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Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 69

The inscription on this plaque, which is pierced in the centre so as to be nailed to a sacred shrine, refers to the temples erected by Ur-Nina, including those of Nina and Nin-Girsu.

After Ur-Nina's prosperous reign came to a close, his son Akurgal ascended the throne. He had trouble with Umma, a powerful city, which lay to the north-west of Lagash, between the Shatt-el-Kai and Shatt-el-Hai canals. An army of raiders invaded his territory and had to be driven back.

The next king, whose name was Eannatum, had Napoleonic characteristics. He was a military genius with great ambitions, and was successful in establishing by conquest a small but brilliant empire. Like his grandfather, he strengthened the fortifications of Lagash; then he engaged in a series of successful campaigns. Umma had been causing anxiety in Lagash, but Eannatum stormed and captured that rival city, appropriated one of its fertile plains, and imposed an annual tribute to be paid in kind. An army of Elamites swept down from the hills, but Ur-Nina's grandson inflicted upon these bold foreigners a crushing defeat and pursued them over the frontier. Several cities were afterwards forced to come under the sway of triumphant Lagash, including Erech and Ur, and as his suzerainty was already acknowledged at Eridu, Eannatum's power in Sumeria became as supreme as it was firmly established.

Evidently Zuzu, king of the northern city of Opis, considered that the occasion was opportune to overcome the powerful Sumerian conqueror, and at the same time establish Semitic rule over the subdued and war-wasted cities. He marched south with a large army, but the tireless and ever-watchful Eannatum hastened to the fray, scattered the forces of Opis, and captured the foolhardy Zuzu.

Eannatum's activities, however, were not confined to battlefields. At Lagash he carried out great improvements in the interests of agriculture; he constructed a large reservoir and developed the canal system. He also extended and repaired existing temples in his native city and at Erech. Being a patron of the arts, he encouraged sculpture work, and the finest Sumerian examples belong to his reign.

Eannatum was succeeded by his brother, Enannatum I. Apparently the new monarch did not share the military qualities of his royal predecessor, for there were signs of unrest in the loose confederacy of states. Indeed, Umma revolted. From that city an army marched forth and took forcible possession of the plain which Eannatum had appropriated, removing and breaking the landmarks, and otherwise challenging the supremacy of the sovran state. A Lagash force defeated the men of Umma, but appears to have done little more than hold in check their aggressive tendencies.

No sooner had Entemena, the next king, ascended the throne than the flame of revolt burst forth again. The Patesi of Umma was evidently determined to free, once and for all, his native state from the yoke of Lagash. But he had gravely miscalculated the strength of the vigorous young ruler. Entemena inflicted upon the rebels a crushing defeat, and following up his success, entered the walled city and captured and slew the patesi. Then he took steps to stamp out the embers of revolt in Umma by appointing as its governor one of his own officials, named Ili, who was duly installed with great ceremony. Other military successes followed, including the sacking of Opis and Kish, which assured the supremacy of Lagash for many years. Entemena, with characteristic vigour, engaged himself during periods of peace in strengthening his city fortifications and in continuing the work of improving and developing the irrigation system. He lived in the golden age of Sumerian art, and to his reign belongs the exquisite silver vase of Lagash, which was taken from the Tello mound, and is now in the Louvre. This votive offering was placed by the king in the temple of Nin-Girsu. It is exquisitely shaped, and has a base of copper. The symbolic decorations include the lion-headed eagle, which was probably a form of the spring god of war and fertility, the lion, beloved by the Mother goddess, and deer and ibexes, which recall the mountain herds of Astarte. In the dedicatory inscription the king is referred to as a patesi, and the fact that the name of the high priest, Dudu, is given may be taken as an indication of the growing power of an aggressive priesthood. After a brilliant reign of twenty-nine years the king died, and was succeeded by his son, Enannatum II, who was the last ruler of Ur-Nina's line. An obscure period ensued. Apparently there had been a city revolt, which may have given the enemies of Lagash the desired opportunity to gather strength for the coming conflict. There is a reference to an Elamite raid which, although repulsed, may be regarded as proof of disturbed political conditions.


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