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Sumerian Mythology

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Author Topic: Sumerian Mythology  (Read 3166 times)
Crissy Herrell
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« Reply #45 on: December 16, 2008, 11:15:09 pm »

(For description, see opposite page.)

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Crissy Herrell
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« Reply #46 on: December 16, 2008, 11:15:47 pm »

p. 51

"O father Enlil, knowledge thou hast given me, I brought the water of abundance,
Farm I made touch farm, I heaped high the granaries,
Like Ashnan, the kindly maid, I caused strength to appear;
Now Emesh, the . . . . the irreverent, who knows not the heart of the fields,
On my first strength, on my first power, is encroaching;
At the palace of the king . . ."

Emesh's version of the quarrel, which begins with several flattering phrases cunningly directed to win Enlil's favor, is brief but as yet unintelligible. Then:

Enlil answers Emesh and Enten:
"The life-producing water of all the lands, Enten is its 'knower,'
As farmer of the gods he has produced everything,
Emesh, my son, how dost thou compare thyself with Eaten, thy brother?"

The exalted word of Enlil whose meaning is profound,
The decision taken, is unalterable, who dares transgress it!

Emesh bent the knees before Enten,
Into his house he brought . . ., the wine of the grape and the date,
Emesh presents Enten with gold, silver, and lapis lazuli,
In brotherhood and friendship, happily, they pour out libations,
Together to act wisely and well they determined.
In the struggle between Emesh and Enten,
Enten, the steadfast farmer of the gods, having proved greater than Emesh,
. . . O father Enlil, praise!

This poem consisting of 108 lines 52 is practically complete, although not a few of the passages still remain obscure and unintelligible. It begins with a long introductory passage which is of prime significance for the Sumerian conception of the creation and organization of the universe. If the following translation of this important passage seems sodden, stilted, and obscure, the reader is asked to remember that although the meanings of most of the Sumerian words and phrases are known, we still have little insight into their overtones, into their connotations and implications.

p. 52

[paragraph continues] For the background and situation which these words and phrases imply and assume, still elude us; and it is this background and situation, part and parcel of the Sumerian mythological and religious pattern and well known to the Sumerian poet and his "reader," which are so vital to a full understanding of the text. It is only with the gradual accumulation of living contexts from Sumerian literature that we may hope to overcome this difficulty; as yet it is best to hew close to the literal word. The introductory passage reads: o

The lord, that which is appropriate verily he caused to appear,
The lord whose decisions are unalterable,
Enlil, who brings up the seed of the land from the earth,
Took care to move away heaven from earth,
Took care to move away earth from heaven.
In order to make grow the creature which came forth,
In the "bond of heaven and earth" (Nippur) he stretched out the . . .

He brought the pickax into existence, the "day" came forth,
He introduced labor, decreed the fate,
Upon the pickax and basket he directs the "power."
Enlil made his pickax exalted,
His pickax of gold, whose head is of lapis lazuli,
The pickax of his house, of . . . silver and gold,
His pickax whose . . . is of lapis lazuli,
Whose tooth is a one-horned ox ascending a large wall.

The lord called up the pickax, decrees its fate,
He set the kindu, the holy crown, upon his head,
The head of man he placed in the mould,
Before Enlil he (man?) covers his land,
Upon his black-headed people he looked steadfastly.
The Anunnaki who stood about him,
He placed it (the pickax?) as a gift in their hands,
They soothe Enlil with prayer,
They give the pickax to the black-headed people to hold.

After Enlil had created the pickax and decreed its exalted fate, the other important deities add to its powers and utility. The poem concludes with a long passage in which the usefulness of the pickax is described in glowing terms; the last lines read:

p. 53

The pickax and the basket build cities,
The steadfast house the pickax builds, the steadfast house the pickax establishes,
The steadfast house it causes to prosper.

The house which rebels against the king,
The house which is not submissive to its king,
The pickax makes it submissive to the king.

Of the bad . . . plants it crushes the head,
Plucks at the roots, tears at the crown,
The pickax spares the . . . plants;
The pickax, its fate decreed by father Enlil,
The pickax is exalted.

