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Elam was an ancient civilization located in what is now southwest Iran. Elam was centered in the far west and the southwest of modern-day Iran, stretching from the lowlands of Khuzestan and Ilam Province, as well as a small part of southern Iraq.

Situated just to the east of Mesopotamia, Elam was part of the early urbanization during the Chalcolithic. The emergence of written records from around 3000 BC also parallels Mesopotamian history. 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 in the Gutian Empire, especially during the Achaemenid dynasty that succeeded it, when the Elamite language remained among those in official use.

The Elamite language has no established affinities with any other, and seems to be a language isolate such as Sumerian; however some researchers have posited the existence of a larger group known as Elamo-Dravidian. Linguists such as Václav Blažek and Georgiy Starostin criticised Elamo-Dravidian Hypothesis and concluded that Elamite language was related to Afroasiatic languages. However, these theories have heavily been criticized.



The Elamites called their country Haltamti[1], Sumerian ELAM, Akkadian Elamû, female Elamītu "resident of Susiana, Elamite".[2] Additionally, it is known as Elam in the Hebrew Bible, where they are called the offspring of Elam, eldest son of Shem (see Elam in the Bible; Genesis 10:22, Ezra 4:9).

The high country of Elam was increasingly identified by its low-lying later capital, Susa. Geographers after Ptolemy called it Susiana. The Elamite civilization was primarily centered in the province of what is modern-day Khuzestān, however it did extend into the later province of Fars in prehistoric times. The modern provincial name Khuzestān is derived from Persian: Old Persian Hūjiya "Elam" (Old Persian: ������[1]) became Middle Persian Huź "Susiana" and New Persian Xuz, gaining the common New Persian location ending -stån "place" (cf. Sistan "Saka-land").


Faravahar background

History of Iran

Kings of Persia
Proto-Elamite period 3200–2800
Elamite dynasty 2800–550
Kassites 16th–12th cent.
Mannaeans 10th–7th cent.
Median Empire 728–550
Achaemenid Empire 550–330
Seleucid Empire 330–150
Parthian Empire 248–CE 226
Sassanid Empire 226–651
Islamic conquest 637–651
Umayyad Caliphate 661–750
Abbasid Caliphate 750–1258
Tahirid dynasty 821–873
Alavid dynasty 864–928
Sajid dynasty 889/890–929
Saffarid dynasty 861–1003
Samanid dynasty 875–999
Ziyarid dynasty 928–1043
Buyid dynasty 934–1062
Sallarid 942–979
Ma'munids 995-1017
Ghaznavid Empire 963–1187
Ghori dynasty 1149–1212
Seljuq dynasty 1037–1194
Khwarezmid dynasty 1077–1231
Ilkhanate 1256–1353
Muzaffarid dynasty 1314–1393
Chupanid dyansty 1337–1357
Sarbadars 1337–1376
Jalayerid dynasty 1339–1432
Timurid dynasty 1370–1506
Qara Qoyunlu 1407–1468
Aq Qoyunlu 1378–1508
Safavid dynasty 1501–1722/36
Hotaki dynasty 1722–1729
Afsharid dynasty 1736–1750
Zand dynasty 1750–1794
Qajar dynasty 1781–1925
Pahlavi dynasty 1925–1979
Interim Government 1979–1980
Islamic Republic since 1980


Knowledge of Elamite history remains largely fragmentary, reconstruction being based on mainly Mesopotamian sources. The city of Susa was founded around 5000 BC, and during its early history, fluctuated between submission to Mesopotamian and Elamite power.

Following recent excavations in Jiroft and Zabol, archaeologists have suggested that a close relationship between the Jiroft civilisation and the Elamite civilisation is evidenced by striking similarities in art and culture, as well as by Elamite language writings found in Jiroft — possibly extending the Elamite presence to as early as 7000 BC.

The current Chogha Zanbil ziggurat site, showing the vicinity of the main structure as well.

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. Proto-Elamite influence from the Persian plateau 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 of Kish (c. 2650 BC?), who subdued it, according to the Sumerian king list. However, real Elamite history can only be traced from records dating to beginning of the Akkadian Empire in around 2300 BC onwards.

Elamite civilization grew up east of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, in the watershed of the river Karun. In modern terms, Elam included more than Khuzestan; it was a combination of the lowlands and the immediate highland areas to the north and east. Some Elamite sites, however, are found well outside this area, spread out on the Iranian plateau; examples of Elamite remains farther north and east in Iran are Sialk in Isfahan Province and Jiroft [1] in Kerman Province. 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 governmental structure.

