ANSHAN (or ANZAN), the name of an important Elamite region in western Fārs and of its chief city. Akkadian and Sumerian texts of the late third millennium B.C. first attest the land of Anshan. Elamite rulers of the second millennium B.C. traditionally took the title King of Anzan and Shushan (Susa), Anzan being the usual Elamite rendering of Anshan. By the middle of the first millennium B.C. Anshan had become the homeland of the Achaemenid Persians.

During recent years the country and city of Anshan have been associated by various writers with different parts of south Iran. In 1970 an extensive archeological site called Malīān, located on the Dašt-e Bayżā in western Fārs (ca. 36 km northwest of Shiraz) was proposed as being that of the lost city (Hansman, “Elamites, Achaemenians,” pp. 111-24). Several years later brick fragments showing inscriptions in Elamite cuneiform and collected on the site in 1971 and 1972 were found to bear parts of a dedication, proclaimed by an Elamite king of the late second millennium B.C., for a temple described as being in Anshan (Reiner, “The location of Anšan”). Moreover, a number of economic administrative texts excavated at Malīān in 1972 and thereafter attest Anzan, apparently as the location where the texts were written (Carter and Stolper, Expedition, pp. 37-39). These findings would seem to support the suggested identification of Malīān as the site of the ancient city of Anshan.

The earliest Elamite dynasty of which we have record was founded by a certain Peli around 2,500 B.C. in a place called Awan (Scheil, “Dynasties e′lamites,”). But the earliest extant historical reference to Elamite Anshan is given in a text of Manishtusu, a son and second successor of the Sumerian king Sargon of Agade (r. 2,334-2,279 B.C.). Manishtusu tells of resubjugating Anshan after a local ruler there revolted from the empire created by Sargon (Barton, Royal Inscriptions, pp. 128-30). From this we may deduce that Anshan in south Iran was numbered amongst the conquests of Sargon.

A later ruler in Agade, Naram-Sin (2,255-29 B.C.), concluded a treaty of alliance with Khita the ninth king of Awan (König, Königsinschriften no. 2; Cameron, Early Iran, p. 34). The dynasty of Awan thereafter ends with the fall of Khita’s successor Kutil-Inshaushink around 2,220 B.C. At about this same period Gudea, a ruler of Lagash in Mesopotamia, claims to have conquered the city of Anshan in Elam (Barton, Royal Inscriptions, p. 184). It is of interest that Awan is mentioned only once in sources dated later than this, whereas Anshan receives frequent mention, and it is possible that the country of Anshan, in part, may have included the territories of Awan (Hansman, “Elamites, Achaemenians,” pp. 101-02).

Soon after the fall of Awan and Gudea’s capture of the city of Anshan, a new Elamite dynasty rose in the district of Simashki, which has been located in the region of modern Isfahan (Herzfeld, The Persian Empire, pp. 179-80). At this period the Sumerians seem to have maintained some measure of political control at the Elamite city of Susa in present Ḵūzestān and also at Anshan in Fārs. Shulgi (2,095-2,048 B.C.), a ruler of the third dynasty of Ur, married one of his daughters to the ishasha or governor of Anshan (Thureau-Dangin, Sumer. Akkad. Königsinschriften, p. 230); Shulgi also claimed to have laid waste to Anshan (ibid., pp. 231-37). A temporary peace was apparently established when Shu-Sin, son and successor of Shulgi, like his father, gave a daughter in marriage to a governor of Anshan (Virolleaud, “Quelques textes,” p. 384). Thereafter, in about 2,021 B.C., when Ibbi-Sin had succeeded to the throne of Ur, the king of Simashki occupied the land of Awan and Susa in Elam. By 2,017 B.C. Ibbi-Sin had regained much of these territories (Legrain, “Business Documents,” no. 1421); but his success proved only temporary, for within a few years the Elamites had waged a successful military campaign against Ur. After his defeat, the last king of Ur, Ibbi-Sin, was carried off to Anshan together with a statue of the Sumerian moon-god Nanna (Falkenstein, “Die Ibbisin-klage,” pp. 379, 383). Several decades later Gimil-ilishu, second king of Isin brought back Nanna, the God of Ur, from Anshan (Gadd and Legrain, Royal Inscriptions I, no. 100). Still later in about 1,928 B.C., Gungunum, fifth king of Larsa, boasts of military victories in Anshan (Matous, “Chronologie,” pp. 304f.).

