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Subject: alt.mythology Sumerian Mythology FAQ, ver. 2.0

This article was archived around: 10 Sep 2000 03:53:52 GMT

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Archive-name: mythology/sumer-faq Posting-Frequency: annually Last-modified: 2000/7/27 Version: 2.0 URL: http://pubpages.unh.edu/~cbsiren/sumer-faq.html
Sumerian Mythology FAQ (Version 2.0) by Christopher Siren, 1992,1994-2000 cbsiren@cisunix.unh.edu http://pubpages.unh.edu/~cbsiren This FAQ is posted after major updates to alt.mythology. The latest edition of this FAQ is maintained at the URL listed above. The latest text only version of this FAQ is availible via anonymous ftp at: rtfm.mit.edu at /pub/usenet/news.answers/mythology/sumer-faq last changes: July 27, 2000: complete revision including incorporating Kramer's _Sumerian Mythology_ and Black & Green's _God's Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia_. Added more complete citations of sources. July 19, 1999: modified first sentance to include hints of civilization prior to and outside of Sumer September 20, 1998: fleshed out the Gilgamesh entry July 3, 1998: added a couple of Lilith references to Renee Rosen's and Alan Humm's sites. August 13, 1997: added much more historical introductory material. March 20, 1996: cleaned up some misleading references to Kur. March 1, 1996: added the reference to Adapa's dictionary. Nov 2, 1995: added some short notes about the primary deities, Ninhursag, and the Dilmun/Eden parallel to clarify some issues. Oct 14, 1995: added brief reviews of the sources and related texts. Adapa (Dan Sullivan) has constructed a more complete Sumerian-English dictionary at: http://home.earthlink.net/~duranki/index1.html#dict John Halloran has a Sumerian Language Page at: http://www.sumerian.org/sumerian.htm I have constructed a rudimentary Sumerian-English, English-Sumerian glossary using Kramer's _The Sumerians_ and Jacobsen's _Treasures of Darkness_. Interested parties may locate it at: http://pubpages.unh.edu/~cbsiren/sumer-dict or send me email for a copy. note: This FAQ is partly based on an anthropology paper which I wrote in 1992, using some of the sources detailed below. Contents: I. History and Overview II. What do we know about Sumerian Cosmology? III. What Deities did they worship? A. The Four Primary Dieties B. The Seven who decreed fate C. The Annuna and others D. The Demigods, mortal Heroes and Monsters IV. What about the Underworld? V. What are "me" anyway? VI. I've heard that there are a lot of Biblical parallels in Sumerian literature. What are they? VII. Source material VIII. Other books of interest. I. History and Overview - Sumer may very well be the first civilization in the world (although long term settlements at Jericho and C,atal Hu:yu:k predate Sumer and examples of writing from Egypt and the Harappa, Indus valley sites _may_ predate those from Sumer). From its beginnings as a collection of farming villages around 5000 BCE, through its conquest by Sargon of Agade around 2370 BCE and its final collapse under the Amorites around 2000 BCE, the Sumerians developed a religion and a society which influenced both their neighbors and their conquerors. Sumerian cuneiform, the earliest written language, was borrowed by the Babylonians, who also took many of their religious beliefs. In fact, traces and parallels of Sumerian myth can be found in Genesis. History Sumer was a collection of city states around the Lower Tigris and Euphrates rivers in what is now southern Iraq. Each of these cities had individual rulers, although as early as the mid-fourth millennium BCE the leader of the dominant city could have been considered the king of the region. The history of Sumer tends to be divided into five periods. They are the Uruk period, which saw the dominance of the city of that same name, the Jemdat Nasr period, the Early Dynastic periods, the Agade period, and the Ur III period - the entire span lasting from 3800 BCE to around 2000 BCE. In addition, there is evidence of the Sumerians in the area both prior to the Uruk period and after the Ur III Dynastic period, but relatively little is known about the former age and the latter time period is most heavily dominated by the Babylonians. The Uruk period, stretched from 3800 BCE to 3200 BCE. It is to this era that the Sumerian King Lists ascribe the reigns of Dumuzi the shepherd, and the other antediluvian kings. After his reign Dumuzi was worshipped as the god of the spring grains. This time saw an enormous growth in urbanization such that Uruk probably had a population around 45,000 at the period's end. It was easily the largest city in the area, although the older cities of Eridu to the south and Kish to the north may have rivaled it. Irrigation improvements as well as a supply of raw materials for craftsmen provided an impetus for this growth. In fact, the city of An and Inanna also seems to have been at the heart of a trade network which stretched from what is now southern Turkey to what is now eastern Iran. In addition people were drawn to the city by the great temples there. The Eanna of Uruk, a collection of temples dedicated to Inanna, was constructed at this time and bore many mosaics and frescoes. These buildings served civic as well as religious purposes, which was fitting as the en, or high priest, served as both the spiritual and temporal leader. The temples were places where craftsmen would practice their trades and where surplus food would be stored and distributed. The Jemdat Nasr period lasted from 3200 BCE to 2900 BCE. It was not particularly remarkable and most adequately described as an extension and slowing down of the Uruk period. This is the period during which the great flood is supposed to have taken place. The Sumerians' account of the flood may have been based on a flooding of the Tigris, Euphrates, or both rivers onto their already marshy country. The Early Dynastic period ran from 2900 BCE to 2370 BCE and it is this period for which we begin to have more reliable written accounts although some of the great kings of this era later evolved mythic tales about them and were deified. Kingship moved about 100 miles upriver and about 50 miles south of modern Bahgdad to the city of Kish. One of the earlier kings in Kish was Etana who "stabilized all the lands" securing the First Dynasty of Kish and establishing rule over Sumer and some of its neighbors. Etana was later believed by the Babylonians to have rode to heaven on the back of a giant Eagle so that he could receive the "plant of birth" from Ishtar (their version of Inanna) and thereby produce an heir. Meanwhile, in the south, the Dynasty of Erech was founded by Meskiaggasher, who, along with his successors, was termed the "son of Utu", the sun-god. Following three other kings, including another Dumuzi, the famous Gilgamesh took the throne of Erech around 2600 BCE and became in volved in a power struggle for the region with the Kish Dynasts and with Mesannepadda, the founder of the Dynasty of Ur. While Gilgamesh became a demi-god, remembered in epic tales, it was Mesannepadda who was eventually victorious in this three-way power struggle, taking the by then traditional title of "King of Kish". Although the dynasties of Kish and Erech fell by the wayside, Ur could not retain a strong hold over all of Sumer. The entire region was weakened by the struggle and individual city-states continued more or less independent rule. The rulers of Lagash declared themselves "Kings of Kish" around 2450 BCE, but failed to seriously control the region, facing several military challenges by the nearby Umma. Lugalzagesi, _ensi_ or priest-king of Umma from around 2360-2335 BCE, razed Lagash, and conquered Sumer, declaring himself "king of Erech and the Land". Unfortunately for him, all of this strife made Sumer ripe for conquest by an outsider and Sargon of Agade seized that opportunity. Sargon united both Sumer and the northern region of Akkad - from which Babylon would arise about four hundred years later - not very far from Kish. Evidence is sketchy, but he may have extended his realm from the Medeterranian Sea to the Indus River. This unity would survive its founder by less than 40 years. He built the city of Agade and established an enormous court there and he had a new temple erected in Nippur. Trade from across his new empire and beyond swelled the city, making it the center of world culture for a brief time. After Sargon's death, however, the empire was fraught with rebellion. Naram-Sin, Sargon's grandson and third successor, quelled