The Loss of an Empire

Lords and rulers to thrill their hearts, to bring them joy. Enlil, the great Kur (Land), has empowered you.

~ Enki and the World Order

When Cyrus II, king of Medo-Persian Empire, had conquered Babylon he had written, on what has become known as the Cyrus Cylinder, these words: "…I am Cyrus. King of the world. When I entered Babylon…I did not allow anyone to terrorize the land…I kept in view the needs of the people and all its sanctuaries to promote their well-being…I put an end to their misfortune. The Great God has delivered all the lands into my hand; the lands that I have made to dwell in a peaceful habitation…"

The year was 539 BC and with the fall of the city of Babylon, to Cyrus’ Armies, he had, without exaggeration, established a world empire.

Before Cyrus’ conquest of Babylon, he was the lord and master of the regions of modern Turkey, Iran and possibly Afghanistan. With the addition of the city Babylon, and the ancient world’s capital of scholarship and science, the Babylonian empire effectively extended Cyrus’ control over modern Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel.

Cyrus had established what historians know as the Achaemenid Empire, an empire that was to last for more than two centuries and was only dissolved after the death of the Macedonian king Alexander the Great when it was divided among Alexander’s successors.

Now as kings fare, Cyrus II would have to rank as one of the better monarchs of history.

Indeed, what occurred on October 29, 539 BCE in the city of Babylon is one of those rare and unique historical events, which President Bush could only participate in via his mystifying state of deluded grandeur.

The Nabonidus Chronicle elaborates: "In the month of Arahsamna, the third day, Cyrus entered Babylon, green twigs were spread in front of him – the state of peace was imposed upon the city. Cyrus sent greetings to all Babylon."

What occurred is that Cyrus II was paid the homage and given the veneration of a conquering hero. Now, in the ancient world, this in itself is not all that unusual. The ancient histories have numerous examples of great leaders who were given a hero’s parade, but normally this procession was given by the people of the conquerors.

However, in Cyrus’ case the procession of joy for a conquering hero was given by those who had been conquered. This makes Cyrus’ welcome into Babylon unrivalled in the annals of history.

Unlike President George Bush, who stated:

"I’m not the expert on how the Iraqi people think, because I live in America, where it’s nice and safe and secure." – George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Sept. 23, 2004

Cyrus II fully understood the Akkadian mind. He also saw that what had occurred was a classic example of an inept monarchy loosing its consent to rule from the people.

The last king of the Chaldean dynasty in Babylonia was a commoner by the name of Nabonidus, who had come to power through suspicious if not murderous circumstances in 555 BC. Of Nabonidus it can only be said that he was consumed with antiquarian and religious speculations. He built temples while the Empire of Babylonia was left undefended and from the ancient records he appears to have been quite mentally unstable.

President Bush accurately stated Nabonidus’ and the Babylonians’ predicament in his recent analysis of current events.

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we." – George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2004

Nabonidus actions left him hated by both the priesthoods and the general population. So great was this loathing that Nabonidus was forced into a self imposed exile while leaving his drunken lout of a son, Bel-shar-usur, (the biblical Belshezzar) in Babylon as co-regent and in charge of empire’s officials and the Babylonian Army.

This resulted in the monarchy rapidly decaying into a kleptocracy. In a very short time the empire, under the rule of Bel-shar-usur, became so corrupt that no pretense of honesty or the traditional ways remained. Religious morals were held in disdain, the local economies began to perform badly, and as the systematic corruption gained steam the ruling class imposed massive tax burdens on the people. This brought hardship and suffering for the vast majority of citizens as the civil society and the rule of law disintegrated.

As the abhorrence for the father/son monarchy expanded it caused the invasion of Babylonia by Cyrus II to be facilitated by the existence of a number of disaffected parties within the state. Among those who saw relief in Cyrus II was the governor of the province of Gutium, by the name of Gobryas [Ugbaru].

Gobryas allied himself and his army with Cyrus’ forces and on the night October 16, 539 BCE, while Bel-shar-usur held a drunken feast for over 1000 guests, Cyrus’ army began the invasion of the city of Babylon.

What the Medo-Persian army faced was a 225 square-mile city, which was completely surrounded by a wall eighty-seven feet thick, and three hundred feet high. Outside the wall was either a moat or ditch equal, in cubic feet, in capacity to the city wall itself.

On that night in October, in a military maneuver that has few parallels in history, Cyrus and his army, using the canal system from the Euphrates River that supplied the water to the city, breached the Babylonian defenses, and completely subdued the capital of the Babylonian Empire in one night. Not one warning was given, not one alarm sounded, nor one drop of blood spilt by either the general population or the defending Babylonian army.

In that one night, passed the much celebrated glory, power and prestige that was the Babylonian Empire into the hands of the Persians and history.

As we watch and review the American machine that promises freedom, prosperity, and safety to those at home and abroad, I am reminded of a final Bushism.

"Let me put it to you bluntly. In a changing world, we want more people to have control over your own life." —George W. Bush, Annandale, VA, Aug. 9, 2004

I wonder how it is that we are expected to believe such nonsense in the light of the cold-blooded, immoral, official incompetence that we have witnessed in the last years, months, and weeks both at home and abroad.

Unlike our present debacle in Iraq, Cyrus faced no "insurgency," or rebellion. In the fall of 539 BCE these ancient peoples were truly liberated with no loss of their means of personal support, drinking water, food stores, or social support systems. They suffered no loss of their historical or personal wealth or their identity as a people. They were not forced into a political camp nor were their rights as a people diminished by being made slaves.

Thus, Cyropaedia of Xenophon in his work The Life of Cyrus the Great was able to write:

[8.1.28] And that this would be the result he (Cyrus) concluded from the following observation: people have more respect for those who have such respect for others than they have for those who have not; they show it toward even those whom they do not fear—to say nothing of what they would show toward their kings; and women also whom they see showing respect for others they are more inclined to look upon in turn with respect.

That which history teaches is either lost in American officialdom in a myriad of public foibles reminiscent of Third World treachery or rejected by a litany of childish excuses.

Thus, marches on the American anomie. As our social condition is more and more characterized by instability, we watch in horror the breakdown of social norms, and experience the institutional disorganization, with the accompanying divorce between social goals and the available means for achieving them. I wonder if our plight doesn’t parallel that of ancient Babylon.

I only hope that for once, President George W. Bush, in his beguiled state of sanctimoniousness is prophetic and that as the world changes we will have more and more control over our own lives.

September 15, 2005