Nebuchadnezzar II

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King of Babylon
Nebukadnessar II.jpg
An engraving with an inscription of Nebuchadnezzar II. Anton Nyström, 1901.[1]
Reign c. 605 – c. 562 BC
Predecessor Nabopolassar
Successor Amel-Marduk
Born c. 634 BC
Died c. 562 BC (aged 71 or 72)
Father Nabopolassar

Nebuchadnezzar II (from Akkadian 𒀭𒀝𒆪𒁺𒌨𒊑𒋀 (Nabû-kudurri-uṣur), meaning "O god Nabu, preserve/defend my firstborn son") was king of Babylon c. 605 BC – c. 562 BC, the longest reign of any king of the Neo-Babylonian empire.[2]


Building Inscription of King Nebuchadnezar II at the Ishtar Gate. An abridged excerpt says: "I (Nebuchadnezzar) laid the foundation of the gates down to the ground water level and had them built out of pure blue stone. Upon the walls in the inner room of the gate are bulls and dragons and thus I magnificently adorned them with luxurious splendour for all mankind to behold in awe."


Nebuchadnezzar was the eldest son and successor of Nabopolassar, founder of the Neo-Babylonian Empire.[3] Nabopolassar was an Assyrian official who rebelled and established himself as king of Babylon in 620 B.C; the dynasty he established ruled until 539 B.C, when the empire was conquered by Cyrus the Great.[4] Nebuchadnezzar is first mentioned in 607 B.C, during the destruction of Babylon's arch-enemy Assyria, at which point he was already crown prince.[5] In 605 BC he and his ally Cyaxares, ruler of the Medes and Persians, led an army against the Assyrians and 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.[6]

Nabopolassar died in August that year, and Nebuchadnezzar returned to Babylon to ascend the throne.[7] For the next few years, his attention was devoted to subduing his eastern and northern borders, and in 594/5 B.C there was a serious but brief rebellion in Babylon itself.[8] In 594/3 B.C the army was sent again to the west, possibly in reaction to the elevation of Psammetichus II to the throne of Egypt.[8] King Zedekiah of Judah attempted to organise opposition among the small states in the region, but his capital, Jerusalem, was taken in 587 BC (the events are described in the Bible's Books of Kings and Book of Jeremiah).[9] 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. The vast Assyrian empire was effectively divided between Babylonia and the Median Empire.[10]

Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon[edit]

The ruins of Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon are spread over two thousand acres, forming the largest archaeological site in the Middle East.[11] 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.[12] Each Spring equinox (the start of the New Year) the god Marduk would leave his city temple 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.[13]

Nebuchadnezzar's death and fate of the empire[edit]

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.[13] The Hebrew Bible records Nebuchadnezzar suffered from boanthropy over a period of seven years, however this interregnum is not recorded anywhere else. 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[edit]

According to Tabari, Nebuchadnezzar, whose Persian name was Bukhtrashah, was of Persian descent, from the progeny of Jūdharz, however modern scholars are unanimous that he was either a native Mesopotamian (Assyrian-Babylonian) or a Chaldean . Some medieval writers erroneoulsly believed he lived as long as 300 years.[14] While much of what is written about Nebuchadnezzar depicts a ruthless warrior, some texts describe a ruler who was concerned with both spiritual and moral issues in life and was seeking divine guidance.[15]

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.[16] The most notable events that Tabari’s collection focuses on is the destruction of Jerusalem.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Anton Nyström, Allmän kulturhistoria eller det mänskliga lifvet i dess utveckling, bd 2 (1901)
  2. ^ Freedman 2000, p. 953.
  3. ^ Bertman 2005, p. 95.
  4. ^ Oates 1997, p. 162.
  5. ^ Wiseman 1991a, p. 182.
  6. ^ Wiseman 1991a, p. 182-183.
  7. ^ Wiseman 1991a, p. 183.
  8. ^ a b Wiseman 1991a, p. 233.
  9. ^ Wiseman 1991a, p. 233-234.
  10. ^ Wiseman 1991a, p. 235-236.
  11. ^ Arnold 2005, p. 96.
  12. ^ Bertman 2005, p. 96.
  13. ^ a b Foster 2009, p. 131.
  14. ^ a b Ṭabarī, Muḥammad Ibn-Ǧarīr Aṭ- (1987). The History of Al-Tabarī. State Univ. of New York Pr. pp. 43–70. 
  15. ^ Wiseman, D.J. (1985). Nebuchadrezzar and Babylon. Oxford. 
  16. ^ Tabouis, G.R. (1931). Nebuchadnezzar. Whittlesey House. p. 3. 


External links[edit]

Preceded by
King of Babylon
605 BCE – 562 BCE
Succeeded by