UNIVERSAL BIOGRAPHY LIBRARY

 

 
 

 

URUKAGINA OF LAGASH

2380–2360 BC

 

THE CLOSE OF UR-NINA'S DYNASTY, THE REFORMS OF URUKAGINA, AND THE FALL OF LAGASH

EANNATUM was the most famous and powerful member of Ur-Nina's dynasty, and it is probable that his reign marks the zenith of the power of Lagash as a city-state. We do not know the cause which led to his being succeeded upon the throne by his brother Enannatum I, instead of by a son of his own. That the break in the succession was due to no palace-revolution is certain from a reference Enannatum makes to his brother in an inscription found by Koldewey at El-Hibba, where, after naming Akurgal as his father, he describes himself as "the beloved brother of Eannatum, patesi of Lagash". It is possible that Eannatum had no male issue, or, since his reign appears to have been long, he may have survived his sons. We may indeed conjecture that his victories were not won without considerable loss among his younger warriors, and many cadets of the royal house, including the king's own sons, may have given their lives in the service of their city and its god. Such may well have been the cause of the succession passing from the direct line of descent to a younger branch of the family. That Enannatum followed, and did not precede his brother upon the throne is proved by the reference to him in the El-Hibba text already referred to; moreover, he himself was succeeded by his own immediate descendants, and a reference to his reign upon the Cone of Entemena follows in order of time the same ruler's record concerning Eannatum. The few inscriptions of his reign, that have been recovered at Tello and El-Hibba, are of a votive rather than of an historical character, and, were it not for the historical summaries upon Entemena's Cone and an inscribed plaque of Urukagina, we should be without data for tracing the history of Sumer at this period. As it is, our information is in the main confined to the continued rivalry between Lagash and her near neighbour Umma, which now led to a renewal of active hostilities.

We have already seen that, in spite of the increase in the power of Lagash during the reign of Eannatum, the city of Umma had not been incorporated in its dominion, but had succeeded in maintaining an attitude of semi-independence. This is apparent from the terms of the treaty, by which the men of Umma undertook not to invade the territory of Lagash; and, although they paid a heavy tribute in corn to Eannatum, we may assume that they were ready to seize any opportunity that might present itself of repudiating the suzerainty of Lagash. Such an opportunity they may have seen in the death of their conqueror Eannatum, for after the accession of his brother we find them repeating the same tactics they had employed during the preceding reign under the leadership of their patesi, Ush. Enakalli, with whom Eannatum had drawn up his treaty, had been succeeded on the throne by Urlumma. In his cone-inscription Entemena gives no indication as to whether there was any interval between the reign of Enakalli and that of Urlumma. But from a small tablet of lapislazuli in the "Collection de Clercq", we gather that the latter was Enakalli's son, and, therefore, probably his direct successor upon the throne. The little tablet was employed as a foundation-memorial, and a short inscription upon it records the building of a temple to the god Enkigal by Urlumma, who describes himself as the son of Enakalli. Each ruler bears the title of "king" in the inscription, and, although the reading of the sign following the title is uncertain, there is little doubt that we should identify the Urlumma and Enakalli of the tablet with the two patesis of Umma who are known to have borne these names.

Urlumma did not maintain his father's policy, but, following Ush's example, marshalled his army and made a sudden descent upon the territory of Lagash. His raid appears to have been attended with even greater violence than that of his predecessor. Ush had contented himself with merely removing the stele of delimitation set up by Mesilim, but Urlumma broke that of Eannatum in pieces by casting it into the fire, and we may assume that he treated Mesilim's stele in the same way. The shrines, or chapels, which Eannatum had built upon the frontier and had dedicated to the gods whom he had invoked to guard the treaty, were now levelled to the ground. By such acts Urlumma sought to blot out all trace of the humiliating conditions imposed in earlier years upon his city, and, crossing the frontier-ditch of Ningirsu, he raided and plundered the rich plains which it had always been the ambition of Umma to possess.

It is probable that Urlumma's object in breaking the treaty was not merely to collect spoil from the fields and villages he overran, but to gain complete possession of the coveted plain. At least, both Entemena and Urukagina record that the subsequent battle between the forces of Umma and Lagash took place within the latter's territory, which would seem to imply that Urlumma and his army did not retreat with their plunder to their own city, but attempted to retain possession of the land itself. Enannatum met the men of Umma in Ugigga, a district within the temple-lands of Ningirsu, where a battle was fought, which, in Urukagina's brief account, is recorded to have resulted in Umma's defeat. Entemena, on the other hand, does not say whether Lagash was victorious, and his silence is possibly significant, for, had his father achieved a decided victory, he would doubtless have recorded it. Moreover, Urlumma continued to give trouble, and it was only in the reign of Entemena himself that he was finally defeated and slain. We may, therefore, conclude that Enannatum did no more than check Urlumma's encroachments, and it is not improbable that the latter retained for the time a considerable portion of the territory which Lagash had enjoyed for several generations.

Few other facts are known of the reign of Enannatum I. We gather that he sent men to the mountains, probably of Elam, and caused them to fell cedars there and bring the trunks to Lagash; and from the cedar-wood thus obtained he constructed the roof of a temple, which appears to have been dedicated to Ningirsu. The temple we may probably identify with Ningirsu's famous temple E-ninnu, whence we have recovered a mortar, which Enannatum prepared and presented that it might be used for pounding onions in connection with the temple-ritual. Another object dedicated to Ningirsu, which dates from this period, is preserved in the British Museum, and furnishes us with the name of a minister in the service of Enannatum. This is a limestone mace-head, carved with the emblem of Lagash, and bearing an inscription from which we learn that it was deposited in the temple E-ninnu by Barkiba, the minister, to ensure the preservation of the life of Enannatum, "his king". It would appear from this record that, although Enannatum himself adopted the title of "patesi", which he ascribes also to his father Akurgal, it was permissible for his subordinates to refer to him under the title of "king". That "patesi" was, however, his usual designation may be inferred not only from his own inscriptions, but from the occurrence of the title after his name upon a deed of sale drawn up on a tablet of black stone, which probably dates from his reign. From this document, as well as from a text inscribed upon clay cones found by Koldewey at El-Hibba, we also learn that Enannatum had a son named Lummadur, in addition to Entemena. It should be noted that neither on the clay cones nor on the tablet of black stone is the name of Enannatum's father recorded, so that the suggestion has been made that they should be referred to Enannatum II, rather than to Enannatum I. But the adornment of the temple E-anna, recorded on the cones, is referred to in the clay-inscription of Enannatum I, which, like the cones, was found at El-Hibba. It is reasonable therefore to assign the cone-inscription also to Enanna­tum I, and to conclude that Lummadur was his son, rather than the son and possible successor of Enannatum II. The cone-inscription records the installation of Lummadur by his father as priest in E-anna, when that temple had been adorned and embellished in honour of the goddess Ninni. Since Enannatum was succeeded upon the throne of Lagash by Entemena, we may assume that Lummadur was the latter's younger brother.

