Aga of Kish

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Aga of Kish Stele of Ushumgal.png
Aga depicted on the Stele of Ushumgal as official of the Great Assembly of Umma [1]
King of the First dynasty of Kish
ReignEDI (2900-2700 BC)
SuccessorEnd of Kishite hegemony Gilgamesh (Uruk Dynasty)

Aga (Sumerian:𒀝𒂵)[2] commonly known as Aga of Kish, was the twenty-third and last king in the first dynasty of Kish during Early Dynastic I.[3][4] He is listed in the Sumerian King List and many sources as the son of Enmebaragesi.[5][6][7] The Kishite king ruled the city at its peak, probably reaching beyond the territory of Kish, including Umma and Zabala.[1] The Sumerian poem Gilgamesh and Aga records the Kishite siege of Uruk after its lord Gilgamesh refused to submit to Aga, ending in Aga's defeat and consequently the fall of Kish's hegemony.[8]


The name of Aga is Sumeriana and a relatively rarely attested personal name in Early Dynastic times, making his identification in royal texts spottable.[9] His name appears in the Stele of Ushumgal, as the gal-ukkin ("Great Assembly official").b

AK (𒀝) was likely an Early Dynastic spelling of Akka, (the past particle of the Sumerian verb "to make").[10] The name in question is to be interpreted as a Sumerian genitival phrase, Akka probably means "Made by [a god]" (ak + Divine Name.ak).[11]

Lineart from Aga on the Stele of Ushumgal, his name appears as the Great Assembly [1]
Gem of King Aga
Gem of unknown provenance mentioning Ak (𒀝), an alternate naming for Aga. The gem has four columns of text on its faces, and reads "For Inanna, Aga King of Umma" (𒀭𒈹𒀝𒈗𒄑𒆵𒆠, dinanna ak lugal ummaki).[12][13][14]
Distinct forms attested of Aga's name [2]
Cuneiform Transliteration Main inscription Period
Stele of Ushumgal
Gem of King Aga
2900-2700 BC
Gilgamesh and Aga
Tummal Inscription
1900–1600 BC
Sumerian King List
1900–1600 BC

Historical king[edit]

Aga is attested in two compositions of historiographical nature, The Sumerian King List and the Tummal Inscription, both as the son Enmebaragesi, who has been verified through archaeological inscriptions; these sources may confirm Aga and Gilgamesh's existence.[15][16] Aga's name has appeared in the Stele of Ushumgal and the Gem of King Aga, both showing influence over Umma.[1]

the king in this very city (Nippur),
built the House of Enlil,
Agga the son of Enmebaragesi,
made the Tummal pre-eminent.

— Old Babylonian tablet Tummal Inscription (1900-1600 BCE)[17]


According to the Sumerian King List (ETCSL 2.1.1), Kish had the hegemony of Sumer where he reigned 625 years, succeeding his father Enmebaragesi to the throne, finally ending in defeat by Uruk.[6]
The use of the royal title King of Kish expressing a claim of national rulership owes its prestige to the fact that Kish once did rule the entire nation.[18] His reign probably took over Umma, and consequently Zabala, which was a dependant of it in the Early Dynastic Period; this can be supported on his appearance the Gem of King Aga, where he is mentioned as the king of Umma.[1] There is some scant evidence to suggest that like the later Ur III kings, the rulers of ED Kish sought to ingratiate themselves to the authorities in Nippur, possibly to legitimize a claim for leadership over the land of Sumer or at least part of it.[1] Archeology evidence from Kish shows a city flourishing in ED II with its political influence extending beyond the territory, however in ED III the city declined rapidly.[19]

Gilgamesh and Aga[edit]

In the poem Gilgamesh and Aga (ETCSL, Aga of Kish sends messengers to his vassal Gilgamesh[20] in Uruk with a demand to work on the irrigation of Kish as slaves. Gilgamesh repeats the message before the "city fathers" (ab-ba-iri) to suggest rebelling against Aga, however, his proposition is rejected. Gilgamesh, not satisfied with the answer given, proposes the same to the guruš (lit. the able-bodied man) who would have to work themselves as slaves, they accept uprising against Aga and appoint Gilgamesh as Lugal.c

There are wells to be finished.
There are wells in the land to be finished.
There are shallow wells in the land to be completed.
There are deep wells and hoisting ropes to be completed.

— Aga commanding Uruk to work for the irrigation of Kish.

After ten days Aga sieges the walls of Uruk, whose citizens are now confused and intimidated. Gilgamesh asks for a volunteer to stand before Aga, his royal guard Birhurtura offers himself. On leaving the city gates, he is captured and brought before Aga himself, who interrogates and tortures him. However it didn't last until a soldier leaned to the wall; bewilderment, Aga asks the soldier if that's his king. Birhurtura denies, replying that when their true king appears his army will be beaten to dust and him captured, this angers Aga, who continues to torture him.
Then Gilgamesh leans to the wall; his divine radiance doesn't frighten Aga but is beheld by the Kishite army. Enkidu and the guruš take advantage of the confusion of the enemies and advance through them; Aga is captured in the middle of his army. Gilgamesh addresses Aga as his superior, remembering how Aga saved his life and gave him refuge, Aga withdraws his demand and begs his favor to be returned. Gilgamesh, before Utu sets Aga free to return to Kish.[21]

Story of Gilgamesh and Aga
Story of Gilgamesh and Aga. Old Babylonian period. Sulaymaniyah Museum, Iraq

Aga in the poem[edit]

Aga's stipulation meant the people of Uruk to become drawers of water unendingly, denoting slavery[22] since irrigation was pivotal to life in southern Mesopotamia.[23] The response of the guruš is mitigated by the fact that they don't talk about the king itself, but about the "son of the king"; suggesting that Aga is still young and immature.[24]