Map showing the area of the Elamite Empire (in red) and the neighboring areas. The approximate Bronze Age extension of the Persian Gulf is shown.

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:

  • Proto-Elamite: c. 3200 BC – 2700 BC (Proto-Elamite script in Susa)
  • Old Elamite period: c. 2700 BC – 1600 BC (earliest documents until the Eparti dynasty)
  • Middle Elamite period: c. 1500 BC – 1100 BC (Anzanite dynasty until the Babylonian invasion of Susa)
  • Neo-Elamite period: c. 1100 BC – 539 BC (characterized by Iranian and Syrian influence. 539 BC marks the beginning of the Achaemenid period)

Old Elamite Period

The Old Elamite period began around 2700 BC. Historical records mention the conquest of Elam by Enmebaragesi of Kish. Three dynasties ruled during this period. We know of twelve kings of each of the first two dynasties, those of Awan (or Avan; c. 2400–2100 BC) and Simash (c. 2100–1970 BC), from a list from Susa dating to the Old Babylonian period. Two Elamite dynasties said to have exercised brief control over Sumer in very early times include Awan and Hamazi; and likewise, several of the stronger Sumerian rulers, such as Eannatum of Lagash and Lugal-anne-mundu of Adab, are recorded as temporarily dominating Elam.

Relief resembles a fish tailed woman holding snakes
Relief of a woman being fanned by an attendant while she holds what may be a spinning device before a table with a bowl containing a whole fish

The Avan dynasty was partly contemporary with that of Sargon of Akkad, who not only defeated the Awan king Luhi-ishan and subjected Susa, but attempted to make 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.

However, with the collapse of Akkad under Sargon's great-grandson, Shar-kali-sharri, Elam declared independence under the last Avan king, Kutik-Inshushinak (c. 2240–2220 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.

About a century later, Shulgi of Ur 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 Mesopotamians and Gutians, alternating with periods of peace and diplomatic approaches. Shu-Sin of Ur, for example, 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 Simashk, managed to sack Ur and lead Ibbi-Sin into captivity—thus ending the third dynasty of Ur. However, the kings of Isin, successor state to Ur, did manage to drive the Elamites out of Ur, rebuild the city, and to return the statue of Nanna that the Elamites had plundered.

Silver cup from Marvdasht, Fars, with linear-Elamite inscription on it. Late 3rd Millennium BC. National Museum of Iran.

The succeeding dynasty, the Eparti (c. 1970–1770 BC), also called "of the sukkalmahs" because of the title borne by its members, was contemporary with the Old Babylonian period in Mesopotamia. This period is confusing and difficult to reconstruct. It was apparently founded by Eparti I. During this time, Susa was under Elamite control, but Mesopotamian states such as Larsa continually tried to retake the city. Around 1850 BC Kudur-mabug, apparently king of another Elamite state to the north of Susa, 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 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 rising power of Babylon; 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 of Mari, and even Hammurabi of Babylon, and Kudur-Nahhunte, who plundered the temples of Akkad. But Elamite influence in Mesopotamia did not last. Around 1760 BC, Hammurabi drove out the Elamites, overthrew Rim-Sin of Larsa, and established Babylonian dominance 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).

Middle Elamite Period

An ornate design on this limestone ritual vat from the Middle Elamite period depicts creatures with the heads of goats and the tails of fish. (Louvre.)

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 and Shutrukids used Elamite with increasing regularity. Likewise, Elamite language and culture grew in importance in Susiana.

The Kidinuids (c. 1500–1400) 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.

Of the Igehalkids (c. 1400–1210), ten rulers are known, and there were possibly more. Some of them married Kassite princesses. The Kassite king Kurigalzu II temporarily occupied Elam c. 1320 BC, and later (c. 1230) another Kassite king, Kashtiliash IV, fought Elam unsuccessfully. Kiddin-Khutran I of Elam repulsed the Kassites by defeating Enlil-nadin-shumi in 1224 and Adad-shuma-iddina around 1222–17. Under the Igehalkids, Akkadian inscriptions were rare, and Elamite highland gods became firmly established in Susa.

Under the Shutrukids (c. 1210–1100), 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 Mesopotamia, and at the same time were exhibiting vigorous construction activity—building and restoring luxurious temples in Susa and across their Empire. Shutruk-Nakhkhunte raided Akkad, Babylon, and Eshnunna, carrying home to Susa trophies like the statues of Marduk and Manishtushu, the code of Hammurabi and the stela of Naram-Sin.

