Enmerkar: Legendary Sumerian Founder And Ruler Of Uruk And Grandson Of God Utu

A. Sutherland  - AncientPages.com -  Enmerkar is a mythological, semi-historical character, from Sumerian legends. He represents the first dynasty (3500 - 2750 BC), including great Mesopotamian heroes, including Meskiaggasher  (his father), Lugalbanda, Dumuzi, and Gilgamesh.

In the Sumerian King List, Enmerkar appears as the second king of the First Dynasty of Uruk. His father was Meskiaggasher (Mesh-ki-ang-gasher), the son of the god Utu (the twin of the goddess Inanna, the Queen of Heaven), later worshipped as Shamash, the Mesopotamian Sun god associated with justice, truth, and morality. Utu, on the other hand, was Enmerkar's grandfather.

Enmerkar: Legendary Sumerian Ruler Of Uruk And Granson Of God Utu

King List adds that Enmerkar brought the official kingship with him from the city of E-ana after his father Meskiaggasher, son of Utu, had "entered the sea and disappeared." Enmerkar founded Uruk, the largest settlement in southern Mesopotamia around 4500 BC, and was said to have reigned for "420 years" (some versions even propose "900 years").

In "Sumerian Mythology," Samuel Noah Kramer writes that one (unpublished) tablet that was found in Nippur says that "hero Enmerkar ruled in the city of Erech sometime during the fourth millennium BC."

Was Enmerkar Real Figure Or Legendary One?

Not much is known about this obscure ruler. Still, a few Sumerian legends provide some information about his existence, and "the legendary dynasty of Uruk which, according to the Sumerian King List, included three great Mesopotamian heroes, Enmerkar, Lugalbanda, and Gilgamesh, was the inspiration for mytho-poetic narrative." 1

There are two narrative poems dedicated to a legendary king Lugalbanda, another two about Enmerkar, and five about Gilgamesh. These legends later circulated in the court of the Neo-Sumerian kings.

See also:

Mesopotamian City Jemdet Nasr Dated To 3100–2900 BC: Sophisticated Irrigation Techniques And Earliest Cylinder Seals

Who Was The Sumerian Ensi?

Urukagina: Ruler Of Sumerian City Of Lagash And His Reforms To Combat Corruption

Divine Shulgi Of Ur: Influential, Long-Ruling King, Conqueror And Native Akkadian Speaker In Five Languages

Unfortunately, both archaeological and historical studies have not been able to provide evidence of whether he was a real figure in the history of Sumer or rather a legendary character.


In historical terms, his genealogy is insufficient, which means the origin of Enmerkar, his parents, and where he came from is shrouded in mystery.

Enmerkar Is Mentioned In Some Sumerian Epics

A legendary Sumerian epic "Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta" dated to about 21st century BC, says Enmerkar was of divine origin. He was born in the "heart of the mountains," which were called "mountains of the pure ME." A few other ancient texts describe Enmerkar's reign, his continued diplomatic rivalries with Aratta, and later campaign against the city. Additionally, a Sumerian mythological account,  "Lugalbanda and the Anzu Bird," tells about  Enmerkar's year-long siege of Aratta.

Enmerkar was famous for his war against the prosperous city of Aratta, which was hundreds of kilometers east of present-day southern Iran, ancient Persia. It has long been hypothesized that Jiroft is the legendary land of Aratta, a 'lost' Bronze Age kingdom of renown.

According to texts dating from around 2100 BC, Aratta was a beautifully decorated and flourishing capital with a citadel fashioned with green lapis lazuli and its lofty towers of bright red brick. Aratta's artistic production was famous and highly regarded.

The clay tablet that survived was dated by the scribe who wrote it in the reign of King Utukhegal of Erech (Uruk), which places it around 2125 BC. Utukhegal was one of the first native kings of Sumer after centuries of Akkadian and Gutian dominance. Photo: Ashmolean Museum

Sumerian King List - Photo: Ashmolean Museum

The remote city had developed a prosperous trade of metals and precious stones, which were abundant in that region.

According to the epic "Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta," this Sumerian ruler not only founded Uruk but also constructed the House of Heaven for the goddess Inanna in the Eanna District of Uruk. About 2500 BC, he sent a message to the ruler of Aratta requesting that artisans and architects be dispatched to his capital, Uruk, to build a temple to honor Inanna, the goddess of fertility and war.

It's worth mentioning that one of Enmerkar's war chiefs and heroic companions during the struggle with Aratta was Lugalbanda. According to the Sumerian king list, it was this Lugalbanda "the shepherd" who eventually succeeded Enmerkar to the throne of Uruk.

In both Sumerian and Akkadian versions of the "Epic of Gilgamesh," Lugalbanda is named as the father of Gilgamesh, a later king of Uruk, who built the walls of Uruk.

Enmerkar And Inanna

There is a story that refers to the conflict between Enmerkar of  Uruk and Ensuhkeshdanna of Aratta. This conflict had to do with Inanna, the great goddess Inanna (Ninin, Ishtar), the Phoenician Astarté, the Greek Aphrodite, or the Roman Venus), who lived in the splendid Iranian city and had his eyes set on the mighty Uruk, capital of the god of the sky, Anu.

The goddess begged the current king, Enmerkar  (her nephew), to defeat Aratta and move her home to Anu's temple. Enmerkar won more favor in Inanna's eyes than Ensuhkeshdanna who later said:

"You are the beloved lord of Inanna, you alone are exalted.

Inanna has truly chosen you for her holy lap, you are her beloved.

From the south to the highlands, you are the great lord, and I

am only second to you."  1

Written by – A. Sutherland  - AncientPages.com Senior Staff Writer

Copyright © AncientPages.com All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or part without the express written permission of AncientPages.com

Expand for references