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The city of Ur in Babylonian history is not the Ur from which Abram came. Abram's Ur was Urfa in northern Mesopotamia, not on the fringes of Shinar. The Biblical account (Genesis xi. 31) is to the effect that Terah together with Abram, his son, and Sarai, the wife of Abram, went forth from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the Land of Canaan, situated on the Mediterranean, south of Phoenicia, and west of the Syrian desert. Having quitted Ur, they came in the first instance, as would appear from the narrative in Genesis, to Haran, whore they dwelt. This is supposed to have been about the year 1923 B.C. Now, Haran (or, as it is called in the Acts of the Apostles, vii. 24, "Charran," following the Greek form) is situated near the upper course of the Euphrates, in the district called Padan-Aram in the Bible a stretch of country lying south of Mount Masius, between the Euphrates and the Khabour. It seems, therefore, a strange route to take from the neighbourhood of what is now called Mugheir to the Land of Canaan. The commentators, as usual, are ready with their conjectural explanations.

Thanks to the records made available, the history of this most ancient civilisation is no longer a mere hazy figment of tradition, but has become a sharply outlined picture. It is possible to trace the origin of the Mesopotamian civilisation and its very early development in the cities of old or southern Babylon. Antiquarian documents aided by estimates as to the rate of deposit of sediment at the mouth of the rivers, enable fixing, at least approximately, the dates for this early civilisation. These figures cannot pretend to exact accuracy, but the Assyriologist assures us with some confidence that they carry us back to a period something like six or seven thousand years BC. At this remote time the civilisation of southern Babylonia was already establishing its main features.

West of Eridu stood the great city Ur, which occupied from the earliest times down to the be ginning of Babylon's hegemony a position of distinguished influence in the land, and even thereafter continued to be the most important city in the south. The chief god of the city was Sin, the moon god, here worshiped under the name of Nannar. The moon god always exerted profound influence over the minds of the people, and Ur, therefore, was early adorned with a large temple for the worship of Sin, which was frequently restored down the centuries to the days of Nabonidus.

The people of Ur, Nippur, Shirpurla, and Babylon were later able to build elaborate palaces and temples, to carve interesting sculptures, to make ornaments of glass, and to record their thought in words traced in the most complex script. In a word, the main characteristics of Mesopotamian civilisation were fully established several millenniums before the Christian era, and abundant proofs of this fact have been preserved. The earliest known inhabitants of Mesopotamia were a people of whose origin little is known, except that they were not Semites. After a time they are called sometimes Sumerians. Sumer was the southern portion of Babylonia, Akkad the northern. The Akkadian language is now considered a dialect of the Sumerian, the older form.

2900-2650 BC - 1st Dynasty of Ur

Meshanepadda 80
Meshkiagn[a/u]nna 36
Elulu 25
Balulu 36
The 1st Dynasty of Ur witnessed a revolution in Sumerian cuneiform. Lugal-Kitun of Uruk and Mesalim of Kish were both defeated by Mesannepadda, who set up the first dynasty of Ur. The king lists say that this dynasty lasted 170 years while the current estimation puts it at around 110 years (2560-2450). Ur fell to foreign invaders, the Elamites from the city of Awan, west of Susa and the Karkheh river. Eannatum was situated on the western side of the Euphrates, opposite the place where the Shatt-el-Hai flows into it. Up to the time of Lugalzaggisi it may not have been of very great importance. This latter ruler, however, 'raised it like a steer to the top of the heaven' (col. ii. 30); hence, at no long period subsequent to Lugalzaggisi, two kings, father and son, were ruling at Ur. It is not impossible that this dynasty may itself have brought about the overthrow of Lugalzaggisi. Probably also it took possession of the more northern part of Babylonia (Nippur), for both these kings present vases to Enlil, the 'lord of the lands.'

