Some 'facts' concerning the Neo-Babylonian Empire at the start of Persian expansion. Leader: Nabonidus (ruled 555-39), a commoner of Syrian descent. He took the throne after three kings had been assassinated over six years. Government: The real holders of power were the priesthood who served the god Marduk. In fact they may have conspired against him to allow Cyrus to enter Babylon without any resistance. (This opens the possiblity that the early Persians were really acting as instrumenets of the Marduk Priesthood) Traditionally the Babylonian kings had been war leaders but Nabonidus was an exceptionally peaceful man. Unlike previous kings he did not reside in Babylon, but chose the town of Teima in Arabia. Here he was free to worship the moon god sin, which was also worshipped by the Arabians. An unstable monarchy. Perhaps theocracy is a better description. I would suggest the Republic. Economy: The level of trade in and out of Babylon was extremely high. Trade into the capital consisted of Iron, wine, dyes, spices and lapis lazuli (gems). The metropolis of Babylon, an enormous city, had two wonders of the world. The Hanging Gardens and the grandiose city walls. In addition to temples, banking was an important part of business. (This could be represented by a bank, or a special wonder adding 1 trade per tile) In the surronding towns the economy was based around the temple, the trading house and the courthouse. The temples largely functoned as 'corporations' organizing the produce of agricultual products. The trading houses were the residence of the merchant class, which functioned as moneylenders and traders. The level of literary remains from this period describing, agricultural output, trade deals and loan giving is very high. Note the absense of an aristocracy. In the courts the decisions concerning governance were decided by assemblies. The people serving in these assemblies were from the temple class, that is the priesthood. Interestingly when the Persians took over the rule of the Neo-Babylonian Empire they saw no problems in restoring democracy to the Ionian cities of Asia Minor. Source: The ancient Mesopotamian City, and A history of the Ancient Near East, both by Marc Van De Mieroop.