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Sargon of Akkad was a historical figure who lived in Mesopotamia around the 24th century BC. He is known for founding the Akkadian Empire[2], considered one of the first great empires in history.

According to ancient texts, Sargon was born as the son of a gardener and was abandoned as an infant in a reed basket on a river. However, according to the Sumerian King List, Sargon was born as the son of a high priestess in the city of Azupiranu. He was discovered and adopted by a royal princess, who raised him as her own. Sargon eventually became cup-bearer to the king of Kish[3], rising to power through military conquests.

Sargon of Akkad, also known as Sargon the Great, was a legendary figure in ancient Mesopotamian history who founded the Akkadian Empire. He is believed to have lived around the 24th century BC, although the exact dates of his reign are uncertain.

Sargon’s conquests eventually led him to unite the various city-states of Mesopotamia under his rule, creating the Akkadian Empire. He is credited with introducing several innovations, such as a standardised system of weights and measures and the first written law code in history.

Sargon of Akkad on his victory stele
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As Sargon grew up, he showed great intelligence and leadership qualities. He eventually became a cup-bearer to the king of Kish and proved himself a capable military commander. Sargon’s military successes earned him a loyal following, and he ultimately overthrew the king of Kish and established his own dynasty.

Sargon’s conquests did not stop there. He continued to expand his empire through a series of military campaigns, eventually bringing all of Mesopotamia under his rule. His empire stretched from the Persian Gulf in the south to the Taurus Mountains in the north, including parts of modern-day Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey.

Sargon’s legacy has endured through the centuries, and he is remembered as a legendary figure in Mesopotamian history. His story has been passed down through various texts and works of literature, including the Epic of Gilgamesh[4] and the Akkadian version of the creation myth known as the Enuma Elish[5].

Sargon of Akkad was the first ruler of the Akkadian Empire, known for conquering the Sumerian city-states in the 24th to 23rd centuries BC.[6] He is sometimes identified as the first person in recorded history to rule over an empire[7].

He founded the “Sargonic” or “Old Akkadian” dynasty, which ruled for about a century after his death until the Gutian conquest of Sumer.[8] The Sumerian king list makes him the cup-bearer to king Ur-Zababa of Kish.[9] Sargon’s empire is thought to have included most of Mesopotamia, and parts of the Levant, besides incursions into Hurrian and Elamite territory, ruling from his (archaeologically as yet unidentified) capital, Akkad (also Agade).

Sargon appears as a legendary figure in Neo-Assyrian literature of the 8th to 7th centuries BC. Tablets with fragments of a Sargon Birth Legend were found in the Library of Ashurbanipal[10].

There aren’t many primary sources available about Sargon of Akkad, but the Sumerian King List mentions him as the son of a gardener who became a powerful ruler. He took over the kingship of Akkad after defeating Lugal-zage-si of Uruk, and his reign is believed to have lasted for either 40 or 54-56 years. Many inscriptions related to Sargon have been found, but some aspects of his life and reign are unclear. There is some debate over whether Sargon was actually the original founder of Akkad, as an inscription has been found that mentions the city and dates to before his reign. Additionally, some sources refer to Sargon building Babylon, but it’s unclear if they refer to a later Assyrian king with the same name.

The so-called “Mask of Sargon”, after restoration, in 1936. The braided hair and royal bun, reminiscent of the headgears of MeskalamdugEannatum or Ishqi-Mari, are particularly visible. On stylistic grounds, this is now thought to represent Sargon’s grandson Naram-Sin, rather than Sargon himself.
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Sargon’s name is derived from the Akkadian language, specifically from the phrase “sharru kinu,” which means “true king” or “legitimate king.” The name was likely given to him after he became the ruler of Akkad, which was one of the major cities of Mesopotamia.

Sargon’s name became synonymous with greatness and power, and he is often referred to as “Sargon the Great” in historical texts. His legacy has endured for thousands of years, and he is still remembered as one of the most important figures in Mesopotamian history.

The terms “Pre-Sargonic” and “Post-Sargonic” were used in Assyriology based on the chronologies of Nabonidus[11] before the historical existence of Sargon of Akkad was confirmed. The form Šarru-ukīn was known from the Assyrian Sargon Legend discovered in 1867 in the Library of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh.