One of the first duties Entemena was called upon to perform, after ascending the throne, was the defence of his territory against further encroachments by Urlumma. It is evident that this ruler closely watched the progress of events in Lagash, and such an occasion as the death of the reigning patesi in that city might well have appeared to him a suitable time for the renewal of hostilities. The death of the great conqueror Eannatum had already encouraged him to raid and occupy a portion of the territory held up to that time by Lagash, and, although Eannatum had succeeded in holding him to some extent in check, he only awaited a favourable opportunity to extend the area of territory under his control. Such an opportunity he would naturally see in the disappearance of his old rival, for there was always the chance that the new ruler would prove a still less successful leader than his father, or his accession might give rise to dissension among the members of the royal house, which would materially weaken the city's power of resistance. His attack appears to have been carefully organized, for there is evidence that he strengthened his own resources by seeking assistance from at least one other neighbouring state. His anticipation of securing a decided victory by this means was, however, far from being realized. Entemena lost no time in summoning his forces, and, having led them out into the plain of Lagash, he met the army of Urlumma at the frontier-ditch of Lumma-girnunta, which his uncle Eannatum had constructed for the defence and irrigation of Gu-edin, the fertile territory of Ningirsu. Here he inflicted a signal defeat upon the men of Umma, who, when routed and put to flight, left sixty of their fellows lying dead upon the banks of the canal. Urlumma himself fled from the battle, and sought safety in his own city. But Entemena did not rest content with the defeat he had inflicted upon the enemy in the field. He pursued the men of Umma into their own territory, and succeeded in capturing the city itself before its demoralized inhabitants had had time to organize or strengthen its defence. Urlumma he captured and slew, and he thus put an end to an ambitious ruler, who for years had undoubtedly caused much trouble and annoyance to Lagash. Entemena's victory was complete, but it was not won without some loss among his own forces, for he heaped up burial-mounds in five separate places, which no doubt covered the bodies of his own slain. The bones of the enemy, he records, were left to bleach in the open plain.

 

 

Entemena now proceeded to annex Umma, and he incorporated it within the state of Lagash and reorganized its administration under officers appointed by himself. As the new patesi of Umma he did not appoint any native of that city, but transferred thither an official of his own, who held a post of considerable importance in another town under the suzerainty of Lagash. The name of the official was Ili, and at the time of the annexation of Umma he was acting as sangu, or priest, of the town, the name of which has been provisionally read as Ninab or Ninni-esh. Though the reading of the name of the place is still uncertain, it would appear to have been situated in Southern Babylonia, and to have been a place of some importance. A small tablet in the Louvre mentions together certain men of Erech, of Adab and of Ninni-esh, and, when Lugal-zaggisi enumerates the benefits he had conferred on the cities of Southern Babylonia over which he ruled, he mentions Umma and Ninni-esh together, after referring to Erech, Ur, and Larsa. We may, therefore, conclude with some probability that the city in which lli was at this time acting as priest was situated not far from Umma. It was under the control of Lagash, and doubtless formed part of the empire which Eannatum had bequeathed to his successors upon the throne. Ili is described as the priest, not the patesi, of the city, and it is possible that his office included the control of its secular administration. But in view of the importance of the place, it is unlikely that it was without a patesi.

The installation of Ili in the patesiate of Umma was accompanied by some degree of ceremonial. It would appear that his appointment did not take place immediately after the capture of the town, but that a short interval elapsed between the close of the war and the inauguration of the new government. Meanwhile, Entemena himself had returned to Lagash, and it was to that city that he summoned Ili into his presence. He then set out with Ili from Girsu, and, when Umma was reached, he formally installed him at the head of the government, and conferred on him the title of patesi. At the same time he dictated his own terms to the people of Umma, and commissioned Ili to see that they were duly carried out. In the first place he restored to Lagash the territory to which she had always laid claim, and the ancient frontier-ditches, which had been filled up or had fallen in, he caused to be repaired. In addition to reasserting the traditional rights of Lagash, he annexed new land in the district of Karkar, since its inhabitants had taken part in the recent rebellion, and had probably furnished an important contingent for the army of Urlumma. He gave directions to Ili to extend the two principal frontier-ditches, dedicated to Ningirsu and Nina respectively, within the territory of Karkar; and, with the large supply of forced labour which he exacted from his newly annexed subjects, he strengthened the defences of his own territory, and restored and extended the system of canals between the Euphrates and the Tigris. But Entemena did not content himself with exacting land and labour only from the conquered city. He imposed a heavy tribute in corn, and it was probably one of Ili's most important duties as patesi to superintend its collection and ensure its punctual transfer into the granaries of Lagash.

In order to commemorate the conquest and annexation of Umma, Entemena caused a record of his victory to be drawn up, which he doubtless had engraved upon a stone stele similar to those prepared in earlier times by Mesilim and Eannatum. This stele, like the earlier ones, was probably set up upon the frontier to serve as a memorial of his achievements. Fortunately for us, he did not confine the records to his own victories, but prefaced them with an epitomized account of the relations which had existed between Lagash and Umma from the time of Mesilim until his own day. Other copies of the inscription were probably engraved upon stone and set up in the cities of Umma and Lagash, and, in order to increase still further the chances in favour of the preservation of his record, he had copies inscribed upon small cones of clay. These last were of the nature of foundation-memorials, and we may conclude that he had them buried beneath the buildings he erected or repaired upon the frontier-canals, and also perhaps in the foundations of temples within the city of Lagash itself. Entemena's foresight in multiplying the number of his texts, and in burying them in the structure of his buildings, was in accordance with the practice of the period; and in his case the custom has been fully justified. So far as we know, his great stone stelae have perished; but one of the small clay cones has been recovered, and is among the most valuable of the records we possess of the early history of Sumer.

