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Chaldea or Chaldaea (play /kælˈdə/), from Greek Χαλδαία, Chaldaia; Akkadian māt Kaldu; Hebrew כשדים, Kaśdim[1]; Aramaic: ܟܐܠܕܘ, Kaldo) was a marshy land located in modern-day southern Iraq which came to briefly rule Babylon. Tribes of settlers who arrived in the region from the 8th Century BC became known as the Chaldeans or the Chaldees. The Hebrew Bible uses the term כשדים (Kaśdim) and this is translated as Chaldaeans in the Septuagint.

The short lived 11th dynasty of the Kings of Babylon (6th century BC) is conventionally known to historians as the Chaldean Dynasty, although only the first four rulers of this dynasty were known to be Chaldeans, and the last ruler was known not to be. Their kingdom in the southern portion of Babylonia lay chiefly on the right bank of the Euphrates. Though the name came to be commonly used to refer to the whole of southern Mesopotamia, Chaldea proper was in fact the vast plain in the far south east formed by the deposits of the Euphrates and the Tigris, extending to about four hundred miles along the course of these rivers, and about a hundred miles in average width.


The land

Chaldea as the name of a country is used in two different senses. In the early period it was the name of a small territory in southern Babylonia extending along the northern and probably also the western shores of the Persian Gulf.[1] It is called in Assyrian mat Kaldi "land of Chaldea". The expression mat Bit Yakin is also used, apparently synonymously. It would appear that Bit Yakin was the chief or capital city of the land; and the king of Chaldea is also called the king of Bit Yakin, just as the kings of Babylonia are regularly styled simply king of Babylon, the capital city. In the same way, the Persian Gulf was sometimes called "the Sea of Bit Yakin, instead of "the Sea of the Land of Chaldea."

It is impossible to define narrowly the boundaries of this early land of Chaldea, and one may only locate it generally in the low, marshy, alluvial land about the estuaries of the Tigris and Euphrates, which then discharged their waters through separate mouths into the sea. In a later time, when the Chaldean tribe had burst their narrow bonds and obtained the ascendency over all Babylonia, they gave their name to the whole land of Babylonia, which then was called Chaldea for a short time.

In 627 BC a series of wars broke out in the Assyrian Empire over who should rule. These wars greatly weakened the empire. Sensing this weakness, the Chaldeans, the Medes, Scythians and Cimmerians formed a coalition and attacked the Assyrian Empire. In 612 BC they destroyed Nineveh and the last Assyrian army in 605 BC . In its place, Babylon under its Chaldean rulers and the Medes set up a new empires of their own.

In the KJV Old Testament book of the prophet Habbakuk Ch 1, v6 describes the Chaldeans as "that bitter and hasty nation".

The people

The homeland of the Chaldean race was in the far south east of Mesopotamia. It is not certain whence they migrated at an unknown period into the country of the sea-lands about the head of the Persian Gulf. They seem to have appeared there at about the same time that the Arameans and the Sutu appeared in Babylonia. Though belonging to the same "Semitic" ethnic group, they are to be differentiated from the Aramean stock; and Sennacherib, for example, is careful in his inscriptions to distinguish them. When they came to possess the whole land, the name "Chaldean" became synonymous with "Babylonian", particularly to the Greeks and Jews. In the Hebrew Bible, the prophet Abraham is stated to have originally been from "Ur of the Chaldees" (Ur Kasdim); if this city is to be identified with the Sumerian Ur, it would be within the original Chaldean homeland south of the Euphrates. On the other hand, the traditional identification with a site in northern Mesopotamia would then imply the later sense of "Babylonia", and a few interpreters have additionally confused Abraham's birthplace with Chaldia, a distinct region on the Black Sea. According to the Book of Jubilees, Ur Kasdim (and Chaldea) took their name from Ura and Kesed, descendants of Arpachshad.

Though conquerors, the Chaldeans were rapidly and completely assimilated into the dominant Babylonian culture, as the Amorites before them had been, and after the fall of Babylon in 539 BC the term "Chaldean" was no longer used to describe a specific race of people, but rather a "socio-Economic" class, regardless of ethnicity.

The language used by the Chaldeans was the Babylonian dialect of Akkadian, the same language, save for slight peculiarities in sound and in characters, as Assyrian Akkadian. In late periods both the Babylonian and Assyrian dialects of Akkadian ceased to be spoken, and Aramaic took its place across Mesopotamia. One form of this widespread language is used in Daniel and Ezra, but the use of the name "Chaldee" to describe it, first introduced by Jerome, is incorrect and a misnomer.


Important Kaldu cities were Bit-Yâkin (the original homeland at the Persian Gulf), Bit-Dakuri, Bit-Adini, Bit-Amukkani, and Bit-Shilani.

