ANCIENT HISTORY
 

A HISTORY OF SUMER AND AKKAD

an account of the early races of Babylonia from prehistoric times to the foundation of the babylonian monarchy
BY
LEONARD W. KING

 

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Introduction into the Inscriptions discovered by Mons. E. De Sarzec

Part of a dissertation presented to the Philosophical Faculty, University of Leipzig to obtain the degree in Doctor of Philosophy by Ira Maurice Prize

 

CHAPTER I

INTRODUCTORY: THE LANDS OF SUMER AND AKKAD

Early Sumerian Pictographic Tablet


CHAPTER II

THE SITES OF EARLY CITIES AND THE RACIAL CHARACTER OF THEIR INHABITANTS

CHAPTER III

THE AGE AND PRINCIPAL ACHIEVEMENTS OP SUMERIAN CIVILIZATION

Sumerians record pictograph representing words on clay tablets


CHAPTER IV

THE EARLIEST SETTLEMENTS IN SUMER; THE DAWN OF HISTORY AND THE RISE OF LAGASH


 

CHAPTER V

WARS OF THE CITY-STATES; EANNATUM AND THE STELE OF THE VULTURES


CHAPTER VI

THE CLOSE OF UR-NINA'S DYNASTY, THE REFORMS OF URUKAGINA, AND THE FALL OF LAGASH

A statue of Ebih II, priest of Ishtar, the goddess of war. From around 2400 BC.

 

CHAPTER VII

EARLY RULERS OF SUMER AND KINGS OF KISH

Great Lyre sound box, c. 2600-2500 BCE

 

CHAPTER VIII

THE EMPIRE OF AKKAD AND ITS RELATION TO KISH


A cylinder-seal impression of two Gods, one with a left hand in the shape of a scorpion and the other plowing behind a dragon and a lion. The impression was made by a seal found at Tell Asmar in Iraq.

 

CHAPTER IX

THE LATER RULERS OF LAGASH

The god Annunaki

CHAPTER X

THE DYNASTY OF UR AND THE KINGDOM OF SUMER AND AKKAD


CHAPTER XI

THE EARLIER RULERS OF ELAM, THE DYNASTY OF ISIN, AND THE RISE OF BABYLON

Standing male worshipper, 2750–2600 BC

 

 

CHAPTER XII

THE CULTURAL INFLUENCE OF SUMER IN EGYPT, ASIA AND THE WEST

 

PREFACE

 

THE excavations carried out in Babylonia and Assyria during the last few years have added immensely to our knowledge of the early history of those countries, and have revolutionized many of the ideas current with regard to the age and character of Babylonian civilization. In the present volume, which deals with the history of Sumer and Akkad, an attempt is made to present this new material in a connected form, and to furnish the reader with the results obtained by recent discovery and research, so far as they affect the earliest historical periods. An account is here given of the dawn of civilization in Mesopotamia, and of the early city-states which were formed from time to time in the lands of Sumer and Akkad, the two great divisions into which Babylonia was at that period divided. The primitive sculpture and other archaeological remains, discovered upon early Babylonian sites, enable us to form a fairly complete picture of the races which in those remote ages inhabited the country. By their help it is possible to realize how the primitive conditions of life were gradually modified, and how from rude beginnings there was developed the comparatively advanced civilization, which was inherited by the later Babylonians and Assyrians and exerted a remarkable influence upon other races of the ancient world.

In the course of this history points are noted at which early contact with other lands took place, and it has been found possible in the historic period to trace the paths by which Sumerian culture was carried beyond the limits of Babylonia. Even in prehistoric times it is probable that the great trade routes of the later epoch were already open to traffic, and cultural connections may well have taken place at a time when political contact cannot be historically proved. This fact must be borne in mind in any treatment of the early relations of Babylonia with Egypt. As a result of recent excavation and research it has been found necessary to modify the view that Egyptian culture in its earlier stages was strongly influenced by that of Babylonia. But certain parallels are too striking to be the result of coincidence, and, although the southern Sumerian sites have yielded traces of no prehistoric culture as early as that of the Neolithic and predynastic Egyptians, yet the Egyptian evidence suggests that some contact may have taken place between the prehistoric peoples of North Africa and Western Asia.