It is possible that the concluding paragraphs of the text were given in a fuller form upon the stone stelas than we find them upon the cone; but, so far as the historical portion of the record is concerned, we have doubtless recovered the greater part, if not the whole, of Entemena's record. The stelae may have been engraved with elaborate curses, intended to preserve the frontier-ditch from violation, and, though these have been omitted in the shorter version of the text, their place is taken by the brief invocation and prayer with which the record concludes. Entemena here prays that if ever in time to come the men of Umma should break across the boundary-ditch of Ningirsu or the boundary-ditch of Nina, in order to lay violent hands upon the territory of Lagash, whether they be men of the city of Umma itself or people from the lands round about, then may Enlil destroy them, and may Ningirsu cast over them his net, and set his hand and foot upon them. And, should the warriors of his own city be called upon to defend it, he prays that their hearts may be full of ardour and courage. It was not many years before Lagash was in sore need of the help which is here invoked for her by Entemena.

Apart from the cone recording the conquest of Umma, the inscriptions of Entemena do not throw much light upon the military achievements of his reign. Three fragments of a limestone vase have been found at Nippur in the strata beneath the temple of Enlil on the south-east side of the ziggurat, or temple-tower, bearing on their outer surface a votive inscription of Entemena. From these we gather that the vase was dedicated to Enlil as a thank-offering after some victory. The fragmentary character of the inscription prevents us from identifying the enemy who was subdued on this occasion; but we shall probably be right in taking the passage as referring, not to the conquest of Umma, but to the subjugation of some other district. In fact, we may regard the vase as evidence that Entemena attempted to retain his hold upon the empire which Eannatum had founded, and did not shrink from the necessity of undertaking military expeditions to attain this object. In further support of this view we may perhaps cite a reference to one of the cities conquered by Eannatum, which occurs upon a votive text drawn up in Entemena's reign, though not by the patesi himself. The text in question is stamped upon the perforated relief of Dudu, chief priest of Ningirsu,which at one time formed the support of a colossal ceremonial mace-head dedicated in the temple of Ningirsu at Lagash.

The material of which the block is composed is dark in colour, comparatively light in weight, and liable to crack; it consists of a mixture of clay and bitumen, and may have been formed by nature or produced artificially. While this substance was still in a pliant state the block was formed from it, and the designs with the inscription were impressed by means of a stamp. According to the inscription, this bituminous substance was brought by Dudu to Lagash from one of the cities which had been conquered by Eannatum and incorporated within his empire. The fact that Dudu should have caused the substance to be procured from the city in question suggests that friendly relations existed between it and Lagash at the time; it is quite possible that it had not, meanwhile, secured its independence, but still continued to acknowledge the suzerainty of the latter city. The only other references to a foreign city in the texts of Entemena occur upon his two principal building inscriptions, which include among the list of his buildings the erection of a great laver for the god Enki, described as "King of Eridu". We may perhaps see in this record a further indication that at least the southern portion of Eannatum's empire still remained in his nephew's possession.

 

Plaque of Dudu. The upper group represents the emblem of Lagash

 

The high-priest, Dudu, whose portrait is included in the designs upon the plaque already referred to, appears to have been an important personage during the reign of Entemena, and two inscriptions that have been recovered are dated by reference to his period of office. One of these occurs upon the famous silver vase of Entemena, the finest example of Sumerian metal work that has yet been recovered. The vase, engraved in outline with variant forms of the emblem of Lagash,bears an inscription around the neck, stating that Entemena, patesi of Lagash, "the great patesi of Ningirsu", had fashioned it of pure silver and had dedicated it to Ningirsu in E-ninnu to ensure the preservation of his life. It was deposited as a votive object in Ningirsu's temple, and a note is added to the dedication to the effect that "at this time Dudu was priest of Ningirsu". A similar reference to Dudu's priesthood occurs upon a foundation-inscription of Entemena recording the construction of a reservoir for the supply of the Lummadimdug Canal, its capacity being little more than half that of the earlier reservoir constructed by Eannatum. Since the canal was dedicated to Nin­girsu, the reference to Dudu was also here appropriate. But such a method of indicating the date of any object or construction, even though closely connected with the worship or property of the city-god, was somewhat unusual, and its occurrence in these texts may perhaps be taken as an indication of the powerful position which Dudu enjoyed. Indeed, Enlitarzi, another priest of Ningirsu during Entemena's reign, subsequently secured the throne of Lagash. Entemena's building-inscriptions afford further evidence of his devotion to Ningirsu, whose temple and storehouses he rebuilt and added to. Next in order of importance were his constructions in honour of the goddess Nina, while he also erected or repaired temples and other buildings dedicated to Lugal-uru, and the goddesses Ninkharsag, Gatumdug, and Ninmakh. Such records suggest that Entemena's reign, like that of Eannatum, was a period of some prosperity for Lagash, although it is probable that her influence was felt within a more restricted area. By his conquest and annexation of Umma, he more than made up for any want of success on the part of his father, Enannatum I, and, through this victory alone, he may well have freed Lagash from her most persistent enemy throughout the reign of his immediate successors.

Silver Vase dedicated to Ningirsu Divinity by Entemena

 

With Enannatum II, the son of Entemena, who succeeded his father upon the throne, the dynasty founded by Ur-Nina, so far as we know, came to an end. The reign of Entemena's son is attested by a single inscrip­tion engraved upon a door-socket from the great store­house of Ningirsu at Lagash, his restoration of which is recorded in the text. There then occurs a gap in our sequence of royal inscriptions found at Tello, the next ruler who has left us any records of his own, being Urukagina, the ill-fated reformer and king of Lagash, under whom the city was destined to suffer what was undoubtedly the greatest reverse she encountered in the long course of her history. Although we have no royal texts relating to the period between the reigns of Enannatum II and Urukagina, we are fortunately not without means for estimating approximately its length and recovering the names of some, if not all, of the patesis who occupied the throne of Lagash in the interval. Our information is derived from a number of clay tablets, the majority of which were found in the course of native diggings at Tello after M. de Sarzec's death. They formed part of the private archive of the patesis of Lagash at this time, and are concerned with the household expenses of the court and particularly of the harim. Frequently these tablets of accounts make mention of the reigning patesi or his wife, and from them we have recovered the names of three patesis—Enetarzi, Enlitarzi, and Lugal-anda—who are to be set in the interval between Enannatum II and Urukagina. Moreover, it has been pointed out that the inscriptions upon most of the tablets end with a peculiar form of figure, consisting of one or more diagonal strokes cutting a single horizontal one; and a plausible explanation has been given of these figures, to the effect that they were intended to indicate the date of the tablet, the number of diagonal strokes showing at a glance the year of the patesi's reign in which the text was written, and to which the accounts refer. A considerable number of such tablets have been examined, and by counting the strokes upon them it has been concluded that Enetarzi reigned for at least four years, Enlitarzi for at least five years, and Lugal-anda for at least seven years.

