Sargon of Akkad
The Akkadians created the first Mesopotamian empire by forging together Ur, Mari and other cities. Dominating the region from 2300 to 2159 B.C., the Akkadians are regarded as the first people to conceive of creating a world empire. Akkadian armies marched across Mesopotamia to the Mediterranean and Anatolia and briefly ruled (2340-2180 B.C.) an empire that included the pine-covered mountains of present-day Lebanon and the silver mines of what is now southern Turkey.

The Akkadians were Semitic-speaking people, which distinguished them from the Sumerians. Under Sargon of Akkad (r. ca. 2340–2285 B.C.), they established a political center in southern Mesopotamia and created the world's first empire, which at the height of its power united an area that included not only Mesopotamia but also parts of western Syria and Anatolia, and Iran. From about 2350 B.C. to the Persians took over in 450 B.C., Mesopotamia was largely ruled by Semitic-speaking dynasties with cultures derived from Sumer. They include the Akkadians, Eblaites and Assyrians. They fought and traded with the Hittites, Kassites and Mitanni, all possibly of Indo-European descent. [Source: World Almanac]

The Semitic language spoken by the Akkadians spoke was first recorded around 2500 B.C. It was a highly complex language that served as a common means of communication throughout the Middle East in the second millennium B.C. and was the predominate tongue of the region for more than 2,500 years. The Akkadians also produced extraordinary bronze sculptures (See Art) and codified laws.

Armed with composite bows, arrows and spears Akkadians armies led by King Saragon defeated the Sumerians in 2350 B.C. And conquered most of the territory that became the Akkadian empire. An inscription discovered at Ebla that described Saragon's victories read: "he worshipped the god Dagan, who gave from that time onwards the Upper Country, Mari, Yarmuti and Ebla, as far as the Forest or cedars and the Mountain of Silver."

Sargon called himself "King of Sumer and Akkad.” He came from a place called Kish and founded a capital called Agade, whose whereabouts remain unknown, and founded a dynasty that lasted from around 2300 to 2159 B.C. Sargon's grandson Naram-Sin was the first known Mesopotamian ruler to claim he was a god. An inscription found on a monument to himself read: Naram-Sin, the strong, the conqueror of...Ebla, never before subdued in history."

The Akkadians were unable to create a real, unified empire because Sargon and his successors were unable to establish local control. However the Akkadian language supplanted the Sumerian language in many places. In 2198 B.C., the Akkadian dynasty collapsed due to squabbling over royal succession and invasions by nomads and peoples from the surrounding mountains. The collapse also may have been connected to a 200-year drought in North and East Africa. After the decline of the Akkadians, Sumerian culture was revived and the region splint into small kingdom that frequently battled intruders from the east and west. Lagash was an independent city-state that re-emerged after the fall of the Akkadian Empire

Morris Jastrow said: “Even in the oldest period to which our material enables us to trace the history of the Euphrates Valley, we witness the conflict for political control between Sumerians and Akkadians (that is between non-Semites and Semites). Lagash, Nippur, Ur, and Uruk are ancient Sumerian centres, but near the border-line between the southern and the northern sections of this valley a strong political centre is established at Kish, which foreshadows the growing predominance of the Semites. The rulers sometimes assume the title of “king,” sometimes are known by the more modest title of “chief,” a variation that suggests frequent changes of political fortunes. The population is depicted on the monuments as Sumerian, and yet among the rulers we find one bearing a distinctly Semitic name,while some of the inscriptions of the rulers of Kish are clearly to be read as Semitic, and not as Sumerian. It is, therefore, not surprising to find the Semitic kings of Akkad, circa 2500 B.C., and even before the rise of Kish, reaching a position of supremacy that extended their rule far into the south, besides passing to the north, east, and west, far beyond the confines of Babylonia and Assyria.[Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911 <>]

“There are two names in this dynasty of Akkad with its centre at Agade that stand forth with special prominence—Sargon, and his son Naram-Sin. Sargon in fact marks an epoch in the history of the Euphrates Valley.

