The Surviving Fragments of Berossus, in English Translation
Note: The following fragments are published here for the first time
since 1876 in order to make them readily available to the reader.
Regrettably, the original Greek text is not here included, but may
be found in I.P. Cory,
The Ancient Fragments .
These ancient fragments give accounts of the Babylonian tradition
that civilization was originally founded by amphibious beings known
as Oannes, Musari, or Annedoti (in Greek). This tradition is in
striking agreement with the Dogon tradition of the amphibious Nommos,
or 'Monitors', who came from the system of Sirius to found
civilization on earth.
Of the Chaldaean Kings
This is the history which Berossus has transmitted to us.
us that the first king was Alorus of Babylon, a Chaldaean; he
reigned ten sari: and afterwards Alaparus, and Amelon who came from
Pantibiblon: then Ammenon the Chaldaean, in whose time appeared the
Musarus Oannes the Annedotus from the Erythraean sea. (But Alexander
Polyhistor anticipating the event, has said that he appeared in the
first year; but Appollodorus says that it was after forty sari;
Abydenus, however, makes the second Annedotus appear after
Then succeeded Megalarus from the city of
Pantibiblon; and he reigned eighteen sari: and after him Daonus the
shepherd from Pantibiblon reigned ten sari; in his time (he says)
appeared again from the Erythraean sea a fourth Annedotus, having
the same form with those above, the shape of a fish blended with
that of a man.
Then reigned Euedoreschus from Pantibiblon, for the
term of eighteen sari; in his days there appeared another personage
from the Erythraean sea like the former, having the same complicated
form between a fish and a man, whose name was Odacon. (All these,
says Apollodorus, related particularly and circumstantially whatever
Oannes had informed them of: concerning these Abydenus has made no
reigned Amempsinus, a Chaldaean from Laranchae; and he being the
eighth in order reigned ten sari. Then reigned Otiartes, a Chaldaean,
and he reigned eight sari. And upon the death of Otiartes, his son
Xisuthrus reigned eighteen sari: in his time happened the great
So that the sum of all the kings is ten; and the term which
they collectively reigned an hundred and twenty sari.
Chron. 39. Euseb. Chron. 5.
Of the Chaldaean Kings and the Deluge
So much concerning the wisdom of the Chaldaeans.
It is said that the first king of the country was Alorus, who gave
out a report that he was appointed by God to be the Shepherd of the
people: he reigned ten sari: now a sarus is esteemed to be three
thousand six hundred years; a neros six hundred; and a sossus sixty.
After him Alaparus reigned three sari: to him succeeded Amillarus
from the city of Pantibiblon, who reigned thirteen sari; in his time
a semidaemon called Annedotus, very like to Oannes, came up a second
time from the sea; after him Ammenon reigned twelve sari, who was of
the city of Pantibiblon: then Megalarus of the same place eighteen
sari: then Daos, the shepherd, governed for the space often sari; he
was of Pantibiblon; in his time four double- shaped personages came
out of the sea to land, whose names were Euedocus, Eneugamus,
Eneuboulus, and Anementus: after these things was Anodaphus, in the
time of Euedoreschus.
There were afterwards other kings, and last of
all Sisithrus: so that in the whole, the number amounted to ten
kings, and the term of their reigns to an hundred and twenty sari.
(And among other things not irrelative to the subject, he continues
thus concerning the deluge:) After Euedoreschus some others reigned,
and then Sisithrus.
To him the deity Cronus foretold that on the
fifteenth day of the month Desius there would be a deluge, and
commanded him to deposit all the writings whatever that he had, in
the city of the Sun in Sippara. Sisithrus, when he had complied with
these commands, instantly sailed to Armenia, and was immediately
inspired by God. During the prevalence of the waters Sisithrus sent
out birds, that he might judge if the flood had subsided. But the
birds passing over an unbounded sea, and not finding any place of
rest, returned again to Sisithrus.
