Naram-Sin of Akkad

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Portrait of Naram-Sin
Portrait of Naram-Sin
King of the Akkadian Empire
Reignc. 2254 – 2218 BC
DynastyDynasty of Akkad

Naram-Sin, also transcribed Narām-Sîn or Naram-Suen (Akkadian: 𒀭𒈾𒊏𒄠𒀭𒂗𒍪: DNa-ra-am DSîn, meaning "Beloved of the Moon God Sîn", the "𒀭" a determinative marking the name of a god), was a ruler of the Akkadian Empire, who reigned c. 2254–2218 BC (middle chronology), and was the third successor and grandson of King Sargon of Akkad. Under Naram-Sin the empire reached its maximum extent. He was the first Mesopotamian king known to have claimed divinity for himself, taking the title "God of Akkad", and the first to claim the title "King of the Four Quarters". He became the patron city god of Akkade as Enlil was in Nippur.[1] His enduring fame resulted in later rulers, Naram-Sin of Eshnunna and Naram-Sin of Assyria as well as Naram-Sin of Uruk, assuming the name.[2][3]


Victory stele of Naram Sin 9068

Naram-Sin was a son of Manishtushu. He was thus a nephew of King Rimush and grandson of Sargon and Tashlultum. Naram-Sin's aunt was the High Priestess En-hedu-ana. Most recensions of the Sumerian King List show him following Manishitshu but The Ur III version of the king list inverts the order of Rimush and Manishtushu.[4][5] To be fully correct, rather than Naram-Sin or Naram-Suen "in Old Akkadian, the name in question should rather be reconstructed as Naram-Suyin (more precisely, /narām-tsuyin/) or Naram-Suʾin (/narām-tsuʾin/)".[6]

Terracotta brick stamp of Naram-Sin (Naram-Suen). Ancient Orient Museum, Istanbul

Naram-Sin defeated Manium of Magan, and various northern hill tribes in the Zagros, Taurus, and Amanus Mountains, expanding his empire up to the Mediterranean Sea. His "Victory Stele" depicts his triumph over Satuni, chief of Lullubi in the Zagros Mountains. The Sumerian King List gives the length of his reign as 56 years, and at least 20 of his year-names are known, referring to military actions against various places such as Uruk and Subartu. One unknown year was recorded as "the Year when Naram-Sin was victorious against Simurrum in Kirasheniwe and took prisoner Baba the governor of Simurrum, and Dubul the ensi of Arame".[7][8] Other year names refer to his construction work on temples in Akkad, Nippur, and Zabala. He also built administrative centers at Nagar and Nineveh. In general it is not possible to assign an order to Naram-Sin's year name with the exception of his first "The year Naram-Sin received a weapon of heaven/An fr[om] the temple of the god Enlil". It is, however, possible to divide them into those before his deification and after that event (assumed to be shortly after the "Great Revolt") based on the presence of a godhood determinant in his name.

During his reign Namar-Sin increased direct royal control of its city-states. He maintained control over the various city-states by the simple expedient of appointing some of his many sons as key provincial governors, and his daughters as high priestesses. He also reformed the scribal system.[9][10]

A few loyal local governors remained in place. This included Meskigal, as governor of the city-state of Adab and Karsum governor of the unlocated Niqqum. Another was Lugal-ushumgal of Lagash. Several inscriptions of Lugal-ushumgal, who went on to serve the successor of Naram-Sin, Shar-Kali-Sharri, are known, particularly seal impressions, which refer to him as governor of Lagash and at the time a vassal (𒀵, arad, "servant" or "slave") of Naram-Sin.[11]

Naram-Sin, the mighty God of Agade, king of the four corners of the world, Lugalushumgal, the scribe, ensi of Lagash, is thy servant.

— Seal of Lugal-ushumgal as vassal of Naram-sin.

The Great Revolt[edit]

Bassetki Statue, 23rd century BC, from Bassetki, Iraq. Iraq Museum

The pivotal event of Naram-Sin's reign was a widespread revolt against the Akkadian Empire. The empire created by his grandfather, Sargon, first ruler of the Akkadian Empire stretched in the west to Syria in places like Tell Brak and Tell Leilan, to the east in Elam and associated polities in that region, to southern Anatolia in the north, and to the "lower sea" in the south encompassing all the traditional Sumerian powers like Uruk, Ur, and Lagash. All of these political entities had long histories as independent powers and would periodically re-assert their interests throughout the lifetime of the Akkadian Empire.[12]

The Bassetki statue inscription in old Akkadian cuneiform

At some point in his reign a widespread uprising occurred, a large coalition of city-states led by Iphur-Kis of Kish (Sumer) and Amar-Girid of Uruk, joined by Enlil-nizu of Nippur, and including the city-states of "Kutha, TiWA, Sippar, Kazallu, Kiritab, [Api]ak and GN" as well as "Amorite [hi]ghlanders". The rebellion was joined by the city of Borsippa, among others.[13][14] We know of these events from a number of Old Babylonian copies of earlier inscriptions as well as one contemporary record from the Old Akkadian period. The Bassetki Statue, discovered in 1974, was the base of a life-sized copper statue of Naram-Sin. It reads:

"Naram-Sin, the mighty, king of Agade, when the four quarters together revolted against him, through the love which the goddess Astar showed him, he was victorious in nine battles in one in 1 year, and the kings whom they (the rebels[?]) had raised (against him), he captured. In view of the fact that he protected the foundations of his city from danger, (the citizens of his city requested from Astar in Eanna, Enlil in Nippur, Dagan in Tuttul, Ninhursag in Kes, Ea in Eridu, Sin in Ur, Samas in Sippar, (and) Nergal in Kutha, that (Naram-Sin) be (made) the god of their city, and they built within Agade a temple (dedicated) to him. As for the one who removes this inscription, may the gods Samas, Astar, Nergal, the bailiff of the king, namely all those gods (mentioned above) tear out his foundations and destroy his progeny."[15]

In the aftermath, Naram-Sin deified himself as well as posthumously deifying Sargon and Manishtushi but not his Rimush.[16][17] The echoes of the revolt were reflected in later Sumerian literary compositions such as the Great Revolt against Naram-Sin, "Naram-Sin and the Enemy Hordes" and "Gula-AN and the Seventeen Kings against Naram-Sin".[18] [19][20]

Control of Elam[edit]

Naram-Sin campaigned from Elam in the east, to Ebla and Armanum in the west.

Elam came under the domination of Akkad in the time of Sargon though it remained restive. The 2nd ruler of Akkad, Rimush, campaigned there afterward adding "conqueror of Elam and Parahsum" to his royal titulary. The 3rd ruler, Manishtushu, conquered the city of Anshan in Elam and also the city of Pashime, installing imperial governors in those places.[21]

Naram-Sin added "commander of all the land of Elam, as far as Parahsum," to his royal titulary. During his rule, "military governors of the country of Elam" (shakkanakkus) with typically Akkadian names are known, such as Ili-ishmani or Epirmupi.[21][22][23][24] This suggests that these governors of Elam were officials of the Akkadian Empire.[21] Naram-Sin exercised great influence over Susa during his reign, building temples and establishing inscriptions in his name, and having the Akkadian language replace Elamite in official documents.[25]

Alliance Naram-Sin Awan Louvre Sb8833

An unknown Elamite king (sometimes speculated to be Khita) is recorded as having signed a peace treaty, in Old Elamite language written in an Old Akkadian ductus, with Naram-Sin (not deified in the text), stating: "The enemy of Naram-Sin is my enemy, the friend of Naram-Sin is my friend".[26][27][28][29] Old Elamite is poorly understood (all other texts being very short) as yet making interpretation of the text challenging. The text mentions about twenty gods, mostly Elamite but with a few Sumerian and Akkadian, including Inshushinak, Humban, Nahiti, Simut, and Pinikir. It has been suggested that the formal treaty allowed Naram-Sin to have peace on his eastern borders, so that he could deal more effectively with the threat from Gutium.[30][31]

Conquest of Armanum and Ebla[edit]

Naram-Sin mace head, c. 2254-2218 BC - Oriental Institute Museum, University of Chicago

The conquest of Armanum (location unknown but proposed as Tall Bazi) with its ruler Rid-Adad and Ebla (55 kilometers southwest of modern Aleppo) by Naram-Sin (Ebla was also defeated by his grandfather Sargon) is known from one of his year names "The year the king went on a campaign in Amarnum" and from an Old Babylonian copy of a statue inscription (IM 85461) found at Ur. There are also three objects, a marble lamp, a stone plaque, and a copper bowl, inscribed "Naram-Sin, the mighty, king of the four quarters, conqueror of Armanum and Ebla.".[32][33] In 2010 a new stele fragment (IM 221139) describing the campaign was found at Tulul al-Baqarat (thought to be the ancient city of Kesh.[6]

"Whereas, for all time since the creation of mankind, no king whosoever had destroyed Armanum and Ebla, the god Nergal, by means of (his) weapons opened the way for Naram-Sin, the mighty, and gave him Armanum and Ebla. Further, he gave to him the Amanus, the Cedar Mountain, and the Upper Sea. By means of the weapons of the god Dagan, who magnifies his kingship, Naram-Sin, the mighty, conquered Armanum and Ebla."

— Inscription of Naram-Sin. E[15]


Cylinder seal - Bin-kali-sharri BM

Among the known sons of Naram-Sin were his successor Shar-Kali-Sharri, Nabi-Ulmaš, who was governor of Tutub, and a Ukin-Ulmash. Excavations at Tell Mozan (ancient Urkesh) brought to light a sealing of Tar'am-Agade, a previously unknown daughter of Naram-Sin, who was possibly married to an unidentified endan (ruler) of Urkesh.[34] A recently found cylinder seal, looted from Urasagrig, shows that the governor there, Sharatigubishin, was also a son.[35] Other known children include Enmenana the "zirru priestess of the god Nanna, spouse of the god N[anna], entu priestess of the god Sin at Ur", Šumšani ēntum-priestess of Shamash at Sippar, a son who was governor at Marad, an unnamed daughter who was ēntum-priestesses at Nippur, Bin-kali-šarrē, Lipit-ilē (governor at Marad), Rigmuš-ālsu, Me-Ulmaš, and Ukēn-Ulmaš and a granddaughter Lipus-ia-um.[36][37] One daughter, Tuṭṭanabšum (Tudanapšum), held the position of high priestess of Enlil at Nippur, the most important religious position in the empire. She was also deified, the only female and only non-king to be made a god.[38][39]

Victory stele of Naram-Sin[edit]

Naram-Sin stele, inscription of Naram-Sin in the Akkadian language. The name Naram-Sin (𒀭𒈾𒊏𒄠𒀭𒂗𒍪) appears vertically in the upper right.

Naram-Sin's Victory Stele depicts him as a god-king (symbolized by his horned helmet) climbing a mountain above his soldiers, and his enemies, the defeated Lullubi led by their king Satuni. The stele was broken off at the top apparently when it was carried away from Sippar and carried off by the Elamite forces of Shutruk-Nakhunte in the 12th century BC along with a number of other monuments.[40] The stele seems to break from tradition by using successive diagonal tiers to communicate the story to viewers, however the more traditional horizontal frames are visible on smaller broken pieces.[41] It has been suggested that it contains the first depictions of battle standards and plate armor.[42] The stele is 200 centimeters tall and 105 centimeters wide and is made from pinkish limestone. For contrast see the Victory Stele of Rimush over Lagash or the Victory stele of Sargon.[43][44] The stele was found by Jacques de Morgan at Susa, and is now in the Louvre Museum (Sb 4).[45]

The inscription over the head of the king is in the Akkadian language and very fragmentary, but reads:

"[Nar]am-Sin, the mighty, <Lacuna> ..., Sidu[r-x] (and) the highlanders of Lullubum assembled together ... bat[tle]. For/to <Lacuna> the high[landers ...] <Lacuna> [heap]ed up [a burial mound over them], ... (and) dedicated (this object) [to the god ...] <Lacuna> [15]

Shutruk-Nahhunte added his own inscription to the stele, in Middle Elamite:

"I am Shutruk-Nahhunte, son of Hallutush-Inshushinak, beloved servant of the god Inshushinak, king of Anshan and Susa, who has enlarged the kingdom, who takes care of the lands of Elam, the lord of the land of Elam. When the god Inshusinak gave me the order, I defeated Sippar. I took the stele of Naram-Sin and carried it off, bringing it to the land of Elam. For Inshushinak, my god, I set it as an offering."[46]

Detail, stele of Naram-Sin from Pir Hüseyin, near Diyarbakır, Turkey. 2254-2215 BCE. Ancient Orient Museum, Istanbul

A similar stele fragment (ES 1027), 57 centimeters high by 42 centimeters wide by 20 deep, depicting Naram-Sin was found a few miles north-east of Diarbekr, at Pir Hüseyin in a well, though this was not its original context. It is said to have been first found Miyafarkin, a village about 75 kilometers northeast of Diarbekr.[47]

