Attention!
Tired of seeing ads while studying? Now you can enjoy an "Ads Free" version of the site for as little as 10¢ a day.

Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Babylonia

(Βαβυλωνία ), a name for the southern portion of Mesopotamia, constituting the region of which Babylon was the chief city. The latter name alone is occasionally used in Scripture for the entire region; but its most usual designation is CHALDEA (See CHALDEA) (q.v.). The Chaldaeans proper, or Chasdim, however, were probably originally from the mountainous region farther north, now occupied by the Kurds (with which name, indeed, many find an etymological connection; see Golius, ad Alfrag. p. 17; Rodiger, in the Zeitschr. f. d. Kunde d. Morgenl. 3, 8), a portion of whom under the Assyrian sway may have migrated into Mesopotamia (see Isaiah 23:13), and thus eventually became masters of the rich plain of Shinar (see Vitringa, ad Jesa. 1:412 sq.; Gesenius, art. Chaldaer, in Ersch and Gruber's Encycl.). The original inhabitants nevertheless appear to have been of the Shemitic family (see Adelung, Mithridat. 1:314 sq.; Olshausen, Emend. zum A. T. p. 41 sq.); and their language belonged to the class of tongues spoken by that race, particularly to the Aramaic branch, and was indeed a dialect similar to that which is now called the Chaldee. (See ARAMAEAN LANGUAGE); (See CUNEIFORM INSCRIPTIONS).

The two words, Babylonia and Chaldaea, were, however, sometimes used in another signification; Babylonia, as containing in an extended sense Assyria also and Mesopotamia, nearly all the countries which Assyria in its widest meaning embraced; while Chaldaea indicated, in a narrower signification, the south-western part of Babylonia between the Euphrates and Babylon (Strabo, 16; Ptol.). In Hebrew, Babylonia bore the name of SHINAR (See SHINAR) (q.v.), or "the land of Shinar;" while "Babylon" (Psalms 137:1) and "the land of the Chaldaeans" (Jeremiah 24:5; Ezekiel 12:13) seem to signify the empire of Babylon. It is in the latter sense that we shall here treat it. (See CHALDAEANS).

I. Geography and general Description. This province of Middle Asia was bordered on the north by Mesopotamia, on the east by the Tigris, on the south by the Persian Gulf, and on the west by the Arabian Desert. On the north it began at the point where the Euphrates and Tigris approach each other, and extended to their common outlet in the Persian Gulf, pretty nearly comprising the country now designated Irak Arabi. The climate is temperate and salubrious. The country in ancient times was very prolific, especially in corn and palms. Timber-trees it did not produce. Many parts have springs of naphtha. As rain is infrequent, even in the winter months, the country owes its fruitfulness to the annual overflow of the Euphrates and the Tigris, whose waters are conveyed over the land by means of canals. Quintus Curtius (i. 5) declares that the country between the Euphrates and the Tigris was covered with so rich a soil that the cattle were driven from their pastures lest they should be destroyed by satiety and fatness. During the three great empires of the East, no tract of the whole appears to have been so reputed for fertility and riches as the district of Babylonia, which arose in the main from the proper management of the mighty river which flowed through it. Herodotus mentions that, when reduced to the rank of a province, it yielded a revenue to the kings of Persia which comprised half their income. The terms in which the Scriptures describe its natural as well as its acquired supremacy when it was the imperial city, evidence the same facts. They call it "Babylon, the glory of kingdoms; the beauty of the Chaldee excellency; the lady of kingdoms, given to pleasure; that dwelleth carelessly, and sayeth in her heart I am, and there is none else beside me." But now, in the expressive and inimitable language of the same book, may it be said, "She sits as a widow on the ground. There is no more a throne for thee, O daughter of the Chaldaeans!" As for the abundance of the country, it has vanished as clean away as if "the besom of desolation" had swept it from north to south, the whole land, from the outskirts of Bagdad to the farthest reach of sight, lying a melancholy waste.

In order to defend the country against hostile attacks from its neighbors, northward from Babylonia, between the two rivers, a wall was built, which is known under the name of the Median Wall (Xen. Anab. 2:4,12). The Babylonians were famous for the manufacture of cloth and carpets; they also excelled in making perfumes, in carving in wood, and in working in precious stones. They were a commercial as well as manufacturing people, and carried on a very extensive trade alike by land and by sea. Babylon was indeed a commercial depot between the Eastern and the Western worlds (Ezekiel 17:4; Isaiah 43:14). (See COMMERCE). Thus favored by nature and aided by art, Babylonia became the first abode of social order and the cradle of civilization. Here first arose a powerful empire-here astronomy was first cultivated here measures and weights were first employed. Herodotus has noticed the Chaldaeans as a tribe of priests (i. 28); Diodorus (i. 28) as a separate caste under Belus, an Egyptian priest; while the book of Daniel refers to them as astrologers, magicians, and soothsayers; but there can be little doubt, as laid down by Gesenius (Jesa. 23:13), that it was the name of a distinct nation, if not, as Heeren (Manual of Anc. Hist. p. 28) has maintained, the name of the northern nomades in general. In connection with Babylonia, the Chaldaeans are to be regarded as a conquering nation as well as a learned people; they introduced a correct method of reckoning time, and began their reign with Nabonassar, B.C. 747. There is a scriptural reference to the proud period in the history of the Chaldees when learned men filled the streets and the temples of Nineveh and Babel: " Behold the land of the Chaldaeans; this people was not, till the Assyrian founded it for them that dwell in the wilderness: they set up the towers thereof, they raised up the palaces thereof; and he brought it to ruin" (Isaiah 23:13). Babylonia, during this period, was "the land of the Chaldaeans," the same as that into which the children of Judah were carried away captive (Jeremiah 24:5). (See CAPTIVITY).