The relative order of these three patesis may now be regarded as definitely fixed, and, though it is possible that the names of others are missing which should be set within the period, the tablets themselves furnish indications that in any case the interval between Enannatum II and Urukagina was not a long one. It had for some time been suspected that Enlitarzi and Lugal-anda lived at about the same period, for a steward named Shakh was employed by the wife of Enlitarzi as well as by Barnamtarra, the wife of Lugal-anda. This inference has now been confirmed by the discovery of a document proving that Lugal-anda was Enlitarzi's son; for a clay cone has been found, inscribed with a contract concerning the sale of a house, the contracting parties being the family of Lugal-anda, described as "the son of Enlitarzi, the priest", and the family of Barnamtarra, Lugal-anda's future wife. Moreover, we have grounds for believing that Lugal-anda was not only the last of the three patesis whose names have been recovered, but was Urukagina's immediate predecessor. An indication that this was the case may be seen in the fact that the steward Eniggal, who is frequently mentioned in tablets of his reign, was also employed by Urukagina and his wife Shagshag. Confirmation of this view has been found in the text upon a tablet, dated in the first year of Urukagina's reign as king, in which mention is made of Barnamtarra, Lugal-anda's wife. This only leaves an interval before the reign of Enlitarzi, in which Enetarzi, the remaining patesi, is to be set.

That this was not a long period is clear from the fact that Enlitarzi himself occupied the throne soon after Enannatum II, an inference we may draw from a double date upon a sale-contract, dated in the patesiate of Entemena, patesi of Lagash, and in the priesthood of Enlitarzi, chief priest of Ningirsu. There can be no doubt of the identity of Enlitarzi, the priest here referred to, with Enlitarzi, the patesi, for the wife of the priest, who is mentioned in the contract, bears the same name as the wife of the patesi. Since, therefore, Enlitarzi already occupied the high position of chief priest of Ningirsu during the reign of Entemena, it is reasonable to conclude that his reign as patesi was not separated by any long interval from that of Entemena's son and successor. The internal evidence furnished by the texts thus supports the conclusion suggested by an examination of the tablets themselves, all of which are distinguished by a remarkable uniformity of type, consisting, as they do, of baked clay tablets of a rounded form and written in a style which closely resembles that of Urukagina's royal inscriptions. The interval between the death of Entemena and Urukagina's accession was thus a short one, and the fact that during it no less than four patesis followed one another in quick succession suggests that the period was one of unrest in Lagash.

Like Enlitarzi, Enetarzi also appears to have been chief priest of Ningirsu before he secured the throne; at least we know that a priest of that name held office at about this period. The inscription from which this fact may be inferred is an extremely interesting one, for it consists of the earliest example of a letter or despatch that has yet been found on any Babylonian site. It was discovered at Tello during the recent excavations of Commandant Cros, and, alike in the character of its writing and in its general appearance, it closely resembles the tablets of accounts from th patesis' private archive, to which reference has already been made. The despatch was written by a certain Lu-enna, chief priest of the goddess Ninmar, and is addressed to Enetarzi, chief priest of the god Ningirsu. At first sight its contents are scarcely those which we should expect to find in a letter addressed by one chief priest to another. For the writer informs his correspondent that a band of Elamites had pillaged the territory of Lagash, but that he had fought with the enemy, and had succeeded in putting them to flight. He then refers to five hundred and forty of them, whom he probably captured or slew. The reverse of the tablet enumerates various amounts of silver and wool, and certain royal garments, which may have formed part of the booty taken, or recaptured, from the Elamites; and the text ends with what appears to be a reference to the division of this spoil between the patesi of Lagash and another high official, and with directions that certain offerings should be deducted for presentation to the goddess Ninmar, in whose temple the writer was chief priest.

That a chief priest of Ninmar should lead an army against the enemies of Lagash and should send a report of his success to the chief priest of Ningirsu, in which he refers to the share of the spoil to be assigned to the patesi, may be regarded as an indication that the central government of Lagash was not so stable as it once had been under the more powerful members of Ur-Nina's dynasty. The reference to Enetarzi suggests that the incursion of the Elamites took place during the reign of Enannatum II. We may thus conclude that the last member of Ur-Nina's dynasty did not possess his father's ability to direct the affairs of Lagash and allowed the priests of the great temples in the city to usurp many of the privileges which had hitherto been held by the patesi. It is probably to this fact that the close of Ur-Nina's dynasty may be traced. The subsequent struggle for the patesiate appears to have taken place among the more important members of the priesthood. Of those who secured the throne, Enlitarzi, at any rate, was succeeded by his son, by whom, however, he may have been deposed, and no strong administration appears to have been established until Urukagina, abandoning the traditions of both the priesthood and the patesiate, based his government on the support he secured from the people themselves. Such appears to have been the course of events at this time, although the paucity of our historical materials renders it impossible to do more than hazard a conjecture.

In addition to the tablets of accounts concerning the household expenditure of the patesis, and the letter to Enetarzi from Lu-enna, the principal relics of this period that have come down to us are numbers of clay sealings, some of which bear impressions of the seals of the patesi Lugal-anda, his wife Barnamtarra, and his steward Eniggal. They afford us no new historical information, but are extremely valuable for the study of the artistic achievements and religious beliefs of the Sumerians. From the traces upon their lower sides, it is clear that they were employed for sealing reed-baskets or bundles tied up in sacking formed of palm-leaves and secured with cords. In consequence of the rough character of the lumps of clay, no single one presents a perfect impression, but, as several examples of each have been found, it is possible in some cases to reconstruct the complete design and to estimate the size of the original seal. In the accompanying blocks reproductions are given of the designs upon the cylinder-seals of Lugal-anda which can be most completely restored. The principal group of figures in the larger of the two consists of two rampant lions in conflict with a human-headed bull and a mythical and composite being, half-bull and half-man, whose form recalls the description of Ea-bani in the legend of Gilgamesh. To the left of the inscription is the emblem of Lagash, and below is a row of smaller figures consisting of two human- headed bulls, two heroes and a stag. The figures on the smaller cylinder represent the same types, but here the emblem of Lagash is reduced to the eagle without the lions, which was peculiarly the emblem of Ningirsu. The mythological being who resembles Ea-bani is repeated heraldically on each side of the text in conflict with a lion.

