The great plain north of the Persian Gulf and east of the lower Tigris and the mountainous districts by which it is enclosed on the east and north. It is the "Elamtu" of the Babylonians and Assyrians and the "Elymais" of the Greeks—who also called it "Susiana" from the capital Susa (Shushan)—and corresponds nearly to the modern Khuzistan. The name may have originally signified "the front," that is, "the east country," in the Babylonian language; but as the east was to the Babylonians also the mountainous region, a popular etymology connected it with "high land," and this is the meaning of the ideograph employed to designate it. Elam is mentioned frequently in some of the very oldest Babylonian inscriptions. Southern Elam was known as Anshan from the earliest times to the days of the Persian empire.
The political importance of Elam depended upon its attitude toward the empires of the Euphrates and Tigris. Long before the rise of the city of Babylon the old city-states of Accad and Lagash held for a time part of the Elamitic territory, and border warfare was very frequent.
Two well-marked eras must be specially noted. One is the period in the twenty-third century
In Gen. x. 22 Elam is made a son of Shem along with Asshur, but the Elamites were not Semites either in race or language. The allusion in Isa. xxii. 6 is also obscure.
The subjection of Elam by Persia is predicted in Jer. xlix. 34-39. In Isa. xxi. 2 Elam is mentioned with Media as about to subvert Babylon. Here "Elam" is put by synecdoche for "Anshan" before the title of "King of Persia" had been assumed by Cyrus. Other references to Elam are Jer. xxv. 25, Ezek. xxxii. 24, and Ezra iv. 9.
- Friedrich Delitzsch, Wo Lag das Paradies? pp. 320-329;
- Tiele, Babyl.-Assyr. Gesch. pp. 17 et seq., 105 (note), 129, 131, 363, 391, 399, 435, Gotha, 1886;
- Hommel, Gesch. Babyloniens und Assyriens, Berlin, 1885;
- Winckler, Gesch. Babyloniens und Assyriens, Leipsic, 1892;
- McCurdy, History, Prophecy, and the Monuments, New York and London, 1894;
- Rogers, History of Assyria and Babylonia.