II. History of the Babylonian Empire. The history of Babylon itself mounts up to a time not very much later than the Flood. (See BABEL). The native historian seems to have possessed authentic records of his country for above 2000 years before the conquest by Alexander (Berosus, Fragm. 11); and Scripture represents the "beginning of the kingdom" as belonging to the time of Nimrod, the grandson of Ham, and the great-grandson of Noah (Genesis 10:6-10). Of Nimrod no trace has been found in the Babylonian remains, unless he is identical with the god Bel of the Babylonian Pantheon, and so with the Greek Belus, the hero-founder of the city. This identity is possible, and at any rate the most ancient inscriptions appear to show that the primitive inhabitants of the country were really Cushite, i.e. identical in race with the early inhabitants of Southern Arabia and of Ethiopia. The seat of government at this early time was, as has been stated, in lower Babylonia, Erech (Warka) and Ur (Mugheir) being the capitals, and Babylon (if built) being a place of no consequence. The country was called Shinar (שַׁנְעָד ), Akkadim (comp. Accad of Genesis 10:10). Of the art of this period we have specimens in the ruins of Mugheir and Warka, the remains of which date from at least the 20th century before our era. We find the use of kiln-baked as well as of sun-dried bricks already begun; we find writing practiced, for the bricks are stamped with the names and titles of the kings; we find buttresses employed to support buildings, and we have probable indications of the system of erecting lofty buildings in stages. On the other hand, mortar is unknown, and the bricks are laid either in clay or in bitumen (comp. Genesis 11:3); they are rudely moulded, and of various shapes and sizes; sun-dried bricks predominate, and some large buildings are composed entirely of them; in these reed- matting occurs at intervals, apparently used to protect the mass from disintegration. There is no trace of ornament in the erections of this date, which were imposing merely by their size and solidity.

The first important change which we are able to trace in the external condition of Babylon is its subjection, at a time anterior to Abraham, by the neighboring kingdom of Elam or Susiana. Berosus spoke of a first Chaldean dynasty consisting of eleven kings, whom he probably represented as reigning from B.C. 2234 to B.C. 1976. At the last mentioned date he said there was a change, and a new dynasty succeeded, consisting of 49 kings, who reigned 458 years (from B.C. 1976 to B.C. 1518). It is thought that this transition may mark the invasion of Babylonia from the East, and the establishment of Eiamitic influence in the country, under Chedorlaomer (Genesis 14), whose representative appears as a conqueror in the inscriptions. Amraphel, king of Shinar, and Arioch, king of Ellasar (Larsa), would be tributary princes whom Chedorlaomer had subjected, while he himself may have become the founder of the new dynasty, which, according to Berosus, continued on the throne for above 450 years. From this point the history of Babylon is almost a blank for above twelve centuries. Except in the mention of the plundering, of Job by the Chaldaeans (Job 1:17), and of the "goodly Babylonish garment" which Achan coveted (Joshua 7:21), Scripture is silent with regard to the Babylonians from the time of Abraham to that of Hezekiah. Berosus covered this space with three dynasties; one (which has been already mentioned) of 49 Chaldaean kings, who reigned 458 years; another of 9 Arab kings, who reigned 245 years; and a third of 49 Assyrian monarchs, who held dominion for 526 years; but nothing beyond this bare outline has come down to us on his authority concerning the period in question. The monumental records of the country furnish a series of names, the reading of which is very uncertain, which may be arranged with a good deal of probability in chronological order, apparently belonging to the first of these three dynasties. Of the second no traces have been hitherto discovered. The third would seem to be identical with the Upper Dynasty of Assyria, of which some account has been given in the article ASSYRIA (See ASSYRIA).

It would appear, then, as if Babylon, after having a native Chaldaean dynasty which ruled for 224 years (Brandis, p. 17), and a second dynasty of Elamitic Chaldeans who ruled for a further period of 458 years, fell wholly under Semitic influence, becoming subject first to Arabia for two centuries and a half, and then to Assyria for above five centuries, and not regaining even a qualified independence till the time marked by the close of the Upper and the formation of the Lower Assyrian empire. This is the conclusion which seems naturally to follow from the abstract which is all that we possess of Berosus; and doubtless it is to a certain extent true. But the statement is too broad to be exact; and the monuments show that Babylon was at no time absorbed into Assyria, or even for very many years together a submissive vassal. Assyria, which she had colonized during the time of the second or great Chaldaean dynasty, to which she had given letters and the arts, and which she had held in subjection for many hundred years, became in her turn (about B.C. 1270) the predominant Mesopotamian power, and the glory of Babylon in consequence suffered eclipse. But she had her native kings during the whole of the Assyrian period, and she frequently contended with her great neighbor, being sometimes even the aggressor. Though much sunk from her former greatness, she continued to be the second power in Asia, and retained a vitality which at a later date enabled her to become once more the head of an empire.

