The Carian Villages

CDLB 2018:2

Cuneiform Digital Library Bulletin (ISSN: 1540-8760)

Published on 2018-09-15

© Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License except when noted otherwise and in the case of artifact images which follow the CDLI terms of use.

Daniel T. Potts

ISAW, New York University

Babylonia, Achaemenid, Carian, Eumenes, Diodorus Siculus


§1. Introduction
The study of human settlement and, more broadly, historical demography in Babylonia has followed two very different paths, one historical and the other archaeological. The earliest historical forays in this direction were based upon a meticulous culling of toponyms and hydronyms from the records of one or more time periods. Examples that spring to mind are Adolph Neubauer’s groundbreaking study of the Babylonian landscape in late Antiquity according to the Talmud (Neubauer 1868); Friedrich Delitzsch’s survey of Assyrian and Babylonian geography according to the cuneiform sources (Delitzsch 1881); and Maximilian Streck’s study of Babylonia according to the Arab geographers (Streck 1900). Later works that intensively examined a particular sub-area in detail include Herbert Sauren’s dissertation on the topography of Umma, with particular emphasis on its network of canals (Sauren 1966), and Carlo Zaccagnini’s book on the rural landscape of Arraphe, which exploited the rich corpus of texts from Nuzi (Zaccagnini 1979). Even before the decipherment of cuneiform, early authorities were aware of the importance of relationships between settlements and adjacent or nearby canals thanks to Herodotus (1.185) and other ancient writers, and firsthand observation (e.g., Rich 1839: x, xiv, xxviii, xlv, 1, 3, etc.). With the publication of cuneiform sources this awareness only intensified (e.g. Oppert and Ménant 1863: 19, 20, 185; Ménant 1875: 268; Fish 1935), although field studies involving the creation of an inventory of archaeological sites and their mapping, along with the mapping of relict watercourses, did not begin in Mesopotamia until 1953 with the work of Thorkild Jacobsen and Vaughn Crawford (Jacobsen 1954, 1958; cf. Goetze 1955).


§1.2. Unfortunately, whether one is conducting a pedestrian survey or employing satellite imagery, there is no escaping the fact that the dating of settlements and associated watercourses depends on the recognition and accurate assessment of chronologically sensitive surface artifacts, found in association with sites and relict canals or natural watercourses, the most prevalent of which are sherds of pottery. With respect to the 1st millennium BC, when the cuneiform documentation offers a potentially rich field for establishing correlations between historical and archaeological evidence, the situation is less than ideal. As Robert McC. Adams noted in 1981, both during his own fieldwork and years later, during subsequent data analysis, ‘The Neo-Babylonian, Achaemenian, and Seleucid periods are very poorly defined in terms of archaeological criteria that can assist in accurately dating surface collections’ (Adams 1981: 176). And although Adams noted that ‘the initial phase of reconnaissance around Nippur in 1968 had made it clear that several important early canals or rivers flowed through the area’ (Adams 1981: 36), a decade later Ran Zadok found that ‘the maps presented by [McGuire] Gibson are not detailed enough for comparison with the written sources’ and ‘we cannot locate the canals, but can only give their approximate courses’ (Zadok 1978: 282).


§1.3. Thus, in the Nippur area in particular, there is a yawning gap between the archaeological evidence of settlement and the written documentation on sites and canals. Moreover, written sources confirm that settlements dating to the neo-Babylonian and Achaemenid periods are massively under-represented in the Nippur survey results. Aggregating all of the areas surveyed in southern Iraq, Adams could identify only 182 sites of neo-Babylonian, and a further 221 sites of Achaemenid date based on surface sherds (Adams 1981: 177). Yet the written evidence on the Nippur region alone, collected by Zadok in 1978, shows how skewed these numbers are. Just over 1000 cuneiform texts from Nippur preserve the names of no fewer than 186 settlements of varying size, two rivers, three meadows and 58 canals (Zadok 1981: 39). The purpose of this short study is to investigate the so-called ‘Carian villages’ attested during the Achaemenid period and the subsequent wars of the Diadochi.


