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Ur-Bau or Ur-baba

(2164-2144 BC)


Ur-Bau or Ur-baba

(2164-2144 BC)


The barbarians (Gutians) from the north now descended upon Sumer and Akkad. The Scheil dynastic-tablet ends: “The royalty was taken to the hosts of Gutium which had no king”. A Nippur list assigns 21 kings and a period of 125 years and 40 days to the kingdom of Gutium. Some of the kings have names which seem to contain Hittite elements: Arlagan (Ar[a], to give), Saratigubisin (Sin, brother). It is evident that the two lands of lower Mesopotamia recognized the Gutium kingship whose capital probably remained at Arrapkha (perhaps Kerkuk, east of Arbela); and an inscription states that Gutium had taken the royalty of Sumer to the mountains. The texts of the period frequently refer to the devastation and pillage of the rich lands of Sumer and Akkad by the peoples of Gutium. Thus the statue of Anunit at Agade was carried to Arrapkha, where it remained for 2000 years until Neriglissar restored it to her temple.

Lamentations in Sumerian and Semitic were sung in the temples in the times of these oppressors. A fragment from Nippur wails over the ruin of that city, and for Kesh and Adab, two centres of the cult of the earth-goddess which had been razed by Gutium. The foot of the stranger had defiled the shrines of ancient Sumer, and “Nippur by the death-dealing weapon was smitten”. “Nintud because of his deeds wept bitterly”. After mentioning the cults of the goddess of birth (Ninlil, Nintud) the liturgy takes up the woes of the cult of Innini at Erech. “Eanna, abode of the dark chamber, the foe beheld and the priestly rites were suspended”. Hymns of this kind usually confine their references to a single cult or deity and emphasize the ruin of those cities where her chief temple or chapels were. A Semitic lamentation on his calamitous period is concerned chiefly with Innini-Ishtar. “She of Erech weeps because her maid of honor is exiled. She of Akkad weeps because her attraction is gone forth. Weep for Erech, she has met with the disgrace of shame. As for the daughter of Larak her face is covered with her shawl in sign of disgrace”. The hymn mentions in the same strain the cities Kharsagkalama, Khulkhud-tul, Mash, Kesh, Dunna, Nippur and Der. In view of this clear evidence of the direful rule of Gutium for 125 years it is not surprising that business records and works of art almost totally disappear. So detested became the name of Gutium in Sumer that it was known as the “habitation of the pest”.

One of their kings, however, Lasirab, dedicated a fine stone mace-head to the temple in Sippar, where it was found. The inscription is written in the Semitic dialect of the period of Agade, and mentions the gods of Gutium as well as the Sumerian Innini and the moon-god Sin. Lasirab paid tribute to the culture of the lands which he had despoiled by learning their art, script and language, and by recognizing their gods. Again, at Nippur the American excavators found a tablet which seems to be a compilation of inscriptions copied from statues dedicated to Enlil at Nippur. It contains the name of E-irridupizir or Enridapizir, king of Gutium and the Four Regions. He, too, became a disciple of Sumerian beliefs, and dedicated his statue to the great god from whom all royal claims were derived. The act itself proves that he included Nippur in his kingdom, and in his choice of a title he imitated Naram-Sin, who had also described himself as King of the Four legions. The Nippur tablet probably relates the deeds of the great kings of Gutium whose dominion must have coincided closely with the vast empire of Agade. They administered the old provinces by a system of patesis, or priest-kings, and appear not to have changed the existing administration. Under Sium, king of Gutium, the patesi of Umma was Lugal-annatum, whose inscription refers to the prosperity of Umma, “which he made rich with liberalities for 35 years”.

WE have seen that the Dynasty of Akkad marks the culminating point attained by the races of Sumer and Akkad during the earlier periods of their history. It is true that the kings of this period owed much to their immediate predecessors, but they added to and improved their inheritance. Through long centuries of slow development the village community had gradually been transformed into the city-state, and this institution had flourished and had in its turn decayed before the centralizing influence of the kingdoms of Sumer and Kish. It was on the ruins of the latter monarchy that Shargon founded his empire, which differed from that of Kish in its extent, rather than in the principles of its formation. A similarly close connection can be traced between the cultural remains of the successive periods with which we have hitherto been dealing. The rude, though vigorous, artistic efforts of the earlier Sumerians furnished the models upon which the immigrant Semites of Northern Babylonia improved. In the sculpture of Kish and upon cylinder-seals of that period we see the transition between the two styles, when the aim at a naturalistic treatment sometimes produced awkward and grotesque results. The full attainment of this aim under the patronage of the Akkadian kings gives their epoch an interest and an importance, which, from their empire alone, it would not perhaps have enjoyed.

