 writers probably never read History directly, and appear to be dependent on Posidonius
Posidonius "of Apameia" or "of Rhodes" , was a Greek Stoic philosopher, politician, astronomer, geographer, historian and teacher native to Apamea, Syria. He was acclaimed as the greatest polymath of his age...

 of Apamea (135-50 BC), who cited Berossos in his works. While Poseidonius's accounts have not survived, the writings of these tertiary sources do: Vitruvius Pollio (a contemporary of Caesar Augustus), Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

 (d. 79 AD), and Seneca the Younger
Seneca the Younger
Lucius Annaeus Seneca was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and in one work humorist, of the Silver Age of Latin literature. He was tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero...

 (d. 65 AD). Seven later pagan writers probably transmitted Berossus via Poseidonius through an additional intermediary. They were Aetius (1st or 2nd century AD), Cleomedes (second half of 2nd century AD.), Pausanias
Pausanias (geographer)
Pausanias was a Greek traveler and geographer of the 2nd century AD, who lived in the times of Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius. He is famous for his Description of Greece , a lengthy work that describes ancient Greece from firsthand observations, and is a crucial link between classical...

 (c. 150 AD), Athenaeus (c. 200 AD), Censorinus (3rd century AD), and an anonymous Latin commentator on the Greek poem Phaenomena by Aratus of Sicyon (ca. 315-240/39 BC).

Jewish and Christian references to Berossus probably had a different source, either Alexander Polyhistor
Alexander Polyhistor
Lucius Cornelius Alexander Polyhistor was a Greek scholar who was enslaved by the Romans during the Mithridatic War and taken to Rome as a tutor. After his release, he continued to live in Italy as a Roman citizen...

 (c. 65 BC.) or Juba II of Mauretania (c. 50 BC-20 AD) Polyhistor's numerous works included a history of Assyria and Babylonia, while Juba wrote On the Assyrians, both using Berossos as their primary sources. Josephus' records of Berossus include some of the only extant narrative material, but he is likely dependent on Alexander Polyhistor, even if he did give the impression that he had direct access to Berossus. The fragments of Berossus found in three Christian writers' works are probably dependent on Alexander or Juba (or both). They are Tatianus of Syria (2nd century AD), Theophilus
Theophilus of Antioch
Theophilus, Patriarch of Antioch, succeeded Eros c. 169, and was succeeded by Maximus I c.183, according to Henry Fynes Clinton, but these dates are only approximations...

 Bishop of Antioch (180 AD), and Titus Flavius Clemens (ca. 200 AD).

Like Poseidonius, neither Alexander's or Juba's works have survived. However, their material on Berossus was recorded by Abydenus (second or 3rd century AD) and Sextus Julius Africanus
Sextus Julius Africanus
Sextus Julius Africanus was a Christian traveller and historian of the late 2nd and early 3rd century AD. He is important chiefly because of his influence on Eusebius, on all the later writers of Church history among the Fathers, and on the whole Greek school of chroniclers.His name indicates that...

 (early 3rd century AD). Their work is also lost, possibly considered too long, but Eusebius
Eusebius of Caesarea
Eusebius of Caesarea also called Eusebius Pamphili, was a Roman historian, exegete and Christian polemicist. He became the Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine about the year 314. Together with Pamphilus, he was a scholar of the Biblical canon...

 Bishop of Caesaria (ca. 260-340 AD), in his Chronicle
Chronicon (Eusebius)
The Chronicon or Chronicle was a work in two books by Eusebius of Caesarea. It seems to have been compiled in the early 4th century. It contained a world chronicle from Abraham until the vicennalia of Constantine I in 325 AD...

preserved some of their accounts. The Greek text of the Chronicle is also now lost to us but there is an ancient Armenian
Armenian language
The Armenian language is an Indo-European language spoken by the Armenian people. It is the official language of the Republic of Armenia as well as in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The language is also widely spoken by Armenian communities in the Armenian diaspora...

 translation (500-800 AD) of it, and portions are quoted in Georgius Syncellus
George Syncellus
George Syncellus was a Byzantine chronicler and ecclesiastic. He had lived many years in Palestine as a monk, before coming to Constantinople, where he was appointed syncellus to Tarasius, patriarch of Constantinople...

