The Sumerian King List

Sumerian King List

The Sumerian King List is an ancient manuscript originally recorded in the Sumerian language, listing kings of Sumer (ancient southern Iraq) from Sumerian and neighboring dynasties, their supposed reign lengths, and the locations of “official” kingship. Kingship was believed to have been handed down by the gods, and could be transferred from one city to another, reflecting perceived hegemony in the region. Throughout its Bronze Age existence, the document evolved into a political tool. Its final and single attested version, dating to the Middle Bronze Age, aimed to legitimize Isin’s claims to hegemony when Isin was vying for dominance with Larsa and other neighboring city-states in southern Mesopotamia.

Kingslist_001

The Weld-Blundell Prism – The Sumerian kings list artifact, displaying all four sides.


Composition

The list blends prehistorical, presumably mythical predynastic rulers enjoying implausibly lengthy reigns with later, more plausibly historical dynasties. Although the primal kings are historically unattested, this does not preclude their possible correspondence with historical rulers who were later mythicized. Some Assyriologists view the predynastic kings as a later fictional addition. Only one ruler listed is known to be female: Kug-Bau “the (female) tavern-keeper”, who alone accounts for the Third Dynasty of Kish. The earliest listed ruler whose historicity has been archaeologically verified is Enmebaragesi of Kish, ca. 2600 BC. Reference to him and his successor, Aga of Kish in the Epic of Gilgamesh has led to speculation that Gilgamesh himself may have been a historical king of Uruk. Three dynasties are absent from the list: the Larsa dynasty, which vied for power with the (included) Isin dynasty during the Isin-Larsa period; and the two dynasties of Lagash, which respectively preceded and ensued the Akkadian Empire, when Lagash exercised considerable influence in the region. Lagash in particular is known directly from archaeological artifacts dating from ca. 2500 BC. The list is important to the chronology of the 3rd millennium BC. However, the fact that many of the dynasties listed reigned simultaneously from varying localities makes it difficult to reproduce a strict linear chronology.

Sources

The following extant ancient sources contain the Sumerian King List, or fragments:

The last two sources (WB) are a part of the “Weld-Blundell collection”, donated by Herbert Weld Blundell to the Ashmolean Museum. WB 62 is a small clay tablet, inscribed only on the obverse, unearthed from Larsa. It is the oldest dated source (c. 2000 BC) containing the list. WB 444 in contrast is a unique inscribed vertical prism, dated c. 1817 BC, although some scholars prefer c. 1827 BC. The Kish Tablet or Scheil dynastic tablet is an early 2nd millennium BC tablet which came into possession of Jean-Vincent Scheil; it only contains king list entries for four Sumerian cities. UCBC 9-1819 is a clay tablet housed in the collection of the Museum of Anthropology at the University of California. The tablet was inscribed during the reign of the Babylonian King Samsu-iluna, or slightly earlier, with a minimum date of 1712 BC. The Dynastic Chronicle (ABC 18) is a Babylonian king list written on
six columns, beginning with entries for the antideluvian Sumerian
rulers. K 11261+ is one of the copies of this chronicle, consisting of three joined Neo-Assyrian fragments discovered at the Library of Ashurbanipal. K 12054 is another of the Neo-Assyrian fragments from Uruk (c. 640 BC) but contains a variant form of the antediluvians on the list. The later Babylonian and Assyrian king lists, preserved the earliest portions of the list well into the 3rd century BC, when Berossus’ Babyloniaca popularized fragments of the list in the Hellenic world. In 1960, the Apkullu-list (Tablet No. W.20030, 7) or “Uruk List of Kings and Sages” (ULKS) was discovered by German archaeologists at an ancient temple at Uruk. The list, dating to c. 165 BC, contains a series of kings, equivalent to the Sumerian antediluvians called “Apkullu”.

The list

Early dates are approximate, and are based on available
archaeological data; for most pre-Akkadian rulers listed, this king list
is itself the lone source of information. Beginning with Lugal-zage-si and the Third Dynasty of Uruk (which was defeated by Sargon of Akkad), a better understanding of how subsequent rulers fit into the chronology of the ancient Near East can be deduced. The short chronology is used here.

