It was only six years after the death of King Nebuchadnezzar II, and the dynasty founded by him had already lost power. In mid-May, 556 BC, the throne was captured by the indigenous Babylonian Nabonidus, the son of one of the greatest nobles of Babylon. He married the Egyptian queen Nitokris, the widow of Nebuchadnezzar II, and adopted the prince Belsharruusur (Belshazzar), son of Nebuchadnezzar II and Nitokris. Unlike the kings of the Chaldean origin that preceded him, Nabonid was araeem.
The government of Nabonidus was marked by a series of unprecedented acts. Hardly having mastered the throne, he retired to the Arabian steppes and deserts. He was accompanied by an army recruited from the Arameans of the western provinces, faithful to him personally, and not to Babylon. Under his authority were all caravan routes leading through the desert to Babylonia and Egypt.
In Babylonia, Nabonidus, considered to be a zealous follower of the moon god Sina, began to carry out religious reform, in every way belittling the cult of the supreme Babylonian god Marduk. Thus, he apparently sought to unite around him numerous Aramaic tribes, among which the cult of Sina was very popular.
By order of the king, the reconstruction of the temples, built or restored under Nebuchadnezzar II, began. Each restoration of the temples was accompanied by changes in the ritual and the replacement of the priests. At the same time, Nabonid restored the long-disappeared temples, at the head of which he placed his people. In response, influential priests of the Babylonian temple of Marduk accused him of contempt of the main state god. In the whole Middle East, he was called the insane king of Babylon.
He, while there were perestroika temples, horrified by the pious Babylonian inhabitants, continued to stay in Arabia permanently. The king-archaeologist, as Nabonidus is often called, did not show any desire to look at the temples and ziggurats restored by his order.
Meanwhile, in Babylonia several years in a row there was a crop failure. Many said that this was a punishment for the lawlessness of Nabonidus, forcing the gods to restore the country. The situation was exacerbated outside the country. Persian king Cyrus in 553 BC rebelled against the Median king Astyages. Soon, under the blows of the Persians, Midia and Lydia fell. The two most powerful powers of the Near East ceased to exist. Babylon was left alone with the Persians. The Babylonian trade was paralyzed.
The deputation of the Babylonian citizens begged the king to return to Babylon. In 543 BC, Nabonid changed his anger to mercy and granted to the capital. However, the days of Babylonia were already numbered. Cyrus had an army, equal to which was not in the world. More and nobler Babylonians were considering moving to his side. Some of them hated this hatred for Nabonidus, others – the hope to avoid a heavy and bloody war. The poor hoped that Cyrus was a good king and it would be easier to live with him.
As historians write, Babylon was ripe for a fall, and no fortifications could save it from the Persians, Babylonia, the richest (the world’s grave with a large population, virtually no one to protect.
On October 12, 539 BC, Cyrus occupied the capital without encountering resistance, and treated Nabonidus with his characteristic softness towards the defeated kings. Nabonid was sent to honorable exile in a remote province on the outskirts of Persia, where he ended his days. Cyrus did not hate him.
The inscription left by Cyrus says that the Babylonians accepted him as a liberator. A wide stream flowed the troops of Cyrus, the number of which, like the waves of the stream, cannot be counted, they walked, armed, next to him. Without battle and battle, Marduk allowed Kira to enter Babylon, to his city. He protected Babylon from disasters. Nabonidus, the king who did not honor him, Marduk, he gave into the hands of Cyrus. So described the Persian king conquering Babylon.
In the Babylonian Chronicle it is said that the prince Belshazzar, who at that time feasted in the palace, was captured by the Persians by surprise and killed. This event is embodied in the famous legend.
Belshazzar the king made a great feast for a thousand of his nobles and before his eyes drank thousands of wine … 11 or wine and glorified the gods of gold and silver, copper, iron, wood and stone. At that very hour the fingers of the human hand came out and wrote against the lampade on the lime walls of the royal palace, and the king saw the hand that wrote. Then the king changed in his face; His thoughts confused him, the connections of his loins weakened, and his knees began to beat about one another …
And this is what is inscribed: Mene, Mene, Tekel, Uparsin. Here is the meaning of the words: Mene – God numbered your kingdom and put an end to it; Tekel – you are weighed on scales and found very light; Uparsin – your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians …
On the same night Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans was killed (Dan 5, 1-30).
Henceforth, Babylon forever lost its independence and subsequently passed from one conqueror to another. However, he still remained under Cyrus blooming economic center. Along with Persepolis, Susa and Ecbatans, he was declared one of the four capitals of the Persian Empire. The Persians regarded the shrines and culture of the peoples of Mesopotamia with due respect. Babylon maintained the position of one of the greatest cities in the world.
The palace of Nebuchadnezzar was now the residence of the Persian satrap, and Persian kings often lived in Babylon for a long time. Through the city, as before, there were important caravan routes through which goods were transported either to Persia or to the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.
However, when in 479 BC there was an uprising in Babylon, the Persian king Xerxes deprived the city of independence, ordered to destroy Esagila and Etemenanki and ordered to melt the statue of Marduk. Many priests were probably arrested or deported, so that Babylon completely lost its significance as an ancient religious center.
Persian domination in Babylon ended with the invasion of a new conqueror, who was given an enthusiastic meeting, as in his time Cyrus. In October 331 BC, Alexander of Macedon entered Babylon, where he was crowned, offered sacrifices to Marduk and ordered the restoration of the ancient temples. In his design, Babylon in Mesopotamia and Alexandria in Egypt were to become the capitals of his world empire. However, death prevented the implementation of his plans.