While the earlier ages of Babylonian history afford a striking picture of gradual growth and development, the periods succeeding the Dynasty of Akkad are marked by a certain retrograde movement, or reversion to earlier ideals. The stimulus, which produced the empire and the art of Akkad, may be traced to the influx of fresh racial elements into Northern Babylonia and their fusion with the older and more highly cultured elements in the south. When the impulse was exhausted and the dynasties to which it had given rise had run their course, little further development along these lines took place. Both in art and politics a Sumerian reaction followed the period of Semitic power, and the establishment of the Dynasty of Ur was significant of more than a shifting of political influence southwards. It would appear that a systematic attempt was made to return to the earlier standards. But the influence of Akkad and her monarchs, though deliberately ignored and combated, was far from ineffective. As the sculptures of Gudea owe much to the period of Naram-Sin, so the empire of Dungi was inevitably influenced by Shargon's conquests. There was no sudden arrest either of the political or of the cultural development of the country. A recovery of power by the Sumerians merely changed the direction in which further development was to take place. Although, when viewed from a general standpoint, there is no break of continuity between the epoch of Akkad and that of Ur, there is some lack of information with regard to events in the intervening period. There is every indication that between the reign of Naram-Sin and that of Ur-Engur, the founder of the Dynasty of Ur, we have to count in generations rather than in centuries, but the total length of the period is still unknown. The close of the Dynasty of Akkad, as we have already seen, is wrapped in mystery, but the gap in our knowledge may fortunately to some extent be bridged. At this point the city of Lagash once more comes to our assistance, and, by supplying the names of a number of her patesis, enables us to arrange a sequence of rulers, and thereby to form some estimate of the length of the period involved.

It will be remembered that under Shargon and Naram-Sin a certain Lugal-ushumgal was patesi of Lagash, and that the impressions of his seals have been recovered which he employed during the reigns of these two monarchs. The names of three other patesis of Lagash are known, who must also be assigned to the period of the Dynasty of Akkad, since they are mentioned upon tablets of that date. These are Ur- Babbar, Ur-E, and Lugal-bur; the first of these appears to have been the contemporary of Naram-Sin, and in that case he must have followed Lugal-ushumgal. As to Ur-E and Lugal-bur, we have no information beyond the fact that they lived during the period of the kings of Akkad. A further group of tablets found at Tello, differentiated in type from those of the Dynasty of Akkad on the one hand, and on the other from tablets of the Dynasty of Ur, furnishes us with the names of other patesis to be set in the period before the rise of Ur-Engur. Three of these, Basha-mama, Ur-mama, and Ug-me, were probably anterior to Ur-Bau, who has left us ample proof of his building activity at Lagash. We possess a tablet dated in the accession year of Ur-mama, and another dated during the patesiate of Ug-me, in the year of the installation of the high priest in Nina. A sealing of this last patesi's reign has also been found, which supports the attribution of this group of tablets to the period between the Sargonic era and that of Ur. The subject of the engraving upon the seal is the adoration of a deity, a scene of very common occurrence during the later period; but by its style and treatment the work vividly recalls that of the epoch of Shargon and Naram-Sin. On the strength of this evidence it has been argued that Ug-me's period was not far from that of Lugal-ushumgal, Ur-E, and Lugal-bur.

Ur-Bau, one of the most enlightened patesis of Lagash City, may be placed shortly after Sharkalisharri, for he still employed the same huge brick-moulds of the size adopted by Naram-Sin. He built or rebuilt a great temple of Ningirsu on the terrace north of Girsu at Lagash. It was adorned with most remarkable statues of the two great patesis, Ur-Bau and Gudea. A diorite statue of Ur-Bau has been recovered. The figure is now decapitated, the body is abnormally squat and heavy, and in execution distinctly inferior to those of Gudea. The patesi is represented standing with hands clasped in liturgical pose, wearing the long shawl draped gracefully from the left shoulder. An inscription on it commemorates his construction of the temple E-ninni. In Girsu he built a temple to the mother-goddess Ninkharsag of Kesh, one to the water-god, Enki of Eridu; one to Geshtin-anna, a title of the old virgin mother-goddess Innini of Erech, and one to Tammuz, her son and consort. In the neighboring city, Uru-kug, 'Holy City', he built a temple to Bau, goddess of healing and consort of Nin-girsu. In the temple-mound the excavator, De Sarzec, recovered a bronze figurine of a god attached to a pillar in kneeling position with hands firmly placed at the top of the post as though in the act of planting the pointed end firmly in the ground. It is a new type of the old copper figurines of pre-Sargonic times, a post with the body of a female deity with a stone tablet on her head. It was enclosed in a clay vessel with the customary stone tablet on which was inscribed the record of Ur-Bau's pious works for the gods. This curious talisman represents the god of the city himself protecting the boundaries of his land, and reminds us of the Roman deity Terminus.

