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Ancient Man and His First Civilizations

Sumer-3

Modern Iraq

 

 

When last we left Sumer, the so-called "Tower of Babel" had just been built.

 

Uruk-agina

It is now, many dynasties and many kings later. The kingship has been taken to the city of Lagash. "Uruk-agina" is the last and most pious king of this dynasty in Lagash, he is also called Uru-Inimgina. Uruk-agina had introduced many social reforms, and enacted edicts related to the problem of enslavements caused by the running up of debts. High interest rates on capital (as much as 33.3 percent), has often led to enslaving one's own children temporarily, until the debts were paid off. Uruk-agina remits these debts by decree.

Uruk-agina himself, was a usurper, The previous rulers of Lagash, especially the previous two usurpers installed by the priesthood, had terribly oppressed the people, both economically and militarily. There was excessive taxes on such occasions as weddings and funerals, and land was "bought" by government officials, at far below market value. He claimed to have been chosen by the god Ningirsu, to end the oppression of the poor. He destroyed much of the old bureaucracy. For the priests, he cut their income, and ended their influence. He created a near idyllic state, but in so doing, he weakened Lagash to the point where it could no longer defend itself, (not enough money was coming to the royal treasury). This weakness encouraged Lugal-zaggessi of Unug to attack.

Lugal-zaggesi

Lugal-zaggessi of Unug sacked Lagash, and burnt all of its holy temples. The priests of Lagash, who Uruk-agina had chastised, may have aided Lugal-zaggessi. Uruk-agina fled to the town of Girsu, which was a possession of Lagash, but did not seem to have fallen to Unug. Here he disappears from history. The documents proclaiming his reforms are the oldest in history, to speak of freedom.

After his victory, King Lugal-zaggesi offered a prayer.

May the lands lie peacefully in the meadows. May all mankind thrive like plants and herbs; may the sheepfolds of "An" increase; may the people of the Land look upon a fair earth; the good fortune which the gods have decreed for me, may they never alter; and unto eternity may I be the foremost shepherd.

 

Lets take a pause now to look at something unusual: Unfortunately, seemingly all of the ancient civilizations - in their early stages - engaged in the practice of killing the royal courtiers, and burying them with the deceased King or Queen, so that they may serve the deceased king/Queen in the afterlife. The discovery by archaeologist Leonard Woolley, of the royal tombs at Ur, bear proof of this practice.

 

 

 

The royal tomb of Queen Puabi

 

The royal cemetery tomb of Queen "Puabi" at Ur, like the tomb of King Tutankhamun of Egypt, was an especially extraordinary find, because it was intact and had escaped looting throughout the millennias. The tomb featured a vaulted chamber set at the bottom of a deep "death pit"; the lady was buried lying on a wooden bier. She was identified by a cylinder seal bearing her name, which was found on her body. The seal was carved in cuneiform and written in Sumerian.

Barely five feet tall, Puabi was about 40 years old when she died, she was buried with her servants. The burial party, adorned with fine jewelry, had apparently been celebrating with an elaborate feast, just prior to their burial.

Queen Puabi wore an elaborate headdress of gold leaves, gold ribbons, strands of lapis lazuli and carnelian beads, a tall comb of gold, chokers, necklaces, and a pair of large, crescent-shaped earrings. Her upper body was covered in strings of beads, made of precious metals and semi-precious stones, stretching from her shoulders to her belt, while rings decorated all her fingers.

As to the courtiers, no one knows whether the courtiers willingly committed suicide, or if they "unknowingly" were poisoned. Click here for Pictures of more artifacts from the tomb. <<Click>>

 

 

 

 

Sargon I - The Akkadians

Now back to our history: By Lugal-zaggesi's time, the nearest Semites (Speakers of the Egyptian Language, living in the land just north of Sumer), were serving as mercenaries in the Sumerian armies. We do not know what these people called their central Mesopotamian homeland. So we refer to them as Akkadians, because of the city "Sargon I" will later build there, named Agade.

Sargon is known almost entirely from the legends and tales that followed his reputation throughout Mesopotamian history: not from documents that were written during his lifetime. This lack of contemporary record is explained by the fact that the capital city of Agade, which he built, has never been located and excavated.  It was destroyed at the end of the dynasty that Sargon founded, and was never again inhabited, at least under the name of Agade.

According to folktale, Sargon was a self-made man of humble origins. According to legend: a gardener, having found him as a baby floating in a basket on the river, brought him up in his own calling (sound familiar?). His father is unknown; his own name during his childhood is also unknown; his mother is said to have been a minor priestess (temple prostitute?), in a town on the middle Euphrates.

Rising therefore, without the help of influential relations, he attained the post of cupbearer to the Ensi of the city of Kish, which is in the north of Sumer. The event that would bring him to supremacy was the later defeat of King Lugal-zaggisi of Uruk. Lugal-zaggisi had already united the city-states of Sumer by defeating each in turn, and he claimed to rule the lands, not only of the Sumerian city-states, but also those as far west as the Mediterranean sea. But before Sargon can take on Lugal-zaggisi, he must first take Kish.

