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Nabopolassar founded the Neo-Babylonian dynasty, and his son Nebuchadnezzar II
expanded the kingdom until it became an empire embracing much of southwest Asia.
The imperial capital at Babylon was refurbished with new temple and palace buildings,
extensive fortification walls and gates, and paved processional ways; it was at
that time the largest city of the known world, covering more than 1000 hectares
(some 2500 acres).
The Neo-Babylonian Empire was of short duration. In 539 BC, Cyrus the Great captured
Babylon and incorporated Babylonia into the newly founded Persian Empire. Under
the Persians, Babylon for a time served as the official residence of the crown prince,
until a local revolt in 482 led Xerxes I to raze the temples and ziggurat (temple tower)
and to melt down the statue of the patron god Marduk.
Alexander the Great captured the city in 330 BC and planned to rebuild it and make
it the capital of his vast empire, but he died before he could carry out his plans.
After 312 BC, Babylon was for a while used as a capital by the Seleucid dynasty
set up by Alexander's successors. When the new capital of Seleucia on the Tigris was
founded in the early 3rd century BC, however, most of Babylon's population was moved
there. The temples continued in use for a time, but the city became insignificant
and almost disappeared before the coming of Islam in the 7th century AD.