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Iran's history as a nation of people speaking an Indo-European language did not begin until the middle of the second millennium BC. Before then, Iran was occupied by peoples with a variety of cultures. There are numerous artifacts attesting to settled agriculture, permanent sun-dried- brick dwellings, and pottery-making from the sixth millennium BC. The most advanced area technologically was ancient Susiana, present-day Khuzestan Province. By the fourth millennium, the inhabitants of Susiana, the Elamites, were using semipictographic writing, probably learned from the highly advanced civilization of Sumer in Mesopotamia (ancient name for much of the area now known as Iraq), to the west.

Sumerian influence in art, literature, and religion also became particularly strong when the Elamites were occupied by, or at least came under the domination of, two Mesopotamian cultures, those of Akkad and Ur, during the middle of the third millennium. By 2000 BC the Elamites had become sufficiently unified to destroy the city of Ur. Elamite civilization developed rapidly from that point, and, by the fourteenth century B.C., its art was at its most impressive.

Geographically the ancient Elam may be defined as lying east of the Tigris and north of the Persian Gulf and comprising not only the lowlands of the modern Khuzistan, but also the mountainous chains surrounding them on the north and east. Rising from the broad plains nearer the coast to the mountainous districts within its borders on the east and north, Elam was one of the nearest neighbors of Chaldea.

Elam was known to the Assyrians as Elamtu (the "t" being a feminine termination), called in Greek Elymais, though part of its territory was known as Susiana in later times. Herodotus calls the country Kissia. The Assyrian name is usually explained as meaning "highland," but Jensen's explanation as "eastland " (that is, east of Babylonia), may be correct. Elam is classed in the Old Testament among the sons of Shem (Gen. x. 22; I Chron. i. 17) and this led early investigators to enumerate the Elamites among the Semitic peoples. The classification in the Old Testament must now be considered as geographical rather than ethnological, for it is quite clear that the Elamites were not Semitic either linguistically or ethnologically. Their language is agglutinative in character, and though difficult to classify with certainty is not in any way to be identified with the Semitic group.

The origin of the Elamite stock is veiled in obscurity. The true Elamites occupied the more mountainous parts of the country, while the lower levels near Babylonia even in very early times had a Semitic intermixture, whose nomenclature appears in certain place names near the river Tigris. Beginning with the semi-mythical period, there is the story of the fight of the Bab hero Gilgamesh with the Elamite tyrant Humbaba, who was defeated by the hero and his helper Enki-du, and beheaded. That in the earlier as in the later periods she should have been in constant antagonism with Babylonia might legitimately be suspected, and it is not surprising that there is an echo of her early struggles with Chaldaea in the legends which were current in the later periods of Babylonian history.

In the fourth and fifth tablets, or sections, of the great Babylonian epic which describes the exploits of the Babylonian hero Gilgamesh, a story is told of an expedition undertaken by Gilgamesh and his friend Ea-bani against an Elamite despot named Khumbaba. It is related in the poem that Khumbaba was feared by all who dwelt near him, for his roaring was like the storm, and any man perished who was rash enough to enter the cedar-wood in which he dwelt. But Gilgamesh, encouraged by a dream sent him by Shamash, the Sun-god, pressed on with his friend, and, having entered the wood, succeeded in slaying Khumbaba and in cutting off his head. This legend is doubtless based on episodes in early Babylonian and Elamite history. Khumbaba may not have been an actual historical ruler, but at least he represents or personifies the power of Elam, and the success of Gilgamesh no doubt reflects the aspirations with which many a Babylonian expedition set out for the Elamite frontier.

The Elamite language appears to be unrelated to any other languages, although some scholars see a kinship between Elamite and Brahui, one of the modern Dravidian languages. Elamite is an agglutinative language in that different linguistic elements, each of which exists separately and has a fixed meaning, are often joined to form one word. A number of stone inscriptions and clay tablets that have Elamite texts written in cuneiform survive. These texts cover a period of about 2,000 years that began at the end of the third millennium BC.

