Sargon of Akkad
, "legitimate king", reigned c. 2270 – 2215 BC (short chronology
)) founded the Dynasty of Akkad
, and created the Akkadian Empire
after conquering all the Sumerian
Early in his career, he was as a prominent member of the royal court of Kish, ultimately overthrowing its king before embarking on the conquest of Mesopotamia. Sargon's vast empire is known to have extended from Elam to the Mediterranean sea, including Mesopotamia, parts of modern-day Iran and Syria, and possibly parts of Anatolia and the Arabian peninsula. He ruled from a new capital, Akkad (Agade), which the Sumerian king list claims he built (or possibly renovated), on the left bank of the Euphrates. Sargon is regarded as one of the first individuals in recorded history to create a multiethnic, centrally ruled empire, and his dynasty controlled Mesopotamia for around a century and a half.
Hammurabi (Akkadian, from Amorite ˤAmmurāpi, "the kinsman is a healer", reigned c. 1728 – 1686 BC (short chronology)) was the sixth king of Babylon. He became the first king of the Babylonian Empire, extending Babylon's control over Mesopotamia by winning a series of wars against neighboring kingdoms. Although his empire controlled all of Mesopotamia at the time of his death, his successors were unable to maintain his empire.
Hammurabi is known for the set of laws called Hammurabi's Code, one of the first written codes of law in recorded history. These laws were written on a basalt stele standing over six feet tall that was found in 1901. Owing to his reputation in modern times as an ancient law-giver, Hammurabi's portrait is in many government buildings throughout the world.
(reigned c. 1745 ñ 1717 BC (short chronology
)) rose to prominence when he carved out a large empire in northern Mesopotamia
, founding the Old Assyrian
Empire, although the Assyria was soon defeated by Hammurabi
and remained in the shadow of the Babylonian Empire
throughout the "old Assyrian" period.
Shamshi-Adad was a great organizer, keeping firm control on all matters of state, from high policy down to appointing officials and dispatching provisions. His campaigns were meticulously planned, and his army knew all the classic methods of siegecraft, such as encircling ramparts and battering rams. Spies and propaganda were often used to win over rival cities. However, his empire lacked cohesion and when news of his death spread, old rivals set out at once to topple his sons from the throne.
, "my trust is in the son of Eshara
", reigned c. 1115 – 1076 BC (short chronology
)) was the most notable Assyrian
ruler between the Old and Neo-Assyrian kingdoms. In the wake of the Bronze Age collapse
, he conquered all the lands in northern Mesopotamia. From his surviving inscriptions, he seems to have carefully cultivated a fear of himself in his subjects and enemies alike. Ultimately, his kingdom did not survive long after his death.
, "my trust is in the son of Eshara
", reigned 745 – 727 BC) is considered the founder of the Neo-Assyrian Empire
. He is considered to be one of the most successful military commanders in world history, conquering most of the world known to the ancient Assyrians
before his death. A former governor of Kalhu
, he seized the throne on 13 Iyyar
, 745 BC, in the midst of a civil war during which the royal family was killed.
Upon ascending the throne, Tiglath-Pileser instituted reforms to several sectors of the Assyrian state, which arguably revived Assyria's hegemony over the Near East. He curtailed the powers of the high officials, often by appointed eunuchs as governors to remove provincial dynastic threats, and reducing the size of provinces. He expanded the army by incorporating large numbers of conquered people in it, with native Assyrians comprising the cavalry and chariotry. This also allowed it to campaign year-round rather than seasonally, and he used it to conquer the entire middle east. Unlike previous Assyrian rulers, his heirs were able to maintain his empire.
, "legitimate king", reigned 722 – 705 BC)
Ashurbanipal (Akkadian, Aššur-bāni-apli, "Ashur created a son", reigned 669 – c. 631 BC) was the last great king of the Neo-Assyrian Empire. He established the first systematically organized library, known as the Library of Ashurbanipal.
