Elam (; Linear Elamite
''hatamti''; Cuneiform Elamite
: ''haltamti''; Sumerian
: ''elam''; Akkadian
: ''elamtu''; he|עֵילָם ''ʿēlām''; peo|𐎢𐎺𐎩 ''hūja'') was an ancient civilization centered in the far west and southwest of modern-day Iran
, stretching from the lowlands of what is now Khuzestan
and Ilam Province
as well as a small part of southern Iraq
. The modern name ''Elam'' stems from the Sumerian
transliteration ''elam(a)'', along with the later Akkadian
''elamtu'', and the Elamite
''haltamti.'' Elamite states were among the leading political forces of the Ancient Near East
. In classical literature
, Elam was also known as Susiana ( ; grc|Σουσιανή ''Sousiānḗ''), a name derived from its capital Susa
Elam was part of the early urbanization
during the Chalcolithic
period (Copper Age). The emergence of written records from around 3000 BC also parallels Sumer
ian history, where slightly earlier records have been found. In the Old Elamite period (Middle Bronze Age
), Elam consisted of kingdoms on the Iranian plateau
, centered in Anshan
, and from the mid-2nd millennium BC, it was centered in Susa in the Khuzestan lowlands. Its culture played a crucial role during the Persian Achaemenid dynasty
that succeeded Elam, when the Elamite language
remained among those in official use. Elamite is generally considered a language isolate
unrelated to any other languages. In accordance with geographical and archaeological matches, some historians argue that the Elamites comprise a large portion of the ancestors of the modern day Lurs
whose language, Luri
, split from Middle Persian
The Elamite language endonym
of Elam as a country appears to have been ''Haltamti'',
s included the Sumerian
''𒉏𒈠𒆠 and ''ELAM'', the Akkadian
''Elamû'' (masculine/neuter) and ''Elamītu'' (feminine) meant "resident of Susiana, Elamite".
In prehistory, Elam was centered primarily in modern Khuzestān
. The name Khuzestān is derived ultimately from peo|𐎢𐎺𐎩 (''hūja'') meaning Susa/Elam.
This became pal|𐭧𐭥𐭰 (''hūz'') "Susiana", and in modern fa|خوز (''xuz''), compounded with the toponymic suffix ''-stån
In geographical terms, Susiana basically represents the Iranian province of Khuzestan
around the river Karun
. In ancient times, several names were used to describe this area. The great ancient geographer Ptolemy
was the earliest to call the area ''Susiana'', referring to the country around Susa.
Another ancient geographer, Strabo
, viewed Elam and Susiana as two different geographic regions. He referred to Elam ("land of the Elymaei") as primarily the highland area of Khuzestan.
[D. T. Potts]
''The Archaeology of Elam: Formation and Transformation of an Ancient Iranian State.''
Cambridge World Archaeology. Cambridge University Press, 2015 p11
Disagreements over the location also exist in the Jewish historical sources says Daniel T. Potts. Some ancient sources draw a distinction between Elam as the highland area of Khuzestan, and Susiana as the lowland area. Yet in other ancient sources 'Elam' and 'Susiana' seem equivalent.
The uncertainty in this area extends also to modern scholarship. Since the discovery of ancient Anshan
, and the realization of its great importance in Elamite history, the definitions were changed again. Some modern scholars argued that the centre of Elam lay at Anshan and in the highlands around it, and not at Susa in lowland Khuzistan.
Potts disagrees suggesting that the term 'Elam' was primarily constructed by the Mesopotamians to describe the area in general terms, without referring specifically either to the lowlanders or the highlanders,
"Elam is not an Iranian term and has no relationship to the conception which the peoples of highland Iran had of themselves. They were Anshanites, Marhashians, Shimashkians, Zabshalians, Sherihumians, Awanites, etc. That Anshan played a leading role in the political affairs of the various highland groups inhabiting southwestern Iran is clear. But to argue that Anshan is coterminous with Elam is to misunderstand the artificiality and indeed the alienness of Elam as a construct imposed from without on the peoples of the southwestern highlands of the Zagros mountain range, the coast of Fars and the alluvial plain drained by the Karun-Karkheh river system.
Knowledge of Elamite history remains largely fragmentary, reconstruction being based on mainly Mesopotamia
n and Babylonia
n) sources. The history of Elam is conventionally divided into three periods, spanning more than two millennia. The period before the first Elamite period is known as the proto-Elamite period:
: c. 3200 – c. 2700 BC (Proto-Elamite script in Susa)
*Old Elamite period: c. 2700 – c. 1500 BC (earliest documents until the Sukkalmah Dynasty
*Middle Elamite period: c. 1500 – c. 1100 BC (Anzanite dynasty until the Babylonian invasion of Susa)
*Neo-Elamite period: c. 1100 – 540 BC (characterized Assyrian and Median influence. 539 BC marks the beginning of the Achaemenid period.)