Texts from Elam dated back to around 3200 BC, which makes the Elamites second only to the Sumerians in the use of writing. Although the Elamites had two indigenous writing systems, the bulk of the available Elamite-language texts are written in an adapted version of the cuneiform system, which was probably borrowed from the Sumerians via Akkadian. Elamite texts written in cuneiform are attested from around 2400 BC until roughly 360 BC.

The historical record of Elam is broken by long gaps, during which the Elamites seem to have vanished into the hills, only to return a few centuries later. These gaps are useful for dividing the textual record into discrete periods. Since the earliest Elamite texts are written in a script which has not been deciphered, there is really only have information about the Elamite language starting with their adoption of cuneiform. The Old Elamite language is recorded from about 2400 BC to 1700 BC, Middle Elamite from 1300 BC to 1100 BC, and Neo-Elamite from 743 BC to 654 BC. After the fall of Elam, Elamite was used as anadministrative language in the Persian Empire, and this variant of the languageis known as Achæmenid Elamite, and is attested from 539 BC to 360 BC.

The earliest historical reference to the Elamites as the foes of Babylonia, however, is apparently that contained in a letter from the priest Lu-enna to the priest En-e-tarzi announcing that the Elamites had invaded Lagai and carried off considerable booty. The writer, however, had attacked the Elamites, and taken plunder from them in his turn.

The two principal cities were Susa or Shushan, called Susun in the native texts, and regarded as the old capital [founded as early as 4200 BC], situated on the Ulai (Karkha); and Anzan (Ashshan, Anshan), more to the SW. This latter was later the capital of Cyrus the Great and his immediate predecessors, the tract having been conquered apparently by Sitipis (Teispes), his ancestor, at the end of the 6th cent. BC. Susa, an important commercial center in the 3d millennium BC, became again one of the three capitals of the Pers empire during the rule of the Achaemenians.

Sargon of Agado, early in his reign, attacked the Elamites, but apparently Elam only fell under the dominion of the Babylonians during the time of Naram-Sin, his son, who is seemingly shown leading his troops in that region on the splendid stele oearing his name that was found at Susa. It is certain that at this early period of Elamite history Semitic Babylonians and Elamites dwelt side by side in Susa and retained their separate languages. Elam apparently regained its independence, however, during the time of Uruwus, king of Kis, who invaded the country, and brought back considerable spoil. One of the chiefs of Susa about this time was Simbi-ishak. Chaldaean domination, however, did not last long, for Dungi, king of Ur of the Chaldees, about 2500 BC, invaded the country, accompanied by his vassal Gudea, viceroy of Lagas.

Somewhat later came Idadu I, his son Kal-Ruhuratir, and his grandson Idadu II, who in turn occupied the throne during the time of Bur-Sin, king of Ur. Elam was at this time still under Bab suzerainty, which continued under his successor, Gimil-Sin, who also built at Susa, his vassal being Ebarti-kin-Daddu, viceroy of Susa. Gimil-Sin was succeeded by his son Ibi-Sin as overlord in Elam.

Kudur-Nabbunte threw off the Sem yoke, and, invading Babylonia, brought back much spoil to Elam. The date indicated for this ruler by the inscriptions of Assurbani-apli is 2280 BC. The positions of the rulers of Elam and Babylonia were now changed, and the kings of Babylon had to acknowledge Elamite suzerainty. As Elamite and Bab sovereign, KudurNabbunte intrusted Susa to a feudatory ruler.

Hammurabi, who is identified with the Amraphel of Gen 14 1.9, seems to have invaded the country in his 30th year. In his 31st he defeated Rtm-Sin of Larsa, following this up, in his 32d, by overthrowing the army of Asnunnak. All these successes in Elam and its dependencies probably made the kingdom of Babylon supreme in the land. It is thought probable that the Elamite king Sadi(?) or Taki (?) came into conflict with, and was defeated by, Ammi-saduga, the 4th in descent from Hammurabi, who reigned about 1890 BC. Apparently the Elamite ruler had tried to regain his independence, but failed.

