decline and fall
Tile lions (taken from the Ishtar Gate processional way in Babylon), the Istanbul Archaeology Museum, Turkey
Following seven turbulent years that saw three new kings in quick succession and two rebellions, the last of the Chaldean Dynasty, Nabonidus, took the throne of Babylon in 556 BCE. He worshipped the moon god, Sin, but neglected local affairs and important religious rituals associated with other gods. For several years, he did not perform the New Year festival in the name of Marduk, the deity of Babylon that renewed the fertility of the land. He also introduced reforms that gave him effective control of temple finances. The unrest and dissatisfaction that these events fostered came at a time when a new power to the east, Persia, had been gradually expanding and spreading its influence.
Antique illustration of the Persian monarch Cyrus II (Cyrus the Great)
Under Cyrus II (Cyrus the Great), the Persians had first overthrown their masters, the Medes, and then expanded to the northwest into Anatolia. During these conquests, Cyrus demonstrated a high degree of tolerance and clemency that encouraged others not to resist. When Cyrus the Great turned against the Babylonians, he was welcomed by a large segment of the population, including the influential priests. Cyrus first defeated Nabonidus in battle at Opis. Nabonidus fled to Babylon but the city surrendered without a fight on October 12, 539 BCE, and the last Babylonian king went into captivity. The Jews and other peoples held under the Babylonians were freed. The entire New Empire of Babylon became part of the Persian Achaemenid Empire, and Babylonia ceased to exist as a separate entity and culture.