When the Semites first entered the Semitic Influence. Edin or plain of Babylonia is uncertain, but it must have been at a remote period. The cuneiform system of writing was still in process of growth when it was borrowed and adapted by the new comers, and the Semitic Babylonian language was profoundly influenced by the older language of the country, borrowing its words and even its grammatical usages. Sumerian in its turn borrowed from Semitic Babylonian, and traces of Semitic influence in some of the earliest Sumerian texts indicate that the Semite was already on the Babylonian border. His native home was probably Arabia; hence Eridu ("the good city") and Ur ("the city") would have been built in Semitic territory, and their population may have included Semitic elements from the first. It was in the north, however, that the Semites first appear on the monuments. Here in Akkad the first Semitic empire was founded, Semitic conquerors or settlers spread from Sippara to Susa, Khana to the east of the Tigris was occupied by "West Semitic" tribes, and "out of" Babylonia "went forth the Assyrian." As in Assyria, so too in the states of Babylonia the patesi or high-priest of the god preceded the king.
The state had grown up around a sanctuary, the god of which was nominally its ruler, the human patesi being his viceregent. In course of time many of the high-priests assumed the functions and title of king; while retaining their priestly office they claimed at the same time to be supreme in the state in all secular concerns. The god remained nominally at its head; but even this position was lost to him when Babylonia was unified under Semitic princes, and the earthly king became an incarnate god. A recollection of his former power survived, however, at Babylon, where Bel-Merodach adopted the king before his right to rule was allowed.
The earliest monuments that can be approximately Ur-ninā dynasty. dated come from Lagash (Tello). Here we hear of a "king of Kengi," as well as of a certain Me-silim, king of Kis, who had dealings with Lugal-suggur, high-priest of Lagash, and the high-priest of a neighbouring town, the name of which is provisionally transcribed Gis-ukh (formerly written Gis-ban and confounded with the name of Opis). According to Scheil, Gis-ukh is represented by Jokha, south of Fāra and west of the Shatt el-Hai, and since two of its rulers are called kings of Tē on a seal-cylinder, this may have been the pronunciation of the name. At a later date the high-priests of Lagash made themselves kings, and a dynasty was founded there by Ur-Ninā. In the ruins of a building, attached by him to the temple of Ninā, terra-cotta bas-reliefs of the king and his sons have been found, as well as the heads of lions in onyx, which remind us of Egyptian work and onyx plates. These were "booty" dedicated to the goddess Bau. E-anna-du, the grandson of Ur-Ninā, made himself master of the whole of southern Babylonia, including "the district of Sumer" together with the cities of Erech, Ur and Larsa (?). He also annexed the kingdom of Kis, which, however, recovered its independence after his death.
Gis-ukh was made tributary, a certain amount of grain being levied upon each person in it, which had to be paid into the treasury of the goddess Ninā and the god Ingurisa. The so-called "Stele of the Vultures," now in the Louvre, was erected as a monument of the victory. On this various incidents in the war are represented. In one scene the king stands in his chariot with a curved weapon in his right hand formed of three bars of metal bound together by rings (similar, as M. L. Heuzey has pointed out, to one carried by the chief of an Asiatic tribe in a tomb of the 12th dynasty at Beni-Hasan in Egypt), while his kilted followers with helmets on their heads and lances in their hands march behind him. In another a flock of vultures is feeding on the bodies of the fallen enemy; in a third a tumulus is being heaped up over those who had been slain on the side of Lagash. Elsewhere we see the victorious prince beating down a vanquished enemy, and superintending the execution of other prisoners who are being sacrificed to the gods, while in one curious scene he is striking with his mace a sort of wicker-work cage filled with naked men.
In his hand he holds the crest of Lagash and its god - a lion-headed eagle with outstretched wings, supported by two lions which are set heraldically back to back. The sculptures belong to a primitive period of art.
E-anna-du's campaigns extended beyond the confines of Babylonia. He overran a part of Elam and took the city of Az on the Persian Gulf. Temples and palaces were repaired or erected at Lagash and elsewhere, the town of Ninā - which probably gave its name to the later Ninā or Nineveh - was rebuilt, and canals and reservoirs were excavated. He was succeeded by his brother En-anna-tum I., under whom Gis-ukh once more became the dominant power. As En-anna-tum has the title only of high-priest, it is probable that he acknowledged Ur-lumma of Gis-ukh as his suzerain. His son and successor Entemena restored the prestige of Lagash. Gis-ukh was subdued and a priest named Illi was made its governor. A tripod of silver dedicated by Entemena to his god is now in the Louvre. A frieze of lions devouring ibexes and deer, and incised with great artistic skill, runs round the neck, while the eagle crest of Lagash adorns the globular part. The vase is a proof of the high degree of excellence to which the goldsmith's art had already attained.
A vase of calcite, also dedicated by Entemena, has been found at Nippur.
The eighth successor of Ur-Ninā was Uru-duggina, who was overthrown and his city captured by Lugal-zaggisi, the high-priest of Gis-ukh. Lugal-zaggisi was the founder of the first empire in Asia of which we know. He made Erech his capital and calls himself king of Kengi. In a long inscription which he caused to be engraved on hundreds of stone vases dedicated to El-lil of Nippur, he declares that his kingdom extended "from the Lower Sea of the Tigris and Euphrates," or Persian Gulf, to "the Upper Sea" or Mediterranean. It was at this time that Erech received the name of "the City," which it continued to bear when written ideographically.