The Akkadian Empire () was the first ancient
after the long-lived civilization of
. It was centered in the city of Akkad () and its surrounding region. The empire united
speakers under one rule. The Akkadian Empire exercised influence across Mesopotamia, the
, and Anatolia, sending military expeditions as far south as Dilmun and Magan (modern
Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
Bahrain Bahrain ( ; ; ar, البحرين, al-Bahrayn, locally ), officially the Kingdom of Bahrain, ' is an island country in Western Asia. It is situated on the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, Persian Gulf, and comprises a small archipelago made u ...

, and
Oman Oman ( ; ar, عُمَان ' ), officially the Sultanate of Oman ( ar, سلْطنةُ عُمان ), is an Arabian country located in southwestern Asia. It is situated on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, and spans the mouth of t ...

) in the Arabian Peninsula.Mish, Frederick C., Editor in Chief. "Akkad" ''Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary''. ninth ed. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster 1985. ). The Akkadian Empire reached its political peak between the 24th and 22nd centuries BC, following the conquests by its founder
Sargon of Akkad
Sargon of Akkad
. Under Sargon and his successors, the Akkadian language was briefly imposed on neighboring conquered states such as
and Gutium. Akkad is sometimes regarded as the first empire in history, though the meaning of this term is not precise, and there are earlier Sumerian claimants.

History of research

refers to Akkad in
10:10–12, which states: :"The beginning of his imrod'skingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. Out of that land he went forth into Assyria, and built Nineveh, and Rehoboth-Ir, and Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah (the same is the great city)." Nimrod's historical identity is unknown or debated, but Nimrod has been identified as Sargon of Akkad by some, and others have compared him with the legendary
, king of Uruk. Today, scholars have documented some 7,000 texts from the Akkadian period, written in both
. Many later texts from the successor states of
and Babylonia also deal with the Akkadian Empire. Understanding of the Akkadian Empire continues to be hampered by the fact that its capital Akkad has not yet been located, despite numerous attempts. Precise dating of
archaeological site An archaeological site is a place (or group of physical sites) in which evidence of past activity is preserved (either prehistoric or recorded history, historic or contemporary), and which has been, or may be, investigated using the discipline ...

archaeological site
s is hindered by the fact that there are no clear distinctions between artifact assemblages thought to stem from the preceding Early Dynastic period, and those thought to be Akkadian. Likewise, material that is thought to be Akkadian continues to be in use into the Ur III period. Many of the more recent insights on the Akkadian Empire have come from excavations in the Upper Khabur area in modern northeastern
Syria Syria ( ar, سُورِيَا or سُورِيَة, translit=Sūriyā), officially the Syrian Arab Republic ( ar, الجمهورية العربية السورية, al-Jumhūrīyah al-ʻArabīyah as-Sūrīyah), is a Western Asian country loc ...

which was to become a part of Assyria after the fall of Akkad. For example, excavations at Tell Mozan (ancient Urkesh) brought to light a sealing of Tar'am-Agade, a previously unknown daughter of Naram-Sin, who was possibly married to an unidentified local ''endan'' (ruler). The excavators at nearby (ancient Shekhna/Shubat-Enlil) have used the results from their investigations to argue that the Akkadian Empire came to an end due to a sudden drought, the so-called 4.2 kiloyear event. The impact of this climate event on Mesopotamia in general, and on the Akkadian Empire in particular, continues to be hotly debated. Excavation at the modern site of Tell Brak has suggested that the Akkadians rebuilt a city ("Brak" or "Nagar") on this site, for use as an administrative center. The city included two large buildings including a complex with temple, offices, courtyard, and large ovens.

Dating and periodization

The Akkadian period is generally dated to 2334–2154 BC (according to the middle chronology). The short-chronology dates of 2270–2083 BC are now considered less likely. It was preceded by the Early Dynastic Period of Mesopotamia (ED) and succeeded by the Ur III Period, although both transitions are blurry. For example, it is likely that the rise of coincided with the late ED Period and that the final Akkadian kings ruled simultaneously with the Gutian kings alongside rulers at the city-states of both Uruk and Lagash. The Akkadian Period is contemporary with EB IV (in
Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂרָאֵל, ; ar, إِسْرَائِيل, ), officially the State of Israel ( he, מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, label=none, translit=Medīnat Yīsrāʾēl; ), is a country in Western Asia. It is situated ...

