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For uses in the fiction of Tolkien, see Uruk-hai, Erech (Middle-earth).

Coordinates: 31°19′20″N, 45°38′10″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

Uruk (Sumerian: URUUNUG 𒌷𒀔, Biblical: Erech, Greek: Ορχόη or Ωρύγεια, Arabic وركاء Warkā’), was an ancient city of Sumer and later Babylonia, situated east of the present bed of the Euphrates, on the line of the ancient Nil canal, in a region of marshes, some 30 km east of As-Samawah, Al-Muthannā, Iraq. The theory that the modern name of Iraq could be possibly derived from the name Uruk is not proven. At its height, Uruk probably had 50,000-80,000 residents living in 6 square kilometres of walled area, the largest city in the world at its time. Uruk represents one of the world's first cities, with a dense population made up of people of a region rather than bonded by kinship[citation needed] as was typical of towns and villages of previous eras. Uruk also saw the rise of the state in Mesopotamia with a full-time bureaucracy, military, and stratified society.

It was one of the oldest and most important cities of Sumer. It was the capital city of Gilgamesh, hero of the famous Epic. Its walls were said to have been built by order of Gilgamesh, or rather, his predecessor Enmerkar, who also constructed, it was said, the famous temple called Eanna, dedicated to the worship of Inanna (Ishtar). Its voluminous surviving temple archive of the Neo-Babylonian period documents the social function of the temple as a redistribution center. In times of famine, a family might dedicate children to the temple as oblates.

Uruk played a very important part in the political history of the country from an early time, exercising hegemony in Babylonia at a period before the time of Sargon. Later it was prominent in the national struggles of the Babylonians against the Elamites up to 2004 BC, in which it suffered severely; recollections of some of these conflicts are embodied in the Gilgamesh epic, in the literary and courtly form that has come down to us.

Oppenheim states, "In Uruk, in southern Mesopotamia, Sumerian civilization seems to have reached its creative peak. This is pointed out repeatedly in the references to this city in religious and, especially, in literary texts, including those of mythological content; the historical tradition as preserved in the Sumerian king-list confirms it. From Uruk the center of political gravity seems to have moved to Ur."

According to the Sumerian king list, Uruk was founded by Enmerkar, who brought the official kingship with him from the city of Eanna. His father Mesh-ki-ag-gasher had "entered the sea and disappeared". Other historical kings of Uruk include Lugalzagesi of Umma (now Djokha) (who conquered Uruk), and Utuhegal.

According to the Bible (Genesis 10:10), Erech, probably Uruk, was said to have been the second city founded by Nimrod. It also appears to have been the home of the Archavites, exiled by Asnapper to Samaria (Ezra 4:9-10). The sites mentioned in Ezra are all from Southern Mesopotamia, and it appears that Asnapper may be the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal, who conducted a campaign against these Southern Babylonians.

Uruk was first excavated by a German team led by Julius Jordan before World War I. This expedition returned in 1928 and made further excavations until 1939, then returned in 1954 under the direction of H. Lenzen and made systematic excavations over the following years. These excavations revealed some early Sumerian documents and a larger cache of legal and scholarly tablets of the Seleucid period, that have been published by Adam Falkenstein and other German epigraphists.

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ca:Uruk cs:Uruk de:Uruk el:Ουρούκ es:Uruk fa:اوروک fr:Uruk ko:우루크 it:Uruk ku:Urûk hu:Uruk nl:Uruk ja:ウルク (メソポタミア) no:Uruk pl:Uruk pt:Uruk ro:Uruk ru:Урук sk:Uruk sh:Uruk fi:Uruk sv:Uruk


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