Samsī-Addu I

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The Inscriptions
Provenance and materials of the inscriptions
Index of geographic, ethnic and tribal names in the inscriptions of Samsī-Addu I


Šamšī-Adad (I), son of Ilā-kabkabī, [in the t]ime of Narām-Sîn, went [to the land Kardunia]š. In the eponymy of Ibnî-Adad, [Šamšī]-Adad (I) [came up] from the land Karduniaš, seized the city Ekallāte, (and) resided three years in the city Ekallāte. In the eponymy of Atamar-Ištar, Šamšī-Adad (I) came up from the city Ekallāte, removed Erišum (II), son of Narām-Sîn, from the throne, he seized the throne (for himself), (and) exercised kingship for thirty-three years.
Assyrian King List § 39

The entry [] that the Assyrian King List (AKL) dedicates to Samsī-Addu I (ca. 1808-1776 BC), son of Ilā-kabkabī, is the first [] in the list to have a multi-line, chronicle-style description that described the ways in which this ruler came to power, instead of the one-line entry used for the majority of the kings listed. Although the AKL is known to be a meticulous and elaborate composition from the court of Samsī-Addu, which had the express purpose of legitimizing his rule on the throne of Aššur (see the introductions to the editorial stages of the AKL here [] and here []), the inscriptions and sources of Samsī-Addu found in other regions (especially Mari) help us to contextualize both this particular passage in the AKL and Samsī-Addu's career more generally (Ziegler 2006-2008).

Samsī-Addu I (or Šamšī-Adad I, as he was called in Assyria) usurped the throne of Aššur, and for this he was denounced in the only surviving inscription [] of one of his successors, Puzur-Sîn (whose name does not appear in the AKL), who excoriated the foreign origins of Samsī-Addu I and his descendant Asīnum [] with the disdainful words "not of the flesh of [the city] Aššur" (la ší-ir [URU] ˹d˺a-šur). Samsī-Addu I did not confine his rule to the single city of Aššur, but built a vast supraregional power that united Upper Mesopotamia, or, as Samsī-Addu himself wrote in his own inscriptions, the "Land between Tigris and Euphrates." His policies (like those of Hammurabi of Babylonia and Hattusili I in Central Anatolia) laid the foundation for the system of great territorial states of the second millennium BC (Van De Mieroop 2004:106), and his influence in the royal inscriptions endured throughout the following centuries, until the fall of the Neo-Assyrian empire.

Samsī-Addu's actual birthplace remains unknown, but scholars have suggested several cities and regions. The three most common suggestions are: Terqa (Landsberger 1954:35 n. 26, recently dismissed on the basis of incorrect textual interpretations; see, Charpin 2004:148); Ekallātum and its environs (e.g., Van De Mieroop 2004:103); and the region of the Diyala and possibly the city of Akkad (Durand 1997), suggested on the basis of the chronical texts from Mari (Birot 1985). It was possibly there that Samsī-Addu's forefathers found their dwelling place, later growing to became rivals of Ešnunna (Charpin 2004, 375-6).

According to this last theory, Ešnunna's expansionist policy under Ipiq-Adad II and Narām-Sîn resulted in Samsī-Addu's expulsion from Akkad and his exile to Babylon ("Karduniaš" in the AKL). From there, he conquered (or re-conquered, cf. Liverani 1988:273, and Van De Mieroop 2004:103) the city of Ekallātum, which he made one of his most important political centers, and, three years later, the city of Aššur, where he deposed Erišum II, son of Narām-Sîn (either the same Narām-Sîn of Ešnunna or another Narām-Sîn, of Aššur; cf. the introduction [] to this ruler). Sometime after gaining the throne of Aššur, he conquered Šeḫna, capital of the land of Apum in the northern valley of the Ḫabur. He gave the new name of Šubat-Enlil to this city , and made it his residence. Then he started a series of campaigns against Mari for the control of the region around the Euphrates. Thirteen years later, Mari fell under the rule of Samsī-Addu (see, Texts nos. 4-5, 7 []), who could then call himself the "pacifier(?) of the land between Tigris and Euphrates" (see Texts nos. 1 []: 5 and 7 []: o 6 )

During the last years of his reign, Samsī-Addu shared the administration of his kingdom with his two sons, Išme-Dagān [] (1776-1737), who resided in Ekallātum and was entrusted with the region around the Tigris, and Yasmaḫ-Addu (1792-1773), who dwelt in Mari and ruled the area around the Euphrates, while the "Great King" (as Samsī-Addu is addressed in the letters sent to him) remained in Šubat-Enlil.

The inscriptions

The reign of Samsī-Addu I marked the point of transition in the composition of the inscriptions from their standardized (more or less from the time of Erišum I []) Old Assyrian style, to the introduction of a variety of Babylonian elements (see, e.g., text no. 1 []). Another new element was the introduction of ideological motifs that would be inherited and developed by future Assyrian rulers. As Charpin noted (2004, 376-378), these ideological motifs were conceived within a territorial environment that cannot yet be identified as Assyria, or māt Aššur, a concept that will become part of the regional ideological discourse only in the fourteenth century BC (probably under Aššur-uballiṭ []).

Scholars debate the role played by the city of Aššur during Samsī-Addu's reign. Some (e.g., Liverani 1988:273) consider the city to have had only secondary importance; others (Charpin 2004, 379) point out the weight of its religious significance, in partnership with Mari in the west. The region surrounding Aššur, over which Samsī-Addu gradually took control through a combination of military actions and diplomatic alliances, was predominantly Amorite (this region included Nineveh, or Ninet, Nugurru, Arrapha and Arbela, or Urbilum).

