Ancient Mediterranean + Europe
By Dr. Senta German
Approximate extent of the Akkadian Empire under Sargon, c. 2334–2279 B.C.E. (underlying map © Google)
Competition between Akkad in the north and Ur in the south created two centralized regional powers at the end of the third millennium.
This centralization was military in nature and the art of this period generally became more martial. The Akkadian Empire was begun by Sargon, a man from a lowly family who rose to power and founded the royal city of Akkad (Akkad has not yet been located, though one theory puts it under modern Baghdad).
Head of an Akkadian ruler
This sculpture of an unidentified Akkadian ruler (some say it is Sargon, but no one knows) is one of the most beautiful and terrifying images in all of ancient Near Eastern art. The life-sized bronze head shows in sharp geometric clarity, locks of hair, curled lips, and a wrinkled brow. Perhaps more awesome than the powerful and somber face of this ruler is the violent attack that mutilated it in antiquity.
Head of an Akkadian ruler, 2250–2200 B.C.E., bronze (photo: M.E.L. Mallowan)
The kingdom of Akkad ends with internal strife and invasion by the
from the Zagros mountains to the northeast. The Gutians were ousted in turn and the city of Ur, south of Uruk, became dominant. King Ur-Nammu established the third dynasty of Ur, also referred to as the Ur III period.
Read a chapter in our textbook, Reframing Art History, about rethinking how we approach the art of the Ancient Near East.
Essay by Dr. Senta German
Want to join the conversation?
- Was the head of the Akkadian Ruler part of a bigger structure? Can we tell by the edges if it was placed on top a bronze body?(8 votes)
- The description of the image says "head of", and the bronze at the bottom of the beard looks like it was broken off.(0 votes)
- Where and what happened to the eye of the head of the akkadian ruler(3 votes)
- It's hard to tell from the image but there potentially could have been gems inserted into the eyes. It wasn't abnormal for competing city-states to desecrate and raze relics and art from those the conquered and subjugated. It's an act of defiance, hatred, and shames the image. It could also serve as a reminder to others who might oppose them.(3 votes)
- I was sad to read that this sculpture was looted during the Iraq war - anyone know if it was ever recovered?(2 votes)
- Yes, I believe it was recovered. Viz. http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/2003/05.22/01-antiquitie.html(3 votes)
- When they say, "Under modern day Baghdad" do they literally mean it is under the city of Baghdad?(2 votes)
- Yes. Like Mesopotamia is in modern day Iraq, they are saying, ok, it was where Baghdad is now.(2 votes)
- Why were there rulers and kings back then?(1 vote)
- Rulers and kings exist anywhere at any point in time for a few reasons:
- They gain enough power to conquer nearby lands and establish themselves as the ruler.
- They overthrow the king of an existing land and take their place.
- They inherit the throne from a parent or other royal relative.
-They are elected king by the people of the land.
There may be exceptions to this rule, but these are the major reasons I've noticed studying history.(3 votes)
- Who was Naram-Sin? I'm still confuse. I would like to know more history from the victory of Naram-Sin.(1 vote)
- Naram-Sin of Akkad was the grandson of Sargon. He reigned ca. 2254–2218 BCE. You can see his famous victory stele in the Louvre (http://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/victory-stele-naram-sin).(2 votes)
- Is ousted the correct word or is it misspelled? In the Ur passage.(1 vote)
- It is correct. To oust means to dislodge someone from a position (often of some authority). For example: The prime minister was ousted from Parliament after the bribery scandal became front page news.(2 votes)
- Did a narrow club make that hole?(1 vote)
- can you add more facts about the art and culture of akkadian?(1 vote)
- Hopefully you are interested by this fact.
Akkadian gradually replaced Sumerian as a spoken language somewhere around the turn of the 3rd and the 2nd millennium BC (the exact dating being a matter of debate), but Sumerian continued to be used as a sacred, ceremonial, literary and scientific language in Mesopotamia until the 1st century AD.
Also here are some resources