The Chaldean's homeland was in the relatively poor country in the far south of Mesopotamia, at the head of the Persian Gulf. The Chaldeans first came to prominence in the late 8th Century BC. Marduk-apla-iddina II (the Biblical Merodach-Baladan) of Bit-Yâkin, allied himself with the powerful Elamite kingdom and seized control of Babylon in 721 BC after the death of the Assyrian king Shalmaneser V who had ruled Babylon directly from Nineveh. The new king of Assyria Sargon II attacked and deposed Marduk-apla-iddina II in 710 BC. After defeat by the Assyrians he fled to his protectors in Elam. In 703 he briefly regained the throne from a native Babylonian ruler Marduk-zakir-shumi II who had ascended the throne after a revolt in Babylon against the Assyrian king, Sennacherib. He was once more defeated at Kish, and again fled to Elam where he died in exile after one final attempt to raise a revolt against Assyria in his homeland, Bit-Yâkin in 700BC.

Babylon was then ruled by a native Babylonian puppet of the Assyrians Bel-ibni, he was replaced by Ashur-nadin-shumi an Assyrian prince who was murdered by the Elamites and replaced with a native Babylonian Elamite puppet Nergal-ushezib. The Chaldeans briefly regained control of Babylon in 693 BC when the populace deposed Nergal-ushezib, and chose Mushezib-Marduk, a Chaldean prince to replace him. However, this was short lived, and Sennacherib sacked Babylon, destroying the city in 689 BC routing the Babylonians, the Chaldeans of Bit-Yâkin and their Elamite backers in the process. Sennacheribs successor as king of Assyria, Esarhaddon rebuilt Babylon, but for the next 73 years Babylon remained under Assyrian control.

It was only in 620 BC under Nabopolassar that the Chaldeans finally gained control over Babylon, founding the Chaldean Dynasty. After the death of Ashurbanipal, the last great Assyrian king in 627 BC, Assyria descended into a period of bitter civil war. A rebellious Assyrian general Sin-shumu-lishir briefly set himself up as king in Babylon, but was ousted by Ashur-etil-ilani the legitimate king of Assyria. Further civil war erupted with Sin-shar-ishkun seizing the throne of Assyria from his brother Ashur-etil-ilani . Nabopolassar took advantage of all this to seize a rebellious Babylon. Bitter fighting continued in the region from 627 to 620 BC, the final straw was another massive rebellion in Assyria while its king Sin-shar-ishkun was marching on Babylon in an attempt to regain control. Nabopolassar seized Nippur and thus Babylonia as a whole. Nabopolassar's position, and the fate of Assyria was sealed when he entered into an alliance with another of Assyria's former vassals, the Medes, the now dominant people of what was to become Persia. The Medes, and Chaldean ruled Babylonians, together with the Scythians and Cimmerians attacked Assyria in 616 BC, and by 612 BC the alliance had sacked Nineveh, killing Sinsharishkun in the process. Nabopolassar and his allies were now in possession of the huge Neo Assyrian Empire. An Assyrian king Ashuruballit II held out at Harran, resisting until 605 BC, when the remnants of the Assyrian Army and an Egyptian force were defeated at Karchemish.

The Chaldeans now ruled all of Mesopotamia, and the former Assyrian possessions of Aram, Phoenicia, Israel, Edom and parts of Arabia, while the Medes took control of the former Assyrian colonies in Iran, Asia Minor and the Caucasus.

Nabopolassar was succeeded by Nebuchadnezzar II, who became king after the death of his father in 604 BC.

Nebuchadnezzar was a patron of the cities and a spectacular builder. He rebuilt all of Babylonia's major cities on a lavish scale. His building activity at Babylon was what turned it into the immense and beautiful city of legend. His city of Babylon covered more than three square miles, surrounded by moats and ringed by a double circuit of walls. The Euphrates flowed through the center of the city, spanned by a beautiful stone bridge. At the center of the city rose the giant ziggurat called Etemenanki, "House of the Frontier Between Heaven and Earth," which lay next to the Temple of Marduk. A capable leader, Nabuchadnezzar II, conducted successful military campaigns in Aramea (Syria) and Phoenicia, forcing tribute from Damascus, Tyre and Sidon. He conducted numerous campaigns in Asia Minor, in the "land of the Hatti". Like the Assyrians, the Babylonians had to campaign yearly in order to control their colonies.

