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Weapons and War terms in Sumerian

Sulgi's Hymn B that I have baptised as Mutariibiyam using one of the names he himself uses, being  a paattu of a King is replete with references to  wars and battles and hence with names of weapons.  Here I am collecting only those lines related to weapons and war in the order they occur in the Hymn  and giving some comments that  may help us to understand some history pertaining to such issues.

Sumeriologists date Sulgi , the foremost King of the Third Ur Dynasty to around 2000 B.C.



26.  gu-kur-kur-ra-ke gir ba-da-gub

I was to set my foot on the neck of the enemy lands.

gu> Ta. kavuL: armpits;  kur-kur> Ta. kunRu-kunRu: the plularity was shown by the duplication of the Noun as it is done to this day in Malay. Later we have -es and much later -gal/kaL  as plurality markers.

gir Ta. kiir> viir> viral: finger.  The original gir Ta. kiir meaning something protruding is retained in Ta. u-kir; finger nails.  Perhaps also in Ta. kiirai: greens

ba-da> Ta.  padu : aux. verb or idu :  bada-gub> gub-bada: gub-b-idu . gub Ta.  kubi,  kuvi: to pile up. It may be possible that the term "gub-ta" (<gub-sa) a term for a lineage of Kings in Northern India is derived from this. In connection with this term "mauriya" also termed in Ta. mooriyar may be a derivative of Su-meri-a> meri-ya: mooriyar , mauriyar etc. Note sumer>kumer> kumari> kauri

27. gis.tukul-ga mu-bi sig-se mu-un-gal

He let the fame of my weapons be effective down the South

gis Ta. kucci: stick. This is also  a generic term for trees. Derivatively it has come to mean instruments , tools and weapons. Originally most probably it meant the bamboo as the term gestu  gizzal> Ta. kattu kiiccal is also related to this.

tukalTa. tukaL: dust,  powder. Hence originally gis.tukul something like a hammer but later extended to weapons in general.

sig> Ta. singi: something low. The " -se"  here is a postposition or case marker which is retained in Ta. as -ku and in Malay as '-ke". The "mu-un" is a verbal prefix similar to the Malay "men-: and retained in Tamil in a fused form as mun-eeRu, mun-cel etc. Originally perhaps it meant "bring forth" and hence the genuine verb with "gal" Ta. kaal: establish,  as verbal noun.

29. me-sen-sen-na um-ta-ab-e-en

He had me come out in war and battle

me. Ta. amai, amar : wars ;sen-sen-na> Ta. caNdai: quarrels . Also note Ta. ceenai: an army; ceenaapati: the army captain.  The "-a" in sen-sen-a (=sen-sen-na) is a locative case suffix available in Tamil to this day.

um-ta> umpartu?  Ta. uppu , ummu: high; the -ta is probably "-tu-a" where  -tu- is a phonological filler , caariyai.

ab> Ta. av, aav: that person as in avan: he;  avaL: she and  so forth . the 'a-" is a cuddu meaning simply 'that" and hence -b- a pronominal marker.

e Ta. ee: to arise, to go ahead etc.

The "-en" ab-e-en"  is a pronominal marker retained in Tamil to this day as in "vant-aan "poon-aan" for the third person singular  but as "-- een" for first person singular as in  "vant-een" "pon--een" etc.

33. ga-e-me-en gis.tukul-la a-la mu-un-ga-ga-an

Indeed, by the sword I established my triumph.

ga= nga= na> Ta. naan: I .  The Su. script read as 'g" is also read as "n" and hence probably the real value is "ng" but which however does not occur as word initial since the time of Tolkaappiyar. Probably 'nja" and hence "njaan" as in Malayalam. The  "-e" is Ta. "ee" the TeeRRa ekaaram, that which attributes agentivity. The "me-en" is Ta. man: a particle of emphasis, a frequent occurrence in Su.

