Persian Empire > Achaemenid Babylonia

Achaemenid Babylonia

Background

Babylonia was absorbed into the Achaemenid Empire in 539 BC. A year before Cyrus' death, in 529 BC, he elevated his son Cambyses II in the government, making him king of Babylon, while he reserved for himself the fuller title of "king of the (other) provinces" of the empire. It was only when Darius I acquired the Persian throne and ruled it as a representative of the Zoroastrian religion, that the old tradition was broken and the claim of Babylon to confer legitimacy on the rulers of western Asia ceased to be acknowledged. Immediately after Darius seized Persia, Babylonia briefly recovered its independence under a native ruler, Nidinta-Bel, who took the name of Nebuchadnezzar III, and reigned from October 522 BC to August 520 BC, when Darius took the city by storm, during this period Assyria to the north also rebelled. A few years later, probably 514 BC, Babylon again revolted under the Armenian king Nebuchadnezzar IV; on this occasion, after its capture by the Persians, the walls were partly destroyed. The Esagila, the great temple of Bel, however, still continued to be kept in repair and to be a center of Babylonian religious feelings. Alexander the Great conquered Babylon in 333 BC for the Greeks, and died there in 323 BC. Babylonia and Assyria then became part of the Greek Seleucid Empire. It has long been maintained that the foundation of Seleucia diverted the population to the new capital of southern Mesopotamia, and that the ruins of the old city became a quarry for the builders of the new seat of government, but the recent publication of the Babylonian Chronicles has shown that urban life was still very much the same well into the Parthian Empire (150 BC to 226 AD). The Parthian king Mithridates conquered the region into the Parthian Empire in 150 BC, and the region became something of a battleground between Greeks and Parthians. There was a brief interlude of Roman conquest (the provinces of Assyria and Mesopotamia; 116-8 AD) under Trajan, after which the Parthians reasserted control. The satrapy of Babylonia was absorbed into Asōristān in the Sasanian Empire, which began in 226 AD, and by this time East Syrian Rite Syriac Christianity (which emerged in Assyria and Upper Mesopotamia the first century AD) had become the dominant religion among the native populace, who had never adopted the Zoroastrianism or Hellenic religions of their rulers. Apart from the small 2nd century BC to 3rd century AD independent Neo-Assyrian states of Adiabene, Osroene, Assur, Beth Garmai and Beth Nuhadra in the north, Mesopotamia remained under largely Persian control until the Arab Muslim conquest of Persia in the seventh century. Asōristān was dissolved as a geopolitical entity in 637, and the native Aramaic-speaking and largely Christian populace of southern and central Mesopotamia gradually underwent Arabization and Islamization.

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Sources

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