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Kandalanu on Wikipedia

King of Babylon
King of Babylon
(vassal of the Neo-Assyrian Empire)
Reign648–627 BC
SuccessorNabopolassar (following a short interregnum)
Died627 BC
ReligionAncient Mesopotamian religion

Kandalanu (Akkadian: Kandalānu), was a vassal king of Babylonia under the Neo-Assyrian kings Ashurbanipal and Ashur-etil-ilani, ruling from the defeat and death of his predecessor Shamash-shum-ukin in 648 BC to his own death in 627 BC.

After the failed rebellion by Shamash-shum-ukin against Ashurbanipal, Kandalanu was proclaimed as the new vassal king of Babylon. His background is uncertain; it is possible that he was one of Ashurbanipal's younger brothers, a Babylonian noble who had sided with Ashurbanipal in Shamash-shum-ukin's revolt or a simple minded man appointed as king as some sort of offence to the Babylonians.

Kandalanu's reign is poorly attested, with historical evidence from his time as ruler being limited to date formulae and chronological inscriptions. In later Babylonian kings lists he is only sometimes included. Some historians believe that Kandalanu was the same person as Ashurbanipal, "Kandalanu" simply being the name used by the king in Babylon, but this idea is considered unlikely in modern research.

Historical background

Babylonia had been conquered by the Neo-Assyrian Empire by King Tiglath-Pileser III (r745–727 BC) less than a century before Kandalanu became its king.[1] For most of the period since this conquest, the Assyrian king had simultaneously reigned as the King of Babylon, though the Babylonians often resented their rule. In an attempt to possibly mitigate the animosity of the Babylonians, King Esarhaddon (r681–669 BC) upon his death granted the kingships of Assyria and Babylonia to two different sons. The elder son Shamash-shum-ukin was granted Babylonia while the younger Ashurbanipal was to become the King of Assyria.[2]

Though this arrangement of two kings worked for some time after both brothers had ascended to their respective thrones, Shamash-shum-ukin was clearly in a subordinate position to Ashurbanipal. Inscriptions suggest that any orders Shamash-shum-ukin gave to his subjects first had to be verified and approved by Ashurbanipal before they could be carried out.[3] Ashurbanipal had a permanent garrison of troops and officials stationed at Borsippa, a city which would have been deep inside Shamash-shum-ukin's domain.[4] There are also preserved petitions sent by officials in Babylon directly to Ashurbanipal. Had Shamash-shum-ukin been the universally respected sovereign of Babylon, he would probably have been the receiver of such letters.[5] Royal records from Babylonia during the time of peaceful coexistence between Ashurbanipal and Shamash-shum-ukin mention the names of both monarchs, but contemporary documents from Assyria only mention Ashurbanipal, reinforcing that the two kings were not equal in status.[6]

With time, Shamash-shum-ukin grew resentful towards the overbearing control his younger brother had over him and in 652 BC he rebelled, assembling a coalition of Assyria's enemies to aid him in his effort to rid himself of Ashurbanipal's yoke.[7] The revolt was unsuccessful and by 650 BC, most of the cities under Shamash-shum-ukin's control had been besieged, including Babylon itself. Having endured starvation and disease over the course of the siege, Babylon finally fell in 648 BC and was plundered by Ashurbanipal. Shamash-shum-ukin committed suicide by setting himself on fire in his palace.[8]

Reign and role

With Shamash-shum-ukin's defeat, Ashurbanipal had once more incorporated the region into the Neo-Assyrian Empire. Instead of assuming the kingship himself, he decided to appoint a new vassal king, deciding upon Kandalanu. Kandalanu's background is uncertain, he might have been one of Ashurbanipal's younger brothers or possibly a Babylonian noble who had allied with Ashurbanipal in the civil war.[9][10] His name appears to mean some sort of physical deforming, possibly a clubfoot. It’s therefore not unlikely that the king was appointed as some sort of offence to the Babylonians, he might even have been simple minded.[11]

Kandalanu's realm was the same as Shamash-shum-ukin's with the exception of the city of Nippur, which Ashurbanipal converted into a powerful Assyrian fortress.[9] His authority is likely to have been very limited and few records survive of his reign at Babylon. He probably lacked any true political and military power, which was instead firmly in the hands of the Assyrians.[10]