A contemporary reference to Sargon is thought to have been found on the cylinder seal of Ibni-sharru, a high-ranking official serving under Sargon. In 1877, Joachim Menant, the French magistrate and orientalist, published a description of this seal, reading the king’s name as Shegani-shar-lukh, and did not yet identify it with “Sargon the Elder” (who was identified with the Old Assyrian king Sargon I).[12]

In 1883, the British Museum acquired the “mace-head of Shar-Gani-sharri“, a votive gift deposited at the temple of Shamash in Sippar. This “Shar-Gani” was identified with the Sargon of Agade of Assyrian legend.[13] The identification of “Shar-Gani-sharri” with Sargon was recognised as mistaken in the 1910s. Shar-Gani-sharri (Shar-Kali-Sharri) is, in fact, Sargon’s great-grandson, the successor of Naram-Sin.[14]

The Nabonidus Chronicle
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Language and Script Used in Records
Sargon appears to have promoted the use of Semitic (Akkadian) in inscriptions. He frequently calls himself the “king of Akkad” after having founded the city of Akkad. He appears to have taken over the rule of Kish at some point, and later also much of Mesopotamia, referring to himself as “Sargon, king of Akkad, overseer of Inanna, king of Kish, anointed of Anu, king of the land [Mesopotamia], governor (ensi) of Enlil“.[15]

During Sargon’s reign, East Semitic was standardised and adapted for use with the cuneiform script previously used in the Sumerian language into what is now known as the “Akkadian language” – a style of calligraphy developed in which text on clay tablets and cylinder seals was arranged amidst scenes of mythology and ritual.[16]

Among the most important sources for Sargon’s reign is a tablet of the Old Babylonian period recovered at Nippur in the expedition of the University of Pennsylvania in the 1890s. The tablet is a copy of the inscriptions on the pedestal of a statue erected by Sargon in the temple of Enlil. The tablet’s text was edited by Arno Poebel (1909) and Leon Legrain (1926).[17]

Prisoners escorted by a soldier, on a victory stele of Sargon of Akkad, c. 2300 BC. Probably from the end of Sargon’s reign. The hairstyle of the prisoners (curly hair on top and short hair on the sides) is characteristic of Sumerians, as also seen on the Standard of UrLouvre Museum.
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One of Sargon’s most notable achievements was in creating a centralised government. He appointed governors to oversee the various provinces of his empire. To support his growing bureaucracy, Sargon established a system of taxation. He also introduced a standardised system of weights and measures, which helped to facilitate trade and commerce within his empire.

Caption: “File:Sargon of Akkad and dignitaries.jpg” by ALFGRN is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Sargon was also known for his cultural and artistic achievements. He patronised the arts and commissioned several impressive architectural projects, including the construction of a new capital city called Akkad. He also promoted the use of the Akkadian language, which eventually became the lingua franca of the entire region.

Sargon’s legacy has endured through the centuries, and his story has been told and retold in various works of literature and mythology. He is remembered as a legendary figure in Mesopotamian history, and his accomplishments paved the way for future empires in the region.

He was known for his military tactics and innovations, including using chariots and a standing army. He was also a patron of the arts and is credited with commissioning many important works of literature and architecture during his reign.

Sargon’s legacy was carried on by his descendants, including his son Rimush and grandson Naram-Sin[18], who continued to expand the Akkadian Empire. However, the empire eventually fell into decline and was conquered by neighbouring powers.

Sargon built several impressive structures, including the ziggurats – massive step pyramid structures built in the ancient Near East. They were typically made of mud brick and were used as religious temples or administrative centres. Sargon built several of them in various cities throughout the Akkadian Empire, including the cities of Akkad, Babylon, and Sippar.

One of the most important ziggurats that Sargon built was the Temple of the Seven Spheres in Sippar. This ziggurat was dedicated to the god Marduk, who was one of the most important deities in the Mesopotamian pantheon. The Temple of the Seven Spheres was an enormous structure, standing over 50 metres high and covering an area of over 1,300 square metres.

Typically, a ziggurat was a terraced compound of successively receding storeys or levels. Notable ziggurats include the Great Ziggurat of Ur near Nasiriyah, the Ziggurat of Aqar Quf near Baghdad, the now-destroyed Etemenanki in Babylon, Chogha Zanbil in Khūzestān and Sialk Plus, Sumer in general. The Sumerians believed the gods lived in the temple at the top of the Ziggurats, so only priests and other highly respected individuals could enter. Society offered them many things, such as music, harvest, and creating devotional statues to live in the temple.

The purpose of the ziggurat was to serve as a physical monument and a symbol of Sargon’s legitimacy as a ruler. Building such an impressive structure, Sargon was sending a clear message to his subjects that he was a powerful and capable leader who had the support of the gods. Additionally, the ziggurat was used as a religious centre, where priests would perform rituals and make offerings to the gods on behalf of the people.

Ziggurat of Ur
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Sargon also built several other impressive structures, including the palace of Akkad and the city walls of Babylon. These structures were designed to impress Sargon’s subjects and to reinforce his position as the supreme ruler of the Akkadian Empire.