The line of Babylonian kings becomes exactly known to us from the year B.C. 747. An astronomical work of the geographer Ptolemy has preserved to us a document, the importance of which for comparative chronology it is scarcely possible to exaggerate. The Canon of Ptolemy, as it is called, gives us the succession of Babylonian monarchs, with the exact length of the reign of each, from the year B.C. 747, when Nabonassar mounted the throne, to B.C. 331, when the last Persian king was dethroned by Alexander. This document, which, from its close accordance with the statements of Scripture, always vindicated to itself a high authority in the eyes of Christian chronologers, has recently been confirmed in so many points by the inscriptions that its authentic character is established beyond all possibility of cavil or dispute. As the basis of all accurate calculation for Oriental dates previous to Cyrus, it seems proper to transcribe the earlier portion of it in this place. [The accessions are given according to the aera of Nabonassar, and dates B.C. are added for convenience sake.]

 

Kings

Nabonassar

Nadius

Chinzinus and Porus

Elulaeus

Mardocempalus

Arceanus

First interregnum

Belibus

Aparanadius

Regibelus

Mesesimordacus

Second interregnum Asaridanus

Saosduchinus

Cinneladanus

Nabopolassar Nebuchadnezzar Illoarudamus Nerigassolassarus Nabonadius

Cyrus

Years. 14

2

5

5

12

5

2

3

6

1

4

8

13

20

22

21

43

2

4

17

9

AE.N. 1

15

17

22

27

39

44

46

49

55

56

60

68

81

101 123 144 187 189 193 210

B.C. 747 733 731 726 721 709 704 702 699 693 692 688 680 667 647 625 604 531 559 555 538

 

Of Nabonassar, the first king in Ptolemy's list, nothing can be said to be known except the fact, reported by Berosus, that he destroyed all the annals of his predecessors for the purpose of compelling the Babylonians to date from himself (Fragm. 11 a). It has been conjectured that he was the husband or son of Semiramis, and owed to her his possession of the throne. But of this theory there is at present no proof. It rests mainly upon a synchronism obtained from Herodotus, who makes Semiramis a Babylonian queen, and places her five generations (167 years) before Nitocris, the mother of the last king. The Assyrian discoveries have shown that there was a Semiramis about this time, but they furnish no evidence of her connection with Babylon, which still continues uncertain. The immediate successors of Nabonassar are still more obscure than himself. Absolutely nothing beyond the brief notation of the canon has reached us concerning Nadius (or Nabius), Chinzinus (or Chinzirus), and Porus, or Elulaeus, who certainly cannot be the Tyrian king of that name mentioned by Menander (ap. Joseph. Ant. 9, 14, 2). Mardocempalus, on the contrary, is a monarch to whom great interest attaches. He is undoubtedly the Merodach-Baladan, or Berodach-Baladan (q.v.) of Scripture, and was a personage of great consequence, reigning himself twice, the first time for 12 years, contemporaneously with the Assyrian king Sargon, and the second time for six months only, during the first year of Sennacherib; and leaving a sort of hereditary claim to his sons and grandsons, who are found to have been engaged in hostilities with Essarhaddon and his successor. His dealings with Hezekiah sufficiently indicate the independent position of Babylon at this period, while the interest which he felt in an astronomical phenomenon (2 Chronicles 32:31) harmonizes with the character of a native Chaldaean king which appears to belong to him. The Assyrian inscriptions show that after reigning 12 years Merodach-Baladan was deprived of his crown and driven into banishment by Sargon, who appears to have placed Arceanus (his son?) upon the throne as viceroy, a position which he maintained for five years. A time of trouble then ensued, estimated in the canon at two years, during which various pretenders assumed the crown, among them a certain Hagisa, or Acises, who reigned for about a month, and Merodach-Baladan, who held the throne for half a year (Polyhist. ap. Euseb.). Sennacherib, bent on re-establishing the influence of Assyria over Babylon, proceeded against Merodach-Bala-dan (as he informs us) in his first year, and having dethroned him, placed an Assyrian named Belib, or Belibus, upon the throne, who ruled as his viceroy for three years. At the end of this time, the party of Merodach- Baladan still giving trouble, Sennacherib descended again into Babylonia, once more overran it, removed Belib, and placed his eldest son who appears in the canon as Aparanadius upon the throne. Aparanadius rejoined for six years, when he was succeeded by a certain Regibelus, who reigned for one year; after which Mesesimordacus held the throne for four years. Nothing more is known of these kings, and it is uncertain whether they were viceroys or independent native monarchs. They were contemporary with Sennacherib, to whose reign belongs also the second interregnum, extending to eight years, which the canon interposes between the reigns of Mesesimordacus and Asaridanus. In Asaridanus critical eyes long ago detected Esarhaddon, Sennacherib's son and successor; and it may be regarded as certain from the inscriptions that this king ruled in person over both Babylonia and Assyria, holding his court alternately at their respective capitals. Hence we may understand how Manasseh, his contemporary, came to be "carried by the captains of the king of Assyria to Babylon" instead of to Nineveh, as would have been done in any other reign. (See ESARHADDON). Saosduchinus and Ciniladanus (or Cinneladanus), his brother (Polyhist.), the successors of Asaridanus, are kings of whose history we know nothing. Probably they were viceroys under the later Assyrian monarchs, who are represented by Abydenus (ap. Euseb.) as retaining their authority over Babylon up to the time of the last siege of Nineveh.

