The Tragic History Of Ibi-Sin, King Of Ur

By: Leon Legrain

Originally Published in 1926

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During the last two seasons at Ur, and especially during the recent campaign, the Joint Expedition of the Museum of the University of Pennsylvania and the British Museum recovered several thousand tablets. These documents written in the Babylonian and Sumerian languages divide themselves into two main groups: historical texts and business records. Dr. Legrain who, as cuneiformist on the Expedition, during both seasons, had the task of interpreting these texts, made copies of them all and prepared his translations in the camp of the Expedition at Ur. The historical texts have already been completed and put in shape by Dr. Legrain for publication in a volume that will appear under the auspices of the Joint Expedition, in which volume Mr. Gadd and Mr. Sydney Smith of the British Museum will also contribute their share pertaining to the first two campaigns.

In anticipation of that publication Dr. Legrain has abstracted enough matter to illustrate briefly one of the minor aspects of his larger work, growing out of his studies of the documents coming under his observation at Ur. His purpose in this paper has simply been to assemble a number of dates occurring on these documents, confining himself to dates in the reign of Ibi-Sin, the last independent King of Ur, and of some of his immediate successors who were subject to other rulers.

The dates on the clay tablets of Ur of the Chaldees afford a short chronicle of each king; each recorded date, coupled with the name, summing up in one or two lines the big event of the year. Thus, the year when so and so was made king, or the year when he rebuilt the walls of the city or the walls of the temple. The year when he introduced a gold, silver, or copper statue, or a throne, or precious emblems, or metal bulls or lions. The year when he dug a canal, gave his daughter in marriage, went to war, conquered cities, destroyed their walls or subdued tribes and nations.

The official date name on the more ordinary tablets was borrowed from larger chronicles kept up to date by the great scribe, the chief archive keeper. The book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah and Israel was preserved in the same way by Jewish tradition.

The name of the year on business documents may be longer or shorter according to the importance of the tablet, the leisure or the erudition of the scribe. A legal deed with oath and witnesses requires more attention than a receipt for oil and barley. A daily beer and flour issue has not the importance of a twelve months accounting of the temple business. The dating may be reduced to one name, or it may develop into six or seven lines of text at the end of the tablet. Different examples of the same date may show grammatical variants, or may prove a tendency to substitute the name of the local god for that of the god of the neighbouring city. Local pride and independence at Ur honoured the Moon god Sin-Nannar above the Sun god of Larsa, or Ishtar of Erech. In any\ case, it is from such pieces of information patiently and carefully collected, that history is finally reconstructed.

The last year’s campaign at Ur of the Chaldees has revealed a good many new dates, or new readings of known dates. They mainly concern Ibi-Sin the last independent king of Ur, about B.C. 2100, Lipit-Ishtar of Isin, about B.C. 2000, and the kings of Larsa: Gungunum, Abisarê, and Sumuilu. A badly mutilated fragment of a chronological list covered the reigns of Sin-eribam, Sin-igisham, Silli-Adad, Warad-Sin and Rim-Sin, probably to the end of the Larsa dynasty and the conquest of the south by the Babylonians under King Hammurapi. On the 11th year of Samsuiluna, his son and successor, the walls of Ur and Erech were destroyed and with them the political independence of Sumer. In the subdued cities the Sumerian scribes kept compiling dates and chronicles and preserving the records of the past.

Of the twenty five years of reign of King Ibi-Sin, only the names of three or four have been heretofore known. Fourteen more have been recovered in the Ur excavations and are given here. While their chronological order is not yet fixed, we may give free play to imagination and picture for ourselves the course of events and the tragic story of King Ibi-Sin. For Ibi-Sin, the last of his race, was a tragic character. His name is associated with misfortune. His was the task to preserve the traditions of four preceding kings who made of Ur the capital of the East from Syria to the Persian gulf, a head market and harbour, who had raised high the brick tower of the Moon god, built his great shrine, where his metal statue was enthroned, also the shrine and house of the Moon goddess, the treasure house, the priests’ house, the palace: who had surrounded the temple and the city with powerful brick walls mountain high. Ibi-Sin failed in that task. He could not defend the borders of his kingdom overrun by Amorite tribes from the southwest, and Elamites from the east. The Museum preserves several original despatches of Ibi-Sin to his general the patesi of Kazallu, on the frontier, ordering him to stand his ground while he will follow with heavy troops. Ibi-Sin complains that the great Sumerian god Enlil of Nippur has betrayed the Sumerian cause and the King of Ur in favor of a foreigner, a Semite from Maer, Ishbi Irra, who will eventually become his successor and the first king of Isin.