the rebellions through a series of military successes, extending his realm. He declared himself 'King of the Four corners of the World' and had himself deified. His divine powers must have failed him as the Guti, a mountain people, razed Agade and deposed Naram-Sin, ending that dynasty. After a few decades, the Guti presence became intolerable for the Sumerian leaders. Utuhegal of Uruk/Erech rallied a coalition army and ousted them. One of his lieutenants, Ur-Nammu, usurped his rule and established the third Ur dynasty around 2112 BCE. He consolidated his control by defeating a rival dynast in Lagash and soon gained control of all of the Sumerian city-states. He established the earliest known recorded law-codes and had constructed the great ziggurat of Ur, a kind of step-pyramid which stood over 60' tall and more than 200' wide. For the next century the Sumerians were extremely prosperous, but their society collapsed around 2000 BCE under the invading Amorites. A couple of city-states maintained their independence for a short while, but soon they and the rest of the Sumerians were absorbed into the rising empire of the Babylonians. (Crawford pp. 1-28; Kramer 1963 pp. 40-72) Culture Seated along the Euphrates River, Sumer had a thriving agriculture and trade industry. Herds of sheep and goats and farms of grains and vegetables were held both by the temples and private citizens. Ships plied up and down the river and throughout the Persian gulf, carrying pottery and various processed goods and bringing back fruits and various raw materials from across the region, including cedars from the Levant. Sumer was one of the first literate civilizations leaving many records of business transactions, and lessons from schools. They had strong armies, which with their chariots and phalanxes held sway over their less civilized neighbors (Kramer 1963, p. 74). Perhaps the most lasting cultural remnants of the Sumerians though, can be found in their religion. Religion The religion of the ancient Sumerians has left its mark on the entire middle east. Not only are its temples and ziggurats scattered about the region, but the literature, cosmogony and rituals influenced their neighbors to such an extent that we can see echoes of Sumer in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition today. From these ancient temples, and to a greater extent, through cuneiform writings of hymns, myths, lamentations, and incantations, archaeologists and mythographers afford the modern reader a glimpse into the religious world of the Sumerians. Each city housed a temple that was the seat of a major god in the Sumerian pantheon, as the gods controlled the powerful forces which often dictated a human's fate. The city leaders had a duty to please the town's patron deity, not only for the good will of that god or goddess, but also for the good will of the other deities in the council of gods. The priesthood initially held this role, and even after secular kings ascended to power, the clergy still held great authority through the interpretation of omens and dreams. Many of the secular kings claimed divine right; Sargon of Agade, for example claimed to have been chosen by Ishtar/Inanna. (Crawford 1991: 21-24) The rectangular central shrine of the temple, known as a 'cella,' had a brick altar or offering table in front of a statue of the temple's deity. The cella was lined on its long ends by many rooms for priests and priestesses. These mud-brick buildings were decorated with cone geometrical mosaics, and the occasional fresco with human and animal figures. These temple complexes eventually evolved into towering ziggurats. (Wolkstein & Kramer 1983: 119) The temple was staffed by priests, priestesses, musicians, singers, castrates and hierodules. Various public rituals, food sacrifices, and libations took place there on a daily basis. There were monthly feasts and annual, New Year celebrations. During the later, the king would be married to Inanna as the resurrected fertility god Dumuzi, whose exploits are dealt with below. When it came to more private matters, a Sumerian remained devout. Although the gods preferred justice and mercy, they had also created evil and misfortune. A Sumerian had little that he could do about it. Judging from Lamentation records, the best one could do in times of duress would be to "plead, lament and wail, tearfully confessing his sins and failings." Their family god or city god might intervene on their behalf, but that would not necessarily happen. After all, man was created as a broken, labor saving, tool for the use of the gods and at the end of everyone's life, lay the underworld, a generally dreary place. (Wolkstein & Kramer 1983: pp.123-124) II. What do we know about Sumerian Cosmology? From verses scattered throughout hymns and myths, one can compile a picture of the universe's (anki) creation according to the Sumerians. The primeval sea (abzu) existed before anything else and within that, the heaven (an) and the earth (ki) were formed. The boundary between heaven and earth was a solid (perhaps tin) vault, and the earth was a flat disk. Within the vault lay the gas-like 'lil', or atmosphere, the brighter portions therein formed the stars, planets, sun, and moon. (Kramer, The Sumerians 1963: pp. 112-113) Each of the four major Sumerian deities is associated with one of these regions. An, god of heaven, may have been the main god of the pantheon prior to 2500 BC., although his importance gradually waned. (Kramer 1963 p. 118) Ki is likely to be the original name of the earth goddess, whose name more often appears as Ninhursag (queen of the mountains), Ninmah (the exalted lady), or Nintu (the lady who gave birth). It seems likely that these two were the progenitors of most of the gods. According to "Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Netherworld", in the first days all needed things were created. Heaven and earth were separated. An took Heaven, Enlil took the earth, Ereshkigal was carried off to the netherworld as a prize, and Enki sailed off after her. III. What Deities did they worship? Nammu Nammu is the Goddess of the watery abyss, the primeval sea. She may be the earliest of deities within Sumerian cosmology as she gave birth to heaven and earth. (Kramer 1961 p. 39) She is elsewhere described both as the mother of all the gods and as the wife of An">An. (Kramer 1961 p. 114) She is Enki">Enki's mother. She prompts him to create servants for the gods and is then directed by him on how, with the help of Nimmah/Ninhursag to create man. (Kramer 1963 p. 150; Kramer 1961 p. 70) A. The Primary Deities - It is notable that the Sumerians themselves may not have grouped these four as a set and that the grouping has been made because of the observations of Sumerologists. An An, god of heaven, may have been the main god of the pantheon prior to 2500 BC., although his importance gradually waned. (Kramer 1963 p. 118) In the early days he carried off heaven, while Enlil">Enlil carried away the earth. (Kramer 1961 p. 37-39) It seems likely that he and Ki/Ninhursag were the progenitors of most of the gods. although in one place Nammu is listed as his wife. (Kramer 1961 p. 114) Among his children and followers were the Anunnaki. (Kramer 1961 p. 53) His primary temple was in Erech. He and Enlil give various gods, goddesses, and kings their earthly regions of influence and their laws. (Kramer 1963 p. 124) Enki seats him at the first seat of the table in Nippur at the feast celebrating his new house in Eridu. (Kramer 1961 p. 63) He hears Inanna's complaint about Mount Ebih (Kur?), but discourages her from attacking it because of its fearsome power. (Kramer 1961 pp. 82-83) After the flood, he and Enlil make Ziusudra immortal and make him live in Dilmun. (Kramer 1961 p. 98) (See also Anu, his Babylonian analog, in the Assyro-Babylonian Mythology FAQ.) Ninhursag (Ki, Ninmah, Nintu) Ki is likely to be the original name of the earth goddess, whose name more often appears as Ninhursag (queen of the mountains), Ninmah (the exalted lady), or Nintu (the lady who gave birth). (Kramer 1963 p. 122) Most often she is considered Enlil's sister, but in some traditions she is his spouse instead. (Jacobsen p.105) She was born, possibly as a unified cosmic mountain with An, from Nammu and shortly thereafter, their union produced Enlil. (Kramer 1961 p. 74) In the early days, as Ki, she was separated from heaven (An) and carried off by Enlil. (Kramer 1961 pp. 37-41) It seems likely that she and An were the progenitors of most of the gods. She later unites with Enlil and