Battle of Opis

The Battle of Opis, fought in September 539 BC, was a major engagement between the armies of Persia under Cyrus the Great and the Neo-Babylonian Empire under Nabonidus during the Persian invasion of Mesopotamia. At the time, Babylonia was the last major power in western Asia that was not yet under Persian control. The battle was fought in or near the strategic riverside city of Opis, north of the capital Babylon. It resulted in a decisive victory for the Persians. A few days later, the city of Sippar surrendered to the Persians and Cyrus's forces entered Babylon apparently without a fight. Cyrus was subsequently proclaimed king of Babylonia and its subject territories, thus ending the independence of Babylon and incorporating the Babylonian Empire into the greater Persian Empire.

Battle of Opis
Part of the Campaigns of Cyrus the Great
DateSeptember 25 – September 28?, 539 BC
Location
Result Decisive Persian victory.[1][2]
Territorial
changes
Neo-Babylonian Empire annexed by Persia.
Belligerents
Neo-Babylonian Empire Achaemenid Empire
Commanders and leaders
Nabonidus of Babylonia,
Belshazzar 
Cyrus the Great,
Gobryas of Gutium,
Pantea Arteshbod,
Aryasb[3],
unknown others
Casualties and losses
Heavy?[4] Unknown
Ancient near east 540 bc
Ancient Near East prior to the invasion of Babylon by Cyrus the Great

Location

The site of the battle was at the city of Opis on the river Tigris, located about 50 miles (80 km) north of modern Baghdad. The city is thought to have been a preferred point to cross the river; Xenophon describes a bridge there.[5][6] The timing of the invasion may have been determined by the ebb of the Mesopotamian rivers, which are at their lowest levels – and therefore are easiest to cross – in the early autumn.[7]

Opis was a place of considerable strategic importance; apart from the river crossing, it was at one end of the Median Wall, a fortified defensive barrier north of Babylon that had been built several decades earlier by Nebuchadnezzar II. Control of Opis would have enabled Cyrus to break through the Median Wall and open the road to the capital.[8]

Sources

The main contemporary source of information on Cyrus's Mesopotamian campaign of 539 BC is the Nabonidus Chronicle, one of a series of clay tablets collectively known as the Babylonian Chronicles that record the history of ancient Babylonia. Some additional detail is provided by one of the few documents to have survived from Cyrus's lifetime, the Cyrus Cylinder. Further information on Cyrus's campaign is provided by the later ancient Greek writers Herodotus and Xenophon, though neither mention the battle at Opis and their accounts of the campaign differ considerably from the Persian and Babylonian sources. Most scholars prefer to use the Nabonidus Chronicle as the main source on the battle, as it is a contemporaneous source.[9]

Although much of the Nabonidus Chronicle is fragmentary, the section relating to the last year of Nabonidus's reign – 539 BC – is mostly intact. It provides very little information about Cyrus's activities in the years immediately preceding the battle. The chronicler focuses on events of immediate relevance to Babylonia and its rulers, only occasionally records events outside Babylonia and does not provide much detail other than a bare outline of key incidents. There is almost no information for the period 547-539. Most of the chronicle's text for this period is illegible, making it impossible to assess the significance of the few words that can be read.[10]

Background

At the time of the Battle of Opis, Persia was the leading power in the Near East. Its power had grown enormously under its king, Cyrus II, who had conquered a huge swathe of territory to create an empire that covered an area corresponding to the modern countries of Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan. The only remaining significant unconquered power in the Near East was the Neo-Babylonian Empire, which controlled Mesopotamia and subject kingdoms such as Syria, Judea, Phoenicia and parts of Arabia. It had been closely linked with Cyrus's enemies elsewhere. The empire was previously an ally of Croesus of Lydia, whose kingdom was overrun by the Persians a few years prior to the invasion of Babylonia.[11]

By the time of the battle, Babylonia was in an unpromising geopolitical situation; the Persian empire bordered it to the north, east and west. It had also been suffering severe economic problems exacerbated by plague and famine, and its king Nabonidus was said to be unpopular among many of his subjects for his unconventional religious policies. According to Mary Joan Winn Leith,[12] "Cyrus's success is credited to military acumen, to judicious bribery, and to an energetic publicity campaign waged throughout Babylonia, which portrayed him as a lenient and religiously tolerant overlord." On the other hand, Max Mallowan notes: "Religious toleration was a remarkable feature of Persian rule and there is no question that Cyrus himself was a liberal-minded promoter of this humane and intelligent policy," and such a publicity campaign was in effect a means of permitting his reputation to proceed his military campaign.[13] Cyrus was said to have persuaded a Babylonian provincial governor named Gobryas (and a supposed Gadates) to defect to his side. Gutium, the territory governed by Gobryas, was a frontier region of considerable size and strategic importance, which Cyrus was said to have used as the starting point for his invasion.[11]

The Nabonidus Chronicle records that prior to the battle, Nabonidus had ordered cult statues from outlying Babylonian cities to be brought into the capital, suggesting that the conflict had begun possibly in the winter of 540 BC. In a fragmentary section of the chronicle which is presumed to cover 540/39 BC, there is a possible reference to fighting, a mention of Ishtar and Uruk, and a possible reference to Persia.[10] The Battle of Opis was thus probably only the final stage in an ongoing series of clashes between the two empires.[11]

Battle

Cyrus invasion of Babylonia
Route of the Persian invasion of Babylonia, September–October 539 BC

The Nabonidus Chronicle records that the battle took place in the month of Tashritu (27 September-27 October) "at Opis on the [bank of the] Tigris".[14] Very little is known about the events of the battle; the chronicle does not provide any details of the battle's course, the disposition of the forces on either side or the casualties inflicted. The Persian army under Cyrus fought "the army of Akkad" (meaning the Babylonians in general, not the city of that name). The identity of the Babylonian commander is not recorded in the chronicle but it has traditionally been assumed that Belshazzar, the son of Nabonidus, was in command. His fate is unclear and he may have been killed in the battle.[15]

The outcome of the battle was clearly a Babylonian defeat, possibly a rout, as the defeated Babylonian army is not mentioned again in the chronicle. Following the battle the Persian forces "took plunder" from the defeated Babylonians.[14] Most translations of the Chronicle also refer to a "massacre" of "the people of Akkad",[16] though translators disagree on which side was responsible[17] and who was killed – the population of Opis or the retreating Babylonian army.