§2. First indications of Carians in Babylonia
 In his account of Eumenes’ movements in 317/16 BC, Diodorus says that, ‘Eumenes with the Macedonian Silver Shields and their commander Antigenes wintered in the villages of Babylonia known as villages of the Carians’ (Καρῶν ϰῶμαι).[1] Eumenes’ choice of a winter campsite well within the satrapy of Seleucus may appear daring or even irrational, but it must be remembered that Amphimachus, the satrap of Mesopotamia, was one of his allies.[2] The site of Eumenes’ winter camp has been discussed for centuries. Although the great German Classicist and pupil of Gronovius, Peter Wesseling (1692-1764), suggested this was the same as Carrhae (mod. Harran) in what is today southern Turkey[3], this was rejected by H. G. Droysen who considered it a nonsensical location and instead located the Carian villages on the road from Opis to Ecbatana, corresponding to modern Qasr-e Širin. Further, he believed this was the same place mentioned by Diodorus in his account of Alexander’s journey from Susa to Ecbatana.[4] Droysen’s suggestion, in turn, was rejected by Friedrich Spiegel who noted that, after wintering in the Carian villages, Eumenes threatened Babylon, yet to do so would have been completely illogical if he had already crossed the Tigris and headed as far east as Qasr-e Širin, only to retrace his steps and return to the Tigris, where he encamped 300 stadia (c. 55.5 kms) from Babylon (Spiegel 1878: 14 n. 1; cf. Niese 1893: 259 n. 1; Vezin 1907: 86 n. 1). Seemingly ignoring the sequence of Eumenes’ subsequent movements, Herzfeld conflated the Carian villages with Charax Spasinou in the far south of Iraq.[5] Since Droysen, most Classicists and ancient historians have not ventured to suggest a precise location for the Carian villages.[6]


§2.2. Arrian did not mention the Carian villages, but his reference to the presence of ‘Carians who had been transplanted’ at Gaugamela[7], under Babylonian command, has nonetheless often been mentioned in connection with Diodorus’ testimony. Carians in Babylonia are attested in Darius’s famous account of the construction of his palace at Susa (DSf 30-34), first published in 1929 (Scheil 1929), where we learn that, after the Assyrians had conveyed cedar logs from Lebanon to Babylon, the karkā and Greeks transported them to Susa. In 1935, Wilhelm Eilers demonstrated that the karkā were in fact the Carians, and he pointed to a text from Borsippa, originally published by A. T. Clay in 1912, which mentioned a Carian.[8] Similarly, he noted two texts from Nippur, originally published by Clay in 1898 and 1904, dating to the reigns of Artaxerxes I and Darius II, which referred to a settlement of Carians in the Nippur area.[9]


§2.3. Although some scholars have suggested that the Carians who transported timber for Darius I were deportees who had been forcibly removed following the Ionian and related revolts in Asia Minor (e.g. Heller 2010: 343; van der Spek 2013: 38), this is unlikely since their deportation did not occur until some thirty years after the beginning of the construction of Darius’ palace at Susa.[10] Alternatively, F. Joannès suggested that they may have been descendants of Carians deported following the conquest of Asia Minor by Cyrus the Great (Joannès 1997: 144 n. 8). C. Waerzeggers, however, has shown that the Borsippean Carians were brought to Babylonia not from Caria directly but from Egypt. She suggested, moreover, that they were probably in the Persian army — their fighting prowess was renowned in antiquity — and in this connection it is interesting to note that over a century earlier Carians may have already served as mercenaries for the Assyrian army in Egypt in 664 BC.[11] The possibility that Carians fought in Cambyses’ army during the conquest of Egypt is raised by a text recording ‘back-payment of “Egyptian rations from the time of Cambyses”’ but the Borsippean Carians are not attested after the year Darius 9 (Waerzeggers 2006: 8 and text no. 2 = BM 26659). Alternatively, Carians may have been fighting as mercenaries against Cambyses and Zadok has suggested that these Carians were ‘prisoners of war from Cambyses’ campaign in Egypt’ (Zadok 2005: 83). Be that as it may, the references to Carians at Borsippa suggest that they were billeted with ordinary citizens, for whom the provision of rations was an obligation.[12] In other words, the Borsippean Carians were dispersed amongst the residents of Borsippa and/or its hinterland, not concentrated in one or more villages. It is not, therefore, to Borsippa that we should look for Eumenes’ Carian villages but rather to the settlement in the Nippur area first noted in the Murašû texts from Nippur published by Clay over a century ago.