with the assistance of Enki they produce the world's plant and animal life. (Kramer 1961 p. 75) "Enki and Ninhursag" In Dilmun, she (as Nintu) bears the goddess Ninsar from Enki, who in turn bears the goddess Ninkur, who in turn bears Uttu, goddess of plants. Uttu bore eight new trees from Enki. When he then ate Uttu's children, Ninhursag cursed him with eight wounds and dissapears. After being persuaded by Enlil to undo her curse, she bore Enki eight new children which undid the wounds of the first ones. (Kramer 1963 pp. 147-149; Kramer 1961 pp. 54-59) Enki seats her (as Nintu) on the big side of the table in Nippur at the feast celebrating his new house in Eridu. (Kramer 1961 p. 63) "Enki and Ninmah" She is the mother goddess and, as Ninmah, assists in the creation of man. Enki, having been propted by Nammu to create servants for the gods, describes how Nammu and Ninmah will help fashion man from clay. Prior to getting to work, she and Enki drink overmuch at a feast. She then shapes six flawed versions of man from the heart of the clay over the Abzu, with Enki declaring their fates. Enki, in turn also creates a flawed man which is unable to eat. Ninmah appears to curse him for the failed effort. (Kramer 1963 pp. 149-151; Kramer 1961 pp. 69-72) (See also Aruru, her Babylonian analog in the Assyro-Babylonian Mythology FAQ) Enlil An and Ki's union produced Enlil (Lord of 'lil'). Enlil was the air-god and leader of the pantheon from at least 2500 BC, when his temple Ekur in Nippur was the spiritual center of Sumer (Kramer 1961 p. 47). In the early days he separated and carried off the earth (Ki) while An carried off heaven. (Kramer 1961 p. 37-41) He assumed most of An's powers. He is glorified as "'the father of the gods, 'the king of heaven and earth,' ' the king of all the lands'". Kramer portrays him as a patriarchal figure, who is both creator and disciplinarian. Enlil causes the dawn, the growth of plants, and bounty (Kramer 1961 p. 42). He also invents agricultural tools such as the plow or pickaxe (Kramer 1961 pp 47-49). Without his blessings, a city would not rise (Kramer 1961 pp. 63, 80) Most often he is considered Ninlil's husband, with Ninhursag as his sister, but some traditions have Ninhursag as his spouse. (Jacobsen p.105) "Enlil and Ninlil" He is also banished to the nether world (kur) for his rape of Ninlil, his intended bride, but returns with the first product of their union, the moon god Sin (also known as Nanna). (Kramer, Sumerians 1963: pp.145-147). Ninlil follows him into exile as his wife. He tells the various underworld guardians to not reveal his whereabouts and instead poses as those guardians himself three times, each time impregnating her again. It appears that at least on one occasion Enlil reveals his true self before they unite. The products of these unions are three underworld deities, including Meslamtaea (aka. Nergal) and Ninazu. Later, when Nanna visits him in Nippur, he bestows Ur to him with a palace and plentiful plantlife. (Kramer 1961 p. 43-49) Enlil is also seen as the father of Ninurta (Kramer 1961 p. 80). "Enki and Eridu" When Enki journeys to Enlil's city Nippur in order for his own city, Eridu to be blessed. He is given bread at Enki's feast and is seated next to An, after which Enlil proclaims that the Anunnaki should praise Enki. (Kramer 1961 pp. 62-63) "The Dispute between Cattle and Grain" Enlil and Enki, at Enki's urging, create farms and fields for the grain goddess Ashnan and the cattle goddess Lahar. This area has places for Lahar to take care of the animals and Ashnan to grow the crops. The two agricultural deities get drunk and begin fighting, so it falls to Enlil and Enki to resolve their conflict - how they do so has not been recovered. (Kramer 1961 pp. 53-54; Kramer 1963 pp. 220-223) "The Dispute between Emesh and Enten" Enlil creates the herdsman deity Enten and the agricultural deity Emesh. He settles a dispute between Emesh and Enten over who should be recognized as 'farmer of the gods', declaring Enten's claim to be stronger. (Kramer 1961 p. 49-51). "Enki and Ninhursag" He helps Enki again when he was cursed by Ninhursag. Enlil and a fox entreat her to return and undo her curse. (Kramer 1961 p. 57) "Enki and the World Order" The "me" were assembled by Enlil in his temple Ekur, and given to Enki to guard and impart to the world, beginning with Eridu, Enki's center of worship. (Kramer 1963 pp. 171-183) "Inanna's Descent to the Nether World" Enlil refuses Ninshubur's appeal on behalf of his [grand-]daughter, Inanna to help rescue her from Ereshkigal in the underworld. (Kramer 1961 pp. 86, 87, 89, 93) "Ziusudra" After the flood, he and An gave Ziusudra eternal life and had him live in Dilmun. (Kramer 1961 p. 98) "Gilgamesh, Enkidu and the Netherworld" When Gilgamesh looses his "pukku" and "mikku" in the nether world, and Enkidu is held fast there by demons, he appeals to Enlil for help. Enlil refuses to assist him. (Kramer 1961 p. 35-36) (See also his Babylonian analog Ellil in the Assyro-Babylonian Mythology FAQ) Enki Enki is the son of Nammu, the primeval sea. Contrary to the translation of his name, Enki is not the lord of the earth, but of the abzu (the watery abyss and also semen) and of wisdom. This contradiction leads Kramer and Maier to postulate that he was once known as En-kur, lord of the underworld, which either contained or was contained in the Abzu. He did struggle with Kur as mentioned in the prelude to "Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Underworld", and presumably was victorious and thereby able to claim the title "Lord of Kur" (the realm). He is a god of water, creation, and fertility. He also holds dominion over the land. He is the keeper of the "me", the divine laws. (Kramer & Maier Myths of Enki 1989: pp. 2-3) "Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Underworld" Enki sails for the Kur, presumably to rescue Ereshkigal after she was given over to Kur. He is assailed by creatures with stones. These creatures may have been an extension of Kur itself. (Wolkstein and Kramer p. 4; Kramer 1961 p. 37-38, 78-79) "Enki and Eridu" Enki raises his city Eridu from the sea, making it very lush. He takes his boat to Nippur to have the city blessed by Enlil. He throws a feast for the gods, giving Enlil, An, and Nintu special attention. After the feast, Enlil proclaims that the Anunnaki should praise Enki. (Kramer 1961; pp. 62-63) "Enki and the World Order" The "me" were assembled by Enlil in Ekur and given to Enki to guard and impart to the world, beginning with Eridu, his center of worship. From there, he guards the "me" and imparts them on the people. He directs the "me" towards Ur and Meluhha and Dilmun, organizing the world with his decrees. (Kramer 1963 pp. 171-183) "The Dispute between Cattle and Grain" Enlil and Enki, at Enki's urging, create farms and fields for the grain goddess Ashnan and the cattle goddess Lahar. This area has places for Lahar to take care of the animals and Ashnan to grow the crops. The two agricultural deities get drunk and begin fighting, so it falls to Enlil and Enki to resolve their conflict - how they do so has not been recovered. (Kramer 1961 pp. 53-54; Kramer 1963 pp. 220-223) "Enki and Ninhursag" He blessed the paradisical land of Dilmun, to have plentiful water and palm trees. He sires the goddess Ninsar upon Ninhursag, then sires Ninkur upon Ninsar, finally siring Uttu, goddess of plants, upon Ninkur. Uttu bore eight new types of trees from Enki. He then consumed these tree-children and was cursed by Ninhursag, with one wound for each plant consumed. Enlil and a fox act on Enki's behalf to call back Ninhursag in order to undo the damage. She joins with Enki again and bears eight new children, one to cure each of the wounds. (Kramer 1963 pp. 147-149; Kramer 1961 pp. 54-59) "Enki and Ninmah: The Creation of Man" The gods complain that they need assistance. At his mother Nammu's prompting, he directs her, along with some constructive criticism from Ninmah (Ninhursag), in the creation of man from the heart of the clay over the Abzu. Several flawed versions were created before the final version was made. (Kramer 1963 pp. 149-151; Kramer 1961 pp. 69-72) "Inanna's Descent to the Nether World" He is friendly to Inanna and rescued her from Kur by sending two sexless beings to negotiate with, and flatter Ereshkigal. They gave her the Food of Life and the Water of Life, which restored her. (Wolkstein and Kramer pp. 62-64) "Inanna and Enki" Later, Inanna comes to Enki and complains at having been given too little power from his decrees. In