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Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 254

About 606 B.C. Nineveh fell, and Sin-shar-ishkun may have burned himself there in his palace, like his uncle, Shamash-shum-ukin of Babylon, and the legendary Sardanapalus. It is not certain, however, whether the Scythians or the Medes were the successful besiegers of the great Assyrian capital. "Woe to the bloody city! it is all full of lies and robbery", Nahum had cried."... The gates of the rivers shall be opened, and the palace shall be dissolved.... Take ye the spoil of silver, take the spoil of gold.... Behold, I am against thee, saith the Lord of hosts[551]."

According to Herodotus, an army of Medes under Cyaxares had defeated the Assyrians and were besieging Nineveh when the Scythians overran Media. Cyaxares raised the siege and went against them, but was defeated. Then the Scythians swept across Assyria and Mesopotamia, and penetrated to the Delta frontier of Egypt. Psamtik ransomed his kingdom with handsome gifts. At length, however, Cyaxares had the Scythian leaders slain at a banquet, and then besieged and captured Nineveh.

Assyria was completely overthrown. Those of its nobles and priests who escaped the sword no doubt escaped to Babylonia. Some may have found refuge also in Palestine and Egypt.

Necho, the second Pharaoh of the Twenty-sixth Egyptian Dynasty, did not hesitate to take advantage of Assyria's fall. In 609 B.C. he proceeded to recover the long-lost Asiatic possessions of Egypt, and operated with an army and fleet. Gaza and Askalon were captured. Josiah, the grandson of Manasseh, was King of Judah. "In his days Pharaoh-nechoh king of Egypt went up against the king of Assyria to the river Euphrates: and king Josiah went against him; and he (Necho) slew him at Megiddo."[552] His son, Jehoahaz, succeeded him, but was deposed three months later by Necho, who placed another son of Josiah, named Eliakim, on the throne, "and turned his name to Jehoiakim".[553] The people were heavily taxed to pay tribute to the Pharaoh.

When Necho pushed northward towards the Euphrates he was met by a Babylonian army under command of Prince Nebuchadrezzar.[554] The Egyptians were routed at Carchemish in 605 B.C. (Jeremiah, xvi, 2).

In 604 B.C. Nabopolassar died, and the famous Nebuchadrezzar II ascended the throne of Babylon. He lived to be one of its greatest kings, and reigned for over forty years. It was he who built the city described by Herodotus (pp. 219 et seq.), and constructed its outer wall, which enclosed so large an area that no army could invest it. Merodach's temple was decorated with greater magnificence than ever before. The great palace and hanging gardens were erected by this mighty monarch, who no doubt attracted to the city large numbers of the skilled artisans who had fled from Nineveh. He also restored temples at other cities, and made generous gifts to the priests. Captives were drafted into Babylonia from various lands, and employed cleaning out the canals and as farm labourers.

The trade and industries of Babylon flourished greatly, and Nebuchadrezzar's soldiers took speedy vengeance on roving bands which infested the caravan roads. "The king of Egypt", after his crushing defeat at Carchemish, "came not again any more out of his land: for the king of Babylon had taken from the river of Egypt unto the river Euphrates all that pertained to the king of Egypt."[555] Jehoiakim of Judah remained faithful to Necho until he was made a prisoner by Nebuchadrezzar, who "bound him in fetters to carry him to Babylon".[556] He was afterwards sent back to Jerusalem. "And Jehoiakim became his (Nebuchadrezzar's) servant three years: then he turned and rebelled against him."[557]


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