Mesopotamia: The Collapse of the Akkadian Empire

Episode 9: The Fall of Akkad and Gudea of Lagash

Ancient Mesopotamia: Life in the Cradle of Civilization

Dr Amanda H Podany

Film Review

In 2150 BC, the Akkadian Empire collapsed and broke into smaller kingdoms. Its fall is blamed on the sacking of the capitol Agade by hordes of Gutian nomads from the Zagros mountains to the west.

Some historians believe a severe drought affecting northern Mesopotamia around 2200-1900 BC triggered numerous empires to collapse, including the Old Kingdom in Egypt, the Harappan civilization in the Indus valley and numerous states in the Aegean Region and southern Levant.

With the collapse of the Akkadian empire, the Gutians established their own state in northern Mesopotamia.

Unlike Egypt, Mesopotamia consisted of separate city-states for much of its history, and life changed very little for its southern residents after the Akkadian empire broke up. Many southern city-states had retained their own kings under the oversight of the Akkadian king. Also the drought was less severe in the south, resulting in less disruption from crop failure.

Following the collapse, the Second Dynasty of Lagash came to power in the kingdom’s capitol city Girsu. Gudea, the founder of the Second Dynasty, reigned from 2144-2124 BC and is extremely well known to modern scholars. Calling himself “governor” rather than “king,” Gudea is renowned both for his humility and his commitment to looking after his subjects. He protected women and orphans, freed people from debt and allowed women to inherit property. He engaged in only one military campaign in his entire reign.

His kingdom is believed to have been extremely rich, based on the E-ninnu Temple he built to the warrior god Ningirsu in the capitol city. Black wood from the Indus Valley was used in its construction, as well as gold, bitumen and lapis lazuli from other Near East countries.

Gudea also commissioned buildings in Ur, Nipur and Uruk, which means they must have been part of his kingdom.

Many stone statues of Gudea persist to the present day. The metal statues of other kings were melted down after their dynasties left power.

The son of Gudea was overthrown by the Third Dynasty of Ur.

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