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Queen Kubaba: The Tavern Keeper Who Turned the First Feminine Ruler in Historical past


The Sumerian King List is unsurprisingly crammed with the names of males: Alulim, Hadanish and Zizi. However alongside its male monarchs, the world’s first recognized civilization additionally produced the primary recognized feminine ruler: Kubaba (additionally Kug-Bau or Ku-Baba) who brewed and offered beer within the historic metropolis of Kish in Mesopotamia.

The story of highly effective historic ladies usually facilities on Egypt, the place Sobekneferu,  Hatshepsut and Cleopatra reigned as pharaohs. However Kubaba ascended to the throne of Sumer lengthy earlier than all of them, seemingly round 2400 B.C. To be clear, she was a real monarch — a queen regnant who dominated in her personal proper, moderately than a queen consort, who is solely the spouse of the monarch. The King Listing refers to her as lugal (king), not as eresh (queen consort). She is the one girl to bear this title.

The little we learn about her comes from this record, a chronicle of rulers that incessantly blurs the road between historical past and legend. Enmen-lu-ana, for instance, allegedly dominated for 43,200 years. Kubaba’s reign is extra believable, however she’s nonetheless credited with an unlikely 100 years at Sumer’s helm.

Kubaba’s Legacy

Her epithet is longer than most, which means that historic scribes discovered her particularly noteworthy. Alongside her identify it reads, “the girl tavern-keeper, who made agency the foundations of Kish.” 

Within the Sumerian custom, kingship isn’t tied to a everlasting capital. It shifts from place to position, bestowed by the gods upon one metropolis after which, at their pleasure, transferred elsewhere after a couple of generations. Earlier than Kubaba, the lone member of the Third Dynasty of Kish, the kingship rested in Mari for greater than a century. After Kubaba it moved to Akshak. However Kish returned to prominence as soon as extra with Kubaba’s son, Puzer-Suen, and grandson, Ur-Zababa, who served as the primary two rulers within the metropolis’s fourth and closing dynasty. (Nonetheless, some variations of the King Listing don’t present an intervening Akshak Dynasty between Kubaba and her descendants.)

How Kubaba Rose to Energy

One source claims, vaguely, that Kubaba “seized” the throne. A extra detailed account of her rise to energy comes from the Weidner Chronicle, which isn’t a correct historical past a lot as “a blatant piece of propaganda,” within the phrases of Canadian Assyriologist Albert Kirk Grayson. Grayson has written that “the entire level of the narrative is for example that these rulers who uncared for or insulted [the god] Marduk or failed to offer fish choices for the temple Esagil had an sad finish.”

In response to the textual content, Kubaba feeds a fisherman and persuades him to supply his catch to Esagila. Marduk’s favor in response comes as no shock: “Let or not it’s so,” the god mentioned, and with that, he “entrusted to Kubaba, the tavern-keeper, sovereignty over the entire world.” That’s proper — her marketing campaign bills for world domination amounted to a loaf of bread and a few water.

Coincidentally, bread and water (the elements of Sumerian beer) have been the muse of her pre-monarch life as nicely. It’s tempting to think about Kubaba’s path from lowly brewer to lofty queen as a rags-to-riches story, however feminine tavern-keepers have been widespread and well-respected. Typically they have been members of the the Aristocracy. Contemplating the individuals of Sumer cherished beer as a present from the gods, it could be extra correct to consider her as “a profitable enterprise girl with divine associations herself,” writes theologist Carole R. Fontaine. 

No matter made her match to rule, it clearly made her distinctive among the many ladies of Sumer. In an empire that endured nicely over 1,000 years, she was the one queen to reign and not using a man. Nevertheless it appears later generations rejected this transgression of gender roles, associating it with different supposedly irregular blends of masculine and female. The start of an intersex baby grew to become the foreboding “omen of Ku-Bau who ruled the land,” with the consequence that “the land of the king will turn out to be waste.” As Assryiologist Rivkah Harris writes, “sitting on the throne was conduct unbecoming for a girl, simply as a bearded girl was an unnatural phenomenon.”

Over time, it appears the human Kubaba pale from reminiscence and the divine associations took priority. She was apparently deified within the subsequent millennium, through the Hittite interval, because the protector of the Syrian city of Carchemish. Nonetheless, the connection between the deity and the historic particular person is unclear, particularly as a result of Baba was the identify of a Sumerian god, and the prefix “ku” meant “holy,” according to the American archaeologist William F. Albright

If the goddess does stem from the real-life queen, although, her legacy outlasted the autumn of Sumer, and even of the Hittites. After evolving into the Greco-Roman Cybele, or Cybebe, this “nice mom of the gods” nonetheless boasted a cult of worshippers as late as 3,000 years after her loss of life — not unhealthy for a barmaid.


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