Kandalanu's reign is poorly attested. In later chronological inscriptions by Babylonian kings he is sometimes mentioned but also sometimes forgotten. Because records for this period are imperfect, all authentic records about Kandalanu consist of date formulae and one damaged chronological inscription.[12]

Identification with Ashurbanipal

Traditionally, the final year of Ashurbanipal has been assumed to have been 627 BC as per an inscription at Harran made by the mother of the Neo-Babylonian king Nabonidus nearly a century later. The final contemporary evidence for Ashurbanipal being alive and reigning as king is a contract from the city of Nippur made in 631 BC.[13] To get the attested lengths of the reigns of his successors Ashur-etil-ilani and Sinsharishkun to match, it is generally agreed that Ashurbanipal either died, abdicated or was deposed in 631 BC.[14] 631 BC is typically used as the year of his death.[9] If Ashurbanipal's reign had ended in 627 BC, the inscriptions of his successors Ashur-etil-ilani and Sinsharishkun in Babylon would have been impossible, as the city was seized by Nabopolassar in 626 BC, and never again fell into Assyrian hands.[15]

A once popular theory to explain the discrepancy between the 42-year reign claimed in the Harran inscription and the more likely 38-year reign, for instance defended by Polish historian Stefan Zawadski in his book The Fall of Assyria (1988), is that Ashubanipal and Kandalanu were the same person, "Kandalanu" simply being the name the king used in Babylon. This is considered unlikely for several reasons. No previous Assyrian king is known to have used an alternate name in Babylon. Inscriptions from Babylonia also show a difference in the lengths of the reigns of Ashurbanipal and Kandalanu; Ashurbanipal's reign is counted from his first full year as king (668 BC) and Kandalanu's is counted from his first full year as king (647 BC). All Assyrian kings who personally ruled Babylon used the title "King of Babylon" in their own inscriptions, but it is not used in Ashurbanipal's inscriptions, even those made after 648 BC. Most importantly, Babylonian documents treat Ashurbanipal and Kandalanu as two different people. No contemporary Babylonian sources describe Ashurbanipal as King of Babylon.[16]


  1. Porter 1993, p. 41.
  2. Radner 2003, p. 170.
  3. Ahmed 2018, p. 83.
  4. Ahmed 2018, p. 84.
  5. Ahmed 2018, p. 85.
  6. Ahmed 2018, p. 87.
  7. Ahmed 2018, p. 93.
  8. Johns 1913, p. 124–125.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Ahmed 2018, p. 8.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Na’aman 1991, p. 254.
  11. Frame 2007, pp. 303–304.
  12. Na’aman 1991, pp. 248–249.
  13. Reade 1970, p. 1.
  14. Reade 1998, p. 263.
  15. Na’aman 1991, p. 246.
  16. Na’aman 1991, pp. 251–252.

Cited bibliography

  • Ahmed, Sami Said (2018). Southern Mesopotamia in the time of Ashurbanipal. Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG. ISBN 978-3111033587.
  • Frame, Grant (2007) [1992]. Babylonia 689-627 B.C: A Political History. The Netherlands Institute for the Near East. ISBN 978-90-6258-069-9.
  • Johns, C. H. W. (1913). Ancient Babylonia. Cambridge University Press.
  • Na’aman, Nadav (1991). "Chronology and History in the Late Assyrian Empire (631—619 B.C.)". Zeitschrift für Assyriologie. 81: 243–267.
  • Porter, Barbara N. (1993). Images, Power, and Politics: Figurative Aspects of Esarhaddon's Babylonian Policy. American Philosophical Society. ISBN 9780871692085.
  • Radner, Karen (2003). "The Trials of Esarhaddon: The Conspiracy of 670 BC". ISIMU: Revista sobre Oriente Próximo y Egipto en la antigüedad. Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. 6: 165–183.
  • Reade, J. E. (1970). "The Accession of Sinsharishkun". Journal of Cuneiform Studies. 23 (1): 1–9. doi:10.2307/1359277. JSTOR 1359277.
  • Reade, J. E. (1998). "Assyrian eponyms, kings and pretenders, 648-605 BC". Orientalia (NOVA Series). 67 (2): 255–265. JSTOR 43076393.
 Died: 627 BC
Preceded by
King of Babylon
648 – 627 BC
Succeeded by
(from 626 BC onwards)