Their dominion extended over Ur, Erech, and Nippur, probably also over Shirpurla, for the kings of the south could not have gained possession of Nippur without passing Shirpurla. This would explain very little is known about Shirpurla at this time. It is, however, remarkable that both these kings should call themselves first 'kings of Erech' and then ' kings of Ur'; while, on the other hand, Lugalkigubnidudu, in pi. 36, expressly says that Enlil added (lab) the lordship (nam-en) to the kingship (nam-lugal), which lordship so added was, according to 11. 9-11, Erech. It would be expected that, if he were originally king of Ur, the title 'king of Ur' would come first. Here then is an analogy to and a confirmation of the argument used in regard to Urzaguddu. The latter king had also two titles, viz.' king of Kish' and 'king of . . .,' and it was argued that the latter title, 'king of. . .,' was the original, i. e. Urzaguddu became later on ' king of Kish.' So here ' king of Ur' was the original title; Lugalkigubnidudu subsequently became ' king of Erech'

It may well be that Shamash was the name given to the god at Sippar, whereas at Ur he may have been known as Utu. Ur-Bau (of the first Ur dynasty) calls him Utu also, when speaking of the temple at Larsa, but it would be natural for the kings of Ur to call the sun-god of Larsa by the same name that he had in Ur.

It was under the name of Nannar that the moon-god was worshipped at Ur, the most famous and probably the oldest of the cities over which the moon-god presided. The association of Nannar with Ur is parallel to that of Shamash with Sippar, not that the moon-god's jurisdiction or worship was confined to that place, but that the worship of the deity of that place eclipsed others, and the fame and importance at Ur led to the overshadowing of the moonworship there, over the obeisance to him paid elsewhere.

How long this dynasty flourished, how many rulers were comprised in it, and when and by whom it was overthrown, cannot be told.

2650-2550 BC - 2nd Dynasty of Ur

Nani 120+ (54+)
Meshkiagnanna 48
??? 2
??? ??
Documentation is much better for the Ur III period starting 2100 BC than for the Old Sumerian Ur II.

The king lists say that Hamazi was defeated by Enshakushanna of Uruk, who founded the Second Dynasty of Uruk. After 3 kings and 187 years, Uruk was said to have been defeated by Ur once again, although in reality they seem to have ruled side by side for about half as long. After kingship was brought back to Ur, Nani ruled .. , Meshkiagnanna, son of Nani, ruled â€. (text destroyed) â€.. All told, four kings ruled a total of 116 years before Ur was defeated and its kingship carried off to Adab. Ur II is said to have been defeated by Lugal-Annemundu of Adab, although there seems to have been a brief and unrecorded Elamite dominion before this.

The 2nd Dynasty of Ur left comparatively little evidence of itself, however, and none of its founders, who may have been the kings of the IInd Dynasty of Ur. These kings add the title "King of Sumer and Akkad" to that of Ur, combining the hostile elements of the North and South under one rule ; "restoring," says Radau, "in old Babylonia the peace which had been disturbed for many centuries, even from the time of the original Semitic invasion." Ur-gur held sway over both Semites and Sumerians (Agade and Shirpurla). His capital was at Ur. Famous as a temple builder, he built temple Teimila to Nannar (moon god) at Ur, temple E-anna to Ishtar at Erech, temple E-barra to Shamash at Larsa. Pyramidal tower at Nippur.

2112 BC - 2004 BC - Third Dynasty of Ur / Ur III / Urumma

Ur-NammuUr-Engur18 21122095
ShulgiDungi58 20942047
Amar-SinBur-Sin9 20462038
Shu-SinGimil-Sin7 20372029
Historians generally divide Sumerian history into three stages. In the first stage, which extended roughly from 3360 BC to 2400 BC, the most important political development was the emergence of kings who, unlike the first priestly rulers, exercised distinct political rather than religious authority. Another important feature of this period was the emergence of warring Sumerian city-states, which fought for control of the river valleys in lower Mesopotamia. During the second phase, which lasted from 2400 BC to 2200 BC, Sumer was conquered in approximately 2334 BC by Sargon I, king of the Semitic city of Akkad. Akkadian hegemony over southern Mesopotamia lasted only 200 years. Sargon's great-grandson was then overthrown by the Guti, a mountain people from the east.

