Ancient History & Civilisation



We have previously seen that in the Early Dynastic period Sumer exerted a considerable cultural influence outside its natural boundaries, particularly along the Euphrates from Kish to Mari and from Mari to Ebla, whereas the Tigris valley, for some unknown reason, seems to have been relatively neglected. However, there is nothing to suggest that the dissemination of Sumerian arts, writing and literature was achieved by armed forces. If the Sumerian rulers fought during four centuries, it was more to repel invaders from the East and to establish their supremacy over other city-states than to conquer foreign lands. However, towards the end of the twenty-fourth century B.C. the fulgurant campaign of Lugalzagesi heralded a policy of territorial expansion and domination which was almost immediately taken up by Semitic princes from central Iraq. Not only did Sargon and his successors subdue all the Sumerian city-states, but they conquered the entire Tigris–Euphrates basin as well as parts of the adjacent countries, embarked upon expeditions in the Persian Gulf and built the first great Mesopotamian kingdom. For the first time since the prehistoric Ubaid period the two halves of Mesopotamia, till then connected only by loose cultural ties, were bound together as one large domain extending from the Taurus to the ‘Lower Sea’, from the Zagros to the Mediterranean. To the people of those days this territory appeared immense; it encompassed ‘the Four Regions of the World’, it was ‘the Universe’. The Sargonic empire was to last for about two hundred years and to collapse under the combined pressure of the Zagros tribes and internal rebellion, but it had set an example never to be forgotten. To reconstruct the unity of Mesopotamia, to reach what we would call its natural limits became the dream of all subsequent monarchs, and from the middle of the third millennium until the fall of Babylon in 539 B.C. the history of ancient Iraq consists of their attempts, their successes and their failures to achieve this aim.

Who then were these Semites who made such a brilliant entry into history?

The Semites

The adjective ‘Semitic’ was coined in 1781 by a German scholar, Schlözer, to qualify a group of closely related languages, and subsequently the people who spoke these languages were called ‘Semites’. Both words come from Shem, son of Noah, father of Ashur, Aram and Heber (Genesis x. 21 – 31) and alleged ancestor of the Assyrians, Aramaeans and Hebrews. Among the Semitic languages Arabic is today the most widely spoken; then come Ethiopic and Hebrew, the latter recently revived in script. Others, like Akkadian (Babylonian and Assyrian) or the Canaanite dialects are dead, while Aramaic survives, much altered, in the liturgic tongue of some Oriental Churches (Syriac) and in the dialects spoken by small, isolated communities in the Lebanon and northern Iraq. All these languages have many points in common and form a large and coherent family. One of their main characteristics is that almost all the verbs, nouns and adjectives derive from roots usually composed of three consonants. The insertion of long or short vowels between these consonants gives precision and actuality to the concept expressed by the root in a general way. Thus in Arabic the radical ktb conveys the vague idea of ‘writing’, but ‘he wrote’ is kataba, ‘he writes’ yiktib, ‘writer’ kâtib, etc. Languages of this type are called inflected and contrast with languages, such as Sumerian, which are of the agglutinative type.

As long as they are used for linguistic purposes, the words ‘Semitic’ and ‘Semite’ are convenient and acceptable to everyone. But because the Semitic languages, before the great Islamic expansion, were spoken in a limited area, a number of authors have considered the Semites as a particular race, or rather – since the concept of a Semitic race is rejected by modern anthropologists – as an homogeneous community of persons sharing not only the same language but also the same psychology, laws and customs and the same religious beliefs. In other words, the Semites are taken to be one great single ‘people’. Is this view justified? The problem, of course, is of importance and must be examined.1

The area inhabited by the Semitic-speaking peoples in early historical times consists of the Arabian peninsula and its northern appendages: the Syrian desert, Syria-Palestine and part of Mesopotamia. It is a well-defined, compact region, limited on all sides by seas and high mountains. According to the classical theory, all Semites were originally nomadic tribes living in the central part of this area. At various intervals large groups of them left the Syro-Arabian desert to settle, peacefully or by force, in the peripheral districts, mostly Mesopotamia and Syria-Palestine. They were:

the Akkadians in Mesopotamia during the fourth millennium B.C.;

the Western Semites (Cananeo-Phoenicians, Eblaites and Amorites) in Mesopotamia and Syria-Palestine during the third and second millennia;

the Aramaeans all around the Fertile Crescent in the twelfth century B.C.;

the Nabateans and other Pre-Islamic Arabs from the second century B.C. to the sixth century A.D.;

and finally, the Moslem Arabs from the seventh century A.D.

