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The Akkadian Empire was an empire
Empire
The term empire derives from the Latin imperium . Politically, an empire is a geographically extensive group of states and peoples united and ruled either by a monarch or an oligarchy....

 centered in the city of Akkad (Sumerian
Sumerian language
Sumerian is the language of ancient Sumer, which was spoken in southern Mesopotamia since at least the 4th millennium BC. During the 3rd millennium BC, there developed a very intimate cultural symbiosis between the Sumerians and the Akkadians, which included widespread bilingualism...

: Agade) and its surrounding region in Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

.

During the 3rd millennium BC, there developed a very intimate cultural symbiosis between the Sumer
Sumer
Sumer was a civilization and historical region in southern Mesopotamia, modern Iraq during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age....

ians and the Akkadians, which included widespread bilingualism. Akkadian
Akkadian language
Akkadian is an extinct Semitic language that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia. The earliest attested Semitic language, it used the cuneiform writing system derived ultimately from ancient Sumerian, an unrelated language isolate...

 gradually replaced Sumerian as a spoken language somewhere around the turn of the 3rd and the 2nd millennium BC (the exact dating being a matter of debate).

The Akkadian Empire reached its political peak between the 24th and 22nd centuries BC, following the conquests of its founder Sargon of Akkad
Sargon of Akkad
Sargon of Akkad, also known as Sargon the Great "the Great King" , was an Akkadian emperor famous for his conquest of the Sumerian city-states in the 23rd and 22nd centuries BC. The founder of the Dynasty of Akkad, Sargon reigned in the last quarter of the third millennium BC...

 (2334–2279 BC). Under Sargon and his successors, Akkadian language was briefly imposed on neighboring conquered states such as Elam
Elam
Elam was an ancient civilization located in what is now southwest Iran. Elam was centered in the far west and the southwest of modern-day Iran, stretching from the lowlands of Khuzestan and Ilam Province, as well as a small part of southern Iraq...

. Akkad is sometimes regarded as the first empire in history, though there are earlier Sumerian claimants.

City of Akkad


The precise archaeological site of the city of Akkad has not yet been found. The form Agade appears in Sumerian, for example in the Sumerian King List
Sumerian king list
The Sumerian King List is an ancient manuscript originally recorded in the Sumerian language, listing kings of Sumer from Sumerian and neighboring dynasties, their supposed reign lengths, and the locations of "official" kingship...

; the later Assyro-Babylonian form Akkadû ("of or belonging to Akkad") was likely derived from this. The etymology and meaning of Akkad (written a.ga.dèKI or URIKI) are unknown. Centuries later, the neo-Babylonian king Nabonidus
Nabonidus
Nabonidus was the last king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, reigning from 556-539 BCE.-Historiography on Nabonidus:...

 mentioned in his archaeological records that Ishtar's worship in Agade was later superseded by that of the goddess Anunit, whose shrine was at Sippar
Sippar
Sippar was an ancient Near Eastern city on the east bank of the Euphrates river, located at the site of modern Tell Abu Habbah in Iraq's Babil Governorate, some 60 km north of Babylon and 30 km southeast of Baghdad....

—suggesting proximity of Sippar and Agade. Despite numerous searches, the city has never been found. One theory holds that Agade was situated opposite Sippar on the left bank of the Euphrates, and was perhaps the oldest part of the city of Sippar. Another theory is that the ruins of Akkad are to be found beneath modern Baghdad
Baghdad
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

. Reputedly it was destroyed by invading Gutians with the fall of the Akkadian Empire.

The first known mention of the city of Akkad is in an inscription of Enshakushanna
Enshakushanna
Enshakushanna was a king of Uruk in the later 3rd millennium BC who is named on the Sumerian king list, which states his reign to have been 60 years. He conquered Hamazi, Akkad, Kish, and Nippur, claiming hegemony over all of Sumer...

 of Uruk
Uruk
Uruk was an ancient city of Sumer and later Babylonia, situated east of the present bed of the Euphrates river, on the ancient dry former channel of the Euphrates River, some 30 km east of modern As-Samawah, Al-Muthannā, Iraq.Uruk gave its name to the Uruk...

, where he claims to have defeated Agade—indicating that it was in existence well before the days of Sargon of Akkad
Sargon of Akkad
Sargon of Akkad, also known as Sargon the Great "the Great King" , was an Akkadian emperor famous for his conquest of the Sumerian city-states in the 23rd and 22nd centuries BC. The founder of the Dynasty of Akkad, Sargon reigned in the last quarter of the third millennium BC...

, who the Sumerian King List claims to have built it. Akkad is mentioned once in the Tanakh
Tanakh
The Tanakh is a name used in Judaism for the canon of the Hebrew Bible. The Tanakh is also known as the Masoretic Text or the Miqra. The name is an acronym formed from the initial Hebrew letters of the Masoretic Text's three traditional subdivisions: The Torah , Nevi'im and Ketuvim —hence...

—Book of Genesis 10:10: And the beginning of his Nimrod's kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar (KJV). The Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 (LXX) spelling in this passage is Archad.

