Chapter 12: Prelude to Disaster

…The information concerning the last years of the Era of Ishtar comes to us from a number of texts. Put together, they unfold a tale of dramatic and incredible events:

  • the usurpation of supreme powers on Earth by a goddess.
  • the defilement of Enlil’s Holy of Holies in Nippur.
  • the penetration of the Fourth Region by a human army.
  • an invasion of Egypt.
  • the appearance of African gods in the Asian domains.
  • acts and occurrences that were unthinkable before.
  • upheavals among the gods, which served as a stage on which human rulers played out their roles and human blood was spilled without mercy.

…Faced with the reemergence of her olden adversary, Inanna could simply not give up, no matter what the cost. Seating on Sargon’s throne first one of his sons and then another, enlisting in her campaigns her vassal kings in the eastern mountainlands, she fought as an enraged lioness for her disintegrating empire, "raining flame over the land… attacking like an aggressive storm."

…For more than two years Inanna wrought havoc all around, until the gods decided that the only way to stop the carnage was to force Marduk back into exile… Unable or unwilling to remove Marduk by force, the Anunnaki turned to Marduk’s brother Nergal and asked him to "scare Marduk off the divine seat" in Babylon.

…Having accepted the mission, Nergal/Erra journeyed to Mesopotamia for a face-to-face talk with Marduk.

…Combining praise with reprimand, Erra told Marduk that the wonderful things he had done for Babylon, and especially its waterworks, made Marduk’s reputation "shine as a star in the heavens," but have deprived other cities of their waters. More over, while crowning himself in Babylon, "lights up its sacred precinct," it angered the other gods; "the abode of Anu with darkness it covers." Marduk, he concluded, could not go against the will of the other Anunnaki and certainly not against the will of Anu.

…But Marduk, citing changes that were made on Earth in the aftermath of the Deluge, explained that he had to take matters into his own hands.

…Among the post-Diluvian disorders that bothered Marduk were some failures on the part of Erra himself to account for certain divine artifacts –

  • the instrument of giving orders
  • the Oracle of the Gods
  • the sign of kingship
  • the Holy Scepter which contributes brilliance to Lordship…
  • "Where is the Holy Radiating Stone which disintegrates all?"

…Marduk asked. If he were forced to leave, Marduk said, "on the day I step off my seat, the flooding shall from its well cease to work… the waters shall not rise… the bright day to darkness [shall turn]… confusion shall arise… the winds of draught shall howl… sicknesses shall spread."

…After some more exchanges Erra offered to return to Marduk "the artifacts of Heaven and Earth" if Marduk would personally go to the Lower World to pick them up; and as to the "works" in Babylon, he assured Marduk there was nothing to worry about: he (Erra) would enter Marduk’s House only "to erect the Bulls of Anu and Enlil at thy gate" – statues of Winged Bulls as were actually found at temple sites – but would do nothing to upset the waterworks.


Winged Bulls were erected in later Temples, as these from the Temple of Xerxes in Persepolis.


…Thus persuaded, Marduk agreed to leave Babylon. But no sooner he had done that than Nergal broke his word. Unable to resist his curiosity, Nergal/Erra ventured into the Gigunu, the mysterious underground chamber which Marduk had stressed was off limits; and there Erra caused its "Brilliance" (radiating source of energy) to be removed. Thereupon, as Marduk was warned, "the day turned into darkness," the "flooding was disarrayed," and soon "the lands were laid to waste, the people were made to perish."

…All of Mesopotamia was affected, for Ea/Enki, Sin and Shamash, in their cities, became alarmed; "with anger [at Erra] they were filled." The people made sacrifices to Anu and Ishtar but to no avail: "the water sources went dry. Ea, Erra’s father, reproached him: "Now that Prince Marduk had stepped off, what have you done?" He ordered that a statue of Erra, which had been prepared, should not be set up in the Esagil. "Go away!" he ordered Erra. "Take off to where no gods ever go!"

…The departure of Marduk from Babylon brought to an end Ishtar’s conflict with him; the rift between Marduk and Nergal and the latter’s retention of an Asian presence unintentionally created an alliance between Ishtar and Nergal. The chain of tragic events which no one could have predicted and that no one had perhaps even desired was thus being forged by fate, leading the Anunnaki and Mankind ever closer to the ultimate disaster…

…Two sets of events, one dealing with the goddess and the other with her surrogate, the king Naram-Sin (grandson of Sargon) record the events of those times. Both indicate that the first out-of- bounds target of Inanna was the Landing Place in the Cedar Mountain. As a Flying Goddess Inanna was quite familiar with the place; she "burnt down the great gates" of the mountain and, after a brief siege obtained the surrender of the troops guarding it: "they disbanded themselves willingly."