), EB IVA and EJ IV (in Syria), and EB IIIB (in
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Timeline of rulers

The relative order of Akkadian kings is clear, while noting that the Ur III version of the Sumerian King List inverts the order of Rimush and Manishtushu. The absolute dates of their reigns are approximate (as with all dates prior to the Late Bronze Age collapse ''c.'' 1200 BC).

History and development of the empire

Pre-Sargonic Akkad

The Akkadian Empire takes its name from the region and the city of Akkad, both of which were localized in the general confluence area of the and Euphrates Rivers. Although the city of Akkad has not yet been identified on the ground, it is known from various textual sources. Among these is at least one text predating the reign of Sargon. Together with the fact that the name Akkad is of non- origin, this suggests that the city of Akkad may have already been occupied in pre-Sargonic times.

Sargon of Akkad

Sargon of Akkad defeated and captured Lugal-zage-si in the Battle of Uruk 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, or priestess to or Inanna. One legend related to Sargon in Assyrian times says that Later claims made on behalf of Sargon were that his mother was an "''entu''" priestess (high priestess). The claims might have been made to ensure a pedigree of nobility, since only a highly placed family could achieve such a position. Originally a cupbearer ( Rabshakeh) to a king of Kish with a name, Ur-Zababa, Sargon thus became a gardener, responsible for the task of clearing out irrigation canals. The royal cupbearer at this time was in fact a prominent political position, close to the king and with various high level responsibilities not suggested by the title of the position itself. 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 ( ar, سُورِيَا or سُورِيَة, translit=Sūriyā), officially the Syrian Arab Republic ( ar, الجمهورية العربية السورية, al-Jumhūrīyah al-ʻArabīyah as-Sūrīyah), is a Western Asian country loc ...

and , 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 The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by the Mediterranean Basin and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Western and Southern Europe and Anatolia, on the south by North Africa, and on the e ...
and perhaps (''Kaptara''); northward as far as the mountains (a later Hittite text asserts he fought the Hattian king Nurdaggal of Burushanda, well into Anatolia); eastward over ; and as far south as Magan (
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) — a region over which he reigned for purportedly 56 years, though only four "year-names" survive. He consolidated his dominion over his territories by replacing the earlier opposing rulers with noble citizens of Akkad, his native city where loyalty would thus be ensured. Trade extended from the mines of Anatolia to the mines in modern
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, the of
Lebanon Lebanon ( , ar, لُبْنَان, translit=lubnān, ), officially the Republic of Lebanon () or the Lebanese Republic, is a country in Western Asia. It is located between Syria to Lebanon–Syria border, the north and east and Israel to Blue ...

and the 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 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 were also subjugated, and rebellions in were put down. Contract tablets have been found dated in the years of the campaigns against and against Sarlak, king of Gutium. He also boasted of having subjugated the "four-quarters" — the lands surrounding Akkad to the north, the south (Sumer), the east (Elam), and the west (). Some of the earliest historiographic texts ( ABC 19, 20) 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 (), his patroness, and Zababa, the warrior god of Kish. He called himself "The anointed priest of " and "the great'' ensi'' of Enlil" and his daughter, , was installed as priestess to Nanna at the temple in . Troubles multiplied toward the end of his reign. A later Babylonian text states: It refers to his campaign in "Elam", where he defeated a coalition army led by the King of Awan and forced the vanquished to become his vassals. Also shortly after, another revolt took place:

Rimush and Manishtushu

Sargon had crushed opposition even at old age. These difficulties broke out again in the reign of his sons, where revolts broke out during the nine-year reign of Rimush (2278–2270 BC), who fought hard to retain the empire, and was successful until he was assassinated by some of his own courtiers. According to his inscriptions, he faced widespread revolts, and had to reconquer the cities of , Umma, Adab, Lagash, Der, and Kazallu from rebellious '' ensis'': Rimush introduced mass slaughter and large scale destruction of the Sumerian city-states, and maintained meticulous records of his destructions. Most of the major Sumerian cities were destroyed, and Sumerian human losses were enormous: Rimush's elder brother, Manishtushu (2269–2255 BC) succeeded him. The latter seems to have fought a sea battle against 32 kings who had gathered against him and took control over their pre-
Arab The Arabs (singular: Arab; singular ar, عَرَبِيٌّ, DIN 31635: , , plural ar, عَرَب, DIN 31635: , Arabic pronunciation: ), also known as the Arab people, are an ethnic group mainly inhabiting the Arab world in Western Asia, ...
country, consisting of modern-day
United Arab Emirates The United Arab Emirates (UAE; ar, اَلْإِمَارَات الْعَرَبِيَة الْمُتَحِدَة ), or simply the Emirates ( ar, الِْإمَارَات ), is a country in Western Asia (Middle East, The Middle East). It is ...
Oman Oman ( ; ar, عُمَان ' ), officially the Sultanate of Oman ( ar, سلْطنةُ عُمان ), is an Arabian country located in southwestern Asia. It is situated on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, and spans the mouth of t ...

. Despite the success, like his brother he seems to have been assassinated in a palace conspiracy.


Manishtushu's son and successor, Naram-Sin (2254–2218 BC), due to vast military conquests, assumed the imperial title "King Naram-Sin, king of the four-quarters" (''Lugal Naram-Sîn, Šar kibrat 'arbaim''), the four-quarters as a reference to the entire world. He was also for the first time in Sumerian culture, addressed as "the god (Sumerian = DINGIR, Akkadian = ''ilu'') of Agade" (Akkad), in opposition to the previous religious belief that kings were only representatives of the people towards the gods. He also faced revolts at the start of his reign, but quickly crushed them. Naram-Sin also recorded the Akkadian conquest of
Ebla Ebla (Sumerian language, Sumerian: ''eb₂-la'', ar, إبلا, modern: , Tell Mardikh) was one of the earliest kingdoms in Syria. Its remains constitute a Tell (archaeology), tell located about southwest of Aleppo near the village of Mard ...
as well as Armanum and its king. The location of Armanum is debated: it is sometimes identified with a Syrian kingdom mentioned in the tablets of Ebla as Armi, whose location is also debated; while historian Adelheid Otto identifies it with the Citadel of Bazi at the Tell Banat complex on the Euphrates River between Ebla and Tell Brak, others like Wayne Horowitz identify it with
Aleppo )), is an adjective which means "white-colored mixed with black". , motto = , image_map = , mapsize = , map_caption = , image_map1 = ...
. Further, while most scholars place Armanum in
Syria Syria ( ar, سُورِيَا or سُورِيَة, translit=Sūriyā), officially the Syrian Arab Republic ( ar, الجمهورية العربية السورية, al-Jumhūrīyah al-ʻArabīyah as-Sūrīyah), is a Western Asian country loc ...

, Michael C. Astour believes it to be located north of the
Hamrin Mountains The Hamrin Mountains ( ar, جبل حمرين, Jabāl Hamrīn, ku, چیای حەمرین, Çiyayê Hemrîn or Çiyayên Hemrîn) are a small mountain ridge in northeast Iraq. The westernmost ripple of the greater Zagros mountains, the Hamrin mounta ...
in northern Iraq. To better police Syria, he built a royal residence at Tell Brak, a crossroads at the heart of the Khabur River basin of the Jezirah. Naram-Sin campaigned against Magan which also revolted; Naram-Sin "marched against Magan and personally caught Mandannu, its king", where he instated garrisons to protect the main roads. The chief threat seemed to be coming from the northern Zagros Mountains, the Lulubis and the Gutians. A campaign against the Lullubi led to the carving of the "Victory Stele of Naram-Suen", now in the
Louvre The Louvre ( ), or the Louvre Museum ( ), is the world's List of most-visited museums, most-visited museum, and an historic landmark in Paris, France. It is the home of some of the best-known works of art, including the ''Mona Lisa'' and the ' ...
. Hittite sources claim Naram-Sin of Akkad even ventured into Anatolia, battling the Hittite and Hurrian kings Pamba of Hatti, Zipani of Kanesh, and 15 others. 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. This newfound Akkadian wealth may have been based upon benign climatic conditions, huge agricultural surpluses and the confiscation of the wealth of other peoples. In later Assyrian and Babylonian texts, the name ''Akkad'', together with ''Sumer'', appears as part of the royal title, as in the Sumerian LUGAL KI-EN-GI KI-URI 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 (Sumerian language, Sumerian: ''Nibru'', often logogram, logographically recorded as , EN.LÍLKI, "Enlil City;"The Cambridge Ancient History: Prolegomena & Prehistory': Vol. 1, Part 1. Accessed 15 Dec 2010. Akkadian language, Akkadian: '' ...
, the intellectual and religious center of southern Mesopotamia. During the Akkadian period, the Akkadian language became the
lingua franca A lingua franca (; ; for plurals see ), also known as a bridge language, common language, trade language, auxiliary language, vehicular language, or link language, is a Natural language, language systematically used to make communication possib ...
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, also known as Hatamtite and formerly as Susian, is an extinct language that was spoken by the ancient Elamites. It was used in what is now southwestern Iran from 2600 BC to 330 BC. Elamite works disappear from the archeological record a ...
was temporarily written in Mesopotamian
cuneiform Cuneiform is a logo- syllabic script that was used to write several languages of the Ancient Middle East. The script was in active use from the early Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a historic period, lasting approximately from 3300 B ...
. Akkadian texts later found their way to far-off places, from
Egypt Egypt ( ar, مصر , ), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a List of transcontinental countries, transcontinental country spanning the North Africa, northeast corner of Africa and Western Asia, southwest corner of Asia via a land bridg ...
(in the
Amarna Period The Amarna Period was an era of History of Ancient Egypt, Egyptian history during the later half of the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt, Eighteenth Dynasty when the royal residence of the pharaoh and his queen was shifted to Akhetaten ('Horizon of the ...
) and Anatolia, to
Persia Iran, officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, and also called Persia, is a country located in Western Asia. It is bordered by Iraq and Turkey to the west, by Azerbaijan and Armenia to the northwest, by the Caspian Sea and Turkmeni ...
( Behistun).

Submission of Sumerian kings

The submission of some Sumerian rulers to the Akkadian Empire, is recorded in the seal inscriptions of Sumerian rulers such as Lugal-ushumgal, governor ( ensi) of Lagash ("Shirpula"), circa 2230-2210 BC. Several inscriptions of Lugal-ushumgal are known, particularly seal impressions, which refer to him as governor of Lagash and at the time a vassal (, ''arad'', "servant" or "slave") of Naram-Sin, as well as his successor Shar-kali-sharri. One of these seals proclaims: It can be considered that Lugal-ushumgal was a collaborator of the Akkadian Empire, as was Meskigal, ruler of Adab. Later however, Lugal-ushumgal was succeeded by Puzer-Mama who, as Akkadian power waned, achieved independence from Shar-Kali-Sharri, assuming the title of "King of Lagash" and starting the illustrious Second Dynasty of Lagash.


The empire of Akkad likely fell in the 22nd century BC, within 180 years of its founding, ushering in a " Dark Age" with no prominent imperial authority until the
Third Dynasty of Ur The Third Dynasty of Ur, also called the Neo-Sumerian Empire, refers to a 22nd to 21st century Common Era, BC (middle chronology) Sumerian ruling dynasty based in the city of Ur and a short-lived territorial-political state which some historians c ...
. The region's political structure may have reverted to the ''status quo ante'' of local governance by
city-state A city-state is an independent sovereign city which serves as the center of political, economic, and cultural life over its contiguous territory. They have existed in many parts of the world since the dawn of history, including cities such as ...
s.Zettler (2003), pp. 24–25. "Moreover, the Dynasty of Akkade's fall did not lead to social collapse, but the re-emergence of the normative political organization. The southern cities reasserted their independence, and if we know little about the period between the death of Sharkalisharri and the accession of Urnamma, it may be due more to accidents of discovery than because of widespread 'collapse.' The extensive French excavations at Tello produced relevant remains dating right through the period." By the end of Sharkalisharri's reign, the empire had begun to unravel. After several years (and 4 kings) of chaos Shu-turul and Dudu appear to have restored some centralized authority for several decades however they were unable to prevent the empire eventually collapsing outright, eventually ceding power to Gutians, based in Adab, who had been conquered by Akkad in the reign of Sharkalisharri. 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 A famine is a widespread scarcity of food, caused by several factors including war, natural disasters, crop failure, population imbalance, widespread poverty, an economic catastrophe or government policies. This phenomenon is usually accomp ...
and rocketing grain prices. The Sumerian king Ur-Nammu (2112–2095 BC) cleared the Gutians from Mesopotamia during his reign. 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 several artefact referencing king Dudu of Akkad and Shu-turul. 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. The period between BC and 2004 BC is known as the Ur III period. Documents again began to be written in , although Sumerian was becoming a purely literary or liturgical language, much as Latin later would be in
Medieval In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted approximately from the late 5th to the late 15th centuries, similar to the post-classical period of global history. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire ...
Europe Europe is a large peninsula conventionally considered a continent in its own right because of its great physical size and the weight of its history and traditions. Europe is also considered a Continent#Subcontinents, subcontinent of Eurasia ...
. Georges Roux (1996), ''Ancient Iraq'' (3rd Edition)(Penguin Harmondsworth) One explanation for the end of the Akkadian empire is simply that the Akkadian dynasty could not maintain its political supremacy over other independently powerful city-states.


One theory associates regional decline at the end of the Akkadian period (and of the First Intermediary Period following the
Old Kingdom In ancient Egypt Ancient Egypt was a civilization in Northeast Africa situated in the Nile Valley. Ancient Egyptian civilization followed prehistoric Egypt and coalesced around 3100Anno Domini, BC (according to conventional Egyptian ...
Ancient Egypt Ancient Egypt was a civilization in Northeast Africa situated in the Nile Valley. Ancient Egyptian civilization followed prehistoric Egypt and coalesced around 3100Anno Domini, BC (according to conventional Egyptian chronology) with the ...
) with rapidly increasing aridity, and failing rainfall in the region of the Ancient Near East, caused by a global centennial-scale
drought A drought is defined as drier than normal conditions.Douville, H., K. Raghavan, J. Renwick, R.P. Allan, P.A. Arias, M. Barlow, R. Cerezo-Mota, A. Cherchi, T.Y. Gan, J. Gergis, D.  Jiang, A.  Khan, W.  Pokam Mba, D.  Rosenfeld, J. Tierney, an ...
. Harvey Weiss has shown that Peter B. de Menocal has shown "there was an influence of the North Atlantic Oscillation on the streamflow of the Tigris and Euphrates at this time, which led to the collapse of the Akkadian Empire". More recent analysis of simulations from the HadCM3 climate model indicate that there was a shift to a more arid climate on a timescale that is consistent with the collapse of the empire. Excavation at suggests that this site was abandoned soon after the city's massive walls were constructed, its temple rebuilt and its grain production reorganized. 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, presumably seeking wetter areas elsewhere. Tell Brak shrank in size by 75%. Trade collapsed.
Nomad A nomad is a member of a community without fixed habitation who regularly moves to and from the same areas. Such groups include hunter-gatherers, Nomadic pastoralism, pastoral nomads (owning livestock), tinkers and Merchant, trader nomads. In t ...
ic herders such as the Amorites 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 Egyptian 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 meters beneath the level of 2600 BC, and although they stabilized 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 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 depression occurred to re-establish demographic equilibrium with the less favorable climatic conditions. Richard Zettler has critiqued the drought theory, observing that the chronology of the Akkadian empire is very uncertain and that available evidence is not sufficient to show its economic dependence on the northern areas excavated by Weiss and others. He also criticizes Weiss for taking Akkadian writings literally to describe certain catastrophic events. According to Joan Oates, at Tell Brak, the soil "signal" associated with the drought lies below the level of Naram-Sin's palace. However, evidence
may suggest a tightening of Akkadian control following the Brak 'event', for example, the construction of the heavily fortified 'palace' itself and the apparent introduction of greater numbers of Akkadian as opposed to local officials, perhaps a reflection of unrest in the countryside of the type that often follows some natural catastrophe.
Furthermore, Brak remained occupied and functional after the fall of the Akkadians. In 2019, a study by Hokkaido University on fossil corals in
Oman Oman ( ; ar, عُمَان ' ), officially the Sultanate of Oman ( ar, سلْطنةُ عُمان ), is an Arabian country located in southwestern Asia. It is situated on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, and spans the mouth of t ...

provides an evidence that prolonged winter shamal seasons led to the salinization of the irrigated fields; hence, a dramatic decrease in crop production triggered a widespread famine and eventually the collapse of the ancient Akkadian Empire.


