Akkadian Empire Government

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  • 0:04 What Was the Akkadian Empire?
  • 0:52 The King
  • 2:35 The Ensi
  • 3:28 Other Officials
  • 4:10 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Daniel McCollum

Dan has a Master's Degree in History and has taught undergraduate History

Under the great conqueror Sargon, the city of Akkad created the first great empire of the Middle East. This empire, and its government, would become the model for many of its successors throughout Antiquity. This lesson examines the empire's government.

What Was the Akkadian Empire?

The Akkadian Empire was one of the first empires in world history. It was founded by the great conqueror and statesman Sargon. Apparently, Sargon had been a gardener in charge of the canal system in the city of Akkad before he led a revolt and took power. From there, he used Akkad's power and wealth to become the overlord of the other city-states which had risen between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. At its height, the empire controlled all of Mesopotamia and was able to send armies as far as the Levant, Anatolia, and into modern day Iran. Because of its power, it became the basis for future empires in the region and its model of government became the basis for that of its successors.

The King

The Akkadian Empire was a monarchy, meaning that it was ruled by a king who inherited his position from a fellow family remember, usually a father or a brother. In the Akkadian language, the king was referred to as the lugal, which translates as 'great man.' At the time, the lugal was not seen simply as an earthly ruler, but was seen as divine and considered to be one of the gods. Because of this, the lugal had temples built to honor him. This added greatly to his prestige as he was viewed as a political and religious figure. It was also a great innovation. Prior to the Akkadian Empire, rulers were viewed as representatives of the people who dealt with the divine world. It was also considered normal if a great man or ruler ascended to the heavens as a god following his death. However, the belief that the current ruler was a living god was a significant change.

War and conquest were considered one of the lugal's primary responsibilities, an important duty to expand the empire and protect its people. The Akkadians were renowned for their military exploits and were even able to launch some of the first coordinated military campaigns in recorded history. The lugal was also responsible for administering the empire as well as making and enforcing laws. Although the lugal ruled directly in the city of Akkad, many of the other cities within the empire had more freedom and autonomy. They were ruled by a group called the ensi who acted as local governors that reported to the lugal. Often, these ensi were members of the lugal's own family, which he had appointed to help maintain order throughout the realm.

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