Gudea, Prince of Lagash

Gudea, Prince of Lagash, circa 2120 B.C.E. Mesopotamian diorite statue, Louvre Museum, Paris.

Prince Gudea ruled the state of Lagash in Southern Mesopotamia from 2144 to 2124 B.C.E. This life-sized portrait shows Gudea seated erect with hands clasped and feet together in honor of the God Ningirsu, the chief god in the pantheon of Lagash deities. Prince Gudea is shown here as a “temple builder with a plan.” Resting on Gudea’s lap are the architectural drawings for the construction of the E-Ninnu (temple). The plans are based on a prophetic experience—a vision Gudea received in a dream. The inscription, written in nine columns beginning in the back and covering the entire skirted garment, is written in Sumerian cuneiform, the world’s oldest writing system. The inscription reads in part, “in a nocturnal vision Gudea saw his master, Lord Ninĝirsu. Ninĝirsu spoke to him of his house, of its building. He showed him an E-ninnu with full grandeur.” The inscription ends with a prophetic curse on anyone who might attempt to harm the statue.

Gudea, Prince of Lagash

The writing system of ancient Mesopotamia, consisting of wedges pressed into clay.

Gods or goddesses; powerful supernatural figures worshipped by humans.

The first major civilization of ancient Mesopotamia, arising in the fifth millennium B.C.E. and lasting through the early second millennium B.C.E.; the Sumerians invented the first writing system, cuneiform.

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