The king of Babylon (Akkadian: ''šar Bābili'') was the ruler of the ancient Mesopotamian city of Babylon and its kingdom, Babylonia, which existed as an independent realm from the 19th century BC to its fall in the 6th century BC. For the majority of its existence as an independent kingdom, Babylon ruled most of southern Mesopotamia, composed of the ancient regions of Sumer and Akkad. The city experienced two major periods of ascendancy, when Babylonian kings rose to dominate large parts of the Ancient Near East: the First Babylonian Empire (or Old Babylonian Empire, 1894–1595 BC according to the middle chronology) and the Second Babylonian Empire (or Neo-Babylonian Empire, 626–539 BC). The title ''šar Bābili'' was applied to Babylonian rulers relatively late, from the 8th century BC and onwards. Preceding Babylonian kings had typically used the title ''viceroy of Babylon'' (Akkadian: ''šakkanakki Bābili'') out of reverence for Babylon's patron deity Marduk, considered the city's formal "king". Other titles frequently used by the Babylonian monarchs included the geographical titles ''king of Sumer and Akkad'' (Akkadian: ''šar māt Šumeri u Akkadi'') and ''king of Karduniash'' (Akkadian: ''šar Karduniaš''), "Karduniash" being the name applied to Babylon's kingdom by the city's third dynasty (the Kassites). Many of Babylon's kings were of foreign origin. Throughout the city's nearly two-thousand year history, it was ruled by kings of native Babylonian, Amorite, Kassite, Assyrian, Elamite, Chaldean, Persian, Hellenic and Parthian origin. A king's cultural and ethnic background does not appear to have been important for the Babylonian perception of kingship, the important matter instead being whether the king was capable of executing the duties traditionally ascribed to the Babylonian king; establishing peace and security, upholding justice, honoring civil rights, refraining from unlawful taxation, respecting religious traditions, constructing temples and providing gifts to the gods in them as well as maintaining cultic order. Babylonian revolts of independence directed against Assyrian and Persian rulers probably had little to do with said rulers not being Babylonians and more to do with the rulers rarely visiting Babylon and failing to partake in the city's rituals and traditions. Babylon's last native king was Nabonidus, who reigned from 556 to 539 BC. Nabonidus's rule was ended through Babylon being conquered by Cyrus the Great of the Achaemenid Empire. Though early Achaemenid kings continued to place importance on Babylon and continued using the title "king of Babylon", later Achaemenid rulers being ascribed the title is probably only something done by the Babylonians themselves, with the kings having abandoned it. Though it is doubtful if any later monarchs claimed the title, Babylonian scribes continued to accord it to the rulers of the empires that controlled Babylonia until the time of the Parthian Empire, when Babylon was gradually abandoned. Though Babylonia never regained independence after the Achaemenid conquest, there were several attempts by Babylonians to drive out their foreign rulers and re-establish their kingdom, possibly as late as 336 BC under the rebel Nidin-Bel.