The occurrence of this figure and those of the other heroes upon the seals is important, as it points to a knowledge on the part of the earlier Sumerians, of the principal legends that were incorporated in the great national epic of Babylon. The sealings are no less important for the study of Sumerian art, and they prove that seal-cutting must have already been practised by the Sumerians for a considerable length of time. While the designs are of a very decorative character, it is interesting to note how the artist has attempted to fill up every portion of his field, an archaic trait which is in striking contrast to the Semitic seals of the Sargonic period. Another peculiarity which may here be referred to is the employment, on the larger seal below the inscription, of a sort of arabesque pattern, an ingenious and symmetrical combination of straight lines and curves, the course of which may be followed with­out once passing along the same line a second time. It has been suggested that this pattern may have formed the engraver's monogram or signature, but it is more likely to have been a religious symbol, or may perhaps be merely decorative, having been added to fill in a blank space remaining in the field of the seal. The discovery of these seal-impressions enables us to realize that, in spite of the period of political unrest through which Lagash was now passing, her art did not suffer, but continued to develop along its own lines. In fact, her sculptors and engravers were always ready to serve the reigning patesi, whoever he might be.

Although, as we have seen, the exact relation of the three patesis, Enetarzi, Enlitarzi, and Lugal-anda, to the dynasty of Ur-Nina is still a matter for conjecture,there is no doubt that with Urukagina, at any rate, a complete break took place, not only in the succession, but also in the traditions and principles which had guided for so long the ruling family at Lagash. That Urukagina did not obtain the throne by right of succession is clear from the total absence of any genealogies in his inscriptions. He does not even name his father, so that we may trace his succession to his own initiative. He himself ascribes to Ningirsu his elevation to the throne, and the phrase that follows suggests that this was not accomplished without a struggle. When describing in detail the drastic reforms which he had carried out in the internal administration of the state, he prefaces his account by stating that they took place when Ningirsu had given him the kingdom of Lagash and had established his might. In view of these very reforms, we may regard it as extremely probable that he headed a reaction against certain abuses which had characterized the recent government of the city, and that, in usurping the throne, he owed his success to a wide-spread feeling of discontent among the great body of the people

Further evidence of a complete break in the succession may be seen in the change of the patron deity, whose protection the reigning house enjoyed. Urukagina no longer invoked the god on whom the dynasty of Ur-Nina had relied for intercession with Ningirsu, and in his place addressed himself to Ninshakh. The very title which Urukagina himself adopted is probably significant of his antagonism to the family which for so long had directed the destinies of the state. While even the great conqueror Eannatum had proudly clung to the title of "patesi", and his successors on the throne had followed his example, in every one of his own inscriptions that have been recovered Urukagina rejects it in favour of that of king.

It would appear that he did not inaugurate this change immediately upon his accession, and that for at least a year he continued to use the title employed by his predecessors. For some of the tablets of accounts from the private archive of the patesis, to which refer­ence has already been made, appear to be dated in the first year of Urukagina's patesiate; while the other documents of this class, which refer to him, are dated from the first to the sixth year of his reign as king. So that, if there is no gap in the sequence, we may conclude that he discarded the former title after having occupied the throne for one year. His dropping of this time-honoured designation may well have accompanied the abolition of privileges and abuses with which it had become associated in the mind of the people. Indeed, the tone of his inscriptions reflects no feeling of veneration for the title of patesi, nor does he appear anxious to commemorate the names of those who had borne it. Thus in one of his texts, when he has occasion to give a brief historical summary of an earlier struggle between Lagash and Umma, he names the ruler of the latter city, but he ascribes the former's victory to Ningirsu, and does not seem to have referred to Enannatum I and Entemena, in whose reigns the events took place.

But it is in the reforms themselves, which Urukagina introduced, that we find the most striking evidence of the complete severance he made from the cherished traditions of his predecessors. In a series of very striking texts, of which we now possess three versions, he has left us a record of the changes he introduced in the internal administration of the country. In the condition in which at least two of these versions have come down to us a literary artifice is employed, which enhances and emphasizes in a remarkable degree the drastic character of his reforms. Before enumerating these, the writer provides a striking contrast by describing the condition of the country which preceded their introduction by the king. We are thus confronted with two companion pictures, the main features of which correspond, while their underlying characters are completely changed. In the two sections of each text the general phraseology is much the same, the difference consisting in the fact that, while the first describes the oppression and injustice which had existed in the state of Lagash "since distant days, from the beginning", the second section enumerates the reforms by which Urukagina claimed that he had ameliorated the people's lot. Though some of the references they contain are still obscure, the texts afford us a welcome glimpse of the economic conditions that prevailed in Sumer. In contrast to other royal inscriptions found at Tello, they give us information concerning the daily life and occupations of the people; and at the same time they reveal beneath the official decorum of a Sumerian court an amount of oppression and misery, the existence of which would not be suspected from the pious foundation-inscriptions and votive texts of the period.

The conquests achieved by Lagash during the epoch of the great patesis had undoubtedly added considerably to the wealth of the city, and had given her, at least for a time, the hegemony in Southern Babylonia. But with the growth of her power as a state, she lost many of the qualities by virtue of which her earlier successes were achieved. The simplicity, which characterized the patesi's household at a time when he was little more than a chief among his fellows, was gradually exchanged for the elaborate organization of a powerful court. When the army returned laden with booty from distant regions, and the tribute of conquered cities kept the granaries of Ningirsu filled, it was but natural that the rulers of Lagash should surround themselves with greater luxury, and should enrich their city by the erection of palaces for themselves and sumptuous temples for the gods. The long lists of temples and other buildings, which occupy the greater part of the inscriptions left us by Ur-Nina and his descendants, testify to their activity in this direction. It will be obvious that the beautifi cation of the capital, begun in an era of conquest, could not be continued in less fortunate times without putting a considerable strain upon the resources of the state. In such circumstances the agricultural section of the population were forced to contribute the means for gratifying the ambition of their rulers. New taxes were levied, and, to ensure their collection, a host of inspectors and other officials were appointed whose numbers would constantly tend to increase. "Within the limits of the territory of Ningirsu," says Urukagina, "there were inspectors down to the sea."

