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Stele of Naram-Sin

From the Sargonic Dynasty is the Stele of Naram-Sin. Conspicuous about this one-sided Stele is the lack of registers, incorporation of landscape and attention to fine plastic rendering. The composition eschews the various scenes of the Stele of the Vultures in favor of a single bold image which vividly represents the story told by the inscription. Beginning at the top, there are divine asterisks likely representing Ishtar, but what truly draws the eye is the massive, broad-shouldered and muscular figure of Naram-Sin below them.

The ruler wears the horned crown of divinity: the king himself is a god. Climbing a mountain, Naram-Sin is surrounded by his dead and dying enemies while his well-organized army -- complete with standards, helmets, and formation -- marches behind him. The enemies, with their distinct dress and pigtails, are known to be the Lulubi, believed to have lived in the Zagros just east of the Mesopotamian plain.

The Stele was originally set up in the temple courtyard, only to be later captured by an Elamite king and set up at Susa. The Stele vividly reflects the situation of the Agade epoch. The Sargonic kings came to regard themselves as divine and preface their names with the divine asterisk; the Stele depicts Naram-Sin as a god-king with the horned helmet. The kingdom established by Sargon was the first political unit in Mesopotamia that was greater than a city-state, and this incredible territorial expansion and consolidation of hegemony is expressed in the Stele by depicting the king as a glorious and divine military victor, with any other rhetoric of kingship abandoned.

Further, despite the lingual and political transformations of the Akkadian era, the culture was remarkably continuous with its Sumerian antecedents; the king is shown with well-known motifs, despite their novel application, such as the horned helmet, divine asterisks, and nude vanquished enemies.

This stele is our most famous artwork from Naram-Sin, but is far from the only example. His reigned extended all the way to Diyarbakir and artwork associated with him has been excavated there as well,