Nabopolassar Cylinder

Language: Akkadian
Medium: clay cylinder
Size: 9.8 cm long
5.2 cm wide
Length: 3 columns
102 lines of writing
Genre: foundation inscription
Date: late 7th cent. BCE
Nabopolassar's reign: 626–605 BCE
Place of Discovery: Baghdad, Iraq
Date of Discovery: 1921?
Current Location: Carlos Museum
Emory University
Atlanta, Georgia
Inventory number: 1921.131

Adapted from Al-Rawi (1985) and Beaulieu (2000)
(Column 1)
Nabopolassar, the King of Justice, the Shepherd called by Marduk, the one created by Ninmenna (Queen of queens), the one to whom Nabu and Tashmetu stretch out their hand, the Prince beloved of Ninshiku.

When I was young, although the son of a nobody, I constantly sought out the temples of Nabu and Marduk, my patrons. My mind was preoccupied with the establishment of their orders and the complete performance of their rites. My attention was directed to justice and equity. Shazu, the lord who understands the hearts of the gods of heaven and the underworld, who constantly observes the deeds of humanity, perceived my inner thoughts and raised me, the client who was anonymous among the people, to a high status in the country of my birth. He called me to the sovereignty over the land and the people. He caused a benevolent protective spirit to walk at my side. He made everything I did succeed. He made Nergal, the strongest of the gods, to march at my side; he slaughtered my enemies, dropped my enemies. The Assyrian ruled Akkad due to divine anger and oppressed the inhabitants with his heavy yoke.

(Column 2)
But I—the weak one, the powerless one, the one who constantly seeks the Lord of lords—removed them from Akkad and cause (the Babylonians) to throw off their yoke with the mighty power of Nabu and Marduk, my patrons.

At that time, Nabopolassar, King of Babylon, who pleases Nabu and Marduk, I, for Imgur-Enlil—Babylon's great fortification wall; the original boundary-marker from antiquity; the soild border as ancient as time itself; the lofty mountain peak that rivals the heavens; the mighty shield that locks the entrance to the hostile lands; the Igigi's wide enclosure; the Anunnaki's spacious courtyard; heaven's staircase; the ladder to the underworld; the station of Lugalirra and Meslamtae; the outdoor shrine of Ishtar the Great Lady; the place of the throwing stick of Dagan the Hero; the camp enclosure of the Warrior Ninurta; the temple of Anu and Enlil's divine protection; the shrine artfully designed by Ea, the Lord of Eridu; the great gods' fortification ground; whose foundations the Igigi and Anunnaki had established in the jubilation of their hearts; which they had skillfully carried out and raised to it peak; which had weakened and collapsed because of age; whose walls had been taken away because of rain and deluge; whose foundations had heaped up and accumulated into a mound of ruins—I mustered Enlil's, Shamash, and Marduk's troops. I had them use the hoe and imposed the basket of conscription on them. From the bank of the Arhtu canal, on the lower side near the Urash gate, I removed its accumulated debris, surveyed andexamined its old foundations, and laid its brickwork in the original place. I established its base on the edge of the underworld. I surrounded the east bank with a mighty mountainous belt.

(Column 3)
Nabopolassar, the humble one, the submissive one, the devotee of Nabu and Marduk, the Shepherd who pleases Papnunanki, the one who inspects the ancient foundations of Babylon, the one who discovers (inscribed) bricks from the past, the one who implements the work on the original, eternal foundations, the one who wields the hoe of the Igigi, the one who carries the conscripted basket of the Anunnaki, the builder of Imgur-Enlil for Marduk my lor, I, in order that absolutely no future king remove my well chosen words in order that no words are made to supersede my speech, I swore Marduk's oath, my lord, and of Shamash, my god:
"(Woe to me) if my pronouncements are not true, but false!"
At that time I found the royal statue of one of my predecessors who had rebuilt that wall and, in a secure place, in the great foundations, together with my own statue, I placed it in perpetuity.
Any king, at any time, whether a son or a grandso who will succeed me, and whose name Marduk will call to sovereignty over the kingdom, do not be concerned with acts of might and power. Seek the sanctuaries of Nabu and Marduk and let them slaughter your enemies. The Lord Marduk examines pronouncements and examinies the heart. The one who is loyal to Bel—his foundations will endure. The one who is loyal to the son of Bel will go on forever. When the wall becomes dilapidated and you address its disrepair, in the same manner as I found the inscription of a king who preced me and did not alter its location, find my own inscription and place it alongside your inscription. By order of Marduk the Great Lord, whose order is not revoked, may your honor be established in perpetuity.


1. What is the significance of identifying ancient Near Eastern kings as "shepherds"? (Compare 2 Samuel 5:2; Psalm 78:70-71; Isaiah 44:28; Hammurabi Stele, Prologue line 15; Sennacherib Prism, line 3.)

2. Why does Nabopolassar call himself "the son of a nobody"?
3. Compare and contrast this inscription with that of Nebuchanezzar (Nabopolassar's son and successor) on the Ishtar Gate.
4. What is conscripted labor? How did ancient Near Eastern monarchs use it? Compare 1 Kings 5:13-18; 9:15-22; 12:4. Consult Rainey (1970).

Al-Rawi, F. N. J. "Nabopolassar's Restoration Work on the Wall Imgur-Enlil at Babylon." Iraq 47 (1985) 1-13 + Plate 1.
Beaulieu, Paul-Alain. "Nabopolassar's Restoration of Imgur-Enlil, the Inner Defensive Wall of Babylon." In The Context Scripture, edited by W. W. Hallo, vol. 2, 307-8. Leiden: Brill, 2000.
Borger, R. "Der Aufstieg des neubabylonischen Reiches." Journal of Cuneiform Studies 9 (1965) 59-78.
Lambert, W. G. "The Babylonians and Chaldaeans." In Peoples of Old Testament Times, edited by D. J. Wiseman, 179-96. Oxford: Clarendon, 1973.
Luckenbill, Daniel David. Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia. Vol. 2: Historical Records of Assyria from Sargon to the End. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1927.
Rainey, Anson F. "Compulsory Labour Gangs in Ancient Israel." Israel Exploration Journal 20 (1970) 191-202.
Roux, Georges. Ancient Iraq. 2nd ed. New York: Viking Penguin, 1980.
Sack, Ronald H. "Nabopolassar." In Anchor Bible Dictionary, edited by D. N. Freedman, 4.977-78. New York: Doubleday, 1992.
Saggs, H. W. F. "The Assyrians." In Peoples of Old Testament Times, edited by D. J. Wiseman, 156-78. Oxford: Clarendon, 1973.
Saggs, H. W. F. Civilization Before Greece and Rome. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1989.
Saggs, H. W. F. The Greatness that was Babylon: A Sketch of the Ancient Civilization of the Tigris-Euphrates Valley. New York: Hawthorn, 1962.
Zawadzki, Stefan. The Fall of Assyria and Median-Babylonia Relations in Light of the Nabopolassar Chronicle. Seria Historia 149. Poznan: Adam Mickiewicz Univ. Press, 1988.

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Last Modified: 17 August 2011