The Achaemenids were the ruling dynasty of Cyrus the Great and his family over the Persian empire, from 550-330 BC, when it was conquered by Alexander the Great. Cyrus’s empire included Libya, Ethiopia, Thrace, Macedonia, Afghanistan, and the Punjab and everything in between. Continue reading Archaeology Achaemenid Dynasty
Hunter-gatherers had roamed that part of the Middle East called the Fertile Crescent, and they had planted gardens. By 7000 BCE the crops they planted became a major source of food. They had begun farming, which required permanent settlement. Continue reading The Sumerians Civilization
A long period of darkness separates the Middle and Neo-Elamite periods. In 742 BC a certain Huban-nugash is mentioned as king in Elam. The land appears to have been divided into separate principalities, with the central power fairly weak. The next 100 years witnessed the constant attempts of the Elamites to interfere in Mesopotamian affairs, usually in alliance with Babylon, against the constant pressure of Neo-Assyrian expansion. At times they were successful with this policy, both militarily and diplomatically, but on the whole they were forced to give way to increasing Assyrian power. Local Elamite dynastic troubles were from time to time compounded by both Assyrian and Babylonian interference. Meanwhile, the Assyrian army whittled away at Elamite power and influence in Luristan. In time these internal and external pressures resulted in the near total collapse of any meaningful central authority in Elam. In a series of campaigns between 692 and 639 BC, in an effort to clean up a political and diplomatic mess that had become a chronic headache for the Assyrians, Ashurbanipal’s armies utterly destroyed Susa, pulling down buildings, looting, and sowing the land of Elam with salt.
HTML clipboardAfter two centuries for which sources reveal nothing, the Middle Elamite period opened with the rise to power of the Anzanite dynasty, whose homeland probably lay in the mountains northeast of Khuzestan. Political expansion under Khumbannumena (c. 1285-c. 1266 BC), the fourth king of this line, proceeded apace, and his successes were commemorated by his assumption of the title “Expander of the Empire.” He was succeeded by his son, Untash-Gal (Untash (d) Gal, or Untash-Huban), a contemporary of Shalmaneser I of Assyria (c. 1274-c. 1245 BC) and the founder of the city of Dur Untash (modern Chogha Zanbil). In the years immediately following Untash-Gal, Elam increasingly found itself in real or potential conflict with the rising power of Assyria. Tukulti-Ninurta I of Assyria (c. 1244-c. 1208 BC) campaigned in the mountains north of Elam. The Elamites under Kidin-Khutran, second king after Untash-Gal, countered with a successful and devastating raid on Babylonia. In the end, however, Assyrian power seems to have been too great. Tukulti-Ninurta managed to expand, for a brief time, Assyrian control well to the south in Mesopotamia, Kidin-Khutran faded into obscurity, and the Anzanite dynasty came to an end. After a short period of dynastic troubles, the second half of the Middle Elamite period opened with the reign of Shutruk-Nahhunte (c. 1160 BC). Two equally powerful and two rather less impressive kings followed this founder of a new dynasty, whose home was probably Susa, and in this period Elam became one of the great military powers of the Middle East. Tukulti-Ninurta died about 1208 BC, and Assyria fell into a period of internal weakness and dynastic conflict. Elam was quick to take advantage of this situation by campaigning extensively in the Diyala River area and into the very heart of Mesopotamia. Shutruk-Nahhunte captured Babylon and carried off to Susa the stela on which was inscribed the famous law code of Hammurabi. Shilkhak-In-Shushinak, brother and successor of Shutruk-Nahhunte’s eldest son, Kutir-Nahhunte, still anxious to take advantage of Assyrian weakness, campaigned as far north as the area of modern Kirkuk. In Babylonia, however, the 2nd dynasty of Isin led a native revolt against such control as the Elamites had been able to exercise there, and Elamite power in central Mesopotamia was eventually broken. The Elamite military empire began to shrink rapidly. Nebuchadrezzar I of Babylon (c. 1124-c. 1103 BC) attacked Elam and was just barely beaten off. A second Babylonian attack succeeded, however, and the whole of Elam was apparently overrun, ending the Middle Elamite period. It is noteworthy that during the Middle Elamite period the old system of succession to, and distribution of, power appears to have broken down. Increasingly, son succeeded father, and less is heard of divided authority within a federated system. This probably reflects an effort to increase the central authority at Susa in order to conduct effective military campaigns abroad and to hold Elamite foreign conquests. The old system of regionalism balanced with federalism must have suffered, and the fraternal, sectional strife that so weakened Elam in the Neo-Elamite period may have had its roots in the centrifugal developments of the 13th and 12th centuries.
The earliest kings in the Old Elamite period may date to approximately 2700 BC. Already conflict with Mesopotamia, in this case apparently with the city of Ur, was characteristic of Elamite history. These early rulers were succeeded by the Awan (Shustar) dynasty. The 11th king of this line entered into treaty relations with the great Naram-Sin of Akkad (c. 2254-c. 2218 BC). Yet there soon appeared a new ruling house, the Simash dynasty (Simash may have been in the mountains of southern Luristan). The outstanding event of this period was the virtual conquest of Elam by Shulgi of the 3rd dynasty of Ur (c. 2094-c. 2047 BC). Eventually the Elamites rose in rebellion and overthrew the 3rd Ur dynasty, an event long remembered in Mesopotamian dirges and omen texts. About the middle of the 19th century BC, power in Elam passed to a new dynasty, that of Eparti. The third king of this line, Shirukdukh, was active in various military coalitions against the rising power of Babylon, but Hammurabi (c. 1792-c. 1750 BC) was not to be denied, and Elam was crushed in 1764 BC. The Old Babylon kingdom, however, fell into rapid decline following the death of Hammurabi, and it was not long before the Elamites were able to gain revenge. Kutir-Nahhunte I attacked Samsuiluna (c. 1749-c. 1712 BC), Hammurabi’s son, and dealt so serious a defeat to the Babylonians that the event was remembered more than 1,000 years later in an inscription of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal. It may be assumed that with this stroke Elam once again gained independence. The end of the Eparti dynasty, which may have come in the late 16th century BC, is buried in silence.
1. (1.1-3.) I am Darius the Great King, King of Kings, King in Persia, King of countries, son of Hystaspes, grandson of Arsames, an Achaemenian.
2. (1.3-6.) Darius the King says: My father was Hystaspes; Hystaspes’ father was Arsames; Arsames’ father was Ariaramnes; Ariaramnes’ father was Teispes; Teispes’ father was Achaemenes. Continue reading Inscription of Darius the Great in Bistun