Antediluvian rulers

None of the following predynastic “antediluvian” rulers has been verified as historical via archaeological excavations, epigraphical inscriptions, or otherwise. It is possible that they correspond to the Early Bronze Age Jemdet Nasr period culture which ended approximately 2900 BC, immediately preceding the dynastys, if they were not purely mythological inventions.

The antediluvian reigns were measured in Sumerian numerical units known as sars (units of 3600), ners (units of 600), and sosses (units of 60).

Ruler Epithet Length of reign
Approx. dates
Comments
“After the kingship descended from heaven, the kingship was in Eridug. In Eridug, Alulim became king; he ruled for 28800 years.”
Alulim 8 sars (28,800 years)
Between 35th and 30th c. BC
Alalngar 10 sars (36,000 years)
“Then Eridug fell and the kingship was taken to Bad-tibira.”
En-men-lu-ana 12 sars (43,200 years)
En-men-gal-ana 8 sars (28,800 years)
Dumuzid, the Shepherd “the shepherd” 10 sars (36,000 years)
“Then Bad-tibira fell and the kingship was taken to Larag.”
En-sipad-zid-ana 8 sars (28,800 years)
“Then Larag fell and the kingship was taken to Zimbir.”
En-men-dur-ana 5 sars and 5 ners (21,000 years)
“Then Zimbir fell and the kingship was taken to Shuruppag.”
Ubara-Tutu 5 sars and 1 ner (18,600 years)

“Then the flood swept over.”

Excavations in Iraq have revealed evidence of localized flooding at Shuruppak (modern Tell Fara, Iraq) and various other Sumerian cities. A layer of riverine sediments, radiocarbon dated to ca. 2900 BC, interrupts the continuity of settlement, extending as far north as the city of Kish. Polychrome pottery from the Jemdet Nasr period (3000-2900 BC) was discovered immediately below the Shuruppak flood stratum.

First Dynasty of Kish

Early Bronze Age II
Early Dynastic I and II periods

Ruler Epithet Length of reign
Approx. dates
Comments
“After the flood had swept over, and the kingship had descended from heaven, the kingship was in Kish.”
Jushur 1200 years
historicity uncertain
names before Etana do not appear in any other known source, and their existence is archaeologically unverified
Kullassina-bel 960 years
Nangishlishma 670 years
En-tarah-ana 420 years
Babum 300 years
Puannum 840 years
Kalibum 960 years
Kalumum 840 years
Zuqaqip 900 years
Atab (or A-ba) 600 years
Mashda “the son of Atab” 840 years
Arwium “the son of Mashda” 720 years
Etana “the shepherd, who ascended to heaven and consolidated all the foreign countries” 1500 years
Balih “the son of Etana” 400 years
En-me-nuna 660 years
Melem-Kish “the son of En-me-nuna” 900 years
Barsal-nuna (“the son of En-me-nuna”)* 1200 years
Zamug “the son of Barsal-nuna” 140 years
Tizqar “the son of Zamug” 305 years
Ilku 900 years
Iltasadum 1200 years
En-me-barage-si “who made the land of Elam submit” 900 years
ca. 2600 BC
the earliest ruler on the List confirmed independently from epigraphical evidence
Aga of Kish “the son of En-me-barage-si” 625 years
ca. 2600 BC
contemporary with Gilgamesh of Uruk, according to the Epic of Gilgamesh
“Then Kish was defeated and the kingship was taken to E-ana.”

