Sunday, August 12, 2007

Enheduana (c 2285 BCE)

Sierra Club

En-hedu-ana, will recite a prayer to you. To you, holy Inana, I shall give free vent to my tears like sweet beer! I shall say to her "Your decision!" Do not be anxious about Acimbabbar. In connection with the purification rites of holy An, Lugal-ane has altered everything of his, and has stripped An of the E-ana. He has not stood in awe of the greatest deity. He has turned that temple, whose attractions were inexhaustible, whose beauty was endless, into a destroyed temple. While he entered before me as if he was a partner, really he approached out of envy. - Nin-me-sharra. The exaltation of Inanna. Oxford University's Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature.


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Enheduana is the first author known to us by name. She was the daughter of the great Akkadian king, Sargon. She helped her father solidify his political power by merging the worship of many local city goddesses into worship of the Sumerian goddess, Inanna, raising Inanna to a superior position over all other deities.

We aren't completely sure of Enheduanna's dates because we aren't sure of her father's dates; Sargon, the ruler of Akkad, a city-state in the north of Mesopotamia, conquered the southern part, Sumer, sometime around 2350 or 2300. He installed his daughter as high-priest of the temple to Nanna, the major temple in Ur, one of the chief cities in the south. We know that she survived her father and continued as high-priest during the reign of one or more of his successors (sons and grandsons). From one of her works, we know that she was temporarily ousted from her position in Ur, perhaps by someone who had usurped power in that city, but that she returned to continue in her position.

Her extant works include a compilation of 42 brief temple hymns and three longer hymns to the Sumerian goddess Inanna (whom Sargon seems to have identified with his Akkadian goddess Ishtar). The three Inanna hymns are Inninsagurra, Ninmesarra, and Inninmehusa (the names are from the first lines of the hymns). All of Enheduanna's known works have been translated into English, as have some attributed fragments.

Hallo (1996) and others have conjectured that the temple hymns were intended to show Sargon's concern for defending the traditional religious belief of conquered Sumer as well as of his own Akkad, and that the three Inanna hymns show Sargon's inevitable triumph (since Inanna/Ishtar was his patron) over enemies in Akkad and Sumer and on the frontiers of his empire. Whatever their political purpose, Enheduanna's hymns remained popular long after Sargon's empire had gone. Today they let us hear a woman's voice from an unfamiliar world. [Adapted from Other Women's Voices]

Books from Alibris: Enheduana

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