Shamshi-Adad I

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Shamshi-Adad I (c. 1809 – 1776 BC) was an Amorite ancient Near East king of Assyria and other regions in upper Mesopotamia. He rose to prominence when he carved out an empire encompassing much of Mesopotamia, Syria and Asia Minor often referred to as the Kingdom of Upper Mesopotamia. After his death, the empire was soon defeated by Hammurabi of Babylon, coming briefly under the control of the First Babylonian Dynasty throughout this period. He was incorporated into the traditional king lists of Assyria and earlier archaeologists assumed he was indeed Assyrian.

Rise to power[edit]

His father Ila-kabkabu ruled a kingdom on the borders of Mari in northern Syria, and was an Amorite. Upon his father's death, the kingdom was inherited by another brother, leaving Shamshi-Adad to build his own from scratch.

He first reoccupied the long abandoned Akkadian Empire era town of Shekhna in north eastern Syria,[1] building it into his capital and renaming the city Shubat-Enlil. The modern name of the site is Tell Leilan.

He then attempted to seize the Assyrian fortress Ekallatum on the left bank of the Tigris late in the reign of the long ruling Assyrian king Naram-Suen (c. 1872–1818 BC). The attack on Assyria met with defeat, after which Shamshi-Adad fled southwards to the city state of Babylon, founded and ruled by fellow Amorites.

Eventually he returned during the reign of Erishum II (c. 1818–1809 BC), and successfully deposed the Assyrian king, ending the dynasty founded 1n 1975 BC by Puzur-Ashur I. This conquest made it possible for him to control Assyria, which was a flourishing kingdom that had long held profitable trading colonies in Anatolia. He put his first son, Ishme-Dagan I on the throne of Ekallatum, while declaring himself king of Assyria. Shamshi-Asad I attempted to legitimise his position on the Assyrian throne by claiming descent from Ushpia a 21st-century BC Assyrian ruler.

Campaign against Mari[edit]

The next target was the city Mari which controlled the caravan route between Anatolia and Mesopotamia. The king of Mari, Iakhdunlim, was assassinated by his own servants, possibly on Shamshi-Adad's orders. Shamshi-Adad seized the opportunity and occupied Mari. The heir to the throne, Zimri-Lim, was forced to flee to Aleppo, ancient Yamkhad. Shamshi-Adad put his second son, Yasmah-Adad on the throne in Mari, and then returned to Shubat-Enlil.


With the annexation of Mari, Shamshi-Adad was in control of a large empire,[2] controlling the whole of Upper Mesopotamia. On inscriptions Shamshi-Adad boasts of erecting triumphal stelae on the coast of the Mediterranean, but these probably represent short expeditions rather than any attempts at conquest. Shamshi-Adad also proclaimed himself as "king of all", the title used by Sargon of Akkad.

Naturally, Shamshi-Adad's rise to glory earned him the envy of neighbouring kings and tribes, and throughout his reign, he and his sons faced several threats to their control. While Ishme-Dagan probably was a competent ruler, his brother Yasmah-Adad appears to have been a man of weak character; something the disappointed father was not above mentioning: Are you a child, not a man, have you no beard on your chin, he writes, and in another letter While here your brother is victorious, down there you lie about among the women.

Shamshi-Adad was a great organizer and he kept a firm controls on all matters of state, from high policy down to the appointing of officials and the dispatching of 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.

Shamshi-Adad continued to strengthen his kingdom throughout his life, but upon his death, it soon began to crumble. The empire lacked cohesion and was in a vulnerable geographical position. When the news of Shamshi-Adad's death spread, his old rivals at once set out to topple his sons from the throne. Yasmah-Adad was soon expelled from Mari by Zimri-Lim, and the rest of the empire was eventually lost during the reigns of Ishme-Dagan and Mut-Ashkur to another Amorite ruler, Hammurabi of Babylon.

See also[edit]


  1. ^, Harvey Weiss et al., The genesis and collapse of Third Millennium north Mesopotamian Civilization, Science, vol. 291, pp. 995-1088, 1993
  2. ^ Some of the Mari letters addressed to Shamsi Adad by his son can be found in the Mari Letters section of Shaika Haya Ali Al Khalifa and Michael Rice, (1986). Bahrain through the Ages. KPI. ISBN 0-7103-0112-X. 


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Preceded by
Erishum II
King of Assyria
1813–1781 BC (mc)
Succeeded by
Ishme-Dagan I