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Ancient Man and His First Civilizations



Shulgi (r. 2095-2047 BC), son of Ur-Nammu was a successful soldier, a skillful diplomat, and a patron of literature. During his reign the schools and academies of the kingdom flourished. Shulgi ushered in a period of prosperity. Scholars now think that it was him, and not his father, who published the oldest known law code.



Below are some letters between Shulgi/Culgi and his officials and commanders.



Letter from Culgi to Icbi-Erra about the purchase of grain


Say to Icbi-Erra: this is what Culgi, your lord, says:

You have made me so happy with the news and everything. Who could give me a house-born slave such as you are? Who has such a capable man, so beneficial to his lord?


Now, no sign can confirm (?) anything of what I have been sending to you, but I have sent it to you anyway (?).


I had Babati ......, the ...... official -- who is to me a grandfather, an advisor of longstanding, who knows how to give advice -- send you 600 talents of silver and 600 talents of gold, which I had delivered (?) to you because (?) of the taking of ...... from my troops.


I have also sent you intelligence information (?) about the troops. Pass it on to Babati, and do whatever he wishes, lest his heart suddenly turns to hatred!


You are to receive the gold and silver from him, and purchase grain everywhere according to (?) whatever exchange rate they will take from you. May your ...... nothing at all.


From today (?), you are my son who makes me happy. The cities of (?) the province (?), the land of the Martu, Elam -- all of them I have placed before you: you are just as important as I am.


So sit before them on a throne on a golden dais ......! Let their messengers prostrate themselves in front of you! May your ...... at its rear; do not ...... at all!


Remove (?) a governor -- appoint a governor! Appoint a commander! Designate a captain-general! Certainly you should put a man to death, a man who has killed: blind the man who has killed! Build your house of manhood (?) for an attendant who has been favourably looked upon (?)! Make sure your recompense is great!


Now, you should not suddenly alter your word (?) about all that I have been sending to you.






Letter from Aradju to Culgi about attentive citizens


Segment A

Say to my lord: This is what Aradju, your servant, says:


My lord, the vast territory which has been given to you as booty has been made obedient: it is of one mind. The people, abundant as vegetation, belong to Culgi, shepherd of the reliable word. You are the god of mankind, in the south and the highlands. They keep their gaze fixed on you.


The widespread people, abundant as vegetation, say: "Hail, my lord!", from the flooding Tigris and Euphrates to the Tigris ....... ...... will rise. ...... put aside. ...... I (?) will make. ...... which is esteemed (?). When I have filled (?) ......,

1 line fragmentary

unknown no. of lines missing


Segment B

1 line fragmentary ...... which he obtained (?), I am .......

1 line fragmentary ...... the citizens of the territory of Gutium, ......, Mari and Rapiqum, who will listen at all times, are before me. Whatever you say, my lord, I will do.






Letter to Culgi about bandits and brigands


unknown no. of lines missing


The men (?) started irrigation work (?) on the watercourses, {...... the watercourses ......} {(1 ms. has instead:) and dug and cleaned them out thoroughly}. These bandits and brigands applied their hoes to levelling the desert completely. As for their men and their women {(1 ms. adds:) ...... the road (?) ......}: the man among them goes wherever he pleases, {the woman among them} {(1 ms. has instead:) the woman}, holding a spindle and hair clasp in her hand, {goes (?)} {(1 ms. has instead:) ......} {(1 other ms. has instead:) going} the way of her choice. In the vastness of the desert {they set up} {(1 ms. has instead:) they knock up} animal pens, and {after setting up their tents and camps} {(1 ms. has instead:) they lie in (?) green meadows in their (?) tents and camps}, their workers and agricultural labourers spend the day together on the fields.


I have not neglected the instructions of my lord Culgi: both at night and in the noonday heat I ...... my neck; I ...... the workload (?) concerned. Since his childhood, Apillaca {has ......} {(1 ms. has instead:) has not ......}. A man such as he knows my heart, as your eyes {know} {(1 ms. has instead:) have seen}. My lord, with the open eye of a god, {...... to (?) an evildoer ......} {(1 ms. has instead:) you (?) know the evildoer}. While the great master of cults (?) of all the foreign lands surpasses ......, my lord, you (?) surpass all great things, ...... an equal.


{The report is returned (?) ......;} {(1 ms. has instead:) Whatever statements have been made ......,} your matter is an important matter, and your affairs are great affairs. His pleasant words are in your heart, ....... They (?) are the people. Your eyes ....... How could I bear a grudge? I am securing the foundations of the province, and making it obedient. My lord, no king can rival you; let your heart be glad!




