{Kings of Sumeria}

A brief Sumerian renaissance (2070-1960 B.C.) brought Ur to the fore of the Mesopotamian power structure. Ur-nammu is accounted first king of he Third Dynasty of Ur which lasted until an Amorite from Mari on the middle Euphrates, Ishbi-Irra by name, overran the Sumerian territory and occupied Isin (1960-1830 B.C.). At the same time, a group of Elamites crossed the Tigris and established their vassal, Naplanum, on the throne of Larsa.

During the Third Dynasty of Ur a number of important buildings were erected. The moon god Nanna (Semitic, Sin), the patron diety of Ur was honored with a beautiful temple built on a specially constructed temple tower known as a ziggurat. Another temple was built for Nanna's consort, Nin-gal. A treasury building and a palace for the high priestess also adorned the city during the Ur III period.

Ur-nammu was the Sumerian ruler who founded the Third Dynasty of Ur, about 2050 B.C. His code, written three centuries before that of the great Babylonian lawgiver, Hammurabi, has been partially preserved in two fragments of a clay tablet now in the Istanbul Museum of the Ancient Orient. The obscure Sumerian writing on the tablet was deciphered by Samuel Noah Kramer of the University of Pennsylvania. It tells how Ur-nammu was chosen by the moon god, Nanna, to rule Ur as his earthly representative.

The first responsibility of Ur-nammu was to defend the boundaries of Ur against encroachments by neighboring Lagash. Having accomplished this, he turned his attention to reforms which were needed within the city-state of Ur. Ur-nammu determined that his government would be marked by justice. The widow and the orphan were not to be neglected. Honest weights and measures were prescribed for the mercantile class of Ur.

The Ur-Nammu law code is in a poor state of preservation, so that only a small fraction of its contents is known. One law seems to refer to the ordeal by water, later mentioned in the Hammurabi code. A woman accused of immorality is cast into the river, which acts as her judge. If the river receives her (i.e., she drowns), her guilt is considered self-evident. If, on the other hand, she swims to shore, she is deemed innocent.

Three of the laws which can be read with a fair degree of accuracy deal with instances of the mutilation of the body. If a man has cut off another man's foot, he is to pay ten shekels. In the Code of Hammurabi such payments are often prescribed when injury is to one of an inferior social status. There the penalty for injury to someone of the same class corresponds to the pattern, "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth."

The institution of slavery was firmly rooted in the ancient Near East. The victor on the battlefield would normally enslave the conquered army. Slavery, of course, brings many problems with it, and Ur-nammu had to prescribe legislation to deal with the run-away slave, a problem also dealt with in detail in Hammurabi's Code.

It would be interesting to known just when "the God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran," but we do not have exact chronologies before the days of the Israelite kingdom (ca. 1000 B.C.). Some Biblical scholars suggest that Ur-nammu was the ruler of Ur during the time of Abraham. Did Abraham look upon the great Ziggurat which Ur-Namu built? Did he know anything of the law code of this ruler who called himself "king of Sumer and Akkad?" We cannot known for sure. Even if the Ur of Abraham's lifetime was earlier or later than Ur-Nammu, it was a cultural and religious center of considerable importance.

{Kings of Sumeria}

NOTE: As anobel says, above, some scholars attribute Ur-Nammu's law code to his son, Shulgi.

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