More War

Babylon, from the first, was very unwilling to submit to the Persians; and when the seat of government was removed to Susa (Shushan), in the province of Susiana (Elam), they were so enraged that they began to make secret preparations for breaking away from the Persian rule. 

The revolt took place in the first years of Darius Hystaspes. During the siege, the Babylonians suffered terribly from famine. They finally sacrificed most of the women and children, rather than yield to their enemies. It seemed impossible to take the city, for Cyrus had so fortified it as to make it much stronger than it had ever been before. At last, one of the Persian generals, having obtained admission to the city, as a pretended deserter, betrayed it into the hands of its enemies.

Darius then took away its gates and reduced its walls to one-fourth their original height. 

Thus the strength of Babylon was broken, and its glory departed to return no more. This literal fall of the great city took place about the time when the Jews were rejoicing at the completion of the temple at Jerusalem.

Soon after this, Darius opened a war with Greece for the recovery of some revolted colonies. His vast army was defeated on the plains of Marathon by the Athenians under Miltiades. 

This was B. C. 490, twenty-five years after the temple was completed. Darius then spent three years in collecting an immense host for a new invasion of Greece, but was hindered from carrying out his purpose, first by a revolt in Egypt, and soon after by his death.

Darius was succeeded by his son Xerxes, B.C. 486. Xerxes invaded Greece with an army said by Herodotus to number five million, or more than ten times as many as the largest army ever raised by Napoleon Bonaparte. The discipline and valor of the Greeks, however, was more than a match for this mighty host, and the Persians were driven back into Asia with immense loss of life, shipping, and stores. It was in this war that three hundred Spartans held the pass of Thermopylae till they had slain twenty thousand of their foes.

Xerxes was succeeded by his son, Artaxerxes Longimanus, who reigned forty-one years. It was in the seventh year of this king that Ezra obtained a decree for the complete restoration of Jerusalem. He went up to the land of his fathers, accompanied by about six thousand of his countrymen. It was now nearly eighty years since the first company went up with Zerubbabel, and fifty-eight since the temple was completed.

When Ezra arrived at Jerusalem, he found that even the leaders among his people had intermarried with the idolatrous nations around them, and had departed in many respects from the pure precepts of the law of their God. He was very zealous in correcting these errors, and soon effected a decided reform. In order to guard against a relapse, he read the law to the assembled people, causing it to be so carefully explained that all could understand it. It was chiefly through the labors and influence of Ezra, also, that the books of the law were arranged, edited, and multiplied. Provisions were likewise made for the reading of the Word of God to the people every Sabbath.

In the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, B. C. 445, and nearly thirteen years after Ezra obtained his decree, Nehemiah went up to Jerusalem, with permission to rebuild the walls of the city. This work he undertook, and pushed forward with singular courage and pertinacity. He was violently opposed by the Samaritans, prominent among whom were Sanballat the Horonite, Geshem the Arabian, and Tobiah the Ammonite.

Much of the time half of the men were obliged to stand guard while the others worked, and sometimes they worked with a warlike weapon in one hand while laboring at the wall with the other. The work was carried on with such energy as to be completed in the almost incredibly short period of fifty-two days.

Nehemiah and Ezra were united in teaching and enforcing the "laws of their God," according to the decree of Artaxerxes.

When the twelve years for which Nehemiah obtained leave of absence had expired, he returned to the Persian palace at Shushan, but revisited Jerusalem at different times, correcting many abuses, and introducing important reforms.