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A NEO-BABYLONIAN CLAY CUNEIFORM FOUNDATION CYLINDER
This lot is offered without reserve. PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF ELIAS S. DAVID
A NEO-BABYLONIAN CLAY CUNEIFORM FOUNDATION CYLINDER

REIGN OF NEBUCHADNEZZAR II, 604-562 B.C.

Details
A NEO-BABYLONIAN CLAY CUNEIFORM FOUNDATION CYLINDER
REIGN OF NEBUCHADNEZZAR II, 604-562 B.C.
Tapering in form, hollow on the interior, with three columns of Babylonian cuneiform recording a general account of King Nebuchadnezzar II's building activities, reading: "Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, the pious prince, the favorite of Marduk, exalted priest beloved by Nabu, the tireless governor who maintains Esagila and Ezida, he who submits to his masters, Nabu and Marduk, and who accomplishes that which gives them joy, the pious suppliant, permanently selected by the great gods, the first-born son of Nabopolassar, King of Babylon, am I. When Marduk, the great master, duly called me to kingship and solemnly ordered me to lead the land straight, to (take care of ) the people (like) a shepherd, to provide for the cities, to restore the sanctuaries—I, I obeyed Marduk, my Lord, in reverence. I completed the grand walls in Babylon, the majestic city, the city of his glorious rule, Imgur-Enlil and Nimitti-Enlil. On the threshold of its gates I erected copper (statues of) ferocious bulls and terror-inspiring serpents. What no previous king had done, my own father completed, surrounding the city twice with asphalt and bricks. I, I constructed a third, a mighty one, in asphalt and bricks, and I united it closely to those of my father. I based its foundation (as deep as) the Breast of the Underworld; their summits I raised as high as mountains. I surrounded the western wall of Babylon with a quay of bricks. My own father had built the quay of the Arahtu Canal with asphalt and bricks, uniting it to the other bank of the Euphrates by a quay of bricks, but had not completed the remainder. I, his first-born son, the darling of his heart, I consolidated the quay of the Arahtu canal in asphalt and bricks and integrated it with the quay of my father. In Esagila, the venerable dwelling, the Palace of the Heavens and of Earth, the dwelling place of joy; Eumusha, the sanctuary of Enlil, the god of gods, Marduk; Kahilisu, the dwelling-place of (the goddess) Zarpanitu; Ezida, the dwelling place of the Lugaldimmerankia—I covered them with glittering gold and caused them to shine as the light of the day. I restored Etemenanki, the ziggurat of Babylon like new. Ezida, the legitimate temple, the favorite of Nabu, at Borsippa, I built anew, and with gold and precious stones I made beautiful like the starry heavens. Mighty cedars I clothed with gold, spreading them out three by three, to shade the Emahtila, the sanctuary of Nabu. In Babylon I re-built anew and raised the summits of Emah, the Temple of Ninhursag inside of Babylon; Enigidrikalamasuma, the Temple of Nabu-of-Hare; Enamhe, the Temple of Adad inside of Kumari; Ekitushgarza, the Temple of Nin-Eanna, which is in the inner corner of the wall. What no king before me had done, I surrounded (that side of) Babylon that faces east with a fortified wall all around the city, (at a distance of) not less than 4,000 ground cubits. I dug its foundation channel down to the ground-water, I built its thickness in asphalt and bricks, bringing it next to the quay which my father had built. I built a mighty wall with asphalt and bricks on its side, as high as a mountain. I built anew Tabi-supursu, the wall of Borsippa, surrounding the city on the outside with the embankment moat (built of) asphalt and bricks. I built anew the Temple in Borsippa for Mar-biti, the lord who shatters the weapons of my enemies. I restored and completed the structure of the Ebabbar, the Temple of Shamash at Sippar; Edurgina, the Edurgina, Temple of Bel-sarbi of the city of Baz; Eibbi-Anim, the Temple of Urash at Dilbat; Eanna, the Temple of Ishtar at Uruk; Ebabara, the Temple of Shamash at Larsa; Egishnugal, the Temple of Sin at Ur, the sanctuaries of the great gods. I looked after, and urged on more than ever, the support of Esagila and of Ezida, as well as the restoration of Babylon and of Borsippa. I wrote on a stele and set it up for posterity all my precious works for the support of the sanctuaries of the great gods, in which I excelled my royal ancestors. All my works, that I have written on the stele, should be read by the wise and they should remember the glory of the gods. Unceasing in reverence, I completed the work of the building of the cities of the gods and goddesses, which the great ruler Marduk had commanded me to do, and to do which he had made my heart willing. At that time for Lugal-Marad, my Lord, his temple within Marad, whose platform no earlier king had seen since ancient times, I examined, and placed its foundation above the platform of Naram-Sin, an ancient royal ancestor. I fashioned an inscription with my name, and placed it inside. Lugal-Marada, Lord of all, the valiant, look favorably on the work of my hands, and bestow on me days of length, the satisfaction of heirs, permanency of throne, and long lasting reign. Kill those who do not agree with me, break their weapons, destroy all the land of the enemy, flatten them all. May your fierce weapons, which will not spare the enemy, be drawn and sharp to kill my enemy. Let them go at my side. Before Marduk, king of heaven and the underworld, make my deeds pleasing, and intercede for (“speak well of”) me"
7 15/16 in. (20.2 cm.) long
Provenance
with Elias S. David (1891-1969), New York; thence by descent.
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Lot Essay