This theory holds good – especially for the last ethno linguistic group – inasmuch as it describes in broad outline a certain sequence of events. In detail, however, it cannot be accepted without serious amendments.2 To consider the Syro-Arabian desert as the centre of diffusion of the Semites is out of the question. Only the Yemen, parts of Hadramaut and Oman, and a few oases in Arabia proper offer favourable living conditions, and it is extremely doubtful whether the great desert of central Arabia was inhabited at all between the Palaeolithic period – when it was not a desert but a savanna – and the first millennium B.C. Life in extensive desert areas presupposes long-range seasonal migrations in search of pastures, but only short-range migrations were possible before the widespread use of domestic camels in the Near East from the twelfth century B.C. onwards. Before that time the nomads, who rode on asses and practised sheep-rearing, were much more restricted in their movements than the bedouins of today and could not wander far beyond the limits of the grassy steppe which extends between the Tigris and the Euphrates and at the foot of the Zagros, the Taurus and the Lebanon. There they were in close and constant touch with the agricultural populations which bought their sheep and supplied them with grain, dates, tools, weapons and other utilitarian objects and amenities. The relationship between nomads and peasants could take various forms.3 In general the two groups met regularly in villages or on market-places outside the gates of the cities, and exchanged goods, together, no doubt, with a number of ideas. Then the nomads returned to the steppe, perhaps only a few kilometres away. Occasionally, individuals left the tribe to find work in towns as mercenaries, craftsmen or merchants. Sometimes a family, a clan, or a whole tribe would acquire (or be granted) land and devote itself partly to agriculture, partly to sheep-breeding. Not infrequently the local governments exercised some control over the nomads, using them in particular as auxiliary troops whenever required. But in times of political unrest the situation could be reversed: tribes or confederations of tribes waged war against the sedentary society, ransacked the towns and occupied a territory, large or small, where they eventually settled. The sedentarization of the nomads was therefore a slow, almost continuous process with occasional episodes of armed intrusion. It took the form not of an outward movement from the central desert to the fertile periphery, but of a series of short- or medium-range movements within the periphery itself, from the steppe to the irrigated land. Thus the Fertile Crescent and possibly parts of the outskirts of the Arabian peninsula appear as the true homeland of the Semitic-speaking peoples. They were there, as far as we can judge, from prehistoric times, but they reveal themselves to us at different periods, either becaus they adopt some sort of writing or because, at a given moment they become militarily active or politically influential and are mentioned in the written records of the civilized sedentary society.

Because most nomadic tribes in the ancient Near East spoke Semitic languages, it does not necessarily follow that all Semitic-speaking people were nomads. The failure to recognize this point has resulted in a great deal of confusion. The features attributed, rightly or wrongly, to the Semites in general – their ‘spirited, impatient, mercurial, and emotional type of mentality’,4 their ‘monotheistic anti-mythological and antiritualistic religious ideas’,5 their socio-political concepts revolving around the tribe – all this applies in fact only to the nomadic Semites and results, to a great extent, from their particular way of life. But if some of the Arabs, Aramaeans and Western Semites fall within this category, we have no proof whatsoever that the Akkadians in Mesopotamia – nor, for that matter, the Eblaites and Cananaeans in Syria-Palestine – were originally nomads. As to Mesopotamia, we do not – know when the Semites first entered the country, if indeed they entered at all. Attempts have been made to correlate one or the other of the great ethnic migrations of proto-historic times with a Semitic invasion, but the wide divergence of opinions among scholars on this subject is tantamount to a confession of ignorance. Semitic personal names and a few texts written in Semitic language appear during the Early Dynastic period,6 their geographical distribution suggesting that the Semites were in a minority among the Sumerians of the south, but were powerful and active, if not predominant, in the region of Kish. Judging from the Mari inscriptions and from later documents, it seems certain that they already formed the greater part of the population of northern Iraq. From the Sargonic period onwards the central part of Mesopotamia from Nippur up to perhaps Hit and Samarra, including the lower Diyala valley, was called ‘the country of Akkad’, this name being usually written with the Sumerian ideogram URI. We may therefore call the earliest Semites of Mesopotamia Akkadians. Their language, also called Akkadian, constitutes a particular branch of the Semitic family, and they wrote it with the cuneiform script invented by the Sumerians to express their own language – a delicate and awkward adaption, since the two languages are as unrelated to each other as, say, Chinese and Latin. While a number of Sumerian words passed into Akkadian, the Sumerians borrowed a fairly large amount of Akkadian words such as hazi, ‘axe’, shám, ‘price’, or súm, ‘garlic’. This is about all the sources available at present enable us to say. But it must be pointed out that not one single Sumerian text refers to the Akkadians as enemies, invaders or nomads.7 And although it is possible, albeit far from proven, that the social organization and political system of the Akkadians differed from those upon which the Sumerian city-state was founded, it appears clearly that the Akkadians practised agriculture, lived in villages and towns and shared the way of life, the religion and the culture of their Sumerian neighbours. So far as we know at the present time, the only obvious difference between the Akkadians and the Sumerians is a linguistic one; in all other respects these two ethnic groups are indistinguishable. The Akkadian domination in Sargonic times changed the course of history; it did not fundamentally alter the predominantly Sumerian character of the Mesopotamian civilization.