The new date names show clearly the constant care of King Ibi-Sin for rebuilding the walls of Nippur and Ur, the two main fortresses of the kingdom. Three years in succession were named after that great event.

No less important is the first official mention of the Amorite tribes as coming, not from any powerful kingdom in the northwest, but from the south or southwest, and being purely nomades who never knew a city. The best modern parallel to that historical fact is supplied by the tribesmen of Ibn Saud overrunning the Iraq frontier. The text reads:

“Year when unto Ibi-Sin the king of Ur, the Amorites, a southern tribe (troop) that never knew a city, did submit.”

But the Amorites were only an incident in the war records of Ibi-Sin. Several centuries had to elapse before they would grow to any significance and importance under their sheikhs and kings of Babylon. The Elamites and other tribes of the eastern regions beyond the Tigris were the real enemy. Against them Ibi-Sin kept fighting, apparently with some success till the land was invaded, Ur the capital was stormed, the temple of the Moon god was plundered and destroyed, Ibi-Sin himself and many of his people were taken prisoners to Elam. These disastrous events are not recorded in date names, we know them only through later chronicles. But victory on Simurum, and an extensive campaign against Shushan, Adamdun and the land of Awan, seem to have placed the eastern bank of the Tigris for a while under the sway of Ibi-Sin.

“Year when Ibi-Sin, the king of Ur passed like a storm over Shushan Adamdun and the land of Awan. On the bank of the great river (?) unto his lordship (?) he caused them to abide.”

The rest of the new dates are of a more peaceful and pious character. They record the investiture with a priestly dignity of the great bull of heaven, the construction of a harp for the goddess Innina, the building of a treasure house the pure Eginabtum, the construction of the divine seat of the Moon god, of a statue of the same called “the heavenly leader,” of the sublime throne of Enlil of Nippur, the marriage of the king’s daughter to a patesi of Zabshali.

For such pious deeds the Moon god looked favourably unto his beloved servant Ibi-Sin. The Tigris overflowed. And even today there is no more important event in the whole South Babylonia. The yearly crop and the life of many thousands depend entirely on a good, regular inundation. The irrigation problem is all in the hands of the gods and of a provident government.

A hundred years after the disastrous end of Ibi-Sin, Ur, released from Elamite invasion, was under the rule of Lipit-Ishtar king of Isin, a city west of Nippur. The same old system of dating prevailed. Only the name of the king was new, and was faithfully accepted by the Sumerian scribe at Ur, till a new power arose in Larsa strong enough to overrule the king of Isin. From king Gungunum to the end of the Larsa dynasty Ur was a part of the Larsa dominion, and ignored the king of Isin. History teaches that the kingdom of Isin was absorbed by Larsa, and Larsa in turn was absorbed by Babylon, till there was only one united land under one great king of Babylon, a Semite of Amorite descent.

From King Lipit-Ishtar we recover four date names recording the establishment of peace in Sumer and Akkad, the construction of the golden throne of the goddess of Isin, and the investiture of the king with a priestly dignity at Ur.

From the kings of Larsa, Gungunum and his successors, we find many variant readings of known dates. They are listed below in chronological order, with a few unidentified dates. All tablets bear for the present only the field catalogue number. U = Ur.

  1. mu en-am-gal-an-na
    en dninni ba-ḫun-[gà]
  2. Year when the priest of the great Bull of Heaven
    the priest of Innina was invested.


