Tribute: Enheduanna

The Akkadian/Sumerian poet Enheduanna (2285-2250 BCE) is credited with creating the framework of poetry, psalms and prayers used throughout the ancient world –Enheduanna’s compositions were used as the template for the Babylonian prayers, the Hebrew Bible and the Homeric hymns of Greece.

Enheduanna is the world’s first author known by name, whose works were inscribed over 4000 years ago. She was also a woman.

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Called the daughter of Sargon the Great, she was elevated to the position of high priestess of the most important temple in Sumer. Enheduanna was tasked with the responsibilities to:

  • Organize and preside over the temple complex
  • Reconcile the Sumerian gods with the Akkadian gods, as befitting a new and expanding empire
  • Maintain social stability and order through religion (and as priestess she eventually held her own against an attempted coup by Sumerian rebel Lugal-Ane)
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“Enheduanna, zirru-priestess, wife of the god Nanna, daughter of Sargon, king of the world, in the temple of the goddess Innana.”

She is best known for her works Inninsagurra, Ninmesarra and Innimehusa, which were hymns to the goddess Inanna reflecting three different themes of ancient religious faith: war, governance and homemaking, and intimacy.

To build a house, to build a woman’s chamber, to have implements,
to kiss the lips of a small child are yours, Inanna,
To give the crown, the chair and the scepter of kingship is yours, Inanna

It is widely accepted that a substantial portion of her religious hymns supports the imperialistic goals of Sargon the Great. Her devotion to Inanna extends to emphasizing Inanna’s supremacy among the gods, even compared to An, the authority in the pantheon.

the queen (performing) great deeds,
who gathers (for herself) the me’s of heaven and earth,
she rivals the great An

She also wrote poems reflecting personal experiences, her religious devotion, and responses to the world. Her words and her cultural legacy echo through millenia.

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SOURCES:

Binkley, R. (1998). Enheduanna: Biographical information.
Hart, M. (n.d.) Enheduanna’s Writings.
Lewis, J. (n.d.) Ehneduanna: Priestess of Inanna – First author and poet in the world.
Mark, J. (2014). Enheduanna.

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