Replacement in the poem[edit]

The Shulgi Hymn O (ETCSL 2.1.1) of the Akkadian ruler Shulgi (c. 2094 BC – 2047 BC) praises Gilgamesh for defeating Enmebaragesi of Kish instead of his son. While in the historical scene of the Early Dynastic period this is quite conceivable,d the assumption of two different wars is difficult to uphold because Gilgamesh emerges as victorious in both; his first victory would imply defeat and submission by the kingdom of Kish.[25]

Since Gilgamesh addresses Aga denoting military relations between them in the past and indebtedness to him for saving his life leads to Gilgamesh being dependent on Aga previously, conflicting with the assumption that he won a previous war against Kish. Another theory is since Enmebaragesi established the hegemony of Kish, defeating Aga would be less impressive than his powerful father, who therefore served the purpose of the hymn and portrays Gilgamesh as a mighty figure. Since Enmebaragesi was inserted to replace Aga, the hymn doesn't reflect a separate but rather one literary tradition from the tale.[26]

See also[edit]


a.^ The rest of the Kish dynasty had Semitic names, such as Jushur, Zuqaqip or Mashda.[27]
b.^ gal-ukkin-na (𒃲𒌺𒈾) "Chairman of the Assembly".[28]
c.^ Lugal is Gilgamesh title in wartime, while his official title is En of Kulaba (Uruk).[29]
d.^ The prolonged war between Lagash and Umma, known from the inscriptions of five consecutive kings of Lagash.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Faryne "The Struggle for Hegemony in Early Dynastic II Sumer" The Canadian Society for Mesopotamian Studies pp.65-66
  2. ^ a b "Sumerian Dictionary "Aga" (RN) entry".
  3. ^ Beaulieu A History of Babylon, 2200 BC - AD 75 p.36
  4. ^ Kramer (1963) The Sumerians: their history, culture, and character p.49
  5. ^ Jacobsen The Sumerian King List p.83
  6. ^ a b Sumerian King List (ETCSL 2.1.1)
  7. ^ Kuhrt The Ancient Near East, C. 3000-330 BC, Volume 1 p.29
  8. ^ Katz Gilgamesh and Akka p.10
  9. ^ Selz (2003) p. 506
  10. ^
  11. ^ Sallaberger Toward a Chronology of Early Dynastic Rulers in Mesopotamia p.149
  12. ^ Selz (2003) p. 510
  13. ^ "CDLI-Found Texts".
  14. ^ George The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic: Introduction, Critical Edition and Cuneiform Texts p.105
  15. ^ Katz Gilgamesh and Akka p.13
  16. ^ Sollberger (1962) p. 40-47
  17. ^ "CDLI-Found Texts".
  18. ^ Katz Gilgamesh and Akka p.30 n.83
  19. ^ Katz Gilgamesh and Akka p.16
  20. ^ Keetman. Akka von Kiš und die Arbeitsverweigerer p.17
  21. ^ George The epic of Gilgamesh: a new translation p.148
  22. ^ W.G Lambert (1980) p.339-340
  23. ^ Katz Gilgamesh and Akka p.17
  24. ^ Keetman. Akka von Kiš und die Arbeitsverweigerer p.19
  25. ^ Katz Gilgamesh and Akka p.14
  26. ^ Katz Gilgamesh and Akka p.15
  27. ^ Katz Gilgamesh and Akka p.20
  28. ^ Fleming (2009) p.209
  29. ^ Katz Gilgamesh and Akka p.29


  • Faryne, Douglas (2009). "The Struggle for Hegemony in "Early Dynastic II" Sumer". The Canadian Society for Mesopotamian Studies. IV: 65–66.
  • Beaulieu, Paul Alain (2018). A History of Babylon, 2200 BC - AD 75 (First ed.). Wiley Blackway. ISBN 978-111-945-9071.
  • Katz, Dina (1993). Gilgamesh and Akka (First ed.). Groningen, the Netherlands: SIXY Publication. ISBN 90-72371-67-4.
  • Jacobsen, Thorkild (1939). Sumerian King List (Second ed.). University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0226622736.
  • Sallaberger, Walther (2015). Toward a Chronology of Early Dynastic Rulers in Mesopotamia (First ed.). Brepols Publishers. ISBN 978-2-503-53494-7.
  • George, A.R. (2003). The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic: Introduction, Critical Edition and Cuneiform Texts (First ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-927841-1.
  • Kramer, Samuel Noah (1963). The Sumerians: their history, culture, and character (First ed.). University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-45238-7.
  • Fleming, Daniel E. (2000). Time at Emar: The Cultic Calendar and the Rituals from the Diviner's Archive (First ed.). Eisenbrauns. ISBN 978-1-57506-044-6.
  • George, Andrew (1999). The Epic of Gilgamesh: A new translation (First ed.). Penguin classics. ISBN 0-14-044721-0.
  • Kuhrt, Amélie (1999). The Ancient Near East, C. 3000-330 BC, Volume 1 (First ed.). New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-01353-4.
  • Keetman, Jan (2012). "Akka von Kiš und die Arbeitsverweigerer". Babel und Bibel:Annual of Ancient Near Eastern, Old Testament, and Semitic Studies. VI.
  • Selz, G (2003). "Who is who? Aka, King of Giš(š)a: on the historicity of a king and his possible identity with Aka, King of Kiš". Old Orient and Old Testament (274).
  • Sollberger, E (1962). "The Tummal Inscription". JCS (16).
  • W.G, Lambert (1980). "Akka's threat". OrNS (40).

External links[edit]

Regnal titles
Preceded by
Ruler of Sumer
c. 2900-2700 BC
Succeeded by
Gilgamesh of Uruk
Ensi of Kish
c. 2900-2700 BC
Succeeded by
End of dynasty