ISHTAR (INANNA)

INANNA AND ISHTAR


Ishtar, Queen of the Night

Inanna was the Sumerian goddess of love, beauty, desire, sex, fertility, war, combat, justice, and political power. She was later worshipped by the Akkadians, Babylonians, and Assyrians under the name Ishtar. Known as the "Queen of Heaven", she was the patron goddess of the Eanna temple at the city of Uruk, which was her main cult center. She was associated with the planet Venus and her most prominent symbols included the lion and the eight-pointed star.Her husband was the god Dumuzid the Shepherd (later known as Tammuz) and her sukkal, or personal attendant, was the goddess Ninshubur (who later became the male deity Papsukkal). [Source: Wikipedia]

Ishtar was great mother-goddess, worshipped in a threefold capacity as the goddess of fertility and vegetation, as the goddess of war, and as the goddess of love. In many respects she is the most interesting figure in the BabyIonian-Assyrian pantheon.She was believed to have the power to provide her worshipers with children and lambs and is a good example of how Mesopotamia gods were also linked to and had similarities with Gods in other cultures. Ishtar evolved into Diana and Artemis in Asia Minor and Aphrodite in Greece. Her lover Tammuz was associated with crops. In the lean months of summer people fasted until Tammuz rose from dead and made the world green again. The myth is similar to the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone. In the Bible the prophet Ezekiel was disgusted by women in Jerusalem who were “weeping for Tammuz.”

Inana possessed the gifts of Me, the powers of music, wisdom and art. Enki was originally in charge of these gifts. The gifts were stored in his "worship center" at Eridu. Inanna complained that she, the female principle, did not receive enough power. She used the old wineskin trick and got Enki drunk and got him to give her the powers. She took them to her worship center at Erech. When Enki sobered up he tried to recover them but did not succeed.

Morris Jastrow said: “The goddess Ishtar of Uruk, though traced back to an early period and undergoing various transformations, was not... peculiar to that place. A similar deity, symbolising the earth as the source of vegetation—a womb wherein seed is laid,—must have been worshipped in other centres, where the sun-cult prevailed. So, as has already been intimated, the consort of the old solar deity Ninib represents this great female principle. Their union finds a striking expression in a myth which represents the pair, Ninib and Gula (or Bau), celebrating a formal marriage ceremony on the New Year’s day (coincident with the vernal equinox), receiving wedding presents, and ushered into the bridal chamber with all the formalities incident to the marriage rite, as observed to this day in the modern Orient. When, therefore, the Psalmist describes the sun as “Coming like a bridegroom from his bridal chamber” he is using a metaphor derived from the old myth of the marriage of the sun with the earth in the happy springtime of nature’s awakening.” [Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911 <>]

“The name, Ishtar, becomes, in fact, the generic designation of “goddess,” from which a plural ishtardti is formed to convey the idea of “goddesses,” or consorts of male deities, independent of the specific character of the latter. In the astrological system developed in Babylonia, Ishtar is identified with the planet Venus, and as such becomes known as the “queen of heaven,” furnishing guidance for mankind through the omens connected with her double character of evening and morning star. It is due to this more purely speculative phase of the conceptions connected with Ishtar that she is represented in the Gilgamesh epic as the daughter of Anu, and not, as we might have expected, his consort. The epic reflects herein, as in other particulars, the results of the theological and astrological elaboration of popular beliefs, which, as we have seen, led to Anu becoming the personification of the heavens as a whole. All the planets, including Ishtar, become therefore Anu’s children, just as from another aspect of astrological speculation Ishtar is viewed as the daughter of the moon-god Sin. Sin is the head of the hosts of heaven, and in the astrological system, as we have seen, takes precedence of the sun, thereby assuming the highest position as “the father of the gods,” and forming the basis of all divination-lore derived from the observance of heavenly phenomena.” <>

