web counter










an account of the early races of Babylonia from prehistoric times to the foundation of the babylonian monarchy






Early Sumerian Pictographic Tablet

Trend of recent archaeological research — The study of origins — The Neolithic period in the Aegean area, in the region of the Mediterranean, and in the Nile Valley — Scarcity of Neolithic remains in Babylonia due largely to character of the country — Problems raised by excavations in Persia and Russian Turkestan — Comparison of the earliest cultural remains in Egypt and Babylonia — The earliest known inhabitants of South Babylonian sites — The "Sumerian Controversy" and a shifting of the problem at issue — Early relations of Sumerians and Semites — The lands of Sumer and Akkad — Natural boundaries — Influence of geological structure — Effect of river deposits — Euphrates and the Persian Gulf — Comparison of Tigris and Euphrates — The Shatt en-Nil and the Shatt el-Kar — The early course of Euphrates and a tendency of the river to break away westward — Changes in the swamps — Distribution of population and the position of early cities — Rise and fall of the rivers and the regulation of the water — Boundary between Sumer and Akkad Early names for Babylonia — "The Land" and its significance





Characteristics of early Babylonian sites — The French excavations at Tello — The names Shirpurla and Lagash — Results of De Sarzec's work — German excavations at Surghul and El-Hibba — The so-called "fire-necropoles" — Jokha and its ancient name — Other mounds in the region of the Shatt el-Kar — Hammam — Systematic excavations at Fara (Shuruppak) — Sumerian dwelling-houses and circular buildings of unknown use — Sarcophagus-graves and mat-burials — Differences in burial customs — Diggings at Abu Hatab (Kisurra) — Pot-burials — Partial examination of Bismaya (Adab) Hetime — Jidr — The fate of cities which escaped the Western Semites — American excavations at Nippur — British work at Warka (Erech), Senkera (Larsa), Tell Sifr, Tell Medina, Mukayyar (Ur), Abu Shahrain (Eridu), and Tell Lahm — Our knowledge of North Babylonian sites — Excavations at Abu Habba (Sippar), and recent work at Babylon and Borsippa — The sites of Agade, Cutha, Kish and Opis — The French excavations at Susa — Sources of our information on the racial problem — Sumerian and Semitic types — Contrasts inconsistencies — Evidence of the later and the earlier monuments — Evidence from the racial character of Sumerian gods — Professor Meyer's theory and the linguistic evidence — Present condition of the problem — The original home and racial affinity of the Sumerians — Path of the Semitic conquest — Origin of the Western Semites — The eastern limits of Semitic influence





Sumerians record pictograph representing words on clay tablets

Effect of recent research on older systems of chronology — Reduction of very early dates and articulation of historical periods — Danger of the reaction going too far and the necessity for noting where evidence gives place to conjecture — Chronology of the remoter ages and our sources of information — Classification of material — Bases of the later native lists and the chronological system of Berossus — Palaeography and systematic excavation — Relation of the early chronology to that of the later periods — Effect of recent archaeological and epigraphic evidence — The process of reckoning from below and the foundations on which we may build — Points upon which there is still a difference of opinion — Date for the foundation of the Babylonian Monarchy — Approximate character of all earlier dates and the need to think in periods — Probable dates for the Dynasties of Ur and Isin — Dates for the earlier epochs and for the first traces of Sumerian civilization — Pre-Babylonian invention of cuneiform writing — The origins of Sumerian culture to be traced to an age when it was not Sumerian — Relative interest attaching to many Sumerian achievements — Noteworthy character of the Sumerian arts of sculpture and engraving — The respective contributions of Sumerian and Semite — Methods of composition in Sumerian sculpture and attempts at an unconventional treatment — Perfection of detail in the best Sumerian work — Casting in metal and the question of copper or bronze — Solid and hollow castings and copper plating — Terracotta figurines — The arts of inlaying and engraving — The more fantastic side of Sumerian art — Growth of a naturalistic treatment in Sumerian design — Period of decadence





