ELAM, the name given in the Bible to the province of Persia called Susiana by the classical geographers, from Susa or Shushan its capital. In one passage, however (Ezra iv. 9), it is confined to Elymais, the north-western part of the province, and its inhabitants distinguished from those of Shushan, which elsewhere (Dan. viii. 2) is placed in Elam. Strabo (xv. 3. 12, &c.) makes Susiana a part of Persia proper, but a comparison of his account with those of Ptolemy (vi. 3. 1, &c.) and other writers would limit it to the mountainous district to the east of Babylonia, lying between the Oroatis and the Tigris, and stretching from India to the Persian Gulf. Along with this mountainous district went a fertile low tract of country on the western side, which also included the marshes at the mouths of the Euphrates and Tigris and the north-eastern coast land of the Gulf. This low tract, though producing large quantities of grain, was intensely hot in summer; the high regions, however, were cool and well watered.
The whole country was occupied by a variety of tribes, speaking agglutinative dialects for the most part, though the western districts were occupied by Semites. Strabo (xi. 13. 3, 6), quoting from Nearchus, seems to include the Susians under the Elymaeans, whom he associates with the Uxii, and places on the frontiers of Persia and Susa; but Pliny more correctly makes the Eulaeus the boundary between Susiana and Elymais (N.H. vi. 29-31). The Uxii are described as a robber tribe in the mountains adjacent to Media, and their name is apparently to be identified with the title given to the whole of Susiana in the Persian cuneiform inscriptions, Uwaja, i.e. “Aborigines.” Uwaja is probably the origin of the modern Khuzistan, though Mordtmann would derive the latter from زض “a sugar-reed.” Immediately bordering on the Persians were the Amardians or Mardians, as well as the people of Khapirti (Khatamti, according to Scheil), the name given to Susiana in the Neo-Susian texts. Khapirti appears as Apir in the inscriptions of Mal-Amir, which fix the locality of the district. Passing over the Messabatae, who inhabited a valley which may perhaps be the modern Māh–Sabadan, as well as the level district of Yamutbal or Yatbur which separated Elam from Babylonia, and the smaller districts of Characene, Cabandene, Corbiana and Gabiene mentioned by classical authors, we come to the fourth principal tribe of Susiana, the Cissii (Aesch. Pers. 16; Strabo xv. 3. 2) or Cossaei (Strabo xi. 5. 6, xvi. 11. 17; Arr. Ind. 40; Polyb. v. 54, &c.), the Kassi of the cuneiform inscriptions. So important were they, that the whole of Susiana was sometimes called Cissia after them, as by Herodotus (iii. 91, v. 49, &c.). In fact Susiana was only a late name for the country, dating from the time when Susa had been made a capital of the Persian empire. In the Sumerian texts of Babylonia it was called Numma, “the Highlands,” of which Elamtu or Elamu, “Elam,” was the Semitic translation. Apart from Susa, the most important part of the country was Anzan (Anshan, contracted Assan), where the native population maintained itself unaffected by Semitic intrusion. The exact position of Anzan is still disputed, but it probably included originally the site of Susa and was distinguished from it only when Susa became the seat of a Semitic government. In the lexical tablets Anzan is given as the equivalent of Elamtu, and the native kings entitle themselves kings of “Anzan and Susa,” as well as “princes of the Khapirti.”
The principal mountains of Elam were on the north, called Charbanus and Cambalidus by Pliny (vi. 27, 31), and belonging to the Parachoathras chain. There were numerous rivers flowing into either the Tigris or the Persian Gulf. The most important were the Ulai or Eulaeus (Kūran) with its tributary the Pasitigris, the Choaspes (Kerkhah), the Coprates (river of Diz called Ititē in the inscriptions), the Hedyphon or Hedypnus (Jerrāhi), and the Croatis (Hindyan), besides the monumental Surappi and Ukni, perhaps to be identified with the Hedyphon and Oroatis, which fell into the sea in the marshy region at the mouth of the Tigris. Shushan or Susa, the capital now marked by the mounds of Shush, stood near the junction of the Choaspes and Eulaeus (see Susa); and Badaca, Madaktu in the inscriptions, lay between the Shapur and the river of Diz. Among the other chief cities mentioned in the inscriptions may be named Naditu, Khaltemas, Din-sar, Bubilu, Bit-imbi, Khidalu and Nagitu on the sea-coast. Here, in fact, lay some of the oldest and wealthiest towns, the sites of which have, however, been removed inland by the silting up of the shore. J. de Morgan’s excavations at Susa have thrown a flood of light on the early history of Elam and its relations to Babylon. The earliest settlement there goes back to neolithic times, but it was already a fortified city when Elam was conquered by Sargon of Akkad (3800 B.C.) and Susa became the seat of a Babylonian viceroy. From this time onward for many centuries it continued under Semitic suzerainty, its high-priests, also called “Chief Envoys of Elam, Sippara and Susa,” bearing sometimes Semitic, sometimes native “Anzanite” names. One of the kings of the dynasty of Ur built at Susa. Before the rise of the First Dynasty of Babylon, however, Elam had recovered its independence, and in 2280 B.C. the Elamite king Kutur-Nakhkhunte made a raid in Babylonia and carried away from Erech the image of the goddess Nanā. The monuments of many of his successors have been discovered by de Morgan and their inscriptions deciphered by v. Scheil. One of them was defeated by Ammi-zadoq of Babylonia (c. 2100 B.C.); another would have been the Chedor-laomer (Kutur-Lagamar) of Genesis xiv. One of the greatest builders among them was Untas-Gal (the pronunciation of the second element in the name is uncertain). About 1330 B.C. Khurba-tila was captured by Kuri-galzu III., the Kassite king of Babylonia, but a later prince Kidin-Khutrutas avenged his defeat, and Sutruk-Nakhkhunte (1220 B.C.) carried fire and sword through Babylonia, slew its king Zamama-sum-iddin and carried away a stela of Naram-Sin and the famous code of laws of Khammurabi from Sippara, as well as a stela of Manistusu from Akkuttum or Akkad. He also conquered the land of Asnunnak and carried off from Padan a stela belonging to a refugee from Malatia. He was succeeded by his son who was followed on the throne by his brother, one of the great builders of Elam. In 750 B.C. Umbadara was king of Elam; Khumban-igas was his successor in 742 B.C. In 720 B.C. the latter prince met the Assyrians under Sargon at Dur-ili in Yamutbal, and though Sargon claims a victory the result was that Babylonia recovered its independence under Merodach-baladan and the Assyrian forces were driven north. From this time forward it was against Assyria instead of Babylonia that Elam found itself compelled to exert its strength, and Elamite policy was directed towards fomenting revolt in Babylonia and assisting the Babylonians in their struggle with Assyria. In 716 B.C. Khumban-igas died and was followed by his nephew, Sutruk-Nakhkhunte. He failed to make head against the Assyrians; the frontier cities were taken by Sargon and Merodach-baladan was left to his fate. A few years later (704 B.C.) the combined forces of Elam and Babylonia were overthrown at Kis, and in the following year the Kassites were reduced to subjection. The Elamite king was dethroned and imprisoned in 700 B.C. by his brother Khallusu, who six years later marched into Babylonia, captured the son of Sennacherib, whom his father had placed there as king, and raised a nominee of his own, Nergal-yusezib, to the throne. Khallusu was murdered in 694 B.C., after seeing the maritime part of his dominions invaded by the Assyrians. His successor Kudur-Nakhkhunte invaded Babylonia; he was repulsed, however, by Sennacherib, 34 of his cities were destroyed, and he himself fled from Madaktu to Khidalu. The result was a revolt in which he was killed after a reign of ten months. His brother Umman-menan at once collected allies and prepared for resistance to the Assyrians. But the terrible defeat at Khalulē broke his power; he was attacked by paralysis shortly afterwards, and Khumba-Khaldas II. followed him on the throne (689 B.C.). The new king endeavoured to gain Assyrian favour by putting to death the son of Merodach-baladan, but was himself murdered by his brothers Urtaki and Teumman (681 B.C.), the first of whom seized the crown. On his death Teumman succeeded and almost immediately provoked a quarrel with Assur-bani-pal by demanding the surrender of his nephews who had taken refuge at the Assyrian court. The Assyrians pursued the Elamite army to Susa, where a battle was fought on the banks of the Eulaeus, in which the Elamites were defeated, Teumman captured and slain, and Umman-igas, the son of Urtaki, made king, his younger brother Tammaritu being given the district of Khidalu. Umman-igas afterwards assisted in the revolt of Babylonia under Samas-sum-yukin, but his nephew, a second Tammaritu, raised a rebellion against him, defeated him in battle, cut off his head and seized the crown. Tammaritu marched to Babylonia; while there, his officer Inda-bigas made himself master of Susa and drove Tammaritu to the coast whence he fled to Assur-bani-pal. Inda-bigas was himself overthrown and slain by a new pretender, Khumba-Khaldas III., who was opposed, however, by three other rivals, two of whom maintained themselves in the mountains until the Assyrian conquest of the country, when Tammaritu was first restored and then imprisoned, Elam being utterly devastated. The return of Khumba-Khaldas led to a fresh Assyrian invasion; the Elamite king fled from Madaktu to Dur-undasi; Susa and other cities were taken, and the Elamite army almost exterminated on the banks of the Ititē. The whole country was reduced to a desert, Susa was plundered and razed to the ground, the royal sepulchres were desecrated, and the images of the gods and of 32 kings “in silver, gold, bronze and alabaster,” were carried away. All this must have happened about 640 B.C. After the fall of the Assyrian empire Elam was occupied by the Persian Teispes, the forefather of Cyrus, who, accordingly, like his immediate successors, is called in the inscriptions “king of Anzan.” Susa once more became a capital, and on the establishment of the Persian empire remained one of the three seats of government, its language, the Neo-Susian, ranking with the Persian of Persepolis and the Semitic of Babylon as an official tongue. In the reign of Darius, however, the Susianians attempted to revolt, first under Assina or Atrina, the son of Umbadara, and later under Martiya, the son of Issainsakria, who called himself Immanes; but they gradually became completely Aryanized, and their agglutinative dialects were supplanted by the Aryan Persian from the south-east.
Elam, “the land of the cedar-forest,” with its enchanted trees, figured largely in Babylonian mythology, and one of the adventures of the hero Gilgamesh was the destruction of the tyrant Khumbaba who dwelt in the midst of it. A list of the Elamite deities is given by Assur-bani-pal; at the head of them was In-Susinak, “the lord of the Susians,”—a title which went back to the age of Babylonian suzerainty,—whose image and oracle were hidden from the eyes of the profane. Nakhkhunte, according to Scheil, was the Sun-goddess, and Lagamar, whose name enters into that of Chedor-laomer, was borrowed from Semitic Babylonia.
See W. K. Loftus, Chaldaea and Susiana (1857); A. Billerbeck, Susa (1893); J. de Morgan, Mémoires de la Délégation en Perse (9 vols., 1899–1906). (A. H. S.)