Lugalbanda (Sumerian: 𒈗𒌉𒁕 lugal-banda3da, young/fierce king)[1][2] is a character found in Sumerian mythology and literature. Lugalbanda is listed in the Sumerian King List as the second king of Uruk, saying he ruled for 1,200 years, and providing him with the epithet of the Shepherd.[3] Lugalbanda’s existence and rule, whether a king who historically ruled over Uruk and at what time, is quite uncertain. Attempts to date him in the ED II period are based on an amalgamation of data from the epic traditions of the 2nd millennium with unclear archaeological observations.[4]

Lugalbanda prominently features as the hero of two Sumerian stories dated to the Ur III period (21st century BCE), called by scholars Lugalbanda I (or Lugalbanda in the Mountain Cave) and Lugalbanda II (or Lugalbanda and the Anzu Bird). Both are known only in later versions, although there is an Ur III fragment that is quite different from either 18th century version[5] These tales are part of a series of stories that describe the conflicts between Enmerkar, king of Unug (Uruk), and Ensuhkeshdanna, lord of Aratta, presumably in the Iranian highlands. In these two stories, Lugalbanda is a soldier in the army of Enmerkar, whose name also appears in the Sumerian King List as the first king of Uruk and predecessor of Lugalbanda. The extant fragments make no reference to Lugalbanda's succession as king following Enmerkar.[6]

Lugalbanda appears in Sumerian literary sources as early as the mid-3rd millennium, as attested by a mythological text from Abu Salabikh that describes a romantic relationship between Lugalbanda and Ninsun.[7]

A deified Lugalbanda often appears as the husband of the goddess Ninsun. In the earliest god-lists from Fara, his name appears separate and in a much lower ranking than Ninsun,[8] but in later traditions, until the Seleucid period, his name is often listed in god-lists along with his consort Ninsun.[9] Ample evidence for the worship of Lugalbanda as a deity comes from the Ur III period, as attested in tablets from Nippur, Ur, Umma and Puzrish-Dagan.[10] In Old Babylonian period, Sin-kashid of Uruk is known to have built a temple called É-KI.KAL dedicated to Lugalbanda and Ninsun, and to have assigned his daughter Niši-īnī-šu as the eresh-dingir priestess of Lugalbanda.[11]

In royal hymns of the Ur III period, Ur-Nammu of Ur and his son Shulgi describe Lugalbanda and Ninsun as their holy parents, and in the same context call themselves the brother of Gilgamesh.[12] Sin-Kashid of Uruk also refers to Lugalbanda and Ninsun as his divine parents, and names Lugalbanda as his god.[13]

In the Akkadian Epic of Gilgamesh and in earlier Sumerian stories about the hero, the king of Uruk, Gilgamesh, calls himself the son of Lugalbanda and Ninsun. In the Gilgamesh and Huwawa tale, the hero consistently uses the assertive phrase: “By the life of my own mother Ninsun and of my father, holy Lugalbanda!”.[14][15] In Akkadian versions of the epic, Gilgamesh also refers to Lugalbanda as his personal god, and in one episode presents the oil filled horns of the defeated Bull of Heaven "for the anointing of his god Lugalbanda".[16]

born to Namma
born to Namma
born to Uraš
maybe daughter of Enlil
maybe son of Enki
maybe born to Ninḫursaĝ
born to Uraš
possibly also the daughter of Enki, of Enlil, or of An
maybe son of Enki
married Nergal

See also


  1. Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary Project
  2. Vanstiphout, H. (2002) “Sanctus Lugalbanda” in Riches Hidden in Secret Places, T. Abusch (ed.), Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, p. 260; The name has no such connotations of 'crown prince'.
  3. English translation of Sumerian King List in The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature Archived 2011-07-16 at the Wayback Machine
  4. Lugalbanda, Reallexikon der Assyriologie 7, p. 117.
  5. Michalowski, P. (2009) “Maybe Epic: The Origins and Reception of Sumerian Heroic Poetry” in Epic and History, D. Konstans and K. Raaflaub (eds.), Oxford: Blackwells. p. 13 and n.8; Tablet 6N-T638; as of March 2011 tablet awaits publication.
  6. For a detailed treatment of Enmerkar and Lugalbanda stories see: Vanstiphout, H. (2003). Epics of Sumerian Kings, Atlanta: SBL. ISBN 1-58983-083-0
  7. Jacobsen, Thorkild (1989) “Lugalbanda and Ninsuna”, Journal of Cuneiform Studies Vol. 41, No. 1, pp. 69-86
  8. Ninsun (dLamma-Nin-sún) in Tablet I line 15, Lugalbanda in Tablet VII line 15.
  9. Exceptions exist. For a full summary of the god-list references refer to Reallexikon der Assyriologie 7, p. 118.
  10. Reallexikon der Assyriologie 7, pp. 119–120. Nippur tablets indicate that all Ur III kings have made offerings to the deity Lugalbanda
  11. Reallexikon der Assyriologie 7, p. 120
  12. Reallexikon der Assyriologie 7, p. 131. See also Ur-Namma hymns and Shulgi hymns
  13. Sjöberg, Äke W. (1972) “Die Göttliche Abstammung der sumerisch-babylonischen Herrscher,” Orientalia Suecana 21, p. 98
  14. Ninsumun is another name for Ninsun. Both names Lugalbanda and Ninsun are written with divine determinatives. For two separate Sumerian versions of Gilgamesh and Huwawa see ETCSL.
  15. For a discussion of parentage of Gilgamesh and further references see: George, Andrew (2003), Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic, Oxford. ISBN 0-19-814922-0, p. 107 ff.
  16. George, p. 629.
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Sumerian ruler
En of Uruk

ca. 2600 BC
Succeeded by
Dumuzid, the Fisherman
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