Websites and Resources on Mesopotamia: Ancient History Encyclopedia ancient.eu.com/Mesopotamia ; Mesopotamia University of Chicago site mesopotamia.lib.uchicago.edu; British Museum mesopotamia.co.uk ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Mesopotamia sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Louvre louvre.fr/llv/oeuvres/detail_periode.jsp ; Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org/toah ; University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology penn.museum/sites/iraq ; Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago uchicago.edu/museum/highlights/meso ; Iraq Museum Database oi.uchicago.edu/OI/IRAQ/dbfiles/Iraqdatabasehome ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; ABZU etana.org/abzubib; Oriental Institute Virtual Museum oi.uchicago.edu/virtualtour ; Treasures from the Royal Tombs of Ur oi.uchicago.edu/museum-exhibits ; Ancient Near Eastern Art Metropolitan Museum of Art www.metmuseum.org

Archaeology News and Resources: Anthropology.net anthropology.net : serves the online community interested in anthropology and archaeology; archaeologica.org archaeologica.org is good source for archaeological news and information. Archaeology in Europe archeurope.com features educational resources, original material on many archaeological subjects and has information on archaeological events, study tours, field trips and archaeological courses, links to web sites and articles; Archaeology magazine archaeology.org has archaeology news and articles and is a publication of the Archaeological Institute of America; Archaeology News Network archaeologynewsnetwork is a non-profit, online open access, pro- community news website on archaeology; British Archaeology magazine british-archaeology-magazine is an excellent source published by the Council for British Archaeology; Current Archaeology magazine archaeology.co.uk is produced by the UK’s leading archaeology magazine; HeritageDaily heritagedaily.com is an online heritage and archaeology magazine, highlighting the latest news and new discoveries; Livescience livescience.com/ : general science website with plenty of archaeological content and news. Past Horizons : online magazine site covering archaeology and heritage news as well as news on other science fields; The Archaeology Channel archaeologychannel.org explores archaeology and cultural heritage through streaming media; Ancient History Encyclopedia ancient.eu : is put out by a non-profit organization and includes articles on pre-history; Best of History Websites besthistorysites.net is a good source for links to other sites; Essential Humanities essential-humanities.net: provides information on History and Art History, including sections Prehistory

Ishtar and the Gilgamesh Story

Ishtar plays a major role in the great epic Gilgamesh. Morris Jastrow said: “In various parts of this epic, the goddess, Ishtar is brought forward, accompanied by her maidens, who, symbolising various phases of the feminine principle, compose a court of love and passion. Ishtar woos Gilgamesh, the hero of the epic, here portrayed as a solar deity; but the hero rejects the advances of the goddess and reminds her of the sad fate incurred by her lovers, who after a brief union are driven forth from her embrace, and encounter various misfortunes, that involve a loss of vitality. [Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911 <>]

“The tale is clearly a form of the general nature-myth of the union of sun and earth, which, after a short time, results in the decline of the sun’s force. Tammuz, an ancient personification of the sun of the springtime, is named as the first of Ishtar’s lovers; he becomes her consort and is then slain by the goddess, and consigned to the nether world, the abode of the dead. The promise made by Ishtar to Gilgamesh to present him with a chariot of lapis-lazuli, and to shelter him in a palace of plenty, unmistakably points to the triumph of the sun when vegetation is at its height. Tammuz and Ishtar, like Gilgamesh and Ishtar, thus represent the combination of the two principles which bring about life; and upon their separation follow decay and death.

“Thus, parallel with the dual principle of sun and storm (variously personified as Anu and Enlil, Ninib and Enlil, Shamash and Adad, representing the two chief Powers controlling the welfare of the country), we have another and more philosophical duality, representing the male and female principles; and this, likewise, is variously personified. Under its influence the consorts of the chief gods become forms of the great mother-goddess. Sarpanit, the consort of Marduk, becomes an Ishtar and is frequently so designated. In the north, Ishtar becomes the consort of Ashur, and is then still further differentiated as the Ishtar of Nineveh, the Ishtar of Arbela, and the “Queen of Kidmurru.” Though we are no longer able to follow the process in detail which led to the disassociation of Ishtar from the local limitations that must originally have hemmed her in, there can be no question that the title, Ishtar, became, in time, the general designation of the supreme goddess herself, who, in association with some personification of the supreme male principle, becomes virtually the only distinctive female figure in the pantheon. <>

