Ishme-Dagan I (Akkadian: Išme-Dagān I; fl. c. 1776 BCE — c. 1736
BCE) was a monarch of the Old Assyrian Empire. The much later Assyrian
King List (AKL) credits
Ishme-Dagan I with a reign of forty years,
however; it is now known from a limmu-list of eponyms unearthed at
Kanesh in 2003 that his reign in
Assur lasted eleven years. According
to the AKL,
Ishme-Dagan I was the son and successor of Shamshi-Adad I.
Also according to the AKL,
Ishme-Dagan I was succeeded by his son
1.2 Conquests of Shamshi-Adad I
1.2.1 Conquests of Shekhna, Ekallatum, and Assur
1.2.2 War against Eshnunna
1.2.3 Conquest of Mari
1.2.4 Campaign against Qabra and Nurugum
1.2.5 Campaign against the Ya’ilanum
1.3 Death of Shamshi-Adad I
1.4 Subservience to Babylon
2 See also
See also: Shamshi-Adad I, Ila-kabkabu, Ushpia, Apiashal, Yasmah-Adad,
A map of the
Ancient Near East
Ancient Near East showing the geopolitical situation
Old Assyrian Empire
Old Assyrian Empire (light brown) near contemporary great
powers such as:
Eshnunna (light blue),
Yamhad (dark blue),
First Dynasty of Babylon
First Dynasty of Babylon (yellow), and the Third Mariote
Kingdom (shortly before the conquest of the long-abandoned town of
Enlil c. 1808 BCE by the
Amorite conqueror Shamshi-Adad I.)
Shamshi-Adad I inherited the throne in
Ila-kabkabu (fl. c.
1836 BCE — c. 1833 BCE.)
Ila-kabkabu is mentioned as the father of
Shamshi-Adad I in the AKL; a similar name (not necessarily the same
figure) is listed in the preceding section of the AKL among the:
"Kings whose fathers are known."
Shamshi-Adad I did not inherit the Assyrian throne from his father,
but was instead a conqueror.
Ila-kabkabu was an
Amorite king not of
Ashur (in Assyria), instead;
Ila-kabkabu was king of
Terqa (in Syria)
during the same time as that of the King
Yahdun-Lim of Mari (also in
Syria, c. 1800 BCE — c. 1700 BCE.) According to the Mari Eponyms
Ila-kabkabu seized Shuprum (c. 1790 BCE), then Shamshi-Adad
"Entered his father's house.":163
Shamshi-Adad I succeeded
Ila-kabkabu as the king of Terqa, in the
Shamshi-Adad I was forced to flee to
Babylon (c. 1823
BCE) while Naram-Suen of
Eshnunna (fl. c. 1850 BCE — c. 1816 BCE)
Shamshi-Adad I remained in exile until the death
of Naram-Suen of Eshnunna. The AKL records that Shamshi-Adad I:
"Went away to
Babylonia in the time of Naram-Suen."
Shamshi-Adad I did not return until taking Ekallatum, pausing for some
time, and then overthrowing King
Erishum II of
Assur (fl. c. 1815 BCE
— c. 1809 BCE.)
Shamshi-Adad I conquered
Assur and emerged as the
Amorite king of
Assyria (c. 1808 BCE.) Shamshi-Adad I
attempted to legitimize his position on the Assyrian throne by
claiming descent from
Ushpia (a native Assyrian monarch who fl. c.
2050 BCE — c. 2030 BCE.) Although regarded as an
Amorite by later
Assyrian tradition, earlier archaeologists assumed that Shamshi-Adad I
had indeed been a native Assyrian.
Ushpia was the second last in the
section of the AKL:
"Kings who lived in tents."
Ushpia has not been confirmed by contemporary artifacts.
Ushpia is succeeded on the AKL by his son
Apiashal (fl. c. 2030 BCE
— c. 2027 BCE.)
Apiashal is listed within a section of the AKL
as the first of the ten:
"Kings whose fathers are known."
This section (which in contrast to the rest of the list) had been
written in reverse order—beginning with Aminu (fl. c. 2003 BCE —
c. 2000 BCE) and ending with Apiashal:
"Altogether ten kings who are ancestors."