a different text, she gets Enki drunk and he grants her more powers, arts, crafts, and attributes - a total of ninety-four "me". Inanna parts company with Enki to deliver the "me" to her cult center at Erech. Enki recovers his wits and tries to recover the "me" from her, but she arrives safely in Erech with them. (Kramer & Maier 1989: pp. 38-68) (See also his Babylonian analog, Ea, in the Assyro-Babylonian Mythology FAQ) III B. The Seven Who Decreed Fate In addition to the four primary deities, there were hundreds of others. A group of seven "decreed the fates" - these probably included the first four, as well as Nanna, his son Utu, the sun god and a god of justice, and Nanna's daughter Inanna, goddess of love and war. Nanna (Sin, (Suen), Ashgirbabbar) Nanna is another name for the moon god Sin. He is the product of Enlil's rape of Ninlil. (Kramer, 1963, pp. 146-7.) He travels across the sky in his gufa, (a small, canoe-like boat made of woven twigs and tar), with the stars and planets about him. (Kramer 1961 p. 41) Nanna was the tutelary deity of Ur (Kramer 1963 p. 66), appointed as king of that city by An and Enlil. (Kramer 1963 pp. 83-84) He journeyed to Nippur by boat, stopping at five cities along the way. When he arrived at Nippur, he proffered gifts to Enlil and pleaded with him to ensure that his city of Ur would be blessed, prosperous, and thus, not be flooded. (Kramer 1963 pp. 145-146, Kramer 1961 pp. 47-49) Nanna was married to Ningal and they produced Inanna and Utu. (Wolkstein and Kramer pp. 30-34; Kramer 1961 p. 41) He rests in the Underworld every month, and there decrees the fate of the dead. (Kramer 1963 p. 132, 135, 210) He refuses to send aid to Inanna when she is trapped in the underworld. (Kramer 1963 pp. 153-154) He established Ur-Nammu as his mortal representative, establishing the third Ur dynasty. (Kramer 1963 p. 84) Utu Utu is the son of Nanna and Ningal and the god of the Sun and of Justice. He goes to the underworld at the end of every day setting in the "mountain of the west" and rising in the "mountain of the east". While there decrees the fate of the dead, although he also may lie down to sleep at night. (Kramer 1963 p. 132, 135; Kramer 1961 pp. 41-42) He is usually depicted with fiery rays coming out of his shoulders and upper arms, and carrying a saw knife. (Kramer 1961 p. 40) When Inanna">Inanna's _huluppu_ tree is infested with unwelcome guests, he ignores her appeal for aid. (Wolkstein and Kramer pp. 6-7) He tries to set her up with Dumuzi, the shepherd, but she initially rebuffs him, preferring the farmer. (Wolkstein and Kramer pp. 30-33) He aided Dumuzi in his flight from the galla demons by helping him to transform into different creatures. (Wolkstein and Kramer pp. 72-73, 81) Through Enki's orders, he also brings water up from the earth in order to irrigate Dilmun, the garden paradise, the place where the sun rises. (Kramer 1963 p. 148) He is in charge of the "Land of the Living" and, in sympathy for Gilgamesh, calls off the seven weather heroes who defend that land. (Kramer 1963 pp. 190-193) He opened the "ablal" of the Underworld for the shade of Enkidu, to allow him to escape, at the behest of Enki. (Kramer 1963 p. 133; Kramer 1961 p. 36) (See also his Babylonian analog, Shamash, in the Assyro-Babylonian Mythology FAQ) Inanna Nanna and Ningal's daughter Inanna, goddess of love and war. "Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Underworld" A woman planted the huluppu tree in Inanna's garden, but the Imdugud-bird (Anzu bird?) made a nest for its young there, Lilith (or her predecessor, a lilitu-demon) made a house in its trunk, and a serpent made a home in its roots. Inanna appeals to Utu about her unwelcome guests, but he is unsympathetic. She appeals to Gilgamesh, here her brother, and he is receptive. He tears down the tree and makes it into a throne and bed for her. In return for the favor, Inanna manufactures a "pukku" and "mikku" for him. (Wolkstein and Kramer pp. 5-9) "Gilgamesh and the Bull of Heaven" Later, Inanna seeks out Gilgamesh as her lover. When he spurns her she sends the Bull of Heaven to terrorize his city of Erech. (Kramer 1963 p. 262) "The Courtship of Inanna and Dumuzi" Her older brother Utu tries to set her up with Dumuzi, the shepherd, but she initially rebuffs him, preferring the farmer. He assures her that his parents are as good as hers and she begins to desire him. Her mother, Ningal, further assures her. The two consummate their relationship and with their exercise in fertility, the plants and grains grow as well. After they spend time in the marriage bed, Inanna declares herself as his battle leader and sets his duties as including sitting on the throne and guiding the path of weapons. At Ninshubur's request, she gives him power over the fertility of plants and animals. (Wolkstein and Kramer pp. 30-50) "Inanna's Descent to the Nether World" Inanna also visits Kur, which results in a myth reminiscent of the Greek seasonal story of Persephone. She sets out to witness the funeral rites of her sister-in-law Ereshkigal's husband Gugalanna, the Bull of Heaven. She takes precaution before setting out, by telling her servant Ninshubur to seek assistance from Enlil, Nanna, or Enki at their shrines, should she not return. Inanna knocks on the outer gates of Kur and the gatekeeper, Neti, questions her. He consults with queen Ereshkigal and then allows Inanna to pass through the seven gates of the underworld. After each gate, she is required to remove adornments and articles of clothing, until after the seventh gate, she is naked. The Annuna pass judgment against her and Ereshkigal killed her and hung her on the wall. (Wolkstein & Kramer 1983 pp. 52-60) Inanna is rescued by the intervention of Enki. He creates two sexless creatures that empathize with Ereshkigal's suffering, and thereby gain a gift - Inanna's corpse. They restore her to life with the Bread of Life and the Water of Life, but the Sumerian underworld has a conservation of death law. No one can leave without providing someone to stay in their stead. Inanna is escorted by galla/demons past Ninshubur and members of her family. She doesn't allow them to claim anyone until she sees Dumuzi on his throne in Uruk. They then seize Dumuzi, but he escapes them twice by transforming himself, with the aid of Utu. Eventually he is caught and slain. Inanna spies his sister, Geshtinanna, in mourning and they go to Dumuzi. She allows Dumuzi, the shepherd, to stay in the underworld only six months of the year, while Geshtinanna will stay the other six. (Wolkstein & Kramer pp. 60-89) As with the Greek story of the kidnapping of Persephone, this linked the changing seasons, the emergence of the plants from the ground, with the return of a harvest deity from the nether world. Geshtinanna is also associated with growth, but where her brother rules over the spring harvested grain, she rules over the autumn harvested vines (Wolkstein & Kramer p. 168). "Inanna and Mount Ebih" Inanna complains to An about Mount Ebih (Kur?) demanding that it glorify her and submit lest she attack it. An discourages her from doing so because of its fearsome power. She does so anyway, bringing a storehouse worth of weapons to bear on it. She destroys it. Because she is known as the Destroyer of Kur in certain hymns, Kramer identifys Mt. Ebih with Kur. (Kramer 1961 pp. 82-83) "Inanna and Enki" The "me" (see section V.) were universal decrees of divine authority - the invocations that spread arts, crafts, and civilization. Enki became the keeper of the "me". Inanna comes to Enki and complains at having been given too little power from his decrees. In a different text, she gets Enki drunk and he grants her more powers, arts, crafts, and attributes - a total of ninety-four "me". Inanna parts company with Enki to deliver the "me" to her cult center at Erech. Enki recovers his wits and tries to recover the "me" from her, but she arrives safely in Erech with them. (Kramer & Maier 1989: pp. 38-68) (See also her Babylonian analog, Ishtar, in the Assyro-Babylonian Mythology FAQ) III. C. The Annuna (Anunnaki) and others At the next level were fifty "great gods", possibly the same as the Annuna, although several gods confined to the underworld are specifically designated Annuna, An's children. The Annuna are also said to live in Dulkug or Du-ku, the "holy mound" (Kramer 1963: pp. 122-123, Black and Green p. 72, Kramer 1961, p. 73). In the "Descent of Inanna to the Nether World" the Anunnaki are identified as the seven judges of the nether world. (Kramer 1963 p. 154; Kramer 