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Episode 19 - Akkad 3 Sargon at war

Here is the meat of the Sargon Legend, his conquests. But he wasn't just conquering for the sake of conquest, his empire was formed from a vision which shows his very deep understanding of logistics, international trade, economies of scale. And all this, as we will see, is what makes his kingdom the world's first empire.

I put in a little promotion for the History of Persia podcast because it is pretty neat. I don't plan on advertising on this show unless I have enough audience to quit my day job, which is a long way away, but I do want to promote other shows you may be interested in. Anyway, click the link to check it out.

There is a whole lot of uncertainty in nearly every line of today's show. For me, the line between myth and history, especially in this early period, is super blurry, and I almost think it is a distinction that simply didn't exist in these times. And so I am perfectly content with treating this first as a story and only secondarily as an historical event with definite facts that need to be gotten right. But ultimately it is really, really hard to write about Sargon.

Something I was noticing with my research is that nearly every resource I can find has only a few paragraphs at most about Sargon, but the content and focus of those paragraphs varies quite widely, and if you simply take them all together and mash them up, you would get a much longer article, but on the other hand you would also have a fair few contradictions. And so I resolved that here by putting things in the best order I could manage, but know as you listen that while all of these individual events have someone proposing them somewhere, nearly all of them have someone else who disputes them, and there are even aspects of my own ordering that are a bit unsatisfactory. The most glaring issue is that I act like his domestic and trade policy happened at a certain time, when it almost certainly evolved gradually over his entire reign. But on the other hand, there are large parts of it, like industrialization and the ambition to control Mesopotamian trade, that almost seem like they had to have been implemented nearly on day 1 for any of the rest of it to make sense. It is a mess, so take from this story the general idea of Sargon, and accept that the details have worn away over four thousand years.

Anyway, you were promised maps, and definitely need them, so here are a few of them best off of google image search. Notice how none of them quite agree with each other, it is an absolute mess.

Also, I was going to include this when I talked about Mari, but forgot. The sculpture that has become the icon of the show is called the statue of Ebih-Il, and it depicts an upper level administrator in the city of Mari in the year 2340, so back around during the episodes on Lagash when Mari was beginning to rise as a regional power. I mostly just picked it because it looked good and was from about the right region, I origionally planned to change pictures every week, but that is too much work, so good old Ebih-Il is the official mascot of the Oldest Stories podcast now.

The man himself, random bureaucrat Ebih-Il