Shamshi-Adad I

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Shamshi-Adad I (fl. late 18th century BC (short chronology) was an ancient Near East king. 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 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 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 conquered Shekhna and renamed the city Shubat-Enlil. The modern name of the site is Tell Leilan. He then seized the fortress Ekallatum on the left bank of the Tigris. This was accomplished only on the second try: a first attempt failed, after which Shamshi-Adad fled to Babylon. Eventually he returned, and was successful. This conquest made it possible for him to control the city-state of Assur, which was a flourishing city that traded heavily with Anatolia. He put his first son, Ishme-Dagan I on the throne of Ekallatum and continued his expansion.

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,[1] 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 soon lost to Hammurabi of Babylon.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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. 


  • OBO (Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis) 160/4
  • Nelson, Glueck (1959). Rivers in the Desert. HUC. 
  • McNeil, William H.; Jean W. Sedlar (1962). The Ancient Near East. OUP. 
  • George, Andrew (2000). The Epic of Gillgamesh. Penguin. No14-044721-0. 
  • Pritchard, James B. (1968). The Ancient Near East. OUP. ISBN 0-691-03532-6. 
  • Al Khalifa, Shaika Haya Ali; Michael Rice (1986). Bahrain through the Ages. KPI. ISBN 0-7103-0112-X. 
  • Nayeem, Muhammed Abdul (1990). Prehistory and Protohistory of the Arabian Peninsula. Hyderabad. 
  • Roaf, Michael (1990). Cultural Atlas of Mesopotamia and the Ancient Near East. Equinox. ISBN 0-8160-2218-6. 
  • Awde, Nicholas; Putros Samano (1986). The Arabic Alphabet. Billing & Sons Ltd. ISBN 0-86356-035-0. 
  • Herm, Gerard (1975). The Phoenicians. William Morrow & Co. Inc. ISBN 0-688-02908-6. 
  • Pedersén, Olof (1998). Archives and Libraries in the Ancient Near East: 1500-300 B.C. Bethesda: CDL Press. 
  • Shiloh, Y. (1980). "The Population of Iron Age Palestine in the Light of a Sample Analysis of Urban Plans, Areas and Population Density". Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (239): 25–35. 

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