Abandon your fear. Look forward.
- Aug 3, 2022
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- My Inner World
The last in the line of antediluvian city-states, Bad-tibira, much like Umma, didn’t hold a lot of political power independently. According to legend, Bad-tibira was the second city to have kings, right after Eridu. Three rulers are mentioned here, the most notable one being Dumuzi the Shepherd, later deified. None of these rulers are known to recorded history, however. What is known from scant archeological data is that, at some point, Aman-Sin of the Third Dynasty of Ur held power in the city, and that the later rulers of Isin and Larsa respectively claimed dominion over it. Bad-tibira had two principal deities, the aforementioned Dumuzi and the goddess Inanna, and their temple was called E-Mush. Rulers who held power over Bad-tibira would be styled as Lugal E-Mush locally. It is likely that the practice of “marrying” Inanna came from Bad-tibira based on all of this.
Isin existed for as long as most post-flood cities but never rose to prominence until the fall of the Third Dynasty of Ur and the effective end of the Sumerian empire. Its first and most prominent ruler, Ishbi-Era, relocated the capital from Ur to Isin, then defeated the last ruler of Ur, Ibbi-Sin, whom he previously served. The city flourished under the so-called First Dynasty of Isin, capturing most major cities such as Ur, Nippur, and Uruk. However, due to infighting and powerful attacks from neighboring Larsa, Isin was slowly declining, until it ultimately succumbed to Rim-Sin I. The patron goddess of Isin seems to have been Bau, the consort of Ninurta. However, the kings of Isin largely continued the traditions that included the worship of other gods, like Inanna.
While not as considerable as the city-states listed above, the remaining Sumerian settlements were nonetheless active and played vital roles in ancient history. Godin Tepe, for instance, is archeologically the second city to be permanently settled after Eridu, and its position might indicate that it was a significant trading center for early Mesopotamians. Adab had its fair share of outside rulers, both Sumerian and Akkadian, and various artifacts were excavated at the site of this ancient city, including a male bust supposedly of its most well-known king Lugal-Anne-Mundu. Unlike Abad, whose sole king is the only one known to us via the Sumerian Kings’ List, Akshak boasted six kings before ultimately falling to Kish. Borsippa, while minor compared to its larger counterparts, evidently played a vital role among Sumerians, having been built on both sides of a lake southwest of Babylon and boasting a large ziggurat that probably served as the inspiration for the Tower of Babel. Der is a city whose archeological site is, unfortunately, in such a bad shape that there’s no practical point in excavating it, but it seems to have been frequently mentioned in early Sumerian and later Akkadian and Babylonian documents, primarily in how it was destroyed or sacked. A smaller city, Kisurra served as a center of commerce and trade from Early Dynastic period all the way to Early Babylonian domain of Sumer, showing steady decline at the time of Hammurabi. Kuara, on the other hand, was essential in establishing a few cultural and religious elements that would come to dominate Sumerian and other, later cultures.
The legendary third king of Uruk, Dumuzi the Fisherman, was supposedly born here, as was Marduk, the son of Enki, whose cult was initiated here and was widespread. The city’s patron deity, on the other hand, was Nergal. Little is known of its written history, though, apart from a few details regarding its occupation. Marad, in a similar vein to Kuara, is best known for its religious background and its occupation by other states. It boasted a ziggurat, Eigikalama, that was Early Dynastic period all the way to Early Babylonian domain of Sumer, showing steady decline at the time of Hammurabi. Kuara, on the other hand, was essential in establishing a few cultural and religious elements that would come to dominate Sumerian and other, later cultures. The legendary third king of Uruk, Dumuzi the Fisherman, was supposedly born here, as was Marduk, the son of Enki, whose cult was initiated here and was widespread. The city’s patron deity, on the other hand, was Nergal. Little is known of its written history, though, apart from a few details regarding its occupation. Marad, in a similar vein to Kuara, is best known for its religious background and its occupation by other states. It boasted a ziggurat, Eigikalama, that was dedicated both to the god Ninurta and the local deity Lugalmarada (his name literally meaning “king of Marad”), erected by one of Naram-Sin’s progeny.
Nagar, later known as Tell Brak, was best known for expanding from a minor settlement into one of the biggest cities in the ancient world. Though not originally Sumerian, Nagar did have a brief period of Sumerian, or rather non-Semitic, rulers. Its dominion was passed from empire to empire throughout its long existence during Ancient times. As mentioned before, Sippar, like Larsa, was a place that worshiped the sun god, either Sumerian or Akkadian, and it had a temple with the same name dedicated to him as the one in Larsa. Despite numerous documents uncovered in Sippar, not much is really known about this city. Similarly, not much is known of Zabala, a city located in the Dhi Qar governorate of Iraq. Throughout what little is known of Zabala’s history, it has been under direct control by other major cities (Lagash, Ur, Larsa) or other major cultures, such as the Akkadians. They worshiped Inanna, with her temple later built by Hammurabi in the city.
The remaining cities, like Dilbat, Harbidum, and Eshnunna, are rather small and do not play central roles in Sumerian society at large, though it’s noteworthy to point out that Eshnunna was at the very edge of the Sumerian empire but nonetheless maintained a heavily Sumerian-influenced culture. Larak is a city that apparently played a major role in Sumerian life, but not much is really known of it to say what that role was. The city known as Kesh has not been located yet, as some archeologists deem it only to be an alternative way of saying or spelling Kish, and the site near Abu Salabikh has so few records that not even its name is known to us. Nevertheless, each one of these cities had their temples, houses, areas, and canals, and based on what information we do have on them, they were still a part of Sumerian everyday life.