Ancient Sumeria elected ‘Substitute Kings’ during eclipses to protect the king from a prophecy of death. Once a real king, ‘Erra-imitti’ suddenly died while eating hot porridge and his substitute, ‘Enlil-bani’ formerly a random gardener, stayed king for 24 years.


Enlil-bāni,[nb 1] ca. 1798 BC – 1775 BC (short chronology) or 1860 – 1837 BC (middle chronology), was the 10th king of the 1st Dynasty of Isin and reigned 24 years according to the Ur-Isin kinglist.[i 1] He is best known for the legendary and perhaps apocryphal manner of his ascendancy.


A certain Ikūn-pî-Ištar[nb 2] is recorded as having ruled for 6 months or a year, between the reigns of Erra-imittī and Enlil-bāni according to two variant copies of a chronicle. Another chronicle[i 2] which might have shed further light on his origins is too broken to translate. A lengthy inscription proclaims:

In Nippur I established justice, and promoted righteousness. I sought out nourishment for them like sheep, and fed them with f…
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