Rise of Sargon
In the service of king Kish (who was later killed in the course of the conquests of Lugalzagesi) there was a petty courtier, by origin a commoner Akkadian. He was destined to become one of the greatest empire builders in the Ancient East. According to the later legend, he was a foundling: his mother let him in, a newborn, along the Euphrates in a reed basket, the baby was picked up and brought up at the Kish court. After the defeat of Kish by the troops of Lugalzagesi, this courtier led a part of the kish and took refuge in the small town of Akkad, which lies in the Kish region. Here he declared himself a king under the name Sharrum-ken (in Akkadian “True King”, in the traditional modern transmission – Sargon; 2316-2261 BC).
Sargon ruled, relying on everyone who was ready to serve him and was guided by the principle of unlimited command, like almost all such leaders. Ordinary inhabitants of Sumer flocked to him, seeing the prospect of rapid rise, which they were denied by the traditional aristocratic society. In the service of the new tsar, they hoped to enrich themselves, to advance and settle scores with the offenders, primarily with the old nobility.
Sargon created a massive, lightly armed “people’s” army, including mobile archers, which had great advantages over the small and clumsy heavy infantry of the Sumerian rulers, which consisted of their battle servants. The domineering elite of Sargon’s kingdom was built as a military-service pyramid under the sole unrestricted rule of the king. Relying on this massive army, Sargon made his conquests.
Conquests of Akkad
First, he conquered Upper Mesopotamia, and then offered Lugalzagesi an alliance, sealed by a dynastic marriage. Having received a refusal, Sargon swiftly defeated the army of Lugalzagesi, and he himself was executed and, according to legend, after 34 battles he conquered the whole of Sumer. Then he reached Asia Minor, Cyprus, Syria, Elam, and even more distant countries of southern Iran, where he fought against the kingdom of Varakhsha.
Sargon Empire (the so-called Akkadian state, by the name of the capital) with dependent possessions stretched from Lake Tuz and the Taurus Mountains in Asia Minor to Baluchistan. She maintained direct links with Southern Anatolia in the west and Melukha – the Indus Valley – in the east. In size, no one could surpass this state for another fifteen hundred years, before the creation of the Achaemenid empire. A large number of prisoners of war replenished the number of slaves and forced laborers in the state economy. Unlike Lugalzagesi, Sargon did not force other cities to recognize themselves as either the supreme overlord-hegemon or their local nominal ruler, but simply annexed the conquered lands, thus creating the first centralized state in the history of Mesopotamia.
The Sargon state, unlike all previous Mesopotamian states, was a centralized despotism. Temple farms became part of the state, and the latter was at the complete unlimited disposal of the king. Nomes were deprived of any traditional autonomies and turned into ordinary provinces, the old apparatus of power was preserved, but their rulers (titled only “Ensi” – the only lugal was now Sargon) turned in fact into officials completely responsible to the king.
Councils of elders and popular assemblies ceased to exist as organs of power, although Sargon consulted with his soldiers. The number of government workers who were provided with allotments was reduced, and those who worked for rations increased. This raised the rate of state exploitation. Sargon’s successors even bought (in a “voluntary-compulsory” manner) land from the communities at reduced prices, thereby expanding the state economy. The official language of the Sargon dynasty was not only Sumerian, but also Akkadian, which demonstrated the dynasty’s contempt for the principle of “noble tradition”.
The general population (apart from those in the military service class) benefited little from Sargon’s victory. Inter-ethnic wars and the exploitation of the nobility gave way to no less difficult long-distance campaigns and (for the first time) massive and large-scale tributary exploitation of the entire population (except for the service elite) by the huge military-bureaucratic state.
Troubles in Akkad
Already in the last years of Sargon’s reign, uprisings of the nobility, supported by the people, began (according to legend, Sargon was forced to hide from the rioters in a sewer). Sargon’s successor Rimush was killed by his own nobles (since it was probably impossible to carry weapons under the king, they beat him to death with heavy stone seals that they wore on their belts). Sargon’s successors suppressed uprisings in Sumer itself, carving out entire cities and executing thousands who surrendered, and in distant dependent countries, but they failed to achieve stability.
Rule of Naramsuen. “The arrival of the barbarians.”
