Ensi (Sumer)

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Ensi (written EN.SI or PA.TE.SI ) is a local Sumerian prince title. In ancient Sumerian times it means city ​​prince or ruler of a city-state . The owner of the title Ensi was subordinate to the higher-ranking En or Lugal .

Historical development of importance

In the early dynastic period (around 2800–2350 BC) the meaning of the Sumerian titles Ensi and Lugal cannot yet be clearly differentiated. At the time of Uruk IV, the title En was mostly used in connection with the designations of gods, which later partially supplemented the ruler title Lugal. The name extension Ensi is the name of the city-state ruler, possibly limited to Umma , although the latter referred to themselves as Lugal. This fact suggests a vassal relationship with Lagaš . Later, Ensi is usually subordinate to the title Lugal (Eng. King, literally "Great Man"). However, the certainly powerful rulers of the Second Lagaš dynasty (around 2100 BC) were content with the title of Ensi.

In the Ur-III period (around 2100-2000 BC) Ensi is used for the provincial governors of the empire. Although these had extensive powers for administration, financial resources and jurisdiction, they were subject to the supervision of the King (Lugal) of Ur , who installed and transferred them to office. The Ensi office could still be inherited, but the king had to confirm the inheritance process. The provincial ensi was forbidden from any independent foreign policy activity and in particular the independent waging of wars (Edzard 2004).


The Sumerian etymology of Ensi is explained by en-si-k . en means lord, si (g) plowed land, arable land, the -k - which is also used in certain cases of the word ensi - is the genitive suffix (Halloran 2006; see also Sumerian language , especially nominal construction). en-si (g) -k means "master of the farmland". From the Sumerian ensi-k , the Akkadian loan word iššiakkum “city prince; Local civil servant enfeoffed with goods ”(with assimilation of / n / to / s / or / š /).

Egyptian nzw from Sumerian ensi ?

It has long been assumed that the Egyptian king name nzw (vowels are not written in Egyptian, the / z / denotes voiced / s /) was derived from Sumerian “ensi”, which could indicate a close cultural connection between early Egypt and Mesopotamia . The Egyptians would then have adopted this Sumerian ruler title. This assumption is confirmed by an article by Carsten Peust (2007). A consequence of this etymology would be that one would have to give up the previous translation of nzw with “King of Upper Egypt ” and nzw simply be reproduced as “ruler” or “king” (over the whole of Egypt).

See also


  • Dietz Otto Edzard: History of Mesopotamia. CH Beck, Munich 2004.
  • Horst Klengel (Ed.): Cultural history of the ancient Near East. Akademie Verlag, Berlin 1989.
  • John Allan Halloran: Sumerian Lexicon. Logogram Publishing, Los Angeles (Cal.) 2006.
  • Jeremy Black et al. a. (Ed.): A Concise Dictionary of Akkadian. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2000.
  • Carsten Peust: On the meaning and etymology of nzw "king" . In: Göttinger Miszellen , Heft 213, Göttingen 2007.

Web links

Wiktionary: ??? (ensi)  - explanations of meanings, word origins , synonyms, translations