Two years later, in Tebet 727 B.C., he died, but his successor Ululā, who took the name of Shalmaneser IV., continued the policy he had begun. Shalmaneser died suddenly in Tebet 722 B.C., while pressing the siege of Samaria, and the seizure of the throne by another general, Sargon, on the 12th of the month, gave the Babylonians an opportunity to revolt. Merodach-baladan. In Nisan the Kaldā prince, Merodach (Marduk)-baladan, entered Babylon and was there crowned legitimate king. For twelve years he successfully resisted the Assyrians; but the failure of his allies in the west to act in concert with him, and the overthrow of the Elamites, eventually compelled him to fly to his ancestral domains in the marshes of southern Babylonia. Sargon, who meanwhile had crushed the confederacy of the northern nations, had taken (717 B.C.) the Hittite stronghold of Carchemish and had annexed the future kingdom of Ecbatana, was now accepted as king by the Babylonian priests and his claim to be the successor of Sargon of Akkad acknowledged up to the time of his murder in 705 B.C. Sennacherib. His son Sennacherib, who succeeded him on the 12th of Ab, did not possess the military or administrative abilities of his father, and the success of his reign was not commensurate with the vanity of the ruler. He was never crowned at Babylon, which was in a perpetual state of revolt until, in 691 B.C., he shocked the religious and political conscience of Asia by razing the holy city of Babylon to the ground. His campaign against Hezekiah of Judah was as much a failure as his policy in Babylonia, and in his murder by his sons on the 20th of Tebet 681 B.C. both Babylonians and Jews saw the judgment of heaven.
Esar-haddon, who succeeded him, was of different calibre from Esar-haddon. his father. He was commanding the army in a campaign against Ararat at the time of the murder; forty-two days later the murderers fled from Nineveh and took refuge at the court of Ararat. But the Armenian army was utterly defeated near Malatia on the 12th of Iyyar, and at the end of the day Esar-haddon was saluted by his soldiers as king. He thereupon returned to Nineveh and on the 8th of Sivan formally ascended the throne.
One of his first acts was to restore Babylon, to send back the image of Bel-Merodach (Bel-Marduk) to its old home, and to re-people the city with such of the priests and the former population as had survived massacre. Then he was solemnly declared king in the temple of Bel-Merodach, which had again risen from its ruins, and Babylon became the second capital of the empire. Esar-haddon's policy was successful and Babylonia remained contentedly quiet throughout his reign. In February (674 B.C.) the Assyrians entered upon their invasion of Egypt (see also Egypt: History), and in Nisan (or March) 670 B.C. an expedition on an unusually large scale set out from Nineveh. The Egyptian frontier was crossed on the 3rd of Tammuz (June), and Tirhaka, at the head of the Egyptian forces, was driven to Memphis after fifteen days of continuous fighting, during which the Egyptians were thrice defeated with heavy loss and Tirhaka himself was wounded. On the 22nd of the month Memphis was entered by the victorious army and Tirhaka fled to the south. A stele, commemorating the victory and representing Tirhaka with the features of a negro, was set up at Sinjirli (north of the Gulf of Antioch) and is now in the Berlin Museum. Two years later (668 B.C.) Egypt revolted, and while on the march to reduce it, Esar-haddon fell ill and died (on the 10th of Marchesvan or October). Assur-bani-pal. Assur-bani-pal succeeded him as king of Assyria and its empire, while his brother, Samas-sum-yukin, was made viceroy of Babylonia. The arrangement was evidently intended to flatter the Babylonians by giving them once more the semblance of independence. But it failed to work. Samas-sum-yukin became more Babylonian than his subjects; the viceroy claimed to be the successor of the monarchs whose empire had once stretched to the Mediterranean; even the Sumerian language was revived as the official tongue, and a revolt broke out which shook the Assyrian empire to its foundations. After several years of struggle, during which Egypt recovered its independence, Babylon was starved into surrender, and the rebel viceroy and his supporters were put to death.