The ancient Urumma was explored by Taylor and others, and proved to have been an important capital from the middle of the 3d millennium BC. The dynasty which had made the city its capital is known through inscriptions discovered there and at Tello, Nippur, Drehem and Djokha. Thousands of inscriptions dated in what is commonly called the Ur Dynasty have been published. The dynasty was founded by Ur-Engur, who is conspicuous for his building operations at Nippur and other cities. A dynastic tablet of a much later period, the provenience of which was in doubt, gave the rulers of this dynasty founded about 2100 BC, and the number of years that they reigned.

The fall of the Akkadians and the subsequent reemergence of Sumer under the king of Ur, who defeated the Guti, ushered in the third phase of Sumerian history. In this final phase, which was characterized by a synthesis of Sumerian and Akkadian cultures, the king of Ur established hegemony over much of Mesopotamia. Sumerian supremacy, however, was on the wane. By 2000 B.C. the combined attacks of the Amorites, a Semitic people from the west, and the Elamites, a Caucasian people from the east, had destroyed the Third Dynasty of Ur. The invaders nevertheless carried on the Sumero-Akkadian cultural legacy.

During the century or so which followed the collapse of the Akkadian empire, the country lapsed into a series of petty states. Ur-Nammu, the governor of Ur (2112-2095 BC, at one time calculated as early as about 2400 BC), asserted the independence of his city and founded the Third Dynasty of Ur, commonly known as Ur III. The Dynasty lasted until Ur was sacked in the year 2004 BC. The third dynasty of Ur consists of Dungi II, Gungunu, Bur Sin II, Gamil Sin, and Ine-Sin by one account, and Ur-Nammu, who etablished the Third Dynasty of Ur, Shulgi, who extended his father's empire to all of Assyria, followed by Amar-Sin, Shu-Sin, and Ibbi-Sin, by whoe reign the Amorites had weakened Sumerian power.

They add the curious title "King of the Four Quarters (of the world." Where was the Kingdom of the Four Quarters of the World, and why do the kings use such a title ? It appears much earlier in an inscription of Naram-Sin, and is applied also to Sargon after his three campaigns in the west, while an inscription of Dungi bears the same curious legend. Again and again in later centuries is the title borne by kings of Babylonia and Assyria. It has been thought to be the name of some kingdom with a definite geographical location and a capital city. It has been located at several places in northern Babylonia, but without satisfactory reason. The title is rather the claim to a sort of world-wide dominion. Well indeed might Sargon use it after he had made expeditions into the west and laid the whole civilized world tributary at his feet. The use of the title by these kings may also imply some successful raids in the far west.

The kings of this dynasty, in contradistinction to those of the second, always call themselves or are called 'king of Ur.' Gungunu, the founder of this dynasty, put an end to that of Isin, for Enannatum, the son of Ishme-Dagan, built several temples 'for the life of Gungunu, the mighty hero, the king of Ur '; hence the son of Ishme-Dagan sat no more on the throne of Isin, but acknowledged openly his dependence on the king of Ur, applying to himself only religious titles.

With the temporary eclipse of the power of the Semites, the old-time rivalry between the Sumerian states, which was typical of conditions prevailing until the days of Lugalzaggisi, again set in. Ur which had been forced to play a secondary role in the combination with Uruk reasserted itself, and about thirty years after Utuchegal's accession Urengur succeeded in making Ur once more the capital of a united Sumerian kingdom.

