Nebuchadnezzar I (r. 1125-1104) was one of the more significant and successful kings to rule Babylonia in the intervening period between the demise of the Kassite Dynasty in the 12th century at the end of the Late Bronze Age, and the emergence of a new, independent Babylonian monarchy in the last quarter of the 7th century. His dynamic reign saw Nebuchadnezzar active on both domestic and foreign fronts. He tended to the needs of the traditional cult sanctuaries and their associated priesthoods in the major cities throughout Babylonia and embarked on military campaigns against both Assyria in the north and Elam to the east. Yet later Babylonian tradition celebrated him for one achievement that was little noted in his own royal inscriptions: the return of the statue of Marduk, Babylon’s patron deity, from captivity in Elam.
The Reign of Nebuchadnezzar reconstructs the history of Nebuchadnezzar I’s rule and, drawing upon theoretical treatments of historical and collective memory, examines how stories of his reign were intentionally utilized by later generations of Babylonian scholars and priests to create an historical memory that projected their collective identity and reflected Marduk’s rise to the place of primacy within the Babylonian pantheon in the 1st millennium BCE. It also explores how this historical memory was employed by the urban elite in discourses of power. Nebuchadnezzar I remained a viable symbol, though with diminishing effect, until at least the 3rd century BCE, by which time his memory had almost entirely faded. This study is a valuable resource to students of the Ancient Near East and Nebuchadnezzar, but is also a fascinating exploration of memory creation and exploitation in the ancient world.
Table of Contents
Foreword; PART I: WRITING HISTORY AND RECOVERING MEMORY, SOURCES AND METHODOLGIES; 1. Toward an Understanding of the Babylonian Memory of Nebuchadnezzar I; 2. Nebuchadnezzar I: Prior Scholarship and Historical Sources; PART II: NEBUCHADNEZZAR I AND HIS TIMES; 3. The Reign of Nebuchadnezzar I; 4. Nebuchadnezzar I’s Successors; PART III: REMEMBERING NEBUCHADNEZZAR I IN THE 1ST MILLENNIUM BCE; 5. Esarhaddon and the Return of Marduk in 668 BCE; 6. Remembering Nebuchadnezzar I from the Babylonian Zenith to Seleucid Decline; PART IV: THE MAKING OF MEMORY AND THE MAKING OF MEANING; 7. Nebuchadnezzar I in the Collective Memory; 8. The Elevation of Marduk: Nebuchadnezzar I as Cultural Formation; 9. Intentional History in the Early First Millennium BCE; Index
John P. Nielsen is Assistant Professor of History at Bradley University, Peoria, IL, USA.
"This is the first book-length study devoted to the reign of Nebuchadnezzar I, a Babylonian king of the late 12th century BC who is best known to students of ancient Mesopotamia for his recovery of the statue of the national god Marduk from its captivity in Elam. Nielsen achieves two feats of scholarship: he presents a lucid account of Nebuchadnezzar I and his times, and then traces his legacy right down to the Seleukid era, based on careful analysis of a wide range of cuneiform sources including literary texts. His investigation of historical and collective memory within the Mesopotamian cultural tradition represents a major contribution to ancient Near Eastern historiography."
- Heather Baker, University of Toronto, Canada