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 A city-state is an independent sovereign city which serves as the center of political, economic, and cultural life over its contiguous territory. They have existed in many parts of the world since the dawn of history, including cities such as ...
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 ''ensi''s 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 (
Bahrain Bahrain ( ; ; ar, البحرين, al-Bahrayn, locally ), officially the Kingdom of Bahrain, ' is an island country in Western Asia. It is situated on the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, Persian Gulf, and comprises a small archipelago made u ...

) 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 ), 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 , 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 and Marhashe). A well documented case of the latter is that of Naram-Sin's daughter Tar'am-Agade at Urkesh. Records at the Brak administrative complex suggest that the Akkadians appointed locals as tax collectors.


The population of Akkad, like nearly 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 per year, with the result that agriculture was totally dependent upon irrigation. Before the Akkadian period, the progressive salinisation of the soils, produced by poorly drained irrigation, had been reducing yields of
wheat Wheat is a Poaceae, grass widely Agriculture, cultivated for its seed, a cereal grain that is a worldwide staple food. The Taxonomy of wheat, many species of wheat together make up the genus ''Triticum'' ; the most widely grown is common wheat ...
in the southern part of the country, leading to the conversion to more salt-tolerant
barley Barley (''Hordeum vulgare''), a member of the grass family, is a major cereal grain grown in temperate climates globally. It was one of the first cultivated grains, particularly in Eurasia Eurasia (, ) is the largest continental area o ...
growing. Urban populations there had peaked already by 2,600 BC, and demographic pressures were high, contributing to the rise of militarism apparent immediately before the Akkadian period (as seen in the
Stele of the Vultures The Stele of the Vultures is a monument from the Early Dynastic Period (Mesopotamia), Early Dynastic IIIb period (2600–2350 BC) in Mesopotamia celebrating a victory of the city-state of Lagash over its neighbour Umma. It shows various battle and ...
of Eannatum).
Warfare War is an intense armed conflict between State (polity), states, governments, Society, societies, or paramilitary groups such as Mercenary, mercenaries, Insurgency, insurgents, and militias. It is generally characterized by extreme violenc ...
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 The water table is the upper surface of the Phreatic zone, zone of saturation. The zone of saturation is where the pores and fractures of the ground are saturated with water. It can also be simply explained as the depth below which the ground is ...
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. Gwendolyn Leick has 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.
Nomad A nomad is a member of a community without fixed habitation who regularly moves to and from the same areas. Such groups include hunter-gatherers, Nomadic pastoralism, pastoral nomads (owning livestock), tinkers and Merchant, trader nomads. In t ...
Amorites The Amorites (; sux, 𒈥𒌅, MAR.TU; Akkadian language, Akkadian: 𒀀𒈬𒊒𒌝 or 𒋾𒀉𒉡𒌝/𒊎 ; he, אֱמוֹרִי, 'Ĕmōrī; grc, Ἀμορραῖοι) were an ancient Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic-speaking people ...
from the northwest would pasture their flocks of sheep and goats to graze on the
crop residue Crop residues are materials left in an agricultural field after the crop has been harvested. These :wikt:residue, residues include stalk (disambiguation)#Biology, stalks and :wikt:stubble, stubble (stems), leaves and seed pods. Good management of ...
and be watered from the river and irrigation canals. For this privilege, they would have to pay a tax in
wool Wool is the textile fibre obtained from sheep and other mammal, mammals, especially goat, goats, rabbit, rabbits, and camelid, camelids. The term may also refer to inorganic materials, such as mineral wool and glass wool, that have properties ...
meat Meat is animal flesh that is eaten as food. Humans have hunted, farmed, and scavenged animals for meat since prehistoric times. The establishment of settlements in the Neolithic Revolution allowed the domestication of animals such as chick ...
milk Milk is a white liquid food produced by the mammary glands of mammals. It is the primary source of nutrition for young mammals (including breastfeeding, breastfed human infants) before they are able to digestion, digest solid food. Immune fact ...
, and
cheese Cheese is a dairy product produced in wide ranges of flavors, Mouthfeel, textures, and forms by coagulation (milk), coagulation of the milk protein casein. It comprises proteins and fat from milk, usually the milk of cows, Water buffalo, bu ...
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.