In 601 BC Nebuchadnezzar II was involved in a major, but inconclusive battle, against the Egyptians. In 599 BC he invaded Arabia and routed the Arabs at Qedar. In 597 BC he invaded Judah and captured Jerusalem and deposed its king Jehoiachin. Egyptian and Babylonian armies fought each other for control of the near east throughout much of Nebuchadnezzar's reign, and this encouraged king Zedekiah of Israel to revolt. After an 18 month siege Jerusalem was captured in 587 BC, thousands of Jews were deported to Babylon and Solomon's Temple was razed to the ground.

Nebuchadnezzar fought the Pharaohs Psammetichus II and Apries throughout his reign, and during the reign of Pharaoh Amasis in 568 BC it is rumoured that he may have set foot in Egypt itself.

By 572 Nebuchadnezzar was in full control of Mesopotamia, Syria, Phonecia, Israel, Philistinia, northern Arabia and parts of Asia Minor. Nebuchadnezzar died of illness in 562 BC.

He was succeeded by Amel-Marduk, who was deposed after only 2 years on 560 BC.

The End of the Chaldean Dynasty

Neriglissar succeeded Amel-Marduk. It is unclear as to whether he was in fact a Chaldean or a native Babylonian nobleman, as he was not related by blood to Nabopolassar's descendants. He conducted successful military campaigns against Cilicia, which had threatened Babylonian interests. Neriglissar however reigned for only four years, being succeeded by the youthful Labashi-Marduk in 560 BC. Again it is unclear as to whether he was a Chaldean or a native Babylonian.

Labashi-Marduk reigned only for a matter of months, being deposed by Nabonidus in late 560 BC. Nabonidus, was certainly not a Chaldean, ironically he was an Assyrian from Harran. Nabonidus proved to be the last king of Babylon, he and his son, the regent Belshazzar being deposed by the Persians in 539 BC.

When the Babylonian Empire empire was absorbed into the Persian Achaemenid Empire, the name "Chaldean" lost its meaning as the name of a race of men, and came to be applied only to a social class. The Persians found the Chaldeans masters of reading and writing, and especially versed in all forms of incantation, in sorcery, witchcraft, and the magical arts. They quite naturally spoke of astrologists and astronomers as Chaldeans. It therefore resulted that Chaldean came to mean astrologist. In this sense it is used in the Book of Daniel (Dan. i. 4, ii. 2 et seq.), and with the same meaning it is used by the classical writers (for example, by Strabo).

Modern Chaldeans

The modern term "Chaldean" came into being when some Asyrian followers of the Church of the East entered communion with Rome in the 16th and 17th centuries, and Rome named the new church the "Chaldean Catholic Church", after initially calling it the "Church of Assyria and Mosul".[2]

See also


External links

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This article incorporates text from the 1901–1906 Jewish Encyclopedia, a publication now in the public domain.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Chaldea — or Chaldaea [kal dē′ə] 1. ancient region along the lower courses of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers: S part of Babylonia 2. Babylonia: so called during Chaldean supremacy, c. 6th cent. B.C …   English World dictionary

  • Chaldea — /kal dee euh/, n. 1. an ancient region in the lower Tigris and Euphrates valley, in S Babylonia. 2. Babylonia. Also, Chaldaea. * * * Ancient region, on the headwaters of the Euphrates River and adjacent to the Persian Gulf. It was originally the… …   Universalium

  • Chaldea — Part of Babylonia, on the Persian Gulf, which eventually assumed control of the whole country, so that Chaldea and Babylon were interchangeable. The rulers of Babylonia best known through the OT were Merodachbaladan and Nebuchadnezzar, the… …   Dictionary of the Bible

  • Chaldea — geographical name ancient region SW Asia on Euphrates River & Persian Gulf …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Chaldea — noun a nation in the southern portion of Babylonia, Lower Mesopotamia, lying chiefly on the right bank of the Euphrates, but commonly used to refer to the whole of the Mesopotamian plain. See Also: Chaldean …   Wiktionary

  • Chaldea —    The southern portion of Babylonia, Lower Mesopotamia, lying chiefly on the right bank of the Euphrates, but commonly used of the whole of the Mesopotamian plain. The Hebrew name is Kasdim, which is usually rendered Chaldeans (Jer. 50:10; 51:24 …   Easton's Bible Dictionary

  • CHALDEA —    ancient name for Babylonia …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Chaldea — n. ancient area and kingdom in south Mesopotamia in the lower Tigris and Euphrates valley (present day southern Iraq) …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Chaldea — Chal•de•a or Chal•dae•a [[t]kælˈdi ə[/t]] n. 1) anh geg an ancient region in the lower Tigris and Euphrates valley, in S Babylonia 2) anh geg Babylonia …   From formal English to slang

  • Chaldea — /kælˈdiə/ (say kal deeuh) noun an ancient region in southern Babylonia …   Australian English dictionary

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