Akkad was a city between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, which dominated its surrounding region and became a powerful state in ancient central Mesopotamia. Akkad (also spelt Agade from the Sumerian language) also became the capital city of the Akkadian empire and dominated the earlier Sumerian empire, conquering or capturing many of its cities. Akkad reached the height of its power in 2300-2100 BC, with the conquests by king Sargon of Akkad. Sargon was the founder of this Akkadian empire during his reign c2270-2215 BC. Much of Akkad's history relates to Sargon, who was its king during half of its existance. The city was destroyed by invasion from the Zagros Mountains and the Akkad remains unlocated.
Semites may have been native to Mesopotamia, since they are noted in the earliest historical records. Semites were already established north of Sumer by c2000 BC. One of these, contemporary with the last Sumerian ruler, Lugal-Zage-Si of Uruk, was Alusarsid who "subdued Elam and Barahs" thus beginning the trend towards regional empire. The earliest records in the Akkadian language are contemporary with King Sargon. Originally a humble cupbearer to a king of Kish, Sargon became a gardener. Sargon became king and began a career of foreign conquest. He invaded Syria and Canaan four times and spent three years subduing the west to build Mesopotamia "...into a single empire". Eventually his empire stretched from the Mediterranean and Anatolia, to Susa, and Oman.
Sargon was energetic and had seen the positive reults of trade for Sumer and set out to gain the same results for his new Akkadian Empire. Apparently Sargon was an able general, because he not only dominated the former Sumerian empire, but added to it and gained a reputation for organisational skills. Akkadian became the new imperial language. Significantly, Akkad had no earlier tradition of able administrators and much of the government appears to have been controlled personally by the king, which would have made the empire vulnerable. One achievement attributed to him was a library, which has since been found with 50,000 documents, which in turn have provided much information. Akkadian texts later found their way to far-off places, from Egypt (in the Amarna period) and Anatolia, to Persia.
The Akkadians traded the silver from mines in Anatolia, lapis lazuli from the mines in Afghanistan, cedars from Lebanon, and copper from Oman. This Akkadian empire reflected the economic and power of Mesopotamia. The climate was then less harsh than today and the farms of northern Mesopotamia produced food to support the required administrators, cities, and armies. A chain of fortresses was built to protect the imperial wheat production. Victorious images of Sargon were erected on the Mediterranean, and new Akkadian cities and palaces were built with newly conquered wealth. Elam and northern Mesopotamia were also subjugated and rebellions in Sumer were put down.
Sargon, throughout his long life, showed special deference to the Sumerian deities, particularly Inanna, his patroness, and Zababa, the warrior god of Kish. He called himself "The anointed priest of Anu" and "the great ensi of Enlil" and his daughter was installed as priestess to Nanna at the temple in Ur. Sargon also boasted of having subjugated the "four quarters"—the lands surrounding Akkad to the north, the south, the east and the west. Some of the earliest texts credit him with rebuilding the city of Babylon in a new location.
Troubles multiplied toward the end of his reign. A later Babylonian text states "In his old age, all the lands revolted against him, and they besieged him in Akkad"…but "he went forth to battle and defeated them, he knocked them over and destroyed their vast army". Also shortly after, "the Subartu (mountainous tribes of) the upper country - in their turn attacked, but they submitted to his arms, and Sargon settled their habitations, and he smote them grievously". Akkad's selected patron was the goddess Ishtar.
Sargon was followed in power by his sons Rimush and then Manishtu, who were both apparently killed in local rebellions. These men implemented and maintained a network of roads, which were used for commerce, the military, and a postal service. (Clay seals were used in lieu of stamps.) Akkadians cast bronze statues using wax molds and Akkadians continued Babylonian expertise and even produced high quality seals. Sargon's daughter Princess Enheduanna produced both poetry and hymns.
Naram-Sin was Manishtu's son and like his grandfather he apparently also ruled for 56 years. Naram-Sin recorded the further Akkadian conquest of Ebla and Armani (modern Armenians). They were located between Carchemish and Ebla. To better secure this area, King Naram-Sin built a royal palace nearby.
Naram-Sin reputedly had an army of over 360,000 men, the largest size of any state up until that date. It was this army that enabled him to campaign against Oman which had revolted. The chief threat to Akkad apparently came from the Zagros Mountains. A campaign there against the Lullubi led to the carving of the stele (shown here) now in the Louvre. This newfound Akkadian wealth may have been based upon temporary benign climatic conditions, huge agricultural surpluses, and the pillaged wealth of conquered people.
The Akkadian economy was carefully planned. After the Akkadians conquered new towns, or cities, they destroyed the nearby villages and reorganized the local farming and grain production. Grain was cleaned, measured, and rations of grain and oil were distributed in standardized Akkadian pots. Taxes were paid in produce and labour on the common, public walls, including city walls, temples, irrigation canals and waterways. The Akkadian system produced huge agricultural surpluses.
In later Babylonian texts, the name Akkad, together with Sumer, appears as part of the royal title, translating to "king of Sumer and Akkad". This title was assumed by the king who seized control of Nippur, the intellectual and religious center of southern Mesopotamia. The Akkadian language was used from Syria to Persia. Akkadian texts later found their way to far-off places, from Egypt (in the Amarna period) and Anatolia, to Persia. Within 100 years the Empire of Akkad collapsed, almost as fast as it had developed. By the end of the reign of Naram-Sin's son, Shar-Kali-Sharri, the empire collapsed from an invasion.
1 Adapted from Grahame Clark, World Prehistory, In New Perspective, pp. 82-84; Akkad at, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akkad; Sargon of Akkad at, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sargon_of_Akkad; Architectural Marvels of Ancient Mesopotamia at, http://www.faculty.fairfield.edu/jmac/meso/meso.htm; Sumeria, the "Civilized Land" at, http://www.amazeingart.com/seven-wonders/ziggurat.html, Ur at, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ur; Akkadian Empire at, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akkadian_Empire; International World History Project, The Akkadians at, http://history-world.org/akkadians.htm; The Akkadians, Sargon's reign at, http://history-world.org/sargonreign.htm.
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