The sources show that Anshan had been an important Elamite political center during the last half of the third millennium B.C. Archeological excavations at Malīān would seem to support this assessment. The site is surrounded by a rectangular wall of mud-brick construction, now much eroded, which measures approximately 1 km by 0.8 km. Cultural deposits within the enclosure rise to a height of from 4 to 6 meters (Sumner, “Excavations,” p. 158). Surface surveys of the pottery remains indicate that at least one third of the ancient settlement there (30 to 50 hectares) was occupied from the late fourth millennium B.C. to the latter part of the third millennium B.C. (ibid., pp. 160, 167). The distribution of later pottery suggests that the major occupation at Malīān (some 130 hectares) occurred during the latter centuries of the third millennium and continued into the early centuries of the second millennium B.C. (ibid., pp. 160, 173). This is the period when Anshan is given prominent notice in the cuneiform texts.

The last mention of Anshan in a Mesopotamian source for over 1,300 years is given in the text of Gungurum (ca. 1,928 B.C.) referred to above. Political instability at home had apparently weakened the control which successive Mesopotamian states maintained from time to time over the affairs of south Iran, and a new line of Elamite kings was eventually able to reestablish local rule in their own country. The founder of this new dynasty, Epart (ca. 1,890 B.C.), was also the first known Elamite leader to call himself King of Anzan and Susa (Scheil, “Documents,” p. 1). References to Anshan during the remaining centuries of the second millennium B.C. are attested only in inscriptions and texts of the successive Elamite dynasties of this period.

The heir of Epart in Elam was Shilhakha (ca. 1,940-1,870 B.C.) who styled himself, in addition to king, sukkal-maḫ or grand regent, a Sumerian appellation. During this period the title sukkal or regent of Elam and Simashki and sukkal of Susa are also commonly used (Cameron, Early Iran, pp. 71-72). The sons of the ruling sukkal-maḫ normally filled the office of the two sukkal, though inscriptions show that the sukkal-maḫ on occasion would hold all three titles. However, throughout the approximately 300-year rule of the Eparti dynasty, there is no record of a sukkal of Anshan. This could mean that Anshan consisted at that time of a district subject entirely to the jurisdiction of the sukkal-maḫ though it has been suggested that the sukkal-maḫ and the sukkal of Susa were both resident in the city of Susa. A relationship of this sort in the same town could have caused political tension (Hinz, Elam, p. 5). Indeed, any decree of the Elamite king which might apply to the political district of Susa required ratification by the sukkal of Susa. Yet the case for Susa as the Elamite capital of this period would seem to be the most plausible. Anshan is hardly mentioned in Elamite texts during the whole of the Eparti dynasty except as used in the conventional title of the sukkal-maḫ. A political decline of the older capital is perhaps implicit. This suggestion would appear to be supported by the indications of the archeological survey curried out at Malīān. These show that with the disappearance of the Kaftari sequence of pottery there during the early second millennium B.C., the distribution of the succeeding Qaleh ware on the site is greatly reduced from that of the Kaftari (Sumner, “Excavations,” p. 160). This would seem to indicate that the city of Anshan at Malīān was very severely depopulated during the first third of the second millennium B.C.

Whereas the city of Susa does not appear to have been a major political center during the ascendancy of the Elamite dynasties of Awan and Simashki, archeological excavations at Susa show that it was certainly to become so with the rise of Epart and his successors in Elam. A number of inscriptions found at Susa attest to the building activities undertaken there by different sukkal-maḫ and by various sukkal of Susa. The extensive excavations made by Ghirshman in the “Ville Royale” at Susa have shown that much of this very large quarter of the ancient city was first built upon in the earlier second millennium B.C. (“Susa Campagne,” pp. 4-12). This evidence would seem to support the possibility that the main political center of Elam may have been moved from its traditional location at Anshan to Susa within the period associated with the expansion at the latter site.

In about 1,595 B.C. Kassite and allied invaders from the north overran the kingdom of Babylonia in southern Mesopotamia. But cuneiform texts continue to mention Elamite rulers until the final quarter of the sixteenth century B.C. We do not know whether these later governments in southwestern Iran were subject to the Kassite alliance or, indeed, if the Kassites eventually put an end to the house of Epart. Whatever the case, after about 1,520 B.C. we have no further record of the Elamites for over 200 years.

An apparently independent Elamite dynasty reappears suddenly on the historical scene during the last half of the fourteenth century B.C. Attat-kittash (r. 1,310-1,300 B.C.) is the earliest known ruler of this new line to assume the old title King of Anzan and Susa.

