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Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 67

The curtain rises, as has been indicated, after civilization had been well advanced. To begin with, our interests abide with Akkad, and during a period dated approximately between 3000 B.C. and 2800 B.C., when Egypt was already a united kingdom, and the Cretans were at the dawn of the first early Minoan period, and beginning to use bronze. In Kish Sumerian and Akkadian elements had apparently blended, and the city was the centre of a powerful and independent government. After years have fluttered past dimly, and with them the shadow-shapes of vigorous rulers, it is found that Kish came under the sway of the pronouncedly Semitic city of Opis, which was situated "farthest north" and on the western bank of the river Tigris. A century elapsed ere Kish again threw off the oppressor's yoke and renewed the strength of its youth.

The city of Kish was one of the many ancient centres of goddess worship. The Great Mother appears to have been the Sumerian Bau, whose chief seat was at Lagash. If tradition is to be relied upon, Kish owed its existence to that notable lady, Queen Azag-Bau. Although floating legends gathered round her memory as they have often gathered round the memories of famous men, like Sargon of Akkad, Alexander the Great, and Theodoric the Goth, who became Emperor of Rome, it is probable that the queen was a prominent historical personage. She was reputed to have been of humble origin, and to have first achieved popularity and influence as the keeper of a wine shop. Although no reference survives to indicate that she was believed to be of miraculous birth, the Chronicle of Kish gravely credits her with a prolonged and apparently prosperous reign of a hundred years. Her son, who succeeded her, sat on the throne for a quarter of a century. These calculations are certainly remarkable. If the Queen Azag-Bau founded Kish when she was only twenty, and gave birth to the future ruler in her fiftieth year, he must have been an elderly gentleman of seventy when he began to reign. When it is found, further, that the dynasty in which mother and son flourished was supposed to have lasted for 586 years, divided between eight rulers, one of whom reigned for only three years, two for six, and two for eleven, it becomes evident that the historian of Kish cannot be absolutely relied upon in detail. It seems evident that the memory of this lady of forceful character, who flourished about thirteen hundred years before the rise of Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt, has overshadowed the doubtful annals of ancient Kish at a period when Sumerian and Semite were striving in the various states to achieve political ascendancy.

Meanwhile the purely Sumerian city of Lagash had similarly grown powerful and aggressive. For a time it acknowledged the suzerainty of Kish, but ultimately it threw off the oppressor's yoke and asserted its independence. The cumulative efforts of a succession of energetic rulers elevated Lagash to the position of a metropolis in Ancient Babylonia.


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