Origin of the great cities — Local cult-centres in the prehistoric period The earliest Sumerian settlements — Development of the city-god and evolution of a pantheon — Lunar and solar cults — Gradual growth of a city illustrated by the early history of Nippur and its shrine Buildings of the earliest Sumerian period at Tello — Store-houses and washing-places of a primitive agricultural community — The inhabitants of the country as portrayed in archaic sculpture Earliest written records and the prehistoric system of land tenure The first rulers of Shuruppak and their office — Kings and patesis of early city-states — The dawn of history in Lagash and the suzerainty of Kish — Rivalry of Lagash and Umma and the Treaty of Mesilim — The role of the city-god and the theocratic feeling of the time — Early struggles of Kish for supremacy — Connotation of royal titles in the early Sumerian period — Ur-Nina the founder of a dynasty in Lagash — His reign and policy — His sons and household — The position of Sumerian women in social and official life — The status of Lagash under Akurgal




Condition of Sumer on the accession of Eannatum — Outbreak of war between Umma and Lagash — Raid of Ningirsu's territory and Eannatum's vision — The defeat of Ush, patesi of Umma, and the terms of peace imposed on his successor — The frontier-ditch and the stelae of delimitation — Ratification of the treaty at the frontier shrines — Oath-formulae upon the Stele of the Vultures — Original form of the Stele and the fragments that have been recovered — Reconstitution of the scenes upon it — Ningirsu and his net — Eannatum in battle and on the march — Weapons of the Sumerians and their method of fighting in close phalanx — Shield-bearers and lancebearers — Subsidiary use of the battle-axe — The royal arms and bodyguard — The burial of the dead after battle — Order of Eannatum's conquests — Relations of Kish and Umma — The defeat of Kish, Opis and Mari, and Eannatum's suzerainty in the north — Date of his southern conquests and evidence of his authority in Sumer — His relations with Elam, and the other groups of his campaigns — Position of Lagash under Eannatum — His system of irrigation — Estimate of his reign







A statue of Ebih II, priest of Ishtar, the goddess of war. From around 2400 BC.

Cause of break in the direct succession at Lagash — Umma and Lagash in the reign of Eannatum I — Urlumma's successful raid — His defeat by Entemena and the annexation of his city — Entemena's cone and its summary of historical events — Extent of Entemena's dominion Sources for history of the period between Enannatum II and Urukagina — The relative order of Enetarzi, Enlitarzi and Lugalanda — Period of unrest in Lagash — Secular authority of the chief priests and weakening of the patesiate — Struggles for the succession — The sealings of Lugal-anda and his wife — Break in traditions inaugurated by Urukagina — Causes of an increase in officialdom and oppression — The privileges of the city-god usurped by the patesi and his palace — Tax-gatherers and inspectors "down to the sea" — Misappropriation of sacred lands and temple-property, and corruption of the priesthood — The reforms of Urukagina — Abolition of unnecessary posts and stamping out of abuses — Revision of burial fees — Penalties for theft and protection for the poorer classes — Abolition of diviner's fees and regulation of divorce — The laws of Urukagina and the Sumerian origin of Hammurabi's Code — Urukagina's relations to other cities — Effect of his reforms on the stability of the state—The fall of Lagash






Great Lyre sound box, c. 2600-2500 BCE


Close of an epoch in Sumerian history — Increase in the power of Umma and transference of the capital to Erech — Extent of Lugal-zaggisi's empire, and his expedition to the Mediterranean coast — Period of Lugal-kigub-nidudu and Lugal-kisalsi — The dual kingdom of Erech and Ur — Enshagkushanna of Sumer and his struggle with Kish Confederation of Kish and Opis — Enbi-Ishtar of Kish and a temporary check to Semitic expansion southwards — The later kingdom of Kish — Date of Urumush and extent of his empire — Economic conditions in Akkad as revealed by the Obelisk of Manishtusu — Period of Manishtusu's reign and his military expeditions — His statues from Susa—Elam and the earlier Semites — A period of transition — New light on the foundations of the Akkadian Empire






