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Shamshi-Adad I

Shamshi was an Amorite, who lived around 1809-1766 BC where he can be found on the Bible Timeline Poster. His name is translated to be ‘my sun is the god Adad’. He was a king who ruled over the ancient Near East of Assyria and Northern areas around Mesopotamia. His kingdom was frequently spoken of as Upper Mesopotamia. Shamshi’s father was Ila-kabkabu king over the borders of Mari (north Syria). When his father passed away, one of Shamshi’s brothers took reign causing Shamshi-Adad to create his own kingdom from the ground up. He started at the Akkadian Empire in Shekhna (north/east Syria) which had been left deserted for many years. It was established as his capital, and the name was changed to Shubat-Enlil which is today’s Tell Leilan.

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Following that Shamshi tried to conquer Ekallatum in Syria by the left shore of the Tigris against King Naram-Suen. Shamshi-Adad was defeated and had to retreat south to the city-state of Babylon which was created and governed by associated Amorites. Ultimately he came when Erishum II ruled and victoriously disposed the King of Assyria, bringing that dynasty to a close. This enabled him to govern Assyria, a growing nation that had established and prosperous trading settlements in Anatolia. His oldest son Ishme-Dagan I was set as ruler over Ekallatum and as he proclaimed himself king, Shamshi-Adad tried to strengthen his place as ruler by linking his heritage to Ushpia (21st century BC Assyrian King).

‘Ziggurat at Mari’


Shamshi’s next focus was a city called Mari that had a caravan route from Anatolia to Mesopotamia. The ruler of Mari (Iakhdunlim) was murdered by his servants that could have been following Shamshi-Adad’s directions. Shamshi then grabbed his chance and placed himself over Mari. The original heir to the throne Zimri-Lim was obligated to escape and traveled to Aleppo (ancient Yamkhad). Shamshi then promoted his next son Yasmah-Adad as ruler over Mari so Shamshi could go back to Shubat-Enlil.


With the contribution of Mari, Shamshi-Adad had power over a vast kingdom, which consisted of all of Upper Mesopotamia. Shamshi then announced himself as ‘King of All’ a name established by Sargon of Akkad. Predictably Shamshi-Adad’s success focused much jealously from the nearby nations and all through his rule Shamshi and his sons were made to defend their kingdom. Ishme-Dagan appeared to be a capable governor, however his sibling Yasmah-Adad looks to show someone of little strength and conviction; his unhappy parent was often complaining about it: ‘You are a child, not a man, have you no beard on your chin?’ – ‘While here your brother is victorious, down there you lie about among women’. Shamshi-Adad excelled at keeping matters in order and maintained a strict hold on every subject of the state ranging from high policy to choosing officials and sending out supplies. His movements were carefully laid out, and his men were taught all the common strategies of ‘siege craft’ like surrounding ramparts and battering rams. He frequently used spies and ‘propaganda’ to obtain victory.

‘Tablet of King Zimri-Lim of Mari, ca. 1780 BC, Louvre Museum.’

Shamshi-Adad was always working on making his realm stronger, however after his death the nation began to fall apart. The kingdom was missing the structure and was in a weak location. When everyone discovered that Shamshi had passed away, his previous enemies went out immediately to take the kingdom from his successors. Yasmah-Adad was quickly exiled from Mari by Zimri-Lim, and the remaining kingdom was slowly taken from Ishme-Dagan and Mut-Ashkur and put in the hands of a different Amorite King, Hammurabi of Babylon.

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