This has often been interpreted as the list of ancestors of
Shamshi-Adad I. In keeping with this assumption, scholars have
inferred that the original form of the AKL had been written (among
other things) as an, "attempt to justify that
Shamshi-Adad I was a
legitimate ruler of the city-state Ashur and to obscure his
non-Assyrian antecedents by incorporating his ancestors into a native
Assyrian genealogy." However, this interpretation has not been
accepted universally. The
Cambridge Ancient History rejected this
interpretation and instead interpreted the section as being that of
the ancestors of
Sulili (fl. c. 2000 BCE.)
Shamshi-Adad I ruled from the capital city of the Old Assyrian Empire:
Shamshi-Adad I placed his oldest son (Ishme-Dagan I) on
the throne of Ekallatum.
Shamshi-Adad I placed his youngest son
(Yasmah-Adad) on the throne of Mari.
Ishme-Dagan I ruled the
south-eastern region in Upper Mesopotamia. Ishme-Dagan I's realm of
influence included the city-state of Assur.
A number of letters relating the familial relationships between
Shamshi-Adad I and his two sons have been excavated, and these letters
provide a glimpse into the tensions of this family of rulers.
Ishme-Dagan I appears to have been:
“A forceful soldier not afraid to risk his own skin.”
A quality which allowed
Shamshi-Adad I to rely on him
unhesitatingly. Shamshi-Adad I’s correspondence to his younger
son is not as generous, and
Ishme-Dagan I appears to have picked up
his father’s censure of his younger brother and contributed to it.
As one letter attests,
Ishme-Dagan I asks his brother:
“Why are you setting up a wail about this thing? That is not great
In one other letter;
Ishme-Dagan I bluntly commands
“Show some sense.”
Ishme-Dagan I tells his brother to stop writing their
father directly, and use him as an intermediary. The reasons behind
this move could be political, as a way for
Ishme-Dagan I to gain more
political standing with their father, or perhaps
Ishme-Dagan I was
sincere in his desire to help his brother appear more competent in
their father’s eyes.
Conquests of Shamshi-Adad I
Conquests of Shekhna, Ekallatum, and Assur
Shamshi-Adad I inherited the throne in
Terqa c. 1833 BCE. He was
forced to flee to
Babylon c. 1823 BCE. He remained in exile until c.
1815 BCE. He first conquered Ekallatum, and then
Erishum II (fl. c. 1815 BCE — c. 1808 BCE.)
Shamshi-Adad I took over the long-abandoned town of Shekhna (today
known as Tell Leilan), converted it into the capital city of the Old
Assyrian Empire, and then renamed it "Shubat-Enlil" (Akkadian)
"The residence of the god Enlil."
War against Eshnunna
Ishme-Dagan I’s main challenge was in keeping his enemies in check.
To Ishme-Dagan I's south was the King
Eshnunna (fl. c. 1800
BCE — c. 1779 BCE.) To Ishme-Dagan I's east were the warlike,
nomadic, pastoral peoples inhabiting the foothills of the Zagros
Eshnunna was to be Ishme-Dagan I's chief enemy, and
although records are sparse, there are some accounts of some political
conflicts involving Eshnunna. An instance of defeat occurs in a
year-name coined by the King
Eshnunna which commemorates a
victory over an army led by Ishme-Dagan I.
Eshnunna made an alliance with
Shamshi-Adad I to
conquer the area between the two Zab rivers (c. 1781 BCE.) This
military campaign of joint forces was commemorated on a victory stele
which states that
Dadusha gave the lands to Shamshi-Adad I.
Shamshi-Adad I later turned against
Dadusha by attacking cities
Shaduppum and Nerebtum. On inscriptions Shamshi-Adad I
boasts of erecting triumphal stelae on the coast of the Mediterranean
Sea, but these probably represent short expeditions rather than any
attempts at conquest. His campaigns were meticulously planned, and his
army knew all the classic methods of siegecraft, such as: encircling
ramparts and battering rams.