Sargon of Agade and his significance — Early recognition of his place in history — The later traditions of Sargon and the contemporary records of Shar-Gani-sharri's reign — Discovery at Susa of a monument of "Sharru-Gi, the King" — Probability that he was Manishtusu's father and the founder of the kingdom of Kish — Who, then, was Sargon? — Indications that only names and not facts have been confused in the tradition — The debt of Akkad to Kish in art and politics — Expansion of Semitic authority westward under Shar-Ganisharri — The alleged conquest of Cyprus — Commercial intercourse at the period and the disappearance of the city-state — Evidence of a policy of deportation — The conquest of Naram-Sin and the "Kingdom of the Four Quarters" — His Stele of Victory and his relations with Elam — Naram-Sin at the upper reaches of the Tigris, and the history of the Pir Hussein Stele — Naram-Sin's successors — Representations of Semitic battle-scenes — The Lagash Stele of Victory, probably commemorating the original conquest of Kish by Akkad — Independent Semitic principalities beyond the limits of Sumer and Akkad — The reason of Akkadian pre-eminence and the deification of Semitic kings

A cylinder-seal impression of two Gods, one with a left hand in the shape of a scorpion and the other plowing behind a dragon and a lion. The impression was made by a seal found at Tell Asmar in Iraq.




The god Annunaki

Sumerian reaction tempered by Semitic influence — Length of the intervening period between the Sargonic era and that of Ur — Evidence from Lagash of a sequence of rulers in that city who bridge the gap — Archaeological and epigraphic data — Political condition of Sumer and the semi-independent position enjoyed by Lagash — Ur-Bau representative of the earlier patesis of this epoch — Increase in the authority of Lagash under Gudea — His conquest of Anshan His relations with Syria, Arabia, and the Persian Gulf — His influence of a commercial rather than of a political character Development in the art of building which marked the later Sumerian architectural ideas — The rebuilding of E-ninnu and the elaborate character of Sumerian ritual — The art of Gudea's period — His reign the golden age of Lagash — Gudea's posthumous deification and his cult — The relations of his son, Ur-Ningirsu, to the Dynasty of Ur




The part taken by Ur against Semitic domination in an earlier age, and her subsequent history — Organization of her resources under Ur-Engur — His claim to have founded the kingdom of Sumer and Akkad — The subjugation of Akkad by Dungi and the Sumerian national revival — Contrast in Dungi's treatment of Babylon and Eridu — Further evidence of Sumerian reaction — The conquests of Dungi's earlier years and his acquisition of regions formerly held by Akkad — His adoption of the bow as a national weapon — His Elamite campaigns and the difficulty in retaining control of conquered provinces — His change of title and assumption of divine rank — Survival of Semitic influence in Elam under Sumerian domination — Character of Dungi's Elamite administration — His reforms in the official weight-standards and the system of time-reckoning — Continuation of Dungi's policy by his successors — The cult of the reigning monarch carried to extravagant lengths — Results of administrative centralization when accompanied by a complete delegation of authority by the king — Plurality of offices and provincial misgovernment the principal causes of a decline in the power of Ur




Standing male worshipper, 2750–2600 BC

Continuity of the kingdom of Sumer and Akkad and the racial character of the kings of Isin — The Elamite invasion which put an end to the Dynasty of Ur — Native rulers of Elam represented by the dynasties of Khutran-tepti and Ebarti — Evidence that a change in titles did not reflect a revolution in the political condition of Elam — No period of Elamite control in Babylonia followed the fall of Ur — Sources for the history of the Dynasty of Isin — The family of Ishbi-Ura and the cause of a break in the succession — Rise of an independent kingdom in Larsa and Ur, and the possibility of a second Elamite invasion — The family of Ur-Ninib followed by a period of unrest in Isin Relation of the Dynasty of Isin to that of Babylon — The suggested Amorite invasion in the time of Libit-Ishtar disproved — The capture of Isin in Sin-muballit's reign an episode in the war of Babylon with Larsa — The last kings of Isin and the foundation of the Babylonian Monarchy — Position of Babylon in the later historical periods, and the close of the independent political career of the Sumerians as a race — The survival of their cultural influence.