1961 p. 119) Ereshkigal Ereshkigal is the queen of the underworld, who is either given to Kur in the underworld or given dominion over the underworld in the prelude to "Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Underworld". (Wolkstein and Kramer p. 157-158; Kramer 1961 p. 37-38) She has a palace there with seven gates and is due a visit by those entering Kur. (Kramer 1963 pp. 131, 134) She was married to Gugalanna">Gugalanna, the Bull of Heaven, and is Inanna's older sister. When Inanna trespassed on her domain, Ereshkigal first directs her gatekeeper to open the seven gates a crack and remove her garments. (Wolkstein and Kramer pp. 55-57) Then when Inanna arrives she: ...fastened on Inanna the eye of death. She spoke against her the word of wrath. She uttered against her the cry of guilt She struck her. Inanna was turned into a corpse, ...And was hung from a hook on the wall. (Wolkstein & Kramer 1983 p. 60) Later, when Enki's messengers arrive, she is moaning in pain. When they empathize with her, she grants them a boon. They request Inanna's corpse and she accedes. (Wolkstein & Kramer pp. 64-67) Nergal (Meslamtaea) Nergal is the second son of Enlil and Ninlil. (Kramer 1961 pp. 44-45) He is perhaps the co-ruler of Kur with Ereshkigal where he has a palace and is due reverence by those who visit. He is more prominent in Babylonian literature. He holds Enkidu fast in the underworld after Enkidu broke several taboos while trying to recover Gilgamesh's "pukku" and "mikku". (See also the Babylonian version of Nergal in the Assyro-Babylonian Mythology FAQ) Ninlil Ninlil was the intended bride of Enlil and the daughter of Nunbarshegunu, the old woman of Nippur. Enlil raped her and was then banished to the nether world (kur). She follows him to the nether world, where she gives birth to the moon god Sin (also known as Nanna). They have three more children in the nether world including Meslamtaea/(Nergal) and Ninazu who remain there so that Sin may be allowed to leave. (Kramer, Sumerians 1963: pp.146-7; Kramer 1961 pp. 43-46). In some texts she is Enlil's sister while Ninhursag is his bride. (Jacobsen p.105) Her chief shrine was in the Tummal district of Nippur. (See also the Babylonian version of Ninlil in the Assyro-Babylonian Mythology FAQ) Ningal She is Nanna's wife and the mother of Inanna and Utu. She begs and weeps before An and Enlil for them not to flood her city, Ur. (see also the Babylonian version of Ningal and Nikkal of the Canaanites in their respective FAQ's) Nanshe Nanshe is a goddess of the city of Lagash who takes care of orphans and widows. She also seeks out justice for the poor and casts judgement on New Year's Day. She is supported by Nidaba and her husband, Haia. (Kramer 1963 pp. 124-125) Nidaba The goddess of writing and the patron deity of the "edubba" (palace archives). She is an assistant to Nanshe. (Kramer 1963 pp. 124-125) Ninisinna (Nininsinna) The patron goddess of the city Isin. She is the "hierodule of An" Ninkasi ("The Lady who fills the mouth") She is the goddess of brewing or alcohol, born of "sparkling-fresh water". (Kramer 1963 pp. 111, 206) She is one of the eight healing children born by Ninhursag for Enki She is born in response to Enki's mouth pain and Ninhursag declares that she should be the goddess who "sates the heart". (Kramer 1961 p. 58) (see http://beer.tcm.hut.fi/Misc/SumerianBeer.html ) Ninurta Ninurta is Enlil's son and a warrior deity, the god of the south wind. (Kramer 1963 p. 145; Kramer 1961 p. 80) In "The Feats and Exploits of Ninurta", that deity sets out to destroy the Kur. Kur initially intimidates Ninurta into retreating, but when Ninurta returns with greater resolve, Kur is destroyed. This looses the waters of the Abzu, causing the fields to be flooded with unclean waters. Ninurta dams up the Abzu by piling stones over Kur's corpse. He then drains these waters into the Tigris. (Kramer 1961 pp. 80-82). The identification of Ninurta's antagonist in this passage as Kur appears to be miscast. Black and Green identify his foe as the demon Asag, who was the spawn of An and Ki, and who produced monstrous offspring with Kur. The remainder of the details of this story are the same as in Kramer's account, but with Asag replacing Kur. In other versions, Ninurta is replaced by Adad/Ishkur. (Black & Green pp. 35-36) (See also the Babylonian version of Ninurta in the Assyro-Babylonian Mythology FAQ) Ashnan The kindly maid. Ashnan is a grain goddess, initially living in Dulkug (Du-ku). (Kramer 1961 p. 50) Enlil and Enki, at Enki's urging, create farms and fields for her and for the cattle god Lahar. This area has places for Lahar to take care of the animals and Ashnan to grow the crops. The two agricultural deities get drunk and begin fighting, so it falls to Enlil and Enki to resolve their conflict - how they do so has not been recovered. (Kramer 1961 pp. 53-54) Lahar Lahar is the cattle-goddess, initially living in Duku (Dulkug). Enlil and Enki, at Enki's urging, create farms and fields for him and the grain goddess Ashnan. This area has places for Lahar to take care of the animals and Ashnan to grow the crops. The two agricultural deities get drunk and begin fighting, so it falls to Enlil and Enki to resolve their conflict - how they do so has not been recovered. (Kramer 1961 pp. 53-54; Kramer 1963 pp. 220-223) Emesh Created by Enlil this god is responsible for agriculture. He quarrels with his brother Enten, and makes a claim to be the 'farmer of the gods', bringing his claim to Enlil after Enten. When Enlil judges Enten's claim to be stronger, Emesh relents, brings him gifts, and reconciles. (Kramer 1961 pp. 49-51) Enten He is a farmer god, and is Enlil's field worker and herdsman. He quarrels with his brother Emesh and makes an appeal to Enlil that he deserves to be 'farmer of the gods'. Enlil judges Enten's claim to be the stronger and the two reconcile with Emesh bringing Enten gifts. (Kramer 1961 pp. 42, 49-51) Uttu She is the goddess of weaving and clothing (Kramer 1963 p. 174; Black and Green p. 182) and was previously thought to be the goddess of plants. She is both the child of Enki and Ninkur, and she bears eight new child/trees from Enki. When he then ate Uttu's children, Ninhursag cursed him with eight wounds and disappears. (Kramer 1961 pp. 57-59) Enbilulu The "knower" of rivers. He is the god appointed in charge of the Tigris and Euphrates by Enki. (Kramer 1961 p. 61) Ishkur God appointed to be in charge of the winds by Enki. He is in charge of "the silver lock of the 'heart' of heaven". (Kramer 1961 p. 61) Enkimdu God placed in charge of canals and ditches by Enki. (Kramer 1961 p. 61) Kabta God placed in charge of the pickax and brickmold by Enki. (Kramer 1961 p. 61) Mushdamma God placed in charge of foundations and houses by Enki. (Kramer 1961 p. 61) Sumugan The god of the plain or "king of the mountain", he is the god placed in charge of the plant and animal life on the plain of Sumer by Enki. (Kramer 1961 pp. 61-62; Kramer 1963 p. 220) III. D. Demigods, mortal Heroes, and Monsters Dumuzi (demigod) (Tammuz) A shepherd, he is the son of Enki and Sirtur. (Wolkstein & Kramer p. 34) He is given charge of stables and sheepfolds, filled with milk and fat by Enki. (Kramer 1961 p. 62) He has a palace in Kur, and is due a visit by those entering Kur. He is Inanna's husband. In life, he was the shepherd king of Uruk. "The Courtship of Inanna and Dumuzi" Utu tries to set Inanna up with him but she initially rebuffs him, preferring the farmer. He assures her that his parents are as good as hers and she begins to desire him. The two consummate their relationship and with their exercise in fertility, the plants and grains grow as well. After they spend time in the marriage bed, Inanna declares herself as his battle leader and sets his duties as including sitting on the throne and guiding the path of weapons. At Ninshubur's request, she gives him power over the fertility of plants and animals. (Wolkstein and Kramer pp. 30-50) "Descent of Inanna to the Nether World" Upon her rescue from the dead, he was pursued by galla demons, which he eluded for a time with the aid of Utu. Eventually he was caught and slain; however, he was partially freed from his stay in the underworld by the actions of his sister Geshtinanna. Now he resides there only half of the year, while she lives there the other half year; this represents seasonal change (see Inanna and Geshtinanna). (Wolkstein and Kramer pp. 71-89) (See also his Babylonian analog, Tammuz, in the Assyro-Babylonian Mythology FAQ.) Geshtinanna (demigoddess) She