  1. mu di-bi-ilsin
    lugal uríki ma-ge
    dnin-igi-zi(d)-bar-ra balag
  2. Year when Ibi Sin
    king of Ur
    Ninigizibarra the harp
    for Innina,
    he made

U. 6378.

  1. mu-us-ša di-bi ilsin
    lugal uríki ma-ge
    dnin-lil ù dninni
    é-gi-na-ab-tùm azag
    mu-ne-[   ]
  2. Year after that Ibi Sin
    king of Ur
    unto Ninhil and Innina
    built (or restored?) the pure


  1. mu di-bi ilsin
    lugal uríki ma-ge
    gu-za an
  2. Year when Ibi Sin
    king of Ur.
    for Nannar
    the celestial throne.


  1. mu-us-ša di-bi ilsin
    lugal-uríki ma-ge
    gu-za an
  2. Year after that…

U. 6370.

  1. mu di-bi ilsin
    lugal uríki mag-ge
    dgasam, an-na
  2. Year when Ibi Sin
    king of Ur
    for Nannar
    “the divine leader of heaven” (a statue)

U. 6373.

  1. mu di-bi ilsin
    lugal uríki ma-ra
    ša(g) ki-ág-gà-ni
    idigna mu-un-na-an-è-a
  2. Year when for Ibi Sin,
    the king of Ur,
    the beloved
    of Nannar
    the Tigris overflowed.

U. 6368

  1. mu gu-zah-maḫ den-lil-lá
  2. Year when was made
    the sublime throne of Enlil

U. 6729

  1. mu dibi ilsin
    lugal- urí kima-ka
  2. Year of Ibi Sin
    king of Ur, when
    the countries
    (through) his splendor

10. Id. – U.6375.

11. Id. – U. 6374.

  1. mu di-bi ilSin
    lugal uríki ma-ra
    mar-tu á-im-gâl
    ul-ta uruki nu-zu
    gú im-ma-na-ám-gà-ar
  2. Year when unto Ibi Sin
    king of Ur
    the Amorites a southern tribe
    that never knew a city

U. 6372.

  1. mu di-bi ilsin lugal-e
    nibruki uríki [ma]
    bád-gal-bi mu-dū
  2. Year when Ibi Sin the king
    built the great walls
    of Nippur and Ur.

U. 6700.

  1. mu uš-sa di-bi ilsin
    lugal-ruíki ma-ge
    nibruki uríki ma
    bád-gal-bi mu-dū
  2. Year after that Ibi Sin
    the king of Ur
    built the great walls
    of Nippur and Ur.

U. 2992.

  1. mu-uš-sa bád-gal
    ba-dū-a mu-uš-sa-bi
  2. year after that the great wall
    was built. The following year.

U. 6701.

  1. mu di-bi ilsin
    lugal uríki ma-ge
    šušanki a-dam-dunki
    ma-da a-wa-anki ka
    ud-dím ra(?)ne-in-gi
    [gú] íd nun [ ]
    [nam]-en-bi a
  2. year when Ibi Sin
    king of Ur,
    likea storm passed over
    Susa, Adamdu
    and the land of Awan,
    on the bank of the great river.
    unto the lordship…
    had them to abide.

U. 6725.

  1. mu šušanki
  2. Year when Susa.

U. 6377.

  1. mu en dnannar
    dbur ilsin-ra
    ki-ág en dnannar
    kar-zi(d)-da-ka ba-ḫun
  2. Year when the priest of Nannar
    the beloved of Bur Sin
    was invested priest of
    Nannar of Karzida.

7th year of Bur Sin – U. 6731.

  1. mu illi-bi-it-ištar
    lugal-e giš-gu-za guškin
    dnin in-si-na[ki] ra
    ša(g)-ḫul-la é-gal-mah
  2. Year when Lipit-Ishtar
    the king-made
    a throne of gold
    for Nin-isin and
    Nin-isin stood in
    the (house?) joy of her heart
    in the great palace

U. 2625.

  1. mu illi-bi-it-ištar
    lugal-e en-nin-sun-zi(d)
    en dnin-ezen
    [ ] uríki ma máš-e-ni-pa(d)
  2. Year when Lipit-Ishtar
    the king was elected by signs
    as pure priest of Ninsun
    priest of Nin-ezen at Ur.