Proto-Elamite (c. 3200 – c. 2700 BC)
Proto-Elamite civilization grew up east of the Tigris
alluvial plains; it was a combination of the lowlands and the immediate highland areas to the north and east. At least three proto-Elamite states merged to form Elam: Anshan
(modern Fars Province
(modern Lorestan Province
) and Shimashki (modern Kerman
). References to Awan are generally older than those to Anshan, and some scholars suggest that both states encompassed the same territory, in different eras (see Hanson, Encyclopædia Iranica). To this core Shushiana
) was periodically annexed and broken off. In addition, some Proto-Elamite sites are found well outside this area, spread out on the Iranian plateau
; such as Warakshe
(now a suburb of the modern city of Kashan
) and Jiroft
in Kerman Province
. The state of Elam was formed from these lesser states as a response to invasion from Sumer during the Old Elamite period. Elamite strength was based on an ability to hold these various areas together under a coordinated government that permitted the maximum interchange of the natural resources unique to each region. Traditionally, this was done through a federated
The Proto-Elamite city of Susa was founded around 4000 BC in the watershed of the river Karun
. It is considered to be the site of Proto-Elamite cultural formation. During its early history, it fluctuated between submission to Mesopotamia
n and Elamite power. The earliest levels (22—17 in the excavations conducted by Le Brun, 1978) exhibit pottery that has no equivalent in Mesopotamia, but for the succeeding period, the excavated material allows identification with the culture of Sumer of the Uruk period
influence from Mesopotamia in Susa becomes visible from about 3200 BC, and texts in the still undeciphered Proto-Elamite writing system continue to be present until about 2700 BC. The Proto-Elamite period ends with the establishment of the Awan dynasty
. The earliest known historical figure connected with Elam is the king Enmebaragesi
(c. 2650 BC?), who subdued it, according to the Sumerian king list
. Elamite history can only be traced from records dating to beginning of the Akkadian Empire
(2335–2154 BC) onwards.
The Proto-Elamite states in Jiroft
(not universally accepted), present a special case because of their great antiquity.
In ancient Luristan
, bronze-making tradition goes back to the mid-3rd millennium BC, and has many Elamite connections. Bronze objects from several cemeteries in the region date to the Early Dynastic Period (Mesopotamia)
I, and to Ur-III
period c. 2900–2000 BC. These excavations include Kalleh Nisar, Bani Surmah, Chigha Sabz, Kamtarlan, Sardant, and Gulal-i Galbi.
Old Elamite period (c. 2700 – c. 1500 BC)
The Old Elamite period began around 2700 BC. Historical records mention the conquest of Elam by Enmebaragesi
, the Sumer
ian king of Kish
. Three dynasties ruled during this period. Twelve kings of each of the first two dynasties, those of Awan
(or ''Avan''; c. 2400 – c. 2100 BC) and Simashki
(c. 2100 – c. 1970 BC), are known from a list from Susa dating to the Old Babylonian period
. Two Elamite dynasties said to have exercised brief control over parts of Sumer in very early times include Awan and Hamazi
; and likewise, several of the stronger Sumer
ian rulers, such as Eannatum
, are recorded as temporarily dominating Elam.
The Awan dynasty (2350–2150 BC) was partly contemporary with that of the Mesopotamian emperor Sargon of Akkad
, who not only defeated the Awan king Luh-ishan
and subjected Susa
, but attempted to make the East Semitic Akkadian
the official language there. From this time, Mesopotamian sources concerning Elam become more frequent, since the Mesopotamians had developed an interest in resources (such as wood, stone, and metal) from the Iranian plateau, and military expeditions to the area became more common. With the collapse of Akkad under Sargon's great great-grandson, Shar-kali-sharri
, Elam declared independence under the last Awan king, Kutik-Inshushinak
(c. 2240 – c. 2220 BC), and threw off the Akkadian language, promoting in its place the brief Linear Elamite
script. Kutik-Inshushinnak conquered Susa and Anshan, and seems to have achieved some sort of political unity. Following his reign, the Awan dynasty collapsed as Elam was temporarily overrun by the Guti
, another pre-Iranic people from what is now north west Iran who also spoke a language isolate
About a century later, the Sumerian king Shulgi
of the Neo-Sumerian Empire
retook the city of Susa and the surrounding region. During the first part of the rule of the Simashki dynasty, Elam was under intermittent attack from the Sumer
ians of Mesopotamia
and also Gutians
from northwestern Iran, alternating with periods of peace and diplomatic approaches. The Elamite state of Simashki at this time also extended into northern Iran, and possibly even as far as the Caspian Sea. Shu-Sin
of Ur gave one of his daughters in marriage to a prince of Anshan
. But the power of the Sumerians was waning; Ibbi-Sin
in the 21st century did not manage to penetrate far into Elam, and in 2004 BC, the Elamites, allied with the people of Susa and led by king Kindattu
, the sixth king of Simashki, managed to sack Ur
and lead Ibbi-Sin
into captivity, ending the third dynasty of Ur
. The Akkadian
kings of Isin
, successor state
to Ur, managed to drive the Elamites out of Ur, rebuild the city, and to return the statue of Nanna
that the Elamites had plundered.