…As recorded in the Naram-Sin Inscriptions, Inanna then turned south along the Mediterranean coast, subduing city after city. The conquest of Jerusalem – Mission Control Center – is not specifically mentioned , but Inanna must have been there, too, for it is recorded that she had gone on to capture Jericho. Lying astride the strategic Jordan River crossing and opposite the Anunnaki stronghold at Tell Ghassul, Jericho – the city dedicated to Sin – had also rebelled: "It said not ‘It belongs to your father who begot you,’ it had promised its solemn word, but turned away from it." The Old Testament is filled with admonitions against "straying after alien gods"; the Sumerian text conveys the same transgression: The people of Jericho having given a solemn promise to worship Sin, Inanna’s father, has switched allegiance to another, alien, god. The surrender of this "city of date-palms" to an armed Inanna was depicted on a cylinder seal.

…Since time immemorial, a trade route between Asia and Africa had wound its way along the peninsula’s Mediterranean coast – a route later on enhanced by the Egyptians with watering stations and by the Romans as their vital Via Maris. Ancient users of this route thus kept well away from the central plain where the Spaceport was located. But whether Naram-Sin, at the head of an army, just marched through along the coastal route is questionable. Alabaster vases of Egyptian design, which have been found by archaeologists in Mesopotamia and Elam, identified their owner (in Akkadian) as "Naram-Sin, King of the Four Regions; vase of the shining Crown of the land Magan." that Naram-Sin began to call himself "King of the Four Regions" affirms not only the conquest of Egypt but also suggest the inclusion of the Sinai peninsula in his sphere of influence. Inanna, it appears, was more than "just passing through."

…How could Inanna, with apparent immunity, intrude in the Sinai peninsula and invade Egypt unopposed by the gods of Egypt?

…The answer lies in an aspect of the Naram-Sin inscriptions that has baffled the scholars: the apparent veneration by this Mesopotamian ruler of the African god Nergal.

…This puzzling emergence of Nergal as an influential Asian deity, and the audacious march of Inanna’s surrogate Naram-Sin to Egypt – all violations of the status quo of the Four Regions established after the Pyramid Wars – have one explanation: while Marduk had shifted his attention to Babylon, Nergal assumed a preeminent role in Egypt. Then, having gone to persuade Marduk to leave Mesopotamia without further struggle, the amicable parting turned into a bitter enmity between the brothers.

…And this led to an alliance between Nergal and Inanna; but as they stood for each other, they soon found themselves opposed by all the other gods. An assembly of the gods was held in Nippur to deal with the disruptive consequences of Inanna’s exploits; even Enki agreed that she had gone too far. And a decree for her arrest and trial was issued by Enlil.

…We learned of these events from a chronicle titled by scholars the Curse of Agade [1]. Deciding that Inanna had indeed gotten out of hand, "the word of the Ekur" (Enlil’s sacred precinct in Nippur) was issued against her. But Inanna did not wait to be seized or held for trial: she forsook her temple and escaped from Agade.

…By the time a delegation of the great gods arrived in Agade, they only found an empty temple; all they could do was to strip the place of its attributes of power.

…Did Inanna seek out Nergal during her seven-year disappearance from Agade? The text does not give the answer, but we believe that it was the only haven available to Inanna, away from Enlil’s wrath… That Inanna would hide in Nergal’s Lower African domain seems thus a most plausible assumption.

…Did the two, talking over the situation, reviewing past events, discussing the future, end up forging a new alliance that could rearrange the divine domains? A New Order was indeed feasible, for Inanna was shattering the Old Divine Order upon the Earth. A text whose ancient title was Queen of All the MEs acknowledges that Inanna had indeed, deliberately, decided to defy the authority of Anu and Enlil, abrogated their rules and regulations, and declared herself the Supreme Deity, a "Great Queen of Queens." Announcing that she "has become greater than the mother who gave birth to her… even greater than Anu," she followed up her declarations with deeds and seized the E-Anna ("House of Anu") in Erech, aiming to dismantle this symbol of Anu’s authority.