Ishtar as a Mother Goddess


Innana Temple ruins

Morris Jastrow said: “This conception of a great mother-goddess was not limited to the Euphrates Valley. It is found where-ever Semites settled and, apparently through their influence, spread to other nations. The Ashtart of the Phoenicians (Greek Astarte) and the Ashtoreth— an intentional corruption of Ashtart—of the Canaanites, all represent the same goddess and the same idea of the combination of the two principles, male and female, designated by the Phoenicians and Canaanites as Baal. On Hittite monuments representations of the mother-goddess are found, and classical writers record the tradition that the worship of Aphrodite among the Greeks originated in Cyprus, where traces of the Ashtart cult have been discovered. Ishtar is, therefore, distinctively a Semitic idealisation, as the name is certainly-Semitic.' Both the conception and name must therefore have been carried to the Euphrates by the earliest. Semitic settlers. <>

“As the one great goddess and as .the consort of the chief god of the pantheon/ Ishtar, in addition to her specific character, naturally takes the traits of her consort. A close association of:two deities, as .we have seen, always brings about a: certain interchange of attributes, Just as two persons living together are very apt to acquire each other’s peculiarities, and even come to look alike. Enlil'becomes like Ninib, and Ninib like Enlil, and so the association of Ishtar— under whatsoever name—with the sun-god leads to her being described in "terms which might with equal propriety be addressed to Ninib, Nergal, Marduk, or Shamash. <>

“She is called ““the light of heaven and earth,”“the shining torch of heaven,” “light of all dwellings.” Her sheen is compared to a fire that illumines the land. In part, no doubt, such,descriptions arise from the astrological identification of the goddess with the planet Venus, but they occur also in compositions which are free from any allusions to the planetary orb; and when we find her also apostrophised as the one who “directs mankind,” “judging the cause of-man with justice and righteousness,” and “as punishing the bad and the wicked,” there can be no doubt that such traits, which, we have seen, form the special prerogatives of the sun-god, are the reflections of her association with that deity. Again, the association with Enlil, the storm-god, whose consort Ninlil, as has been pointed out, becomes an Ishtar, must be regarded as the factor which leads to Ishtar’s being described as “a controller of the clouds,” “a raging storm devastating heaven and earth,” whose voice “thunders over all:partsof the universe.” The association with the water-god Ea is to be seen again in the figure of the'goddess presiding over streams and canals.

Ishtar, the War Goddess

Morris Jastrow said: “More significant still is the development of the mother goddess-into the Ishtar of battles, pictured as armed with bow and quiver, and encouraging the army to the fray. This transformation is evidently due to the reflection of the warlike attributes of her consort—the patron deity of a great centre or the chief god of the entire pantheon, who naturally becomes the protector of the ruler and of his army, either for defence or offence. A storm-god like Enlil was especially adapted to become a god of war,—but so, also, was a deity like Nergal, personified as the destructive power of the fierce rays of the sun of midsummer. [Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911 <>]

“We have seen how Ninib, the sun-god of the spring, also takes on the traits of the warrior Enlil, his father. Shamash, likewise, is not merely the “judge of heaven and earth” but also the “warrior,” and is very frequently so termed; and when Marduk, as the head of the later pantheon, receives the qualities of all the great gods, he too becomes a god of battles and passes on those qualities to his consort Sarpanit, identified with Ishtar. In an ancient hymn, attached to a song of praise in honour of Hammurabi (probably an adaptation of a composition much earlier than the time of the great conqueror), Ishtar is described as the deity who furnishes aid “in war and battle.” In many of the religious compositions prepared for her cult, both of the earlier and of the later periods, the goddess is called “the warlike Ishtar,” “the powerful one among the goddesses,” the martial “lady of victory,” “girded for the fray,” and invoked to secure the stability of the throne and of the kingdom. <>

“More particularly in Assyria, in association with the war-lord Ashur—reflecting the martial genius of king and people,—is she celebrated in high-sounding terms as the lady of war and battles. In an impressive passage in one of Ashurbanapal’s inscriptions the king describes how, on the eve of an encounter with the Elamites, Ishtar with the quiver on her shoulder, armed with bow and sword, appears to him in a vision of the night and proclaims, <>

