Babylonian kingship in the Persian period

Waerzeggers, Caroline. 2015. Babylonian Kingship in the Persian Period: Performance and Reception. In J. Stökl & C. Waerzeggers (eds.), Exile and Return: The Babylonian Context, 181-222. Berlin: De Gruyter.

The Persian conquest of Babylon set in motion a chain of events that eventually led to the partial return of Judah’s exilic community and to the rebuilding of the temple of Jerusalem. Despite Cyrus’ prominent role in the biblical narrative  about these events – and despite the historical reality of Yehud’s place within the Persian Empire – the Hebrew Bible constructs the context of the return as a kingless arena which required a profound reworking and re-interpretation of the traditional alignments between the Davidic king and Yahweh.¹ In this paper, I will contextualize these reflections by asking how Babylonian audiences responded to their loss of indigenous kingship following the Persian conquest – for, even  though the institution of ‘King of Babylon’ with its rituals and symbols survived into the Persian period, there is evidence of profound change during the Empire’s two hundred years of existence. After an introduction, the first part of this paper deals with contemporary responses to Persian rule in Babylonia; the second part moves on to a discussion of the reception of Persian period kingship by later generations of Babylonians.