Fall of Babylon

Herodotus tells us that at one time the Persians seized the city by turning aside the Euphrates from its course, during the night, and entering along the bare bed of the river. The unsuspecting defenders were found helpless in drunken revelry. Perhaps this was the occasion of Belshazzar's sudden death.

The later history of Babylon is soon traced. Some of the Persian kings lived much in the city; it was a sort of second capital to them; but already its decline had begun. Xerxes punished it severely for a rebellion in 481 B.C. The great seven-story temple of Bel, with many other of the finest buildings, was overthrown; and a portion of the city was given up to pillage. Greek travelers, like Herodotus, saw many traces of decay within the walls, in some places whole quarters lying in ruins or turned into fields.

The city surrendered easily to the Greek conqueror Alexander the Great in 331 B.C. Its magnificence so impressed Alexander that he planned to make it his capital, but death prevented. It was the Greek princes who succeeded him in Asia, the Seleucidae, who finally accomplished the ruin of Babylon. They built a new capital of their own, Seleucia, within a few miles of it. Gradually all the wealthy inhabitants removed to the newer, gayer city; the poor soon followed them, leaving fallen Babylon alone with its great memories.

The Parthians captured and burned it about 140 B.C. In the time of Christ there was only a little village in the midst of the ruins; and the Christian father Jerome, writing in the fourth century A.D., tells us it had become an enclosed forest wherein the Persian kings hunted. Fallen Babylon had indeed become what Isaiah and Jeremiah predicted, "a burnt mountain." "But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there."

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