ELAM, î'lam: The name of a country known to the Assyrians as Elamtu (the "t" being a feminine termination), called in Greek Elymais, though part of its territory was known as Susiana in later times. Herodotus calls the country Kissia. The Assyrian name is usually explained as meaning "highland," but Jensen's explanation as "eastland" (that is, east of Babylonia), may be correct.
Geographically the ancient Elam may be defined as lying east of the Tigris and north of the Persian Gulf and comprising not only the lowlands of the modern Khuzistan, but also the mountainous chains surrounding them on the north and east. Elam is classed in the Old Testament among the sons of Shem (Gen. x. 22; I Chron. i. 17) and this led early investigators to enumerate the Elamites among the Semitic peoples. The classification in the Old Testament must now be considered as geographical rather than ethnological, for it is quite clear that the Elamites are not Semitic either linguistically or ethnologically. Their language is agglutinative in character, and though difficult to classify with certainty is not in any way to be identified with the Semitic group.
The origin of the Elamite stock is veiled in obscurity. The true Elamites occupied the more mountainous parts of the country, while the lower levels near Babylonia even in very early times had a Semitic intermixture, whose nomenclature appears in certain place names near the river Tigris. The earliest mention of Elam known appears in an inscription of the Babylonian King Alusharshid (see BABYLONIA, VI, 2, § 5) about 3800 B.C., who declares that he had conquered Elam and Bara'se. The capital of Elam, Susa, was henceforward accounted by the Babylonians as in their sphere of influence. It had to be reconquered from time to time. Gudea (see BABYLONIA, VI., 3, § 3) conquered Anshan, henceforth regarded as the southern division of Elam, and furnishing the title of its greatest kings in later centuries. Later Babylonian princes built temples in Susa, made marriage alliances with its princes and gave other evidences of their influence upon Elam. The ruler of Elam for about seven hundred years is called patesi (see BABYLONIA, VI., 2, § 1, note), and they seem all to have acknowledged Babylonian overlordship. All their inscriptions are written in Semitic Babylonian.
About 2285 B.C. Babylonia was overrun and conquered by Kudur-Nahunte, King of Elam, whose name is Elamitic, not Semitic, and who belongs to the true Elamite stock, whose language appears in numerous inscriptions from this time onward. Thirteen years later Kudur-Mabug (see BABYLONIA, VI, 4, § 1), king of Elam, established his rule over southern Babylonia, and his son Rim-Sin became king of Larsa, the Biblical Ellasar, in Babylonia. To this same line of princes belongs Chedorlaomer (Kudurlagamaru; Gen. xiv. 1). The Elamite ascendency in Babylonia was broken by Hammurabi (= Amraphel of Gen. xiv. 1; see HAMMURABI AND HIS CODE) and from this time onward Elam and Babylonia pursued separate lines of development, though frequently at war with each other. About 640 B.C. Elam was conquered by Asshurbanipal (= Asnapper or Osnappar, Ezra ii. 10), king of Assyria, and its power broken forever. Soon afterward arose the princes of Anshan, who were the forebears of Cyrus the Great (553 529 B.C.) who calls himself king of Anshan, and later king of Persia. He belongs to Indo-Germanic stock and it is therefore probable that Elam had already been overrun by some migration of these people.
ROBERT W. ROGERS.
Bibliography: W. K. Loftus, Chaldæa and Susiana, London, 1857; F. Delitzsch, Wo lag das Paradies? p. 237, Leipsic, 1881; A. H. Sayce, in Transactions of Leyden Oriental Congress, 1885; M. Dieulafoy, L'Acropole de Susa, Paris, 1890; A. Billerbeck, Susa, Freienwald, 1893; DB, i. 674-676; EB, ii. 1253-54; JE, v. 88-89; and the articles ASSYRIA and BABYLONIA, with the works on history cited there.