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Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 256

Tyre was besieged, but was not captured. Its king, however, arranged terms of peace with Nebuchadrezzar.

Amel-Marduk, the "Evil Merodach" of the Bible, the next king of Babylon, reigned for a little over two years. He released Jehoiachin from prison, and allowed him to live in the royal palace.[562] Berosus relates that Amel-Marduk lived a dissipated life, and was slain by his brother-in-law, Nergal-shar-utsur, who reigned two years (559-6 B.C.). Labashi-Marduk, son of Nergal-shar-utsur, followed with a reign of nine months. He was deposed by the priests. Then a Babylonian prince named Nabu-na┬┤id (Nabonidus) was set on the throne. He was the last independent king of Babylonia. His son Belshazzar appears to have acted as regent during the latter part of the reign.

Nabonidus engaged himself actively during his reign (556-540 B.C.) in restoring temples. He entirely reconstructed the house of Shamash, the sun god, at Sippar, and, towards the end of his reign, the house of Sin, the moon god, at Haran. The latter building had been destroyed by the Medes.

The religious innovations of Nabonidus made him exceedingly unpopular throughout Babylonia, for he carried away the gods of Ur, Erech, Larsa, and Eridu, and had them placed in E-sagila. Merodach and his priests were displeased: the prestige of the great god was threatened by the policy adopted by Nabonidus. As an inscription composed after the fall of Babylon sets forth; Merodach "gazed over the surrounding lands ... looking for a righteous prince, one after his own heart, who should take his hands.... He called by name Cyrus."

Cyrus was a petty king of the shrunken Elamite province of Anshan, which had been conquered by the Persians. He claimed to be an Achaemenian--that is a descendant of the semi-mythical Akhamanish (the Achaemenes of the Greeks), a Persian patriarch who resembled the Aryo-Indian Manu and the Germanic Mannus. Akhamanish was reputed to have been fed and protected in childhood by an eagle--the sacred eagle which cast its shadow on born rulers. Probably this eagle was remotely Totemic, and the Achaemenians were descendants of an ancient eagle tribe. Gilgamesh was protected by an eagle, as we have seen, as the Aryo-Indian Shakuntala was by vultures and Semiramis by doves. The legends regarding the birth and boyhood of Cyrus resemble those related regarding Sargon of Akkad and the Indian Karna and Krishna.

Cyrus acknowledged as his overlord Astyages, king of the Medes. He revolted against Astyages, whom he defeated and took prisoner. Thereafter he was proclaimed King of the Medes and Persians, who were kindred peoples of Indo-European speech. The father of Astyages was Cyaxares, the ally of Nabopolassar of Babylon. When this powerful king captured Nineveh he entered into possession of the northern part of the Assyrian Empire, which extended westward into Asia Minor to the frontier of the Lydian kingdom; he also possessed himself of Urartu (Armenia). Lydia had, after the collapse of the Cimmerian power, absorbed Phrygia, and its ambitious king, Alyattes, waged war against the Medes. At length, owing to the good offices of Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon and Syennesis of Cilicia, the Medes and Lydians made peace in 585 B.C. Astyages then married a daughter of the Lydian ruler.


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