The succeeding dynasty, often called the Sukkalmah dynasty
(c. 1970 – c. 1770 BC) after "Great regents", the title borne by its members, also called the Epartid dynasty after the name of its founder Ebarat/ Eparti, was roughly contemporary with the Old Assyrian Empire
, and Old Babylonia
n period in Mesopotamia, being younger by approximately sixty years than the Akkadian speaking Old Assyrian Empire
in Upper Mesopotamia
, and almost seventy-five years older than the Old Babylonian Empire
. This period is confusing and difficult to reconstruct. It was apparently founded by Eparti I. During this time, Susa was under Elamite control, but Akkadian speaking Mesopotamian states such as Larsa
continually tried to retake the city. Around 1850 BC Kudur-mabuk
, apparently king of another Akkadian
state to the north of Larsa, managed to install his son, Warad-Sin
, on the throne of Larsa, and Warad-Sin's brother, Rim-Sin
, succeeded him and conquered much of southern Mesopotamia for Larsa
Notable Eparti dynasty rulers in Elam during this time include Sirukdukh
(c. 1850 BC), who entered various military coalitions to contain the power of the south Mesopotamian states; Siwe-Palar-Khuppak
, who for some time was the most powerful person in the area, respectfully addressed as "Father" by Mesopotamian kings such as Zimrilim
, Shamshi-Adad I
, and even Hammurabi
of Babylon; and Kudur-Nahhunte
, who plundered the temples of southern Mesopotamia, the north being under the control of the Old Assyrian Empire
. But Elamite influence in southern Mesopotamia did not last. Around 1760 BC, Hammurabi drove out the Elamites, overthrew Rim-Sin of Larsa, and established a short lived Babylonian Empire
in Mesopotamia. Little is known about the latter part of this dynasty, since sources again become sparse with the Kassite
rule of Babylon (from c. 1595 BC).
Trade with the Indus Valley civilization
Many archaeological finds suggest that maritime trade along the shores of Africa and Asia started several millennia ago.
Trade between the Indus Valley Civilization
and the cities of Mesopotamia and Elam, can be inferred from numerous find of Indus artifacts, particularly in the excavation as Susa
. Various objects made with shell species that are characteristic of the Indus coast, particularly ''Trubinella Pyrum'' and ''Fasciolaria Trapezium'', have been found in the archaeological sites of Mesopotamia and Susa dating from around 2500–2000 BC. Carnelian
beads from the Indus were found in Susa in the excavation of the tell of the citadel.
In particular, carnelian beads with an etched design in white were probably imported from the Indus Valley, and made according to a technique of acid-etching developed by the Harappa
Exchanges seem to have waned after 1900 BC, together with the disappearance of the Indus valley civilization.
File:Indus round seal with impression Elongated buffalo with Harappan scrpit imported to Susa in 2600-1700 BCE LOUVRE Sb5614.jpg|Indus round seal with impression. Elongated buffalo with Harappan script imported to Susa in 2600–1700 BC. Found in the tell of the Susa acropolis. Louvre Museum, reference Sb 5614
File:Indus carnelian beads with white design imported to Susa in 2600-1700 BCE LOUVRE Sb 13099.jpg|Indian carnelian beads with white design, etched in white with an acid, imported to Susa in 2600–1700 BC. Found in the tell of the Susa acropolis. Louvre Museum, reference Sb 17751. These beads are identical with beads found in the Indus Civilization site of Dholavira.
File:Indus bracelet made of Fasciolaria Trapezium or Xandus Pyrum imported to Susa in 2600-1700 BCE LOUVRE Sb14473.jpg|Indus bracelet made of ''Fasciolaria Trapezium'' or ''Turbinella pyrum'' imported to Susa in 2600–1700 BC. Found in the tell of the Susa acropolis. Louvre Museum, reference Sb 14473. This type of bracelet was manufactured in Mohenjo-daro, Lothal and Balakot. It is engraved with a chevron design which is characteristic of all shell bangles of the Indus Valley, visibl
File:Indus Valley Civilization weight excavated in Susa. Louvre Museum Sb 17774.jpg|Indus Valley Civilization weight in veined jasper, excavated in Susa in a 12th-century BC princely tomb. Louvre Museum Sb 17774.
