Third Dynasty of Ur

   The name given by modern scholars to both a powerful dynasty of Sumerian rulers and the empire they ruled in the late third millennium b.c., from circa 2113 to circa 2004 b.c. Scholars sometimes abbreviate this name as "Ur-III." The second empire to rise in Mesopotamia and the Near East, after that of the dynasty of Sar-gon of Akkad (reigned ca. 2340-2284 b.c.), Ur-III represented an earnest and for a while successful attempt to reestablish lost Sumerian power. The Akkadians under Sargon and his heirs had earlier absorbed the once independent Sumerian cities. In the late 2200s b.c. the Guti, a fierce mountain people, descended onto the plains, brought about the end of the declining Akkadian realm, and began harassing several of these cities. Finally, a coalition of Sumerian rulers defeated the Guti.
   Taking a leading role in the elimination of the Gutian menace was the ruler of Ur, Ur-Nammu (reigned ca. 2113-2094 b.c.). An ambitious man, a talented military leader, and a gifted administrator, he quickly asserted Ur's power over neighboring Sumerian cities, creating a small but strong empire. That realm expanded further under his successors. Ur-Nammu's son, Shulgi (ca. 2094-2047 b.c.) captured parts of southwestern Iran, including Susa and its environs, for instance. Shulgi appointed military generals as governors of outlying provinces. He also continued to expand on his father's strong administrative system and instituted standard weights and measures for use across the empire, thereby making trade and commerce more efficient. These efforts have been revealed by thousands of cuneiform tablets found in Ur's ruins. More expansion occurred under Shulgi's son, Amar-Sin (ca. 20462038 b.c.), who overran large parts of Assyria (northern Mesopotamia).
   Even during Shulgi's and Amar-Sin's reigns, however, the security of the new empire was threatened on both of its main flanks. The Elamites raided in the northeast, and Semitic-speaking Amorites intruded into Mesopotamia from the northwest. Hoping to stave off the Amorites, Shulgi built a massive wall across part of the plain. It had several ancient names, among them "the wall in front of the mountains" and "the wall of the land." Amar-Sin's brother, Shu-Sin (ca. 20372027 b.c.), who succeeded him on the throne, also built a wall to keep the Amor-ites out. But these efforts were in vain, as the Amorites continued to settle on the plains. Meanwhile, the Elamites grew increasingly powerful, and during the reign of Shu-Sin's son, Ibbi-Sin (ca. 2026-2004 b.c.), they launched an all-out attack on Ur. After a long siege, the city fell and the invaders captured the king and slaughtered the rest of the inhabitants. The administrative structure of the empire then swiftly fell apart, marking the effective end of Su-merian political power in ancient Mesopotamia.
   The fall of Ur-III was widely seen as a watershed event and was long remembered in the poem the Lamentation over the Destruction of Ur, composed by an unknown scribe shortly after the event. In the poem, Ningal, divine wife of Ur's patron, Nanna, the moon god, pleads with the gods Enlil and An to spare the city and empire. But they turn a cold shoulder, and the grim destruction begins:
   (Behold,) they gave instruction that ... Ur be destroyed, and as its destiny decreed that its inhabitants be killed. Enlil called the storm. The people mourn. ... He called the storm that annihilates the land. . . . He called disastrous winds .. . the (great) hurricane of heaven . . . the (blinding) hurricane howling across the skies . . . the tempest . . . breaks through levees, beats down upon, devours the city's ships, (all these) he gathered at the base of heaven. The people mourn. (Great) fires he lit that heralded the storm . . . and lit on either flank of furious winds the searing heat of the desert. Like flaming heat of noon this fire scorched. The storm ordered by Enlil in hate . . . covered Ur like a cloth, veiled it like a linen sheet. On that day . . . that city was a ruin. O father Nanna, that town was left a ruin. . . . Its people's corpses . . . littered the approaches. The walls were gaping. . . . The roads were piled with dead. In the wide streets, where feasting crowds (once) gathered, jumbled they lay. In all the streets and roadways bodies lay. In open fields that used to fill with dancers, the people lay in heaps. The country's blood now filled its holes, like metal in a mold; bodies dissolved like butter left in the sun.
   See also: Akkadian Empire; Elam; Shulgi; Ur; Ur-Nammu

Ancient Mesopotamia dictioary. . 2015.

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