Sargon’s grandson Naramsuen (2236-2200 BC) initially faced massive uprisings that engulfed the entire empire. Having suppressed them, he made new conquests, and then abandoned all the old, traditional titles (and thus the confirmation and approval of them by the priests) and called himself “the king of the four cardinal points” (ie, the whole world). Subsequently, Naram-suen simply proclaimed himself a god during his lifetime – more precisely, he organized a “popular expression”: the inhabitants of the capital at their gathering declared the king a god, and he “listened to them.” From now on he was called “God Naramsuen, god of Akkade” as the main state patron god of the empire. This could not but cause confrontation with the temples, especially with the temple of Enlil in Nippur.
The Umman Manda rallied around themselves the population of the Armenian Highlands and Zagros, in particular the Kuti and Lullubi mountaineers. Naramsuen, after several heavy defeats, nevertheless crushed the “barbarians”, and their union collapsed. However, the Kuti mountaineers (the northeastern neighbors of the Mesopotamians), who had previously managed to enter this union, resumed the war at their own peril and risk under the leadership of elected tribal leaders. They captured the central regions of Mesopotamia, Naramsuen was able to expel them, but soon died in a war with them. Subsequently, his death, as well as the collapse of the empire that happened soon, were seen as punishment of the gods for insane pride – a claim to divine status and for mistreatment of temples (in particular, his warriors plundered E-kur, Enlil’s temple in Nippur).
The collapse of Akkad and ethnic processes in Mesopotamia at the end of the 3rd millennium BC
Naramsuen’s successor Sharkalisharri re-established Akkadian rule in Upper Mesopotamia, but was eventually defeated by the Kutia. The Akkadian empire collapsed, and the tribal union of the Kutians established supreme power over the nomes of Lower Mesopotamia (c. 2175 BC).
The country was devastated: to the oppression of the local elites was added the oppression of the foreigners, the Kutians, to whom the local rulers of Sumer paid tribute. Only the rulers of Lagash, who relied on the Kutians, enjoyed the support of the Kutians and exercised supreme control over the other nomes on their behalf. By this, Lagash aroused such hatred in Lower Mesopotamia that, when liberated from the Kutians, he was brutally defeated, and the Lagash kings were deleted from the subsequently compiled list of Sumerian rulers.
Under him, a single temple economy of the god Nin-girsu was created and a grandiose temple of this god was built, for the sake of which a special tax was even established and a construction duty was introduced. Gudea traded with the Indus Basin regions and fought Elam.Of the Lagash kings of the Kutian time, we are best known for their inscriptions and statues of Gudea (2137-2117 BC).
During the Kutian period, great changes took place in Upper Mesopotamia, where after the collapse of the Akkadian state under the blow of the Kutians, a power vacuum was formed. In the middle – the 2nd half of the XXII century. BC. this vacuum was filled by the Hurrians who penetrated here from the north, and the Sutis who came from the south. Since then, they have made up the main population of Upper Mesopotamia. The Hurrians, in particular, assimilated the Subareansand inherited their name from Mesopotamian sources. In a similar way, the Essences (among which the tribal communities of the Sutievs, the Canaeans, and others stood out) assimilated the Eblaites (Northern Semites). The Mesopotamians transferred to the essence of the name, which had previously been applied to the northern Semites, – “Amurra” (in modern terminology – Amorites). Therefore, the essence of the Exodus of the III and subsequent millennia in science is usually called Amorites or Amorite Sutis.
III dynasty of Ur
The Kutian domination collapsed under the blows of a popular uprising, raised by the fisherman Utuhengal, in 2109 BC. The rebels also overthrew local rulers, restoring a centralized power called the “Kingdom of Sumer and Akkad”; the state language was only Sumerian. Uruk became the capital of Utuhengal. However, Utuhengal unexpectedly drowned while inspecting the canal, and was succeeded by one of his associates, Ur-Nammu, the governor of Ur, on whose territory the inspection was carried out. Upon accession to the throne, Ur-Nammu did not move to Uruk, but simply transferred the capital of the state to “his” Ur. His dynasty is known as the III dynasty of Ur.
Ur-Nammu (2106-2094 BC) and his son Shulgi (2093-2046 BC) created a socio-economic structure that had no analogues in the entire history of Mesopotamia. Almost all the land passed to the state and huge centralized farms were formed. Most of the population was converted into slave laborers (“gurushei”, literally “brave”, and “ngeme”, literally “slaves”), attached to these farms and working there for rations in brigades. Both prisoners of war slaves and hired workers worked in the state economy.