20120207-Akkadian Victory stele.JPG
Akkadian Victory stele
Websites and Resources on Mesopotamia: Ancient History Encyclopedia ancient.eu.com/Mesopotamia ; Mesopotamia University of Chicago site mesopotamia.lib.uchicago.edu; British Museum mesopotamia.co.uk ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Mesopotamia sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Louvre louvre.fr/llv/oeuvres/detail_periode.jsp ; Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org/toah ; University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology penn.museum/sites/iraq ; Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago uchicago.edu/museum/highlights/meso ; Iraq Museum Database oi.uchicago.edu/OI/IRAQ/dbfiles/Iraqdatabasehome ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; ABZU etana.org/abzubib; Oriental Institute Virtual Museum oi.uchicago.edu/virtualtour ; Treasures from the Royal Tombs of Ur oi.uchicago.edu/museum-exhibits ; Ancient Near Eastern Art Metropolitan Museum of Art www.metmuseum.org

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Akkadian Period (ca. 2350–2150 B.C.)

Akkadian victory stele

According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art: “The period from approximately 2900 to 2350 B.C. in southern Mesopotamia (Sumer) is known as the Early Dynastic. During this time, Sumer was divided politically between competing city-states, each controlled by a dynasty of rulers. The succeeding period (ca. 2350–2150 B.C.) is named after the city of Agade (or Akkad), whose Semitic monarchs united the region, bringing the rival Sumerian cities under their control by conquest. [Source: Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art. "The Akkadian Period (ca. 2350–2150 B.C.)", Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 2004, metmuseum.org \^/]

“The ideology and power of the empire was reflected in art that first displayed strong cultural continuity with the Early Dynastic period. When fully developed, it came to be characterized by a profound new creativity that marks some of the peaks of artistic achievement in the history of the ancient world. A new emphasis on naturalism, expressed by sensitive modeling, is manifested in masterpieces of monumental stone relief sculpture. Although little large-scale art of the period remains, a huge corpus of finely carved Akkadian seals preserves a rich iconography illustrating interactions between man and the divine world.” \^/

Morris Jastrow said:“The times must have been ripe for a movement on so large a scale. As so often happens, the political upheaval was followed by a strong intellectual stimulus which shows itself in a striking advance in Art. One of the most remarkable monuments of the Euphrates Valley dates from this period. It depicts Naram-Sin, the son of Sargon, triumphing over Elam; and it seems an irony of fate that this magnificent sculptured stone should have been carried away, centuries later, as a trophy of war by the Elamites in one of their successful incursions into the Euphrates Valley. In triumphant pose Naram-Sin is represented in the act of humiliating the enemy by driving a spear through the prostrate body of a soldier, pleading for mercy. The king wears the cap with the upturned horns that marks him as possessing the attributes of divine power. [Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911 <>]

“With Sargon and Ur-Engur we thus enter on a new era. Instead of a rivalry among many centres for political supremacy over the south or the north, we have Semites and Sumerians striving for complete control of the entire valley, with a marked tendency to include within their scope the district to the north of Akkad. This district, as a natural extension consequent upon the spread of the Sumero-Akkadian culture, was eventually to become a separate principality that in time reversed the situation, and began to encroach upon the independence of the Euphrates Valley.” <>

Sumerians Versus Akkadians

Akkadian period dice from Khafajah

Morris Jastrow said: “The Babylonians themselves recognised this distinction between the south and the north, designating the former as Sumer—which will at once recall the “plain of Shinar” in the Biblical story of the building of the tower— and the latter as Akkad. The two in combination cover what is commonly known as Babylonia, but Sumer and Akkad were at one time as distinct from each other as were in later times Babylonia and Assyria. They stand, in fact, in the same geographical relationship to one other as do the latter; and it is significant that in the title “King of Sumer and Akkad,” which the rulers of the Euphrates Valley, from a certain period onward, were fond of assuming to mark their control of both south and north, it is Sumer, the designation of the southern area, which always precedes Akkad.[Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911 <>]

“More important, however, than any geographical distinction is the ethnological contrast presented by Sumerians and Akkadians. To be sure, the designations themselves, applied in an ethnic sense, are purely conventional; but there is no longer any doubt of the fact that the Euphrates Valley from the time that it looms up on the historical horizon is the seat of a mixed population. The germ of truth in the time-honoured Biblical tradition, that makes the plain of Shinar the home of the human race and the seat of the confusion of languages, is the recollection of the fact that various races had settled there, and that various languages were there spoken. Indeed, we should be justified in assuming this, a priori; it may be put down as an axiom that nowhere does a high form of culture arise without the commingling of diverse ethnic elements. Civilisation, like the spark emitted by the striking of steel on flint, is everywhere the result of the stimulus evoked by the friction of one ethnic group upon another. Egyptian culture is the outcome of the mixture of Semitic with Hami-tic elements.

