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Which Was the World's First Empire?


Bronze Head of an Akkadian Ruler -- Possibly Sargon the Great

Bronze Head of an Akkadian Ruler -- Possibly Sargon of Akkad

[en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:AkkadianHead.jpg] Courtesy of Wikipedia Victory Stele of Naram-Sin

Victory Stele of Naram-Sin, King of Akkad and Grandson of Sargon of Akkad. At the Louvre.

Marie-Lan Nguyen/Wikimedia Commons.

Question: Which Was the World's First Empire?

Answer: As far as we know, the world's first empire was formed about 2250 B.C., by Sargon the Great, in Mesopotamia. His empire included the Sumerian cities of the Tigris-Euphrates Delta. After taking control of these, Sargon went into Syria to the Taurus Mountains near Cyprus. Sargon is, less plausibly, said to have gone into Egypt, India, and Ethiopia. The capital of Sargon's empire was at Agade (Akkad), a city whose precise location is not known for certain, but which gave its name to the empire, Akkadian.

The Akkadian empire spanned 800 miles and prospered for a century. Anthropologist Carla Sinopoli, who provides a useful definition of empire, lists the Akkadian Empire as among those lasting two centuries.

Sinopoli on "empire" and "imperialism":

"[A] territorially expansive and incorporative kind of state, involving relationships in which one state exercises control over other sociopolitical entities, and of imperialism as the process of creating and maintaining empires."


  • "Sargon Unseated"
    Saul N. Vitkus
    The Biblical Archaeologist, Vol. 39, No. 3 (Sep., 1976), pp. 114-117.
  • "How the Akkadian Empire Was Hung Out to Dry
    Ann Gibbons
    Science, New Series, Vol. 261, No. 5124 (Aug. 20, 1993), p. 985.
  • "In Search of the First Empires"
    J. N. Postgate
    Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 293 (Feb., 1994), pp. 1-13.
  • "The Archaeology of Empires"
    Carla M. Sinopoli
    Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 23 (1994), pp. 159-180


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