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Category Archives: Eannatum

Eannatum The Conqueror

by May 28, 2013

It’s around 2430 BCE in ancient Mesopotamia and Eannatum, King of Lagash, is in the midsts of establishing the first empire in history through constant warring.
Statue of Eannatum

Statue of Eannatum

One would think that Eannatum’s early military campaign would have begun by attacking the city-state of Umma, due to their previous disputes over the border and waterways. However, instead of going straight for Umma, Eannatum turned his attentions to the Elamites. There he “conquered Elam” and ripped up their “burial mounds.”
But why did Eannatum’s tour start with Elam? Well, the Elamites were a troublesome hill people, and in many ways they were still partly nomadic at the time. In other words, they had moved past being hunter-gatherers and had established a civilization like those living in Mesopotamia. However, they still clung to nomadic methods of warfare such as raiding.
An example is the destruction of Ur, which came much later. The actions of this event are found in The Lament of Ur, which states, “Enlil brought down the Elamites, the enemy, from the highlands … Fire approached Ninmarki in the shrine of Gu-aba. Large boats were carrying off its silver and lapis lazuli.”
This type of pillage-and-run tactic likely became monotonous to those living nearest to them. Additionally, Eannatum saw an economic opportunity in subjugating Elam.
He was confident that his military forces could protect Lagash while the main body was sent to conquer and confiscate the lands of Elam, which was rich in timber, precious metals, and stone. Eannatum’s take-over of Elam gave him the resources needed to provide for an army on the march.
Map of SumerOf Elam’s natural goods, one sticks out as a major attraction to Eannatum… tin, which could be found in mines that dotted the Zagros Mountains. Tin was more rare than copper and an essential ingrediant. Without tin to accompany the copper, the manufacturing of bronze weapons was impossible.
Not only did Elam produce its own tin, although how much they produced is uncertain, they also had valuable trade routes that ran through the region from the east. In fact, the mining and transportation of tin went beyond the Iranian plateau. These were all attractive features for the King of Lagash.
Next for Eannatum was the city-state of Urua, located in the northwestern Iranian province of Khuzistan and within the vicinity of Elam. The importance of conquering this city-state was due to its strategic postioning. Urua was on the Susiana plain, which controlled the passage that lead into what would be later become the southern portion of Babylonia.
Finally Eannatum went after his long-term enemy, Umma. As mentioned previously, Umma held an advantage over Lagash due to the bordering Shatt al-Gharraf waterway. By conquering Umma, Lagash had sole control over the waterway that filtered in from the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Furthermore, Lagash at last possessed the fertile fields of Guedena.
Eannatum’s tour of Elam, Urua, and Umma paid off. Eannatum now had provinces and regions rich with resources, including metal to produce weapons and fertile fields to grow food, both of which were used to feed and arm his forces.
engraving of EannatumBut Eannatum was far from finished.
With an increase in resource-rich lands came an increase in manpower to replenish and increase the size of his ranks. Eannatum was drunk with power and looked west to quench his thirst.
With his eastern flank secured, the west was ripe for the taking. Eannatum led his forces to the city-state of Uruk, which was important for a number of reasons. The first was that Uruk sat along the Euphrates River and was not far from the Persian Gulf, making it a valuable trading city by both land and sea. Second, Uruk’s population was rather large and prosperous, fed by the surrounding fertile fields. This meant Uruk was desirable in terms of supplying the army with food and swelling the ranks with additional troops.
With Uruk conquered, Ur came next and its armies were put to the sword. Ur was also a valuable trading center, and like Uruk, offered a strategic location near the mouth of the Euphrates River that led into the Persian Gulf, which was used for importing and exporting resources.
At this point, Eannatum’s empire was flanked by three natural barriers: the Zagros Mountains to the east, the dessert to the west, and the Persian Gulf to the south. Eannatum’s only true threat now came from the north.
engraving of EannatumAnd so, Eannatum made his way north, eyeing the prize worthy religious target known as Kish. However, this time, things weren’t so simple. Zuzu, the king of Akshak, had enough of Eannatum’s war making and went out to confront the man who wished to own the world.
Zuzu, along with his forces, faced Eannatum and his army and a battle commenced. Eventually, Zuzu was killed in combat and his city-state of Akshak taken and incorporated into Eannatum’s ever increasing empire. With Akshak conquered, Eannatum marched into Kish with ease.
Eannatum, confident in his power, decided to take the title “King of Kish.” This names means much more than being the overlord of Kish. It implies that whoever has it, is also King of all of Sumer.
You would think that Eannatum would have been happy with his conquests, since he was now considered the king of Sumer. However, war is the health of the state and that rang true for Eannatum. Soon after Eannatum had taken over and centralised all of Sumer under his sole authority, city-states outside the sphere started to look attractive.
And so Eannatum’s empire continued to grow.
“Eannatum The Conqueror” was written by Cam Rea

