Gutian dynasty of Sumer

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Gutian Dynasty of Sumer

circa 2135–2055 BC [ short ]
The Gutians (right) capturing a Babylonian city, as Akkadians (left) are making a stand outside their city. 19th century illustration.
The Gutians (right) capturing a Babylonian city, as Akkadians (left) are making a stand outside their city. 19th century illustration.
Common languagesGutian language
• fl. c. 2135—2129 BC [ short ]
Inkishush (first)
• fl. c. 2055—2055 BC [ short ]
Tirigan (last)
Historical eraBronze Age
• Established
circa 2135
• Disestablished
2055 BC [ short ]
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Akkadian Empire
Third Dynasty of Ur
Today part of Iraq

The Gutian dynasty, also Kuti or Kutians (Sumerian: 𒄖𒋾𒌝𒆠, gu-ti-umKI) was a dynasty that came to power in Mesopotamia c. 2135—2055 BC [ short ] after displacing the Akkadian Empire. It ruled for roughly one century; however, some copies of the Sumerian King List (SKL) vary between 4 and 25 years. The end of the Gutian dynasty is marked by the accession of Ur-Nammu (founder of the Third Dynasty of Ur, which fl. c. 2112 BC [ middle ] or 2055 BC [ short ] ).

The Gutian people (Guti) were native to Gutium, presumably in the central Zagros Mountains, though almost nothing is known about their origin.


The Gutians practiced hit-and-run tactics, and would be long gone by the time regular troops could arrive to deal with the situation. Their raids crippled the economy of Sumer. Travel became unsafe, as did work in the fields, resulting in famine.

The Sumerian king list indicates that king Ur-Utu of Uruk was defeated by the barbarian Guti, perhaps around 2150 BC. The Guti swept down, defeated the demoralized Akkadian army, took Akkad, and destroyed it around 2115 BC. However, they did not supplant all of Akkad, as several independent city states remained alongside them, including Lagash, where a local dynasty still thrived and left numerous textual and archaeological remains.[1]

A Gutian inscription dated c. 2130 BCE. "Lugalanatum prince of Umma ... built the E.GIDRU [Sceptre] Temple at Umma, buried his foundation deposit [and] regulated the orders. At that time, Siium was king of Gutum [or Qutum]." The name 𒄖𒋾𒌝𒆠, gu-ti-um appears in the last line. Louvre Museum.
Map of Iraq showing important archaeological sites that were occupied by the Gutians (clickable map).

Ultimately Akkad was so thoroughly destroyed that its site is still not known. The Guti proved to be poor rulers. Under their crude rule, prosperity declined. They were too unaccustomed to the complexities of civilization to organize matters properly, particularly in connection with the canal network. This was allowed to sink into disrepair, with famine and death resulting. Thus, a short "dark age" swept over Mesopotamia.

Akkad bore the brunt of this as the center of the Empire, so that it was in Akkad that the Guti established their own center in place of the destroyed Akkad. Some of the Sumerian cities in the south took advantage of the distance and purchased a certain amount of self-government by paying tribute to the new rulers.

Uruk was thus able to develop a fifth dynasty. Even in the city of Akkad itself, a local dynasty was said to have ruled.[2] The best known Sumerian ruler of the Gutian period was the ensi of Lagash, Gudea. Under him, c. 2075 BC (short), Lagash had a golden age.

After a few kings, the Gutian rulers became more cultured. Guti rule lasted only about a century — around 2050 BC, they were expelled from Mesopotamia by the rulers of Uruk and Ur, when Utu-hengal of Uruk defeated Gutian king Tirigan. Utu-hengal's victory revived the political and economic life of southern Sumer.

Weidner Chronicle[edit]

1,500 years later, the Weidner Chronicle (ABC 19) accounts for the Gutian period as follows:

Naram-Sin destroyed the people of Babylon, so twice Marduk summoned the forces of Gutium against him. Marduk gave his kingship to the Gutian force. The Gutians were unhappy people unaware how to revere the gods, ignorant of the right cultic practices. Utu-hengal, the fisherman, caught a fish at the edge of the sea for an offering. That fish should not be offered to another god until it had been offered to Marduk, but the Gutians took the boiled fish from his hand before it was offered, so by his august command, Marduk removed the Gutian force from the rule of his land and gave it to Utu-hengal.