Pierre Briant comments: "This victory was followed by an immense haul of booty and the massacre of those who attempted to resist."[18] Andrew Robert Burn comments: "Indeed on one reading of the text, Akkad broke out into open revolt, and Nabonidus' last military achievement was slaughter of rebels."[19] Maria Brosius interprets the massacre as a punitive action, "mak[ing] an example of a city trying to resist the Persian army".[20] Cuyler Young comments on the Chronicle accounts: "This reference in the Chronicle suggests that the Persians captured intact the main camp of Nabonidus' army and that, as is so often the case, the real killing of the engagement came after the Babylonians had fallen prey to fear and panic and had retreated from the field."[21] Amélie Kuhrt comments that the references to a massacre and looting suggest that the battle was "probably a hard-won victory".[22] W. G. Lambert argues a contrarian view that there was no massacre or slaughter at all.[23]

The battle is not mentioned in the inscription on the Cyrus Cylinder, which portrays Cyrus as liberating Babylon peacefully and with the consent of its people. However, the battle demonstrates that the existing Babylonian regime actively resisted Cyrus's invasion of Mesopotamia.

Aftermath

The defeat at Opis appears to have ended any serious resistance to the Persian invasion. The Nabonidus Chronicle states that following the battle, "on the fourteenth day [6 October] Sippar was captured without battle. Nabonidus fled."[16] The chronicle's wording implies that Nabonidus was present in Sippar when the Persians arrived.[24] Cyrus remained in Sippar, and "on the sixteenth day [12 October] Ug/Gubaru, governor of Gutium, and the army of Cyrus without a battle entered Babylon." Nabonidus himself was captured shortly afterward when he returned to Babylon.[16] His ultimate fate is unclear, but according to the 3rd century BC Babylonian historian Berossus, Nabonidus was spared and he went into exile in Carmania, where he died years later.[25] Persian troops took control of the city, though the Nabonidus Chronicle provides little detail of how this was done. The chronicle makes a point of noting the conquering army's protection of the city's most important temples and records that "Interruption of (rites/cults) in [the] Esagila [temple] or the [other] temples there was none, and no date was missed." Seventeen days later, on 29 October, Cyrus himself entered Babylon, where he was proclaimed king, issued royal proclamations and appointed governors of his newly conquered realm.[16]

Ancient Greek accounts of Cyrus's campaign and the fall of Babylon differ significantly from the cuneiform accounts preserved in the Nabonidus Chronicle and the Cyrus Cylinder, suggesting that the Greeks were drawing on—or perhaps inventing—different traditions about the conquest of Babylonia. The two ancient Greek sources for the campaign, Herodotus and Xenophon, present broadly similar versions of events. According to Herodotus, Cyrus marched to Babylon along the side of the Diyala river (past Opis, though the battle is not mentioned), where the Persians fought a battle with the Babylonians near the capital. Cyrus subsequently laid siege to Babylon, ordering his troops to dig a canal to drain off part of the Euphrates to enable his troops to penetrate the city through weak points in its defences. Xenophon provides a similar but more elaborate account, claiming that Cyrus dug a huge trench around the city to divert the Euphrates and make the river bed passable for the Persian army. Herodotus, Xenophon and the Biblical Book of Daniel all assert that the Babylonians were taken by surprise while celebrating a festival.[26]

Berossus presents an account that is different again, asserting that Cyrus defeated Nabonidus, who "fled with certain others and shut himself up in Borsippa. Meanwhile Cyrus occupied Babylon and ordered to destroy the exterior walls of the city, because the city seemed very formidable to him and difficult to capture. Afterward Cyrus marched to Borsippa, in order to organize the siege against Nabonidus. But Nabonidus did not await the end of the siege, and surrendered."[9]

These accounts, written long after the Persian conquest, contradict many aspects of the contemporary cuneiform evidence, which does not mention any sieges, engineering works or battles near Babylon. The cuneiform descriptions of a peaceful surrender of Babylon are corroborated by archaeological evidence from the city, as no evidence of conflagrations or destruction have been found in the layers corresponding to the fall of the city to the Persians.[9] Scholars are in general agreement that Herodotus's account is an invention,[27] while Kuhrt comments that Xenophon's account in his Cyropedia is "virtually impossible to use ... as a strictly historical source" due to its literary form, as a moral treatise on Cyrus in the form of an historical novella.[10] Paul-Alain Beaulieu suggests that the Greek accounts may constitute an aggregate of various folk tales and legends which came to be associated with the fall of Babylon."[26] David George Hogarth and Samuel Rolles Driver comment on what they saw as Herodotus's unreliability:

The untrustworthiness of the accounts in Herodotus is evident as soon as they can be definitely compared with monumental records. The famous siege and capture of Babylon by Cyrus is contradicted by his inscription, which relates that, after a battle at Opis and another at Sippara, his general, Gobryas, entered the city without a struggle. Babylon had stood many sieges before the time of Cyrus, and stood many more afterwards : it is thought that one of the two captures by Darius, whose general was also named Gobryas, may have been confused with the entry of Cyrus.[28]

According to the Behistun Inscription, Babylon revolted twice against Darius, and was recaptured on the second occasion by his general Gobryas. Herodotus only mentions the first revolt of Babylon in which Zopyrus captured the city for Darius, and omits this second revolt.[29]