This he repeated. And when upon
the third trial he succeeded, for they then returned with their feet
stained with mud, the gods translated him from among men. With
respect to the vessel, which yet remains in Armenia, it is a custom
of the inhabitants to form bracelets and amulets of its wood.
- Syncel. 38. - Euseb. Praep. Evan, lib. 9. - Euseb. Chron. 5. 8.
Of the Tower of Babel They say that the first inhabitants of the
earth, glorying in their own
strength and size, and despising the gods, undertook to raise a
tower whose top should reach the sky, where Babylon now stands: but
when it approached the heaven, the winds assisted the gods, and
overturned the work upon its contrivers: and its ruins are said to
be at Babylon: and the gods introduced a diversity of tongues among
men who till that time had all spoken the same language: and a war
arose between Cronus and Titan: but the place in which they built
the tower is now called Babylon, on account of the confusion of the
tongues; for confusion is by the Hebrews called Babel.
Praep. Evan. lib. 9. - Syncel. Chron. 44. - Euseb. Chron. 13.
Of the Cosmogony and Causes of the Deluge
Berossus, in his first book concerning the history of Babylonia,
informs us that he lived in the time of Alexander the son of Philip.
And he mentions that there were written accounts preserved at
Babylon with the greatest care, comprehending a term of fifteen
myriads of years. These writings contained a history of the heavens
and the sea; of the birth of mankind; also of those who had
sovereign rule; and of the actions achieved by them.
And in the first place he describes Babylonia as a country which lay
between the Tigris and Euphrates. He mentions that it abounded with
wheat, barley, ocrus, sesamum; and in the lakes were found the roots
called gongae, which were good to be eaten, and were in respect to
nutriment like barley. There were also palm trees and apples, and
most kinds of fruits; fish too and birds; both those which are
merely of flight, and those which take to the element of water. The
part of Babylonia which is bordered upon Arabia, was barren, and
without water; but that which lay on the other side had hills, and
was fruitful. At Babylon there was (in these times) a great resort
of people of various nations, who inhabited Chaldea, and lived
without rule and order like the beast of the field.
In the first year there made its appearance, from a part of the
Erythraean sea which bordered upon Babylonia, an animal endowed with
reason, who was called Oannes. (According to the account of
Apollodorus) the whole body of the animal was like that of a fish;
and had under a fish's head another
head, and also feet below, similar to those of a man, subjoined to
the fish's tail. His voice too, and language, was articulate and
human; and a representation of him is preserved even to this day.
This Being in the day-time used to converse with men; but took no
food at that season; and he gave them an insight into letters and
sciences, and every kind of art. He taught them to construct houses,
to found temples, to compile laws, and explained to them the
principles of geometrical knowledge. He made them distinguish the
seeds of the earth, and showed them how to collect fruits; in short,
he instructed them in every thing which could tend to soften manners
and humanize mankind. From that time, so universal were his
nothing has been added material by way of improvement. When the sun
set, it was the custom of this Being to plunge again into the sea,
and abide all night in the deep; for he was amphibious.
After this there appeared other animals like Oannes, of which
Berossus promises to give an account when he comes to the history of
Moreover Oannes wrote concerning the generation of mankind; of their
different ways of life, and of their civil polity; and the following
is the purport of what he said:
'There was a time in which there was nothing but darkness and an
abyss of waters, wherein resided most hideous beings, which were
produced of a twofold principle. Men appeared with two wings, some
with four and with two faces. They had one body but two heads; the
one of a man, the other of a woman. They were likewise in their
several organs both male and female. Other human figures were to be
seen with the legs and horns of goats.
Some had horses' feet; others
had the limbs of a horse behind, but before were fashioned like men,
resembling hippocentaurs. Bulls likewise bred there with the heads
of men; and dogs with fourfold bodies, and the tails of fishes. Also
horses with the heads of dogs: men too and other animals, with the
heads and bodies of horses and the tails of fishes. In short, there
were creatures with the limbs of every species of animals.
these fishes, reptiles, serpents, with other wonderful animals,
which assumed each other's shape and countenance. Of all these were
preserved delineations in the temple of Belus at Babylon.