Middle Elamite period (c. 1500 – c. 1100 BC)
Anshan and Susa
The Middle Elamite period began with the rise of the Anshanite dynasties around 1500 BC. Their rule was characterized by an "Elamisation" of Susa, and the kings took the title "king of Anshan and Susa". While the first of these dynasties, the Kidinuids
continued to use the Akkadian language frequently in their inscriptions, the succeeding Igihalkids
used Elamite with increasing regularity. Likewise, Elamite language and culture grew in importance in Susiana. The Kidinuids (c. 1500 – 1400 BC) are a group of five rulers of uncertain affiliation. They are identified by their use of the older title, "king of Susa and of Anshan", and by calling themselves "servant of Kirwashir
", an Elamite deity, thereby introducing the pantheon of the highlands to Susiana. The city of Susa itself is one of the oldest in the world dating back to around 4200 BC. Since its founding Susa was known as a central power location for the Elamites and for later Persian dynasties. Susa's power would peak during the Middle Elamite period, when it would be the region's capital.
Of the Igehalkids (c. 1400 – 1210 BC), ten rulers are known, though their number was possibly larger. Some of them married Kassite
princesses. The Kassites were also a Language Isolate
speaking people from the Zagros Mountains
who had taken Babylonia
shortly after its sacking by the Hittite Empire
in 1595 BC. The Kassite king of Babylon Kurigalzu II
who had been installed on the throne by Ashur-uballit I
of the Middle Assyrian Empire
(1366–1020 BC), temporarily occupied Elam around 1320 BC, and later (c. 1230 BC) another Kassite king, Kashtiliash IV
, fought Elam unsuccessfully. Kassite-Babylonian power waned, as they became dominated by the northern Mesopotamian Middle Assyrian Empire
. Kiddin-Khutran of Elam repulsed the Kassites by defeating Enlil-nadin-shumi
in 1224 BC and Adad-shuma-iddina
around 1222–1217 BC. Under the Igehalkids, Akkadian
inscriptions were rare, and Elamite highland gods became firmly established in Susa.
Under the Shutrukids (c. 1210 – 1100 BC), the Elamite empire reached the height of its power. Shutruk-Nakhkhunte
and his three sons, Kutir-Nakhkhunte II, Shilhak-In-Shushinak, and Khutelutush-In-Shushinak were capable of frequent military campaigns into Kassite Babylonia (which was also being ravaged by the empire of Assyria
during this period), and at the same time were exhibiting vigorous construction activity—building and restoring luxurious temples in Susa and across their Empire. Shutruk-Nakhkhunte raided Babylonia, carrying home to Susa trophies like the statues of Marduk
, the Manishtushu Obelisk
, the Stele of Hammurabi
and the stele
. In 1158 BC, after much of Babylonia had been annexed by Ashur-Dan I
of Assyria and Shutruk-Nakhkhunte, the Elamites defeated the Kassites permanently, killing the Kassite king of Babylon, Zababa-shuma-iddin
, and replacing him with his eldest son, Kutir-Nakhkhunte, who held it no more than three years before being ejected by the native Akkadian speaking Babylonians
. The Elamites then briefly came into conflict with Assyria
, managing to take the Assyrian city of Arrapha
) before being ultimately defeated and having a treaty forced upon them by Ashur-Dan I
Kutir-Nakhkhunte's son Khutelutush-In-Shushinak was probably of an incestuous relation of Kutir-Nakhkhunte's with his own daughter, Nakhkhunte-utu. He was defeated by Nebuchadnezzar I
of Babylon, who sacked Susa and returned the statue of Marduk
, but who was then himself defeated by the Assyrian king Ashur-resh-ishi I
. He fled to Anshan, but later returned to Susa, and his brother Shilhana-Hamru-Lagamar
may have succeeded him as last king of the Shutrukid dynasty. Following Khutelutush-In-Shushinak, the power of the Elamite empire began to wane seriously, for after the death of this ruler, Elam disappears into obscurity for more than three centuries.