For 117 years this dynasty maintained itself and the orderly succession of its five rulers from father to son Urengur, Dungi, Pursin, Gimilsin and Ibisinbears witness to the tranquil conditions which these rulers established. The same testimony is borne by the large number of business documents of this period which give evidence of an extensive commercial activity that goes hand in hand with political stability, while the dates attached to these documents, the years being still marked in this period by important events, likewise show that the rulers were able to devote themselves chiefly to works of peace, such as the rebuilding of walls or of temples to the chief deities in a variety of centers, Nippur, Eridu, Uruk, Larsa, Lagash and above all in Ur, and in otherwise improving and embellishing these and other cities and towns.

Occasionally Elam to the east gave the rulers of Ur trouble, but far more serious was the menace from the distant north. Dungi, the second ruler of the dynasty, undertook no less than nine campaigns against the land of Sumuru and Lulubi. These groups showed the same resistance to a foreign yoke that formerly characterized the Guti, of whom nothing is heard during the period of the Ur dynasty and who, while unable to stand up against better disciplined forces, rebelled again and again as the opportunity offered.

On account of the difference in the titles of Gungunu and, e.g., Bur-Sin II. on one hand and Dungi I. on the other, it is possible to distinguish between the second, the third, and the fourth dynasties of Ur. Besides Gungunu, two other kings bear the title lugal Uru-utnH-ma, viz., Ur-Gur II. and Dungi II. so called by us, to distinguish them from Ur-Gur I. (second dynasty of Ur) and Dungi III. (fourth dynasty of Ur). Whether Ur-Gur II. preceded Dungi II. is not certain, nor is it known whether the latter is the immediate successor of the former.

Ur-Gur II built for Uru-ki (= Nannar-Sin, the moongod of Ur) the temple Te-im-ila, and for Lugal-dingirri-ne (i. e. for the god who is the 'king of the gods') the temple Nun-mag. He was in possession of the city Ishkun-Sin the situation of which is not yet made out for its patesi, Hashhamir, acknowledges, in an inscription to be found on a seal-cylinder, that he is the 'servant of Ur-Gur, king of Ur'. The enemies of Ur must have been troublesome, for Ur-Gur II. finds it necessary to fortify the wall of his royal capital.

The third king who belongs to this dynasty is Dungi II. Of this king there are no inscriptions written by himself, he being known only from votive inscriptions of certain patesis or other people, who dedicated those inscribed tablets 'for the life of Dungi, king of Ur.'

At the time of the Elamite invasion, Kudurnanhundi carried the image of the goddess Ishtar, with all that belonged or was dedicated to it, into Elam. Kurigalzu, of the Cassite dynasty, after he had conquered Susa, brought it back and presented it to Balit of Nippur. There, in the sanctuary of Balit, it remained till it was again taken by the excavators at Nippur and transferred to the Museum of the University of Pennsylvania.

What has been called "The Oldest Medical Document" is an ancient Sumerian clay tablet from debris of Nippur where it had been buried for over four thousand years. The physician who long ago set down these prescriptions lived in the Golden Age or the Third Dynasty of Ur, perhaps somewhere around 2100 BC, during the last efflorescence of Sumerian culture before the Semitic wave of Babylonians swept over it. The tablet contains at least fifteen recipes or prescriptions for the preparation and use of divergent ointments and potions. There are two unfortunate omissions: no mention is made in any case of the disease for which the remedv was intended, and no specification of the quantities of the various ingredients is made. This may possibly indicate that in the circle for whom the tablet was written these prescriptions were so well known that quantities and indications for use were unnecessary, or, on the other hand, it may indicate some reticence on the part of the author to transmit all of his potent knowledge. It is not known who or for what purpose the tablet was written. Drugs are mainly derived from the plant world and frequently these plants are either known to possess active principles or at least to belong to families containing very active plants; unfortunately, at present, little work has been done on the pharmacological properties of the plants indigenous to the Mesopotamian region.

Besides the usual records of their building there are from this dynasty hundreds of contract tablets, now scattered in museums nearly all over the world. These tablets, uninteresting in themselves, are yet the witnesses of an extraordinary development in commercial lines. The land of Babylonia was waxing rich and laying the foundations for great power in the world of trade when its political supremacy was ended. The end of the dynasty, and with it the end of the dominion of Ur, is clouded in the mists of the past.