Origins


Speakers of the Akkadian language seem to have already been present in Mesopotamia at the dawn of the historical period, and soon achieved preeminence with the first Dynasty of Kish
Kish (Sumer)
Kish is modern Tell al-Uhaymir , and was an ancient city of Sumer. Kish is located some 12 km east of Babylon, and 80 km south of Baghdad ....

 and numerous localities to the north of Sumer, where rulers with Akkadian names had already established themselves by the 3rd millennium BC. Sargon has often been cited as the first ruler of a combined empire of Akkad and Sumer, although more recently discovered data suggests there had been Sumerian expansions under previous kings, including Lugal-Anne-Mundu
Lugal-Anne-Mundu
Lugal-Anne-Mundu was the most important king of the city-state Adab in Sumer. The Sumerian king list claims he reigned for 90 years, following the defeat of Meskiaj-nanna of Ur...

 of Adab
Adab
Adab or Udab was an ancient Sumerian city between Telloh and Nippur. It was located at the site of modern Bismaya or Bismya in the Wasit Governorate of Iraq.-History:...

, Eannatum
Eannatum
Eannatum was a Sumerian king of Lagash who established one of the first verifiable empires in history. One inscription of his, found on a boulder, states that Eannatum was his Sumerian name, while his "Tidnu" name was Lumma.-Conquest of Sumer:...

 of Lagash
Lagash
Lagash is located northwest of the junction of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers and east of Uruk, about east of the modern town of Ash Shatrah. Lagash was one of the oldest cities of the Ancient Near East...

, and Lugal-Zage-Si
Lugal-Zage-Si
Lugal-Zage-Si of Umma was the last Sumerian king before the conquest of Sumer by Sargon of Akkad and the rise of the Akkadian Empire, and was considered as the only king of the third dynasty of Uruk...

.

Sargon and his sons



Sargon of Akkad (Sharru-kin = "legitimate king", possibly a title he took on gaining power; 24th century BC) defeated and captured Lugal-Zage-Si in the Battle of Uruk
Battle of Uruk
The Battle of Uruk was one of the decisive battles in which king Sargon the Great of Akkad subdued Sumer and brought it under his control. The only known information about this battle is from a copied inscription at Nippur, and the date for the battle is uncertain. During his military campaign,...

 and conquered his empire. The earliest records in the Akkadian language date to the time of Sargon. Sargon was claimed to be the son of La'ibum or Itti-Bel, a humble gardener, and possibly a hierodule
Hierodule
In ancient Greece and Anatolia a hierodule, from the Greek ' , was a temple slave in the service of a specific deity, often with the connotation of religious prostitution. Her prostitution would technically be excused because of the service she provided to the deity...

, or priestess to Ishtar
Ishtar
Ishtar is the Assyrian and Babylonian goddess of fertility, love, war, and sex. She is the counterpart to the Sumerian Inanna and to the cognate north-west Semitic goddess Astarte.-Characteristics:...

 or Inanna
Inanna
Inanna, also spelled Inana is the Sumerian goddess of sexual love, fertility, and warfare....

. One legend related of Sargon in Assyrian times says that
Originally a cupbearer (Rabshaqe) to a king of Kish with a Semitic name, Ur-Zababa
Ur-Zababa
Ur-Zababa is listed on the Sumerian king list as the second king in the 4th Dynasty of Kish, the son of Puzur-Suen and the grandson of Kug-Bau. The king list also says Sargon of Akkad was a cup-bearer for Ur-Zababa before becoming king of Akkad.-See also:...

, Sargon thus became a gardener, responsible for the task of clearing out irrigation canals. This gave him access to a disciplined corps of workers, who also may have served as his first soldiers. Displacing Ur-Zababa, Sargon was crowned king, and he entered upon a career of foreign conquest. Four times he invaded Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

 and Canaan
Canaan
Canaan is a historical region roughly corresponding to modern-day Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, and the western parts of Jordan...

, and he spent three years thoroughly subduing the countries of "the west" to unite them with Mesopotamia "into a single empire."

However, Sargon took this process further, conquering many of the surrounding regions to create an empire that reached westward as far as the Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

 and perhaps Cyprus
Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

 (Kaptara); northward as far as the mountains (a later Hittite text asserts he fought the Hatti
Hattians
The Hattians were an ancient people who inhabited the land of Hatti in present-day central part of Anatolia, Turkey, noted at least as early as the empire of Sargon of Akkad , until they were gradually displaced and absorbed ca...

te king Nurdaggal of Burushanda, well into Anatolia
Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

); eastward over Elam
Elam
Elam was an ancient civilization located in what is now southwest Iran. Elam was centered in the far west and the southwest of modern-day Iran, stretching from the lowlands of Khuzestan and Ilam Province, as well as a small part of southern Iraq...

; and as far south as Magan
Magan
Majan was an ancient region which was referred to in Sumerian cuneiform texts of around 2300 BC as a source of copper and diorite for Mesopotamia....

 (Oman
Oman
Oman , officially called the Sultanate of Oman , is an Arab state in southwest Asia on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by the United Arab Emirates to the northwest, Saudi Arabia to the west, and Yemen to the southwest. The coast is formed by the Arabian Sea on the...

) — a region over which he reigned for purportedly 56 years, though only four "year-names" survive.