'The person, who was supposed to have presided over them, was a
woman named Omoroca; which in the Ghaldaic language is Thalatth;
which the Greeks express Thalassa, the sea: but according to the
most true computation, it is equivalent to Selene, the moon. All
things being in this situation, Belus came, and cut the woman
asunder: and out of one half of her he formed the earth, and of the
other half the heavens; and at the same time destroyed the animals
in the abyss. All this (he says) was an allegorical description of
For the whole universe consisting of moisture, and animals
being continually generated
therein; the deity (Belus) above-mentioned cut off his own head:
upon which the other gods mixed the blood, as it gushed out, with
the earth; and from thence men were formed. On this account it is
that they are rational, and partake of divine knowledge. This Belus,
whom men call Dis, divided the darkness, and separated the Heavens
from the Earth, and reduced the universe to order. But the animals
so lately created, not being able to bear the prevalence of light,
Belus upon this, seeing a vast space quite uninhabited, though
by nature very fruitful, ordered one of the gods to take off his
head; and when it was taken off, they were to mix the blood with the
soil of the earth; and from thence to form other men and animals,
which should be capable of bearing the light. Belus also formed the
stars, and the sun, and the moon, together with the five planets.'
(Such are the contents of the first book of Berossus.)
In the second book was the history of the ten kings of the Chaldeans, and the periods of each reign, which consisted
collectively of an hundred and twenty sari, or four hundred and
thirty-two thousand years; reaching to the time of the Deluge.
Alexander, following the writings of the Chaldaeans, enumerating the
kings from the ninth Ardates to Xisuthrus, who is called by them the
tenth, proceeds in this manner:
After the death of Ardates, his son Xisuthrus succeeded, and reigned
eighteen sari. In his time happened the great Deluge; the history of
which is given in this manner. The Deity, Cronus, appeared to him in
a vision, and gave him notice that upon the fifteenth day of the
month Daesius there would be a flood, by which mankind would be
He therefore enjoined him to commit to writing a history
of the beginning, procedure, and final conclusion of all things,
down to the present term; and to bury these accounts securely in the
city of the Sun at Sippara; and to build a vessel, and to take with
him into it his friends and relations; and to convey on board every
thing necessary to sustain life, and to take in also all species of
animals, that either fly or rove upon the earth; and trust himself
to the deep.
Having asked the Deity, whither he was to sail? he was
answered, 'To the Gods:' upon which he offered up a prayer for the
good of mankind. And he obeyed the divine admonition: and built a
vessel five stadia in length, and two in breadth. Into this he put
every thing which he had got ready; and last of all conveyed into it
his wife, children, and friends.
After the flood had been upon the
earth, and was in time abated, Xisuthrus sent out some birds from
the vessel; which not finding any food, nor any place to rest their
feet, returned to him again. After an interval of some days, he sent
them forth a second time; and they now returned with their feet
tinged with mud. He made a trial a third time with these birds; but
they returned to him no more; from whence he formed a judgment, that
the surface of the earth was now above the waters.
made an opening in the vessel, and finding upon looking out, that
the vessel was driven to the side of a mountain, he immediately
quitted it, being attended by his wife, his daughter, and the pilot.
Xisuthrus immediately paid his adoration to the earth:
and having constructed an altar, offered sacrifices to the gods.
These things being duly performed, both Xisuthrus and those who came
out of the vessel with him disappeared. They, who remained in the
vessel, finding that the others did not return, came out with many
lamentations, and called continually on the name of Xisuthrus. Him
they saw no more; but they could distinguish his voice in the air,
and could hear him admonish them to pay due regard to the gods; and
likewise inform them that it was upon account of his piety that he
was translated to live with the gods; that his wife and daughter,
with the pilot, had obtained the same honor.
