Nebuchadnezzar was the eldest son and successor of Nabopolassar, an Assyrian official who rebelled against the Assyrian Empire and established himself as the king of Babylon in 620 BC. Nebuchadnezzar is first mentioned in 607 BC, during the destruction of Babylon's arch-enemy Assyria, at which point he was already crown prince. In 605 BC he and his ally Cyaxares, ruler of the Medes, led an army against the Assyrians and Egyptians, who were then occupying Syria, and in the ensuing Battle of Carchemish, Pharaoh Necho II was defeated and Syria and Phoenicia were brought under the control of Babylon. Nabopolassar died in August 605 BC, and Nebuchadnezzar returned to Babylon to ascend the throne. For the next few years, his attention was devoted to subduing his eastern and northern borders, and in 595/4 BC there was a serious but brief rebellion in Babylon itself. In 594/3 BC, the army was sent again to the west, possibly in reaction to the elevation of Psamtik II to the throne of Egypt. King Zedekiah of Judah attempted to organize opposition among the small states in the region but his capital, Jerusalem, was taken in 587 BC (the events are described in the Bible's Books of Kings and Book of Jeremiah). In the following years, Nebuchadnezzar incorporated Phoenicia and the former Assyrian provinces of Cilicia (southwestern Anatolia) into his empire and may have campaigned in Egypt. In his last years he seems to have begun behaving irrationally, "pay[ing] no heed to son or daughter," and was deeply suspicious of his sons. The kings who came after him ruled only briefly and Nabonidus, apparently not of the royal family, was overthrown by the Persian conqueror Cyrus the Great less than twenty-five years after Nebuchadnezzar's death.
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