Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Nora. Nora Wonders, “What was the Neo Babylonian empire” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Nora!

Can you name any ancient empires? Perhaps the Maya come to mind. You might think of those built by Genghis Khan or Alexander the Great. Or maybe your mind jumps to the topic of today’s Wonder of the Day—the Neo-Babylonian Empire. 

Are you WONDERing why it’s called the NEO-Babylonian Empire? The prefix “neo-” means “new.” It sets this empire apart from the Old Babylonian Empire. Yes, there were two of them—and they were about a thousand years apart!

Babylon was one of the largest cities in the ancient world. In the mid-7th century B.C.E., it was ruled by the Assyrians. However, the Assyrian Empire was in decline. In 627 B.C.E., Babylon took up arms against the Assyrian king. The next year, they crowned a general named Nabopolassar as their king. This began the Neo-Babylonian Empire.

The Neo-Babylonian Empire’s most famous king was crowned in 604 B.C.E. His name was Nebuchadnezzar II. Does that ring a bell? It might if you know much about the Jewish or Christian religions. Nebuchadnezzar is written about in the religious texts of both traditions.

Nebuchadnezzar grew the empire until it covered all the land once ruled by the Assyrians. He also destroyed Jerusalem in the early 6th century B.C.E. He forced many Jewish people from Jerusalem to come with him to Babylon. They were held captive there for about 50 years.

The empire continued to grow in power and size. It also became known for its architecture. Nebuchadnezzar II built large ornate walls around the capital city of Babylon. He also built the Ishtar Gate. It was made from blue-glazed bricks and covered in pictures of fierce animals. 

Nebuchadnezzar II is also credited with building a WONDER of the ancient world. His wife, Amytis, had moved to Babylon from Media. Nebuchadnezzar II supposedly created the Hanging Gardens of Babylon to remind her of her home. However, experts today are unsure whether the Hanging Gardens were actually in Babylon. Some think they never existed at all.

Nebuchadnezzar II died in 562 B.C.E. The Neo-Babylonian Empire came to an end only 23 years later in 539 B.C.E. That year, troops led by Cyrus the Great took over the city of Babylon. It would be part of the Persian Empire until it was taken by Alexander the Great.

Today, the ruins of Babylon sit in the region many call Iraq. Efforts were once made to restore parts of the ancient site. However, the U.S. military damaged the ruins while building a base there in 2003. Babylon was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2019.

Today, people can still visit parts of the ancient city. Would you like to see the ruins of Babylon one day? As an important city to so many ancient empires, it’s a valuable piece of history.

Standards: C3.D2.His.2, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.9, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2

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