Journal of Earth Sciences and Geotechnical Engineering

Babylon in a New Era: The Chaldean and Achaemenid Empires (330-612 BC)

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  • Abstract

    The new rise of Babylon is reported and its domination of the old world is described; when two dynasties ruled Neo- Babylonia from 612 BC to 330 BC.  First, the Chaldeans had taken over from the Assyrians whom they had defeated and established their empire, which lasted for 77 years followed by the Achaemenid dynasty, which was to rule Babylonia for the remaining period as part of their empire. Out of the 77 years of the Chaldean period king, Nebuchadnezzar II ruled for 43 years, which were full of military achievements and construction works and organization. Apart from extending the borders of the empire, he had managed to construct large-scale hydraulic works which were intended for irrigation, navigation and even for defensive purposes. He excavated, re-excavated, and maintained four large feeder canals taking off from the Euphrates, which served the agriculture in the whole area between the Euphrates and the Tigris in the middle and lower Euphrates regions. Moreover, he was concerned with flood protection and so he constructed one large reservoir near Sippar at 60 km north of Babylon to be filled by the Euphrates excess water during floods and to be returned back to the river during low flow season in summer. His works involved river training projects, so he trained the Euphrates by digging artificial meanders to reduce the velocity of the flow and improving navigation and allow the construction of the canal intakes in a less turbulent flows. It seems also that he had diverted the river during the building of Babylon Bridge and trained the Euphrates River penetrating Babylon by constructing riverside revetments. Nebuchadnezzar II had the foresight for building extensive defensive fortifications to secure the country against possible enemy attacks from the north and adding to the walls and fortifications deep moats filled with water for higher security. This was the case with the wall he built north of Sippar. It extended over the whole distance between the two rivers, and the wall around Sippar itself. Similarly, he had dug a great moat alongside the wall of Babylon, which he supplied with water from the Euphrates. Moreover, he had introduced improvements on the four large feeder canals and the extensive canal networks that belonged to them to be used as water barriers against the advance of any enemy troops. Building temples and grand royal palaces and the Babylon Bridge took part of Nebuchadnezzar’s attention and his name was linked with the “Babylon Hanging Gardens”, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, which he had built to please his wife. Description of the gardens according to historians is given in this book in addition to reporting the results of archeological digging of the supposed site, which can shed light on the irrigation method used to irrigate these elevated gardens. The flourishing agriculture and wealth and prosperity it had brought to Babylon during Nebuchadnezzar’s reign is described in details, and the active trading and commercial dealing it had generated is also treated. The first banking services in history related to this period, which was linked to one Jewish family known as “House of Êigibi” is described. This family continued to serve for very long time by collecting the land rents and water taxes for canals use for the government, in addition to concluding contracts and ratifying transactions for the public. As bankers, they gave farmers loans to invest in all types of agrarian operations and practiced money transfers between various cities which helped trading especially with large scale export and imports of the various crops. The Chaldeans rule of Babylon came to an end in 539 BC when Babylon fell to the Achaemenids attacks that were already established in Persia led by Cyrus II. Babylon, however, kept a special position between the various capitols of this empire due to its splendor and wealth. It served therefore as the economical capitol and the winter residence of the kings Achaemenid Empire for most of this period while its agriculture continued to generate a great portion of the empire’s revenue. The archive gave us information on the agrarian relations and the agricultural outputs in Babylonia at that period. During the Achaemenid times, as it was the case during the Chaldean times, irrigation systems in Babylonia were kept under close observation and good maintenance which kept agriculture at its best. The inevitable decline of this empire came in the end due to the rule of weak kings, conspiracies and palace intrigues, and finally the bitter defeat came on the hands of Alexander the Great who entered Babylon in 331 BC and kept it as the Jewel of his new empire.

    Keywords: Babylon, New Era, Chaldean, Achaemenid Empires, Iraq