…The coup d’etat against Anu was accompanied by a parallel attack on Enlil’s seat and symbols of authority. This task was assigned by Inanna to Naram-Sin; his attack of the Ekur in Nippur and the resulting downfall of Agade are detailed in the Curse of Agade text…

…Overrunning the seemingly undefended city, "like a bandit he plundered it." He then approached the Ekur in the sacred precinct… Smashing his way in, he entered its Holy of Holies: "the people now saw its sacred cella, a chamber that knew no light; the Akkadians saw the holy vessels of the god"; Naram-Sin "cast them into the fire…" in boats he carried off the possessions of the city… The horrible sacrilege was complete.

…Enlil – his whereabouts unstated, but clearly away from Nippur – "lifted his eyes" and saw the destruction of Nippur and the defilement of the Ekur. "Because his beloved Ekur had been attacked," he ordered the hordes of Gutium – a mountainland to the northeast of Mesopotamia – to attack Akkad and lay it waste. They came down upon Akkad and its cities "in vast numbers, like locusts… nothing escaped their arm." "He who slept on the roof died on the roof; he who slept inside the house was not brought to burial… heads were crushed, mouths were crushed… the blood of the treacherous flowed over the blood of the faithful."

…Once, and then a second time, the other gods interceded with Enlil: "curse Agade with a baleful curse," they said, but let the other cities and the farmlands survive! When Enlil finally agreed, eight great gods joined in putting a curse on Agade, "the city who dared assault the Ekur." "And lo," said the ancient historian, "so it came to pass… Agade is destroyed!" The gods decreed that Agade be wiped off the face of the Earth; and unlike other cities that, having been destroyed, Agade forever remained desolate.

…As to Inanna, "her heart was appeased" finally by her parents. What exactly happened, the texts do not state. They tell us, however, that her father Nannar came forth to fetch her back to Sumer while "her mother Ningal proffered prayers for her, greeted her back at the temple’s doorstep." "Enough, more than enough innovations, O great Queen!" the gods and the people appealed to her; "and the foremost Queen, in her assembly, accepted the prayer."

The Era of Ishtar was over.

…For ninety-one years the Gutians held sway over Mesopotamia. No new capital is named for them, and it appears that Lagash – the only Sumerian city to escape despoiling by the invaders – served as their headquarters. From his seat in Lagash Ninurta undertook the slow process of restoring the country’s agriculture and primarily the irrigation system that collapsed following the Erra/Marduk incident. It was a chapter in Sumerian history that can best be called the Era of Ninurta.

…The focal point of that era was Lagash, a city whose beginnings were as a "sacred precinct" (the Girsu) for Ninurta and his Black Bird. But as the turmoil of human and divine ambitions grew, Ninurta decided to convert Lagash into a major Sumerian center, the principal abode for himself and his spouse Bau/Gula, where his ideas of law and order and his ideals of morality and justice could be practiced. To assist in these tasks Ninurta appointed in Lagash human viceroys and charged them with the administration and defense of the city-state.

…But Lagash had escaped the ravages of the turbulent years of Sargon and Naram-Sin not only because it was the "cult-center" of Ninurta but also (and primarily) because of the military prowess of its people. As "Enlil’s Foremost Warrior," Ninurta made sure that those selected by him to govern Lagash should be military proficient. One (named Eannatum) whose inscriptions and stelas have been found, was a master tactician and victorious general. The stelas show him riding a war chariot – a military vehicle whose introduction has been customarily attributed to later times; they also show his helmeted troops in tight formations.

…Throughout the period of the primacy of Agade, governorship continued uninterrupted in Lagash; even the great Sargon skirted Lagash and left it intact. It escaped destruction and occupation throughout the upheavals of Naram-Sin, primarily because it was a formidable military stronghold, fortified and refortified to withstand all attacks. We learn by an inscription of Ur-Bau, the viceroy of Lagash at the time of the Naram-Sin upheavals that he was instructed by Ninurta to reinforce the walls of the Girsu and to strengthen the enclosure of the Indugud aircraft. Ur-Bau "compacted the soil to be as stone… fired clay to be as metal"; and at the Indugud’s platform "replaced the old soil with a new foundation," strengthened with huge timber beams and stones imported from afar.

…When the Gutians left Mesopotamia – circa 2160 B.C. – Lagash burst into new bloom and produced some of Sumer’s most enlightened and best-known rulers. Of these, one of the best-known from his long inscriptions and many statues was Gudea, who reigned during the twenty-second century B.C. His was a time of peace and prosperity; his records speak not of armies and wars but of trade and reconstruction. He crowned his activities with the building of a new, magnificent temple for Ninurta in a vastly enlarged Girsu.