is Dumuzi's sister. After his death, she visited him in the underworld with Inanna, and was allowed to take his place there for six months out of the year. Her time in the underworld and her periodic emergence from it are linked with her new divine authority over the autumn vines and wine. (see also Inanna and Dumuzi) Ziusudra (Ziusura) In the Sumerian version of the flood story, the pious Ziusudra of Shuruppak (Kramer 1963 p. 26), the son of Ubartutu (or of Shuruppak?) (Kramer 1963 p. 224) is informed of the gods decision to destroy mankind by listening to a wall. He weathers the deluge and wind-storms aboard a huge boat. The only surviving detail of the boat is that it had a window. The flood lasts for seven days before Utu appears dispersing the flood waters. After that, Ziusudra makes appropriate sacrifices and protrations to Utu, An and Enlil. He is given eternal life in Dilmun by An and Enlil. (Kramer 1963 pp. 163-164; Kramer 1961 pp. 97-98) Jacobsen reports a more complete version of "The Eridu Genesis" than Kramer or Black and Green which is close to the Babylonian story of Atrahasis. In this account, man had been directed to live in cities by Nintur but as they thrived, the noise irritated Enlil, who thus started the flood. In this account, Enki warns Ziusudra, instructing him to build the boat for his family and for representatives of the animals. The remainder is consistent with the accounts of Kramer and Black and Green. (Jacobsen p. 114) Gilgamesh (demigod) The son, either of a nomad or of the hero-king Lugalbanda and of the goddess Ninsun, Gilgamesh, may have been a historical King of Erech, during the time of the first Ur dynasty. His kingship is mentioned in various places, including the Sumerian King list and he was also an "en", a spiritual head of a temple. He was also the lord of Kulab and by one account, the brother of Inanna. He was "the prince beloved of An", (Kramer p. 260, 188) and "who performs heroic deeds for Inanna" (Kramer 1963 p. 187) "Gilgamesh and Agga" - (Pritchard pp.44-47; Kramer 1963 pp. 187-190) King Agga of Kish sent an ultimatum to Erech. Gilgamesh tried to convince the elders that Erech should sack Kish in response, but the elders wanted to submit. He responded by taking the matter to the men of the city, who agreed to take up arms. Agga laid seige to Erech and Gilgamesh resisted with the help of his servant, Enkidu. He sent a soldier through the gate to Agga. The soldier is captured and tortured with a brief respite while another of Gilgamesh's soldiers climbs over the wall. Gilgamesh himself then climbs the wall and Agga's forces are so taken aback by the sight of them that Agga capitulates. Gilgamesh graciously accepts Agga's surrender, prasing him for returning his city. After this episode, he apparently took Nippur from the son of the founder of the Ur I dynasty. "Gilgamesh and the Land of the Living" (Pritchard pp. 47-50, Kramer 1963 pp. 190-197) Gilgamesh, saddened by the dying he sees in his city, decides to go to the "Land of the Living" says so to Enkidu. At Enkidu's urging, Gilgamesh makes a sacrifice and first speaks to Utu, who is in charge of that land. After he informs Utu of his motives, the god calls off his seven guardian weather heroes. Gilgamesh recruits fifty single men to accompany them and commissions swords and axes. They travel over seven mountains, felling trees along the way eventually finding the "cedar of his heart". After some broken text Gilgamesh is in a deep sleep, presumably after an encounter with Huwawa. Enkidu or one of the others wakes him. They come upon Huwawa and Gilgamesh distracts him with flatery, then puts a nose ring on him and binds his arms. Huwawa grovels to Gilgamesh and Enkidu and Gilgamesh almost releases him. Enkidu argues against it and when Huwawa protests, he decapitates Huwawa. Gilgamesh is angered by Enkidu's rash action. "Gilgamesh, Enkidu and the Netherworld" (Kramer 1963 p.197-205) Inanna appeals to Gilgamesh, here her brother, when her huluppu tree has been occupied and he is receptive. He tears down the tree and makes it into a throne and bed for her. In return for the favor, Inanna manufactures a "pukku" and "mikku" for him. He leaves them out, goes to sleep and can't find them where he left them when he awakens. They had fallen into the underworld. Enkidu asks him what is wrong and Gilgamesh asks him to retrieve them, giving him instructions on how to behave in the underworld. Enkidu enters the "Great Dwelling" through a gate, but he broke several of the underworld taboos of which Gilgamesh warned, including the wearing of clean clothes and sandals, 'good' oil, carrying a weapon or staff, making a noise, or behaving normally towards ones family (Kramer 1963: pp. 132-133). For these violations he was "held fast by 'the outcry of the nether world'". Gilgamesh appeals to Enlil, who refuses to help. Intervention by Enki, rescued the hero - or at least raised his shade for Gilgamesh to speak with. "Gilgamesh and the Bull of Heaven" He rejects Inanna's advances, so she sends the "Bull of Heaven" to ravage Erech in retribution. (Kramer 1963 p. 262) "Death of Gilgamesh" (Pritchard pp. 50-52, Kramer 1963 pp. 130-131) Gilgamesh is fated by Enlil to die but also to be unmatched as a warrior. When he dies, his wife and household servants make offerings (of themselves?) for Gilgamesh to the deities of the underworld. He is given a palace in the nether world and venerated as lesser god of the dead. It is respectful to pay him a visit upon arrival. If he knew you in life or is of your kin he may explain the rules of Kur to you - which he helps to regulate. His son and successor was either Ur-lugal or Urnungal. (see the Babylonian version of Gilgamesh in the Assyro-Babylonian Mythology FAQ) Enkidu Gilgamesh's servant and friend. He assists Gilgamesh in putting back Agga's seige of Erech. He accompanies Gilgamesh and his soldiers on the trip to the "Land of the Living". Probably after an initial encounter with Huwawa, Gilgamesh falls asleep and Enkidu awakens him. They come upon Huwawa and Gilgamesh distracts him with flatery, then puts a nose ring on him and binds his arms. Huwawa grovels to Gilgamesh and Enkidu and Gilgamesh almost releases him. Enkidu argues against it and when Huwawa protests, he decapitates Huwawa. Gilgamesh is angered by Enkidu's rash action. The main body of the Gilgamesh tale includes a trip to the nether-world. Enkidu enters the "Great Dwelling" through a gate, in order to recover Gilgamesh's "pukku" and "mikku", objects of an uncertain nature. He broke several taboos of the underworld, including the wearing of clean clothes and sandals, 'good' oil, carrying a weapon or staff, making a noise, or behaving normally towards ones family (Kramer 1963: pp. 132-133). For these violations he was "held fast by 'the outcry of the nether world'". Intervention by Enki, rescued the hero or at least raised his shade for Gilgamesh to speak with. Kur Kur literally means "mountain", "foreign land", or "land" and came to be identified both with the underworld and, more specifically, the area which either was contained by or contained the Abzu. (Kramer 1961 p. 76) In the prelude to "Gilgamesh, Enkidu and the Underworld, Ereshkigal was carried off into the Kur as it's prize at about the same time as An and Enlil carried off the heaven and the earth. Later in that same passage, Enki also struggled with Kur as and presumably was victorious, thereby able to claim the title "Lord of Kur" (the realm). Kramer suggests that Kur was a dragon-like creature, calling to mind Tiamat and Leviathan. The texts suggests that Enki's struggle may have been with instruments of the land of kur - its stones or its creatures hurling stones. (Kramer 1961 p. 37-38, 78-79) (See also the Babylonian Apsu and Tiamat in the Assyro-Babylonian Mythology FAQ) In "The Feats and Exploits of Ninurta", that deity sets out to destroy the Kur. Kur initially intimidates Ninurta into retreating, but when Ninurta returns with greater resolve, Kur is destroyed. This looses the waters of the Abzu, causing the fields to be flooded with unclean waters. Ninurta dams up the Abzu by piling stones over Kur's corpse. He then drains these waters into the Tigris. (Kramer 1961 pp. 80-82). The identification of Ninurta's antagonist in this passage as Kur appears to be miscast. Black and Green identify his foe as the demon Asag, who was the spawn of An and Ki, and who produced monstrous offspring with Kur. The remainder of the details of this story are the same as in Kramer's account, but with Asag replacing Kur. In