U. 2596.

  1. mu illi-bi-it-ištar
    lugal-e nig-si-sá
    ki-en-gi ki-uri
  2. Year when Lipit-Ishtar
    the king established
    order in Sumer
    and Akkad

U. 2548.

  1. mu uš-sa illi-bi-it [-ištar]
    lugal-e erim(?) ki-en-gi [ ]
    i-in-gál-la [ ]
    [ ] gà-ra [ ]
  2. Year after that Lipit-Isthar
    the king, the soldiers(?) being
    in Sumer….

U. 2647.

  1. mu-uš-sa en dbabbar
  2. Year after the priest of Babbar
    was elected by signs.
    the following year.

8th year of Gungunu. U. 2699.

  1. mu gu-un-gu-nu-um
    lugal-e urudualam-gu-la
    é dnannar-ka
  2. Year when Gungunu
    the king introduced
    the great bronze statue
    in the house of Nannar.

8th year of Gungunu. U. 2682.
Seal impression ofa scribe servant of king Idin-Dagan.

  1. mu urudualam
    é dbabbar-ra ag
  2. Year when the bronze statue
    inlaid with ….stones
    was introduced in the
    house of Babbar.

    The following year.

9th year of Gungunu. U. 6381.

  1. mu e-gú íd an-ni-pa(d)-da
  2. year when he cut the irrigation
    trenches of the canal of Annipada.

15th year of Gungunu. U. 2584.

  1. mu bád-gal ararki ba-dū
  2. Year when was built the great wall of Larsa

21st year of Gungunu. U. 6382.

  1. mu é-gi-na-ab-tùm [azag]
    dnannar ša(g)uríki ma
  2. Year when was built the pure
    Eginabtum of Nannar
    at Ur.

25th year of Gungunu. U. 6383.

  1. mu gu-un-gu-nu-um
    lugal-e šu-nir(?) kù-babbar
    dnannar-ra mu-na-dím
  2. Year when Gungunu
    made for Nannar
    a silver emblem(?)

26th year of Gungunu. U. 6727.

  1. mu alan kù-babbar
    é dnannar-ka
  2. Year when he introduced
    inthe house of Nannar
    a silver statue.

3rd year of Abîsarê. U. 6386.

  1. mu a-bi-sa-ri-e lugal-e
    ugnim i-si-inki na
    giš kàr(?) ne-in-sīg-ga
  2. Year when king Abî-sarê
    battled against the
    troops of Isin.

9th year of Abîsarê. U. 6730.

  1. Seal impression on a tablet dated on the same year.
    dumu ilsin-i-din-na
    Lu Ninsun
    the abaabda
    son of Sinidinna

U. 6710.

  1. mu a-bi-sa-ri-e lugal-e
    en dbabbar máš-e-in-pa(d)
  2. Year when Abî-sarê the king was
    elected by signs priest of Babbar.

10th year of Abîsarê. U. 6384.

  1. mu uš-sa a-bi-sa-ri-e lugal-e
    en dbabbar máš e-in-pa(d)
  2. The following year.

11th year of Abîsarê. U. 6385.

  1. mu uš-sa su-mu-ilu lugal
    alan kù-babbar é dbabbar-ra
  2. Year after that Sumuilu, the king,
    introduced a silver statue
    in the house of Babbar.

3rd year of Sumuilu. U. 6387.

  1. mu urudu-ur-maḫ min-a-bi
    ká-maḫ bar-ra dninni-ka
  2. Year when the two copper
    lions were placed a the great outer
    gate of Innina

3rd year of Sumuilu. U. 6388.

  1. mu uš-sa urudu-maḫ min-a-bi
    ká-maḫ bar-ra dninni-ka
    ša(g) ararki ma na-an-[gub-ba-a]
    Seal impression of
    azag dlugal-ban-da
    …..éš dnin-gal
    dumu na-di
    arad su-mu-ilu
  2. The year after the two
    copper lions were placed at the
    great outer gate of Innina in Larsa.

