I have written a lot about Enheduanna and her life in my blog, but have written very little about her nephew, Naram-sin. He was considered to be one of the greatest kings in Sumerian history, and some would say his political and militaristic abilities even surpassed that of his grandfather, Sargon the Great. Naram-sin reigned between 2261-2224 BCE and saw his fair share of uprisings, invasions, and struggles; yet through it all, he rose above it to be called the last great king of the Akkadian empire. He had to pave his own road to power after having learned from his grandfather and that is where this story begins.
Sargon reigned for over fifty years after unifying the southern city-states under his rule. During this time, he standardized weights and measures and set forth laws to provide stability. The southern tribes who welcomed him at first soon turned against him in the form of violent revolts. Sargon was constantly having to send out his armies to regain peace through conquest. In an effort to achieve unity through peaceful means, Sargon placed his only daughter, Enheduanna, into the role of High Priestess of Nanna-sin at Ur. In doing this, he gave himself a second seat of power in the southern lands as Enheduanna would be a direct extension of his rule. Further, by showing respect to the Sumerian Pantheon, it soothed the people into submission.
Following Sargon’s death, his son Rhimush took the throne. The shift of power presumably left the people worrying about how this new king would rule and wondering if he would respect their traditions the way Sargon had appeared to. New uprisings occurred and Rhimush had to spend the first few years of his reign setting them down. Rhimush also campaigned against Elam and won that encounter, bringing back treasure and wealth to his empire. He ruled for nine years before it was assumed that his elder brother, Manishtushu, murdered him for the throne.
As with the early years of Rhimush’s reign, Manishtushu was faced with revolts from the southern city-states who rebelled against his ascension. There is not much known about Manishtushu’s reign as it did not appear he did much to expand the Akkadian empire, seeming to only maintain what his father and brother had built. He ruled for fifteen years before his death in 2261 BCE. This marked the beginning of Naram-sin’s incredible reign.
The beginning of Naram-sin’s reign was a rinse and repeat of the same hardships Rhimush and Manishtushu faced in their early ruling years. The most notable of those revolts was that of the rebel, Lugalanne. There is little known about this figure, but some scholars believe he was a chieftain at or around Ur who achieved the freedom of Ur and was working his way to Uruk. We know that he was the same man who usurped Enheduanna from her role as High Priestess at Ur, as she named him in her poem, “Exaltation of Inanna.” Naram-sin eventually took back the lost land and then moved on to expand his empire further.
During his reign, Naram-sin increased trade, kept the peace within his own borders, and he expanded the Akkadian empire as far west as the Mediterranean Sea, into the Persian Gulf, and possibly even into Egypt. He turned Elam into a vassal-state and moved his influence into Susa. He gave himself the title of King of the Four Quarters of the Universe and started writing his name with the deified status of Naram-sin, placing himself on an equal level with the gods.
*Note – the following is heading more into my own fact-based opinions.
Some scholars have said that naming himself as a god was an act of extreme arrogance, while others believe it to be an act of honoring the god, Nanna-sin. On the Victory stele of Naram-sin, the images placed the god-king between the people he ruled and the gods themselves. It shows him to be in a position of divine power over the lesser people but still places him among the mortals below. His placement, to me, is a sign that he still revered the gods and knew his place beneath him. He was acting as an intermediary between the divine and secular, naming himself a god among men. We may never know his true intentions behind the self-deification, but it does paint him as an intriguing historical figure and a very effective leader.
While writing my book, Through the Gate of Wonder, I have gone back and forth on how to write him. Do I write him as an arrogant man who wanted to control both the secular and the divine worlds, or do I write him as a strong leader who was so dedicated to the gods that he declared himself to be one of them? While writing this story that has such a strong female protagonist, I have found myself falling into the trap of surrounding her with arrogant assholes of whom she stands so far above. It is an easy pit to fall into and one that is very difficult to rise above. He is currently the arrogant asshole, but once the editing process starts he might find himself as another protagonist in this beautiful story.