The Great Fatted Bull
Tablet #36
Sumerian Images
Sumerian History
The Royal Tombs of Ur
The Standard of Ur:  War
The Standard of Ur:  King
The "Standard" of Ur?
Vulture Stele Translation
Sumerian War Chariots
War Chariot Deconstructed
Gudea Translation
The Face of Gudea
The Face of Ur-Ningirsu
The Face of Lugal-agrig-zi
Ur-Namma Translation
The Face of Ur-Namma
Face of Ur-Namma, part II
I am Ur-Namma
The Face of Shulgi
Who Were the Sumerians?
Other Sumerian Kings
The Princess Wife
The Great Fatted Jackass
Sargon's Victory Stele
Helmet: the King of Kish
The Standard of Mari?
The Invention of Writing
Adventures in Cuneiform
The Sumerian Scribe
A Masterpiece
The Gebel el-Arak Knife
Hierakonpolis Tomb 100
Queen Ku-Baba
Site Map

This is an alabaster statue in the Louvre Museum. It is 6.5 cm tall (2.56 inches). The statue
was found in the Sumerian city of Girsu. It is dated in the Akkadian Period, sometime after
2350 BC. The Louvre labeled it simply as a “female head”. The dark circles around her eyes
represents kohl, which was used throughout the ancient world as an eyeliner.

When I first saw the statue, I believed it was a Sumerian priestess because she seems to be
wearing a circular headband, just like the high priestess of Ninsun; although for a priestess
I thought she was a bit heavy-handed with the makeup.

Then I noticed there are no striations on the hair above her headband. I suspected that she is actually wearing a hat. This was confirmed when I saw a profile view of the statue:

It’s a very distinctive hat. I haven't seen anything like it on a Sumerian woman. The only hat
that is similar is the polos, which was worn by a priestess in the city of Mari (see the page
on The Standard Mari). But it is not a polos; a polos is taller and rounder, as shown below:

A polos worn by a Sumerian priestess of Mari.

The hat on the statue most closely resembles a shepherd hat, the crown of a Sumerian king. Early versions of the hat had brims that were thick but narrow, like the kind worn by the kings of Uruk, the original shepherd kings.

An early version of a shepherd hat on the "priest-king"
of Uruk. Early versions of the hat closely resembled
the hat of an ordinary shepherd.

Later versions of the shepherd crown were taller and more grandiose, which gave the kings
greater stature and made them seem more regal, such as the crowns worn by Gudea (left)
and Ur-Namma (for further explanation, see The Kings of Uruk).

Of course, it’s possible that the statue is merely a common shepherdess, but there are
several reasons against this assumption:  Sumerian artists didn’t carve stone portraits
of common women, there is no word for “female shepherd” in the Sumerian language,
and the eye makeup indicates she was something more than a common shepherdess
who tended her flocks in the field.

Since this hat looks just like the early versions of the shepherd crown, I suggest that the statue is a portrait of a Sumerian queen.

There's only one problem. The hat designates that she was a reigning monarch, who acted
as a king, but there is no historic record of a Sumerian queen who ruled by her own right.
Sumerian queens were always the wives of kings. They never governed on their own. Sumerian queens had considerable power and influence, but they did not rule the kingdom.

A ruling queen would be a notable exception to the hundreds of kings in Sumerian history.
It seems there should be some record of her existence – many records, in fact. She would be famous, or infamous, but there are no references to a female ruler in Sumerian history.
More importantly, there is no mention of a Sumerian female monarch on the King List,
the definitive compilation of the kings who ruled in Mesopotamia.

The Sumerian King List records the names of the rulers of Mesopotamia.  Enlarge.

If there had been a Sumerian female monarch, she would be on the Sumerian King List 
because of her uniqueness, so it's unreasonable to assume there was a Sumerian queen
who isn't mentioned on the list. I personally would love it if the first female monarch was Sumerian, but there's no evidence for it. We must look elsewhere for her identity. The King List does provide a clue to another possible identity for the statue: Queen Ku-Baba. She is
commonly mistaken to be Sumerian, but she is actually Akkadian. She was the ruler of the
Akkadian city of Kish. This was the most important city in Akkad, and in the region. Many
Sumerian kings sought to be crowned in Kish. A Sumerian called himself “The King of Kish”
if he ruled both Sumer and Akkad. The title meant he was the “King of Kings”.

