Nebuchadnezzar (or Nebudchadrezzar) II (ca. 630 BC - ca. 562 BC), perhaps the best known ruler of Babylon in the Neo-Babylonian Dynasty. He is (in)famous for his conquests of Judah and Jerusalem, in addition to his monumental building within his capital of Babylon. He is sometimes called "Nebuchadnezzar the Great", but because of his destruction of temples in Jerusalem and the conquest of Judah, he was vilified in the Bible and the appellation of "Great" was difficult to survive.
His name, in Akkadian Nabû-kudurri-uṣur, means "Nebo, protect the boundary-stone". In an inscription he styles himself "Nebo's favourite." (The Hebrew form is נבוכדנאצר Nəbhûkhadhnệşşar, Nevuchadnetzar, N'vuchadnetzar.)
Nebuchadnezzar was the oldest son and successor of Nabopolassar, who delivered Babylon from its dependence on Assyria and laid Nineveh in ruins. He married the daughter of Cyaxares, and thus the Median and Babylonian dynasties were united.
Necho II, the king of Egypt, had gained a victory over the Assyrians at Carchemish. This secured Egypt the possession of Phoenician provinces of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, including parts of Palestine. The remaining Assyrian provinces were divided between Babylonia and Media. Nabopolassar was intent on reconquering from Necho the western provinces of Syria, however, and to this end dispatched his son with a powerful army westward. In the ensuing Battle of Carchemish in 606 BC, the Egyptian army was defeated and driven back, and Syria and Phoenicia were brought under the sway of Babylon. Nabopolassar died on August 15, 605 BC and Nebuchadnezzar quickly returned to Babylon to ascend to the throne.
Nebuchadnezzar subsequently engaged in several military campaigns designed to increase Babylonian influence in Syria and Judah, capturing Jerusalem in 597 BC, bringing King Jehoiachin to Babylon. Another siege of Jerusalem occurred in 586 BC, ending in the destruction of both the city and the Temple and the deportation of many prominent citizens to Babylon. These events are described in the Bible.
A clay tablet, now in the British Museum, bears the following inscription referring to his wars: "In the thirty-seventh year of Nebuchadnezzar, king of the country of Babylon, he went to Mitzraim (Egypt) to make war. Amasis, king of Egypt, collected [his army], and marched and spread abroad." Having completed the subjugation of Phoenicia, and inflicted chastisement on Egypt, Nebuchadnezzar now set himself to rebuild and adorn the city of Babylon, and constructed canals, aqueducts and reservoirs.
After his death in October, 562 BC, at the age of 83 or 84, having reigned forty-three years, he was succeeded by his son Evil-merodach, who, after a reign of two years, was succeeded by Neriglissar (559 - 555), who was succeeded by Nabonidus (555 - 538), at the close of whose reign (less than a quarter of a century after the death of Nebuchadnezzar) Babylon fell under Cyrus at the head of the combined armies of Media and Persia.
- Chapter 23, "The Chaldaean Kings" in George Roux, Ancient Iraq (3rd ed.). London: Penguin Books, 1992. ISBN 014012523-X
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04