History 151:  Ancient and Medieval History

The  Neo-Babylonians & Persians

The Neo-Babylonian Empire


n    Babylon received the leadership of the former Assyrian Empire

ä   The Medes contented themselves with a small region in northeastern Mesopotamia

ä   Babylon and Egypt struggled for control over Palestine –including the Kingdom of Judah


n    Nabopolasser’s new kingdom passed to his son, Nebuchadrezzar, in 605 B.C.E.


n    Nebuchadrezzar military achievements

ä   Defeated Egypt at the Battle of Carchemesh (Syria)

ä   Gained control over Syria and Palestine

ä   Forced to return annually to retain his tributaries

ä   Finally destroyed various recalcitrant cities

   Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.)


n    Nebuchadrezzar’s domestic achievements

ä   Enlarged and beautified Babylon’s temples and palaces

   The Hanging Gardens


n    Following Nebuchadrezzar, the Neo-Babylonian Empire passed to a series of ineffective rulers

      -- The empire quickly fell into the hands of Medes and Persians 


The Rise of the Persian Empire


n        The Neo-Babylonian Empire passed to a series of ineffective rulers


n        Cyrus (I) the Great consolidated the several chiefdoms of the Medes and Persians

ä        Overran all of Anatolia (Lydia and Ionia)

ä        Defeated Babylon on October 12, 539 B.C.E.


n    Cyrus’ administrative system

Þ           The Royal Road – trade and communication

Þ           Administrative units – satrapies and satraps

Þ           Divided administrative functions within each satrap

Þ           Pursued a policy of benign rule and toleration


n    When Cyrus the Great died, his empire passed to a series of dynamic rulers who extended the empire further

Þ          Cambyses (528-522 B.C.E.) conquered Egypt

Þ          Darius (520-486 B.C.E.) won the contested succession

        Attempted to subjugate Greece (the Battle of Marathon)

Þ          Xerxes (485-465 B.C.E.) unsuccessfully invaded Greece

Þ          A series of other “Great Kings” continued to control the Levant until 332 B.C.E.


n    Religious implications of the Persian Empire

Þ          The policy of toleration allowed the Jews to reestablish themselves in Palestine

         Cyrus the Great contributed to the rebuilding of the Temple

Þ          Zoroaster (Zarathustra) introduced a new religion based on ancient Persian deities


         “Persian dualism”

         Belief in a “Judgement Day”