The statue was found in Girsu, which is a Sumerian city, but dated in the Akkadian Period,
the 200 years that followed the conquest of Sumer by Sargon the Great in 2350 BC. This
would account for the fact that a statue of an Akkadian queen was found in a Sumerian city.

There’s a slight problem with identifying the statue as Ku-Baba. The shepherd hat is
distinctively Sumerian. If the statue is Ku-Baba, she should be wearing an Akkadian crown
just like Sargon and all other Akkadian kings. As will later be explained, there’s a reason why she wears a Sumerian shepherd hat instead of an Akkadian crown.

Sargon the Great

On the King List, the section for Ku-Baba begins at line 223. This version of the King List
uses the early pronunciation of her name, Kug-Bau, by which she is most commonly known.
She is also called Kubaba, but the correct spelling of her name is Ku-Baba. The first “B”
is capitalized because she is named for the goddess Baba, and the names of deities
should always be capitalized.

Then Mari was defeated and the kingship was taken to Kish. In Kish, Kug-Bau,
the woman tavern-keeper, who made firm the foundations of Kish, became king;
she ruled for 100 years. Then Kish was defeated and the kingship was taken to Akshak

A tavern-keeper?  Seriously?

Munus-lu2-kurun-na. It translates as “a female keeper of a tavern”. I have also seen it
translated as “wine-maid” and “alewife”. The modern equivalent would be a “barkeeper”.
This could refer to the owner of the establishment or an employee who serves the drinks.
If Ku-Baba was the owner, she was “middle class”. If she was merely an employee who
served the drinks, she was a commoner, and a lowly commoner at that. Throughout history,
a barmaid was typically considered to be a woman of loose morals, freely available to the
patrons of the bar, and little better than a common prostitute.

To tell the truth, I had never taken the reference seriously. I doubted that a tawdry barmaid could ever marry into the royal family, to thus become a queen, much less a king. I doubted that Ku-Baba even existed. I believed the reference was a mean-spirited joke by the scribe who wrote the King List. I thought it was his way of questioning a woman's right to rule, meaning it was equally ridiculous that a woman or a tavern keeper could ever become a king.

Some people have tried to describe Ku-Baba as an early example of an independent businesswoman, suggesting that owning a tavern was one of the few business opportunities that was open to women. However, it seems unlikely that women would be encouraged to operate a tavern because it was considered to be a disreputable profession. If a woman was an independent owner of a tavern, it's probably because she inherited the business from her parents or her husband. A female owner of tavern would probably be middle-aged, making her unattractive to a royal suitor. If she wasn't widowed, she would already be married, possibly with children of her own. Children would disqualify her from marriage into the royal family. Besides, a female tavern keeper would by necessity have to be a tough old broad, if she ever hoped to control a room full of drunken men.

If Ku-Baba was a barkeeper, the only way she could become a queen is by marrying a king,
or more probably, by marrying a lord who later became the king. As a queen, she could
possibly become a regent if the king died before his son was old enough to rule. She could
then rule in her son’s name until he came of age. Nonetheless, there’s no indication that a
female regency ever occurred anywhere in Mesopotamia. If women sometimes became
regents, even rarely, it seems there would be other examples on the King List. Besides that,
there is no word for “regent” in the early Mesopotamian languages, so it’s doubtful that
regencies were a common practice. When a king died without a son, the kingship usually passed to his nearest male relative, or a pretender to the throne who had an army to back up his claim. If Ku-Baba wasn't a regent, it seemed unlikely that she could ever become a reigning monarch in her own right.

“She ruled for 100 years”? This statement also makes Ku-Baba seem "mythological"
rather than an actual person. I thought it was simply a way for the scribe to fill out
some of the empty years in the chronology of the King List.

Despite my initial skepticism, after further investigation I finally had to concede that Ku-Baba
was a real person who lived and ruled in the city of Kish. I also conceded that perhaps her parents were tavern keepers, but not Ku-Baba. That makes a big difference. Even if the young Ku-Baba worked in her parents' tavern, under their watchful eyes she did not engage in the lascivious behavior that is generally associated with a stereotypical barmaid. This is an important consideration, for reasons that I will later explain.