““I walk before Ashurbanapal, the King, created by my hands.” <>

“It is Ishtar who on another occasion appears clothed in flames of fire and rains destruction on the Arabian host. Ashurbanapal appears to have been particularly devoted to the cult of Ishtar, though he merely followed, therein, the example of his father Esarhaddon, who restored her temple at Uruk. When he takes Susa, the capital of Elam, his first step is to restore to its resting-place, in the temple E-Anna at Uruk, the statue of the goddess which 1635 years before (i.e., 2300 B.C.) had been captured by the Elamites. He almost invariably associates the name of Ishtar with Ashur. At the command of these two deities he enters on his campaigns. Ashur and Ishtar, representing once more the combination of sun and earth—the male and female principles,— send the king encouraging signs, and stand by him in the thick of the fight.

Ishtar, the Symbol of Creation


Ishtar Vase

Morris Jastrow said: “The contrast to this conception of the warlike Ishtar is the goddess who, as the symbol of creation, becomes the goddess of human love. Ishtar as the mother-goddess is not only the protector of flocks, and filled with love for the animal world, but the merciful progenitor of mankind; and when a destructive deluge sweeps away her offspring, she is the first among the gods to manifest her grief. In the Babylonian account of the deluge—incorporated in the Gilgamesh epic—she is described as weeping for her offspring, which she complains “fill the sea like so many fish,” and her sorrow arouses the sympathy of the other gods, who pity the sad fate of mankind, brought about at the instigation of Enlil and his divine consort. [Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911 <>]

“In a more real sense than is true of such gods as Enlil, Anu, Marduk, Ashur, or even Ea, she is the creator of mankind, “directing all births,” as it is said of her. She is described as the mother-goddess (in a text] which sets forth the way in which the gods are represented by images,) “with exposed breasts, carrying a child on her left arm, sucking her breast.” Votive figurines have been found in Babylonia answering to this description, and it is a plausible conjecture that they were deposited in the temple or shrines of Ishtar by women who wished to secure the aid of the goddess in the hour of childbirth. A bymn, embodying addresses of the god Nebo to Ashurbanapal, reminds the king of the protection that was granted him when he “lay in the lap of the queen of Nineveh,” i.e., Ishtar, and was suckled by her breasts. The picture is evidently suggested by figurines portraying Ishtar as the nurse of mankind. <>

“This phase of the goddess 'is emphasised in the incident in the Gilgamesh epic, on which we have already touched, when she becomes enamoured of the hero Gilgamesh. Despite the veiled language of mythological metaphor, one recognises that there is another and perfectly natural side to this goddess of love. She is the goddess of the human instinct, or passion which accompanies human love. Gilgamesh, it will be recalled, reproaches her with abandoning the objects of her passion after a brief period of union. This is brought out even more strikingly in another part of the epic where Uruk is described as the dwelling of Anu and Ishtar, and as the city where public maidens accept temporary partners, assigned to them by Ishtar. The enticements of these maidens, who win men by their charms, are described in so frank and naif a manner as to shock the sensibilities of the modern mind. In such descriptions, found elsewhere in Babylonian-Assyrian literature, we must recognise the reverse of the medallion.Ishtar, as the mother of mankind, is also she who awakens passion. She is attended by maidens who appear to be her priestesses; these may well be the prototypes of the Houris with whom Mohammed peopled the paradise reserved for true believers. Ishtar, herself, is called by a term, kadishtu , that acquires the sense of “sacred prostitute”; and while the famous passage in Herodotus, wherein is described the “shameful custom” of the enforced yet willing defilement of every woman in Babylon in the temple, before being eligible for marriage, rests in part on an exaggeration, in part on a misunderstanding of a religious rite, yet it has a basis of truth in the aforesaid religious custom in connection with the worship of Ishtar, which became an outward expression of the spiritual idea of the goddess as the mother of parturition, and as an instigator of the passion underlying the sexual mystery. <>

