UNIVERSAL BIOGRAPHY LIBRARY

 

 
 


SHAR-KALI-SHARRI

(2217-2193 BC)

 

 

THE LAST KINGS OF AGADE AND THE GUTIAN SUPREMACY

 

There remained in the memory of later ages a confused tradition that the reign of Naram-Sin ended in eclipse. Most explicitly, a late chronicle declares that the god Marduk twice raised up against him the horde of Gutians, who harried his people and received his kingdom as the god's gift. A less definite story, which has been noticed above, tells of the descent upon Sumer and Akkad of a foreign enemy called by the name given to various barbarous peoples, Umman Manda, which appears to have begun its career from the north-west, for the course of its devastation is a great sweep from its first victim the city of Purushkhandar(?), seemingly the town in Asia Minor to which Sargon made his epic march, and continuing south-eastwards until it swept over Gutium itself, over Elam, and did not end before it had overrun also the lands beyond the Persian Gulf, Tilmun, Magan, and Meluhha. Nothing indicates whether the invasion herein related took place at the outset rather than at the end of his reign. As for the chronicle, its ascription to Naram-Sin of the disaster ultimately inflicted by the Gutians is in conformity with a theory of its compiler, that all the great figures of the past had successively been unregardful of the cult of Marduk and therefore rejected by that supreme god. This, no doubt, if the text were better preserved, would be a prelude to the establishment of the only true kingdom, temple, and cult at Babylon itself.

But if Naram-Sin ended his life with a realm not much impaired, there were already signs of decay, and ample presages of the troubles which were to burst upon his son. Elam under Kutik-In-Shushinak was growing independent and almost defiant, and the wild men of the Zagros were poised to swoop upon the wealthy land which they saw protected only by a weakening arm. The old king died at length after a reign of thirty-seven years, and left this menacing situation to his son Shar-kali-sharri. Whether he was the eldest is not known, but another son of Naram-Sin bore the significant name of Bin-kali-sharri, the two brothers thus standing in a relation which among the old Sumerian dynasts would have marked a king and his son destined to reign after him. But Shar-kali-sharri was to have no successor, at least not from the old family of Sargon. No more than for the other kings of Agade is there an internal chronology of his reign, but beyond doubt his troubles began early. For almost the first time in this dynasty we have the advantage of several year-names or dating formulae referring to warlike achievements. Naturally these happenings are reported under the colour of victories, but the list of enemies, short as it is, gives eloquent testimony of the precarious hold which he kept upon his nearer dominions, and of the loss of his more distant provinces.

First in the list are Elam and Zakhara, the latter a small border state which had joined in the resistance to Rimush; these allies now had the temerity to launch an invasion of Babylonia itself, where they attacked the ancient city of Akshak. Here they were met and (as he claims) defeated by Shar-kali-sharri; at least they retired to their own countries, where Kutik-In-Shushinak was so far from discredited that he proclaimed himself 'mighty king of Awan' and possessor of the 'four regions', in the very style assumed hitherto by the Agadean overlords. From this eastern battlefield Shar-kali-sharri was called away far to the north-west to face another foe. A second year-date proclaims that 'he overcame the Amorite in Basar'. A new wave of Semitic invaders, like that which had borne in the Akkadians themselves, was in motion towards the wealthy cities of the south, and the possessor was hemmed in between two converging attacks. In this posture the fate of Shar-kali-sharri was closely similar to that of Ibbi-Sin in the next age of Babylonian history, forced to turn desperately from one flank to the other, holding off with failing blows the pressure which was at length to crush in his kingdom.

This battle to ward off the Amorite invasion took place at Basar, which has been probably identified with the range of hills still called Jebel el-Bishrl. These hills which extend towards the right bank of the Euphrates below Raqqah were sometimes passed by Assyrian armies on the march in later ages; they are about 350 miles from Shar-kali-sharri's other battlefield at Akshak—so wide a space had the hard-pressed king to defend.

