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Coordinates: 31°24′N 46°24′E

Ancient Mesopotamia
Cities / Empires
Sumer: UrukUrEridu
Akkadian Empire: Akkad
Assyria: AssurNineveh
Kings of Sumer
Kings of Assyria
Kings of Babylon
Cuneiform script
Enûma Elish

Lagash (Akkadian lagaš) or Sirpurla (Sumerian ŠIR.BUR.LAKI; modern Tell al-Hiba), northwest of the junction of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers and east of Uruk, was one of the oldest cities of Sumer and later Babylonia. Nearby Girsu (modern Telloh) was the religious center of the Lagash state.


[edit] Excavations

Lagash ruins were discovered in 1877 by Ernest de Sarzec, at that time French consul at Basra, who was allowed, by the Montefich chief, Nasir Pasha, the first Wali-Pasha or governor-general of Basra, to excavate at his pleasure in the territories subject to that official. At the outset on his own, and later as a representative of the French government, under a Turkish firman, de Sarzec continued excavations at this site, with various intermissions, until his death in 1901, when the work was continued under the supervision of Gaston Cros. The principal excavations were made in two larger mounds, one of them proving to be the site of the temple E-Ninnu - shrine of the patron god of Lagash, Nin-girsu or Ninib.

Later French archeological expeditions were led by Henri de Genouillac (1929-31) and Andre Parrot (1931-33).

[edit] The site

Lagash is represented by a rather low, long line of ruin mounds, now known as Tell al-Hiba in Iraq. It is positioned on the dry bed of an ancient canal, some 5 km east of the Shatt-el-Haj[citation needed], and about 15 km east of the modern town of Shatra in the Dhi Qar Governorate. Girsu (Telloh) lies about 25 km northwest of Al-Hiba.

The E-Ninnu temple had been razed and a fortress built upon its ruins, in the Greek or Seleucid period, some of the bricks found bearing the inscription in Aramaic and Greek of a certain Hadad-nadin-akhe, king of a small Babylonian kingdom. It was beneath this fortress that numerous statues of Gudea were found, constituting the prize of the Babylonian collections at the Louvre. These had been decapitated and otherwise mutilated, and thrown into the foundations of the new fortress. From this stratum also came various fragments of bas reliefs of high artistic excellence. The excavations in the other larger mound resulted in the discovery of the remains of buildings containing objects of all sorts in bronze and stone, dating from the earliest Sumerian period onward, and enabling the art history of Babylonia to be traced to a date some hundreds of years before the time of Gudea.

Apparently this mound had been occupied largely by store houses, where were stored not only grain, figs, etc., but also vessels, weapons, sculptures and every possible object connected with the use and administration of palace and temple. In a small outlying mound, de Sarzec discovered the archives of the temple — about 30,000 inscribed clay tablets containing the business records, and revealing with extraordinary minuteness, the administration of an ancient Babylonian temple, the character of its property, the method of farming its lands, herding its flocks, and its commercial and industrial dealings and enterprises; for an ancient Babylonian temple was a great industrial, commercial, agricultural and stock-raising establishment. Unfortunately, before these archives could be removed, the galleries containing them were rifled by looters, and large numbers of the tablets were sold to antiquity dealers, by whom they have been scattered all over Europe and America.

[edit] History

Image:Gudea of Lagash Girsu.jpg
Gudea of Lagash, diorite statue found at Telloh, Louvre

From the inscriptions found at Telloh, it appears that Lagash was a city of great importance in the Sumerian period, some time probably in the 3rd millennium BC. It was at that time ruled by independent kings, Ur-Nina (24th century BC) and his successors, who were engaged in contests with the Elamites on the east and the kings of "Kengi" and Kish on the north. With the Semitic conquest, it lost its independence, its rulers or patesis becoming vassals of Sargon of Akkad and his successors; but it remained Sumerian, continuing to be a city of much importance and above all, a centre of artistic development. Indeed, it was in this period and under the immediately succeeding supremacy of the kings of Ur, Ur-Gur and Dungi, that it reached its highest artistic development.