In 1158 BC, Shutruk-Nakhkhunte defeated the Kassites permanently, killing the Kassite king of Babylon, Zababa-shuma-iddina, and replacing him with his eldest son, Kutir-Nakhkhunte, who held it no more than three years.

Kutir-Nakhkhunte's son Khutelutush-In-Shushinak was probably of an incestuous relation of Kutir-Nakhkhunte's with his own daughter, Nakhkhunte-utu. He ended up temporarily yielding Susa to the forces of Nebuchadnezzar I of Babylon, who returned the statue of Marduk. 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 with this ruler, Elam disappears into obscurity for more than three centuries.

Neo-Elamite Period

Neo-Elamite I (c. 1100–770)

Very little is known of this period. Anshan was still at least partially Elamite. There appear to have been alliances of Elam and Babylonia against the Assyrians; the Babylonian king Mar-biti-apla-ushur (984—979) was of Elamite origin, and Elamites are recorded to have fought with the Babylonian king Marduk-balassu-iqbi against the Assyrian forces under Shamshi-Adad V (823–811).

Neo-Elamite II (c. 770–646)

Ashurbanipal's campaign against Susa is triumphantly recorded in this relief showing the sack of Susa in 647 BC. Here, flames rise from the city as Assyrian soldiers topple it with pickaxes and crowbars and carry off the spoils.

The later Neo-Elamite period is characterized by a significant migration of Iranians to the Iranian plateau. Assyrian sources beginning around 800 BC distinguish the "powerful Medes", ie the actual Medes, and the "distant Medes" that would later enter history under their proper names, (Parthians, Sagartians, Margians, Bactrians, Sogdians 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.

More details are known from the late 8th century BC, when the Elamites were allied with Merodach-baladan to defend the cause of Babylonian independence from Assyria. Khumbanigash (743–17) supported Merodach-baladan against Sargon II, apparently with limited success; while his successor, Shutruk-Nakhkhunte II (716–699), 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 victory over Babylon was completed by Sargon's son Sennacherib, who dethroned Merodach-baladan for a second time, finally 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 capture Ashur-nadin-shumi and Babylon in 694. Khallushu was in turn assassinated by Kutir-Nakhkhunte, who succeeded him, but soon abdicated in favor of Khumma-Menanu III (692–89). Khumma-Menanu recruited a new army to help the Babylonians against the Assyrians at the battle of Halule in 691 BC. The battle was indecisive, or at least both sides claimed the victory in their annals, but Babylon was destroyed by Sennacherib only two years later.

The reigns of Khumma-Khaldash I (688–81) and Khumma-Khaldash II (680–75) saw a deterioration of Elamite-Babylonian relations, and both of them raided Sippar. At the beginning of Esarhaddon's reign in Assyria (681-669), Nabu-zer-kitti-lišir, an ethnically Elamite governor in the south of Babylonia, revolted and besieged Ur, but fled to Elam where "the king of Elam took him prisoner and put him to the sword" (ABC 1 Col.3:39-42).

Urtaku (674–64) for some time maintained good relations with Assurbanipal (668–27), who sent wheat to Susiana during a famine. But these friendly relations were only temporary, and Urtaku died during another Elamite attack on Mesopotamia.

His successor Tempti-Khumma-In-Shushinak (664–53) was counter-attacked by Assurbanipal, and was killed following the battle of the Ulaï in 653 BC; and Susa was occupied by the Assyrians. In this same year the Mede state to the north fell to the Scythians under Madius, immediately displacing the Parsu tribe to Anshan — which their king Teispes captured that same year, turning it for the first time into an Indo-Iranian kingdom that would a century later become the nucleus of the Achaemenid dynasty.

During a brief respite provided by the civil war between Assurbanipal and his brother Shamash-shum-ukin, the Elamites too indulged in fighting among themselves, so weakening the Elamite kingdom that in 646 BC Assurbanipal 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 devastated the country.

In a tablet unearthed in 1854 by Henry Austin Layard, Ashurbanipal boasts of the destruction he had wrought:

Susa, the great holy city, abode of their Gods, seat of their mysteries, I conquered. I entered its palaces, I opened their treasuries where silver and gold, goods and wealth were amassed...I destroyed the ziggurat of Susa. I smashed its shining copper horns. I reduced the temples of Elam to naught; their gods and goddesses I scattered to the winds. The tombs of their ancient and recent kings I devastated, I exposed to the sun, and I carried away their bones toward the land of Ashur. I devastated the provinces of Elam and on their lands I sowed salt. [3]

Neo-Elamite III (646–539)

The devastation was however less complete than Assurbanipal boasted, and Elamite rule was resurrected soon after with Shuttir-Nakhkhunte, son of 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 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 Achaemenids were already ruling Anshan. Their successors Khumma-Menanu and Shilhak-In-Shushinak II bore the simple title "king," and the final king Tempti-Khumma-In-Shushinak boasted no title altogether. In 540 BC, Achaemenid rule begins in Susa.