Historiography

The Babylonian defeat at Opis and the apparently unopposed Persian entry into Babylon ended the independence of Babylonia (although there were a number of unsuccessful revolts against later Persian rulers). That the Babylonian collapse was swift and apparently total is confirmed by the ancient accounts of Cyrus's campaign in Mesopotamia and corroborating evidence such as cuneiform inscriptions dating to shortly after the Persian conquest. A number of explanations have been advanced for the rapid collapse of the Babylonian state. The Cyrus Cylinder and the roughly contemporary Verse Account of Nabonidus attribute Nabonidus's failure to the desire of the god Marduk to punish a regime that had opposed his will. The strongly anti-Nabonidus tone of these documents, which accused the former king of behaving capriciously and neglecting the worship of the gods, suggests that their authors – the Babylonian priestly elite – were alienated from Nabonidus and may have welcomed a Persian takeover. It is, however, unclear how widely the Persians were supported within Babylonia, as accounts of the invasion and Nabonidus's rule are coloured by Cyrus's subsequent propaganda.[30]

Other writers have advanced a number of additional or alternative explanations for the Babylonian defeat. M. A. Dandamaev suggests variously that the regime suffered from a lack of allies; a lack of support among the general population; opposition from subject peoples such as the Jews, who may have seen the invading Persians as liberators; and the inability of the Babylonian forces to resist numerically superior and better equipped opponents.[9]

References

  1. ^ Ancient Persia: A Concise History of the Achaemenid Empire, 550–330 BCE : page 212
  2. ^ HSC Ancient History : page 82
  3. ^ http://www.persepolis.nu/queens.htm#pantea
  4. ^ Boardman, John "Nabonidus: Babylonia from 605–539 B.C.", in The Cambridge Ancient History vol. 3.2, p. 249. Contributor John Boardman. Cambridge University Press, 1991. ISBN 0-521-22717-8
  5. ^ Oppenheim, A.L. "The Babylonian Evidence of Achaemenian Rule in Mesopotamia", in The Cambridge History of Iran vol. 2, p. 539. Ilya Gershevitch (ed). Cambridge University Press, 1993. ISBN 0-521-20091-1
  6. ^ Briant, Pierre. From Cyrus to Alexander: A History of the Persian Empire, p. 362. Eisenbrauns, 2002. ISBN 1-57506-120-1
  7. ^ Tolini, Gauthier. "Quelques elements concernant la prise de Babylone par Cyrus." Note 3 of Achaemenid Research on Texts and Archaeology, March 2005
  8. ^ T. Cutler Young, Jr., "The rise of the Persians to imperial power under Cyrus the Great", in The Cambridge Ancient History vol. 4, p. 39. John Boardman (ed). Cambridge University Press, 1982. ISBN 0-521-22804-2
  9. ^ a b c d Dandamaev, MA; Vogelsang, WJ (trans.). A Political History of the Achaemenid Empire, pp. 41–42, 49. BRILL, 1989. ISBN 90-04-09172-6
  10. ^ a b c Kuhrt, Amélie. "Babylonia from Cyrus to Xerxes", in The Cambridge Ancient History: Vol IV – Persia, Greece and the Western Mediterranean, pp. 112–138. Ed. John Boardman. Cambridge University Press, 1982. ISBN 0-521-22804-2
  11. ^ a b c Briant, Pierre. From Cyrus to Alexander: A History of the Persian Empire, pp 40–43. Eisenbrauns, 2002. ISBN 1-57506-120-1
  12. ^ Leith, Mary Joan Winn (1998). "Israel among the Nations: The Persian Period". In Coogan, Michael D. The Oxford History of the Biblical World. Oxford University Press. pp. 376–377.
  13. ^ [Max Mallowan. Cyrus the Great. In Cambridge History of Iran (Volume 2: The Median and Achaemenian Periods), Cambridge , Cambridge University Press, pp.392–419.]
  14. ^ a b Grayson, A.K. Assyrian and Babylonian Chronicles. Locust Valley, NY: JJ Augustin, 1975. ISBN 0-8020-5315-7
  15. ^ Albertz, Rainer; Green, David (trans.). Israel in Exile: The History and Literature of the Sixth Century B.C.E., pp. 69–70. Society of Biblical Literature, 2003. ISBN 1-58983-055-5
  16. ^ a b c d Kuhrt, A. The Persian Empire: A Corpus of Sources of the Achaemenid Period, pp. 48–51. Routledge, 2007. ISBN 0-415-43628-1
  17. ^ A. Leo Oppenheim attributes the blame to Nabonidus (see Oppenheim, A. Leo, in Pritchard, James B. Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament. Princeton University Press, 1950); other translators attribute the massacre to Cyrus (see e.g. Grayson; Brosius, Maria. The Persian Empire from Cyrus II to Artaxerxes I. LACTOR, 2000; Kuhrt, A. The Persian Empire: A Corpus of Sources of the Achaemenid Period, pp. 48–51. Routledge, 2007. ISBN 0-415-43628-1).
  18. ^ (Pierre Briant, From Cyrus to Alexander: History of Persian empire, Published by EISENBRAUNS, 2002)
  19. ^ Andrew Robert Burn, "Persia and the Greeks", Published by Stanford University Press, 1984
  20. ^ Brosius, Maria. The Persians, p. 11. Routledge, 2006. ISBN 0-415-32090-9.
  21. ^ Contributor John Boardman, "The Cambridge ancient history" Edition: 2, illustrated, Published by Cambridge University Press, 1988, ISBN 0-521-22804-2, ISBN 978-0-521-22804-6
  22. ^ Kuhrt, Amélie. "Usurpation, conquest and ceremonial: from Babylon to Persia". Rituals of Royalty: Power and Ceremonial in Traditional Societies, p. 48. David Cannadine, Simon Price (eds). Cambridge University Press, 1992. ISBN 0-521-42891-2
  23. ^ Wilfred G. Lambert has suggested that the relevant line of the Nabonidus Chronicle should be read as referring to the Babylonian army rather than the people of Opis, and that it reports a defeat rather than a massacre. See Lambert, Wilfred G., "Notes Brèves 14 – Cyrus defeat of Nabonidus", Nouvelles Assyriologiques Brèves et Utilitaires no. 1, 2007 (March).
  24. ^ Vanderhooft, David. "Cyrus II, Liberator or Conqueror? Ancient Historiography concerning Cyrus in Babylon", in Lipschitz, Oded; Oeming, Manfred (eds.), Judah and the Judeans in the Persian Period, pp. 351–372.
  25. ^ Leick, Gwendolyn. "Nabonidus". Who's who in the Ancient Near East, p. 112. Routledge, 1999. ISBN 0-415-13230-4
  26. ^ a b Beaulieu, Paul-Alain. The Reign of Nabonidus, King of Babylon, 556-539 B.C., p. 226. Yale University Press, 1990. ISBN 0-300-04314-7
  27. ^ Campbell, Duncan B.; Hook, Adam. Ancient Siege Warfare: Persians, Greeks, Carthaginians and Romans 546–146 BC, p. 9. Osprey Publishing, 2005. ISBN 1-84176-770-0
  28. ^ Hogarth, David George; Driver, Samuel Rolles. Authority and Archaeology, Sacred and Profane, p. 202. Ayer Publishing, 1971. ISBN 0-8369-5771-7
  29. ^ Dewald, Carolyn; John, Marincola; The Cambridge Companion to Herodotus, Cambridge University Press, 2006 p. 279. ISBN 0-521-83001-X
  30. ^ McIntosh, Jane. Ancient Mesopotamia, pp. 113–14. ABC-CLIO, 2005. ISBN 1-57607-965-1
539 BC

