George Stephen Goodspeed, PH.D.
Professor of Ancient History in the
University of Chicago
Smith Elder, & Co., 15 Waterloo Place
THE NEW BABYLONIAN (OR KALDEAN) EMPIRE
THE HEIRS OF ASSYRIA
274. THE two peoples, whose union had accomplished the overthrow of Assyria, had no difficulty about the division of the spoils. The Manda (Medes) were a mountain folk, with problems of organization and aspirations to conquest as yet limited to the regions east and north of the Tigris. Their king, whom the Medo-Persian tradition (sect. 267) names Cyaxares, extended his sway southward over Elam and to the north and northwest to the borders of Asia Minor, where he came into conflict with the kingdom of Lydia. A decisive battle for supremacy was averted only by an eclipse (585 B.C.), and subsequent negotiations temporarily fixed the boundary between the two kingdoms at the river Halys. Cyaxares seems to have been at once a successful warrior and a wise administrator, the true founder of a firm nationality among the widespread and restless peoples of this region. During his lifetime peace between him and and the rulers of the kingdom on the Euphrates was unbroken, sealed as it had been by the marriage of his daughter to the son of Nabupaluçur.
275. It was natural that the provinces of Assyria to the west and south of the Tigris and the mountain wall as far as the Mediterranean should fall to the king of Babylon. Various districts of Babylonia
seem to have been held by the Assyrians for a time before the fall of Nineveh (sect. 265), but thereafter they were united under Babylonian rule with out a struggle. This fact, coupled with the tradition of the army from the sea which he was sent to oppose (sect. 268), but with which, it appears, he made common cause, suggests that Nabupaluçur was a Kaldean, and that with him these tribes, so long struggling with Assyria for supremacy over Babylon, had at last attained their goal. Such, also, was the opinion of the Jewish writers, who call the king and his armies “Chaldean.” Hence the new empire may be called the Kaldean Empire. Yet during the past centuries of contact, so intermingled in blood and united in common interests had Kaldeans and Babylonians become, that the empire may with equal propriety be called the New Babylonian Empire. For its history the chief sources available are the Greek writers of a later age. Its royal inscriptions, so far as discovered, are occupied more with the buildings restored by the kings than with the wars waged by them; with slight exceptions, they are silent as to relations with the world without. That the Greek historians were not always accurate is convincingly proved in some crucial instances (sect. 312), and hence the modern student of the period, who is dependent so largely upon them, treads on uncertain ground. Happily, the contemporaneous accounts of the Hebrew writers, prophets and historians, throw much welcome light on some important details of foreign affairs.
276. Although Nabupaluçur was king twenty-one years (626 B.C.), it was not until the later
period of his reign that he became active outside the limits of his capital. The alliance with the Manda (Medes) and the beginning of active operations against Nineveh could hardly have been previous to 610 B.C. The few inscriptions that are known to be his, describe his works of peace, the rebuilding of Etemenanki, the temple tower of Babylon, the reopening of the canal at Sippar, and the rearing there of a temple to Belit, the consort of Shamash. One inscription speaks vaguely of the destruction of his enemies, and refers particularly to the overthrow of the Shubari and the turning of “their land into mounds and plough-land.” This would indicate a campaign in northern Mesopotamia, and, were it not for the statement of Nabuna’id (Nabonidus) that the Babylonian king had nothing to do with the destruction of the temples of Assyria, might reasonably be regarded as a reference to the final expedition in which Nineveh fell. In fact, however, it suggests that while the siege of Nineveh was going on, the army of Nabupaluçur, under his son Nabu-kudurriuçur (Nebuchadrezzar), was operating in upper Mesopotamia on the Euphrates. The whole region was in confusion; wandering bands of mountaineers were pillaging the towns; Haran’s famous temple of the moon-god was ruined by such a raid. The army of Necho II. of Egypt (sect. 265) was also threatening the fords of the river, and, having already taken possession of Syria, was prepared to demand a still greater share of the spoils of Nineveh. Nebuchadrezzar, after clearing the country east of the river, crossed it and met the Egyptians on Syrian soil at the famous city of Karkhemish in 605 B.C. (Jer.