Nabopolassar (Akkadian: Nabû-apal-usur, reigned 625 – 605 BC) was the founder of the Neo-Babylonian Empire. Along with the Medes, he rose in revolt against the Neo-Assyrian Empire, and together they captured its capital at Nineveh. Nabopolassar then went on to destroy the remaining remnants of the Assyrian empire, carving out a new empire in the process.
He also waged war against Egypt and started rebuilding Babylon. His son, crown prince Nebuchadrezzar II, defeated Egypt shortly before Nabopolassar died, and would then go on to make Babylon one of the wonders of the world.
, defend my firstborn son", reigned 605 – 562 BC) was the second king of the Neo-Babylonian Dynasty
and its greatest ruler. He was called "Nebuchadrezzar, the Great" in ancient times, but his destruction of temples in Jerusalem caused his vilification in the Bible.
He was a successful military leader before ascending the throne, defeating the Egyptians in the Battle of Carchemish. After his father Nabopolassar died and he became king, he defeated the Cimmerians and Scythians in Anatolia and continued campaigning in the Levant, including the capturing Jerusalem, destroying both city and temple and deporting a large portion of the population to Babylon. He then started a 13-year siege of Tyre, ending with Tyre's accepting Babylonian authority.
When he wasn't waging war, he continued he father's work of restoring Babylon, which had been devastated through years of Assyrian rule and more recent rebellions. He made Babylon one of the wonders of the world, with projects like the Ishtar Gate and the hanging gardens of Babylon.
Cyrus II, the Great
; reigned 559 – c. 530 BC), was the founder of the Persian Empire
under the Achaemenid dynasty
. The empire expanded under his rule, eventually conquering most of Southwest Asia
and much of Central Asia
, from Egypt
and the Hellespont
in the west to the Indus River
in the east, to create the largest state the world had yet seen.
During his twenty-nine year reign, Cyrus fought against some of the greatest states of his time, including the Median Empire, the Lydian Empire, and the Neo-Babylonian Empire. Cyrus did not venture into Egypt, as he himself died in battle, fighting the Massagetae along the Syr Darya in August 530 BC.
Beyond his nation, Cyrus left a lasting legacy on Jewish religion (through his Edict of Restoration), politics, and military strategy, as well as on both Eastern and Western civilization.
Darius I, the Great
, "upholder of good", reigned 522 – 486 BC) ascended the Achaemendi
throne amid controversy and bloodshed that claimed two sons of Cyrus the Great
, but managed to expand the Achaemenid Empire to its greatest extent, being stopped by the Greeks
at the Battle of Marathon
. He reformed the army and navy, as well as commerce and coinage, built roads throughout his empire, and a canal from the Nile river
. He also founded the city of Persepolis
, built a palace in Susa
, and commissioned the Behistun Inscription
, which would become the modern key for deciphering the cuneiform script
Artaxerxes III Ochus
, reigned 358 – 338 BC) was the eleventh king of the Achaemenid Dynasty
and the first Pharaoh
of the 31st dynasty
. Before ascending the throne he was a satrap
and commander of his father Artaxerxes II
's army. Artaxerxes III came to power after one of his brothers was executed, another committed suicide, the last brother was murdered and his father died at the age of 90. Soon after becoming king, Artaxerxes murdered all the royal family to secure his place on the throne.
After ascending the throne, he started two major campaigns against Egypt. The first campaign failed, and was followed by rebellions throughout the western empire. However, in 343 BC, he defeated Nectanebo II, the Pharaoh of Egypt, driving him from the country, and stopping a revolt in Phoenicia on the way. Later, he countered Philip II of Macedon who was gaining power in Greece.
In his later life, he renewed building activity at Persepolis, erecting a new palace and building his tomb. It is generally assumed he was poisoned by his minister Bagoas, but a cuneiform tablet (now in the British Museum) suggests he died of natural causes.
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