The sign {d} is dingir. It symbolizes the divinity of the goddess Baba. It is not pronounced
when the word is said aloud.

On the King List, the story of Ku-Baba (Kug-Bau) begins again after the kingship was carried
to Akshak:

In Akshak, […] 5 kings; they ruled for 87 years. Then Akshak was defeated and the kingship
was taken to Kish
. [The King List gives the impression that the kings of Akshak ruled after Ku-Baba, but they actually ruled concurrently with her reign.]  In Kish, Puzur-Suen,
the son of Kug-Bau, became king; he ruled for 25 years. Ur-Zababa, the son of Puzur-Suen,
ruled for 6 years. 131 are the years of the dynasty of Kug-Bau.

The King List represents everything we know about Ku-Baba, but from these few words
we can surmise several important facts about her:

Sargon succeeded Ur-Zababa as the king of Kish in 2334 BC. Subtracting the 31 years
for the combined reigns of Puzur-Suen and Ur-Zababa, it means Ku-Baba died in 2365 BC. 
We don’t know how long she reigned, but it certainly wasn't a hundred years.

The King List calls her lugal (king) and not eresh (queen). This leaves no doubt that she
actually governed the kingdom and she was not merely a regent or a consort of the king.
She ruled in her own right. As such, Queen Ku-Baba was the first female ruler in history.
Credit for the first female ruler in history sometimes goes to Sobekneferu (also known as
Neferusobek) the female pharaoh who ruled Egypt from 1806 to 1802 BC. Queen Ku-Baba
predates Sobekneferu by more than 500 years.

The King List tells us she “made firm the foundations of Kish”. This means she restored
the power and prestige of Kish, the most important city-state in Akkad. We also know
Ku-Baba had a very successful reign. It had to be. Any female pretender to the throne
who didn’t do an excellent job would quickly find herself in the middle of a coup d’état.
She was capable enough, and respected enough, to stay in power and establish a dynasty.
The dynasty continued for two more generations with her son Puzur-Suen and her grandson Ur-Zababa.

If Ku-Baba was indeed a commoner, then we can safely assume that she was beautiful.
A king usually married for money and power. He married a noblewoman for her rich dowry
and/or to create a strategic alliance with her powerful family (foreign or domestic). A king
could be induced to wed a commoner, and thus forego a more advantageous marriage,
only if the woman was extremely beautiful. After all, if a king wanted to marry a commoner,
he had his choice among thousands of the most beautiful women in the kingdom.

It's interesting that Ku-Baba was not a mistress or a concubine. The king had plenty of
mistresses, but there must have been something extraordinary about Ku-Baba that made
the king want to marry her.

The statue had eyes of lapis lazuli
which I have restored in this picture.

Although it is highly unlikely that a king would marry a commoner, it is certainly within the
realm of possibility. A modern “precedent” is found in the story of Peter the Great of Russia
and his wife Catherine. When they met, Catherine was not only a peasant, she was also
a prisoner of war. Peter married her anyway (he was well known for acting impulsively).
He married her because she was beautiful, but he married her in secret and he did not
crown her as queen. As the years passed he began to appreciate Catherine’s intelligence,
judgment, and her strength of character. He eventually made the marriage public and
Catherine was officially crowned as his queen. After Peter died, Catherine ruled Russia
in her own right. This could easily be the story of Ku-Baba. Even if Ku-Baba didn’t actually
marry the king, she married the prince or another nobleman who later became the king.

On the King List, some men of lowly professions (boatman, weaver, fisherman) supposedly
became kings. However, it’s doubtful that the entrée into kingship was quite so democratic.
Kingship was usually reserved for the elite nobility. It’s possible that these peasant kings
were apocryphal, used to fill in some of the blanks on the King List. It’s also possible that
men of humble professions joined the army and won their titles of nobility through heroism
on the battlefield. Then again, perhaps the King List is saying the men of lowly professions
were not of royal birth, and they were therefore usurpers, at least in the eyes of the nobility.
However, none of these lowly professions are quite so lowly as a barmaid.

