Old Testament Backgrounds

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The main offensive weapon in Early Dynastic Mesopotamia was the war chariot, while heavily armed infantry attacked in phalanx formation as can be seen from this detail of the famous Stele of the Vultures of Eannatum of Lagash (c. 2450 BC), now in the Louvre Museum. Enemy corpses can be seen brutally trampled under foot. See Arthur Cotterell, Chariot. New Yor

Height of Panel c. 85 cm.

The Sumerian war chariot, depicted on the so-called ‘Standard of Ur’, was a slow and cumbersome vehicle, with four solid wheels, and was drawn by asses. But it was the first mechanization of any army, and was the beginning of far-reaching changes in the conduct of warfare.

3e. The next important king was Eannatum who was a vigorous campaigner waging war successfully against Elam. He manages to create a certain hegemony over Sumer. He is most famous, however, for his Stela of Vultures which celebrated his victory over Umma. This is one of the earliest treaty formats with stipulations and curses. See T. Jacobsen, “The Stela of Vultures, Col. I-X,” AOAT 25 (1976), 247-260.

4e. Urukagina Uruinimgina is one of the more intriguing kings of the entire ANE. He is universally known as the “Reform King”. He attempted to:
Limit the prerogatives of the king over the city god(s).

Limit the powers of the state and bureaucracy as well as limiting taxes. These attempts to decentralize power were clearly at tension with the rapidly burgeoning royal interest.

Institute a limited abolition of debts (perhaps the forerunner of the so-called Jubilee).

Apparently, however, his reform attempted to restrict power from both political and religions inequities.

5e. The attempts at reform were aborted by the rising figure of Lugal-za-gesi who was king of Umma. Usually Umma had been on the losing side but he was successful in battle against Lagash and then against Uruk. He apparently captured all of Sumer making Uruk his capital.

He has given us the 1st Royal Sumerian inscription in literary style. For all practical purposes, he ends the ED period. M. A. Powell, “Texts from the Time of Lugalzagesi,” HUCA 49 (1978), 1-58.

Easily, the most interesting feature to this king is his practice concerning royal titles.

9c. The Old Akkadian Period (Successive Period) ca. 2350-2150 (the definitive source on this may be Benjamin Foster, The Age of Agade: Inventing Empire in Ancient Mesopotamia, Routledge Press).

1d. Sargon = Sharru-kin, “true king.” Cf. ANET pp. 266-268; ANEP # 432
1e. His rise to power…pulled out of the bull-rushes

2e. His reign (56 years)

1f. Military precedents
1g. 1st to have a Mesopotamian empire.

2g. 1st to garrison cities.

3g. 1st to appoint Semitic officials.

4g. 1st to use political hostages.

See W. F. Albright, “A Babylonian Geographical Treatise on Sargon of Akkad’s Empire,” JAOS 45 (1945), 193-245; Sabina Franke, “Kings of Akkad: Sargon and Naram-Sin,” CANE, 831-842 Some of this, however, has come into some question because of the Ebla archives. See especially Saul N. Nitkus, “Sargon Unseated,” BA 39:3 (Sept. 1976), 114-117. The writings on Ebla are already prolific but we shall have to postpone any real decision until the documents themselves are published. Marlies Heinz, “Sargon of Akkad: Rebel and Usurper in Kish,” in Representations of Political Power, ed. Heinz and Feldman, 67-87.

2f. Political Precedents. This period is the first that might be called Imperial. The interests of the royal house are of 1st importance. This may be seen in a contrast with that of the ED Period.

Early Dynastic Period

Old Akkadian Period

Royal Titles

King of Kish is most highly prized

King of Agade Land (Gradual usurping of the god’s titles)


Geared to local interests

Created to support the standing army & occupational forces.


Functional and local

Royal family rules. He pays servants with land grants & owns all land. Installs his daughter as high priestess.
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