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Elamite Empire

The ancient Elamite Empire (تمدن عیلام in Persian) lay to the east of Sumer and Akkad, in what is now southwestern Iran. The Elamites called their country Haltamti (in later Elamite, Atamti), which the neighboring Akkadians borrowed as Elam (the regular proto-Akkadian sound change ha to e indicates this word was borrowed prehistorically). The high country of Elam was increasingly identified by its low-lying later capital, Susa, and geographers after Ptolemy called it Susiana. Though primarily centred in the province of Khuzestan for the duration of their empire, the Elamites had extended their civilisation into the province of Fars in prehistoric times. In fact, the modern provincial name Khuzestān is derived from the Old Persian root Hujiyā, which means "Elam."

The Elamite language is unrelated to the neighboring Semitic, Sumerian, and Indo-European languages. Some scholars believe the language is related to the living Dravidian languages of southern India (see Elamo-Dravidian languages). Several stages of the language are attested; the earliest date back to the third milennium BCE, the latest to the Achaemenid Empire.



Elamite history is conventionally divided into three periods. However, it must be noted that Elamite artifacts and remains from earlier times continue to be discovered in central and southeastern Iran (example). Some experts refer to this period as Proto-Elamite. The Old Elamite period begins with the oldest attested Elamite kings, approximately 2700 BCE. Elam, which Sumerian scribes simply designated NIM "Highlands", had not previously been unified ethnically or culturally. Elam fell under the political control of Akkad in the 22nd century BCE. The Awan Dynasty reasserted Elam's independence. Shulgi of Ur (c. 2094-c. 2047 BCE) conquered Elam for a time. About the middle of the 19th century BCE, power in Elam passed to the Eparti dynasty. Hammurabi of Babylon attacked Elam in 18th century BCE. King Kutir-Nahhunte I of Elam counterattacked and dealt a serious defeat to Hammurabi's son Samsu-Iluna.

The Middle Elamite Period begins about 1350s BCE, after a 200-year hiatus about which little is known. Around 1160 BCE, under King Shutruk-Nahhunte, Elam defeats the Kassites to establish the first Elamite empire, which proved to be short lived; King Nebuchadnezzar I of Babylon conquered Elam around 1120 BCE, bringing the empire to an end.

Around 750 BCE, Elam reasserted its independence, bringing about the cultural revival of the Late or Neo-Elamite Period. Elam was conquered by the Assyrians in 645 BCE, which marks the end of Elam as an independent state. The Medes conquered Elam from the Assyrians, and the Achaemenid dynasty, another Iranian dynasty who ruled the former Elamite land of Anshan, took Susa and conquered the Median Empire, to establish the first Persian Empire.

Traditional histories have ended Elamite history with its submergence in the Achaemenids, but Greek and Latin references to "Elymeans" attest to cultural survival, according to Daniel Potts (see Refs.). Additionally, the 10th century Arabian traveller Istakhrī commented that the people of Khuzestān spoke three languages, namely Persian, Arabic, and "Khuzī". According to Ibn Muqaffa, Khuzī was the language of the people of Khuzestan and also "the language that kings and dignitaries used in their intimate talks." Ibne Nadeem also wrote that Khuzī is the unofficial language of the royalty. It is unclear if this was descended from the Elamite language or is simply a local Persian dialect, or perhaps a mixture of both. It is still spoken in the province.

Elamite served as one of the official languages of the Persian Empire in ancient times, and Susa served as one of the four capitals of the empire. Susa also served as a capital of the Sassanid dynasty from 224 to 651 CE. The last use of Elamite script is the fourth century CE, and Elam is today known as the modern province of Khuzestan, where Iran's immense oil industry is based.

The Elamites are also mentioned by biblical historian Josephus. "For Elam left behind him the Elamites, the ancestors of the Persians" (Antiquites of the Jews 1:6). According to Jewish legend, Elam is the son of Shem and the grandson of Noah.

Some scholars have theorised that the Elamites were descended from an Alpine people who had migrated to the Iranian plateau during the prehistoric era, while others believe that it is not possible to ascertain their exact origins. Most scholars accept that the ancestors to the Elamites were not indigenous to the region and had arrived there from elsewhere, eventually merging certain Sumerian cultural characteristics (cuneiform script, for example) with their own native culture (retaining their religion and matrilineal system, for instance).

Chronology of rulers

Avan Dynasty (precise dates unknown)

  • Peli (fl. c. 2500 BC)
  • Tata (precise dates unknown)
  • Ukku-Takhesh (precise dates unknown)
  • Khishur (precise dates unknown)
  • Shushun-Tarana (precise dates unknown)
  • Napil-Khush (precise dates unknown)
  • Kikku-Sive-Temti (precise dates unknown)
  • Lukh-Ishshan (fl. c. 24th century BC)
  • Khelu (fl. c. 2300 BC)
  • Khita (fl. c. 2275 BC)
  • Kutik-Inshushinnak (fl. c. 2240 BC)

Simash Dynasty (precise dates unknown)

  • Gir-Namme (fl. c. 2030 BC)
  • Enpi-Luhhan (fl. c. 2010 BC)
  • Khutran-Temtt (precise dates unknown)
  • Kindattu (precise dates unknown)
  • Indattu-Inshushinnak I (precise dates unknown)
  • Tan-Rukhurater (precise dates unknown)
  • Indattu-Inshushinnak II (precise dates unknown)
  • Indattu-Napir (precise dates unknown)
  • Indattu-Tempt (precise dates unknown)

Eparti Dynasty (precise dates unknown)

  • Eparti I (precise dates unknown)
  • Eparti II (precise dates unknown)
  • Eparti III (fl. c. 1850 BC)
  • Shilkhakha (precise dates unknown)
  • Attakhushu (fl. c. 1830 BC)
  • Sirukdukh (fl. c. 1792 BC)
  • Shimut-Wartash (c. 1772 - c. 1770 BC)

Babylonian Dynasty (c. 1770 - c. 1500 BC)

Igehalkid Dynasty (c. 1350 - c. 1200 BC)

Shutrukid Dynasty (c. 1205 - c. 1100 BC)

Late Elam Dynasty (743 - 644 BCE)

See also

External links


Khačikjan, Margaret: The Elamite Language, Documenta Asiana IV, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche Istituto per gli Studi Micenei ed Egeo-Anatolici, 1998 ISBN 8887345015

Potts, Daniel T.: The archaeology of Elam: formation and transformation of an ancient Iranian state, Cambridge U., 1999 ISBN 0521564964 and ISBN 0521563585

Last updated: 10-15-2005 09:43:29
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