“A pure race, if it exist at all outside of the brain of some ethnologists, is a barren race. Mixed races, and mixed races alone, bring forth the fruit that we term civilisation,—with social, religious, and intellectual progress. Monuments also bear witness, in ethnic types, in costumes, and in other ways, to the existence of two distinct classes in the population of the Euphrates Valley—Semites or Akkadians, and non-Semites or Sumerians. The oldest strongholds of the Semites are in the northern portion, those of the Sumerians in the southern. It does not, however, necessarily follow that the Sumerians were the oldest settlers in the valley; nor does the fact that in the oldest historical period they are the predominating factor warrant the conclusion. Analogy would, on the contrary, suggest that they represent the conquering element, which by its admixture with the older settlers furnished the stimulus to an intellectual advance, and at the same time drove the older Semitic population farther to the north. <>

“We are approaching a burning problem in regard to which scholars are still divided, and which, in some of its aspects, is not unlike the Rabbinical quibble whether the chicken or the egg came first. It is the lasting merit of the distinguished Joseph Halevy of Paris to have diverted Assyriological scholarship from the erroneous course into which it was drifting a generation ago, when, in the older Euphratean culture, it sought to differentiate sharply between Sumerian and Akkadian elements. Preference was given to the non-Semitic Sumerians, to whom was attributed the origin of the cuneiform script. The Semitic (or Akkadian) settlers were supposed to be the borrowers also in religion, in forms of government, and in civilisation generally, besides adopting the cuneiform syllabary of the Sumerians, and adapting it to their own speech. Hie Sumer, hie Akkad! Halevy maintained that many of the features in this syllabary, hitherto regarded as Sumerian, were genuinely Semitic; and his main contention is that what is known as Sumerian is rnerely an older form of Semitic writing, marked by the larger use of ideographs or signs to express words, in place of the later method of phonetic writing wherein the signs employed have syllabic values.” <>

Akkad kings

Struggle Between Sumerians and Akkadians

Morris Jastrow said: “The earliest historical period known to us, which, roughly speaking, is from 2800 B.C., to 2000 B.C., may be designated as a struggle for political ascendency between the Sumerian (or non-Semitic), and the Akkadian (or Semitic) elements. The strongholds of the Sumerians at this period were in the south, in such centres as Lagash, Kish, Umma, Uruk, Nippur, and Ur, those of the Semites in the north, particularly at Agade, Sippar, and Babylon, with a gradual extension of the Semitic settlements still farther north towards Assyria. It does not follow, however, from this that the one element or the other was absolutely confined to any one district. The circumstance that even at this early period we find the same religious observances, the same forms of government, the same economic conditions in south and north, is a testimony to the intellectual bond uniting the two districts, as also to the two diverse elements of the population. The civilisation, in a word, that we encounter at this earliest period is neither Sumerian nor Akkadian but Sumero-Akkadian, the two elements being so combined that it is difficult to determine what was contributed by one element and what by the other; and this applies to the religion and to the other phases of this civilisation, just as to the script. [Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911 <>]

“When the curtain of history rises on the scene, we are long past the period when the Semitic hordes, coming probably from their homes in Arabia, and the Sumerians, whose origin is with equal probability to be sought in the mountainous regions to the east and north-east of the Euphrates Valley, began to pour into the land. The attraction that settled habitations in a fertile district have for those occupying a lower grade of civilisation led to constant or, at all events, to frequent reinforcements of both Semites and non-Semites. The general condition that presents itself in the earliest period known to us is that of a number of principalities or little kingdoms in the Euphrates Valley, grouped around some centre whose religious significance always kept pace with its political importance, and often surpassed and survived it. Rivalry between these centres led to frequent changes in the political kaleidoscope, now one, now another claiming a certain measure of jurisdiction or control over the others. Of this early period we have as yet obtained merely glimpses. Titles of rulers with brief notices of their wars and building operations form only too frequently the substance of the information to be gleaned from votive inscriptions, and from dates attached to legal and business documents. This material suffices, however, to secure a general perspective. In the case of two of these centres, Lagash and Nippur, thanks to extensive excavations conducted there, the framework can be filled out with numerous details. The general conditions existing at Lagash and Nippur may be regarded as typical for the entire Euphrates Valley in the earliest period. <>

