The Ancient Babylon Empire comprised of modern day Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel. It was not only a geopolitical mass, it was a center of scholarship and science. The scholarly excellence of Babylon is highlighted by the presence of cuneiform, which are the earliest form of writings. The scientific advancements enabled Babylon to firmly plant itself as the earliest world’s superpower. In fact, historians point out Mesopotamia, which was in Babylon, as being the first place in which agriculture was practiced. This enabled Babylon to feed its population and grow as a civilization.
Other than its apparent economic astuteness, the city of Babylon was considered to be an architectural marvel. It had high walls around it that were impregnable. The Euphrates River ran through the city. This feature allowed commerce to happen right in the middle of the city. Given the obvious security concerns that came with the river running through the city, two spiked gates were erected on either side. These gates went right down to the riverbed. In a true sense, the city was impregnable.
The political system was also stable. Under a hereditary kingship, political stability was a given in the Babylonian Empire. The military were well equipped with weaponry that included bronze chariots. This makes one wonder why Babylon fell to Cyrus in 569 B.C.E without much of a resistance.
The Fall of Babylon
“Isaiah 44:28 That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.
45:1 Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut”
Religious scholars are quick to point out that the collapse of Babylon was a function of divine interception. In fact, the quoted book of Isaiah goes to mention with exact precision how the city of Babylon, would come to fall. True, the precision (Sounds a little awkward, maybe re-word the beginning of this sentence) and even the mentioning of Cyrus as the one to conquer Babylon was very accurate. However, despite this, the Babylonian Empire was undergoing challenges that were rocking its stature as a world superpower[i].
Under the reign of King Cyrus ii, the Persian Empire had been stealthily growing. As of the time of the Babylonian invasion, the geopolitical mass of Persia comprised of Turkey, Afghanistan, Armenia, and even parts of Iran, which were Babylonian stronghold. In effect, the political landscape of the Persians surrounded Babylon, to the North, East, and West. The south comprised of Arabia, which was under Babylonian control and was historically in constant war with Persia. By surrounding Babylon, Persia was able to build its own economic might at the expense of the Babylonians. This was by not allowing any trade from those directions to take place with Babylon. In fact, it was unlawful for Persian merchant to trade with Babylon. This in effect, reduced Babylonian trade to the Arabian lands in the South[ii].
Babylon was centered on agriculture. Not only was it the main economic backbone (backbone of what?the civilization?)(backbone of the economy, as is written), it provided Babylonians with food for both subsistence and trade. In this particular era, a prolonged drought had brought a great decline in food harvests. With the expanded population and little trade going on due to Persian efforts, and the Arabian lands being of little agricultural viability, it resulted in a famine crisis. This lowered the already ailing economic situation to lower levels. Not only were the masses poor, they were also hungry. This made them volatile and led to their lack of faith in the Babylon Empire to help solve the problem[iii].
King Nebuchadnezzar is credited to having brought Babylon from a kingdom to an empire. This was through conquest and having neighboring kingdoms pay homage to him. His greatest strength was his character. Being religious, he treated his subjects humanely and was immensely popular, to the point where he was venerated as a god. Upon his death in 562B.C.E, he left a great void. In a bid to fill it, political conspiracies became the order. His son Amel-Marduk succeeded him. However, Amel-Marduck’s lack of character led to him being overthrown by his brother in law Nergal-shaw-usur. He too was overthrown and his young son Labashi-Marduk was installed. His reign was not to last long as he was assassinated. A person out of the royal family was installed as King, his name was Nabonidus.
King Nabonidus, is reported to have been mentally unstable and poor in politics. He was immensely unpopular to his subjects. This culminated to the point where went on a self-imposed exile in the Arabian desert, in his absence, his son Belshazzar ruled. All this happened at a short time span of between 562 and 569 B.C.E! It was during Belshazzar’s time in the throne that Cyrus took Babylon. Historical records point out that by the time that Cyrus was taking over the Babylon, the negligent Belshazzar had thrown a feast. This was despite that Babylon had an ongoing battle with Cyrus at Opis! [iv]
Cyrus was a keen politician who was liberal minded. By allowing conquered subjects to be assimilated as Persian citizens, whereas at the same time maintaining their religions, he effectively won them over. Babylonian captives, were disoriented with Babylon religious practices that included human deities and outlawed any other religious practices, other than the Babylonian religions. This made them warm up to Cyrus’ dominion over Babylon. This means that even before he took over Babylon, his rule already had supporters in Babylon. In the Battle of Opis, the Babylonians got a decisive defeat. Babylon had been left without much resistance to the invading Persians. This gave Cyrus ample time to divert the Euphrates River allowing his soldiers to much on the riverbed into the city. Belshazzar’s feast had left little if any security alert, leaving it open for capture. The rule of Cyrus was welcomed by Babylonian masses as he allowed them a measure of liberty especially regarding religious matters. Cyrus liberated Jews from Babylonian captivity as had been foretold[v].
Historians point out that the fall of Babylon was imminent and bound to happen sooner or later as did other world powers that came after it. From the research done by this paper, the fall of Babylon cannot be attributed to only one cause, rather a number of factors came in together to cause the fall. Religious scholars may point out towards a supernatural hand in the matter. However, without adopting a biased viewpoint one can conclude that Babylon may have reached the end of its cycle as a world power and its decline was necessary in order to pass the mantle to Persia[vi].
 The book of Isaiah is estimated to have been written 200 years prior to the fall of Babylon.
[i] (Appell 1961)
[ii] (Bauer 2007)
[iii] (Gasche 1998)
[iv] (Bauer 2007)
[v] (Appell 1961)
[vi] (Woodroffe 1960)
Appell, Theron B. 1961. Belshazzar, Or, The Fall Of Babylon. New Haven [Conn.]: Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor.
Bauer, S. Wise. 2007. The History Of The Ancient World. New York: W.W. Norton.
Gasche, H. 1998. Dating The Fall Of Babylon. Chicago, IL: University of Ghent and the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.
Woodroffe, Benjamin. 1960. The Fall Of Babylon, Or, Seasonable Reflections On The Novelties Of Rome. London: Printed for George Powel and to be sold by Randal Taylor.