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Yoffee criticizes Diamond’s interpretation of the collapse of the Akkadian empire in...

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Yoffee criticizes Diamond’s interpretation of the collapse of the Akkadian empire in Mesopotamia, first led by Sargon and then by his grand-son, Naram-Sin. Which of the following statements is TRUE, according to Yoffee? a. Naram-Sin conquered the city-states to the south of Kish, brought them together under his own authority, and established Akkade as the capital of the empire. b. Naram-Sin’s mismanagement of the environment was the main reason for the empire’s collapse. c. Naram-Sin was more interested in military conquests than he was in the good governance of the Akkadian empire, thus leading to its collapse. d. Climate change in the form of an extended drought was an important factor in Akkade’s collapse.

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I would argue that none of these options really captures the meat of what Norman Yoffee is trying to say in his chapter about Mesopotamia in Questioning Collapse, which he edited along with Patricia McAnany.  However, of the options given, Option C is the best.  All of the others are clearly wrong while C is at least partially correct.

Option D is clearly wrong.  This goes to the heart of Yoffee’s critique of Diamond.  Yoffee thinks that Diamond looks only at things like climate and ignores the people of Mesopotamia.  To Yoffee, the troubles of Assyria were brought about by the actions of their elites, not by the impersonal forces of climate.

Option A is clearly wrong.  This option refers to the deeds of Sargon, not to those of Naram-Sin.  Option B is also wrong.  Yoffee does not say anything about Naram-Sin’s policy towards the environment.

That leaves only Option C.  Yoffee does say, on pages 182 and 183, that Naram-Sin led many military expeditions and “paid less attention to the problems of internal governance.”  Yoffee does not say that this led directly to the collapse of Assyria.  Instead, he goes on to say that it was mistakes made by kings that caused the collapse.  Option C is the best fit with this narrative.

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