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14.2.2 The Empire of Sargon the First

Upon the western edge of this country appeared nomadic tribes of Semitic- speaking peoples who traded, raided, and fought with the Sumerians for many generations. Then arose at last a great leader among these Semites, Sargon (2,750 B.C. [Ed. Note]), who united them, and not only conquered the Sumerians, but extended his rule from beyond the Persian Gulf on the east to the Mediterranean on the west. His own people were called the Akkadians and his empire is called the Sumerian Akkadian empire. It endured for over two hundred years.

But though the Semites conquered and gave a king to the Sumerian cities, it was the Sumerian civilization which prevailed over the simpler Semitic culture. The newcomers learnt the Sumerian writing (the “cuneiform” writing) and the Sumerian language; they set up no Semitic writing of their own. The Sumerian language became for these barbarians the language of knowledge and power, as Latin was the language of knowledge and power among the barbaric peoples of the Middle Ages in Europe. This Sumerian learning had a very great vitality. It was destined to survive through a long series of conquests and changes that now began in the valley of the two rivers.

Editor’s Note

The exact dates of the Sumerian/Babylonian chronology are still a matter of scientific debate. Current thinking places Sargon’s rule at 2,270 BC (timeline). See Chronology of the Ancient Near East for further explanation.

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