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Victory stele of Naram-Sin, King of Akkad

© 2009 RMN / Franck Raux

Near Eastern Antiquities

Pouysségur Patrick

A major work illustrating the imperial art of the Akkadian Dynasty, this victory stele celebrates the triumph of King Naram-Sin over a mountain people, the Lullubi. The Akkadian king led his troops over the steep slopes of the enemy territory, mercilessly crushing all resistance. The conqueror's victory march is coupled with the personal ascension of a sovereign who could now claim equal footing with the gods.

The booty of the Elamite kings

This large victory stele of exceptional quality, carved in pink limestone, was found not in Mesopotamia but at the Iranian site of Susa. It had been taken there in the 12th century BC by the Elamite king Shutruk-Nahhunte, along with considerable booty collected during his victorious campaign in Babylon. Alongside the existing inscription in primitive cuneiform, the king added another one dedicated to his own glory and in which he declares that the stele was carried off after the pillage of the city of Sippar.

Naram-Sin and the height of the Akkadian empire

The original text written in Akkadian tells us that this stele was made to celebrate the victory of Naram-Sin, king of Akkad, over the Lullubi, a mountain people of the central Zagros region. Naram-Sin was the grandson of Sargon, the founder of the Akkadian empire and the first to unify the whole of Mesopotamia in the late 24th century BC. Naram-Sin reigned after his uncle Rimush and his father Manishtusu, making him the fourth sovereign of the Dynasty. The Sumerian king list states that he reigned for thirty-six years, between 2254 and 2218 BC. Although no contemporary document confirms such a long reign, the Akkadian empire appears to have reached its height during this period.

Victory over mountain peoples

The brilliance of Naram-Sin's reign is reflected in the execution of this stele, which commemorated his victory over Satuni, king of the Lullubi. For the first time, the sculptor rejected the traditional division of carvings into layered registers, opting instead for a unified and dynamic composition built around the glorified figure of the sovereign.
The Akkadian army is climbing the steep slopes of the Zagros Mountains, home to the Lullubi. This upward march sweeps aside all resistance. To the right of a line of trees clinging to the mountainside, defeated enemies are depicted in a posture of submission. Those who have been killed are trampled underfoot by the Akkadian soldiers or drop over the precipice. These mountain people are clad in a tunic of hide and wear their long hair tied back.
The composition is dominated by the lofty figure of the king, to whom all eyes - those of the Akkadian soldiers and of their Lullubi enemies - are turned. The triumphant sovereign, shown taller than the other men in the traditional manner, leads his army in the attack on the mountain. He is followed by standard bearers who march before helmeted soldiers carrying bows and axes. Naram-Sin tramples the bodies of his enemies, while a kneeling Lullubi tries to tear out the arrow piercing his throat. Another raises his hands to his mouth, begging the Akkadian king for mercy. But the conqueror's gaze is directed toward the top of the mountain. Above Naram-Sin, solar disks seem to radiate their divine protection toward him, while he rises to meet them. The Akkadian sovereign wears a conical helmet with horns - a symbol traditionally the privilege of the gods - and is armed with a large bow and an axe.
This victorious ascension chiseled in stone thus celebrates a sovereign who considers himself on an equal footing with the gods. In official inscriptions, Naram-Sin's name was therefore preceded with a divine determinative. He pushed back the frontiers of the empire farther than they had ever been, from Ebla in Syria to Susa in Elam, and led his army "where no other king had gone before him." He now appears as a universal monarch, as proclaimed by his official title "King of the Four Regions" - namely, of the whole world.


Jacques de Morgan- Mémoires, I - Paris, 1900 - p. 106, 144 sq, pl. X.
Victor Scheil - Mémoires, II - Paris, 1900 - p. 53 sq, pl. II.
Victor Scheil - Mémoires, III - Paris, 1901 - p. 40 sq, pl. II.
André Parrot - Sumer - Paris, 1960 - fig. 212-213.
Pierre Amiet - L'Art d'Agadé au musée du Louvre - Paris, Ed. de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1976 - p. 29-32.

Technical description

  • Victory stele of Naram-Sin, King of Akkad

    Akkadian Period, c. 2250 BC

  • Spicular limestone

    H. 2 m; W. 1.5 m

  • J. de Morgan excavations, 1898 , 1898

    Sb 4

  • Near Eastern Antiquities

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

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