The Guti (/ˈɡuːti/) or Quti, also known by the derived exonyms
Gutians or Guteans, were a nomadic people of the
Zagros Mountains (on
the border of modern
Iran and Iraq) during ancient times. Their
homeland was known as
Gutium (Sumerian: 𒄖𒌅𒌝𒆠,Gu-tu-umki or
Conflict between people from
Gutium and the
Akkadian Empire has been
linked to the collapse of the empire, towards the end of the 3rd
Millennium BCE. The Guti subsequently overran southern
formed a royal dynasty in Sumer. The
Sumerian king list
Sumerian king list suggests that
the Guti ruled over
Sumer for several generations, following the fall
of the Akkadian Empire.
By the 1st Millennium BCE, usage of the name Gutium, by the peoples of
lowland Mesopotamia, had expanded to include all of western Media,
between the Zagros and the Tigris. Various tribes and places to the
east and northeast were often referred to as Gutians or Gutium. For
example, Assyrian royal annals use the term Gutians in relation to
populations known to have been
Medes or Mannaeans. As late as the
Cyrus the Great
Cyrus the Great of Persia, the famous general Gubaru
(Gobryas) was described as the "governor of Gutium".
2.2 25th to 23rd centuries BCE
2.3 Prominence during the early 22nd century BCE
2.4 Decline from the late 22nd century BCE onwards
3 Physical appearance
4 Modern connection theories
Little is known of the origins, material culture or language of the
Guti, as contemporary sources provide few details and no artifacts
have been positively identified. As the
Gutian language lacks a
text corpus, apart from some proper names, its similarities to other
languages are impossible to verify. The names of Gutian-Sumerian
kings, suggest that the language was not closely related to any
languages of the region, including Sumerian, Akkadian, Hurrian,
Hittite and Elamite.
W. B. Henning
W. B. Henning suggested that the different endings of the king names
resembled case endings in the Tocharian languages, a branch of
Indo-European known from texts found in the
Tarim Basin (in the
northwest of modern China) dating from the 6th to 8th centuries CE,
making Gutian the earliest documented Indo-European language. He
further suggested that they had subsequently migrated to the Tarim.
Gamkrelidze and Ivanov explored Henning's suggestion as possible
support for their proposal of an Indo-European Urheimat in the Near
East. However, most scholars reject the attempt to compare
languages separated by more than two millennia.
Since Gutian appears to have been an unwritten language, for
information about the Guti, scholars must rely on external sources –
often highly biased texts composed by their enemies. For example,
Sumerian sources generally portray the Guti as an "unhappy", barbarous
and rapacious people from the mountains – apparently the central
Zagros east of
Babylon and north of Elam. The period of the Gutian
Sumer is portrayed as chaotic.
Initially, according to the Sumerian king list, "in
Gutium ... no king
was famous; they were their own kings and ruled thus for three [or
five] years". This may indicate that the Gutian kingship was
rotated between tribes/clans, or within an oligarchical elite.
25th to 23rd centuries BCE
The Guti appear in texts from Old Babylonian copies of inscriptions
Lugal-Anne-Mundu (fl. circa 25th century BCE) of Adab as
among the nations providing his empire tribute. These inscriptions
locate them between
Subartu in the north, and
Elam in the
south. They were a prominent nomadic tribe who lived in the Zagros
mountains in the time of the Akkadian Empire.
Sargon the Great
Sargon the Great (r. circa 2340 – 2284 BCE) also mentions them among
his subject lands, listing them between Lullubi,
Armanum and Akkad to
the north; Nikku and Der to the south. According to one stele,
Naram-Sin of Akkad's army of 360,000 soldiers defeated the Gutian king
Gula'an, despite having 90,000 slain by the Gutians.
Cuthean Legend of Naram-Sin claims
Gutium among the lands
raided by Annubanini of
Lulubum during the reign of Naram-Sin (c.