Ishtar-Like Rites in the Bible and Ancient Greece and Rome

Morris Jastrow said: “The pages of the Old Testament illumine the character of some of these rites connected with the worship of the divine mother, whose priestesses in various guises represented symbolically the marriage union. The Hebrew prophets, to whom all these rites were obscene, tell us something of the customs which the Hebrews themselves, in common with the nations around, at one time practised. Their language is generally veiled, for they abhorred even any allusion to the practices which they condemned so uncompromisingly; but when these stern moralists, in denouncing the people for falling away from the true worship of Jahweh, make frequent use of the metaphor of a faithless wife, berating Israel and Judah for having polluted the land with their wickedness, “playing the harlot,” as they term it, “on every high mountain and under every green tree” (Jeremiah iii., 6), they refer to some of those rites which were intended, both in Babylonia and in Canaan as elsewhere, as a sacred homage to the great goddess of love and of passion. The metaphor, we may be certain, was not chosen at random, but suggested by actual practices that formed part of the cult of Ashtart. <>

“The Deuteronomic code finds it necessary to insert an express clause that there shall be no kedesha, i.e., no sacred defilement, among the daughters of Israel, and that the “harlot’s gift”—clearly again some religious rite—shall not be brought into the house of Jahweh. Are we to see in such rites among the Semites the evidence of foreign influence? It is not impossible, especially since Dr. W. Hayes Ward has recently, shown] that the portrayal on seal cylinders of the naked goddess with-what is distinctively-female, emphasised, is due to the Hittites, who as we now know, early came into contact with the Semites both in the Euphrates Valley and in Canaan and elsewhere. On the other hand, the transition from the conception of the mother-goddess to that of the goddess of human love is so easy and natural, that it is not surprising to find that after the thought had once been suggested through extraneous channels, expressive rites should have made their way into the cult. As often‘happens when a period of degeneracy gets in; it is these rites lending themselves to a mystic symbolism that retain their hold and survive other phases of the Ishtar cult. <>

“Be.this as it may, the two orders of ideas, the one represented by the duality of sun-gods and storm-gods, the other by the combination of the sun with the earthy were harmoniously blended in the speculative system devised in the schools of the priests. We find, by the side of the supreme triad Anu, Enlil, and Ea, the tendency to form other groups of three, whereof Ishtar was invariably one, such as Shamash, Adad, and Ishtar, or, under the influence of the astrological system, Sin, Shamash, and Ishtar, or even combinations of four Powers; Sin, Shamash, Adad, and Ishtar, introduced to symbolise and sum up the chief forces of nature determining the prosperity of the land and the welfare of its inhabitants. It is significant that of the Powers involved in such combinations, Ishtar alone passed beyond the confines of’Semite settlements and continued to exercise a profound influence sifter all memory of the other gods had been lost. ' <>

“There is surely something impressive in the persistence of the cult of the mother-goddess; for when faith in the gods of Greece and Rome began to wane, people turned to the East and, giving to this cult a mystic interpretation, found their lost faith in the homage to the Mater magna of Asia Minor, who, was merely a slightly disguised Semitic Ishtar. Several centuries after almost all traces of the Babylonian-Assyrian religion had vanished, the Romans brought to Rome from distant Phrygia the sacred statue of Kybele—as the mother-goddess was there called,— in the hope that she might save the empire from impending disaster. During the most critical period of the struggle between Rome and Carthage, the Mater magna , or Mater dea, made her formal entry into the capital, a temple was built in her honour, and a festival instituted. It was the ancient Semitic goddess Ishtar, merely in a different garb, who thus celebrated a new triumph and an apotheosis—Ishtar of Babylonia with an admixture of Hittite influences, transformed to meet changed conditions, but showing all the essential traits of the original Semitic Ishtar, the great female principle in nature in its various phases as mother-earth, as the source of all fertility, presiding over vegetation and the animal world, at once the loving mother of mankind and of the gods. <>

Ishtar and the Moon

Morris Jastrow said: “The goddess Ishtar is often spoken of as the daughter of the moon, but this is due to the identification of Ishtar in the astrological system with Venus; it is natural that Venus should be regarded as the offspring of the luminary of night, just as the other planets, and the stars in general, would be so regarded. This did not hinder Ishtar from being viewed also as the daughter of Anu. The most common sign with which the name of the moon is written is the number “thirty” —taken evidently from the average period of her course. [Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911 <>]

