Dolerite Statue of Gudea, ruler of Lagash

Dolerite Statue of Gudea, ruler of Lagash

Neo-Sumerian. Statue of Gudea. Girsu, Iraq. 2120 BC. Cuneiform inscription. Louvre.

Your Easy-access (EZA) account allows those in your organization to download content for the following uses:

  • Tests
  • Samples
  • Composites
  • Layouts
  • Rough cuts
  • Preliminary edits

It overrides the standard online composite license for still images and video on the Getty Images website. The EZA account is not a license. In order to finalize your project with the material you downloaded from your EZA account, you need to secure a license. Without a license, no further use can be made, such as:

  • focus group presentations
  • external presentations
  • final materials distributed inside your organization
  • any materials distributed outside your organization
  • any materials distributed to the public (such as advertising, marketing)

Because collections are continually updated, Getty Images cannot guarantee that any particular item will be available until time of licensing. Please carefully review any restrictions accompanying the Licensed Material on the Getty Images website, and contact your Getty Images representative if you have a question about them. Your EZA account will remain in place for a year. Your Getty Images representative will discuss a renewal with you.

By clicking the Download button, you accept the responsibility for using unreleased content (including obtaining any clearances required for your use) and agree to abide by any restrictions.


Inscriptions mention temples built by Gudea in Ur, Nippur, Adab, Uruk and Bad-Tibira [ citation needed ] . This indicates the growing influence of Gudea in Sumer. His predecessor, Urbaba, had already made his daughter Enanepada high priestess of Nanna at Ur, which indicates a great deal of political power as well. The 20 years of his reign are all known by name the main military exploit seems to have occurred in his Year 6, called the "Year when Anshan was smitten with weapons". [3]

Gudea chose the title of énsi (town-king or governor), not the more exalted lugal (Akkadian šarrum), although he did style himself "god of Lagash". [ citation needed ] Gudea claimed to have conquered Elam and Anshan, but his inscriptions emphasize the building of irrigation channels and temples, and the creation of precious gifts to the gods. [5] Materials for his buildings and statues were brought from all parts of western Asia: cedar wood from the Amanus mountains, quarried stones from Lebanon, copper from northern Arabia, gold and precious stones from the desert between Canaan and Egypt, diorite from Magan (Oman), and timber from Dilmun (Bahrain). [6] [7] [8]

As the power of the Akkadian empire waned, Lagaš again declared independence, this time under Puzer-Mama, who declared himself lugal of Lagaš. [ citation needed ] Thereafter, this title would not be associated with Lagaš, at least until the end of the Gudean period. Lagašite rulers, including Ur-Ningirsu and Ur-Bau, whose reigns predated Gudea, referred to themselves as énsi, or governor, of Lagaš, and reserved the term lugal only for their gods or as a matter of rank in a relationship, but never as a political device. The continued use of lugal in reference to deities seems to indicate a conscious attempt on the parts of the rulers to assume a position of humility in relation to the world—whether this was honest humility or a political ploy is unknown. [ citation needed ]

Twenty-six statues of Gudea have been found so far during excavations of Telloh (ancient Girsu) with most of the rest coming from the art trade. [ citation needed ] The early statues were made of limestone, steatite and alabaster later, when wide-ranging trade-connections had been established [ citation needed ] , the more costly exotic diorite was used. Diorite had already been used by old Sumerian rulers (Statue of Entemena). These statues include inscriptions describing trade, rulership and religion. [ citation needed ] These were one of many types of Neo-Sumerian art forms.

The first known reference to Goa in India possibly appears as Gubi in the records of Gudea. [9] At the time, Sumerians had established trade contacts with India. [9]

The pleas to the gods under Gudea and his successors appear more creative and honest: whereas the Akkadian kings followed a rote pattern of cursing the progeny and tearing out the foundations of those that vandalize a stele, the Lagašite kings send various messages. [ citation needed ] Times were violent after the Akkadian empire lost power over southern Mesopotamia, and the god receiving the most attention from Gudea was Ningirsu—a god of battle. Though there is only one mention of martial success on the part of Gudea, the many trappings of war which he builds for Ningirsu indicate a violent era. [ citation needed ] Southern Mesopotamian cities defined themselves through their worship, and the decision on Gudea's part for Lagaš to fashion regalia of war for its gods is indicative of the temperament of the times. [ citation needed ]

Though obviously the foundation and progeny curse was not the only religious invocation by the political powers during the Akkadian empire, it demonstrates a certain standardization, and with it, stagnation, of the position of the gods that likely did not sit well with the people of Lagaš. Ur-Ningirsu I, with whom the Gudean dynasty of Lagaš begins, leaves little in the way of inscriptions, and though some mention of various gods seems to indicate a more central role, it is not until Gudea that there can be a side-by-side comparison with the old curse of Sargon of Akkad. The inscription on a statue of Gudea as architect of the House of Ningirsu, [10] warns the reader of doom if the words are altered, but there is a startling difference between the warnings of Sargon or his line and the warnings of Gudea. The one is length Gudea's curse lasts nearly a quarter of the inscription's considerable length, [11] and another is creativity. The gods will not merely reduce the offender's progeny to ash and destroy his foundations, no, they will, "let him sit down in the dust instead of on the seat they set up for him". He will be "slaughtered like a bull… seized like an aurochs by his fierce horn". [12]

But these differences, though demonstrating a Lagašite respect of religious figures simply in the amount of time and energy they required, are not as telling as the language Gudea uses to justify any punishment. Whereas Sargon or Naram-Sin simply demand punishment to any who change their words, based on their power, Gudea defends his words through tradition, “since the earliest days, since the seed sprouted forth, no one was (ever) supposed to alter the utterance of a ruler of Lagaš who, after building the Eninnu for my lord Ningirsu, made things function as they should”. [13] Changing the words of Naram-Sin, the living god, is treason, because he is the king. But changing the words of Gudea, simple governor of Lagaš, is unjust, because he made things work right. [ citation needed ]

The social reforms instituted during Gudea's rulership, which included the cancellation of debts and allowing women to own family land, may have been honest reform or a return to old Lagašite custom. [ citation needed ]

His era was especially one of artistic development. But it was Ningirsu who received the majority of Gudea's attention. Ningirsu the war god, for whom Gudea built maces, spears, and axes, all appropriately named for the destructive power of Ningirsu—enormous and gilt. However, the devotion for Ningirsu was especially inspired by the fact that this was Gudea's personal god and that Ningirsu was since ancient times the main god of the Lagashite region (together with his spouse Ba'u or Baba). [ citation needed ]

In matters of trade, Lagash under Gudea had extensive commercial communications with distant realms. According to his own records, Gudea brought cedars from the Amanus and Lebanon mountains in Syria, diorite from eastern Arabia, copper and gold from central and southern Arabia and from Sinai, while his armies were engaged in battles in Elam on the east. [14]

The Gudea cylinders, written after the life of Gudea, paints an attractive picture of southern Mesopotamia during the Lagaš supremacy. In it, “The Elamites came to him from Elam… loaded with wood on their shoulders… in order to build Ningirsu’s House” (p. 78), the general tone being one of brotherly love in an area that has known only regional conflict.

Gudea built more than the House of Ningirsu, he restored tradition to Lagaš. His use of the title ensi, when he obviously held enough political influence, both in Lagaš and in the region, to justify lugal, demonstrates the same political tact as his emphasis on the power of the divine. [ citation needed ]

Ur-Ningirsu II, the next ruler of Lagaš, took as his title, "Ur-Ningirsu, ruler of Lagaš, son of Gudea, ruler of Lagaš, who had built Ningirsu’s house" (p. 183).

