Life and work
Terracotta tablet listing the year formulae of king Shulgi. Ur III period. From Iraq. Ancient Orient Museum, Istanbul
Shulgi was the son of Ur-Nammu king of Ur – according to one later text (CM 48), by a daughter of the former king Utu-hengal of Uruk – and was a member of the Third dynasty of Ur. Year-names are known for all 48 years of his reign, providing a fairly complete contemporary view of the highlights of his career.
Foundation tablet, reign of Shulgi, from the Temple of Dimtabba in Ur. The name Šulgi (𒂄𒄀) appears in the third line.
Shulgi is best known for his extensive revision of the scribal school's curriculum. Although it is unclear how much he actually wrote, there are numerous praise poems written by and directed towards this ruler. He proclaimed himself a god in his 23rd regnal year.
Some early chronicles castigate Shulgi for his impiety: The Weidner Chronicle (ABC 19) states that "he did not perform his rites to the letter, he defiled his purification rituals". CM 48 charges him with improper tampering with the rites, composing "untruthful stelae, insolent writings" on them. The Chronicle of Early Kings (ABC 20) accuses him of "criminal tendencies, and the property of Esagila and Babylon he took away as booty."
While Der had been one of the cities whose temple affairs Shulgi had directed in the first part of his reign, in his 20th year he claimed that the gods had decided that it now be destroyed, apparently as some punishment. The inscriptions state that he "put its field accounts in order" with the pick-axe. His 18th year-name was Year Liwir-mitashu, the king's daughter, was elevated to the ladyship in Marhashi, referring to a country east of Elam and her dynastic marriage to its king, Libanukshabash. Following this, Shulgi engaged in a period of expansionism at the expense of highlanders such as the Lullubi, and destroyed Simurrum (another mountain tribe) and Lulubum nine times between the 26th and 45th years of his reign. In his 30th year, his daughter was married to the governor of Anshan; in his 34th year, he was already levying a punitive campaign against the place. He also destroyed Kimash and Humurtu (cities to the east of Ur, somewhere in Elam) in the 45th year of his reign. Ultimately, Shulgi was never able to rule any of these distant peoples; at one point, in his 37th year, he was obliged to build a large wall in an attempt to keep them out.
Shulgi also boasted about his ability to maintain high speeds while running long distances. He claimed in his 7th regnal year to have run from Nippur to Ur, a distance of not less than 100 miles. Kramer refers to Shulgi as "The first long distance running champion."