Fragments of an alabaster stele representing captives being led by Akkadian soldiers is sometimes attributed to Narim-Sin (or Rimush or Manishtushu) on stylistic grounds.[48] In particular, it is considered as more sophisticated graphically than the steles of Sargon of Akkad or those of Rimush or Manishitshu.[48] Two fragments (IM 55639 and IM 59205) are in the National Museum of Iraq, and one (MFA 66.89) is the Boston Museum.[48] The stele is quite fragmentary, but attempts at reconstitution have been made.[49][48] Depending on sources, the fragments were excavated in Wasit, al-Hay district, Wasit Governorate, or in Nasiriyah, both locations in Iraq.[50]

It is thought that the stele represents the result of the campaigns of Naram-Sin to Cilicia or Anatolia. This is suggested by the characteristics of the booty carried by the soldiers in the stele, especially the metal vessel carried by the main soldier, the design of which is unknown in Mesopotamia, but on the contrary well known in contemporary Anatolia.[48]

The Curse of Akkad[edit]

The Curse of Agade AO6890

One Mesopotamian myth, a historiographic poem entitled "The curse of Akkad: the Ekur avenged", explains how the empire created by Sargon of Akkad fell and the city of Akkad was destroyed. The myth was written hundreds of years after Naram-Sin's life and is the poet's attempt to explain how the Gutians succeeded in conquering Sumer. After an opening passage describing the glory of Akkad before its destruction, the poem tells of how Naram-Sin angered the chief god Enlil by plundering the Ekur (Enlil's temple in Nippur.) In his rage, Enlil summoned the Gutians down from the hills east of the Tigris, bringing plague, famine and death throughout Mesopotamia. Food prices became vastly inflated, with the poem stating that 1 lamb would buy only half a sila (about 425 ml or 14.4 US fl oz) of grain, half a sila of oil, or half a mina (about 250 g or 8.8 oz) of wool.[51] To prevent this destruction, eight of the gods (namely Inanna, Enki, Sin, Ninurta, Utu, Ishkur, Nusku, and Nidaba) decreed that the city of Akkad should be destroyed in order to spare the rest of Sumer and cursed it. The story ends with the poet writing of Akkad's fate, mirroring the words of the gods' curse earlier on:

Its chariot roads grew nothing but the 'wailing plant,
Moreover, on its canalboat towpaths and landings,
No human being walks because of the wild goats, vermin, snakes, and mountain scorpions,
The plains where grew the heart-soothing plants, grew nothing but the 'reed of tears,
Akkad, instead of its sweet-flowing water, there flowed bitter water,
Who said "I would dwell in that" found not a good dwelling place,
Who said "I would lie down in Akkad" found not a good sleeping place.

Excavations by Nabonidus circa 550 BC[edit]

Excavations of Nabonidus (circa 550 BC)
Extract describing the excavation
Cuneiform account of the excavation of a foundation deposit belonging to Naram-Sin (ruled c. 2200 BC), by king Nabonidus (ruled c. 550 BC).

A foundation deposit of Naram-Sin was discovered and analysed by king Nabonidus, circa 550 BC.[52] who Robert Silverberg thus characterises as the first archaeologist. Not only did he lead the first excavations which were to find the foundation deposits of the temples of Šamaš the sun god, the warrior goddess Anunitu (both located in Sippar), and the sanctuary that Naram-Sin built to the moon god, located in Harran, but he also had them restored to their former glory.[53] He was also the first to date an archaeological artefact in his attempt to date Naram-Sin's temple during his search for it. His estimate was inaccurate by about 1,500 years.[54]

In popular culture[edit]

King Naram-Sin is a character in the 2021 video game House of Ashes, with the main plot occurring in his personal temple.[55] In the game, he is the self-proclaimed "God King" of Akkad, and is engaged in a war with the Gutians after being cursed by the god Enlil; whom he angered after the sacking his temple. Naram-Sin was voiced and motion captured by Sami Karim.

In the 2021 mobile gacha game Blue Archive, Volume F, the innermost chamber of the large floating quantum supercomputer known as the "Ark of Atra-Hasis" (itself a reference to the Akkadian myth) is named "Throne of Naram-Sin".

Artifacts of Naram-Sin[edit]

See also[edit]


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Further reading[edit]

  • Al-Hussainy, Abbas Ali Abbas, "The civilized achievements of the Akkadian king Naram-Sin A Research in his Artistic Remains and The Date Formulas", ISIN Journal 3, 2022
  • Boissier, Alfred, "Inscription de Naram-Sin", Revue d’Assyriologie et d’archéologie Orientale, vol. 16, no. 3, pp. 157–64, 1919
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External links[edit]

Regnal titles
Preceded by King of Akkad
King of Kish, Uruk, Lagash, and Umma
Overlord of Elam

ca. 2254–2218 BC (short)
Succeeded by