Chapter 11: “A Queen Am I”

…The tale of Inanna/Ishtar is a tale of a "self made goddess." Neither one of the Olden Gods, the original group of astronauts from the Twelfth Planet, nor even a firstborn daughter of one of them, she nevertheless propelled herself to the highest ranks and ended up a member of the Pantheon of Twelve. To achieve that she combined her cunning and her beauty with ruthlessness – a goddess of war and a goddess of love, who counted among her loves both gods and men. And it was she of whom there had been a true case of death and resurrection.

…Inasmuch as the death of Dumuzi was brought about by Inanna’s desire to become a queen on Earth, the imprisonment and exile of Marduk did little to satisfy her ambitions. Now, having challenged and prevailed over a major god, she felt she could no longer be deprived of a domain of her own. But where?

…The funeral of Dumuzi, one gathers from such texts as Inanna’s Descent to the Lower World, was held in the Land of Mines in southern Africa. It was the domain of Inanna’s sister Ereshkigal and her spouse Nergal. Enlil and Nannar, even Enki, advised Inanna not to go there; but she made up her mind: "From the Great Above she set her mind toward the Great Below"; and when she arrived at the gate of her sister’s capital city, she said to the gatekeeper: "Tell my elder sister, Ereshkigal." that she had come "to witness the funeral rites."

…The texts do not explain the reasons for the harsh treatment meted out to Inanna, nor quote the "torturing words" her accusers cast at her. But we learn from the beginning of the text that at the same time that she went to her trip, Inanna sent her messenger to "fill heaven with complaints for me." Attending a funeral was thus a mere pretext; what she had in mind was to force the gods to satisfy a complaint that she wished to dramatize.

…The clue to Inanna’s intentions, we believe, can be found in the book of Deuteronomy, the fifth book of Moses, in which the Hebrew code of personal behavior was spelled out. Chapter 25 (verses 5-10) deals with the instance when a married man dies without having had a son. If the man had a brother, the widow could not remarry a stranger: it was the duty of the brother – even a married one – to marry his widowed sister in-law and have children by her; and the firstborn boy was to bear the name of the deceased brother, "so that his name shall not be blotted out."

…The personal and succession problems that Inanna’s intentions would have caused Ereshkigal can well be imagined. Would be Inanna satisfied to be a second wife, or would she connive and scheme to usurp the queenship over the African domain? Obviously Ereshkigal was not willing to take chances. And so it was, we believe, that after harsh words between the sisters, Inanna was hauled before a hastily convened court of "seven Anunnaki who judge," was found in violation of the rules, and was summarily hung on a stake to die a slow death. She survived only because her father-in-law, Enki, on hearing the terrible news, rushed two emissaries to save her. "Upon the corpse they directed that which pulsates and that which radiates"; they administer to her the "water of life" and the "food of life," and "Inanna arose."

…Back in Sumer the revived Inanna, heartbroken and lonely, spent her time on the banks of the Euphrates River, tending a wild-growing tree and voicing her sorrows.

…One who had taken pity on – and a liking to – Inanna was her great-grandfather, Anu. It is known from Sumerian texts that Inanna, who was born on Earth, "went up to Heaven" at least once; it is also known that Anu had visited Earth on several occasions. When and where exactly did Anu embrace Inanna as his Anunitum ("Beloved of Anu") is not clear, but it was more than mere Sumerian gossip when texts hinted that the love between Anu and his great-granddaughter was more than platonic.

…Assured thus of sympathy at the highest level, Inanna raised the issue of a dominion, a "land," to rule over. But where?

…It is our suggestion that in their search for a land for Inanna, the Anunnaki decided to make the Third Region her dominion.

…Although it is generally held that the evidence for the Mesopotamian origins of the Indus civilization and for ongoing contacts between Sumer and the Indus Valley is limited to the few archaeological remains, we believe that there also exists textual evidence attesting to these links. Of particular interest is a long text named by scholars Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta, whose background is the rise to power of Uruk (the biblical Erech) and of Inanna.

