The Isin-Larsa Period

The Isin-Larsa Period (2025–1763 B.C.E.)

As with many of the city-states and empires in ancient Iraq, the breakdown of the Third Dynasty of Ur may have come at the hands of nomadic tribes, the most important of which were the Hurrians and especially the Amorites.

This interregnum between empires saw the emergence of various small states, the most important of them being the Amorite states of Isin and Larsa (Larsa was founded in 2025 B.C.E. and Isin in 2017 B.C.E.) in southern Iraq; the Amorite state of Babylon (1894–1595 B.C.E.); and the Assyrian state of Ashur under King Shamsi-Adad I (r. ca. 1813–1781 B.C.E.), who later became the unrivalled master of northern Iraq, from the Zagros Mountains to Carchemish on the Euphrates (near the present-day Syrian-Turkish borders).

For more than two centuries, Isin and Larsa dominated the area. Initially, Isin laid claim as successor of the Third Dynasty of Ur, and Larsa was a vassal city. Isin’s decline coincided with the rise of Larsa and commenced during the reign of the usurper Ur-Ninurta (r. 1923–1896 B.C.E.). Wars against Bedouin attackers and fi ghts over the domination of water resources taxed the state’s means, and in 1896 B.C.E. an army led by King Abe-Sare of Larsa defeated Isin and killed Ur-Ninurta.

The two city-states coexisted, but Abe-Sare’s descendants were able to pick off Isin territory until, in 1793 B.C.E., Rim-Sin attacked and conquered Isin itself. Larsa was only able to enjoy its “empire” for another 30 years. In 1763 B.C.E., Hammurabi conquered southern Babylonia, which included Isin and Larsa.

During the Isin-Larsa period, the cultural currents so reminiscent of Sumerian infl uences continued to thrive. Although the Sumerian language had begun its long decline, giving way to the Akkadian tongue (itself an early amalgam of Sumerian and other dialects), Akkadian became the lingua franca of the “wild” Amorites-turned-settlers, as well as of the various nomad-based states neighboring Isin and Larsa, long after the power of the Akkadian Empire had subsided.