Relations of Sumer and Akkad with other lands — Cultural influences, carried by the great trade-routes, often independent of political contact — The prehistoric relationship of Sumerian culture to that of Egypt — Alleged traces of strong cultural influence — The hypothesis of a Semitic invasion of Upper Egypt in the light of more recent excavations — Character of the Neolithic and early dynastic cultures of Egypt, as deduced from a study of the early graves and their contents — Changes which may be traced to improvements in technical skill — Confirmation from a study of the skulls — Native origin of the Egyptian system of writing and absence of Babylonian influence— Misleading character of other cultural comparisons — Problem of the bulbous mace-head and the stone cylindrical seal — Prehistoric migrations of the cylinder — Semitic elements in Egyptian civilization — Syria a link in the historic period between the Euphrates and the Nile — Relations of Elam and Sumer — Evidence of early Semitic influence in Elamite culture and proof of its persistence — Elam prior to the Semitic conquest — The Proto-Elamite script of independent development — Its disappearance paralleled by that of the Hittite hieroglyphs — Character of the earlier strata of the mounds at Susa and presence of Neolithic remains — The prehistoric pottery of Susa and Mussian —Improbability of suggested connections between the cultures of Elam and of predynastic Egypt — More convincing parallels in Asia Minor and Russian Turkestan — Relation of the prehistoric peoples of Elam to the Elamites of history — The Neolithic settlement at Nineveh and the prehistoric cultures of Western Asia — Importance of Syria in the spread of Babylonian culture westward — The extent of early Babylonian influence in Cyprus, Crete, and the area of Aegean civilization




THE excavations carried out in Babylonia and Assyria during the last few years have added immensely to our knowledge of the early history of those countries, and have revolutionized many of the ideas current with regard to the age and character of Babylonian civilization. In the present volume, which deals with the history of Sumer and Akkad, an attempt is made to present this new material in a connected form, and to furnish the reader with the results obtained by recent discovery and research, so far as they affect the earliest historical periods. An account is here given of the dawn of civilization in Mesopotamia, and of the early city-states which were formed from time to time in the lands of Sumer and Akkad, the two great divisions into which Babylonia was at that period divided. The primitive sculpture and other archaeological remains, discovered upon early Babylonian sites, enable us to form a fairly complete picture of the races which in those remote ages inhabited the country. By their help it is possible to realize how the primitive conditions of life were gradually modified, and how from rude beginnings there was developed the comparatively advanced civilization, which was inherited by the later Babylonians and Assyrians and exerted a remarkable influence upon other races of the ancient world.

In the course of this history points are noted at which early contact with other lands took place, and it has been found possible in the historic period to trace the paths by which Sumerian culture was carried beyond the limits of Babylonia. Even in prehistoric times it is probable that the great trade routes of the later epoch were already open to traffic, and cultural connections may well have taken place at a time when political contact cannot be historically proved. This fact must be borne in mind in any treatment of the early relations of Babylonia with Egypt. As a result of recent excavation and research it has been found necessary to modify the view that Egyptian culture in its earlier stages was strongly influenced by that of Babylonia. But certain parallels are too striking to be the result of coincidence, and, although the southern Sumerian sites have yielded traces of no prehistoric culture as early as that of the Neolithic and predynastic Egyptians, yet the Egyptian evidence suggests that some contact may have taken place between the prehistoric peoples of North Africa and Western Asia.