King Nebuchadnezzar II is one of the most notable characters in ancient Near Eastern history. Texts about the King range from cuneiform inscriptions, like on the cylinder presented here, to the Old Testament books of Daniel and Jeremiah. Nebuchadnezzar II's reign was characterized by both destruction and expansion, with the latter fueling the former as he systematically consolidated the power of the Babylonian city-state with the resources gained by destroying any opponent that stood in his way.

Nebuchadnezzar was the second king of the Chaldean dynasty after his father Nabopolassar. He continued the expansionist policies initiated by his father and modeled on Assyrian predecessors by either annexing formerly independent city-states such as Judah in the Levant or completely annihilating areas that resisted his control, such as the Philistine city of Ashkelon. In 601 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar attempted to invade Egypt, his largest contemporary rival. This campaign ultimately failed, but it did not deter the Babylonian King from continuing to expand his hegemony in western Asia. Perhaps the most well-known example of this occurred around 590 B.C., when the puppet-king Zedekiah of Jerusalem, who Nebuchadnezzar had put in charge of the city seven years earlier, revolted and incurred the wrath of the Babylonian ruler. His army laid an eighteen month siege of the Jewish capital, eventually destroying the Temple of Solomon and exiling the Jewish population in an event that is characterized in the Bible as one of the most traumatic in Jewish history (see pp. 332-336 in M. van de Mieroop, "From Nineveh to Babylon: The Transition from the Neo-Assyrian to the Neo-Babylonian Empire" in J. Arruz, S. Graff and Y. Rakic, eds., Assyria to Iberia at the Dawn of the Classical Age).

In addition to his noted role in the destruction of the Temple, Nebuchadnezzar II also appears in the Old Testament, most prominently in the Book of Daniel, where he suffers from a disturbing dream of a figure composed of various metals. Only Daniel, through the help of God, is able to help Nebuchadnezzar interpret the meaning of the dream, leading to Daniel's place as a palace favorite. Also described is Nebuchadnezzar's descent into insanity at the end of his life, which the Bible claims came about due to God taking vengeance upon the King after he boasted of his political achievements. Similar to the Pharaoh Rameses in the Book of Exodus, Nebuchadnezzar presents an example of a historical figure who plays prominently in both the sacred and secular records.

The foundation cylinder presented here provides testament to the elaborate building program Nebuchadnezzar was able to embark upon, which famously included the Hanging Gardens of Babylon as well as the Ishtar Gate. Foundation cylinders customarily recorded the restoration of various temples by Babylonian kings and were then buried in the foundation of the restored temples as commemorations of their piety to the gods. This cylinder contains a general account of the King’s building activities, and is known in some forty other examples (see NBK C32 in R. da Riva, The Neo-Babylonian Royal Inscriptions, an Introduction). The inscription pays particular reference to Nebuchadnezzar's works in Borsippa and in Ezida, the Temple of Nabu in that town. It supplies abundant details of the building of temples, the restoration of shrines, and the repairing and reconstruction of the great walls of the city of Babylon. In Babylon itself Nebuchadnezzar restored Esagila (the Temple of Marduk) and its ziggurat (stepped temple tower), called Etemenanki. The whole city was then fortified by the two great surrounding walls, called Imgur-Bel and Nimitti-Bel, and by an elaborate system of canals and quays. At the end of the inscription, the king refers to his restoration of an ancient Temple for the god Lugal-Marada, in the city of Marad. A prayer addressed to Lugal-Marada closes the inscription.

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