The Making of the Chaldeans

Recorded: May 29, 2019
Event: Ancient Iran and the Classical World, An International Symposium
Citation: Haubold, Johannes. "The Making of the Chaldeans," Ancient Iran and the Classical World, An International Symposium. May 29, 2019

by Johannes Haubold (Princeton University)

The Making of the Chaldeans
This paper investigates the emergence of the Chaldeans in the Achaemenid Empire. I start from the Persian conquest of Babylon under Cyrus, the uprisings under Darius and Xerxes, and the reprisals that ended attempts to restore indigenous rule in Babylon. I then consider the beginnings of horoscopy and mathematical astronomy in Achaemenid Babylon, alongside the earliest evidence for the Chaldeans in Greek authors such as Herodotus, Ctesias, and Philip of Opus. The Chaldeans, I suggest, emerged as an internationally recognized ethno-caste of philosopher priests precisely during the period of political and intellectual re-orientation that followed after the ‘end of archives’ in Babylon (Waerzeggers). Finally, I revisit ‘Zoroaster the Chaldean’ as the figurehead of this new, culturally composite, tradition; and consider attempts, after the fall of the Achaemenid Empire, to reassert the specifically Babylonian character of Chaldean scholarship. The picture that emerges is one of complex interactions between Babylonian, Persian, and Greek thinkers– interactions that decisively shaped the course of intellectual history in the Mediterranean basin and the Near East.
About the Speaker

After learning Akkadian as a Postdoctoral Fellow in Cambridge, Haubold became interested in Babylonian literature and its relationship to that of Greece: the monograph Greece and Mesopotamia: Dialogues in Literature, CUP 2013 (recipient of the PROSE Award in the category ‘Classics and Ancient History’) and ‘The Achaemenid Empire and the Sea’, an article that investigates how the Persians understood their invasion of Greece under Xerxes (Editor’s Choice in the 30th year edition of Mediterranean Historical Review) stem from that interest. He have also edited The World ofBerossos, with Gianni Lanfranchi, Robert Rollinger and John Steele (Harrassowitz 2013) and Keeping Watch in Babylon: The Astronomical Diaries in Context, with John Steele and Kathryn Stevens (Brill 2019). The Astronomical Diaries from Babylon,  which are still barely known even among specialist scholars, formed the basis of ‘Chaldean’ astrology and thus deeply influenced the way people from across the ancient world lived their lives. He is also a member of the Academy of Europe and have held visiting fellowships at Harvard’s Center for Hellenic Studies and the University of Leiden, and a visiting professorship at the École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris.