At about 2300 B.C. an empire stretched from the Mediterranean Sea,
past the Tigris and Euphrates River, and all the way to the Persian Gulfwas
founded. This empire was know as the Akkadian Empire. And the most
powerful of the Semitic kings was a man named King Sargon.
The Akkadians, a group of people who lived, also in Mesopotamia, had
conquered the Sumerians. The Akkadians spoke a Semitic language very
closely related the modern language of Arabic and Hebrew, unlike the
Sumerians. And the most powerful of these kings was Sargon of Akkad.
Sargon of Akkad, a name that means “true king”, reigned for 56 years.
During his reign, he founded one of the first great empires in history. He
started his empire in Mesopotamia during the 2300’s B.C. and soon gained
control over much of southwestern Asia. He was one of first kings to
maintain a permanent army . Infact, his empire was so well organized, that it
survived under Sargon’s successors for more than sixty years.
Sargon came from Kish. It is told that Sargon was born humble. His
father was unknown but his mother was a priestess. When a new born baby,
he was sent down a river in a basket, much like Moses, and raised by a
gardener under the protection of goddess Itar and became cupbearer at the
court of Kish. Although Sargon’s childhood story sound like the biblical
Moses, his later life was more warlike. Sargon was an usurper, someone who
unlawfully seizes the throne. Sargon of Akkad started his career as a high
court official under the rule of King Ur-Zababa of Kish. Sargon later
conquered Kish and other Sumerian city-states. After seizing power in Kish,
Sargon chose to not stay in the capital of Kish, but to build a new capital. At
the beginning of his reign, the south of Mesopotamia, also known as Sumer,
was under the rule of Lugalzaggesi. If he defeated Lugalzaggesi, Sargon’s
territory would expand significantly. But Sargon, instead, turned his attention
to the north of Mesopotamia. Sargon led his soldiers through a series of
victories that extended his empire as far west as the Mediterranean Sea and as
far east as Iran. Part of his policy and a reason for his success, was
appointing members of his family to important posts. Sargon wrote that the
sons of Akkad should fulfill the tasks of the local authorities.
During his rule, Semites, which Sargon was, replaced the Sumerians as
the powerful inhabitants of Mesopotamia. Later these Semites came to be
called Akkadian, after the capital of Sargon’s. Sargon founded the city of
Akkad around 2350 B.C. The exact location of the city is unknown, but is
probably located near Kish. The Akkadian empire consisted of the region of
southern Mesopotamia and the region along the Tigris and Euphrates. This
was the first real empire in Mesopotamia. There has been a bronze mask
found in Akkad which may have resembled Sargon. (see fig A) Akkad was
fit for only a king.
With all of Mesopotamia in his power, Sargon went on to bigger,
foreign conquests. He may have even made his way into Egypt, Ethiopia, and
India. Legends are vague about the extent of his victories, but much of the
known world had felt the horror of Sargon’s armies. Separated by jealousies
and quarrels among themselves, the great city-states of Ur, Umma, and
Lagash were unable to gather together and make a stand against the all-
conquering, all-powerful Sargon. Chariots, infantries, and spearmen were
sorted into a vast army by the Sargon.
Since Sargon’s subjects were very rebellious, he stationed garrisons at
key points in the Akkadian empire. His subject cities sent tribute from the
“four quarters of the known world.” Trade boomed in Akkad. “he made the
ships from Meluhha, the ships from Magan, the ships from Dilmun tie up
algside the quay of Agade(also Akkad),” said one of Sargon’s inscriptions on
the obelisk of Manishtushu(see fig B), a successor of Sargon. The names
probably refer to the Indus Valley, Oman, and the island, Bahrain. Later
legends sent Sargon’s armies to these places, also as well as central Anatolia,
the island of Crete, and the unknown “Tin Country.”
In the cities of Sumer, Sargon made his authority into the basis of
religious traditions shared by Akkadian and Sumerian cultures. One of the
titles he claimed were those of “anointed priest of Anu.” Anu being the sky
god, or An in Sumerian, “great ensi of Enlil,” the designated area used by
Sumerian city-state kings.
Despite Sargon’s soldiers and his association with Sumerian gods,
discontent was too abundant to ignore. The city-states appeased themselves
to Akkadian rule and irritated for their independence.
After Sargon died, he was succeeded by his two sons. Rimu, the first
was instantly confronted with a circumstance that was typical for times to
come in Mesopotamia. After the succession of Sargon, many cities tried to
get rid of his unequal successor, his taxes, and his tributes. The citizens tried
the military strength of Rimu and his judgment to hold to the territory.
His next successor and son, Man-ituu, meaning “who is with him?”
possibly suggesting that Man-ituu and Rimu were twin brothers. Man-ituu
was confronted with a phenomenon. An inscription on a black diorite stela
found in Susa, now at the Louvre in Paris. Witnesses of Man-ituu’s victory
over “32 cities” in Iran “at the other side of the sea”, which was An an in
Fars, the capital of the Elamites. The Akkadian empire lasted 100 years at
least, and when it ended, Sumerian city-states continued to prosper, but new
invaders swept over the eastern Fertile Crescent.
The dynasty of Akkad lasted until 2200 B.C. and consisted of 5 rulers.
Sargon lived a full and prosperous life. He was born into poverty and died a
King. He built an empire and expanded it beyond expectancy. The Great
King Sargon of Akkad was just that. King Sargon of Akkad will forever be
known as a king of Akkad.