Throughout the city's long history, various titles were used to designate the ruler of Babylon and its kingdom, the most common of which were "viceroy/governor of Babylon" (''šakkanakki Bābili''), "king of Karduniash" (''šar Karduniaš'') and "king of Sumer and Akkad" (''šar māt Šumeri u Akkadi''). "viceroy/governor of Babylon" emphasizes the political dominion of the city, whereas the other two refer to southern Mesopotamia as a whole. Use of one of the titles did not mean that the others could not be used simultaneously. For instance, the Neo-Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III, who conquered Babylon in 729 BC, used all three. The reason why "governor/viceroy of Babylon" was used rather than "king of Babylon" (''šar Bābili'') for much of the city's history was that the true king of Babylon was formally considered to be its national deity, Marduk. By being titled as ''šakkanakki'' rather than ''šar'', the Babylonian king thus showed reverence to the city's god. This practice was ended by the Neo-Assyrian king Sennacherib, who in 705 BC took the title ''šar Bābili'' rather than ''šakkanakki Bābili'', something which alongside various other perceived offences contributed to widespread negative reception of the king in Babylonia. Sennacherib's immediate successors, including his son Esarhaddon (681–669 BC) typically used ''šakkanakki Bābili'', though there are examples of Esarhaddon and Esarhaddon's successor Shamash-shum-ukin (668–648 BC) using ''šar Bābili'' as well. "King of Babylon" was then used for all following kings interchangeably with "governor/viceroy of Babylon". It was used by the Neo-Babylonian kings, and by the early Achaemenid Persian rulers. The Achaemenids used the title ''king of Babylon and king of the Lands'' until it was gradually abandoned by Xerxes I in 481 BC after he had to deal with numerous Babylonian revolts.' The last Achaemenid king whose inscriptions use this title was Artaxerxes I, the successor of Xerxes I. Later monarchs likely rarely (if at all) used the title, but the rulers of Mesopotamia continued to be accorded it for centuries by the Babylonians themselves, as late as the Parthian period. The Parthian kings were styled in inscriptions as ''LUGAL'' (the inscription of ''šar'').' The standard Parthian formula, applied for the last few kings mentioned in Akkadian-language sources, was "''ar-šá-kam'' lugal.lugal.meš" (''Aršákam šar šarrāni'', "Arsaces, king of kings").' The final Babylonian documents that mention and name a king are the astronomical diaries LBAT 1184 and LBAT 1193,' written during the reign of the Parthian king Phraates IV (37–2 BC), dated to 11 BC and 5 BC, respectively.' The title "king of Sumer and Akkad" was introduced during the Third Dynasty of Ur, centuries before Babylon was founded, and allowed rulers to connect themselves to the culture and legacy of the Sumerian and Akkadian civilizations, as well as lay claim on the political hegemony achieved during the ancient Akkadian Empire. Furthermore, the title was a geographical one in that southern Mesopotamia was typically divided into regions called ''Sumer'' (the southern regions) and ''Akkad'' (the north), meaning that "king of Sumer and Akkad" referred to rule over the entire country. Alongside "king of Babylon", "king of Sumer and Akkad" was used by Babylonian monarchs until the fall of the Neo-Babylonian Empire in 539 BC.' The title was also used by Cyrus the Great, who conquered Babylon in 539 BC. "King of Karduniash" was introduced during Babylon's third dynasty, when the city and southern Mesopotamia as a whole was ruled by the Kassites. ''Karduniaš'' was the Kassite name for the kingdom centered on Babylon and its territory. The title continued being used long after the Kassites had lost control of Babylon, used for instance as late as by the native Babylonian king Nabu-shuma-ukin I ( 900–888 BC) and by Esarhaddon.

