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Sumeria - Dynasties

Shinar is the name given, in the earliest Hebrew records, to Babylonia, later called Babel, or the land of Babel (babhel, 'erets babhel). In Gen 10:10 it is the district wherein lay Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, cities which were the "beginning" of Nimrod's kingdom. In 11:2 Shinar is described as the land of the plain where migrants from the East settled, and founded Babel, the city, and its great tower. At the earliest period to which our records refer the Sumerians of Shinar were divided into a number of small states, of which the following may be regarded as the principal.

The formal name of a governor in this earliest age was patesi. Lugal-zag-gi-si, however, King of Erech, apparently a Semitic name, designates himself "King of Erech, King of the world," but calls his father Ukush, "-patesi of Gishban." Other kings of this very early period were Ur-Nina, the foundations of whose palace at Telloh are to be seen in the first illustration. Lagash seized and maintained authority, among others, over Gishban, Kish, Erech, Ur and Larsa.

The Sumerian King List I 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 first name on the list whose existence has been authenticated through recent archaeological discoveries, is that of Enmebaragesi of Kish. 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 586.1 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. Conspicuously absent from this list are the priest-rulers of Lagash, who are known directly from inscriptions from ca. the 25th century BC. Another early ruler in the list who is clearly historical is Lugal-Zage-Si of Uruk of the 23rd century BC, who conquered Lagash, and who was in turn conquered by Sargon of Akkad.

Eridu is earliest known walled Sumerian city, dating to 3750 BC. The first settlement in southern Mesopotamia was Eridu. The Sumerians claimed that their civilization had been brought, fully formed, to the city of Eridu by their god Enki or by his advisor (or Abgallu from ab=water, gal=big, lu=man), Adapa U-an (the Oannes of Berossus). The first people at Eridu brought with them the Samarran culture from northern Mesopotamia and are identified with the Ubaid period, but it is not known whether or not these were Sumerians (associated later with the Uruk period).

Dynasty of Opis (once dated as early as c.4500-4401, now dated at about 3000 BC). The Dynasty of Opis [Akkadian Up, Upija, Upe or Upia, Greek Opis] is not included in all King lists, thought Opis apparently obtained renown at a very early time, its kings being given in the great chronological list before those of Kish. The precise location of Opis has not been established, but from the Akkadian and Greek texts, it is clear that it was situated on the east bank of the river Tigris, not far from the confluence of Tigris and Diyala. Concerning the history of Babylonia before this dynasty there is little positive information. How long the Sumerians had been in the land, whence they came, whether they were preceded by men of a different race, what degree of civilization they had attained, and to what extent, if any, Semitic tribes had pushed their way into the country as nomads or settlers, can only be matters of conjecture. It is significant that this earliest Sumerian dynasty appears in the northernmost town of Babylonia, east of the Tigris. The regnal years of the six kings given in the list add up to 99 years. Thev are Unzi (30 years), Undalulu (12), Ursag (6), Basha Sir (20), Ishuil (24), and Shu Enzu (7). If Nabunaid's date for Naram Sin was accepted, Unzi would begin his reign in 4500 BC. Hrozny, who placed Sargon of Agade in 2744 [currently dated at 2334 BC], assigned to Unzi, the first King of Opis, the date 3454. The subsequent Dynasty of Kish was once dated as early as c.4401-3815, though it is now dated at 2844 BC.

Dynasty of Kish (once dated as early as c.4401-3815, now dated at 2844 BC). Northwest of Nippur, on the same branch of the Euphrates, if indeed it be not the main stream, lay Kish, now identified in the mound of El-Ohemir, with the remains of a temple dedicated to the god Zamama. The power passed from Opis to Kish, east of Babylon. Only eight rulers are given in the list: Azag Bau, a woman (100 years), Basha Enzu (25), Ur Zamama (6), Zimudar (30), Uziwidar (6), Elmuti (11), Igul Babbar (11), Naniyach (3). Yet the total number of years for the dynasty is 586. This evidently covers the whole period of the power of Kish. The other Sumerian kings of Kish, such as Utug, Mesilim, Alzu, Lugaltarsi, and Urzage, may have belonged to a different dynasty, as certainly did the Semitic kings of Kish, Enbi Ishtar, Sargon, Manishtusu, and Urumush. During this period a number of prominent patesis, priest kings of Ningirsu, reigned at Lagash, such as Enchegal, Badu, Lugalshag Engur, the contemporary of Mesilim of Kish, Urnina and his lineal descendants, Akurgal, Enannatum I, Entemena, and Enannatum II, and later, Lugalanda, Enliltarzi, Emetarzi, and Urukagina. Enannatum, whose deeds are recorded on the Vulture Stele and in other inscriptions, conquered Alzu of Kish, and received from Ellil, the god of Nippur, sovereign power. The same success seems to have crowned the efforts of Lugalkigubnidudu, patesi of Uruk, who was recognized by Ellil, and made Ur his capital, where also Lugalkisalsi and Enshagkushanna seem to have ruled as "kings of Sumer and the land." This may have been the response of the Sumerian south to the establishment of a Semitic family upon the throne at Kish. But Sargon, Manishtusu, and Urumush were conquerors who made their powers felt everywhere in Babylonia and in Elam.