Egypt had already recovered its independence (660 B.C.) with the help of mercenaries sent by Gyges of Lydia, who had vainly solicited aid from Assyria against his Cimmerian enemies. Next followed the contest with Elam, in spite of the efforts of Assur-bani-pal to ward it off. Assyria, however, was aided by civil war in Elam itself; the country was wasted with fire and sword, and its capital Susa or Shushan levelled with the ground. But the long struggle left Assyria maimed and exhausted. It had been drained of both wealth and fighting population; the devastated provinces of Elam and Babylonia could yield nothing with which to supply the needs of the imperial exchequer, and it was difficult to find sufficient troops even to garrison the conquered populations. Assyria, therefore, was ill prepared to face the hordes of Scythians—or Manda, as they were called by the Babylonians—who now began to harass the frontiers. A Scythian power had grown up in the old kingdom of Ellip, to the east of Assyria, where Ecbatana was built by a “Manda” prince; Asia Minor was infested by the Scythian tribe of Cimmerians, and the death of the Scythian leader Dugdammē (the Lygdamis of Strabo i. 3. 16) was regarded by Assur-bani-pal as a special mark of divine favour.
When Assur-bani-pal died, his empire was fast breaking up. Scythian influence. Under his successor, Assur-etil-ilani, the Scythians penetrated into Assyria and made their way as far as the borders of Egypt. Calah was burned, though the strong walls of Nineveh protected the relics of the Assyrian army which had taken refuge behind them; and when the raiders had passed on to other fields of booty, a new palace was erected among the ruins of the neighbouring city. But its architectural poverty and small size show that the resources of Assyria were at a low ebb. A contract has been found at Sippara, dated in the fourth year of Assur-etil-ilani, though it is possible that his rule in Babylonia was disputed by his Rab-shakeh (vizier), Assur-sum-lisir, whose accession year as king of Assyria occurs on a contract from Nippur (Niffer). The last king of Assyria was probably the brother of Assur-etil-ilani, Sin-sar-iskun (Sin-sarra-uzur), who seems to have been the Sarakos (Saracus) of Berossus. He was still reigning in Babylonia in his seventh year, as a contract dated in that year has been discovered at Erech, and an inscription of his, in which he speaks of restoring the ruined temples and their priests, couples Merodach of Babylon with Assur of Nineveh. Babylonia, however, was again restless. After the over throw of Samas-sum-yukin, Kandalanu, the Chineladanos of Ptolemy's canon, had been appointed viceroy. Nabopolassar. His successor was Nabopolassar, between whom and the last king of Assyria war broke out. The Scythian king of Ecbatana, the Cyaxares of the Greeks, came to the help of the Babylonians. Nineveh was captured and destroyed by the Scythian army, along with those cities of northern Babylonia which had sided with Babylonia, and the Assyrian empire was at an end.
The seat of empire was now transferred to Babylonia. Nabopolassar Nabonidus. was followed by his son Nebuchadrezzar II., whose reign of 43 years made Babylon once more the mistress of the civilized world. Only a small fragment of his annals has been discovered relating to his invasion of Egypt in 567 B.C., and referring to “Phut of the Ionians.” Of the reign of the last Babylonian king, Nabonidus, however, and the conquest of Babylonia by Cyrus, we now have a fair amount of information. This is chiefly derived from a chronological tablet containing the annals of Nabonidus, which is supplemented by an inscription of Nabonidus, in which he recounts his restoration of the temple of the Moon-god at Harran, as well as by a proclamation of Cyrus issued shortly after his formal recognition as king of Babylonia. It was in the sixth year of Nabonidus (549 B.C.)—or perhaps in 553—that Cyrus, “king of Anshan” in Elam, revolted against his suzerain Astyages, king of “the Manda” or Scythians, at Ecbatana. The army of Astyages betrayed him to his enemy, and Cyrus (q.v.) established himself at Ecbatana, thus putting an end to the empire of the Scythians,
- For the events leading up to the conquests of Cyrus, see Persia: Ancient History, § v. The chronology is not absolutely certain.