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Nebuchadrezzar I

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Nebuchadrezzar I

Nebuchadnezzar I
King of Babylon
Reign ca. 1126–1103 BC
Predecessor Ninurta-nādin-šumi
Successor Enlil-nādin-apli
Royal House 2nd Dynasty of Isin

Nebuchadnezzar I[nb 2] /ˌnɛbjəkədˈnɛzər/, ca. 1126–1103 BC, was the fourth king of the Second Dynasty of Isin and Fourth Dynasty of Babylon. He ruled for 23 years according to the Babylonian King List C,[i 2] and was the most prominent monarch of this dynasty. He is best known for his victory over Elam and the recovery of the cultic idol of Marduk.


He is unrelated to his namesake, Nabû-kudurrī-uṣur II, who has come to be known by the name “Nebuchadnezzar” by biblical scholars. Consequently it would be anachronistic to apply this designation retroactively to the earlier king, as he does not make an appearance in that later publication. He is misidentified on the Chronicle Concerning the Reign of Šamaš-šuma-ukin[i 4] as the brother of Širikti-šuqamuna probably in place of Ninurta-kudurrῑ-uṣur I.[1] He succeeded his father, Ninurta-nādin-šumi, and was succeeded in turn by his son Enlil-nādin-apli, brother Marduk-nādin-aḫḫē and then nephew Marduk-šāpik-zēri, the only members of this family known to have reigned during the dynasty.

The Enmeduranki legend, or the seed of kingship,[i 5] is a Sumero-Akkadian composition relating his endowment with perfect wisdom (nam-kù-zu) by the god Marduk and his claim to belong to a “distant line of kingship from before the flood” and to be an “offspring of Enmeduranki, king of Sippar.” It begins with a lament over preceding events:

At that time, in the reign of a previous king, conditions changed. Good departed and evil was regular,[nb 3] The lord became angry and got furious. He gave the command and the gods of the land abandoned it […] its people were incited to commit crime. The guardians of peace became furious, and went up to the dome of heaven, the spirit of justice stood aside. …who guards living beings, prostrated the people, they all became like those who have no god. Evil demons filled the land, the namtar-demon […] they penetrated the cult centers. The land diminished, its fortunes changed. The wicked Elamite, who did not hold (the land’s) treasures in esteem, […] his battle, his attack was swift. He devastated the habitations, he made them into a ruin, he carried off the gods, he ruined the shrines.[2]
—The seed of kingship, lines 15-24.

War with Elam

In the first instance, his invasion of Elam was thwarted when his army was struck by plague and he narrowly escaped death in the stampede to return home. In his second raid, or šiḫṭu, accompanied by the Kassite chieftain Šitti- or LAK-ti-Marduk who struck the decisive blow,[i 1] he was able to overrun Elam in a surprise attack conducted from Dēr during the hottest of the summer months, Dumuzi, when

the axes (held in the hand) burned like fire and the road-surfaces were scorching like flame. There was no water in the wells and drinking supplies were unavailable. The strength of the powerful horses slackened and the legs of even the strongest man weakened.[3]
—LAK-ti Marduk kudurru,  i 17–21.

A battle routed Elamite king Ḫulteludiš-Inšušinak on the banks of the river Ulaya, the dust of the battle darkening the sky. He was then able to sack Susa and retrieved the statue of Marduk (here called Bēl) and that of the goddess Il-āliya (DINGIR.URU-ia).[i 6] The campaign destroyed Elam as a power and provided a defining moment for the Babylonians akin to the siege of Troy for the ancient Greeks.[4]

This famous victory was celebrated in hymns, epic poetry and the Marduk prophecy.[i 7] Known as “Nabû-kudurrī-uṣur and Marduk” or the Epic of Nabû-kudurrī-uṣur[i 8] a poetic document deals with the legendary story of his recovery of the statue of Marduk and is one of two hymns glorify his military achievements. It opens with the king in despair, lamenting over the absence of Marduk, "beautiful Babylon pass through your heart, Turn your face toward (your temple) Esagila, which you love!”