…Aratta’s geographical location (the capital of a land situated beyond mountain ranges and beyond Anshan; i.e, beyond southeastern Iran. This is precisely where the Indus Valley lay), and the fact that it is a place renowned for its grain and bean storehouses bear forceful similarities to the Indus civilization. Indeed one must wonder whether Harappa or Arappa is not a present-day echo of the ancient Aratta.

…Enmerkar "who built Uruk" (according to Sumerian King Lists [1]), transforming it from the nominal abode of an absently god (Anu) to a major urban center of a reigning deity. He achieved this by persuading Inanna to choose Erech as her principal seat of power and by aggrandizing for her the Eanna ("House of Anu") temple.

…We read in the ancient texts that at first all Enmerkar demanded of Aratta was that it contribute "precious stones, bronze, lead, slabs of lapis lazuli" to the building of the enlarged temple, as well as "artfully fashioned gold and silver" so that the Holy Mount being raised for Inanna would be worthy of the goddess.

…But no sooner was this done than the heart of Enmerkar grew haughty. A drought had afflicted Aratta and Enmerkar now demanded not only materials but also obedience: "Let Aratta submit to Erech!"

This situation created what S.N. Kramer (History Begins at Sumer) has characterized as "the first war of nerves." Eventually, Aratta regained rain waters and had no need to submit to Erech.

…In spite of the rejoicing in Aratta, its expectation that Inanna would not abandon her abode there was not entirely fulfilled. Enticed by the prospect of residing in a grand temple at Sumer’s City of Anu, she became a commuting goddess: a "working deity" so to speak, in faraway Aratta, but a resident in metropolitan Erech.

…She did the commuting by flying from place to place in her "Boat of Heaven." Her flying about gave rise to many depictions of her as an aeronaut and the inference from some texts is that she did her own piloting. On the other hand, like other major deities, she was assigned a pilot-navigator for the more demanding flights. As the Vedas, which spoke of pilots of the gods (one Pushan, "guided Indra through the speckled clouds" in the "golden ship that travels in the air’s mid-region"), so did the early Sumerian texts refer to the AB.GALs, who ferried the gods across the heavens. Inanna’s pilot navigator, we are told, was Nungal; and he was specifically named in regard to her transfer to the House of Anu in Erech:

At the time when Enmerkar in Uruk ruled,
Nungal, the lion-hearted, was the Pilot
who from the skies brought Ishtar down
to the E-Anna.

…Archaeologists have come upon the remains of a magnificent temple dedicated to Inanna and dating to the early part of the third millennium B.C. – possibly the very temple constructed by Enmerkar. It was uniquely built with decorated high columns and must have been as lavish as the hymns that sang its praises had described:

With lapis-lazuli was adorned,
Decorated with the handiwork of Ninagal.
In the bright place…
the residence of Inanna,
the lyre of Anu they installed.

This "invitation" (Sacred Marriage, together for one night) is featured in the well-known Epic of Gilgamesh [2]. The fifth ruler of Erech, Gilgamesh was also seduced by Inanna, but he did not accept, not even in exchange of promises for a glorious life, although not everlasting. Gilgamesh accused Inanna of having too many lovers, and he would be forgotten too.

…The offended Inanna thereupon received Anu’s permission to launch against Gilgamesh the Bull of Heaven; Gilgamesh was saved from it at the last moment at the gates of Erech.

…The golden era of Erech was not to last forever. Seven other kings followed Gilgamesh on his throne…

…The reigns of the various rulers were getting shorter and shorter as the site of kinship swung back and forth among Sumer’s principal cities…


The ancient Near East

…In the course of no more than 220 years, there were thus three additional dynasties at Kish, three at Erech, two at Ur, and single ones in five other cities. It was, by all appearances, a volatile period; it was also a time of increasing friction between the cities, mostly over water rights and irrigation canals – phenomena that can be explained by drier weather on the one hand and rising populations on the other. In each instance the town that lost out was said to have been "smitten with weapons." Mankind had begun to wage its own wars!