At about this same period there was also in existence a small kingdom called the kingdom of Amnanu,' with its chief city Erech. The names of three of its sovereigns have come down to us upon brief inscriptions," the chiefest of them being apparently Sin-gashid. Unlike the kingdoms founded in Ur and in other cities, this kingdom of Amnanu seems to have exerted but small influence upon the historical development of the country. The name of the kingdom disappears, and is attached to no later king until it is suddenly used again by Shamashshumukin (667-647 BC), but apparently without any special significance and rather as a reminiscence of ancient days.

Towards the close of the Ur dynasty there are indications of a reassertion of power in Elam which led to open hostilities and the overthrow of the Ur dynasty. In place of the latter centre, we find Isin the seat of a dynasty which maintained itself for 225 years (c. 2350-2125 BC), though its rulers content themselves with the title of "King of Sumer and Akkad" and were unable to prevent the simultaneous rise of an independent, smaller monarchy in Larsa which outlived that of Isin and whose rulers maintained themselves till 2090 BC, when its last representative, Kim-Sin, was forced to yield to the great conqueror Hanxmurapi.

The kings of Larsa also exercised control over Ur, sometimes designating themselves as kings of Ur, but more frequently as patrons. These rival dynasties of Isin and Larsa must often have been in conflict with each other. Uruk also appears to have had a number of independent rulers, until a ruler, Rim-Sin, of Elamitic origin obtains control of Larsa.

The Ur dynasty came to an end, through the capture of its last representative, Ibisin, by the Elamites. Presumably, a combination of various centers was formed which did not hesitate to call in the assistance of the common enemy to the east. Between the dynasty of Akkad and that of Ur, Elam had enjoyed a short era of independence during which one of her rulers, Basha-Shushinak, actually lays claim to the control of the "four quarters." It is not impossible that the Elamites were aided by Semites, whose influence, at all events, must have been considerable in this district, for the rulers used Akkadian instead of their own language in official inscriptions, and for a number of centuries business documents are also couched in Akkadian, though about the middle of the second millennium before this era a reaction sets in which leads to the reintroduction of the Elamite speech.

The third dynasty of Ur made way for what the native chronologists called the first dynasty of Babylon. But this dynasty was not of Babylonian origin. The names borne by the kings show that they must have come from Southern Arabia, and spoken a language more closely allied to Hebrew than to Semitic Babylonian. They were Semites indeed ; but the native compilers of the philological tablets regarded them as foreigners. Their rise was contemporaneous with other troubles in Babylonia. The country fell under Elamite dominion, and a rival kingdom to that of Babylon was established in the south, with its capital at Larsa, under an Elamite prince. But Canaan and Syria still obeyed the new lords of Chaldaea.

After Ur, in the progress of the development of empire in Babylonia, came the dominion unto Larsa, the modern Senkereh, on the bank of the canal Shatt-en-Nil. The names of two of the chief kings of this dynasty are Nur-Adad and his son, Sin-iddin, but the order in which they stand is uncertain. Both of these kings built in Ur, and Sin-iddin also founded a temple to the sun god in Larsa, and dug a new canal between the Tigris and the Shatt-en-Nil. This work of canal building, which became so important and so highly prized in the later history, begins therefore at this early period. The king who built canals saved the land from flood in the spring and from drought in the summer and was a real public benefactor. The names of the other kings who ruled in Larsa and had dominion in Babylonia at this time are either wholly unknown to us or are exceedingly difficult to place in correct order.

The times were sorely disturbed and it is easy to understand why the Babylonian records are in such disorder as to make it difficult to understand the exact order of events. At this time a new factor in Babylonian history was making itself felt. Babylonia had long been the battle ground between the ancient Sumerians and the Semites. The day had now come when a new people the Elamites must enter the lists for the possession of the deeply coveted valley.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:48:46 ZULU