The idea of an empire, a large swath of territory, diversely peopled and ruled by the iron will of a single dictator, was birthed by the Akkadians. Akkad, as an empire was founded by one ambitious and somewhat conniving Sumerian by the name of Sargon.
In the early days, Mesopotamia was a collection of city-states all ruled by their own king. The goal of each city-state (apart from trying to defend themselves against their enemies) was to try and subdue their neighbors thereby creating a single unified country or empire.
According to historical legend, Sargon was raised in the palace of the Sumerian king Kish. He was a foundling, an orphan abandoned and retrieved by a minor servant in the palace. Sargon worked his way up the ranks to become cupbearer to the king.
Using his position and the trust placed in him by the king, Sargon began to slowly gain popularity among powerful courtiers and the military alike. Using his influence over the military Sargon encouraged a coup. Under Sargon’s direction, the military assassinated king Kish and made Sargon ruler in his place.
But a single kingdom wasn’t enough for Sargon. Hungry for power he set his sights on the entire fertile crescent. Fighting over 50 wars in his attempt to conquer the neighboring cities in the fertile crescent, Sargon prevailed. He named his newly minted empire Akkad and the age of empires was born.
Before the founding of Akkad, the Sumerians were responsible for so many cultural, literary, and scientific advancements. It was the Sumerians who laid the groundwork for Mathematics, astronomy, botany, and medicine. In their schools, Sumerians learned their complex script by memorizing massive swathes of data. Lists of technical terms covering various different fields have been preserved and have provided archaeologists and historians with an immense amount of insight into the Sumerian culture.
In fact, the division of the hour into sixty minutes and the circle into 360 degrees are vestiges of the Sumerian sexagesimal system of Arithmetic. Not only did the Sumerians pass on their culture and knowledge to successive generations but also across vast areas. The Cuneiform script for example was adopted as far away as Iran (Elam) and Syria (Ebla) where the Sumerian language was taught in schools and Sumerian texts were used in education.
But early Sumerians never showed any interest in conquest or the notion of empire. That is until Sargon came on the stage of action. Over time Akkad grew to embrace not just the whole of Mesopotamia but also extended all the way into Asia Minor.
The new Akkadian empire borrowed much of Sumerian culture including language. Religious beliefs, scientific principles, and literary styles. It was Akkad that defined the concept of empire. Their emperors were the first true dictators setting the stage for every empire to come. They greedily and aggressively lapped up new territories, styled themselves Kings of the Four Quarters of the World, and had themselves deified, thus creating the notion that the emperor was, in many ways, a god. Thus is was the Akkadians who invented the notion of amalgamating religion and politics, a trait that would be carried down as far as the Roman Empire and then assimilated into the Roman Catholic Church when the Pope styled himself as both a religious and political leader.
But like all empires, Akkad eventually collapsed and was followed by the revival of several Sumerian cities. This period is referred to as the Sumerian Renaissance. Later the Kings of Ur, known as the Third Dynasty of Ur, formed a new empire in Mesopotamia. Abraham lived in Ur.