“Ishtar, as the daughter of the moon, is, therefore, written with the number fifteen, while the sun appears as twenty. So at every turn we encounter, as regards the moon, some association with astrology or with the calendar, which was naturally regulated among the Babylonians, as among all other nations, by the course and phases of the moon. There was no possibility of rivalry between the moon and the sun. Each had its function; and the harmonious division of the direction of the heavens between the two was the form in which the relationship between them was viewed by both Babylonians and Assyrians. The moon, to be sure, was popularly viewed as having been captured when at the end of the month it disappeared for three days, but its discomfiture was not supposed to be due to any conflict between the moon and the sun. Hostile powers of the night had temporarily gained the supremacy in the heavens, and the same explanation was offered in the case of an eclipse, whether of the moon or of the sun. <>

“As a consequence of this harmonious relationship, it was not felt to be an inconsistency that, on the one hand, Sin should be the “father” of the gods, while on the other hand, Anu as the first member of the “theological” triad should be also thus regarded and that, therefore, Ishtar should be at once the daughter of Sin and of Anu. As a solar deity Anu directs the heavens by day; and the local sun-god of Uruk becoming in the pantheon devised by the priests the god of the heavens viewed as a whole, it was natural that under the added influence of the astrological system which placed the seats of all the gods in heaven, Anu should become the progenitor of the entire pantheon. A further outcome of this double current of theological speculation is that we obtain by the side of the triad Anu, Enlil, and Ea (representing, it will be recalled, the three great divisions of the universe) a second triad of a more restricted character, betraying the influence of the astrological system, which assigns to Sin the first place, followed by Shamash, with Ishtar, as the planet Venus, as the third member. From another point of view these three deities summed up again the chief manifestations of divine Power in the universe: Sin as the leader of the hosts of the mighty heavens, Shamash, the beneficent power of the sun, and Ishtar, by virtue of her original attribute, as the goddess of the earth, the mother of life and the source of fertility.

Ishtar in Mesopotamian Art


Ishtar appears frequently on seals, relief carving, and in descriptions as a mighty warrior who protects the king by defeating his enemies. The great Assyrian king Ashurbanipal (reigned 669-631 B.C.) was even described as crying before the goddess like a child asking his mother for help. Her strength as a warrior is stressed here, as she is shown with weapons rising from her shoulders. [Source: piney.com]

Both Ishtar and Inanna are depicted with symbols of fertility, such as the date palm, and of aggression, such as the lion. The iconography survived relatively unchanged for over a thousand years. Ishtar's astral quality is also emphasized: above her crown with a representation of the planet Venus. The goddesses could be worshipped as both male and female Ishtar, reflecting her dual role of sex and war as well as the evening and morning aspects of the planet.

Images of the Goddess Ishtar include: 1) Ishtar as the goddess of war:. Stele of Anu-banini, King of Lulubu representing himself in front of the goddess Inninna (or Ishtar) and erected in commemoration of his victories in the mountain of Batir (Zagros range). It is carved on a rock in the district of Zohab between Hassanabad and Ser-i-Pul. 2) Ishtar, the Mother-goddess: Terra-cotta figurine found at Telloh and now in the Louvre, representing the naked goddess with a child in her arms. A similar figure was found at Babylon. 3) Ishtar, the Goddess of Love: Naked figure with accentuation of the female parts. Terracotta figurine. Exact provenance in Mesopotamia unknown. Now in the Louvre. The naked goddess appears frequently on seal cylinders.

Inanna is depicted as Queen of Heaven and Earth in a cylinder seal from the Akkad period (c. 2334-2154 B.C).. In it, the Goddess wears the horned and tiered crown, image of the sacred mound, which is worn by all the major Sumerian deities, and the tiered dress worn by Sumerian goddesses. An eight-rayed star is near her, the image of the planet Venus. She carries a staff of intertwined serpents and stands on rests her foot upon lions. Shoots ending in buds spring from her right shoulder, indicating her nature as a Goddess of War and Fertility. Sometimes these buds and maces alternate with formalized images of the serpent that come from the Snake Goddesses of Neolithic times.