Letter from Ur-dun to Culgi about the purchase of cedar resin


Say to my lord: this is what the merchant Ur-dun, your servant, says:


My lord gave me silver and sent me to a distant land in order to purchase cedar resin. After I had entered the land and had purchased cedar resin, Apillaca, the 'Sage of the Assembly', sent men to me and they took away my goods.


When I arrived at his palace gate, no one enquired about my business. Aradju, your servant, and Babati, the ...... official, had gone from Zimudar to Simurrum and had learnt ...... and their messengers .......


...... of my lord ....... Being in a weak (?) position, I was not able to ...... their illegal seizure.


He has given you a report, lord. Whatever you say, my lord!




Letter from Aradju to Culgi about Apillaca


Say to my lord: this is what Aradju, your servant, says:

You instructed me, as I was taking the direct route to Subir, to secure your provincial taxes, to inform myself precisely as to the state of the territory, and to ensure its obedience by taking counsel with (?) Apillaca, the 'Sage of the Assembly', so that he could thus return the people of Subir to their customary way of speaking (?).


But when I arrived at the palace gate, no one enquired after the well-being of my lord. No one rose from their seat before me, or bowed down. {(1 ms. adds:) They intimidated me.}


{When I came nearer} {(1 ms. has instead:) ...... carries ......} -- well, your wayside hostel where carding-combs (?) and lances inlaid with gold, silver, cornelian and lapis lazuli have been set up, covers an area of one hectare! Apillaca himself is decked out in {gold and lapis lazuli} {(1 ms. has instead:) lapis lazuli, gold, silver and cornelian}, and he sits on a raised throne furnished with a rich raiment. His feet rest upon a golden footstool. He would not remove his feet in my presence!


To his right and left he had ...... soldiers (?) stationed, five thousand at each side. He placed at their disposal six fattened oxen and {60} {(1 ms. has instead:) 20} fattened {sheep} {(1 ms. has instead:) rams} for a meal. He assumed the right to perform my lord's lustration rites.


After a close interrogation at the gate, nobody even bade me enter. When I finally entered, someone brought me a throne with studs plated with red gold and told me: "Sit down!" I replied: "I am here to present the instructions of my king. Therefore I will not sit down!""


They brought (?) me {two fattened oxen} {(1 ms. has instead:) one fattened ox} and {20} {(the same ms. has instead:) 6} fattened sheep to my table. Then because, without ......, my lord's soldiers overturned my table, I became frightened and my flesh crept.


In the month Ezen-Ninazu, after {the 15th day} {(1 ms. has instead:) 5 days had passed}, my lord gave me his instructions. {By the first day} {(2 mss. have instead:) after one day had passed} of the month U-bigu, I {sent to you} {(1 ms. has instead:) I sent to my lord ......} a messenger. Now it is {midday} {(1 ms. has instead:) mid-month} {(1 other ms. has instead:) the day did not ......}, ...... approached. May my lord know!




Letter from Culgi to Aradju about Apillaca


Say to Aradju: this is what Culgi, your lord, says:

The man to whom I have sent you is not your subordinate -- he will not {accept} {(1 ms. has instead:) change} orders from your hand! How can you ignore what he himself has done too, and that it is indeed so?


As I myself ordered, you were to secure the provinces, and to correctly guide the people and {make them obedient} {(2 mss. have instead:) secure the foundations of the provinces}. When you approach the cities of the provinces, inform yourself precisely of their intentions, and inform yourself of the words of their dignitaries. Let my roar {be emitted over all the lands} {(1 ms. has instead:) fill all the lands} {(1 ms. has instead:) cover all the lands}. Let my powerful arm, my heroic arm, fall upon all the lands. Let my storm {cover} {(1 ms. has instead:) be released over} the Land. Make the ...... disappear into the desert, and the robbers into the fields! Until you reach Apillaca, my 'Sage of the Assembly', ......! Let .......


That was how I had instructed you. Why have you not acted as I ordered you?


If I do not make my 'Sage of the Assembly' feel just as important as I am, if he does not sit on a throne on a dais, furnished with a high-quality cloth cover (?), if his feet do not rest on a golden footstool, if he is not allowed by his own highest authority both to appoint and then to remove a governor from his function as governor, an official {from his charge} {(some mss. have instead:) from his function as official} {(1 ms. has instead:) from an official}, if he does not kill or blind anyone, if he does not elevate his favorite over others -- how else can he secure the provinces?


If you truly love me, you will not bear him a grudge!


You are important, {but you do not even know your own soldiers} {(1 ms. has instead:) and you even know the soldiers that are at Apillaca's disposal}. Your eyes have learnt something about {these men} {(some mss. have instead:) Apillaca's men}, and about {Apillaca's heroism} {(some mss. have instead:) my heroism}.