There are also controversies surrounding Sargon of Akkad, starting with the claim that he was born to a lowly family and his ascent to the throne. Some historians believe his story may have been exaggerated or even invented for propaganda.

On the other hand, Sargon of Akkad is credited with numerous achievements, including the establishment of the Akkadian Empire, which was the first known empire in history. He was also known for his military conquests, which brought many city-states under his rule and helped to unify the region. Sargon’s military innovations were also significant contributions to the art of warfare at the time.

However, Sargon’s reign was not without failures and controversies. He faced several rebellions and uprisings throughout his reign, and his efforts to expand the empire may have contributed to its eventual decline.

Akkadian Treaty Tradition
The Akkadian treaty tradition was a series of treaties and agreements written in the Akkadian language during the Akkadian Empire (c. 2334–2154 BC) and later the Babylonian and Assyrian empires in Mesopotamia. These treaties were typically written on clay tablets and were intended to regulate the relationships between different political entities, such as city-states, kingdoms, or empires. The treaties often involved a dominant power imposing terms on a subordinate power, on the strict understanding that if the terms of a treaty were not met, the dominant power would use force to enforce them.

The Akkadian treaty tradition had a significant influence on subsequent treaty-making in the region and beyond, and many of its features, such as the use of prologues and epilogues, clauses outlining the obligations of each party, and the invoking of divine witnesses, can be seen in later treaties from other cultures.

Albeit happening long after Sargon, one of the most famous examples of an Akkadian treaty is the Treaty of Kadesh, a treaty between the Hittite Empire and the New Kingdom of Egypt signed in the 13th century BC. The treaty was written in both Akkadian and Hittite and is considered one of the earliest examples of international diplomacy. It is possible that Sargon may have concluded a form of agreement or treaty with the city-states and territories that he conquered, as this was a common practice in ancient Mesopotamia. It is also possible that his policies and procedures influenced some of the treaties written during the time of the Akkadian Empire.

In the 24th century BC, Sargon of Akkad conquered many territories, including Uruk, and defeated its king, Lugalzagesi. After the battle, Sargon brought Lugalzagesi to the gate of Enlil in a collar.

Sargon took on numerous titles, including “Sargon, king of Akkad, overseer of Inanna, king of Kish, anointed of Anu, king of the land, and governor of Enlil.”

Sargon of Akkad also conquered Ur and E-Ninmar, destroyed their walls (see below), and took control of their territories. He also conquered Lagash and Umma, destroying their walls as well. It is claimed that Sargon washed his weapons in the sea after his victory, but no explanation of the significance of that action is known, although there may be clues in People of Ancient Assyria, by Jorgen Laessoe -available as a pdf online at:

Destroying their walls” means that Sargon ordered his soldiers to breach the walls of cities he attacked to gain entry and conquer them. The walls, probably made of mud bricks, were a crucial defence mechanism in ancient times, and the fact that Sargon could destroy them demonstrated his military prowess and the strength of his army. It also highlights the importance of fortified cities in the ancient world and how the fall of their walls often meant the fall of the entire city.

As a result of his conquests, it is said the Mesopotamian god Enlil gave Sargon the Upper Sea and the Lower Sea.

Conquest of Upper Mesopotamia, as far as the Mediterranean Sea
Submitting himself to the Levantine god Dagan, Sargon conquered territories of Upper Mesopotamia and the Levant, including Mari, Yarmuti (perhaps, Jarmuth) and Ibla “up to the Cedar Forest (the Amanus) and up to the Silver Mountain (perhaps Aladagh)”, ruling from the “upper sea” (Mediterranean) to the “lower sea” (Persian Gulf).[19]

Sargon the King was said to have “bowed down to Dagan in Tuttul. Dagan) gave Sargon the Upper Land: Mari, Larmuti, and Ebla, as far as the Cedar Forest and the Silver Mountains.” This means Sargon paid respect to Dagan, a deity worshipped in the city of Tuttul, and because of this act of homage, Dagan granted Sargon those territories. It was likely a significant event in Mesopotamian history, as it involved the granting of valuable land and the recognition of the deity’s power.

