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Ca. 2000-1380 BCE

Ancient World / Mesopotamia / Assyria /
Old Assyria
Akkadian: assur

1. Society and Economy
2. Administration
3. Kings
4. Culture
5. Religion
6. Language
7. History

Assyria of Shamshi-Adad 1

13 cm tall furniture support. Around 1820-1740 BCE. Found in Central Anatolia.The Metropolitan Museum of Art
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Old Assyrian tablet from ca. 1900 BCE, written in cuneiform
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Old Assyrian cylinder from ca. 1900 BCE, written in cuneiform
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Old Assyrian cuneiform tablet case, between 1920 and 1840 BCE
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The oldest Assyrian state structures, emerging around, or before, 2000 BCE. The first period saw city states and small kingdoms. It transfers into the period defined as "Middle" ca. 1380, making the Old period last ca. 600 years.
Assyria of this period was never called so, rather Subartu (in Akkadian). The name shift came in the early Middle period.
It was preceeded by the kingdoms under Sumerian, Akkadian and Babylonian rulers.
The legendary founder of the Assyrian monarchy is Zulilu.
Old Assyria reached its highest point of strength, covering all of northern Mesopotamia around 1800 BCE, under king Shamshi-Adad 1. His legacy would be very short-lived, as perhaps the greatest of all Mesopotamian kings took the Babylonian throne about the same time that Shamshi-Adad died.
The fall of Ashur to Hammurabi is not defined as the end of OId Assyria. Although being reduced to a vassal state, local rulers continued to rule from Ashur, and without much difference from before Shamshi-Adad.
Over time, Mitanni would become strong in Assyria, especially in the times when the Kassites conquered Babylonia around 1600. This is often defined as the end of Old Assyria, but local rulers remained in Ashur, and in the middle of the 16th century, local rulers began exercising more power.
A new era comes with Middle Assyria, which is defined to begin around 1380 BCE.

Society and Economy
Assyria was largely a feudal society.
The centre of the states was the city state of Ashur. Ashur had important contacts into Asia Minor, and established trading colonies, karum, in Cappadocia in the 20th century BCE. Ashur exported metals for tools and textiles in exchange for precious metals.
The people were Semitics.

Early on, Ashur was no monarchy, rather an oligarchy, headed by an assembly of elders.
Society was organized to the city itself, with limited influence on the hinterland.

Art work has been found from this period, but it is difficult to ascertain whether the artifacts are of Assyrian origin, or imports from other cultures.

Little can be said with certainty about Old Assyrian religion, few data from this era exists.

Akkadian was the established language of the region of Assyria from at least back to the 3rd millennium BCE. Clay tablet written in cuneiform was well in use early on in this era.

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By Tore Kjeilen