The year 539 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. In the Roman Empire, it was known as year 215 Ab urbe condita. The denomination 539 BC for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.

Amol

Amol (Persian: آمل‎ – [ɒˈmol]; pronunciation ; also Romanized as Āmol and Amul) is a city and the administrative center of Amol County, Mazandaran Province, Iran. In the 2006 census, the surveyed population of the city was 197,470, in 55,183 families.Amol is located on the Haraz river bank. It is less than 20 kilometres (12 mi) south of the Caspian sea and less than 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) north of the Alborz mountains. It is 180 kilometres (110 mi) from Tehran, and 60 kilometres (37 mi) west of the provincial capital, Sari.

Amol is a historic city, with its foundation dating back to the Amard.

Babylon

Babylon was a key kingdom in ancient Mesopotamia from the 18th to 6th centuries BC. The city was built on the Euphrates river and divided in equal parts along its left and right banks, with steep embankments to contain the river's seasonal floods. Babylon was originally a small Akkadian town dating from the period of the Akkadian Empire c. 2300 BC.

The town became part of a small independent city-state with the rise of the First Babylonian dynasty in the 19th century BC. After the Amorite king Hammurabi created a short-lived empire in the 18th century BC, he built Babylon up into a major city and declared himself its king, and southern Mesopotamia became known as Babylonia and Babylon eclipsed Nippur as its holy city. The empire waned under Hammurabi's son Samsu-iluna and Babylon spent long periods under Assyrian, Kassite and Elamite domination. After being destroyed and then rebuilt by the Assyrians, Babylon became the capital of the short lived Neo-Babylonian Empire from 609 to 539 BC. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, although a number of scholars believe these were actually in the Assyrian capital of Nineveh. After the fall of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, the city came under the rule of the Achaemenid, Seleucid, Parthian, Roman, and Sassanid empires.

It has been estimated that Babylon was the largest city in the world c. 1770 – c. 1670 BC, and again c. 612 – c. 320 BC. It was perhaps the first city to reach a population above 200,000. Estimates for the maximum extent of its area range from 890 to 900 hectares (2,200 acres).The remains of the city are in present-day Hillah, Babil Governorate, Iraq, about 85 kilometres (53 mi) south of Baghdad, comprising a large tell of broken mud-brick buildings and debris.

The main sources of information about Babylon—excavation of the site itself, references in cuneiform texts found elsewhere in Mesopotamia, references in the Bible, descriptions in classical writing (especially by Herodotus), and second-hand descriptions (citing the work of Ctesias and Berossus)—present an incomplete and sometimes contradictory picture of the ancient city even at its peak in the sixth century BC.

Cyrus Cylinder

The Cyrus Cylinder (Persian: استوانه کوروش‎, translit. Ostovane-ye Kūrosh) or Cyrus Charter (منشور کوروش Manshūre Kūrosh) is an ancient clay cylinder, now broken into several pieces, on which is written a declaration in Akkadian cuneiform script in the name of Persia's Achaemenid king Cyrus the Great. It dates from the 6th century BC and was discovered in the ruins of Babylon in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) in 1879. It is currently in the possession of the British Museum, which sponsored the expedition that discovered the cylinder. It was created and used as a foundation deposit following the Persian conquest of Babylon in 539 BC, when the Neo-Babylonian Empire was invaded by Cyrus and incorporated into his Persian Empire.

