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Sumerian King Lists

The Deluge
1st Dynasty1199 Opis3000 BC2900 BC
2nd Dynasty2323,310 Kish I2844 BC2650 BC
3rd Dynasty122310 Uruk I2815 BC2500 BC
4th Dynasty4177 Ur I2600 BC2500 BC
5th Dynasty3356 Awan2600 BC2500 BC
6th Dynasty83195 Kish II2600 BC2500 BC
..11225. Lagash I2500 BC2271 BC
7th Dynasty1360 Hamazi2500 BC2400 BC
8th Dynasty3187 Uruk II2500 BC2400 BC
9th Dynasty3104+ Ur II2500 BC2400 BC
10th Dynasty190 Adab2500 BC2400 BC
11th Dynasty6136 Mari2500 BC2400 BC
12th Dynasty1100 Kish III2500 BC2400 BC
13th Dynasty693 Aksak2500 BC2400 BC
14th Dynasty7491 Kish IV2400 BC2300 BC
15th Dynasty125 Uruk III2341 BC2316 BC
15th Dynasty11181 Akkadia2335 BC2154 BC
16th Dynasty530 Uruk IV2154 BC2124 BC
17th Dynasty2191 Guti2083 BC1992 BC
18th Dynasty1427 Uruk V2124 BC2113 BC
19th Dynasty5109 Ur III2113 BC2004 BC
..1747 Lagash II2093 BC2046 BC
20th Dynasty15213 Isin I2018 BC1794 BC
Notes Opis is not on all King Lists
Lagash is not on King Lists

In all, the Sumerian King List enumerates at least sixteen dynasties following the flood, a period of rule by Guti tribesmen from the Zagros Mountains, and then dynasties at Uruk, Ur (the so-called Third Dynasty of Ur founded by Ur-Namma), and Isin. THe final version dates to the end of the First Dynasty of Isin, with whose last king, Sin-magir [r 1827-1818 BC] it ends.

"In Eanna, Meskiaggasher, the son of (the sun god) Utu reigned as En (Priest) and Lugal (King) 324 years--Meskiaggasher entered the sea, ascended the mountains. Enmerkar, the son of Meskiaggasher, the king of erech who had built Erech, reigned 420 years as king. Lugalbanda, the shepherd, reigned 1,200 years. Dumuzi the fisherman, whose city was Kua, reigned 100 years. Gilgamesh, whose father was a nomad (?) reigned 126 years. Urnungal, the son of Gilgamesh, reigned 30 years. Labasher reigned 9 years. Ennundaranna reigned 8 years. Meshede reigned 36 years. Melamanna reigned 6 years. Lugalkidul reigned 36 years. Total: twelve kings, reigned 2,130 years. Erech was defeated, its kingship was carried off to Ur .... " [an event presently dated at 2112 BC].

The kings of Mesopotamia believed that by having certain texts inscribed, they would leave a legacy in perpetuity. But they also used writing to authenticate their rule while still in command. Some have called the priests the court propaganda ministers of the kings, because they would write up the justification of the king while he was in power.

The Sumerian King List, a chronology of dynasties of Mesopotamian kings, is an example of such a document. It is a native historiographic text that attempts to organize a list of kings who ruled Sumer from deepest antiquity, before the flood, to the experience of the writers in the present day. Most of these kings are genuine historical rulers of the cities in question and often had control over more than their own cities. The list was intended to substantiate the uninterrupted rule of Sumerian and Akkadian kings. It divides the succession into two periods, antediluvian and postdiluvian, with the great flood--around the turn of the second millennium B.C.--marking the shift from the mythological to the historical epoch.

The king list manipulates the accession of rulers and smoothes it into a seamless sequence. The view that it presents is definitely in contradiction to what is known from other historical texts, which shows that in much of the south and middle of Mesopotamia, cities were competing for control. In a few cases the list has one king following another when it is known they were synchronous. One very substantial city, Lagash, was omitted -- either as political propaganda, or because by the time it was written down it was no longer an important city. So they have their own view of the historical sequence. They thought they were members of an historical community that reached back many thousands of years. And they believed that future civilizations should have access to what a person had to say in his time.

It became evident that the Babylonia King Lists were modeled upon ancient Sumerian king lists, for since their discovery there were found Sumerian lists of precisely the same character. The first fragments of the Sumerian King list were published in 1906. The earliest known lists were found at Shuruppak, and seem to have been date lines based not on a king's reign, but rather on the period of government of some local mayor or magistrate. Since 1923 the standard text has been the Weld-Blundell prism which became the basis for the publication of the List by S. Langdon in the Oxford Edition of Cuneiform. Sixteen copies of this text are known, all of them written in Sumerian, although some of them clearly show Akkadian influence.

One Sumerian King List is a list of kings beginning with (a) Un-zi, the first king of the dynasty of Upi (Opis), and giving the names of the six kings of this dynasty; and continuing with (b) the eight kings of the dynasty of Kish from Azag-Bau to Nani-zah: the summation given at the end of (b) after the name of Nanizah is 586 years for the eight kings, and the length of the reign of the first queen, Azag-Bau, is set down as 100 years.

These two figures must surely be wrong. A reign of one hundred years is improbable, and even if this were true, the total number of years of the dynasty would amount to but 192 years, and the number 586 must surely be wrong. The errors are quite probably these. The numeral 100 in the Sumerian script very closely approaches in appearance the numeral 14. If this be the case the number of years to be assigned the dynasty would be 106 instead of 586.! Now it happens that the numerals 8 for the number of kings and 106 for the years of their reign, could very easily be confused into 586 in the Sumerian script.

With these two emendations the list becomes quite usable for the chronological reconstruction of the early dynasties, (c) Lugalzaggisi, king of Uruk; (d) the dynasty of Agade from Sharru-kin (Sargon I) to Shudurkib twelve kings; (e) the dynasty of Uruk (Erech) from Ur-nigin to Ur-Shamash five kings. The tablet therefore contained the names of thirty-two kings, but four have been lost from the dynasty of Agade. At the end of each dynasty is given a summation of the number of kings in the dynasty, and the total of all the years of reign. After each dynasty is also given the name of the succeeding one, a point of great value. No statement is made as to whether there was any time between the close of one and the beginning of another dynasty, which in some cases, at least, is surely probable. It is therefore not possible to add all these dynasties together and so arrive at a sure date for the beginning by reckoning backward. There may have been no years between any two dynasties, and on the other hand there may have been dead years and the number of them be unknown.

A second Sumerian King List is a list of kings beginning with Ur-Engur of the dynasty of Ur, and ending with Damik-ilishu of the dynasty of Isin, with summations at the end of each dynasty. There are five kings of Ur who reigned one hundred and seventeen years, and sixteen kings of Isin, two of which have, however, been lost from the tablet, and three are only partly legible. One of those that are completely obliterated can elsewhere be recovered as Ura-imitti, and two of the partly illegible ones are also recovered. The summation at the end of this dynasty gives its total length as two hundred and twenty-five years, six months.

A third Sumerian King List is a list of the rulers of Larsa, said to have been found at Senkereh (Larsa) and now deposited in the museum of Yale University, and first published by Professor A. T. Clay. This list is of high importance. It begins with Naplanum and gives fourteen names with the years of reign of each one, these all belonging to the dynasty of Larsa and ending with the name Rim-Sin, after which at the end come the names of Hammurapi and Samsu-iluna. Before the discovery of this list Gungunum was supposed to be the first king of this dynasty, and the Synchronisms with the first dynasty of Babylon were quite unknown.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:48:39 ZULU