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Kish was an ancient city and kingdom in Mesopotamia. It was situated about 50 miles (80 km) south of modern Baghdad, Iraq. Within walking distance of the site of ancient Babylon lies an extensive field of ruins, out of which projects the mound of el-Oheimir, site of the temple of Zababa, chief god of Kish. The city of Kish was the oldest capital of Babylonia and the place where, according to tradition, the first dynasty of Kish arose immediately after the end of the Flood.
Dynasties of Kish
According to legend the first Kish dynasty lasted for 24,510 years. Included among its 23 kings were both Sumerians and Semitic Akkadians, each supposed to have reigned an average of over 1,000 years. Some of the kings are known mythical figures, such as Etana, "the shepherd who went to heaven," and others have such telltale names as Lamb, Scorpion, and Young Gazelle, son of Gazelle. Some were probably figures of ancient tradition, like the 22d king, who is said to have defeated the neighboring land of Elam. His son Agga is the hero of a Sumerian poem describing his conflict with the famous Babylonian king Gilgamesh. It is generally believed that Gilgamesh was a historical character, who reigned during the brilliant flowering of culture in Babylonia just before and after 3000 B.C.
The early Babylonian historians distinguished no fewer than three later dynasties of Kish, and contemporary monuments recorded the names of some who are not mentioned at all in the dynastic lists. The second dynasty of Kish is still legendary, and its eight kings are said to have ruled 3,195 years. Nor is the third dynasty any more reliable, historically speaking. Its sole ruler was the mythical barmaid Kubaba, who became queen and allegedly reigned for 100 years. She later became one of the most popular goddesses of southwestern Asia, and her name appears even in Greek mythology.
The fourth dynasty of Kish is a curious mixture of mythology and history. Its first king, Puzur-Sin, reigned only 25 years, but his mother is said to have been the same mythical barmaid, and his own son is assigned a reign of 400 years. The remaining five kings of the dynasty all bear Semitic names and are given only 66 years together, and therefore they are probably quite historical.
Fall of Kish
With the end of the fourth dynasty, the imperial days of Kish came to an end. Its place was taken about 2300 B.C. by the nearby city of Akkad (Agade), whose first king, Sargon I, was said by legend to have been the cupbearer of Ur-Zababa, grandson of the redoubtable barmaid. Though we have no detailed historical inscription of any king of Kish, there can be no reasonable doubt that the empire established there in the early centuries of the 3rd millennium B.C. controlled a good part of southwestern Asia at the height of its power. In any case, Sargon's sons proudly bore the title "king of Kish", which came to mean (without any change In cuneiform writing) "king of the world", a title employed by rulers, great and small, down to the last centuries of independent Mesopotamian history.