Persia 17: Astyges, "Father of Nebuchadrezzar"

- There are still two more points of confusion to address regarding the princess that Nebuchadrezzar married, for whom Nebuchadrezzar was said to have built the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon. First of all, was her name Agariste/Nitocris (I) or Amytis? Secondly, was she the daughter of Astyges (as stated by Herodotus and Ctesias) or the daughter of Cyaxares the predecessor of Astyges (as averred by Xenophon and others). Commentators have tried (unsatisfactorily) to resolve the issue by proposing that Amytas must have been the daughter of Astyges and the granddaughter of Cyaxares.

- To solve this riddle, we need to better appreciate the typecasting of Taharqa/Astyges. Taharqa was the younger son of Piye, himself a Joseph-figure, and was therefore initially groomed as the next foolish Moses. His older brother Smendes was naturally thought of as a wise neo-Solomon. However, when Piye/Sargon became undisputed Great King, he upgraded his personal typecasting from Joseph to Jacob. His two sons followed suit. Smendes became a new “Judah”. As the younger son, Taharqa inherited the role of “Joseph”.

- When Nitocris daughter of Taharqa was installed as God’s Wife of Amun, she would have been considered the next great “daughter of Joseph”, and walking in the footsteps of Queen Tiye daughter of Yuya from the 18th Dynasty. As God’s Wife, Nitocris was authorized to have children by the leading men of the royal family. However, for a considerable period of time, Nitocris shared the office with Shepenwepet daughter of Piye, who was also actively trying to bear royal children.

- The most prominent sons of Nitocris were sired by Smendes, who eventually succeeded Piye as Great King under the name Sennacherib. One of his sons was Smendes II/Assurbanipal. The second was Si-Amun/Nebuchadrezzar, called “Nabu-sharru-user” by his brother in Assyria and Sharezer in the Bible. As demonstrated (in the on-line book), Assurbanipal and Nebuchadrezzar shared a complementary Moses typecasting. Assurbanipal also had a strong “Aaron” typecasting (after Aanen son of Yuya). Both of them also appeared to cultivate reputations as builders like Solomon. This indicates that they were both considered to be sons produced FOR Taharqa as the “Joseph”. According to Ctesias, Astyges did not have any true sons, but only a daughter.

- In the 18th Dynasty, Yuya was the father of Aanen, his eldest, Amenhotep III, his second son, and Akhenaten, the youngest. Another son, Aye was sired by Thutmose IV (the “Judah”), but adopted by Yuya (as the “Joseph”) after the premature death of his Thutmose IV.

- The birth order of Assurbanipal and Nebuchadrezzar can’t be fully confirmed based on typecasting alone. Irrespective, Assurbanipal appears to have been the slightly more favored. After the death of Piye, Nebuchadrezzar was made co-regent in Babylon. Assurbanipal was the heir apparent to the greater throne in Assyria. It may be that Assurbanipal was favored not on account of being the eldest, but because he was the son of Shepenwepet II, the likely sister or half-sister of Smendes/Sennacherib rather than Nitocris the daughter of Taharqa. What’s more, he also may have been the second son of Shepenwepet II, that is, he was born after Ramses IV who was fathered by Ramses III/Shebitku. Perhaps Nebuchadrezzar was also born after Ramses IV but before Assurbanipal, making him the overall second royal son. If so, this would help explain why both princes adopted a Nabu/Thoth/Simeon (“second son”) aspect in addition to all their other roles.

- Unlike Assurbanipal, Nebuchadrezzar was not only considered to be the “son of Joseph”, but also the “son of the daughter of Joseph”. He was also the prince “destined” to replicate (or at least attempt) the feat of Akhenaten in siring children upon his own mother. According to the Greek tradition, Nebuchadrezzar (as Megacles) had two sons by Agariste (i.e., Nitocris, his own mother). This scenario is analogous to the Oedipus tradition of Akhenaten. Nebuchadrezzar was also instrumental in the plot to kill his own father Sennacherib, even as Oedipus was said to have killed his father Laius. We know that Nebuchadrezzar also endured a seven-year period of madness, which paralleled Akhenaten’s tortured and insane seven-year experiment of isolation at Amarna, or so it was widely construed to have been. The very name of Nebuchadrezzar itself points back to an earlier Nebuchadrezzar, the same Nebuchadrezzar that has been identified as the Babylonian alias of Akhenaten himself.