After the collapse of Sargon's Empire under pressure from the Guti tribes, Lagash again thrived under the patesis Ur-baba (Ur-bau) and Gudea, and 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. His was especially the era of artistic development. Gudea, following Sargon, was one of the first rulers to claim divinity for himself; and we have even a fairly good idea of what Gudea looked like, since he had his numerous statues or idols depicting himself with unprecedented, lifelike realism, placed in temples throughout Sumer. Gudea took advantage of artistic development because he evidently wanted posterity thousands of years later to know exactly what he looked like, and in that he has succeeded -- a feat that was available to him as royalty, but not to the common people who could not afford to have statues engraved of themselves.

Some of the earlier works of Ur-Nina, En-anna-tum, Entemena and others, before the Semitic conquest, are also extremely interesting, especially the famous Stele of the Vultures and a great silver vase ornamented with what may be called the coat of arms of Lagash: a lion-headed eagle with wings outspread, grasping a lion in each talon.

At the time of Gudea, the capital of Lagash was really Girsu (Telloh). The kingdom covered an area of approximately 1,600 km². It contained 17 bigger towns, eight district capitals, and numerous villages (about 40 known by name).

According to one estimate, Lagash was the largest city in the world at one point, from roughly c. 2075 to 2030 BC. [1]

After the time of Gudea, Lagash seems to have lost its importance; at least we know nothing more about it until the construction of the Seleucid fortress mentioned, when it seems to have become part of the Greek kingdom of Characene. The objects found at Telloh are the most valuable art treasures up to this time discovered in Babylonia.

[edit] First dynasty of Lagash

See also: History of Sumer

This dynasty is not found on the Sumerian king list, although one extremely fragmentary supplement has been found in Sumerian, known as the Royal Chronicle of Lagash (English translation). It recounts how, by around two hundred years after the deluge, mankind was having difficulty growing food for himself, being dependent solely on rainwater; it further relates that techniques of irrigation and cultivation of barley were then imparted by the gods. Few names may be made out on the list of rulers of Lagash that follows, but one name that is intact is that of Ur-Nanshe, who is accredited a reign of 1,080 years.

  • Enhengal (c. 2550 BC)
  • Lugal-Sha-Gen-Sur (Lugal-Suggur), high priest or patesi (c. 2510)
  • Ur-Nina (Ur-nanshe), king (c. 2480)
  • Akurgal (c. 2450)
  • Eannatum, king (c. 2445) founded first empire
  • Inannatum I, high priest (c. 2440) subject to Umma
  • Entemena, king (c. 2400)
  • Inannatum II. (c. 2390)
  • Enitarzi (c. 2385)
  • Lugalanda (2384–2378)
  • Urukagina, king (2378–2371)

[edit] Second dynasty of Lagash

  • Ki-Ku-Id (at 2260)
  • Engilsa (at 2250)
  • Ur-A (at 2230)
  • Lugalushumgal (at 2200)
  • Puzur-Mama
  • Ur-Utu
  • Ur-Mama
  • Lu-Baba
  • Lugula
  • Kaku
  • Urbaba (2164-2144).
  • Gudea (2144-2124)
  • Urningirsu (2124-2119)
  • Pirigme (2119-2117)
  • Ur-GAR (2117-2113)
  • Nammahani (2113-2110)

[edit] References

  • E. de Sarzec, Découvertes en Chaldée (1887).
  • A. Parrot, Tello, vingt campagnes des fouilles (1877-1933), (Paris 1948).
  • Donald P. Hansen, Al-Hiba, 1968-1969, a Preliminary Report, Artibus Asiae (1970).

This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public de:Lagasch es:Lagash fr:Lagash it:Lagash ja:ラガシュ no:Lagash pl:Lagasz pt:Lagash ru:Лагаш sh:Lagaš fi:Lagash sv:Lagash zh:拉格什


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