Trade extended from the silver
Silver
Silver is a metallic chemical element with the chemical symbol Ag and atomic number 47. A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it has the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity of any metal...

 mines of Anatolia to the lapis lazuli
Lapis lazuli
Lapis lazuli is a relatively rare semi-precious stone that has been prized since antiquity for its intense blue color....

 mines in Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

, the cedars of Lebanon
Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

 and the copper
Copper
Copper is a chemical element with the symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. Pure copper is soft and malleable; an exposed surface has a reddish-orange tarnish...

 of Magan. This consolidation of the city-states of Sumer and Akkad reflected the growing economic and political power of Mesopotamia. The empire's breadbasket was the rain-fed agricultural system of northern Mesopotamia (Assyria
Assyria
Assyria was a Semitic Akkadian kingdom, extant as a nation state from the mid–23rd century BC to 608 BC centred on the Upper Tigris river, in northern Mesopotamia , that came to rule regional empires a number of times through history. It was named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur...

) and a chain of fortresses was built to control the imperial wheat production.

Images of Sargon were erected on the shores of the Mediterranean, in token of his victories, and cities and palaces were built at home with the spoils of the conquered lands. Elam and the northern part of Mesopotamia (Subartu
Subartu
The land of Subartu or Subar is mentioned in Bronze Age literature...

) were also subjugated, and rebellions in Sumer
Sumer
Sumer was a civilization and historical region in southern Mesopotamia, modern Iraq during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age....

 were put down. Contract tablets have been found dated in the years of the campaigns against Canaan
Canaan
Canaan is a historical region roughly corresponding to modern-day Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, and the western parts of Jordan...

 and against Sarlak, king of Gutium. He also boasted of having subjugated the "four quarters" — the lands surrounding Akkad to the north (Assyria), the south (Sumer), the east (Elam) and the west (Martu). Some of the earliest historiographic texts (ABC 19, 20
Babylonian Chronicles
The Babylonian Chronicles are many series of tablets recording major events in Babylonian history. They are thus one of the first steps in the development of ancient historiography...

) suggest he rebuilt the city of Babylon (Bab-ilu) in its new location near Akkad.

Sargon, throughout his long life, showed special deference to the Sumerian deities, particularly Inanna
Inanna
Inanna, also spelled Inana is the Sumerian goddess of sexual love, fertility, and warfare....

, his patroness, and Zababa
Zababa
Zababa was the Hittite way of writing the name of a war god, using Akkadian writing conventions. Most likely, this spelling represents the native Anatolian Hattian god [Wurunkatte]. His Hurrian name was Astabis. He is connected with the Akkadian god Ninurta...

, the warrior god of Kish. He called himself "The anointed priest of Anu
Anu
In Sumerian mythology, Anu was a sky-god, the god of heaven, lord of constellations, king of gods, Consort of Antu, spirits and demons, and dwelt in the highest heavenly regions. It was believed that he had the power to judge those who had committed crimes, and that he had created the stars as...

"
and "the great ensi of Enlil" and his daughter, Enheduanna
Enheduanna
Enheduanna , also transliterated as Enheduana, En-hedu-ana or EnHeduAnna , was an Akkadian princess as well as High Priestess of the Moon god Nanna in the Sumerian city-state of Ur...

, was installed as priestess to Nanna at the temple in Ur
Ur
Ur was an important city-state in ancient Sumer located at the site of modern Tell el-Muqayyar in Iraq's Dhi Qar Governorate...

.

Troubles multiplied toward the end of his reign. A later Babylonian text states

Also shortly after,
These difficulties broke out again in the reign of his sons. Revolts broke out during the 9-year reign of his son, Rimush (2278–2270 BC), who fought hard to retain the empire—and in the fifteen year reign of Rimush's elder brother, Manishtushu
Manishtushu
Manishtushu was a king of the Akkadian Empire from 2276 to 2261 BC. His name is also spelled as Maništušu.- Biography :Manishtushu was the son of Sargon of Akkad and Queen Tashlultum, brother of En-hedu-ana and the father of Naram-Sin...

 (2269–2255 BC). The latter king seems to have fought a sea battle against 32 kings who had gathered against him. Both appear to have been assassinated.

Naram-Sin


Manishtushu's son and successor, Naram-Sin (2254–2218 BC) (Beloved of Sin), assumed the imperial title "King Naram-Sin, king of the four quarters (Lugal Naram-Sîn, Šar kibrat 'arbaim)", and, like his grandfather, was addressed as "the god (Sumerian = DINGIR, Akkadian = ilu) of Agade" (Akkad).
He also faced revolts at the start of his reign, but quickly crushed them.

Naram-Sin also recorded the Akkadian conquest of Ebla
Ebla
Ebla Idlib Governorate, Syria) was an ancient city about southwest of Aleppo. It was an important city-state in two periods, first in the late third millennium BC, then again between 1800 and 1650 BC....

 as well as Armanum and its king. Armanum was located on the Euphrates River between Ebla and Tell Brak
Nagar, Syria
Tell Brak, ancient Nagar, is a tell, or settlement mound, in the Upper Khabur area in Al-Hasakah Governorate, northeastern Syria. The site was occupied between the sixth and second millennia BCE...