Under the Parthian period, a kingdom of Elymais existed which survived until its extinction by Sassanid invasion in the early third century AD. It was located in the heartland of ancient Elam. Most of Elymais were probably descendants of the ancient Elamites [4].

Elamite religion

A "two horned" figure wrestling with serpents. The Elamite artifact was discovered by Iran's border police from Historical Heritage traffickers, en route to Turkey, and was confiscated. Style is determined to be from "Jiroft".

In terms of religion, the Elamites practised polytheism. One of the most important figures in their early pantheon was a goddess named Kiririsha, a name with cognates found in the belief systems of other peoples throughout the region. "The very fact that precedence was given to a goddess, who stood above and apart from the other Elamite gods, indicates a matriarchal approach in the devotees of this religion. In the third millennium, this great mother of gods still held undisputed sway at the head of the Elamite pantheon" [5]. According to "The Cambridge Ancient History" [6]: "the predominance of a supreme goddess is probably a reflexion from the practice of matriarchy, which at all times characterized Elamite civilization to a greater or lesser degree". Elam is the first high-culture of Iran and, along with the Sumerians, is considered one of the most developed societies of the ancient history [7].

Elamite language

Elamite is unrelated to the neighboring Semitic, Sumerian, and Indo-European languages. It was written in a cuneiform adapted from Akkadian script, 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, leading archaeologists to speculate that Linear Elamite had spread from there 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, and it has not yet been deciphered.

David McAlpine believes Elamite may be related to the living Dravidian languages (of southern India, and Brahui in Pakistan). The hypothesized family of Elamo-Dravidian languages may further prove to be connected with the Indus Valley Civilization somewhat to the East, possibly corresponding to Meluhha in Sumerian records. However, such links are at best conjectural, and Harappan pictographs have also yet to be 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. Ibn al-Nadim among other Arab medieval historians, for instance, wrote that "The Iranian languages are Fahlavi (Pahlavi), Dari, Khuzi, Persian and Suryani", and Ibn Moqaffa noted that Khuzi was the unofficial language of the royalty of Persia, "Khuz" being the corrupted name for Elam.

The Elamite legacy

The Assyrians boasted that they had utterly destroyed the Elamites, but new polities emerged in the area after Assyrian power faded. However, they never again exercised the power of the earlier Elamite empires; they controlled the watershed of the Karun and little beyond. Among the nations that benefited from the decline of the Assyrians were the Persians, 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.

Elamite influence on the Achaemenids

A 4.5 inch long lapis lazuli dove is studded with gold pegs. Dated 1200BCE from Susa, a city later on shared with the Achaemenids.

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" (Encyclopedia 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 at Pasargadae; 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.

According to the editors of Persians, Masters of Empire: "The Elamites, fierce rivals of the Babylonians, were precursors of the royal Persians" (ISBN 0-8094-9104-4). This view is widely accepted today, as experts unanimously recognize the Elamites to have "absorbed Iranian influences in both structure and vocabulary" by 500 BC. (Encyclopedia Iranica, Columbia University)

The Elamite civilization's originality, coupled with studies carried out at Elamite sites well spread out over the Iranian plateau, have led modern historians to conclude that "The Elamites are the founders of the first Iranian empire in the geographic sense". [8]

Most experts go even further and establish a clear chain of cultural continuity between the Elamites and later dynasties of Iran. Elamologist DT Potts verifies this in writing, "There is much evidence, both archaeological and literary/epigraphic, to suggest that the rise of the Persian empire witnessed the fusion of Elamite and Persian elements already present in highland Fars". [9]

Thus, not only was "Elam absorbed into the new empire" (Encyclopedia Iranica, Columbia University), becoming part of the millennia old imperial heritage of Iran, but the Elamite civilization is now recognized to be "the earliest civilization of Persia", in the words of Sir Percy Sykes.[10]

Post Achaemenid influence

Traditional histories have ended Elamite history with its submergence in the Achaemenids, but Greek and Latin references to "Elymais" attest to cultural survival, according to Daniel Potts. "Elamite" is mentioned in Acts 2:8 in the New Testament as one of the languages heard at the Pentecost, and from 410 onwards Elam (Beth Huzaye) was the senior metropolitan province of the Church of the East, surviving into the fourteenth century.