The palace of the patesi thus began to usurp the place in the national life which had formerly been held by the temple of the city-god, and, while the people found that the tithes due to the latter were not diminished, they were faced with additional taxation on all sides. Tax-gatherers and inspectors were appointed in every district and for every class of the population. The cultivators of the soil, the owners of flocks and herds, the fishermen, and the boatmen plying on the rivers and canals, were never free from the rapacity of these officials, who, in addition to levying their dues, appear to have billeted themselves on their unfortunate victims. That corruption should have existed in the ranks of his officials was but natural, when the patesi himself set them an example in the matter; for Urukagina records that his predecessors on the throne had appropriated the property of the temples for their own use. The oxen of the gods, he tells us, were employed for the irrigation of the lands given to the patesi; the good fields of the gods formed the patesi's holding and his place of joy. The priests themselves grew rich at the expense of the temples, and plundered the people with impunity. The asses and fine oxen which were temple-property they carried off, they exacted additional tithes and offerings, and throughout the country they entered the gardens of the poor and cut down the trees or carried off the fruits. But while so doing they kept on good terms with the palace officials; for Urukagina records that the priests divided the temple-corn with the people of the patesi, and brought them tribute in garments, cloth, thread, vessels and objects of copper, birds, kids, and the like.

The misappropriation of temple-property, and particularly that of the city-god, afforded Urukagina the pretext for inaugurating his reforms. He stood forth as Ningirsu's champion, and by restoring the sacred lands which had been seized by the palace, he proved his own disinterestedness, and afforded his subjects an example which he could insist upon their following. He states that in the house of the patesi and in the field of the patesi he installed Ningirsu, their master; that in the house of the harim and in the field of the harim he installed the goddess Bau, their mistress; and that in the house of the children and in the field of the children he installed Dunshagga, their master. In these three phrases Urukagina not only records the restoration of all the property, which had formerly belonged to the temples dedicated to Ningirsu and his family, but also reaffirms the old relation of the patesi to the city-god. In the character of his representative the patesi only received his throne as a trust to be administered in the interest of the god; his fields, and goods, and all that he possessed were not his own property but Ningirsu's.

After carrying out these reforms, Urukagina proceeded to attack the abuses which existed among the secular officials and the priests. He cut down the numbers of the former, and abolished the unnecessary posts and offices which pressed too hardly on the people. The granary-inspectors, the fishery-inspectors, the boat-inspectors, the inspectors of flocks and herds, and, in fact, the army of officials who farmed the revenue and made a good profit out of it themselves, were all deprived of office. Abuses which had sprung up and had obtained the recognition accorded to long-established custom, were put down with a strong hand. All those who had taken money in place of the appointed tribute were removed from their posts, as were those officials of the palace who had accepted bribes from the priests. The priests themselves were deprived of many of their privileges, and their scale of fees was revised. Burial fees in particular were singled out for revision, for they had become extortionate; they were now cut down by more than half. In the case of an ordinary burial, when a corpse was laid in the grave, it had been the custom for the presiding priest to demand as a fee for himself seven urns of wine or strong drink, four hundred and twenty loaves of bread, one hundred and twenty measures of corn, a garment, a kid, a bed, and a seat. This formidable list of perquisites was now reduced to three urns of wine, eighty loaves of bread, a bed, and a kid, while the fee of his assistant was cut down from sixty to thirty measures of corn. Similar reductions were made in other fees demanded by the priesthood, and allowances of wine, loaves, and grain, which were paid to various privileged classes and officials in Lagash, were revised and regulated.

As was but natural, oppression and robbery had not been confined to the priestly and official classes, but were practised with impunity by the more powerful and lawless sections of the population, with the result that no man's property was safe. In the old days if a man purchased a sheep and it was a good one, he ran the risk of having it stolen or confiscated. If he built himself a fish-pond, his fish were taken and he had no redress. If he sunk a well in high ground beyond the area served by the irrigation-canals, he had no security that his labour would be for his own benefit. This state of things Urukagina changed, both by putting an end to the extortions of officials and by imposing drastic penalties for theft. At the same time, he sought to protect by law the humbler classes of his subjects from oppression by their wealthier and more powerful neighbours. Thus he enacted that if a good ass was foaled in the stable of any subject of the king, and his superior should wish to buy it, he should only do so by paying a fair price; and if the owner refused to part with it, his superior must not molest him. Similarly, if the house of a great man lay beside that of a humbler subject of the king and he wished to buy it, he must pay a fair price ; and if the owner was unwilling to sell it, he should have perfect liberty to refuse without any risk to himself. The same desire to lessen the hardships of the poorer classes is apparent in other reforms of Urukagina, by which he modified the more barbarous customs of earlier days. One instance of such a reform appears to apply to the corvée, or some kindred institution; when engaged in a form of forced labour, it had not been the custom to supply the workers with water for drinking, nor even to allow them to fetch it for themselves—a practice to which Urukagina put a stop.

The extent to which the common people had been mulcted of their property by the officials of the palace is well illustrated by two of Urukagina's reforms, from which it would appear that the patesi himself and his chief minister, or grand vizir, had enriched themselves by enforcing heavy and unjust fees. One instance concerns the practice of divination by oil, which at this time seems to have been a not uncommon method of foretelling the future. If we may judge from inscriptions of a rather later period, the procedure consisted in pouring out oil upon the surface of water, the different forms taken by the oil on striking the water indicating the course which events would take. To interpret correctly the message of the oil a professional diviner was required, and Urukagina relates that not only did the diviner demand a fee of one shekel for his services, but a similar fee had to be paid to the grand vizir, and no less than five shekels to the patesi himself. That these fees should have been keenly resented is in itself a proof of the extent to which this form of divination was practised. Urukagina tells us that after his accession the patesi, the vizir, and the diviner took money no more; and, since the latter's fee was also abolished, we may probably infer that diviners were a recognized class of the official priesthood, and were not allowed to accept payment except in the form of offerings for the temple to which they were attached.