To this he added that
he would have them make the best of their way to Babylonia, and
search for the writings at Sippara, which were to be made known to
all mankind: and that the place where they then were was the land of
Armenia. The remainder having heard these words, offered sacrifices
to the gods; and taking a circuit, journeyed towards Babylonia.
The vessel being thus stranded in Armenia, some part of it yet
remains in the Corcyraean * mountains in Armenia; and the people
scrape off the bitumen, with which it had been outwardly coated, and
make use of it by way of an alexipharmic and amulet. In this manner
they returned to Babylon; and having found the writings at Sippara,
they set about building cities, and ereciing temples: and Babylon
was thus inhabited again.
- Syncel. Chron. 28. Euseb. Chron. 5. 8.
* Or Cordyean mountainsóCorduarum montibus; Ea. Ar.
After the deluge, in the tenth generation, was a certain man among
the Chaldaeans renowned for his justice and great exploits, and for
his skill in the celestial sciences.
- Euseb. Praep. Evan. lib. 9.
From the reign of Nabonasar only are the Chaldaeans (from whom the
Greek mathematicians copy) accurately acquainted with the heavenly
motions: for Nabonasar collected all the mementos of the kings prior
to himself, and destroyed them, that the enumeration of the
Chaldaean kings might commence with him.
- Syncel. Chron. 207.
Of the Destruction of the Jewish Temple
He (Nabopollasar) sent his son Nabuchodonosor with a great army
against Egypt, and against Judea, upon his being informed that they
had revolted from
him; and by that means he subdued them all, and set fire to the
temple that was at Jerusalem; and removed our people entirely out of
their own country, and transferred them to Babylon, and it happened
that our city was desolate during the interval of seventy years,
until the days of Cyrus king of Persia.
(He then says, that) this
Babylonian king conquered Egypt, and Syria, and Phoenicia and
Arabia, and exceeded in his exploits all that had reigned before him
in Babylon and Chaldaea.
-Joseph, contr. Appion. lib. i.e. 19.
When Nabopollasar his (Nabuchodonosor's) father, heard that the
governor, whom he had set over Egypt, and the parts of Coelesyria
and Phoenicia, had revolted, he was unable to put up with his
delinquencies any longer, but committed certain parts of his army to
his son Nabuchodonosor, who was then but young, and sent him against
the rebel; and Nabuchodonosor fought with him, and conquered him,
and reduced the country again under his dominion. And it happened
that his father, Nabopollasar, fell into a distemper at this time
and died in the city of Babylon, after he had reigned twenty-nine
After a short time Nabuchodonosor, receiving the intelligence of his
father's death, set the affairs of Egypt and the other countries, in
order, and committed the captives he had taken from the Jews, and
Phoenicians, and Syrians, and of the nations belonging to Egypt, to
some of his friends, that they might conduct that part of the forces
that had on heavy armour, with the rest of his baggage, to
Babylonia; while he went in haste, with a few followers, across the
desert to Babylon; where, when he was come, he found that affairs
had been well conducted by the Chaldacans, and that the principal
person among them had preserved the kingdom for him: Accordingly he
possession of all his father's dominions.
And he ordered the
captives to be distributed in colonies in the most proper places of
Babylonia: and adorned the temple of Belus, and the other temples,
in a sumptuous and pious manner, out of the spoils he had taken in
this war. He also rebuilt the old city, and added another to it on
the outside, and so far restored Babylon, that none, who should
besiege it afterwards, might have it in their power to divert the
river, so as to facilitate an entrance into it: and this he did by
building three walls about the inner city, and three about the
Some of these walls he built of burnt brick and bitumen, and
some of brick only. When he had thus admirably fortified the city
with walls, and had magnificently adorned the gates, he added also a
new palace to those in which his forefathers had dwelt, adjoining
them, but exceeding them in height, and in its great splendor. It
would perhaps require too long a narration, if any one were to
describe it: however, as prodigiously large and magnificent as it
was, it was finished in fifteen days. In this palace he erected very
high walks, supported by stone pillars; and by planting what was
called a pensile paradise, and replenishing it with all sorts of
trees, he rendered
the prospect an exact resemblance of a mountainous country.
did to please his queen, because she had been brought up in Media,
and was fond of a mountainous situation.
