king lists

   Lists compiled by various Mesopotamian scribes over the course of many centuries in an effort to record the many rulers of the various kingdoms of the region. Also included in some lists are the names of rulers of neighboring regions. The scribes not only listed individual names but also grouped names into ruling dynasties. There were several such lists, beginning with the Sumerian King List, of which a number of versions have survived. These record rulers' names beginning with the handover of kingship from the gods to the humans in the dim past to about 1800 b.c. The following excerpt from the opening section of one version of the Sumerian King List shows how the earliest monarchs were given ridiculously long reigns:
   After the kingship descended from heaven, the kingship was in Eridu. In Eridu, Alulim became king; he ruled for 28,800 years. Alaljar ruled for 36,000 years. Two kings, they ruled for [a total of] 64,800 years. Then Eridu fell and the kingship was taken to Bad-tibira. In Bad-tibira, Enmen-luana ruled for 43,200 years. Enmen-galana ruled for 28,800 years. Dumuzi, the shepherd [also a god], ruled for 36,000 years.
   These impossibly long reigns are reminiscent of, though longer, than the centuries-long lifetimes cited for the early patriarchs in the Old Testament book of Genesis. The earliest ruler in the Sumerian lists whose existence has been verified by archaeology is Enmebaragesi, a king of Kish. Gilgamesh, the hero of the famous myth and epic poem, is listed as the fifth ruler of the first dynasty of Uruk; he may or may not have been a real person. There were also Babylonian and Assyrian king lists.
   In general, the Mesopotamian king lists have both strengths and weaknesses from the standpoint of history and scholarship. On the one hand, those overly long reigns in the Sumerian lists make dating early Sumerian political events next to impossible. On the other hand, there are many gaps and errors in the lists. Also, the dynasties are listed one after another, as if they followed one another chronologically; whereas in reality they sometimes overlapped, with one dynasty ruling in one city-state while another dynasty ruled in a neighboring city-state. On the positive side, the king lists do show which rulers came first in each dynasty and how many years each king reigned. Combined with other evidence, especially archaeological finds, therefore, the lists can be helpful.

Ancient Mesopotamia dictioary. . 2015.

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