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The Chaldeans (also: Kaldeans ) were a Semitic people in southern Mesopotamia in the 1st millennium BC. Chr. Regardless existed an eponymous people on the shores of Lake Van in eastern Anatolia . These Chaldaoi and the Chaldeans were confused again and again in the ancient sources , since the people of Urartu worshiped the god Chaldi . The history of both peoples was completely independent of each other.

Origin and name

The Babylonian Chaldeans ( Akkadian kur Ḫašdu , Hebrew Kasdim , Aramaic kaldanajje ) spoke a Semitic language and penetrated from the coast of the Persian Gulf ago in Babylonia one. They may have had far-reaching connections across Oman to Yemen , which is why three theories about their origins are currently being discussed:

  • Relationship with the Arameans , since Aramaic names were common among them,
  • Relationship with the Babylonians because of New Akkadian names,
  • Relationship with East Arab population groups.

In the 8th century BC Local Chaldean peoples adapted to the rites and the way of life of the Arameans in rural areas. They also adopted their language. At the beginning of the Neo-Babylonian dynasty, around 625 BC. BC, the general assimilation process was well advanced, they were partly Aramaic and partly Babylonized, so that an identification of the original Chaldeans was no longer easy.

historical overview

The Babylonian Chaldeans were divided into five “houses” ( Bit ), with Bit Dakkuri and Bit Amukani representing the larger “houses / tribes” and Bit Sha'alli , Bit Shilani , Bit Jakin representing the smaller “houses”. For the first time, the Babylonian Chaldeans under Aššur-nâṣir-apli II. Around 883 BC. Mentioned.

Under Tukulti-apil-Ešarra III. the Chaldean "king of the sea", Merodach-Baladan (biblical name), from Bit-Yakin still appears as a tribute payer. King Nabû-mukīn-zēri conquered the land of Babylonia, but was taken by Tiglath-Pileser III. dethroned and imprisoned.

Sargon II could not prevent Merodach-Baladan from 721 to 710 BC. BC took the throne of Babylonia and was initially able to successfully assert himself against Sargon II. He was able to skillfully form a strong anti-Assyrian coalition with an alliance of Babylonians / Arameans / Babylonian Chaldeans / Elamites . In a battle near Der Sargon II was defeated by the Elam king Ummanigas (Chuman-nikasch) before he was 710 BC. Chr. Merodach-Baladan could drive into exile in Elam. In 702 BC BC Merodach-Baladan asserted himself against Sîn-aḫḫe-eriba for more than nine months before he was defeated by him not far from Kiš .

Only under their king Nabopolassar did the Chaldeans gain full control over Babylonia, whose throne Nabopolassar 625 BC. BC climbed. This marks the beginning of the so-called New Babylonian Empire .

In later times the name "Chaldean" is synonymous with astrologers or soothsayers , presumably because of the scholars trained in Orchoe , Borsippa and Sippara .

Today's Chaldeans are members of the Chaldean Church united with Rome . Most of them live in Iraq , where most of the Chaldean-Aramaic Christians belong to the Chaldean Church. After the Arabs and Kurds , they formed the third largest ethnic group in the country.

Ancient religion

The Chaldeans possessed a polytheistic worldview that not much is known about. It is certain that the people strongly believed in demons :

"Against the head of the people's power is directed to the cursed Asak , against the lives of the people of the cruel Nemtor against the neck of the people of the shameful Utuk , against the chest of the man of ruinous aluminum , to the bowels of the people of the evil Ekim against the hand of man the terrible Gallin . "

"Chaldeans" as a synonym for astrologers

"Chaldeans" ( Chaldaei in ancient Rome) were also used in the language of the first centuries before and after Christianity to refer to the astronomical advisors and scientists in Mesopotamia , about whom Israel knew more precisely since the Babylonian exile (see also Book of Daniel ). They were often of Persian or Median origin, but their field of activity extended from Mesopotamia and Arabia to Anatolia and the Mediterranean coasts.

