Nebuchadrezzar: the builder king of Babylon

The Bible depicts Nebuchadrezzar II and his city as doomed, but to his own people, he restored Babylon to glory.

A snarling lion from the sixth century B.C. once lined Babylon’s broad Processional Way that led from the Ishtar Gate, built by Nebuchadrezzar II. Louvre Museum, Paris.
Photograph by Franck Raux/RMN-Grand Palais

Nebuchadrezzar: A name rich with color, strength, and prestige belongs to one of the few Babylonian kings known by name today. Conqueror of kingdoms and restorer of Baby­lon, he left behind a legacy like no oth­er. Born in the seventh century B.C., he came to power as Babylonia was regaining its power in the region. He built on this momentum and took Babylonia to new heights, leav­ing behind Babylon’s beautiful Ishtar Gate and the grand Processional Way. His capture of Judah and exile of Jerusalem’s Hebrews would have a profound impact on Judaism’s sacred texts, many of which were composed in Baby­lon. Nebuchadrezzar’s empire would not long survive him. A short 22 years after his death, Babylonia fell to Cyrus the Great, king of Persia. (See also: Inside the 30-year quest for Babylon's Ishtar Gate.)

Nebuchadrezzar’s feats were built on those of his father, Nabopolassar, founder of the Chal­dean empire. Governor of the region of Chaldea, Nabopo­lassar seized the throne of Babylonia around 625 B.C., which until then had been controlled by the waning Assyrian Empire.

Nabopolassar forged a coalition with the Medes to the east and fought against the Assyr­ians for the next decade. In 612 B.C. they sacked Assyria’s then capital Nineveh and toppled their rule. Babylonia had long been in the shadow of Assyria, and now it was time for it to rise.

Read This Next

The four-decade quest for an HIV vaccine yields new hope

In Venezuela, a quest for sainthood offers proof of miracles

South Africa plans to end controversial captive lion industry

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet