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Sargon the Great
Category: Ancient Mesopotamia and Near East: Historical Figures
Sargon the Great (of Akkad) lived 2334-2279 B.C.E. and turned out to be the first great ruler, the first great military tactician and strategist, and is still amongst the greatest men ever born on this green Earth.
By the time Sargon was born, the cities of Sumeria had already sprouted quite a legacy of intercity warfare, and these tools of war have already been found in graves, such as copper axes and blades. The first chariot was used extensively, and the Sumerians would not leave out such a valuable design from their always expanding, always changing, military. Chariots, as early cavalry would later do when first implemented by Cyrus of Persia, were designed as shock troops, needed to punch holes into the enemy lines to allow infantry to merely dig through and isolate pockets and eliminate them. They were also used to harass enemy flanks, and sometimes outflank enemies, and most armies trembled at the site of a chariot force. As infantry the Sumerians used a heavy infantry phalanx, depicted on the Stele of Vultures, which commemorates the victory over Umma by Lagash in 2525 B.C.E. These were very similar to the later Macedonian phalanx, although the ordnance wasn't quite as
Sumerian imperialism first sprung out under Lugalzagesi, who brought most of Sumer under his thumb, with Erech as his capital. And the long legacy of Mesopotamian imperialism would only sprout there - it would never die.
According to legend, Sargon was left by his mother in a basket, floating on a river, and was found by a poor Summerian worker who trained the young boy to be the palace gardener. The king at the time, King Ur-Zababa of Kish, noticed the young man and appointed him his personal cup bearer, a position of high esteem, and it could be that Sargon now had direct access to the king and had his chance to display his genius. Shortly afterwards, Zaggisi, chief priest of the city of Umma, proclaimed himself king of all of Sumer. Zaggisi continued to harass Akadian power by raiding cities and villages, in an almost near constant war. Consequently, Sargon moved to defeat him, although he soon emerged as king of a poor city-state. Sargon quickly relocated his capital to Agade, 70 miles north of Kish, which distanced his capital from the threat of Zaggisi. He put himself to design a new army of mixed Akkadians, and other Sumerians, along the lines of conventional Sumerian warfare, and, instead of directly facing Zaggisi, he marched north and sacked Asshur, capital of Assyria, and then overran Gutium in a ferocious and speedy campaign of destruction. Following these seemingly easy conquests, the king marched back south and annexed Malgium. Following this conquest, Sargon organized a rapid advance into the heart of Zaggisi's Sumer and took Lagash for himself, leaving a garrison behind. Then, in a masterly planned campaign, he left Sumer, and, with the bulk of his army, overran lower Anatolia.
Following his conquests, Sargon felt he had the coffers and the manpower to defeat Zagissi, and soon enough invaded lower Sumer, hitting Erech in a suprise attack. Erech's defenders, apparently, ran and Sargon razed the city walls. Erech's army then faced Sargon, however, it was routed and mostly destroyed in pitched battle. Zagissi organized a relief force and marched south to meet Sargon in battle, and the ensuing conflict appeared to have been located near Erech. The following happenings are unclear, however, it seems that Zaggisi was defeated and his body sent to Uruk, and the walls of Uruks razed as well. Following this battle, Sargon continued his campaign north and captured the remaining cities of Zaggasi's Sumerian Empire. Sargon himself boasted of winning thirty-four battles.
After some years of peace, Sargon continued his wars and conflicted with Elam, and then launched a seperate attack on Syria and Lebanon, and, quite suprisingly, was the first to use amphibious warfare in recorded history. The key to Sargon's victories, however, always lied with his coordination in army movement, his ability to improvise tactics, his combined arms strategy, and his skill at siege warfare, as well as the keeping of intelligence, and always relying on heavy reconaissance. After Sargon's conquest of Sumer, the area enjoyed a relatively peaceful and prosperous era - perhaps their golden age. International trade flourished, merchants going from Sumer to the expanses of the east, and also to the vast resources of the west. Goods from Egypt, Anatolia, Iran and elsewhere flowed into Sargon's gargantuan kingdom. Sargon's legacy was one of trade and one of forming the standing army, which later rulers would use to spread their own havoc. When Sargon died, Rimush, his son, inherited the empire, however, he was plagued by constant uprisings - after he died his brother took the throne. He too was plagued by constant rebellion, and was later usurped by Naram-Sin. Naram-Sin quickly destroyed and dispersed the Sumerian rebels and also went on a vast campaign of conquest, taking his armies to Lebanon, Syria and Israel, and then to Egypt. However, after Naram-Sin, the dynasty went into decline, and soon fell altogether, left to the annals of history.
Few sources remain available to piece together a more complex history, and long battle narratives are impossible to record. It must be remembered that this was right after the Sumerian prehistoric age, and little survives - or what does is stored and not easily accessible - to record more accurately.
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Cavillier, Giacomo, Some Tactical Remarks on the Battle of Kadesh
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Gardiner, Alan, The Egyptians
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