Now then, here is part of the story of how, Sargon I - "Sargon the Great" became king of Kish. The tablet that this story is taken from was damaged and incomplete.

 

One day, after the evening had arrived and Sargon had brought the regular deliveries to the palace, Ur- Zababa of Kish, was sleeping (and dreaming) in the holy bedchamber, his holy residence. He realized what the dream was about, but did not put it into words, did not discuss it with anyone. After Sargon had received the regular deliveries for the palace, Ur- Zababa appointed him cupbearer, putting him in charge of the drinks cupboard. Holy Inana did not cease to stand by him.

After five or ten days had passed, king Ur- Zababa ...(missing)... and became frightened in his residence. Like a lion he urinated, sprinkling his legs, and the urine contained blood and puss. He was troubled, he was afraid like a fish floundering in brackish water.

It was then that the cupbearer of Ezina's wine-house - Sargon, lay down not to sleep, but lay down to dream. In the dream, holy Inana drowned Ur- Zababa, in a river of blood. The sleeping Sargon groaned and gnawed the ground. When king Ur- Zababa heard about this groaning, Sargon was brought into the king's holy presence, Sargon was brought into the presence of Ur- Zababa, who said: "Cupbearer, was a dream revealed to you in the night?" Sargon answered his king: My king, this is my dream, which I will tell you about: There was a young woman, who was as high as the heavens and as broad as the earth. She was as firmly set as the base of a wall. For me, she drowned you in a great river, a river of blood.

Ur- Zababa chewed his lips, he became seriously afraid. He spoke to ...(missing)..., his chancellor: "My royal sister, holy Inana, is going to change (?) my finger into a ..(missing).... of blood; she will drown Sargon the cupbearer, in the great river. Belic-tikal, chief smith, man of my choosing, who can write tablets. I will give you orders, let my orders be carried out! Let my advice be followed! Now then, when the cupbearer has delivered my bronze hand-mirror (?) to you, in the E-sikil, the fated house, throw them (the mirror and Sargon) into the mould like statues."

 

 

 

For lack of space, we must cut the story short. To summarize, Ur-Zababa's plan fails, Sargon is not killed by Belic-tikal, but rather Sargon kills Ur-Zababa and becomes king of Kish. With Kish as his base, he goes on to conquer the other cities. Victory was ensured however, only by numerous battles, since each city hoped to regain its independence from Lugalzaggisi without submitting to the new overlord Sargon.

Thus, Sargon became king over all of southern Mesopotamia, the first great ruler for whom, rather than Sumerian, the Semitic tongue known as Akkadian was natural from birth. It may have been before these exploits, when he was gathering followers and an army, that Sargon named himself Sharru-kin (“Rightful King”) in support of an accession not achieved in this old established city through normal hereditary succession. Historical records are still so meager however, that there is a complete gap in information relating to this period. After he is king, we get this bit of propaganda.

 

The Legend of Sargon translation. (incomplete)

1. Sargon, the mighty king, king of Akkadê am I,

2. My mother was lowly; my father I did not know;

3. The brother of my father dwelt in the mountain.

4. My city is Azupiranu, which is situated on the bank of the Purattu [Euphrates],

5. My lowly mother conceived me, in secret she brought me forth.

6. She placed me in a basket of reeds, she closed my entrance with bitumen,

7. She cast me upon the rivers which did not overflow me.

8. The river carried me, it brought me to Akki, the irrigator.

9. Akki, the irrigator, in the goodness of his heart lifted me out,

10. Akki, the irrigator, as his own son brought me up;

11. Akki, the irrigator, as his gardener appointed me.

12. When I was a gardener the goddess Ishtar loved me,

13. And for four years I ruled the kingdom.

14. The black-headed peoples I ruled, I governed;

15. Mighty mountains with axes of bronze I destroyed (?). etc. etc. etc.

Sargon was an ambitious king, not content with just dominating Sumer. He continued on to defeat cities along the middle Euphrates and into northern Syria and the silver-rich mountains of southern Anatolia. He also dominated Susa, a city-state in Elam, which encompassed the Zagros Mountains of western Iran. Elam is also where the only truly contemporary record of his reign has been uncovered.

It is said that such was his fame that some merchants in a central Anatolian city, (central modern Turkey), begged him to intervene in a local quarrel, and according to the legend: Sargon with a band of warriors, made a fabulous journey to this still un-located city of Burushanda (Purshahanda), at the end of which, little more than his appearance was needed to settle the dispute.

 

 

During Sargons reign, commercial connections flourished with the Indus Valley, the coast of Oman, the islands and shores of the Persian Gulf, the lapis lazuli mines of Badakhshan, cedar wood came from Canaan (modern Lebanon), also trade with the silver-rich Taurus Mountains, Cappadocia, Crete, and perhaps Greece. It was during Sargon's rule that Akkadian became adapted to the script of the Sumerian language.