Conquests of Elam and Marhashi and Others
Sargon also claims in his inscriptions that he is “Sargon, king of the world, conqueror of Elam and Parahshum“, the two major polities to the east of Sumer. He also names various “rulers of the east” whom he defeated, such as “Luh-uh-ish-an, son of Hishibrasini, king of Elam, king of Elam” or “Sidga’u, general of Parahshum”, who later also appears in an inscription by Rimush.[20]

Sargon triumphed over 34 cities in total (see below). Ships from MeluhhaMagan and Dilmunrode at anchor[21] in Sargon’s capital of Akkad. The exact list of the 34 cities that Sargon conquered is unclear, but some historical records and inscriptions mention some of the cities he captured (placed here alphabetically):

  • Adab
  • Agade
  • Akshak
  • Apum
  • Armanum
  • Bad-Tibira
  • Der
  • Dilbat
  • Elam
  • Eridu
  • Eshnunna
  • Girsu
  • Hamazi
  • Isin
  • Kazallu
  • Kish
  • Kutalla
  • Lagash
  • Marhasi
  • Mari
  • Mashkan-shapir
  • Nagar
  • Nineveh
  • Nippur
  • Shaduppum
  • Sippar
  • Subartu
  • Sumer
  • Umma
  • Ur
  • Urukagina *
  • Uruk
  • Zabalam
  • Zimbir

* Lugalzagesi’s capital city

Not all of these cities were conquered directly by Sargon himself (some may have been brought under Akkadian control by his successors). Additionally, some cities listed may not have been actual city-states but smaller settlements or administrative centres.

Sargon’s Conquest of Sumer
Shortly after securing Sumer, Sargon began a series of campaigns to subjugate the entire Fertile Crescent. According to the Chronicle of Early Kings, a later Babylonian historiographical text referring to Sargon’s conquest of Sumer, it is said:
“[Sargon] had neither rival nor equal. His splendour, over the lands it diffused. He crossed the sea in the east. In the eleventh year he conquered the western land to its farthest point. He brought it under one authority. He set up his statues there and ferried the west’s booty across on barges. He stationed his court officials at intervals of five double hours and ruled in unity the tribes of the lands. He marched to Kazallu and turned Kazallu into a ruin heap, so that there was not even a perch for a bird left. In the east, Sargon defeated four leaders of Elam, led by the king of Awan. Their cities were sacked; the governors, viceroys, and kings of Susa, Waraḫše, and neighbouring districts became vassals of Akkad.”[22]

The italicised text above describes Sargon’s conquest of the western lands in his eleventh year of reign. He set up his statues there and collected the spoils of war. He then marched to Kazallu, a city in central Mesopotamia, and completely destroyed it.

The wording “ruin heap” means that the city was completely destroyed and reduced to a heap of ruins. The passage also mentions Sargon’s defeat of four leaders of Elam in the east and the subjugation of their cities and neighbouring districts.

The conquest of Sumer by Sargon of Akkad profoundly impacted the region’s political and cultural landscape. Sargon’s victory over the city-states of Sumer marked the beginning of the Akkadian Empire and the end of the Sumerian city-state system. Sargon’s centralised system of government allowed him to control the entire region from his capital city of Akkad. He also imposed the Akkadian language and culture on the conquered peoples, which had a significant effect on the development of the region’s culture and identity.

One of the most important legacies of Sargon’s conquest was the new political order in Mesopotamia. Sargon’s empire was the first to unify the entire region under a single ruler, and his centralised system of government served as a model for future empires in the region. The Akkadian Empire also established Akkadian as the region’s dominant language, paving the way for the development of the Semitic language family.

Sargon’s conquest of Sumer also significantly impacted the region’s cultural landscape. The Akkadians were known for their artistic and architectural achievements, and their culture influenced the development of the region’s art, literature, and religion. The Akkadian Empire was also known for its trade and commerce, which helped to spread Akkadian culture throughout the region.

The exact date of Sargon’s conquest of Sumer is not clear, but it is generally believed to have taken place early in his reign.

Other Conquests
Sargon conquered territories in Upper Mesopotamia and the Levant, including Mari, Yarmuti, and Ibla. He expanded his rule as far as the Cedar Forest (the Amanus) and the Silver Mountain (possibly Aladagh) and ruled from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf. These conquests had a significant impact on the political and cultural landscape of the region.

Sargon acknowledged Dagan’s authority and paid homage to him in Tuttul. In return, Dagan granted Sargon control over several regions, including Mari, Larmuti, Ebla, the Cedar Forest, and the Silver Mountains.

Sargon’s inscriptions boast of his conquests in the east, claiming he was the “King of the World” and had defeated major polities like Elam and Parahshum. He also names specific rulers he conquered, such as “Luh-uh-ish-an, son of Hishibrasini, king of Elam, king of Elam” or “Sidga’u, general of Parahshum”. These victories helped establish Sargon’s power in the region.

In addition to the regions mentioned above, Sargon conquered the city of Ashur, the kingdom of Gutium, and the city of Ur. These conquests allowed him to expand his empire and establish Akkad as a major power centre in the ancient Near East.