No foundation or rebuilding dedications of Attat-kittash or of his immediate successor Humban-numena (1,300-1,275 B.C.) have been found at Susa, nor are inscriptions or other texts known from the dynastic predecessors of the earlier king. But inscriptions of Untash-napirisha (1,275-1,240 B.C.), son and successor of Humban-numena, are found at Susa and also at the religious center of Dur-Untash (now Čoḡā Zanbīl) located 30 km to the southeast of Susa. The absence of any significant inscriptions of the father of Untash-napirisha at Susa or elsewhere in Ḵūzestān, prompted Labat to suggest that the capital of Humban-numena may have been situated in the province of Anzan (Labat, “Elam,” p. 8). This possibility may gain support from the fact that only at the site of Līān located on the Bushire peninsula in southern Fārs have inscribed bricks of Humban-numena been recovered (König, “Königsinschriften,” no. 58).

If we are to entertain the theory of Labat, the finding of only sparse archeological remains of the corresponding period of occupation at Malīān would seem to indicate that the main seat of government was not then located at the city of Anshan. However, beaker-shaped jars found at Malīān are closely similar to vessels dating from the latter quarter of the second millennium B.C. and excavated at Susa. Inscribed bricks of the Elamite king Hutelutush-Inshushinak (1,120-1,110 B.C.) have also been recovered at Malīān (Reiner). The evidence would suggest that Anshan and Susa were politically and culturally linked at this period, but that Anshan was then little more than an outpost community of the eastern Elamite territories subject to the kings then resident at Susa.

The invasion of Elamite territories (ca. 1,110 B.C.) by Nebuchadrezzer I of Babylon (Thompson, “Astrologers of Nineveh,” no. 200, rev. 5), marked the effective end of Elam as an independent power for nearly 300 years. We do not again hear of the Elamites until 821 B.C. when they are found allied with the Chaldeans against the Assyrian king Shamshi-Adad V (Luckenbill, Ancient Records I, no. 726). Although political unity was apparently not maintained in Elam during at least a part of these intervening “dark” centuries, local chieftains must have preserved some control in areas where they traditionally held authority. It has been suggested by Cameron (Early Iran, p. 156) that local rule would possibly have remained strongest in the more remote eastern quarters of the Elamite territories, i.e., the region of modern Fārs now identified as Anshan. Yet, even if this were so and in spite of their isolation from the troublesome Mesopotamian invaders, the inhabitants of Anshan Fārs were eventually to suffer new intrusions by Iranian migrants moving down from the north. Whether or not the coming of the Iranians caused the divided provinces of Elam to support the rise of a new centralized authority in southwest Iran is a question which cannot be presently answered. But whatever the circumstances, in abort 742 B.C. Humban-nikash I became king of a revived Elamite federation (Luckenbill, Ancient Records II, no. 84).

A nephew, Shutruk-Nahhunte II (r. 717-699 B.C.), succeeded Humban-nikash and took the old title Great King of Anzan and Susa (Scheil in Mémoires, no. 84). Thereafter the Chaldeans of southern Mesopotamia became allied with Shutruk-Nahhunte against both Sargon II and Sennacherib of Assyria. But the alliances proved ineffective, for in this period the Assyrians invaded and held much of southern Mesopotamia. The next Elamite king, Halludush-Inshushinak (r. 699-93 B.C.), invaded Babylonia and temporarily forced the Assyrians from parts of that country, but Sennacherib eventually retook most of these territories. Meanwhile, Halludush-Inshushinak was deposed in Elam and replaced by his son Kudur-Nahhunte (r. 693-92 B.C.). With this change of leadership no Elamite head of state is known to have assumed the ancient royal title King of Anzan and Susa (Cameron, Early Iran, pp. 158-65), an omission which may suggest a loss to the Elamites of at least the area of Anzan/Anshan either by Kudur-Nahhunte or by his immediate predecessor.

After his reconquest of Babylonia, Sennacherib invaded the Elamite lands which lay to the north of Susa. This forced Kudur-Nahhunte to seek refuge in the mountains of Hidalu in Eastern Ḵūzestān and he was eventually replaced as king by Humban-numena (r. 692-87 B.C.) who renewed the old political alliance with Babylonia. The new king also sought military assistance from a number of neighboring districts, including the lands of Anzan and Parsuash (Luckenbill, Ancient Records II, no. 252). It is of special interest to note that in these late attestations Anzan is treated as a separate territory not subject to centralized Elamite authority. What happened in Anzan at this period is bound up with its political and territorial relationships with Parsua, Parsuash, and Parsamish/Parsuwash, and with the Assyrian empire. To understand these associations better, we should consider the location of Parsua and that of the similarly named Parsuash.

The earliest reference to the land of Parsua is given in an Assyrian text of the 9th century B.C. Recent studies would locate this district in the vicinity of Kermānšāh in western Iran (Levine, “Geographical Studies,” pp. 105-13). The same area is identified as Parsuash in inscriptions of Sargon II (721-05 B.C.); these show it to have become a province of the Assyrian empire (see Hansman, “Elamites, Achaemenians,” p. 107, n. 49). It is this Parsuash which presumably rebelled from Assyria and became an ally of both Elamites and Babylonians during the battle fought with the Assyrians at Halule in Mesopotamia (ca. 692 B.C.). Sennacherib claims a major victory over the allied forces in this encounter. Babylonian texts record a more inconclusive result (Cameron, Early Iran, p. 166).

The political unification of Elam seems to have largely disintegrated following the reign of Humban-numena when rival claimants to the central leadership apparently seized control in various parts of the old domains. Some attempts were made to reform the traditional Elamite alliance, notably by Tempet-Humban-Inshushinak (r. 668-53 B.C.) of Susa. But he was defeated by an army of Ashurbanipal, and several districts in Elam which had been overrun were thereafter placed in the control of local chiefs whose support the Assyrians had relied upon (Piepkorn, Historical Prism, pp. 70f.). Such loyalties were not to last, however, for a year later Humban-nikash III, vassal governor in the Elamite district of Madaktu, supported a new uprising in Babylonia against the Assyrians. The rebel Elamite suffered defeat by Assyrian forces at Der and fled to the mountainous district of Hidalu to seek aid from there and from the people of neighboring Parsumash (Waterman, Royal Correspondence II, pp. 410-12; Hansman, “Elamites, Achaemenians,” p. 108). But a revolt in part of Elam at this time caused the fall of Humban-nikash. He was succeed by Tammarit (r. 651-40 B.C.), who continued local resistance against Assyria. Tammarit urged the people of Hidalu and the adjoining district of Parsumash to support his cause, apparently with little result. By 649 B.C. most of the Elamite lands up to the borders of Parsumash had been overrun by the Assyrians (Waterman, op. cit., pp. 300-03; Cameron, Early Iran, pp. 190-93). Although the Elamites seem to have regained a degree of local autonomy in succeeding years, later Assyrian and Achaemenid advances finally put an end to independent Elam.

An Assyrian text relating to the destruction of Elam by Ashurbanipal mentions a king of Parsuwash named Kurash (Weidner, “Nachricht,” p. 4). This Kurash is recognized as Cyrus I of the Achaemenid line, who offered submission to Ashurbanipal and sent his son to Nineveh as a testimony of good faith. With this reference the House of Achaemenes first enters the historical record.

In a Babylonian text Cyrus II (the Great) gives his grandfather Cyrus I the title “Great King of Anshan” (Prichard, Near Eastern Texts, p. 316). It therefore would seem that the first Cyrus was ruler of the former Elamite province of Anshan/Anzan in Fārs and also political chief in Parsuwash. The two lands are certainly identical. Parsuwash/Parsumash would be Assyrian renderings of Old Persian Pārsa, which relates specifically to the province of Fārs, and is not to be confused with the earlier attested toponym Parsuash located in the region of Kermānšāh (Hansman, op. cit., pp. 108-09). At the same time Anshan remained the traditional name in southern Mesopotamia for the region of northern Fārs.

In one passage the Chronicle of Nabonidus, the last king of Babylonia (556-39 B.C.), refers to Cyrus II as King of Anshan; in a further entry Cyrus is called King in Parsu (Smith, Babylonian Texts, pp. 100f.), an Akkadian rendering of Old Persian Pārsa. We may therefore understand, as in the case of earlier references to Anshan and to Parsuwash, that Anshan was also considered at this later period a part of the province now called Fārs (Hansman, op. cit., p. 109, n. 70). The replacement of Anshan as the local name of that province would have occurred much earlier, when the Achaemenid Persians transferred the ethnic name of their nation, Pārsa, to their new homeland in the south. The toponym Anshan is attested only in the Elamite version of the Behistun inscription where it is identified as a non-specific location in Pārsa/Fārs (Cameron, “Old Persian Text,” p. 50).

See also Achaemenid Dynasty; Elam.



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(J. Hansman)

Originally Published: December 15, 1985

Last Updated: August 5, 2011

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