Role and legitimacy

The Babylonian kings derived their right to rule from divine appointment by Babylon's patron deity Marduk and through consecration by the city's priests. Marduk's main cult image (often conflated with the god himself), the Statue of Marduk, was prominently used in the coronation rituals for the kings, who received their crowns "out of the hands" of Marduk during the New Year's festival, symbolizing them being bestowed with kingship by the deity.' The king's rule and his role as Marduk's vassal on Earth were reaffirmed annually at this time of year, when the king entered the Esagila alone on the fifth day of the New Year's Festival each year and met with the chief priest. The chief priest removed the regalia from the king, slapped him across the face and made him kneel before Marduk's statue. The king would then tell the statue that he had not oppressed his people and that he had maintained order throughout the year, whereafter the chief priest would reply (on behalf of Marduk) that the king could continue to enjoy divine support for his rule, returning the royal regalia.' Through being a patron of Babylon's temples, the king extended his generosity towards the Mesopotamian gods, who in turn empowered his rule and lent him their authority. Babylonian kings were expected to establish peace and security, uphold justice, honor civil rights, refrain from unlawful taxation, respect religious traditions and maintain cultic order. None of the king's responsibilities and duties required him to be ethnically or even culturally Babylonian; any foreigner sufficiently familiar with the royal customs of Babylonia could adopt the title, though they might then require the assistance of the native priesthood and the native scribes. Ethnicity and culture does not appear to have been important in the Babylonian perception of kingship; many foreign kings enjoyed support from the Babylonians and several native kings were despised. That the rule of some foreign kings was not supported by the Babylonians probably has little to do with their ethnic or cultural background. What was always more important was whether the ruler was capable of executing the duties of the Babylonian king properly, in line with established Babylonian tradition. The frequent Babylonian revolts against foreign rulers, such as the Assyrians and the Persians, can most likely be attributed to the Assyrian and Persian kings being perceived as failing in their duties as Babylonian monarchs. Since their capitals were elsewhere, they did not regularly partake in the city's rituals (meaning that they could not be celebrated in the same way that they traditionally were) and they rarely performed their traditional duties to the Babylonian cults through constructing temples and presenting cultic gifts to the city's gods. This failure might have been interpreted as the kings thus not having the necessary divine endorsement to be considered true kings of Babylon.

Babylonian dynasties

Dynastic arrangements

As with other monarchies, the kings of Babylon are grouped into a series of royal dynasties, a practice started by the ancient Babylonians themselves in their king lists. The generally accepted Babylonian dynasties should not be understood as familial groupings in the same vein as the term is commonly used by historians for ruling families in later kingdoms and empires. Though Babylon's first dynasty did form a dynastic grouping where all monarchs were related, the dynasties of the first millennium BC, notably the Dynasty of E, did not constitute a series of coherent familial relationships at all. In a Babylonian sense, the term dynasty, rendered as ''palû'' or ''palê'', related to a sequence of monarchs from the same ethnic or tribal group (i.e. the Kassite dynasty), the same region (i.e. the dynasties of the Sealand) or the same city (i.e. the dynasties of Babylon and Isin). In some cases, kings known to be genealogically related, such as Eriba-Marduk and his grandson Marduk-apla-iddina II, were separated into different dynasties, the former designated as belonging to the Dynasty of E and the latter as belonging to the (Third) Sealand dynasty. Later historians have provided varying dynastic arrangements of the kings. The list of kings below follows the dynastic arrangement of kings presented in Beaulieu (2018), with some of the names of the dynasties and the regnal dates of kings following Chen (2020). Beaulieu (2018) based the arrangement of the dynasties on Babylonian King List A. Beaulieu's "Ninth Dynasty" lumps kings of what the Babylonians reckoned as a series of brief dynasties together because these dynasties are not separated as clearly in the king list as others are, with dynastic attributions listed after each king individually rather than after the entire sequence, as with previous dynasties. Other recent interpretations of Babylonian dynasties, as well as the version used in the ancient Babylonian King List A, are presented in the table below, with the first and last kings attributed to each dynasty.

Earlier dynasties

The Amorite dynasty, or just the First Babylonian dynasty, was the first dynasty to rule from Babylon and is the first dynasty of kings of Babylon in most of the Babylonian king lists, such as Babylonian King List A. As such, modern historians consider it to be the city's first dynasty of kings. Some Babylonian documents and lists of rulers suggest that certain earlier Mesopotamian dynasties were sometimes considered to be earlier Babylonian dynasties. The ''Dynastic Chronicle'' records rulers from the earliest legendary antediluvian kings of the Sumerian King List to Babylonian kings of the 8th century BC. There is also evidence that the kings of Babylon's last native dynasty, the Chaldean or Neo-Babylonian, dynasty looked to the rulers of the Akkadian Empire as Babylon's real first dynasty and to Sargon of Akkad as the founder of their kingdom. Inscriptions by Nabonidus refer to Sargon of Akkad as a "king of Babylon" rather than a "king of Akkad" and Nebuchadnezzar II's inscriptions call Naram-Sin, Sargon's son, his "forefather", rather than the more common terms "former king" or "predecessor".