In an inscription, Gudea referred to the Meluhhans who came to Sumer to sell gold dust, carnelian etc. [14] In another inscription, he mentioned his victory over the territories of Magan, Meluhha, Elam and Amurru. [14]

In the Gudea cylinders, Gudea mentions that "I will spread in the world respect for my Temple, under my name the whole universe will gather in it, and Magan and Meluhha will come down from their mountains to attend" (cylinder A, IX). [15] In cylinder B, XIV, he mentions his procurement of "blocks of lapis lazuli and bright carnelian from Meluhha." [16]

Gudea's appearance is recognizable today because he had numerous statues or idols, depicting him with unprecedented, lifelike realism, placed in temples throughout Sumer. Gudea took advantage of artistic development because he evidently wanted posterity to know what he looked like. And in that he has succeeded—a feat available to him as royalty, but not to the common people who could not afford to have statues engraved of themselves. [ citation needed ]

Gudea, following Sargon, was one of the first rulers to claim divinity for himself, or have it claimed for him after his death. Some of his exploits were later added to the Gilgamesh Epic (N. K. Sandars, 1972, The Epic of Gilgamesh).

Following Gudea, the influence of Lagaš declined, until it suffered a military defeat by Ur-Nammu, whose Third Dynasty of Ur then became the reigning power in Southern Mesopotamia. [ citation needed ]

The "Libation vase of Gudea" with the dragon Mušḫuššu, dedicated to Ningishzida (21st century BC short chronology). The caduceus (right) is interpreted as depicting god Ningishzida. Inscription ""To the god Ningiszida, his god, Gudea, Ensi (governor) of Lagash, for the prolongation of his life, has dedicated this"

Head of Gudea in polished diorite, reign of Gudea (Boston Museum of Fine Arts).

The Neo-Sumerian period or Third Dynasty of UR

Around 21-20 centuries BCE Ur was restored as the Sumerian capital and the III Dynasty of Ur begun under the rule of the king Ur-Nammu. However, the Akkadian influence was clearly detectable in the art of this period: although force and power returned to the forefront of artistic creation, a softening of the ancestral rigidity in the Sumerian art reflected the influence that Akkadian dominance had left.

King Ur-Nammu must have reigned 18 years and was succeeded by his son Dungi who reigned nearly half a century. Countless monuments whose bricks were sealed with the names of these two sovereigns showed the construction power of both kings. The first concern of Ur-Nammu was to fortify the capital so that it could withstand any attack. The walls of Ur built during this time were almost 25 mt. wide at the base. But this formidable work is by no means the most important building of the Neo-Sumerians. The ruins of the temple of Sin, the moon-god, were a ziggurat or stepped tower constructed so that the deity could descend from heaven to earth. Most Sumerian cities had similar constructions. These monuments had three to seven levels, each with a smaller base than the preceding, and corresponded to the type of building described in the Bible as the “Tower of Babel”.

Reconstruction of the ziggurat of Ur-Nammu at Ur (circa 2100 BCE).

The ziggurat of Ur, started by Ur-Nammu, was a three-story tower. The first level was completely solid and stood 65 mt. long by 43 mt. wide with a height of 22 mt. Its walls were slightly inclined. The first floor platform could be reached by three monumental stairs: two laterals alongside the left and right sides of the front facade and a third facing the front and perpendicular to the other two. These three stairs had 100 steps. Above this giant pedestal stood other two overlapping platforms on top of which was the temple for the god. Another temple at the base conditioned as home for the divinity transformed this building as a monumental stair to ascend or descend from heaven. The prophet Jacob, after visiting the land from where his father had came, must had remembered the religious ceremonies and processions carried out in these giant stairs of the Ur’s ziggurat. Today is still amazing to think that these gigantic architectures were made of bricks none of which reaches 40 cm. Such constructions should required millions of these handmade pieces and overcome enormous difficulties to raise the whole building.

Statue of Gudea, Patesi of Lagash, in worship (Louvre), ca. XXII century BCE.

We know the Neo-Sumerian sculpture by the findings in Lagash, a city whose sovereigns never had the title of king but were known as patesi or governors. According to ancient lists, the most important was the seventh called Gudea. This patesi, who ruled Lagash for just over 15 years, built temples and palaces and has left us a prodigious series of his portraits that are perhaps the most impressive group of sculptures done by the will of a single individual. Today, we know more than 30 of these statues carved in hard and shiny volcanic rocks: blue diorite and black dolerite. In all of them the patesi Gudea appears dressed as a monk in a robe that leaves bare his right shoulder and arm, and always with hands clasped in prayer. The fineness of details like fingers, lips and eyebrows, and some subtly accented muscles on the body’s surface are in contrast to the severe simplicity of the gown. All the statues of the series not only produce an impression of serene majesty, but also of intense religious fervor.

Patesi Gudea (Louvre), Sumerian ruler of Lagash, ca. 2200 BCE. He wears on his head a geometric band used in certain religious ceremonies, and his skirt has the text with the prayers.

Through the millennia, it has came to us one of the most sacred objects of the treasure of Gudea: the cup of libations that he used in religious ceremonies. It is a stone goblet whose reliefs tell us that, despite the humanization of the gods introduced during the Akkadian domination, the old divine monsters did not completely disappeared. Gudea’s libation cup have two standing dragons holding a spear with their front legs. They are terrifying monsters with snake head, feline body, eagle’s wings and claws, and scorpion’s tail. Both monsters guard a cane on which two serpents twist and whose heads ascend to the rim of the cup as if they wanted to drink from the ritual’s liquid. This sacred symbol is already very similar to the Rod of the Greek Asclepius which was used by ancient physicians, and that still remains with some modifications as an emblem of pharmacy and medicine.

Libations cup of Gudea (Louvre). It was made in soapstone and dated from the XXII century BCE.

Excavations of ancient Lagash have provided several statues that don’t represent portraits of kings but young men with face and head fully shaved, as well as various representations of women. The most important of all these female representations is a figure with hands joined in the same position as those of Gudea and dressed in tunic and mantle adorned with embroidered ribbons, and whose curly hair is covered with a cloth headdress also attached with a ribbon. The majestic air of this image and the mystical sense that emerges from it accentuated by the prayer position of her hands have led many archaeologists to identify her as the own Gudea’s wife.

Woman with a headdress (Louvre), from Lagash. In this green soapstone bust, archaeologists have believed to see a portrait of Gudea’s wife.

The Neo-Sumerian statues show us a completely original aesthetic interpretation of the human face. In this sense it is impressive the head of a princess found in Ur in 1927. She wears a smooth circular headband, like a gold ring, to hold her hair and, despite missing the bottom of her face, her eyes, inlaid in lapis lazuli, look at us with a millennial expression of astonishment.

Female head of alabaster (Museum of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia), from Ur and dated around 2100 BCE. It has been identified with a Neo-Sumerian princess and also with the goddess Ningal.

Rod of Asclepius: Also known as the Staff of Asclepius (sometimes also spelled Asklepios or Aesculapius) and as the asklepian. In Greek Mythology refers to a serpent-entwined rod wielded by the Greek god Asclepius, a deity associated with healing and medicine. The symbol has continued to be used in modern times, where it is associated with medicine and health care, yet frequently confused with the staff of the god Hermes, the caduceus, which in contrast has two snakes intertwined around a staff and surmounted by wings.