The text on the Cylinder praises Cyrus, sets out his genealogy and portrays him as a king from a line of kings. The Babylonian king Nabonidus, who was defeated and deposed by Cyrus, is denounced as an impious oppressor of the people of Babylonia and his low-born origins are implicitly contrasted to Cyrus' kingly heritage. The victorious Cyrus is portrayed as having been chosen by the chief Babylonian god Marduk to restore peace and order to the Babylonians. The text states that Cyrus was welcomed by the people of Babylon as their new ruler and entered the city in peace. It appeals to Marduk to protect and help Cyrus and his son Cambyses. It extols Cyrus as a benefactor of the citizens of Babylonia who improved their lives, repatriated displaced people and restored temples and cult sanctuaries across Mesopotamia and elsewhere in the region. It concludes with a description of how Cyrus repaired the city wall of Babylon and found a similar inscription placed there by an earlier king.The Cylinder's text has traditionally been seen by biblical scholars as corroborative evidence of Cyrus' policy of the repatriation of the Jewish people following their Babylonian captivity (an act that the Book of Ezra attributes to Cyrus), as the text refers to the restoration of cult sanctuaries and repatriation of deported peoples. This interpretation has been disputed, as the text identifies only Mesopotamian sanctuaries, and makes no mention of Jews, Jerusalem, or Judea. The Cylinder has also been referred to by Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran as the first declaration of universal human rights, a view rejected by some historians as anachronistic and a misunderstanding of the Cylinder's generic nature as a typical statement made by a new monarch at the beginning of his reign. Neil MacGregor, former Director of the British Museum, has stated that the cylinder was "the first attempt we know about running a society, a state with different nationalities and faiths—a new kind of statecraft". It was adopted as a national symbol of Iran by the Imperial State which put it on display in Tehran in 1971 to commemorate 2,500 year celebration of the Persian Empire. On October 14, the Mohammad Reza Shah's sister, Princess Ashraf Pahlavi, presented the United Nations Secretary General U Thant with a replica of the Cylinder. The princess asserted that "the heritage of Cyrus was the heritage of human understanding, tolerance, courage, compassion and, above all, human liberty".

Cyrus the Great

Cyrus II of Persia (Old Persian: 𐎤𐎢𐎽𐎢𐏁 Kūruš;Kourosh; New Persian: کوروش Kuruš; Hebrew: כורש‬, Modern: Kōréš, Tiberian: Kōréš; c. 600–530 BC), commonly known as Cyrus the Great, and also called Cyrus the Elder by the Greeks, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire, the first Persian Empire. Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East, expanded vastly and eventually conquered most of Western Asia and much of Central Asia. From the Mediterranean Sea and Hellespont in the west to the Indus River in the east, Cyrus the Great created the largest empire the world had yet seen. Under his successors, the empire eventually stretched at its maximum extent from parts of the Balkans (Bulgaria-Paeonia and Thrace-Macedonia) and Eastern Europe proper in the west, to the Indus Valley in the east. His regal titles in full were The Great King, King of Persia, King of Anshan, King of Media, King of Babylon, King of Sumer and Akkad, and King of the Four Corners of the World. The Nabonidus Chronicle notes the change in his title from simply "King of Anshan", a city, to "King of Persia". Assyriologist François Vallat wrote that "When Astyages marched against Cyrus, Cyrus is called ‘King of Anshan’, but when Cyrus crosses the Tigris on his way to Lydia, he is ‘King of Persia’. The coup therefore took place between these two events."The reign of Cyrus the Great lasted c. 30 years. Cyrus built his empire by first conquering the Median Empire, then the Lydian Empire, and eventually the Neo-Babylonian Empire. He led an expedition into Central Asia, which resulted in major campaigns that were described as having brought "into subjection every nation without exception". Cyrus did not venture into Egypt, and was alleged to have died in battle, fighting the Massagetae along the Syr Darya in December 530 BC. He was succeeded by his son, Cambyses II, who managed to conquer Egypt, Nubia, and Cyrenaica during his short rule.

Cyrus the Great respected the customs and religions of the lands he conquered. This became a very successful model for centralized administration and establishing a government working to the advantage and profit of its subjects. In fact, the administration of the empire through satraps and the vital principle of forming a government at Pasargadae were the works of Cyrus. What is sometimes referred to as the Edict of Restoration (actually two edicts) described in the Bible as being made by Cyrus the Great left a lasting legacy on the Jewish religion. According to the Jewish Bible (Christian Old Testament) (Isaiah 45:1), God anointed Cyrus for this task, even referring to him as messiah (lit. "His anointed one") and he is the only non-Jewish figure in the Bible to be called so.Cyrus the Great is also well recognized for his achievements in human rights, politics, and military strategy, as well as his influence on both Eastern and Western civilizations. Having originated from Persis, roughly corresponding to the modern Iranian province of Fars, Cyrus has played a crucial role in defining the national identity of modern Iran. The Achaemenid influence in the ancient world eventually would extend as far as Athens, where upper-class Athenians adopted aspects of the culture of the ruling class of Achaemenid Persian as their own.In the 1970s, the last Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi identified his famous proclamation inscribed onto the Cyrus Cylinder as the oldest known declaration of human rights, and the Cylinder has since been popularized as such. This view has been criticized by some historians as a misunderstanding of the Cylinder's generic nature as a traditional statement that new monarchs make at the beginning of their reign.

Fall of Babylon

The Fall of Babylon denotes the end of the Neo-Babylonian Empire after it was conquered by the Achaemenid Empire in 539 BCE.

Nabonidus (Nabû-na'id, 556–539 BCE), son of the Assyrian priestess Adda-Guppi, came to the throne in 556 BCE, after overthrowing the young king Labashi-Marduk. For long periods he entrusted rule to his son, prince and coregent Belshazzar, who was a capable soldier, but a poor politician. All of this left him somewhat unpopular with many of his subjects, particularly the priesthood and the military class. To the east, the Achaemenid Empire had been growing in strength. In 539 BCE, Cyrus the Great invaded Babylonia, turning it into a colony of Achaemenid Persia. Cyrus then claimed to be the legitimate successor of the ancient Babylonian kings. As it turns out, Cyrus was very popular in Babylon itself, in contrast to Nabonidus.

