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Ancient Near East - The Neo Sumerian Empire

Updated: Nov 4, 2021


Around 2100 B.C., Ur-Nammu established the Third Dynasty of Ur (also known as the Neo-Sumerian Empire). This would be the last Sumerian dynasty to come to power in Mesopotamia, and involved a succession of five generations of rulers from the same family. According to the Sumerian King List, it was the third time that Ur held kingship, thus the modern designation.

Ur-Nammu rose to prominence as a warrior-king when he defeated the ruler of Lagash in Battle, killing the king himself. After this battle, Ur-Nammu seems to have earned the title “king of Sumer and Agade”.


During Ur-Nammu's reign, he ordered the construction of the Great Ziggurat of Ur. He dedicated this massive temple to the Sumerian god Nanna. A quick side note about the god – born to the gods Enlil and Ninlil, Nanna became known to the Semitics as the god Sin. He was the god of the moon who was also the protector of shepherds. To the Semitics, he was later considered the supreme god, the creator of all things.

The Great Ziggurat of Ur measured 210 feet long, 148 feet wide, and roughly 100 feet high. This step pyramid was completed during the reign of Ur-Nammu's son, Shulgi, and served as part of the administrative center for the city.

Ur-Nammu was killed in combat, abandoned by the fleeing army, in yet another battle with the Gutians, but the dynasty he created would last for almost a hundred years.


Shortly after his father's death, Shulgi engaged in a series of punitive wars against the Gutians to avenge his father. He would rule for 48 years, and would be best known for his extensive revision of the scribal school's curriculum. In addition to construction of defensive walls against the mountainous tribes and the completion of the Great Ziggurat of Ur, Shulgi spent a great deal of time and resources in expanding, maintaining, and generally improving the roads constructed by his father. He built rest-houses along these roads so that travelers could find a place to rest and sleep for the night. He may have been the first builder of the Inn.

Shulgi also boasted about his ability to run long distances and claimed in his 7th regnal year to have run from Nippur to Ur, a distance of over 100 miles. Author Samuel Kramer refers to Shulgi as “the first long distance running champion” in his book called History Begins at Sumer.

Shulgi appears to have had some difficulty with a few of the temple authorities throughout his empir