Sargon of Akkad

The reign of Sargon, the first Akkadian King, made such an impression on the Sumero-Akkadians that his personality was surrounded with a lasting halo of legend. A text written in Neo-Assyrian times (seventh century B.C.) describes his birth and early childhood in terms reminiscent of Moses, Krishna and other reat men:

My mother was a changeling (?), my father I knew not.

The brothers of my father loved the hills.

My city is Azupiranu, which is situated on the banks of the Euphrates.

My changeling mother conceived me, in secret she bore me.

She set me in a basket of rushes, with bitumen she sealed my lid.

She cast me into the river which rose not over me.

The river bore me up and carried me to Akki, the drawer of water.

Akki, the drawer of water, took me as his son and reared me.

Akki, the drawer of water, appointed me as his gardener.

While I was a gardener, Ishtar granted me her love,

And for four and… years I exercised kingship.8

This is, at best, strongly fictionalized history, though we learn from more reliable sources9 that the man who was to call himself Sharru-kîn, ‘the righteous (or legitimate) king’, was of humble origin. The cup-bearer of Ur-Zababa, King of Kish, he managed – we do not know how – to overthrow his master and marched against Uruk, where reigned Lugalzagesi, then overlord of Sumer. This king who had fifty ensis under his command, was defeated, captured, put ‘in a carcan’ and exposed at Enlil's gate in Nippur. Thereafter the usurper attacked Ur, Lagash and Umma; everywhere he was victorious and of every town he ‘tore down the walls’. To show that he had conquered Sumer in its totality and that he now held the key to the Gulf, at Eninkimar, the port of Lagash he made a symbolic gesture, a gesture which will later be repeated by other monarchs on other shores: he washed his weapon in the Lower Sea.

Sargon could have contented himself with the prestigious title ‘King of Kish’, but he had other ambitions. Somewhere on the Euphrates he founded a new capital, Agade – the only royal city of ancient Iraq whose location remains unknown10 – wherein he built a palace as well as temples for his tutelary goddess, Ishtar, and for Zababa, the warrior-god of Kish. The major innovation of the reign, however, was the ascendancy given to the Semites over the Sumerians. Akkadian governors were appointed in all the main city-states, and Akkadian became, as much as Sumerian, the language of official inscriptions. Yet it seems that the vanquished lugal and ensi remained in function and that only newly created offices and provinces were given to Akkadians. Moreover, the religious institutions of Sumer were respected. Sargon's daughter Enheduanna – a poetess who wrote a beautiful hymn to Inanna11 – was made a priestess of Nanna, the moon-god of Ur, and by calling himself ‘anointed priest of Anu’ and ‘great ensi of Enlil’ the King of Agade proved that he did not wish to break with ancient and respectable traditions.