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Crissy Herrell
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« Reply #47 on: December 16, 2008, 11:16:25 pm »


The myth 53 involving Lahar, the cattle-god, and his sister Ashnan, the grain-goddess, represents another variation of the Cain-Abel motif in Near East mythology. Labar and Ashnan, according to our myth, were created in the creation chamber of the gods in order that the Annunnaki, the children and followers of the heaven-god An, might have food to eat and clothes to wear. But the Anunnaki were unable to make effective use of the products of these deities; it was to remedy this situation that man was created. All this is told in an introductory passage which, because of its significance for the Sumerian conception of the creation of man, is quoted in full on pages 72-73. The passage following the introduction is another poetic gem; it describes the descent of Lahar and Ashnan from heaven to earth and the cultural benefits which they bestow on mankind:

In those days Enki says to Enlil:
"Father Enlil, Lahar and Ashnan,
They who have been created in the Dulkug,
Let us cause them to descend from the Dulkug."

At the pure word of Enki and Enlil,
Lahar and Ashnan descended from the Dulkug.
For Lahar they (Enlil and Enki) set up the sheepfold,
Plants, herbs, and . . . they present to him; p. 54

For Ashnan they establish a house,
Plow and yoke they present to her.
Lahar standing in his sheepfold,
A shepherd increasing the bounty of the sheepfold is he;
Ashnan standing among the crops,
A maid kindly and bountiful is she.

Abundance of heaven . . . ,
Lahar and Ashnan caused to appear,
In the assembly they brought abundance,
In the land they brought the breath of life,
The decrees of the god they direct,
The contents of the warehouses they multiply,
The storehouses they fill full.

In the house of the poor, hugging the dust,
Entering they bring abundance;
The pair of them, wherever they stand,
Bring heavy increase into the house;
The place where they stand they sate, the place where they sit they supply,
They made good the heart of An and Enlil.

But then Labar and Ashnan drank much wine and so they began to quarrel in the farms and fields. In the arguments which ensued, each deity extolled its achievements and belittled those of its opponent. Finally Enlil and Enki intervened, but the end of the poem which contains their decision is still wanting.

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Crissy Herrell
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« Reply #48 on: December 16, 2008, 11:17:06 pm »


Both for intricacy of story and for simplicity of style, this myth 57 is one of the most remarkable compositions in our entire group. The hero is Enki, the great water-god of the Sumerians, one of the four creating deities of Sumer; his closest Greek counterpart is Poseidon. The place of our story is Dilmun, a district which is perhaps to be identified with eastern shores of the Persian Gulf and which in historical times, therefore, actually lay outside of Sumer proper. Our poem begins with a description of Dilmun as a land of innocence and bliss:

p. 55

The land Dilmun is a pure place, the land Dilmun is a clean place,
The land Dilmun is a clean place, the land Dilmun is a bright place;
He who is all alone laid himself down in Dilmun,
The place, after Enki had laid himself by his wife,
That place is clean, that place is bright;
He who is all alone laid himself down in Dilmun,
The place, after Enki had laid himself by Ninsikil,
That place is clean, that place is bright.

In Dilmun the raven uttered no cries,
The kite uttered not the cry of the kite,
The lion killed not,
The wolf snatched not the lamb,
Unknown was the kid-killing dog,
Unknown was the grain-devouring boar,
The bird on high . . . not its young,
The dove . . . not the head,
The sick-eyed says not "I am sick-eyed,"
The sick-headed says not "I am sick-headed,"
Its (Dilmun's) old woman says not "I am an old woman,"
Its old man says not "I am an old man,"
Its unwashed maid is not . . . in the city,
He who crosses the river utters no . . . ,
The overseer does not . . . ,
The singer utters no wail,
By the side of the city he utters no lament.

What is wanting in this paradise land, however, is sweet water. And so the goddess of Dilmun, Ninsikil, pleads with Enki for fresh water. Enki heeds her plea and orders the sun-god Utu to bring forth fresh water from the earth for Dilmun. As a result:

Her city drinks the water of abundance,
Dilmun drinks the water of abundance,
Her wells of bitter water, behold they are become wells of good water,
Her fields and farms produced crops and grain,
Her city, behold it is become the house of the banks and quays of the land,
Dilmun, behold it is become the house of the banks and quays of the land.

p. 56

Dilmun supplied with water, our poem next describes the birth of Uttu, the goddess of plants, a birth which results from the following rather intricate process. Enki first impregnates the goddess Ninhursag, or, to give her one of her other names, Nintu, the Sumerian goddess who in an earlier day may have been identical with Ki, the mother earth. Follows a period of gestation lasting nine days, the poet being careful to note that each day corresponds to a month in the human period of gestation; of this union is begotten the goddess Ninsar. This interesting passage runs as follows:

Upon Ninhursag he caused to flow the "water of the heart,"
She received the "water of the heart," the water of Enki.
One day being her one month,
Two days being her two months,
Three days being her three months,
Four days being her four months,
Five days (being her five months,)
Six days (being her six months,)
Seven days (being her seven months,)
Eight days (being her eight months,)
Nine days being her nine months, the months of "womanhood,"
Like . . . fat, like . . . fat, like good butter,
Nintu, the mother of the land, like . . . fat, (like . . . fat, like good butter,)
Gave birth to Ninsar.

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Crissy Herrell
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« Reply #49 on: December 16, 2008, 11:17:34 pm »


This is a photograph of a tablet (4561 in the Nippur collection of the University Museum) published by Stephen Langdon more than 25 years ago under the title, "Sumerian Epic of Paradise, the Flood, and Fall of Man." 54 At the time of its publication, Sumerian grammatical and lexicographical studies had made relatively little scientific progress, and the contents of this difficult poem were largely misunderstood. The author's interpretation of the poem is largely the result of a more scientific approach to the linguistic problems, although the publication in 1930 by Henri de Genouillac of a duplicating fragment now in the Louvre u also proved of considerable help. The last 14 lines in the second column contain a passage which may be not inaptly entitled "The Birth of a Goddess"; for the translation and the transliteration, see page 56 and note  56.

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« Reply #50 on: December 16, 2008, 11:18:13 pm »

(For description, see opposite page.)

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« Reply #51 on: December 16, 2008, 11:18:34 pm »

p. 57

Ninsar in turn is impregnated by her father Enki and after nine days of gestation she gives birth to the goddess Ninkur. Ninkur, too, is then impregnated by Enki and so finally is born Uttu, the goddess of plants. To this plant-goddess now appears her great-grandmother Ninhursag, who offers her advice pertinent to her future relationship with Enki. Part of the passage is broken, and much of what is not broken I fail as yet to comprehend. But whatever the advice, Uttu follows it in all detail. As a result she is in turn impregnated by Enki and eight different plants sprout forth. But Enki eats up the plants; thus:

       Enki, in the swampland, in the swampland, lies stretched out,
       He says to his messenger Isimud:
       "What is this (plant), what is this (plant)?"

       His messenger, Isimud, answers him;
       "My king, this is the 'tree-plant'," he says to him.
       He cuts it off for him and he (Enki) eats it.

Enki: "What is this, what is this?"
Isimud: "My king, this is the 'honey-plant'."
       He tears it off for him and he eats it.

And so on until Enki has eaten all the eight plants. Thereupon Ninhursag, who, it will be recalled, is actually responsible for the creation of these plants, curses Enki. 58 The curse reads:

"Until thou art dead, I shall not look upon thee with the 'eye of life'."

Having uttered the curse, Ninhursag disappears. The gods are chagrined; they "sit in the dust." Up speaks the fox to Enlil:

"If I bring Ninhursag before thee, what shall be my reward?"

[paragraph continues] Enlil promises the fox a due reward and the latter succeeds in bringing her back; how he goes about this task is not clear, however, since part of the text is broken and much of the preserved part is as yet unintelligible. And so Ninhursag proceeds to remove the effects of her curse from the rapidly sinking Enki. This she achieves by giving birth

p. 58

to a special deity for each of Enki's pains. This passage which closes our poem runs as follows:

Ninhursag: "My brother, what hurts thee?"
Enki: "My . . . hurts me."
Ninhursag: "To the god Abu I gave birth for thee."

Ninhursag: "My brother, what hurts thee?"
Enki: "My hip hurts me."
Ninhursag: "To the god Nintul I gave birth for thee."

Ninhursag: "My brother, what hurts thee?"
Enki: "My tooth hurts me."
Ninhursag: "To the goddess Ninsutu I gave birth for thee."

Ninhursag: "My brother, what hurts thee?"
Enki: "My mouth hurts me."
Ninhursag: "To the goddess Ninkasi I gave birth for thee."

Ninhursag: "My brother, what hurts thee?"
Enki: "My . . . hurts me."
Ninhursag: "To the god Nazi I gave birth for thee."