Conquest of Mari
During Ishme-Dagan I's reign, the
Old Assyrian Empire
Old Assyrian Empire competed for
Lower Mesopotamia against
Yahdun-Lim of Mari, King
Eshnunna and his successors. A main target for expansion
was the city of Mari, which controlled the caravan route between
Anatolia and Mesopotamia. King
Yahdun-Lim of Mari (fl. c. 1800 BCE —
c. 1700 BCE) was assassinated by his own servants (possibly on
Shamshi-Adad I's orders.) The heir to the throne of Mari (Zimri-Lim)
was forced to flee to Yamhad.
Shamshi-Adad I seized the opportunity
and occupied Mari c. 1795 BCE.
He placed his sons (
Ishme-Dagan I and Yasmah-Adad) in key geographical
locations and gave them responsibility to look over those areas.
Shamshi-Adad I put his eldest son (Ishme-Dagan I) on the throne of
Shamshi-Adad I remained in Shubat-Enlil. Shamshi-Adad
I put his second son, (Yasmah-Adad) on the throne in Mari. With the
annexation of Mari,
Shamshi-Adad I had carved out a large empire
encompassing much of Syria, Anatolia, and the whole of Upper
Shamshi-Adad I proclaimed himself as "King of All" (the
title had been used by Sargon of the
Akkadian Empire c. 2334 BCE —
c. 2279 BCE.)
Campaign against Qabra and Nurugum
Shamshi-Adad I, along with Ishme-Dagan I, embarked on a new campaign
against both Qabra and Nurugum. During the course of the campaign on
Ishme-Dagan I and his armies besieged the city of Nineveh.
Ishme-Dagan I conquered Nineveh, he allowed some prisoners to
enter his army, and gave special treatment to skilled prisoners
(according to letters excavated from the period.) These expeditions
betray the different attitudes of the urban peoples toward the tribal
peoples. The people of the kingdoms were treated differently than the
Campaign against the Ya’ilanum
Another campaign for which records exist is a campaign that
Ishme-Dagan I appears to have engaged in was against the nomadic tribe
called the Ya’ilanum.
Shamshi-Adad I had ordered
execute all the members of this tribe. However, it was the troops of
Ishme-Dagan I who later exterminated the entire tribe. There are two
accounts of this annihilation, one from Shamshi-Adad I, and one from
Shamshi-Adad I seems to have slightly reneged on his
earlier bloodthirstiness toward the tribes, as his account appears
to limit the killing to the leaders and the combatants of the army,
but in a letter from
Ishme-Dagan I to Yasmah-Adad, it seems the whole
population was eradicated, as he states:
“Mar-Addu and all the sons of the tribe of Ya’ilanum were killed,
and all its servants and soldiers were killed, and not one enemy
Death of Shamshi-Adad I
Although his father counted
Ishme-Dagan I as politically astute and a
capable soldier, commending him as he berated
Yasmah-Adad in their
Ishme-Dagan I was not able to hold his father’s empire for
long after his father died.
Ishme-Dagan I eventually lost most of his
domain, and was reduced to holding Ashur and Ekallatum, despite waging
several counter offensives to try to regain the upper Khabur area. The
year-name of the fifth year of Ibalpiel II’s reign (indicating some
Shamshi-Adad I at his passing) suggests that
been become subservient to the Old Assyrian Empire. Ishme-Dagan I
wrote a letter to his brother, after
Ishme-Dagan I assumes their
father’s throne and the rule of all of Upper Mesopotamia, that he:
Elamites on a leash as well as their ally, the king of
His confidence was overstated, however; as year-names of the eighth
and ninth years of King Ibalpiel’s reign indicate
and destroyed the armies of Ashur and Mari, and Ishme-Dagan I’s
control over his father’s entire realm slipped, as his hold was
reduced to the region of Ashur and Ekallatum.
