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King of Sumer
Reign fl. c. 1953 BC — c. 1921 BC
Predecessor Ibbi-Sin
Successor Šu-ilišu
Akkadian Išbi-erra
House First Dynasty of Isin

Ishbi-Erra (Akkadian: Išbi-erra, name was written phonetically in cuneiform: ddiš-bi-èr-ra, in contemporary inscriptions; fl. c. 1953 BC — c. 1921 BC by the short chronology of the ancient near east) was the founder of the First Dynasty of Isin. Išbi-erra of the First Dynasty of Isin was preceded by Ibbi-Sin of the Third Dynasty of Ur in ancient Lower Mesopotamia, and then succeeded by Šu-ilišu. According to the Weld-Blundell Prism,[i 1] Išbi-erra reigned for 33 years and this is corroborated by the number of his extant year-names. While in many ways this dynasty emulated that of the preceding one, its language was Akkadian as the Sumerian language had become moribund in the latter stages of the Third Dynasty of Ur.


Map detailing the full territorial extent of the Third Dynasty of Ur in Mesopotamia just before the treason of Išbi-erra c. 1953 BC. Map oriented approximately towards the northwest.

At the outset of his career, Išbi-erra was an official working for Ibbi-Sin, the last king of the Third Dynasty of Ur. Išbi-erra was described as a man of Mari,[i 2] either his origin or the city for which he was assigned. His progress was witnessed in correspondence with the king and between Ibbi-Sin and the governor of Kazallu (Puzur-Numushda, latterly renamed Puzur-Šulgi.) These are literary letters, copied in antiquity as scribal exercises and whose authenticity is unknown.[1] Charged with acquiring grain in Isin and Kazallu, Išbi-erra complained that he could not ship the 72,000 GUR he had bought for 20 talents of silver—apparently an exorbitant price—and now kept secure in Isin to other conurbations due to the incursions of the Amorites (“Martu”) and requested Ibbi-Sin supply 600 boats to transport it while also requesting governorship of Isin and Nippur.[i 3][2] Although Ibbi-Sin baulked at promoting him, Išbi-erra had apparently succeeded in wrestling control over Isin by Ibbi-Sin’s 8th year, when he began assigning his own regnal year-names, and thereafter an uneasy chill descended on their relationship.[3]

Ibbi-Sin bitterly lambasted Išbi-erra as “not of Sumerian seed” in his letter to Puzur-Šulgi and opined that: “Enlil has stirred up the Amorites out of their land, and they will strike the Elamites and capture Išbi-erra.” Curiously, Puzur-Šulgi seems to have originally been one of Išbi-erra’s own messengers and indicates the extent to which loyalties were in flux during the waning years of the Ur III regime. While there was no outright conflict, Išbi-erra continued to extend his influence as Ibbi-Sin’s steadily declined over the next 12 years or so, until Ur was finally conquered by Kindattu of Elam.[4]

Išbi-erra went on to win decisive victories against: the Amorites in his 8th year and the Elamites in his 16th years. Some years later, Išbi-erra ousted the Elamite garrison from Ur, thereby asserting suzerainty over Sumer and Akkad, celebrated in one of his later 27th year-name, although this specific epithet was not used by this dynasty until the reign of Iddin-Dagan.[1] He readily adopted the regal privileges of the former regime, commissioning royal praise poetry and hymns to deities, of which seven are extant, and proclaiming himself Dingir-kalam-ma-na, “a god in his own country.”[i 4] He appointed his daughter, En-bara-zi, to succeed that of Ibbi-Sin’s as Egisitu-priestess of An, celebrated in his 22nd year-name. He founded fortresses and installed city walls, but only one royal inscription is extant.[i 5][5]

Preceded by
King of Sumer
fl. c. 1953 BC — c. 1921 BC
Succeeded by

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ WB 444, the Weld-Blundell prism, r. 33.
  2. ^ Tablet UM 7772.
  3. ^ CBS 2272, letter from Išbi-erra to Ibbi-Sin.
  4. ^ Tablets NBC 6421. 7087. 7387.
  5. ^ IM 58336, Construction of a great lyre for Enlil.


  1. ^ a b Marc Van De Mieroop (2015). A History of the Ancient Near East, ca. 3000-323 BC. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 87. 
  2. ^ Joan Aruz; Ronald Wallenfels, eds. (2003). Art of the First Cities: The Third Millennium B.C. from the Mediterranean to the Indus. Metropolitan Museum of Art. p. 469. 
  3. ^ S. N. Kramer (1963). The Sumerians: Their History, Culture, and Character. University of Chicago Press. pp. 93–94. 
  4. ^ C. J. Gadd (1971). "Babylonia, 2120-1800 B.C.". In I. E. S. Edwards; C. J. Gadd; N. G. L. Hammond. The Cambridge Ancient History Volume 1, Part 2: Early History of the Middle East. Cambridge University Press. pp. 612–615. 
  5. ^ Douglas Frayne (1990). Old Babylonian Period (2003-1595 B.C.) RIM The Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia (Book 4). University of Toronto Press. pp. 6–11.