, most likely at the Citadel of Bazi – Tall Banat complex. To better police this area, he built a royal residence at Tell Brak, a crossroads at the heart of the Khabur River
Khabur River
The Khabur River , , , ) is the largest perennial tributary to the Euphrates in Syrian territory. Although the Khabur originates in Turkey, the karstic springs around Ra's al-'Ayn are the river's main source of water. Several important wadis join the Khabur north of Al-Hasakah, together creating...

 basin of the Jezirah
Al-Jazira, Mesopotamia
Upper Mesopotamia is the name used for the uplands and great outwash plain of northwestern Iraq and northeastern Syria and southeastern Turkey which is known by the traditional Arabic name of Al-Jazira , variously transliterated into Roman script as Djazirah, Djezirah and Jazirah...

. Naram-Sin campaigned against Magan which also revolted; Naram-Sin, "marched against Magan
Magan
Majan was an ancient region which was referred to in Sumerian cuneiform texts of around 2300 BC as a source of copper and diorite for Mesopotamia....

 and personally caught Mandannu, its king"
. The chief threat seemed to be coming from the northeastern mountaineers. A campaign against the Lullubi
Lullubi
The Lullubi or Lulubi were a group of tribes during the 3rd millennium BC, from a region known as Lulubum, now the Sharazor plain of in the Zagros Mountains of modern Iran...

 led to the carving of the famous "Victory Stele of Naram-Suen", now in the Louvre
Louvre
The Musée du Louvre – in English, the Louvre Museum or simply the Louvre – is one of the world's largest museums, the most visited art museum in the world and a historic monument. A central landmark of Paris, it is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the 1st arrondissement...

. Hittite
Hittites
The Hittites were a Bronze Age people of Anatolia.They established a kingdom centered at Hattusa in north-central Anatolia c. the 18th century BC. The Hittite empire reached its height c...

 sources claim Naram-Sin of Akkad even ventured into Anatolia
Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

, battling the Hittite and Hurrian kings Pamba
Pamba (king)
Pamba is the name of a king of the Hatti in the early 22nd century BC .Pamba's name is mentioned in a report of Naram-Suen of Akkad regarding a battle against an alliance of 17 kings, including Pamba, king of the Hatti, and Zipani, king of Kanesh...

 of Hatti
Hattians
The Hattians were an ancient people who inhabited the land of Hatti in present-day central part of Anatolia, Turkey, noted at least as early as the empire of Sargon of Akkad , until they were gradually displaced and absorbed ca...

, Zipani of Kanesh, and 15 others.

This newfound Akkadian wealth may have been based upon benign climatic conditions, huge agricultural surpluses and the confiscation of the wealth of other peoples.

The economy was highly planned. Grain was cleaned, and rations of grain and oil were distributed in standardized vessels made by the city's potters. Taxes were paid in produce and labour on public walls, including city walls, temples, irrigation canals and waterways, producing huge agricultural surpluses.

In later Assyrian and Babylonian texts, the name Akkad, together with Sumer, appears as part of the royal title, as in the Sumerian LUGAL
Lugal
Lugal is the Sumerian cuneiform sign for leader from the two signs, LÚ.GAL , and was one of several Sumerian titles that a ruler of a city-state could bear . The sign eventually became the predominant Sumerian term for a King in general. In the Sumerian language, lugal is used to mean an owner...

 KI.EN.GIRKI URUKI or Akkadian Šar māt Šumeri u Akkadi, translating to "king of Sumer and Akkad". This title was assumed by the king who seized control of Nippur
Nippur
Nippur was one of the most ancient of all the Sumerian cities. It was the special seat of the worship of the Sumerian god Enlil, the "Lord Wind," ruler of the cosmos subject to An alone...

, the intellectual and religious center of southern Mesopotamia.

During the Akkadian period, the Akkadian language became the lingua franca
Lingua franca
A lingua franca is a language systematically used to make communication possible between people not sharing a mother tongue, in particular when it is a third language, distinct from both mother tongues.-Characteristics:"Lingua franca" is a functionally defined term, independent of the linguistic...

 of the Middle East, and was officially used for administration, although the Sumerian language remained as a spoken and literary language. The spread of Akkadian stretched from Syria to Elam, and even the Elamite language
Elamite language
Elamite is an extinct language spoken by the ancient Elamites. Elamite was the primary language in present day Iran from 2800–550 BCE. The last written records in Elamite appear about the time of the conquest of the Persian Empire by Alexander the Great....

 was temporarily written in Mesopotamian cuneiform
Cuneiform
Cuneiform can refer to:*Cuneiform script, an ancient writing system originating in Mesopotamia in the 4th millennium BC*Cuneiform , three bones in the human foot*Cuneiform Records, a music record label...

. Akkadian texts later found their way to far-off places, from Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

 (in the Amarna Period
Amarna Period
The Amarna Period was an era of Egyptian history during the latter half of the Eighteenth Dynasty when the royal residence of the pharaoh and his queen was shifted to Akhetaten in what is now modern-day Amarna...

) and Anatolia
Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

, to Persia (Behistun).