With Nabopolassar, the successor of Cinneladanus, and the father of Nebuchadnezzar, a new era in the history of Babylon commences. According to Abydenus, who probably drew his information from Berosus, he was appointed to the government of Babylon by the last Assyrian king, at the moment when the Medes were about to make their final attack; whereupon, betraying the trust reposed in him, he went over to the enemy, arranged a marriage between his son Nebuchadnezzar and the daughter of the Median leader, and joined in the last siege of the city. See NINEVEH. On the success of the confederates (B.C. 625) Babylon became not only an independent kingdom, but an empire; the southern and western portions of the Assyrian territory were assigned to Nabopolassar in the partition of the spoils which followed on the conquest, and thereby the Babylonian dominion became extended over the whole valley of the Euphrates as far as the Taurus range, over Syria, Phoenicia, Palestine, Idumaea, and (perhaps) a portion of Egypt. Thus, among others, the Jews passed quietly and almost without remark from one feudal head to another, exchanging dependency on Assyria for dependency on Babylon, and continuing to pay to Nabopolassar the same tribute and service which they had previously rendered to the Assyrians. Friendly relations seem to have been maintained with Media throughout the reign of Nabopolassar, who led or sent a contingent to help Cyaxares in his Lydian war, and acted as mediator in the negotiations by which that war was concluded (Herod. i, 74). At a later date hostilities broke out with Egypt. Necho, the son of Psamatik I, about the year B.C. 608 invaded the Babylonian dominions on the south-west, and made himself master of the entire tract between his own country and the Euphrates (2 Kings 23:29; 2 Kings 24:7). Nabopolassar was now advanced in life, and not able to take the field in person (Beros. Frag. 14). He therefore sent his son, Nebuchadnezzar, at the head of a large army, against the Egyptians, and the battle of Carchemish, which soon followed, restored to Babylon the former limits of her territory (comp. 2 Kings 24:7 with Jeremiah 46:2-12). Nebuchadnezzar pressed forward and had reached Egypt, when news of his father's death recalled him, and hastily returning to Babylon, he was fortunate enough to find himself, without any struggle, acknowledged king (B.C. 604).

A complete account of the works and exploits of this great monarch by far the most remarkable of all the Babylonian kings will be given in the article (See NEBUCHADNEZZAR). It is enough to note in this place that he was great both in peace and in war, but greater in the former. Besides recovering the possession of Syria and Palestine, and carrying off the Jews after repeated rebellions into captivity, he reduced Phoenicia, besieged and took Tyre, and ravaged, if he did not actually conquer, Egypt. But it was as the adorner and beautifier of his native land as the builder and restorer of almost all her cities and temples that this monarch obtained that great reputation which has handed down his name traditionally in the East on a par with those of Nimrod, Solomon, and Alexander, and made it still a familiar term in the mouths of the people. Probably no single man ever left behind him as his memorial upon the earth one half the amount of building that was erected by this king. The ancient ruins and the modern towns of Babylonia are alike built almost exclusively of his bricks. Babylon itself, the capital, was peculiarly the object of his attention. It was here that, besides repairing the walls and restoring the temples, he constructed that magnificent palace, which, with its triple enclosure, its hanging gardens, its plated pillars, and its rich ornamentation of enamelled brick, was regarded in ancient times as one of the seven wonders of the world (Strab. 16:1, § 5).

Nebuchadnezzar died B.C. 561, having reigned 43 years, and was succeeded by Evil-Merodach, his son, who is called in the Canon Illoarudamus. This prince, who, "in the year that he began to reign, did lift up the head of Jehoiachin, king of Judah, out of prison" (2 Kings 25:27), was murdered, after having held the crown for two years only, by Neriglissar, his brother-in-law. (See EVIL-MERODACH). Neriglissar the Nerigassolassar of the Canon is (apparently) identical with the "Nergal- shar-ezer, Rab-Mag" of Jeremiah (39:3, 13, 14). He bears this title, which has been translated "chief of the Magi" (Gesenius), or "chief priest" (Colossians Rawlinson), in the inscriptions, and calls himself the son of a "king of Babylon." Some writers have considered him identical with

"Darius the Mede" (Larcher, Conringius, Bouhier); but this is improbable, (See DARIUS THE MEDE), and he must rather be regarded as a Babylonian of high rank, who, having married a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar, raised his thoughts to the crown, and finding Evil- Merodach unpopular with his subjects, murdered him, and became his successor. Neriglissar built the palace at Babylon, which seems to have been placed originally on the west bank of the river. He was probably advanced in life at his accession, and thus reigned but four years, though he died a natural death, and left the crown to his son Laborosoarchod. This prince, though a mere lad at the time of his father's decease, was allowed to ascend the throne without difficulty; but when he had reigned nine months he became the victim of a conspiracy among his friends and connections, who, professing to detect in him symptoms of a bad disposition, seized him, and tortured him to death. Nabonidus (or Labynetus), one of the conspirators, succeeded; he is called by Berosus "a certain Nabonidus, a Babylonian" (ap. Joseph. Ap. 1:21), by which it would appear that he was not a member of the royal family; and this is likewise evident from his inscriptions, in which he only claims for his father the rank of "Rab-Mag." Herodotus seems to have been mistaken in supposing him (i. 188) the son of a great queen, Nitocris, and (apparently) of a former king, Labynetus (Nebuchadnezzar?). Indeed, it may be doubted whether the Babylonian Nitocris of Herodotus is really a historical personage. His authority is the sole argument for her existence, which it is difficult to credit against the silence of Scripture, Berosus, the Canon, and the Babylonian monuments. She may perhaps have been the wife of Nebuchadnezzar, but in that case she must have been wholly unconnected with Nabonidus, who certainly bore no relation to that monarch.