' Ecloga Chronographica (ca. 800-810 AD). Nothing of Berossus survives in Jerome
Saint Jerome was a Roman Christian priest, confessor, theologian and historian, and who became a Doctor of the Church. He was the son of Eusebius, of the city of Stridon, which was on the border of Dalmatia and Pannonia...

's Latin translation of Eusebius. Eusebius' other mentions of Berossus in Praeparatio Evangelica are derived from Josephus, Tatianus, and another inconsequential source (the last cite contains only, "Berossus the Babylonian recorded Naboukhodonosoros in his history.").

Christian writers after Eusebius are probably reliant on him, but include Pseudo-Justinus (3rd-5th century), Hesychius of Alexandria (5th century), Agathius (536-582), Moses of Chorene (8th century), an unknown geographer of unknown date, and the Suda
The Suda or Souda is a massive 10th century Byzantine encyclopedia of the ancient Mediterranean world, formerly attributed to an author called Suidas. It is an encyclopedic lexicon, written in Greek, with 30,000 entries, many drawing from ancient sources that have since been lost, and often...

(Byzantine dictionary from the 10th century). Thus, what little of Berossus remains is very fragmentary and indirect. The most direct source of material on Berossus is Josephus, received from Alexander Polyhistor. Most of the names in his king-lists and most of the potential narrative content have disappeared or been completely mangled as a result. Only Eusebius and Josephus preserve narrative material, and both had agendas. Eusebius was looking to construct a consistent chronology across different cultures, while Josephus was attempting to refute the charges that there were people older than the Jews. However, the ten ante-diluvian kings were preserved by Christian apologists interested in the long lifespans of the kings were similar to the long lifespans of the ante-diluvian ancestors in Genesis.

Sources and content

The Armenian translation of Eusebius and Syncellus' transmission (Chronicon and Ecloga Chronographica respectively) both record Berossus' use of "public records" and it is possible that Berossus catalogued his sources. This did not make him reliable, only that he took some care with the sources and his access to priestly and sacred records allowed him to do what other Babylonians could not. What we have of ancient Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

n myth
The term mythology can refer either to the study of myths, or to a body or collection of myths. As examples, comparative mythology is the study of connections between myths from different cultures, whereas Greek mythology is the body of myths from ancient Greece...

 is somewhat comparable with Berossus, though the exact integrity with which he transmitted his sources is unknown because much of the literature of Mesopotamia has not survived. What is clear is that the form of writing he pursued was dissimilar to actual Babylonian literature, writing as he did in Greek.

Book 1 fragments are preserved in Eusebius and Syncellus above, and describe the Babylonian creation account and establishment of order, including the defeat of Thalatth (Tiamat
In Babylonian mythology, Tiamat is a chaos monster, a primordial goddess of the ocean, mating with Abzû to produce younger gods. It is suggested that there are two parts to the Tiamat mythos, the first in which Tiamat is 'creatrix', through a "Sacred marriage" between salt and fresh water,...

) by Bel (Marduk). According to him, all knowledge was revealed to humans by the sea monster Oannes after the Creation, and so Verbrugghe and Wickersham (2000:17) have suggested that this is where the astrological fragments discussed above would fit, if at all.

Book 2 describes the history of the Babylonian kings from creation till Nabonassaros (747-734 BC). Eusebius reports that Apollodorus reports that Berossus recounts 430,000 years from the first king, Aloros, to Xisouthros and the Babylonian Flood
Gilgamesh flood myth
The Gilgamesh flood myth is a deluge story in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Many scholars believe that the flood myth was added to Tablet XI in the "standard version" of the Gilgamesh Epic by an editor who utilized the flood story from the Epic of Atrahasis...

. From Berossus' genealogy, it is clear he had access to king-lists in compiling this section of History, particularly in the kings before the Flood (legendary though they are), and from the 7th century BC with Senakheirimos (Sennacherib
Sennacherib |Sîn]] has replaced brothers for me"; Aramaic: ) was the son of Sargon II, whom he succeeded on the throne of Assyria .-Rise to power:...

, who ruled both Assyria and Babylon). His account of the Flood (preserved in Syncellus) is extremely similar to versions of the Epic of Gilgamesh
Epic of Gilgamesh
Epic of Gilgamesh is an epic poem from Mesopotamia and is among the earliest known works of literature. Scholars believe that it originated as a series of Sumerian legends and poems about the protagonist of the story, Gilgamesh king of Uruk, which were fashioned into a longer Akkadian epic much...

 that we have today. However, in Gilgamesh, the main protagonist is Utnapishtim, while here, Xisouthros is likely a Greek transliteration of Ziusudra, the protagonist of the Sumerian version of the Flood.