Far closer were the ties which connected Sumer with Elam, the great centre of civilization which lay upon her eastern border, and recent excavations in Persia have disclosed the extent to which each civilization was of independent development. It was only after the Semitic conquest that Sumerian culture had a marked effect on that of Elam, and Semitic influence persisted in the country even under Sumerian domination. It was also through the Semitic inhabitants of northern Babylonia that cultural elements from both Sumer and Elam passed beyond the Taurus, and, after being assimilated by the Hittites, reached the western and south-western coasts of Asia Minor. An attempt has therefore been made to estimate, in the light of recent discoveries, the manner in which Babylonian culture affected the early civilizations of Egypt, Asia, and the West. Whether through direct or indirect channels, the cultural influence of Sumer and Akkad was felt in varying degrees throughout an area extending from Elam to the Aegean.

In view of the after effects of this early civilization, it is of importance to determine the region of the world from which the Sumerian race reached the Euphrates. Until recently it was only possible to form a theory on the subject from evidence furnished by the Sumerians themselves. But explorations in Turkestan, the results of which have now been fully published, enable us to conclude with some confidence that the original home of the Sumerian race is to be sought beyond the mountains to the east of the Babylonian plain. The excavations conducted at Anau near Askhabad by the second Pumpelly Expedition have revealed traces of prehistoric cultures in that region, which present some striking parallels to other early cultures west of the Iranian plateau. Moreover, the physiographical evidence collected by the first Pumpelly Expedition affords an adequate explanation of the racial unrest in Central Asia, which probably gave rise to the Sumerian immigration and to other subsequent migrations from the East.

It has long been suspected that a marked change in natural conditions must have taken place during historic times throughout considerable areas in Central Asia. The present comparatively arid condition of Mongolia, for example, is in striking contrast to what it must have been in the era preceding the Mongolian invasion of Western Asia in the thirteenth century, and travellers who have followed the route of Alexander's army, on its return from India through Afghanistan and Persia, have noted the difference in the character of the country at the present day. Evidence of a similar change in natural conditions has now been collected in Russian Turkestan, and the process is also illustrated as a result of the explorations conducted by Dr. Stein, on behalf of the Indian Government, on the borders of the Taklamakan Desert and in the oases of Khotan. It is clear that all these districts, at different periods, were far better watered and more densely populated than they are today, and that changes in climatic conditions have reacted on the character of the country in such a way as to cause racial migrations. Moreover, there are indications that the general trend to aridity has not been uniform, and that cycles of greater aridity have been followed by periods when the country was capable of supporting a considerable population. These recent observations have an important bearing on the Sumerian problem, and they have therefore been treated in some detail in Appendix I.

The physical effects of such climatic changes would naturally be more marked in mid-continental regions than in districts nearer the coast, and the immigration of Semitic nomads into Syria and Northern Babylonia may possibly have been caused by similar periods of aridity in Central Arabia. However this may be, it is certain that the early Semites reached the Euphrates by way of the Syrian coast, and founded their first Babylonian settlements in Akkad. It is still undecided whether they or the Sumerians were in earliest occupation of Babylonia. The racial character of the Sumerian gods can best be explained on the supposition that the earliest cult-centres in the country were Semitic; but the absence of Semitic idiom from the earliest Sumerian inscriptions is equally valid evidence against the theory. The point will probably not be settled until excavations have been undertaken at such North Babylonian sites as El-Ohemir and Tell Ibrahim.

That the Sumerians played the more important part in originating and moulding Babylonian culture is certain. In government, law, literature and art the Semites merely borrowed from their Sumerian teachers, and, although in some respects they improved upon their models, in each case the original impulse came from the Sumerian race. Hammurabi's Code of Laws, for example, which had so marked an influence on the Mosaic legislation, is now proved to have been of Sumerian origin; and recent research has shown that the later religious and mythological literature of Babylonia and Assyria, by which that of the Hebrews was also so strongly affected, was largely derived from Sumerian sources.

