Urartian Chronology

Urartian rulers and their inscriptions

In total, eleven Urartian rulers are known by own inscriptions. Most of them are also mentioned in Assyrian sources. Two Urartian rulers, namely Aramu and Melarṭua, are only referred to by their Assyrian contemporaries. In addition, three individuals are attested in Urartian sources for whom it remains unclear whether they ruled as king or not.

Lutibri, the father of Sarduri I, is attested only in the form of a patronymic in the inscription of Sarduri A 01-01. There is no clear evidence that he himself was a king. The same is true for Erimena, father of Rusa, whose name is not only attested as the patronym in his son's inscriptions, but also as the owner of a seal (Sig. 13-01). On this seal, he is referred to with the title aṣuli or A.ZU-li which presumably should be interpreted as the title of a government official and not, as formerly has been thought, as the title of the crown prince (see Hellwag 2000 and Hellwag 2005 and her argument against the reading A.NIN-li "son of the mistress" = "crown prince"). Inušpua, son of Minua, is mentioned in inscriptions referring to the joint the activities of Išpuini, his son Minua, and his grandson Inušpua. Furthermore, he is listed as the beneficiary in a dedicatory inscription of his grandfather Išpuini (B 02–04). These attestations make it seem very likely that he was envisaged as the successor to his father Minua. It might very well be that he ruled for a short period of time although no inscriptions of his own have come down to us. It is equally possible that he never ascended the throne, possibly due to a premature death.

Despite the long academic history of Urartology, the sequence of Urartian rulers is still a matter of debate. This is mainly due to the nature of the Urartian written sources. In contrast to Babylonia and Assyria, there are no Urartian king lists, and the Urartian written sources which have come down to us contain only a little information about the succession of its rulers. Another problem is that the Assyrian sources mention only the names of the Urartian rulers without adding patronymics. Since some Urartian rulers shared the same name, it is not always clear to which ruler of a particular name the Assyrian sources refer.

Regarding the royal sequence, the most important information in Urartian texts is the patronymic which frequently followed the name of the ruler. The respective phrase is usually translated as "x, son of y." However, we must keep in mind that this formula does not necessarily refer to biological paternity. Since in Urartian the relationship between the two persons is expressed by the suffix -he to form an adjective of appurtenance, the formula might also refer to legal paternity established by adoption or even another form of descent. Patronymics are also of great importance for distinguishing between rulers of the same name. In some cases, however, the royal sequence remains ambiguous. This is the case with rulers who have not composed their own inscriptions but are only referred to in filiation formulae, or in the inscriptions of other rulers. This group includes Erimena, who was mentioned only by his successor Rusa, Sarduri, son of Rusa, and Sarduri, son of Sarduri. According to Salvini, all of these rulers should be dated to the second and third quarter of the 7th century and thus the end of the Urartian kingdom (see, e.g., Salvini 1995: 109-117, 207; Salvini 2007: 146-162; Salvini 2008: 23; Salvini 2013: 132-133). Recently, however, several scholars have argued that this chronology is, for various reasons, unlikely. In addition to the patronyms, they take the following sources of information into account:

  1. synchronisms with Assyrian sources (see esp. Fuchs 2012: 135-161; Roaf 2012: 187-216)
  2. iconographical and art historical considerations (see esp. Seidl 2012: 177-181)
  3. further archaeological evidence (see, e.g. Kroll 2012: 183-186)
  4. royal titles (see esp. Roaf 2012: 187-216)

On grounds of this data, the following sequence of the first five Urartian rulers, known by their own inscriptions, can be established:

The first five Urartian rulers, known by own their inscriptions
Sarduri I, son of Lutibri approx. 840-830, contemporary of Shalmaneser III, who refers to him as Seduri, the Urartian
Išpuini, son of Sarduri I approx. 830-810, between 820 and 810 presumed coregency with his son Minua; contemporary of Šamši-Adad V, who refers to him as Ušpina
Minua, son of Išpuini approx. 820-785/780, between 820 and 810 coregency with his father Išpuini; not mentioned in the Assyrian sources
Argišti I, son of Minua approx. 785/780-756, contemporary of Shalmaneser IV, who refers to him as Argištu/I
Sarduri II, son of Argišti I approx. 756-730, contemporary of Aššur-nārārī V (mentioned by Sarduri II), and Tiglath-pileser III, who refers to Sarduri II as Sarduri/Sardaurri

Table 1: The first five Urartian rulers, known by their own inscriptions

The order of the Urartian kings following Sarduri II, son of Argišti I, remains unclear. As Roaf (2012: 187-216) has shown, there are several possible scenarios – some more likely than others. Despite differences in detail, most researchers today agree that Rusa, son of Erimena, ruled earlier than Salvinia had suggested. Roaf (2012: 214-216) and Kroll (2012: 183-186) consider it most likely that Rusa, son of Erimena, was a contemporary of Sargon II and possibly also Tiglath-pileser III, and that he ruled earlier than Rusa, son of Sarduri, and Argišti, son of Rusa. By contrast, Fuchs (2012: 148) regards Rusa, son of Erimena, to be a contemporary of Sennacherib, and places him between Argišti, son of Rusa, and Rusa, son of Argišti.

Similarly, most scholars today agree that Sarduri, son of Sarduri, whose single attestation is found on a bronze shield found in Karmir-Blur, should be dated to the 8th rather than the 7th century (see, e.g., Kroll 1984 and Fuchs 2012: 146).

