Egyptians in Babylonia in the Neo-Babylonian and Achaemenid Periods

Hackl, Johannes and Michael Jursa. 2015. Egyptians in Babylonia in the Neo-Babylonian and Achaemenid Periods.In J. Stökl & C. Waerzeggers (eds.), Exile and Return: The Babylonian Context, 157-180. Berlin: De Gruyter.

Egyptians are mentioned first in Babylonia in 676 B.C.E. and occasionally can be found also afterwards in Babylonian tablets of the Assyrian period. However, more numerous attestations only appear in the Neo-Babylonian period, after the beginning of Nabopolassar’s rebellion against the Assyrians. In the following discussion we distinguish the evidence from the ‘long sixth century’ (626–484 B.C.E.), with its abundant textual evidence, from later material. The general textual documentation from the period after the revolts against Xerxes, i.e. from 484 B.C.E. onwards, is far less abundant when compared with the earlier period. In view of the scarcity of the available sources, the number of attestations for Egyptians in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C.E. is considerable. It should be
noted, however, that the evidence on Egyptians drawn from these sources is distributed unevenly in terms of institutional and private archives. The largest body of data stems from the Murašû archive from Nippur; additional attestations can
be found in smaller archives from Northern Babylonia, particularly the Kasr and Tattannu archives, as well as in other tablets from Babylon and Borsippa. The largest institutional archive of the period, the Esagil archive with its substantial
corpus of ration lists, on the other hand, yields no information on Egyptians working for the temple. The same holds true for the Zababa archive from Kiš, the second largest institutional archive from the late period.

The aim of this paper is to arrive at an understanding of the nature, and thus implicitly also of the quantitative dimension, of the Egyptian ‘diaspora’ in Mesopotamia in the period under discussion. We discuss in sequence the different socio-economic contexts in which these Egyptians can be found. Methodologically, we will use, but distinguish between, the cases in which Egyptians are explicitly designated as such and instances in which Egyptian origin must be inferred from the presence of an Egyptian name. Particular attention will be given
to Egyptians who have connections with the royal administration, since state interference is ostensibly responsible for the presence of most of the Egyptians in
Babylonia: links to the palace establishment are a feature determining the social and economic setting of the lives of many of these Egyptians.

Owing to the setting of our data in a predominantly Babylonian or at the most Babylonian and West-Semitic/Aramaic ethno-linguistic context, we consider
Egyptian (and Iranian) names as ‘marked’ and thus as indicative of the origin, identity and/or aspirations of the name giver or the name bearer, while common Akkadian and West-Semitic names are ‘default’ names in this society and thus
not strongly indicative of the socio-economic and ethnic affiliation of the name bearer. Note that the evidence for members of the Miṣirāya clan, the descendants of ‘the Egyptian’, is not included here, as there is no real evidence apart from the name to prove that the bearers of this family name had maintained any real Egyptian background. We also do not deal with Egyptians documented in Akkadian (and Elamite) texts found in Iran, including Susa.