Collapse of the Akkadian Empire


The Empire of Akkad collapsed in 2154 BC, within 180 years of its founding, ushering in a period of regional decline that lasted until the rise of the Third Dynasty of Ur
Third Dynasty of Ur
The Third Dynasty of Ur, also known as the Neo-Sumerian Empire or the Ur III Empire refers simultaneously to a 21st to 20th century BC Sumerian ruling dynasty based in the city of Ur and a short-lived territorial-political state that some historians regard as a nascent empire...

 in 2112 BC. By the end of the reign of Naram-Sin's son, Shar-kali-sharri
Shar-Kali-Sharri
Shar-Kali-Sharri was a king of the Akkadian Empire.According to the Sumerian king list, he was the son of Naram-sin and reigned for 25 years - around 2100 BC...

 (2217–2193 BC), the empire had weakened. There was a period of anarchy between 2192 BC and 2168 BC. Shu-Durul (2168–2154 BC) appears to have restored some order, however he was unable to prevent the empire eventually collapsing outright from the invasion of barbarian peoples from the Zagros Mountains
Zagros Mountains
The Zagros Mountains are the largest mountain range in Iran and Iraq. With a total length of 1,500 km , from northwestern Iran, and roughly correlating with Iran's western border, the Zagros range spans the whole length of the western and southwestern Iranian plateau and ends at the Strait of...

 known as the Gutians.

Little is known about the Gutian period, or how long it endured. Cuneiform sources suggest that the Gutians' administration showed little concern for maintaining agriculture, written records, or public safety; they reputedly released all farm animals to roam about Mesopotamia freely, and soon brought about famine and rocketing grain prices. The Sumerian king Ur-Nammu
Ur-Nammu
Ur-Nammu founded the Sumerian 3rd dynasty of Ur, in southern Mesopotamia, following several centuries of Akkadian and Gutian rule...

 (2112–2095 BC) cleared the Gutians from Mesopotamia during his reign.

It has recently been suggested that the regional decline at the end of the Akkadian period (and First Intermediary Period of the Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

ian Old Kingdom
Old Kingdom
Old Kingdom is the name given to the period in the 3rd millennium BC when Egypt attained its first continuous peak of civilization in complexity and achievement – the first of three so-called "Kingdom" periods, which mark the high points of civilization in the lower Nile Valley .The term itself was...

) was associated with rapidly increasing aridity, and failing rainfall in the region of the Ancient Near East, caused by a global centennial-scale drought
4.2 kiloyear event
The 4.2 kiloyear BP aridification event was one of the most severe climatic events of the Holocene period in terms of impact on cultural upheaval. Starting in ≈2200 BC, it probably lasted the entire 22nd century BC. It is very likely to have caused the collapse of the Old Kingdom in Egypt as...

.

The Sumerian King List, describing the Akkadian Empire after the death of Shar-kali-shari, states:

However, there are no known year-names or other archaeological evidence verifying any of these later kings of Akkad or Uruk, apart from a single artifact referencing king Dudu of Akkad. The named kings of Uruk may have been contemporaries of the last kings of Akkad, but in any event could not have been very prominent.
Evidence from Tell Leilan
Tell Leilan
Tell Leilan is an archaeological site situated near the Wadi Jarrah in the Khabur River basin in Al-Hasakah Governorate, northeastern Syria. The site has been occupied since the 5th millennium BC. During the late third millennium, the site was known as Shekhna...

 in Northern Mesopotamia shows what may have happened. The site was abandoned soon after the city's massive walls were constructed, its temple rebuilt and its grain production reorganised. The debris, dust and sand that followed show no trace of human activity. Soil samples show fine wind-blown sand, no trace of earthworm activity, reduced rainfall and indications of a drier and windier climate. Evidence shows that skeleton-thin sheep and cattle died of drought, and up to 28,000 people abandoned the site, seeking wetter areas elsewhere. Tell Brak shrank in size by 75%. Trade collapsed. Nomad
Nomad
Nomadic people , commonly known as itinerants in modern-day contexts, are communities of people who move from one place to another, rather than settling permanently in one location. There are an estimated 30-40 million nomads in the world. Many cultures have traditionally been nomadic, but...

ic herders such as the Amorite
Amorite
Amorite refers to an ancient Semitic people who occupied large parts of Mesopotamia from the 21st Century BC...

s moved herds closer to reliable water suppliers, bringing them into conflict with Akkadian populations. This climate-induced collapse seems to have affected the whole of the Middle East, and to have coincided with the collapse of the Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

ian Old Kingdom.

This collapse of rain-fed agriculture in the Upper Country meant the loss to southern Mesopotamia of the agrarian subsidies which had kept the Akkadian Empire solvent. Water levels within the Tigris and Euphrates fell 1.5 metres beneath the level of 2600 BC, and although they stabilised for a time during the following Ur III period, rivalries between pastoralists and farmers increased. Attempts were undertaken to prevent the former from herding their flocks in agricultural lands, such as the building of a 180 km (112 mi) wall known as the "Repeller of the Amorites" between the Tigris and Euphrates under the Ur III ruler Shu-Sin. Such attempts led to increased political instability; meanwhile, severe depopulation occurred to re-establish demographic equilibrium
Demography
Demography is the statistical study of human population. It can be a very general science that can be applied to any kind of dynamic human population, that is, one that changes over time or space...

 with the less favorable climatic conditions.

