Akkadian Empire: Facts, Achievements & Fall

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  • 0:04 The Akkadian Empire
  • 0:48 Government
  • 1:46 Culture
  • 3:08 Technology & Economy
  • 4:22 The Fall
  • 5:22 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Roberts

I have taught at the middle grades level for ten years and earned my MA in reading education in 2009.

Located in present-day Iraq, the Akkadian Empire is credited as the first empire of Mesopotamia. This ancient civilization had a number of rulers who advanced the society through economic planning, expansion of trade, and military campaigns.

The Akkadian Empire

If you were to take a stroll back in time to the Akkadian Empire, you would be in a land of several firsts. As a matter of fact, not only is this considered one of the first empires in history, but it also became one of the first dynasties.

The dates for the Akkadian Empire are actually debatable as is the location of the empire's capital, Akkad. It's believed that this ancient empire began around 2350 BCE and ended around 2170 BCE. Sargon the Great became the first ruler of the empire after conquering the land from Lugal-Zage-Si. During his five decades of ruling, Sargon went on to take over much of the surrounding land, thus creating the Akkadian Empire.

Government

Sargon started a dynasty, or the idea that a ruler should pass his kingdom down to his sons. Sargon's sons, Rimush and Manishtushu, ruled briefly after their father's reign ended. They were both involved in wars in an effort to expand the empire's land, and both were assassinated, perhaps by someone in their inner political circle. Within the empire's roughly 180 years, the people would see several more rulers come and go, including Sargon's grandson, Naram-Sin, who came to identify himself as a god and believed that he ruled the entire known world. The rulers of the empire made their sons governors of the major cities and their daughters high priestesses in order to more effectively maintain control.

Basically, the Akkadian Empire established a centralized government by unifying its city-states, or individually governed cities, and organizing a tax system that allowed the government to pay for projects, such as the city's walls and irrigation waterways.

Culture

The art that was produced in the Akkadian Empire focused mostly on the rulers and the dynasty. Not much is known about the architecture of this time period. However, what may be called realism was the theme of much of the artwork. In this style, the subject was presented just as it was. Very few frills or imagination was needed for their art.

Due to the close relationship and intermingling of Akkadians and Sumerians, bilingualism developed. Think of California today and the Spanish and English immersion between English-speakers and Spanish-speakers. This was much the case in the Akkadian Empire. Components of their separate languages were borrowed and used across the board, although Akkadian eventually became the dominant language in the empire. Sumerian was still used during rituals and in scholarly communication, such as in science and in literature.

People of the Akkadian Empire worshipped several gods and goddesses who possessed human traits. Each god was associated with nature in some way and controlled the changing seasons. The main god was Sargon I, who governed the other gods. In addition, An, the sky-god; Utu, the sun-god; Enlil, the air-god; and Nanna, the moon-god, were all worshipped. People were even appointed to serve the gods by feeding and clothing them.

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