Nebuchadnezzar part 2

by John Thomas Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

part 2
Nebuchadnezzar's most significant victory from his time as the crown prince came at the Battle of Carchemish in 605 BC, which put an end to Necho's campaign in the Levant by inflicting a crushing defeat on the Egyptians. Nebuchadnezzar's army annihilated Necho's forces, with Babylonian sources claiming that not a single Egyptian escaped alive. Nebuchadnezzar had been the sole commander of the Babylonian army at this battle as his father had chosen to stay in Babylon, perhaps on account of illness. The account of the battle in the Babylonian Chronicle reads as follows:
The king of Akkad stayed home (while) Nebuchadnezzar, his eldest son (and) crown prince, mustered the army of Akkad. He took his army's lead and marched to Carchemish, which is on the bank of the Euphrates. He crossed the river at Carchemish. ... They did battle together. The army of Egypt retreated before him. He inflicted a defeat upon them (and) finished them off ultimately. In the district of Hamath, the army of Akkad overtook the remainder of the army of Egypt, which managed to escape from the defeat and which was not overcome. They inflicted a defeat upon them (so that) a single (Egyptian) man did not return home. At that time, Nebuchadnezzar conquered all of Hamath.
The story of Nebuchadnezzar's victory at Carchemish reverberated through history, appearing in many later ancient accounts, including in the Book of Jeremiah and the Books of Kings in the Bible. It is possible to conclude, based on subsequent geopolitics, that the victory resulted in all of Syria and Palestine coming under the control of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, a feat that the Assyrians under Tiglath-Pileser III (r. 745–727 BC) only accomplished after five years of protracted military campaigns." The defeat of Egypt at Carchemish ensured that the Neo-Babylonian Empire would grow to become the central power of the ancient Near East and the uncontested successor of the Neo-Assyrian Empire.
Building projects

Babylon's Ishtar Gate was restored and beautified in the reign of Nebuchadnezzar
The Babylonian king was traditionally a builder and restorer, and as such large-scale building projects were necessary as a legitimizing factor for Babylonian rulers. The projects were made possible through the prospering economy during Nebuchadnezzar's reign, sustained by his conquests. Nebuchadnezzar extensively expanded and rebuilt his capital city of Babylon, and the most modern historical and archaeological interpretations of the city reflect it as it appeared after Nebuchadnezzar's construction projects. His building inscriptions record work done to numerous temples, notably the restoration of the Esagila, the main temple of Babylon's national deity Marduk, and the completion of the Etemenanki, a great ziggurat dedicated to Marduk.
Extensive work was also conducted on civil and military structures. Among the most impressive efforts was the work done surrounding the city's northern ceremonial entrance, the Ishtar Gate. These projects included restoration work on the South Palace inside the city walls, the construction of a completely new North Palace on the other side of the walls facing the gate, as well as the restoration of Babylon's Processional Street, which led through the gate, and of the gate itself. The ruins of Nebuchadnezzar's North Palace are poorly preserved, and as such, its structure and appearance are not entirely understood. Nebuchadnezzar also constructed a third palace, the Summer Palace, built some distance north of the inner city walls in the northernmost corner of the outer walls.
The restored Ishtar Gate was decorated with blue and yellow glazed bricks and depictions of bulls (symbols of the God Adad) and dragons (symbols of the God Marduk). Similar bricks were used for the walls surrounding the Processional Street, which also featured depictions of lions (symbols of the goddess Ishtar). Babylon's Processional Street, the only such street yet excavated in Mesopotamia, ran along the eastern walls of the South Palace and exited the inner city walls at the Ishtar Gate, running past the North Palace. To the south, this street went by the Etemenanki, turning to the west and going over a bridge constructed under Nabopolassar or Nebuchadnezzar's reign. Some of the Processional Street bricks bear the name of the Neo-Assyrian king Sennacherib (r. 705–681 BC) on their underside, perhaps indicating that construction of the street had begun already during his reign. However, the fact that the upper side of the bricks all bear the name of Nebuchadnezzar suggests that construction of the street was completed under Nebuchadnezzar's reign. Glazed bricks such as the ones used in Procession Street were also used in the throne room of the South Palace, which was decorated with depictions of lions and tall, stylized palm trees.
Nebuchadnezzar also directed building efforts in Borsippa, with several of his inscriptions recording restoration work on that city's temple, the Ezida, dedicated to the god Nabu. Additionally, Nebuchadnezzar also restored the ziggurat of the Ezida, the E-are-imin-Anki. Also, it worked on the temple of Gula, Utila, and numerous other temples and shrines in the city. Nebuchadnezzar also repaired Borsippa's walls.
Other great building projects by Nebuchadnezzar include the Nar-Shamash, a canal to bring water from the Euphrates close to the city of Sippar, and the Median Wall, a large defensive structure built to defend Babylonia against incursions from the north. The Median Wall was one of two walls built to protect Babylonia's northern border. Further evidence that Nebuchadnezzar believed the north to be the most likely point of attack for his enemies is that he fortified northern cities, such as Babylon, Borsippa, and Kish, but left the walls of southern cities, such as Ur and Uruk, as they were. Nebuchadnezzar also began work on the Royal Canal, also known as Nebuchadnezzar's Canal, a grand canal linking the Euphrates to the Tigris, which in time completely transformed the agriculture of the region. However, the structure was not completed until the reign of Nabonidus, who ruled as the last king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire from 556 to 539 BC.
Death and succession
Nebuchadnezzar died in Babylon in 562 BC. Having ruled for 43 years, Nebuchadnezzar's reign was the longest of his dynasty, and he would be remembered favorably by the Babylonians. The last known tablet dated to Nebuchadnezzar's reign, from Uruk, is dated to the same day, 7 October, as the first known tablet of his successor, Amel-Marduk, from Sippar. Amel-Marduk's administrative duties probably began before he became king, during the last few weeks or months of his father's reign when Nebuchadnezzar was ill and dying.
Amel-Marduk's accession does not appear to have gone smoothly. Amel-Marduk was not the eldest living son of Nebuchadnezzar, and the reason he was picked as the crown prince is unknown. The choice is extraordinary given that some sources suggest that the relationship between Nebuchadnezzar and Amel-Marduk was abysmal, with one surviving text describing both as parties in some form of conspiracy and accusing one of them (the text is too fragmentary to determine which one) of failing in essential duties of Babylonian kingship through exploiting Babylon's populace and desecrating its temples. Amel-Marduk also, at one point, appears to have been imprisoned by his father, possibly on account of the Babylonian aristocracy having proclaimed him as king while Nebuchadnezzar was away. It is possible that Nebuchadnezzar intended to replace Amel-Marduk as heir with another son but died before doing so.
In one of Nebuchadnezzar's late inscriptions, written more than forty years into his reign, he wrote that he had been chosen for the kingship by the gods before he was even born. Mesopotamian rulers typically only stressed divine legitimacy in this fashion when their actual legitimacy was questionable, a method often employed by usurpers. Given that Nebuchadnezzar had been king for several decades and was the legitimate heir of his predecessor, the inscription is extraordinary unless it was intended to help legitimize Nebuchadnezzar's successor, Amel-Marduk, who as a younger son and a former conspirator could be seen as politically problematic.

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