Ur-Bau had more than local and contemporary fame, for in the times of Sainsu-iluna (twenty-first century) a street at Erech was named after him. His are the first inscriptions which mention Ninagal, a variant of Ninegal, a form of Ereshkigal, goddess of the lower world; and he claims to have been her son. His two sons-in-law became patesis after him; they lived in a period when there was no strong central government, for they use their own year-dates, which would not have been permitted under the great kings of Agade. Nammakhni, who had married his daughter, Ningandu, seems to have been an important ruler. He was grandson of Ka-Azag, the patesi who probably preceded Ur-Bau. His mother, Ninkagina, dedicated a statuette of herself to the goddess Bau for the life of her son and patesi. The wife of Urgar, a patesi, and another son-in-law of Ur-Bau, likewise dedicated a statuette of herself for the life of her husband. Nammakhni's monuments are many; they include a fine large circular dish of veined onyx dedicated to Ningirsu by his wife; a marble mace dedicated to a god, Dunshaggana, and another dedicated to Urizi, god of the harem. Although Nammakhni was one of the immediate successors of Ur-Bau he no longer made use of the huge cubit moulds (17 inches square) of the Agade period which had been adopted by Ur-Bau. The size introduced by him is a little more than a foot square, the mould subsequently employed by Gudea, and by the great builders of the last dynasty of Ur. From this we may infer that Ur-Bau lived shortly after Shargalisharri and that Gudea belongs to a period not far removed from Ur-Bau. This in itself shows the impossibility of inserting a long period between the dynasty Ur-Engur and the kingdom of Akkad.

One of the documents of this period is dated during the patesiate of Ur-Bau himself, in the year in which he undertook certain extensive works of irrigation, while others are dated in the year of Ur-gar's accession, and in that which followed the accession of Nammakhni. From other evidence we know that Nammakhni was Ur-Bau's son-in-law, since he espoused Ningandu, Ur- Bau's daughter, and secured through her his title to the throne. Ur-gar, too, must belong to the generation following Ur-Bau, since a female statue has been found at Tello, which was dedicated to some deity by a daughter of Ur-Bau on behalf of her own life and that of Ur-gar, the patesi. Tablets are also dated in the accession-years of Ka-azag, Galu-Bau, and Galu-Gula, and their contents furnish indications that they date from about the same time. Ur-Ninsun, whose name and title occur on the fragment of a bowl very similar to that employed by Nammakhni's wife, is not mentioned on the tablets, but several are dated in the reigns of Gudea and of his son Ur-Ningirsu. Now, in the reign of Dungi, the son of Ur-Engur, there lived a high priest of the goddess Nina named Ur-Ningirsu; and, if we may identify this priestly official with the patesi of that name, as is very probable, we obtain a definite point of contact between the later history of Lagash and that of Ur. But even if the synchronism between Ur-Ningirsu and Dungi be regarded as non-proven, there is no doubt that no long interval separated Gudea's reign from the Dynasty of Ur. The character of the art and the style of writing which we find in Lagash at this time are so similar to those of Ur, that the one period must have followed the other without a break. A striking example of the resemblance which existed in the artistic productions of the two cities at this time is afforded by the votive copper cones, or nails, of Gudea and Dungi, surmounted by the figures of a bull couchant. A glance will show the slight changes in the form and treatment of the subject which have been introduced by the metal-workers of Dungi's reign.

From the brief summary given in the preceding paragraphs it will have been noted that we have recovered the names of some twelve patesis of Lagash, who may be assigned to the period between the dynasties of Akkad and Ur. Of these twelve names no less than eleven occur upon a group of tablets, which were found together at Tello, and are marked out by their shape and contents as belonging to a single period. The tablets themselves are of unbaked clay, and they form a transition between the types of Akkad and Ur. In the last of the reigns mentioned it is probable that we may trace a synchronism with the Dynasty of Ur, and, although no actual point of contact can yet be established with the Dynasty of Akkad, such evidence as that furnished by Ug-me's sealing suggests that no considerable lapse of time can have taken place. That these twelve patesis were the only ones who ruled at Lagash during this interval is improbable, and at any time the names of other rulers may be recovered. But it is certain the reigns of many of these patesis were extremely brief, and that we have not to do with a single dynasty, firmly established throughout the whole period, whose separate members, after their accession, each held the throne for the term of his natural life. We have definite proof that several of the patesis, such as Ka-azag, Galu-Bau, and Galu-Gula, ruled only for a few years, and it would seem that at certain points during this period a change of rulers took place in Lagash with considerable frequency.

