Inventing the Sumerians: Language, Literature & Politics in Early Mesopotamia

Inventing the Sumerians: Language, Literature & Politics in Early Mesopotamia

March 10, 2021
8:00 PM

Inventing the Sumerians: Language, Literature & Politics in Early Mesopotamia
Wednesday, March 10, 2021, at 8 PM EST via Zoom

Gonzalo Rubio
Pennsylvania State University

Scholars and the public alike often use the label “Sumerians” when they refer to those responsible for the development of the earliest city-states in southern Mesopotamia.  There was, however, no such thing as a Sumerian ethnic identity in the third millennium BCE.

The Sumerian language was spoken in the southernmost region of Mesopotamia (Sumer).  Nevertheless, it was only after this language ceased to be anyone’s mother tongue, by the end of the third millennium, that the concerted process of the cultural production of Sumerian literature began.  This articulation of a cultural tradition in Sumerian, from legendary kings to mythology, coincides with the displacement of the centers of power towards the north, outside Sumer, especially during the Babylonian dynasty of Hammurabi.

This illustrated lecture will explore the political and theological mechanisms that lay and somehow still lie behind the invention of a Sumerian identity.

Gonzalo Rubio is Associate Professor of Classics & Ancient Mediterranean Studies at Penn State University

BAF and its sister organization in Northern Virginia (BASONOVA), are delighted to announce a joint resumption of their lecture series on the ancient Near East and Eastern Mediterranean. This series will be broadcast “live” via Zoom, and “attendees” will be able to direct questions of the presenters.

How to Access the Lecture Series

We will announce additions to the line-up of presenters on a regular basis, as it is our aim to offer more than one event each month. Members will also receive a regular listing of recommended lectures in the public domain.

If you wish to subscribe to the series*, please access the BASONOVA PayPal portal and use a credit card for a one-year subscription ($35 per family). Go to:

It is also possible to access the series one lecture at a time, for $6 per lecture. To receive your single-lecture Zoom invitation, go to:

*Maryland residents will be enrolled in BAF and Virginians will be enrolled in BASONOVA. There is no advantage in enrolling in one group versus the other, only that when in-person lectures begin again you will be apportioned to the group that matches your state of residence.