ERECH (Sum. Unug ; Akk. Uruk ; modern Warka in Iraq), city mentioned as one of the mainstays of the kingdom of *Nimrod (Gen. 10:10), and perhaps referred to in Ezra 4:9. In ancient times Uruk lay on the bank of the Euphrates, approximately 40 mi. (65 km.) N.W. of Ur; the river has now shifted far to the west, leaving the city in the desert. The site was occupied in the fifth millennium b.c.e., and experienced its first peak of prosperity in about 3300–3100 b.c.e., when it was probably the largest religious center of Sumer, with large temples and the earliest written documents so far known. The legendary hero Gilgamesh was probably an historical king of Uruk in about 2700 b.c.e. Uruk played a part in the rise of the Neo-Sumerian kings of Ur, and was the seat of a dynasty of West Semitic rulers shortly before the time of Hammurapi. Thereafter, it was politically unimportant, but remained a seat of learning until Seleucid times. It was the cult center of Anu, the sky god, and of Inanna-Ishtar, the goddess of love and war. In 1912 the German Oriental Society began to excavate the site and allowing for the interruptions caused by wars continued until the end of the 20th century.
J-C. Margueron, in: abd ii, 570–73; cane, 4, 2960 (index); M. Powell, in: jaos, 117 (1997), 608; S. Dunham, in: jaos, 119 (1999), 139.
[Richard S. Ellis]