- Region in southwest Iran, presently known as Khuzistan. Its geographical position, at the edge of the Iranian plateau and within the alluvial plains of the Karun and Karkeh rivers, tributaries of the Tigris, gave this area access to the central Iranian highlands, as well as the Persian Gulf and the southern Mesopotamian plains. During the prehistoric period in the fifth and fourth millennia B.C., there were strong cultural links with southern Mesopotamian sites. The inhabitants of Elam called themselves haltami (elamtu in Akkadian). They spoke a language (Elamite), not connected with any other known language, that they began to write in cuneiform in the mid-third millennium.The country is first mentioned in Sumerian inscriptions from the Early Dynastic period; Eannatum, for instance, reports that he conquered Elam (in the 25th century B.C.). There were several dynasties in Elam, one, dominated by the city of Awan, defeated Ur and thus was included in the Sumerian King List. Sargon ofAkkad(reigned 2340–2284 B.C.) incorporated the Susiana into his empire where he appointed his own governors. Naram-Sin (reigned 2260–2224 B.C.) concluded a treaty with the kingof Awan, which was preserved in the temple of the Elamite god Inshushinak. According to an Elamite king list, the dynasty of Awan was followed by that of Shimashki, a city in the mountains of Luristan. The southern part (Susiana) was under the control of the Third Dynasty of Ur until c. 2004, when Kindattu, a king of Shimashki, invaded Ur and took Ibbi-Sin prisoner. Kindattu called himself “king of Anshan and Susa.”The next phase is known as the period of the sukkalmah (the title of governors during the Third Dynasty of Ur) (c. 1970–1500). At that time Akkadian was adopted as the official language, although few documents survive.The so-called Middle Elamite period (1500–1100) saw the rise of Elamite power. Under the Igehalkit Dynasty, Elamite became once more the main written language. King Untash-Napirisha (reigned 1275–1240) built a new capital, Dur-Untash (modern Choga Zanbil). His grandson Kiden-Hutran (reigned 1235–1210) raided Babylonia, where he destroyed a number of cities. From then Elam was closely involved in the history of Babylonia.A new dynasty (the Shutrukides) was founded by HallutushInshushinak (c. 1205–1185). The kings continued their raids against Kassite Babylonia, and Shutruk-Nahhunte I sacked and plundered Babylon in 1185. Among the booty were several ancient Mesopotamian monuments, such as the stele of Hammurabi. This success only spurred further campaigns against Babylonia that resulted in the demise of the Kassite Dynasty in 1155. The most important Elamite king of this dynasty was Shilhak-Inshushinak (reigned 1150–1120), who enlarged the territories to the north and the northwest. The Babylonian king Nebuchadrezzar I (reigned 1126–1105) launched a successful attack against Elam, where he recovered the abducted statues of the god Marduk and his divine consort Sarpanitum. Elamite history for the next few centuries is obscure due to the almost total absence of written sources. Then, during the last phase, the NeoElamite period (eighth–seventh centuries B.C.), Elam became closely implicated in the conflict between Assyria and Babylonia. Elam took advantage of Babylonian weakness by invading its territories and also joined in anti-Assyrian coalitions with Babylonia. The Elamites gave asylum to Sennacherib’s archenemy Merodach-baladan and even kidnapped (and probably killed) the Assyrian crown prince whom Sennacherib had put on the throne of Babylon (c. 692). When they also assisted Shamash-shuma-ukin in his revolt against Ashurbanipal, the Assyrian king vowed vengeance against Elam. The armies of the Elamite king Tepti-Humban-Inshushinak (Teumman in the Assyrian annals) invaded Assyrian territory; Ashurbanipal pursued them and won a decisive victory near the river Ulay. He then ravaged the Elamite countryside and destroyed Susa, returning with enormous booty. The final years of the Neo-Elamite period are not well documented; internal intrigues and coups continued to upset the political balance as in the preceding generation. The Medes finally put an end to Elamite independence around the mid-seventh century B.C.
Historical Dictionary of Mesopotamia. EdwART. 2012.