History of Palestine

The history of Palestine is the study of the past in the region of Palestine, generally defined as a geographic region in the Southern Levant between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River (where Israel and Palestine are today), and various adjoining lands. Situated at a strategic point between Europe, Asia, and Africa, and the birthplace of Judaism and Christianity, the region has a long and tumultuous history as a crossroads for religion, culture, commerce, and politics. The Palestine region or parts of it have been controlled by numerous different peoples and regional powers, including the Canaanites, Amorites, Ancient Egyptians, Israelites, Moabites, Ammonites, Tjeker, Philistines, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, ancient Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, different dynasties of the Early Muslim period (Umayads, Abbasids, Seljuqs, Fatimids), Crusaders, Late Muslim dynasties (Ayyubids, Mamluks, Ottoman Turks), the British, Jordanians (1948–1967, on the "West Bank") and Egyptians (in Gaza), and modern Israelis and Palestinians. Other terms for approximate geographic area include Canaan, Zion, the Land of Israel, Southern Syria, Outremer and the Holy Land.

The region was among the earliest in the world to see human habitation, agricultural communities and civilization. During the Early and Middle Bronze Age, independent Canaanite city-states were established, and were influenced by the surrounding civilizations of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Phoenicia, Minoan Crete, and Syria. During Late Bronze Age 1550–1400 BCE, the Canaanite cities became vassals to the Egyptian New Kingdom who held power until the 1178 BCE Battle of Djahy (Canaan) during the wider Bronze Age collapse. Modern archaeologists dispute parts of the Biblical tradition, the latest thinking being that the Israelites emerged from a dramatic social transformation that took place in the people of the central hill country of Canaan around 1200 BCE, with no signs of violent invasion or even of peaceful infiltration of a clearly defined ethnic group from elsewhere. The Philistines, part of Sea Peoples of Southern Europe, arrived and mingled with the local Canaanite population, and according to Biblical tradition, the United Kingdom of Israel was established in 1020 BCE and split within a century to form the northern Kingdom of Israel, and the southern Kingdom of Judah. The region became part of the Neo-Assyrian Empire from c. 740 BCE, which was itself replaced by the Neo-Babylonian Empire in c. 627 BCE. A war of Baylonians with Judean Kingdom culminated in 586 BCE when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II and the local leaders were deported to Babylonia, only to be allowed to return under the rule of the Achaemenid Empire.

In the 330s BCE, Alexander the Great conquered the coastline of the region of Palestine, and it changed hands numerous times during the wars of the Diadochi, ultimately joining the Seleucid Empire between 219 and 200 BCE. In 116 BCE, a Seleucid civil war resulted in the independence of certain regions including the minor Hasmonean principality in the Judean Mountains. From 110 BCE, the Hasmoneans extended their authority over much of the area, creating a Judean–Samaritan–Idumaean–Ituraean–Galilean alliance. The Judean (Jewish, see Ioudaioi) control over the wider region resulted in it also becoming known as Hasmonean Judaea, a term that had previously only referred to the smaller region of the Judean Mountains. During 73–63 BCE, the Roman Republic extended its influence into the region in the Third Mithridatic War, making Judea a vassal kingdom in 63 BCE, and splitting the Hasmonean Kingdom into five districts. After several decades as vassal of the Roman Empire, the Herodian kingdom and tetrarchy was gradually absorbed into Roman Empire as the Roman Judea. Between 66 and 135 CE massive Judean revolts troubled the province, resulting in sack of Jerusalem and extensive depopulation of the country. Jews were prohibited from living in the vicinity of Jerusalem, and in 132 Jerusalem was renamed "Aelia Capitolina". As a result, many Jewish landowners converted to the Ebionim to maintain their properties. After the Bar Kokhba revolt Hadrian joined the province of Judaea with Syria to form a new province and renamed it Syria Palaestina. During 259–272, the region briefly fell under the rule of Odaenathus as King of the Palmyrene Empire. Following the victory of Christian emperor Constantine in the Civil Wars of the Tetrarchy (306–324), the Christianization of the Roman Empire began, and in 326, Constantine's mother Saint Helena visited Jerusalem and began the construction of churches and shrines. Byzantine Palestine became a center of Christianity, attracting numerous monks and religious scholars. Persecution of Ebionites led to their dispersion to Arabia and the Parthian Empire. The Christians gradually gained dominance demographically, especially after the Samaritan Revolts during late Byzantine period, which had caused the near extinction of Samaritans. In early 7th century the region briefly fell under the Sasanian Empire and Jewish rebels, until the return of Byzantines in 625-9.

Region of Palestine was conqueredby the Islamic Empire following the 636 CE Battle of Yarmouk during the Muslim conquest of Syria, and the Muslims gave relief from burdensome Roman taxes and religious persecution of Christian heretics. The country was incorporated into Bilad al-Sham Province as military districts of Urdunn and Filastin. In 661 CE, with the assassination of Ali, Muawiyah I became the uncontested Caliph of the Islamic World after being crowned in Jerusalem. In 691, the Dome of the Rock became the world's first great work of Islamic architecture. The Umayyads were replaced by the Abbasids in 750. From 878 Palestine was ruled from Egypt by semi-autonomous rulers for almost a century, beginning with Ahmad ibn Tulun and ending with the Ikhshidid rulers who were both buried in Jerusalem. The Fatimids conquered the region in 969. In 1073, Palestine was captured by the Great Seljuq Empire, only to be recaptured by the Fatimids in 1098, who then lost the region to the Crusaders in 1099. Crusader control of Jerusalem and most of Palestine as the Kingdom of Jerusalem lasted almost a century until defeat by Saladin's forces in 1187, after which most of Palestine became controlled by the Ayyubids. A rump Crusader state in the northern coastal cities survived for another century, but despite seven further Crusades, the Crusaders were no longer a significant power in the region. The Mamluk Sultanate was indirectly created in Egypt as a result of the Seventh Crusade. The Mongol Empire reached Palestine for the first time in 1260, beginning with the raids into the Levant under Nestorian Christian general Kitbuqa and reaching an apex at the pivotal Battle of Ain Jalut. In 1486, hostilities broke out between the Mamluks and the Ottoman Turks and the Ottomans captured Mamluk Palestine and Syria in 1516.