Elamite studies

In a 2001 talk, Basello Gian Pietro (Istituto Universitario Orientale, Naples) stated:

While even today the languages play a basic role in our schematisation and teaching of the past, this stepchild shows us how frail the boundaries of our academic subjects are. While ancient Elamites fought against Assyrians and rebelled against Persians, Elamite studies are strictly bound to Assyriology and Iranian studies. As ancient Elam stood and represented a meeting place between Mesopotamian lowland and Iranian highland, so Elamite studies need to grab and grasp data both from Assyriology and Iranian studies and through many fields of work.

Unfortunately, missing an independent academic subject, we have little specific teaching of Elamite studies. As we employ a foreign designation in referring to ancient Anšan and Susiana, Elamite scholars are often Assyriologists, Iranists or Linguists in their academic background, i.e. they have approached Elam later and from an external point of view. [2]

As opposed to the typical view that Elam is of interest only for its contributions to Iranian or Assyrian culture, or for its unique language, some scholars feel that Elam should be studied in its own right, and not annexed to another cultural tradition.

See also


  1. ^ a b Kent, Roland (1953). Old Persian: Grammar, Texts & Lexicon. American Oriental Series. 33). American Oriental Society. pp. 53. ISBN 0940490331.  
  2. ^ Jeremy Black, Andrew George & Nicholas Postgate (eds.), ed (1999). A Concise Dictionary of Akkadian. Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 68. ISBN 3447042257.  
  3. ^ Persians: Masters of Empire. pp. 7–8. ISBN 0-8094-9104-4.  
  4. ^ - ELYMAIS
  5. ^ "African presence in early Asia," p.26, 27
  6. ^ "The Cambridge Ancient History," Volumes 1-4, p.400
  7. ^ "African presence in early Asia," p.25
  8. ^ Daniel, Elton. The History of Iran. pp. 26.  
  9. ^ The Archaeology of Elam: Formation and Transformation of an Ancient Iranian State. Cambridge World Archaeology. Chap 9 Introduction.  
  10. ^ Sykes, Percy (1915). A History of Persia. pp. 38. ISBN 0-415-32678-8.  
  • 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.
  • Khačikjan, Margaret: The Elamite Language, Documenta Asiana IV, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche Istituto per gli Studi Micenei ed Egeo-Anatolici, 1998 ISBN 88-87345-01-5
  • Persians: Masters of Empire, Time-Life Books, Alexandria, VA (1995) ISBN 0-8094-9104-4
  • Potts, Daniel T.: The Archaeology of Elam: Formation and Transformation of an Ancient Iranian State, Cambridge University Press (1999) ISBN 0-521-56496-4 and ISBN 0-521-56358-5
  • McAlpin, David W., Proto Elamo Dravidian: The Evidence and Its Implications, American Philosophy Society (1981) ISBN 0-87169-713-0

External links

Coordinates: 29°54′N 52°24′E / 29.9°N 52.4°E / 29.9; 52.4

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ELAM, the name given in the Bible to the province of Persia called Susiana by the classical geographers, from Susa or Shushan its capital. In one passage, however (Ezra iv. 9), it is confined to Elymais, the north-western part of the province, and its inhabitants distinguished from those of Shushan, which elsewhere (Dan. viii. 2) is placed in Elam. Strabo (xv. 3.12, &c.) makes Susiana a part of Persia proper, but a comparison of his account with those of Ptolemy (vi. 3. I, &c.) and other writers would limit it to the mountainous district to the east of Babylonia, lying between the Oroatis and the Tigris, and stretching from India to the Persian Gulf. Along with this mountainous district went a fertile low tract of country on the western side, which also included the marshes at the mouths of the Euphrates and Tigris and the north-eastern coast land of the Gulf. This low tract, though producing large quantities of grain, was intensely hot in summer; the high regions, however, were cool and well watered.