Far closer were the ties which connected Sumer with Elam, the great centre of civilization which lay upon her eastern border, and recent excavations in Persia have disclosed the extent to which each civilization was of independent development. It was only after the Semitic conquest that Sumerian culture had a marked effect on that of Elam, and Semitic influence persisted in the country even under Sumerian domination. It was also through the Semitic inhabitants of northern Babylonia that cultural elements from both Sumer and Elam passed beyond the Taurus, and, after being assimilated by the Hittites, reached the western and south-western coasts of Asia Minor. An attempt has therefore been made to estimate, in the light of recent discoveries, the manner in which Babylonian culture affected the early civilizations of Egypt, Asia, and the West. Whether through direct or indirect channels, the cultural influence of Sumer and Akkad was felt in varying degrees throughout an area extending from Elam to the Aegean.

In view of the after effects of this early civilization, it is of importance to determine the region of the world from which the Sumerian race reached the Euphrates. Until recently it was only possible to form a theory on the subject from evidence furnished by the Sumerians themselves. But explorations in Turkestan, the results of which have now been fully published, enable us to conclude with some confidence that the original home of the Sumerian race is to be sought beyond the mountains to the east of the Babylonian plain. The excavations conducted at Anau near Askhabad by the second Pumpelly Expedition have revealed traces of prehistoric cultures in that region, which present some striking parallels to other early cultures west of the Iranian plateau. Moreover, the physiographical evidence collected by the first Pumpelly Expedition affords an adequate explanation of the racial unrest in Central Asia, which probably gave rise to the Sumerian immigration and to other subsequent migrations from the East.

It has long been suspected that a marked change in natural conditions must have taken place during historic times throughout considerable areas in Central Asia. The present comparatively arid condition of Mongolia, for example, is in striking contrast to what it must have been in the era preceding the Mongolian invasion of Western Asia in the thirteenth century, and travellers who have followed the route of Alexander's army, on its return from India through Afghanistan and Persia, have noted the difference in the character of the country at the present day. Evidence of a similar change in natural conditions has now been collected in Russian Turkestan, and the process is also illustrated as a result of the explorations conducted by Dr. Stein, on behalf of the Indian Government, on the borders of the Taklamakan Desert and in the oases of Khotan. It is clear that all these districts, at different periods, were far better watered and more densely populated than they are today, and that changes in climatic conditions have reacted on the character of the country in such a way as to cause racial migrations. Moreover, there are indications that the general trend to aridity has not been uniform, and that cycles of greater aridity have been followed by periods when the country was capable of supporting a considerable population. These recent observations have an important bearing on the Sumerian problem, and they have therefore been treated in some detail in Appendix I.

The physical effects of such climatic changes would naturally be more marked in mid-continental regions than in districts nearer the coast, and the immigration of Semitic nomads into Syria and Northern Babylonia may possibly have been caused by similar periods of aridity in Central Arabia. However this may be, it is certain that the early Semites reached the Euphrates by way of the Syrian coast, and founded their first Babylonian settlements in Akkad. It is still undecided whether they or the Sumerians were in earliest occupation of Babylonia. The racial character of the Sumerian gods can best be explained on the supposition that the earliest cult-centres in the country were Semitic; but the absence of Semitic idiom from the earliest Sumerian inscriptions is equally valid evidence against the theory. The point will probably not be settled until excavations have been undertaken at such North Babylonian sites as El-Ohemir and Tell Ibrahim.

That the Sumerians played the more important part in originating and moulding Babylonian culture is certain. In government, law, literature and art the Semites merely borrowed from their Sumerian teachers, and, although in some respects they improved upon their models, in each case the original impulse came from the Sumerian race. Hammurabi's Code of Laws, for example, which had so marked an influence on the Mosaic legislation, is now proved to have been of Sumerian origin; and recent research has shown that the later religious and mythological literature of Babylonia and Assyria, by which that of the Hebrews was also so strongly affected, was largely derived from Sumerian sources.