Nabonidus, or Labynetus (as he was called by the Greeks), mounted the throne in the year B.C. 555, very shortly before the war broke out between Cyrus and Croesus. He entered into alliance with the latter of these monarchs against the former, and, had the struggle been prolonged, would have sent a contingent into Asia Minor. Events proceeded too rapidly to allow of this; but Nabonidus had provoked the hostility of Cyrus by the mere fact of the alliance, and felt at once that sooner or later he would have to resist the attack of an avenging army. He probably employed his long and peaceful reign of 17 years in preparations against the dreaded foe, executing the defensive works which Herodotus ascribes to his mother (i. 185), and accumulating in the town abundant stores of provisions (ib. c. 190). In the year B.C. 539 the attack came. Cyrus advanced at the head of his irresistible hordes, but wintered upon the Diyaleh or Gyndes, making his final approaches in the ensuing spring. Nabonidus appears by the inscriptions to have shortly before this associated with him in the government of the kingdom his son, Bel-shar-ezer or Belshazzar; on the approach of Cyrus, therefore, he took the field himself at the head of his army, leaving his son to command in the city. In this way, by help of a recent discovery, the accounts of Berosus and the book of Daniel hitherto regarded as hopelessly conflicting may be reconciled. (See BELSHAZZAR).

Nabonidus engaged the army of Cyrus, but was defeated and forced to shut himself up in the neighboring town of Borsippa (marked now by the Birs-Nimrud), where he continued till after the fall of Babylon (Beros. ap. Joseph. Ap. 1:21). Belshazzar guarded the city, but, over- confident in its strength, kept insufficient watch, and recklessly indulging in untimely and impious festivities (Daniel 5), allowed the enemy to enter the town by the channel of the river (Herod. 1:191; Xen. Cyrop. 7:7). Babylon was thus taken by a surprise, as Jeremiah had prophesied (Jeremiah 51:31) by an army of Medes and Persians, as intimated 170 years earlier by Isaiah (Isaiah 21:1-9), and, as Jeremiah had also foreshown (Jeremiah 51:39), during a festival. In the carnage which ensued upon the taking of the town, Belshazzar was slain (Daniel 5:30). Nabonidus, on receiving the intelligence, submitted, and was treated kindly by the conqueror, who not only spared his life, but gave him estates in Carmania (Beros. ut sup.; comp. Abyd. Fragm. 9).

Such is the general outline of the siege and capture of Babylon by Cyrus, as derivable from the fragments of Berosus, illustrated by the account in Daniel, and reduced to harmony by aid of the important fact, obtained recently from the monuments, of the relationship between Belshazzar and Nabonidus. It is scarcely necessary to remark that it differs in many points from the accounts of Herodotus and Xenophon; but the latter of these two writers is in his Cyropaedia a mere romancer, and the former is very imperfectly acquainted with the history of the Babylonians. The native writer, whose information was drawn from authentic and contemporary documents, is far better authority than either of the Greek authors, the earlier of whom visited Babylon nearly a century after its capture by Cyrus, when the tradition had doubtless become in many respects corrupted.

According to the book of Daniel, it would seem as if Babylon was taken on this occasion, not by Cyrus, king of Persia, but by a Median king named Darius (5:31). The question of the identity of this personage with any Median or Babylonian king known to us from profane sources will be discussed under DARIUS THE MEDE (See DARIUS THE MEDE). It need only be remarked here that: Scripture does not really conflict on this point with profane authorities, since there is sufficient indication, from the terms used by the sacred writer, that "Darius the Mede," whoever he may have been, was not the real conqueror, nor a king who ruled in his own right, but a monarch intrusted by another with a certain delegated authority (see Daniel 5:31; Daniel 9:1).

With the conquest by Cyrus commenced the decay and ruin of Babylon. The "broad walls" were then to some extent "broken down" (Beros. Fr. 14), and the "high gates" probably "burnt with fire" (Jeremiah 51:58). The defences, that is to say, were ruined; though it is not to be supposed that the laborious and useless task of entirely demolishing the gigantic fortifications of the place was attempted or even contemplated by the conqueror. Babylon was weakened, but it continued a royal residence not only during the lifetime of Darius the Mede, but through the entire period of the Persian empire. The Persian kings held their court at Babylon during the larger portion of the year, and at the time of Alexander's conquests it was still the second, if not the first city of the empire. It had, however, suffered considerably on more than one occasion subsequent to the time of Cyrus. Twice in the reign of Darius (Behist. Ins.), and once in that of Xerxes (Ctes. Pers. § 22), it had risen against the Persians, and made an effort to regain its independence. After each rebellion its defences were weakened, and during the long period of profound peace which the Persian empire enjoyed from the reign of Xerxes to that of Darius Codomannus they were allowed to go completely to decay. The public buildings also suffered grievously from neglect. Alexander found the great temple of Belus in so ruined a condition that it would have required the labor of 10,000 men for two months even to clear away the rubbish with which it was encumbered (Strabo, 16:1, 5). His designs for the restoration of the temple and the general embellishment of the city were frustrated by his untimely death, and the removal of the seat of empire to Antioch under the Seleucidae gave the finishing blow to the prosperity of the place. The great city of Seleucia, which soon after arose in its neighborhood, not only drew away its population, but was actually constructed of materials derived from its buildings (Pliny H. N. 6:30).

