Assyria
Part Fifteen
Author: Godspeed, George

 

Heirs Of Assyria

274. The two peoples, whose union had accomplished the overthrow of
Assyria, had no difficulty about the division of the spoils. The Manda
(Medes) were a mountain folk, with problems of organization and aspirations
to conquest as yet limited to the regions east and north of the Tigris.
Their king, whom the Medo-Persian tradition (sect. 267) names Cyaxares,
extended his sway southward over Elam and to the north and northwest to the
borders of Asia Minor, where he came into conflict with the kingdom of
Lydia. A decisive battle for supremacy was averted only by an eclipse (585
B.C.), and subsequent negotiations temporarily fixed the boundary between
the two kingdoms at the river Halys. Cyaxares seems to have been at once a
successful warrior and a wise administrator, the true founder of a firm
nationality among the widespread and restless peoples of this region.
During his lifetime peace between him and the rulers of the kingdom on the
Euphrates was unbroken, sealed as it had been by the marriage of his
daughter to the son of Nabupalucur.

275. It was natural that the provinces of Assyria to the west and south
of the Tigris and the mountain wall as far as the Mediterranean should fall
to the king of Babylon. Various districts of Babylonia seem to have been
held by the Assyrians for a time before the fall of Nineveh (sect. 265), but
thereafter they were united under Babylonian rule with out a struggle. This
fact, coupled with the tradition of the army from the sea which he was sent
to oppose (sect. 268), but with which, it appears, he made common cause,
suggests that Nabupalucur was a Kaldean, and that with him these tribes, so
long struggling with Assyria for the supremacy over Babylon, had at last
attained their goal. Such, also, was the opinion of the Jewish writers, who
call the king and his armies "Chaldean." Hence the new empire may be called
the Kaldean Empire. Yet during the past centuries of contact, so
intermingled in blood and united in common interests had Kaldeans and
Babylonians become, that the empire may with equal propriety be called the
New Babylonian Empire. For its history the chief sources available are the
Greek writers of a later age. Its royal inscriptions, so far as discovered,
are occupied more with the buildings restored by the kings than with the
wars waged by them; with slight exceptions, they are silent as to relations
with the world without. That the Greek historians were not always accurate
is convincingly proved in some crucial instances (sect. 312), and hence the
modern student of the period, who is dependent so largely upon them, treads
often on uncertain ground. Happily, the contemporaneous accounts of the
Hebrew writers, prophets and historians, throw much welcome light on some
important details of foreign affairs.

276. Although Nabupalucur was king twenty-one years (626-605 B.C.), it
was not until the later period of his reign that he became active outside
the limits of his capital. The alliance with the Manda (Medes) and the
beginning of active operations against Nineveh could hardly have been
previous to 610 B.C. The few inscriptions that are known to be his,
describe his works of peace, the rebuilding of Etemenanki, the temple tower
of Babylon, the reopening of the canal at Sippar, and the rearing there of
a temple to the Belit, or "mistress of Sippar." One inscription speaks
vaguely of the destruction of his enemies, and refers particularly to the
overthrow of the Shubari and the turning of "their land into mounds and
plough-land." This would indicate a campaign in northern Mesopotamia, and,
were it not for the statement of Nabuna'id (Nabonidus) that the Babylonian
king had nothing to do with the destruction of the temples of Assyria, might
reasonably be regarded as a reference to the final expedition in which
Nineveh fell. In fact, however, it suggests that while the siege of Nineveh
was going on, the army of Nabupalucur, under his son Nabu-kudurriucur
(Nebuchadrezzar), was operating in upper Mesopotamia on the Euphrates. The
whole region was in confusion; wandering bands of mountaineers were
pillaging the towns; Haran's famous temple of the moon-god was ruined by
such a raid. The army of Necho II. of Egypt (sect. 265) was also
threatening the fords of the river, and, having already taken possession of
Syria, was prepared to demand a still greater share of the spoils of
Nineveh. Nebuchadrezzar, after clearing the country east of the river,
crossed it and met the Egyptians on Syrian soil at the famous city of
Karkhemish in 605 B.C. (Jer. xlvi. 2). Necho was thoroughly beaten and fled
hastily southward, followed by the Kaldean army. The vassal kings paid
their homage to the new conqueror. Among them was Jehoiakim of Judah (2
Kings xxiv. 1). Nebuchadrezzar, at the border of Egypt, received news of
the death of his father. Fearing difficulties regarding his accession, he
made a treaty with Necho by which the latter relinquished his claims to
Palestine and Syria, and at once marched rapidly across the desert to
Babylon. At Babylon he seems to have found all things in quiet, and
ascended the throne at the close of 605 B.C. The heritage of Assyria, so
far as it fell to the Babylonian heir, had been secured, with the exception
of Egypt, and the new king, while ruling over a region far less extensive
than that of the great Assyrian monarchs, possessed a territory that in
size, position, and resources still deserved to be called an empire.

 

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