Length: 13.970 cm
Width: 14.600 cm
Room 55: Mesopotamia
Cuneiform tablet with part of the Nabonidus Chronicle (556-530s BC)
Neo-Babylonian dynasty, about 530-400 BC
Probably from Babylon, southern Iraq
The fall of a dynasty
This tablet forms part of a series, and summarises the principal events of each year from the accession of Nabonidus in 556 until the 530s BC. The chronicle stresses that Nabonidus was absent in Arabia for much of his reign, thereby interrupting performances of the annual spring festival in Babylon where the king's presence was essential.
Nabonidus established a base at the oasis of Teima on the caravan routes and campaigned against other rich oases or negotiated alliances with the Arabs. The king spent ten years in Arabia and left Babylonia administered by his son, Bel-shar-usur (Belshazzar of the Old Testament).
Meanwhile, Cyrus, the king of Anshan and Persia in south-west Iran, defeated king Astyges of Media (western Iran). This gave Cyrus territory from eastern Iran to the Halys River in Anatolia. Croesus, the king of Lydia, felt threatened and met the Persian army in battle in 547 BC. The Persians pursued Croesus back to the Lydian capital at Sardis which fell after a two-week siege. The Babylonians were allied with Lydia and eventually in September/October 539 BC the Persian and Babylonian armies met at Opis, east of the Tigris. Cyrus was victorious, the cities of Sippar and Babylon surrendered, Nabonidus was captured, and the Persian king entered Babylon as the new ruler.
J.B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern texts rel, 3rd ed. (Princeton University Press, 1969)
A.K. Grayson, Babylonian and Assyrian chroni (Locust Valley, J.J. Augustin, 1975)