History of Iraq 4 – the Chaldeans (626-539 B.C.)
In 612 B.C. Nineveh, capital of Assyria, was captured by the Chaldean Nabopolassar. After the siege the ramparts were destroyed and the king burned to death in his palace.
The fall of Nineveh marked the end of Assyrian political and military domination and a new era in Mesopotamian civilisation was inaugurated by the Chaldeans.
Their greatest king was Nabu-Chodonossar, who reigned for forty years (605-562 B.C.), and most famous for his building achievements, particularly in his capital, Babel, which was continually being enlarged and beautified during his reign.
One of the seven wonders of the world, the hanging gardens, were created here. In the magnificent palace built for his wife Amanis, daughter of Atyakis, whose homeland was in the mountains, the king wanted her to have the type of scenery with which she was familiar.
Accordingly, he had gardens planted, complete with trees, and an ingenious irrigation system on each of the seven stories of the palace.
The gateway of Ishtar is another of his magnificent achievements. It is made of gaily coloured glazed bricks with carvings in relief of a lion, a bull, and the mythical animal called Mushakhshu, one of the forms of their god Marduk. The gateway is now in the Berlin Museum. It is 50 meters high, including the towers, and 8 meters wide, leading to the Processional Way, as wide as the towers and one hundred meters long.
Major construction and irrigation works were carried out over the whole country. He was also a religious reformer and propagated Babylonian culture through-out the whole of the Middle East.
His successors, after his death in 562 B.C., were weak monarchs. They added little that was new, failing even to preserve the heritage passed on to them.
In 539 B.C., Kursh, king of Persia, took Babel and annexed Iraq, and for the next two centuries the country was under Persian rule.