Neo-Elamite period (c. 1100 – 540 BC)
Neo-Elamite I (c. 1100 – c. 770 BC)
Very little is known of this period. Anshan was still at least partially Elamite. There appear to have been unsuccessful alliances of Elamites, Babylonians, Chaldea
ns and other peoples against the powerful Neo Assyrian Empire
(911–605 BC); the Babylonian king Mar-biti-apla-ushur
(984–979 BC) was of Elamite origin, and Elamites are recorded to have fought unsuccessfully with the Babylonian king Marduk-balassu-iqbi
against the Assyria
n forces under Shamshi-Adad V
Neo-Elamite II (c. 770 – 646 BC)
The later Neo-Elamite period is characterized by a significant migration of Indo-European
to the Iranian plateau. Assyrian sources beginning around 800 BC distinguish the "powerful Medes", i.e. the actual Medes
etc.. Among these pressuring tribes were the ''Parsu
'', first recorded in 844 BC as living on the southeastern shore of Lake Urmiah
, but who by the end of this period would cause the Elamites' original home, the Iranian Plateau, to be renamed Persia proper. These newly arrived Iranian peoples
were also conquered by Assyria, and largely regarded as vassals of the Neo-Assyrian Empire
until the late 7th century.
More details are known from the late 8th century BC, when the Elamites were allied with the Chaldea
n chieftain Merodach-baladan
to defend the cause of Babylonian independence from Assyria. Khumbanigash
(743–717 BC) supported Merodach-baladan against Sargon II
, apparently without success; while his successor, Shutruk-Nakhkhunte II (716–699 BC), was routed by Sargon's troops during an expedition in 710, and another Elamite defeat by Sargon's troops is recorded for 708. The Assyrian dominion over Babylon was underlined by Sargon's son Sennacherib
, who defeated the Elamites, Chaldeans and Babylonians and dethroned Merodach-baladan for a second time, installing his own son Ashur-nadin-shumi
on the Babylonian throne in 700.
Shutruk-Nakhkhunte II, the last Elamite to claim the old title "king of Anshan and Susa", was murdered by his brother Khallushu
, who managed to briefly capture the Assyrian governor of Babylonia Ashur-nadin-shumi and the city of Babylon in 694 BC. Sennacherib
soon responded by invading and ravaging Elam. Khallushu was in turn assassinated by Kutir-Nakhkhunte
, who succeeded him but soon abdicated in favor of Khumma-Menanu III
(692–689 BC). Khumma-Menanu recruited a new army to help the Babylonians and Chaldeans against the Assyrians at the battle of Halule
in 691. Both sides claimed the victory in their annals, but Babylon was destroyed by Sennacherib
only two years later, and its Elamite allies defeated in the process.
The reigns of Khumma-Khaldash I
(688–681 BC) and Khumma-Khaldash II
(680–675 BC) saw a deterioration of Elamite-Babylonian relations, and both of them raided Sippar
. At the beginning of Esarhaddon
's reign in Assyria
(681–669 BC), Nabu-zer-kitti-lišir, an ethnically Elamite governor in the south of Babylonia, revolted and besieged Ur
, but was routed by the Assyrians
and fled to Elam where the king of Elam, fearing Assyrian repercussions, took him prisoner and put him to the sword.
(674–664 BC) for some time wisely maintained good relations with the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal
(668–627 BC), who sent wheat to Susiana during a famine. But these friendly relations were only temporary, and Urtaku was killed in battle during a failed Elamite attack on Assyria.
His successor Tempti-Khumma-In-Shushinak
(664–653 BC) attacked Assyria, but was defeated and killed by Ashurbanipal
following the battle of the Ulaï
in 653 BC; and Susa
itself was sacked and occupied by the Assyrians. In this same year the Assyrian vassal Median
state to the north fell to the invading Scythians
, and displacing another Assyrian vassal people, the ''Parsu'' (Persians
) to Anshan
which their king Teispes
captured that same year, turning it for the first time into an Indo-Iranian
kingdom under Assyria
n dominance that would a century later become the nucleus of the Achaemenid dynasty
. The Assyrians
successfully subjugated and drove the Scythians
from their Iran
ian colonies, and the Persians
remained vassals of Assyria.
During a brief respite provided by the civil war between Ashurbanipal
and his own brother Shamash-shum-ukin
whom their father Esarhaddon
had installed as the vassal king of Babylon
, the Elamites both gave support to Shamash-shum-ukin, and indulged in fighting among themselves, so weakening the Elamite kingdom that in 646 BC Ashurbanipal devastated Susiana with ease, and sacked Susa. A succession of brief reigns continued in Elam from 651 to 640, each of them ended either due to usurpation, or because of capture of their king by the Assyrians. In this manner, the last Elamite king, Khumma-Khaldash III
, was captured in 640 BC by Ashurbanipal, who annexed and destroyed the country.