Hurpatila (Hurbatila), who, desiring to throw off the Babylonian yoke, challenged Kuri-galzu, king of Babylon, to battle at Dur-Dungi. The challenge was accepted, with disastrous results, for Hurbatila was captured by the Bab king at the place named. This, however, did not put an end to the strife, and in the end Kidin-HutrudaS was victorious over Belnadin-5um, king o? Babylon, about 1180 BC. Later came the military exploits of Sutruk-Nabbunte, who invaded Babylonia, slew the king Zagaga-sum-iddina, and helped by his son Kutir-Nahhunte, destroyed Sippar, and took away the stele of Naram-Sin, the code of Hammurabi, and several other monuments, which were carefully preserved at Susa.

The war between Babylonia and Elam recorded for the reign of Nebuchadrezzar I (c 1020 BC) probably took place, according to Scheil, during the reign of Silbina-hamru-Laqamar. The Elamite king was defeated on the banks of the Ulai, Elam was ravaged, and much spoil taken. The principality called Namar was detached from Susian territory and reunited to the domain of Babylonia. Apparently the Elamites now turned their attention to regaining their military prestige, the result being that an Elamite king occupied the Bab throne from 939 to 934 BC. The Babylonians apparently soon shook off the Elamite yoke.

It is about this time that another power - Assyria - appeared on the scene, and took the field -- not only against Babylon, but also on the borders of Elam. An Elamite contemporary of Nabonassar of Babylon was Humbanigas, 742 BC. The conflict between Elam and Assyria.- At this time, however, the Assyrians became dominant in Babylonia, but it was probably not until the reign of Sargon of Assyria that Elam came into conflict with Assyria. It seems not to have been until the reign of Sennacherib that any serious invasion of the country on the part of the Assyrians was made. In 697 BC that king marched again against Merodach-baladan, who had taken refuge at Nagttu and other places on the Elamite side of the then elongated Pers Gulf. Here the Chaldaeans, with their Elamite allies, were defeated, and the Elamite cities plundered and destroyed.

Hallusu, king of Elam, on the retirement of the Assyr troops, invaded Babylonia as being part of the territories of the Assyr king, and having captured Assur-nadin-sum, Sennacherib's son, who had ruled in Babylon 6 years, carried him off to Elam, setting Nergal-us§zib on the throne of Babylonia. On the arrival of the Assyr avenging host in Babylonia, Nergal-usezib fled to Elam, but was captured near Niffer. The Elamites were evidently very dissatisfied with their king - possibly owing to his policy - and killed him in a revolt after a reign of six years. This action on the part of the Elamites, however, did not save the people. The death of Sennacherib and the troubles attending the accession of Esarhaddon encouraged Nabuzor-napisti-ltsir, son of Merodach-baladan, again to raise the standard of revolt. Defeat was the result, and he fled to Elam, there to be captured by Humbafoaldasu and put to death.

Friendship with Assyria was a complete reversal of Elamite policy, and to all appearance peace, though probably unpopular, persisted between the two countries for several years. Humba-ljaldasu's two brothers revolted against him and assassinated him, and Urtaku, one of the murderers, took the Elamite throne. Not daring to be openly hostile to Assyria, however, he sent his brother Te-umman to intrigue in Chaldaea in favor of a man named Nabuusallim, but the Chaldaean chiefs answered that Na'id-Marduk, their lord, lived, and they were the servants of the king of Assyria.

To all appearance Elam now became a province of the Assyr empire, though not for long, as this collapsed in the year 606 BC, and the center of government was shifted to Babylon, under Nabopolassar, who became its ruler. Nebuchadrezzar (604), EvilMerodach (561), Neriglissar (559), and Nabonidus (555-538 BC), were successively masters of Elam. The mention of the kings of Elam in Jer 25 25, however, suggests that the old states of the country had practically resumed their independence; though 49 35-39 prophesies the dismemberment of the country, and the destruction of its king and princes. This is thought to refer to the annexation of the country by Teispes, and its passing, through his line - Cyrus, Cambyses, and Cyrus the Great (553-529 B.c.), who were all kings of Anzan - to Darius Hystaspis. In Isa 21 2 it is apparently the later Cyrus who is referred to when Elam, with Media, is called upon "to go up" to the siege of Babylon.