Foreign trade

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 The Taurus Mountains (Turkish language, Turkish: ''Toros Dağları'' or ''Toroslar'') are a mountain range, mountain complex in southern Turkey, separating the Mediterranean Region, Turkey, Mediterranean coastal region from the central Anatolia# ...
), 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: International trade developed during the Akkadian period. Indus-Mesopotamia relations also seem to have expanded: (circa 2300 or 2250 BC), was the first Mesopotamian ruler to make an explicit reference to the region of
Meluhha or ( sux, ) is the Sumerian language, Sumerian name of a prominent trading partner of Sumer during the Middle Bronze Age. Its identification remains an open question, but most scholars associate it with the Indus Valley civilisation. Etymolo ...
, which is generally understood as being the Baluchistan or the
Indus The Indus ( ) is a transboundary river of Asia and a trans-Himalayan river of South Asia, South and Central Asia. The river rises in mountain springs northeast of Mount Kailash in Western Tibet, flows northwest through the disputed region ...


Akkadian art

In art, there was a great emphasis on the kings of the dynasty, alongside much that continued earlier Sumerian art. Little architecture remains. In large works and small ones such as seals, the degree of realism was considerably increased, but the seals show a "grim world of cruel conflict, of danger and uncertainty, a world in which man is subjected without appeal to the incomprehensible acts of distant and fearful divinities who he must serve but cannot love. This sombre mood ... remained characteristic of Mesopotamian art..." Akkadian sculpture is remarkable for its fineness and realism, which shows a clear advancement compared to the previous period of Sumerian art. File:Bassetki Statue, Akkadian period, 23rd century BCE, from Bassetki, Iraq. Iraq Museum.jpg, The Bassetki statue, another example of Akkadian artistic realism File:Statue de Manishtusu - Sb 47 - Antiquités orientales du Louvre.jpg, The Manishtushu statue File:Statue of an Akkadian ruler of Assur city. From Assur, Iraq, c. 2300 BCE. Pergamon Museum.jpg, Statue of an Akkadian ruler. From Assur, Iraq, c. 2300 BC. Pergamon Museum. File:Fragment of the statue of a devotee, with inscription in the name of Naram-Sin.jpg, Fragment of the statue of a devotee, with inscription in the name of Naram-Sin: "To the god Erra, for the life of Naram-Sin, the powerful, his companion, the king of the four regions, Shu'astakkal, the scribe, the majordomo, has dedicated his statue".


The Akkadians used visual arts as a vehicle of ideology. They developed a new style for cylinder seals by reusing traditional animal decorations but organizing them around inscriptions, which often became central parts of the layout. The figures also became more sculptural and naturalistic. New elements were also included, especially in relation to the rich Akkadian mythology. File:Adda Seal Akkadian Empire 2300 BC.jpg, upright=1.8, Inscription "Adda, the scribe", hunting god with bow and an arrow, with weapons rising from her shoulders, emerging sun-god
Shamash Utu (dUD "Sun"), also known under the Akkadian language, Akkadian name Shamash, ''šmš'', syc, ܫܡܫܐ ''šemša'', he, שֶׁמֶשׁ ''šemeš'', ar, شمس ''šams'', Ashurian Aramaic: 𐣴𐣬𐣴 ''š'meš(ā)'' was the List of Mesop ...
, Zu bird of destiny, water god Ea with bull between legs, two-faced attendant god Usimu with right hand raised. File:Akkadian seal Agricultural scene Louvre Museum.jpg, Akkadian seal depicting an agricultural scene. Louvre Museum File:Le dieu de l ete et dumuzi.jpg, Summer God and Dumuzi. Louvre Museum File:Periodo accadico, sigillo in calcare verde con eroi a sei ricci che sottomettono un bufalo d'acqua e un leone, 2350-2150 ac ca.jpg, Ea wrestling with a water buffalo, and bull-man
Enkidu Enkidu ( sux, ''EN.KI.DU10'') was a legendary figure in Mesopotamian mythology, ancient Mesopotamian mythology, wartime comrade and friend of Gilgamesh, king of Uruk. Their exploits were composed in Sumerian language, Sumerian poems and in t ...
fighting with a lion.