§3. The Carians’ settlement near Nippur
 The earliest reference to a ḫaṭru of the Carians in the Nippur area dates to the year Cambyses 6 (524 BC; Heller 2010: 343, ROMCT 2, 27 rev. 3). This was one of some sixty such estates attested in the Nippur region. The ḫaṭru was, in the first instance, a land grant made over to a group that was variously distinguished along ‘ethnic, territorial, professional, military, and social’ lines. It was subdivided into ‘fiefs held by families’, under the overall authority of a foreman (šaknu)[13] who was in charge of the allocation of fiefs, the maintenance of land use, tax collection and the rendering of military and other service as required (Stolper 1985: 70). The Carians, like all holders of ḫaṭru lands, were thus ‘crown tenants’ (Zadok 2005: 81). Almost forty years ago, Ran Zadok collected most of the data contained in the cuneiform sources on the Carian settlement in the Nippur region. His description is succinct and will be quoted in full: ‘The most important (perhaps the largest) settlement of the district was Ban-ni-e-šú. According to PBS 2/1, 91:3, the settlement was situated at the junction of the Euphrates-of-Nippur Canal and the Enlil Canal. According to BE 9 [=10!; DTP], 93:5 and PBS 2/1, 196:6, the settlement was also situated on the banks of a third canal, Namgar-Dūr-Enlil … which perhaps emptied into the Euphrates-of-Nippur as well … We are also informed (BE 9, 28:2; 50:5) that the queen’s estate in the Ban-ni-e-šú area was located on the slope of the Pekod Canal, and part of this estate extended along the bank of the Enlil Canal which continued to flow into the settlement of Til Ḫur-du, situated on the bank of the Sīn Canal … Therefore, with the exception of Nippur, Ban-ni-e-šú seems to have been the most central of settlements in the entire Nippur region, and the most important crown estate was located in it. The organization of the Carians (Ba-ne-šá-a-a) had a bow-fief in the settlement of Bīt mḪaš-bi-il-im-ma Ḫar-bat … which was also situated on the Euphrates-of-Nippur’ (Zadok 1978: 291). It has been suggested that Bannešu was a ḫaṭru (e.g. Tubach 1995: 102-3; Boiy 2004: 120 n. 53).


§3.2. The etymology of Bannešu has been discussed for decades. Clay originally linked the gentilic Bananešaja with Banesa, an Egyptian name attested in the Oxyrhynchus papyri (Clay 1908: 312), but this was considered suspect by W. Eilers who pointed to references in the Murašû texts to iriban-ni-šu2 on the Piqūdu canal[14], and iriban-ni-e-šu2[15], iriban-ni-šu2[16] or iriba-an-ni-e?-ša2?![17] on the Namgar-Dūr-Enlil, suggesting the ethnic derived from this settlement of Carians in Babylonia itself (Eilers 1940: 226). In contrast, A. Heller has suggested that the name derives from a hitherto unknown Carian toponym.[18] Whatever the case may be, Zadok has proposed that Bannēšu is identical to the Ālu-ša-Bannēšāja or ‘settlement of the Carians.’[19]


§3.3. The impossibility of identifying specific canals in the Nippur area from satellite imagery or ground survey makes it all the more frustrating when we have such precise information proving that Bannēšu was adjacent to three major watercourses: the Euphrates-of-Nippur, the Piqūdu (Pekod) and the Namgar-Dūr-Enlil canals. This situation was lamented by Eilers who, already in 1940, expressed the hope that one day a systematic ssurvey of the relict canals in Mesopotamia might help pinpoint the location of the Bannēšaja settlement.[20] From the sources all we can at present say is that the Piqūdu flowed into the Euphrates-of-Nippur near Bannešu, while the Namgar-Dūr-Enlil canal was an off-take from the Piqūdu (Zadok 1978: 283). In addition, M. W. Stolper has suggested, in light of CBS 10059 from 20 v 465/4 BC, that Bannēšu was located near the opening (bābu) of Nār-Ḫa-am-ba-ri.[21] Of these watercourses, only the Euphrates-of-Nippur can be identified, namely as the Šaṭṭ en-Nîl, the dry bed of which runs NW-SE through the ruins of Nippur (Vogt 1958: 213-214 n. 1).


§3.4. Zadok has emphasized that both the queen and crown prince owned estates in Bannēšu (Zadok 1978: 289 table 1) and, as noted above, he considered it the most important and possibly the largest settlement in the district after Nippur itself. Given the general characteristics of a ḫaṭru, however, it does not follow that Bannēšu possessed the necessary ‘military infrastructure’ to service Eumenes’ army, as J. Tubach has suggested.[22] Nor is it clear what sort of infrastructure he had in mind. Undoubtedly, Eumenes’ requirements included food, water, fodder and shelter for his troops, as well as a site that could be defended from attack. In this regard, Bannēšu’s position between several canals, including the large Euphrates-of-Nippur, effectively meant that the site of Eumenes’ camp was naturally protected by at least three watercourses against enemy attack.