Having consolidated his political and moral authority over Sumer and considerably enlarged his army, Sargon launched several military campaigns in at least two directions: across the Tigris towards Iran, and along the Euphrates towards Syria. To the east, he met with strong resistance: the troops of four rulers of south-western Persia led by the King of Awan. The enemies were eventually defeated, several cities were sacked, and the various governors, viceroys and kings of Elam, Warahshe and neighbouring districts became the vassals of Sargon. It was at that time that Susa was raised by Sargon's viceroy from the rank of a modest market-place to that of a capital city and that Akkadian was imposed as the official language of Elam. Whether he sponsored or merely accepted this transfer of power from the mountains of Awan to the Elamite plain, the King of Akkad could hardly have foreseen that a governor of Elam would contribute to the fall of his own dynasty, or that the name of Susa would, for centuries to come, be symbolic of Mesopotamian defeat and humiliation. The campaign to the north-west appears, perhaps wrongly, almost as an armed promenade: Sargon says that in Tutul (Hit) he ‘prostrated himself in prayer before Dagan’ (the grain-god worshipped all along the Middle Euphrates) and that ‘Dagan gave him the Upper Region: Mari, Iarmuti12 and Ebla as far as the Cedar Forest and the Silver Mountain’, the former standing for the Lebanon or the Amanus and the latter for the Taurus range. As these mountain names indicate, Sargon had secured a supply of wood and precious metal which could now be floated safely and freely down the Euphrates to Agade, but the victory over Mari and Ebla – both Semitic kingdoms like his own – had rid the King of Akkad of two dangerous rivals.

This is as far as the authentic sources – Sargon's own inscriptions – take us. None of them, however, alludes to northerly campaigns in the upper Tigris region, and it is probably to Sargon's grandon, Narâm-Sin, that must be attributed the magnificent bronze head found at Nineveh and likely to portray an Akkadian sovereign, as well as the introduction in future Assyria of the first tablets and inscriptions.13 But what are we to think of the several chronicles, omens and literary compositions of later date which give us a detailed and often poetic description of Sargon's campaigns and conquests? Where, for instance, does history end and legend begin in the text known as the ‘Epic of the King of the Battle’ which shows the King of Akkad advancing deep into the heart of Asia Minor to protect merchants from the exactions of the King of Burushanda?14 We can accept successful campaigns in Kurdistan and perhaps expeditions on the Gulf as far as Oman, but can we really believe that Sargon ‘crossed the Sea of the West’ and set foot in Cyprus and Crete, as an omen and a rather obscure geographical list would suggest? The figure of the first great Mesopotamian conqueror enflamed the ancient writers' imagination. For them, the king who had said:

Now, any king who wants to call himself my equal, Wherever I went, let him go!15

was perfectly capable of having conquered ‘the world’. Yet extreme scepticism is as undesirable as extreme credulity, for some of these stories, and notably the Anatolian expedition, must contain at least a grain of truth.

The glorious reign of Sargon lasted for no less than fifty-five years (c. 2334 – 2279 B.C.). ‘In his old age,’ says a late Babylonian chronicle,16 ‘all the lands revolted against him, and they besieged him in Agade.’ But the old lion still had teeth and claws: ‘he went forth to battle and defeated them; he knocked them over and destroyed their vast army’. Later on, we are told, ‘Subartu – i.e. (the nomadic tribes of) Upper Jazirah – in their might attacked, but they submitted to his arms, and Sargon settled their habitations, and he smote them grievously.’

The Akkadian Empire

The events which darkened the last years of Sargon announced the general revolt which broke out in Sumer and in Iran after his death. His son and successor, Rimush, repressed it with extreme vigour, but his authority was challenged even in his own palace: after only nine years of reign (2278 – 2270), during which he led a successful campaign in Elam, ‘his servants’, says a Babylonian omen,17 ‘killed him with their kunukku’, a word which usually designates both the cylinder-seal and the sealed ablet but which, in this context, probably has a different meaning. Rimush was replaced by Manishtusu, perhaps his win brother as his name ‘Who is with him?’ might suggest.

One of the main events in Manishtusu's reign (2269 – 2255) was an expedition across the Persian Gulf. It is described as follows:

Manishtusu, King of Kish, when he had subjugated Anshan and Shirikum (in S.W. Iran), he crossed the Lower Sea in ships. The kings of the cities on the other side of the sea, 32 of them assembled for battle. He defeated them and subjugated their cities; he overthrew their lords and seized the whole country as far as the silver mines. The mountains beyond the Lower Sea – their stones he took away, and he made his statue, and he presented it to Enlil.18