Exaltation of Inanna

The exaltation of Inana (Inana B, Ishtar’s earliest Sumerian form) reads: 1-12 “Lady of all the divine powers, resplendent light, righteous woman clothed in radiance, beloved of An and Urac! Mistress of heaven, with the great pectoral jewels, who loves the good headdress befitting the office of en priestess, who has seized all seven of its divine powers! My lady, you are the guardian of the great divine powers! You have taken up the divine powers, you have hung the divine powers from your hand. You have gathered up the divine powers, you have clasped the divine powers to your breast. Like a dragon you have deposited venom on the foreign lands. When like Ickur you roar at the earth, no vegetation can stand up to you. As a flood descending upon those foreign lands, powerful one of heaven and earth, you are their Inana.[Source: J.A. Black, G. Cunningham, E. Robson, and G. Zlyomi 1998, 1999, 2000, Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature, Oxford University, Babylonia Index]

13-33 Raining blazing fire down upon the Land, endowed with divine powers by An, lady who rides upon a beast, whose words are spoken at the holy command of An! The great rites are yours: who can fathom them? Destroyer of the foreign lands, you confer strength on the storm. Beloved of Enlil, you have made awesome terror weigh upon the Land. You stand at the service of An's commands. At your battle-cry, my lady, the foreign lands bow low. When humanity comes before you in awed silence at the terrifying radiance and tempest, you grasp the most terrible of all the divine powers. Because of you, the threshold of tears is opened, and people walk along the path of the house of great lamentations. In the van of battle, all is struck down before you. With your strength, my lady, teeth can crush flint. You charge forward like a charging storm. You roar with the roaring storm, you continually thunder with Ickur. You spread exhaustion with the stormwinds, while your own feet remain tireless. With the lamenting balaj drum a lament is struck up.

34-41 My lady, the great Anuna gods fly from you to the ruin mounds like scudding bats. They dare not stand before your terrible gaze. They dare not confront your terrible countenance. Who can cool your raging heart? Your malevolent anger is too great to cool. Lady, can your mood be soothed? Lady, can your heart be gladdened? Eldest daughter of Suen, your rage cannot be cooled!

42-59 Lady supreme over the foreign lands, who can take anything from your province? Once you have extended your province over the hills, vegetation there is ruined. Their great gateways are set afire. Blood is poured into their rivers because of you, and their people must drink it. They must lead their troops captive before you, all together. They must scatter their élite regiments for you, all together. They must stand their able-bodied young men at your service, all together. Tempests have filled the dancing-places of their cities. They drive their young men before you as prisoners. Your holy command has been spoken over the city which has not declared "The foreign lands are yours!", wherever they have not declared "It is your own father's!"; and it is brought back under your feet. Responsible care is removed from its sheepfolds. Its woman no longer speaks affectionately with her husband; at dead of night she no longer takes counsel with him, and she no longer reveals to him the pure thoughts of her heart. Impetuous wild cow, great daughter of Suen, lady greater than An, who can take anything from your province?

60-73 Great queen of queens, issue of a holy womb for righteous divine powers, greater than your own mother, wise and sage, lady of all the foreign lands, life-force of the teeming people: I will recite your holy song! True goddess fit for divine powers, your splendid utterances are magnificent. Deep-hearted, good woman with a radiant heart, I will enumerate your divine powers for you! I, En-hedu-ana the en priestess, entered my holy jipar in your service. I carried the ritual basket, and intoned the song of joy. But funeral offerings were brought, as if I had never lived there. I approached the light, but the light was scorching hot to me. I approached that shade, but I was covered with a storm. My honeyed mouth became venomous. My ability to soothe moods vanished.”