In a tablet unearthed in 1854 by Henry Austin Layard
, Ashurbanipal boasts of the destruction he had wrought:
Neo-Elamite III (646–539 BC)
The devastation was a little less complete than Ashurbanipal boasted, and a weak and fragmented Elamite rule was resurrected soon after with Shuttir-Nakhkhunte, son of Humban-umena III (not to be confused with Shuttir-Nakhkhunte, son of Indada, a petty king in the first half of the 6th century). Elamite royalty in the final century preceding the Achaemenids was fragmented among different small kingdoms, the united Elamite nation having been destroyed and colonised by the Assyrians. The three kings at the close of the 7th century (Shuttir-Nakhkhunte, Khallutush-In-Shushinak and Atta-Khumma-In-Shushinak) still called themselves "king of Anzan and of Susa" or "enlarger of the kingdom of Anzan and of Susa", at a time when the Achaemenid Persians were already ruling Anshan under Assyrian dominance.
The various Assyrian Empire
s, which had been the dominant force in the Near East
, Asia Minor
, the Caucasus
, North Africa
, Arabian peninsula
and East Mediterranean
for much of the period from the first half of the 14th century BC, began to unravel after the death of Ashurbanipal
in 627 BC, descending into a series of bitter internal civil wars which also spread to Babylonia. The Iranian Medes
, who had been largely subject to Assyria since their arrival in the region around 1000 BC, quietly took full advantage of the anarchy in Assyria, and in 616 BC freed themselves from Assyrian rule.
The Medians took control of Elam during this period. Cyaxares
the king of the Medes
entered into an alliance with a coalition of fellow former vassals of Assyria, including Nabopolassar
, and also the Scythians
, against Sin-shar-ishkun
of Assyria, who was faced with unremitting civil war in Assyria itself. This alliance then attacked a disunited and war weakened Assyria, and between 616 BC and 599 BC at the very latest, had conquered its vast empire which stretched from the Caucasus Mountains
and the Arabian Peninsula
, and from Cyprus
and the Caspian Sea
The major cities in Assyria itself were gradually taken; Arrapha
) and Kalhu
) in 616 BC, Ashur
) in 613, Nineveh
falling in 612, Harran
in 608 BC, Carchemish
in 605 BC, and finally Dur-Katlimmu
by 599 BC. Elam, already largely destroyed and subjugated by Assyria, thus became easy prey for the Median
dominated Iranian peoples
, and was incorporated into the Median Empire
(612–546 BC) and then the succeeding Achaemenid Empire
(546–332 BC), with Assyria suffering the same fate. (see Achaemenid Assyria
The prophet Ezekiel describes the status of their power in the 12th year of the Hebrew Babylonian Captivity
in 587 BCE:
Their successors Khumma-Menanu and Shilhak-In-Shushinak II bore the simple title "king", and the final king Tempti-Khumma-In-Shushinak used no honorific at all. In 540 BC, Achaemenid rule began in Susa.
Elymais (187 BC - 224 AD)
was the location of the death of Antiochus III the Great
who was killed while pillaging a temple of Bel
in 187 BC.
Following the rise and fall of the Achaemenid Empire
and the Seleucid Empire
, a new dynasty of Elamite rulers established Elymais
from 147 BC to 224 AD, usually under the suzerainty of the Parthian Empire
, until the advent of the unified Sasanian Empire
in 224 AD.
Dated to approximately the 12th century BC, gold and silver figurines of Elamite worshippers are shown carrying a sacrificial goat. These divine and royal statues were meant to assure the king of the enduring protection of the deity, well-being and a long life. Works which showed a ruler and his performance of a ritual action were intended to eternalize the effectiveness of such deeds. Found near the Temple of Inshushinak
, these statuettes would have been considered charged with beneficial power.
While archaeologists cannot be certain that the location where these figures were found indicates a date before or in the time of the Elamite king Shilhak-Inshushinak, stylistic features can help ground the figures in a specific time period. The hairstyle and costume of the figures which are strewn with dots and hemmed with short fringe at the bottom, and the precious metals point to a date in the latter part of the second millennium BC rather than to the first millennium.
In general, any gold or silver statuettes which represent the king making a sacrifice not only served a religious function, but was also a display of wealth.
Elamite seals reached their peak of complexity in the 4th millennium BC when their shape became cylindrical rather than stamp-like. Seals were primarily used as a form of identification and were often made out of precious stones. Because seals for different time periods had different designs and themes, seals and seal impressions can be used to track the various phases of the Elamite Empire and can teach a lot about the empire in ways which other forms of documentation cannot.
[“Cylinder Seal and Modern Impression: Worshiper before a Seated Ruler or Deity; Seated Female under a Grape Arbor | Work of Art | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art.” The Met's Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/1987.343/.]
The seal pictured shows two seated figures holding cups with a man in front of them wearing a long robe next to a table. A man is sitting on a throne, presumably the king, and is in a wrapped robe. The second figure, perhaps his queen, is draped in a wide, flounced garment and is elevated on a platform beneath an overhanging vine. A crescent is shown in the field.