Statues of Gudea

So far twenty-seven statues of Gudea, a ruler (ensi) of the state of Lagash in Southern Mesopotamia who ruled ca. 2144 - 2124 BC, have been found, and numbered A-AA. A-K were found during Ernest de Sarzec's excavations in the court of the palace of Adad-nadin-ahhe in Telloh (ancient Girsu). Statues M-Q come from clandestine excavations in Telloh in 1924 the rest come from the art trade, with unknown provenances and sometimes of doubtful authenticity. Figures L and R do not represent Gudea with reasonable certainty. The statues were to represent the ruler in temples, to offer a constant prayer in his stead offerings were made to these. Most of the statues bear an inscribed dedication explaining to which god it was dedicated. Gudea is either sitting or standing in one case (N), he holds a water-jug au vase jaillissant. He normally wears a close fitting kaunakes, maybe made of sheep-skin, and a long tasseled dress. Only in one example (M, Soclet-statue) he wears a different dress, reminiscent of the Akkadian royal costume (torso of Manishtushu). On the lap of one of them (statue B) is the plan of his palace, with the scale of measurement attached. Statue F is similar to statue B both are missing their heads, and have on their lap a board with a measuring scale and a stylus, only statue F doesn't have a ground plan.

It seems that the early statues are small and made of more local stones (limestone, steatite and alabaster) later, when wide-ranging trade-connections had been established, the more costly exotic diorite was used. Diorite had already been used by old Sumerian rulers (Statue of Entemena). According to the inscriptions, the diorite (or gabbro, na4 esi) came from Magan.

The dedication of the diorite statues normally tell how ensi Gudea had diorite brought from the mountains of Magan, formed it as a statue of himself, called by name to honour god/goddess (x) and had the statue brought into the temple of (y). Most of the big (almost lifesize, D is even bigger than life) statues are dedicated to the top gods of Lagash: Ningirsu, his wife Ba'u, the goddesses Gatumdu and Inanna and Ninhursanga as the "Mother of the gods". Q is dedicated to Ningiszida, Gudea's personal protective deity more properly connected to Fara and Abu Salabikh, the smaller M, N and O to his "wife" Gestinanna. The connection between Ningiszida and Gestinanna was probably invented by Gudea in order to effect a closer connection to Lagash.

Statue of King Gudea (circa 2140- 2124 B.C.) ruler of Lagash, known as the Little Gudea, from Telloh, diorite

Your Easy-access (EZA) account allows those in your organization to download content for the following uses:

  • Tests
  • Samples
  • Composites
  • Layouts
  • Rough cuts
  • Preliminary edits

It overrides the standard online composite license for still images and video on the Getty Images website. The EZA account is not a license. In order to finalize your project with the material you downloaded from your EZA account, you need to secure a license. Without a license, no further use can be made, such as:

  • focus group presentations
  • external presentations
  • final materials distributed inside your organization
  • any materials distributed outside your organization
  • any materials distributed to the public (such as advertising, marketing)

Because collections are continually updated, Getty Images cannot guarantee that any particular item will be available until time of licensing. Please carefully review any restrictions accompanying the Licensed Material on the Getty Images website, and contact your Getty Images representative if you have a question about them. Your EZA account will remain in place for a year. Your Getty Images representative will discuss a renewal with you.

By clicking the Download button, you accept the responsibility for using unreleased content (including obtaining any clearances required for your use) and agree to abide by any restrictions.

Ancient Iraq: new discoveries

Celebrating the rich cultural legacy of Iraq, this British Museum touring exhibition marks the first time that new Iraq field research will go on tour with key objects from the Museum collection.

Through 80 remarkable objects , the exhibition seeks to highlight the challenges of protecting Iraq's diverse cultural heritage following decades of conflict . It will also present the current work of the British Museum's Iraq Scheme to protect this legacy for future generations.

Star objects will highlight the scheme's two fieldwork projects in the Ancient Iraqi cities of Girsu and Qalatga Darband and the a rchaeological research into these cities, dating from around 4,000 years ago. One scheme project in southern Iraq focuses on the discovery of a major temple complex. On display in the exhibition for the first time outside of London will be a statue of Gudea, ruler of the ancient state of Lagash, which would have originally been erected within this temple complex.

The scheme's second project, in the north of modern Iraq, reveals excavations at a previously unexplored site at the very edge of the Roman Empire, a position challenged by the fearsome Parthians, who embraced Greek cultural traditions passed on by Alexander the Great. Greek-inspired statuettes, personal ornaments influenced by Greek mythology, as well as a statue of the hero Heracles, will also be on display.

The final section of the exhibition will address the recent destruction of Iraq's cultural heritage by Daesh (the so-called Islamic State), and the work of the scheme in response to it. Developed in 2014 at the height of this devastation, the scheme delivers hands-on training at excavation sites to Iraqi archaeologists, helping them to assess, document and stabilise cultural heritage sites that have been damaged or destroyed by Daesh. The many new discoveries made at both sites in the scheme show how much there is still to learn about Iraq's unique cultural heritage.

With the support of the Dorset Foundation, in memory of Harry M Weinrebe, A British Museum touring exhibition Ancient Iraq: new discoveries will tour to Newcastle and Nottingham.


WE have seen that the Dynasty of Akkad marks the culminating point attained by the races of Sumer and Akkad during the earlier periods of their history. It is true that the kings of this period owed much to their immediate predecessors, but they added to and improved their inheritance. Through long centuries of slow development the village community had gradually been transformed into the city-state, and this institution had flourished and had in its turn decayed before the centralizing influence of the kingdoms of Sumer and Kish. It was on the ruins of the latter monarchy that Shar-Gani-sharri founded his empire, which differed from that of Kish in its extent, rather than in the principles of its formation. A similarly close connection can be traced between the cultural remains of the successive periods with which we have hitherto been dealing. The rude, though vigorous, artistic efforts of the earlier Sumerians furnished the models upon which the immigrant Semites of Northern Babylonia improved. In the sculpture of Kish and upon cylinder-seals of that period we see the transition between the two styles, when the aim at a naturalistic treatment sometimes produced awkward and grotesque results. The full attainment of this aim under the patronage of the Akkadian kings gives their epoch an interest and an importance, which, from their empire alone, it would not perhaps have enjoyed.

Late Akkadian Red Jasper Cylinder Seal

While the earlier ages of Babylonian history afford a striking picture of gradual growth and development, the periods succeeding the Dynasty of Akkad ate marked by a certain retrograde movement, or reversion to earlier ideals. The stimulus, which produced the empire and the art of Akkad, may be traced to the influx of fresh racial elements into Northern Babylonia and their fusion with the older and more highly cultured elements in the south. When the impulse was exhausted and the dynasties to which it had given rise had run their course, little further development along these lines took place. Both in art and politics a Sumerian reaction followed the period of Semitic power, and the establishment of the Dynasty of Ur was significant of more than a shifting of political influence southwards. It would appear that a systematic attempt was made to return to the earlier standards. But the influence of Akkad and her monarchs, though deliberately ignored and combated, was far from ineffective. As the sculptures of Gudea owe much to the period of Naram-Sin, so the empire of Dungi was inevitably influenced by Shar-Gani-sharri's conquests. There was no sudden arrest either of the political or of the cultural development of the country. A recovery of power by the Sumerians merely changed the direction in which further development was to take place. Although, when viewed from a general standpoint, there is no break of continuity between the epoch of Akkad and that of Ur, there is some lack of information with regard to events in the intervening period. There is every indication that between the reign of Naram-Sin and that of Ur-Engur, the founder of the Dynasty of Ur, we have to count in generations rather than in centuries, but the total length of the period is still unknown. The close of the Dynasty of Akkad, as we have already seen, is wrapped in mystery, but the gap in our knowledge may fortunately to some extent be bridged. At this point the city of Lagash once more comes to our assistance, and, by supplying the names of a number of her patesis, enables us to arrange a sequence of rulers, and thereby to form some estimate of the length of the period involved.