“The religion had long passed the animistic stage when all powers of nature were endowed with human purposes and indiscriminately personified. The process of selection (to be explained more fully in a future lecture) had singled out of the large number of such personified powers a limited number, which, although associated in each instance with a locality, were, nevertheless, also viewed as distinct from this association, and as summing up the chief Powers in nature whereon depended the general welfare and prosperity. Growing political relationships between the sections of the Euphrates Valley accelerated this process of selection, and furthered a combination of selected deities into the semblance, at least, of a pantheon partially organised, and which in time became definitely constituted. The patron deities of cities that rose to be centres of a district absorbed the local numina of the smaller places. The names of the latter became epithets of the deities politically more conspicuous, so that, e.g., the sun-god of a centre like Lagash became almost an abstract and general personification of the sun itself. Similarly, the moon-god of Ur received the names and attributes of the moon-gods associated with other places.” <>


King Sargon

According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art: ““The city of Agade itself has not so far been located, but it was probably founded before the time of Sargon (r. ca. 2340–2285 B.C.), the dynasty's first king. Tradition credits Sargon with being the "cup bearer" of the king of Kish, at a time when Kish was an important and powerful city in the northern part of lower Mesopotamia. The name Sargon is a modern reading of Sharru-ken ("the king is legitimate"). Usurping power and assuming for himself the title of king, Sargon went on to conquer southern Mesopotamia and lead military expeditions to conquer further east and north.[Source: Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art. "The Akkadian Period (ca. 2350–2150 B.C.)", Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 2004, metmuseum.org \^/]

Morris Jastrow said: King Saragon “is the first conqueror to inaugurate a policy of wide conquest that eventually gave to Babylonia and subsequently to Assyria a commanding position in the ancient world. While retaining his captial at Agade, he brings into prominence the neighbouring Sippar by devoting himself to the service of the sun-god Shamash at that place; and he either founds or enlarges the city Babylon which a few centuries later became the captial of the United Euphrates Valley; its frame was destined to outlast the memory of all the other centres of the south, and to become synonymous with the culture and religion of the entire district. The old enemy of Sumer on the east, known as Elam, with which Sumerian rulers had many a conflict , was forced to yield to the powerful Sargon. Far to the north the principality of Subartu—the later Assyria—and still father north the district known as Guti acknowledged the rule of Sargon and of his successors. The land to the west up to the Mediterranean coast, known under the general designation of Amurru, was also claimed by Sargon. The rulers of Lagash humbly call themselves the “servants” of the powerful conqueror; Cuthah, Uruk, Opis, and Nippur in the south, Babylon and Sippar in the north, are among the centres in the Euphrates Valley, specifically named by Sargon as coming under his sway. He advances to Nippur, and, by assuming the title “King of Akkad and of the Kingdom of Enlil,” announces his control of the whole of Sumer and Akkad. [Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911]

Legend of Sargon and Its Parallels with the Moses Story

The birth story of Moses (Exodus 2:1-10) was probably recorded during the tenth century B.C. It has similarities with the birth account of King Sargon, who lived near the end of the third millennium B.C. It doesn’t seem improbable that people in ancient times hid unwanted children in such a way that they were found by rich or powerful people so the child wouldn’t have to die or force a family to struggle more than it already was. [Source: piney.com]

Birth of Sargon

The Sargon account Cuneiform texts reads: 1. Sargon, the mighty king, king of Akkadê am I,
2. My mother was lowly; my father I did not know;
3. The brother of my father dwelt in the mountain.
4. My city is Azupiranu, which is situated on the bank of the Purattu [Euphrates],
5. My lowly mother conceived me, in secret she brought me forth.
6. She placed me in a basket of reeds, she closed my entrance with bitumen,
7. She cast me upon the rivers which did not overflow me.
8. The river carried me, it brought me to Akki, the irrigator.
[Source: George A. Barton, “Archaeology and the Bible”,” 3rd Ed., (Philadelphia: American Sunday-School Union, 1920), p. 310]