The other matter in which it had been the custom of the patesi and his vizir to accept fees was one in which the evil effects of the practice are more obvious. Urukagina tells us that under the old regime, if a man put away his wife, the patesi took for himself five shekels of silver and the grand vizir one. It is possible that, upon their first introduction, these fees were defended as being a deterrent to divorce. But in practice they had the contrary effect. Divorce could be obtained on no grounds whatever by the payment of what was practically a bribe to the officials, with the result that the obligations of the marriage tie were not respected.

The wives of aforetime, according to Urukagina, were possessed by two men with impunity. While abolishing the official fees for divorce, it is probable that Urukagina drew up regulations to ensure that it was not abused, and that compensation, when merited, should be paid to the woman. On the other hand, we have evidence that he inflicted severe punishment for infidelity on the part of the wife, and we may assume that by this means he attempted to stamp out practices which were already beginning to be a danger to the existence of the community.

It is interesting to note that the laws referred to by Urukagina, in giving an account of the changes he introduced, are precisely similar in form to those we find upon the Code of Hammurabi. This fact furnishes definite proof, not only that Hammurabi codified the legislation of earlier times, but also that this legislation itself was of Sumerian origin. It is probable that Urukagina himself, in introducing his reforms, revived the laws of a still earlier age, which had been allowed to fall into disuse. As Hammurabi ascribed the origin of his laws to the Sun-god, whom he represents upon his stele as reciting them to him, so Urukagina regards his reforms as due to the direct intervention of Ningirsu, his king, whose word it was he caused to dwell in the land; and it was not with his people but with Ningirsu that he drew up the agreement to observe them. Like Hammurabi, too, Urukagina boasts that he is the champion of the weak against the strong; and he tells us that in place of the servitude, which had existed in his kingdom, he established liberty. (This does not imply that slavery was abolished, but that abuses were put down in the administration of the state. The employment of slaves naturally continued to be a recognized institution as in earlier and later periods. In fact, tablets of this epoch prove that not only private persons, but also temples could possess slaves, and, like domestic animals, they could be dedicated to a god for life. Thus eight male and three female slaves are mentioned in a list of offerings made by Amattar-sirsirra, a daughter of Urukagina, to the god Mesandu). He spoke, and delivered the children of Lagash from want, from theft, from murder and other ills. In his reign, he says, to the widow and the orphan the strong man did no harm.

Urukagina's championship of Ningirsu's rights is reflected, not only in his reforms, but also in the buildings he erected during his reign. Thus we find it recorded that, in addition to his great temple E-ninnu, he built or restored two other temples in his honour, his palace of Tirash, and his great storehouse. Other temples were erected in honour of Bau, his wife, and of Dunshagga and Galalim, two of Ningirsu's sons, the latter of whom is first mentioned in Urukagina's texts. To Khegir, one of the seven virgin daughters of Ningirsu, he dedicated a shrine, and he built another in honour of three of her sisters, Zarzari, Impae, and Urnuntaea; a third was dedicated to Ninsar, Ningirsu's sword-bearer. It may thus be inferred that Urukagina's building operations were mainly devoted to temples and shrines of the city-god Ningirsu, and to those dedicated to members of his family and household. Like Eannatum and Entemena, he also improved the water-supply of the city, and cut a canal, or more probably improved an old one, for bringing water to the quarter of the city named Nina. In connection with it he constructed a reservoir, with a capacity of eighteen hundred and twenty gur, which he made, he tells us, "like the midst of the sea". The small canal of Girsu he also repaired, and he revived its former name, "Ningirsu is prince in Nippur". This furnishes another instance of his policy of restoring to Ningirsu honours and privileges of which he had been deprived. The reference to Nippur is of interest, for it suggests that Urukagina maintained active relations with the central cult of Sumer and the north, an inference confirmed by his rebuilding of Enlil's temple in Lagash, which had been previously built by Entemena.

Allusions to cities other than Lagash and its component parts in Urukagina's inscriptions are few, and those that do occur fail to throw much light upon the relations he maintained with other city-states. A small object of clay in the form of an olive has been found, which bears the votive inscription: "Ningirsu speaks good words with Bau concerning Urukagina in the temple of Erech",—a phrase that seems to imply a claim on the part of Lagash to suzerainty over that city. Another votive object of the same class mentions the fortification of the wall of E-babbar, but the reference here is probably not to the famous temple of the Sun- god at Larsa, but to his smaller temple of this name, which stood in Lagash and was afterwards desecrated by the men of Umma. The only other foreign city mentioned in Urukagina's inscriptions is Umma itself, whose relations to Lagash in the reigns of Enannatum I and Entemena are briefly recorded. The text of the passage is broken, but we may surmise that the short summary of events was intended to introduce an account of Urukagina's own relations with that city. We may note the fact, which this reference proves, that the subsequent descent of the men of Umma upon Lagash and their capture and sack of the city were the result of friction, and possibly of active hostility, during at least a portion of Urukagina's reign.

From Urukagina's own texts we thus do not gather much information with regard to the extent of the empire of Lagash under his rule. That he did not neglect the actual defences of his city may be inferred from his repair of the wall of Girsu; it is clear, however, that his interest was not in foreign conquest, nor even in maintaining the existing limits of his dominion, but in internal reform. He devoted all his energies to purifying the administration of his own land, and to stamping out the abuses under which for so long the people had suffered. That he benefited the land as a whole, and earned the gratitude of his poorer subjects, there can be no doubt; but it is to his reforms themselves that we may trace the immediate cause of the downfall of his kingdom. For his zeal had led him to destroy the long-established methods of government, and, though he thereby put an end to corruption, he failed to provide an adequate substitute to take their place. The host of officials he abolished or dispossessed of office had belonged to a military administration, which had made the name of Lagash feared, and they had doubtless been organized with a view to ensuring the stability and protection of the state. Their disappearance mattered little in times of peace; though, even so, Urukagina must have had trouble with the various powerful sections of the population whom he had estranged. When war threatened he must have found himself without an army and without the means of raising one. To this cause we may probably trace the completeness of Umma's victory.

