Shulgi (𒀭𒂄𒄀 dŠulgi, formerly read as Dungi) of Ur was the second king of the "Sumerian Renaissance" in the Third Dynasty of Ur. He reigned for 48 years, from 2029 BCE–1982 BCE (short chronology). His accomplishments include the completion of construction of the Great Ziggurat of Ur.
Life and work
Shulgi was the son of Ur-Nammu king of Ur – according to one later text (CM 48), by a daughter of the former king Utu-hengal of Uruk – and was a member of the Third dynasty of Ur. Year-names are known for all 48 years of his reign, providing a fairly complete contemporary view of the highlights of his career.
Shortly after his father's death, Shulgi engaged in a series of punitive wars against the Gutians to avenge his father. The only activity recorded in the year-names for his first few years involved temple construction.
Shulgi is best known for his extensive revision of the scribal school's curriculum. Although it is unclear how much he actually wrote, there are numerous praise poems written by and directed towards this ruler. He proclaimed himself a god in his 23rd regnal year.
Some early chronicles castigate Shulgi for his impiety: the Weidner Chronicle (ABC 19) states that "he did not perform his rites to the letter, he defiled his purification rituals". CM 48 charges him with improper tampering with the rites, composing "untruthful stelae, insolent writings" on them. The Chronicle of Early Kings (ABC 20) accuses him of "criminal tendencies, and the property of Esagila and Babylon he took away as booty."
While Der had been one of the cities whose temple affairs Shulgi had directed in the first part of his reign, in his 20th year he claimed that the gods had decided that it now be destroyed, apparently as some punishment. The inscriptions state that he "put its field accounts in order" with the pick-axe. Following this, Shulgi engaged in a period of expansionism at the expense of highlanders such as the Lullubi, and others. In his 30th year, his daughter was married to the governor of Anshan; in his 34th year, he was already levying a punitive campaign against the place. Ultimately, Shulgi was never able to rule any of these distant peoples; at one point, in his 37th year, he was obliged to build a large wall, in an attempt to keep them out.
In addition to construction of defensive walls and completion of the Great Ziggurat of Ur, Shulgi spent a great deal of time and resources in expanding, maintaining, and generally improving roads. He built rest-houses along roads, so that travelers could find a place to rest and drink fresh water or spend a night. For this last feat, Samuel Noah Kramer calls him the builder of the first inn.
Shulgi also boasted about his ability to maintain high speeds while running long distances. He claimed in his 7th regnal year to have run from Nippur to Ur, a distance of not less than 100 miles. Kramer refers to Shulgi as "The first long distance running champion."
Early uncertainties about the reading of cuneiform led to the readings "Shulgi" and "Dungi" being common transliterations prior to the end of the 19th century. However, over the course of the 20th century, the scholarly consensus gravitated away from dun towards shul as the correct pronunciation of the 𒂄 sign. The spelling of Shulgi's name by scribes with the diĝir determinative reflects his deification during his reign, a status and spelling previously claimed by his Akkadian predecessor Naram-Sin.
- Year names for Shulgi
- Van De Mieroop, Marc. (2005). A History of the Ancient Near East ca. 3000–323 BC, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, p. 76
- Hamblin, William J. Warfare in the Ancient Near East to 1600 BC. New York: Routledge, 2006.
- See his History Begins at Sumer, Chapter 31, "Shulgi of Ur: The First Long-Distance Champion".
- Shulgi's axe sold illegally in Germany from the German Middle East magazine zenith