Perhaps what Berossus omits to mention is also noteworthy. Much information on Sargon
Sargon is an Assyrian name, originally Šarru-kin , which may refer to:- People :*Sargon of Akkad , also known as Sargon the Great or Sargon I, Mesopotamian king...

 (ca. 2300 BC) would have been available during his time (e.g., a birth legend preserved at El-Amarna and in an Assyria
Assyria was a Semitic Akkadian kingdom, extant as a nation state from the mid–23rd century BC to 608 BC centred on the Upper Tigris river, in northern Mesopotamia , that came to rule regional empires a number of times through history. It was named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur...

n fragment from 8th century BC, and two Neo-Babylonian fragments), but these went unmentioned. Similarly, the great Babylonian king Hammurabi
Hammurabi Hammurabi Hammurabi (Akkadian from Amorite ʻAmmurāpi, "the kinsman is a healer", from ʻAmmu, "paternal kinsman", and Rāpi, "healer"; (died c...

 (ca. 1750 BC) merits only passing mention. He did, however, take the time to point out that the queen Semiramis
The real and historical Shammuramat , was the Assyrian queen of Shamshi-Adad V , King of Assyria and ruler of the Neo Assyrian Empire, and its regent for four years until her son Adad-nirari III came of age....

 (probably Sammuramat, wife of Samshi-Adad V, 824-811 BC) was Assyrian. Perhaps it was in response to Greek writers mythologising her to the point where she was described as the founder of Babylon, daughter of the Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

n goddess Derketo, and married to Ninus (the legendary founder of Nineveh, in Greek eyes).

Book 3 relates the history of Babylon from Nabonassaros to Antiochus I (presumably). Again, it is likely that he followed king-lists, though it is not clear which ones he used. The Mesopotamian documents known as King-List A (one copy from the 6th or 5th centuries BCE) and Chronicle 1 (3 copies with one solidly dated to 500 BCE) are usually suggested as the ones he used, due to the synchronicity between those and his History (though there are some differences). A large part of his history around the time of Naboukhodonosoros (Nebuchadrezzar II
Nebuchadrezzar II
Nebuchadnezzar II was king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, who reigned c. 605 BC – 562 BC. According to the Bible, he conquered Judah and Jerusalem, and sent the Jews into exile. He is credited with the construction of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and also known for the destruction...

, 604-562 BC) and Nabonnedos (Nabonidus
Nabonidus was the last king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, reigning from 556-539 BCE.-Historiography on Nabonidus:...

, 556-539 BC) survives. Here we see his interpretation of history for the first time, moralising about the success and failure of kings based on their moral conduct. This is similar to another Babylonian history, Chronicle of Nabonidus, and differs from the rationalistic
In epistemology and in its modern sense, rationalism is "any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification" . In more technical terms, it is a method or a theory "in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive"...

 accounts of other Greek historians like Thucydides
Thucydides was a Greek historian and author from Alimos. His History of the Peloponnesian War recounts the 5th century BC war between Sparta and Athens to the year 411 BC...


The achievements of History of Babylonia

Berossus's achievement may be seen in terms of how he combined the Hellenistic methods of historiography
Historiography refers either to the study of the history and methodology of history as a discipline, or to a body of historical work on a specialized topic...

 and Mesopotamian accounts to form a unique composite. Like Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

 and Thucydides, he probably autographed his work for the benefit of later writers. Certainly he furnished details of his own life within his histories, which broke with the Mesopotamian tradition of anonymous scribes. Elsewhere, he included a geographical description of Babylonia, similar to that found in Herodotus (on Egypt), and used Greek classifications. There is some evidence that he resisted adding information to his research, especially the earlier periods of which he was not familiar with. Only in Book 3 do we see his opinions begin to enter the picture.

Secondly, he constructed a narrative from Creation to his present day, again similar to Herodotus or the Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

. Within this construction, the sacred myths blended seamlessly with history. Whether he followed Hellenistic skepticism about the existence of the gods and their tales is unclear, though it is likely he believed them more than the satirist Ovid
Publius Ovidius Naso , known as Ovid in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet who is best known as the author of the three major collections of erotic poetry: Heroides, Amores, and Ars Amatoria...

