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Thesis The success of Nebuchadnezzar II compared to those of the recipients of the Neo-Babylonian Empire.


King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon was inevitably one of the most famous figures of ancient history. Born around 60 B.C and reigning for forty-three years, he was by far, the most powerful monarch of his dynasty and during his reign, his capital Babylon, flourished into the biggest and wealthiest city in Mesopotamia and the ancient world. He held a role in biblical history and prophecy and was the Babylonian king who deported the Jewish people into exile.


Nebuchadnezzar’s father Nabopolassar (66-605), a Mesopotamian warlord, with the help from the Medes from northern Iran, was responsible for both ending the Assyrian domination and for founding the new Chaldean (Neo-Babylonian) kingdom. Unfortunately for Nabopolassar, he did not live long enough to realise his ultimate objective � the consolidation of his territorial gains and the complete reconstruction of the old capital of Babylon. However, his son Nebuchadnezzar was able to achieve both of his father’s aims.


After his accession as king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar continued to fulfil the obligations expected of him, in Babylon and elsewhere. For more than a thousand years, Babylon after its first two centuries of pre-eminence had been either a subject city or had maintained only a painful and precarious independence. Under Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon was dramatically transformed into the most important city in the Middle East.


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Nebuchadnezzar devoted much of his time to the restoration of Shinar, repairing of its canals, expansion of its prosperity and the organised massive construction projects to change Babylon to the most important city in Mesopotamia. Temples were repaired and inscriptions in the old traditional tongue and the old character of the land declared that there was once more a might king of Babylon, who was the dedicated servant of Bel, Marduk and Nebo (Babylonian gods)


Nebuchadnezzar died in early October in 56 B.C due to a illness and was succeeded by his son Amel-Marduk (Evil-Merodach in the Bible). Amel-Marduk’s reign was short and inefficient as it last only about two years before he was assassinated. When he ascended to the throne he released the king of Judah, whom his father had imprisoned for thirty-seven years. The release of Jehoiachin triggered a controversy as he broke his father’s decree when he placed this Jewish king a seat of honour higher than those of the other kings who were with him in Babylon. He felt that his father without cause held the Jewish king captive and his actions aroused the fury of the priests of Marduk and the high state officials. They were unset by his actions and reminded Amel-Marduk that ‘a king cannot revoke the edicts of his dead predecessor unless he drags the corpse of the dead king out of his grave.’ It was his immediate answer to this that angered both the Chaldeans and the Hebrews. He hastily removed his father’s body and fed the corpse to vultures and earned himself the hatred of his people and the title Evil-Merodach. Amel-Marduk was assassinated as a result of a court conspiracy led by his brother-in-law Neriglissar and committed by the court officials.


The man who benefited from the death of Amel-Marduk was Nergal-shar-usur (Neriglissar in Greek, Nergalsharezer in the Bible), son-in-law of Nebuchadnezzar. He undertook a major campaign beyond the Taurus, probably in anticipation of a thrust by the Medians across the Halys. This campaign ended in defeat and he died soon after he returned to Babylon in 556 B.C. Attempting to exceed Nebuchadnezzar’s achievements, Neriglissar had strived to secure the empire whilst trying to gain new territory led to misfortune which eventually led to his death.


Neriglissar’s son Labashi-Marduk succeeded his father as the next king of Babylon but his reign was very short lived. Labashi-Marduk would have been at a young age when he became the king of Babylon. He had the shortest reign of the dynasty composed of only about months. Similar to the fate of Amel-Marduk, he was removed because he showed ‘evil tendencies’ the exact length of Labashi-Marduk’s reign is uncertain but the reason why he was rid off was the same as his predecessor Amel-Marduk.


The last reigning monarch of the Neo-Babylonian dynasty was a extraordinary character Nabonidus. He was not a warrior king or a great builder like Nabopolassar or Nebuchadnezzar but he spent his time studying antiquaries and excavations of ruins of old buildings and determining the age of their builders. Nabonidus was brought to power by a group of priests who were involved in a plot which slew Labashi-Marduk and made Nabonidus an illegitimate ruler. He was said to be a usurper or a ‘rebel prince’. He was well in years possibly at the age of sixty when he was placed on the throne. He had previously held important administrations under Nebuchadnezzar and Neriglissar.


What was the most intriguing fact about his sovereign was of his absence in Babylon during his seventeen years of reign. Events that led to his departure was that he rejected the traditional worship of Marduk and turned to the cult of moon-god Sin, of which his mother was a stanch supporter. He promoted the worship of Sin and angered the native priests of Bel, Marduk and Nebo as they were universal gods of Babylon. This event made Nabonidus highly unpopular with the priests and his people. Nabonidus placed his son Belshazzar on the throne acting as his co-regent and left for Tema, for seven to ten years where the king ignored Babylon and its kingdom. His reign was seen as the ultimate decline of the empire as he failed to achieve any significant military campaigns or expand the Neo-Babylonian territory. The end of his reign saw the rise of the new power from Persia, Cyrus the Great. After the death of Nebuchadnezzar in 56 B.C, factional resistance and futile successors of the throne weakened Babylon. Babylon had four insignificant monarchs who failed to improve circumstances and reputation of the people in Babylon and eventually the empire fell to Cyrus in 5 B.C and the supremacy of the Babylonians ceased to subsist after its greatest sovereign, Nebuchadnezzar II the Chaldean.


Nebuchadnezzar was similar to Alexander the Great by hardly lacking in needed experience when he ascended to the throne. He was in fact, an extraordinary individual who in forty-three years of supremacy was able to suppress revolts in his empire, expand his kingdom, and undertake massive construction projects, a righteous sovereign and a remarkable politician. He brought peace to his people and rebuilt the city of Babylon to be the world’s most magnificent place the world has ever known.


His successors were unable to match his supremacy in the empire, military genius or the imagination to create the world’s most astonishing architecture. His son Amel-Marduk was hated by both Babylonians and Jewish people for committing a gruesome and disrespectful crime after the release of Jehoiachin. Neriglissar was no match compared to his miliary genius, Labashi-Marudk was not as fortunate to have a long and prosperous reign as the great king Nebuchadnezzar himself and Nabonidus’ building schemes was no equivalent to Nebuchadnezzar’s construction operations. In fact Nabonidus was seen as the royal archaeologist by modern scholars and also as the Babylonian Akhenaten who neglected the traditional worship, turned to another cult and moved away from the capital of the empire. Both triumph in battle and construction projects would serve as symbols of the king’s greatness to his own people and the perfect example in this argument would be King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon. Therefore, by comparing the recipients of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, Nebuchadnezzar II, the Chaldean of Babylon was by far the most successful and important ruler of the last powerful Mesopotamian monarchy.





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