Sargon of Akkad
Reigned from 2334 to 2279 BC
Legendary King of Mesopotamiaby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
Sargon of Akkad reigned from 2334 to 2279 BC, creating an empire that united all of Mesopotamia since the Tower of Babel. He was an Akkadian Semite from the line of Noah's son Shem, like the later Assyrians, Babylonians, and Hebrews. When he conquered the dominant Sumerians, he created the first great Semitic empire. Although Sargon began his life as an orphan adopted by a gardener and not in a royal family, he rose up in power and conquered all the great kings around him. Rebellions surfaced during his life and the life of his sons but did not tear the empire apart until the reign of his grandson. Soon after, the Akkadian empire fell.
There are many legends surrounding the birth and upbringing of Sargon, though they probably have varying degrees of truth. When the events from the legends are combined, we see that Sargon’s rise to emperor was a huge accomplishment. While the identity of his father is not clearly known, the legend states that his mother was a temple priestess. Giving birth to him in secret and setting him in a basket to float, she abandoned him to the Euphrates river. Akki, a gardener, rescued him from the river and raised him. After working as a gardener for Akki, Sargon rose to the position of cup-bearer to Ur-Zababa, the king of Kish.
One legend tells how Ur-Zababa rose to power, appointed Sargon as cup-bearer, and then attempted to murder him. An and Enlil, Sumerian gods, decided to oppose the reign of Ur-Zababa and to remove his wealth from him. Then, fearful because of a dream that the goddess Inanna would give Sargon his kingdom, Ur-Zababa attempted to murder him. When this attempt failed, Ur-Zababa sent Sargon with a note to Lugalzagesi, king of Uruk, containing instructions to kill Sargon. Here the legend stops-but history continues. Instead of being killed by Lugalzagesi, Sargon later made war against Lugalzagesi’s empire, and became emperor in his place.
Before Sargon became emperor, Sumer consisted of many city-state governments. Lugalzagesi, king of Uruk, marched through Sumer and conquered the city-states one by one, uniting all of Sumer under his authority. Sargon began his rise to power by attacking Lugalzagesi and his Sumerian empire. Sargon conquered him, stripping him of kingship and placing all of Sumer under his own command—establishing the first empire to cover all of Mesopotamia.
As the kingship of the united Sumer transferred to Sargon, the individual city-states took advantage of the ensuing confusion. They rebelled against Sargon, their new ruler, and forced him to support his claim as king through military might. After his defeat of Lugalzagesi he traveled throughout Sumer conquering one city-state after another. Not content with ruling the land of Sumer and Akkad, he expanded his empire as far as Lebanon and the Taurus mountains of Turkey.
He continued to encounter uprisings as city-nations rose up against his authority. Nearly three-thousand years later, the Babylonians will tell of the kings who rose against Sargon, and his rescue by Inanna, the moon goddess (known in the Bible as Ishtar). Later he boasts about his prowess: “In my old age of 55, all the lands revolted against me, and they besieged me in Agade ‘but the old lion still had teeth and claws’ I went forth to battle and defeated them: I knocked them over and destroyed their vast army. ‘Now, any king who wants to call himself my equal, Wherever I went, let him go’!”
According to the Sumerian king list and other records, Sargon reigned for fifty-six years, and then the kingship was passed to his son, Rimuc, who battled endless rebellions for nine years. The kingship then passed on to Sargon’s other son, and finally to his grandson, Naram-Suen. During his reign, the empire began to unravel as city-states broke away from the empire. Soon after, a barbaric tribe from the Zagros mountains to the east invaded and conquered the Akkadian empire.
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