9. Akki, the irrigator, in the goodness of his heart lifted me out,
10. Akki, the irrigator, as his own son brought me up;
11. Akki, the irrigator, as his gardener appointed me.
12. When I was a gardener the goddess Ishtar loved me,
13. And for four years I ruled the kingdom.
14. The black-headed peoples I ruled, I governed;
15. Mighty mountains with axes of bronze I destroyed .
16. I ascended the upper mountains;
17. I burst through the lower mountains.
18. The country of the sea I besieged three times;

19. Dilmun I captured .
20. Unto the great Dur-ilu I went up, I . . . . . . . . .
21 . . . . . . . . . .I altered. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
22. Whatsoever king shall be exalted after me,
23. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
24. Let him rule, let him govern the black-headed peoples;
25. Mighty mountains with axes of bronze let him destroy;
26. Let him ascend the upper mountains,
27. Let him break through the lower mountains;
28. The country of the sea let him besiege three times;
29. Dilmun let him capture;
30. To great Dur-ilu let him go up.
The rest of the text is broken.

The German journalist Werner Keller wrote: “The basket-story is a very old Semitic folk-tale. It was handed down by word of mouth for many centuries. The Sargon legend of the third millennium B.C. is found on Neo-Babylonian cuneiform tablets of the first millennium B.C. It is nothing more than the frills with which prosperity has always loved to adorn the lives of great men.” [Source: Werner Keller, “The Bible as History,” 2nd revised Ed. Morrow & Co, NY, page 123, Skeptically.org]

King Sargon’s Successors

Rimush I

According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art: “Sargon was succeeded by two of his sons, Rimush and Manishtushu, who consolidated the dynasty's hold on much of Mesopotamia. The Akkadian empire reached its apogee under Naram-Sin (r. ca. 2260–2223 B.C.), and there are references to campaigns against powerful states in the north, possibly including Ebla. At its greatest extent, the empire reached as far as Anatolia in the north, inner Iran in the east, Arabia in the south, and the Mediterranean in the west. [Source: Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art. "The Akkadian Period (ca. 2350–2150 B.C.)", Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 2004, metmuseum.org \^/]

“Control of the empire was maintained under Naram-Sin's successor, Shar-kali-sharri (r. ca. 2223–2198 B.C.), though at the end of his reign there appears to have been a power struggle for the throne. A number of city rulers reestablished their independence in southern Mesopotamia, and the territory ruled over by the last kings of Agade (Dudu and Shu-Turul) had shrunk back to the region directly around the city.” \^/

Morris Jastrow said: Naram-Sin “continues the conquests of his father, and penetrates even into Arabia, so that he could well lay claim to the high-sounding title which he assumes of “King of the Four Regions.” The glory of this extensive kingdom thus established by Sargon and Naram-Sin was, however, of short duration. Agade was obliged, apparently, to yield first to Kish. [Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911 <>]

“This happened not long after Naram-Sin’s death but, what is more significant, within about two centuries the Sumerians succeeded in regaining their prestige; and with their capital at Ur, an ancient centre of the moon-cult, Sumerian rulers emphasise their sovereignty of both south and north by assuming the title “King of Sumer and Akkad.” Ur-Engur, the founder of the dynasty (ca. 2300 B.C.), which maintained its sway for 117 years, is the first to assume this title, which, to be sure, is not so grandiloquent as that of “King of the Four Regions,” but rests on a more substantial foundation. It represents a realm that could be controlled, while a universal empire such as Sargon and Naram-Sin claimed was largely nominal—a dream in which ambitious conquerors from Sargon to Napoleon have indulged, and which could at the most become for a time a terrifying nightmare to the nations of the world. <>

“For some time after Ur-Engur had established a powerful dynasty at Ur, the Sumerians seem to have had everything their own way. His son and successor, Dungi, wages successful wars, like Sargon and Naram-Sin, with the nations around and again assumes the larger title of “King of the Four Regions.” He hands over his large realm, comprising Elam on the one side, and extending to Syria on the other, to his son Bur-Sin. We know but few details of the reign of Bur-Sin and of the two other members of the Ur dynasty that followed him, but the indications are that the Sumerian reaction, represented by the advent of the Ur dynasty, though at first apparently complete, is in reality a compromise. Semitic influence waxes stronger from generation to generation, as is shown by the steadily growing preponderance of Semitic words and expressions in Sumerian documents. The Semitic culture of Akkad not only colours that of Sumer, but permeates it so thoroughly as largely to eradicate the still remaining original and unassimilated Sumerian elements. The Sumerian deities as well as the Sumerians themselves adopt the Semitic form of dress. We even find Sumerians bearing Semitic names; and in another century Semitic speech, which we may henceforth designate as Babylonian, became predominant. <>

