In this new series that I am introducing, I plan to write about each of the known members of the earliest civilizations. Previously, I spoke about how important history is but now I want to put those words into practice. By going through history very slowly we get to have an insight into how human beings think, operate and live together. We can also get a glimpse into how governments functioned thousands of years ago and how civilizations used to be ruled. My plan is to briefly go through The Akkadians, The Amorites, The Canaanites, The Elamites, The Hitties, The Hyksos and The Sea Peoples.
A really fantastic book that I read which taught me about these interesting kingdoms of the past was an amazing book written by Philip Matyszak. It’s called ‘Forgotten Peoples of the Ancient World’ and I highly recommend anyone who is reading this book to purchase that book and begin reading it immediately. You will thoroughly enjoy it. After reading this book, I couldn’t help but start writing this new series. People who lived in the first civilizations led interesting lives. At any moment anything could happen. Their lives were diametrically opposed to ours. It is fun to read about the events which took place in their lives. So without further ado, lets begin on The Akkadians.
“Naram-sin, mighty king, the king of Akkad,
king of the four corners of the earth
Who glorifies Ishtar and Amunitum….
Whose ancestor Sargon defeated Uruk,
and freed the people of Kish
Shaving off the hairstyles [of slaves] and
breaking their shackles.”
– Tablet of Naram-Sin
(From the ancient tablet, Naram-Sin appears to have been a successful King of the Akkadians)
Overview of The Akkadians
The Akkadians are being mentioned first because they established the first world empire. Before them it never happened so this is quite an achievement. The Akkadians were a Semitic-speaking people and the seat of their power was a city called Akkad. The power of the Akkadians wasn’t just confided in Sumerian city states but the Akkadians essentially dominated all of Mesopotamia for 150 years before they disappeared and other new states came to power. Matyszak wrote
“The Akkadians achieved a series of firsts that set the template for the
great states that were to follow. They founded the world’s first empire,
ruled over by the first god-king, and established the first professional
military force” – Forgotten Peoples of The Ancient World
Sargon, The Founder of The Akkadian Empire (2334–2279 BC)
Origin Story & Childhood
Not much is known about Sargon’s childhood and early life. There are many myths that were flying around the ages. None of these are completely reliable of course. Some sources mentioned that his mother was a priestess and like Moses he was cast into a river as a baby. Other origin stories mention how he grew up as a Gardner like many other famous Kings from the past. Like Najashi, a 6th century King of Ethiopia who grew up as a shepherd or like the founders of Rome who began their careers as shepherds as well. These are all speculation that can’t truly be believed. One thing we do know for sure is that Sargon was remarkably intelligent because he managed to gain power and ensure that a large empire remained functioning as a King.
Youth, Adult Life & Early Political Career
As a young man, Sargon was under the rule of another King called Lugalzagesi. Lugalzagesi was incredibly shrewd and deserves a lot of credit for the Akkadian empire that he unknowingly helped build. Lugalzagesi was the first political figure of that time that managed to place tribes, provinces and kingdoms all under one rule. Eventually, Sargon would climb up the ranks and when the time was right he would usurp Lugalzagesi from his position and become the king. Straight away we learn that even in the first civilizations power struggles were always occurring and Lugalzagesi might have been a pioneer in administration but he made the fatal mistake in not being cautions enough with his own safety. A wise leader can’t fully trust everyone around him and should be able to know who his allies and enemies are. A shrewd politician would have sniffed Sargon’s intentions from miles away.
Yet credit needs to be given to Sargon as well. He knew how power worked, he knew how to climb up the ranks and he knew how to take an opportunity when it came to him. Lugalzagesi ruled from his city Ur and Sargon sacked the city and established his empire. It is said that Abraham (as) set out from Ur. Matyszak continues to write:
“The Akkadians enjoyed an immediate benefit of empire. With the
cessation of internecine wars and the establishment of a single government,
trade and agriculture flourished. The Akkadian language was adapted to the
ubiquitous cuneiform script of the region, and clay tablets have been
discovered from which we learn of Akkad’s commercial interactions with
peoples as far away as Cyprus, Egypt and the Indus Valley.” – Forgotten Peoples of The Ancient World
The Akkadian System of Government
The Akkadian system that was established by Sargon would become the system used by most of the empires that followed afterwards. A system in which there was a palace and a God-King (or emperor) who had all the authority. Sargon and his successors (like Naram-Sin) had daughters who were incredibly efficient in their roles as priestesses. The temples they had served as part of the government and his daughters who were priestesses, helped to create a hierarchy that the people could fall under. His daughters would also marry governors from distant lands and this allowed his governors to remain loyal to him. Sargon ruled for fifty years until he died. He ruled the only parts of the earth that he knew. Sargon called it “the four corners of the world”.
The Akkadians used sculptures for the sake of propaganda. In every society propaganda is used, even with the first ever empire. The sculptures would show the Akkadian kings victorious over their enemies or associating with their Gods. All of this would ensure that their citizens and enemies alike would believe in Akkadian superiority. It’s not to anyone’s surprise that these sculptures were later destroyed by the future enemies of Sargon. The image shown above shows Sargon’s eyes gouged out and ears cut off. This was to show their enmity to Sargon by disrespecting his surviving sculptures. Only a disobedient slave would have his eyes gouged out and ears cut off.
The Akkadians relied heavily on agriculture and irrigation unlike other empires like the Mongols who largely made their wealth from conquests. They really depended on Sumer people. They would combine the sunlight with irrigation to produce some really amazing crops. However this wasn’t easy as it needed lots of organisation, administration, social co-operation.
Furthermore, with the money that was made from agriculture, Sargon would pay the wages of clerks, priests, administrators, businessmen and administrators. Sargon also began to use the same money to finance his very own army. This was never done before. Sargon had his very own palace guard that were incredibly talented at their jobs. Sargon’s military included donkey drawn cart armed with copper-tipped spears and wooden shields. The army also included archers, chariots and many soldiers who would do well against other countries that didn’t even have an official army.
Furthermore, the language of the Akkadians also became the official language which greatly helped the economy as many more people became citizens and benefitted the empire. The language which was previously commonly used was the language of the Sumerians. In the future, even future empires like the Neo-Assyrians would use the Akkadian language because many people spoke it and it would be counter-productive to stop using a popular language.
The Fall of The Akkadians
The last king of the Akkadians was a ruler called Shar-Kali-Sharri. As with every empire they show signs of decline a long time before they collapse and Shar-Kali-Sharri came to power in troubled times. The Akkadians were hit with drought and this was a disaster for their economy as most of their revenue came from agriculture. The drought was so bad that certain cities were abandoned completely. The hits that the Akkadians took gave confidence to other raiders (such as the Gutians) to come and invade the country. The Akkadians could barely afford to finance their army to stop these rebellions and therefore opted to raise taxes but this made other states rebel as well.
Eventually at 2193 BC, the Akkadian empire collapsed under all the pressure. The central government could no longer maintain their power. The capital city, Akkad, was abandoned and over time the entire city was literally buried and forgotten. Archaeologists have rediscovered the city and are working very hard to discover what secrets the lost city has.
Naram-Sin was one of the famous kings of the Akkadians and ruled the Akkadian empire when it was at its zenith. The most interesting thing Naram-Sin is famous for is his interactions with Abraham (as). For Muslims, Christians and Jews Naram-Sin was a figure that played a key part of the story of Abraham (as). Naram-Sin is known as Nimrood in the Abrahamic faiths.
Forgotten Peoples of The Ancient World – Philip Matyszak
You Might Also Be Interested In:
Subscribe to get access
Read more of this content when you subscribe today.