First Dynasty of Uruk

Ruler Epithet Length of reign
Approx. dates
Comments
Mesh-ki-ang-gasher of E-ana “the son of Utu” 324 years
ca. 27th
“Mesh-ki-ang-gasher entered the sea and disappeared.”
Enmerkar “the son of Mesh-ki-ang-gasher, the king of Unug, who built Unug (Uruk)” 420 years
Lugalbanda “the shepherd” 1200 years
Dumuzid (Dumuzi) “the fisherman whose city was Kuara.” (“He captured En-me-barage-si single-handed.”)* 100 years
ca. 2600 BC
Gilgamesh “whose father was a phantom (?), the lord of Kulaba” 126 years
ca. 2600 BC
contemporary with Aga of Kish, according to the Epic of Gilgamesh
Ur-Nungal “the son of Gilgamesh” 30 years
Udul-kalama “the son of Ur-Nungal” 15 years
La-ba’shum 9 years
En-nun-tarah-ana 8 years
Mesh-he “the smith” 36 years
Melem-ana 6 years
Lugal-kitun 36 years
“Then Unug was defeated and the kingship was taken to Urim (Ur).”

First Dynasty of Ur

Early Bronze Age III
Early Dynastic IIIa period

Ruler Epithet Length of reign
Approx. dates
Comments
Mesh-Ane-pada 80 years
ca. 26th century BC
Mesh-ki-ang-Nuna “the son of Mesh-Ane-pada” 36 years
Elulu 25 years
Balulu 36 years
“Then Urim was defeated and the kingship was taken to Awan.”

Dynasty of Awan

Ruler Epithet Length of reign
Approx. dates
Comments
Three kings of Awan 356 years
ca. 26th century BC
“Then Awan was defeated and the kingship was taken to Kish.”

Second Dynasty of Kish

Ruler Epithet Length of reign
Approx. dates
Comments
Susuda “the fuller” 201 years
ca. 26th century BC
Dadasig 81 years
Mamagal “the boatman” 360 years
Kalbum “the son of Mamagal” 195 years
Tuge 360 years
Men-nuna “the son of Tuge” 180 years
(Enbi-Ishtar) 290 years
Lugalngu 360 years
“Then Kish was defeated and the kingship was taken to Hamazi.”

The First Dynasty of Lagash (ca. 2500 – ca. 2271 BC) is not mentioned in the King List, though it is well known from inscriptions.

Dynasty of Hamazi

Early Dynastic IIIb period (ca. 2500 – ca. 2271 BC)

Ruler Epithet Length of reign
Approx. dates
Comments
Hadanish 360 years
ca. 2500 BC
“Then Hamazi was defeated and the kingship was taken to Unug (Uruk).”

Second Dynasty of Uruk

Ruler Epithet Length of reign
Approx. dates
Comments
En-shag-kush-ana 60 years
ca. 25th century BC
said to have conquered parts of Sumer; then Eannatum of Lagash claims to have taken over Sumer, Kish, and all Mesopotamia.
Lugal-kinishe-dudu or Lugal-ure 120 years contemporary with Entemena of Lagash
Argandea 7 years
“Then Unug was defeated and the kingship was taken to Urim (Ur).”

Second Dynasty of Ur

Ruler Epithet Length of reign
Approx. dates
Comments
Nanni 120 years
ca. 25th century BC
Mesh-ki-ang-Nanna II “the son of Nanni” 48 years
(?) 2 years
“Then Urim was defeated and the kingship was taken to Adab.”

Dynasty of Adab

Ruler Epithet Length of reign
Approx. dates
Comments
Lugal-Ane-mundu 90 years
ca. 25th century BC
said to have conquered all Mesopotamia from the Persian Gulf to the Zagros Mountains and Elam
“Then Adab was defeated and the kingship was taken to Mari.”

Dynasty of Mari

Ruler Epithet Length of reign
Approx. dates
Comments
Anbu 30 years
ca. 25th century BC
Anba “the son of Anbu” 17 years
Bazi “the leatherworker” 30 years
Zizi of Mari “the fuller” 20 years
Limer “the ‘gudug’ priest” 30 years
Sharrum-iter 9 years
“Then Mari was defeated and the kingship was taken to Kish.”