Sargon’s Army
Sargon is said to have a standing army of 5,400 men who were provided daily bread to sustain them.[23] Compared to modern armies, the size of Sargon’s standing army might seem relatively small. However, this was a significant force for the time in which he lived. It is important to note that ancient armies were typically composed of soldiers who were not full-time professionals but rather conscripts or volunteers who would leave their farms or trades during wartime to fight. Sargon’s army may also have been supplemented by additional forces raised from the territories he conquered or allied with. Finally, the size of an army was not the only factor that determined its effectiveness in ancient warfare; factors such as training, equipment, and tactics also played crucial roles.

Sargon’s army was organised into units of spearmen, archers, and charioteers. The army was divided into corps, each being commanded by a general. The corps were further divided into companies, which were led by captains. Sargon’s army also included siege engines and war elephants, which were used to break through enemy defences. Sargon’s army was well-trained compared to the armies of other rulers or kingdoms at the time.

Some of the other notable armies of the time included the Elamites, the Gutians, and the Sumerians. The Elamites were known for their skilled archers, while the Gutians were known for their fierce warriors.

Treatment of the Conquered People
Sargon’s treatment of the conquered people was lenient compared to other conquerors of the era. He allowed the people in the territories he conquered to keep their leaders and traditions, but they had to pay tribute to him for protection.

Sargon established a system of governors to oversee the conquered territories, which helped to maintain peace and order. One specific example of Sargon’s leniency towards the conquered was his treatment of the city of Nippur. When Sargon conquered the city, he allowed the priests to continue their religious practices and even restored the temple of the god Enlil. Sargon’s policies helped to maintain stability in the region and made the people devoted to him.

Another example of Sargon’s treatment of the people he conquered was establishing a standardised system of weights and measures. This helped to facilitate trade and commerce throughout the region and contributed to the economic growth of the empire. Sargon also made Akkadian the official language of the government, which helped to unify the diverse peoples of the empire under a single language and culture.

Quelling Revolts
Legend has it that in his old age, Sargon the Great faced a great revolt from all the lands he had conquered. His enemies besieged him in his own city of Akkad. Despite his advanced age, Sargon rallied his forces and led them into battle against the revolting armies. He was able to defeat them and bring their possessions back to Akkad.

But Sargon was not content with this victory alone. He also attacked the land of Subartu, which had also rebelled against him. Once again, Sargon emerged victorious and brought their possessions back to Akkad.

Sargon was a powerful king, and he sought to make Akkad even greater than before. He removed the soil from the trenches of Babylon and made the boundaries of Akkad like those of Babylon. But in doing so, he committed great evil, and the god Marduk was angry. Marduk punished Sargon’s people with a great famine that lasted from the east to the west. Despite his victories, Sargon could not protect his people from the wrath of the gods.

The exact details of Sargon of Akkad’s family background are not entirely clear, and some aspects of his story are still a matter of debate among historians. However, as mentioned earlier in this paper, according to historical accounts, Sargon was not born into a royal family but came from humble origins.

The names of Sargon’s parents are not recorded, and it is unknown if he had any siblings. Sargon is believed to have had multiple wives, but their names are not recorded in historical sources, although one of them was named Tashlultum.

Sargon had at least one son, Rimush, who succeeded him as king of the Akkadian Empire. He had other children as well – as shown in the Family Tree.

As Sargon of Akkad lived over 4000 years ago, it is impossible to provide a complete picture of his skills, education, and manner of death. However, based on historical accounts and archaeological evidence, some information is available.

Sargon of Akkad was known for his military prowess, and as noted earlier in this paper, he is credited with innovative military tactics and strategies, including the use of chariots and a standing army. He was also a skilled politician and administrator, implementing administrative reforms and establishing a centralised government in the empire.

Regarding his education, it is not known if Sargon had formal schooling or education in the modern sense. However, he was likely educated in the traditions and customs of the region, as well as in the art of warfare and political leadership.

As for his manner of death, the historical record is unclear. It is unknown exactly how Sargon died or when, although some sources suggest that he may have been assassinated or was killed in battle.

Family Tree of Sargon of Akkad. Attribution: User:John D. Croft, CC BY-SA 3.0 <;, via Wikimedia Commons
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Family Tree
The Family Tree shows the names of five of Sargon of Akkad’s children, one of whom was Enheduanna (also transliterated as Enheduanna, En-hedu-ana, or variants). She was the priestess of the moon god Nanna (Sīn) in the Sumerian city-state of Ur in the reign of her father, Sargon of Akkad, the first ruler and founder of the Akkadian Empire. She was likely appointed by her father as the leader of the religious cult at Ur to cement ties between the Akkadian religion of her father and the native Sumerian religion. Her mother was Tashlultum, one of Sargon’s wives.

