Nabonidus And The Fall Of Babylon To Cyrus. Essay, Research Paper
(Apologies for certain lapses in grammatical English. However, the information is correct and this essay recieved a mark of 63%) 1. What are the events of the reign of Nabonidus? Nabonidus became king as a usurper, after Labasi-Marduk had been killed in a palace intrigue. There has been a little confusion of the date of the beginning of his reign, since Nabonidus was recognized as king in Nippur from 25. May 556 BC. but he is first recognized as the king in Uruk and Sippar as late as the end of June. This gives reason to believe that the Uruk and Sippar regions were faithful to the earlier royal family. An indication for this is also given by the facts that Nabonidus first went to Sippar with a present of gold and silver, and that he later held his court in the southern districts in the city of Larsa instead of Uruk, which normally would be the first choice. It seems that Nabonidus was only a member of the group, who killed Labasi-Marduk and he several times during his reign complains saying that he did not want to become a king. 1.1. The usurper Nabonidus. Nabonidus seems to have been born before the year 620 BC. as he is taking part in a reconciliation between the Lydians and the Medes mentioned with the name Labynetus (Herodotus, Book I: 74). At that time (597 BC.) he was a sa muhhi ali (an official in charge of a city). He was born as the only son of a priestess for the moon-god Sin in Harran, Adad-guppi. His father, Nabu-balatsu-iqbi, was a `wise prince’ or `heroic governor’, and could well have been an Assyrian official in Harran about. 620-616 BC. Some scholars have discussed the possibility that Nabonidus should be out of a local Aramaic or at least west-Semitic tribe or maybe of Assyrian origin. 1.2. The mother of Nabonidus. Adad-guppi gives tells of herself that she was born in 649/8 and she died in April 547, which means that she lived for 102 years. She was probably brought to the king’s harem in Babylon in 610 BC. (since her part of the inscription at Harran tells about the event from 610 and from the rebuilding of the temple), and became there an influential woman, who later introduced Nabonidus to both Nebuchadnezzar and Neriglassar. This means that Nabonidus’ rise to the throne neither did rest on wealth nor did rely on family relations, but on his mothers, his own and his sons abilities at the court. 1.3. The relations to Harran and Assyria Adad-guppi mentions on her stele at Harran that she was born in the 20th year of Assurbanipal – and then she mentions one other Assyrian king – Assur-etel-ilani, but does not mention the two other Assyrian kings of that period. Instead she makes a choice and goes to the first year of Nabopolassar, which leaves at least one year unmentioned. This has been discussed and the result of the discussion so far has been that it is an attempt to give a selective list of Nabonidus’ predecessors in order to show imperial continuity between the Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian kingdoms. This is remarkable, since no other Neo-Babylonian kings could refer to Assyria as ‘royal ancestors’. It could be a part of his interest for the past, since he, as no other king from that period, collected elements from the past. Maybe it was an expression for his dream of a sargonitic kingdom – but then it seems to have been more a dream than reality, which is clearly shown in his military activities. 1.4. His military campaigns Nabonidus only went on few major military campaigns during his own time as king. Most of them took place in the beginning of his reign – one to Cilicia in 555 BC and the capture of Teima in the Arabian desert – and were headed against the west. The reason for it was maybe his age, maybe his concentration on the religious and ‘archaeological’ sides of life, which occupied his time, or maybe his son, Belshazzar was the reason. 1.5. The reign of Nabonidus In his year of ascension Nabonidus had a dream of rebuilding a temple for Sin, and he claims that it was a dream given by Marduk. Later he went to Harran to rebuild the temple of Sin. Beaulieu considers that he was not able to finish the work in the beginning of his reign, why it is mentioned as late as in his 15th year. Early in his reign, he installed his daughter, En-nigaldi-Nanna as entu-priestess in Ur for the moon-god Sin. There seems to have been some opposition to this installation of a priestess for Sin that again might have brought Nabonidus into disfavour. In the 4th year of his reign, in 552, Nabonidus of one or another reason campaigned against the central parts of the Arabian peninsula, and ended in Teima. The reasons for his stay there will be discussed below. The length of the stay has been discussed, mostly it has been said to be app. 10 years, which also is supported by examination of the available sources During his stay in Teima the New Years Festival was cancelled and the normal royal