"gis.tukul" here is better understood as "weapons" rather than"sword".

"a-la" can be Ta. aala from which we have aal-al> aaRRal : Power  or aaLa: to rule and hence Ta. aadsi (aaL-si): sovereignty.

"ga-ga =gal-gal" is Ta. kaal-kaal: to establish firmly. The duplication of the verb is here not perhaps for showing intensity but rather plurality and here repetition of the action named in many places. The '-an" is the pronominal suffix that obtains in Tamil to this day. see above line 29.

Note also  kaal> kaar> karu: to do


urudu.sukur a-ba-da-ab-gal-le-en-na

With the spear, the masattum, as many as there were

urudu Ta. uruttu: to grow reddish in anger. Hence urudu: something reddish and here probably copper. The Sk Rudra appears to be derived from this. Ta. uruttiran> Sk rudra.

sukur=surkur Ta. suurkuur: something sharp and elongated and hence probably a javelin , spear. It appears that this weapon is the normal spear or Ta. iiddi but made of copper.

masattum> Ta. macittum: something that grinds and powders, or split . Hence probabaly a copper hammer or  axe  or something like that.  May be that Ta. mazu : axe

a-ba-da-ab> Ta. avvida av: there as they were.   ab Ta. av: they ; i-da Ta. idam: place

gal-le-en-na : Here the "en-na" is the Ta. -na : the verbal suffix indicating plurality of nonperson objects; probably related to Ta. inam: an aggregate, a group , a tribe etc.


kus.da-lu-us-a a-sig-gi-bi mu-zu

In the sling and the slingstone I am an expert.

kus.da-lu-us-a .Ta. kucci taLLu ucciya: that stick which is thrown high (into the sky). kus> Ta.  kucci: stick; da-lu Ta. taLLu: to throw; us Ta. ucci: the high regions. The  "-a" is a pronominal suffix meaning "that". May be boomerang is meant here.

a-sig-gi> aal siikki: Ta. siikku: to destroy.  "a " Ta. aal: Here probably adverbial meaning "powerfully". "bi" is pronominal meaning "it" the paraallel of which is available in Cangam Tamil as verbal infix '-bu" but with a shift in semantics.

mu Ta. moo: I, you etc.  zu=su Ta. cuu, cuuz : to understand, to think  as in cuutiram:  something deep that is unfolded.

36. 37, 38

im-du-ug im-lag-hul sig-ga-mu-u

mer im-UG-gal-la-gim dal-le-da-bi

sa-dab-ba- mu-u li-bi-dib-be-en

The projectiles and the clods (when) thrown by me

would whiz like a dashing storm

My fury did not overpower me.

im Ta. iiyam: mud , also the metal tin.  du-ug> Ta. tuukku: to carry. We have still the use of "tuukki eRi" " carry and throw.

lag Ta. ilakku: the point that is aimed at. Probabaly a targeted throw.

sig-ga-mu-u > Ta. siikka moo uu: here "u> Ta. uu" is   the adverb of time. u >Ta. uzi: when

mer Ta. maari : heavy rain;  -gim> -ingim > Ta. (ang)-nganam > -in: a particle of comparison

dal-le-da-bi> *Ta. taLLii idu abi> Ta. taLLi idu appo : when it is flying fast

sa=sag Ta. saan> taan : my; dab-ba Ta. tevvam : fury

li> Ta. ili: a particle of negation ; na> la> li

bi > Ta. ba-i: bring forth. Retained as future tense marker. e.g kodup-pu-een> koduppeen: will give

dib Ta. tabbu: to exceed. Also note Ta. tav-ir: to avoid

39 , 40 & 41

im-zi-ir kur-re ba-ab-sum-mu-un

ses-ku-li-mu sul Utu-am

ki zi-sa-gal-la-ka igi u-mu-na-ni-du

And I  imposed the reins on the country

(and) in the "place of the Living" having gazed upon him

I, Sulgi, when he went forth in glory, conversed with him


im-zi-ir > Ta. iim ceer: something that binds:  Ta. ii: something elongated;  note Su. ii: river.