It will be remembered that under Shar-Gani-sharri and Naram-Sin a certain Lugal-ushumgal (ca. 2230-2200 BC) was patesi of Lagash, and that the impressions of his seals have been recovered which he employed during the reigns of these two monarchs. The names of three other patesis of Lagash are known, who must also be assigned to the period of the Dynasty of Akkad, since they are mentioned upon tablets of that date. These are Ur-Babbar, Ur-E, and Lugal-bur the first of these appears to have been the contemporary of Naram-Sin, and in that case he must have followed Lugal-ushumgal. As to Ur-E and Lugal-bur, we have no information beyond the fact that they lived during the period of the kings of Akkad. A further group of tablets found at Tello, differentiated in type from those of the Dynasty of Akkad on the one hand, and on the other from tablets of the Dynasty of Ur, furnishes us with the names of other patesis to be set in the period before the rise of Ur-Engur. Three of these, Basha-mama, Ur-mama, and Ug-me, were probably anterior to Ur-Bau, who has left us ample proof of his building activity at Lagash. We possess a tablet dated in the accession year of Ur- mama, and another dated during the patesiate of Ug-me, in the year of the installation of the high priest in Nina. A sealing of this last patesi's reign has also been found, which supports the attribution of this group of tablets to the period between the Sargonic era and that of Ur. The subject of the engraving upon the seal is the adoration of a deity, a scene of very common occurrence during the later period but by its style and treatment the work vividly recalls that of the epoch of Shar-Gani-sharri and Naram-Sin. On the strength of this evidence it has been argued that Ug-me's period was not far from that of Lugal-ushumgal, Ur-E, and Lugal-bur.

One of the documents of this period is dated during the patesiate of Ur-Bau himself, in the year in which he undertook certain extensive works of irrigation, while others are dated in the year of Ur-gar's accession, and in that which followed the accession of Nammakhni. From other evidence we know that Nammakhni was Ur-Bau's son-in-law, since he espoused Ningandu, Ur- Bau's daughter, and secured through her his title to the throne. Ur-gar, too, must belong to the generation following Ur-Bau, since a female statue has been found at Tello, which was dedicated to some deity by a daughter of Ur-Bau on behalf of her own life and that of Ur-gar, the patesi. Tablets are also dated in the accession-years of Ka-azag, Galu-Bau, and Galu-Gula, and their contents furnish indications that they date from about the same time. Ur-Ninsun, whose name and title occur on the fragment of a bowl very similar to that employed by Nammakhni's wife, is not mentioned on the tablets, but several are dated in the reigns of Gudea and of his son Ur-Ningirsu. Now, in the reign of Dungi, the son of Ur-Engur, there lived a high priest of the goddess Nina named Ur-Ningirsu and, if we may identify this priestly official with the patesi of that name, as is very probable, we obtain a definite point of contact between the later history of Lagash and that of Ur. But even if the synchronism between Ur-Ningirsu and Dungi be regarded as non-proven, there is no doubt that no long interval separated Gudea's reign from the Dynasty of Ur. The character of the art and the style of writing which we find in Lagash at this time are so similar to those of Ur, that the one period must have followed the other without a break. A striking example of the resemblance which existed in the artistic productions of the two cities at this time is afforded by the votive copper cones, or nails, of Gudea and Dungi, surmounted by the figures of a bull couchant. A glance will show the slight changes in the form and treatment of the subject which have been introduced by the metal-workers of Dungi's reign.

From the brief summary given in the preceding paragraphs it will have been noted that we have recovered the names of some twelve patesis of Lagash, who may be assigned to the period between the dynasties of Akkad and Ur. Of these twelve names no less than eleven occur upon a group of tablets, which were found together at Tello, and are marked out by their shape and contents as belonging to a single period. The tablets themselves are of unbaked clay, and they form a transition between the types of Akkad and Ur. In the last of the reigns mentioned it is probable that we may trace a synchronism with the Dynasty of Ur, and, although no actual point of contact can yet be established with the Dynasty of Akkad, such evidence as that furnished by Ug-me's sealing suggests that no considerable lapse of time can have taken place. That these twelve patesis were the only ones who ruled at Lagash during this interval is improbable, and at any time the names of other rulers may be recovered. But it is certain the reigns of many of these patesis were extremely brief, and that we have not to do with a single dynasty, firmly established throughout the whole period, whose separate members, after their accession, each held the throne for the term of his natural life. We have definite proof that several of the patesis, such as Ka-azag, Galu-Bau, and Galu-Gula, ruled only for a few years, and it would seem that at certain points during this period a change of rulers took place in Lagash with considerable frequency.


The employment of the title of patesi, and the total absence of that of "king" at this time, suggests that Lagash had not succeeded in establishing her independence, and still owed allegiance to some alien dynasty. It is in accordance with this view that the dates inscribed upon the commercial tablets do not refer to events of a military character. We may conclude that, at any rate until the reign of Gudea, Lagash and her rulers were not concerned to enforce their authority over other cities, nor to defend their own border from attack. The existence of a more powerful city, claiming the hegemony in Babylonia, would account for the absence of military enterprise reflected in the date- formulas and in the foundation-records of the time. For such a city, while guaranteeing the integrity of each of her tributary states, would have resented the inauguration of an ambitious policy by any one of them. On the other hand, the purely local character of the events commemorated in the date-formulas is no less significant. These are without exception drawn from the local history of Lagash, and betray no evidence of the authority exercised by a foreign suzerain. It is therefore probable that during the greater part of this period Lagash enjoyed a considerable measure of autonomy, and that such bonds as may have united her to any central administration were far less tightly drawn than at the time of Shar-Gani-sharri and Naram-Sin. Like Lagash, her old rival Umma seems to have survived as a patesiate under the later Semitic rulers in the north, and it is probably to this time that we may assign Galu-Babbar, the patesi of that city, three of whose votive cones are preserved in the British Museum. During the earlier part of this period Lagash presents the picture of a compact and peaceful state, content to develop her own resources. A considerable increase of power is noticeable in the reign of Gudea, the most famous ruler of the period, who, though still retaining the title of patesi, must be regarded as practically an independent sovereign, since he was strong enough to undertake a successful campaign in Elam, and imported his building materials from Arabia and the Syrian coast.

With the exception of Gudea, the only ruler of this period who has left us any considerable records or remains is Ur-Bau (c. 2164-2144 BC), the predecessor of Nammakhni and Ur-gar upon the throne of Lagash. We possess a small diorite statue of this ruler, which, like most of those found at Tello, is without its head. It is a standing figure, and its squat and conventional proportions suffice to show that it must date from a rather earlier period than the larger and finer statues of Gudea, which are fashioned from the same hard material. Gudea definitely states that he fetched the diorite for his series of large statues from Magan, but Ur-Bau makes no such boast and, although it is clear that his stone must have come from the same quarries, we may probably conclude that the small block he employed for his figure had not been procured as the result of a special expedition. In fact, such records as he has left us portray him as devoting all his energies to the building of temples within the different quarters of his city.

His chief care appears to have been the rebuilding, upon a new and enlarged site, of E-ninnu, the great temple of Ningirsu at Lagash, in which he placed the statue of himself that has been recovered. Little of this temple now remains in the mounds of Tello, beyond a wall the lower part of which was found still standing under the south-east corner of the later palace erected in the second century BC. In addition to the rebuilding of the temple of the city-god, Ur-Bau records that he erected three temples in Girsu in honour of the godĀ­desses Ninkharsag and Geshtin-anna, and of Enki, "the king of Eridu". In Uru-azagga he built a temple for the goddess Bau, and in Uru, another quarter of the city, he constructed a shrine in honour of Ninni, or Nin-azag-nun, the goddess Ishtar. Other deities honoured in a similar way by Ur-Bau were Nindar, Ninmar, and Ninagal, the last of whom stood in the mystical relation of mother to the patesi. Attached to E-ninnu he also built a "House of the Asses" in honour of Esignun, the deity whose duty it was to tend the sacred asses of Ningirsu.