It has also been recently suggested that the rapid climatic collapse, marking the Akkadian Dark Age, may have been responsible for the religiously prescribed prohibition against the raising and consumption of pig
Pig
A pig is any of the animals in the genus Sus, within the Suidae family of even-toed ungulates. Pigs include the domestic pig, its ancestor the wild boar, and several other wild relatives...

s that spread through the Ancient Middle East from the end of the third millennium BC.

The period between ca. 2112 BC and 2004 BC is known as the Ur III period. Documents again began to be written in Sumerian
Sumerian language
Sumerian is the language of ancient Sumer, which was spoken in southern Mesopotamia since at least the 4th millennium BC. During the 3rd millennium BC, there developed a very intimate cultural symbiosis between the Sumerians and the Akkadians, which included widespread bilingualism...

, although Sumerian was becoming a purely literary or liturgical language, much as Latin later would be in Medieval Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

.

The Curse


Later material described how the fall of Akkad was due to Naram-Sin's attack upon the city of Nippur. When prompted by a pair of inauspicious oracle
Oracle
In Classical Antiquity, an oracle was a person or agency considered to be a source of wise counsel or prophetic predictions or precognition of the future, inspired by the gods. As such it is a form of divination....

s, the king sacked the E
É (temple)
É is the Sumerian word or symbol for house or temple, written ideographically with the cuneiform sign .The Sumerian term É.GAL denoted a city's main building....

-kur temple, supposedly protected by the god Enlil
Enlil
Elizabeth Barrett Browning was one of the most prominent poets of the Victorian era. Her poetry was widely popular in both England and the United States during her lifetime. A collection of her last poems was published by her husband, Robert Browning, shortly after her death.-Early life:Members...

, head of the pantheon
Pantheon (gods)
A pantheon is a set of all the gods of a particular polytheistic religion or mythology.Max Weber's 1922 opus, Economy and Society discusses the link between a...

. As a result of this, eight chief deities of the Anunnaki
Anunnaki
The Anunnaki are a group of Sumerian, Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian deities...

 pantheon were supposed to have come together and withdrawn their support from Akkad.

For the first time since cities were built and founded,
The great agricultural tracts produced no grain,
The inundated tracts produced no fish,
The irrigated orchards produced neither wine nor syrup,
The gathered clouds did not rain, the masgurum did not grow.
At that time, one shekel's worth of oil was only one-half quart,
One shekel's worth of grain was only one-half quart. . . .
These sold at such prices in the markets of all the cities!
He who slept on the roof, died on the roof,
He who slept in the house, had no burial,
People were flailing at themselves from hunger.



For many years, the events described in "The Curse of Akkad" were thought, like the details of Sargon's birth, to be purely fictional. But now the evidence of Tell Leilan, and recent findings of elevated dust deposits in sea-cores collected off Oman, that date to the period of Akkad's collapse suggest that climate change
Climate change
Climate change is a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years. It may be a change in average weather conditions or the distribution of events around that average...

 may have played a role.

Government


The Akkadian government formed a "classical standard" with which all future Mesopotamian states compared themselves. Traditionally, the ensi was the highest functionary of the Sumerian city-state
City-state
A city-state is an independent or autonomous entity whose territory consists of a city which is not administered as a part of another local government.-Historical city-states:...

s. In later traditions, one became an ensi by marrying the goddess Inanna, legitimising the rulership through divine consent.

Initially, the monarchical lugal (lu = man, gal = great) was subordinate to the priestly ensi, and was appointed at times of troubles, but by later dynastic times, it was the lugal who had emerged as the preeminent role, having his own "é" (= house) or "palace", independent from the temple establishment. By the time of Mesalim, whichever dynasty controlled the city of Kish was recognised as šar kiššati (= king of Kish), and was considered preeminent in Sumer, possibly because this was where the two rivers approached, and whoever controlled Kish ultimately controlled the irrigation systems of the other cities downstream.

As Sargon extended his conquest from the "Lower Sea" (Persian Gulf), to the "Upper Sea" (Mediterranean), it was felt that he ruled "the totality of the lands under heaven", or "from sunrise to sunset", as contemporary texts put it. Under Sargon, the ensis generally retained their positions, but were seen more as provincial governors. The title šar kiššati became recognised as meaning "lord of the universe". Sargon is even recorded as having organised naval expeditions to Dilmun
Dilmun
Dilmun or Telmun is a land mentioned by Mesopotamian civilizations as a trade partner, a source of the metal copper, and an entrepôt of the Mesopotamia-to-Indus Valley Civilization trade route...

 (Bahrein) and Magan, amongst the first organised military naval expeditions in history. Whether he also did in the case of the Mediterranean with the kingdom of Kaptara (possibly Cyprus
Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

), as claimed in later documents, is more questionable.

With Naram-Sin, Sargon's grandson, this went further than with Sargon, with the king not only being called "Lord of the Four Quarters (of the Earth)", but also elevated to the ranks of the dingir (= gods), with his own temple establishment. Previously a ruler could, like Gilgamesh
Gilgamesh
Gilgamesh was the fifth king of Uruk, modern day Iraq , placing his reign ca. 2500 BC. According to the Sumerian king list he reigned for 126 years. In the Tummal Inscription, Gilgamesh, and his son Urlugal, rebuilt the sanctuary of the goddess Ninlil, in Tummal, a sacred quarter in her city of...