    Azag Lugalbanda.
    priest of prayers at the shrine of Ningal
    son of Nadi
    servant of Sumuilu.

4th year of Sumuilu. U. 6389.

  1. Seal impression of his son.
    arad dnannar
    agrig é dnin-gal
    dumu azag dlugal-ban-da
    diviner of the house of Ningal,
    Song of Azag Lugalbanda.

U. 6708.

  1. mu uš-sa
    a-ku-zuki ba-ḫul
  2. Year after
    Akuzu was destroyed.

5th year of Sumuilu. U. 6391.

  1. List of valuable goods: gold, copper, semi-precious stones, wood, ivory brought from the island of Dilmun to the temple of Ningal after two years expedition.
    ša(g) kaskal dilmunki na
    ù im-ta-ne-ne-ta
    é dnin-gal
    itu bár-zag-gar
    mu en-me-te an-ki(?)
    itu áš-a
    mu uru-ki ka íd-da
    From the Dilmun expedition
    its cargo,
    and the documents thereof.
    Temple of Ningal.
    Month of Barzaggar
    year when the priest ornament of heaven and earth (?)
    was invested
    (to) the month of Asha
    year when the city of Pî-nâri
    was destroyed.

6th to 8th year of Sumuilu. U. 6709.

  1. mu uru-ki íd-da
  2. Year when the city of [Pî-]nâri
    was destroyed.

8th year of Sumuilu. U. 6390.

  1. mu uš-sa uru-ki ka-íd-da
  2. Year after the city of Pî-nâri
    was destroyed.

9th year of Sumuilu. U. 6392.

  1. mu su-mu-ilu lugal-e
    é-a dnannar ni-šá(g)-ki
  2. Year when king Sumuilu
    let the priests (the offerings?)
    inahbit the house of Nannar.

14th year of Sumuilu. U. 6393.

  1. mu uš-sa é-a dnannar
    ni-za-ki ba-an-tuš-a
  2. Year after in the house of Nannar
    he let the priests inhabit.

15th year of Sumuilu. U. 6395.

  1. mu uš-sa su-mu-ilu lugal-e
    é-a dnannar ni-šá(k)-ki
  2. Year after King Sumuilu
    let the priests inhabit
    the house of Nannar.
    The following year.

16th year of the Sumuilu. U. 6394.

  1. mu ugnim
    unu(g)ki a giš-tukul ba-sīg
  2. Year when the army.
    of Erech was defeated by arms.

22nd year of Sumuilu. U. 6396.

  1. mu uš-sa 5 kam
    en dnannar ba-ḫum-gà
  2. The yea after the fifth
    since the priest of Nannar was invested.

28th year of Sumuilu. U. 6397.

  1. mu bád uríki ma
  2. Year when the wall of Ur.
    Year of Warad Sin (f) or Samsuiluna.

U. 6712.

  1. mu giš-šu-nir guškin
  2. Year when the golden emblem.
    Year of Gungunu or Samsuiluna?

U. 6713.

  1. mu é-šu-kàr ki-na(?)
  2. Year when Eshukar kina
    was inhabited.
    The ziggurat of Ur (cf.Br.7131.)

U. 6714.

  1. mu ma-al-gu-um
    giš-tukul ba-sīg
  2. Year when Malgum
    was defeated by arms.
    Warad Sin, Rim Sin, or Hammurapi?