“On the overthrow of the Ur dynasty the political centre shifts from Ur to Isin. The last king of the Ur dynasty is made a prisoner by the Elamites, who thus again asserted their independence. The title “King of the Four Regions” is discarded by the rulers of Isin, and although they continue to use the title “King of Sumer and Akkad,” there are many indications that the supremacy of the Sumerians is steadily on the wane. They were unable to prevent the rise of an independent state with its centre in the city of Babylon under Semitic control, and about the year 2000 B.C., the rulers of that city begin to assume the title “King of Babylon.” The establishment of this so-called first dynasty of Babylon definitely foreshadows the end of Sumerian supremacy in the Euphrates Valley, and the permanent triumph of the Semites. Fifty years afterward we reach another main epoch, in many respects the most important, with the accession of Hammurabi to the throne of Babylon as the sixth member of the dynasty. During his long reign of forty-two years (ca. 1958-1916 B.C.), Hammurabi fairly revolutionised both the political and the religious conditions.” <>

Akkadians, Amorites and Hittites

Morris Jastrow said: “Two new factors begin about this time, and possibly even earlier, to exercise a decided influence in further modifying the Sumero-Akkadian culture; one of these is the Amoritish influence, the other is a conglomeration of peoples collectively known as the Hittites. From the days of Sargon we find frequent traces of the Amorites; and there is at least one deity in the pantheon of this early period who was imported into the Euphrates Valley from the west, the home of the Amorites. This deity was a storm god known as Adad, appearing in Syria and Palestine as Hadad. According to Professor Clay, most of the other prominent members of what eventually became the definitely constituted Babylonian pantheon betray traces of having been subjected to this western influence. Indeed, Professor Clay goes even further and would ascribe many of the parallels between Biblical and Babylonian myths, traditions, customs, and rites to an early influence exerted by Amurru (which he regards as the home of the northern Semites) on Babylonia, and not, as has been hitherto assumed, to a western extension of Babylonian culture and religion. [Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911 <>]

Akkdian burial reconstruction

“It is too early to pronounce a definite opinion on this interesting and novel thesis; but, granting that Professor Clay has pressed his views beyond legitimate bounds, there can no longer be any doubt that in accounting for the later and for some of the earlier aspects of the Sumero-Akkadian civilisation this factor of Amurru must be taken into account; nor is it at all unlikely that long before the days of Sargon, a wave of migration from the north and north-west to the south and south-east had set in, which brought large bodies of Amorites into the Euphrates Valley as well as into Assyria. The circumstance that, as has been pointed out, the earliest permanent settlements of Semites in the Euphrates Valley appear to be in the northern portion, creates a strong presumption in favour of the view which makes the Semites come into Babylonia from the north-west. <>

“Hittites do not make their appearance in the Euphrates Valley until some centuries after Sargon, but since it now appears that ca. 1800 B.C. they had become strong enough to invade the district, and that a Hittite ruler actually occupied the throne of Babylonia for a short period, we are justified in carrying the beginnings of Hittite influence back to the time at least of the Ur dynasty. This conclusion is strengthened by the evidence for an early establishment of a Hittite principality in north-western Mesopotamia, known as Mitanni, which extended its sway as early at least as 2100 B.C. to Assyria proper. <>

“Thanks to the excavations conducted by the German expedition at Kalah-Shergat (the site of the old capital of Assyria known as Ashur), we can now trace the beginnings of Assyria several centuries further back than was possible only a few years ago. The proper names at this earliest period of Assyrian history show a marked Hittite or Mitanni influence in the district, and it is significant that Ushpia, the founder of the most famous and oldest sanctuary in Ashur, bears a Hittite name. The conclusion appears justified that Assyria began her rule as an extension of Hittite control. With a branch of the Hittites firmly established in Assyria as early as ca. 2100 B.C., we can now account for an invasion of Babylonia a few centuries later. The Hittites brought their gods with them, as did the Amorites, and, with the gods, religious conceptions peculiarly their own. Traces of Hittite influence are to be seen e.g., in the designs on the seal cylinders, as has been recently shown by Dr. Ward, who, indeed, is inclined to assign to this influence a share in the religious art, and, therefore, also in the general culture and religion, much larger than could have been suspected a decade ago. <>