, become divine after death but the Akkadian kings, from Naram-Sin onward, were considered gods on earth in their lifetimes. Their portraits showed them of larger size than mere mortals and at some distance from their retainers.

One strategy adopted by both Sargon and Naram-Sin, to maintain control of the country, was to install their daughters, Enheduanna and Emmenanna respectively, as high priestess to Sin, the Akkadian version of the Sumerian moon deity, Nanna, at Ur, in the extreme south of Sumer; to install sons as provincial ensi governors in strategic locations; and to marry their daughters to rulers of peripheral parts of the Empire (Urkesh
Urkesh
Urkesh or Urkish is a tell, or settlement mound, located in the foothills of the Taurus Mountains in Al-Hasakah Governorate, northeastern Syria...

 and Marhashe). A well documented case of the latter is that of Naram-Sin's daughter Tar'am-Agade at Urkesh.

Economy


The population of Akkad, like all pre-modern states, was entirely dependent upon the agricultural systems of the region, which seem to have had two principal centres: the irrigated farmlands of southern Iraq that traditionally had a yield of 30 grains returned for each grain sown and the rain-fed agriculture of northern Iraq, known as "the Upper Country".

Southern Iraq during Akkadian period seems to have been approaching its modern rainfall level of less than 20 mm (0.78740157480315 in) per year, with the result that agriculture was totally dependent upon irrigation. Prior to the Akkadian period the progressive salinisation
Salinity
Salinity is the saltiness or dissolved salt content of a body of water. It is a general term used to describe the levels of different salts such as sodium chloride, magnesium and calcium sulfates, and bicarbonates...

 of the soils, produced by poorly drained irrigation, had been reducing yields of wheat
Wheat
Wheat is a cereal grain, originally from the Levant region of the Near East, but now cultivated worldwide. In 2007 world production of wheat was 607 million tons, making it the third most-produced cereal after maize and rice...

 in the southern part of the country, leading to the conversion to more salt-tolerant barley
Barley
Barley is a major cereal grain, a member of the grass family. It serves as a major animal fodder, as a base malt for beer and certain distilled beverages, and as a component of various health foods...

 growing. Urban populations there had peaked already by 2,600 BC, and ecological pressures were high, contributing to the rise of militarism apparent immediately prior to the Akkadian period (as seen in the Stele of the Vultures of Eannatum
Eannatum
Eannatum was a Sumerian king of Lagash who established one of the first verifiable empires in history. One inscription of his, found on a boulder, states that Eannatum was his Sumerian name, while his "Tidnu" name was Lumma.-Conquest of Sumer:...

). Warfare between city states had led to a population decline, from which Akkad provided a temporary respite. It was this high degree of agricultural productivity in the south that enabled the growth of the highest population densities in the world at this time, giving Akkad its military advantage.

The water table
Water table
The water table is the level at which the submarine pressure is far from atmospheric pressure. It may be conveniently visualized as the 'surface' of the subsurface materials that are saturated with groundwater in a given vicinity. However, saturated conditions may extend above the water table as...

 in this region was very high, and replenished regularly—by winter storms in the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates from October to March, and from snow-melt from March to July. Flood levels, that had been stable from about 3,000 to 2,600 BC, had started falling, and by the Akkadian period were a half-meter to a meter lower than recorded previously. Even so, the flat country and weather uncertainties made flooding much more unpredictable than in the case of the Nile; serious deluges seem to have been a regular occurrence, requiring constant maintenance of irrigation ditches and drainage systems. Farmers were recruited into regiments for this work from August to October—a period of food shortage—under the control of city temple authorities, thus acting as a form of unemployment relief. Some have suggested that this was Sargon's original employment for the king of Kish, giving him experience in effectively organising large groups of men; a tablet reads, "Sargon, the king, to whom Enlil permitted no rival—5,400 warriors ate bread daily before him".


Harvest was in the late spring and during the dry summer months. Nomadic Amorites from the northwest would pasture their flocks of sheep and goats to graze on the stubble and be watered from the river and irrigation canals. For this privilege, they would have to pay a tax in wool, meat, milk, and cheese to the temples, who would distribute these products to the bureaucracy and priesthood. In good years, all would go well, but in bad years, wild winter pastures would be in short supply, nomads would seek to pasture their flocks in the grain fields, and conflicts with farmers would result. It would appear that the subsidizing of southern populations by the import of wheat from the north of the Empire temporarily overcame this problem, and it seems to have allowed economic recovery and a growing population within this region.

As a result, Sumer and Akkad had a surplus of agricultural products, but was short of almost everything else, particularly metal ores, timber and building stone, all of which had to be imported. The spread of the Akkadian state as far as the "silver mountain" (possibly the Taurus Mountains
Taurus Mountains
Taurus Mountains are a mountain complex in southern Turkey, dividing the Mediterranean coastal region of southern Turkey from the central Anatolian Plateau. The system extends along a curve from Lake Eğirdir in the west to the upper reaches of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers in the east...

), the "cedars" of Lebanon, and the copper deposits of Magan, was largely motivated by the goal of securing control over these imports. One tablet reads "Sargon, the king of Kish, triumphed in thirty-four battles (over the cities) up to the edge of the sea (and) destroyed their walls. He made the ships from Meluhha, the ships from Magan (and) the ships from Dilmun tie up alongside the quay of Agade. Sargon the king prostrated himself before (the god) Dagan (and) made supplication to him; (and) he (Dagan) gave him the upper land, namely Mari, Yarmuti, (and) Ebla, up to the Cedar Forest (and) up to the Silver Mountain".