The whole country was occupied by a variety of tribes, speaking agglutinative dialects for the most part, though the western districts were occupied by Semites. Strabo (xi. 13.3, 6), quoting from Nearchus, seems to include the Susians under the Elymaeans, whom he associates with the Uxii, and places on the frontiers of Persia and Susa; but Pliny more correctly makes the Eulaeus the boundary between Susiana and Elymais (N.H. vi. 29-31). The Uxii are described as a robber tribe in the mountains adjacent to Media, and their name is apparently to be identified with the title given to the whole of Susiana in the Persian cuneiform inscriptions, Uwaja, i.e. " Aborigines." Uwaja is probably the origin of the modern Khuzistan, though Mordtmann would derive the latter from j5 "a sugar-reed." Immediately bordering on the Persians were the Amardians or Mardians, as well as the people of Khapirti (Khatamti, according to Scheil), the name given to Susiana in the Neo-Susian texts. Khapirti appears as Apir in the inscriptions of Mal-Amir, which fix the locality of the district. Passing over the Messabatae, who inhabited a valley which may perhaps be the modern MahSabadan, as well as the level district of Yamutbal or Yatbur which separated Elam from Babylonia, and the smaller districts of Characene, Cabandene, Corbiana and Gabiene mentioned by classical authors, we come to the fourth principal tribe of Susiana, the Cissii (Aesch. Pers. 16; Strabo xv. 3. 2) or Cossaei (Strabo xi. 5.6, xvi. II. 17; Arr. Ind. 40; Polyb. V. 54, &c.), the Kassi of the cuneiform inscriptions. So important were they, that the whole of Susiana was sometimes called Cissia after them, as by Herodotus (iii. 91, v. 49, &c.). In fact Susiana was only a late name for the country, dating from the time when Susa had been made a capital of the Persian empire. In the Sumerian texts of Babylonia it was called Numma, "the Highlands," of which Elamtu or Elamu, "Elam," was the Semitic translation. Apart from Susa, the most important part of the country was Anzan (Anshan, contracted Assan), where the native population maintained itself unaffected by Semitic intrusion. The exact position of Anzan is still disputed, but it probably included originally the site of Susa and was distinguished from it only when Susa became the seat of a Semitic government. In the lexical tablets Anzan is given as the equivalent of Elamtu, and the native kings entitle themselves kings of "Anzan and Susa," as well as "princes of the Khapirti." The principal mountains of Elam were on the north, called Charbanus and Cambalidus by Pliny (vi. 27, 31), and belonging to the Parachoathras chain. There were numerous rivers flowing into either the Tigris or the Persian Gulf. The most important were the Ulai or Eulaeus (Kuran) with its tributary the Pasitigris, the Choaspes (Kerkhah), the Coprates (river of Diz called in the inscriptions), the Hedyphon or Hedypnus (Jerrahi), and the Croatis (Hindyan), besides the monumental Surappi and Ukni, perhaps to be identified with the Hedyphon and Oroatis, which fell into the sea in the marshy region at the mouth of the Tigris. Shushan or Susa, the capital now marked by the mounds of Shush, stood near the junction of the Choaspes and Eulaeus (see SusA); and Badaca, Madaktu in the inscriptions, lay between the Shapur and the river of Diz. Among the other chief cities mentioned in the inscriptions may be named Naditu, Khaltemas, Din-sar, Bubilu, Bit-imbi, Khidalu and Nagitu on the sea-coast. Here, in fact, lay some of the oldest and wealthiest towns, the sites of which have, however, been removed inland by the silting up of the shore. J. de Morgan's excavations at Susa have thrown a flood of light on the early history of Elam and its relations to Babylon. The earliest settlement there goes back to neolithic times, but it was already a fortified city when Elam was conquered by Sargon of Akkad (3800 B.C.) and Susa became the seat of a Babylonian viceroy. From this time onward for many centuries it continued under Semitic suzerainty, its high-priests, also called "Chief Envoys of Elam, Sippara and Susa," bearing sometimes Semitic, sometimes native "Anzanite" names. One of the kings of the dynasty of Ur built at Susa. Before the rise of the First Dynasty of Babylon, however, Elam had recovered its independence, and in 2280 B.C. the Elamite king Kutur-Nakhkhunte made a raid in Babylonia and carried away from Erech the image of the goddess Nana. The monuments of many of his successors have been discovered by de Morgan and their inscriptions deciphered by v. Scheil. One of them was defeated by Ammi-zadoq of Babylonia (c. 2100 B.C.); another would have been the Chedor-laomer (Kutur-Lagamar) of Genesis xiv. One of the greatest builders among them was Untas -GAL (the pronunciation of the second element in the name is uncertain). About 1330 B.C. Khurba-tila was captured by Kuri-galzu III., the Kassite king of Babylonia, but a later prince