The Chaldeans (Neo-Babylonian) Empire
After the fall of Assyrian power in Mesopotamia, the last great group of Semitic peoples dominated the area. Suffering mightily under the Assyrians, the city of Babylon finally rose up against its hated enemy, the city of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian empire, and burned it to the ground.
While the Median kingdom controlled the highland region, the Chaldeans,
with their capital at Babylon, were masters of the Fertile Crescent.
Nebuchadnezzar, becoming king of the Chaldeans in 604 B.C., raised Babylonia
to another epoch of brilliance after more than a thousand years of eclipse. By
defeating the Egyptians in Syria, Nebuchadnezzar ended their hopes of
re-creating their empire. As we have seen (p. 29), he destroyed Jerusalem in
586 B.C. and carried thousands of Jews captive to Babylonia.
Nebuchadnezzar reconstructed Babylon, making it the largest and most
impressive city of its day. The tremendous city walls were wide enough at the
top to have rows of small houses on either side. In the center of Babylon ran
the famous Procession Street, which passed through the Ishtar Gate. This arch,
which was adorned with brilliant tile animals, is the best remaining example
of Babylonian architecture. The immense palace of Nebuchadnezzar towered
terrace upon terrace, each resplendent with masses of ferns, flowers, and
trees. These roof gardens, the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon, were so
beautiful that they were regarded by the Greeks as one of the seven wonders of
the ancient world.
Nebuchadnezzar also rebuilt the great temple-tower or ziggurat, the
Biblical "Tower of Babel," which the Greek historian Herodotus viewed a
century later and described as
a tower of solid masonry, a furlong [220 yards]
in length and breadth, upon which was raised a second
tower, and on that a third, and so on up to eight.
The ascent to the top is on the outside, by a path which
winds round all the towers. ^28
Nebuchadnezzar was the last great Mesopotamian ruler, and Chaldean power
quickly crumbled after his death in 562 B.C. The Chaldean priests - whose
interest in astrology so greatly added to the fund of Babylonian astronomical
knowledge that the word "Chaldean" came to mean astronomer - continually
undermined the monarchy. Finally, in 539 B.C., they opened the gates of
Babylon to Cyrus the Persian, thus fulfilling Daniel's message of doom upon
the notorious Belshazzar, the last Chaldean ruler: "You have been weighed in
the balances and found wanting" (Dan. 5:27).
[Footnote 28: Herodotus History of the Persian Wars 1.181, trans. G.
A project by History World International