Babylonian astronomical diaries

An astronomical diary recording the death of Alexander the Great (British Museum)

The Babylonian astronomical diaries are a collection of Babylonian cuneiform texts which contain systematic records of astronomical observations and political events, as well as predictions based on astronomical observations. They also include other information, such as commodity prices for particular dates and weather reports.[1][2]

Currently they are stored in the British Museum.

It is suggested that the Diaries were used as sources for the Babylonian Chronicles.


The Babylonians were the first to recognize that astronomical phenomena are periodic and apply mathematics to their predictions. The oldest known significant astronomical text is Tablet 63 of the Enûma Anu Enlil collection, the Venus tablet of Ammisaduqa, which lists the first and last visible risings of Venus over a period of about 21 years. It is the earliest evidence that planetary phenomena were recognized as periodic.

The systematic records of ominous phenomena in astronomical diaries began during the reign of Nabonassar (747–734 BC), when a significant increase in the quality and frequency of astronomical observations occurred. This allowed for the discovery of a repeating 18-year Saros cycle of lunar eclipses, for example.[3]


Translations of the Diaries are published in multivolume Astronomical Diaries and Related Texts from Babylonia, edited by Abraham Sachs and Hermann Hunger.[1][2][4]


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  1. 1 2 Geller, M. J. (1990). "Babylonian Astronomical Diaries and Corrections of Diodorus". Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. 53 (1): 1–7. doi:10.1017/s0041977x00021212. JSTOR 618964.
  2. 1 2 Rochberg-Halton, F. (1991). "The Babylonian Astronomical Diaries". Journal of the American Oriental Society. 111 (2): 323–332. doi:10.2307/604022. JSTOR 604022.
  3. A. Aaboe; J. P. Britton; J. A. Henderson; Otto Neugebauer; A. J. Sachs (1991). "Saros Cycle Dates and Related Babylonian Astronomical Texts". Transactions of the American Philosophical Society. American Philosophical Society. 81 (6): 1–75. doi:10.2307/1006543. JSTOR 1006543. One comprises what we have called "Saros Cycle Texts," which give the months of eclipse possibilities arranged in consistent cycles of 223 months (or 18 years).
  4. Astronomical Diaries and Related Texts from Babylonia, Abraham Sachs and Hermann Hunger (eds.), Wien, Austrian Academy of Sciences.

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