kur Ta. kunRu, kuuRu: hill, a division of lands. The word for hill doubles up also a word for a nation probably indicating a primordial situation where the ancient Dravidians were tribal with each tribe located and identified with a hill. See koottiram: coming from a hill and at the same time   a tribe. Ta. koodu: hill; koodu-til-am> koottiram

ba -ab : that on them. Probably bi-a> ba; ab Ta. av: they

sum-mu-un = summu-an  Ta. kummuvan. Ta. kummu: to press together; -un : a variant of the pronominal suffix -an or -en.

 ses> Ta. cicu: child; note Sk sisya: a student

ku-li> Ta. kuli: friends . Also Ta. kulam:  community, caste; Origainaly the "kulam" must have meant only an  assembly of friends, a gathering of people in general. The 'caste" sense must be something very much later.

sul Ta. cuul, cuur: radiant ; Ta. cuuran; the brave; Ta. cuulam: spear. sul utu: the radiant sun . Ta. uti: to arise: utu: that which arises. Note Ta. utayam: sun rise.

am Ta. aam: a particle of emphasis that existsin Tamil  to this day in common use.


ki Ta. kiiz, kizam: place, cultivated lands. Ta. ku: land,  world etc.

zi: Ta. ciivan: the living thing; Sk. jiiva; zi-sa-gal-la-ka: jiiva canam kaallakam : place where people live in safety; a settlement? - (a)ka> Ta. akam: place, the interior etc. sa=sag, san> Ta. canam: people

igi=ingi Ta. imai: eyes, Also note Su. i-bi: eyes. Also  i-gi> Ta. akki : eyes . Note Sk. aksa: eyes

u-mu-na-ni-du=  u-mun-in-idu: Ta. u: a deitic meaning "yonder"; mun : Ta. mun: infront ; -in- Ta. in: a tense marker;  idu Ta. idu: the verb to do

42 &43

Sul-gi-me-en dalla-e-bi-a  inim  mu-un-da-bal-e-en

dingir igi-sag me-ga-a-kam

I, Sulgi, when he went forth in glory, conversed with him

The god with encouraging looks was (present) at my engagements.

-me-en ; Ta. maan  meaning a person as atikaimaan , ceeramaan etc. It may be here used in the sense of "myself"

dal-la Ta. taLLu: to push forward; e Ta. ee: to go forward. dal-la-e: to push forward and go ahead; bi-a: Ta. biya: in order to : here a change of meanings compared Ot. Ta. See kaaN-biya vanteen:  I came in order to see

inim Ta. en, ena: to say. Only the verbal form existent in O. Ta.

inim bal-e-en: enam paziyen :  Ta. pazi : to say something, to  curse etc.

Note: the Sun , the Utu that Sulgi converses with could not be the sun in the sky but rather the inner sun, the piNdaattittan of Thirumular.


dingir < Akkaadian dimmer, diwer > Ta. teyvam; Sk deva

igi-sag> Ta. imai caangka: eyes with looks that lift up or encouraging: Ta. caangkiiyam: high and noble

me . Ta. amai, amar: battle;  ga-a-kam= gal-a-kam: Ta. kaallaakam: established at the interior


[xxx] kur-ra ki-ag-lama gis.tukul-ga-ke

[x] -ga mu-un-kal gi-la-bi gu-mu-un-de

[The leader?] of all countires, the loving Lamassu of my weapons

Gave force to the smiting, and pronounced their defeat.

ki-ag> Ta. kaangkai> kaamam: loving. Ta. kaamaru: beautiful : note Sk  kaama

la-ma (< ra-ma) Ta. raaman, raakavan etc. It may be possible the Raaman of RamayaNa is this Sumerian deity, the power that resides in war weapons and ensures victory for the deserving. Most of the names in RamayaNa  are SumeroTamil and hence Dravidian  ( this will be shown later.)

gi-la> Ta. kolai: to kill; Ta. kaLai: dispersal. Ta. kulai: to disrupt etc. Also note Ta. kiiz:  to come  down

gu Ta. kuuv: to call, to utter. mu-un-de> Ta. mun-idu : caused to be present.