List of Gutian kings[edit]

According to the SKL:

In the army of Gutium, at first no king was famous; they were their own kings and ruled thus for 3 years.

Gutian kings not on the SKL[edit]

Ruler Epithet Length of reign Approximate dates [ short ] Comments
Erridupizir 3 years fl. c. 2141—2138 BC Known from a royal inscription at Nippur.
Imta or Nibia 3 years fl. c. 2138—2135 BC

Gutian kings on the SKL[edit]

The listed reign lengths throughout much of the Gutian period are comparatively short and uniform:

Ruler Epithet Length of reign Approximate dates [ short ] Comments
Inkishush or Inkicuc 6 years fl. c. 2135—2129 BC First Gutian ruler named on the SKL.
Sarlagab or Zarlagab 6 years fl. c. 2129—2123 BC Possibly the same person as the Gutian king Sharlag (who was captured by the Akkadian king Shar-kali-sharri).
Shulme 6 years fl. c. 2123—2117 BC
Elulmesh or Elulumesh 6 years fl. c. 2117—2111 BC Possibly the same person as Elulu (who contended for power following the Akkadian king Shar-kali-sharri's death).
Inimabakesh 5 years fl. c. 2111—2106 BC
Igeshaush 6 years fl. c. 2106—2100 BC
Yarlagab 5 years fl. c. 2100—2095 BC
Ibate 3 years fl. c. 2095—2092 BC
Yarla or Yarlangab 3 years fl. c. 2092—2089 BC
Kurum 3 years fl. c. 2089—2086 BC
Apilkin 3 years fl. c. 2086—2083 BC
La-erabum or Lasirab 2 years fl. c. 2083—2081 BC Known from a mace head inscription.
Irarum 2 years fl. c. 2081—2079 BC
Ibranum 1 year fl. c. 2079—2078 BC
Hablum 2 years fl. c. 2078—2076 BC
Puzur-Suen the son of Hablum 7 years fl. c. 2076—2069 BC
Yarlaganda 7 years fl. c. 2069—2062 BC Known from a foundation inscription at Umma.
Si'um or Si'u 7 years fl. c. 2062—2055 BC Known from a foundation inscription at Umma.
Tirigan 40 days fl. c. 2055—2055 BC Defeated by the Uruk king Utu-hengal.

Modern connection theories[edit]

The historical Gutian people have been regarded by some as among the ancestors of the Kurdish people,[3][4][5][6][7][8][9] who speak Kurdish languages of the Indo-European family.

According to Tamaz V. Gamkrelidze and Vyacheslav V. Ivanov, the Gutian language was close to the Tocharian languages of the Indo-European family.[10]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

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  1. ^ De Mieroop, Marc Van. (2004). A History of the Ancient Near East: c. 3000-323 BC. (pp.67) Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.
  2. ^ De Mieroop, Marc Van. (2004). A History of the Ancient Near East: c. 3000-323 BC. (p.67) Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.
  3. ^ O'Leary, Brendan (2011-09-21). How to Get Out of Iraq with Integrity. ISBN 0812206088.
  4. ^ Curtis, Michael (1986-01-01). The Middle East: A Reader. ISBN 9781412837798.
  5. ^ Facts On File, Incorporated (2009). Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Africa and the Middle East. ISBN 9781438126760.
  6. ^ Relations, Council on Foreign; Westermann, William Linn (1944). Peoples of the Near East Without a National Future.
  7. ^ Central Asiatic Journal. 1969.
  8. ^ Prokhorov, Aleksandr Mikhaĭlovich (1982). Great Soviet Encyclopedia.
  9. ^ Art and Archaeology. 1931.
  10. ^ Гамкрелидзе Т. В., Иванов Вяч. Вс. Первые индоевропейцы на арене истории: прототохары в Передней Азии // Вестник древней истории. 1989. № 1.
  • Howorth 1901: "The Early History of Babylonia", Henry H. Howorth, The English Historical Review, Vol. 16, No. 61 (Jan. 1901), p. 1-34