Later dynasties

The Babylonians continued to recognize the monarchs of later empires that ruled Babylonia as kings of Babylon. Recognition of these empires as additional dynasties of Babylon has been limited and variable in modern scholarship. Beaulieu (2018), who numbered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian dynasty as Dynasty X of Babylon, supplemented the foreign dynasties that ruled Babylon after the collapse of the Neo-Babylonian Empire to the native ones, designating the Achaemenid dynasty of the Persian Empire as Dynasty XI, the Argeads of Alexander the Great's empire as Dynasty XII, the Seleucids of the Seleucid Empire as Dynasty XIII and the Arsacids of the Parthian Empire as Dynasty XIV.

Dynasty I: Amorite dynasty (c. 1894–1595 BC)

The regnal dates below (and for the rest of the list, where applicable) follow Chen (2020), which in turn follows the middle chronology of Mesopotamian history, the chronology most commonly encountered in literature, including most current textbooks on the archaeology and history of the Ancient Near East.'

Overlapping and conflicting dynasties

Samsu-Ditana's reign ended (according to the middle chronology) in 1595 BC with the sack and destruction of Babylon by the Hittites. Babylon and its kingdom would not be firmly re-established until the reign of the Kassite king Agum II. Babylonian king lists consider the kings listed in this section as kings of Babylon between the Amorite dynasty and the later Kassite dynasty, though most of them are unlikely to have ruled Babylon itself and the dynasties likely overlapped significantly.' Precise dates for the reigns of these kings are not known.

Dynasty II: First Sealand dynasty

The First Sealand dynasty might only have ruled Babylonia itself for the briefest of periods, being based in formerly Sumerian regions south of it. Nevertheless, it is often traditionally numbered the Second Dynasty of Babylon. Little is known of these rulers. They were counted as kings of Babylon in later king lists, succeeding the Amorite dynasty despite overlapping reigns.' * Ilum-ma-ili (''Ilum-ma-ilī''), 60 years. * Itti-ili-nibi (''Itti-ili-nībī''), 56(?) years. * Damqi-ilishu (''Damqi-ilišu''), 26(?) years. * Ishkibal (''Iškibal''), 15 years. * Shushushi (''Šušši''), 24 years. * Gulkishar (''Gulkišar''), 55 years. * mDIŠ+U-EN (''mDIŠ-U-EN'', reading unknown), 12 years. * Peshgaldaramesh (''Pešgaldarameš''), son of Gulkishar, 50 years. * Ayadaragalama (''Ayadaragalama''), son of Peshgaldaramesh, 28 years. * Akurduana (''Akurduana''), 26 years. * Melamkurkurra (''Melamkurkurra''), 7 years. * Ea-gamil (''Ea-gamil''), 9 years.

Early Kassite rulers

These kings also did not actually rule Babylon, but succeeding Kassite kings did. Little is known of these rulers. They were counted as kings of Babylon in later king lists (the first of Dynasty III), succeeding the Sealand dynasty despite overlapping reigns.' * Gandash (''Gandaš''), 26 years. * Agum I Mahru (''Agum Maḫrû''), son of Gandash, 22 years. * Kashtiliash I (''Kaštiliašu''), son of Agum I, 22 years. * Abi-Rattash (''Abi-Rattaš'' or ''Uššiašu''), son of Kashtiliash I, 8(?) years. * Kashtiliash II (''Kaštiliašu''). * Urzigurumash (''Ur-zigurumaš'' or ''Tazzigurumaš''). * Hurbazum (''Ḫurbazum'' or ''Ḫarba-Šipak''). * Shipta'ulzi (''Šipta’ulzi'' or ''Tiptakzi'').