82, 83 &84

Sul-gi dinger nam-kalag-a sag-kal-eren-na-me-en

tir-ra sa i-ni-di ti galam-ma i-ni-BU

nig-su-man  a-tari-a-ga gis.kak-ban he-ni-ib-dal-en

I , Sulgi, divine in valour, am the leader of the troops!

(if) in the forest (a beast) escaped the net, a well aimed arrow would reach it.

(For) the projectiles thrown by my arm, as the arrows of my bow, could go far.


kalag-a= kal-ga Ta. kaLLan : a great warrior (Not to be confused with Ta. kaLvan : thief which occurs in Su. as 'gal-la"

'nam" abstract  noun formative  which corresponds to the obsolete "nayam" meaning essencee.g Tol nanyam: the most excellent essence.

nam-kalag-a = kalag-a-nam: * Ta.kaLkanam

sag-kal> saangkaL= Ta. taangkaL:  a term of address for someone high in status. The "kal" here exists as the honour giving particle 'kaL' to this day.

eren> Ta. araN:  defence,fortress etc


tir-ra Ta. tiiram: shore, edge border etc. Here probably the edge of the city, the uur.

sa. Ta. saal, saal-akam: net, a latticed window etc.

i-ni-di > Ta. ii niiddi: (lit) give  reaching out: escaping? or iini-idu: (lit) do the  coming out?

ti= tu-i, also te : Ta. tuy: to attain, teey: to rub

galam-ma= nalam-ma ('g' also read as 'n') Ta. nalamma: very well.

Note: the formation of adjectives by adding the suffix -a to the stem  as "ti galam-ma" (< tui nalam-a)  is still avaibale in Tamil.


nig>  Ta. nika: final ;Ta. mika: very much

su-man Ta. maN: earth Ta. cuul maN: a clod of earth? Ta. cuul: something round

a Ta. aal : something extended, spread out: arms? Also powerful i.e aaRRal

tari-a : Ta. taru: to give, Ta. teri: to break up Also Ta. tura: to let go, to chase out

kak-ban: Ta. kakam: arrow; Ta. baaNam: bow , arrow

86 &87

kur-ur-ra sag-gal-e-du-bi

a- ug-gal-la -ga gis.ti-zu gaba he-bi-ri

The flanks of the mountain resounded with them

My mighty arm assailed them with barbed arrows

ur-ra: Ta. ooram; flanks;   kur-ur-ra> ta. kunRu ooram: the flanks of the mountain

sag-gal-e : Ta. kali: noise; sangkali: pleasant noise? musical sounds? Note: sangkiitam: vocal music.

ug-gal-la Ta. ukku, ukkal: to die, to kill

gis-ti> Ta. katti: knife

ri Ta. ari: to cut off


sag-bi gis-gum-hul-gin ki he-bi-tag

anse-edin-na-se gis-es AD la-ba-gaz-en x la-ba-ba-al-e

Its (the animal's) head, like a thrown mortar, would sink into the ground

(As for ) the wild ass, by using the "lasso" , I did not kill it, nor impair ) it.

gis-gum-hul : Ta. kum: to pound, Ta. kol: to kill: hence "gis.gum-hul" a kind of  weapon like sledge  hammer or Kudam , kuntam that is used to hit and break to pieces and thereby kill.

tag Ta. taakku: to hit, Also Ta. tangku: to stay

anse : Ta. asuvam: horse, Also Ta. asai, asangku: to move  (very fast)

edin : Ta.  eetil: the outskirts

"anse-edin-ne " could mean also " wild horse"

gis-es Ta. aci: weopon in general; sword, cimiter.