A letter that was purportedly from Ishme-Dagan I, writing to his
brother after their father had died, states:
“I acceded to my father’s throne, but having been very busy, I
haven’t sent you my news. Now you are my brother, and aside from you
I have no brother. I will make peace with any city or king that you
take as a vassal. Don’t ever worry. Your throne is yours to
This letter led historians to believe that
Yasmah-Adad held the throne
of Mari for a while after his father died. However, this letter was
proven to actually be from Ishme-Addu of Ashnakku, (written to
Ibal-Addu of Ashlakka, thus disproving many chronologies that had been
based on the letter.
In addition to letters whose authorship can be verified to Ishme-Dagan
Shamshi-Adad I and Yasmah-Adad, there have been letters attributed
to this family that were not written by them. One such letter caused
issues in the chronology of the ancient near east, as it allowed
historians to place dates on
Hammurabi of Babylon.
Subservience to Babylon
Some evidence indicates that after his reduction in power, Ishme-Dagan
I appeared to hold tolerable relations with Babylon, Eshnunna, and
Hammurabi requested reinforcements from
Ishme-Dagan I at least
Ishme-Dagan I responded, though it seems his response was
Hammurabi was not entirely pleased with the poor
support. However, Ishme-Dagan's troops were present in Hammurabi's war
against Elam, and
Hammurabi even allowed Ishme-Dagan's generals into
his secret council meetings, to the dismay of Zimri-Lim, Hammurabi's
then ally. Ishme-Dagan's reputation with
Hammurabi fluctuated with
Hammurabi's goals, and there is some evidence that
troops to aide Atamrum, one of Ishme-Dagan's rivals, during Babylon's
war with Larsa. Later, it is likely that
Ishme-Dagan I was the
king of Ashur when
Hammurabi vanquished her king and occupied Assyrian
fl. c. 1776 BCE — c. 1736 BCE
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^ a b c d Glassner, Jean-Jacques (2004). Mesopotamian Chronicles.
Society of Biblical Literature. p. 137.
^ a b Van De Mieroop, Marc (2004). A History of the Ancient Near East
ca. 3000-323 BC (2nd ed.). Blackwell Publishing. p. 107.
^ Roux, Georges (Aug 27, 1992). Ancient Iraq. Penguin Books Limited.
^ Hildegard Levy, "
Assyria c. 2600-1816 B.C.", Cambridge Ancient
History. Volume 1, Part 2: Early History of the Middle East, 729-770,
^ a b c d e f The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume II, Part I (Third
ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 3.
^ Leilan.yale.edu, Harvey Weiss et al., The genesis and collapse of
Third Millennium north Mesopotamian Civilization, Science, vol. 291,
pp. 995-1088, 1993
^ Harvey Weiss,
Tell Leilan and Shubat Enlil, Mari, Annales de
Recherches Interdisciplinaires, vol. 4, pp. 269-92, 1985
^ Chavalas, Mark W. (2006). The Ancient Near East: Historical Sources
in Translation. Blackwell Publishing Ltd. p. 95.
^ Some of the Mari letters addressed to Shamsi-Adad by his son can be
found in the Mari Letters section of Shaika Haya Ali Al Khalifa and
Michael Rice (1986). Bahrain through the Ages. KPI.
^ Vidal, Jordi (2013). ""Kill Them All!" Some Remarks on the
Annihilation of the Ya'ilanum Tribe". Journal of the American Oriental
Society. 133 (4): 684. doi:10.7817/jameroriesoci.133.4.0683.
^ a b Sasson, Jack M. (1993). "Albright as an Orientalist". The
Biblical Archaeologist. 56 (1): 3. doi:10.2307/3210355.
^ a b Van de Mieroop, Marc (2005). King
ed.). Malden, Ma: Blackwell. pp. 54–63.
Early Bronze Age
"Kings who lived in tents"
(ca. 2500 – 2000 BC)
"Kings who were forefathers"
(ca. 2000 BC)
"Kings whose eponyms are destroyed"
(ca. 2000 – 1900 BC)
Middle Bronze Age
Old Assyrian period
(ca. 1906 – 1380 BC)
(Seven usurpers: Ashur-dugul
Late Bronze Age
Middle Assyrian period
(ca. 1353 – 1180 BC)
Middle Assyrian period
(ca. 1179 – 912 BC)
(ca. 912 – 609 BC)