Third Dynasty of Kish

Ruler Epithet Length of reign
Approx. dates
Comments
Kug-Bau (Kubaba) “the woman tavern-keeper, who made firm the foundations of Kish” 100 years
ca. 25th century BC
the only known woman in the King List; said to have gained independence from En-anna-tum I of Lagash and En-shag-kush-ana of Uruk; contemporary with Puzur-Nirah of Akshak, according to the later Chronicle of the É-sagila
“Then Kish was defeated and the kingship was taken to Akshak.”

Dynasty of Akshak

Ruler Epithet Length of reign
Approx. dates
Comments
Unzi 30 years
ca. 25th – 24th century BC
Undalulu 6 years
Urur 6 years
Puzur-Nirah 20 years contemporary with Kug-Bau of Kish, according to the later Chronicle of É-sagila
Ishu-Il 24 years
Shu-Suen of Akshak “the son of Ishu-Il” 7 years
“Then Akshak was defeated and the kingship was taken to Kish.”

Fourth Dynasty of Kish

Ruler Epithet Length of reign
Approx. dates
Comments
Puzur-Suen “the son of Kug-Bau 25 years
ca. 24th – 23rd century BC
Ur-Zababa “the son of Puzur-Suen” 400 (6?) years
ca. 2300 BC
according to the king list, Sargon of Akkad was his cup-bearer
Zimudar 30 years
Usi-watar “the son of Zimudar” 7 years
Eshtar-muti 11 years
Ishme-Shamash 11 years
(Shu-ilishu)* (15 years)*
Nanniya “the jeweller” 7 years
ca. 2303-2296 BC (short)
“Then Kish was defeated and the kingship was taken to Unug (Uruk).”

Third Dynasty of Uruk

Ruler Epithet Length of reign
Approx. dates
Comments
Lugal-zage-si 25 years
ca. 2296-2271 BC (short)
said to have defeated Urukagina of Lagash, as well as Kish and other Sumerian cities, creating a unified kingdom; he in turn was overthrown by Sargon of Akkad
“Then Unug was defeated and the kingship was taken to Agade (Akkad)”

Dynasty of Akkad

Akkadian Empire

Ruler Epithet Length of reign
Approx. dates
Comments
Sargon of Akkad “whose father was a gardener, the cupbearer of Ur-Zababa, became king, the king of Agade, who built Agade” 40 years
ca. 2270-2215 BC (short)
defeated Lugal-zage-si of Uruk, took over Sumer, and began the Akkadian Empire
Rimush of Akkad “the son of Sargon” 9 years
ca. 2214-2206 BC (short)
Man-ishtishu “the older brother of Rimush, the son of Sargon” 15 years
ca. 2205-2191 BC (short)
Naram-Sin of Akkad “the son of Man-ishtishu” 56 years
ca. 2190-2154 BC (short)
Shar-kali-sharri “the son of Naram-Sin” 25 years
ca. 2153-2129 BC (short)
“Then who was king? Who was not the king?”
“and the 4 of them ruled for only 3 years” 3 years
ca. 2128-2125 BC (short)
Dudu of Akkad 21 years
ca. 2125-2104 BC (short)
Shu-Durul “the son of Dudu” 15 years
ca. 2104-2083 BC (short)
Akkad falls to the Gutians
“Then Agade was defeated and the kingship was taken to Unug (Uruk).”

Fourth Dynasty of Uruk

(Possibly rulers of lower Mesopotamia contemporary with the Dynasty of Akkad)

Ruler Epithet Length of reign
Approx. dates
Comments
Ur-ningin 7 years
ca. 2091? – 2061? BC (short)
Ur-gigir “the son of Ur-ningin” 6 years
Kuda 6 years
Puzur-ili 5 years
Ur-Utu (or Lugal-melem) (“the son of Ur-gigir”)* 25 years
“Unug was defeated and the kingship was taken to the army of Gutium.”

The 2nd Dynasty of Lagash (before ca. 2093-2046 BC (short)) is not mentioned in the King List, though it is well known from inscriptions.