…Gudea admits that he needed the help of diviners and "searchers of secrets" to understand the temple plan. It was, as modern researchers have found, an ingenious one-in-seven architectural plan for the construction of a ziggurat as a seven-stage pyramid. The structure contained a strongly reinforced platform for the landing of Ninurta’s airborne vehicle.

…The participation of Ningishzidda in the planning of the E-Ninnu carried a significance that went beyond mere architectural assistance, as evidence by the fact that the Girsu included a special shrine for this god. Associated with healing and magical powers, Ningishzidda – a son of Enki – was deemed in Sumerian inscriptions to have known how to secure the foundations of temples; he was "the great god who held the plans." As we have already suggested, Ningishzidda was none other than Thoth, the Egyptian god of magical powers who was appointed guardian of the secret plans of the pyramids of Giza.

…Ninurta, it will be recalled, had carried off with him some of the "stones" from within the Great Pyramid when the Pyramid Wars ended. Now, with the thwarted efforts of Inanna and then Marduk to lord over gods and men, Ninurta wished to reaffirm his "Rank of Fifty" by the erection of a step-pyramid for himself at Lagash, an edifice to be known as the "House of Fifty." It was for that reason, we believe, that Ninurta invited Ningishzidda/Thoth to come to Mesopotamia, to design for him a pyramid that could be built and raised high, not with massive stone blocks as in Egypt, but with the humble clay bricks of Mesopotamia.

…The era of Ninurta in Sumer, lasting through the Gutian invasion and the ensuing period of reconstruction, was only an interlude. A mountain dweller at heart, Ninurta soon began to roam the skies again in his Divine Black Bird, visiting his rugged domains in the northeast and even further away. Constantly perfecting the marshall arts of the highland tribesmen, he gave them mobility through the introduction of cavalry, thereby extending their reach by hundreds and even thousands of miles.

…He had returned to Mesopotamia at Enlil’s call, to put an end to the sacrilege perpetrated by Naram-Sin and to the upheavals caused by Inanna. With peace and prosperity restored, Ninurta again absented himself from Sumer, and, never one to give up, Inanna seized upon this absence to regain the kingship for Erech.

…The attempt only lasted a few years, for Anu and Enlil did not condone her deed. But the tale (contained in an enigmatic text on a partly broken tablet catalogued as Ashur-13955) is most fascinating; it reads like an ancient legend of the Excalibur (King Arthur’s magical sword, which was imbedded in a rock and could be pulled out only by the one who was chosen for kingship); and it throws light on preceding events, including the incident by which Sargon had offended Marduk.

…We learn that when "Kingship was lowered from Heaven" to begin at Kish, Anu and Enlil established there a "Pavilion of Heaven." "In its foundation soil, for all days to come," they implanted the SHU.HA.DA.KU – an artifact made of alloyed metal whose name translates literally "Supreme Strong Bright Weapon." This divine object was taken to Erech when kingship was transferred there from Kish; it was moved about as kingship moved about but only when the change was decreed by the Great Gods.

…In accordance with this custom, Sargon carried the object to Agade. But Marduk protested, because Agade was a brand-new city and not one of the cities selected by "the great gods of Heaven and Earth" to be royal capitals. The gods who chose Agade – Inanna and her supporters – were in Marduk’s opinion "rebels, gods who wear unclean clothing."

…It was to cure this defect that Sargon went to Babylon to the spot where its "hallowed soil" was located. The idea was to remove some of that soil "to a place in front of Agade," there to implant the Divine Weapon and thus legitimize its presence in Agade. It was in punishment for this, the texts state, that Marduk instigated rebellions against Sargon and also inflicted upon him a "restlessness" (some take the term to mean "insomnia") which led to his death.

…We read further in the enigmatic text that during the Gutian occupation that followed Naram-Sin’s reign, the divine object lay untouched "beside the dam-works for the waters" because "they knew not how to carry the rules regarding the divine artifact." It was at that time Marduk’s contention that the object had to remain in its assigned place, "without being opened up," and "not being offered to any god," until "the gods who brought the destruction shall make restitution." But when Inanna seized the opportunity to reinstitute kingship in Erech, her chosen king, Utu-Hegal, "seized the Shuhadaku in its place of resting; into his hand he took it" – although "the end of the restitution has not yet occurred." Unauthorized, Utu-Hegal "raised the weapon against the city he was besieging." As soon as he had done that, he fell dead. "The river carried off his sunken body."

…Ninurta’s absences from Sumer and Inanna’s abortive attempt to recapture the kinship for Erech indicated to Enlil that the matter of the divine governing of Sumer could no longer be left open-ended; and the most suitable candidate for the task was Nannar/Sin.