gaz Ta. kasai, kasi: to torture. Also Ta. kazi , kazu: a sharp stick to impale people and kill.

ba-al-e: Ta. paaz, paar: to split. Ta. pali: to sacrifice Ta. piLa: to split open

Thus it would appear that "" is something like a knife, a sword that can be used to cut and split open.


gis.kak u-tag-ga    la-ba-si-gid-en

I did not reach (wound) with a javelin

gis.kak Ta. kakam : arrow . Also note ta. kakku: to womit, to spill out.

u-tag-ga Ta. taakku: to attack

gid-en Ta. kiddu: to attain   ; " -en" here first person pronominal suffix , the present day  "-een"


seg-bar ug-gal-la gaba [xx]-da-bi

hur-bi gis.kak-ta a-ba- ta-lal

A fierce boar, that attacked ... .. [...]..

I would pierce its liver with an arrow

seg-bar Ta. semmaRi : sheep

ug-gal Ta. ukku: to kill, Ta. ukkira, ukra: fierce

hur Ta. ooram: the sides; ta-lal : Ta. taLLal: to push aside

98, 99 & 100

a -as-zi- ga-mu  ki-a a-ba ha-za

gis.kak-ban-ta ka-kesda ga-na-me

im-ri-a 1-am  lu na-ma-ta- e-e

One shot of  mine was sufficient to pin it to the ground

From my arrow and bow , and my trap-ropes

None of the beast of the district( could) escape

a. Ta. aal : power; as Ta. eekam : one

ha-za Ta. acaa: to become exhausted Ta. azi: to destroy . Ta. atam : to destroy

ka-kesda Ta. kaddu: to bind, to fast etc.  ka. kesda> Ta. kaalkaddu: something that binds the legs?

im-ri-a Ta. mirukam : animals, beasts; Ta. maRi: the young of animals  Ta. maari: to come forth, that which are born?

e Ta. ee, eey, eeku: to go forth

102& 103

AB-ru-um ki gesbu um-ma-tum-mu-de

gasbu sig-gi-bi gal-zu-me-en

In Dabrum , a place where .. bows are fitted(?) )( or taken to)

I proved an expert in shooting with the bow.

gesbu  Su. ges=gis: a generic term for plants , trees etc. Ta.  kisam, kisalai, kisaalam, kisalam:  a tender leaf, shoot , bud etc. Ta. kinjci: the Margossa tree; kinjsam:  the tamarind tree

Thus ges-bu probably  a weapon made of wood

um-ma: Ta. ummu: to join together; tom-mu Ta. thoonRRu, thooRRu : to bring forth, create etc,  um-ma-tom-mu-de: ummathooRRu-idam : the place where things are assembled together: something like a factory?

sig-gi Ta. ciikku: to expel,  destroy etc.

gal-zu Ta. kaal : to establish , gal-zu> kaal-u : to establish, prove?

104, 105& 106 an-ta su-bar-ra-gin kas [x]bi

nig bi-ra-a-a-mu ki-bi gu nu-zi-zi-i

nig-gu-un-na-se a ba-[x]RI-e

Its (arrow) flight was that of a light(ning) set free from on high

Whatever I hit, did not raise its head from the spot.

For whatever load (to be lifted) my strength was up to it (?)

104 thunder? See Ta.kiiccu: a shrill note, the chirping of birds.  a kind of sharp sound?

an Ta. aan, vaan : sky. an-ta : from the sky: -ta: ablative case marker.

su-bar-ra Ta. cuvaram: musical sound; kas Ta. kasi: to flow. Ta. kadi: to move in haste


bi-ra Ta.  paRi: to tilt, capsize; to pluck ,crop etc.


gu-un Ta. kanam : heaviness,  gu-un-na> kana: something heavy

107 &108

gis.ellag-a nig-an-na dirig-ga tug-gim   im-ra-ra-an

nig-ur-lim nim-gin gir-re/de a-sig bi-ib-su-ub-be-en

With the boomerang that I sent soaring high, I would hit a (when fulling) cloth?