From what we know of the early history of Sumer, it would appear that most of its city-states were subject to alternate periods of expansion and decay; and we have already seen reason to believe that, before the reign of Urukagina, the reaction had already set in, which must inevitably have followed the conquests of the earlier patesis. The struggle for the throne, which appears to have preceded Urukagina's accession, must have weakened still further the military organization of the state; and when Urukagina himself, actuated by the best of motives, attempted to reform and remodel its entire constitution, he rendered it still more defenceless before the attack of any resolute foe. The city of Umma was not slow to take advantage of so favourable an opportunity for striking at her ancient rival. Hitherto in their wars with Lagash the men of Umma, so far as we know, had never ventured, or been allowed, to attack the city. In earlier days Umma had always been defeated, or at any rate her encroachments had been checked. It is true that in the records that have come down to us the men of Umma are represented as always taking the initiative, and provoking hostilities by crossing the frontier-ditch which marked the limit of their possessions. But they never aimed at more than the seizure of territory, and the patesi of Lagash was always strong enough to check their advance, and generally to expel them, before they reached the city itself. Indeed, Entemena had done more than this, and, by his capture and annexation of Umma, had crippled for a time the resources of this ambitious little state. At what period exactly Umma repudiated the suzerainty he had imposed is not known; but in any case we may conclude that the effects of the chastisement she had received at his hands were sufficient to prevent for a time any active encroachments on her part.

The renewed activity of Umma during Urukagina's reign doubtless followed the lines of her earlier attempts, and took the form of a raid into the territory of Lagash. The comparative success, which we may conjecture she achieved on this occasion, doubtless encouraged her to further efforts, and emboldened her patesi to attack the city of Lagash itself. The ruler of Umma, under whose leadership this final attack was delivered, bore the name of Lugal-zaggisi. From an inscription of his own, to which further reference will be made in the following chapter, we learn that his father Ukush had been patesi of Umma before him. We may thus assume that the city had for some time enjoyed a position of independence, of which she had taken advantage to husband her resources and place her army on a satisfactory footing. In any case it was strong enough to overcome any opposition that Urukagina could offer, and the city of Lagash, which had been beautified and enriched by the care of a long line of successful rulers, was laid waste and spoiled.

The document from which we learn details of the sack of Lagash is a strange one. It closely resembles in shape and writing the tablets of household accounts from the archive of the patesis, which date from the reigns of Urukagina and his immediate predecessors; but the text inscribed upon it consists of an indictment of the men of Umma, drawn up in a series of short sentences, which recapitulate the deeds of sacrilege committed by them. It is not a royal nor an official inscription, and, so far as one can judge from its position when discovered by Commandant Cros, it does not seem to have been stored in any regular archive or depository. For it was unearthed, at a depth of about two metres below the surface of the soil, to the north of the mound which covered the most ancient constructions at Tello, and no other tablets were found near it. Both from its form and contents the document would appear to have been the work of some priest, or scribe, who had formerly been in Urukagina's service; and we may picture him, after the sack of the city, giving vent to his feelings by enumerating the sacred buildings which had been profaned by the men of Umma, and laying the weight of the great sin committed upon the head of the goddess whom they and their patesi served. That the composition was written shortly after the fall of Lagash may be held to explain the absence of any historical setting or introduction; the city's destruction and the profanation of her shrines have so recently taken place that the writer has no need to explain the circumstances. He plunges at once into his accusations against the men of Umma, and the very abruptness of his style and the absence of literary ornament render their delivery more striking. The repetition of phrases and the recurrent use of the same formulae serve only to heighten the cumulative effect of the charges he brings against the destroyers of his city.

"The men of Umma", he exclaims, "have set fire to the Eki[kala]; they have set fire to the Antasurra; they have carried away the silver and the precious stones! They have shed blood in the palace of Tirash; they have shed blood in the Abzu-banda; they have shed blood in the shrine of Enlil and in the shrine of the Sun-god; they have shed blood in the Akhush; they have carried away the silver and the precious stones! They have shed blood in E-babbar; they have carried away the silver and the precious stones! They have shed blood in the Gikana of the goddess Ninmakh of the Sacred Grove; they have carried away the silver and the precious stones! They have shed blood in the Baga; they have carried away the silver and the precious stones! They have set fire to the Dugru; they have carried away the silver and the precious stones! They have shed blood in Abzu-ega; they have set fire to the temple of Gatumdug; they have carried away the silver and the precious stones, and have destroyed the statue! They have set fire to the ... of the temple E-anna of the goddess Ninni; they have carried away the silver and the precious stones, and have destroyed the statue! They have shed blood in the Shagpada; they have carried away the silver and the precious stones! In the Khenda . . .; they have shed blood in Iviab, the temple of Nindar; they have carried away the silver and the precious stones! They have set fire to Kinunir, the temple of Dumuzi-abzu; they have carried away the silver and the precious stones! They have set fire to the temple of Lugal-uru; they have carried away the silver and the precious stones! They have shed blood in the temple E-engur, of the goddess Nina; they have carried away the silver and the precious stones! They have shed blood in the Sag, the temple of Amageshtin; the silver and precious stones of Amageshtin have they carried away! They have removed the grain from Ginarbaniru, from the field of Ningirsu, all of it that was under cultivation ! The men of Umma, by the despoiling of Lagash, have committed a sin against the god Ningirsu! The power that is come unto them, from them shall be taken away! Of sin on the part of Urukagina, king of Girsu, there is none. But as for Lugal-zaggisi, patesi of Umma, may his goddess Nidaba bear this sin upon her head !"

It will be noticed that, in addition to the temples in the list, the writer mentions several buildings of a more secular character, but the majority of these were attached to the great temples and were used in connection with the produce from the sacred lands. Thus the Antasurra, the palace of Tirash, the Akhush, the Baga, and the Dugru were all dedicated to the service of Ningirsu, the Abzu-banda and the Shagpada to the goddess Nina, and the Abzu-ega to Gatumdug. The text does not record the destruction of the king's palace, or of private dwellings, but there can be little doubt that the whole city was sacked, and the greater part of it destroyed by fire. The writer of the tablet is mainly concerned with the sacrilege committed in the temples of the gods, and with the magnitude of the offence against Ningirsu. He can find no reason for the wrongs the city has suffered in any transgression on the part of Urukagina, its king; for Ningirsu has had no cause to be angry with his representative. All he can do is to protest his belief that the city-god will one day be avenged upon the men of Umma and their goddess Nidaba. Meanwhile Lagash lay desolate, and Umma inherited the position she had held among the cities of Southern Babylonia. We know that in course of time the city rose again from her ruins, and that the temples, which had been laid waste and desecrated, were rebuilt in even greater splendour. But, as a state, Lagash appears never to have recovered from the blow dealt her by Lugal-zaggisi. At any rate, she never again enjoyed the authority which she wielded under the rule of her great patesis.

 

 

LUGALZAGESI