2254–2218 BCE). Contemporary year-names for
Akkad indicate that in one unknown year of his reign, he captured
Sharlag king of Gutium, while in another year, "the yoke was imposed
Prominence during the early 22nd century BCE
Akkadians went into decline, the Gutians began a campaign,
decades-long of hit-and-run raids against Mesopotamia. Their raids
crippled the economy of Sumer. Travel became unsafe, as did work in
the fields, resulting in famine. The Gutians eventually overran Akkad,
and as the King List tells us, their army also subdued
hegemony of Sumer, in about 2147–2050 BCE. However, it seems that
autonomous rulers soon arose again in a number of city-states, notably
Gudea of Lagash.
The Gutians seem also to have briefly overrun
Elam at around the same
time, towards the close of Kutik-Inshushinak's reign (c. 2100
BCE). On a statue of the Gutian king
Erridupizir at Nippur, an
inscription imitates his Akkadian predecessors, styling him "King of
Gutium, King of the Four Quarters".
The Weidner Chronicle (written c. 500 BCE), portrays the Gutian kings
as uncultured and uncouth:
Naram-Sin destroyed the people of Babylon, so twice
the forces of
Gutium against him.
Marduk gave his kingship to the
Gutian force. The Gutians were unhappy people unaware how to revere
the gods, ignorant of the right cultic practices.
Utu-hengal, the fisherman, caught a fish at the edge of the sea for an
offering. That fish should not be offered to another god until it had
been offered to Marduk, but the Gutians took the boiled fish from his
hand before it was offered, so by his august command,
the Gutian force from the rule of his land and gave it to Utu-hengal.
Decline from the late 22nd century BCE onwards
The Sumerian ruler
Uruk is similarly credited on the
King List with defeating the Gutian ruler Tirigan, and removing the
Guti from the country (ca. 2050 BCE (short)).
Ur-Nammu of Ur had their homeland of Gutium
devastated, though according to one lengthy Sumerian poem, he died in
battle with the Gutians, after having been abandoned by his own army.
A Babylonian text from the early 2nd millennium refers to the Guti as
having a "human face, dogs’ cunning, [and] monkey's build".
Biblical scholars believe that the Guti may be the "Koa" (qôa), named
with the Shoa and Pekod as enemies of Jerusalem in Ezekiel 23:23,
which was probably written in the 6th Century BCE.Qôa also means
"male camel" in Hebrew, and in the context of Ezekiel 23, it may be a
deliberate, insulting distortion of an endonym such as Quti.[citation
According to the historian
Henry Hoyle Howorth
Henry Hoyle Howorth (1901), Assyriologist
Theophilus Pinches (1908), renowned archaeologist Leonard Woolley
(1929) and Assyriologist
Ignace Gelb (1944) the Gutians were pale in
complexion and blonde. This was asserted on the basis of assumed links
to peoples mentioned in the Old Testament. This
identification of the Gutians as fair haired first came to light when
Julius Oppert (1877) published a set of tablets he had discovered
which described Gutian (and Subarian) slaves as namrum or namrûtum,
one of its many meanings being "light colored". This racial
character of the Gutians as blondes or being light skinned was also
claimed up by
Georges Vacher de Lapouge in 1899 and later by historian
Sidney Smith in his Early history of
Ephraim Avigdor Speiser
Ephraim Avigdor Speiser however criticised the translation of namrum
as "light colored". An article was published by Speiser in the Journal
of the American Oriental Society criticizing Gelb's translation and
consequent interpretation. Gelb in response accused Speiser of
circular reasoning. In response Speiser claimed the scholarship
regarding the translation of namrum or namrûtum is unresolved.
Modern scholars do not regard the Gutians as fair-skinned, as the only
evidence is the disputed translation of a word.
Modern connection theories
The historical Guti have been regarded by many scholars as among the
ancestors of the Kurds.
According to some scholars, the term Guti had by late antiquity become
a "catch all" term to describe all tribal, nomadic and mountain
peoples in the Zagros region.
