Akkadian Empire


Akkadian Empire
   The first large-scale empire that rose in Mesopotamia, centered on the city of Akkad, situated perhaps east or northeast of Babylon. Modern scholars usually use the term Akkadian to describe the inhabitants of northern Babylonia - or, more generally, northern Mesopotamia - before Assyria rose to power in that region in the second millennium b.c. The Akkadians were culturally similar to their neighbors, the Sumerians. The main difference was language, as the Akkadians spoke a Semitic tongue quite different from Sumerian.
   Local Akkadian rulers became active in the mid-third millennium b.c., the most successful of their number being Sargon, later called "the Great." It appears that he started out as a government official under the king of Kish, lying a few miles east of Babylon, then at some point founded a new city, Akkad, nearby. After capturing Kish, Sargon launched major campaigns that succeeded in defeating all of the Sumerian city-states lying southeast of Babylon and took him to the shores of the Persian Gulf. Either Sargon or one of his Akkadian successors, perhaps Rimush, Manishtusu, Naram-Sin, or Shar-kali-sharri, then overran Elam in southern Iran and made the then-minor Elamite city of Susa the regional capital. (Susa would later become an important Persian city.) On Akkad's western flank, members of the Sargonid dynasty conquered the powerful city-states of Mari on the upper Euphrates and Ebla in Syria, not far from the Mediterranean coast, and may have momentarily reached the eastern reaches of Asia Minor.
   For its time, this empire created by the Akkadian dynasty was seen as extensive, although it was smaller than the Assyrian and Persian empires that would later rise in the same region. Sargon was able to create and initially maintain this realm through the use of his army, the first-known permanent professional military force. As shown in the famous Stele of the Vultures, the army employed a formidable battlefield formation similar to the phalanx later developed by the Greeks. Sargon and his successors held the empire together partly by using this army to intimidate subject towns. In cases where local rulers were willing to swear allegiance to Akkad, these rulers were allowed to retain their positions; however, sometimes the Akkadian kings placed their own men in charge of subject cities. In these ways, Sargon and his successors were able to achieve at least some central control over their realm.
   The Akkadian Empire was relatively short-lived, however. Rebellions by the Su-merian cities and wars with neighboring peoples weakened it. Then, around 2200 B.C., or perhaps shortly thereafter, a group of hill tribes collectively called the Guti attacked Akkad and the realm collapsed.

Ancient Mesopotamia dictioary. . 2015.

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