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King of Sumer
Sumerian King List, 1800 BC, Larsa, Iraq (detail).jpg
Ishbi-Erra appears in the Sumerian King List, on the Weld-Blundell Prism.
Reignfl. c. 2017 — c. 1986 BC (middle chronology)
c. 1953 BC — c. 1920 BC (short chronology)
PredecessorIbbi-Sin (Ur III)
HouseFirst Dynasty of Isin

Ishbi-Erra (Akkadian: 𒀭𒅖𒁉𒀴𒊏 diš-bi-ir₃-ra) was the founder of the dynasty of Isin, reigning from c. 2017 — c. 1986 BC on the middle chronology or 1953 BC — c. 1920 BC on the short chronology. Ishbi-Erra 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.[1] 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 Ishbi-Erra c. 1953 BC (short chronology). Map oriented approximately towards the northwest.

At the outset of his career, Ishbi-Erra was an official working for Sumerian King Ibbi-Sin, the last king of the third dynasty of Ur. Ishbi-Erra was described as a man of Mari,[i 2] either his origin or the city for which he was assigned. His progress is recorded in letters to the king and to the governor of Kazallu (Puzur-Numushda, later renamed Puzur-Šulgi). These are literary letters, copied in antiquity as scribal exercises and their authenticity is unknown.[2] Charged with acquiring grain in Isin and Kazallu, Ishbi-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][3] Although Ibbi-Sin baulked at promoting him, Ishbi-Erra 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.[4]

Ibbi-Sin bitterly lambasted Ishbi-Erra as being "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 Ishbi-Erra.” Curiously, Puzur-Šulgi seems to have originally been one of Ishbi-Erra’s own messengers and indicated the extent to which loyalties were in flux during the waning years of the regime of the third dynasty of Ur. While there was no outright conflict, Ishbi-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.[5]

Ishbi-Erra went on to win decisive victories against the Amorites in his 8th year and the Elamites in his 16th year. Some years later, Ishbi-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.[2] 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][6]

Various hymns to Ishbi-Erra, king of Isin, are known.[7]

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

See also[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. ^ Taha Baqir, "", A date-list of Ishbi-Erra", Sumer. vol. 4, no. 2, pp. 103-114, September 1948
  2. ^ a b Marc Van De Mieroop (2015). A History of the Ancient Near East, ca. 3000-323 BC. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 87.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ S. N. Kramer (1963). The Sumerians: Their History, Culture, and Character. University of Chicago Press. pp. 93–94.
  5. ^ C. J. Gadd (1971). "Babylonia, 2120-1800 B.C.". In I. E. S. Edwards; C. J. Gadd; N. G. L. Hammond (eds.). The Cambridge Ancient History Volume 1, Part 2: Early History of the Middle East. Cambridge University Press. pp. 612–615.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Hallo, William W. (2010). The World's Oldest Literature: Studies in Sumerian Belles-Lettres. BRILL. pp. 212–214. ISBN 978-90-04-17381-1.

External links[edit]