Fall of the Sumerian Cities

The Fall of the Sumerian Cities

Around 2000 B. c. both Sumer and Akkad were attacked by barbarian invaders. The Amorites from Syria seized control in Akkad , and built a powerful new state around the city of Babylon . The Elamites from Iran took the city of Ur , sacked it, and burnt it down. When Ur was later rebuilt under Babylonian rule, its inhabitants remembered with terror the Elamite destruction of their beloved city:

0 Father Nanna, that city into ruins was made …Its people, not potsherds, filled its sides;  Its walls were breached; the people groan.  In its lofty gates, where they were wont to promenade, dead bodies were lying about; in its boulevards, where the feasts were celebrated, scattered they lay.  In all its streets, where they were wont to promenade, dead bodies were lying about;  In its places, where the festivities of the land took place, the people lay in heaps … Ur -its weak and its strong perished through hunger;  Mothers and fathers who did not leave their houses were overcome by fire; The young, lying on their mothers’ laps, like fish were carried off by the waters;  In the city the wife was abandoned, the son was abandoned, the possessions were scattered about…0 Nanna, Ur has been destroyed, its people have been dispersed.

The Last of the Sumerians

Within a few centuries the Sumerians had built up a society based in 12 city-states: Kish, Uruk (in the Bible, Erech), Ur, Sippar, Akshak, Larak, Nippur, Adab, Umma, Lagash, Bad-tibira, and Larsa. According to one of the earliest historical documents, the Sumerian King List, eight kings of Sumer reigned before the famous flood. Afterwards various city-states by turns became the temporary seat of power until about 2800 BC, when they were united under the rule of one king–Etana of Kish. After Etana, the city-states vied for domination; this weakened the Sumerians, and they were ripe for conquest–first by Elamites, then by Akkadians.

The Sumerians had never been very warlike, and they had only a citizen army, called to arms in time of danger. In about 2340 BC King Sargon of Akkad conquered them and went on to build an empire that stretched westward to the Mediterranean Sea. The empire, though short-lived, fostered art and literature.

Led by Ur, the Sumerians again spread their rule far westward. During Ur’s supremacy (about 2150 to 2050 BC) Sumerian culture reached its highest development. Shortly thereafter the cities lost their independence forever, and gradually the Sumerians completely disappeared as a people. Their language, however, lived on as the language of culture. Their writing, their business organization, their scientific knowledge, and their mythology and law were spread westward by the Babylonians and Assyrians