Few rulers in ancient Mesopotamia influenced the course of history more than Sargon I, also known as Sargon of Akkad (ruled ca. 2334-2279 BC). Rising to power from obscurity, from a city that has still not been located by archaeologists, Sargon led his people the Akkadians to conquer most of Mesopotamia, instituting many enduring changes in the process. Perhaps the most important, and certainly the most apparent, influence Sargon had on Mesopotamia was the introduction of the Akkadian language, which was still used over 2,000 after the king’s death. Sargon also influenced Mesopotamia in the shorter term by unifying the region under one dynasty and instituting changes to the religion and royal ideology that were followed by subsequent dynasties.
Sargon’s origins are murky, and the ancient written sources that chronicle his early life are more legends than historical texts. In the late third millennium BC, when Sargon came to power, Mesopotamia was a collection of several city-states ruled by numerous ethnicities that often spoke different languages. The Sumerians were the first dominant ethnic group in Mesopotamia, and although they brought all the hallmarks of civilization to the region, such as writing, they were only able to place the southern part of Mesopotamia under their rule.
After the Sumerians, Mesopotamia went back to competing city-states, which is how Sargon and the Akkadians came to power. Today, scholars are still unsure precisely where the ancient city of Akkad was located, sometimes spelled “Agade,” but it is believed to have been in the northern part of southern Mesopotamia. Sargon and his people spoke a Semitic language that is today known as Akkadian, and the dynasty that Sargon initiated is known as the Akkadian Dynasty.