Warfare > Fall of Babylon

Fall of Babylon


The fall of Babylon occurred in 539 BCE and marked the end of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, with the city's conquest by the forces of the Achaemenid Persian Empire under the leadership of Cyrus the Great. Babylon, located in Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq), was one of the most significant cities in the ancient Near East, renowned for its wealth, power, and cultural achievements. The Neo-Babylonian Empire, also known as the Chaldean Empire, reached its zenith under King Nebuchadnezzar II, who expanded Babylon's influence and undertook extensive building projects, including the famous Hanging Gardens. Despite its strength, the Neo-Babylonian Empire faced internal instability and external threats, particularly from the rising power of the Achaemenid Persian Empire.

Key Players:

Neo-Babylonians: Ruled by King Nabonidus at the time of the city's fall, the Neo-Babylonian Empire struggled to maintain control over its vast territories, facing challenges from rebellious provinces and external invaders.

Achaemenid Persians: Led by Cyrus the Great, the Persian forces were highly disciplined and motivated, seeking to expand their empire and assert dominance over Mesopotamia.

Course of the Conquest:

In 539 BCE, Cyrus the Great, having already conquered much of the Near East, including Media and Lydia, turned his attention to Babylon. Cyrus advanced his forces towards Babylon, encountering minimal resistance from the outlying regions and cities that had long chafed under Babylonian rule. King Nabonidus, fearing Cyrus's advance, remained in the city of Babylon, consolidating his defenses and seeking divine favor from the city's patron deity, Marduk. Cyrus's army besieged Babylon, surrounding the city and cutting off its access to vital resources, including food and water.

Despite the city's formidable fortifications and defenses, Babylon fell relatively quickly to the Persian siege tactics. According to ancient sources, the Persians diverted the waters of the Euphrates River, which flowed through the city, allowing Cyrus's forces to enter Babylon through the riverbed and infiltrate the city under the cover of darkness. With little resistance from within, Cyrus's forces swiftly overran the city, capturing King Nabonidus and effectively ending Neo-Babylonian rule.


The fall of Babylon marked the end of the Neo-Babylonian Empire and the incorporation of Mesopotamia into the Achaemenid Persian Empire. Cyrus the Great, upon capturing Babylon, proclaimed himself as the legitimate ruler of the city and initiated policies to restore order and stability, including the return of displaced peoples and the restoration of religious sanctuaries. Cyrus's conquest of Babylon was relatively bloodless, and he earned praise for his policy of clemency towards the conquered Babylonians, allowing for a relatively smooth transition of power.


The fall of Babylon had far-reaching consequences for the ancient Near East, reshaping the political and cultural landscape of the region. Babylon's conquest by Cyrus the Great marked the beginning of the Achaemenid Persian Empire's dominance in Mesopotamia and paved the way for further Persian conquests in the Near East and beyond.Babylon's rich cultural heritage, including its literature, architecture, and religious traditions, continued to influence subsequent civilizations long after its fall, leaving an enduring legacy in the annals of human history. In summary, the fall of Babylon to Cyrus the Great and the Achaemenid Persian Empire in 539 BCE marked the end of the Neo-Babylonian Empire and the beginning of a new era of Persian dominance in Mesopotamia.

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