…The resort to arms to settle local disputes was becoming more commonplace. Inscriptions from those days indicate that the harassed populace was competing, through offerings and enhanced worship, for the favors of the gods; the warring city-states increasingly involved their patron-gods in their petty disputes. In one recorded instance Ninurta was involved in determining whether an irrigation ditch encroached on another city’s boundaries. Enlil, too, was forced to order the warring parties to disengage. This constant strife and lack of stability soon reached a point when the gods had had enough. Once before, when the Deluge was coming, Enlil was so disgusted with mankind that he schemed its obliteration by the great flood. Then, in the Tower of Babel incident, he ordered mankind’s dispersion and the confusion of its languages. Now, again, he was growing disgusted.

…The historical background to the events that followed was the final attempt by the gods to reestablish Kish, the original capital, as the center of kingship. For the fourth time they returned kingship to Kish, starting the dynasty with rulers whose names indicate fealty to Sin, Ishtar, and Shamash. Two rulers, however, bore names indicating that they were followers of Ninurta and his spouse – evidence of a revived rivalry between the House of Sin and the House of Ninurta. It resulted in the sitting on the throne of a nonentity – "Nannia, a stone cutter"; he reigned a brief seven years.

Still, conflicts followed between Erech and Kish, and:

…The idea of a strong hand at the helm of human kinship made more and more sense. There was a need for someone uninvolved in all these disputes, someone who would provide firm leadership and once again properly perform the role of the king as sole intermediary between the gods and the people in all matters mundane.

This personality was found by Inanna in one of her flying trips, circa 2400 B.C. He had begun his career as a cup-bearer to the king of Kish. The epithet-name for this first empire-builder was Sharru-Kin ("Righteous Ruler"); modern textbooks call him Sargon I or Sargon the Great. He built himself a brand-new capital not far from Babylon and named it Agade ("United"); we know it as Akkad – a name from which stems the term Akkadian for the first Semitic Language.

…With all that, Erech was still a "provincial" town, lacking the stature of other Sumerian cities, which had the distinction of having been rebuilt on the sites of pre-Diluvial cities. It lacked the status and benefits that stemmed from the possession of the "Divine MEs." Though they are constantly referred to, the nature of the ME is not clear, and scholars translate the term as "divine commandments," "divine powers," or even "mythic virtues." The ME, however are described as physical objects, that one could pick up and carry, or even put on, and which contained secret knowledge or data. Perhaps they were something like our present-day computer chips, on which data, programs, and operational orders have been minutely recorded. On them the essentials of civilization were encoded.

…These MEs were in the possession of Enki, the chief scientist of the Anunnaki. They were released by him to benefit mankind gradually, step by step, and the turn of Erech to attain the heights of civilization had, apparently, not yet come when Inanna became its resident deity. Impatient, Inanna decided to use her feminine charms to improve the situation.

In the book The 12th Planet Mr. Sitchin explains what Inanna did with Enki, in his abode at the Abzu, to obtain the MEs. She was known for her sexual seducing habits, and that is exactly what she did. Enki succumbed to her charms, and beer… and the MEs passed easily to Inanna. When he realized what he had done, it was too late, Inanna had gone back to her abode in her "Boat of Heaven."

…An Exaltation of Inanna, composed to be read responsively by the congregation, echoes the sentiments of the people of Erech:

Lady of the MEs, Queen
Brightly resplendent;
Righteous, clothed in radiance
Beloved of Heaven and Earth;
Hierodule of Anu,
Wearing the great adorations;
For the exalted tiara appropriate,
For the high-priesthood suitable.
The seven MEs she attained,
In her hand she is holding.
Lady of the great MEs,
Of them she is the guardian…

…It was in those days that Inanna was incorporated into the Pantheon of Twelve, and (replacing Ninharsag) was assigned the planet Venus (MUL.DILBAT) as her celestial counterpart and the constellation AB.SIN (Virgo) as her zodiac house; the latter’s depiction has hardly changed from Sumerian times. Expressing her own gratification, Inanna announced for all – gods and men alike – to hear: "A Queen Am I!"

…Hymns acknowledged her new status among the gods and her celestial attributes.