After Cyrus, the history of Elam was that of Persia, of which it henceforth formed a part. In all probability, however, the Elamites were as warlike and as intractable as ever. During the reign of the little-known Kharacenian king, Aspasine, they made incursions into Babylonia, one of the opponents of this king's generals being Pittit, "the enemy, the Elamite"- a phrase of old standing, apparently. Elam, to its whole extent, was smitten with the sword, and Pittit [was slain or captured]. One of the cities which they attacked was Apameia, probably that on the Sellas river. Acts 2 9 implies that the old language of Elam was still in use, and the Elamites were still recognized as a nationality, as late as the 1st century of the Christian era.

Owing to the many Semites in Elam, and the nearness of the Bab states, Bab deities - Anu and Anatu, Enlil and Ninlil, Merodach and 13. Elamite Zer-panitu, Samas and Aa, Tammuz Religion and Istar, Ninip, Nergal, Hadad or Rimmon, etc-were largely worshipped (see Babel, Babylon). The chief deity of the non-Semitic pantheon seems to have been Insusinak, the patron-deity of Susa, identified with Ninip, the son of Enlil, by the Babylonians, who quote also other names applied to him - Lajjuratil Simes, Adaene. §usinak, and Dagbak. Merodach seems to have been represented by the Sumerian character Gal, "great," and Zer-panltu was apparently called Nin-sis in Elam. Istar was known as Usan. Lagamar, Laqamar, or Lagamal, was apparently identified with the Bab Lagamal, one of the gods of Dailem near Babylon--his name is generally regarded as forming part of the name ChedorlaoMeb, Na'hunte, or (Bab) Nanhundi was the Bab sun-god Samas; Kunzibami was the W. Sem. Hadad, also known by his Mitannian (Hittite) name of Tesup. Humban, Human, or Umman (Assyr), "the god of gods," "the king," was possibly regarded as the Bab Merodach. The currency of Bab myths in Elam is suggested by the name of the goddess Belala, possibly t he Bab Belili, sister of Tammuz. The word for "god" in Elamite was nap, explained by the Babylonians as one of the names of Enlil, implying that the Elamites regarded him as "the god" by divine right. Of their deities, six (one of them being Lagamar) were worshipped only by Elamite kings. Elam had temples and temple-towers similar to those in Babylonia, as well as sacred groves, wherein no stranger penetrated.

The rediscovery of the history of Elam is one of the most noteworthy things of modern research. It has revealed the wonderful development which that kingdom had made at an exceedingly early date. The excavations carried on by M. de Morgan at Susa revealed an entirely new chapter of ancient Oriental history, and have thrown a flood of light upon the position occupied by Elam among the early races of the East.

Elam was politically just as important as the Bab states, though probably hardly so advanced in art and literature. Nevertheless, the country had adopted the cuneiform method of writing, and possessed also another script, seemingly of more ancient date. As both Sem Bab and Susian (Anzanite) were spoken in the country, numerous documents in both languages have been found, mostly historical, or of the nature of dedications, some of which are inscribed on objects presented to temples. There are also a number of archaic tablets of the nature of accounts, written in a peculiar cuneiform character. The cylinder-seals are either inscribed with dedications, or with the name of the owner, his father, and the god whom he worshipped, as in Babylonia. Of other literature there are but mere traces - an exorcism against mosquitos shows the desire of the people to rid themselves of the discomforts of this life. Contracts testify to the existence of laws, but the laws themselves have yet to be discovered. The stele of Hammurabi, which was found at Susa, did not belong to Elamitic literature, but to that of Babylonia.

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Page last modified: 20-11-2011 19:25:25 ZULU