Elam

Archaeological findings indicate that the civilization of Elam occurred before 5000 B.C. however, written history indicates that it lasted from 3200 to 539 B.C., making it the oldest recorded civilization known today.

Our knowledge of the history of Elam has been reconstructed, mainly from Mesopotamian sources. The capital city, Susa, was founded around 4000 B.C. In its early history, it was passed between Elamite and Mesopotamian forces.

Archaeological excavations in Iran discovered a close connection between the Jiroft and Elamite civilizations. If this is true, the Elamite civilization may have begun as early as 7000 BC.

The first known Kingconnected with Elam is King Enmebaragesi (c 2650 BC?). However, the first written records are dated to the start of the Akkadian empire in 2300 B.C..

Elamite lands were extensive. The Elamites had a coordinated government structure which allowed for exchange of natural resources between regions.

Elam’s history is generally divided into four periods – The Proto-Elamite(before Elamite period), Old Elamite, Middle Elamite, and Neo-Elamite periods.

Old Elamite Period (3200BC – 2700 BC)
At this time, Elam had been conquered by King Enmebaragesi of Kish. This period consists of three ruling dynasties; 12 kings ruled over the first two dynasties. The Awan Dynasty (2400-2100 BC) was defeated by King Sargon of Akkad. His attempts to change the official language to Akkadian had limited success, although the renewed Mesopotamian interest led to trade, military expeditions, and more. With this, we have many written records.

Middle Elamite Period (1500 – 1100 BC)
During this period, Elamite language and culture flourished. They reached the apex fo their power under the Shutrukids (1210-1100BC). They entered into many military campaigns against Mesopotamia, while simultaneously embarking on a construction spree, creating luxurious temples across the Empire. The king and his sons brought home many trophies from Babylon, Akad, and Eshnunna, including statues, stelae, and even the Code of Hammurabai. By the end of the dynasty, the power of the Empire was waning.

Neo-Elamite Period (1100-539 BC)
Very little is known of the period between 1100-770 BC. Elam allied with Babylon against the Assyrians. However, there are a few written records.

In mid-period, Iranians migrated to the plateau.pressure from various tribes, such as the Parsu, caused the Iranian plateau to be renamed Persia. By 539 B.C., the Elamites were no more. A small pocket existed in the heartland until the third century A.D., when they were wiped out by a Sassanid invasion.

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. Courtesy Wikipedia
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. Courtesy Wikipedia.