…Turning from her high position among the gods to her worship by the Sumerians (the "Black-Headed People"), the hymns went on…

…The people of Erech had every reason to be thankful to Inanna, for under her deityship, Erech had become an affluent center of Sumerian civilization. In praising her wisdom and valor, the people of Erech failed not also to mention her beauty and attractiveness.

Inanna then instituted the "Sacred Marriage." Involving the priest-king, music, and male prostitute entertainers…

…This habit of Inanna may have begun with Enmerkar himself, a sexual union of which the next ruler of Uruk, a demigod known as "divine Lugalbanda, a Righteous Supervisor," was the progeny.

Continuing with Sargon I:

…A text known as the Legend of Sargon records, in Sargon’s own words, his own personal history:

Sargon, the mighty king of Agade, am I.
My mother was a high priestess, I knew not my father…
My mother, the high priestess, who conceived me,
in secret she bore me.
She set me in a basket of rushes, with bitumen sealed the lid.
She cast me into the river, it did not sink me.
The river bore me up, it carried me to Akki the irrigator.
Akki the irrigator lifted me up when he drew water;
Akki, the irrigator, as his son made me and reared me.
Akki, the irrigator, appointed me as his gardener.

…This Moses-like tale (written more than a thousand years before the time of Moses!) then continuous to answer the obvious question: how could a man of unknown fatherhood, a mere gardener, become a mighty king? Sargon answered the question thus:

While I was a gardener, Ishtar granted me her love,
And for four and fifty years I exercised Kingship;
The black-Headed-People I ruled and governed.

…A text known as the Sargon Chronicle states that "Sharru-Kin, King of Agade, [rose to power] in the era of Ishtar…"

…The enigmatic reference to the "Era of Ishtar" has baffled the scholars; but it can only mean what it says: at that time, for whatever reasons, Inanna/Ishtar was able to have a man of her choice take the throne and create for her an empire: He defeated Uruk and tore down its wall… He was victorious in the battle with the inhabitants of Ur… he defeated the entire territory from Lagash as far as the sea… "There were also the conquests beyond the olden boundaries of Sumer: Mari and Elam are standing in obedience before Sargon."

…Yet, though promoted by Inanna, the elevation of Sargon to kingship over what was henceforth known as Sumer and Akkad could not have taken place without the consent and blessing of Anu and Enlil. A bilingual (Sumerian-Akkadian) text, originally inscribed on a statue of Sargon that was placed before Enlil in his temple in Nippur, stated that Sargon was not only "Commanding Overseer" of Ishtar, but also "anointed priest of Anu" and "great regent of Enlil." It was Enlil, Sargon wrote, who "had given him lordship and kingship."

…Sargon’s records of his conquests describe Inanna as actively present in the battlefields but attribute to Enlil the overall decision regarding the scope of the victories and the extent of the territories…

…It is clear from Sargon’s inscriptions that he was neither given Tilmun (the gods’ own Fourth Region), nor Magan (Egypt), nor Meluhha (Ethiopia) in the Second Region, the domains of Enki’s descendants; with those lands he only conducted peaceful trading relations. In Sumer itself he kept out of the area controlled by Ninurta and from the city claimed by Marduk. But then, "in his old age," Sargon made a mistake.

He took soil away from the foundation of Babylon and built upon the soil another Babylon beside Agade.

…To understand the severity of his deed, we ought to recall the meaning of "Babylon" – Bab-Ili, "Gateway of the Gods." A title and a function claimed for Babylon by a defiant Marduk, it was symbolized by its hallowed soil. Now, encouraged by Inanna and driven by her ambitions, Sargon took away the sacred soil to spread it as a foundation for the new Bab-Ili, audaciously aiming to transfer the title and function to Agade.

…This was an opportunity for Marduk – unheard for so many centuries – to reassert himself:

On account of the sacrilege Sargon committed,
the great lord Marduk became enraged
and destroyed his people by hunger.
From the east to the west he alienated them from Sargon;
and upon him he inflicted as punishment that he could not rest.

…Desperately crushing one revolt after another, Sargon "could not rest"; discredited and afflicted, he died after a reign of fifty four years.


  1. The Sumerian King’s List
  2. The Epic of Gilgamesh

Continue to Chapter 12: Prelude to Disaster


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