-Joseph. contr. Appion.
lib. i. c. 19.
- Syncel. Chron. 220.
-Euseb. Praep. Evan. lib. 9.
Of the Chaldaean Kings after Nebuchadnezzar
Nabuchodonosor, after he had begun to build the above-mentioned
wall, fell sick, and departed this life, when he had reigned
forty-three years; whereupon his son Evilmerodachus obtained the
kingdom. He governed public affairs in an illegal and improper
manner, and by means of a plot laid against him by Neriglissoorus,
his sister's husband, was slain when he had reigned but two years.
Upon his death Neriglissoorus, who had conspired against him,
succeeded him in the kingdom, and reigned four years.
His son Laborosoarchodus inherited the kingdom though he was but a
child, and kept it nine months; but by reason of the evil practices
he exhibited, a plot was laid against him by his friends, and he was
tortured and killed.
After his death, the conspirators assembled, and by common consent
put the crown upon the head of Nabonnedus, a man of Babylon, and one
of the leaders of that insurrection. In his reign it was that the
walls of the city of Babylon were curiously built with burnt brick
But in the seventeenth year of his reign, Cyrus came out of Persia
with a great army, and having conquered all the rest of Asia, he
came hastily to Babylonia. When Nabonnedus perceived he was
advancing to attack him, he assembled his forces and opposed him,
but was defeated, and fled with a few of his attendants, and was
shut up in the city Borsippus.
Whereupon Cyrus took Babylon, and
gave orders that the outer walls should be demolished, because the
city had proved very troublesome to him, and difficult to take. He
then marched to Borsippus, to besiege Nabonnedus; but as Nabonnedus
delivered himself into his hands without holding out the place, he
was at first kindly treated by Cyrus, who gave him an habitation in
Carmania, but sent
him out of Babylonia. Accordingly Nabonnedus spent the remainder of
his time in that country, and there died.
-Joseph, contr. App. lib.
1. c. 20. - Euseb. Praep. Evan. lib. 10.
Of the Feast of Sacea
Berossus, in the first book of his Babylonian history, says; That in
the eleventh month, called Loos, is celebrated in Babylon the feast
of Sacea for five days; in which it is the custom that the masters
should obey their domestics, one of
whom is led round the house, clothed in a royal garment, and him
they call Zoganes.
- Athenaeus, lib. 14.
Fragment of Megasthenes
Abydenus, in his history of the Assyrians, has preserved the
following fragment of Megasthenes, who says: That Nabucodrosorus,
having become more powerful than Hercules, invaded Libya and Iberia,
and when he had rendered them tributary, he extended his conquests
over the inhabitants of the shores upon the right of the sea. It is
moreover related by the Chaldaeans, that as he went up into his
palace he was possessed by some god; and he cried out and said:
Babylonians, I, Nabucodrosorus, foretell unto you a calamity which
must shortly come to pass, which neither Belus my ancestor, nor his
queen Beltis, have power to persuade the Fates to turn away. A
Persian mule shall come, and by the assistance of your gods shall
impose upon you the yoke of slavery: the author of which shall be a
Mede, the foolish pride of Assyria.
Before he should thus betray my
subjects, Oh! that some sea or whirlpool might receive him, and his
memory be blotted out for ever; or that he might be cast out to
wander through some desert, where there are neither cities nor the
trace of men, a solitary exile among rocks and caverns, where beasts
and birds alone abide. But for me, before he shall have conceived
these mischiefs in his mind, a happier end will be provided.'
