Sargon of Akkad And the Dawn of an Empire Sargon of Akkad, also known as Sargon the Great, was an Akkadian emperor who is famously known for his victories and rule over the city-states of Sumer in the 24th and 23rd centuries. He is referred to as one of the greatest rulers of Mesopotamia and he is accredited for the creation of the world’s first major empire (Time-Life 17). He is also referred to as the founder of Mesopotamian military tradition. The story of his birth is what some refer to as a legend.
The story of his birth is somewhat like the story of Moses in the book of Exodus. The baby Sargon was put in a reed basket by his mother covered with bitumen to protect him and sent down the Euphrates. Later the baby was adopted by Aqqi, the water drawer, and raised him as his own. His father remained unknown but some have reason to believe through surviving fragments that his father’s name was La’ibum. After Aqqi raises him as his son the story becomes a little unclear, other than the one story of Sargon and Ur-Zababa.
Ur-Zababa, king of Kish, awakens after a dream, the contents of which are not revealed on the left over portion of the tablet. For unknown reasons, Ur-Zababa appoints Sargon as his cupbearer. Soon after this, Ur-Zababa Marth invites Sargon to his chambers to discuss a dream of Sargon’s, involving the favor of the goddess Inanna and the drowning of Ur-Zababa by the goddess. Obviously scared, Ur-Zababa orders Sargon murdered by the hands of Belis-tikal, the chief smith, but Inanna prevents it, demanding that Sargon stop at the gates because of his being “polluted with blood. When Sargon returns to Ur-Zababa, the king becomes frightened again, and decides to send Sargon to king Lugal-zage-si of Uruk with a message on a clay tablet asking him to slay Sargon. This where the legend more less cuts off but I am guessing it leads the story of him becoming king (Cooper 67-82). This leads us to the start of one of the greatest empires ever created. The Akkadians were a Semitic people living on the Arabic peninsula during the great flourishing period of the Sumerian city-states.
Although we don’t know much about early Akkadian history and culture, we do know that as the Akkadians migrated north, they came in increasing conflict with the Sumerian city-states, and in 2340 BC, the great Akkadian military leader, Sargon, conquered Sumer and built an Akkadian empire stretching over most of the Sumerian city-states and extending as far away as Lebanon. Sargon based his empire in the city of Agade, or Akkad as it is referred to, which became the basis of the name of his people.
What is believed to have started the rage for rule by Sargon is a man named Lugalzagesi, ruler of Umma, who referred to his self as “Ruler of Sumer” and would use force with the neighboring city-states. He conquered Kish and killed Ur-Zababa, and then went on to conquer the neighboring city-states. Sargon’s motivation for what happened afterward may have been revenge, but either way, he raised an army and launched a surprise attack against the city-state of Erech, occupied by Lugalzagesi’s forces. He managed to defeat the garrison, as well as a force led by fifty kings loyal to Lugalzagesi.
When Lugalzagesi returned and found Sargon had taken Erech, he immediately took to the field, and was defeated. Sargon proved to be a brilliant military tactician. After the battle, Sargon paraded the former king through the streets of Nippur, where the people spat on him in disgust. Sargon then went south, taking the city-states of Ur, Lagash, and Umma – Lugalzagesi’s former city, consolidating his hold on southern Sumer. Afterwards, he proceeded west, then slowly moved north, gaining more and more territory until he created an empire that pned from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf.
There is a story of how Sargon washed his sword in the waters of the Persian Gulf to prove how he ruled from one coast to the other(Oppenheim 276). Also, there is evidence that Sargon may have sent armies even further, to places like Egypt, Ethiopia, and India in order to expand his empire even more. After he finished his campaign, he positioned garrisons at strategic locations throughout his possessions to stop any uprisings. It is important to note that many did not like having a Semite as their leader, especially one that had conquered them by force, so resentment ran high.
In addition, Sargon appointed fellow Semites to positions of authority in order to ensure loyalty. His home, Akkad, became the greatest city-state in the coming years (Kramer 66). Sargon made inscriptions inside the temples in his conquered cities that detailed his exploits, and they were more accurate than the over exaggerated stories that where told after the events. You can see all the recorded events on the map in the back with every star showing you where a battle was won. It will also give you a sense of the amazing size of the Akkadian empire.
It is remarkable that an empire of this size actually had the army to hold it down and an advanced mail system that would send messengers from one end to the other. The man was a true military tactician planning out every battle and naming people he knew he could trust to maintain his city-states. They were not lying when they refer to him as Sargon the Great. Unfortunately greatness does not last forever. Sargon of Akkad died Sargon died, according to the short chronology, around 2215 BC. His empire immediately revolted upon hearing of the king’s death.
Most of the revolts were put down by his son and successor Rimush, who reigned for nine years and was followed by another of Sargon’s sons, Manishtushu who reigned for 15 years. Sargon is the first individual in recorded history to create a multiethnic, centrally ruled empire, and his dynasty controlled Mesopotamia for around a century and a half. This is an insane accomplishment. This man and his empire have and will keep being referred to as one of the greatest empires of not only Mesopotamia, but the entire world.
I am lucky to have researched him and I’m sure many others will in the future. Works Cited Cooper, Jerrold S. and Wolfgang Heimpel. “The Sumerian Sargon Legend. ” Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 103, No. 1, (Jan. -Mar. 1983). Kramer, Samuel Noah. The Sumerians: Their History, Culture, and Character. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1963. Print. Mesopotamia: the Mighty Kings. Alexandria, Va. : Time-Life, 1995. Print. Oppenheim, A. Leo, and Erica Reiner. Ancient Mesopotamia: Portrait of a Dead Civilization. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1977. Print.
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