For the comparison between Nebuchadrezzar I & II, see:

- It now emerges that the other, more conventional, consort of Nebuchadrezzar was not Nitocris the daughter of Taharqa/Astyges, but Amytis the daughter of Cyaxares. This Cyaxares (predecessor of Astyges in Media) was likely the Median name of Ramses III/Shebitku of Egypt. (Alternate identifications, such as Tandamane/Tanaoxares or Assurbanipal/Smerdis cannot be totally ruled out. If Tandamane was the father, then Amytis eventually also became a God’s Wife of Amun under the name Ankhnesneferibre, “she lives for King Neferibre”, that is, for her father Psamtik II/Tanuatamon.)

- Amytis would have been to Nebuchadrezzar as Nefertiti was to Akhenaten. But, of course, we cannot expect that everything went exactly according to form in the repetition. It is possible that Amytis did bear at least one son for Nebuchadrezzar, and for all we know, may not have had any daughters. Nebuchadrezzar is thought to have had a third son called Belshazzar (of the Book of Daniel’s “handwriting on the wall” fame). Yet, as long as she lived, Nitocris would have been the more dominant queen. And if she did live long enough, Cyrus the Great would have laid claim to her, as well as the younger Nitocris.

- In the 18th Dynasty, Akhenaten’s mother Tiye/Tey had two other sons that were sired by Aye, the future pharaoh. These were the brothers of Nefertiti called Sen’aa (Osorkon I) and Merymose (Takelot I). Akhenaten murdered them both in his Year 16. In the Bible, Nebuchadrezzar was especially proactive in the persecution of Jehoiakim (Psusennes II), who was the son of his mother by a different father, namely Ramses III/Shebitku. He also deposed the successor of this king called Jehoiachin (Ramesses-Ankhefenmut). In fulfillment of the earlier history, these two seem to be the “Egyptians” that Nebuchadrezzar felt destined (after the earlier Akhenaten-Moses) to persecute and kill, at least in terms of their kingship.

- If Amytis was the daughter of Ramses III/Shebitku, then we would expect for Nebuchadrezzar to have attacked Ramses IV/Jehoahaz, the other leading son of Ramses III/Shebitku. Taharqa (“Neco”) pre-empted that move by deposing and effectively killing Ramses IV. Nebuchadrezzar seems to have countered by deposing Jehoiachin, the true son of Ramses IV/Jehoahaz. In doing so he would have made Jehoiachin a surrogate for his deceased father Jehoahaz, and thereby avoided being stymied by Taharqa in fulfilling his personal typecasting!

- On the other hand, if Amytis was the daughter of another king, such as Tanuatamon, then Nebuchadrezzar may have limited his arbitrary attacks only to another son of his mother and that son’s successor. It should be noted that Tanuatamon later assumed the role of Aye (and was called Ahab II) in his struggle with Nebuchadrezzar (Rehoboam II). This suggests that he was in fact the father of Amytis. However, because Ramses III/Shebitku died young, Tanuatamon may have simply taken up the required struggle with Nebuchadrezzar on his behalf.

Useful Links

Taharqa as a Joseph-figure;read=2984

Princesses of the Persian Period

Son of Spitames and Amytis

Nitocris and Belshazzar

Ba'u-asitu and Kassaya, Daughters of Nebuchadnezzar II

Cf Kass-aya, Kassite (Persian), Cassadane
Cassia, “cinnamon tree (from India)”
Cassandra, “entangler of men”