When he had thus prophesied, he expired: and was succeeded by his
son Evilmaluruchus, who was slain by his kinsman Neriglisares: and
Neriglisares left Labassoarascus his son: and when he also had
suffered death by violence, they made Nabannidochus king, being no
relation to the royal family; and in his reign Cyrus took Babylon,
and granted him a principality in Carmania.
And concerning the rebuilding of Babylon by Nabuchodonosor, he
writes thus: It is said that from the beginning all things were
water, called the sea (Thalatth?): that Belus caused this state of
things to cease, and appointed to each its proper place: and he
surrounded Babylon with a wall: but in process of time this wall
disappeared: and Nabuchodonosor walled it in again, and it remained
so with its brazen gates until the time of the Macedonian conquest.
And after other things he says: Nabuchodonosor having succeeded to
the kingdom, built the walls of Babylon in a triple circuit in
fifteen days; and he turned the river Armacale, a branch of the
Euphrates, and the Acracanus: and above the city of Sippara he dug a
receptacle for the waters, whose
perimeter was forty parasangs, and whose depth was twenty cubits;
and he placed gates at the entrance thereof, by opening which they
irrigated the plains, and these they call Echetognomones (sluices):
and he constructed dykes against the irruptions of the Erythraean
sea, and built the city of Teredon against the incursions of the
Arabs; and he adorned the palace with trees, calling them hanging
- Euseb. Praep. Evan. lib. 10. - Euseb. Chron. 49.
Fragment of Julian the Emperor
(reigned a.d. 360-3)
From Cyril's Contra Julianum V, 176 (Migne), we have this fragment
of Julian's lost work Against the Christians:
That God, however, has not cared for the Hebrews only, but rather
that in His love for all nations He hath bestowed on the Hebrews
nothing worth very serious attention, whereas He has given us far
greater and superior gifts, consider from what will follow. The
Egyptians, counting up of their own race the names of not a few
sages, can also say they have had many who have followed in the
steps of Hermes. I mean of the Third Hermes who used to come down to
them in Egypt.
The Chaldaeans also can tell of the disciples of
Oannes and of Belus; and the Greeks of tens of thousands who have
the Wisdom from Cheirion. For it is from him that they derived their
initiation into the mysteries of nature, and their knowledge of
divine things; so that indeed in comparison the Hebrews seem only to
give themselves airs about their own attainments.
This translation (with some gaps supplied) may be found in G. R. S.
Mead's Thrice Greatest Hermes, vol. Ill, page 199 (1964).
Out of a great egg whence his name, and that he was actually a man,
but only seemed a fish because he was clothed in 'the skin of a sea
I am indebted to Kenneth Demarest for bringing attention to this
obscure fragment from the Byzantine Patriarch Photius in his essay
'The Winged Power'. I also quote a portion of his own remarks
Helladius' account is extremely valuable, the more so because it is
confirmed by the extant pictorial representations of this wise being
(called 'the Egg-Born') who exited in a strange suit from some kind
of vessel likened to an egg - that 'fell' into the sea.
Manilius and Xanthus all furnish other corroborating details,
speaking of gods in honor of whom the fish-form is sacred, who
plunged from the sky into the waters of the Euphrates. In another
variant (found in the commentary in Germanicus' edition of Aratus)
the power of a holy fish pushed ashore on the banks of the Euphrates
near Babylon, the 'egg' out of which the 'deity' appeared.
Before it landed in the waters, the egg-like vessel was of a
luminous appearance. Thus the historian Sozomen tells us that the
same type of deity descended into the Euphrates as 'a fiery star'
from the sky. . . . Just as these visitant capsules in the water
were remembered as 'eggs' from which higher men in fish-garb
emerged, so the capsules, when they were in the sky were
metaphorically described as great fiery birds or griffons ... or,
again, as winged figures or deific men flying in a winged ring or
capsule . . .
'Space visitors' we would call them today.
Fragment of Helladius
PRESERVED BY PHOTIUS
(C. A.D. 82O-C. 893)
PRESERVED IN THE FORM OF A SUMMARY (Codex 279)
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