The Ottoman rule of the country lasted for four centuries, administratively included in the provinces of Ottoman Syria. In 1832, the region was conquered by Muhammad Ali's Egypt, but, in 1840, Britain intervened and returned control of the Levant to the Ottomans in return for further capitulations. The turbulent period of Egyptian rule experienced two major revolts (the 1834 Arab Peasants revolt and 1838 Druze revolt) and a significant demographic change in coastal areas, repopulated by Egyptian Arab peasants and former soldiers of Muhammad Ali. Late 19th century was the timing for regional migrations of Druze, Circassians and Bedouin tribes and also the spike of Jewish immigration and the revival of the Hebrew language. Increasing Jewish immigration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries added considerably to the Jewish communities in Jerusalem, Safed, Tiberias and Jaffa.During World War I the British government issued the Balfour Declaration of 1917, stating that the British Government favors the establishment of national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. The British captured Jerusalem a month later. The League of Nations formally awarded Britain a mandate over Palestine in 1922. The land west of the Jordan River was under direct British administration until 1948, while the land east of the Jordan was a semi-autonomous region known as Transjordan Emirate, under the rule of the Hashemite family from the Hijaz, and gained independence in 1946. The 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine was a nationalist uprising by Palestinian Arabs against British colonial rule and mass Jewish immigration. After the Nazi Holocaust, pressure grew for the international recognition of a Jewish state in Palestine. In 1947, the British Government announced its intention to terminate the Mandate. The United Nations General Assembly voted to partition British Palestine into independent Arab and Jewish states, with a special international regime for Jerusalem. The Arabs rejected the partition of Palestine and civil war erupted in the immediate aftermath.

The Jews of British Palestine declared the independence of the State of Israel in May 1948. During the 1948 Palestine War, Israel overran far more territory than was proposed by the Partition Plan; Jordan captured and annexed the West Bank, while in the Gaza Strip the All-Palestine Government was announced in September 1948. In what is known as the Nakba, or "Catastrophe", hundreds of Palestinian villages and over 70,000 Palestinian homes were ruined and destroyed. 700,000 Palestinians fled or were driven out of their homes by the Israelis. The Palestinian refugees were unable to return following the Lausanne Conference, 1949. The question of the Palestinian right to return of the refugees and their descendants remains a source of dispute. During and after the 1948 war, a wave of Jewish refugees from Arab countries arrived in the newly created state of Israel. The All-Palestine Government was shortly moved from Gaza to Cairo and eventually dissolved in 1959 by Egyptian President Nasser. Gaza was taken into Egyptian military administration until 1967.

The Palestinian national movement gradually regrouped in the West Bank and Gaza, and in refugee camps in neighbouring Arab states. The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) emerged as its leading umbrella group in 1965. During the Six-Day War in June 1967, Israel seized East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan and Gaza from Egypt, as well as the Golan Heights from Syria. Despite international objections and UN resolutions calling them illegal, Israel began a policy of establishing Israeli settlements in the Israeli-occupied territories. The PLO under Yasser Arafat gradually won international recognition as the representative of the Palestinian people. From 1987 to 1993, the First Palestinian Intifada against Israel took place, ending with the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords. These accords established a Palestinian National Authority as an interim body to run parts of Gaza and the West Bank (but not East Jerusalem) pending an agreed solution to the conflict. During the Second Intifada (2000–2005), Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip and began building the West Bank barrier. In 2006, Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections and took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, triggering the Israeli and Egyptian Blockade of the Gaza Strip (2007-the present). In 2008–09 and again in 2014, Israel and Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip engaged in warfare. In November 2012, the State of Palestine was upgraded in the UN to non-member observer state status, a move that allows it to take part in General Assembly debates and improves its chances of joining other UN agencies.

Iran–Iraq relations

Iran–Iraq relations (Persian: روابط ایران و عراق ; Arabic: العلاقات العراقية الإيرانية) extend for millennia into the past. The Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Iraq share a long border (the longest border by far for both nations) and an ancient cultural and religious heritage. In ancient times Iraq formed part of the core of Persia (modern-day Iran) for about a thousand years.

Modern relations between the two nations grew increasingly difficult after the 14 July Revolution in Iraq in 1958 overthrew the Hashemite Monarchy and resulted in the country withdrawing from the Baghdad Pact. The Ba'ath Party gained power in Iraq in the 1960s, taking a more aggressive stance on border disputes. In the aftermath of the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979, Saddam Hussein launched an invasion of Iran over border disputes and a design to gain control of oil-rich areas in Iran's territory. The conflict lasted for eight years and ended in a stalemate, and involved the use of chemical weapons and violence against Iraqi Kurds and Arabs, who were accused of colluding with Iran. While Iran did not support the multi-national coalition against Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1991, it housed many Shia political organizations opposing Saddam's rule.

The fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and the eventual rise to power by pro-Iranian Shia factions (i.e. Islamic Dawa Party and Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq) led to the normalisation of relations between the two countries. As of January 2010, the two countries have signed over 100 economic and cooperation agreements. Since 2003, Iraq has allowed Shia Muslims from Iran to make the pilgrimage to holy Shia sites in Iraq. In March 2008, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became the first Iranian president to visit Iraq since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution. Former Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki has made several state visits to Iran since 2006 and expressed sympathy with Iran over its nuclear energy program. Iran is today Iraq's largest trading partner. Iran and Iraq are very close allies supporting each other against ISIS. The relationship between the two countries is strong in part due to the fact that both governments operate on a Shi'ite system of governance.Iran has an embassy in Baghdad and four consulate generals in Basrah, Sulaymaniyah, Erbil and Karbala. Iraq has an embassy in Tehran and three consulate generals in Kermanshah, Ahvaz and Mashhad.