Enheduanna was born around 2285 BC in the city of Akkad, located in Mesopotamia (now central Iraq). She had a brother named Rimush and several half-siblings from her father’s other wives. She was a Sumerian high priestess, poet, and writer known as the world’s first-named author. Enheduanna received a first-rate education as a child, which was unusual for women in her time. She was educated in the Sumerian language, literature, religion, and music and received training as a priestess. There is little further information about Enheduanna’s personal life. It is believed that she was married at some point, although the identity of her husband is unknown. She is also thought to have borne children, but no information about their names or number exists. It is known that Enheduanna was a prolific writer, composing many works of literature, including hymns, prayers, and poems. Her most famous works are a series of 42 hymns to Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of love, fertility, and war. These hymns are considered some of the finest examples of ancient Sumerian poetry and are notable for their passionate language and vivid imagery.

Enheduanna’s writing was groundbreaking for several reasons. First, she was the first author in history whose name has been recorded. Secondly, she wrote in Sumerian, which was the language of the people, rather than in the official language of the ruling class, Akkadian. Thirdly, Enheduanna’s work was highly personal and emotional, expressing her devotion to the goddess Inanna and her personal struggles and triumphs as a priestess.

According to legend, Naram-Sin, a proud and arrogant king, incurred the wrath of the gods, who cursed him and started the downfall of the Akkadian empire. He was the son of Manishtu, another of Sargon’s sons. As punishment, the goddess Inanna cursed him, declaring that his empire would fall into ruin and his people would suffer. The curse is said to have been responsible for a devastating period of drought and famine that plagued the Akkadian Empire, eventually leading to its collapse. The reign of Naram-Sin is believed to have occurred around 2254-2218 BC. It is important to note, however, that the curse is not widely accepted as a historical fact, and most scholars believe that the empire’s fall was due to a combination of factors, including environmental pressures, economic instability, and military conflict with neighbouring peoples.

Furthermore, it is worth noting that many ancient cultures believed in curses and supernatural causes for events that we would now consider natural phenomena. As such, it is difficult to say whether the curse attributed to Naram-Sin was a genuine belief held by the Akkadians or simply a myth created after the empire’s fall to explain its demise.

Review and Closing Words
Sargon of Akkad’s legacy is significant in the history of Mesopotamia and the world. He is remembered as the founder of the first known empire in history, which had a lasting impact on the region and influenced future empires and kingdoms. The Akkadian Empire established a centralised government, a legal system, and administrative reforms that helped to create a more stable and prosperous society.

Sargon’s military tactics and innovations were also significant contributions to the art of warfare at the time and influenced later military strategies. In addition to his military and political accomplishments, Sargon’s support of literature, architecture, and other forms of art helped to create a vibrant cultural scene in Mesopotamia.

Sargon of Akkad remains a significant figure in ancient Mesopotamian history, and his achievements and failures continue to be studied and debated by scholars today. His legacy is one of significant achievements in empire-building, military strategy, and cultural development, and his contributions helped to shape the course of Mesopotamian history and influenced the development of civilisations throughout the ancient world.

Akkadian soldiers slaying enemies, circa 2300 BC, possibly from a Victory Stele of Rimush.
Attribution: Louvre Museum, CC BY 3.0 <;, via Wikimedia Commons

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 Sources and Further Reading


