Who was king? Who was not king?
When the omens were particularly unfavourable it was the custom to spirit the monarch away to safety and temporarily place a commoner on the throne to receive whatever blow fate had in store for the man in the palace. Around 1860 BCE destiny spoke, probably in the form of a lunar eclipse, threatening the Sumerian King Irra-Imitti of Isin. "That the dynasty might not end," explains the later text that Assyriologists cale the Chronicle of Early Kings, the sovereign "made the gardener Enlil-Bani take his place upon the throne and put the royal tiara upon his head." Thus legitimized, the pretend-ruler officiated in the temple rites and performed all other royal duties.
The usual course of events would have been to wait until the danger had passed and then put the temporary monarch to death. But fate was not as blind as she is usually described and seemed to have been perfectly able to distinguish the fake royal from the real: "Irra-Imitti died in his palace after swallowing boiling broth. Enlil-Bani, who was upon the throne, did not relinquish it and so was established as king." Enlil-Bana was remarkably successful, managing to maintain his rule almost a quarter of a century.
But on the whole, this is a terrific book, and I recommend it highly.