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The Akkadians as opposed to the Sumerians, were a Semitic speaking group of people. According to ancient records, the city of Akkad (Agade) was located between the Tigris and Euphrates, in the northern Sumer region. With the only known record of a Semitic speaking people being from towards Arabia, we can only conclude that a rich aristocratic family or group of people settled into an already established Sumero-Akkadian settlement, where the Sumerian speaking people adopted the Semitic language. An old Arabian proverb states “The desert is the cradle of the Arab, and Warka (Iraq) his grave.” This implies ancient Arabs moved towards modern day Iraq, where they settled.

Sargon of Agade

The tale of Sargon’s birth was discovered on fragmentary broken tablets. As the bastard child of a high priestess, he was birthed in secret and much like the Moses tale, sent down a river in a basket. He was eventually found in the city of Akkad by a canal inspector, who took him in and raised him as a gardener. Other texts describe Sargon’s rise to power, such as the tale of the King of Kish who suffered from bouts of nightmares featuring his own death. While some of the tablets are broken and obscure, the dreams appear to be in connection to Sargon. King Ur-zababa appoints Sargon as his cup bearer, however his dreams continue. Eventually the king comes to fear Sargon, making multiple attempts to have him killed. In his final attempt, he sends Sargon with a message to the great King Lugal-zage-si, who united all of Sumer. The tablet contained a secret message for Lugal-zage-si to kill Sargon. The rest of the myth is lost, however some wall reliefs appear to show Sargon beating Lugal-zage-si with a club.

Rise of Akkad

Sargon established the Akkadian Empire by defeating Lugal-zage-si in 2,334 BCE. One of his first deeds was to publicly label himself as accepting the Sumerian Gods and Sumerian culture. Another was to publicly display Lugal-zage-si as his prisoner. In the city from which Lugal-zage-si ruled, Sargon displayed him to the gods as an unsuitable ruler. It was through this act that he supposedly gained the approval of the gods and the masses. Sargon would reign for 55 years, throughout that of which he remained an active military force. He was succeeded by his two sons, who also maintained the empire using military stability. Eventually Sargon’s grandson, Naram-Sin, would take the throne. He was considered the greatest of the Akkadian kings. Through military expansion and diplomatic relations, Naram-Sin united what ancient texts describe as an enormous empire. Through the Kurdish Mountains, stretching from lands that describe animals found in India, defeating kings known in ancient Pakistan, down the Arabian coast of the southern Persian Gulf, passed the borders of Syria, and into Anatolia.

The Fall of Akkad

The great King Naram-Sin, depicted as a giant among men in the Victory Stele of Naram-Sin, is one of the earliest examples of the term “power corrupts.” With his newly found glory and power, he was the first known king to proclaim himself as a god among men. He also sacked the most sacred temple of Enlil to elevate himself above all other gods. While this had no immediate effect, his predecessors were left dealing with the repercussions. Rich aristocrats and those loyal to the gods would eventually stop supporting the prosperous city of Akkad. With a fragmented upper class, stability through military force was impossible to manage. In some ancient texts, it is said the gods sent the Gutian people to destroy the Akkadian empire, for Naram-sin’s deed against Enlil. In combination of Gutian raids, an upper class who distrust one another, no supporting religious class, and the supposed rejection of Akkad by the Gods, the fall was in combination due to internal and external issues. While most assume Sumerian vs Akkadian conflict would be to blame, it doesn’t appear to have influenced its fall at all. In 2,150 BCE, the Gutians would eventually overrun Akkad and for a brief period rule over the region. The Gutians prove incapable of proper administration, and suffer from numerous rebellions. By around 2,100 BCE, the re-emergence through rebellion of the Sumerian upper class rulers begin to occur throughout the collapsing Gutian controlled territories. The Akkadian Empire crumbled but not before leaving its mark on the region. Over the last few hundred years, the royal class had spoken Semitic, which encouraged this as its national language. In this short time, the Semitic language would become the main language throughout the region while the Sumerian language slipped away into obscurity.


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