Akkad (city)

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Map of the Near East showing the extent of the Akkadian Empire and the general area in which Akkad was located Empire akkad.svg
Map of the Near East showing the extent of the Akkadian Empire and the general area in which Akkad was located

Akkad ( /ˈækæd/ ; or Agade, cuneiform: 𒌵𒆠 URI KI ) was the name of a Mesopotamian city and its surrounding area. [1] Akkad was the capital of the Akkadian Empire, which was the dominant political force in Mesopotamia during a period of about 150 years in the last third of the 3rd millennium BC.

Cuneiform Old writing system used for many languages, including Akkadian and Hittite

Cuneiform or Sumero-Akkadian cuneiform, one of the earliest systems of writing, was invented by the Sumerians. It is distinguished by its wedge-shaped marks on clay tablets, made by means of a blunt reed for a stylus. The name cuneiform itself simply means "wedge shaped".

Akkadian Empire Historical state in Mesopotamia

The Akkadian Empire was the first ancient empire of Mesopotamia, centered in the city of Akkad and its surrounding region, which the Bible also called Akkad. 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 in the Arabian Peninsula.

Mesopotamia Historical region within the Tigris–Euphrates river system

Mesopotamia is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in the northern part of the Fertile Crescent, in modern days roughly corresponding to most of Iraq, Kuwait, the eastern parts of Syria, Southeastern Turkey, and regions along the Turkish–Syrian and Iran–Iraq borders.


Its location is unknown, although there are a number of candidate sites, mostly situated east of the Tigris, roughly between the modern cities of Samarra and Baghdad. [2]

Lost city human settlement that has become extensively or completely uninhabited

A lost city is a settlement that fell into terminal decline and became extensively or completely uninhabited, with the consequence that the site's former significance was no longer known to the wider world. The locations of many lost cities have been forgotten, but some have been rediscovered and studied extensively by scientists. Recently abandoned cities or cities whose location was never in question might be referred to as ruins or ghost towns. The search for such lost cities by European explorers and adventurers in Africa, the Americas, and Southeast Asia from the 15th century onwards eventually led to the development of archaeology.

Tigris river which flows from Turkey through Iraq and Syria

The Tigris is the eastern of the two great rivers that define Mesopotamia, the other being the Euphrates. The river flows south from the mountains of southeastern Turkey through Iraq and empties into the Persian Gulf.

Samarra City in Saladin Governorate, Iraq

Samarra is a city in Iraq. It stands on the east bank of the Tigris in the Saladin Governorate, 125 kilometers (78 mi) north of Baghdad. In 2003 the city had an estimated population of 348,700. Samarra was once in the "Sunni Triangle" of violence during the sectarian violence in Iraq (2006–07).

Textual sources

Before the decipherment of cuneiform in the 19th century, the city was known only from a single reference in Genesis 10:10 [3] where it is written אַכַּד ( 'Akkad), rendered in the KJV as Accad. The name is given in a list of cities of Nimrod in Sumer (Shinar).

Book of Genesis first book of the Hebrew Bible and the Old Testament

The Book of Genesis, the first book of the Hebrew Bible and the Old Testament, is Judaism's account of the creation of the world and the origins of the Jewish people.

Nimrod king of Shinar

Nimrod, a biblical figure described as a king in the land of Shinar (Mesopotamia), was, according to the Book of Genesis and Books of Chronicles, the son of Cush, the son of Ham, son of Noah. The Bible states that he was "a mighty hunter before the Lord [and] ... began to be mighty in the earth". Extra-biblical traditions associating him with the Tower of Babel led to his reputation as a king who was rebellious against God.

Shinar Biblical term for the general region of Mesopotamia

Shinar is the term used in the Hebrew Bible for the general region of Mesopotamia.

Sallaberger and Westenholz (1999) cite the number of 160 known mentions of the city in the extant cuneiform corpus, in sources ranging in date from the Old Akkadian period itself down to the Neo-Babylonian period. The name is spelled logographically as URIKI, or phonetically as a-ga-dèKI, variously transcribed into English as Akkad, Akkade or Agade. [4] The etymology of the name is unclear, but not of Akkadian (Semitic) origin. Various suggestions have proposed Sumerian, Hurrian or Lullubean etymologies. The non-Akkadian origin of the city's name suggests that the site may have already been occupied in pre-Sargonic times, as also suggested by the mentioning of the city in one pre-Sargonic year-name. [5]

A Sumerogram is the use of a Sumerian cuneiform character or group of characters as an ideogram or logogram rather than a syllabogram in the graphic representation of a language other than Sumerian, such as Akkadian or Hittite. Sumerograms are normally transliterated in majuscule letters, with dots separating the signs. In the same way, a written Akkadian word that is used ideographically to represent a language other than Akkadian is known as an Akkadogram.