Circumstances suggest that Ku-Baba was a commoner, but not a tavern keeper. I believe
Ku-Baba was unfairly characterized as a bawd (the usual description of a female barkeeper)
for propaganda reasons. I believe it was a deliberate attempt to sully her reputation. It is
the kind of thing her enemies would say about her.

I believe I know who did it. I see Sargon’s fine Italian hand in all of this.

Two clues are given on the King List.

The first clue is when we are informed that Ur-Zababa was Ku-Baba’s grandson. At the time,
Ur-Zababa was a vassal king of the Sumerian king Lugalzagesi. Kish, which had been
restored to its former glory by Queen Ku-Baba, was once again under the control of the
Sumerians. Lugalzagesi had conquered all of Sumer and Akkad, and beyond
(see Lugalzagesi on this website).

Sargon was the Cup Bearer for Ur-Zababa, in charge of the drinks cupboard. It sounds like
a menial job, but it was a position of great responsibility. It was reserved for members of the
king’s court. It also displays Ur-Zababa’s total trust in Sargon, since a cupbearer could easily poison the king.

The story of Sargon and Ur-Zababa, undoubtedly written at Sargon’s behest, gives an
unflattering portrait of Ur-Zababa. Unlike Sargon, “the creature of the gods”, Ur-Zababa is
portrayed as petty and devious, weak and fearful. He chews his lip in apprehension. He has
a scary dream that completely unhinges him, “Like a lion he urinated, sprinkling his legs,
and the urine contained blood and pus. He was troubled, he was disturbed…”

Ur-Zababa was Sargon’s rightful king. If Sargon portrayed Ur-Zababa this way, why should he have any qualms about slandering Ur-Zababa’s grandmother?

Sargon had his own dream:

“The sleeping Sargon groaned and gnawed the ground. When King Ur-Zababa heard about
this groaning, he was brought into the king's holy presence. Sargon was brought into the
presence of Ur-Zababa (who said:) 'Cupbearer, was a dream revealed to you in the night?' 
Sargon answered his king: 'My king, this is my dream, which I will tell you about: There was
a young woman [the war goddess Inanna] who was as high as the heavens and as broad
as the earth. She was as firmly set as the base of a wall. For me, she drowned you in
a great river, a river of blood.'"  (ETCSL, Sargon and Ur-Zababa, lines 12 -24)

Apparently it all came to pass. Sargon usurped the kingdom of Kish from Ur-Zababa after a
bloody battle. Ur-Zababa was captured and executed (murdered) by Sargon. It’s only fair
to mention that Ur-Zababa had previously tried to kill Sargon – twice. The first time is when
he ordered his chancellor to throw Sargon into some clay construction molds “like a statue”.
The other time is when he sent Sargon to deliver a letter to Lugalzagesi. The letter said:
Kill the messenger. Supposedly the wife of Lugalzagesi saved Sargon from being murdered.
Anyway, that’s how Sargon tells the story.

The death of Ur-Zababa. Sargon holds a net full of prisoners. They are the Akkadians
who defended Ur-Zababa. Their heads are half-shaven as a sign of punishment. Ur-Zababa
struggles to escape from the net. Sargon clubs him with a mace (see Sargon’s Victory Stele
on this website).

Sargon was a usurper because he had rebelled against his lawful king. Like all usurpers,
Sargon was self-conscious about how he came to power. Even his name, which translates as "rightful (or legitimate) king", is an attempt to justify his overthrow of Ur-Zababa.

Other than his name, how could Sargon claim he was the “legitimate king”?  How could he
justify plunging Kish into a bloody civil war?  Obviously, Ur-Zababa was the rightful king,
the third king of his dynasty. He was named for the god Zababa, the patron deity of Kish.
Yet Sargon thought his own right to rule was superior to Ur-Zababa’s.

This leads us to the second clue given by the King List. Line 266 mentions, “Sargon,
whose father was a gardener…” (??!!)  So Sargon was a commoner, just like Ku-Baba.
This tells us several important facts about Sargon.

First, like the peasant kings mentioned in the King List, Sargon had joined the army
and risen through the ranks because of his military exploits. He thus attained a title
in the minor nobility and he probably married a noblewoman. This how he gained access
to Ur-Zababa’s court.