The following table is an overview of the most notable royal sequences following Sarduri II, son of Argišti I proposed in the scholarly literature.

Salvini 1995 and Salvini 2008 Fuchs 2012 Roaf 2012 (scenario 1A)
Rusa I, son of Sarduri (contemporary of Sargon II, in Assyrian sources referred to as Ursā and Rusā, approx. 730-713) Sarduri (III), son of Sarduri (II) Sarduri, son of Argišti or Sarduri
Argišti II, son of Rusa (contemporary of Sargon II, in Assyrian sources referred to as Argišta, 713 –?) Rusa I, son of Sarduri II or III (contemporary of Sargon II, who refers to him as Ursā and Rusā) Rusa, son of Erimena (contemporary and opponent of Sargon II)
Rusa II, son of Argišti (contemporary of Esarhaddon, before the middle of the 7th cent.) Argišti II, son of Rusa (contemporary of Sargon II, in Assyrian sources referred to as Argišti/u) Rusa, son of Sarduri
Rusa III, son of Erimena (contemporary of Assurbanipal, in Assyrian sources referred to as Rusā) Rusa II, son of Erimena (no Assyrian synchronism) Argišti, son of Rusa
Sarduri, son of Rusa III Rusa III, son of Argišti (in Assyrian sources referred to as Ursā, contemporary of Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal) Rusa, son of Argišti
Sarduri III, son of Sarduri (known from the inscription CTU B 16-1 on a bronze shield from Kamir-Blur, contemporary of Assurbanipal, referred to as Ištar/Issar-dūrī) Sarduri IV, son of Rusa II or III (contemporary of Assurbanipal, referred to as Ištar/Issar-dūrī)

Table 2: possible sequences of Urartian rulers following Sarduri II

In the Electronic Corpus of Urartian Texts (eCUT) the numbering of texts in Salvini's Corpus dei testi Urartei (CTU), Rome 2008–2018 has been kept. The portal pages, however, follow the chronology suggested by Roaf. However, on the individual pages dedicated to Rusa, son of Argišti, Rusa, son of Erimena, and Rusa, son of Sarduri, the different theories and sequences are briefly discussed.


Fuchs, Andreas (2012): Urarṭu in der Zeit, in: Stephan Kroll, Claudia Gruber, Ursula Hellwag, Michael Roaf, and Paul Zimansky (eds.), Biainili-Urartu. The Proceedings of the Symposium Held in Munich 12-14. Oktober 2007 (Acta Iranica 51), Leuven, 135-161.
Hellwag, Ursula (2000): "Sohn der Königin": A.NIN-li oder "Wasserwirtschaftsmisiter": A.ZUM-li? Überlegungen zu einem "fragwürdigen" Amt am urartäischen Königshof, Akkadica 117, 20-43.
Hellwag, Ursula (2005): A.ZUM-li versus A.NIN-li: Some thoughts on the owner of the so-called Prinzensiegel at Rusa's II court, in: Altan Çilingiroğlu and Gareth Darbyshire (eds.), Anatolian Iron Ages, 4th Proceedings of the Third Anatolian Iron Ages Colloquium held at Van, 6-10 August 2001, British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara Monograph 16, Ankara, 91-98.
Kroll, Stephan (2012), Rusa Erimena in archäologischem Kontext, in: Stephan Kroll, Claudia Gruber, Ursula Hellwag, Michael Roaf, and Paul Zimansky (eds.), Biainili-Urartu. The Proceedings of the Symposium Held in Munich 12-14. Oktober 2007 (Acta Iranica. 51), Leuven, 183-186.
Roaf, Michael (2012), Could Rusa son of Erimena have been king of Urartu during Sargon's Eighth Campaign? in: Stephan Kroll, Claudia Gruber, Ursula Hellwag, Michael Roaf, and Paul Zimansky (eds.),Biainili-Urartu. The Proceedings of the Symposium Held in Munich 12-14. Oktober 2007 ( Acta Iranica 51), Leuven, 187-216.
Salvini, Mirjo (1995): Geschichte und Kultur der Urartäer, Darmstadt 1995, 63-78.
Salvini, Mirjo (2007): Argišti, Rusa, Erimena, Rusa und die Löwenschwänze. Eine urartäische Palastgeschichte des VII. Jh. v. Chr., American Journal of Near Eastern Studies II, 2007, 146-162.
Salvini, Mirjo (2008): Minima Urartaica, ARAMAZD III/2, 2008, 143-145.
Salvini, Mirjo (2013): Neuassyrische Schrift und Sprache in den urartäischen Königsinschriften (9.-7. Jahrhundert V. Chr.), in: Eva Cancik-Kirschbaum, Jörg Klinger, Gerfried G.W. Müller (eds.), Diversity and Standardization. Perspectives on social and political norms in the ancient Near East, Berlin 2013, S. 113-143.
Seidl, Ursula (2012), Rusa son of Erimena, Rusa son of Argisti and Rusahinili/Toprakkale, in: Stephan Kroll, Claudia Gruber, Ursula Hellwag, Michael Roaf, and Paul Zimansky (eds.), Acta Iranica. Biainili-Urartu. The Proceedings of the Symposium Held in Munich 12-14. Oktober 2007, Leuven 2012, 177-181.

Birgit Christiansen

Birgit Christiansen, 'Urartian rulers and their inscriptions', Electronic Corpus of Urartian Texts (eCUT) Project, The eCUT Project, a sub-project of MOCCI, 2020 [http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/ecut/urartianrulersandtheirinscriptions/]

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