Etymology Study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time

Etymology is the study of the history of words. By extension, the phrase "the etymology of [some word]" means the origin of the particular word. For place names, there is a specific term, toponymy.

Akkadian language extinct Semitic language

Akkadian is an extinct East Semitic language that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia from the third millennium BC until its gradual replacement by Akkadian-influenced Old Aramaic among Mesopotamians by the eighth century BC.

The Bassetki Statue, found in Dohuk Governorate, Iraqi Kurdistan, dated to the reign of Naram-Sin (c.2254-2218) with an inscription mentioning the construction of a temple in Akkad Bassetki statue.jpg
The Bassetki Statue, found in Dohuk Governorate, Iraqi Kurdistan, dated to the reign of Naram-Sin (c.2254–2218) with an inscription mentioning the construction of a temple in Akkad

The inscription on the Bassetki Statue records that the inhabitants of Akkad built a temple for Naram-Sin after he had crushed a revolt against his rule. [6]

Bassetki Statue statue from circa 2340-2200 BCE

The Bassetki Statue is a monument from the Akkadian period in Mesopotamia that was found in 1974 near the village of Bassetki in Duhok Governorate, northern Iraq. The statue was cast from pure copper, weighs 150 kilograms (330 lb) and shows a seated, nude human figure on a round pedestal. Only the lower part of the figure is preserved. The pedestal contains an inscription in Akkadian, indicating that the statue once stood in the doorway of a palace of the Akkadian ruler Naram-Sin. The statue was looted from the Iraq Museum during the 2003 invasion of Iraq but subsequently retrieved and returned to the museum.

Naram-Sin of Akkad King of Akkade

Naram-Sin also transcribed Narām-Sîn or Naram-Suen, was a ruler of the Akkadian Empire, who reigned c. 2254–2218 BC, and was the third successor and grandson of King Sargon of Akkad. Under Naram-Sin the empire reached its maximum strength. He was the first Mesopotamian king known to have claimed divinity for himself, taking the title "God of Akkad", and the first to claim the title "King of the Four Quarters, King of the Universe".

The main goddess of Akkad was Ishtar-Astarte (Inanna), who was called ‘Aštar-annunîtum or "Warlike Ishtar". [7] Her husband Ilaba was also revered in Akkad. Ishtar and Ilaba were later worshipped at Sippar in the Old Babylonian period, possibly because Akkad itself had been destroyed by that time. [4] The city was certainly in ruins by the mid-first millennium BC. [8]

Inanna ancient Mesopotamian goddess

Inanna is an ancient Mesopotamian goddess associated with love, beauty, sex, desire, fertility, war, justice, and political power. She was originally worshipped in Sumer and was later worshipped by the Akkadians, Babylonians, and Assyrians under the name Ishtar. She was known as the "Queen of Heaven" and was the patron goddess of the Eanna temple at the city of Uruk, which was her main cult center. She was associated with the planet Venus and her most prominent symbols included the lion and the eight-pointed star. Her husband was the god Dumuzid and her sukkal, or personal attendant, was the goddess Ninshubur.

Sippar archaeological site in Iraq

Sippar was an ancient Near Eastern Sumerian and later Babylonian city on the east bank of the Euphrates river. Its tell is located at the site of modern Tell Abu Habbah near Yusufiyah in Iraq's Baghdad Governorate, some 60 km north of Babylon and 30 km southwest of Baghdad. The city's ancient name, Sippar, could also refer to its sister city, Sippar-Amnanum ; a more specific designation for the city here referred to as Sippar was Sippar-Yahrurum.