The four-footed animals, I felled (them) as if they were struck by lightning


gis.ellag. Ta. vallaki: a kind of lute : a bent wood?

an-na Ta. , aaana, vaanna: in the sky

tug: Ta. tookai : peocock Also Ta. tukil: clothes

ra-ra: Ta. varu: to come Telugu: ra: to come, to move : ra-ra: move around?; ra-ta: that which moves, a chariot, a cart?


ur-lim, ur-lim-mu Ta. uuru: the thighs, also verb to move; lim-mu: vilimbu: the edge

gir Ta. kiiRu:  to scratch, to cut open:  gir-re-de : kiiR idee

su-ub Ta. cuumbu : to shrivel and wilt ; Ta. coombu: to get exhausted.

Concluding Remarks.

Sulgi alone is said to have written about  20 hymns and there are hundreds of literay texts hymns letters edicts myths lamentations incantations and so forth that may throw additional information of the topic under consideration. I leave such studies to the future and contend myself to summarise the lines that we have considered just to get an idea of the organisation of Sumerian society arund 2000 B.C. ,  certainly the most advanced at that time and where they had to wage wars continuously with hilly tribes in the North who were probably Semitic speaking and Elamites in the East who were Dravidian speaking but a register somewhat foreign to the Sumerians.

It is clear there were skirmishes and large scale wars ( me sen-sen-na) and where there  were orgaised warfare  fought with armies  that had commandents. . Sulgi claims that he was "sag-kal erin-na" : the leader of the army. The term "sag-kal'  as taan-kaL, lit. means great person , a meaning also available with 'lu-gal" i.e aaLu-kaL" great person which was original term for the king, as also "umun" Ta. mannan: the foremost. It appears kingship and social leadership was generated by the need to wage wars on an organised footing.

Being  a soldier "ugnim" lit. the person who kills (Ta. ukku: to kill) was probably a full-time occupation  at least for some and there were regular soldiers. We have  also "um-ma-tum-mu-da" a place where the weapon 'gesbu" was assembled. Looking at the meaning of the term, it would follow that there was  war  industry where there were workshops functioning solely for producing weapons.

Among the weapon we can see that in addition very promitive weapons, bow and arrow ( gis. kak-ban) , spears ? (kus-dal-lu us) stones used as cannons "im-dug" "im-lag" there were copper or bronze weapons: urudu.sukur and urudu.masatum. The Sumerians knew silver ( ku , ku babbar) gold < gis-gin?) , zinc ( na-ga) and so forth.  Probably they knew iron also (See below)

The general term for weapons gis.tukul that has the cognate Ta. tukaL: dust , clearly shows that the original weapon wide in use was something like a hammer, used to hit , pound and powder. The weapon "gis.gum.hul" must a variant of this and may the the Kuntam that occurs in many puranas.

The "ellag" the boomerang is significant for it shows again the link the Sumerians  has to SEAsian regions. The boomerang is widespread among the aborigines of Australia who are supposed to have migrated from SEAsia about 30 thousand years ago. The archaic Tamil term " vellagi" that may be related to this and which means a kind of lute may give us an idea of the shape : wood bent to make a lute, a harp.

While "gis-ti" may mean Ta. katti (gis-ti> git-ti> katti) , a knife ( made of iron?) is probably aci: a sword. It is worth noting here that the term for iron  in  Malay  is "besi" (<bi-es-i ?). It is very likely that both the knive and sword were made of iron.

The Sumerian also used nets (sa, Ta. saal) and traps (ka-kesdu, ta. kaal kaddu?) both against enemies and wild beasts with which they have also to fight.