xlvi. 2). Necho was thoroughly beaten and fled hastily southward, followed by the Kaldean army. The vassal kings paid their homage to the new conqueror. Among them was Jehoiakim of Judah (2 Kings xxiv. 1). Nebuchadrezzar, at the border of Egypt, received news of the death of his father. Fearing difficulties regarding his accession, he made a treaty with Necho by which the latter relinquished his claims to Palestine and Syria, and at once marched across the desert to Babylon. At Babylon he seems to have found all things in quiet, and ascended the throne at the close of 605 B.C. The heritage of Assyria, so far as it fell to the Babylonian heir, had been secured, with the exception of Egypt, and the new king, while ruling over a region far less extensive than that of the great Assyrian monarchs, possessed a territory that in size, position, and resources still deserved to be called an empire.
NEBUCHADREZZAR AND HIS SUCCESSORS
227. THE exact reason for Nebuchadrezzar’s haste in returning to Babylon to secure the throne may not be easy to name, but the fear of trouble which such an action suggests was prophetic. A curious passage from the description of the Marduk temple in Babylon, found in an inscription of Nabupaluçur, may throw some light upon the situation:
Unto Marduk, my lord, I bowed my neck; I arrayed myself in my gown, the robe of my royalty. Bricks and mortar I carried on my head, a dupshikku of gold and silver I wore; and Nebuchadrezzar, the first-born, the chief son, beloved of my heart, I caused to carry mortar mixed with wine, oil, and (other) products along with my own workmen. Nabu-shum-lisher, his talimu, the offspring of my own flesh, the junior, my darling, I ordered to take a basket and spade (?); a dupshikku of gold and silver I placed (on him). Unto Marduk, my lord, as a gift, I dedicated him (II. 59-III. 18; see ABL, p. 132.)
278. The struggle of two brothers for their father’s throne has already appeared in Assyrian history. In this case the younger seems, from this passage, to have been intended by his father for a special post in the kingdom; the consecration to Marduk indicated, probably, his elevation to the priesthood and, in
connection with the epithet talimu, suggests to Winckler (AOF, II. ii. pp. 193 ff.) an appointment as king of Babylon, while the elder brother was to be ruler of the empire and the suzerain. Thus the old problem of Babylonian prerogative reappeared under the Kaldeans. While the fully developed theory, as held by Winckler (l. c.), of a division between the hierarchy and the Kaldean rulers that runs all through the history of this empire and finally causes its ruin, is improbable, the existence of intrigue and the danger of dynastic troubles are obvious. How to be king of Babylon in all the ancient religious meaning of that term and at the same time to harmonize the demands of this position with administration of the greater state, remained, to the end, the standing problem of Mesopotamian dynasties. Nebuchadnezzar, however, by the promptness of his appearance on the scene and through the fidelity of his father’s counsellors, overcame whatever opposition may have existed, and in his long reign (605-562 B.C.) maintained his supreme position with power undisturbed by revolt and splendor undimmed by rivalry.