Ninhursag: "My brother, what hurts thee?"
Enki: "My side hurts me."
Ninhursag: "To the goddess Dazimua I gave birth for thee."

Ninhursag: "My brother, what hurts thee?"
Enki: "My rib hurts me."
Ninhursag: "To the goddess Ninti I gave birth for thee."

Ninhursag: "My brother, what hurts thee?"
Enki: "My . . . hurts me."
Ninhursag: "To the god Enshagag I gave birth for thee."

Ninhursag: "For the little ones to which I gave birth
Enki: "Let Abu be the king of the plants,
       Let Nintul be the lord of Magan,
       Let Ninsutu marry Ninazu,
       Let Ninkasi be (the goddess who) sates the heart,
       Let Nazi marry Nindar,
       Let Dazimua marry Ningishzida,
       Let Ninti be the queen of the month,
       Let Enshagag be the lord of Dilmun."

       O Father Enki, praise!

And so, as the reader will note, the eight aches and pains which had come upon Enki as punishment for his eating

p. 59

the eight plants, were healed by the eight deities born of Ninhursag for that purpose. Moreover, the superficiality and barren artificiality of the concepts implied in this closing passage of our myth, although not apparent from the English translation, are brought out quite clearly by the Sumerian original. For the fact is that the actual relationship between each of the "healing" deities and the sickness which it is supposed to cure, is verbal and nominal only; this relationship manifests itself in the fact that the name of the deity contains in it part or all of the word signifying the corresponding aching part of Enki's body. In brief, it is only because the name of the deity sounded like the sick body-member that the makers of this myth were induced to associate the two; actually there is no organic relationship between them.

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Crissy Herrell
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« Reply #52 on: December 16, 2008, 11:18:59 pm »


This composition 59 furnishes us with a detailed account of the activities of the water-god Enki, the Sumerian god of wisdom, in organizing the earth and establishing what might be termed law and order upon it. The first part of our poem, approximately one hundred lines, is too fragmentary for a reconstruction of its contents. When the poem becomes intelligible, Enki is decreeing the fate of Sumer:

O Sumer, great land, of the lands of the universe,
Filled with steadfast brightness, the people from sunrise to sunset obedient to the divine decrees,
Thy decrees are exalted decrees, unreachable,
Thy heart is profound, unfathomable,
Thy . . . is like heaven, untouchable.

"The king, begotten, adorns himself with lasting jewel,
The lord, begotten, sets crown on head,
Thy lord is an honored lord; with An, the king, he sits in the shrine of heaven,
Thy king is the great mountain, the father Enlil,
Like . . . the father of all the lands. p. 60

"The Anunnaki, the great gods,
In thy midst have taken up their dwelling place,
In thy large groves they consume (their) food.

"O house of Sumer, may thy stables be many, may thy cows multiply,
May thy sheepfolds be many, may thy sheep be myriad,
May thy . . . stand,
May thy steadfast . . . lift hand to heaven,
May the Anunnaki decree the fates in thy midst."

Enki then goes to Ur, no doubt the capital of Sumer at the time our poem was composed, and decrees its fate:

To Ur he came,
Enki, king of the abyss, decrees the fate:
"O city, well-supplied, washed by much water, firm standing ox,
Shrine of abundance of the land, knees opened, green like the 'mountain,'
Hashur-forest, wide shade. . . . heroic, Thy perfected decrees he has directed,
The great mountain, Enlil, in the universe has uttered thy exalted name;
O thou city whose fates have been decreed by Enki,
O thou shrine Ur, neck to heaven mayest thou rise."

Enki then comes to Meluhha, the "black mountain," perhaps to be identified with the eastern coast of Africa. Remarkably enough, Enki is almost as favorably disposed

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« Reply #53 on: December 16, 2008, 11:19:23 pm »


In the latter half of the third millennium the water-god Enki played a predominant role in Sumerian religion and myth. This plate gives a graphic picture of his activities. The upper design depicts Enki with flowing streams, swimming fishes, and what may be sprouting plants, travelling in a boat along the Eridu marshland. In the second design four deities are approaching the seated Enki; the second carries a plow. The third design depicts Enki sitting in judgment. His messenger, the two-faced Isimud, is followed by a deity carrying a plant; the latter is followed by another deity who carries slung over his shoulder a mace to which the accused bird-man is tied by the feet. The lower design depicts another version of the same scene. Before Enki, seated in judgment, Isimud leads the accused bird-man, who is followed by another deity and a worshipper.