Second, as a cupbearer, he could easily poison Ur-Zababa, if killing the king was Sargon’s
sole intent. Sargon had bigger plans. He wanted to take over Ur-Zababa’s kingdom as well.
He could only do this if he had the support of the nobility because of his reputation as a
military commander. The noblemen were disgruntled because Kish, under the ineffectual
leadership of Ur-Zababa, was now a vassal state of the Sumerians. In Ur-Zababa's defense,
it should be noted that many capable kings, Sumerian and Akkadian alike, found themselves
under the control of Lugalzagesi, the King of Kings. 

Third, this was not merely a coup d’état confined within the palace walls. It was a full blown
civil war, led by Sargon. It proves that he had already established his military credentials.
Sargon’s abilities as a military commander were confirmed by subsequent events. He later
conquered the rest of Akkad, all of Sumer, and most of Mesopotamia. He thus created the
Akkadian Empire. The empire would last for 200 years.

The Sumerian king Lugalzagesi met the same fate as Ur-Zababa at the hands of Sargon.
After he was captured, Lugalzagesi was forced to watch the construction of a victory stele commemorating his own defeat, and then he was executed. Ironically, Lugalzagesi's wife
saved Sargon from being murdered by her husband, but she could not save her husband
from being murdered by Sargon. Allegedly, Sargon then forced her to marry him so he could unite the two countries under a single dynasty.

The bodies of Lugalzagesi's Sumerian soldiers are devoured by vultures and war dogs after a battle with Sargon (see Sargon's Other Victory Stele on this website).

You may be wondering, “What does any of this have to do with Queen Ku-Baba?”  Okay,
I’m getting to it.

Sargon could not justify his claim to the throne by waving around the exalted pedigree of his
father the gardener. If Sargon wanted to declare he was the legitimate king, he had to prove
that Ur-Zababa was not. Ur-Zababa was obviously the lawful king of Kish and the third king
in a dynasty, so Sargon could not challenge him on these grounds. To discredit Ur-Zababa,
Sargon first needed to discredit Ku-Baba, the founder of the dynasty.

From the King List, we know that Sargon usurped the throne 31 years after the death of
Queen Ku-Baba, so people still remembered her reign. Surprisingly, it is Sargon himself who
inadvertently proves that Ku-Baba was a commoner. If Ku-Baba was truly the daughter of
a noble family, and Sargon called her a commoner, then everyone would know he was lying.
If she was a princess, her genealogy would be well documented, so Sargon dared not tell a
boldfaced lie by calling her a commoner because it would only discredit him, and not her,
in the eyes of the nobility. He would not recklessly alienate the nobility because he needed
their support. Besides, the aristocrats would quickly remind him, “You are a commoner too,
so what’s your point?” The fact is, everyone already knew that Ku-Baba was not a princess of royal birth. A high-born nobleman could discredit Ku-Baba for being a commoner, but Sargon could not. However, there was something else that he could do.

Many people remembered the reign of Ku-Baba, but few people (if any) remembered her
as a young woman. It had been 50 - 70 years since Ku-Baba was a young adult (it depends
on her age when she married, how long her husband ruled, and how long her reign lasted).
As a commoner, Ku-Baba grew up in obscurity, known only to a few friends and neighbors.
As a result, Sargon could say anything he wanted about her early years. He could even say
she was a common prostitute, but it might seem a bit farfetched, even for Sargon. Instead,
he did the next best thing; he called her a tavern keeper, a common alewife, a woman of questionable morals. By implying that Ku-Baba was a bawdy barmaid, he demeaned her
in the eyes of the nobility. It demeaned her in the eyes of the common people as well.
Today, if we learn that a queen was also a bawd, it’s not a big deal. It would barely warrant
a wink and a nudge. Back then, it was a very serious charge. Everyone expected a queen’s
virtue to be beyond reproach, not only for moral reasons, but also for dynastic reasons.
A queen is the mother of the future kings. If a queen is even rumored to be promiscuous,
no one can be certain that her sons were actually fathered by her husband, the current king.
The line of succession could then be called into question, possibly resulting in a civil war
when rival noblemen reasserted their own claims to the throne.