Dynasty III: Kassite dynasty (c. 16th century BC – 1155 BC)

Dynasty IV: Second dynasty of Isin (c. 1157–1026 BC)

Named in reference to the ancient Sumerian (First) Dynasty of Isin. Contemporary Babylonian documents refer to this dynasty as ''BALA PA.ŠE'', a paronomasia (play on words) on the term ''išinnu'' ("stalk", written as ''PA.ŠE''), interpreted by some as an apparent reference to the city Isin.'

Dynasty V: Second Sealand dynasty (c. 1025–1005 BC)

Evidence that these kings were Kassites, a common assertion, is somewhat lacking.'

Dynasty VI: Bazi dynasty (c. 1004–985 BC)

The Bazi (or Bīt-Bazi) dynasty was a minor Kassite clan. They ruled Babylonia from the city Kar-Marduk, an otherwise unknown location which might have been better protected against raids from nomadic groups than Babylon itself.'

Dynasty VII: Elamite dynasty (c. 984–979 BC)

The Elamite dynasty only contains a single king, Mar-biti-apla-usur.

Dynasty VIII: Dynasty of E (c. 978–732 BC)

Most of the kings attributed to the dynasty of E in king lists were seemingly unrelated. This list includes all those who were attributed to the dynasty in Babylonian king lists, but modern historians vary in how many kings they view the dynasty as encompassing, ranging from all of them to just the final five.

Dynasty IX: Assyrian dynasty (732–626 BC)

The Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III conquered Babylonia in 729 BC. From his rule and onwards, most of the Assyrian kings were also titled as kings of Babylon, ruling both Assyria and Babylonia in something akin to a personal union. Vassal kings, sometimes appointed instead of the Assyrian king ruling Babylonia directly, are indicated with darker grey background color. Native Babylonians who rebelled against the ruling dynasty of the Neo-Assyrian Empire and attempted to restore Babylonia's independence are indicated with beige background color.

Dynasty X: Chaldean dynasty (626–539 BC)

The rebel Nabopolassar, proclaimed as Babylon's king in 626 BC, successfully drove out the Assyrians from southern Mesopotamia and had united and consolidated all of Babylonia under his rule by 620 BC, founding the Neo-Babylonian Empire. The Neo-Babylonian (or Chaldean) dynasty was Babylonia's last dynasty of native Mesopotamian monarchs and the fall of their empire in 539 BC marked the end of Babylonia as an independent kingdom.

Babylon under foreign empires

Dynasty XI: Achaemenid dynasty (539–331 BC)

In 539, Cyrus the Great of the Persian Achaemenid Empire conquered Babylon, which would never again successfully regain independence. The Babylonians had resented their last native king, Nabonidus, over his religious practices and some of his political choices and Cyrus could thus claim to be the legitimate successor of the ancient Babylonian kings and the avenger of Baylon's national deity, Marduk.' The early Achaemenid rulers had great respect for Babylonia, regarding the region as a separate entity or kingdom united with their own kingdom in something akin to a personal union.' Despite this, the native Babylonians grew to resent their foreign rulers, as they had with the Assyrians earlier, and rebelled several times. The Achaemenid kings continued to use the title "king of Babylon" alongside their other royal titles until the reign of Xerxes I, who dropped the title in 481 BC, divided the previously large Babylonian satrapy and desecrated Babylon after having had to put down a Babylonian revolt.' In the king lists of the Babylonians, the Achaemenid kings continued to be recognized as Kings of Babylon until the end of the Achaemenid Empire. The Akkadian (Babylonian) names of the monarchs listed here follow the renderings of the names of these monarchs in the ''Uruk King List'' (also known as "King List 5") and the ''Babylonian King List of the Hellenistic Period'' (also known as BKLHP or “King List 6”), as well as how their names are rendered in contract tablets.' These lists records rulers, identifying them as "kings of Babylon".' Native Babylonians who rebelled against the Achaemenids and attempted to restore Babylonia's independence are indicated with beige background color. Vassal kings are indicated with darker grey background color.