(Reproduced, by permission of the Macmillan Company, from Henri Frankfort, Cylinder Seals, plates XXf, XXIe, and XXXIIId, f.)

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« Reply #54 on: December 16, 2008, 11:19:50 pm »

(For description, see opposite page.)

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« Reply #55 on: December 16, 2008, 11:20:11 pm »

p. 61

to this land as to Sumer itself. He blesses its trees and reeds, its oxen and birds, its silver and gold, its bronze and copper, its human beings. From Meluhha, Enki goes to the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. He fills them with sparkling water and appoints the god Enbilulu, the "knower" of rivers, in charge. Enki then fills the rivers with fishes and makes a deity described as the "son of Kesh" responsible for them. He next turns to the sea (Persian Gulf), sets up its rules, and appoints the goddess Sirara in charge.

Enki now calls to the winds and appoints over them the god Ishkur, who has charge of the "silver lock of the 'heart' of heaven." The plow and yoke, fields and vegetation, are next on the list:

The plow and the yoke he directed,
The great prince Enki caused the . . . ox to . . .
To the pure crops he roared,
In the steadfast field he made grain grow;
The lord, the jewel and ornament of the plain,
The . . . farmer of Enlil,
Enkimdu, him of the canals and ditches,
Enki placed in their charge.

The lord called to the steadfast field, he caused it to produce much grain,
Enki made it bring forth its small and large beans . . . ,
The . . . grains he heaped up for the granary,
Enki added granary to granary,
With Enlil he increases abundance in the land;
Her whose head is . . . . whose face is . . . ,
The lady who . . . . the might of the land, the steadfast support of the black-headed people,
Ashnan, strength of all things,
Enki placed in charge.

Enki now turns to the pickax and the brickmold, and appoints the brick-god Kabta in charge. He then directs the building implement gugun, lays foundations and builds houses, and places them under the charge of Mushdamma, the "great builder of Enlil." He then fills the plain with plant and animal life and places Sumugan, "king of the

p. 62

[paragraph continues] 'mountain'," in control. Finally Enki builds stables and sheepfolds, fills them with milk and fat, and puts them in the care of the shepherd-god Dumuzi. The rest of our text is destroyed and we do not know how the poem ends.

One of the oldest and most venerated cities in Sumer was Eridu, which lies buried to-day under the mound Abu-Shahrain; a thorough excavation of this significant site would in all probability immensely enrich our knowledge of Sumerian culture and civilization, especially in their more spiritual aspects. According to one Sumerian tradition, it was the oldest city in Sumer, the first of the five cities founded before the flood; our myth, on the other hand, implies that the city Nippur preceded it in age. In this city, which in ancient times must have been situated on the Persian Gulf, the water-god Enki, also known as Nudimmud, builds his "sea-house": 60

After the water of creation had been decreed,
After the name hegal (abundance), born in heaven,
Like plant and herb had clothed the land,
The lord of the abyss, the king Enki,
Enki, the lord who decrees the fates,
Built his house of silver and lapis lazuli;
Its silver and lapis lazuli, like sparkling light,
The father fashioned fittingly in the abyss.

The (creatures of) bright countenance and wise, coming forth from the abyss,
Stood all about the lord Nudimmud;
The pure house be built, he adorned it with lapis lazuli,
He ornamented it greatly with gold,
In Eridu he built the house of the water-bank,
Its brickwork, word-uttering, advice-giving,
Its . . . like an ox roaring,
The house of Enki, the oracles uttering.

Follows a long passage in which Isimud, the messenger of Enki, sings the praises of the "sea-house." Then Enki raises the city Eridu from the abyss and makes it float over

p. 63

the water like a lofty mountain. Its green fruit-bearing gardens he fills with birds; fishes, too, be makes abundant. Enki is now ready to proceed by boat to Nippur to obtain Enlil's blessing for his newly-built city and temple. He therefore rises from the abyss:

When Enki rises, the fish . . . rise,
The abyss stands in wonder,
In the sea joy enters,
Fear comes over the deep,
Terror holds the exalted river,
The Euphrates, the South Wind lifts it in waves.