During the 3rd millennium BC, there developed a very intimate cultural symbiosis between the Sumerians and the Akkadians, which included widespread
bilingualism Multilingualism is the use of more than one language, either by an individual speaker or by a group of speakers. It is believed that multilingual speakers outnumber monolingual speakers in the world's population. More than half of all ...
. The influence of Sumerian on (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''. Akkadian gradually replaced Sumerian as a spoken language somewhere around 2000 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. , the "wife (Sumerian ''dam'' = high priestess) of Nanna he Sumerian moon godand daughter of Sargon" of the temple of Sin at Ur, who lived –2250 BC, is the first poet in history whose name is known. 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 poet 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 poet, princess, and priestess, she was a person who, according to William W. Hallo, "set standards in all three of her roles for many succeeding centuries" In the ''Exultation of Inanna'',

Curse of Akkad

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 An oracle is a person or agency considered to provide wise and insightful counsel or prophetic predictions, most notably including precognition of the future, inspired by deities. As such, it is a form of divination. Description The wor ...
s, the king sacked the E-kur temple, supposedly protected by the god Enlil, head of the pantheon. As a result of this, eight chief deities of the
Anunnaki The Anunnaki (Sumerian: , also transcribed as Anunaki, Annunaki, Anunna, Ananaki and other variations) are a group of deity, deities of the ancient Sumerian religion, Sumerians, Akkadian Empire, Akkadians, Assyrians and Babylonian religion, Ba ...
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 syrup nor wine, :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.
The kings of Akkad were legendary among later Mesopotamian civilizations, with Sargon understood as the prototype of a strong and wise leader, and his grandson Naram-Sin considered the wicked and impious leader (''Unheilsherrscher'' in the analysis of Hans Gustav Güterbock) who brought ruin upon his kingdom.Bill T. Arnold, "The Weidner Chronicle and the Idea of History in Israel and Mesopotamia"; in ''Faith, Tradition, and History: Old Testament Historiography in Its Near Eastern Context''; Millard, Hoffmeier & Baker, eds.; Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 1994; ; p


A tablet from the periods 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 copper Bassetki Statue, cast with the lost wax method, testifies to the high level of skill that craftsmen achieved during the Akkadian period.

See also

* List of cities of the ancient Near East * Religions of the ancient Near East * History of Mesopotamia



* Liverani, Mario, ed. (1993). ''Akkad: The First World Empire: Structure, Ideology Traditions''. Padova: Sargon srl. * Oates, Joan (2004). "Archaeology in Mesopotamia: Digging Deeper at Tell Brak". 2004 Albert Reckitt Archaeological Lecture. In ''Proceedings of the British Academy: 2004 Lectures''; Oxford University Press, 2005. . * * E. A. Speiser, Some Factors in the Collapse of Akkad, Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 72, no. 3, pp. 97–101, (Jul. - Sep. 1952) * *Gough, M.A
Historical Perception in the Sargonic Literary Tradition. The Implication of Copied Texts
Rosetta 1, pp 1–9, 2006 *Douglas R. Frayne, The Sargonic and Gutian Periods (2334-2113), University of Toronto Press, 1993,

External links

Iraq's Ancient Past
Penn Museum
Year Names of Narim-Sin – CDLI

{{Authority control States and territories established in the 3rd millennium BC States and territories disestablished in the 3rd millennium BC Assyrian geography Ancient Mesopotamia Ancient Upper Mesopotamia Ancient Levant 24th-century BC establishments 3rd-millennium BC disestablishments Former monarchies of Asia Nimrod Former empires