Kidin-Khutrutas avenged his defeat, and Sutruk-Nakhkhunte (1220 B.C.) carried fire and sword through Babylonia, slew its king Zamama-sum-iddin and carried away a stela of Naram-Sin and the famous code of laws of Khammurabi from Sippara, as well as a stela of Manistusu from Akkuttum or Akkad. He also conquered the land of Asnunnak and carried off from Padan a stela belonging to a refugee from Malatia. He was succeeded by his son who was followed on the throne by his brother, one of the great builders of Elam. In 750 B.C. Umbadara was king of Elam; Khumbanigas was his successor in 742 B.C. In 720 B.C. the latter prince met the Assyrians under Sargon at Dur-ili in Yamutbal, and though Sargon claims a victory the result was that Babylonia recovered its independence under Merodach-baladan and the Assyrian forces were driven north. From this time forward it was against Assyria instead of Babylonia that Elam found itself compelled to exert its strength, and Elamite policy was directed towards fomenting revolt in Babylonia and assisting the Babylonians in their struggle with Assyria. In 716 B.C. Khumbanigas died and was followed by his nephew, Sutruk-Nakhkhunte. He failed to make head against the Assyrians; the frontier cities were taken by Sargon and Merodach-baladan was left to his fate. A few years later (704 B.C.) the combined forces of Elam and Babylonia were overthrown at Kis, and in the following year the Kassites were reduced to subjection. The Elamite king was dethroned and imprisoned in 700 B.C. by his brother Khallusu, who six years later marched into Babylonia, captured the son of Sennacherib, whom his father had placed there as king, and raised a nominee of his own, Nergal-yusezib, to the throne. Khallusu was murdered in 694 B.C., after seeing the maritime part of his dominions invaded by the Assyrians. His successor KudurNakhkhunte invaded Babylonia; he was repulsed, however, by Sennacherib, 34 of his cities were destroyed, and he himself fled from Madaktu to Khidalu. The result was a revolt in which he was killed after a reign of ten months. His brother Ummanmenan at once collected allies and prepared for resistance to the Assyrians. But the terrible defeat at Khalule broke his power; he was attacked by paralysis shortly afterwards, and KhumbaKhaldas II. followed him on the throne (689 B.C.). The new king endeavoured to gain Assyrian favour by putting to death the son of Merodach-baladan, but was himself murdered by his brothers Urtaki and Teumman (681 B.C.), the first of whom seized the crown. On his death Teumman succeeded and almost immediately provoked a quarrel with Assur-bani-pal by demanding the surrender of his nephews who had taken refuge at the Assyrian court. The Assyrians pursued the Elamite army to Susa, where a battle was fought on the banks of the Eulaeus, in which the Elamites were defeated, Teumman captured and slain, and Umman-igas, the son of Urtaki, made king, his younger brother Tammaritu being given the district of Khidalu. Ummanigas afterwards assisted in the revolt of Babylonia under Samassum-yukin, but his nephew, a second Tammaritu, raised a rebellion against him, defeated him in battle, cut off his head and seized the crown. Tammaritu marched to Babylonia; while there, his officer Inda-bigas made himself master of Susa and drove Tammaritu to the coast whence he fled to Assur-banipal. Inda-bigas was himself overthrown and slain by a new pretender, Khumba-Khaldas III., who was opposed, however, by three other rivals, two of whom maintained themselves in the mountains until the Assyrian conquest of the country, when Tammaritu was first restored and then imprisoned, Elam being utterly devastated. The return of Khumba-Khaldas led to a fresh Assyrian invasion; the Elamite king fled from Madaktu to Dur-undasi; Susa and other cities were taken, and the Elamite army almost exterminated on the banks of the Itite. The whole country was reduced to a desert, Susa was plundered and razed to the ground, the royal sepulchres were desecrated, and the images of the gods and of 32 kings "in silver, gold, bronze and alabaster," were carried away. All this must have happened about 640 B.C. After the fall of the Assyrian empire Elam was occupied by the Persian Teispes, the forefather of Cyrus, who, accordingly, like his immediate successors, is called in the inscriptions "king of Anzan." Susa once more became a capital, and on the establishment of the Persian empire remained one of the three seats of government, its language, the Neo-Susian, ranking with the Persian of Persepolis and the Semitic of Babylon as an official tongue. In the reign of Darius, however, the Susianians attempted to revolt, first under Assina or Atrina, the son of Umbadara, and later under Martiya, the son of Issainsakria, who called himself Immanes; but they gradually became completely Aryanized, and their agglutinative dialects were supplanted by the Aryan Persian from the south-east.

