Gudea’s Dreams

Gudea, ruler of the ancient city of Lagash in Southern Mesopotamia (modern-day Al-Hiba in Iraq) from about 2144 to 2124 BC, was a great devotee of the war god Ningirsu and expended great energy and wealth on rebuilding his temple. In the foundations, Gudea had buried a number of clay tablets with cuneiform inscriptions giving an account of his activities. Discovered in the late nineteenth century, these tablets give an indication of the ruler’s moods and feelings and even describe the dreams he dreamed while sleeping in the temple. Four of them are mentioned below.

Ningirsu gives instructions for the rebuilding of the temple:


In the dream was a man, who was as huge as heaven, as huge as earth. As to his upper part he was a god, as to his wings he was the Imdugud bird, as to his lower part he was the hurricane. At his right and left there crouched a lion. He commanded me to build a temple, but I did not fully understand him…A second hero was present. He had his arms bent and held a slab of lapis lazuli in his hands and set down thereon the ground-plan of the temple to be built. He put before me the hod, ceremonially purified, arranged the brick-mold for me, similarly purified, and fixed in it the ‘brick of decision of fate’.

Ningirsu promises to summon a humid wind bringing life-giving rain so that prosperity will accompany the laying of the temple’s foundations:

All the great fields will bear for thee. Dykes and canals will swell for thee; where the water is not wont to rise to high ground it will rise for thee.

The molding of the first brick was the responsibility of the king and Gudea describes how he took up the ‘purified head-pad’ and the brick-mold for the ‘brick of decision of fate’ and

…poured luck-bringing water into the frame of the mold; While he did so drums were beaten. He smeared the mold with honey, best quality oil, fine best quality oil; He raised the holy hod, went to the mold, Gudea worked the mud in the mold, Performed completely the proper rites, Splendidly brought into being the brick for the temple.

The new temple having been completed, was consecrated. Gudea describes how he went to the god and prayed to him:

My King, Ningirsu, Lord who restrains the wild fold-waters, Lord whose word is supreme beyond everything, Son of Enlil, the hero, you have given me orders, I have truly fulfilled them for you, O Ningirsu, I have built your temple for you, May you enter therein in joy.

~ As mentioned in H. W. F. Saggs, The Greatness that was Babylon (1962) [Translation slightly adapted.]


Image Credit:

One of the 18 Statues of Gudea, a ruler around 2090 BC by User “Marie-Lan Nguyen”, CC BY 2.5, Wikipedia



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s