Since then Babylon has been a quarry from which all the tribes in the vicinity have perpetually derived the bricks with which they have built their cities, and (besides Seleucia) Ctesiphon, Al- Modain, Bagdad, Kufa, Kerbelah, Hillah, and numerous other towns, have risen from its ruins. The "great city," "the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency," has thus emphatically "become heaps" (Jeremiah 51:37) she is truly "an astonishment and a hissing, without an inhabitant." Her walls have altogether disappeared they have "fallen" (Jeremiah 51:44), been "thrown down" (Jeremiah 50:15), been "broken utterly" (Jeremiah 51:58). "A drought is upon her waters" (Jeremiah 50:39); for the system of irrigation, on which, in Babylonia, fertility altogether depends, has long been laid aside; "her cities" are everywhere "a desolation" (Jeremiah 51:43), her "land a wilderness;" "wild beasts of the desert" (jackals) "lie there," and "owls dwell there" (comp. Layard, Nin. and Bab. p. 484, with Isaiah 13:21-22, and Jeremiah 50:39): the natives regard the whole site as haunted, and neither will the "Arab pitch tent nor the shepherd fold sheep there."

After the exile many of the Jews continued settled in Babylonia; the capital even contained an entire quarter of them (comp. Susann. 1:5 sq.; 1 Peter 5:13; Josephus, Ant. 20:2, 2; 15:3, 1; 18:9, 1; Philo, Opp. 2:578, 587); and after the destruction of Jerusalem these Babylonian Jews established schools of considerable repute, although the natives were stigmatized as "Babylonians" by the bigoted Jewish population (Talm. Babyl. Joma, fol. 66). Traces of their learning exist not only in much rabbinical literature that emanated from these now extinct schools, but M. Layard has recently discovered several earthen bowls covered with their Hebrew inscriptions in an early character, copies and translations of which are given in his Bab. and Nin. p. 436 sq.

III. Literature. On the history, see Niebuhr's Geschichte Asshur's und Babel's; Brandis's Rerum Assyriarum Tempora Emendata; Bosanquet's Sacred and Profane Chronology; and Rawlinson's Herodotus, vol. 1, Essays 6 and 8. Compare also the Am. Biblical Repository, April, 1836, p. 364-368; July, 1836, p. 158185; Jour. Sac. Literature, July, 1860, p. 492 sq.; Rollin, Anc. Hist. 2:54 etc.; Prideaux, Connection, 1:51 etc.; Heeren, Ideen, I, 2:172 sq.; Cellarii Notit. 2:746 sq.; Norberg, Opusc. acad. 3, 222 sq.; Kesler, Historia excidii Babyl. (Tubing. 1766); Bredow, Untersuchungen ub. alt. Gesch. (Altona, 1800); Jour. Roy. As. Soc. (Lond. 1855), xv, pt. 2, and Maps accompanying it. (See BABYLON).

The recent explorations into the monuments of this country have led to many new conclusions respecting the early ethnic relations of the Babylonians. These we give in the resume of one of the most accepted exponents (Prof. Sayce, in the last edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica), premising, however, that we do not fully acquiesce in some of them, especially the chronology, and that we do not regard the geographical identifications as fully determined.

"Geographically, as well as ethnologically and historically, the whole district enclosed between the two great rivers of Western Asia, the Tigris and Euphrates, forms but one country. The writers of antiquity clearly recognised this fact, speaking of the whole under the general name of Assyria, though Babylonia, as will be seen, would have been a more accurate designation. It naturally falls into two divisions, the northern being more or less mountainous, while the southern is flat and marshy; and the near approach of the two rivers to one another at a spot where the undulating plateau of the north sinks suddenly into the Babylonian alluvium tends still more completely to separate them. In the earliest times of which we have any record, the northern portion was comprehended under the vague title of Gutinm (the Goyim of Genesis 14:1), which stretched from the Euphrates on the west to the mountains of Media on. the east; but it was definitely marked off as Assyria after the rise of that monarchy in the 16th century B.C. Aram-Naharaim, or Mesopotamia, however, though claimed by the Assyrian kings, taid from time to time overrun by them, did not form an integral part of the kingdom until the 9th century B.C.; while the region on the left bank of the Tigris, between that river and the Greater Zab, was not only included in Assyria, but contained the chief capitals of the empire. In this respect the monarchy of the Tigris resembled Chaldea, where some of the most important cities were situated on the Arabian side of the Euphrates. The reason of this preference for the eastern bank of the Tigris was due to its abundant supply of water, whereas the great Mesopotamian plain on the western side had to depend upon the streams which flowed into the Euphrates. This vast flat, the modern El-Jezireh, is about two hundred and fifty miles in length, interrupted only by a single limestone range rising abruptly: out of the plain and branching off from the Zagros mountains under the names of Sarazur, Haimrim, and Sinjar. The numerous remains of old habitations show how thickly this level tract must once have been peopled, though now for the most part a wilderness. North of the plateau rises a well-watered and undulating belt of country, into which run low ranges of limestone hills, sometimes arid, sometimes covered with dwarf-oak, and often shutting in between their northern and northeastern flank and the main mountain line from which they detach themselves rich plains and fertile valleys. Behind them tower the massive ridges of the Niphates and Zagros ranges, where the Tigris and Euphrates take their rise, and which cut off Assyria from Amneia and Kurdistan...

