|King of Babylon|
An engraving on an eye stone of onyx with an inscription of Nebuchadnezzar II. Anton Nyström, 1901.
|Reign||c. 605 – c. 562 BCE|
|Born||c. 634 BCE|
|Died||c. 562 BCE (aged 71 or 72)|
Nebuchadnezzar II (i//; Akkadian 𒀭𒀝𒆪𒁺𒌨𒊑𒋀 (Nabû-kudurri-uṣur), "O god Nabu, preserve/defend my firstborn son"; Aramaic: ܢܵܒܘܼ ܟܘܼܕܘܼܪܝܼ ܐܘܼܨܘܼܪ ; Hebrew: נְבוּכַדְנֶצַּר Nəḇūḵaḏneṣṣar; Ancient Greek: Ναβουχοδονόσωρ Naboukhodonósôr; Latin: Nabuchodonosor; Arabic: نِبُوخَذنِصَّر nibūḫaḏniṣṣar; c. 634 – c. 562 BCE) was king of Babylon c. 605 BCE – c. 562 BCE, the longest reign of any king of the Neo-Babylonian empire.
Nebuchadnezzar was the eldest son and successor of Nabopolassar, founder of the Neo-Babylonian empire. Nabopolassar was an Assyrian official who rebelled and established himself as king of Babylon in 626 BCE; the dynasty he established ruled until 539 BCE, when the empire was conquered by Cyrus the Great. Nebuchadnezzar is first mentioned in 607 BCE, shortly after the destruction of Babylon's arch-enemy Assyria, at which point he was already crown prince. In 605 BCE he led an army against the Egyptians, who were then occupying Syria, and in the ensuing Battle of Carchemish, Necho II was defeated and Syria and Phoenicia were brought under the control of Babylon.
Nabopolassar died in August that year, and Nebuchadnezzar returned to Babylon to ascend the throne. For the next few years his attention was devoted to subduing his eastern and northern borders, and in 594/5 BCE there was a serious but brief rebellion in Babylon itself. In 594/3 BCE the army was sent again to the west, possibly in reaction to the elevation of Psammetichus II to the throne of Egypt. King Zedekiah of Judah attempted to organise opposition among the small states in the region, but his capital, Jerusalem, was taken in 587 BCE (the events are described in the Bible's Books of Kings and Book of Jeremiah). In the following years Nebuchadnezzar incorporated Phoenicia and the former Assyrian provinces of Cilicia (southwestern Anatolia) into his empire and may have campaigned in Egypt, creating an empire larger than that of the last significant Assyrian king, Ashurbanipal.
The ruins of Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon are spread over two thousand acres, forming the largest archaeological site in the Middle East. He enlarged the royal palace (including in it a public museum, possibly the world's first), built and repaired temples, built a bridge over the Euphrates, and constructed a grand processional boulevard (the Processional Way) and gateway (the Ishtar Gate) lavishly decorated with glazed brick. Each Spring equinox (the start of the New Year) the god Marduk would leave his city temple the city for a temple outside the walls, returning through the Ishtar Gate and down the Processional Way, paved with coloured stone and lined with molded lions, amidst rejoicing crowds.
Nebuchadnezzar's death and fate of the empire
In his last years Nebuchadnezzar seems to have begun behaving irrationally, "pay[ing] no heed to son or daughter" and was deeply suspicious of his sons. The kings who came after him ruled only briefly until the throne was seized by Nabonidus, apparently not of the royal family, who was in turn overthrown by the Persian conqueror Cyrus the Great less than twenty-five years after Nebuchadnezzar's death.
Portrayal in medieval Muslim sources
According to Tabari, Nebuchadnezzar, whose Persian name was Bukhtrashah, was of Persian descent, from the progeny of Jūdharz. Some believe he lived as long as 300 years. While much of what is written about Nebuchadnezzar depicts a ruthless warrior, some texts show a ruler who was concerned with both spiritual and moral issues in life and was seeking divine guidance.
Nebuchadnezzar was seen as a strong, conquering force in Islamic texts and historical compilations, like Tabari. The Babylonian leader used force and destruction to grow an empire. He conquered kingdom after kingdom, including Phoenicia, Philistia, Judah, Ammon, Moab, Jerusalem, and more. The most notable events that Tabari’s collection focuses on is the destruction of Jerusalem.
- Anton Nyström, Allmän kulturhistoria eller det mänskliga lifvet i dess utveckling, bd 2 (1901)
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- Lee, Wayne E. (2011). Warfare and Culture in World History. NYU Press.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Nebuchadnezzar II.|
|Wikisource has the text of the 1879 American Cyclopædia article Nebuchadnezzar.|
- Inscription of Nabuchadnezzar. Babylonian and Assyrian Literature – old translation
- Nabuchadnezzar Ishtar gate Inscription
- Jewish Encyclopedia on Nebuchadnezzar
- Nebuchadnezzar II on Ancient History Encyclopedia
|King of Babylon
605 BCE – 562 BCE