RISE OF THE CITY-STATES:
Sumerians actually called themselves "ùg sag gígga" (black-headed people). Hebrews called
southern Mesopotamia: "Shinar." In late 4th
millennium BC, numerous city-states in Sumer thrived.
Each city centered around a temple and its patron god or goddess. Either a king (lugal) or a high priest
(ensi) governed the city-state. The five cities that practiced pre-dynastic kingship were:
Sippar. Other major city-states included:
EARLY DYNASTIC PERIOD: Gilgamesh (circa 2500 BC) was the 5th legendary king who
built the walls of Uruk. A massive flood destroyed cities throughout ancient Sumer (similar to the story
of Noah and his ark).
Kish was another major city that vied with Uruk for dominance. King
En-me-barage-si (circa 1600 BC) reportedly built the first temple to Enlil
in Nippur and defeated the forces of Elam. King
Mesilim of Kish (circa 2500 BC) built temples at Adab
and Lagash, according to recovered archaeological documents.
Sumer troops and their bulky, four-wheeled
chariots dominated the battlefields.
The first historically recorded king of Ur was Meskalamdug ("hero of the good land").
Mesh-Ane-pada ("youngling chosen by An"), was the first king
on a list for the dynasty of Ur (circa 25th century BC). He overthrew king Lugal-kitun of
Uruk and conquered Kish.
DYNASTY OF URUK: Uruk was a key city-state and had
a population of 50,000-80,000 circa 2900 BC. Originally Uruk was formed as two
Ubaid towns merged. It lost prominence
circa 2000 BC, during a struggle between Babylonia
and Elam. People eventually abandoned the city during an Islamic conquest of the
Sassanid Empire between 633 and 654 AD.
DYNASTY OF LAGASH:
In the 25th century BC, king En-hegal of Lagash paid tribute to Uruk. Circa 2500 BC, king
Ur-Nanshe became independent, defeated Ur in battle,
and captured King Pabilgaltuk of Umma. His city also received tribute from
Dilmun. His grandson, Eannatum,
expanded the kingdom by taking Kish, most of Sumer, and exacted tribute from Mari.
THIRD DYNASTY OF UR:
At the end of the 3rd millennium BC, Ur formed a highly centralized bureaucratic government. It was a
wealthy trade center in the early Bronze Age and the most important
port city on the
Persian Gulf. Its independence ended upon
conquest by Sargon the Great of
Akkad. In 1254 BC,
Gutians from the
Zagros Mountains destroyed the Akkadian
King Ur-Nammu (2047-2030 BC) founded the Third Dynasty of Ur.
He built the famous Ziggurat of Ur
and improved irrigation systems. The Code of Ur-Nammu
preceded that of Hammurabi by 300 years.
Shulgi was the greatest king of the dynasty. He reformed the
government into a highly efficient bureaucracy and ruled at least 42 years. Ur likely reached a population
of 65,000 during his rule. Ur also controlled the old city of Eridu.
Between 2200 and 2000 BC, drought conditions eventually reduced Ur's population by 93% and nomads
twice sacked the city. The Sumerian language also died out during this period.