But whatever calls there were upon him in the west it was from the other side that danger came, as the year-dates imperfectly reveal. One of these records vaguely that 'a campaign was launched against Gutium', while another claims a brilliant success—'he made prisoner Sharlak, king of Gutium'. Again we are reminded of Ibbi-Sin who claimed, no doubt with truth, successes, even triumphs, against his enemies both west and east. But in both cases it was a battle being slowly lost. Shar-kali-sharri is recorded to have reigned twenty-five years, Ibbi-Sin about the same, and in neither case do we know how the collapse finally came. But the resemblance ends here for whereas the Dynasty of Ur disappeared, that of Agade, although it passed through a short period of convulsion with four ephemeral occupants of the throne, survived into a new lease when two kings followed each other regularly with normal lengths of rule. Very little more, however, is heard about the great dynasty of Agade, and there can be no doubt that it was practically overthrown by the mountaineers, and that their main attack ended or followed directly upon the reign of Shar-kali-sharri.

The confusion is reflected in a contemporary letter from a man who was striving to rehabilitate his farm after the devastation, and in a striking poetical account, written in Sumerian, which purports to describe the glories and the downfall of Agade. In the pride of dominion and wealth Naram-Sin (for to his reign is the disaster assigned in this account) had committed a sacrilegious assault upon the holy city of Nippur and its temple, leaving everything in ruins. No reason is given for this outrage, but its effect was to enrage not only the supreme god Enlil, who visited Sumer with foreign invasion of the Gutians and with famine, but other gods as well, who cursed the guilty city of Agade and vowed its desolation and the ruin of all its inhabitants. This doom was dramatically fulfilled, and life came almost to an end in the tyrant's capital. To mark this catastrophe even the king-list halts for a moment its jog-trot of names and numbers to ask rhetorically 'who was king, who was not king?' before it names four shadowfigures who claimed the throne within three years. This phrase itself came to denote the occasion, for an item in the collection of the haruspices marked the occurrence of a certain sign as 'the omen of "who was king, who was not king?" and went on to observe that this fateful occasion was marked also by the prodigy of an ox eating the flesh of an ox at the moment when the king himself was offering the sacrifice which was to read him the decree of fate.

Indeed, the downfall of this monarchy provided many memories for those who could trace significant incidents accompanying the march of events, for there is a collection formed by a later student of 'forty-seven strange signs which went to (announce) the fall of Akkad', and another omen inscribed upon a model of the sheep's liver shows in actual representation what it was that portended the ruin of Agade. Still one more omen is worth quoting for an apparent hint of the fatal event when the Gutians overthrew the kingdom; such and such marks1 were 'the omen of Shar-kali-sharri. . .ruin of Akkad; the enemy will fall upon thy peace'. It might seem from this that the vigilance of the kingdom was deceived by a sudden and overwhelming rush of the wild tribes. As for the doomed king himself, another omen declares that he met the same mysterious death as Rimush, by the 'seals' of his servants.

Of the four factionary kings who could not maintain themselves even against one another hardly anything is known, as would be expected, although there has survived a short inscription perhaps belonging to Elulu, one of them. These were followed by two who ended the dynasty with reigns of considerable length, probably when the first force of the Gutian invasion was spent, for a few inscriptions reveal that the rule of the last king, named Shu-Durul, was of some importance and extended to Eshnunna.

It is not possible to discover how this partial supremacy fitted into the general but undoubtedly loose sovereignty of the Gutians. These are allowed in the list twenty or twenty-one kings and a total of 125 years of supremacy. At the time of the invasion either they had not a king at all, as one version runs, that is, they were typical barbarians, or their king was one whose name was not preserved, a reading which has better authority, though less point. The Gutian kings have left, in any case, very little mark upon Babylonian history, and very few monuments of their feeble and sporadic rule. Their names, outlandish at first, show a tendency towards the end to take on a Babylonian colour, for no doubt the superior culture of the plains gradually permeated the rude tribesmen.