Ur-Bau may probably be regarded as representative of the earlier patesis of this epoch, who, while acting with freedom and independence within the limits of their own state, refrained from embarking on any policy of conquest or expansion. With the accession of Gudea a distinct change is noticeable in the circumstances of Lagash. Like his predecessors, he devoted himself to the building of temples, but his work was undertaken on a wider and more sumptuous scale. Of all the kings and patesis of Lagash, he is the one under whom the city appears to have attained its greatest material prosperity, which found its expression in a lavish architectural display. Although not much of his great temple of E-ninnu still survives at Tello, his monuments are more numerous than all the others that have been recovered on that site. Moreover, the texts engraved upon his statues, and inscribed upon the great clay cylinders which he buried as foundation-records in the structure of E-ninnu, are composed in a florid style and form a striking contrast to the dry votive formulae employed by the majority of his predecessors. The cylinder-inscriptions especially are cast in the form of a picturesque narrative, adorned with striking similes and a wealth of detailed description such as are not found in the texts of any other period. In fact, Gudea's records appear to have been inspired by the novelty and magnitude of his architectural constructions and the variety of sacred ornament with which they were enriched.

We have no information as to the events which led to his accession, beyond the negative evidence afforded by the complete absence of any genealogy from his inscriptions. Like Ur-Bau, Gudea does not name his father, and it is possible that he was a man of obscure or doubtful birth. The energy which he displayed as patesi is sufficient to account for his rise to power, and the success which attended his period of rule may be held to have amply justified a break in the succession. Another problem suggested by a study of his texts concerns the source of the wealth which enabled him to undertake the rebuilding and refurnishing of the temples of Lagash upon so elaborate a scale. The cause of such activity we should naturally seek in the booty obtained during a number of successful campaigns, but throughout the whole of his inscriptions we have only a single reference to an act of war. On the statue of himself in the character of an architect, holding the plan of E-ninnu upon his knees, he gives in some detail an account of the distant regions whence he obtained the materials for the construction of Ningirsu's temple. At the close of this list of places and their products, as though it formed a continuation of his narrative, he adds the record that he smote with his weapons the town of Anshan in Elam and offered its booty to Ningirsu. This is the only mention of a victory that occurs in Gudea's inscriptions, and, although in itself it proves that he was sufficiently independent to carry on a war in Elam on his own account, it does not throw light upon the other causes of his success.

The absence of military records from Gudea's texts is rendered the more striking, when we read the names of the countries he laid under contribution for the materials employed in the building of E-ninnu. The fullest geographical list is that given on the statue of the architect with the plan, and, although unfortunately some of the places mentioned have still to be identified, the text itself furnishes sufficient information to demonstrate the wide area of his operations. Gudea here tells us that from Mount Amanus, the mountain of cedars, he fetched beams of cedar-wood measuring fifty and even sixty cubits in length, and he also brought down from the mountain logs of urkarinnu-wood five-and-twenty cubits long. From the town of Ursu in the mountain of Ibla he brought zabalu-wood, great beams of ashukhu-wood and plane-trees. From Umanu, a mountain of Menua, and from Basalla, a mountain of Amurru, he obtained great blocks of stone and made stelae from them, which he set up in the court of E-ninnu. From Tidanu, another mountain of Amurru, he brought pieces of marble, and from Kagalad, a mountain of Kimash, he extracted copper, which he tells us he used in making a great mace-head. From the mountains of Melukhkha he brought ushu-wood, which he employed in the construction of the temple, and he fetched gold-dust from the mountain of Khakhu and with it he gilded a mace-head carved with the heads of three lions. In Gubin, the mountain of khuluppu-wood, he felled khuluppu-trees from Madga he obtained asphalt, which he used in making the platĀ­form of E-ninnu and from the mountain of Barshib he brought down blocks of nalua-stone, which he loaded into great boats and so carried them to Lagash in order to strengthen the base of the temple.

The above list of places makes it clear that Gudea obtained his wood and stone from mountains on the coast of Syria and in Arabia, and his copper from mines in Elam. On the first of his cylinders he also states that the Elamite came from Elam and the man of Susa from Susa, presumably to take part as skilled craftsmen in the construction of the temple. In this account he does not mention the names of so many places as in the statue-inscription, but he adds some picturesque details with regard to the difficulties of transport he encountered. Thus he records that into the mountain of cedars, where no man before had penetrated, he cut a road for bringing down the cedars and beams of other precious woods. He also made roads into the mountains where he quarried stone, and, in addition to gold and copper, he states that he obtained silver also in the mountains. The stone he transported by water, and he adds that the ships bringing bitumen and plaster from Madga were loaded as though they were barges carrying grain.

A third passage in Gudea's texts, referring to the transport of materials from a distance, occurs upon the colossal statue of himself which he erected in E-ninnu. Here he states that Magan, Melukhkha, Gubi, and Dilmun collected wood, and that ships loaded with wood of all kinds came to the port of Lagash. Moreover, on eight out of his eleven statues he records that the diorite, from which he fashioned them, was brought from Magan. In his search for building materials, he asserts that he journeyed from the lower country to the upper country and, when summarizing the area over which he and his agents ranged, he adopts an ancient formula, and states that Ningirsu, his beloved king, opened the ways for him from the Upper to the Lower Sea, that is to say, from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf.

The enumeration of these distant countries, and Gudea's boastful reference to the Upper and the Lower Sea, might, perhaps, at first sight be regarded as constituting a claim to an empire as extensive as that of Shar-Gani-sharri and Naram-Sin. But it is a remarkable fact that, with the exception of Lagash and her constituent townships, Gudea's texts make no allusion to cities or districts situated within the limits of Sumer and Akkad. Even the names of neighbouring great towns, such as Ur, Erech, and Larsa, are not once cited, and it can only be inferred that they enjoyed with Lagash an equal measure of independence. But if Gudea's authority did not extend over neighbouring cities and districts within his own country, we can hardly conclude that he exercised an effective control over more distant regions. In fact, we must treat his references to foreign lands as evidence of commercial, not of political, expansion.

Gudea's reign may be regarded as marking a revival of Sumerian prosperity, consequent on the decay of Semitic influence and power in the north. The fact that he was able to import his wood and stone from Syria, and float it unmolested down the Euphrates, argues a considerable weakening of the northern cities. Whether Akkad, or some other city, still claimed a nominal suzerainty over the southern districts it is impossible to say, but it is at least clear that in the reign of Gudea no such claim was either recognized or enforced. We may suppose that Lagash and the other great cities in the south, relieved from the burden of Semitic domination, enjoyed a period of peace and tranquillity, which each city employed for the development of her material resources. The city of Ur was soon to bring this state of affairs to a close, by claiming the hegemony among the southern cities and founding the kingdom of Sumer and Akkad by force of arms. But during Gudea's reign Ur appears to have made no movement, and Lagash and the other great cities of the land may be pictured as maintaining commercial relations with each other, unhampered by the striving of any one of them for political supremacy.

It is possible that we may trace the unparalleled building activity, which characterized Gudea's reign, in part to a development in the art of building, which appears to have taken place at about this period. It has been suggested that both Gudea and Ur-Engur, the founder of the Dynasty of Ur, participated in the same great architectural movement, and proof of this has been seen in their common employment of the smaller square brick, measuring from about twelve to thirteen inches, which was more easy to handle than the larger bricks employed by Ur-Bau and at the time of the Dynasty of Akkad. The inherent advantages of this form of brick are attested by its retention, with but slight variations, down to the end of the Babylonian empire. That Gudea himself set considerable store by the form of the bricks which he employed would seem to follow from the passage in his first cylinder-inscription, where he describes the ceremonies with which he inaugurated their manufacture, including the offer of sacrifices and the pouring of a libation into the sacred mould. The use of an improved material may well have incited him to rebuild the greater number of the sanctuaries in Lagash on their ancient sites, but enlarged and beautified in accordance with the new architectural ideas. From another passage in his texts it would seem that he definitely claimed to have inaugurated a novel form of building, or decoration, such as no patesi before him had employed. The meaning of the phrase is not quite certain, but it may, perhaps, have reference to the sculptured reliefs with which he adorned E-ninnu. It may also refer to the use of raised pilasters for the adornment of facades and external walls, a form that is characteristic of later Babylonian architecture, but is not found in the remains of buildings at Lagash before Gudea's time.