The early history of Sumer and Akkad is dominated by the racial conflict between Semites and Sumerians, in the course of which the latter were gradually worsted. The foundation of the Babylonian monarchy marks the close of the political career of the Sumerians as a race, although, as we have seen, their cultural achievements long survived them in the later civilizations of Western Asia. The designs upon the cover of this volume may be taken as symbolizing the dual character of the early population of the country. The panel on the face of the cover represents two Semitic heroes, or mythological beings, watering the humped oxen or buffaloes of the Babylonian plain, and is taken from the seal of Ibni-Sharru, a scribe in the service of the early Akkadian king Shar-Gani-sharri. The panel on the back of the binding is from the Stele of the Vultures and portrays the army of Eannatum trampling on the dead bodies of its foes. The shaven faces of the Sumerian warriors are in striking contrast to the heavily bearded Semitic type upon the seal.

A word should, perhaps, be said on two further subjects—the early chronology and the rendering of Sumerian proper names. The general effect of recent research has been to reduce the very early dates, which were formerly in vogue. But there is a distinct danger of the reaction going too far, and it is necessary to mark clearly the points at which evidence gives place to conjecture. It must be admitted that all dates anterior to the foundation of the Babylonian monarchy are necessarily approximate, and while we are without definite points of contact between the earlier and later chronology of Babylonia, it is advisable, as far as possible, to think in periods. In the Chronological Table of early kings and rulers, which is printed as Appendix II, a scheme of chronology has been attempted; and the grounds upon which it is based are summarized in the third chapter, in which the age of the Sumerian civilization is discussed.

The transliteration of many of the Sumerian proper names is also provisional. This is largely due to the polyphonous character of the Sumerian signs; but there is also no doubt that the Sumerians themselves frequently employed an ideographic system of expression. The ancient name of the city, the site of which is marked by the mounds of Tello, is an instance in point. The name is written in Sumerian as Shirpurla, with the addition of the determinative for place, and it was formerly assumed that the name was pronounced as Shirpurla by the Sumerians. But there is little doubt that, though written in that way, it was actually pronounced as Lagash, even in the Sumerian period. Similarly the name of its near neighbour and ancient rival, now marked by the mounds of Jokha, was until recently rendered as it is written, Gishkhu or Gishukh; but we now know from a bilingual list that the name was actually pronounced as Umma.

The reader will readily understand that in the case of less famous cities, whose names have not yet been found in the later syllabaries and billingual texts, the phonetic readings may eventually have to be discarded. When the renderings adopted are definitely provisional, a note has been added to that effect.

I take this opportunity of thanking Dr. E. A. Wallis Budge for permission to publish photographs of objects illustrating the early history of Sumer and Akkad, which are preserved in the British Museum. My thanks are also due to Monsieur Ernest Leroux, of Paris, for kindly allowing me to make use of illustrations from works published by him, which have a bearing on the excavations at Tello and the development of Sumerian art; to Mr. Raphael Pumpelly and the Carnegie Institution of Washington, for permission to reproduce illustrations from the official records of the second Pumpelly Expedition; and to the editor of Nature for kindly allowing me to have cliches made from blocks originally prepared for an article on "Transcaspian Archaeology", which I contributed to that journal. With my colleague, Mr. H. R. Hall, I have discussed more than one of the problems connected with the early relations of Egypt and Babylonia; and Monsieur F. Thureau-Dangin, Conservateur-adjoint of the Museums of the Louvre, has readily furnished me with information concerning doubtful readings upon historical monuments, both in the Louvre itself, and in the Imperial Ottoman Museum during his recent visit to Constantinople. I should add that the plans and drawings in the volume are the work of Mr. P. C. Carr, who has spared no pains in his attempt to reproduce with accuracy the character of the originals.

L. W. KING