A few monuments, dedications inscribed with their names, attest the decent observance of these alien rulers towards the impressive cults which they were ill able to comprehend. But for the most part they were doubtless mere destroyers and harpies of the wealth of the country. Their passage over Assyria from which we have no written evidence (as indeed there is hardly any from anywhere in this time of decadence) is marked by the condition of the ruins at the city of Ashur, where upon the site of the great and flourishing temple of Ishtar, which had been filled with works of art until the end of the Agadean dynasty, there was found nothing in the succeeding level except the remains of hovels covering the sacred site; if these were not the huts of the mountaineers themselves, they had reduced the remnant of the inhabitants to this miserable pass. Nothing was recalled concerning this period, ever afterwards held in humiliating memory by the Babylonians, except its end, a glorious deliverance hailed no less fervently and followed by no less vigorous a reaction, than the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt.

Although the king-list, in its usual schematic manner, would have the Gutians to reign on unrivalled until their overthrow, there is much to suggest that their ascendancy, always partial and impermanent, had shrunk before their banishment to a sporadic domination, for it is evident that other dynasties, both in the king-list and omitted from it, were ruling other parts of the land before the Gutians finally decamped. The dynasty of Agade itself, after a period of convulsion, rallied with the advent of two kings, who maintained themselves in some state for reigns of normal length. After Agade the list arranges, not yet the Gutians, but a group of five obscure kings, almost unknown otherwise, who ruled for thirty years as the Fourth Dynasty of Uruk, and were doubtless contemporary with some of the Gutians, perhaps with the last kings of Agade. It happens too that Lagash is again pre-eminent in the revival of Sumerian traditions after the long Akkadian rule and the barbarian interlude, just as the same city had been in the Early Dynastic period, without in either age gaining admission to the list of sovereigns.

In the latter years of Naram-Sin and the earlier of Shar-kali-sharri a certain Lugalushumgal was ensi of the city, and there were several others very little known, who lived like him as vassals of Agade. But after the fall of Shar-kali-sharri, the style and dating of the business documents alter, for the years are named not with the official formulae prescribed from Agade but after religious celebrations by the local rulers.

The emergence of Lagash to a period of high prosperity is marked by the reign of Ur-Baba, who attained enough independence and wealth to undertake rebuilding of temples and irrigation works about his city, and to patronize a remarkable school of sculptors in hard stone, who were to produce, in the next two generations, the most finished masterpieces of Babylonian statuary. The small inscribed statue of himself, in dolerite, and now lacking its head, gives promise but not as yet fulfilment, for it is squat and lifeless. Unlike his successor Gudea this governor makes no boast of having sent abroad for the stone to make his statues, but he was not a merely local magnate, for a daughter of his was priestess of the Moon-god at Ur and dedicated an inscribed vase there. Herein again is shown that close connexion between Lagash and Ur which had existed in the Early Dynastic period since the time of Ur-Nanshe. Another daughter was wife to a subsequent ruler named Ur-gar, but a better-known member of his family was Nammakhni, another son-in-law, who was also the grandson of one Kaku, but neither the count of generations nor the style of a tablet, which names the accession year of Kaku, suggests that he can have been the king of the Second Dynasty of Ur, defeated by Rimush.

Nammakhni did some building in Lagash, and a few other monuments bear his name, but like certain others his reign is best known from its end, for he was the victim of another conqueror Ur-Nammu, founder of the Third Dynasty of Ur, who boasts of this victory in the prologue to his laws. The synchronism, interesting in itself, gives rise to a difficult historical problem, for if Nammakhni was a predecessor of Gudea, as supposed, it would be necessary to regard Gudea himself as ruling during the time and under the sway of Ur-Nammu and the sovereignty of Ur; but the degree of independence which the inscriptions of Gudea display, the complete absence from these of the slightest allusion to Ur and to any overlord, and their actual presence at Ur itself make such a dependence hardly conceivable. Yet there seems to be no room for his reign, apparently of some length, in the years between Ur-Baba and the rise of Ur-Nammu.