Because contemporary record is lacking, no sequence can be given for the events of his reign. Neither the number of years during which he lived nor the point in time at which he ruled can be fixed exactly; 2334 B.C. is now given as a date on which to hang the beginning of the dynasty of Agade, and according to the Sumerian king list, he was king for 56 years. As a testament to his legacy, two later Assyrian kings were named in his honor.

Upon Sargons death, Rimush (2315-2306 B.C.), son of Sargon became king. Upon ascension he put down rebellions in Ur, Umma, Adab, Der, Lagash, and Kazallu in Sumer. Also Elam and Barakhshi in Iran, but he probably lost Syria. Palace intrigue led to his assassination, possibly by supporters of his brother Manishtusu. He was assassinated by having his head bashed in with a clay tablet.

Manishtusu  (2306-2291 B.C.) - Either Rimush's older brother or his twin. The power of the Empire continued to wane, Manishtusu had to put down a coalition of 32 rebel kings. Though he did lose some ground, he did retain control of Assyria and Sumer. He then invaded the Oman region and defeated the local kings there. Court documents record him buying land from private citizens, indicating that the Kings there were not absolute and they did not control all of the land. An inscription was found from the reign of the Assyrian king Shamshi-Adad I, that stated that Manishtushu founded the famous temple of Ishtar in Nineveh. Manishtusu died in a palace revolt.

Naram-Sin (2291 2254 B.C.), Son of Manishtushu became king. He defeated a rebel coalition in Sumer and re- established Akkadian power. Naram-Sin pushed the boundaries of the Empire to the Zagros mountains. He re-conquered Syria, the area now called Lebanon and the Taurus mountains, destroying Aleppo and Mari in the process. The Oman area revolted, and Naram-Sin had to invade and defeat their King Mandannu. He also invaded Anatolia as far as Dierbakir. He called himself the "King of the Four Quarters" and the "God of Agade", thus making himself the first Mesopotamian king to declare himself divine.

Naram-Sin appointed his daughters as Priestess' and sons as Governors. Even with all this military expansion, he still had to continually put down rebellions. In fact, the Lullubi, a people of the Sherizor plain in the Zagros Mountains of western Iran, successfully pushed out the Akkadians under their king Annubanin, just a short time after Naram-Sin had subjugated them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

King Anubanini of the Lullubi

 

The Gutians - a people from the mountains northeast of Sumer (modern Iran) - invaded at the end of Naram-Sin's reign, causing great destruction and the break down of communications. The Gutian invasion was said by the Sumerians to be divine judgment for Naram-Sin's destruction of Enlil's temple at Nippur. A Sumerian Poem "The cursing of Agade" was composed in testament. Click Here for the Poem <<Click>>

 

One of the first cities that the Gutians take is Umma, a city in the eastern part of Sumer. Umma, which had experienced a resurgence in power during the rebellion against Agade, once again fell upon hard times. It was not until Umma submitted to Gutian rule did they begin to recover.

The "benign" subjection of Umma, probably prompted Ur-Bau, Ensi of Lagash, (a nearby city which also controlled the old capital of Ur - photo left), to establish a pro-Gutian government also. This move allowed Lagash to go unmolested by the Gutians and prosper.

Upon the death of Naram-Sin, his son Shar-Kali-Sharri (2254-2230 B.C.) became king. He tried to shore up the Empire and undo the damage caused by his father's policy's. Shar-Kali-Sharri fought well to preserve the realm and he won numerous battles, including one against the Amorites in Syria, but Elam declared independence and threw off the Akkadian language.

Shar-Kali-Sharri continually had to fight the Lullubi, Amorites, and Gutians. The Hurrians also contested with him for Assyria and northern Syria, Sumer then exploded in revolt. The Empire disintegrated under rebellion and invasion, he ended up ruling only the city of Agade. He is called the King of Agade, instead of earlier grandiose claims. He was killed in a palace revolt, his reign signaled the end of the Empire.

Of the Akkadian kings after Shar-kali-sharri, only the names and a few brief inscriptions have survived. Quarrels arose over the succession, and the dynasty went under, Two factors contributed to its downfall: the invasion of the nomadic Amurrus (Amorites), called "Martu" by the Sumerians, and the infiltration of the Gutians. According to the Sumerian king list, Sargons dynasty lasted 157 years. The last king of his dynasty was Car-kali-carri. Then there was a series of 11 other Akkadian kings who ruled for another 181 years.

Then the last Akkadian king, "Ilulu" was defeated by Sumerian king Ur-nijin of Unug. In Unug 3 kings ruled for 47 years, then Unug also was defeated by the Gutium. The Sumerians didn't think too much of the Gutians: here's what they had to say about them.

"They are not classed among people, not reckoned as part of the land
Gutian people who know no inhibitions,
With human intelligence but canine instinct and monkey's features"

(Unfortunately we have no pictures of the Gutians)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please visit the "Additional Material Area" for many more photographs of each civilization, and related material <Click>

 

 

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