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Victory stele of a king of Akkad (fragment)

© 1998 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

Near Eastern Antiquities

Demange Françoise

This fragment comes from a stele celebrating a royal victory. The different episodes of the battle were depicted on these monuments, characteristic of official art in the Akkadian period. In this one, a warrior of Akkad, weapon on his shoulder, pushes along enemies taken prisoner during the battle. The sculptural modeling of the nude bodies is clear evidence of the new artistic quest for a greater degree of naturalism, which is the mark of the art of this period.

Monuments celebrating royal victories

Sargon inaugurated a new form of official art in which royal victories were the predominant theme, illustrated on series of steles made in the royal workshops. These monuments, large, slightly pyramid-shaped blocks of stone, were placed in the temples of the principal cities of the empire. None has come down to us intact, but the Louvre Museum has several fragments found at Susa, Iran, where they had been brought as war booty in the 12th century BC.

A line of prisoners

On this fragment depicting a line of enemies captured in battle, only two prisoners are visible. Nude and stripped of their weapons, their hands are tied behind their backs. Their hair pulled back in a tuft at the top of their heads indicates their foreign origin. The warrior of Akkad, wearing a knee-length loincloth, pushes the prisoners in front of him. His chest is protected by a wide, crossover scarf, probably cut in a thick fabric, which served as a breastplate. Weapons similar to the one carried on his shoulder, a curved blade fixed onto a handle, have been found in the royal graves of Ur. The upper level, very poorly preserved, depicts the battle: the legs of a figure struck by a spear and collapsing backwards are visible.

A new realism

The pictorial elements of the scenes and their arrangement in superposed layers follow the stylistic conventions of the previous period, but the elegance of the drawing, vigorous modeling and, above all, the sculptural beauty of the nude bodies, reflect a concern for realism that was characteristic of the art of the Akkadian period. The quality of the relief obtained in this very hard volcanic stone reflects the technical virtuosity of the artists working in the royal workshops. These stones were imported from very great distances, which heightened the prestige and value of the monuments.


Amiet Pierre, L'Art d'Agadé au musée du Louvre, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1976, p. 11, fig. 6.
Barrelet Marie-Thérèse, "Notes sur quelques sculptures mésopotamiennes de l'époque d'Akkad", Syria, vol. XXXVI, 1959, p. 28, fig. 2.
Jéquier Gustave, Mémoires VII, 1905, pl. 1-b.

Technical description

  • Victory stele of a king of Akkad (fragment)

    Akkadian Period, c. 2300 BC

  • Diorite

    H. 46 cm; W. 35 cm; D. 18 cm

  • J. de Morgan excavations 1899-1902

    Sb 3

  • Near Eastern Antiquities

    Richelieu wing
    Ground floor
    Mesopotamia, c. 2350–2000 BC
    Room 228

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