Statue of Queen Napir-Asu
This life-size votive offering of Queen Napir-Asu
was commissioned around 1300 BC in Susa, Iran. It is made of copper using the lost-wax
casting method and rests on a solid bronze frame that weighs 1750 kg (3760 lb). This statue is different from many other Elamite statues of women because it resembles male statues due to the wide belt on the dress and the patterns which closely resemble those on male statues.
The inscription on the side of the statue curses anyone, specifically men, who attempts to destroy the statue: "I, Napir-Asu, wife of Untash-Napirisha
. He who would seize my statue, who would smash it, who would destroy its inscription, who would erase my name, may he be smitten by the curse of Napirisha, of Kiririsha, and of Inshushinka, that his name shall become extinct, that his offspring be barren, that the forces of Beltiya, the great goddess, shall sweep down on him. This is Napir-Asu's offering."
Stele of Untash Napirisha
The stele of the Elamite king, Untash-Napirisha
was believed to have been commissioned in the 12th century BC.
It was moved from the original religious capital of Chogha Zanbil
to the city of Susa by the successor king, Shutruk-Nahnante
. Four registers of the stele are left. The remains depict the god Inshushinak validating the legitimacy of who is thought to be Shutruk-Nahnante. In the periphery are two priestesses, deity hybrids of fish and women holding streams of water, and two half-man half-mouflon guardians of the sacred tree. The names of the two priestesses are carved on their arms.
[Borne interactive du département des Antiquités orientales. Malbran-Labat Florence, Les Inscriptions de Suse : briques de l'époque paléo-élamite à l'empire néo-élamite, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1995, p.168–169. Miroschedji Pierre de, "Le Dieu élamite au serpent", in : Iranica antiqua, Vol.16, 1981, Gand, Ministère de l'Éducation et de la Culture, 1989, p.13–14, pl.8.]
King Untash Napirisha dedicated the stele to the god Ishushinak. Like other forms of art in the ancient Near East, this one portrays a king ceremonially recognizing a deity. This stele is unique in that the acknowledgement between king and god is reciprocal.
The Elamites practised polytheism
Knowledge about their religion is scant, and it appears to have been characterized by the "ill-defined character of the individual gods and goddesses. ...Most of them were not only ineffable beings whose real name was either not uttered or was unknown, but also sublime ideas, not to be exactly defined by the human race."
Worship also varied between localities.
In the later period, Elam worshipped a supreme triad consisting of Inshushinak
(originally the civic protector god of Susa, eventually the leader of the triad
and guarantor of the monarchy
(an earth/mother goddess in southern Elam
), and Khumban
(a sky god). Other deities include Pinikir
(a mother goddess, and possibly originally chief deity, in northern Elam,
later supplanted by or identified with Kiririsha) and Jabru
(a god of the underworld
). There were also imported deities, such as Beltiya.
Elamite is traditionally thought to be a language isolate
, and completely unrelated to the neighbouring Semitic languages
(also isolates), and the later arriving Indo-European Iranian languages
that came to dominate the region of Elam from the 6th century BC. It was written in a cuneiform
adapted from the Semitic Akkadian
script of Assyria
, although the very earliest documents were written in the quite different "Linear Elamite" script
. In 2006, two even older inscriptions in a similar script were discovered at Jiroft
to the east of Elam, leading archaeologists to speculate that Linear Elamite had originally spread from further east to Susa
. It seems to have developed from an even earlier writing known as "proto-Elamite", but scholars are not unanimous on whether or not this script was used to write Elamite or another language, as it has not yet been deciphered. Several stages of the language are attested; the earliest date back to the third millennium BC, the latest to the Achaemenid Empire
The Elamite language may have survived as late as the early Islamic period
(roughly contemporary with the early medieval period
in Europe). Among other Islamic medieval historians
, Ibn al-Nadim
, for instance, wrote that "The Iranian languages are Fahlavi
(not to be confused with Dari Persian
in modern Afghanistan), Khuzi, Persian
)", and Ibn Moqaffa
noted that ''Khuzi'' was the unofficial language of the royalty of Persia, "Khuz" being the corrupted name for Elam.
Suggested relations to other language families
While Elamite is viewed as a language isolate
by the vast majority of linguists, a minority of scholars have proposed that the Elamite language could be related to the Dravidian languages
. David McAlpine believes Elamite may be related to the living Dravidian languages. This hypothesis (which has been subject to serious criticism by linguists) is considered under the rubric of Elamo-Dravidian languages
The Assyrians had utterly destroyed the Elamite nation, but new polities emerged in the area after Assyrian power faded. Among the nations that benefited from the decline of the Assyrians were the Iranian tribes, whose presence around Lake Urmia
to the north of Elam is attested from the 9th century BC in Assyrian texts. Some time after that region fell to Madius the Scythian (653 BC), Teispes, son of Achaemenes
, conquered Elamite Anshan in the mid 7th century BC, forming a nucleus that would expand into the Persian Empire. They were largely regarded as vassals of the Assyrians, and the Medes, Mannaeans
, and Persians paid tribute to Assyria from the 10th century BC until the death of Ashurbanipal
in 627 BC. After his death, the Medes played a major role in the destruction of the weakened Assyrian Empire in 612 BC.