First Dynasty of Uruk (once dated as early as c.3815-3790, now dated at 2815 BC). The power of Kish came to an end through Lugalzaggisi. This King was originally patesi at Umma, but took possession of Uruk (Biblical Hebrew Erech), was recognized by the Ellil priesthood at Nippur, subdued the north, and made expeditions to Syria, so that he could claim to rule from the Upper Sea (the Mediterranean) to the Lower Sea (the Persian Gulf). He has left a long inscription, recording his victories, copied on a large number of vases.

Dynasties of Lagash and other Cities (once dated before 2574, now dated from 2468 BC). The princes who succeeded Urukagina in Lagash were apparently weak rulers and for the most part politically dependent. Only about a dozen are known from the long period preceding Gudea, possibly a fourth of the entire number. From about 2150, Lagash was again prominent, especially under its pious governor Gudea. The date of the greatest of all Sumerian rulers, Gudea of Lagash [r 2150-2125 BC], was previously estimated at 2500 years BC, though at one time it was estimated at 3000 BC. His son, Ur Ningirsu, seems to have retained the same power and independence. It is as yet impossible to say how long a time may have elapsed between him and the patesis Urabba, Galukazal, Urlama, Alia, and Arad Nannar, who were contemporaries of the kings of Sumer and Akkad.

Second Dynasty of Uruk (once dated as early as c.3593-3567, now dated about 2400 BC). The passing of the hegemony to Uruk probably represents a Sumerian reaction. The kings were Urnigin (3 vears), Urinar (6). Kudda (6), Bashanini (5*), Ur Utu (6). They are otherwise unknown. The dynasty was overthrown by a foreign invasion.

Dynasty of Agade / Akkad (once dated as early as c.3790-3593, currently dated at 2334 BC). Lugalzaggisi was overthrown by the founder of the dynasty of Agade. There can be little doubt that this was Sargon I, King of Accad, who conquered Elam, Mesopotamia, the land of the Amorites, and the Gutians, and built temples in Babylon and Nippur. His son, Naram Sin, fought with Magan in Arabia, the Lulubians, and Bit Aram (possibly an Aramamn people), had a statue erected north of Diarbekr, ruled at Susa, as an Elamitish inscription shows, and may have made a raid on Cyprus. His two successors are unknown; after them came Sargon II, Abaiailu, Iliidinnam, Imiilu, Nannumsharru, Ilulukar, Dudu (21 years), and Shukarkab (15). There were 12 kings; the names of the eight last kings and the long duration of the dynasty have been known only since 1911.

Third Dynasty of Uruk (initially unknown date, now dated about 2100 BC) - King Utechegal of Uruk [r. 2124-2120 BC], freed Babylonia from foreign domination. The dynasty was probably of Sumerian origin.

Dynasty of Ur III (once dated at 2574-2457, now dated from 2112-2004 BC). Under Ur Engur of Ur (18 years) Sumer and Akkad were definitively united, and this union was expressed in the royal title. His descendants were Dungi (58), Bur Sin (9), Gimil Sin (7). and Ibi Sin (25). Of all these kings we possess inscriptions. The patesis of Susa were subject to them, though Ibi Sin was finally taken captive, to Susa.

The displacement of the Sumerian by the Semite was the case only in Northern Babylonia. In the south, in the land of Sumer, the older population continued to be dominant. Sumerian dynasties continued to rule there from time to time, and the old agglutinative language continued to be spoken. When a West-Semitic dynasty governed the country about BC 2200, state proclamations and similar official documents had still to be drawn up in the two languages, Semitic Babylonian and Sumerian. Sumerian did not become extinct till a later day. Indeed, after the fall of the empire of Sargon of Akkad there seems to have been a Sumerian reaction. While Susa was lost to the Semites and became the capital of a non-Semitic people who spoke an agglutinative language, the power of the Sumerian princes in Southern Babylonia appears to have revived. It was only under the foreign domination of tne Kassites apparently, who governed Babylonia for nearly 600 years, that the Sumerian element finally became merged in the Semitic and the Babylonian of later history was born.

As great as all these cities were in age, and rich though they continued to be in religious associations, they were all surpassed in influence by the city of Babylon. They were forgotten of men when the dust and sand settled upon them, but the glory and the shame of Babylon remained.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:48:44 ZULU