"In contrast with the and plain of Mesopotamia stretched the rich alluvial plain of Chaldea, formed by the deposits of the two great rivers by which it was enclosed. The soil was extremely fertile, and teemed with an industrious population. Eastward .rose the mountains of Elam, southward were the sea-marshes and the ancient kingdom of Nituk or Dilvum (the modern Bender-Dilvum), while on the west the civilization of Babylonia encroached beyond the banks of the Euphrates upon the territory of the Shemitic nomads (or Suti). Here stood Ur (now Mugheir), the earliest capital of the country; and Babylon, with its suburb Borsippa (Birs Nimrud), as well as the two Sipparas (the Sepharvaim of Scripture, now Mosaib), occupied both the Arabian and the Chaldaean side of the river. The Araxes, or River of Babylon, was conducted through a deep valley into the heart of Arabia, irrigating the laud through which it passed; and to the south of it lay the great inland fresh-water sea of Nejef, surrounded by red sandstone cliffs of considerable height, forty miles in length and thirty- five in breadth the widest part. Above and below this sea, from Borsippa to Kufa, extend the famous Chaldaean marshes where Alexander was nearly lost (Arrian, Exp. Al. 7:22; Strabo xvi, 1, 12); but these depend upon the state of the Hindiyah canal, disappearing altogether when it is closed. Between the sea of Nejef and Ur, but on the left side of the Euphrates, was Erech (now Warka), which with Niphur or Calneh (now Niffer), Surippac (Senkereh ?), and Babylon (now Hillah), formed the tetrapolis of Sumir or Shinar. This north-western part of Chaldeea was also called Gan-dumyas or Gun-duni after the accession of the Cassite dynasty. South-eastern Chaldea, on the other hand, was termed .Accad, though the name came also to be applied to the whole of Babylonia.

The Caldai, or Chaldaeans, are first met with in the 9th century B.C. as a small tribe on the Persian Gulf, whence they slowly moved northwards, until, under Merodach- Baladan, they made themselves masters of Babylon, and henceforth formed so important an element in the population of the country as in later days to give their name to the whole of it. In the inscriptions, however, Chaldaea represents the marshes on the sea-coast, and Feredon. was one of their ports. The whole territory was thickly studded with-towns, but among all this vast number of great cities, to use the words of Herodotus, Cuthah, or Tiggaba (nowIbrahim), Chilmad (Calwtadah), Is (Hit), and Duraba (Akkerkuf) alone need be mentioned." The cultivation of the country was regulated by canals, the three chief of which carried off the waters of the Euphrates towards the Tigris above Babylon-the 'Royal River,' or Ar- Malch, entering the Tigris a little below Baghdad, the Nahr-Malcha running across to the site of Seleucia, and the Nahr-Kutha passing through Ibrahim. The Pallacopas, on the other side of the Euphrates, supplied an immense lake in the neighborhood of Borsippa. So great was the fertility of the soil that, according to Herodotus (i, 193), grain commonly returned two hundredfold to the sower, and occasionally three hundredfold. Pliny, too (H. N. 18:17), says that wheat was cut twice and afterwards was good keep for sheep; and Berosus remarked that wheat, barley, sesame, ochrys, palms, apples, and many kinds of shelled fruit grew wild, as wheat still does in the neighborhood of Anah. A Persian poem celebrated the three hundred and sixty uses of the palm (Strabo, 16:1, 14); and Ammianus Marcellinus (xxiv, 3) states that from the point reached by Julian's army to the shores of the Persian Gulf was one continuous forest-of verdure. ...

"The primitive population of Babylonia, the builders of its cities, the originators of its culture, and the inventors of its hieroglyphics out of which it gradually developed, belonged to the Turanian or Ural-Altaic family. Their language was highly agglutinative, approaching the modern Mongolian idioms in the simplicity of its grammatical machinery, but otherwise more nearly related to the Ugro-Bulgaric division of the Finnic group; and its speakers were mentally in no way inferior to the Hungarians and Turks of the present day. The country was divided into two halves-the Sumir (Sungir, or Shinar) in the north- west and the Accadin the south-east corresponding most remarkably to the Suomi and Akkara, into which the Finnic race believed itself to have been separated in its first mountain home. Like .Suomi, Sumir signified (the people) of the rivers; and just as Finnic tradition makes Kemi a district of the Suomi, so Came was another name of the Babylonian Snmir; The Accadai, or Accad, were the 'highlanders' who had descended from the mountainous region of Elaln on the east, and it was to them that the Assyrians ascribed the origin of Chaldaean civilization and writing. They were, at all events, the dominant people in Babylonia at the time to which our earliest contemporaneous records reach back, although the Sumir, or people of the home language,' as they are sometimes termed, were named first in the royalties out of respect to their prior settlement in the country.

"The supremacy of Ur had been disputed by its more ancient rival Erech, but had finally given way before the rise of Nisin, or Karrak, a city whose site is uncertain, and Karrak in its turn was succeeded by Laisa. Elamitish conquest seems to have had something to do with these transferences of the seat, of power. In B.C. 2280 the date is fixed by an inscription of Assur-bani-pal's-Cudnr-nankhunldi, the Elamite, conquered Chaldaea at a time when princes with Shemitic names appear to have been already reigning there; and Cudur-mabug not only overran the west, of Palestine, but established a line of monarchs in Babylonia. His son and successor took an Accadian name and extended his way over the whole country. Twice did the Elamitic tribe of Cassi, or Kosseseans, furnish Chaldaea with a succession of kings. At very early period we find one of these Kosseman dynasties claiming homage from Syria, Gutinm, and Northern Arabia, and rededicating the images of native Babylonian gods which had been carried away in war with great splendor and expense. The other Cassitic dynasty was founded by Khamurragas, who established his capital at Babylon, which henceforward continued to be the seat of empire in the south. 'he dynasty is probably to be identified with that called Arabian by Berosus, and it was during its domination that Shemitic came gradually to supersede Accadian as the language of the country. Khammuragas himself assumed a Shemitic name, and a Shemitic inscription of his is now at the Louvre.