These ‘mountains beyond the sea’ were most probably those of Oman, rich in copper and hard stone. The goal of the expedition is clearly stated, and if we look at the situation in Mesopotamia at that time we understand the reasons behind it. The northern regions had probably been crossed by the armies of Sargon but not effectively occupied. The populations of Jazirah and northern Syria were free again, or rather, had returned under Eblaite rule. Farther north, a people which will later play an important part in the history of ancient Iraq, the Hurrians, occupied part of the great half-circle of the Taurus mountains from Urkish, near Nisibin, to Nawar, probably somewhere in Kurdistan, and perhaps as far south as the Upper Zab. Their eastern neighbours, the Lullubi, were entrenched in the Shehrizor plain, near Suleimaniyah. Below the Lullubi, around Hamadan in the central Zagros, were the savage Guti and farther south, the turbulent tribes around Elam. All these peoples were on anything but friendly terms with the Akkadians, and as they held all the passes leading from Anatolia, Armenia and Azerbaijan to Mesopotamia, the latter was cut off from her traditional supplies of copper, tin and silver. The ‘bronze routes’ were closed, and the Akkadians had only two alternatives: either to secure other sources of metal, such as Oman or south-eastern Persia, or to fight in the north.

Narâm-Sin (‘Beloved of Sin’), the son of Manishtusu, chose war and, at least for a while, was rewarded with success. To the title of ‘King of Agade’, he could proudly add those of ‘King of the Four Regions (of the World)’ (shar kibrat ‘arbaim) and ‘King of the Universe’ (shar kishshati). Furthermore, his name was preceded by the star, the ideogram for ‘god’, read in Sumerian dingir, in Akkadian ilu. Thus the king had become a god, like Lugalbanda and Gilgamesh. Megalomania? Perhaps, although the mighty Assyrian kings of the first millennium B.C. were never deified. But we must confess that the deification of a limited number of monarchs in ancient Mesopotamia is a strange practice not yet fully understood. It has been assumed that the divine title was taken only by those sovereigns who played the part of the male god in the Sacred Marriage ceremony. Others believe that posing as a god was the only way in which these early Mesopotamian empire-builders could secure absolute obedience from the various ensis of their kingdom. Both explanations, however, are highly conjectural.

Narâm-Sin was of the same stamp as his grandfather Sargon and like him became a hero of legend. His long reign (2254-2218) was almost entirely filled with military operations, and they all took place at the periphery of Mesopotamia. In the west he ‘slew Arman (Aleppo?) and Ebla with the weapon of the god Dagan’, partly destroying the palace of Mari on his way. And ‘he overpowered the Amanus, the Cedar Mountain’.19 In the north a campaign against the Hurrians is attested by a royal relief carved in the rock at Pir Hussain, near Diarbakr, and a royal city was built at Tell Brak, a key position in the heart of the Khabur basin, which controlled all the roads of Jazirah.20 In the extreme south Magan (Oman) probably revolted, for Narâm-Sin ‘marched against Magan and personally caught Mandannu, its king’. But the main campaign was directed against the powerful Lullubi. The Akkadian victory over them is commemorated by another rock sculpture at Darband-i-Gawr, near Sar-i-Pul (Iran) and by a masterpiece of Mesopotamian sculpture: the famous stele found at Susa and now the pride of the Louvre museum.21 There Narâm-Sin, armed with the bow and the horned tiara of the gods on his head, is shown climbing a steep mountain and treading upon the corpses of his enemies; his infantry, pictured on a smaller scale, follows him. The gods, who dwarfed the humans in Early Dynastic Sumerian sculpture, are now, significantly, reduced to discreet symbols: two stars in the sky.

Did the reign end in semi-disaster? A document known as ‘the Cuthean Legend of Narâm-Sin’ shows the King of Akkad ‘bewildered, confused, sunk in gloom, sorrowful, exhausted' from an overwhelming invasion;22 but, here again, the mixture of facts and fancy calls for extreme caution. There is no doubt, however, that Narâm-Sin was the last great monarch of the Akkadian dynasty. No sooner was he dead than the pressure at the frontiers of the empire became formidable. Throughout his reign Elam and Mesopotamia had lived on friendly terms: the king had bestowed his favours upon Susa, and the energetic governor of Elam, Puzur-Inshushinak, had subdued on his behalf the tribes of the southern Zagros. But under Narâm-Sin's successor, Shar-kali-sharri, Puzur-Inshushinak declared himself independent, abandoned the Akkadian language for his own tongue, Elamite, and dared take the supreme title ‘King of the Universe’. The King of Agade, whose name, ironically, meant ‘King of all Kings’, was powerless to intervene, so busy was he with the repression of revolts in Sumer and with wars against the Lullubi, the Guti and the nomads of Syria, the Amorites whom we shall soon meet again.