…From an immense ziggurat that dominated the valley city – a ziggurat whose crumbled remains, after more than four thousand years, still rise awesomely from the Mesopotamian plain – Nannar and his spouse Ningal took an active part in the affairs of state. Attended by a hierarchy of priests and functionaries (headed by the king), they guided the city’s agriculture to become the granary of Sumer; directed its sheep breeding to make Ur the wool and garment center of the ancient Near East; and developed a foreign trade by land and water that made the merchants of Ur remembered for millennia thereafter.

…The first ruler of the Third Dynasty of Ur, Ur-Nammu ("The Joy of Ur") was no mere mortal: he was semi-divine, his mother being the goddess Ninsun. His extensive records state that as soon as "Anu and Enlil had turned kingship to Nannar at Ur," and Ur-Nammu was selected to be the "Righteous Shepherd" of the people, the gods ordered Ur-Nammu to institute a new moral revival. The nearly three centuries that had passed since the moral revival under Urukagina of Lagash witness the rise and fall of Akkad, the defying of the authority of Anu, and the defilement of Enlil’s Ekur. Injustice, oppression, and immorality had become the common behavior. At Ur, under Ur-Nammu, an attempt was launched once again by Enlil to steer mankind once again from "evil ways" to a course of "righteousness." Proclaiming a new code of justice and social behavior, Ur-Nammu "established equity in the land, banished malediction, ended violence and strife."

…Expecting so much from this New Beginning, Enlil – for the first time – entrusted the guardianship of Nippur to Nannar and gave Ur-Nammu the necessary instructions for the restoration of the Ekur (which was damaged by Naram-Sin.)

…The Return-to-Righteous-Ways involved not only social justice among people, but also proper worship of the gods. To that effect Ur-Nammu, in addition to the great works in Ur, also restored and enlarged the edifices dedicated to Anu and Inanna at Erech, to Ninsun (his mother) at Ur, to Utu at Larsa, to Ninharsag at Adab; he also engaged in some repair work at Eridu, Enki’s city. Conspicuously absent from the list are Ninurta’s Lagash and Marduk’s Babylon.

…The need for military measures was not limited to the initial places of the ascendancy of Nannar and Ur. We know from inscriptions that after Ur and Sumer "enjoyed days of prosperity [and] rejoiced greatly with Ur-Nammu," after Ur-Nammu then rebuilt the Ekur in Nippur, Enlil found him worthy of holding the Divine Weapon; with it Ur-Nammu was to subdue "evil cities" in "foreign lands":

The Divine Weapon,
that which in the hostile lands
heaps up the rebels in piles,
to Ur-Nammu, the Shepherd,
He, the Lord Enlil, has given it to him;
Like a bull to crash the foreign land,
Like a lion to hunt it down;
To destroy the evil cities,
Clear them of opposition to the Lofty.

…These are words reminiscent of biblical prophesies of divine wrath, through the medium of mortal kings, against "evil cities" and "sinful people"; they reveal that beneath the cloak of prosperity there was lurking a renewed warfare among the gods – a struggle for the allegiance of the masses of mankind.

…The sad fact is that Ur-Nammu himself, becoming a mighty warrior, "the Might of Nannar," met a tragic death on the battlefield. "The enemy land revolted, the enemy land acted hostilely"; in a battle in that unnamed but distant land, Ur-Nammu’s chariot got stuck in the mud; Ur-Nammu fell off it; "the chariot like a storm rushed along," leaving Ur-Nammu behind, "abandoned on the battlefield like a crushed jug." The tragedy was compounded when the boat returning his body to Sumer "in an unknown place had sunk; the waves sank it down, with him (Ur-Nammu) aboard."

The kings that followed Ur-Nammu were Shulgi, followed by his son Amar-Sin, he was replaced by his brother Shu-Sin.

…When the next (and last) king of Ur, Ibbi-Sin, ascended the throne, raiders of the West were clashing with the Elamite mercenaries in Mesopotamia proper. Soon Sumer‘s heartland was under siege; the people of Ur and Nippur were huddle behind protective walls, and the influence of Nannar had shrunk to a small enclave.

…Waiting in the wings, as once before, was Marduk. Believing that his time for supremacy had finally come, he left his land of exile and led his followers back to Babylon.

…And then Awesome Weapons were unleashed, and disaster – unlike any that befell mankind since the Deluge – struck.


  1. The Curse of Agade

Continue to Chapter 13: Abraham: The Fateful Years


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