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Background[edit | edit source]
The Gutians were a nomadic people who inhabited the Zagros Mountains in modern Iran during the third millennium BC. The first mentions of the Gutians occurred in Old Babylonian inscriptions in the 25th century BC, as a tribe providing tribute to the Sumerian King of Adab. The tribe was also later subject to the Akkadians under Sargon the Great, but as the Akkadian Empire began to decline in the 22nd century BC, the Gutians became much more prominent, raiding Sumer to such an extent that its economy was crippled. They then overran Akkad and Elam to its east, and the Gutian King Erridupizir styled himself "King of the Four Quarters" in imitation of the old Akkadian Imperial Title. However, the Gutians were unable to maintain centralized power in Mesopotamia, leading to a return of local autonomous city-state powers. From the late 22nd century, their power began to decline again, finally facing military defeat against Prince Utu-Khegal of the Sumerians in Uruk in the mid 21st century BC.
The cultural legacy of the Gutians is less distinguished than their other Mesopotamian contemporaries. While the Akkadians and Sumerians developed complex society and language, the Gutians had been a nomadic tribe before seizing Akkadian lands. Their language was purely spoken, meaning that there is no known Gutian text written about their own civilization. As a result, there are only foreign texts describing them as an uncultured, barbaric and animalistic people, ignorant of how to honour the gods or rule a kingdom. Indeed, the brevity of their rule suggests that they were unsuited to keeping an empire together, and all (foreign) accounts claim that it was a chaotic rule at best. However, the Gutians were extremely successful in their raiding tactics, managing to wreak havoc in and economically cripple the Akkadian Empire, making them a frightening force to be reckoned.