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Kurigalzu I

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Reign  x – 1375 BC
Predecessor  Kadashman-harbe I
Successor  Kadashman-Enlil I
Name  Kurigalzu I
House  Kassite

Kurigalzu I

Kurigalzu I (died c. 1375 BC), usually inscribed ku-ri-gal-zu but also sometimes with the m or d determinative, the 17th king of the Kassite or 3rd dynasty that ruled over Babylon, was responsible for one of the most extensive and widespread building programs for which evidence has survived in Babylonia. The autobiography of Kurigalzu is one of the inscriptions which record that he was the son of Kadašman-Ḫarbe. Galzu, whose possible native pronunciation was gal-du or gal-šu, was the name by which the Kassites called themselves and Kurigalzu may mean Shepherd of the Kassites (line 23. Ku-ur-gal-zu = Ri-'-i-bi-ši-i, in a Babylonian name-list).


He was separated from his namesake, Kurigalzu II, by around forty-five years and as it was not the custom to assign regnal numbers and they both had lengthy reigns, this makes it exceptionally difficult to distinguish for whom an inscription is intended. The later king is, however, better known for his military campaign against the Assyrians than any building work he may have undertaken. It is now thought, however, that it was he who was the Kurigalzu who conquered Susa and was perhaps instrumental in the ascendancy of the Igehalkid dynasty over Elam, ca. 1400 BC.

Conquest of Elam

When Ḫur-batila, possibly the successor of Tepti Ahar to the throne of Elam, began raiding the Babylonian Empire, he taunted Kurigalzu to do battle with him at Dūr-Šulgi. Kurigalzu launched a campaign which resulted in the abject defeat and capture of Ḫur-batila, who appears in no other inscriptions. He went on to conquer the eastern lands of Susiana and Elam, recorded in the Chronicle P out of sequence and credited to his later name-sake. This took his army to the Elamite capital, the city of Susa, which was sacked, celebrated in two inscriptions found there bearing his name. It is thought that he may have installed as his vassal, Ige-Halki, the founder of the new dynasty. A small agate tablet, bored lengthways to make a pendant, is engraved with nine lines of Sumerian on one side, the other side bearing an older dedication of the mother of king Šulgi of Ur (2029 – 1982 BC, short chronology) to Inanna:

Kurigalzu, the king of Karduniyas, conquered the palace of the city of Šaša in Elam and gave (this object) for the sake of his life as a gift to Ninlil, his lady.

The tablet was recovered from Elam during Kurigalzu’s campaign and discovered in a cache of votive inscriptions at Nippur, but was ascribed to Kurigalzu II by earlier historians.

Through correspondence

Prior diplomatic correspondence is evident, from study of the Amarna letters and includes evidence of dialogue between Thutmose IV and Kurigalzu as attested to by Amenhotep III in his letter, designated EA 1 (EA for El Amarna), to Kadašman-Enlil. Burna-Buriaš II reminded Akhenaten in his letter, EA 11, that Kurigalzu had been sent gold by one of his ancestors, and, in EA 9, reminded Tutankhamen that Kurigalzu had turned down a request from the Canaanites to form an alliance against Egypt.

Through marriage

He gave his daughter to Amenhotep III, who was a serial practitioner of diplomatic marriages with two Mitannite princesses and one from Arzawa in his harem, and who would even later go on to wed Kurigalzu's granddaughter, the daughter of Kadašman-Enlil.

A Neo-Babylonian copy of a literary text which takes the form of a letter, now located in the Vorderasiatisches Museum in Berlin, is addressed to the Kassite court by an Elamite King and details the genealogy of the Elamite royalty of this period. Apparently, he married his sister to the Elamite king Paḫir-iššan, the son of Ige-Halki, and a daughter to his successor, Ḫumban-numena. This may have been Mishim-ruh, who is cited in royal inscriptions. The princess went on to bear Untash-Napirisha, the next king who was destined to marry Burna-Buriaš’ daughter. The author of the letter is thought to be Shutruk-Nahhunte, ca. 1190-1155 BC, who claims descent from Kurigalzu’s eldest daughter and also wed the eldest daughter of Meli-Šipak, the 33rd Kassite king. Unfortunately the letter inserts Nabu-apla-iddina (888 – 855 BC) “an abomination, son of a Hittite”, into the narrative in the place one might have supposed that Marduk-apla-iddina I was to appear, the substitution of dAMAR.UTU by dAG being an unlikely slip of the stylus, making a chronological conundrum and this may be the purpose of the “letter”, to denigrate the later king through the tongue of the earlier one.

Building works

Kurigalzu’s construction efforts are attested to at no less than eleven Babylonian cities. He was responsible for rebuilding the Ningal Temple at Ur, incorporating fragments of the Ur-Nammu Stela in buildings on the ziggurat terrace, the Edublal-Maḫ of Sîn buildings, or “house for hanging up the exalted tablets”, and the building of the gateway.

He was the first king to build a royal residence bearing his name, a new capital city founded over an older settlement and built around 1390 BC, named Dur-Kurigalzu, or 'fortress of Kurigalzu', in the far north of Babylonia (modern ‘Aqar Qūf). It was positioned to protect an important trade route that led east across the Iranian plateau to Afghanistan, the source of lapis lazuli. The 170-foot-high ziggurat of Enlil can still be seen on the western outskirts of Baghdad, with its reinforcing layers of reed matting and bitumen and the remains of three temples at its foot. Rawlinson first identified the site in 1861 from the brick inscriptions. Excavated in 1942–45 by Seton Lloyd and Taha Baqir, the city covered 225 hectares and included the Egal-kišarra, or “Palace of the Whole World”, a vast palatial and administrative complex.

In an adoption contract which sternly warns the adoptee, “If [Il]i-ippašra says, ‘you are not my father’, they shall shave his head, bind him and sell him for silver,” the date formula used, “in the month of Šabatu, the 19th day, the year Kurigalzu, the king, built the Ekurigibara,” predates that which was introduced during the reign of Kadašman-Enlil I and that had become de rigueur by the later reign of Kurigalzu II. The Ekurigibara of Enlil was a temple in Nippur.

The autobiography of Kurigalzu

A neo-Babylonian copy of a text recording the endowment by Kurigalzu, son of Kadašman-Ḫarbe, of a temple of Ištar with an estate situated on the Euphrates near Nippur, is known as the autobiography of Kurigalzu and comes in the form of a small hexagonal prism of light-yellow baked clay and a fragmentary cylinder. In it, he takes credit for being the

…finisher of the wall, kišuru, and the one who completed the Ekur, provider for Ur and Uruk, the one that assures the integrity of the rites of Eridu, the constructor of the temple of An and Inanna, the one who ensures the integrity of the Sattukku (food allowance) offerings of the great gods.

He “caused Anu the father of the great gods to dwell in his exalted sanctuary”, which is suggested to be referring to the restoration of the Anu cult. The text lacks the linguistic features and script characteristics which would bring one to suppose it is a genuine copy of an ancient inscription and was probably created in late Babylonian times to enhance the prestige of the Ištar cult. The extent to which it preserves tradition from the actual events of the reign of Kurigalzu cannot as yet be determined.


Kurigalzu I Wikipedia