Sargon also inadvertently proves that Ku-Baba was not merely a concubine. If she was,
he wouldn't bother calling her a tavern keeper. He would simply call her a concubine –
in the most unflattering terms. In other words, he would have called her a whore.

Sargon was a brilliant propagandist. His victory stele commemorating his overthrow of
Ur-Zababa is a masterpiece of lies. He actually portrays himself as a hero for usurping
the crown of his lawful king. The same is true for the story of Sargon and Ur-Zababa.
Again he is the hero of the story, beloved by the wife of Lugalzagesi, while Ur-Zababa
is portrayed as a weak and frightened little man. Sargon explained his own humble origins by saying his parents found him as an infant in a reed basket floating on the river, implying
he was the son of an unknown nobleman who had to abandon Sargon to protect him. It is the same story as Moses, long before Moses was born. Sargon wasn't the first propagandist in Mesopotamia, but he was certainly the best. Everything about Sargon is propaganda, even his name is propaganda.

For propaganda purposes, Sargon smeared Ku-Baba with the same brush he used to smear everyone else. He resurrected an old joke, rumor, or allegation that Ku-Baba was a bawdy
tavern queen and he bandied it about as if it were true (there must have been a lot of
negative commentary swirling around the first female ruler in history), In this way, Sargon
demeaned her character, and in so doing, he robbed her of the dignity and gravitas
that is essential to the legacy of any monarch. More to the point, and I believe this was
his intention all along, he implied that her son Puzur-Suen was illegitimate. By extension,
so was Puzur-Suen’s son, Ur-Zababa. Sargon by his very name was the "legitimate king”;
therefore Ur-Zababa was the "illegitimate king”. According to Sargon, the alewife Ku-Baba
and her bastard progeny were the real usurpers in this story, not him. He was merely
restoring dignity and morality to the kingdom of Kish.

It was not enough for Sargon to claim that Ur-Zababa himself was illegitimate. Even if true,
the kingship would pass to the highest-ranking male of Queen Ku-Baba's dynasty, which wouldn't do Sargon a bit of good. To seize the throne, Sargon had to discredit the entire dynasty of Ku-Baba. He didn't need to convince everyone of the veracity his claims. He just needed a pretext, and no one was willing to argue with Sargon, the man with the sword.

Through the machinations of Sargon, "Ku-Baba the daughter of tavern keepers" became
"Ku-Baba the female tavern keeper". It is a subtle distinction, but a damning one. The image
of a young girl working in her parents' shop is replaced by the image of a coarse, vulgar
middle-aged woman presiding over the kingdom as if it was a beer hall.

An article by All Mesopotamia (which references this page) mentions some of the negative publicity that befell Ku-Baba as a result of Sargon's propaganda:

                                                      *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Carly Silver [on her webpage Kubaba, A Queen Among Kings] writes that Ku-Baba was remembered by later generations as an improper usurper. They would also refer to Ku-Baba
when describing things that are not as they should be – women taking on men’s roles
has never been popular. “By taking on the duties of a man – a king – Kubaba was seen
to have crossed a boundary and transcended gender divisions in an improper fashion,”
Silver writes.
Ku-Baba was also referenced when a lung didn’t look so good, or a child was born with both male and female genitalia. “Combining male and female genitalia in an individual would echo her reign as lugal, or king, which the ancients saw as violating the natural order of things,” Silver writes.

The articles also mention Siduri, a woman who ran a tavern in the Underworld. She appears
in The Epic of Gilgamesh where she gives him some sage advice, "Who of the mortal can
live forever? The life of man is short… let there be pleasure and dancing.” According
to Silver, "a female tavern-keeper was seen as a guide along perilous paths and a figure worthy of veneration."

                                                      *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Funny, Siduri, the wise female tavern keeper of the Underworld, only appears in the early Sumerian versions of The Epic of Gilgamesh. She does not appear in the later versions,
the ones written after Sargon.