S. Yamada (1994:14) identifies three main aspects of Samsī-Addu I's ideological definition of kingship, according to his own inscriptions: (1) universal-imperial, strongly influenced by and ideally in continuity with the Akkadian tradition (Sargon of Akkad []); (2) tribal-nomadic, from the Amorite tradition; and (3) sedentary-local, which protected the local traditions of the cities that fell under his rule (Terqa, Nineveh, Aššur, Mari etc.).

The second aspect is especially apparent in the analysis of his editorial work on the Assyrian King List (see, the introduction [] to this text). The first and third aspects are evident from the titles and epithets used in his inscriptions: the universal-imperial in šar kiššatim "king of totality", šarrum dannum "strong king", šar Akkade "king of Akkad", and muštemki mātim birīt Idiqlat u Purattu "the one who pacifies(?) the land between Tigris and Euphrates"; and the city-centred aspect in epithets likeiššiak Aššur "vice-regent of Aššur," and narām Aššur, "beloved of Aššur," along with titles that celebrated the southern pantheon (šakin Enlil), and those that linked the king to other cities – šar Ekallātim, šakin Šubat-Enlil, ruba Mari.

Provenance and materials of the inscriptions

See also the distribution of the inscriptions with the ARMEP [] interactive map (use metadata: Ruler: Šamšī-Adad I)
The corpus of Samsī-Addu comprises a dozen inscriptions of certain attribution. Three texts come from Aššur: these are nine clay tablets inscribed with text no. 1 [] and eight with text no. 9 [], and twenty-one monumental inscriptions (on door sockets, bricks, and one small stone) with text no. 11 []. Nineveh has yielded a number of fragmentary stone cylinders (nineteen objects) inscribed with text no. 2 [] and one broken tablet inscribed on one face with text no. 3 [], and on the other with an inscription of Ikūnum (Ikūnum text no. 5 [http://]). Five texts come from Mari: four clay tablets – nos. 4-7 [] – and seal impressions (text no. 10 []) on tablets and envelopes (also from Acem Höyük). One further clay tablet (text no. 8 []) came from Terqa, while an eyestone was discovered at Khorsabad (text no. 12 []).

Furthermore, the corpus includes one fragmentary inscription of uncertain attribution engraved on a broken relief discovered at Mardin or at Sinjar, and twenty-three inscriptions ascribed to the ruler's period, including two inscriptions on one tablet and a seal from Mari (nos. 2001-2003 []), and a large number of seals of Samsī-Addu's "servants" (nos. 2004-2023 [], nine of which were found at Mari, three at Tell al-Rimah, two at Tell Leilan, and seven generally said to come from Assyria).

Index of geographic, ethnic and tribal names in the inscriptions of Samsī-Addu I

Name Description Modern name Ref.
Akkad City-District Text no. 2: i 12, 15; 6: 7
Arbail (Urbēl, Arbela) Land Erbil Text no. 1001: iii' 8
Arrapḫa City-District Kirkuk Text no. 1001: i' 6, ii' 10
Ashur City Qal'at Shirqat Text no. 1: 36, 57, 63, 71, 79
Ekallātum City-District Text no. 7: obv. 10
Euphrates (Purattu) River Euphrates Text no. 1: 8; 4 :6; 5: 9; 7: obv. 8
Great Sea Sea Mediteranean Sea Text no. 1: 85–86
Lebanon (land) Land Lebanon Text no. 1: 84
Lower Zab River Lower Zab Text no. 1001: ii' 14
Mari Land/City-District Tel Hariri Text no. 4: 5; 5: 8; 7: obv. 9
Nurrugu City-District 29 km NE of Latin Köprü, NE of Kirkuk Text no. 2: i 17
Qabra City-District 15-20 km NW of Altin Köprü (NABU 1990/86) Text no. 1001: iii' 2, 14.
Šubat-Enlil City-District Tell Leilan Text no. 7: obv. 11
Terqa City-District Tell Ashara Text no. 8: 9.
Tigris River Tigris Text no. 1: 7; 7: obv. 7
Tukriš City-District Text no. 1: 75
Upper Land Land Text no. 1: 76–77

Selected Bibliography

Birot, M., 'Les chroniques 'assyriens' de Mari,' MARI 4 (1985), pp. 219-242, esp. 222-3
Charpin, D. 'Mari und die Assyrer,' in: J.W. Meyer and W. Sommerfeld (ed.), 2000 v. Chr. - Politische, wirtschaftliche und Kulturelle Entwicklung im Zeichen einer Jahrtausendwend (CDOG 3), pp. 371-382.
Durand, J.-M., 'Les rituels de Mari, ' in: FM III (1997), pp. 19-78, esp. 28.
Finkelstein, J.J., 'The Genealogy oft he Hammurapi Dynasty,' JCS 20 (1966), pp. 95-118
Kupper, J.-R., Les nomades en Mésopotamie au temps des rois de Mari, Paris, 1957.
Landsberger, B., 'Assyrische Königsliste und "Dunkles Zeitalter",' JCS 8 (1954), pp. 31.45
Liverani, M., Antico Oriente, Roma, 1988.
Van De Mieroop, M., A History of the Ancient Near East, Malden, 2007.
Yamada, S., 'The Editorial History of the Assyrian King List,' ZA 84 (1994), pp. 11-37, esp. 26-7.
Ziegler, N., 'Šamšī-Adad I.,' Reallexikon der Assyriologie und Vorderasiatische Archäologie 11 (2006-2008), p. 632-635.

Nathan Morello

Nathan Morello, 'Samsī-Addu I', The Royal Inscriptions of Assyria online (RIAo) Project, The RIAo Project, a sub-project of MOCCI, 2021 []

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