Sargon the Conqueror had an unconventional apprenticeship for an imperial warlord, working first as a gardener, then a canal cleaner. In fact, it was with a corps of fellow drainage engineers that he initially seized power from the King of Kish. Thereafter, he expanded his rule remorselessly, through Gutium and Assyria as far as the Mediterranean (and possibly Cyprus). One of his many campaigns subdued a rebellion of the ‘four kings of Elam’. After his death (c. 2284 BCE), his empire fell into decline, and over time the Guti, a nomadic tribe, graduated from marauding to conquest, capturing Akkad in c. 2180 BCE. Their rule was apparently feckless: crops, roads and canals fell into disrepair (Sargon would have been displeased) and they were overthrown by a governor of Uruk. Shortly afterwards Ur-Nammu of Ur seized power, initiating a century of dominance by Ur, before their overthrow by the Elamites.
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