“Who those Hittites were we do not as yet know. Probably they represent a motley group of various peoples, and they may turn out to be Aryans. It is quite certain that they originated in a mountainous district, and that they were not Semites. We should thus have a factor entering into the Babylo-nian-Assyrian civilisation—leaving its decided traces in the religion—which was wholly different from the two chief elements in that civilisation—the Sumerian and the Akkadian.” <>

Inana’s Blessing of Agade

cylinder seal depicting Inanna and Ninshubur

Inana (Ishtar, Inanna) is known for blessing the city of Agade" (capital of Akkad and the Akkadian Empire of King Sargon) and then causing its fall. As the goddess of war and strife, she held the title Ninkur-ra-igi-ga, "the queen who eyes the highland" meaning that other lands feared her. Battle was called the "dance of Inanna, and she was at the very heart of it. She was "the star of the battle-cry, who can make brothers who have lived together in harmony fight each other". [Source: piney.com]

After Enlil had slaughtered the land of Unug in the dust as if it were a mighty bull, he gave the south as far as the highlands to Sargon, king of Agade. At that time, holy Inana established the sanctuary of Agade as her celebrated woman's domain; she set up her throne in Ulmac. Inanna got Ea drunk and got the power of the ME away from Ea. She would use such powers as that of "the eldership, musical worship and kissing the phallus" to enhance her own kingdom.

The story of “Ishtar’s Cursing of Agade” reads: “Like a young man building a house for the first time, like a girl establishing a woman's domain, holy Inana did not sleep as she ensured that the warehouses would be provisioned; that dwellings would be founded in the city; that its people would eat splendid food; that its people would drink splendid beverages; that those bathed for holidays would rejoice in the courtyards; that the people would throng the places of celebration; that acquaintances would dine together; that foreigners would cruise about like unusual birds in the sky; that even Marhaci would be re-entered on the tribute rolls; that monkeys, mighty elephants, water buffalo, exotic animals, as well as thoroughbred dogs, lions, mountain ibexes, and alum sheep with long wool would jostle each other in the public squares.

“She then filled Agade's stores for emmer wheat with gold, she filled its stores for white emmer wheat with silver; she delivered copper, tin, and blocks of lapis lazuli to its granaries and sealed its silos from outside. She endowed its old women with the gift of giving counsel, she endowed its old men with the gift of eloquence. She endowed its young women with the gift of entertaining, she endowed its young men with martial might, she endowed its little ones with joy.

“The nursemaids who cared for the general's children played the aljarsur instruments. Inside the city tigi drums sounded; outside it, flutes and zamzam instruments. Its harbour where ships moored was full of joy. All foreign lands rested contentedly, and their people experienced happiness. Its king, the shepherd Naram- Suen, rose as the daylight on the holy throne of Agade. Its city wall, like a mountain, reached the heavens. It was like the Tigris going to the sea as holy Inana opened the portals of its city-gates and made Sumer bring its own possessions upstream by boats. The highland Martu, people ignorant of agriculture, brought spirited cattle and kids for her. The Meluhans, the people of the black land, brought exotic wares up to her. Elam and Subir loaded themselves with goods for her as if they were packasses. All the governors, the temple administrators, and the accountants of the Gu-edina regularly supplied the monthly and New Year offerings.

“What a weariness all these caused at Agade's city gates! Holy Inana could hardly receive all these offerings. As if she were a citizen there, she could not restrain the desire to prepare the ground for a temple. But the statement coming from the E-kur was disquieting. Because of Enlil all Agade was reduced to trembling, and terror befell Inana in Ulmac. She left the city, returning to her home. Holy Inana abandoned the sanctuary of Agade like someone abandoning the young women of her woman's domain. Like a warrior hurrying to arms, she removed the gift of battle and fight from the city and handed them over to the enemy.”

