views updated May 23 2018


AKKAD (Heb. אַכַּד), one of the capital cities of *Nimrod in Shinar (Sumer), according to the "table of nations" (Gen. 10:9–10). In the cuneiform sources, Akkad (Sumerian Agade or Aggide) refers to both a city and a country in northern Babylonia which first flourished as the seat of the "(Old) Akkadian" kings in the Sargonic period (c. 3380–3200 b.c.e.). The city's exact location is still unknown, but it must have been situated on the (ancient) Euphrates, upstream from Nippur and not far from Babylon. According to tradition, it was founded by Sargon, a Semite who began his career at the court of the city of Kish. He assumed a name characteristic of a usurper (Sargon literally: "the king is legitimate") and the title "king of Kish." In this he was followed by his sons Rimush and Manishtusu. His grandson Naram-Sin assumed new titles and dignities and seems to have brought the Akkadian Empire to new heights, but in so doing he overreached himself. By the end of his reign, the rapid decline of the empire had begun. Later Sumerian tradition attributed this to Naram-Sin's sins against the Temple of Enlil at Nippur, but modern scholarship tends to attribute it to the increasing inroads of the barbarian Gutians from the eastern highlands. Under Naram-Sin's son, Shar-kali-sharri, Akkadian rule was progressively restricted, as the more modest title of "King of Akkad" attests. The decline and fall of the dynasty left a deep impression on the country: Naram-Sin was turned into a stereotype of the unfortunate ruler in later literature, and the "end of Agade" became not only a fixed point for subsequent chronology but also a type-case for omens and prophecies.

While the destruction of the city of Akkad was complete, the name of the country survived into later periods. The geographical expression "[land of] Sumer and [land of] Akkad" came to designate the central axis of Sumero-Akkadian political hegemony; i.e., the areas lying respectively northwest and southeast of Nippur. The kings who held that religious and cultural capital therefore assumed the title "king of Sumer and Akkad." They tended to replace it, or from Hammurapi on even to supplement it, with the loftier title of "king of the four quarters [of the world]" when to these two central lands they added the rule of the western and eastern lands, Amurru and Elam (see *Sumerians). From Middle Babylonian times

on (1500–1000), the noun Akkad was used in the cuneiform sources as a virtual synonym for Babylonia.

The adjective "Akkadian" was used in various senses by the ancients: originally it designated the Semitic speakers and speech of Mesopotamia as distinguished from the Sumerian, then the older Semitic stratum as distinguished from the more recent Semitic arrivals of *Amorite speech, and finally Babylonian as distinguished from Assyrian. In modern terminology, *Akkadian is used as a collective term for all the East Semitic dialects of Mesopotamia.

Which of these meanings best applies to the "Akkad" of Genesis 10:10 can only be answered in the context of the entire Nimrod pericope (Gen. 10:8–12) and of the identification of Nimrod. Probably the figure of Nimrod combines features pertaining to several heroic kings of the Mesopotamian historic tradition, from Gilgamesh of Uruk to Tukulti-Ninurta i of Assur (see E.A. Speiser). However, the reference to Akkad as one of his first or capital cities points to the Old Akkadian period, and to its two principal monarchs, Sargon and Naram-Sin. Both were central figures of Mesopotamian historiography, and Naram-Sin in particular introduced the title of "mighty [man]" into the Mesopotamian titulary. Genesis 10:8 may reflect this innovation.


I.J. Gelb, Old Akkadian Writing and Grammar (19612); W.W. Hallo, Early Mesopotamian Royal Titles (1957); Speiser, in: Eretz Israel, 5 (1959), 34–36 (Eng. section); Finkelstein, in: Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 107 (1963), 461–72.

[William W. Hallo]


views updated May 14 2018

Akkad the capital city which gave its name to an ancient kingdom traditionally founded by Sargon in north central Mesopotamia. Its site is lost.
Akkadian the extinct language of Akkad, written in cuneiform, with two dialects, Assyrian and Babylonian, widely used from about 3500 bc. It is the oldest Semitic language for which records exist.