279. If the Kaldean empire was of modest proportions in comparison with that of Assyria, it had the advantage of relief from the wearisome and costly wars with mountain peoples. The absorption of all the northern and eastern Assyrian provinces by the Manda (Medes), and the firm alliance between them and the Kaldean king, left him free to take possession of the more compact and tractable districts which fell to him and to organize their administration. How this was done is not very clear, except as it may be inferred from the details of his relations to the single
kingdom of Judah, as preserved in the Old Testament writings. Nebuchadnezzar himself has left no documents of value that bear upon this side of his activity. But the long and instructive biblical story of Judah’s fortunes, involved, as they were, with the fate of neighboring peoples, reveals with sufficient fullness the king’s modes of procedure and ideals of administration, as well as the problems and difficulties that he was compelled to meet. The study of it is essential to the understanding of Babylonian history. Unfortunately the narratives are not free from confusion and contradictions, the special investigation of which belongs to the student of Jewish rather than of Babylonian history. In general, Egypt was the troublesome factor in this region. The twenty-sixth dynasty had succeeded in reorganizing the Nile principalities into something like unity, and in so adjusting the demands of the various classes as to occupy a firm seat at the head of affairs. Accordingly, it proceeded to reassert its old pre-eminence in western Asia. After Necho’s conclusive defeat at Karkhemish, he did not, however, make a new attempt in force upon Palestine (2 Kings xxiv. 7), but preferred to use intrigue to induce the communities there to rebel. Jehoiakim may, in the beginning, have stood by his Egyptian suzerain and suffered punishment from Nebuchadnezzar’s army on its first advance (2 Chron. xxxvi 6f.); but after his submission he remained faithful to Babylon for three years (2 Kings xxiv. 1), till 601 B.C. At last the situation became intolerable. Palestine was seething with elements of revolution. The Kaldean army had been withdrawn. Bedouin were raiding the border
communities, and these, in turn, were harrying the frontiers of Judah (2 Kings xxiv. 2). The Kedarenes were pouring into Syria from the desert at the same time (Jer. xliv. 28), --the whole movement being the result of the removal of Assyrian pressure, which for the last century, had presented an unyielding barrier to the advance of this last wave of Arabian migration. So Jehoiakim renounced his allegiance. For a year or more he was left undisturbed, until Nebuchadrezzar apparently was forced to send an army to restore his own authority throughout the western border. Jerusalem closed its gates and was besieged. Meanwhile Jehoiakim died, and his son Jehoiachin succeeded to the throne. Nebuchadrezzar had followed his army in order to settle the affairs of the west, and, when he appeared before Jerusalem, Jehoiakim gave himself up to his overlord (597 B.C.). The kingdom was punished by the deportation of the king, his court and from nine to ten thousand of the citizens. Jehoiakim’s uncle was appointed king under the name of Zedekiah, and sworn to faithfulness to Babylon. During the same campaign it is probable that the Bedouin were driven back and tat other disturbances upon the border quieted. The captured king was imprisoned in Babylon, and his people were settled in central Babylon near Nippur on the Khebar canal.
280. But quiet had been only temporarily restored. Zedekiah found his people hard to restrain. The states on the east, Ammon, Moab, an Edom, were in ferment, and Judah, if faithful to its suzerain, was in danger of constant inroads from that quarter. Their ambassadors appeared at his court, and at the
same time emissaries from Tyre and Sidon were present (Jer. xxii. 3) to urge common cause against Nebuchadrezzar. Twice, apparently, it was necessary for Zedekiah to explain matters at Babylon, once by sending ambassadors (Jer. xxix. 3), and once by appearing in person before the king (Jer. li. 59). The deported Jews in Babylonia were also intriguing in the interests of rebellion, and even the burning alive of two of the most outspoken of their leaders, by the order of Nebuchadnezzar, could not restrain them. Finally, Pharaoh Hophra, who had succeeded Psamtik II., son of Necho, in 589 B.C. threw himself vigorously into the cause of the conspirators and Zedekiah joined them (588 B.C.). Nebuchadnezzar bestirred himself and advanced in strong force as far as Riblah on the middle Orontes. Thence he sent out a division against Judah, that overran the country and besieged the three strongholds which held out, Azekah, Lachish, and Jerusalem (Jer. xxxiv. 7). The defense of Jerusalem was particularly desperate; only after a siege of one and a half years was it taken (586 B.C.). The usual punishments were inflicted. The king was blinded by Nebuchadrezzar’s own hand; his sons and counsellors were slain, the citizens deported, the city was demolished, and the booty carried away. The people remaining in the land were left under the oversight of a Jewish noble, Gedaliah, and, later when he was slain by one of his fellow chieftains, the region was still further desolated and abandoned. Thus the old tragedy was re-enacted, and for the last time. It is true that Hophra had made a demonstration against the Kaldeans during the siege of Jerusalem that had
compelled a temporary raising of the siege, but the lack of concerted action on the part of the rebels was followed by the usual disaster. Edom and Moab had already made their peace with their overlord. Ammon and Tyre do not seem to have paid any active part in the struggle. Judah stood alone and perished.
