Clay Tablet

A fragment of a Babylonian astronomical diary with a mention of the defeat of Darius III by Alexander of Macedon at Gaugamela on 1 October 331 BCE, and of Alexander’s later entry into Babylon.

Our only non-Greek narrative of the battle is a couple of lines long, but it is of great interest. It comes from a recently identified clay tablet written in cuneiform, part of a contemporary diary written in Babylon, so it is our earliest source for these events, and offers us a tiny glimpse into the view of Alexander from the other side. As was customary in such texts, the scribe first notes the month’s prices (“Oil 1 pi, wool 5 shekels”) and the astrological conjunction (“At that time Jupiter was in Scorpio”), then he continues- “On day eleven of that month there was panic in the military camp… Before the king (the Greek army appeared) then they pitched camp in front of the king (Darius). On day 24 in the morning its king set up the standard. They fought one another and the Greeks inflicted a defeat. Important officers (were killed?) He (Darius) abandoned his army…(they fled?) to their cities…He disappeared into the land of Guti (Western Iran).” Laconic, it may be, in the extreme, but it gives us a dramatic sense of news as it was being made, not as filter by Greek propaganda.


Curtis, John and Nigel Tallis, Forgotten Empire- The world of Ancient Persia. London- British Museum Press, 2005.

Bottom paragraph from- Wood, Michael, In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great- A Journey from Greece to Asia. London- BBC Worldwide Ltd., 2001, p. 90.