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Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 70

One or two priests sat on the throne of Lagash in brief succession, and then arose to power the famous Urukagina, the first reformer in history. He began to rule as patesi, but afterwards styled himself king. What appears certain is that he was the leader of a great social upheaval, which received the support of a section of the priesthood, for he recorded that his elevation was due to the intercession of the god Nin-Girsu. Other deities, who were sons and daughters of Nin-Girsu and Nina, had been given recognition by his predecessors, and it is possible that the orthodox section of Lagash, and especially the agricultural classes, supported the new ruler in sweeping away innovations to which they were hostile.

Like Khufu and his descendants, the Pyramid kings of Egypt's fourth dynasty, the vigorous and efficient monarchs of the Ur-Nina dynasty of Lagash were apparently remembered and execrated as tyrants and oppressors of the people. To maintain many endowed temples and a standing army the traders and agriculturists had been heavily taxed. Each successive monarch who undertook public works on a large scale for the purpose of extending and developing the area under cultivation, appears to have done so mainly to increase the revenue of the exchequer, so as to conserve the strength of the city and secure its pre-eminence as a metropolis. A leisured class had come into existence, with the result that culture was fostered and civilization advanced. Lagash seems to have been intensely modern in character prior to 2800 B.C., but with the passing of the old order of things there arose grave social problems which never appear to have been seriously dealt with. All indications of social unrest were, it would appear, severely repressed by the iron-gloved monarchs of Ur-Nina's dynasty.

The people as a whole groaned under an ever-increasing burden of taxation. Sumeria was overrun by an army of officials who were notoriously corrupt; they do not appear to have been held in check, as in Egypt, by royal auditors. "In the domain of Nin-Girsu", one of


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