Constructing dikes, canals, ziggurats, and other city buildings took large numbers of people. When large numbers of people live and work together, laws are needed to keep order. In large societies, such as the one in Sumer, the making of laws could be done only with a government. A government is an organized system that groups use to make laws and decisions.
Sumer was made up of several independent city-states. A city-state included a city and the farmlands around it. Each city-state had its own leaders and its own government. In early days each government was run by a small group of leaders and a chief leader chosen by that group. Together they made laws and decided what work had to be done.
The city-states of Sumer often waged war on outsiders and on each other to enlarge their farmland or to protect it.
Wars were also fought over the right to use water supplies. In times of danger the group of leaders could not always agree on what to do. To provide stronger leadership, each Sumerian city-state formed a new kind of government. The new government of each city-state was a monarchy, in which one person had complete authority, or right, to rule in peacetime and to lead soldiers in wartime.
Sumerians called the rulers of their city- states "big men," or kings, because the rulers were always men. The Sumerian kings ruled over every part of Sumerian life, including religion, agriculture, and building plans.
The Sumerians believed that their gods selected the rulers. Because of this belief, Sumerian leaders were thought to have great strength and power. Many stories and legends tell about Sumerian leaders.
One of the oldest stories in the world is a story-poem from Sumerian times. It tells the adventures of a Sumerian king, Gilgamesh. The story praises Gilgamesh as "he who knew everything."
What kind of government did Sumerian city-states form to provide stronger leadership?