If there's any negative commentary about Ku-Baba, we know exactly who to blame: Sargon.
If Ku-Baba was a failure as a queen, everyone would know about it. She would be used
"to point a moral, or adorn a tale". She would be portrayed as either stupid or villainous, and her failure would justify the prevailing opinion that women were unfit to rule. Since Sargon
could not name any specific fault in Ku-Baba's reign, he and his crony noblemen had to resort to character assassination, after her death, when she could not defend her reputation. The noblemen were happy to join Sargon in his efforts to overthrow the "commoner dynasty" of Ku-Baba, and thus restore the nobility to their rightful place as the rulers of the kingdom.
Sargon’s Akkadian Empire lasted for 200 years. By the time it was over, Ku-Baba
the barmaid queen was firmly established in history. The memory of Ku-Baba lasted well into Babylonian times. By then she had become a goddess, but she was still a barmaid.

Ku-Baba, goddess. Her son, Puzur-Suen, had Ku-Baba declared a goddess soon after her death. The worship of Ku-Baba spread throughout Mesopotamia, and beyond.

This is the Hittite version of Ku-Baba the goddess. The Hittite Empire (c.1400–c. 1190 BC) was in Anatolia, about 700 miles from Kish. This bas-relief was created about 1,000 years after the reign of Ku-Baba.

Sad to say, no trace of Ku-Baba remains in Akkad, where she was a legend in her lifetime and a goddess after her death. Sargon saw to that. Any loyalty to the memory of Ku-Baba would be considered treasonous to the new regime.

Ku-Baba is portrayed as a kindly woman in all the folklore stories about her. This suggests
that Ku-Baba never lost the “common touch”. Ku-Baba was always “the people’s queen”,
which is yet another reason why Sargon sought to discredit her. As the years passed,
no one ever contradicted Sargon’s slander that she had been a disreputable tavern keeper.

Then again, maybe they did.

This brings us back to the statue in the Louvre Museum. It was found in the Sumerian city of
Girsu, but it is dated during the period of Akkadian occupation. As previously mentioned,
she wears a Sumerian crown. This suggests that she is Sumerian, but there's no historical evidence that a Sumerian queen ever ruled in her own right. Only one woman in all of
Mesopotamia was a reigning monarch, but she is Akkadian. However, if the sculptor put an
Akkadian crown on her head then everyone would know exactly who it is – Queen Ku-Baba.
After all, who else could it be?  This wouldn’t go over too well with the Akkadian overlords.
Sargon would certainly find it galling. He doubtlessly ordered that every image of Ku-Baba
be destroyed in an attempt to erase her from history. The Sumerian shepherd crown on the
Akkadian queen disguises her identity. Perhaps the statue was a piece of passive resistance
by the Sumerians, showing they had more love and respect for Queen Ku-Baba than they
ever had for Sargon “The Great.” Sargon was much despised by all the people in the lands
he conquered.

There is an alternative explanation for the statue. Although it is dated during the period of Akkadian occupation, it may have been created at an earlier period, during the time of Ku-Baba. It may have been commissioned by Ku-Baba herself, as a gift to a Sumerian ally.
In this case, she would present herself in the familiar guise of a Sumerian monarch. (She would never wear this crown in the Akkadian court because it is the same crown worn by a Sumerian overlord when he conquered Kish to thus become The King of Kings.)

Ku-Baba was the first female ruler in all of history. She ruled 500 years before the first
female pharaoh, 2,300 years before Cleopatra, and 3,900 years before Queen Elizabeth.
The other monarchs were born into royal families, but Ku-Baba arose from humble origins.
She became a well-respected and beloved queen. She had a very successful reign and she established her own dynasty. She made firm the foundation of Kish, restoring the power and prestige of the city. Everyone knew this, so not even Sargon could take that away from her.
As a commoner, she was “the people’s queen”, which was yet another reason why Sargon
sought to discredit her. She was loved by the people, Sargon was hated. Unfortunately,
she is best remembered by Sargon’s slander that she was a tavern keeper, which certainly
isn't true. Even today, here in the Feminist Era, it is hard to take her seriously with the
image of Ku-Baba the Tavern Queen etched into our minds. I believe this is the reason why she has never been given the respect and recognition that she truly deserves.

Ku-Baba was a commoner who became a queen, who became a king, who became a goddess. To do this, she not only had to overcome the prejudice against her gender, but also her social class. No woman in history has accomplished so much in her lifetime. No woman has even come close.

Ku-Baba is truly the most extraordinary woman who ever lived. 

 September 17, 2016