Whatever may have been the real history of Sargon’s rise to power, certain it is that he showed himself worthy of it. He built himself a capital, which perhaps was Akkad near Sippara, and there founded a library stocked with books on clay and well provided with scribes. The standard works on astronomy and terrestrial omens were compiled for it, the first of which was translated into Greek by Berossos in days long subsequent. But it was as a conqueror and the founder of the first Semitic empire in Western Asia that posterity chiefly remembered him. He overthrew his rivals at home, and made himself master of Northern Babylonia. Then he marched into Elam on the east, and devastated its fields. Next he turned his attention to the west. Four times did he make his way to “the land of the Amorites,” until at last it was thoroughly subdued. His final campaign occupied three years. The countries “of the sea of the setting sun” acknowledged his dominion, and he united them with his former conquests into “a single” empire. On the shores of the Mediterranean he erected images of himself in token of his victories, and caused the spoil of Cyprus “to pass over into the countries of the sea.” Towards the end of his reign a revolt broke out against him in Babylonia, and he was besieged in the city of Akkad, but he “issued forth and smote” his enemies and utterly destroyed them. Then came his last campaign against Northern Mesopotamia, from which he returned with abundant prisoners and spoil.
Sargon’s son and successor was Naram-Sin, “the beloved of the Moon-god,” who continued the conquests of his father. His second campaign was against the land of Magan, the name under which Midian and the Sinaitic peninsula were known to the Babylonians. The result of it was the addition of Magan to his empire and the captivity of its king.
The copper mines of Magan, which are noticed in an early Babylonian geographical list, made its acquisition coveted alike by Babylonians and Egyptians. We find the Pharaohs of the third dynasty already establishing their garrisons and colonies of miners in the province of Mafkat, as they called it, and slaughtering the Beduin who interfered with them. The history of Naram-Sin shows that its conquest was equally an object of the Babylonian monarchs at the very outset of their history. But whereas the road from Egypt to Sinai was short and easy, that from Babylonia was long and difficult. Before a Babylonian army could march into the peninsula it was needful that Syria should be secure in the rear. The conquest of Palestine, in fact, was necessary before the copper mines of Sinai could fall into Babylonian hands.
The consolidation of Sargon’s empire in the west, therefore, was needful before the invasion of the country of Magan could take place, and the invasion accordingly was reserved for Naram-Sin to make. The father had prepared the way; the son obtained the great prize—the source of the copper that was used in the ancient world.