Akkadian Empire

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Ancient History, Classical History and Mythology

Ancient Mesopotamia
Cities / Empires
Sumer: Uruk – Ur – Eridu
Kish – Lagash – Nippur
Akkadian Empire: Akkad
Babylon – Isin – Susa
Assyria: Assur – Nineveh
Dur-Sharrukin – Nimrud
Babylonia Chaldea
Elam Amorites
Hurrians Mitanni
Kassites Urartu
Kings of Sumer
Kings of Assyria
Kings of Babylon
Cuneiform script
Sumerian – Akkadian
Elamite – Hurrian
Enûma Elish
Gilgamesh – Marduk

The Akkadian Empire usually refers to the Semitic speaking state that grew up around the city of Akkad north of Sumer, and reached its greatest extent under Sargon of Akkad. Although ascertaining exact dates during this period is subject to significant disagreement, the Akkadian Empire lasted from circa 2350 BC to 2150 BC—approximately 200 years.


Rulers with Semitic names had already established themselves at Kish. One of them, contemporary with the last Sumerian ruler, Lugal-Zage-Si, was Alusarsid (or Urumus) who "subdued Elam and Barahs." But the fame of these early establishers of Semitic supremacy was far eclipsed by that of Sargon (Sharru-kin), who defeated and captured Lugal-Zage-Si, conquering his empire. A lengthy inscription of Sargon's son, Manishtushu, was discovered at Susa by J. de Morgan. The date of Sargon is placed by modern scholars around 2300 BC (although the later "archaeologist king" of Babylonia, Nabonidus, calculated it at 3800 BC).

Sargon was the son of La'ibum or Itti-Bel, and one legend related how he had been born in concealment and set adrift in an ark of bulrushes on the waters of the Euphrates. Here he was rescued and brought up by "Akki the husbandman"; but the day arrived at length when his true origin became known. Originally a cupbearer to a king of Kish with a Semitic name, Ur Zababa, the crown was set upon Sargon's head, and he entered upon a career of foreign conquest. Four times he invaded Syria and Canaan, and spent three years thoroughly subduing the countries of "the west" to unite them with Mesopotamia "into a single empire."

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 were also subjugated, and rebellions were put down Sumer itself. Contract tablets have been found dated in the years of the campaigns against Canaan and Sarlak, king of Gutium nowadays North Iraq; and copper is mentioned as being brought from Magan (probably modern Oman).

Sargon's two sons and successors, Rimush and Manishtushu, were not so illustrious, and both were assassinated; but his grandson, Naram-Sin, followed up the earlier successes by marching into Magan, whose king he took captive. He assumed the imperial title of "King Naram-Sin, of the four quarters", and, like his grandfather, was addressed as "the god of Agade" (Akkad), reminiscent of the divine honours claimed by the Pharaohs of Egypt.



A bas relief representing Naram-Sin, and bearing a striking resemblance to early Egyptian art in many of its features, has been found at Diarbekr, in modern Turkey. Babylonian art, however, had already attained a high degree of excellence; two cylinder seals of the time of Sargon are among the most beautiful specimens of the gem-cutter's art ever discovered.


The empire was bound together by roads, along which there was a regular 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 observations and terrestrial omens was made for a library established by Sargon.


Naram-Sin recorded the Akkadian's wars against the Armani or Armeni people in Ararat. The Armeni is a reference to Armen who was the ruler of the Armenian tribe (Armen's followers, the Armenians [Uraštu in Akkadian language], were referred to as Armeni or Armens at the time). It is also unknown if Sargon, grandfather of Naram-Sin, and Manishtushu, father of Naram-Sin, also fought against the Armeni people of Ararat during their rule of the Akkadian Empire. It is highly probable however considering that Naram-Sin recorded multiple wars with the Armeni people of Ararat.

It is still unknown at this time if the wars with the Armeni people of Ararat contributed to the collapse of the Akkadian kingdom. However, the Akkadian Empire was already starting to crumble during Shar-kali-sharri's reign, the son of Naram-Sin, and by the end of Shar-kali-sharri's reign, the Akkadian Empire collapsed outright from the invasion of barbarians of the Zagros known as " Gutians".

After the Akkadian Empire

The fall of the empire established by Sargon seems to have been as sudden as its rise, and little is known about the Gutian period. From the fall of Akkad until around 2100 BC, there is much that is still dark. A relatively well known king from that period is Gudea, king of Lagash.

The period between ca. 2100 BC and 2000 BC is sometimes called the 3rd dynasty of Ur or "Sumerian Renaissance", founded by Ur-Nammu (originally a general). Though documents again began to be written in Sumerian, this dynasty may actually have been Semitic; Sumerian was becoming a dead language, much as Latin later would be in Medieval Europe. The power of these kings extended to the Mediterranean.

After the fall of the Ur III dynasty owing to an Elamite invasion in 2004 BC, Mesopotamia passed under foreign influence. This period is called Old Babylonian, and lasted from ca. 2000 BC until 1595 BC. During the first centuries of this period, kings and people in high position often had Amorite names, and supreme power rested at Isin. The city of Babylon was given hegemony over Mesopotamia by king Hammurabi 1792 BC - 1750 BC(dates highly uncertain).

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