281. Nebuchadrezzar seems to have proceeded against Tyre and besieged it. The siege is said to have lasted thirteen years (585-573 B.C.), after which the city came to terms, although it was not entered by the Kaldean king. The death of its king, Itobaal II., coincided with its submission. Egypt was attacked by Nebuchadrezzar in 568 B.C., at a time when Hophra had been followed by Amasis as a result of internal strife. Of the success or extent of the campaign there is no definite knowledge. It was little more than a punitive expedition, from which Egypt speedily recovered.
282. If the knowledge of Nebuchadrezzar’s wars and the administration of his empire must be derived largely from others than himself, the case is different with respect to his activity in Babylonia. To this long inscriptions are devoted, and small tablets, stamps, and bricks from many famous sites add their testimony. He describes, particularly, his building operations in the city of Babylon, the fortifications, the palaces, and the temples reared by him. Utility and adornment were his guiding principles, but not without the deeper motives of piety and patriotism. In Babylonia at large, he labored at the restoration of the canal system, so important for agriculture, commerce, and defense. One canal which was restored by him, led from the Euphrates south of Hit directly to
the gulf through the center of Babylonia; another on the west of the Euphrates opened up to irrigation and agriculture the edge of the Arabian desert. The river, as it passed along before Babylon, was lined with bricks laid in bitumen, which at low water are visible to-day. The city-canals were similarly treated. those connecting the two rivers and extending through the land between them were reopened. A system of basins, dikes, and dams guarded and guided the waters of the rivers, --works so various and colossal as to excite the admiration of the Greeks, who saw or heard of them. A system of defences was planned by the erection of a great wall in north Babylonia, stretching from the Euphrates to the Tigris; it was flanked east and west, by a series of ramparts of earth and moats filled with water, and extended southward as far as Nippur. It was called the Median wall. Restorations of temples were made in Borsippa, Sippar, Ur, Uruk, Larsam, Dilbat, and Baz. More than forty temples and shrines are mentioned in the inscriptions as receiving attention. Bricks bearing the king’s name are said to have come from every site in Babylonia, from Bagdad to the mouth of the rivers. He may well stand as the greatest builder of all the kings of the Mesopotamian valley.
283. An estimate of the policy and achievements of Nebuchadrezzar, while limited by the unequal amount of information on the various phases of his activity, and subject to revision in the light of new material, can be undertaken with a reasonable expectation of general accuracy. Tiele has called him one of the greatest rulers of antiquity (BAG, p. 454), and, when his operations in Babylonia are considered,
that statement has weight and significance. A century and a half of war, in which Babylonia had been the field of battle, had reduced its cities to ruins and its fields to waste lands. Its temples had been soiled or neglected, and its gods, in humiliation or wrath, had abandoned their dwelling-places. Warring factions had divided up the country between them, or vied with on another in handing it over to foreign foes. the first duty of the king, who loved his people and considered the well-being and prosperity of his government, was to restore and unite. Recovery and consolidation, --these were the watchwords of public policy for the time, and these Nebuchadrezzar set himself to realize. It is no chance, then, that his inscriptions deal so uniformly with Babylonian affairs, with matters of building and canalization and religion. It has been pointed out, also, that his far-seeing policy contemplated the danger from the Medes, his present allies, and that his elaborate scheme of defenses was intended to make Babylon impregnable in the conflict which he saw impending. All this was sagacious and statesmanlike.