Many older proposals put Akkad on the Euphrates, but more recent discussions conclude that a location on the Tigris is more likely. [9]

The identification of Akkad with Sippar ša Annunîtum (modern Tell ed-Der), along a canal opposite Sippar ša Šamaš (Sippar, modern Tell Abu Habba) was rejected by Unger (1928) based on a Neo-Babylonian text (6th century BC) that lists Sippar ša Annunîtum and Akkad as separate places. [10]

Harvey Weiss (1975) proposed Ishan Mizyad, a large site 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) northwest from Kish. [11] Excavations have shown that the remains at Ishan Mizyad date to the Ur III period and not to the Akkadian period. [4]

Discussion since the 1990s has focussed on sites along or east of the Tigris. Wall-Romana (1990) suggested a location near the confluence of the Diyala River with the Tigris, and more specifically Tell Muhammad in the south-eastern suburbs of Baghdad as the likeliest candidate for Akkad, although admitting that no remains datable to the Akkadian period had been found at the site. [12]

Sallaberger and Westenholz (1999) suggested a location close to the confluence of the ʿAdhaim river east of Samarra (at or near Dhuluiya). [2] Similarly, Reade (2002) suggested a site in this vicinity, by Qādisiyyah, based on a fragment of an Old Akkadian statue (now in the British Museum) found there. [13] This had been suggested much earlier by Lane. [14]

Based on an Old Babylonian period itinerary from Mari, Syria, Akkad would be on the Tigris just downstream of the current city of Baghdad. Mari documents also indicate that Akkad is sited at a river crossing. [15]

See also

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Victory Stele of Naram-Sin Old-Akkadian victory stele

The Victory Stele of Naram-Sin is a stele that dates to approximately 2254-2218 BC, in the time of the Akkadian Empire, and is now in the Louvre in Paris. The relief measures six feet in height and was carved in pink limestone. It depicts the King Naram-Sin of Akkad leading the Akkadian army to victory over the Lullubi, a mountain people from the Zagros Mountains. It shows a narrative of the King crossing the steep slopes into enemy territory; on the left are the ordered imperial forces keeping in rank while marching over the disordered defenders that lie broken and defeated. Naram-Sin in shown as by far the most important figure; he is shown towering over his enemy and troops and all eyes gaze up toward him. The weak and chaotic opposing forces are shown being thrown from atop the mountainside, impaled by spears, fleeing and begging Naram-Sin for mercy as well as being trampled underfoot by Naram-Sin himself. This is supposed to convey their uncivilized and barbaric nature making the conquest justified.

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King of Sumer and Akkad Royal title in Ancient Mesopotamia

King of Sumer and Akkad was a royal title in Ancient Mesopotamia combining the titles of "King of Akkad", the ruling title held by the monarchs of the Akkadian Empire with the title of "King of Sumer". The title simultaneously laid a claim on the legacy and glory of the ancient empire that had been founded by Sargon of Akkad and expressed a claim to rule the entirety of lower Mesopotamia. Despite both of the titles "King of Sumer" and "King of Akkad" having been used by the Akkadian kings, the title was not introduced in its combined form until the reign of the Neo-Sumerian king Ur-Nammu, who created it in an effort to unify the southern and northern parts of lower Mesopotamia under his rule. The older Akkadian kings themselves might have been against linking Sumer and Akkad in such a way.


  1. Foster (2013): "Akkad was originally the name of an area and city near the confluence of the Diyala and Tigris rivers in Mesopotamia (Adams 1965; Weiss 1997). The meaning of the word is unknown. After it became the seat of the Sargonic Dynasty around 2300 bce, Akkad as a territory expanded to mean northern Babylonia, from north of Nippur to Sippar. The city of the same name is first attested in the late Early Dynastic period, became an imperial capital in the Sargonic period, and was still occupied in the second millennium. By the mid‐first millennium the city's cults had been transferred elsewhere and the former capital was a famous ruin. In modern scholarship, the city is often distinguished from the region by calling it Agade. Its location has not been identified."
  2. 1 2 "Akkade may thus be one of the many large tells on the confluence of the Adheim River with the Tigris" (Sallaberger, and Westenholz 1999, p. 32.
  3. Genesis 10:10, King James Version (Oxford Standard, 1769)
  4. 1 2 3 Sallaberger & Westenholz 1999 , pp. 31–32
  5. Wall-Romana 1990 , pp. 205–206
  6. van de Mieroop 2007 , pp. 68–69
  7. Meador 2001 , p. 8
  8. Foster 2013 , p. 266
  9. Wall-Romana 1990 , p. 209
  10. Unger 1928 , p. 62
  11. Weiss 1975 , p. 451
  12. Wall-Romana 1990 , pp. 243–244
  13. Reade 2002 , p. 269
  14. Lane, W. H., Babylonian Problems, John Murray, London, 1923
  15. Andrew George, "Babylonian and Assyrian: a history of Akkadian", In: Postgate, J. N. (ed.), Languages of Iraq, Ancient and Modern, London: British School of Archaeology in Iraq, 2007, p. 35