Chaldea - History

History

Further information: Neo-Babylonian Empire

Important Kaldu cities were Bit-Yâkin (the original homeland at the Persian Gulf), Bit-Dakuri, Bit-Adini, Bit-Amukkani, and Bit-Shilani.

The Chaldean's homeland was in the relatively poor country in the far south of Mesopotamia, at the head of the Persian Gulf. The Chaldeans first came to prominence in the late 8th Century BC. Marduk-apla-iddina II (the Biblical Merodach-Baladan) of Bit-Yâkin, allied himself with the powerful Elamite kingdom and briefly seized control of Babylon in 721 BC after the death of the Assyrian king Shalmaneser V who had ruled Babylon directly from Nineveh. The new king of Assyria Sargon II attacked and deposed Marduk-apla-iddina II in 710 BC. After defeat by the Assyrians he fled to his protectors in Elam. In 703 he briefly regained the throne from a native Akkadian-Babylonian ruler Marduk-zakir-shumi II who had ascended the throne after a revolt in Babylon against the Assyrian king, Sennacherib. He was once more defeated at Kish, and again fled to Elam where he died in exile after one final failed attempt to raise a revolt against Assyria in his homeland, Bit-Yâkin in 700 BC.

Babylon was then ruled by a native Babylonian puppet of the Assyrians Bel-ibni, who was replaced by Ashur-nadin-shumi, an Assyrian prince who was murdered by the Elamites and replaced with a native Babylonian puppet Nergal-ushezib. The Chaldeans briefly regained control of Babylon in 693 BC when the populace deposed Nergal-ushezib, and chose Mushezib-Marduk, a Chaldean prince to replace him. However, this was short lived, and Sennacherib sacked Babylon, destroying the city in 689 BC routing the Babylonians, the Chaldeans of Bit-Yâkin and their Elamite backers in the process. Sennacherib's successor as king of Assyria, Esarhaddon rebuilt Babylon, but for the next 75 years Babylon remained under direct Assyrian control.

It was only after 620 BC under Nabopolassar that the Chaldeans finally gained control over Babylon, founding the Chaldean Dynasty. After the death of Ashurbanipal, the last great Assyrian king in 627 BC, the Assyrian empire descended into a series of bitter dynastic civil wars. A rebellious Assyrian general Sin-shumu-lishir briefly set himself up as king in both Assyria and Babylon, but was ousted by Ashur-etil-ilani, the legitimate king of Assyria and its empire. Further civil war erupted with Sin-shar-ishkun seizing the thrones of Assyria and Babylonia from his brother Ashur-etil-ilani. Nabopolassar took advantage of the chaos gripping Assyria, and seized the city of Babylon in 620 BC with the help of its native inhabitants. Sin-shar-ishkun amassed a powerful army and marched on Babylon to regain control of the region. However, yet another massive rebellion broke out in the capital Nineveh, and the king was forced to turn back in order to quell the revolt. Nabopolassar then seized the city of Nippur in 619 BC, a mainstay of pro-Assyrianism in Babylonia, and thus Babylonia as a whole. Bitter fighting continued in the Babylonian heartlands from 620 to 616 BC, with Assyrian forces encamped in the region in an attempt to eject Nabopolassar. A stalemate ensued with Nabopolassar unable to eject the Assyrians despite their greatly weakened state, and Sin-shar-ishkun unable to unseat Nabopolassar.

Nabopolassar's position, and the fate of Assyria was sealed when he entered into an alliance with another of Assyria's former vassals, the Medes, the now dominant people of what was to become Persia. The Median Cyaxares had also recently taken advantage of the anarchy in the Assyrian Empire to free the Iranic peoples, the Medes and Persians, from Assyrian rule. The Medes, Persians, Chaldean ruled Babylonians, together with the Scythians and Cimmerians attacked Assyria in 616 BC, and by 612 BC, after five years of bitter fighting, the alliance had sacked Nineveh, killing Sin-shar-ishkun in the process. Nabopolassar and his allies were now in possession of much of the huge Neo Assyrian Empire. However, an Assyrian king Ashur-uballit II held out at the Assyrian city of Harran, resisting until 605 BC, when the remnants of the Assyrian Army and an Egyptian force were defeated at Karchemish.

The Chaldeans now ruled all of Mesopotamia, and the former Assyrian possessions of Aram (Syria), Phoenicia, Israel, Cyprus, Edom, Philistia, and parts of Arabia, while the Medes took control of the former Assyrian colonies in Iran, Asia Minor and the Caucasus.

Nabopolassar was succeeded by Nebuchadnezzar II, who became king after the death of his father in 604 BC.

Nebuchadnezzar was a patron of the cities and a spectacular builder. He rebuilt all of Babylonia's major cities on a lavish scale. His building activity at Babylon was what turned it into the immense and beautiful city of legend. His city of Babylon covered more than three square miles, surrounded by moats and ringed by a double circuit of walls. The Euphrates flowed through the center of the city, spanned by a beautiful stone bridge. At the center of the city rose the giant ziggurat called Etemenanki, "House of the Frontier Between Heaven and Earth," which lay next to the Temple of Marduk.He also made The Hanging Gardens of Babylon,for his wife from the mountains so that she would feel at home. Now,the garden is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. A capable leader, Nabuchadnezzar II, conducted successful military campaigns in Aramea (Syria) and Phoenicia, forcing tribute from Damascus, Tyre and Sidon. He conducted numerous campaigns in Asia Minor, in the "land of the Hatti". Like the Assyrians, the Babylonians had to campaign yearly in order to control their colonies.

In 601 BC Nebuchadnezzar II was involved in a major, but inconclusive battle, against the Egyptians. In 599 BC he invaded Arabia and routed the Arabs at Qedar. In 597 BC he invaded Judah and captured Jerusalem and deposed its king Jehoiachin. Egyptian and Babylonian armies fought each other for control of the near east throughout much of Nebuchadnezzar's reign, and this encouraged king Zedekiah of Israel to revolt. After an 18 month siege Jerusalem was captured in 587 BC, thousands of Jews were deported to Babylon and Solomon's Temple was razed to the ground.

Nebuchadnezzar successfully fought the Pharaohs Psammetichus II and Apries throughout his reign, and during the reign of Pharaoh Amasis in 568 BC it is rumoured that he may have briefly invaded Egypt itself.

By 572 Nebuchadnezzar was in full control of Mesopotamia, Aramea (Syria), Phonecia, Israel, Judah, Philistia, Samarra, Jordan, northern Arabia and parts of Asia Minor. Nebuchadnezzar died of illness in 562 BC.

He was succeeded by Amel-Marduk, who was deposed after only 2 years on 560 BC.

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