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The Two steles of Sargon: iconology and visual propaganda at the beginning of royal Akkadian relief

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 August 2014


Sargon's accession to the throne and the subsequent submission of Mesopotamia to Akkadian sovereignty were accompanied by a strong propaganda campaign, the first such cultural enterprise to go beyond the limits of a single city-state, the echoes of which are reflected in various sources. Being a usurper, Sargon devoted a large part of his propaganda to legitimizing his authority, on the one hand by stressing the continuity between Early Dynastic and Akkadian sovereignty and, on the other, by celebrating the religious legitimacy of Akkadian kingship (Liverani 1966: 21–4). Due to these political purposes, pictorial art achieved a central role in Sargonic propaganda (Amiet 1972: 97) as it was addressed to distinguished social groups deeply involved in the Akkadian political system (Foster 1993: 26–9; Westenholz 1993: 161). At the level of official art, royal relief became a functional medium for conveying ideological messages, as is attested by the exceptional findings at Susa and by written sources such as the copies of inscriptions on monuments erected in temples. Two steles kept in the Louvre testify to the strict links established between ideological purposes and visual media during the founding phase of the Akkadian empire.

Research Article
IRAQ , Volume 60 , 1998 , pp. 85 - 102
Copyright © The British Institute for the Study of Iraq 1998

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