BEROSSUS, a priest of Bel at Babylon, who translated into Greek the standard Babylonian work on astrology and astronomy, and compiled (in three books) the history of his country from native documents, which he published in Greek in the reign of Antiochus II. (250 B.C.). His works have perished, but extracts from the history have been preserved by Josephus and Eusebius, the latter of whom probably derived them not directly from Berossus, but through the medium of Alexander Polyhistor and Apollodorus. The extracts containing the Babylonian cosmology, the list of the antediluvian kings of Babylonia, and the Chaldaean story of the Deluge, have been shown by the decipherment of the cuneiform texts to have faithfully reproduced the native legends; we may, therefore, conclude that the rest of the History was equally trustworthy. On the other hand, a list of post-diluvian dynasties, which is quoted by Eusebius and Georgius Syncellus as having been given by Berossus, cannot, in its present form, be reconciled with the monumental facts, though a substratum of historical truth is discoverable in it. As it stands, it is as follows: -
1. 86 Chaldaean kings 34,080 or 33,091 years
2. 8 Median " 224 "
3. 11 other kings " no number.
4. 49 Chaldaean " 458 "
5. 9 Arabian " 245 "
6. 45 Assyrian " 526 "
After these, according to Eusebius, came the reign of Pul. By means of an ingenious chronological combination, the several items of which, however, are very questionable, J.A. Brandis assigned 258 years to the 3rd dynasty; other summations have been proposed with equally little assurance of certainty. If Eusebius can be trusted, the 6th dynasty ended in 729 B.C., the year in which Pul or Tiglath-pileser III. was crowned king of Babylonia. But all attempts to harmonize the scheme of dynasties thus ascribed to Berossus with the list given us in the so-called dynastic Tablets discovered by Dr Pinches have been failures. The numbers, whether of kings or of years, cannot have been handed down to us correctly by the Greek writers. All that seems certain is that Berossus arranged his history so that it should fill the astronomical period of 36,000 years, beginning with the first man and ending with the conquest of Babylon by Alexander the Great.
See J.P. Cory, Ancient Fragments (1826, ed. by E.R. Hodges, 1876); Fr. Lenormant, Essai de commentaire des fragments cosmogoniques de Bérose (1872); A. von Gutschmid in the Rheinisches Museum (1853); George Smith in T.S.B.A. iii., 1874, pp. 361-379; Th.G. Pinches in P.S.B.A., 1880-1881.
(A. H. S.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)