Tag Archives: Sumer

Inanna’s Descent to the Lower World

Descent of the Goddess Ishtar into the Lower World
[From The Civilization of Babylonia and Assyria, M. Jastrow, 1915]

Inanna, wearing a multi-horned crown stands with her head in the realm of the deities and their devotees. Her bird-clawed feet rest in the underworld, inhabited by strange and demonic creatures. Mesopotamian cylinder seal, 2000-1600 B.C.

Inanna, wearing a multi-horned crown stands with her head in the realm of the deities and their devotees. Her bird-clawed feet rest in the underworld, inhabited by strange and demonic creatures. Mesopotamian cylinder seal, 2000-1600 B.C.

The Sumerian poem, The Descent of Inanna (c. 1900-1600 BCE) chronicles the great goddess and Queen of Heaven Inanna’s journey from heaven, to earth, to the underworld to visit her recently widowed sister Ereshkigal, Queen of the Dead.

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The Curse of Agade

Old Babylonian version

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“Curse upon Agade”, a text recounting the ruin of the capital, cursed by the gods when king Naram-Sin destroyed the temple of Enlil in Nippur. (Louvre, Paris, France Photo: Erich Lessing)

1-9 After Enlil’s frown had slain Kic as if it were the Bull of Heaven, had slaughtered the house of the land of Unug in the dust as if it were a mighty bull, and then Enlil had given the rulership and kingship from the south as far as the highlands to Sargon, king of Agade — at that time, holy Inana established the sanctuary of Agade as her celebrated woman’s domain; she set up her throne in Ulmac.

10-24 Like a young man building a house for the first time, like a girl establishing a woman’s domain, holy Inana did not sleep as she ensured that the warehouses would be provisioned; that dwellings would be founded in the city; that its people would eat splendid food; that its people would drink splendid beverages; that those bathed for holidays would rejoice in the courtyards; that the people would throng the places of celebration; that acquaintances would dine together; that foreigners would cruise about like unusual birds in the sky; that even Marhaci would be re-entered on the tribute rolls; that monkeys, mighty elephants, water buffalo, exotic animals, as well as thoroughbred dogs, lions, mountain ibexes (some mss. have instead: mountain beasts (?)) (some mss. have instead: horses), and alum sheep with long wool would jostle each other in the public squares.

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The Myth of Adapa

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Adapa brought before Anu

The Myth of Adapa (also known as Adapa and the Food of Life) is the Mesopotamian story of the Fall of Man in that it explains why human beings are mortal. The god of wisdom, Ea, creates the first man, Adapa, and endows him with great intelligence and wisdom but not with immortality, and when immortality is offered Adapa by the great god Anu, Ea tricks Adapa into refusing the gift.

Though it is not expressed directly in the myth, Ea’s reasoning in this seems similar to Yahweh’s in the Genesis story from the Bible where, after Adam and Eve are cursed for eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, Yahweh casts them out before they can also eat of the Tree of Life:

“Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever; Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden”(Genesis 3:22-23)

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Atrahasis: Mesopotamian account of the Great Flood

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The Epic of Atrahasis on a tablet from the British Museum, London (Britain). © British Museum

The Epic of Atrahasis is the fullest Mesopotamian account of the Great Flood, but it offers more.

The text is known from several versions: two were written by Assyrian scribes (one in the Assyrian, one in the Babylonian dialect), a third one (on three tablets) was written during the reign of king Ammi-saduqa of Babylonia (1647-1626 BCE). Parts are quoted in Tablet XI of the Epic of Gilgamesh; other influences are in the Babylonian History by Berossus.

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The Atrahasis Epic

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The Epic of Atrahasis on a tablet from the British Museum, London (Britain). © British Museum

The Atrahasis Epic, named after its human hero, is a story from Mesopotamia that includes both a creation and a flood account. It was composed as early as the nineteenth century B.C.E. In its cosmology, heaven is ruled by the god Anu, earth by Enlil, and the freshwater ocean by Enki. Enlil set the lesser gods to work farming the land and maintaining the irrigation canals. After forty years they refused to work any longer. Enki, also the wise counselor to the gods, proposed that humans be created to assume the work. The goddess Mami made humans by shaping clay mixed with saliva and the blood of the under-god We, who was slain for this purpose.

The human population worked and grew, but so did the noise they made. Because it disturbed Enlil’s sleep, he decided to destroy the human race. First he sent a plague, then a famine followed by a drought, and lastly a flood. Each time Enki forewarned Atrahasis, enabling him to survive the disaster. He gave Atrahasis seven days warning of the flood and told him to build a boat. Atrahasis loaded it with animals and birds and his own possessions. Though the rest of humanity perished, he survived. When the gods realized they had destroyed the labor force that had produced food for their offerings they regretted their actions. The story breaks off at this point, so we learn nothing of the boat’s landing or the later Atrahasis.

The account has similarities to the Primeval History, including the creation of humans out of clay (see Genesis 2:7), a flood, and boat-building hero. For the text of the Atrahasis Epic see Pritchard (1969: 104-106). For a detailed study see W. G. Lambert and A. R. Millard, Atrahasis (Oxford: Clarendon Lambert, 1969).


Atrahasis & Human Creation
When the Gods did the work they grew weary and decided to create human beings.

This later Akkadian version of the flood story and the creation of humanity and fits between the Sumerian version and the Babylonian version in the Epic of Gilgamesh. The following excerpt is taken from Myths From Mesopotamia: Gilgamesh, The Flood, and Others, translated by Stephanie Dalley. It is related here for educational purposes only.

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Zecharia Sitchin’s Last Wish

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Sitchin died hoping the DNA of queen Puabi could prove his theories right.

“Maybe by comparing her genome with ours, we would find out what are those missing genes that they deliberately did not give us. Maybe. I cannot guarantee that, but maybe.”

This is one of the last statements made by Dr. Zecharia Sitchin (1920-2010), one of the best known researchers of the Sumerian clay tablets. Dr. Sitchin devoted over 30 years of his life to studying these tablets, and developed the theory about the Anunnaki and planet Nibiru. According to this theory, an alien race called the “Anunnaki” arrived to the Earth more than 5000 years ago and created humans through a genetic experiment.

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