U. 6727.

  1. Fragment of chronological tablet. Middle portion of the I col. of the obverse (?) including the reigns of Sineribam, Siniqisham, Silli-Adad and Warad-Sin. A few signs of the II col. cover the 22nd and 23rd yearas of Rim-Sin.The reverse had probably a list of the other years of Rim-Sin, who reigned thrity-eight years more before being defeated by Hammurapi. The present tablet may have been compiled under the reign of Samsuiluna, whose name is read on a loose but very similar fragment.
    • [mu ilsin-e-ri-ba-am] lugal
      [mu ] é dnannar šú
      2 [muil] sin-e-ri-ba-amlugal
      mu il[sin-i-ki]-ša-am lugal
      mu uru-ka-íd-[da] ù na-za-ru-um
      mu bád-gal a[rarki]-ma ba-dú

      [mu ] šu in [ ]
      [mu ]-ni in [ ]
      [mu ]-ti nim-ma giš [ ]
      [ mu] ilsin-i-ki-[ša-am]lugal
      [mu şi-li il] adad nam-lugal [ ]
      [mu ilwarad] ilsin lugal
      [mu ]-luki ba-an-gul ù ugnim
      [.. ]
      [ ] ša(g) ararkigiš
      tukul ba-sīg
      [mu d] babbar-šu i-ni-in-tù(r)-ri

      [ ]-ba-dū
      [ ]-ba-dū
      [ ]
      [ ]
      [mu ] tù(r)-ri
      [mu ] tù(r)-ri
      [mu ba]-dū
      [mu ] lugal
      Col. II [mu] giš tukul[kal-ga
      e-rim á-taḫ-bi [šu-ni
      ugu nam [-lù-gál-bi
      mu dú(g)[ga zi(d)-da ]
      íd el-[la

    • Year when Sineribam was king
      Year when he introduced……
      in the house of Nannar
      2 years of King Sineribam.
      Year when Siniqisham was king.
      Year when the cities of Pinâri and
      Nazarum were captured.
      Year when the great wall of Larsa was

      [ ] years of king Sin-iqisham.
      Year when Şilli-Adad was…king.

      Year when Warad Sin was king.
      Year when … was destroyed and the
      of …. in Larsa were defeated by arms.

      Year when….was introduced in the
      temple of Babbar.
      Year….. was built.
      Year…. was built.
      Year…. ..
      ……. ..
      Year was introduced.
      Year was introduced.
      Year was built.
      Year ..the king.
      Rim-Sin Year 22.

      Rim Sin Year 23.

U. 6958.

  1. mu nin-dingir dní-te-en(?)-na or
    dAdad te-im-ki ba-hun-gà
  2. Year when the priestess of…
    was invested.
    Grave 46 with other tablet dated of Samsuiluna year 11.

U. 6314.

  1. mu é-maḫ-gig-pár ?
    ša(g) ararki mu-um dū-a
  2. Year when he built in Larsa
    the Emahgigpar

+Seal impression. U.4954.

  1. mu…. ilnergal ú-še-zib
    šar matâti
  2. Year…of Nergal-ushezib (Adad)
    king of the countries

(B.C. 693) U. 6322

  1. mu 13 kam ilAdad-šum-naşir
    šar babili
  2. Year 13th of Adad-shumnàsir.
    (B.C. 1234) King of Babylon.

U. 6715.

  1. uríki arḫi kislimu ûm 11kam šatti
    [ilmar]duk-apal-iddin mar-ri-du-tu
  2. at Ur, Kislimu, the 11th on 22nd year
    or Marduk-apaliddin the legitimate son.
    About B.C. 700.

U. 2616.

  1. ilNabù-usallim
    ana qât ilNabû-bel-uşur
    warahšabat šatti 10kam
  2. Nabu-usallim
    into the hands of Nabû bêl-uşur
    Month of Shabat, 10th year
    of Marduk-apalidinna
    king of Babylon.

About 711 B.C. U. 2662.

  1. warahsimanu um29kam šatti 5kam
    šar babili šar matâti
  2. Simanu the 29th 5th year
    of Cambyses
    king of Babylon, king of the countries.

B.C. 524 U. 2585.

*To see images of each inscription, please download the article PDF.

Cite This Article

Legrain, Leon. "The Tragic History Of Ibi-Sin, King Of Ur." The Museum Journal XVII, no. 4 (December, 1926): 372-392. Accessed June 25, 2024.

This digitized article is presented here as a historical reference and may not reflect the current views of the Penn Museum.

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