Chapter 1 – Doing History: A Case Study

Stephanie Guerin-Yodice

In the A Case Study section, you saw an image of the inscription from Ummah and Lagash. Below is the inscription in modern English. Read the inscription, keeping the Case Study section in mind.

As you read this primary source consider the following:

  • how access to waterways was paramount to the survival of a city-state
  • emphasis placed on the wrath of the gods and the importance of honoring written laws
  • how the ruler(s) of Lagash took matters into their own hands and destroyed the ruler and city-state of Umma because its people refused to adhere to the law set in place

What do you think is the authors’ purpose? What are they achieving with this inscription?

Inscription from Umma and Lagash

Under the authority of Enlil, appointed god of the lands who established borders, agricultural fields, and made war over territorial infractions: erected a stele upon the disputed territories between Lagash and Umma.

In retaliation: “Ush, ruler of Umma, formed a plan to seize it. That stele he broke in pieces, into the plain of Lagash he advanced.”

After war was made upon the people of Umma, the king of Lagash redefined the borders by placing steles along the canal and erecting a temple in the name of Enlil.

The Umma king retaliated in kind, “Urlumma, ruler of Umma drained the boundary canal of Ningirsu, the boundary canal of Nina; those steles he threw into the fire, he broke [them] in pieces; he destroyed the sanctuaries, the dwellings of the gods, the protecting shrines, the buildings that had been made.”

Another war resulted in King Urlumma’s death. Power was reasserted through Ili, appointed by King Lagash as vassal ruler over the city-state of Umma, but he, too, does not respect the boundaries laid out by the Lagash king. “Ili, took the ruler of Umma into his hand. He drained the boundary canal of Ningirsu, a great protecting structure of Ningirsu, unto the bank of the Tigris above from the banks of Girsu. He took the grain of Lagash, a storehouse of 3600 gur (year). Entemena, ruler of Lagash declared hostilities on Ili, whom for a vassal he had set up. Ili, ruler of Umma, wickedly flooded the diked and irrigated field; he commanded that the boundary canal of Ningirsu; the boundary canal of Nina be ruined….”

Once again, the king of Lagash waged war and with the blessing of Enlil he “restored their canal to its place according to the righteous word of Enlil, according to the righteous word of Nina, their canal which he had constructed from the river Tigris to the great river, the protecting structure, its foundation he had made of stone ….[1]



[1] Barton, “Inscription of Entemena  #7,” 61, 63, 65.


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History of Applied Science & Technology Copyright © 2017 by Stephanie Guerin-Yodice is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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