duties were performed by the viceroy, Belshazzar. The return of Nabonidus has been dated to October 543 – on the 17th of the Tasritu month (his 13th regnal year). A problem, which I have not seen discussed, is whether Nabonidus returned from Teima to Sippar, when his mother died or not. We know that there was held an official mourning in the whole of the kingdom and that Nabonidus buried her in a secret place, but did he return from Teima in 547 or not? As mentioned above he now finished the rebuilding of the Sin temple at Harran. He also now imposed a major religious reform rejecting Marduk as the supreme deity and introducing Sin. This might have lead to a mighty discussion and we even see that Belshazzar disappears from the royal inscriptions after that time. In one of the inscriptions he discusses against the priesthood of the Esagil since he wants to mark even the Marduk-temples with a crescent-shaped symbol, which must have represented Sin. Nabonidus maybe also introduced the Harran festival, the akitu-festival, which was celebrated. After Nabonidus’ return from Teima the New Years festival was celebrated again In the 17th. year of his reign the New Years festival was celebrated as usual, but then all the deities of the different cities were collected and brought to Babylon. The reason for this was on the one hand that there had been a sort of revolt in Uruk in the last months of the 16th year and that Nabonidus seems to have expected an invasion of the Medio-persian troops. Then there is the story of a certain Ugbaru/Gobryas, who had been the Babylonian governor of Gutium, who betrayed Nabonidus and joined Cyrus’ forces. Recent discussions have lead to the view that Ugbaru/Gobryas earlier had been an allied to the Neo-Babylonian king but at the end of the reign of Nabonidus, maybe in the 13th. year causing the return of Nabonidus from Teima, he turned to Cyrus. There was, according to the Nabonidus Chronicle only one large battle between Nabonidus and Cyrus, fought near Opis, after which Nabonidus fled. After this battle the cities of Babylon surrendered to Cyrus without larger opposition. On the 12th. of October 539 Ugbaru/Gobryas entered Babylon without meeting resistance. There have been considerations whether there is a relation between the celebration of the Harran New Years festival, the akitu-festival and the lack of resistance in Babylon. This question has not yet been solved. Whether Nabonidus died in the battle in Babylon or not depends on the possibility that Ugbaru/Gobryas referred to Belshazzar as ‘king of Babylon’, which also agrees with the larger part of the sources, who gives Nabonidus an ending in Carmania. 1.6. The imperialistic Cyrus I will shortly mention the main features of the campaigns of Cyrus made during the reign of Nabonidus. Cyrus was 40 years old, when he came to the throne. As an answer to the dream of Nabonidus, Marduk told him that Cyrus would make a revolt against Astyages, who obviously was holding Harran in 556/553. From being a provincial prince with few tribesmen he in 550 attacked Ecbatana and defeated Astyages. After this he dealt with other tribes east of Tigris. In 547 he crossed the Tigris-river and occupied Cilicia (then a vassal-state to Babylon) and attacked the Lydians. The Lydians were both allied to the Egyptians and the Babylonians, but neither of them was able to help their allied, and the Lydians were defeated in 547 BC. Soon the Cypriots joined the Median forces and some scholars do even consider support to Cyrus from the cities along the Mediterranean coast. After his campaign in the west Cyrus went eastwards to the areas of Parthia, Aria, and even a part of India fell into his hands. Now the former mighty empire of Babylon was nearly surrounded by either Egyptian or Median forces. Cyrus had a special policy in areas, which he had defeated. On the one side he accepted and supported them in having their own religion and customs. They were allowed to continue their worship of different deities, differing from area to area. He also tried to get usurpers in the enemies armies, f.eks. Ugbaru/ Gobryas. 2. Theological problems for the king After the fall of Nabonidus, the priests of Marduk described the reign of Nabonidus in negative terms. It surely had its reason in the fact that Nabonidus said about the moon-god, Sin, had ‘destined him for kingship in his mother’s womb’. Same place he gives Sin the place as ‘the king of the gods’, which was against the ordinary Babylonian belief. 2.1. The replacement of Marduk with Sin One of the most remarkable elements of the reign of Nabonidus is the attempt to replace Marduk with Sin. Although Sin had been honoured in Ur at the time of the 3. dynasty (under the name of Nanna), there had for hundreds of years been a change in the pantheon. Now Nabonidus probably under influence of his mother tried to reintroduce Sin as the highest deity of the pantheon. No wonder if this might have caused some reactions, at least between the priests and priestesses. Why did the king primarily build a temple for Sin in Harran instead of rebuilding other temples in Babylon? There seems not to be any other answer than the influence of Adad-guppi to this question. 