Dynasty XII: Argead dynasty (331–309 BC)

Though they probably did not use the title themselves, Babylonian king lists continue to consider the monarchs of the Hellenistic Argead dynasty, which conquered Babylonia and the rest of the Persian Empire under Alexander the Great in 331 BC, as kings of Babylon. The Akkadian (Babylonian) names of the monarchs listed here follow how their names are rendered in these lists.'

Dynasty XIII: Seleucid dynasty (311–141 BC)

Babylonian king lists continue to consider the monarchs of the Hellenistic Seleucid dynasty, which succeeded the Argeads in Mesopotamia and Persia, as Kings of Babylon. The Akkadian (Babylonian) names of the monarchs listed here follow how their names are rendered in these lists, as well as how their names are rendered in contract tablets. The Antiochus Cylinder of Antiochus I (271–261 BC) is the last known example of an ancient Akkadian royal titulary and it accords him several traditional Mesopotamian titles, such as king of Babylon and king of the Universe. Rebel leaders (though none were native Babylonians) and local rulers/usurpers who seized the city and were recognized as kings of Babylon by the Babylonians are marked with light blue color.

Dynasty XIV: Arsacid dynasty (141 BC – AD 222)

Babylon and the rest of Mesopotamia was lost by the Seleucids to the Parthian Empire in 141 BC. There are no Babylonian king lists which record any ruler after the Seleucids as a King of Babylon.' King List 6 ends, after Demetrius II, with a passage referencing "Arsaces the king", indicating that the list was created in the early years of Parthian rule in Mesopotamia (''Arsaces'' being the regnal name used by all Parthian kings). Because the list is so fragmentary, it is unclear if this Arsaces was formally considered a king of Babylon (as the Persian and Hellenic rulers had been) by the list's author.' Under the Parthians, Babylon was gradually abandoned as a major urban center and the old Akkadian culture diminished.' Critically, the nearby and newer cities of Seleucia and later Ctesiphon overshadowed Babylon and became the imperial capitals of the region.' In the first century or so of Parthian rule, Babylon continued to be somewhat important' and documents from this time suggest a continued recognition of at least the early Parthian kings as Babylonian monarchs.' The few Babylonian documents that survive from the Parthian era suggest a growing sense of alarm and alienation among the last few Babylonians as the Parthian kings were mostly absent from the city and the Babylonian culture slowly slipped away.' When exactly Babylon was abandoned is unclear. Roman author Pliny the Elder wrote in 50 AD that proximity to Seleucia had turned Babylon into a "barren waste" and during their campaigns in the east, Roman emperors Trajan (in 115 AD) and Septimius Severus (in 199 AD) supposedly found the city destroyed and deserted. Archaeological evidence and the writings of Abba Arikha ( 219 AD) indicate that at least the temples of Babylon were still active in the early 3rd century.' Religious reforms in the early Sasanian Empire 230 AD would have decisively wiped out the last remnants of the old Babylonian culture, if it still existed at that point.' Rebel leaders (though none were native Babylonians) and local rulers/usurpers who seized the city and were recognized as kings of Babylon by the Babylonians are marked with light blue color. Seleucid rulers (who briefly regained Babylon) are indicated with pink color. Though noting that the last known cuneiform records are from the 1st century AD and that Babylonia was abandoned at some point during Parthian rule, Beaulieu (2018) considers Dynasty XIV of Babylon, i.e. the Parthians, to have lasted until the end of the Parthian Empire's rule of Mesopotamia in the early 3rd century AD. For later Parthian kings after Phraates IV, see the List of Parthian monarchs.

See also

* List of Assyrian kings * List of Mesopotamian dynasties * Sumerian King List





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Web sources

* * * * * * * * * * * {{DEFAULTSORT:List Of Kings Of Babylon Category:Babylonia Babylon Kings of Babylon