In the late 19th-century, Assyriologist
Julius Oppert sought to
connect the Gutians of remote antiquity with the later Gutones
Ptolemy in 150 AD had known as the "Guti", a tribe of
History of Greater Iran
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Ancient Near East portal
^ ETCSL. The Sumerian King List Archived 2010-08-30 at the Wayback
Machine.. Accessed 19 Dec 2010.
^ ETCSL. The Cursing of Agade Accessed 18 Dec 2010.
^ ETCSL - Sumerian king list
^ a b Van De Mieroop, Marc. "GUTIANS". Encyclopædia Iranica.
Retrieved 29 March 2012.
^ Patton, Laurie L., et al. (2004) The Indo-Aryan Controversy
^ Henning, W.B. (1978). "The first Indo-Europeans in history". In
Ulmen, G.L. Society and History, Essays in Honour of Karl August
Wittfogel. The Hague: Mouton. pp. 215–230.
^ Gamkrelidze, T.V.; Ivanov, V.V. (1989). "Первые
индоевропейцы на арене истории:
прототохары в Передней Азии" [The first
Indo-Europeans in history: the proto-Tocharians in Asia Minor].
Journal of Ancient History (1): 14–39.
^ Gamkrelidze, T.V.; Ivanov, V.V. (2013).
"Индоевропейская прародина и
расселение индоевропейцев: полвека
исследований и обсуждений" [Indo-European
homeland and migrations: half a century of studies and discussions].
Journal of Language Relationship. 9: 109–136.
^ Mallory, J.P.; Mair, Victor H. (2000). The Tarim Mummies. London:
Thames & Hudson. pp. 281–282.
^ Eller, Jack David. Kurdish History and Kurdish Identity.
^ a b ETCSL - The victory of Utu-ḫeĝal
^ Reallexikon der Assyriologie und vorderasiatischen Archäologie By
Erich Ebling, Bruno
^ Year-names for Sharkalisharri
^ Martin Sicker, 2000, The Pre-Islamic Middle East, p. 19,
^ See, for example, J. D. Douglas & Merrill C. Tenney, 2011,
Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary (3rd ed.), HarperCollins, p.
^ "The Early History of Babylonia", Henry H. Howorth, The English
Historical Review, Vol. 16, No. 61 (Jan. 1901), p.32.
^ The Old Testament in the Light of the Historical Records and Legends
Assyria and Babylonia, Theophilus Goldridge Pinches, Kessinger
Publishing, 2005 (reprint), p. 158
^ The Sumerians, Leonard Woolley, Clarendon Press, 1929, p. 5.
Hurrians and Subarians, Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization,
Gelb, 1944, p.88.
^ Gelb, 1944, p. 43
^ Gelb, 1944, p. 88 - further translates a tablet passage as "a light
(-coloured) slave girl who is pleasing to your eye."
^ Der Arier und seine bedeutung für die gemeinschaft, Georges Vacher
de Lapouge, M. Diesterweg, 1939.
^ Early history of Assyria, Vol. 1, 1928, p. 72: "...one notable
physical trait the Subaraeans and Gutians shared. Documents of the
period of the Babylonian
Amorite or First Dynasty mention slaves from
Gutium and Subir (that is, Subartu), and specify that they shall be of
^ Were the ancient Gutians really blond and Indo-Europeans?, JAOS 50
^ Gelb 1944, p.43: "Speiser's...reaction against the normal
interpretation of namrum as 'light (-colored)' was caused by...
Hurrians or Subarians belonged to the Armenoid race,
which according to them could hardly be called light-colored".
Hurrians and Subarians, E. A. Speiser, Journal of the American
Oriental Society, Vol. 68, No. 1 (Jan. - Mar., 1948), p. 12.
^ "How to Get Out of
Iraq with Integrity".
^ "The Middle East: A Reader".
^ "Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Africa and the Middle East".
^ "Peoples of the Near East Without a National Future".
^ "Central Asiatic Journal".
^ "Great Soviet Encyclopedia".
^ "Art and Archaeology".
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