And so Enki seats himself in his boat and first arrives in Eridu itself; here he slaughters many oxen and sheep. He then proceeds to Nippur where immediately upon his arrival he prepares all kinds of drinks for the gods and especially for Enlil. Then:

Enki in the shrine Nippur,
Gives his father Enlil bread to eat,
In the first place he seated An (the heaven-god),
Next to An he seated Enlil,
Nintu he seated at the "big side,"
The Anunnaki seated themselves one after the other.

And so the gods feast and banquet until their hearts become "good" and Enlil is ready to pronounce his blessing:

Enlil says to the Anunnaki:

Enlil says to the Anunnaki:
"Ye great gods who are standing about,
My son has built a house, the king Enki;
Eridu, like a mountain, he has raised up from the earth,
In a good place he has built it.

Eridu, the clean place, where none may enter,
The house built of silver, adorned with lapis lazuli,
The house directed by the seven "lyre-songs," given over to incantation,
With pure songs . . . ,
The abyss, the shrine of the goodness of Enki, befitting the divine decrees,
Eridu, the pure house having been built,
O Enki, praise!"

p. 64

This magnificent myth with its particularly charming story involves Inanna, the queen of heaven, and Enki, the lord of wisdom. Its contents are of profound significance for the study of the history and progress of civilization, since it contains a list of over one hundred divine decrees governing all those cultural achievements which, according to the more or less superficial analysis of the Sumerian scribes and thinkers, made up the warp and woof of Sumerian civilization. As early as 1911 a fragment belonging to this myth and located in the University Museum at Philadelphia was published by David W. Myhrman. 62 Three years later, Arno Poebel published another Philadelphia tablet inscribed with part of the composition; 61 this is a large, well-preserved six-column tablet whose upper left

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« Reply #56 on: December 16, 2008, 11:20:36 pm »


Plate XV is the obverse of a large six-column tablet (15283 in the Nippur collection of the University Museum) published by Poebel in 1914; 61 its upper left corner is broken away. Plate XVI illustrates three fragments belonging to the same poem. The large fragment (13571 in the Nippur collection of the University Museum) was published by Myhrman in 1911. 62 Below the large fragment, on the left, are the obverse and reverse of a small fragment (4151 in the Nippur collection of the Museum of the Ancient Orient) copied by the author in Istanbul and hitherto unpublished. In all probability it is the very comer piece broken away from the Philadelphia tablet illustrated on plate XV. To the right are the obverse and reverse of another small fragment (2724 in the Nippur collection of the Museum of the Ancient Orient) copied by the author in Istanbul and hitherto unpublished. Small as it is, this piece proved instrumental in supplying the motivating link to the story. For the translation and the transliteration of the first eight lines of the passage in which Enki presents the arts of civilization to the goddess Inanna, see page 66 and note  65.

Another significant verse in this passage reads: 66

"O name of my power, O name of my power,
To the bright Inanna, my daughter, I shall present . . .
The arts of woodworking, metalworking, writing, toolmaking, leatherworking. . . . building, basketweaving."
Pure Inanna took them.
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« Reply #57 on: December 16, 2008, 11:21:13 pm »

(For description, see opposite page.)

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« Reply #58 on: December 16, 2008, 11:22:17 pm »

(For description, see page 64.)

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« Reply #59 on: December 16, 2008, 11:22:37 pm »

p. 65

corner was broken off. This broken corner piece I was fortunate enough to discover in 1937, twenty-three years later, in the Museum of the Ancient Orient at Istanbul. 63 As early as 1914, therefore, a large part of the myth had been copied and published. However, no translation was attempted in all these years since the story seemed to make no connected sense; and what could be made out, seemed to lack intelligent motivation. In 1937 I located and copied in Istanbul a small piece 64 which supplied the missing clue, and as a result, this tale of the all too human Sumerian gods can now be told. 67

Inanna, queen of heaven, and tutelary goddess of Erech, is anxious to increase the welfare and prosperity of her city, to make it the center of Sumerian civilization, and thus to exalt her own name and fame. She therefore decides to go to Eridu, the ancient and hoary seat of Sumerian culture where Enki, the Lord of Wisdom, who "knows the very heart of the gods," dwells in his watery abyss, the Abzu. For Enki has under his charge all the divine decrees that are fundamental to civilization. And if she can obtain them, by fair means or foul, and bring them to her beloved city Erech, its glory and her own will indeed be unsurpassed. As she approaches the Abzu of Eridu, Enki, no doubt taken in by her charms, calls his messenger Isimud and thus addresses him:

"Come, my messenger, Isimud, give ear to my instructions,
A word I will say to thee, take my word.
The maid, all alone, has directed her step to the Abzu,
Inanna, all alone, has directed her step to the Abzu,
Have the maid enter the Abzu of Eridu,
Have Inanna enter the Abzu of Eridu,
Give her to eat barley cake with butter,
Pour for her cold water that freshens the heart,
Give her to drink date-wine in the 'face of the lion,'
. . . for her . . . . make for her . . .,
At the pure table, the table of heaven,
Speak to Inanna words of greeting."