A significant part of this entire workforce lived in inhuman conditions even at that time – in special camps. They worked seven days a week, receiving 1.5 liters of barley per man and 0.75 liters per woman per day. A little vegetable oil and wool were given out. We worked all daylight hours. The mortality rate in such camps sometimes reached 25% per month. Skilled artisans, civil servants, soldiers received large rations, and officials – allotments.
A small part of the land was the private-communal sector, where there was massive ruin and debt enslavement (up to slavery) of the community members: rich neighbors, and especially officials, concentrated the land in their hands and dragged the community members into bondage. The kings of Ur tried to stop this process with half-hearted measures, but to no avail: it was the inevitable flip side of their own policy.
The rulers of Ur deified themselves and relied on a huge bureaucratic apparatus necessary to manage an unprecedented state economy. Ensies were now freely transferred from nome to nome. The scale of bureaucratization is evidenced by the fact that in less than a century of the existence of this power, the officials of the III dynasty of Ur provided us with no less documentation than the rest of the history of Mesopotamia. Such centralization of the economy was doomed to extreme inefficiency, in the capital sometimes there was a shortage of grain, while its huge reserves accumulated in a small town.
Shulgi created a new ideology, enshrined in the famous “Sumerian Tsarist List”, brought together under him. The king deliberately falsified the entire history of Sumer, presenting it as an invariably unified state ruled by a succession of successive dynasties, crowned by his own. The judges of Ur-Nammu and Shulga were called upon to centralize and state legal relations, as well as the introduction by the latter of a royal court with enormous powers.
Shulgi waged stubborn wars of conquest, primarily in the mountains in the east (apparently, due to the inertia of the struggle against the Kutiyas). Ur’s army was not very combat-ready, and Shulgi won victories mainly in words: many times in a row for several years they officially announced the complete defeat of such and such a mountain city, which continued to resist even after that. Even over those who recognized the power of Ur, it was not very strong, and it had to be reinforced with gifts, meetings “at the highest level”, dynastic marriages, etc.
The power of Ur included (with varying degrees of subordination) Upper and Lower Mesopotamia, Syria and part of Phenicia with Byblos, the Zagros mountains, Elam and even some areas lying east of the Zagros towards the Caspian Sea (here the so-called people of the Su became the subjects of Ur) … The supreme power over the kings and leaders in the East, especially the Hurrian and Elamite, had to be supported by new punitive campaigns and by marriages with representatives of local dynasties.
Fall of the III dynasty of Ur
The end of the III dynasty of Ur came suddenly. Suti-Amorites of the Syrian steppe, the Middle Euphrates and Upper Mesopotamia, and earlier sometimes came into conflict with the authorities of the state, around 2025 BC. moved to its central regions. Almost oblivious to their advance, the last king of Ur Ibbisuen tried endless campaigns to bring Elam to submission; the Amorites were hoped to restrain the fortifications, but to no avail. The administration collapsed, the workers of the state latifundia fled and divided the land into plots, the Amorites surrounded the cities, cutting them off from the outside world. In the south of Mesopotamia, famine began. Ibbisuen tried to save the capital from him by sending the Ishbi-Erru official to Isshin, where grain supplies were accumulated, so that he would take him to Ur. Ishbi-Erra, having taken control of Issin, judged that whoever had grain was a king, and declared himself king in Issin (2017 BC).
Chaos began: Ishbi-Erra, Ibisuen, the Elamites with their allied “su people” and, finally, the Amorites clashed with each other in the struggle for Lower Mesopotamia. Around 2000 BC it was all over: the Amorites settled up to the Persian Gulf, recognizing the nominal power of Ishbi-Erra, the Elamites and the “people of the su” captured Ibisuen and defeated the south of Mesopotamia with Ur so that a genre of lamentations about the death of the country appeared, but did not take root here.
Change in socio-economic relations
Ishbi-Erra united Lower Mesopotamia under his supreme rule and tried to continue the tradition of the III dynasty of Ur, retaining the concept of royal power and the name “Kingdom of Sumer and Akkad”. But a revolution took place in the social system: large, centralized farms that exploited forced labor of brigade disappeared forever. The sector of the royal and temple land remained large, but now it was divided into small plots, on which individual small families were sitting, bearing corresponding obligations to the state. From now on, in Mesopotamia, almost exclusively the owners or users of land were exploited, leading their economy on it.