Mesopotamia / Kings /

Also commonly used: Sargon of Akkad and Sargon the Great

Akkad of Sargon

Mask of Sargon.

King of ancient Mesopotamia, reigning ca. 2334-2279 BCE, 55 years. His byname was Sargon of Akkad, the kingdom he formed.

Sargon’s fame is a mixture of numerous occurrences in legends, his long-reigning period (about 56 years) as well as him forming the first Semitic dynasty in the region, and being the founder of Mesopotamian military traditions.

It appears clear that Sargon was one of the strongest leaders in the known world of this period for more than half a century.
The dating of his reign is highly uncertain, for Mesopotamia of this period variations between different scholars’ chronologies can be up to 100 years. The dating used here is among those placing Akkad furthest back in history.

Legend or fact?
From the legends about his life, we learn facts that could just as well be imagined as truth. The story of his life starts with him being found as a baby by a gardener as he came floating in a basket down the river — a story older but similar to the one the Old Testament tells about Moses.

As a youth, he got the position of cupbearer for the king of Kish, one of the countries of Sumer. By hazard he ended up as the ruler of large lands — king Lugalzagesi of Uruk was defeated and Sargon moved in and filled his void.

This made Sargon king over large lands, lands that Lugalzagesi had collected. Or rather, Sargon was the theoretical ruler, as he had to defeat every city that tried to break free from his rule. But Sargon succeeded, and the result was the kingdom of Akkad.

The main purpose of controlling cities and lands in Sargon’s days was helping trade and hence the living standards at the king’s courts. And under Sargon trade thrived, and we learn that his kingdom traded with the Indus Valley (today’s Pakistan), Oman, and islands in the Persian Gulf. Decorative products like lapis lazuli from today’s Afghanistan, cedarwood from Lebanon, and silver from the Taurus Mountains were also imported to Sargon’s kingdom.

Sargon is supposed to have built the city of Agade, which became his capital. Agade has never been located nor excavated, so this city could well belong to the fictional parts of the legends.

The last decade or so of Sargon’s reign was troubled with rebellions. While sources say that Sargon was punished by the gods, modern historical science relies more on a theory that the administration, as well as Sargon’s own ruling abilities, were not strong enough for a large kingdom like his.

But Sargon’s successors still proved to be able to bring the empire back together again, and Akkad survived for about 60 years more.

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