If {you, Aradju, are indeed my servant} {(some mss. have instead:) you, Aradju and Apillaca, are indeed my servants}, you should both pay attention (?) to my written communications. Come to an understanding, you two! Secure the foundations of the provinces! It is urgent




Letter from Puzur-Culgi to Culgi about the advance of the enemy


Say to my lord: this is what {Puzur-Culgi} {(1 ms. has instead:) Puzur-Marduk} {(1 other ms. has instead:) Puzur-Numucda}, the commander of the fortress Igi-hursaja, your servant, says:


All the {gold and silver} {(1 ms. has instead:) gold and lapis lazuli} {(1 other ms. has instead:) silver and gold} that my lord has been fashioning for the {(1 ms. adds:) great} gods -- is it not for his own life? For {the life} {(1 ms. has instead:) the well-being} of the troops and his land, my king has built the great fortress Igi-hursaja for the people of his land, because of the wicked enemy.


And now the enemy troops have risen up. {One} {(1 ms. has instead:) ......} man who had fled from me has been brought back. Having been caught, he has given me evidence of this, and {went ahead} {(1 ms. has instead:) "...... go!", and I (?) went}.


I am also well-informed about the oracular signs concerning the enemy: the enemy has replenished his strength for battle. However, my strength is limited. I cannot strengthen the fortress further or {guard it} {(1 ms. has instead:) guard the cities (?)} against him.


As for the sector (?) of {Cu-Numucda} {(1 ms. has instead:) Cu-Marduk} {(1 other ms. has instead:) Puzur-Numucda}, the ruler of Jirilumtura: 5 nindan lengths of it are cut off. As for the sector (?) of Lugal-melem, the manager of the {Cegceg watercourse} {(1 ms. has instead:) city of ...... (the correct form of this name is not known)}: {40} {(1 ms. has instead:) 25} {(1 other ms. has instead:) 30} {(1 further ms. has instead:) 45 (?)} nindan lengths of ...... on top of it are no longer fixed. As for the sector (?) of Ka-kugani, the ruler of the territory of Murub: 45 nindan lengths were destroyed when the opposite side was captured. As for the sector (?) of Takil-ilicu, the {canal inspector} {(1 ms. has instead:) ruler} of the Ab-gal and Me-Enlila watercourses: 50 nindan lengths of the edge have been removed, and in the middle of it they collapsed.


Moreover it is not {established} {(1 ms. has instead:) stated} {(1 other ms. has instead:) known} when the enemy will pitch camp. {Once the enemy is camped I will replenish my powers} {(1 ms. has instead:) The enemy will replenish his strength for battle}. {( 1 ms. adds:) I will fortify ...... and .......} His troops are camped among the hills.


If my lord agrees, {may he send to me speedily} {(1 ms. has instead:) ......, let there be available} 7,200 soldiers as workmen who will carry baskets for me. {May he send to me speedily} {(1 ms. has instead:) May there come, at my disposal,} 70 {Cimackian attendants ......} {(1 ms. has instead:) ......} {(1 other ms. has instead:) ......}.


{The enemy has devised their plans concerning this: "I will resettle them"} {(1 ms. has instead:) The enemy has devised his plans and has resettled the people} {(1 other ms. has instead:) Plans concerning me have been devised: "I will resettle them"}. May it be known that, by night or by day the enemy's sins are forever grave.


I am the loyal servant of my lord Culgi. {(1 ms. adds:) ...... which is not negligent.} Let this not be the death of me! May my lord know! {(1 ms. adds:) It is urgent!}


Letter from Carrum-bani to Cu-Suen about keeping the Martu at bay


Say to Cu-Suen, my lord: this is what Carrum-bani, the 'Sage of the Assembly', your servant, says:


You sent me a message ordering me to work on the construction of the great fortification Muriq-Tidnim. {You presented yourself before me} {(1 ms. has instead:) A messenger presented himself before me}, announcing: "The Martu have invaded the land". {You instructed me} {(1 ms. has instead:) You have imposed on me as a task (?)} to build the fortification, so as to cut off their route; also, that no breaches of the Tigris or the Euphrates should cover the fields with water.


When I was setting out, their ...... from the bank of the Ab-gal watercourse to the province of Zimudar.


When I was constructing this fortification to the length of 26 danna, and had reached the area between the two mountain ranges, I was informed of the Martu camping within the mountain ranges because (?) of my building work. Simurrum had come to their assistance. So I set off to the area between the mountain ranges of Ebih in order to engage in military action.


But as far as I can say, I have not seen (?) troops carrying baskets. In order to engage in military action, I went (?) to their .......


If my lord agrees, may he provide me with additional workmen and set the wages (?) for me. ...... did not succeed ...... tribute of the provinces (?).


I sent a messenger to the province of Murub: the attitude (?) of the province has altered. I will not neglect to build the fortification -- in fact I am building and engaging in military action at the same time. After all, as 'Sage of the Assembly' I descend (?) from a great lineage! I have been advised that the attitude (?) of the province has not altered.


