by Frantisek Valek
published on 21 February 2012

Ur-Nammu was the founder and first king of the Third Dynasty of Ur (according to the Sumerian King List). He is known as a builder of numerous aqueducts and reconstructed many ziggurats in various Sumerian cities. His most magnificent building achievement is the Great Ziggurat of Ur, a three-level ziggurat to the god Sin (also known as Nanna, the moon god in Mesopotamian mythology). He is also considered to be the creator of the earliest known legal code in history. He reigned from 2111 or 2112 BCE to 2094 or 2095 BCE (middle chronology) or from 2047 - 2030 BCE (short chronology).

The Code of Ur-Nammu divided society into two classes: free people and slaves. Slaves usually worked as servants but also as craftsmen. They were owned by their masters, but their legal status was relatively free. They could give evidence in court, get married and own possessions. The code also dealt with the punishment of perpetrators of bodily harm and sexual offences, and regulated soldiers' relationships with first and second wives. The years in which Ur-Nammu created his code are therefore called "Year in which Ur-Nammu the king put in order the ways from below to above", and "Year Ur-Nammu made justice in the land".

His accession to the throne is also interesting. He worked as a governor of Utchengal of Uruk, who in 2116 BCE chased out the Guteans and reunited Sumerian and Akkadian cities where he installed his own officials as rulers, including Ur-Nammu. In 2111 BCE Ur-Nammu took control of Ur and founded the Third Dynasty of Ur which lasted for a century. He conquered Uruk, where he defeated Utchengal and completely overtook his reign in 2110 BCE. The years of Ur-Nammu's reign were a time of blossoming and prosperity of the Ur empire.

Ur-Nammu's heir was Shulgi, his son. Shulgi expanded the empire of his father by adding Elam and Assyria. During Shulgi's reign, Ur was at its height.

Written by , published on under the following license: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike. This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon this content non-commercially, as long as they credit the author and license their new creations under the identical terms.


  • Jan Pečírka. Dějiny pravěku a starověku I. SPN, Prague, 1989. Page(s) 217,218.

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Visual Timeline
  • 2116 BCE - 2110 BCE
    Utchengal's reign over Sumerian and Akkadian cities.
  • 2111 BCE - 2094 BCE
    Ur-Nammu's reign, according to middle chronology.
  • c. 2100 BCE
    The Code of Ur-Nammu (the earliest known code of laws) is written.
  • 2047 BCE - 1750 BCE
    The Ur III Period in Sumer, known as the Sumerian Renaissance.
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