other versions, Ninurta is replaced by Adad/Ishkur. (Black & Green pp. 35-36) "Inanna and Mt. Ebih": Inanna is also described in Hymns as a destroyer of Kur. If one, as Kramer does, identifies Kur with Mt. Ebih, then we learn that it has directed fear against the gods, the Anunnaki and the land, sending forth rays of fire against the land. Inanna declares to An that she will attack Mt. Ebih unless it submits. An warns against such an attack, but Inanna procedes anyway and destroys it. (Kramer 1961 pp. 82-83). Gugalanna (Gugal-ana) He is Ereshkigal's husband, and according to Kramer, the Bull of Heaven. (Wolkstein and Kramer p. 55) Black and Green tentatively identify him with Ennugi, god of canals and dikes, rather than the Bull of Heaven. (Black and Green p. 77) After Gilgamesh spurned Inanna, she sends the Bull of Heaven to terrorize Erech. (Kramer 1963 p. 262) Huwawa Guardian of the cedar of the heart in the the "Land of the living", Huwawa has dragon's teeth, a lion's face, a roar like rushing flood water, huge clawed feet and a thick mane. He lived there in a cedar house. He appears to have attacked Gilgamesh, Enkidu and company when they felled that cedar. They then come upon Huwawa and Gilgamesh distracts him with flatery, then puts a nose ring on him and binds his arms. Huwawa grovels to Gilgamesh and Enkidu and Gilgamesh almost releases him. Enkidu argues against it and when Huwawa protests, he decapitates Huwawa. (See also the his Babylonian analog, Humbaba, in the Assyro-Babylonian Mythology FAQ) Gods in Kur with palaces who are due reverence: Namtar - "Fate", the demon responsible for death. Namtar has no hands or feet and does not eat or drink. (Pritchard p. 51) Hubishag Ningishzida - the god of dawn Dimpemekug - due gifts, no palace Neti - the chief gatekeeper the scribe of Kur - due gifts, no palace The Sumerians had many other deities as well, most of which appear to have been minor. IV. What about the Underworld? The underworld of the Sumerians is revealed, to some extent, by a composition about the death and afterlife of the king and warlord Ur-Nammu. After having died on the battlefield, Ur- Nammu arrives below, where he offers sundry gifts and sacrifices to the "seven gods" of the nether world: ...Nergal, [the deified] Gilgamesh, Ereshkigal [the queen of the underworld, who is either given to Kur in the underworld or given dominion over the underworld in the prelude to Gilgamesh (Kramer & Maier 1989: p. 83) (Wolkstein & Kramer 1983: p. 4)] , Dumuzi [the shepherd, Inanna's husband], Namtar, Hubishag, and Ningishzida - each in his own palace; he also presented gifts to Dimpimekug and to the "scribe of the nether- world."... [After arriving at his assigned spot] ...certain of the dead were turned over to him, perhaps to be his attendants, and Gilgamesh, his beloved brother, explained to him the rules and regulations of the nether world. (Kramer 1963: p. 131) Another tablet indicates that the sun, moon, and their respective gods, spent time in the underworld as well. The sun journeyed there after setting, and the moon rested there at the end of the month. Both Utu and Nanna '''decreed the fate' of the dead" while there. (Kramer 1963: p. 132) Dead heroes ate bread, drank, and quenched the dead's thirst with water. The gods of the nether world, the deceased, and his city, were prayed to for the benefit of the dead and his family. The Sumerian version of Gilgamesh includes a trip to the nether world as well. In the prologue, Enki sails for the Kur, presumably to rescue Ereshkigal after she was given over to Kur. He is assailed by creatures with stones. The main body of the tale includes a trip to the nether world as well. Enkidu enters the "Great Dwelling" through a gate, in order to recover Gilgamesh's pukku and mikku, objects of an uncertain nature. He broke several taboos of the underworld, including the wearing of clean clothes and sandals, 'good' oil, carrying a weapon or staff, making a noise, or behaving normally towards ones family (Kramer 1963: pp. 132-133). For these violations he was "held fast by 'the outcry of the nether world'". Intervention by Enki, rescued the hero. When Enlil visits the nether world, he must pass by a gatekeeper, followed by a "man of the river" and a "man of the boat" - all of whom act as guardians. (Kramer 1961 pp. 45-47) Inanna also visits Kur, which results in a myth reminiscent of the Greek seasonal story of Persephone. She sets out to witness the funeral rites of her sister-in-law Ereshkigal's husband Gugalanna, the Bull of Heaven. She takes precaution before setting out, by telling her servant Ninshubur to seek assistance from Enlil, Nanna, or Enki at their shrines, should she not return. Inanna knocks on the outer gates of Kur and the gatekeeper, Neti, questions her. He consults with queen Ereshkigal and then allows Inanna to pass through the seven gates of the underworld. After each gate, she is required to remove adornments and articles of clothing, until after the seventh gate, she is naked. The Annuna pass judgment against her and Ereshkigal slays her and hangs her on the wall (Wolkstein & Kramer 1983 p. 60) Inanna is rescued by the intervention of Enki. He creates two sexless creatures that empathize with Ereshkigal's suffering, and thereby gain a gift - Inanna's corpse. They restore her to life with the Bread of Life and the Water of Life, but the Sumerian underworld has a conservation of death law. No one can leave without providing someone to stay in their stead. Inanna is escorted by galla/demons past Ninshubur and members of her family. She doesn't allow them to claim anyone until she sees Dumuzi on his throne in Uruk. They then seize Dumuzi, but he escapes them twice by transforming himself, with the aid of Utu. Eventually he is caught and slain. Inanna spies his sister, Geshtinanna, in mourning and they go to Dumuzi. She allows Dumuzi, the shepherd, to stay in the underworld only six months of the year, while Geshtinanna will stay the other six. (Wolkstein & Kramer pp. 60-89) As with the Greek story of the kidnapping of Persephone, this linked the changing seasons, the emergence of the plants from the ground, with the return of a harvest deity from the nether world. Although he had always been a shepherd (and possibly a mortal king) he was blessed with the powers of fertility following the consummation of his marriage to Inanna in "The Courtship of Inanna and Dumuzi". As the farmer, let him make the fields fertile, As the shepherd, let him make the sheepfolds multiply, Under his reign let there be vegetation, Under his reign let there be rich grain (Wolkstein & Kramer p. 45) Geshtinanna is also associated with growth, but where her brother rules over the spring harvested grain, she rules over the autumn harvested vines (Wolkstein & Kramer p. 168) V. What are "me" anyway? Another important concept in Sumerian theology, was that of "me". The "me" were universal decrees of divine authority. They are the invocations that spread arts, crafts, and civilization. The "me" were assembled by Enlil in Ekur and given to Enki to guard and impart to the world, beginning with Eridu, his center of worship. From there, he guards the "me" and imparts them on the people. He directs the "me" towards Ur and Meluhha and Dilmun, organizing the world with his decrees. Later, Inanna comes to Enki and complains at having been given too little power from his decrees. In a different text, she gets Enki drunk and he grants her more powers, arts, crafts, and attributes - a total of ninety-four "me". Inanna parts company with Enki to deliver the "me" to her cult center at Erech. Enki recovers his wits and tries to recover the "me" from her, but she arrives safely in Erech with them. (Kramer & Maier 1989: pp. 38-68) VI. I've heard that there are a lot of Biblical parallels in Sumerian literature. What are they? Traces of Sumerian religion survive today and are reflected in writings of the Bible. As late as Ezekiel, there is mention of a Sumerian deity. In Ezekiel 8:14, the prophet sees women of Israel weeping for Tammuz (Dumuzi) during a drought. The bulk of Sumerian parallels can, however be found much earlier, in the book of Genesis. As in Genesis, the Sumerians' world is formed out of the watery abyss and the heavens and earth are divinely separated from one another by a solid dome. The second chapter of Genesis introduces the paradise Eden, a place which is similar to the Sumerian Dilmun, described in the myth of "Enki and Ninhursag". Dilmun is a pure, bright, and holy land - now often identified with Bahrain in the