Queen Kubaba: Lugal of Third Sumerian Dynasty

The Sumerian King List produced the first known female ruler: Kubaba (also Kug-Bau or Ku-Baba) who brewed and sold beer in the ancient city of Kish in Mesopotamia.

Kubaba was a Mesopotamian queen who ruled in the early days of the third dynasty of Kish during 2500–2330 BC, an ancient city-state of Sumer, Mesopotamia. Legend has it that her rule lasted over 100 years before the rise of the dynasty of Akshak (a city of ancient Sumer, situated on the northern boundary of Akkad).

Her name was written in cuneiform, where she is referred to as Lugal (king) instead of Eresh (queen consort). Alongside her name it reads, “the woman tavern-keeper, who made firm the foundations of Kish.”

In the Sumerian tradition, kingship isn’t tied to a permanent capital. It shifts from place to place, bestowed by the gods upon one city and then, at their pleasure, transferred elsewhere after a few generations.

Before Kubaba, the kingship rested in Mari for more than a century. After Kubaba it moved to Akshak. But Kish returned to prominence once more with Kubaba's son, Puzer-Suen, and grandson, Ur-Zababa, who served as the first two rulers in the city’s fourth and final dynasty.

Over time, it seems that she faded from memory and the divine associations took precedence. She was deified in the next millennium, during the Hittite period, as the protector of the Syrian city of Carchemish. However, the relationship between the deity and the historical person is unclear, especially because Baba was the name of a Sumerian god, and the prefix “ku” meant “holy.”

A more detailed account of her rise to power comes from the Weidner Chronicle, which is referred to as less history, but more “a blatant piece of propaganda.” The narrative illustrates that those rulers who neglected or insulted the god, Marduk, or failed to provide fish offerings for the temple Esagil had an unhappy end.

A derivative of the King List says that Kubaba was granted kingship by the god Marduk after she delivered an offering of fish to his temple Esagil. Marduk’s favor in response was, “Let it be so,” and with that, he “entrusted to Kubaba, the tavern-keeper, sovereignty over the whole world.”

Many monarchs make an appearance on the Sumerian King List, but Kubaba, or Kug-Bau was a woman alone – the only queen regnant who’s recorded as bearing divine rulership.

According to the  Sumerian King List, Kubaba is the only female ruler who has ruled for 100 years in the early days of the third dynasty of Kish during 2500–2330 BC, an ancient city-state of Sumer, Mesopotamia.

This list, a chronicle of rulers that often straddles the boundary between history and legend. In the King List, Kubaba is first mentioned as “the woman tavern-keeper.” Female tavern keepers were important figures in Sumerian mythology and daily life, in part due to the enormous importance of beer in Sumerian culture.

She ruled after the Great Flood, following the defeat of Sharrumiter of Mari.

The city of Kish was known for its wealth and power, and it played a significant role in the development of Mesopotamian civilization.


Like this post? Stop by and read Kandake Amanishakheto: Queen & Ruler of the Kingdom of Kush.” Details about the life of Kandake Amanishakheto have fallen into obscurity. She is remembered as a great queen of Kush and is known as a great warrior and pyramid builder; particularly at the Wad ban Naqa site that served as the seat of the Kushite/Nubian Kingdom.

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