Akkad was once the capital of a mighty empire that ruled all of Mesopotamia. We know it through literature and archaeological artifact, but the exact site of the city of Akkad is lost to history.
Sometime before the 3rd Millennium BCE, there was a city on the western bank of the Euphrates river, near where the Tigris bends closest to it, just to the north of ancient Sumeria. The people were Semitic, worshiping the early Semitic pantheon. Akkad was either founded or restored by king Sargon in 2334, but he undisputedly set Akkad on its path to regional dominance, claiming victory over the Sumerians and ruling what would have been one of the first multi-ethnic and multi-lingual empires in the world. At the height of their powers, the Akkadians ruled over the old Sumerian city-states, the Elamites, the proto-Assyrians, and regions in modern Syria, either directly or through a system of vassalage.
Archaeologists have determined that six kings and one interregnal period followed Sargon in the Akkadian Empire. Victory monuments to Sargon and the other kings (particularly Naram-Sim) were erected, although in some cases these were later transported to other cities as war prizes by later conquerors of the Akkadians.
Akkadinas practiced some of the earliest forms of urban organization, including the systematic use of labor for the state, official correspondence (Akkadians may have pioneered the use of envelopes by wrapping their cuneiform tablets in outer layers), and international trade in the form of “diplomatic gifts” of silver and lapis. They used cuneiform script, but with their own language, which eventually replaced Sumerian even in the old Sumerian territories, outlasting the empire by millennia. The oldest poetry of known authorship is Akkadian: A collection of hymns by the priestess and princess Enheduanna, daughter of the mighty Sargon.
The decline of Akkad as a power coincides with the period of climactic shift responsible for the decline of the Old Kingdom in Egypt and the Indus Valley civilizations. The climate of Mesopotamia became more arid, making agriculture difficult to support the immense city populations. Later peoples ascribe the Akkadian collapse to the sack of the sacred temple to Enlil in Nippur by king Nara-Sin, the gods having abandoned their impious followers.
Despite the chronology and contributions of Akkad having been preserved in the archaeological record, the exact site of the city has never been completely verified. It remains to be seen if traces of it can be extracted from the geographic palimpsest that is the land of the two rivers.
- Akkad's city-state symbol is based on a reconstructed version of a bronze head recovered from a 1931 excavation in Nineveh, most likely depicting either Sargon or his grandson Naram-Sin.
|Civilization VI City-states |
|1 Requires DLC|