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Circa 2094 - Circa 2047 b.c.e.

King of Ur


King of Ur. As the ruler of Ur, Shulgi built on the foundation established by his father Ur-Namma (circa 2112–2095 b.c.e.), continuing to build and refurbish temples, encourage trade, and pursue military conquest. Basking in his success, Shulgi declared himself a god, a status that rulers in Mesopotamia had not claimed since the fall of the Sargonic empire in the previous century.

Patron of Learning. Following in his father’s footsteps, Shulgi traced the origins of his dynasty back to the early legendary kings of the city of Uruk. Under his patronage, literary compositions about the epic monarch Lugalbanda, whom Shulgi claimed as his father, and the hero Gilgamesh, whom he claimed was his brother, were put into a final form. These compositions, as well as legends about Enmerkar, another early ruler of Uruk, were probably used as foundation myths to glorify the dynasty. Shulgi was featured in literary letters and may have been a patron of Wisdom literature. He also either commissioned or supported the creation of new hymnal compositions praising the gods and goddesses of his realm.

School Reforms. Shulgi—or a member or members of his administration—introduced major reforms of the school curriculum. During his reign, scribes no longer copied the large corpus of old Sumerian myths and literary compositions created during the first part of the third millennium b.c.e., a body of work that now exists only in fragmentary form. It cannot be determined if this restructuring of Sumerian scholarship had ideological or religious roots. In the place of the old myths and compositions appeared a new form of literature, the royal hymn, which lauded the accomplishments of the dynasty and its rulers. In these hymns Shulgi claimed that he was able to speak all five of the languages spoken in his realm and that he had achieved excellence as a musician. He was also the only king during the third millennium b.c.e. who claimed to be literate.


Jeremy Black, Graham Cunningham, Jarle Ebeling, Esther Flückiger-Hawker, Eleanor Robson, Jon Taylor, and Gábor Zólyomi, The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature, The Oriental Institute, University of Oxford, 1998- <>.

Jacob Klein, Three Šulgi Hymns (Ramat Gan, Israel: Bar IIan University Press, 1981).

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