, for example. The naturalistic attitude found in Syncellus' transmission is probably more reflective of the later Greek authors who transmitted the work than Berossos himself.

During his own time and later, however, the History of Babylonia was not distributed widely. Verbrugghe and Wickersham argue that the lack of relation between the material in History and the Hellenistic world was not relevant, since Diodorus' equally bizarre book on Egyptian mythology was preserved. Instead, the reduced connection between Mesopotamia and the Greco-Roman world under Parthia
Parthia is a region of north-eastern Iran, best known for having been the political and cultural base of the Arsacid dynasty, rulers of the Parthian Empire....

n rule was partially responsible. Secondly, his material did not contain as much narrative, especially of periods he was not familiar with, even when potential sources for stories were available. They suggest:
"Perhaps Berossos was a prisoner of his own methodology and purpose. He used ancient records that he refused to flesh out, and his account of more recent history, to judge by what remains, contained nothing more than a bare narrative. If Berossos believed in the continuity of history with patterns that repeated themselves (i.e., cycles of events as there were cycles of the stars and planets), a bare narrative would suffice. Indeed, this was more than one would suspect a Babylonian would or could do. Those already steeped in Babylonian historical lore would recognize the pattern and understand the interpretation of history Berossos was making. If this, indeed, is what Berossos presumed, he made a mistake that would cost him interested Greek readers who were accustomed to a much more varied and lively historical narrative where there could be no doubt who was an evil ruler and who was not." (2000:32)

What is left of Berossus's writings is useless for the reconstruction of Mesopotamian history. Of greater interest to scholars is his approach to historiography, tied as it was to both Greek and Mesopotamian methods. The affinities between it and Hesiod
Hesiod was a Greek oral poet generally thought by scholars to have been active between 750 and 650 BC, around the same time as Homer. His is the first European poetry in which the poet regards himself as a topic, an individual with a distinctive role to play. Ancient authors credited him and...

, Herodotus, Manetho
Manetho was an Egyptian historian and priest from Sebennytos who lived during the Ptolemaic era, approximately during the 3rd century BC. Manetho wrote the Aegyptiaca...

, and the Hebrew Bible (specifically, the Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

 and Deuteronomistic History
The Book of Deuteronomy is the fifth book of the Hebrew Bible, and of the Jewish Torah/Pentateuch...

) as histories of the classical world give us an idea about how ancient people viewed their worlds. Each begins with a fantastic creation story, followed by a mythical ancestral period, and then finally accounts of recent kings who appear to be historical, with no demarcations in between. Blenkinsopp notes:
"In composing his history, Berossus drew on the mythic-historiographical tradition of Mesopotamia, and specifically on such well known texts as the creation myth Enuma Elish
Enûma Elish
The is the Babylonian creation myth . It was recovered by Austen Henry Layard in 1849 in the ruined Library of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh , and published by George Smith in 1876.The Enûma Eliš has about a thousand lines and is recorded in Old Babylonian on seven clay tablets, each holding...

, Atrahasis, and the king lists, which provided the point of departure and conceptual framework for a universal history
Universal history
Universal history is basic to the Western tradition of historiography, especially the Abrahamic wellspring of that tradition. Simply stated, universal history is the presentation of the history of humankind as a whole, as a coherent unit.-Ancient authors:...

. But the mythic and archaic element was combined with the chronicles of rulers which can lay claim to being in some degree genuinely historical." (1992:41)

This early approach to historiography, though preceded by Hesiod, Herodotus, and the Hebrew Bible, demonstrates its own unique approach. Though one must be careful about how much can be described of the original work, his apparent resistance to adding to his sources is noteworthy, as is the lack of moralising he introduces to those materials he is not familiar with.


In 1498, an official of Pope Alexander VI named Annius of Viterbo claimed to have discovered lost books of Berossus. These were in fact an elaborate forgery. However, they gained great influence over Renaissance ways of thinking about population and migration, because Annius provided a list of kings from Japhet onwards, filling a historical gap following the Biblical account of the Flood. Annius also introduced figures from classical sources into the biblical framework, publishing his account as Commentaria super opera diversorum auctorum de antiquitatibus. One consequence was to lead to sophisticated theories about Celtic races with Druid
A druid was a member of the priestly class in Britain, Ireland, and Gaul, and possibly other parts of Celtic western Europe, during the Iron Age....

priests in Western Europe.

External links

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