Who has not been fascinated since childhood by the tale – or legend – of Excalibur, the magical sword of King Arthur which was imbedded in a rock and could be pulled out only by the one chosen for kingship?
In her column (Fate, April 2004) Phyllis Galde reported a tale from Tuscany in Italy about “The Sword in the Stone” in the abbey of Montesiepi; traditions hold that it was plunged into the rock by the knight Galgano Guidotti in the 12th century. If true, she wrote, this would precede by decades the events attributed to King Arthur and would mean that “the Celtic myth of King Arthur and his sword Excalibur has origins in Italy.”
The fascinating tale, culled from Discovery News, brings to mind a much, much older tale, and neither from England nor Italy, but from ancient Mesopotamia. There the Sumerians, whose incredible civilization blossomed out some 6,000 years ago, recorded their history and prehistory on clay tablets. It was there that the institution of kingship had its beginnings, and the Sumerians attributed it to the Anunnaki (“Those who from Heaven to Earth came”), who were revered as gods.
The Anunnaki, led by the great god Anu and his son Enlil, “lowered Kingship from Heaven,” and not only granted mankind the concept and institution but also chose the king and the city that was to serve as the land’s royal capital. The first such royal city was one called Kish. To mark its divinity-granted status, Anu and Enlil established there a “Pavilion of Heaven” and in its foundation soil, “for all days to come,” implanted the SHU.HA.DA.KU— an artifact made of metal alloys whose Sumerian name can be literally translated “Supreme Strong Bright Weapon.” This divine object was moved to the next chosen capital and its king only when the great gods so decreed.
The Gardener King
In my book The Wars of Gods and Men, I reported a tale found on a tablet cataloged (in the British Museum) as Ashur-13955. It relates to the choosing— not by the great gods but by the ambitious young goddess Inanna (later known as Ishtar)— of a gardener who was her lover to become the next king. This unorthodox act was compounded by his decision to move the capital of Sumer to a brand new place (to be called Agade). In order to legitimize Agade as the new royal capital, however, the divine object had to be moved; but Sargon could not extract the Shuhadaku from its sacred soil; so he moved it together with the soil in which it was imbedded!
That deed, however, did not sit well with the other gods. In punishment, Sargon was afflicted with a “restlessness” (some take it to mean insomnia) which led to his death; and the city he built, Agade, was obliterated, cursed, never to be found. And indeed, while the remains of all other Sumerian cities have been located and at times unearthed, Agade has never been located.
The Shuhadaku was not a sword, but some kind of divine weapon. Yet its tale does precede that of Excalibur, the imbedded weapon of kingship, by thousands of years. As kingship itself, mankind’s memories, which many prefer to call legends or myths, begin in Sumer.
— Zecharia Sitchin, November 2004
FATE Magazine, in its November 2004 issue, devoted a two-page spread to a short article by Zecharia Sitchin. Original article as it appeared;