In addition to E-ninnu, the great temple of the city-god Ningirsu, Gudea records that he rebuilt the shrines dedicated to Bau and Ninkharsag, and E-anna, the temple of the goddess Ninni, and he erected temples to Galalim and Dunshagga, two of Ningirsu's sons. In Uru-azagga he rebuilt Gatumdug's temple, and in Girsu three temples to Nindub, Meslamtaea, and Nindar, the last of whom was associated with the goddess Nina, in whose honour he made a sumptuous throne. In Girsu, too, he built a temple to Ningishzida, his patron god, whom he appears to have introduced at this time into the pantheon of Lagash. One of the most novel of his reconstructions was the E-pa, the temple of the seven zones, which he erected for Ningirsu. Gudea's building probably took the form of a tower in seven stages, a true ziggurat, which may be compared with those of Ur-Engur. But the work on which he most prided himself was the rebuilding of E-ninnu, and to this he devoted all the resources of his city. From a study of the remains of this temple that were uncovered at Tello by M. de Sarzec, it would appear that Gudea surrounded the site of Ur-Bau's earlier building with an enclosure, of which a gateway and a tower, decorated with pilasters in relief, are all that remains. These were incorporated in the structure of the late palace at Tello, a great part of which was built with bricks from the ancient temple. It is difficult to determine the relation of these slight remains at Tello, either to the building described by Gudea himself, or to the plan of a fortified enclosure which one of the statues of Gudea, as an architect, holds upon his knees. That the plan was intended, at any rate, for a portion of the temple is clear from the inscription, to the effect that Gudea prepared the statue for E-ninnu, which he had just completed.

The detailed account of the building of this temple, which Gudea has left us, affords a very vivid picture of the religious life of the Sumerians at this epoch, and of the elaborate ritual with which they clothed the cult and worship of their gods. The record is given upon two huge cylinders of clay, one of which was inscribed while the work of building was still in progress, and the other after the building and decoration of the temple had been completed, and Ningirsu had been installed within his shrine. They were afterwards buried as foundation-records in the structure of the temple itself, and so have survived in a wonderfully well-preserved condition, and were recovered during the French excavations at Tello. From the first of the cylinders we learn that Gudea decided to rebuild the temple of the city-god in consequence of a prolonged drought, which was naturally ascribed to the anger of the gods. The water in the rivers and canals had fallen, the crops had suffered, and the land was threatened with famine, when one night the patesi had a vision, by means of which the gods communicated their orders to him.

Gudea tells us that he was troubled because he could not interpret the meaning of the dream, and it was only after he had sought and received encouragement from Ningirsu and Gatumdug that he betook himself to the temple of Nina, the goddess who divines the secrets of the gods. From her he learnt that the deities who had appeared to him in his vision had been Ningirsu, the god of his city, Ningishzida, his patron deity, his sister Nidaba, and Nindub, and that certain words he had heard uttered were an order that he should build E-ninnu. He had beheld Nindub drawing a plan upon a tablet of lapis-lazuli, and this Nina explained was the plan of the temple he should build. Nina added instructions of her own as to the gifts and offerings the patesi was to make to Ningirsu, whose assistance she promised him in the carrying out of the work. Gudea then describes in detail how he obtained from Ningirsu himself a sign that it was truly the will of the gods that he should build the temple, and how, having consulted the omens and found them favourable, he proceeded to purify the city by special rites. In the course of this work of preparation he drove out the wizards and sorcerers from Lagash, and kindled a fire of cedar and other aromatic woods to make a sweet savour for the gods and, after completing the purification of the city, he consecrated the surrounding districts, the sacred cedar-groves, and the herds and cattle belonging to the temple. He then tells us how he fetched the materials for the temple from distant lands, and inaugurated the manufacture of the bricks with solemn rites and ceremonies.

We are not here concerned with Gudea's elaborate description of the new temple, and of the sumptuous furniture, the sacred emblems, and the votive objects with which he enriched its numerous courts and shrines. A large part of the first cylinder is devoted to this subject, and the second cylinder gives an equally elaborate account of the removal of the god Ningirsu from his old shrine and his installation in the new one that had been prepared for him. This event took place on a duly appointed day in the new year, after the city and its inhabitants had undergone a second course of purification. Upon his transfer to his new abode Ningirsu was accompanied by his wife Bau, his sons, and his seven virgin daughters, and the numerous attendant deities who formed the members of his household. These included Galalim, his son, whose special duty it was to guard the throne and place the sceptre in the hands of the reigning patesi Dunshagga, Ningirsu's water- bearer Lugal-kurdub, his leader in battle Lugal-sisa, his counsellor and chamberlain Shakanshabar, his grand vizir Uri-zi, the keeper of his harim Ensignun, who tended his asses and drove his chariot and Enlulim, the shepherd of his kids. Other deities who accompanied Ningirsu were his musician and flute-player, his singer, the cultivator of his lands, who looked after the machines for irrigation, the guardian of the sacred fish-ponds, the inspector of his birds and cattle, and the god who superintended the construction of houses within the city and fortresses upon the city-wall. All these deities were installed in special shrines within E-ninnu, that they might be near Ningirsu and ready at any moment to carry out his orders.

The important place which ritual and worship occupied in the national life of the Sumerians is well illustrated by these records of the building and consecration of a single temple. Gudea's work may have been far more elaborate than that of his predecessors, but the general features of his plan, and the ceremonies and rites which he employed, were doubtless fixed and sanctified by long tradition. His description of Ningirsu's entourage proves that the Sumerian city-god was endowed with all the attributes and enjoyed all the privileges of the patesi himself, his human counterpart and representative. His temple was an elaborate structure, which formed the true dwelling-place of its owner and his divine household and it included lodgings for the priests, treasure-chambers, store-houses, and granaries, and pens and stabling for the kids, sheep and cattle destined for sacrifice. It is interesting to note that in the course of building Gudea came across a stele of Lugal-kisalsi, an earlier king of Erech and Ur. From the name which he gave it we may infer that he found it in Girnun, which was probably one of the shrines or chapels attached to E-ninnu and he carefully preserved it and erected it in the forecourt of the temple. In the respect which he showed for this earlier record, he acted as Nabonidus did at a later day, when he came across the foundation-inscriptions of Naram-Sin and Shagarakti-Buriash in the course of his rebuilding of E-babbar and E-ulmash, the temples of Shamash and of the goddess Anunitu.

Of the article productions of Gudea's period the most striking that have come down to us are the series of diorite statues of himself, which were found together in the late palace at Tello. From the inscriptions upon them it is clear that they were originally prepared by the patesi for dedication in the principal temples of Lagash, which he either founded or rebuilt. Three were installed in E-ninnu, of which one is the statue of the architect with the plan, and another, a seated figure, is the only one of the series of colossal proportions. Three more were made for the temple of Bau, and others for Ninni's temple E-anna, and the temples of the goddesses Gatumdug and Ninkharsag. The small seated figure, destined for the temple of Ningishzida, is the only one of which we possess the head, for this was discovered by Commandant Cros during the more recent diggings at Tello, and was fitted by M. Heuzey to the body of the figure which had been preserved in the Louvre for many years. From the photographic reproduction it will be seen that the size of the head is considerably out of proportion to that of the body and it must be admitted that even the larger statues are not all of equal merit. While in some of them the stiffness of archaic convention is still apparent, others, such as the seated statues for E-ninnu and that of the architect with the rule from the temple of Gatumdug, are distinguished by a fine naturalism and a true sense of proportion.