Isimud does exactly as bidden by his master, and Inanna and Enki sit down to feast and banquet. After their hearts had become happy with drink, Enki exclaims:

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"O name of My power, O name of my power,
To the pure Inanna, my daughter, I shall present . . ..
Lordship, . . .-ship, godship, the tiara exalted and enduring, the throne of kingship."

Pure Inanna took them.

"O name of my power, O name of my power,
To the pure Inanna, my daughter, I shall present . . . .
The exalted scepter, staffs, the exalted shrine, shepherdship, kingship."

Pure Inanna took them.

He thus presents, several at a time, over one hundred divine decrees which are the basis of the culture pattern of Sumerian civilization. And when it is realized that this myth was inscribed as early as 2000 B. C. and that the concepts involved were no doubt current centuries earlier, it is no exaggeration to state that no other civilization, outside of the Egyptian, can at all compare in age and quality with that developed by the Sumerians. Among these divine decrees presented by Enki to Inanna are those referring to lordship, godship, the exalted and enduring crown, the throne of kingship, the exalted scepter, the exalted shrine, shepherdship, kingship, the numerous priestly offices, truth, descent into the nether world and ascent from it, the "standard," the flood, sexual intercourse and prostitution, the legal tongue and the libellous tongue, art, the holy cult chambers, the "hierodule of heaven," music, eldership, heroship and power, enmity, straightforwardness, the destruction of cities and lamentation, rejoicing of the heart, falsehood, the rebel land, goodness and justice, the craft of the carpenter, metal worker, scribe, smith, leather worker, mason, and basket weaver, wisdom and understanding, purification, fear and outcry, the kindling flame and the consuming flame, weariness, the shout of victory, counsel, the troubled heart, judgment and decision, exuberance, musical instruments.

Inanna is only too happy to accept the gifts offered her by the drunken Enki. She takes them, loads them on her "boat of heaven," and makes off for Erech with her precious cargo. But after the effects of the banquet had worn

p. 67

off, Enki noticed that the divine decrees were gone from their usual place. He turns to Isimud and the latter informs him that he, Enki himself, had presented them to his daughter Inanna. The upset Enki greatly rues his munificence and decides to prevent the "boat of heaven" from reaching Erech at all costs. He therefore dispatches his messenger Isimud together with a group of sea monsters to follow Inanna and her boat to the first of the seven stopping stations that are situated between the Abzu of Eridu and Erech. Here the sea monsters are to seize the "boat of heaven" from Inanna; Inanna, herself, however, must be permitted to continue her journey to Erech afoot. The passage covering Enki's instructions to Isimud and Isimud's conversation with Inanna, who reproaches her father Enki as an "Indian-giver," will undoubtedly go down as a classic poetic gem. It runs as follows:

The prince calls his messenger Isimud,

The prince calls his messenger Isimud,
Enki gives the word to the "good name of heaven":
"Oh my messenger Isimud, 'my good name of heaven'."

"Oh my king Enki, here I stand, forever is praise."

"The 'boat of heaven,' where now has it arrived?"

"At the quay Idal it has arrived."

"Go, and let the sea monsters seize it from her."

Isimud does as bidden, overtakes the "boat of heaven," and says to Inanna:

"Oh my queen, thy father has sent me to thee,
Oh Inanna, thy father has sent me to thee,
Thy father, exalted is his speech,
Enki, exalted is his utterance,
His great words are not to go unheeded."

Holy Inanna answers him:
"My father, what has he spoken to thee, what has he said to thee?
His great words that are not to go unheeded, what pray are they?"

"My king has spoken to me,
Enki has said to me:
'Let Inanna go to Erech,
But thou, bring me back the "boat of heaven" to Eridu'." p. 68

Holy Inanna says to the messenger Isimud:
"My father, why pray has he changed his word to me,
Why has he broken his righteous word to me,
Why has he defiled his great words to me?
My father has spoken to me falsehood, has spoken to me falsehood,
Falsely has he uttered the name of his power, the name of the Abzu."