The rise of the Achaemenids in the 6th century BC brought an end to the existence of Elam as an independent political power "but not as a cultural entity" (''Encyclopædia Iranica'', Columbia University
). Indigenous Elamite traditions, such as the use of the title "king of Anshan" by Cyrus the Great
; the "Elamite robe" worn by Cambyses I of Anshan
and seen on the famous winged genii
; some glyptic styles; the use of Elamite as the first of three official languages of the empire used in thousands of administrative texts found at Darius’ city of Persepolis
; the continued worship of Elamite deities; and the persistence of Elamite religious personnel and cults supported by the crown, formed an essential part of the newly emerging Achaemenid culture in Persian Iran. The Elamites thus became the conduit by which achievements of the Mesopotamian civilizations were introduced to the tribes of the Iranian plateau.
Conversely, remnants of Elamite had "absorbed Iranian influences in both structure and vocabulary" by 500 BC, suggesting a form of cultural continuity or fusion connecting the Elamite and the Persian periods.
The name of "Elam" survived into the Hellenistic period
and beyond. In its Greek form, ''Elymais
'', it emerges as designating a semi-independent state under Parthia
n suzerainty during the 2nd century BC to the early 3rd century AD. In Acts
2:8–9 in the New Testament
, the language of the ''Elamitēs'' is one of the languages heard at the Pentecost
. From 410 onwards Elam
(Beth Huzaye) was the senior metropolitan province of the Church of the East
, surviving into the 14th century. Indian Carmelite historian John Marshal has proposed that the root of Carmelite
history in the Indian subcontinent could be traced to the promise of restoration of Elam (Jeremiah 49:39).
File:Kaftar elam.jpg|A 4.5 inch long lapis lazuli dove is studded with gold pegs. Dated 1200 BC from Susa, a city later on shared with the Achaemenids.
File:Eshkaft-e Salman II.jpg|Elamite reliefs at Eshkaft-e Salman. The picture of a woman with dignity shows the importance of women in the Elamite era.
In modern Iran, Ilam Province
and Khuzestan Province
are named after Elam civilization. Khuzestan means land of the Khuzis and Khuzi itself is a Middle Persian
name for Elamites.
[See ''Encyclopædia Iranica'', Columbia University, Vol 1, p687-689.]
* List of rulers of Elam
*Quintana Cifuentes, E., "Historia de Elam el vecino mesopotámico", Murcia, 1997. ''Estudios Orientales''. IPOA-Murcia.
*Quintana Cifuentes, E., "Textos y Fuentes para el estudio del Elam", Murcia, 2000.'' Estudios Orientales''. IPOA-Murcia.
* Quintana Cifuentes, E.,'' La Lengua Elamita (Irán pre-persa)'', Madrid, 2010. Gram Ediciones.
*Khačikjan, Margaret: ''The Elamite Language'', Documenta Asiana IV, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche Istituto per gli Studi Micenei ed Egeo-Anatolici, 1998
*''Persians: Masters of Empire'', Time-Life Books, Alexandria, Virginia (1995)
*D. T. Potts, "Elamites and Kassites in the Persian Gulf",''Journal of Near Eastern Studies'', vol. 65, no. 2, pp. 111–119, (April 2006)
*Potts, Daniel T.: ''The Archaeology of Elam: Formation and Transformation of an Ancient Iranian State'', Cambridge University Press (1999) and
*McAlpin, David W., ''Proto Elamo Dravidian: The Evidence and Its Implications'', American Philosophy Society (1981)
*Vallat, François. 2010. "The History of Elam". The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies (CAIS)
Lengua e historia elamita
by Enrique QuintanaHistory of the Elamite EmpireElamite ArtStele of King Untash NapirishaStatue of Queen Napir AsuElamite SealsAll Empires – The Elamite EmpirePersepolis Fortification Archive ProjectIran Before IraniansEncyclopædia Iranica: ElamModelling population dispersal and language origins during the last 120,000 years
* Hamid-Reza Hosseini, ''Shush at the foot of Louvre
'' (''Shush dar dāman-e Louvre''), in Persian, Jadid Online, 10 March 2009
(6 min 31 sec)
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