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Nabopolassar
  • King of Babylon
  • King of Sumer and Akkad
  • King of the Universe
Cylinder of Nabopolassar from Babylon, Mesopotamia..JPG
Clay cylinder of Nabopolassar from Babylon
King of the Neo-Babylonian Empire
Reign 626–605 BC
Predecessor Sinsharishkun
(Neo-Assyrian Empire)
Successor Nebuchadnezzar II
Born c. 658 BC
Uruk (?)
Died 605 BC (aged c. 53)
Babylon
Issue Nebuchadnezzar II
Nabu-shum-lishir
Nabu-zer-ushabshi
Akkadian Nabû-apla-uṣur
Dynasty Chaldean dynasty
Father Kudurru (?)

Nabopolassar (Babylonian cuneiform: Nabopolassar in Akkadian.png Nabû-apla-uṣur, meaning "Nabu, protect the son") was the founder and first king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, ruling from his coronation as king of Babylon in 626 BC to his death in 605 BC. Though initially only aimed at restoring and securing the independence of Babylonia, Nabopolassar's uprising against the Neo-Assyrian Empire, which had ruled Babylonia for more than a century, eventually led to the complete destruction of the Assyrian Empire and the rise of the Neo-Babylonian Empire in its place.

Of unclear, possibly Chaldean, origin and potentially connected to a powerful political family in the southern city of Uruk, Nabopolassar revolted against the Neo-Assyrian king Sinsharishkun at an opportune moment when Babylonia was already plagued by political instability. Though the advantage shifted back and forth dramatically several times, Nabopolassar managed to decisively push the Assyrians out of Babylonia after nearly ten years of fighting. Subsequent campaigns were intended to hinder the possibility of an Assyrian campaign directed at Babylonia through securing the border, but the intervention of the eastern Median Empire under Cyaxares in Nabopolassar's favor shifted the goals and the possibilities of the war.

In 614 BC, the Medes brutally sacked the city of Assur, the religious and ceremonial heart of Assyria, and in 612 BC the Medes and Babylonians assaulted Nineveh, Assyria's capital. As with Assur before it, Nineveh was brutally sacked, with its inhabitants, including children, slaughtered en masse and the entire city being burned to the ground. Sinsharishkun probably died in its defense. Other Assyrian cities, such as Nimrud, were also assaulted and sacked much in the same way. The brutality of the Medes, including their habit of sacking even the religious temples, was so excessive that it shocked the Babylonians; contemporary Babylonian chronicles, otherwise hostile to the Assyrians, lament the sackings with sorrow and remorse. Nabopolassar's own attitude towards Assyria is unclear; in some inscriptions he is careful to ascribe his victory and its aftermath to divine intervention to rid himself of the blame and in others he openly boasts of the destruction.

The Neo-Babylonian Empire's claim to succeed the Neo-Assyrian Empire was immediately challenged by Egypt under Pharaoh Necho II, who fought for several years to restore the Assyrians, whom he was allied to, until he was defeated at the Battle of Carchemish in 605 BC. Upon his death that same year, Nabopolassar was succeeded by his son Nebuchadnezzar II. As the founder of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, Nabopolassar was long remembered by the Babylonians after his death, even beyond the fall of his empire less than a century later. In the Hellenistic period, several centuries later, Nabopolassar's legend was still remembered, with Babylonian authors casting him as a champion ordered by Marduk, Babylon's chief deity, to avenge their homeland, and as a symbol against the domination of foreign empires over Babylon.

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