The Neo-Babylonian Empire occupied territory that spanned the area between Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, often referred to as Mesopotamia. Following a period of Assyrian rule, the dynasty of the Neo-Babylonian period came to power when a once-Assyrian soldier, Nabopolassar, became king in the year 626 B.C. Named the Neo-Babylonian Empire because it follows two previous periods of Babylonian rulership, the empire emerged in the 7th century B.C.
Aggression between the Neo-Babylonians and the Assyrians marked this period of time in the Near East. In 616 B.C., on the banks of the Euphrates River, Nabopolassar’s army defeated Assyrian forces, but soon retreated when the Egyptian army advanced in support of the Assyrians. Battles continued throughout the coming years, and even after Nabopolassar’s death, his son continued a course of Babylonian expansion. The history of Mesopotamia, including Neo-Babylonia, is one where the empire itself remains mostly the same, while the ruling elite changes, according to Livius.
Neo-Babylonians left a lasting legacy of great architecture, notably in the capital city of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar, a ruler of the empire, rebuilt the walls and seven gates of the ancient city. The Ishtar Gate, adorned with glistening lapis lazuli glazed bricks with rows of lions and cows, is the most elaborate gate. The legendary Hanging Gardens of Babylon were supposedly also built by Nebuchadnezzar, for his wife.