ENSI (spelled PA.TE.SI in Sumerian cuneiform, hence occasionally transliterated as patesi; possibly derived from <en si-k>, "lord of the plowland"; borrowed into Akkadian as iššakkum) is a Sumerian title designating the ruler or prince of a city state. Originally it may have designated an independent ruler, but in later periods the title presupposed subordinance to a lugal (King/Emperor).
For the Early Dynastic period (about 2800–2350 BC), the meaning of the Sumerian titles EN, ENSI and LUGAL cannot be differentiated clearly: see Lugal, ensi and en for details. Énsi may have originally been a designation of the ruler restricted to Lagash and Umma. The énsi was considered a representative of the city state's patron deity. In later periods, an énsi was normally seen as subordinate to a lugal (king). Nevertheless, even the powerful rulers of the Second Dynasty of Lagash (circa 2100 BC) such as Gudea were satisfied with the title énsi.
In Ur III times (about 2100–2000 BC) énsi referred to the provincial governors of the Kingdom. These exercised great powers in terms of government, tax revenue and jurisdiction, but they were supervised, installed, and dismissed by the King (lugal) of Ur. Although the office could be inherited, all énsi had to be endorsed by the King. No independent foreign policy or warfare was allowed.
In the city state of Ashur, the hereditary ruler bore the Akkadian language version of the title énsi, while the patron deity was regarded as šarrum ("King").
- John Allan Halloran: Sumerian Lexicon. Logogram Publishing, Los Angeles (Cal.) 2006.
- Horst Klengel (Hrsg.): Kulturgeschichte des alten Vorderasiens. Akademie Verlag, Berlin 1989.
- Saggs, H. W. F. 1988, The Greatness That Was Babylon (revised edition)
- Dietz Otto Edzard: Geschichte Mesopotamiens. C.H. Beck, München 2004.
- Jacobsen, Thorkild (Ed) (1939),"The Sumerian King List" (Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago; Assyriological Studies, No. 11.)