Shar-kali-sharri, like Rimush and Manishtusu, disappeared in a palace revolution (2193 B.C.), and the Akkadian empire collapsed as rapidly as it had been built up. The state of anarchy in the capital was such that the Sumerian King List simply says:

Who was king? Who was not king?

Was Igigi king?

Was Nanum king?

Was Imi king?

Was Elulu king?

Their tetrad was king, and reigned 3 years!

Several Sumerian cities became independent, following the example set by Uruk where a local dynasty (Uruk IV, five kings, thirty years) reigned from the last days of Narâm-Sin. From Elam Puzur-Inshushinak conducted a raid into Mesopotamia and reached the neighbourhood of Agade. In Kurdistan Annubanini, King of the Lullubi, carved his image on the rock with an inscription in Akkadian boasting of widespread conquests.23 Yet it was neither the Elamites nor the Lullubi, but the Guti who won the decisive battle, although we do not know how, where and when. Under the last puppet kings of Akkad they were already installed in Mesopotamia, and for about a century the Sumerians and Akkadians were to obey sovereigns who responded to such strange names as Inimagabesh or Jarlagab, but they did not feel responsible for the disaster. A long and moving Sumerian poem called ‘The Curse of Agade’ places the burden on Narâm-Sin who is accused of having destroyed Enlil's temple in Nippur – a sacrilege which could not pass unpunished.24

The rise and fall of the Akkadian empire offers a perfect preview of the rise and fall of all subsequent Mesopotamian empires: rapid expansion followed by ceaseless rebellions, palace revolutions, constant wars on the frontiers, and in the end, the coup de grâcegiven by the highlanders: Guti now, Elamites, Kassites, Medes or Persians tomorrow. A civilization based on agriculture and metal work in a country like Iraq required, to be viable, two conditions: perfect cooperation between the various ethnic and socio-political units within the country itself, and a friendly or at least a neutral attitude from its neighbours. Unfortunately, neither one nor the other ever lasted for any length of time. The narrow nationalism of the Sumerians, inherited from a distant past and founded on their attachment to the local gods, could not accommodate itself to obedience to a common ruler, always necessarily ‘foreign’. On the other hand, the treasures accumulated in the prosperous cities of the plain attracted the poor shepherds of the hills no less than those of the steppe, and they were bent upon pillage. It was not enough for the Mesopotamians to keep them at a respectful distance: they had to conquer them, to subdue them if they wished to keep open the vital arteries of their trade. In this endless guerrilla war on two fronts the kings of Akkad, as later the kings of Ur, Babylon and Assyria, used up their strength and, sooner or later, their empires collapsed.

The death of Shar-kali-sharri practically marks the end of the ‘Akkadian period’ as it is often called; but short as it was, this period exerted a deep and lasting influence on Mesopotamian history. The geographical horizon of Sumer was considerably enlarged. The Semitic language of the Akkadians found a wider audience, and the first two historical populations of Iraq were intimately blended for future destinies. The Sumero-Akkadian culture and its support, the cuneiform writing, were adopted not only by the people of northern Mesopotamia, but by the Hurrians, the Lullubi and the Elamites. Conversely, Mesopotamia was immensely enriched by the introduction of bronze, silver, wood and stone in large quantities, while numerous prisoners of war working as slaves provided cheap and abundant labour. Elam, Bahrain (Dilmun), Oman (? Magan) and the whole Gulf came under Mesopotamian influence, while Proto-Indian seals, vases and ornaments found in Iraq testify to commercial relations with the Indus valley (perhaps the Meluhha of our texts), where flourished the brilliant civilization of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro.25 In art the new tendencies were towards realism, and true portraits replaced the more or less conventional figures of Early Dynastic times. Politically, the period rings the knell of the small city-states and heralds the advent of large, centralized kingdoms. In the social and economic fields the Akkadian preference for private property and the constitution of large royal estates26 eroded the domain and power of the temples, at least in Sumer. Even the Sumerian reaction which succeeded the Akkadian interlude could not entirely revert to old-fashioned ideas and customs, and in many respects the kings of Ur followed the pattern laid down by Sargon and his dynasty.

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