Elam, "the land of the cedar-forest," with its enchanted trees, figured largely in Babylonian mythology, and one of the adventures of the hero Gilgamesh was the destruction of the tyrant Khumbaba who dwelt in the midst of it. A list of the Elamite deities is given by Assur-bani-pal; at the head of them was In-Susinak, "the lord of the Susians," - a title which went back to the age of Babylonian suzerainty, - whose image and oracle were hidden from the eyes of the profane. Nakhkhunte, according to Scheil, was the Sun-goddess, and Lagamar, whose name enters into that of Chedorlaomer, was borrowed from Semitic Babylonia.

See W. K. Loftus, Chaldaea and Susiana (1857); A. Billerbeck, Susa (1893); J. de Morgan, Memoires de la Delegation en Perse (9 vols., 1899-1906). (A. H. S.)

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Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

Meaning: highland

The son of Shem (Gen 10:22), and the name of the country inhabited by his descendants (14:1, 9; Isa 11:11; 21:2, etc.) lying to the east of Babylonia, and extending to the shore of the Mediterranean, a distance in a direct line of about 1,000 miles. The name Elam is an Assyrian word meaning "high."

"The inhabitants of Elam, or 'the Highlands,' to the east of Babylon, were called Elamites. They were divided into several branches, speaking different dialects of the same agglutinative language. The race to which they belonged was brachycephalic, or short-headed, like the pre-Semitic Sumerians of Babylonia.

"The earliest Elamite kingdom seems to have been that of Anzan, the exact site of which is uncertain; but in the time of Abraham, Shushan or Susa appears to have already become the capital of the country. Babylonia was frequently invaded by the Elamite kings, who at times asserted their supremacy over it (as in the case of Chedorlaomer, the Kudur-Lagamar, or 'servant of the goddess Lagamar,' of the cuneiform texts).

"The later Assyrian monarchs made several campaigns against Elam, and finally Assur-bani-pal (about B.C. 650) succeeded in conquering the country, which was ravaged with fire and sword. On the fall of the Assyrian Empire, Elam passed into the hands of the Persians" (A.H. Sayce).

This country was called by the Greeks Cissia or Susiana.

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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Map showing the area of the Elamite Empire (in red) and the neighboring areas. The approximate Bronze Age extension of the Persian Gulf is shown.

Elam was an long-lasting ancient civilization just to the east of Mesopotamia, in what is now southwest Iran. Elam was centered in the far west and the southwest of modern-day Iran, including a small part of southern Iraq.[1]


Knowledge of Elamite history remains largely fragmentary, reconstruction being based on mainly Mesopotamian 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:

  • Proto-Elamite: c. 3200 BC – 2700 BC (Proto-Elamite script in Susa)
  • Old Elamite period: c. 2700 BC – 1600 BC (earliest documents until the Eparti dynasty)
  • Middle Elamite period: c. 1500 BC – 1100 BC (Anzanite dynasty until the Babylonian invasion of Susa)
  • Neo-Elamite period: c. 1100 BC – 539 BC (characterized by Iranian and Syrian influence. 539 BC marks the beginning of the Achaemenid period)

The Proto-Elamite city of Susa was founded around 5000 BCE in the watershed of the river Karun. It is considered to be the site of Proto-Elamite cultural formation.

Written records start from around 3000 BC in the Old Elamite period (Middle Bronze Age). In the Achaemenid Empire the Elamite language was among those in official use. The Elamite language has no obvious connections with any other, and seems to be a language isolate like Sumerian. Some researchers have suggested the existence of a larger group known as Elamo-Dravidian. This theory is not established.

The Elamites called their country Haltamti, but the Sumerians and Akkadians called it Elam, and so it was also in the Hebrew Bible. The civilisation started around 2700 BC, and they were finally conquered by the Achmaenids in 640 BC. A tablet found in 1848 has the Achmaenid king Ashurbanipal boasting of his conquest:

"Susa, the great holy city, abode of their Gods, seat of their mysteries, I conquered. I entered its palaces, I opened their treasuries where silver and gold, goods and wealth were amassed...I destroyed the ziggurat of Susa. I smashed its shining copper horns. I reduced the temples of Elam to naught; their gods and goddesses I scattered to the winds. The tombs of their ancient and recent kings I devastated, I exposed to the sun, and I carried away their bones toward the land of Ashur. I devastated the provinces of Elam and on their lands I sowed salt.[2]

As it happens, the Elamites managed to stay independent for some time after this disaster. The devastation was less complete than Assurbanipal boasted, and Elamite rule, though rather broken up, continued until 540 BC, when Achaemenid rule begins in Susa. Under the Parthian period, a kingdom of Elymais existed which survived until its extinction by Sassanid invasion in the early third century AD. It was located in the heartland of ancient Elam.


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