A large number of canals were constructed during his reign, more especially the famous Nahr-Malcha, and the embankment built along the banks of the Tigris. The king's attention seems to have been turned to the subject of irrigation by a flood which overwhelmed the important city of Mullias. His first conquests were in the north of Babylonia, and from this base of operations he succeeded in overthrowing Naram-Sin (or Rim-Acn ?) in the south and making himself master of the whole of Chaldsea. Naram-Sin and a queen had been the last representatives of a dynasty which had attained a high degree of glory both in arms and literature. Naram-Sin and his father, Sargon, had not only subdued the rival princes of Babylonia, but had successfully invaded Syria, Palestine, and even, as it would seem, Egypt. At Agarie, a suburb of Sippara, Sargon had founded a library especially famous for its works on astrology and astronomy, copies of which were made in later times for the libraries of Assyria. Indeed, so prominent a place did Sargon take in the early history of Babylonia that his person became surrounded with al atmosphere of myth. Not only was he regarded as a sort of eponymous hero of literature, a Babylonian Solomon, whose title was the deviser of law and prosperity; popular legends told of his mysterious birth-how, like Romulus and Arthur, he knew no father, but was born in secrecy and placed in an ark of reeds and bitumen, and left to the care of the river; how, moreover, this second Moses was carried by the stream to the dwelling of a ferryman, who reared him as his own sin until at last the time came that his rank should be discovered, and Sargon, the constituted king for such is the meaning of his name-took his seat upon the throne of his ancestors. It was while the Cassitic sovereigns were reigning, in the south, and probably in consequence of reverses that they had suffered at the hands of the Egyptians, who, under the monarchs of the 18th dynasty, were pushing eastward, that the kingdom of Assyria took its rise.

Its princes soon began to treat with their southern neighbors on equal terms; the boundaries of the two kingdoms were settled, and intermarriages between :the royal families took place, which led more than once to an interference on the part of the Assyrians in the affairs of Babylonia. Finally, in the 14th century B.C., Tiglath-Adar of Assyria captured Babylon and established a Shemitic line of sovereigns there, which contiued until the days of the later Assyrian empire. From this time down to the destruction of Nineveh, Assyria remained the leading power of Western Asia. Occasionally, it is true, a king of Babylon succeeded in defeating his aggressive rival and invading Assyria; but the contrary was more usually the case, and the Assyrians grew more and mole powerful at the expense of the weaker state, until at last Babylonia was reduced to a mere appanage of Assyria." The history of the next period-namely that of Assyrian domination-properly belongs under Asyria. (q.v.). On the downfall of Nineveh, Nabopolassar, the viceroy of Babylonia, who had achieved his independence, transferred the seat of government to the southern kingdom. We continue an account of this later Babylonian empire by an additional extract from the same source, embodying the views of the latest investigators, in whose results, however especially some of their dates, we do not fully concur.

"Nabopolassar was followed in 604 by his son Nebuchadnezzar, whose long reign of forty-three years made Babylon the mistress of the world. The whole East was overrun by the armies of Chaldaea, Egypt was invaded, and the city of the Euphrates left without a rival. Until systematic explorations are carried on in Babylonia, however, our knowledge of the history of Nebuchadnezzar's empire must be confined to the notices of ancient writers, although we possess numerous inscriptions which record the restoration or construction of temples, palaces, and other public buildings during its continuance., One of these bears out the boast of Nebuchadnezzar, mentioned by Berosus, that he had built the wall of Babylonia fifteen days. Evil-Merodach succeeded his father in 561, but he was murdered two years after and the crown seized by his brother-in-law, Nergal-sharezer, who calls himself son of Bel-suma-iscun, king of Babylon. Nergal-sharezer reigned four years, and was succeeded by his son, a mere boy, who was put to death after nine months of sovereignty (B.C. 555). The power now passed from the house of Nabopolassar; Nabu-nahid, who was raised to the throne, being of another family. Nebuchadnezzar's empire already began to show signs of decay, and a new enemy threatened it in the person of Cyrus the Persian. The Lydian monarchy, which had extended its sway over Asia Minor and the Greek islands, had some time before come into hostile collision with the Babyloniamns, but the famous eclipse foretold by Thales had parted the combatants and brought about peace. Croesus of Lydia and Nabu-nahid of Babylonia now formed an alliance against the-common foe, who had'subjected Media to his rule, and preparations were made for checking the Persian advance. 'The rashness of Crcesus, however, in meeting Cyrts before his allies had joined him brought on his overthrow: Sardis was taken, and the Persian leader occupied. the next fourteen years in consolidating his power in the north. This respite was employed by Nabu-nahid in fortifying Babylon, and. in constructing those wonderful walls anld hydraulic works which Herodotus ascribes to queen Nitocris. At last, however, the attack was made; and after spending a winter in draining the Guydes, Cyrus appeared in the neighborhood of Babylon. Belshazzar, Nabn-nahid's eldest son, as we learn from an inscription, was left in charge of the city while his father took the field against the invader. But the Jews, who saw in the Persians monotheists and deliverers, formed a considerable element of the army; and Nabu-nahid found himself defeated and compelled to take refuge in Borsippa. By diverting the channel of the Euphrates, the Persians contrived to march along the dry river-bed and enter the city through an unguarded gate. Babylon was taken, and Nabu-nahid shortly afterwards submitted to the conqueror, receiving in return pardon and a residence in Carmania. 'He probably died before the end of Cyrus's reign; at all events, when Babylon tried to recover its independence during the troubles that followed the death of Cambyses, it was under impostors who claimed to be Nebuchadnezzar, the son of Nabunahid.'

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Babylonia'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/b/babylonia.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

Search for…
Enter query in the box below:
Choose a letter to browse: