Sargon of Akkad, was placed in a reed basket by his mother, and floated down the river to be found by a different queen, and raised as her own to become one of the most powerful leaders of Akkadia. 1000-2000 years before Moses ever did it. But it's not at all related. Don't worry. https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Moses

I think rather than asking whether it's true or not, which is of course, hard to know, I would accept an answer to another question.

Is there any basis for a story of Sargon of Arkad?

We don't know whether Moses exist or not. But we know that his story is around and quite popular. What about the story of Sargon?

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    Its not clear exactly what you are asking. The RationalWiki entry implies (but doesn't actually claim) that the Moses story was cribbed from the existing Sargon story, so the interesting question would be whether the Sargon story predates the Moses story. It could be the other way round of course: maybe story tellers took the Moses story and then used it when telling the story of Sargon. So what exactly is your question? Commented Feb 25, 2018 at 18:11

2 Answers 2


Sargon is a historical figure, quite uncontroversially. According to his "autobiography", which we found in multiple copies, he was indeed put into a basket and cast into a river.

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[...] She set me in a basket of rushes, with bitumen she sealed my lid. She cast me into the river which rose over me. [...]

Legends of the Kings of Akkade: The Texts By Joan Goodnick Westenholz

Of course, we are talking about thousands of years ago, and I would not count on the historical accuracy of what's written!

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    @Raditz_35 I don't understand your comment. Yes, the tablets on which the legend was found are later copies as is completely true of basically all old literature. This is not a "huge" problem at all, I mean: even if they are apocryphal, they are still the origin of the story as asked. And whether you believe them or not, there's plenty of other stories in the bible that predate Judaism, and come from Mesopotamia, like the flood legend--so this makes this particular story quite unremarkable anyways.
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Feb 23, 2018 at 12:29
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    From the OP: "1000-2000 years before Moses ever did it." Well the stories are about 1k years younger than a potential historical Moses. I think this completely changes the character. You kind of sold it as if it's almost a historical certainty that Sargon was in that basket with a small hint that we will never know for sure. Just to be clear, I'm not saying anything in your answer is wrong, but you present it in a misleading way. I know all about stories predating Judaism and am not interested in defending the historical Moses, don't worry about that part
    – Raditz_35
    Commented Feb 23, 2018 at 12:48
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    @Raditz_35 you realize Moses is not a historical figure, right?
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Feb 23, 2018 at 19:54
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    I have the impression you think this is about something other than me saying a good answer is more than that. I really do not need to be lectured about that as I've stated in my last post.
    – Raditz_35
    Commented Feb 24, 2018 at 9:05
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    @FrancisDavey that's irrelevant to the question of the origin of the story. The tablets are the origin of the story. The OP is explicitly not asking whether Sargon was put int a basket: "rather than asking whether it's true or not, which is of course, hard to know, I would accept an answer to another question"
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Feb 25, 2018 at 8:11

I am reading your questions as asking "Is there any basis for a story of Sargon of Arkad?" but I am assuming you want to know not just whether such a basis exists, but something about its reliability. In other words your comment about "whether it's true or not" refers to the question of whether there is a relationship between this story and that of Moses.

The short answer is, yes, there is a story, usually referred to as the "Sargon Birth Legend". It is known from 4 fragmentary sources (A, B, C and D - the letters in the left hand column of Sklivvz's answer refer to these sources -- see Westenholz. Page 41.).

They are written in neo-Assyrian and neo-Babylonian. Obviously this does not precisely date the tablets. The most thorough study of the dating that I am aware of is in Lewis. Unfortunately I do not have a copy of this, but Konstan cites him as giving a date range of 704 - 539BC. These are not the oldest materials we have concerning Sargon's life - there are a few with dates as early as 1800BC (see Konstan, page 27).

As Longman points out (page 54) there must be an element of fiction in the account because it is presented as autobiographical but Sargon says at one stage "I ruled 55 years as king".

Longman describes the state of research on the story (as of 1991). It seems clear that no scholars cited by him believe the story to be original to Sargon or his time period, but that it is a much later invention and I know of no-one that thinks otherwise.

Lewis's view was that the story was composed at the time of Sargon II of Assyria (an unrelated monarch, who reigned in the 8th century BC, but may have been named in honour of Sargon of Akkad) to reflect glory on him indirectly.

But it wasn't entirely clear to me whether this was your question, or whether you wanted to know if the story was popular (as is the story of Moses) rather than whether it has any basis in fact.

Clearly it was not popular for much of history because knowledge of Sargon was lost, but it does seem that Sargon was a very significant figure in Mesopotamian history to the Mesopotamians. Babylonians and Assyrians certainly thought of themselves as in some sense his successors (as the first Semitic king). So, in that sense, yes it was a popular story at some time in the past.

The question of whether this story and the Moses story are related and, if so, how is much more difficult and not one you asked. I am just flagging up that I am not trying to answer it.

Konstan, David, and Kurt A. Raaflaub, eds. Epic and history. John Wiley & Sons, 2009.
Lewis, Brian. The Sargon legend: a study of the Akkadian text and the tale of the hero who was exposed at birth. American Schools of Oriental Research, 1980.
Longman, Tremper. Fictional Akkadian autobiography: a generic and comparative study. Eisenbrauns, 1991.
Westenholz, Joan Goodnick. Legends of the Kings of Akkade: The Texts (Mesopotamian Civilizations). Eisenbrauns, 1997.

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