Gutian Period

Gutian dynasty of Sumer

The Gutian dynasty came to power in Mesopotamia around 2150 BC (short chronology), by destabilising Akkad at the end of the reign of king Ur-Utu (or Lugal-melem) of Uruk. They reigned roughly a total of one century (estimates vary between 80 and 120 years, with 91 years often quoted as probable). The dynasty was succeeded by the 3rd dynasty of Ur.

The Guti were native to Gutium, presumably in the central Zagros Mountains; almost nothing is known about their origins.


The Guti appear in Old Babylonian copies of inscriptions ascribed to Lugal-Anne-Mundu of Adab as among the nations providing his empire tribute. These inscriptions locate them between Subartu in the north, and Marhashe and Elam in the south. They were a prominent nomadic tribe who lived in the Zagros mountains in the time of the Akkadian Empire. Sargon the Great also mentions them among his subject lands, listing them between Lullubi, Armanu and Akkad to the north, and Nikku and Der to the south. The epic Cuthaean Legend of Naram-Sin of a later millennium mentions Gutium among the lands around Mesopotamia raided by Annubanini of Lulubum during Naram-Sin's reign in Akkad.

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.

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 5th dynasty. Even in the city of Akkad itself, a local dynasty was said to have ruled. The best known Sumerian ruler of the Gutian period was the ensi of Lagash, Gudea. Under him, ca. 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.

Later the name "Guti" was used to signify any hostile people from east and northeast of Mesopotamia. Assyrian royal annals use the term Gutians to refer to Iranian populations of northeastern Mesopotamia otherwise known as Medes or Mannaeans; and as late as the reign of Cyrus the Great of Persia, the famous general Gubaru was described as the "governor of Gutium".

Weidner Chronicle

1500 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 the Gutian kings

Ruler Proposed reign
(short chronology)
Erridupizir ca. 2141 – 2138 BC Royal inscription at Nippur
Imta or Nibia ca. 2138 – 2135 BC
Inkishush ca. 2135 – 2129 BC First Gutian ruler on the Sumerian king list
Zarlagab ca. 2129 – 2126 BC
Shulme ca. 2126 – 2120 BC
Silulumesh or Elulmesh ca. 2120 – 2114 BC
Inimabakesh ca. 2114 – 2109 BC
Igeshaush ca. 2109 – 2103 BC
Yarlagab ca. 2103 – 2088 BC
Ibate ca. 2088 – 2085 BC
Yarla or Yarlangab ca. 2085 – 2082 BC
Kurum ca. 2082 – 2081 BC
Apilkin ca. 2081 – 2078 BC
La-erabum ca. 2078 – 2076 BC Mace head inscription
Irarum ca. 2076 – 2074 BC
Ibranum ca. 2074 – 2073 BC
Hablum ca. 2073 – 2071 BC
Puzur-Suen ca. 2071 – 2064 BC Son of Hablum
Yarlaganda ca. 2064 – 2057 BC Foundation inscription at Umma
Si'um or Si'u ca. 2057 – 2050 BC Foundation inscription at Umma
Tirigan ca. 2050 – 2050 BC Defeated by Utu-hengal of Uruk

Notes and references

  • Howorth 1901: "The Early History of Babylonia", Henry H. Howorth, The English Historical Review, Vol. 16, No. 61 (Jan. 1901), p.1-34

See also

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