In the time period 605-562 BC, Babylon was a renowned power. This time period also coincided with the life time of King Nebuchadnezzar. His father, King Nabopolassar, had created the Chaldean dynasty and had invaded Assyria, forcing them to go towards Northern Mesopotamia. This set the stage for Nebuchadnezzar’s legendary reign. Nebuchadnezzar used military might to further alienate the Assyrians, together with any Egyptian sympathizers. So consumed was he in this quest that only the death of his father made him return back to Babylon, where he became the next King (mnsu, N.D.).
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Architecture in Babylon
Nebuchadnezzar’s achievements show just how advanced Ancient Babylon was during his time. He is best known for two architectural feats. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are still are a wonder even today. According to legend, Nebuchadnezzar was inspired by the mountainous home land of his wife during the construction. Nearby, Nebuchadnezzar also built the Ishtar Gate, and adorned it with amazing reliefs resembling Babylon’s imagery of the day: dragons and bulls. The gate was built to represent the goddess Ishtar – god of life, fertility, Eros and war (mnsu, N.D.).
Science in Babylon
Babylon’s science was very advanced during King Nebuchadnezzar’s time. They already had astronomers amongst themselves. These astronomers could accurately calibrate time and seasons using the relative positions of the planets and stars. The goddess Ishtar herself was the religious equivalent of the planet Venus in astronomy. Under Nebuchadnezzar’s influence, both religion and astronomy complimented each other (mnsu, N.D.). It was a testament to the many faces of the otherwise warlike King.
Literature in Babylon
Babylon already had text in their culture during Nebuchadnezzar’s time: they could read and write. This art was more prominently utilized by members of the government, to enlist the support of the King and the citizens in government projects. The religious leaders also used ancient scriptures put in scrolls to communicate their religious ideologies. King Nebuchadnezzar himself frequently used written letters to address his people. Some of his writings have been recovered, and they point to the fact that though a pagan, Nebuchadnezzar still used incidences of inexplicable events to evoke religious fear amongst his subjects (Ellis et al, 2001).
King Nebuchadnezzar’s reign was full of war invasions into the neighboring lands. In 605 BC, soon after attaining the position of a King Nebuchadnezzar attacked the Egyptians at Carchemish. The Egyptian’s collective morale was destroyed by their losses during this attack, and soon enough, they fell under Nebuchadnezzar’s rule. But what followed thereafter was a period of attacks and counter attacks, made worse by intermittent drought periods. Simultaneously, Babylonians were besieging Jerusalem, and ultimately captured its King, Zedekiah. The King’s family was slaughtered, and he was taken prisoner to Babylon. Jerusalem was then utterly destroyed with fire. Any survivors were taken into Babylon as slaves (Nemet and Karen, 1998).
The existing records depict Nebuchadnezzar as a wily king who was able to squash dissenters even from within his own army. In 594 BC he was able to bring under control a raging rebellion within his own army. He also acted against a potential invasion from some tribes living in what is now Southwest Iran. His focus remain steadfast – to capture as many of the surrounding cities as possible. During his reign, he attacked all the tribes in present day Saudi Arabia, Judah, Syria, and Jerusalem. He is said to have staged a 13 year siege on the city of Tyre (Grossman, 2007).
Nebuchadnezzar’s many faces showed up even in the war zones. He is perhaps the first person to have sent an ambassador, Nabonidus, to intervene and defuse conflict between the Lydians and the Medes in Asia Minor. When he died at around 83 years old, he left a mixed legend: war leader, architect, arbitrator, religious protagonist etc (Grossman, 2007). A mixed legend, but an immortal one nevertheless.
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Ellis, Roger, Oakley-Brown, Liz (2001) Translation and Nation: Towards a Cultural Politics of Englishness Clevedon, UK, Buffalo, NY Multilingual Matters.
Grossman, Mark (2007) World Military Leaders: A Biographical Dictionary New York, NY Facts on File, Inc., 2007.
Mnsu (N.D.) The Chaldeans. Web.
Nemet-Nejat, Karen Rhea. Daily Life in Ancient Mesopotamia. p. Westport, 1998. Greenwood eBooks.