284. In the fulfillment of this policy, the king conceived it indispensable to lay the emphasis on the pre-eminence of his capital, the city of Babylon. Here were his most extensive and costly buildings erected. For its protection the vast system of fortifications was designed. To beautify and adorn its streets and temples was his supremest desire, as the exaltation of its gods was the deepest thought of his heart. He, or his successors, even went so far as to destroy the famous temple of the elder Bel in the
immemorially sacred city of Nippur, the sanctuary of the whole land, an act which has its explanation only in this purpose to glorify Marduk of Babylon (Peters, Nippur, II. p. 262). But one title is borne by him in all his inscriptions, and that is “King of Babylon;” and in them he declares, “With the exception of Babylon and Borsippa I did not adorn a single city,” and “Because my heart did not love the abode of my royalty in another city, in no (other) human habitation did I build a residence for my lordship. Property, the insignia of royalty, I did not establish anywhere else” (ABL, pp. 140, 141). Reasonable question may be raised as to the wisdom of this procedure. The Assyrian kings, while they glorified Nineveh, or Kalkhi, always proclaimed themselves rulers of the state or the empire, and the title assumed was recognized to entail responsibility. But Nebuchadrezzar chose to follow the less audible feature of the example of his predecessors, and, when the city concerned was Babylon, with the jealousies and rivalries which had gathered around it, the preference was doubtfully wise. To have developed the religious, economical, and even defensive significance of the other cities, while indicating his preference for Babylon, would have removed difficulties which his successors found insoluble.
285. The most serious modification of one’s high estimate of Nebuchadrezzar must be made when his administration of his empire is examined. The fundamental principles of his policy in this field are involved in his preference of Babylonia and its capital. It is true that the following passage in his inscriptions must be given due weight:
Far-off lands, distant mountains, from the Upper Sea to the Lower Sea, steep trails, unopened paths, where motion was impeded, where there was no foothold, difficult roads, journeys without water, I traversed, and the unruly I overthrew; I bound as captives my enemies; the land I set in order and the people I made to prosper; both bad and good among the people, I took under my care (?); silver, gold, costly precious stones, bronze, palm-wood, cedar-wood, all kinds of precious things, a rich abundance, the product of the mountains, the wealth of the seas, a heavy gift, a splendid present, to my city Babylon I brought (EIH, II. 13 ff.).
This, however, is the only statement of the kind to be found, and its limitations are obvious. The facts, which his dealing with Judah and the other western states reveals, lower its significance yet more. For a century Assyria had maintained its supremacy there with little or no trouble, with what success can be measured in a single instance. On good grounds it has been held that King Josiah’s opposition to Necho of Egypt was inspired by his loyalty to Assyria, though that state was now at its last gasp. Its government had been severe, but it had organized and protected its vassals. But the Jewish rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar is explicable, chiefly from the neglect of the Babylonian king to look after the subject states in the west. There is no evidence that anything but the most general supervision was exercised. Assyrian methods were servilely imitated. The punishment of Judah is a most instructive example. The Jews were deported, but no peoples were put in their place. The system of dealing with a conquered city, de-
to be continued…
A History of the Babylonians and Assyrians by George Stephen Goodspeed. London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1903. Copyright 1902, by Charles Scribner’s Sons, for the United States of America. Printed at The University Press, John Wilson and Son, Cambridge, U.S.A.
Editor’s note: This excerpt begins in the latter portion of the book which most directly applies to the period of Daniel. Goodspeed uses “Nabupaluçur” in place of the more common Nabopolassar and “Kaldean” in place of Chaldean. The text is unmodified as to spelling and grammar. The page breaks and numbering are retained for accuracy when quoting this material. Keep in mind that this was published in 1903 and reflects the information available at that time.
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