The Chaldeans understood each other a. on calendar calculations and used an astronomical symbolic language to represent complex relationships. In the sphere of influence of Babylon , they also had a religious function - above all because the planetary orbits with their inexplicable loop movements were interpreted as an expression of will by deities that had to be fathomed.

The biblical three kings are described as the "wise men from the east" and as astrologers who may have come from Babylon , which was a center of astronomy . The Greek version of the New Testament reports of “ magicians from the east” (μάγοι ἀπὸ ἀνατολῶν) who “saw a rising star” (Εἴδομεν γὰρ αὐτοῦ τὸν ἀστέρα ἐν τῇ ἀνατολῇ). Therefore it is partly assumed that they were Chaldeans. Alternative interpretations interpret the group more as representatives of the Persian - Median area or (based on comparisons of old traditional pictorial representations of clothing) as Syrians .

Research history

Wilhelm Gesenius tried to connect the Chaldeans (Chardim) with the Kurds (Kard). After William Kennett Loftus , the Kurdish tribe of the Kaldani boasted of being descended from the Chaldeans. In linguistics, the term Chaldean was used as a synonym for Aramaic, including in the title of the first editions of Gesenius' dictionary on the Old Testament ( Hebrew and Chaldean concise dictionary , later: Hebrew and Aramaic concise dictionary ).

Speculations about an Aryan origin of Near Eastern peoples became increasingly popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries because they increased the age of "Indo-European" or "Aryan" civilizations. In a climate of increasing anti-Semitism , one did not want to attribute the oldest civilizations of mankind to the Semites. “What if the original Babylonian high culture should now be Aryan?” Asked Daniel Brinton in 1895 hopefully.

See also


  • Daniel G. Brinton : The Protohistoric Ethnography of Western Asia . In: Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 34/147, 1895, pp. 71-102.
  • Kurt Henning: Jerusalem Biblical Lexicon. 3rd edition, Neuhausen-Stuttgart 1995.
  • Joan Oates: Babylon. City and empire in the focus of the ancient Orient. Bindlach-Verlag 1990, ISBN 3-8112-0727-X .
  • Henry WF Saggs: Everyday life in Babylonia and Assyria. New York 1987.
  • Henry WF Saggs: Babylonians. London 1995.
  • Harald Haarmann : Lexicon of the fallen peoples. CH Beck, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-406-52817-1
  • Dietz-Otto Edzard : History of Mesopotamia from the Sumerians to Alexander the great. CH Beck, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-406-51664-5 .

Individual evidence

  1. Günter Stemberger and Mirjam Prager (eds.): The new large Bible in color - Lexicon , Zweiburgen Verlag, Weinheim 1983, p. 82
  2. Modern authors largely reject this derivation, but it was taken up again by C. Tuplin ( On the track of the Ten Thousand. In: Revue des études anciennes 101, 3-4 (1999), p. 360 f.)
  3. ^ Alfred Lehmann: Superstition and sorcery from the oldest times to the present. 1898, 1925, 1969.
  4. ^ Paul Kunitzsch : Science in the Dialogue between Orient and Occident. In: Fachprosaforschung - Grenzüberreitungen 8/9, 2012/2013 (2014), pp. 477-482 (Lecture on the occasion of the opening of the special exhibition "Ex Oriente lux? Paths to Modern Science" of the State Museum of Nature and Man in Oldenburg on October 25, 2009 ), here: p. 478.
  5. a b Wilhelm Gesenius: Thesaurus philologicus criticus linguae hebraeae et chaldaeae Veteris Testamenti . Leipzig 1835–1858, Neudr. Osnabrück 1977.
  6. ^ William Kennett Loftus: Travels in Chaldea and Susiana, with an account of excavations at Warka, the "Erech" of Nimrod, and Shúsh, "Shushan the palace" of Esther, in 1849-1852. New York 1857, p. 99.
  7. ^ Daniel G. Brinton : The Protohistoric Ethnography of Western Asia . In: Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 34/147, 1895, p. 92: "What if the primitive Babylonian civilization should turn out to be of Aryan origin after all?"