Between 2800 and 2350 B.C., various settlements in southern Mesopotamia grew into larger city-states ruled by a central authority. The people who lived in these settlements, the Sumerians, built protective walls around their cities. To ensure a steady supply of water for themselves and their fields, they dug extensive canals leading from the branches of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
Because Mesopotamia was strategically located at the crossroads of many important trade routes, the Sumerians imported whatever building materials they needed. They traded their native dates, grains, and textiles for raw materials such as cedar for buildings and alabaster for statues. As the canals and trade routes became more important, Sumerian city-states began fighting each other for power. Some city-states formed alliances so they would be stronger, but others remained independent. Umma, in southern Mesopotamia, was one of the latter.
Around 2350 B.C., while the ruler of Umma, Lugalzaggesi, was conquering city-states in the south, a young man named Sargon proclaimed himself king of Akkad, a territory to the north. Sargon, whose name means "the king is just," was a powerful ruler who employed a work force of at least 5,400 men, many of them soldiers. After conquering northern Mesopotamia and even some areas "beyond the rivers," Sargon defeated Lugalzaggesi and annexed the south. Sargon's armies reached as far west as the Mediterranean Sea.
Sargon unified the city-states of southern and northern Mesopotamia into one territorial state, with Agade its capital. This was the world's first empire, with one center of g and trade. Sargon appointed local people as governors of the city-states he conquered, and he secured many far-reaching trade routes. The Akkadian language began to replace the Sumerian language as Akkadian culture spread throughout Mesopotamia.
Sargon ruled for 55 years, and his sons Rimush and Manishtushu succeeded him. Under Sargon's sons, several city-states gained their independence, and the Akkadian empire gradually became smaller. Around 2280 B.C., Naram-Sin, Manishtushu's son, inherited the kingship. A powerful ruler, he reunified the Akkadian Empire. As the territory under Naram-Sin's control continued to expand, he called himself "King of the Four Quarters" (that is, king of the world).
Although the Akkadian Empire that Sargon founded was short-lived (it lasted about 200 years), scholars continue to study the art and literature that Sargon and the Akkadians left behind. This legacy strongly influenced Mesopotamian art in succeeding generations.
The exact location of Agade is still not known.
Pam Dixon, an author and founder of the World Privacy Forum, became interested in the Akkadians as a result of her fascination with ancient cultures and their influence on the modern world.