Barely had she uttered these words,
The sea monsters seized the "boat of heaven."
Inanna says to her messenger Ninshubur:
"Come, my true messenger of Eanna,
My messenger of favorable words,
My carrier of true words,
Whose hand never falters, whose foot never falters,
Save the 'boat of heaven,' and Inanna's presented decrees."

This Ninshubur does. But Enki is persistent. He sends Isimud accompanied by various sea monsters to seize the "boat of heaven" at each of the seven stopping points between Eridu and Erech. And each time Ninshubur comes to Inanna's rescue. Finally Inanna and her boat arrive safe and sound at Erech, where amidst jubilation and feasting on the part of its delighted inhabitants, she unloads the divine decrees one at a time. The poem ends with a speech addressed by Enki to Inanna, but the text is seriously damaged and it is not clear whether it is reconciliatory or retaliatory in character.

The composition narrating the creation of man has been found inscribed on two duplicating tablets: one is a Nippur tablet in our University Museum; the other is in the Louvre, which acquired it from an antique dealer. In spite of the fact that by 1934 the Louvre tablet and the greater part of the University Museum tablet had already been copied and published, 72 the contents remained unintelligible. Primarily responsible for this unfortunate situation is the fact that our University Museum tablet, which is better preserved than the Louvre fragment, arrived in Philadelphia

p. 69

some four or five decades ago, broken into four parts. By 1919 two of the pieces had already been recognized and joined; these were copied and published by Stephen Langdon. 68 In 1934 Edward Chiera published the third piece 69 but failed to recognize that it joined the two pieces published by Langdon in 1919. It was the discovery of this fact, together with the identifying of the fourth and still unpublished piece 70 which joins the three published pieces, that enabled me to arrange the contents in the proper order. It should be emphasized here that the approximately one hundred and fifty lines which make up the text of our poem still present numerous crucial breaks; many of the lines are poorly preserved. 73 Moreover, the linguistic difficulties in this composition are particularly burdensome; not a few of the crucial words are met here for the first time in Sumerian literature. The translation is therefore full of gaps and its tentative character must be underlined. Nevertheless it does present the fullest picture thus far available of the concepts concerned with the creation of man as current in Sumer during the third millennium B. C.

Among the oldest known conceptions of the creation of man are those of the Hebrews and the Babylonians; the former is narrated in the book of Genesis, the latter forms part of the Babylonian "Epic of Creation." According to the Biblical story, or at least according to one of its versions, man was fashioned from clay for the purpose of ruling over all the animals. In the Babylonian myth, man was made of the blood of one of the more troublesome of the gods who was killed for that purpose; he was created primarily in order to serve the gods and free them from the need of working for their bread. According to our Sumerian poem, which antedates both the Hebrew and the Babylonian versions by more than a millennium, man was fashioned of clay as in the Biblical version. The purpose for which he was created, however, was to free the gods from laboring for their sustenance, as in the Babylonian version.

The poem begins with what may be a description of the difficulties of the gods in procuring their bread, especially,

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as might have been expected, after the female deities had come into being. The gods complain, but Enki, the water-god, who, as the Sumerian god of wisdom, might have been expected to come to their aid, is lying asleep in the deep and fails to hear them. Thereupon his mother, the primeval sea, "the mother who gave birth to all the gods," brings the tears of the gods before Enki, saying:

"O my son, rise from thy bed, from thy . . . work what is wise,
Fashion servants of the gods, may they produce their . . ,"

Enki gives the matter thought, leads forth 'the host of "good and princely fashioners" and says to his mother, Nammu, the primeval sea:

O my mother, the creature whose name thou hoist uttered, it exists,
       Bind upon it the . . . of the gods;
Mix the heart of the clay that is over the abyss,
The good and princely fashioners will thicken the clay,
       Thou, do thou bring the limbs into existence;
Ninmah (the earth-mother goddess) will work above thee,
. . . (goddesses of birth) will stand by thee at thy fashioning;
O my mother, decree thou its (the new-born's) fate,
       Ninmah will bind upon it the . . . of the gods,
. . . as man . . .

After a break of several lines, whose contents, if ever recovered, should prove most illuminating, the poem describes

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