The Chaldeans, or Neo-Babylonians, were warriors who conquered many different people. Their most famous king, Nebuchadrezzar, extended the empire's boundries as far west as Syria and Palestine. The Chaldeans called themselves Babylonians because most Chaldeans were of Babylonian descent. Their capital, Babylon, was a city of nearly one million people.
Babylon was the world's richest city at the time. It had its own police force and postal system. Huge brick walls encircled the city. The walls were so wide that two chariots could pass each other on the road on top. Archers guarded the city from towers built into the walls.
In the city center, there were palaces and temples. An immense ziggurat stood 300 feet or 90 meters in the air. At sunrise, its gold roof could be seen for miles.
The richness of the ziggurat was equal to that of the king's palace. This was the home of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. These were layered beds of earth planted with large trees, flowering vines, and shrubs. They seemed to be suspended in mid-air. Nebuchadrezzar built the gardens to please his wife, who missed the mountains and plants of her homeland.
To please the people, Nebuchadrezzar built a beautiful street near the palace. It was paved with limestone and marble, and lined by walls of blue glazed tile. Every spring, thousands of people lind the streets to see a procession of a gold statue of the god Marduk. The Chaldeans believed this wouldmake their crops grow. They also thought that it would keep the empire's peace.
Outside the center of Babylon were houses and marketplaces. Artisans made pottery, cloth, and baskets there. These were sold to passing caravans. Traders came here from from as far away as Egypt and India. Trade helped to make the Babylonians wealthy.
Also, Babylon was a center of science. Chaldean astronomers believed changes in the sky revealed the plans of the gods, so they studied the stars, planets, and moon. Once they knew the movemen of heavenly bodies, cartographers made maps that showed the position of the planets and mon. Babylonian astronomers built one of the first sundials. They were aso the first to have a seven-day week.
Babylon was a great civilization for many years. As the time passed, Chaldeans beganto lose their power, though. They found it hard to control the people that they had conquered. Then, in 539 B.C., the Persians coquered the Chaldens. Mesopotamia had just become another part of the vast Persian Empire.