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Xerxes and Babylon

The destruction and flooding of Babylon by Sennacherib had also been preceded by the abduction and killing of the appointed governor of Babylon, Assur-nadin-shumi, "eldest son" of Sennacherib. However, the severe retribution Sennacherib inflicted on Babylon itself was seemingly unjustified and very unpopular. It has been offered as a reason why Sennacherib himself was later assassinated. However, as in the case of Xerxes, it probably had more to do with fulfilling a role than avenging a wrong. Sennacherib also carried away vast wealth from Babylon and its environs, which could then be used for other purposes. (Babylon was to be restored by Esarhaddon, successor of Sennacherib.)

Sennacherib's assault on Babylon occurred about 12 years into his reign. Xerxes was eager to discharge his role as "Judah" and therefore humbled Babylon almost immediately after becoming Great King. Xerxes did not wait for trouble. His pro-active approach was somewhat unconventional, but ultimately effective in saving his own neck. In the next installment of this series, we will see what extremes Xerxes was willing to go in that regard.

Those of you who have been following along so far may already realize that there is something very strange about the encounter between Xerxes of Persia and Leonidas of Sparta.