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Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 73

A similar myth was attached in India to the memory of Karna, the Hector of that great Sanskrit epic the Mahabharata. Kama's mother, the Princess Pritha, who afterwards became a queen, was loved by the sun god, Surya. When in secret she gave birth to her son she placed him in an ark of wickerwork, which was set adrift on a stream. Ultimately it reached the Ganges, and it was borne by that river to the country of Anga, where the child was rescued by a woman and afterwards reared by her and her husband, a charioteer. In time Karna became a great warrior, and was crowned King of Anga by the Kaurava warriors.[147]

Before he became king, Sargon of Akkad, the Sharrukin of the texts, was, according to tradition, a gardener and watchman attached to the temple of the war god Zamama of Kish. This deity was subsequently identified with Merodach, son of Ea; Ninip, son of Enlil; and Nin-Girsu of Lagash. He was therefore one of the many developed forms of Tammuz--a solar, corn, and military deity, and an interceder for mankind. The goddess of Kish appears to have been a form of Bau, as is testified by the name of Queen Azag-Bau, the legendary founder of the city.

Unfortunately our knowledge of Sargon's reign is of meagre character. It is undoubted that he was a distinguished general and able ruler. He built up an empire which included Sumer and Akkad, and also Amurru, "the western land", or "land of the Amorites". The Elamites gave him an opportunity to extend his conquests eastward. They appear to have attacked Opis, but he drove them back, and on more than one occasion penetrated their country, over the western part of which, known as Anshan, he ultimately imposed his rule. Thither went many Semitic settlers who had absorbed the culture of Sumeria.

During Sargon's reign Akkad attained to a splendour which surpassed that of Babylon. In an omen text the monarch is lauded as the "highly exalted one without a peer". Tradition relates that when he was an old man all the Babylonian states rose in revolt against him and besieged Akkad. But the old warrior led forth his army against the combined forces and achieved a shattering victory.

Manishtusu, who succeeded Sargon I, had similarly to subdue a great confederacy of thirty-two city states, and must therefore have been a distinguished general. But he is best known as the monarch who purchased several large estates adjoining subject cities, his aim having been probably to settle on these Semitic allies who would be less liable to rebel against him than the workers they displaced. For the latter, however, he found employment elsewhere. These transactions, which were recorded on a monument subsequently carried off with other spoils by the Elamites and discovered at Susa, show that at this early period (about 2600 B.C.) even a conquering monarch considered it advisable to observe existing land laws. Urumush,[148] the next ruler, also achieved successes in Elam and elsewhere, but his life was cut short by a palace revolution.

The prominent figure of Naram Sin, a later king of Akkad, bulks largely in history and tradition. According to the Chronicle of Kish, he was a son of Sargon. Whether he was or not, it is certain that he inherited the military and administrative genius of that famous ex-gardener. The arts flourished during his reign. One of the memorable products of the period was an exquisitely sculptured monument celebrating one of Naram Sin's victories, which was discovered at Susa. It is one of the most wonderful examples of Babylonian stone work which has come to light.


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