The Reign of Nebuchadnezzar I in History and Historical Memory: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Reign of Nebuchadnezzar I in History and Historical Memory

1st Edition

By John P. Nielsen


220 pages

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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.


"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

Table of Contents

List of Figures

List of Maps

List of Tables



List of Abbreviations


1. Toward an Understanding of the Babylonian Memory of Nebuchadnezzar I

1.1. Nebuchadnezzar I

1.2. Nebuchadnezzar I and Historical Memory

1.3. Babylonian Historical Consciousness

1.4. Nebuchadnezzar I and Historical Memory: A Prospectus

2. Nebuchadnezzar I: Prior Scholarship and Historical Sources

2.1. Prior Scholarship

2.2. Historical Sources

2.2.1. Primary Sources

2.2.2. Secondary Sources

2.2.3. Tertiary Sources

2.3. Writing of the Royal Name

2.4. Chronology


3. The Reign of Nebuchadnezzar I

3.1. The Origins of the Second Dynasty of Isin

3.2. The Reign of Nebuchadnezzar I

3.2.1. Foreign Relations

3.2.2. Domestic Affairs

3.3. Conclusions

4. Nebuchadnezzar I’s Successors

4.1. Enlil-nādin-apli

4.2. Marduk-nādin-aḫḫē

4.3. Marduk-šāpik-zēri

4.4. Conclusions


5. Esarhaddon and the Return of Marduk in 668 BCE

5.1. Introduction

5.2. Ashurbanipal’s Library and the Nebuchadnezzar I Literary Tablets

5.3. The Past Repeated: The Departure and Return of Marduk in the Seventh Century

5.3.1. Sennacherib’s Destruction of Babylon in 689

5.3.2. The Fate of Marduk

5.3.3. Sennacherib’s Religious Reforms

5.3.4. Esarhaddon’s Rebuilding of Babylon

5.4. Nebuchadnezzar I and the Discourse at Esarhaddon’s Court

5.4.1. The Memory of Nebuchadnezzar I and the Written Discourse

5.4.2. Reminding Babylon of Nebuchadnezzar I in the Performative Discourse

5.5. Conclusions

6. Remembering Nebuchadnezzar I from the Zenith of Babylonian Power through the Seleucid Era

6.1. Introduction

6.2. Nebuchadnezzar I in the Neo-Babylonian Empire

6.3. Nebuchadnezzar I in Achaemenid Babylonia

6.4. Nebuchadnezzar I in Hellenistic Babylonia

6.5. Conclusions


7. Nebuchadnezzar I in the Collective Memory

7.1. The Early First Millennium BCE: Crisis and Continuity

7.2. The Making of Memory

7.3. Nebuchadnezzar I in Collective Memory

7.4. Conclusions

8. The Elevation of Marduk: Nebuchadnezzar I as Cultural Formation

8.1. The Creation of Meaning

8.1.1. The Fall of Babylon

8.1.2. The Deity of Departs

8.1.3. The Deity Returns

8.2. Syncretic Thought

8.3. Conclusions

9. Intentional History in the Early First Millennium BCE

9.1. Introduction

9.2. Scholarly Culture during the Second Dynasty of Isin

9.3. Babylonia from the Tenth through Eighth Centuries BCE

9.3.1. King of Babylon

9.3.2. “Taking the Hand of Bēl” and “Marduk did not go out”

9.4. Intentional History

9.5. Conclusions


About the Author

John P. Nielsen is Assistant Professor of History at Bradley University, Peoria, IL, USA.

About the Series

Studies in the History of the Ancient Near East

Advisory Board of Associate Editors

Ra’anan Boustan, University of California, Los Angeles, USA; Zeba Crook, Carleton University, Canada; Elizabeth DePalma Digeser, University of California at Santa Barbara, USA; Matthew Gibbs, University of Winnipeg, Canada; John Lee, University of California at Santa Barbara, USA; Harry Munt, University of York, UK; Richard Payne, Oriental Institute, University of Chicago, USA; Lucy Wadeson, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium; Philip Wood, Aga Khan University, London, UK; Alan Lenzi, University of the Pacific, USA.


Studies in the History of the Ancient Near East provides a global forum for works addressing the history and culture of the Ancient Near East, spanning a broad period from the foundation of civilisation in the region until the end of the Abbasid period. The series includes research monographs, edited works, collections developed from conferences and workshops, and volumes suitable for the university classroom.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Ancient / General