Student Reader

Akkadian king Sargon

OriginsSargon had no father, that is he was of low birth, in the legend and in history; his uncle dwelt in the "mountain," and Sargon's plebeian stock must have come into the alluvium from the "mountain of Amurru." Sargon probably was Ur-Ilbaba's cup-bearer in history as well as in tradition.

Legend of Sargon

Of all the texts which concern Sargon the one most commonly known as the "Legend of Sargon" is the most fanciful, and it is cast in a literary form which must be later than his own age. The king himself is represented as telling his own story and adjuring his successors to follow his example, and the text ends with an account of some strange incidents connected with animals from which omens might be drawn. Clearly such a text can hardly be used for historical purposes in its entirety. Even the names may have been invented; the city of Azupiranu, which the king calls "my city," may simply mean "Elephant-cub town," for it is nowhere mentioned outside this text, and Akki the cultivator, who brought Sargon up and made him a gardener, bears a name which may mean no more than "the poor man, he that is in want." When the text relates that Sargon's mother set him in a basket of rushes, sealed it with bitumen, and threw him in the river, critics are justified in declaring that here is a folk-story similar to that told about Krishna in India, about Moses by the Hebrews, about Perseus or Neleus and Pelias in Greece, about Romulus and Remus at Rome. When the dynastic lists state that Sargon was a cup-bearer of Ur-Ilbaba, then it is legitimate to compare the legend of Cyrus told by Nicolaus Damascenus, just as the story of Cyrus told by Herodotus may be derived from the Sargon legend. But in other details the text seems to record facts which accord with the historical truth. (Smith 1928, p 81-82)
Akkadian king SargonComments