In the balance of contemporary power Gudea was doubtless no more than one of the local princes who were strong enough to sustain themselves in their own cities and palaces but not to meddle much with their neighbours. He maintained the connexion Ur-Baba had with Ur, and he informs us, in one of his long inscriptions, that he sent a military expedition against the districts of Anshan and Elam, smote them and dedicated their spoils to his god Ningirsu. The great event of his reign was the rebuilding of this god's house, called E-ninnu. With this enterprise all of his inscriptions are connected either as foundation deposits and bricks or as objects (statues, vases, mace-heads) to furnish the interior. From the inscriptions so liberally spread over these we learn many interesting details of religious observance in his time, and obtain an unrivalled picture of the life of gods and men in the Sumerian cities, where these two orders of beings lived in such perpetual contact and with such parallel institutions that the universal service owed to the principal god seemed to put all other creatures on the same level, and to make it almost indistinguishable whether the servant, from the steward to the ass-herd, was god or man. Upon the construction of E-ninnu Gudea expended all his wealth and influence, and one of his most interesting passages, in describing these efforts, gives a remarkable picture of the resources of his day and of the external conditions in the land. Only once did the temple receive a foreign booty, but an immense area was laid under contribution for fine building materials—timbers of various kinds both from the east and from the west, ornamental stones from different parts of Syria, gold dust from Armenia, and bitumen from the neighbourhood of Kirkuk. No doubt all of these materials were obtained by caravan trade, and since this passes, even under the most oppressive governments, subject to the payment of tolls, it would not be necessary to suppose that Gudea's far-brought conveyance implied the removal of central authority—in this case of the Gutians. But his independent warlike foray against Elam would not have been tolerated by an effective overlord, and it seems to have been the case that the last king of the Gutians had brought about a cessation of traffic, for a striking phrase in the inscription which relates his overthrow says 'he had made long grass to grow upon the highways of the land'. Moreover, Gudea himself represents his freedom to trade as a benefit granted by the god himself, who 'opened the road from the upper sea unto the lower'. There is reason then to believe that part of Gudea's reign fell in the period after the final defeat of the Gutians.

The glory of this otherwise petty kingdom is the artistic triumphs with which some happy circumstances endowed it. Among the ruins of Lagash have been found, at various times in the last seventy years, the famous statues of Gudea and of his son Ur-Ningirsu which represent to us the highest achievements of Sumerian sculpture. They are, indeed, of different merit, some having an unpleasing squat proportion which gives them a grotesque effect, accentuated by the formal posture of the hands, and the accidental loss of the heads. These heads, when preserved, have finely marked features, and they gain greatly, in modern estimation, by having the eyes carved, and not inlaid with other materials, a practice which gave to so many Sumerian figures a repulsive, staring look; though it is beyond doubt that the eyes of the Gudea figures also were originally painted, and may well have looked just as crude as the inlay. In the best examples the robe too, and the bare shoulder and arm are most delicately modelled. These masterpieces arouse regret for the disappearance of much more which Gudea tells us he made for the furnishings of Ningirsu's temple. But in this information he has left us another kind of masterpiece, for his inscriptions, despite their uniformity of purport, give the Sumerian language in its most developed form, divorced alike from primitive awkwardness and from late artificiality; they are, in fact, the Sumerian classic, just as the Code of Hammurabi is the Akkadian. Literary ability was native at Lagash, for it seems no accident that the same city should have produced the best descriptive (if it cannot be called historical) writing both in the Early Dynastic age and at the end of the Gutian oppression.

