A photograph showing the four sides of the Sumerian King List

Little-known curiosities about the Sumerian King List

The Sumerian King List, an ancient cuneiform text, gives a wild rundown of rulers from the ancient Mesopotamian region and their rather "extended" reigns.


A Royal Whopper of a Tale! Ever felt your day was dragging on forever? Well, try being a Sumerian king, where ruling for a casual 43,000 years was just another day at the office. The Sumerian King List, an ancient cuneiform text filled with curiosities, gives a wild rundown of rulers from the ancient Mesopotamian region and their rather “extended” reigns.

Here’s a dive into some of the quirkiest tidbits about this grand old list. And remember, we’re not making this up—though it seems some ancient scribe might have had a field day with it.


1. Those Unbelievable Reigns: Time Flies When You’re in Power

One of the most fascinating (and puzzling) aspects of the Sumerian King List is the extraordinary length of the early rulers’ reigns. According to the list, the earliest kings ruled for tens of thousands of years! Alulim, the first king, reportedly sat on the throne for a whopping 28,800 years. Now, that’s what we call job stability!

2. The Great Flood Twist: A Plot Worthy of Hollywood

If you’re into epic tales, the Great Flood narrative will have you on the edge of your seat. The Sumerian King List is divided into two parts: pre-flood and post-flood. The pre-flood kings were the real long-haulers, while post-flood reigns were a bit more reasonable (a few hundred years or so). It’s like ancient binge-watching, with a climactic twist in the middle!

3. A Mix of Myth and History: Fact or Fiction?

Separating myth from reality in the King List is like trying to get a straight answer from a politician. While the list contains genuine historical figures from the Early Dynastic period, it’s peppered with mythological rulers too. It’s a stew of facts and folklore, all in one convenient scroll.


4. Survival of the Fittest: Ancient Edition

The Sumerian King List is not just an interesting document; it’s a survivor. Its uniqueness lies not just in its content but in its persistence across centuries. It’s the ancient world’s version of a best-seller, with the staying power of a pop hit. If ancient Mesopotamia had a literary chart, this would be topping it!

A Variety of Versions

Numerous copies of the King List exist, scattered across different time periods and regions, and each one tells a slightly different story. Think of it as different editions of the same novel, with various twists and tweaks.

Fragmentary Sources and Scribal Errors

The differences among the sources are not only the result of many of them being fragmentary but are also due to scribal errors made during copying. If modern-day printers can jam and misprint, imagine a scribe working by candlelight!

5. Rule of Three: Third Time’s the Charm?

The list doesn’t just focus on one city or region. It breaks down the reigns into three main dynasties. From Kish to Uruk to Ur, it seems the ancients were fans of trilogies too. Who knew they had so much in common with modern filmgoers?

6. A Unique Historical Record: One for the Books

While the Sumerian King List’s accuracy might be debated, its importance as a historical and cultural document cannot be understated. The mix of myth, legend, and history provides a rare glimpse into the minds and beliefs of an ancient civilization. Plus, it’s got enough plot twists to make a modern screenwriter blush.


A Royal Conclusion: Long Live the List!

The Sumerian King List isn’t just a dry historical record. It’s a ride through ancient times with twists, turns, and timeframes that will leave you scratching your head and chuckling. Whether it’s kings reigning for eons or sudden plot twists with floods, the list has it all.

So, the next time you’re stuck in a boring meeting or a never-ending traffic jam, remember: at least you’re not stuck ruling a kingdom for 28,800 years. But who knows, maybe those Sumerian kings had a secret to work-life balance that we’ve yet to discover! Here’s to the enduring curiosity of history, and may the reign of the Sumerian King List continue in the hearts and minds of curious readers everywhere.

PLEASE READ: Have something to add? Visit Curiosmos on Facebook. Join the discussion in our mobile Telegram group. Also, follow us on Google News. Interesting in history, mysteries, and more? Visit Ancient Library’s Telegram group and become part of an exclusive group.

Written by Justin Gurkinic

Hey, my name is Justin, and my friends call me Gurk. Why? Becuase of my last name. It sounds like a vegetable. Kind of. I love sleeping and writing. History is my thing.

Write for us

We’re always looking for new guest authors and we welcome individual bloggers to contribute high-quality guest posts.

Get In Touch