3. The strange period when the king was in Teima Another major subject in Nabonidus’ reign is his strange way of escaping the throne. Although he installed Belshazzar as his viceroy it may have influenced his reign and the respect of him in Babylon. 3.1. Why did he go to Teima? There has not yet been given a sensible reason for him going to Teima. I will here mention some different reasons, which has been put forward: 3.1.1. Was it to protect the trade routes to the sea while Cyros expanded in the north? Even though he seems to have been in close contact with Cyrus before Cyrus attacked Astyages, it is rather doubtful that he had any knowledge of Cyrus’ plans to campaign against Lydia. Nabonidus was allied to Lydia, so of course it would be foolish of Cyrus to let him know anything like that. An answer would rather be the opposite, namely that he felt his borders safe for Cyrus or any other attackers, so he took himself time to go to Teima. This still does not give a reasonable answer. Of course it gave a possibility of getting tributes from these areas. 3.1.2. Was he going to revenge earlier defeats for the Assyrian armies? Some scholars have made a link between the campaign in the Arabian desert with the campaigns of former Assyrian kings. These earlier kings were defeated there, and maybe Nabonidus would try to obtain a revenge for the earlier defeats for the Mesopotamian empires. I do not find that reasonable, because he would not have stayed there for so long time, if it was only to revenge his ancestors in a single campaign. 3.1.3. Was it for some sort of religious reasons? It is not very well supported, and it is hard to believe that a so long journey would be made for purely religious reason. Otherwise there would really be some reason to accept the label given to Nabonidus of some priests that he was possessed with some religious madness. 3.1.4. Was it a withdrawal from the direct offence of the Babylonian priests? Most reasonable is that he withdrew himself from the opposition among the Marduk-priests in Babylon. It has also been brought forward that his son with some allied held Nabonidus away from the centre of the power. If they stood behind the usurpation in 556 they possibly could hold the king away for a time. Maybe they did it because his religious ideas would lead to revolts among the clergy of Marduk. Nabonidus himself claims that it was the impiety of the Babylonians, who disregarded Sin supremacy among the deities, but why would the king withdraw for the priests, when his religion had been normal in the area earlier? I think he on the one hand has been a week marionette in front of Belshazzar and his friends, on the other has been able to see the eventual problems, if he provoked the Marduk-honours. 4. Conclusion Nabonidus was a stranger in the Neo-Babylonian empire in several ways: a. He was born in Harran and with indication of Aramaic, west-Semitic, or Assyrian ancestors. b. He had become king as a usurper and not been accepted by all the cities at once. c. He was heavily influenced by his mother, both personal and religious. d. His attempt to change the Babylonian pantheon was doomed to fail before he began. Besides this he also came to stand as a weak king of several reasons: a. He was not able to lead the empire in to the glory and prosperity of its earlier kings, either in war or in trade. b. He was, of the one or other reason (see above), to move his headquarter to Teima for about 10 years. c. He faced a genius strategist in Cyrus, who for the dissatisfied priesthood and the cities of Sippar and Uruk might have looked like a liberator. d. He was so interested in the glorious history of the past empire that he failed to be king. e. He maybe, as some accuse Belshazzar of having had in mind, was too old to be an aggressive king, as he might have been close to 70 years old, when he ascended. There are several elements in the reign of Nabonidus, which can relate to the fall of Babylon to Cyrus. Maybe would a single element not have had the same ‘catastrophic’ result, but all of them at the same time makes un-avoidable. 5. Litterature Texts in Ancient Near Eastern Texts, (3rd. ed.), p. 312 – 15 & 560 – 563 – Ancient Near East I, p. 203 – 4 & 206 – 8 – Ancient Near East II, p. 104 – 12 Beaulieu, P.-A. The reign of Nabonidus, Michigan 1989, p. 1 -235. Gadd, C. J. ‘The Harran Inscriptions of Nabonidus’, Anatolian Studies 8 (1957), p.35 – 92. Lambert, W. G. ‘A new source for the reign of Nabonidus’, AfO nr. 22 (1968-69), p. 1 – 8. Roux, Georges Ancient Iraq, London 1992 (3rd. ed.), p. 377 – 388. Smith, Sidney Babylonian Historical Texts, New York 1975, p. 27 – 123. Smith, Sidney Isaiah chapter XL-LV, London 1944, p. 24 – 48.