Gutian rule

Early Bronze Age IV
Gutian period

Ruler Epithet Length of reign
Approx. dates
Comments
“In the army of Gutium, at first no king was famous; they were their own kings and ruled thus for 3 years.”
Inkishush 6 years
ca. 2147-2050 BC (short)
Zarlagab 6 years
Shulme (or Yarlagash) 6 years
Silulumesh (or Silulu) 6 years
Inimabakesh (or Duga) 5 years
Igeshaush (or Ilu-An) 6 years
Yarlagab 3 years
Ibate of Gutium 3 years
Yarla (or Yarlangab) 3 years
Kurum 1 year
Apilkin 3 years
La-erabum 2 years mace head inscription
Irarum 2 years
Ibranum 1 year
Hablum 2 years
Puzur-Suen “the son of Hablum” 7 years
Yarlaganda 7 years foundation inscription at Umma
(?) 7 years Si-um or Si-u? – foundation inscription at Umma
Tirigan 40 days defeated by Utu-hengal of Uruk
“Then the army of Gutium was defeated and the kingship taken to Unug (Uruk).”

Fifth Dynasty of Uruk

Ruler Epithet Length of reign
Approx. dates
Comments
Utu-hengal conflicting dates (427 years / 26 years / 7 years)
ca. 2055-2048 BC (short)
defeats Tirigan and the Gutians, appoints Ur-Namma governor of Ur
“Then Unug was defeated and the kingship was taken to Urim (Ur).”

Third Dynasty of Ur

Ur III period
Sumerian Renaissance
(ca. 2047 – 1940 BC (short))

Ruler Epithet Length of reign
Approx. dates
Comments
Ur-Namma (Ur-Nammu) 18 years
ca. 2047-2030 BC (short)
defeats Nammahani of Lagash; contemporary of Utu-hengal of Uruk
Shulgi “the son of Ur-Namma” 46 years
ca. 2029-1982 BC (short)
possible lunar/solar eclipse 2005 BC
Amar-Suena “the son of Shulgi” 9 years
ca. 1981-1973 BC (short)
Shu-Suen “the son of Amar-Suena” 9 years
ca. 1972-1964 BC (short)
Ibbi-Suen “the son of Shu-Suen” 24 years
ca. 1963-1940 BC (short)
“Then Urim was defeated. The very foundation of Sumer was torn out. The kingship was taken to Isin.”

Independent Amorite states in lower Mesopotamia.

The Dynasty of Larsa (ca. 1961-1674 BC (short)) from this period is not mentioned in the King List.

Dynasty of Isin

Middle Bronze Age I
IsinLarsa period

Ruler Epithet Length of reign
Approx. dates
Comments
Ishbi-Erra 33 years
ca. 1953-1730 BC (short)
contemporary of Ibbi-Suen of Ur
Shu-Ilishu “the son of Ishbi-Erra” 20 years
Iddin-Dagan “the son of Shu-ilishu” 20 years
Ishme-Dagan “the son of Iddin-Dagan” 20 years
Lipit-Eshtar “the son of Ishme-Dagan (or Iddin-Dagan)” 11 years contemporary of Gungunum of Larsa
Ur-Ninurta (“the son of Ishkur, may he have years of abundance, a good reign, and a sweet life”)* 28 years Contemporary of Abisare of Larsa
Bur-Suen “the son of Ur-Ninurta” 21 years
Lipit-Enlil “the son of Bur-Suen” 5 years
Erra-imitti 8 years He appointed his gardener, Enlil-Bani, substitute king and then suddenly died.
Enlil-bani 24 years contemporary of Sumu-la-El of Babylon. He was Erra-imitti’s gardener and was appointed substitute king, to serve as a scapegoat and then sacrificed, but remained on the throne when Erra.imitti suddenly died.
Zambiya 3 years contemporary of Sin-Iqisham of Larsa
Iter-pisha 4 years
Ur-du-kuga 4 years
Suen-magir 11 years
(Damiq-ilishu)* (“the son of Suen-magir”)* (23 years)*

* These epithets or names are not included in all versions of the king list.

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