The Hymn to Marduk,[i 9] celebrating victory over the Elamites, is assigned to him rather than Ashurbanipal who had a similar triumph, on stylistic grounds. There is a poetic pseudo-autobiography,[i 10] which does not actually mention him by name. An interlinear Sumero-Akkadian text[i 11] describes the events preceding the return of the statue from Elam and its joyous installation in Babylon.[5] A seventh-century astrological report alludes to observations made during his reign and their relationship to his devastation of Elam.

Other conflicts

The Synchronistic History[i 12] relates his entente cordiale with his contemporary, the Assyrian king Aššur-rēša-iši I,[i 13] and subsequently the outcome of two military campaigns against the border fortresses of Zanqi and Idi he conducted in violation of this agreement. The first was curtailed by the arrival of Aššur-rēša-iši’s main force, causing Nabû-kudurrī-uṣur to burn his siege engines and flee, while the second resulted in a battle in which the Assyrians apparently triumphed, “slaughtered his troops (and) carried off his camp.” It even reports the capture of the Babylonian field marshall, Karaštu.[1]

He is titled as the conqueror of the Amorite lands,[nb 4] “despoiler of the Kassites,” in the LAK-ti Marduk kudurru, despite the beneficiary being a Kassite chieftain and ally, and having smitten the mighty Lullubû with weapons.[6]

Domestic affairs

His construction activities are memorialized in building inscriptions of the Ekituš-ḫegal-tila, temple of Adad, in Babylon, on bricks from the temple of Enlil in Nippur and appear in the later king Simbar-Šipak’s reference to his having built the throne of Enlil for the Ekur-igigal in Nippur. A late Babylonian inventory lists his donations of gold vessels in Ur and Nabonidus, ca. 555 to 539 BC, consulted his stele for the ēntu-priestess.

The earliest of three extant economic texts is dated to his eighth year. Together with two kudurru’s and a stone memorial tablet, these are the only contemporary commercial records extant. Apart from the two deeds related to the Elamite campaign, the other kudurru[i 14] bears witness to a land grant to the nišakku of Nippur, a certain Nudku-ibni.[7] His name appears on four Lorestān bronze daggers and there is a prayer to Marduk on two more. He may be the Nabû-kudurrī-uṣur who is mentioned in the Chronicle of Market Prices[i 15] which records his ninth year but the context is lost.

Period literature

The Uruk List of Sages and Scholars[i 16] names Šaggil-kīnam-ubbib as the ummânu, or sage, who served under him and the later king Adad-apla-iddina when he would author the Babylonian Theodicy,[8] and several literary texts are thought to originate from his age, written in both Sumerian and Akkadian.

Lambert has suggested that it was during his reign that Marduk was elevated to the head of the pantheon, displacing Enlil and that the Enûma Eliš was possibly composed, but some historians claim an origin during the earlier Kassite dynasty.[6] A text concerning chemical process (imitations for precious stones) bears a colophon identifying it as a copy of an older Babylonian original but places it in his library.[1]


One of the most astonishing claim about the antiquity of Jainism (Ancient Dharmic Religion that originated in India) was made following the discovery of a copperplate inscription found at Kathiawar, deciphered by Dr. Pran Nath. According to Dr. Pran Nath, King Nebuchadnezzar I of Babylon considered himself to be the Lord of Mt. Girnar (historically also known as Ujjayanta or Raivata or Revata or Rewanagar. ) [Girnar is located in the Gujarat state of India. Gujarat is also one of the states where some of the key settlements of Indus Valley Civilization are to be found.] The inscription mentions that King Nebuchadnezzar I visited Mt. Girnar and paid homage to Neminath (or Arishtanemi), the paramount deity of Mt. Raivata. He also contributed a grant to build a temple in honor or Neminath.[9][10][11][12][13] Disclaimer: Although these published references to the discovery must be taken seriously they can not be taken as a definitive evidence, since it is not clear whether Dr. Pran Nath's compelling discovery was ever published and accepted in a Peer-Reviewed Research Journal. Nor is it certain whether some other Archaeologist/Researcher has independently examined the Copper Plate Inscription to corroborate this seemingly seminal find by Dr. Pran Nath.

See also



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