Some interesting variations of treatment may also be noted in two of the standing statues from the temple of Bau. One of these is narrow in the shoulders and slender of form, and is in striking contrast to the other, which presents the figure of a strong and broad-shouldered man. It would seem that the statues were sculptured at different periods of Gudea's life, and from the changes observable we may infer that he ascended the throne while still a young man and that his reign must have been a long one. The diorite which he used for them was very highly prized for its durability and beauty, and the large block that was required for his colossal figure appears, when the carving was completed, to have been regarded as far more precious than lapis-lazuli, silver, and other metals. Certainly the preparation of so hard a stone presented more difficulty than that of any other material, and that Gudea's sculptors should have learnt to deal successfully with such large masses of it argues a considerable advance in the development of their art.

The small copper figures of a kneeling god grasping a cone are also characteristic of Gudea's period, but in design and workmanship they are surpassed by the similar votive figure which dates from Ur-Bau's reign. A fine example of carving in relief is furnished by the oval panel, in which Gudea is represented as being led into the presence of his god a similar scene of worship, though on a smaller scale, is engraved upon his cylinder-seal. A happy example of carving in the round, as exhibited by smaller objects of this period, is his small mace-head of breccia decorated with the heads of three lions. In design this clearly resembles the mace-head referred to on one of the statues from E-ninnu, though, unlike it, the small mace-head was probably not gilded, since the inscription upon it mentions the mountain in Syria whence the breccia was obtained. But other carved objects of stone that have been recovered may well have been enriched in that way, and to their underlying material they probably owe their preservation. The precious metal may have been stripped from these and the stone cores thrown aside but similar work in solid gold or silver would scarcely have escaped the plunderer's hands.

With the exception of the period of drought, in consequence of which Gudea decided to rebuild Ningirsu's temple, it is probable that during the greater part of his reign the state of Lagash enjoyed unparalleled abundance, such as is said to have followed the completion of that work. The date-formula for one of his years of rule takes its title from the cutting of a new canal which he named Ningirsu-ushumgal, and there is no doubt that he kept the elaborate system of irrigation, by which Lagash and her territories were supplied with water, in a perfect state of repair. Evidence of the plentiful supplies which the temple-lands produced may be seen in the increase of the regular offerings decreed by Gudea. On New Year's day, for instance, at the feast of Bau, after he had rebuilt her temple, he added to the marriage-gifts which were her due, consisting of oxen, sheep, lambs, baskets of dates, pots of butter, figs, cakes, birds, fish, and precious woods, etc. He also records special offerings of clothing and wool which he made to her, and of sacrificial beasts to Ningirsu and the goddess Nina. For the new temple of Gatumdug he mentions the gift of herds of cattle and flocks of sheep, together with their herdsmen and shepherds, and of irrigation-oxen and their keepers for the sacred lands of E-ninnu. Such references point to an increase in the revenues of the state, and we may infer that the people of Lagash shared the prosperity of their patesi and his priesthood.

While Gudea devoted himself to the service of his gods, he does not appear to have enriched the temples at the expense of the common people. He was a strict upholder of traditional privileges, such as the freedom from taxation enjoyed by Gu-edin, Ningirsu's sacred plain but he did not countenance any acts of extortion on the part of his secular or sacred officials. That Gudea's ideal of government was one of order, law, and justice, and the protection of the weak, is shown by his description of the state of Lagash during the seven days he feasted with his people after the consecration of E-ninnu. He tells us that during this privileged time the maid was the equal of her mistress, and master and slave consorted together as friends the powerful and the humble man lay down side by side and in place of evil speech only propitious words were heard the laws of Nina and Ningirsu were observed, and the rich man did not wrong the orphan, nor did the strong man oppress the widow. This reference to what was apparently a legal code, sanctioned by the authority of the city-god and of a goddess connected with the ancient shrine of Eridu, is of considerable interest. It recalls the reforms of the ill-fated Urukagina, who attempted to stamp out the abuses of his time by the introduction of similar legislation. Gudea lived in a happier age, and he appears to us, not as a reformer, but as the strong upholder of the laws in force.

That the reign of Gudea was regarded by the succeeding generations in Lagash as the golden age of their city may perhaps be inferred from his deification under the last kings of the Dynasty of Ur. There is no evidence that, like Sar-Gani-sharri and Naram-Sin, he assumed divine honours during his own lifetime, for in his inscriptions his name is never preceded by the determinative of divinity, and it also occurs without the divine prefix upon the seals of Gimdunpae, his wife, and of Lugal-me, his scribe. In the later period his statues were doubtless worshipped, and it has been suggested that the perpetual offerings of drink and food and grain, which he decreed in connection with one of them, prove that it was assimilated from the first to that of a god. But the names of his statues suggest that they were purely votive in character, and were not placed in the temples in consequence of any claim to divinity on Gudea's part.

It was the custom of the Sumerian patesis to give long and symbolical names to statues, stelae and other sacred objects which they dedicated to the gods, and Gudea's statues do not form an exception to this rule. Thus, before he introduced the statue with the offerings into E-ninnu, he solemnly named it : "For my king have I built this temple may life be my reward!". A smaller statue for E-ninnu was named : "[The-Shepherd] who loveth his king am I may my life be prolonged!", while to the colossal statue for the same temple he gave the title : "Ningirsu the king whose weighty strength the lands cannot support hath assigned a favourable lot unto Gudea the builder of the temple." The small standing statue for the temple of Ninkharsag bore the equally long name : "May Nintud (i.e. Ninkharsag) the mother of the gods the arbiter of destinies in heaven and upon earth prolong the life of Gudea who hath built the temple!", and another small statue for the temple of Bau was named "The lady the beloved daughter of the pure heaven the mother goddess Bau in Esilsirsir hath given Gudea life". The statue for the temple of Ningishzida was named "To Gudea the builder of the temple hath life been given," and that for E-anna bore the title "Of Gudea the man who hath constructed the temple may the life be prolonged!". It will be seen that these names either assert that life and happiness have been granted to Gudea, or they invoke the deity addressed to prolong his life. In fact, they prove that the statues were originally placed in the temples like other votive objects, either in gratitude for past help, or to ensure a continuance of the divine favour.

Such evidence as we possess would seem to show that at the time of Gudea no Sumerian ruler had ever laid claim to divine rank. It is true that offerings were made in connection with the statue of Ur-Nina during Lugal-anda's reign, but Ur-Nina had never laid claim to divinity himself. Moreover, other high personages treated their own statues in the same way. Thus Shagshag, the wife of Urukagina, made offerings in connection with her own statue, but there is no evidence that she was deified. In fact, during the earlier periods, and also in Gudea's own reign, the statue was probably intended to represent the worshipper vicariously before his god. Not only in his lifetime, but also after death, the statue continued to plead for him. The offerings were not originally made to the statue itself, but were probably placed near it to represent symbolically the owner's offerings to his god.

This custom may have prepared the way for the practice of deification, but it did not originate in it. Indeed, the later development is first found among the Semitic kings of Akkad, and probably of Kish, but it did not travel southward until after the Dynasty of Ur had been established for more than a generation. Ur-Engur, like Gudea, was not deified in his own lifetime, and the innovation was only introduced by Dungi. During the reigns of the last kings of that dynasty the practice had been regularly adopted, and it was in this period that Gudea was deified and his cult established in Lagash along with those of Dungi and his contemporary Ur-Lama. By decreeing that offerings should be made to one of his statues, Gudea no doubt prepared the way for his posthumous deification, but he does not appear to have advanced the claim himself. That he should have been accorded this honour after death may be regarded as an indication that the splendour of his reign had not been forgotten.