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End Notes and Explanations
  1. Source: Compiled from research using information at the sources stated throughout the text, together with information provided by machine-generated artificial intelligence at: [chat] and
  2. Explanation: The Akkadian Empire was the first ancient empire of Mesopotamia after the long-lived civilisation of Sumer. Its capital city was Akkad and its surrounding region. The empire united Akkadian and Sumerian speakers under one rule. The Akkadian Empire exercised influence across Mesopotamia, the Levant, and Anatolia, sending military expeditions as far south as Dilmun and Magan (modern Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Oman) in the Arabian Peninsula. The Akkadian Empire reached its political peak between the 24th and 22nd centuries BC, following the conquests by its founder Sargon of Akkad. Under Sargon and his successors, the Akkadian language was briefly imposed on neighbouring conquered states such as Elam 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. Source and Cited at:
  3. This reference is about the ancient Sumerian city named Kish. For information about Kish, go to:
  4. Explanation: The Epic of Gilgamesh is an epic poem from ancient Mesopotamia. The literary history of Gilgamesh begins with five Sumerian poems about Bilgamesh (Sumerian for “Gilgamesh”), king of Uruk, dating from the Third Dynasty of Ur (c. 2100 BC). These independent stories were later used as source material for a combined epic in Akkadian. The first surviving version of this combined epic, known as the “Old Babylonian” version, dates back to the 18th century BC and is titled after its incipit, Shūtur eli sharrī (“Surpassing All Other Kings”). Only a few tablets of it have survived. The later Standard Babylonian version compiled by Sîn-lēqi-unninni dates from the 13th to the 10th centuries BC and bears the incipit Sha naqba īmuru (“He who Saw the Abyss”, in unmetaphoric terms: “He who Sees the Unknown”). Approximately two-thirds of this longer, twelve-tablet version have been recovered. Some of the best copies were discovered in the library ruins of the 7th century BC Assyrian king Ashurbanipal. Source, and further information:
  5. Explanation: Enūma Eliš (also spelled “Enuma Elish”) is the Babylonian creation myth (named after its opening words). It was recovered by English archaeologist Austen Henry Layard in 1849 (in fragmentary form) in the ruined Library of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh (Mosul, Iraq). A form of the myth was first published by English Assyriologist George Smith in 1876; active research and further excavations led to near completion of the texts and improved translation. Enūma Eliš has about a thousand lines and is recorded in Akkadian on seven clay tablets, each holding between 115 and 170 lines of Sumero-Akkadian cuneiform script. Most of Tablet V has never been recovered, but, aside from this lacuna, the text is almost complete. This epic is one of the most important sources revealing the Babylonian worldview. Over the seven tablets, it describes the creation of the world, a battle between gods focused on the supremacy of Marduk, the creation of man destined for the service of the Mesopotamian deities, and it ends with a long passage praising Marduk. Its primary original purpose is unknown, although a version is known to have been used for certain festivals. There may also have been a political element to the myth, centered on the legitimization or primacy of Babylonia over Assyria. Some later versions replace Marduk with the Assyrian primary god Ashur. Source, and further information:
  6. Explanation: The date of the reign of Sargon is highly uncertain, depending entirely on the (conflicting) regnal years given in the various copies of the Sumerian King List, specifically the uncertain duration of the Gutian dynasty. The added regnal years of the S argonic and the Gutian dynasties have to be subtracted from the accession of Ur-Nammu of the Third Dynasty of Ur, which is variously dated to either 2047 BC (Short Chronology) or 2112 BC (Middle Chronology). An accession date of Sargon of 2334 BC assumes: (1) a Sargonic dynasty of 180 years (fall of Akkad 2154 BC), (2) a Gutian interregnum of 42 years and (3) the Middle Chronology accession year of Ur-Nammu (2112 BC). Cited at:
  7. Explanation: An Empire is defined as a political unit made up of several territories and peoples, “usually created by conquest, and divided between a dominant centre and subordinate peripheries”. The centre of the empire (sometimes referred to as the metropole) exercises political control over the peripheries. Within an empire, different populations have different sets of rights and are governed differently. Narrowly defined, an empire is a sovereign state whose head of state is an emperor; but not all states with aggregate territory under the rule of supreme authorities are called empires or ruled by an emperor; nor have all self-described empires been accepted as such by contemporaries and historians (the Central African Empire, and some Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in early England being examples). Source and further information:
  8. Source: Van de Mieroop, MarcA History of the Ancient Near East: ca. 3000–323 BC. Blackwell, 2006, ISBN 978-1-4051-4911-2. p. 63. Cited at:
  9. Source: Bauer, Susan Wise (2007). The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of RomeISBN 9780393070897 – via Google Książki. Cited at:
  10. Sources: (a) Westenholz, Joan Goodnick (January 1984). “Review of The Sargon Legend: A Study of the Akkadian Text and the Tale of the Hero Who Was Exposed at Birth”, by Brian Lewis. Journal of Near Eastern Studies. 43 (1): 73–79. doi:10.1086/373065JSTOR 545065., (b) Brian Edric Colless. “The Empire of Sargon”., and (c) King, L. W. (1907). Chronicles concerning early Babylonian kings. London, Luzac and co. pp. 87–96. Cited at:
  11. Explanation: The Nabonidus Chronicle is an ancient Babylonian text, part of a larger series of Babylonian Chronicles inscribed in cuneiform script on clay tablets. It deals primarily with the reign of Nabonidus, the last king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, covers the conquest of Babylon by the Persian king Cyrus the Great, and ends with the start of the reign of Cyrus’s son Cambyses, spanning a period from 556 BC to some time after 539 BC. It provides a rare contemporary account of Cyrus’s rise to power and is the main source of information on this period; Amélie Kuhrt describes it as “the most reliable and sober [ancient] account of the fall of Babylon.” The chronicle is thought to have been copied by a scribe during the Seleucid period (4th to 1st century BC) but the original text was probably written during the late 6th or early 5th century BC. Similarities with the Nabonassar to Shamash-shum-ukin Chronicle, another of the Babylonian Chronicles, suggest that the same scribe may have been responsible for both chronicles. If so, it may date to the reign of Darius I of Persia (c. 549 BC–486 BC). The Nabonidus Chronicle is preserved on a single clay tablet now kept at the British Museum in London. Like the other Babylonian Chronicles, it lists in an annalistic (year-by-year) fashion the key events of each year, such as the accession and deaths of kings, major military events, and notable religious occurrences. It follows a standard pattern of reporting only events of immediate relevance to Babylonia, making it of somewhat limited utility as a source for a wider history of the region. Source and further information:
  12. Source: Louis de Clercq, Catalogue méthodique et raisonné. Antiquités assyriennes, cylindres orientaux, cachets, briques, bronzes, bas-reliefs, etc., vol. I, Cylindres orientaux, avec la collaboration de Joachim Menant, E. Leroux, Paris, 1888, no. 46. Cited at:
  13. Source: Leonard William King, A History of Sumer and Akkad (1910), 216–218. Cited at:
  14. Source: “But it is now evident that Sharganisharri was ‘not confused with Shargani or Sargon’ in the ‘tradition’ (p. 133), but only by the moderns who insisted on connecting the Sharganisharri of contemporary documents with the Sargon of the Legend” D. D. Luckenbill, Review of: The Civilization of Babylonia and Assyria by Morris Jastrow, Jr., The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures Vol. 33, No. 3 (Apr. 1917), pp. 252–254.Cited at:
  15. Sources: (a) “King of Akkad, Kish, and Sumer” is a translation of the Akkadian phrase “LUGAL Ag-ga-dèKI, LUGAL KIŠ, LUGAL KALAM.MAKI“. See Peter Panitschek, Lugal – šarru – βασιλεύς: Formen der Monarchie im Alten Vorderasien von der Uruk-Zeik bis zum Hellenismus (2008), p. 138. KALAM.MA, meaning “land, country”, is the old Sumerian name of the cultivated part of Mesopotamia (Sumer). See Esther Flückiger-Hawker, Urnamma of Ur in Sumerian Literary Tradition (1999), p. 138. Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures Vol. 33, No. 3 (Apr. 1917), pp. 252–254., and (b) Paul-Alain Beaulieu, The Pantheon of Uruk During the Neo-Babylonian Period, Brill (2003), p. 106. Cited at:
  16. Source: Britannica. Cited at:
  17. Source: Samuel Noah KramerThe Sumerians: Their History, Culture, and Character, University of Chicago Press (1963), 59f. Cited at:
  18. Naram-Sin was described by as “the last great king of the Akkadian Empire and grandson of Sargon the Great (r. 2334-2279 BCE) who founded the empire. He is considered the most important Akkadian king after Sargon (or, according to some, even ahead of him) and, along with his grandfather, became a near-mythical figure in Mesopotamian legend and story.” Source:
  19. Sources: (a) Frayne, Douglas. Sargonic and Gutian Periods. pp. 10–12, and (b) A.H.Sayce, review of G. Contenau, Les Tablettes de Kerkouk (1926),Antiquity 1.4 (December 1927), 503ff. “Yarmuti is probably the Yarimuta of the Tel el-Amarna letters, the name of which seems to be preserved in that of Armuthia south of Killiz. […] the Silver mountains must be the Ala-Dagh, where at Bereketli Maden there are extensive remains of ancient silver mines”; c.f. W.F. Albright, “The Origin of the Name Cilicia“, American Journal of Philology 43.2 (1922), 166f. “Another, much more portentous mistake of the same kind (loc. cit. [ Jour. Eg. Arch., VI, 296]) is Sayce’s statement that Yarmuti is “classical” Armuthia. The source of this is Tompkins, Trans. Soc. Bib. Arch., IX, 242, ad 218 (of the Tuthmosis list): “Mauti. Perhaps the Yari-muta of the Tel el‑Amarna tablets, now (I think) Armūthia, south of Killis.” This is the modern village of Armûdja, a hamlet some three miles south of Killis, not on the coast at all, but in the heart of Syria, and with no known classical background.” See also M. C. Astour in Eblaitica vol. 4, Eisenbrauns (1987), 68f. Cited at:
  20. Source: Frayne, Douglas. Sargonic and Gutian Periods. p. 22. Cited at:
  21. Explanation: ‘Rode at Anchor’ means that ships from Meluhha, Maga n, and Dilmun were anchored or moored in the port of Sargon’s capital city of Akkad. This phrase is often used to describe ships that are not sailing, but are stationary and secured to the sea bottom using an anchor.
  22. Source: Chronicle of Early Kings at Translation adapted from Grayson 1975 and Glassner 2004. Cited at:
  23. Source: Mario Liverani, The Ancient Near East: History, Routledge (2013), p. 143. Kramer 1963 p. 324. Kuhrt, Amélie, The Ancient Near East: c. 3000–330 B.C., Routledge 1996 ISBN 978-0-415-16763-5, p. 49 [2] Cited at:

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