Inana’s Cursing of Agade

The tone of the of “Ishtar’s Cursing of Agade” then changes: “ Not even five or ten days had passed and Ninurta brought the jewels of rulership, the royal crown, the emblem and the royal throne bestowed on Agade, back into his E-cumeca Utu took away the eloquence of the city. Enki took away its wisdom. Anu took up into the midst of heaven its fearsomeness that reaches heaven. Enki tore out its well-anchored holy mooring pole from the abzu. Inana took away its weapons. The life of Agade's sanctuary was brought to an end as if it had been only the life of a tiny carp in the deep waters, and all the cities were watching it. [Source: piney.com]

Inanna appears to Sargon

“Like a mighty elephant, it bent its neck to the ground while they all raised their horns like mighty bulls. Like a dying dragon, it dragged its head on the earth and they jointly deprived it of honour as in a battle. Naram- Suen saw in a nocturnal vision that Enlil would not let the kingdom of Agade occupy a pleasant, lasting residence, that he would make its future altogether unfavourable, that he would make its temples shake and would scatter its treasures. He realized what the dream was about, but did not put into words, and did not discuss it with anyone. Because of the E-kur, he put on mourning clothes, covered his chariot with a reed mat, tore the reed canopy off his ceremonial barge, and gave away his royal paraphernalia.

“Naram- Suen persisted for seven years! Who has ever seen a king burying his head in his hands for seven years? Then he went to perform extispicy on a kid regarding the temple, but the omen had nothing to say about the building of the temple. For a second time he went to perform extispicy on a kid regarding the temple, but the omen again had nothing to say about the building of the temple.

“In order to change what had been inflicted upon him, he tried to to alter Enlil's pronouncement. Because his subjects were dispersed, he now began a mobilization of his troops. Like a wrestler who is about to enter the great courtyard, he (lifted) his hands towards the E-kur. Like an athlete bent to start a contest, he treated the giguna as if it were worth only thirty shekels. Like a robber plundering the city, he set tall ladders against the temple. To demolish E-kur as if it were a huge ship, to break up its soil like the soil of mountains where precious metals are mined, to splinter it like the lapis lazuli mountain, to prostrate it, like a city inundated by Ickur.

“Though the temple was not a mountain where cedars are felled, he had large axes cast, he had double-edged agasilig axes sharpened to be used against it. He set spades against its roots and it sank as low as the foundation of the Land. He put axes against its top, and the temple, like a dead soldier, bowed its neck before him, and all the foreign lands bowed their necks before him. He ripped out its drain pipes, and all the rain went back to the heavens. He tore off its upper lintel and the Land was deprived of its ornament.

“From its "Gate from which grain is never diverted", he diverted grain, and the Land was deprived of grain. He struck the "Gate of Well-Being" with the pickaxe, and well-being was subverted in all the foreign lands. As if they were for great tracts of land with wide carp-filled waters, he cast large spades to be used against the E-kur. The people could see the bedchamber, its room which knows no daylight.

“The Akkadians could look into the holy treasure chest of the gods. Though they had committed no sacrilege, its lahama deities of the great pilasters standing at the temple were thrown into the fire by Naram- Suen. The cedar, cypress, juniper and boxwood, the woods of its giguna, were...... by him. He put its gold in containers and put its silver in leather bags. He filled the docks with its copper, as if it were a huge transport of grain. The silversmiths were re-shaping its silver, jewellers were re-shaping its precious stones, smiths were beating its copper. Large ships were moored at the temple, large ships were moored at Enlil's temple and its possessions were taken away from the city, though they were not the goods of a plundered city.

“With the possessions being taken away from the city, good sense left Agade. As the ships moved away from was removed. Enlil, the roaring storm that subjugates the entire land, the rising deluge that cannot be confronted, was considering what should be destroyed in return for the wrecking of his beloved E-kur. He lifted his gaze towards the Gubin mountains, and made all the inhabitants of the broad mountain ranges descend . Enlil brought out of the mountains those who do not resemble other people, who are not reckoned as part of the Land, the Gutians, an unbridled people, with human intelligence but canine instincts and monkeys' features. Like small birds they swooped on the ground in great flocks. Because of Enlil, they stretched their arms out across the plain like a net for animals.”

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Mesopotamia sourcebooks.fordham.edu , National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, especially Merle Severy, National Geographic, May 1991 and Marion Steinmann, Smithsonian, December 1988, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, BBC, Encyclopædia Britannica, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, World Religions edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); History of Warfare by John Keegan (Vintage Books); History of Art by H.W. Janson Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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