Iraq

Iraq (, (listen) or ; Arabic: العراق‎ al-'Irāq; Kurdish: عێراق‎ Eraq), officially known as the Republic of Iraq (Arabic: جُمُهورية العِراق‎ Jumhūrīyyat al-'Irāq; Kurdish: کۆماری عێراق‎ Komari Eraq), is a country in Western Asia, bordered by Turkey to the north, Iran to the east, Kuwait to the southeast, Saudi Arabia to the south, Jordan to the southwest and Syria to the west. The capital, and largest city, is Baghdad. Iraq is home to diverse ethnic groups including Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, Turkmen, Shabakis, Yazidis, Armenians, Mandeans, Circassians and Kawliya. Around 95% of the country's 37 million citizens are Muslims, with Christianity, Yarsan, Yezidism and Mandeanism also present. The official languages of Iraq are Arabic and Kurdish.

Iraq has a coastline measuring 58 km (36 miles) on the northern Persian Gulf and encompasses the Mesopotamian Alluvial Plain, the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range and the eastern part of the Syrian Desert. Two major rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates, run south through Iraq and into the Shatt al-Arab near the Persian Gulf. These rivers provide Iraq with significant amounts of fertile land.

The region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, historically known as Mesopotamia, is often referred to as the cradle of civilisation. It was here that mankind first began to read, write, create laws and live in cities under an organised government—notably Uruk, from which "Iraq" is derived. The area has been home to successive civilisations since the 6th millennium BC. Iraq was the centre of the Akkadian, Sumerian, Assyrian and Babylonian empires. It was also part of the Median, Achaemenid, Hellenistic, Parthian, Sassanid, Roman, Rashidun, Umayyad, Abbasid, Ayyubid, Mongol, Safavid, Afsharid and Ottoman empires.The country today known as Iraq was a region of the Ottoman Empire until the partition of the Ottoman Empire in the 20th century. It was made up of three provinces, called vilayets in the Ottoman language: Mosul Vilayet, Baghdad Vilayet, and Basra Vilayet. In April 1920 the British Mandate of Mesopotamia was created under the authority of the League of Nations. A British-backed monarchy joining these vilayets into one Kingdom was established in 1921 under Faisal I of Iraq. The Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq gained independence from the UK in 1932. In 1958, the monarchy was overthrown and the Iraqi Republic created. Iraq was controlled by the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party from 1968 until 2003. After an invasion by the United States and its allies in 2003, Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party was removed from power, and multi-party parliamentary elections were held in 2005. The US presence in Iraq ended in 2011, but the Iraqi insurgency continued and intensified as fighters from the Syrian Civil War spilled into the country. Out of the insurgency came a highly destructive group calling itself ISIL, which took large parts of the north and west. It has since been largely defeated. Disputes over the sovereignty of Iraqi Kurdistan continue. A referendum about the full sovereignty of Iraqi Kurdistan was held on 25 September 2017. On 9 December 2017, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over ISIL after the group lost its territory in Iraq.Iraq is a federal parliamentary republic consisting of 19 governorates (provinces) and one autonomous region (Iraqi Kurdistan). The country's official religion is Islam. Culturally, Iraq has a very rich heritage and celebrates the achievements of its past in both pre-Islamic as well as post-Islamic times and is known for its poets. Its painters and sculptors are among the best in the Arab world, some of them being world-class as well as producing fine handicrafts, including rugs and carpets. Iraq is a founding member of the UN as well as of the Arab League, OIC, Non-Aligned Movement and the IMF.

List of conflicts in Asia

This is a list of wars and conflicts in Asia, particularly East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia and Russia. For a list of conflicts in Southwest Asia, see List of conflicts in the Near East for historical conflicts and List of conflicts in the Middle East for contemporary conflicts.

List of conflicts in the Near East

The area known as the "Near East" is usually referred to as Middle East in modern contexts.

For periods predating Classical Antiquity, the common term is Ancient Near East.

The Near East is generally associated with Anatolia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, Persia, Egypt, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Caucasus.

Nabonidus Chronicle

The Nabonidus Chronicle is an ancient Babylonian text, part of a larger series of Babylonian Chronicles inscribed in cuneiform script on clay tablets. It deals primarily with the reign of Nabonidus, the last king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, covers the conquest of Babylon by the Persian king Cyrus the Great, and ends with the start of the reign of Cyrus's son Cambyses, spanning a period from 556 BC to some time after 539 BC. It provides a rare contemporary account of Cyrus's rise to power and is the main source of information on this period; Amélie Kuhrt describes it as "the most reliable and sober [ancient] account of the fall of Babylon."The chronicle is thought to have been copied by a scribe during the Seleucid period (4th-1st century BC) but the original text was probably written during the late 6th or early 5th century BC. Similarities with the Nabonassar to Shamash-shum-ukin Chronicle, another of the Babylonian Chronicles, suggest that the same scribe may have been responsible for both chronicles. If so, it may date to the reign of Darius I of Persia (c. 549 BC–486 BC).

Neo-Babylonian Empire

The Neo-Babylonian Empire (also Second Babylonian Empire) was a period of Mesopotamian history which began in 626 BC and ended in 539 BC. During the preceding three centuries, Babylonia had been ruled by their fellow Akkadian speakers and northern neighbours, Assyria. A year after the death of the last strong Assyrian ruler, Ashurbanipal, in 627 BC, the Assyrian empire spiralled into a series of brutal civil wars. Babylonia rebelled under Nabopolassar. In alliance with the Medes, Persians, Scythians and Cimmerians, they sacked the city of Nineveh in 612 BC, and the seat of empire was transferred to Babylonia for the first time since the death of Hammurabi in the mid-18th century BC. This period witnessed a general improvement in economic life and agricultural production, and a great flourishing of architectural projects, the arts and science.

The Neo-Babylonian period ended with the reign of Nabonidus in 539 BC. To the east, the Persians had been growing in strength, and eventually Cyrus the Great conquered the empire.

Timeline of Jerusalem

This is a timeline of major events in the History of Jerusalem; a city that had been fought over sixteen times in its history. During its long history, Jerusalem has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times.

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