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Urukagina

Urukagina

Urukagina (reigned ca. 2380 BC2360 BC, short chronology), alternately rendered as Uruinimgina or Irikagina, was a ruler (énsi) of the city-state Lagash in Mesopotamia. He is best-known for his reforms to combat corruption, which are sometimes cited as the first example of a legal code in recorded history. Although the actual text has not been discovered yet, much of its content may be surmised from other references to it that have been found. In it, he exempted widows and orphans from taxes; compelled the city to pay funeral expenses (including the ritual food and drink libations for the journey of the dead into the lower world); and decreed that the rich must use silver when purchasing from the poor, and if the poor does not wish to sell, the powerful man (the rich man or the priest) cannot force him to do so.

Urukagina's code is perhaps the first recorded example of government reform, seeking to achieve a higher level of freedom and equality. It limited the power of the priesthood and large property owners and took measures against usury, burdensome controls, hunger, theft, murder, and seizure (of people's property and persons); as he states, "The widow and the orphan were no longer at the mercy of the powerful man". The text describing Urukagina's reforms is also the first known use of the word freedom, in this case the Sumerian ama-gi.

He also participated in several conflicts, notably a losing border conflict with Uruk. During his reign, Uruk fell under the leadership of Lugal-Zage-Si, énsi of Umma, who ultimately annexed most of the territory of Lagash and established the first reliably documented kingdom to encompass all of Sumer. The destruction of Lagash was described in a lament (possibly the earliest recorded example of what would become a prolific Sumerian literary genre), which stressed that "the men of Umma ... committed a sin against Ningirsu. ... Offence there was none in Urukagina, king of Girsu, but as for Lugal-Zage-Si, governor of Umma, may his goddess Nisaba make him carry his sin upon his neck" (alternatively - "may she carry his sin upon her neck"). Lugal-Zage-Si himself was soon defeated and his kingdom was annexed by Sargon of Akkad.

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