Persian Gulf. It is blessed by Enki to have overflowing, sweet water. Enki fills it with lagoons and palm trees. He impregnates Ninhursag and causes eight new plants to grow from the earth. Eden, "in the East" (Gen. 2:8) has a river which also "rises" or overflows, to form four rivers including the Tigris and Euphrates. It too is lush and has fruit bearing trees. (Gen. 2:9-10) In the second version of the creation of man "The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being." Enki and Ninmah (Ninhursag) use a similar method in creating man. Nammu, queen of the abyss and Enki's mother, bids Enki to "Kneed the 'heart' of the clay that is over the Abzu " and "give it form" (Kramer & Maier p. 33) From there the similarities cease as the two create several malformed humans and then the two deities get into an argument. Returning to Enki and Ninhursag, we find a possible parallel to the creation of Eve. Enki consumed the plants that were Ninhursag's children and so was cursed by Ninhursag, receiving one wound for each plant consumed. Enlil and a fox act on Enki's behalf to call back Ninhursag in order to undo the damage. She joins with him again and bears eight new children, each of whom are the cure to one of his wounds. The one who cures his rib is named Ninti, whose name means the Queen of months, (Kramer & Maier 1989: pp. 28-30) the lady of the rib, or she who makes live. This association carries over to Eve. (Kramer, History Begins at Sumer 1981: pp. 143-144) In Genesis, Eve is fashioned from Adam's rib and her name hawwa is related to the Hebrew word hay or living. (New American Bible p. 7.) The prologue of "Gilgamesh, Enkidu and the Underworld" may contain the predecessor to the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This tree not only contains a crafty serpent, but also Lilith, the legendary first wife of Adam. The huluppu tree is transplanted by Inanna from the banks of the Euphrates to her garden in Uruk, where she finds that: ...a serpent who could not be charmed made its nest in the roots of the tree, The Anzu bird set his young in the branches of the tree, And the dark maid Lilith built her home in the trunk. (Wolkstein and Kramer 1983: p. 8) It should be noted that Kramer's interpretation that this creature is Lilith has come into quiestion of late. See http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~humm/Topics/Lilith/relief_question.html#KRAEMERCRIT Another possible Sumerian carry-over related to the Fall of man is the lack of "pangs of childbearing" for those in Dilmun. In particular, Ninhursag gives birth in nine days, not nine months, and the pass "like good princely cream" (Kramer 1981: p. 142,145) or "fine oil" (Kramer & Maier 1989: p. 25) The quarrels between herder god and farmer deity pairs such as Lahar and Ashnan or Enten and Emesh are similar in some respects to the quarrels of Cain and Abel. In the Sumerian versions death appears to be avoided, although we do not have the complete Lahar and Ashnan story. (Kramer 1961 pp. 49-51, 53-54) The ten patriarchs in Genesis born prior to the flood lived very long lives, most in excess of 900 years. The seventh patriarch, Enoch, lived _only_ 365 years before he "walked with God". (Genesis 5) The eight antediluvian kings of in the Sumerian King List also lived for hundreds of years. (Kramer 1963 p. 328) The clearest Biblical parallel comes from the story of the Flood. In the Sumerian version, the pious Ziusudra is informed of the gods decision to destroy mankind by listening to a wall. He too weathers the deluge aboard a huge boat. Noah's flood lasts a long time, but Ziusudra comes to rest within seven days and not the near year of the Bible. He does not receive a covenant, but is given eternal life. (Kramer 1963 pp. 163-164; Kramer 1961 pp. 97-98) As far as the New Testament goes, many also draw a parallel between Dumuzi and Jesus because Dumuzi is a shepherd and he is resurrected from the dead. This is perhaps appealing to some as Dumuzi's Akkadian analog, Tammuz, appears in the Bible, however Dumuzi's periodic return from the underworld is not unique even in Sumerian literature. His sister, Geshtinanna, also rises from the dead, and if one counts those born as deities, Inanna does as well. Periodic death and rebirth is a common theme in agricultural myths where the return of the deities from the earth mirrors a return to life of plants. VII. Sources Black, Jeremy and Green, Anthony, _Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia: An Illustrated Dictionary_, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1992. This up-to-date and thorough resource on Mesopotamian mythology has great photos and illustrations by Tessa Rickards and very useful entries which often indicate the times and places when variant tales were current. My only complaint is that it is not always clear whether information in an entry is applicable to the Sumerian, Akkadian, or both versions of a particular deity or hero. Crawford, Harriet, _Sumer and the Sumerians_, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1991. (This is a briefer but more up to date archaeological look at the Sumerians than you'll find with Kramer. There isn't much mythic content in this one, but there are many wonderful figures detailing city plans, and the structure of temples and other buildings.) Kramer, Samuel Noah, and Maier, John, _Myths of Enki, the Crafty God_, Oxford University Press, New York,1989. The most recent work that I've been able to find by Kramer. They translate and analyze all of the availible myths which include Enki. I've only seen it availible in hardcover and I haven't seen it in a bookstore yet. Kramer, Samuel Noah, _Sumerian Mythology_, Harper & Brothers, New York, 1961. This slim volume contains much of the mythological material that wound up in _The Sumerians_ but concentrated in one spot and without much cultural or historical detail. Many of the myths are more developed here, some of which are only glossed over in _The Sumerians_, however in some cases _The Sumerians_ holds the more complete or updated myth. Kramer, Samuel Noah _The Sumerians_ The University of Chicago Press, Chicago,1963. This is a more thorough work than Kramer's Section at the end of _Inanna_, but the intervening 20 or so years of additional research and translation allow _Inanna_'s section to be perhaps more complete, regarding mythology. Wolkstein, Diane and Kramer, Samuel Noah, _Inanna: Queen of Heaven and Earth_, Harper & Row, NY, 1983. Ms. Wolkstein's verse translations of the Inanna/Dummuzi cycle of myths are excellent, and Kramer gives a 30 or so page description of Sumerian cosmology and society at the end. _The New American Bible_, Catholic Book Publishing Co., New York, 1970. VIII. Other books of interest Algaze, Guillermo, "The Uruk Expansion", Current Anthropology, Dec. 1989. This article helped with the introduction material. Hooke, S. H. _Middle Eastern Mythology_, Penguin Books, New York, 1963. This work covers Sumerian, Babylonian, Canaanite/Ugaritic, Hittite, and Hebrew mythologic material in brief and with comparisons. Fagan, B. M., _People of the Earth_, Glenview Il, Scott Forsman, 1989. This archaeology text book helped provide some of the introductory material. Jacobsen, Thorkild, _The Treasures of Darkness_, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1976. A good alternative to Kramer, Jacobsen explores Mesopotamian religious development from early Sumerian times through the Babylonian Enuma Elish. Most of the book winds up being on the Sumerians. Kramer, Samuel Noah, _History Begins at Sumer_, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1981. This text runs through a bunch of "firsts" that Kramer attributes to the Sumerians. I only looked at it briefly, but it seemed to contain about the same information as was in _The Sumerians_ only in a "Wow neat!" format instead of something more coherent. Pritchard J. B., _Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament_, Princeton, 1955. I understand that there is a later edition of this work. It seems to be the authoritative source for all complete texts of the Sumerians, Babylonians, Canaanites, Hittites, and perhaps other groups as well. It's pricy but many libraries have a copy. Stephenson, Neal, _Snowcrash_, Bantam Books, New York, 1992. Cyberpunk meets "Inanna, Enki, and the "me"". Wooley, C. Leonard, _Excavations at Ur_, 1954. This is one of the earlier works on the subject, and as such is not as complete as the others although it is of historical interest. See also the Assyro-Babylonian Mythology FAQ.