Gudea was succeeded upon the throne of Lagash by his son Ur-Ningirsu, and with this patesi we may probably establish a point of contact between the rulers of Lagash and those of Ur. That he succeeded his father there can be no doubt, for on a ceremonial mace-head, which he dedicated to Ningirsu, and in other inscriptions we possess, he styles himself the son of Gudea and also patesi of Lagash. During his reign he repaired and rebuilt at least a portion of E-ninnu, for the British Museum possesses a gate-socket from this temple, and a few of his bricks have been found at Tello recording that he rebuilt in cedar- wood the Gigunu, a portion of the temple of Ningirsu, which Gudea had erected as symbolical of the Lower World. Moreover, tablets have been found at Tello which are dated in his reign, and from these we gather that he was patesi for at least three years, and probably longer. From other monuments we learn that a highly placed religious official of Lagash, who was a contemporary of Dungi, also bore the name of Ur-Ningirsu, and the point to be decided is whether we may identify this personage with Gudea's son.

Ur-Ningirsu, the official, was high-priest of the goddess Nina, and he also held the offices of priest of Enki and high-priest of Anu. Moreover, he was a man of sufficient importance to stamp his name upon bricks which were probably used in the construction of a temple at Lagash. That he was Dungi's contemporary is known from an inscription upon a votive wig and head-dress in the British Museum, which is made of diorite and was intended for a female statuette. The text engraved upon this object states that it was made by a certain Bau-ninam for his lady and divine protectress, who was probably the goddess Bau, as an adornment for her gracious person, and his object in presenting the offering was to induce her to prolong the life of Dungi, "the mighty man, the King of Ur." The important part of the text concerns Bau-ninam's description of himself as a craftsman, or subordinate official, in the service of Ur-Ningirsu, "the beloved high-priest of Nina". From this passage it is clear that Ur-Ningirsu was high-priest in Lagash at a period when Dungi (Shulgi), king of Ur, exercised suzerainty over that city. If therefore we are to identify him with Gudea's son and successor, we must conclude that he had meawhile been deposed from the patesiate of Lagash, and appointed to the priestly offices which we find him holding during Dungi's reign.

The alternative suggestion that Ur-Ningirsu may have fulfilled his sacerdotal duties during the lifetime of Gudea while he himself was still crown-prince, is negatived by the subsequent discovery that during the reign of Dungi's father, Ur-Engur (Ur Nammu), another patesi, named Ur-abba, was on the throne of Lagash for tablets have been found at Tello which are dated in the reign of Ur-Engur and also in the patesiate of Ur-abba. To reconcile this new factor with the preceding identification, we must suppose that Ur-Ningirsu's deposition occurred in the reign of Ur-Engur, who appointed Ur-abba as patesi in his place. According to this view, Ur-Ningirsu was not completely stripped of honours, but his authority was restricted to the purely religious sphere, and he continued to enjoy his priestly appointments during the early part of Dungi's reign. There is nothing impossible in this arrangement, and it finds support in account-tablets from Tello, which belong to the period of Ur-Ningirsu's reign. Some of the tablets mention supplies and give lists of precious objects, which were destined for "the king", "the queen", " the king's son", or "the king's daughter", and were received on their behalf by the palace-chamberlain. Although none of these tablets expressly mention Ur-Ningirsu, one of the same group of documents was drawn up in the year which followed his accession as patesi, another is dated in a later year of his patesiate, and all may be assigned with some confidence to his period. The references to a "king" in the official account-lists point to the existence of a royal dynasty, whose authority was recognized at this time in Lagash. In view of the evidence afforded by Bau-ninam's dedication we may identify the dynasty with that of Ur.

The acceptance of the synchronism carries with it the corollary that with Ur-Ningirsu's reign we have reached another turning point in the history, not only of Lagash, but of the whole of Sumer and Akkad. It is possible that Ur-Engur (Ur Nammu) may have founded his dynasty in Ur before Gudea's death, but there is no evidence that he succeeded in forcing his authority upon Lagash during Gudea's patesiate and, in view of the comparative shortness of his reign, it is preferable to assign his accession to the period of Gudea's son. Sumer must have soon acknowledged his authority, and Lagash and the other southern cities doubtless formed the nucleus of the kingdom on which he based his claim to the hegemony in Babylonia. This claim on behalf of Ur was not fally-substantiated until the reign of Dungi, but in Sumer Ur-Engur appears to have met with little opposition. Of the circumstances which led to Ur-Ningirsu's deposition we know nothing, but we may conjecture that his acknowledgment of Ur-Engur's authority was not accompanied by the full measure of support demanded by his suzerain. As Gudea's son and successor he may well have resented the loss of practical autonomy which his city had enjoyed, and Ur-Engur may in consequence have found it necessary to remove him from the patesiate. Ur-abba and his successors were merely vassals of the kings of Ur, and Lagash became a provincial city in the kingdom of Sumer and Akkad.

Historical Periods

During the reign of Gudea in the ancient city of Lagash, the great city temples were adorned with several statues of him. While Lagash collapsed many centuries ago, the Statue of Gudea (which dates back to ca. 2090 B.C.) still sits pretty.

  • Louvre Museum, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Royal Acquaintances Memi and Sabu, on the other hand, dates back to the Fourth Dynasty (ca. 2575–2465 B.C.) of ancient Egypt.


The Royal Acquaintances Memi and Sabu were made from limestone while the statue of Gudea is a stone sculpture made from diorite.

The Statue of Gudea portrays him as a ruler that he was, seated before his subjects with his hands folded into a prayer or greeting gesture, while the Royal Acquaintances Memi and Sabu depict the intimacy of Memi and Sabu standing side-by-side, with Memi’s left hand hanging down Sabu’s shoulder and her right hand wrapped around his waist.

One thing both statues have in common is the presence of inscriptions. The inscriptions on the statue of Memi and Sabu suggested they were acquainted with a royal family, while that of the statue of Gudea described him as royalty and a hero, expressing the wish for him to live long.


The level of intimacy observed in the Royal Acquaintances Memi and Sabu suggests they were a couple, so the statue could be a depiction of love. However, while their hands tell us they may have been lovers, their facial expressions say otherwise. It seems they were connected physically and not emotionally. Both husband and wife are dressed in similar clothes, which means they belonged to the same social class. Furthermore, the simplicity of their clothes shows they were probably commoners or servants.

This, however, isn’t the case with the Statue of Gudea. The Statue of Gudea represents royalty and power – this is evident in the portrayal of Gudea. The statue shows him seated, wearing a royal robe like he was about to address his subjects, unlike the Royal Acquaintances Memi and Sabu, which shows them standing, like subjects.


Just like many others, the statue of Gudea was made to be placed in the great temples of Lagash Gudea built. Placing his statue in the temples was a way of preserving his legacy for the next generations to come and for the people to continue serving and worshipping him like a god.

The Royal Acquaintances Memi and Sabu were made to be buried with the dead (most likely their masters), to continue serving them even in the afterlife.


I think this is one of the most vital info for me. And i am glad reading your article. But want to remark on few general things, The site style is perfect, the articles is really nice : D. Good job, cheers

We’re really happy that you liked this piece of information. Thanks for appreciating our blog style and articles too. Keep reading and visit our services section also.

Wow! Finally, I got a web site from where I can genuinely get valuable information concerning
my study and knowledge.

Thanks for appreciating our blog. We’ll soon share more interesting topics
Keep checking and happy reading!