§3.4. In discussing the Carian presence in Babylonia, Eilers pointed to the account of Cyrus the Younger’s death in Plutarch’s Life of Artaxerxes [II] (10.3), according to whom the pretender may have fallen ‘from the blow of a Carian.’ To Eilers this suggested the continued presence of Carians in Persian military service whose garrisons and places of residence were not in Asia Minor but in Babylonia (Eilers 1940: 227). Moreover, testimony from the reign of Artaxerxes II bridges the gap between the 6th/5th century BC cuneiform sources and Arrian’s reference to Babylonian Carians at Gaugamela in 331 BC (Eilers 1940: 226-225). Boiy has suggested that, even if the Carian ḫaṭru no longer functioned as such in the time of Eumenes, the toponym may still have been current (Boiy 2004: 120 n. 53). After all, we should remember that Eumenes’ winter encampment occurred only sixteen years after Darius III’s defeat at Gaugamela. As to why such a specific reference to the ‘Carian villages’ appeared in Diodorus, Heller has suggested this was for the benefit of his Greek readers, and was merely inserted as a Kuriosum (Heller 2010: 343). Curious or not, these sources show that, somewhere in the immediate vicinity of Nippur lies what may be a fairly large cluster of farmsteads belonging to the Carian population that lived there for over two centuries. Perhaps one day it will be investigated archaeologically.



1 Diodorus 19.12.1, ‘παρεχείμασε μὲν τήϛ Βαβυλονίαϛ ἐν ταῖϛ ὀνομαζομέναιϛ Καρῶν κώμαιϛ.’

2 Diodorus 19.27.4; cf. Bevan 1902: 44.

3 Wesseling 1746: 326 and n. 86, ‘Diceres propter Carrhas fuisse, mora Abrahami & Crassi clade nobilitatas, nisi illae L. XIX, 91. extra Babyloniam, uti erant, locarentur.’

4 Droysen 1836: 263 n. 5; cf. Diodorus 17.110. 3 ‘After this he marched with his army from Susa, crossed the Tigris, and encamped in the villages called Carae. Thence for four days he marched through Sittacenê and came to the place called Sambana’, after which he proceeded to ‘the region called Bagistanê’ and eventually ‘to Ecbatana in Media.’ Note, however, Niese 1893: 259 n. 1: ‘Ob die Karerdörfer dieselben sind, wie die von Diodor [X]VII 110, 3 erwähnten Κάραι ϰῶμαι, wie es anzunehmen nahe liegt, ist nicht sicher.’

5 Herzfeld 1948: 39; cf. Högemann 1985: 108-109 and n. 35, who suggested that in the Achaemenid period ‘das ganze Mündungsgebiet von Euphrat und Tigris Krkā benannt worden.’ This relates to krkā/charax, not to Carians. For the ethnic, see Eilers 1935.

6 E.g. Bosworth 2002: 108 n. 42. Anson 2015: 174, located the Carian villages ‘approximately 20 miles northeast of Babylon’ but the basis of this conjecture is unclear.

7 Arrian 3.8.5: ‘The Carians who had been transplanted and Sitacenians were brigaded with the Babylonians.’ Cf. Heckel 1997: 221 n. 46 who linked these Carians with those of Eumenes’ Carian villages. Arrian’s juxtaposition of Carians and Sittacenians led Christensen 1993: 59 to the unjustified suggestion that, the ‘Carian villages’ were located ‘in the Sittacene district, on the east bank of the Tigris.’

8 For the original publication see BRM 1, 71, where the relevant ethnic was misread as kar-dak-a and understood as a reference to a ‘man from Kardak.’ The correct reading was published in Eilers 1935: 207.

9 Weissbach 1939: 195: ‘Eilers verdanke ich den ersten Hinweis auf die Tatsache, dass diese Karer in den Zeiten Artaxerxes’ I. und Darius’ II. in der Gegend von Nippur eine Ansiedlung (aluban-né-šú, auch aluKAK-UR-MAḪ geschrieben) besassen.’ See BE 9, 28 obv. 2, 50 obv. 5 and BE 10, 93 obv. 5.

