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.


He tells 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 twenty-six sari.)


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 mention.)


Then reigned Amempsinus, a Chaldaean from Laranchae; and he being the eighth in order reigned ten sari. Then reigned Otiartes, a Chaldaean, from Laranchae; and he reigned eight sari. And upon the death of Otiartes, his son Xisuthrus reigned eighteen sari: in his time happened the great deluge.


So that the sum of all the kings is ten; and the term which they collectively reigned an hundred and twenty sari.

- Syncel. 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.

- Euseb. 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 instructions, 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 the kings.

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.


Add to 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 nature.


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, died.


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.


For 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 destroyed.


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.


Having therefore 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.


Of Abraham

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.


Of Nabonasar

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.


Of Nebuchadnezzar

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 years.

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 now obtained 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 outer.


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.


This he 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 and bitumen.

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


Of Nebuchadnezzar

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:

'Oh! 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 gardens.

- 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 creature'.

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 following it:

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.


Hyginus, 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

(C. A.D. 82O-C. 893)

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