A War for Water – The tale of two City-States

by April 30, 2013

Eannatum was the King of Lagash, a fertile town nestled between the Tigris and the Euphrates. While his domain was prosperous, Eannatum wanted more.
Map of SumerThis ambitious king, upon receiving his power, understood that Lagash’s security relied on its water supply from the Shatt al-Gharraf. Unfortunately his neighbor, the city-state of Umma, also bordered this very important channel on the western bank. The chief cause of hostility between these important cities is unknown according to some historians, and while we can never be certain, it seems obvious to us that the conflict was over water.
Umma held this one strategic advantage over Lagash. Cutting the water supply to the city would hinder its domestic produce and trade via waterway, effectively crippling commerce in Lagash and sending prices upward on all commodities.
Enmetena Cone

The Enmetena Cone, in the Louvre Museum. Photograph courtesy of Trevor Eccles

Knowing all this then, it might not be surprising that conflict between Lagash and Umma was common. We even have primary sources citing the fact. Enmetena, son of Eannatum II and nephew of the famed conqueror Eannatum I, recorded the history of the battles on a large rock known as the “Enmetena Cone.” The engraving describes the first war between the two powers, fighting for possession for the fertile fields of Guedena, located between the two great city-states.
But who decided the border between Lagash and Umma? King or God… or both?
It was, according to our historical cone, Enlil, who was considered the king of all the lands and father of all the gods. While Mesalim, king of Kish, confirmed the decision by placing a mark and a stele on the borderline.
The actual script reads:
Script on the Eannatum cone

Actual engraving

Enlil, king of all the lands, father of all the gods,
by his righteous command, for Ningirsu and Shara,
demarcated the (border) ground.
Mesalim, king of Kish, by the command of Ishtaran,
laid the measuring line upon it, and on that place he erected a stele.

This inscription is an entanglement of religion and the state. Enlil was the main Sumerian god. Therefore, he was the judge, jury, and executioner. Enlil was the god who fixed the boundaries and terrestrial estates of the lesser gods. His will could not be changed and his decisions final, regardless of divine assembly.
However, each city-state had a patron god. The god Ningirsu represented the city of Lagash, while Umma worshipped the god Shara.
Lagash made the argument that the borders were already set in place and Enlil was in favor of them retaining control over Guedena, our attractive fertile field. Umma saw things differently. A mediator, therefore, was needed to settle the dispute. That mediator would be none other than Mesalim, king of Kish, our second name on the historical cone.
The title “King of Kish” actually means “King of the world or King of Kings.” Mesalim was the supreme overseer of the Sumerian lands, which was the civilized world to these people. Mesalim’s decision was final… regardless of the moral argument.
What did this super King conclude? His ultimate directive was to build a trench, along with a levee, on either side to separate the two territories. Finally, the stele was erected at the border indicating his decision. Mesalim’s ruling, however, favored Lagash more so than Umma when it came to the water rights and the fertile fields of the Guedena.
The reason for this decision is unfortunately unknown. Of course we can never be sure, but could it be possible that Lagash was more powerful than Umma?
According to Mesalim, Enlil, the father of the gods, favored the stronger of the two city-states. However, all deities aside, Mesalim likely chose Lagash because it had a much stronger economy and military and could provide more to the loosely knit confederation of the Sumerian city-states in a time of crisis than Umma.
Therefore, in essence, the King of Kish picked the winners and losers of Sumer.
Sumer War

a Sumerian battle scene by HongNian Zhang

This was not the end of the border dispute between the two city-states. Later, Ush, ruler of Umma, marched to the border, smashed Mesalim’s stele, and advanced into Lagash territory. Ush proceeded with his forces to seize the fertile fields of Guedena.
Ush was later defeated from any further advance by an unknown Lagash king.
The Sumerian inscriptions state that, “Ningirsu, the hero of Enlil, by his just command, made war upon Umma. At the command of Enlil, his great net ensnared them. He erected their burial mound on the plain in that place.
Rather than to the unknown king, the victory was granted to the patron god of the city of Lagash.
The reason there is no mention of the Lagash king is that Enmetena, the great-grandson of Ur-Nanshe, wrote the story. Ur-Nashe was the founder of the dynasty from which Enmetena came. The man who defeated Ush has to be none other than Lugal-sha-engur, the predecessor of King Ur-Nanshe.
So why would Enmetena not mention Lugal-sha-engur’s victory over Ush? Simple… Enmetena was not interested in giving thanks or glory to a dynasty that was not his own.
Check back Next week to see how Eannatum takes over the Sumerian valley and creates the first empire! 

Read Part One: Lagash and the Too Fertile Valley Here:

“A War for Water – The tale of two City-States” was written by Cam Rea