 

THE EXPULSION OF THE GUTIANS

That oppression, as suggested above, came to a decisive end probably in the lifetime of Gudea himself, by the act of a national hero. This was Utu-khegal, king of Uruk, who in the king-list represents alone the Fifth Dynasty of that city, and, in accordance with its usual scheme, is proclaimed sovereign of the land in virtue of his victory over the Gutians. Apart from a few inscriptions of his own, from his place in the king-list, and from some ominous recollections of his rival's fate, Utukhegal appears in two other documents. One is a late chronicle, which knew the one memorable fact about him, but quite subordinates this to a pietistic anecdote about his being a fisherman who was impiously stopped by the Gutians from offering his catch to the god Marduk, and in his turn offended the same deity and was drowned. The other is of quite unusual interest, for it is a copy of the hero's own account of his victory, which may have been carved originally upon a sculptured monument. Its language is strong and vivid. Without any preamble it plunges into a denunciation of 'Gutium, the stinging serpent of the hills, who was the enemy of the gods, who had carried off the kingship of Sumer to the mountains and filled Sumer with evil', robbing wives and children and committing all wickedness in the land. The god Enlil, it continues, resolved to 'destroy its name' and for his instrument chose Utukhegal, king of Uruk. The story moves swiftly—the king prayed to his city-goddess Inanna, exposing the oppression of the Gutians, and the goddess 'chose' him by a divine sign.

Marching out of Uruk with its citizensoldiers he harangued them at a place called ' Temple of Ishkur'; assured of support by two great and two minor gods he purposed to destroy Gutium. The levies of Uruk and Kullab answered with a shout and pressed behind him. On the fourth day's march he reached a canal, on the fifth a place called 'Shrine of Ili-tabba', where he met two 'lieutenants' (with good Babylonian names) sent by the king of Gutium perhaps to demand his surrender. The sixth day's march brought him to Ennigi where he besought the aid of the Weather God to whom that place belonged. Here the battle was joined, the enemy host being commanded by the two lieutenants under the king Tirigan himself, who had but newly come to the throne, for the king-list gives him a reign of only forty days. The issue was a Sumerian triumph; Tirigan' fled away alone', and sought to take refuge in a town called Dubrum, which, however, hearing the result of the battle, rejected the fugitive, and handed him over prisoner with his wife and son to the victor, who 'set his foot upon his neck, and restored the kingship of Sumer into its own hand'. This famous victory, like so many other historical incidents, was remembered in the diviners' books—the presence of six small vessels upon the liver was an 'omen of the king Tirigan who fled in the midst of his host'.

Still more menacing was an eclipse of the moon with certain attendant phenomena on the fourteenth of the month of Tammuz: 'a decision will be given to the king of the Gutians, there will be a downfall of the Gutians in battle, the land will be left naked'.

The omen has more than a superstitious interest, for the day of the eclipse and its attendant circumstances offer to modern chronologers a possibility of fixing the date of this battle and the end of the Gutian dynasty. It may be added that another omen seems to corroborate the story that Utukhegal's life ended by drowning, while he supervised the building of a river-dam. The last words of his inscription are pregnant with a sense of what this victory meant. Once again, it was not the mere supplanting of one city by another, when both were dimly conscious of an underlying unity.

Two centuries of subjection, first to the alien Akkadians and then, worse still, to the execrable Gutians, had kindled the national sentiment into a flame. At the beginning of each reign the revolt had been fiercer, the repression more severe. When deliverance came at last it released a flood of Sumerian patriotism and a burst of energy which, however, had to constrain itself within narrower bounds than Sargon had set. As to the sentiment it is a probable opinion that the king-list itself, with its fundamental ideas of the nationality and unity of a common kingship, was a product of the days of Utukhegal, when the past and present experiences of the people might seem most apt to have engendered that faith. As to the energy, this was expressed in the foreign victories and the domestic state which were to be achieved by the Third Dynasty of Ur.

 

Ur-Bau or Ur-baba (2164-2144 BC).