Language



During the 3rd millennium BC, there developed a very intimate cultural symbiosis between the Sumerians and the Akkadians, which included widespread bilingualism. The influence of Sumerian on Akkadian (and vice versa) is evident in all areas, from lexical borrowing on a massive scale, to syntactic, morphological, and phonological convergence. This has prompted scholars to refer to Sumerian and Akkadian in the third millennium as a sprachbund
Sprachbund
A Sprachbund – also known as a linguistic area, convergence area, diffusion area or language crossroads – is a group of languages that have become similar in some way because of geographical proximity and language contact. They may be genetically unrelated, or only distantly related...

. Akkadian gradually replaced Sumerian as a spoken language somewhere around the turn of the 3rd and the 2nd millennium BC (the exact dating being a matter of debate), but Sumerian continued to be used as a sacred, ceremonial, literary and scientific language in Mesopotamia until the 1st century AD.

Poet – priestess Enheduanna


Sumerian literature continued in rich development during the Akkadian period (a notable example being Enheduanna). Enheduanna, the "wife (Sumerian "dam" = high priestess) of Nanna
Sin (mythology)
Sin or Nanna was the god of the moon in Mesopotamian mythology. Nanna is a Sumerian deity, the son of Enlil and Ninlil, and became identified with Semitic Sin. The two chief seats of Nanna's/Sin's worship were Ur in the south of Mesopotamia and Harran in the north.- Name :The original meaning of...

 [the Sumerian moon god] and daughter of Sargon" of the temple of Sin at Ur, who lived ca. 2285–2250 BC, is the first poet in history whom we know by name. Her known works include hymns to the goddess Inanna, the Exaltation of Inanna and In-nin sa-gur-ra. A third work, the Temple Hymns, a collection of specific hymns, addresses the sacred temples and their occupants, the deity to whom they were consecrated. The works of this poetess are significant, because although they start out using the third person, they shift to the first person voice of the poet herself, and they mark a significant development in the use of cuneiform. As poetess, princess, and priestess, she was a personality who, according to William W Hallo, "set standards in all three of her roles for many succeeding centuries"

In the Exultation of Inanna,
Enheduanna depicts Inanna as disciplining mankind as a goddess of battle. She thereby unites the warlike Akkadian Ishtar's qualities to those of the gentler Sumerian goddess of love and fecundity. She likens Inanna to a great storm bird who swoops down on the lesser gods and sends them fluttering off like surprised bats. Then, in probably the most interesting part of the hymn, Enheduanna herself steps forward in the first person to recite her own past glories, establishing her credibility, and explaining her present plight. She has been banished as high priestess from the temple in the city of Ur and from Uruk and exiled to the steppe. She begs the moon god Nanna to intercede for her because the city of Uruk, under the ruler Lugalanne, has rebelled against Sargon. The rebel, Lugalanne, has even destroyed the temple Eanna, one of the greatest temples in the ancient world, and then made advances on his sister-in-law.

Technology



One tablet from this period reads, "(From the earliest days) no-one had made a statue of lead, (but) Rimush king of Kish, had a statue of himself made of lead. It stood before Enlil; and it recited his (Rimush's) virtues to the idu of the gods". The Bassetki statue
Bassetki statue
The Bassetki statue is a monument from the Akkadian period in Mesopotamia that was found in the 1960s near the town of Bassetki in Duhok Governorate, northern Iraq. The statue was cast from pure copper, weighs and shows a seated, nude human figure on a round pedestal. Only the lower part of the...

, cast with the lost wax method, testifies to the high level of skill of that craftsmen achieved during the Akkadian period.

Achievements


The empire was bound together by roads, along which there was a regular postal service
Mail
Mail, or post, is a system for transporting letters and other tangible objects: written documents, typically enclosed in envelopes, and also small packages are delivered to destinations around the world. Anything sent through the postal system is called mail or post.In principle, a postal service...

. Clay seals that took the place of stamps bear the names of Sargon and his son. A cadastral survey seems also to have been instituted, and one of the documents relating to it states that a certain Uru-Malik, whose name appears to indicate his Canaanite origin, was governor of the land of the Amorites, or Amurru as the semi-nomadic people of Syria and Canaan were called in Akkadian. It is probable that the first collection of astronomical
Astronomy
Astronomy is a natural science that deals with the study of celestial objects and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth...

 observations and terrestrial omens was made for a library established by Sargon. The earliest "year names", whereby each year of a king's reign was named after a significant event performed by that king, date from the reign of Sargon the Great. Lists of these "year names" henceforth became a calendrical system used in most independent Mesopotamian city-states. In Assyria, however, years came to be named for the annual presiding limmu
Limmu
Limmu was an Assyrian eponym. At the beginning of the reign of an Assyrian king, the limmu, an appointed royal official, would preside over the New Year festival at the capital. Each year a new limmu would be chosen. Although picked by lot, there was most likely a limited group, such as the men of...

official appointed by the king, rather than for an event.

External links