What we know about Babylonia is mostly derived from clay tablets. Tens of thousands of these cuneiform texts have been found in the last century and for some periods these tell us a great deal about the inhabitants of the lower Tigris and Euphrates river valleys, about their religion, customs and business affairs. But as yet comparatively few of these texts are historical in the more direct sense of the term.

By a curious coincidence a number of texts that are historical have come to light in recent months, all relating to a comparatively short period of some seventy years—from about 609 to 539 B.C. Between these dates, as it happens, lies the last period of Babylonian greatness. In 612 Nineveh, the ancient capital of Assyria, was taken by the Medes and Babylonians and the latter inherited the former Assyrian empire; Babylon now ruled all Mesopotamia, Syria, Palestine and, for a brief while, perhaps part of Egypt itself; Jerusalem fell and the Jews were carried off to exile. At the end of these 70 years, in 539, Babylon fell in her turn. She was taken by the Persians under Cyrus.

Although many of these happenings are known from the Bible or from classical writers such as Josephus and Herodotus, we have had few contemporary Babylonian records. Take the Battle of Carchemish, early or in our period; it was at Carchemish that Babylon won Syria and Palestine from Egypt, and its sequel was the capture of Jerusalem nine years later. Until now great events such as these have been known only from the Old Testament and Josephus (who often derived his history from the Old Testament) and their dates and many details have been lacking. The history of Egypt at this time is almost a blank and the doings of even major Babylonian kings like ...

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