History Of A Nation: Middle Elamite Period

c. 1600 BC – c. 1100 BC

We’re carrying on directly from this post and covering the parts of Elam, the side-boy of the ancient Middle East, in the mid 2nd millennium, after Hammurabi had defeated them and stopped their power play for Mesopotamia, in the six hundred years after that, as they regrew and watched the Kassites move in where they had failed. However, by the time the Middle Elamite period was up, the Elamite civilisation as a whole would have reached the height of its power so it’s certainly not an insignificant half-millennium.


As with Old Elam, Middle Elam, as the same nation, was located on the Persian shores of the Persian Gulf, in modern day Khuzestan. Although of course they were the peoples preceding any sort of Persian involvement in the region. Compared to the Old Elamites the Middle Elamites may have controlled lands a bit further inland than before, history marching on and all. They were surrounded by Kassites. At least that’s the main record we have, there’s very little information for what was going on in the hinterlands of Iran at this time and with the biggest and most powerful Kassite tribes now on the throne of Babylon it may have been that the absence of hostile hill tribes was the very thing that allowed Elamite control further away from the coast.

Timeline and Kings

The dynasties for the Middle Elamite period are Anshanite dynasties, and if you’ll remember, Anshan was the second and rival Elamite city in opposition to Susa, on the other side of the cultural collectivity of the Elam region, speaking the same language. These Anshan kings focused on bringing Elam together, as oppposed to Old Elam, which had been mostly culturally dominant from Susa.

The three dynasties are the Kidinuids, who used a lot of Akkadian, still from their cultural contacts with those to their west, and the Igihalkids and the Shutrukids. And I should stress that these names are modern forms of their names named after one of the earlier kings attributed to the dynasty, a common suffix for dynasties around the Middle East is ‘ids’ and as such this for the Anshanite is probably not Elamite. Which was a completely isolated language and shows very little affiliation with any other languages nearby. And Middle Elam was the most ‘classical’ period of Elamite, at least that’s what Wikipedia claims, I can only assume from this rather vague statement that this means that they think it was being used in Neo-Elamite functions in a similar way that we view Latin or older, grander English.

Anyway, Kidunids, starting with a king called Kidinu, from whom the dynasty takes its name (also of note is a Tan-Ruhatir II, whose namesake ruled four hundred years prior). We are unsure on what they did, but they use the title ‘King of Susa and Anshan’ because prior to this, Old Elam was effectively two kingdoms (with the Susans hugely dominant) over one cultural group and the Susans acted as the main representatives of the Elamites abroad. The Kidunids fixed this by ruling both cities and keeping both titles as befit their origins from the slightly lesser city of Anshan. They lasted in the corner of the Middle East quietly about a hundred or so years, until about 1400 BC, when the Igehalkids took over, and they had much more notable international relations.

By both marrying and fighting the neighbouring Kassites, the Igehalkids (named after third of this dynasty Ige-Halki) put Elam back on the map and they expanded and put up a huge power base for Elamite culture in Susa. I have been able to find specific names but I’m only going to read them out because they give me aesthetically pleasing regnal number lists because the Igehalkids seemed to have a surprisingly short list of names to use, Kidin-Hutran III, the last king of the dynasty, but a name notable enough for their dynasty to use it three times. Attar Kittah II, not an internet meme but a name that got used twice by this dynasty. And then there’s names like Untash-Napirisha, who built a large temple complex in Susa, and generally they’re just too long type them out.

The last of the three is the Shutrukid dynasty, named after Shutruk-Nakunte, who was the most powerful king of Middle Elam and brought Elam to a height never seen before or after, as he exerted effective control over much of Mesopotamia and the waning Kassite Babylonians, putting Elam in a position where, like in the times before Hammurabi, it could readily influence events going on in the centre of the world –  because let’s not pretend that it was anywhere other than Babylon around this time period, Egypt didn’t have as much geopolitical jostling. Shutruk brought home many treasures from Babylon and had a huge period of building Susa up to a massive scale. For a brief period, it seems that Elam was referred to as an empire, an honour normally only bestowed on truly great states. They did however, after the Kassites were finished off, come into contact with Ashur-Dan of Assyria and ended up being soundly defeated.

Merely two generations later, the grandson of Shutruk, named Shilhak, was defeated by Nebuchadnezzar I of Babylon, losing the valuable idol of Marduk that his grandfather had stole. After this, the Elamite Empire faded and the Middle Elamite period that had briefly codified Elamite culture was over. The Shutruk dynasty continued to rule for a time, but once they were overthrown, the period known as ‘Neo-Elam’ would start.


What we know of Elamite religion, scant little, sadly, is that they may have had a pantheon headed by a goddess, Kiririsha, the ‘great lady’, in Elamite. It was quite common for kings to be named after gods, Untash-Napirisha is named after the moon god Napir, while Shutruk’s second name is based on the ‘creator god of the sun’ Nahundi. The matriarchal slant could have characterised Elamite society, or it may not have.

Many of the designs that I’ve seen in my research involve fish in some way. They are a coastal society so fish getting involved in their symbols as a key staple food is not to be unexpected but that it made its way into their stone designs may indicate that the coast of the Gulf was the cultural heart of this country, a line of villages stretching from Susa to Anshan, with kings ruling over this loose collection of people who mostly just spoke the same language and occasionally meddled when their richer neighbours to their west looked weak.

See also in History Of A Nation: Iran

Elam (Old, Middle and …)


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