10 Cf. MacGinnis 2014: 121, ‘The Ionians and Carians who transported timber from Babylon to Susa may well represent the populations deported to lower Babylonia and Elam from Ionia in the aftermath of the revolt. On the other hand, tempting as it is to suggest that the Carians in Borsippa in the reigns of Cambyses and Darius I had also been deported thither following the revolt, Waerzeggers has convincingly established that they had come via Egypt and were possibly mercenaries.’ Cf. Christensen 1993: 59 who supposed the Carian villages originated with the post-revolt deportations. On the unlikely possibility of the Carians mentioned in DSf having been deportees see Badian 2004.

11 Raaflaub 2004: 207 and n. 12 with refs. Fantalkin 2001: 141 disputes this on the grounds that there is no clear Assyrian evidence.

12 Waerzeggers 2006: 7; Jursa & Waerzeggers 2009: 262. Zadok 2004: 114 noted that, ‘The term ti-ir-gu-ma-nu (‘interpreter’) is recorded only once in N/LB, namely in BM 109365 … from Borsippa, 9.X.517/6 BCE. This deed is a receipt for rations … which are assigned to [f]Tu-tu-bé-e-su, the Carian woman (uruKa-ar-sa-‘-i-) until the end of the same month (X). They consist of unspecified quantities of flour, cress, oil and salt. The receipt belongs to the archive of Ardiya s. of Šulā desc. of Iliya, who distributed the rations, and was written by the same scribe as that of BM 26756 (unpubl.), issued in Borsippa half a year earlier, on 9.IV.517/6 BCE … The interpreter Tatannu, whose name is Akkadian, is described as Carian’.

13 Already noted by Eilers 1940: 227: ‘Wie andere Volksgruppen … waren auch die Karer des Zweistromlandes unter der Obhut eines šaknu zusammengefaßt.’

14 BE 9, 28 from Artaxerxes I year 31 = 434 BC and BE 9, 50 from Artaxerxes I year 36 = 429 BC.

15 PBS 2/1, 42 from Darius II year 3 = 421 BC.

16 BE 10, 93 from Darius II year 4 = 420 BC.

17 PBS 2/1, 126 from Darius II year 6 = 417 BC.

18 Heller 2010: 343, ‘Benannt sind sie nach einem bislang unbekannt gebliebenen karischen Toponym.’

19 Mentioned in OECT 10, 404, 406. See Zadok 1985: 31.

20 Eilers 1940: 226: ‘Vielleicht gelingt es in umfassender Untersuchung einmal, die örtliche Festlegung des alten Kanalsystems im Zweistromlande an Hand der heutigen Geländespuren durchzuführen, so daß auch die genauere Lage der beiden genannten Wasserläufe und damit möglicherweise sogar der Ort dieser babylonischen Karersiedlung bekannt wird.’

21 Stolper 1999; cf. Zadok 2005: 81-82. Van Driel 1989: 206 suggested that‘Their land is situated on a canal called Nar-šarri, possibly the canal towards Uruk South of Nippur in an area where there was crown property.’

22 Tubach 1995: 102-103: ‘vermutlich einer aru-Organisation, die zum Aufenthalt eines größeren Heereskontingentes die nötige militärische Infrastruktur bot (317/16 v.Chr.).’



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Version: 15 September 2018   

Cite this Article
Potts, Daniel T. 2018. “The Carian Villages.” Cuneiform Digital Library Bulletin 2018 (2).
Potts, Daniel T. (2018). The Carian Villages. Cuneiform Digital Library Bulletin, 2018(2).
Potts, Daniel T. (2018) “The Carian Villages,” Cuneiform Digital Library Bulletin, 2018(2). Available at: (Accessed: April 16, 2024).
	note = {[Online; accessed 2024-04-16]},
	address = {Oxford; Berlin; Los Angeles},
	author = {Potts,  Daniel T.},
	journal = {Cuneiform Digital Library Bulletin},
	issn = {1540-8760},
	number = {2},
	year = {2018},
	publisher = {Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative},
	title = {The {Carian} {Villages}},
	url = {},
	volume = {2018},

AU  - Potts,  Daniel T.
DA  - 2018///
PY  - 2018
ET  - 2018/9/15/
ID  - cdlb-2018-2
IS  - 2
J2  - CDLB
SN  - 1540-8760
T2  - Cuneiform Digital Library Bulletin
TI  - The Carian Villages
UR  -
VL  - 2018
Y2  - 2024/4/16/
ER  - 
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