At the time I sent my messenger to you, I sent another messenger, after him, to {Lu-Nanna} {(1 ms. has instead:) Lu-Enki}, the ruler of the province of Zimudar. He has sent you 7200 workers.


Basket men are available; however, men fit to engage in military action are limited. If my lord should arrange the dismissal of the workers ready to work, let me pursue military action together with them, when I have removed (?) them.


The dignitaries of your provinces are sending a man to them. They have presented themselves before me, announcing: "As far as we are concerned, we are unable to guard all the cities. But how exactly will any troops be given to you?" My messenger has been sent to them (?).


Once my lord has given me instructions, I will repeatedly return to (?) work at nightfall and at midnight, as well as engaging in military action. I stand at the disposal of the fame and word of my lord, and so I (?) will bring weapons to bear. No strength has yet been displayed (?), nor any firmness shown (?) by means of weapons. Let the storm cover (?) all the lands! May my lord know





Ibbi-Sin (2029-2004 BC), - The son of Shu-Sin, The last king of Ur. New attacks by Elamites and Amorites forced the erection of new walls around Ur and Nippur



Letter from Icbi-Erra to Ibbi-Suen about the purchase of grain


Say to Ibbi-Suen, my lord: this is what Icbi-Erra, your servant, says:


You ordered me to travel to Isin and Kazallu to purchase grain. With grain reaching the exchange rate of one shekel of silver per gur, 20 talents of silver have been invested for {the purchase} {(2 mss. have instead:) ......} of grain.


I heard news that the hostile Martu have entered inside your territories. {I entered with 72,000 gur of grain} {(1 ms. has instead:) 72,000 gur of grain was brought} -- the entire amount of grain -- inside Isin. Now I have let the Martu, all of them, penetrate inside the Land, and one by one I have seized all the fortifications therein. Because of the Martu, {I am unable to hand over} {(2 mss. have instead:) I am unable to make ......} this grain for threshing. They are stronger than me, while I am condemned to sitting around.


Let my lord repair 600 {barges} {(2 mss. have instead:) boats} of 120 gur draught each; 72 solid boats, 20 ......, 30 ......, placing (?) 50 ...... and 60 (?) boat doors on the boats (?), may he also ...... all the boats.


{Let them bring it up} {(1 ms. has instead:) May he make them go out} by water, along the Kura and the Palictum watercourses, to the grain heaps (?) that are spread out. And I myself intend to {go (?)} {(1 ms. has instead:) come out} and meet them (?). The place there where the boats moor will be under my responsibility. Let them load up huge amounts of grain (?), the entire amount of grain; it should reach (?) you.


If you have not got enough grain, I myself shall have grain brought in to you.


My lord has become distressed about the battles in Elam. But the Elamites' grain rations have quickly been exhausted, so do not slacken your forces! Do not fall head first into their slavery, nor follow at their heels!


I have at my disposal enough grain to meet the needs of your palace and of {all the cities} {(1 ms. has instead:) all your cities} for 15 years.


{That I should guard for you} {(2 mss. have instead:) To guard} {(1 ms. adds:) the city of} Isin, and Nibru: {let it be my responsibility.} {(1 ms. has instead:) my lord, is this my responsibility?} My lord should know this! (end of shorter version)


My lord, I am without fear! I will not delay (?); I will not ...... in their midst. Each one of Isin's and Nibru's gods may search there for faces (?); I have indeed looked for them. Their widespread people, their population ......, huge ......, are indeed healthy; the true seed is {indeed great there} {(1 ms. has instead:) precious}.


Urim, your holy city, rivalling heaven and earth, whose great prince you are ......, of which the appearance is precious, which dispenses the divine powers and makes the foundations (?) and the plans firm both in the south and in the uplands, will surely escape from the grasp and will cry .......


Elam, a raging dog, a destroyer, will not defile E-kic-nu-jal, the sanctuary which covers heaven and earth, which has no ....... Its protective spirits shall not be split apart! My lord: the loudest roarer (?), the runner, has taken flight (?)!


May An, Enlil and Enki, who have loved Ibbi-Suen from the womb, look upon him approvingly. ...... is indeed placed there; they have changed (?) their appearance. With the ...... and (?) the city-gates of Urim opening, they cry "Aee!" If ...... says, "Who is my lord?" -- You are the king to whom Enlil has given ...... no rival!


Your heart should not fret over this, ......! For ...... has avenged (?) ......; he has made its foundations firm for you. Let your heart be glad over ...... and (?) its seed. As long as my lord is alive, he will exercise kingship over Urim.


Do not suddenly reject anything that is sent as a message (?) to my lord! Before Utu, I will not change my word (?).






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