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Urukagina

The spelling of this ruler's name is disputed. Alternative readings are Uruinimgina and Irikagina. See Edzard, 1991 and Lambert, 1992 for arguments of each of these.

It is possible Urukagina usurped the throne from Urtarsirsira, a distinguished son of Lugalanda. However Urtarsirsira continued to live in the first year of Urukagina's reign, an argument against a (violent) usurpation. See Bauer pg. 477 for a discussion of the issue.

Urukagina was the last Old Sumerian ruler of Lagash before its conquest by Lugalzagesi of Umma and the subsequent Sargonic period. His reign witnessed a gradually shrinking sphere of political power under threat from both Uruk and Umma, that at one point forced him to abandon Lagash and move his capital to Girsu. At the same time, he instituted a well-known series of reforms that attempted to redress some of the social and economic iniquities of his day.

On the regional level, Urukagina faced military danger from others before the final threat by Lugalzagesi. Numerous administrative texts attest to repeated attacks by Uruk upon the Lagash state. (DP 545), for instance, mentions a siege by the man of Uruk upon the city, which Bauer takes to mean Girsu (Bauer pg. 479). Another administrative text (NIK 1, 227) is dated to the 'month that the man of Uruk came a third time'. These inter-city attacks demonstrate the widening scope of military campaigns in southern Mesopotamia and the resulting political entities that grew out of them. Already before Sargon and Lugalzagesi, Enshagkushana of Uruk claimed the titles 'lord of Sumer' (en ki-en-gi) and 'king of the land' (lugal kalam-ma), having conquered Kish and Akshak, and even besieging Akkad (Bauer pg. 480). However it was Lugalzagesi who dealt the crippling blow to the Lagash state in the seventh year of Urukagina's reign (Bauer pg. 494). One surviving Lagash text ( FAOS 05/1, Ukg. 16) describes in dramatic fashion how Umma destroyed many public works and pillaged many sacred sites of the state, including the Antasura, the Tirash temple of Ningirsu, the Ebabbar, the Ibgal of Inana, and the temple of Gatumdug. Other, administrative texts, give a more subdued account of the waning of Lagash's power, as they indicate a general reduction in the economic vitality and manpower of the state. See, for instance, ( TSA 35), dating to the end of Urukagina's 5th year, and ( NIK 1, 57), dating to the beginning of the 6th. Also see Bauer pg. 481.

Despite the difficult circumstances of his reign, Urukagina did effect a number of legislative reforms aimed at social justice and shoring up the temple institution against the growing power of the ensis. In a well-known document (see Ukg. 04 A, Ukg. 04 B, and Ukg. 04 C) Urukagina describes a number of practices of his society from long ago that he sets out to reform. Many of these relate to the privileges of the ensi over the temple establishment or of work supervisors over their domain of authority (e.g. Ukg. 04 B III 6 - IV 25). Others deal with required burial provisions for the dead or payments for temple officials (e.g. Ukg. 04 B V 25 - VI 18). Urukagina altered these provisions, reducing the power of the overseers, lowering provisions to officials, and extended protection to small-scale equid and property owners (see e.g. Ukg. 04 B X 20 - 32). He also states that he transferred control over the ensi's house and field (along with those of his wife and children) to the gods of Lagash, Ningirsu, Baba, and Shulshaga, as well as that he restored conditions of the state (ama-gi4), declaring the cancellation of debt and other penalties. He concludes by saying that he would not give over the orphan and the widow to the strong (Ukg. 04 B XI 30-31).

References

* Bauer, Josef. 1998. Der Vorsargonische Abschnitt der Mesopotamischen Geschichte. In Bauer, Englund, and Krebernik, Mesopotamien: Späturuk-Zeit und Frühdynastische Zeit, pp. 431-585. Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 160/1. P. Attinger and M. Wäfler, eds. Göttingen: Vendenhoeck & Ruprecht.

* Edzard, D.O. 1991. Ancient Near Eastern Studies in Honor of Miguel Civil on the Occasion of his Sixty-Fifth Birthday, Michalowshi, P. et al eds. AulaOr 9, Barcelona 1991. pp. 77-79

* Lambert, W.G. 1992. Aula Orientalis 10, 1992 pp. 256-258.


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