The employment of the title of patesi, and the total absence of that of "king" at this time, suggests that Lagash had not succeeded in establishing her independence, and still owed allegiance to some alien dynasty. It is in accordance with this view that the dates inscribed upon the commercial tablets do not refer to events of a military character. We may conclude that, at any rate until the reign of Gudea, Lagash and her rulers were not concerned to enforce their authority over other cities, nor to defend their own border from attack. The existence of a more powerful city, claiming the hegemony in Babylonia, would account for the absence of military enterprise reflected in the date-formulae and in the foundation-records of the time. For such a city, while guaranteeing the integrity of each of her tributary states, would have resented the inauguration of an ambitious policy by any one of them. On the other hand, the purely local character of the events commemorated in the date-formulae is no less significant. These are without exception drawn from the local history of Lagash, and betray no evidence of the authority exercised by a foreign suzerain. It is therefore probable that during the greater part of this period Lagash enjoyed a considerable measure of autonomy, and that such bonds as may have united her to any central administration were far less tightly drawn than at the time of Shargon and Naram-Sin. Like Lagash, her old rival Umma seems to have survived as a patesiate under the later Semitic rulers in the north, and it is probably to this time that we may assign Galu-Babbar, the patesi of that city, three of whose votive cones are preserved in the British Museum. During the earlier part of this period Lagash presents the picture of a compact and peaceful state, content to develop her own resources. A considerable increase of power is noticeable in the reign of Gudea, the most famous ruler of the period, who, though still retaining the title of patesi, must be regarded as practically an independent sovereign, since he was strong enough to undertake a successful campaign in Elam, and imported his building materials from Arabia and the Syrian coast.

With the exception of Gudea, the only ruler of this period who has left us any considerable records or remains is Ur-Bau, the predecessor of Nammakhni and Ur-gar upon the throne of Lagash. We possess a small diorite statue of this ruler, which, like most of those found at Tello, is without its head. It is a standing figure, and its squat and conventional proportions suffice to show that it must date from a rather earlier period than the larger and finer statues of Gudea, which are fashioned from the same hard material. Gudea definitely states that he fetched the diorite for his series of large statues from Magan, but Ur-Bau makes no such boast; and, although it is clear that his stone must have come from the same quarries, we may probably conclude that the small block he employed for his figure had not been procured as the result of a special expedition. In fact, such records as he has left us portray him as devoting all his energies to the building of temples within the different quarters of his city.

His chief care appears to have been the rebuilding, upon a new and enlarged site, of E-ninnu, the great temple of Ningirsu at Lagash, in which he placed the statue of himself that has been recovered. Little of this temple now remains in the mounds of Tello, beyond a wall the lower part of which was found still standing under the south-east corner of the later palace erected in the second century BC. In addition to the rebuilding of the temple of the city-god, Ur-Bau records that he erected three temples in Girsu in honour of the goddesses Ninkharsag and Geshtin-anna, and of Enki, "the king of Eridu". In Uru-azagga he built a temple for the goddess Bau, and in Uru, another quarter of the city, he constructed a shrine in honour of Ninni, or Nin-azag-nun, the goddess Ishtar. Other deities honoured in a similar way by Ur-Bau were Nindar, Ninmar, and Ninagal, the last of whom stood in the mystical relation of mother to the patesi. Attached to E-ninnu he also built a "House of the Asses" in honor of Esignun, the deity whose duty it was to tend the sacred asses of Ningirsu.

Ur-Bau may probably be regarded as representative of the earlier patesis of this epoch, who, while acting with freedom and independence within the limits of their own state, refrained from embarking on any policy of conquest or expansion. With the accession of Gudea a distinct change is noticeable in the circumstances of Lagash. Like his predecessors, he devoted himself to the building of temples, but his work was undertaken on a wider and more sumptuous scale. Of all the kings and patesis of Lagash, he is the one under whom the city appears to have attained its greatest material prosperity, which found its expression in a lavish architectural display. Although not much of his great temple of E-ninnu still survives at Tello, his monuments are more numerous than all the others that have been recovered on that site. Moreover, the texts engraved upon his statues, and inscribed upon the great clay cylinders which he buried as foundation-records in the structure of E-ninnu, are composed in a florid style and form a striking contrast to the dry votive formulae employed by the majority of his predecessors. The cylinder-inscriptions especially are cast in the form of a picturesque narrative, adorned with striking similes and a wealth of detailed description such as are not found in the texts of any other period. In fact, Gudea's records appear to have been inspired by the novelty and magnitude of his architectural constructions and the variety of sacred ornament with which they were enriched.