The early history of Sumer and Akkad is dominated by the racial conflict between Semites and Sumerians, in the course of which the latter were gradually worsted. The foundation of the Babylonian monarchy marks the close of the political career of the Sumerians as a race, although, as we have seen, their cultural achievements long survived them in the later civilizations of Western Asia. The designs upon the cover of this volume may be taken as symbolizing the dual character of the early population of the country. The panel on the face of the cover represents two Semitic heroes, or mythological beings, watering the humped oxen or buffaloes of the Babylonian plain, and is taken from the seal of Ibni-Sharru, a scribe in the service of the early Akkadian king Shar-Gani-sharri. The panel on the back of the binding is from the Stele of the Vultures and portrays the army of Eannatum trampling on the dead bodies of its foes. The shaven faces of the Sumerian warriors are in striking contrast to the heavily bearded Semitic type upon the seal.

A word should, perhaps, be said on two further subjects—the early chronology and the rendering of Sumerian proper names. The general effect of recent research has been to reduce the very early dates, which were formerly in vogue. But there is a distinct danger of the reaction going too far, and it is necessary to mark clearly the points at which evidence gives place to conjecture. It must be admitted that all dates anterior to the foundation of the Babylonian monarchy are necessarily approximate, and while we are without definite points of contact between the earlier and later chronology of Babylonia, it is advisable, as far as possible, to think in periods. In the Chronological Table of early kings and rulers, which is printed as Appendix II, a scheme of chronology has been attempted; and the grounds upon which it is based are summarized in the third chapter, in which the age of the Sumerian civilization is discussed.

The transliteration of many of the Sumerian proper names is also provisional. This is largely due to the polyphonous character of the Sumerian signs; but there is also no doubt that the Sumerians themselves frequently employed an ideographic system of expression. The ancient name of the city, the site of which is marked by the mounds of Tello, is an instance in point. The name is written in Sumerian as Shirpurla, with the addition of the determinative for place, and it was formerly assumed that the name was pronounced as Shirpurla by the Sumerians. But there is little doubt that, though written in that way, it was actually pronounced as Lagash, even in the Sumerian period. Similarly the name of its near neighbour and ancient rival, now marked by the mounds of Jokha, was until recently rendered as it is written, Gishkhu or Gishukh; but we now know from a bilingual list that the name was actually pronounced as Umma.

The reader will readily understand that in the case of less famous cities, whose names have not yet been found in the later syllabaries and billingual texts, the phonetic readings may eventually have to be discarded. When the renderings adopted are definitely provisional, a note has been added to that effect.

I take this opportunity of thanking Dr. E. A. Wallis Budge for permission to publish photographs of objects illustrating the early history of Sumer and Akkad, which are preserved in the British Museum. My thanks are also due to Monsieur Ernest Leroux, of Paris, for kindly allowing me to make use of illustrations from works published by him, which have a bearing on the excavations at Tello and the development of Sumerian art; to Mr. Raphael Pumpelly and the Carnegie Institution of Washington, for permission to reproduce illustrations from the official records of the second Pumpelly Expedition; and to the editor of Nature for kindly allowing me to have cliches made from blocks originally prepared for an article on "Transcaspian Archaeology", which I contributed to that journal. With my colleague, Mr. H. R. Hall, I have discussed more than one of the problems connected with the early relations of Egypt and Babylonia; and Monsieur F. Thureau-Dangin, Conservateur-adjoint of the Museums of the Louvre, has readily furnished me with information concerning doubtful readings upon historical monuments, both in the Louvre itself, and in the Imperial Ottoman Museum during his recent visit to Constantinople. I should add that the plans and drawings in the volume are the work of Mr. P. C. Carr, who has spared no pains in his attempt to reproduce with accuracy the character of the originals.