Descent of Ishtar into the Netherworld: Akkadian Version

In “Descent of Ishtar into the Netherworld”, Ishtar decides to visit her sister Ereshkigal, goddess of death and sterility, in her home in the Netherworld (Underworld). As she forces her way through the gates of the nether world, her robes and garments are ripped off. M. Eliade wrote: “ Naked and helpless, she finally reaches Ereshkigal, who instantly has her put to death. Without Ishtar, there is no fertility on earth, and the gods soon realize their loss. Ea creates the beautiful eunuch Asushunamir, who tricks Ereshkigal into reviving Ishtar with the water of life and releasing her.- The ending of the myth is obscure; perhaps Ishtar's lover, Tammuz, was released along with her. Like the Gilgamesh Epic the myth of the descent of Ishtar to the nether world has its Sumerian counterpart (see S. N. Kramer, 'Inanna's Descent to the Nether World,' ANET, pp. 52-7)- Yet the Akkadian version differs substantially from its Sumerian prototype and is by no means a slavish translation of the former. The Sumerian version of the myth dates from the first half of the second millennium B.C.; the Semitic versions do not antedate the end of the second millennium B.C.” [Source: Eliade Page webSite]


Ishtar's descent to the Underworld

“Descent of Ishtar into the Netherworld” begins:
“To the Land of no Return, the realm of Ereshkigal,
Ishtar, the daughter of Sin, set her mind.
Yea, the daughter of Sin set her mind
To the dark house, the abode of Irkalla [Another name of Ereshkigal, the queen of the nether world],
To the house which -none leave who have entered it,
To the road from which there is no way back,
To the house wherein the dwellers arc bereft of light,
Where dust is their fare and clay their food,
(Where) they see no light, residing in darkness,
(Where) they are clothed like birds, with wings for garments,
(And where) over door and bolt is spread dust.
When Ishtar reached the gate of the Land of no Return,
She said (these) words to the gatekeeper.
'O gatekeeper, open thy gate,
Open thy gate that I may enter!
If thou openest not the gate so that I can-not enter,
I will smash the door, I will shatter the bolt,
I will smash the doorpost, I will move the doors,
I will raise up the dead, eating the living,
So that the dead will outnumber the living.' [Source: Translation by E. A. Speiser, “Ancient Near Eastern Texts” (Princeton, 1950), pp. 106-109, reprinted in Isaac Mendelsohn (ed.), “Religions of the Ancient Near East,” Library of Religion paperbook series (New York, 1955), pp. 119-25]
The gatekeeper opened his mouth to speak,
Saying to exalted Ishtar.
'Stop, my lady, do not throw it down!
I will go to announce they name to Queen Ereshkigal.
' The gatekeeper entered, saying to Ereshkigal:
'Behold, thy sister Ishtar is waiting at the gate,
She who upholds the great festivals,
Who stirs up the deep before Ea, the king.'
When Ereshkigal heard this,
Her face turned pale like a cut-down tamarisk,
While her lips turned dark like a bruised kuninu-reed.
'What drove her heart to me? What impelled her spirit hither?
Lo, should I drink water with the Anunnaki?
Should I eat clay for bread, drink muddied water for beer?
Should I bemoan the men who left their wives behind?
Should I bemoan the maidens who were wrenched from the
laps of their lovers?
(Or) should I bemoan the tender little one who was sent off before his time?
Go, gatekeeper, open the gate for her,
Treat her in accordance with the ancient rules.'
Forth went the gatekeeper (to) open the door for her.
'Enter, my lady, that Cutha name of the nether world]may rejoice over thee,
That the palace of the Land of no Return may be glad at thy presence.
' When the first door he had made her enter,
He stripped and took away the great crown on her head.
'Why 0 gatekeeper, didst thou take the great crown on my head?'
'Enter, my lady, thus are the rules of the Mistress of the Nether World.' [Source: Ishtar passes through seven gates of the nether world. At each of them the gatekeeper removes an ornament. At the second gate, he takes the pendants on her ears; at the third, the chains round her neck, then he removes, respectively, the ornaments on her breast, the girdle of birthstones on her hips, the clasps round her hands and feet, and the breechcloth on her body. Each time, she asks the same question; each time she receives the same answer.]

Ishtar Enters and Escapes from the Netherworld

“Descent of Ishtar into the Netherworld” continues:
“As soon as Ishtar had descended to the Land of no Return,
Ereshkigal saw her and was enraged at her presence.
Ishtar, unreasoning, flew at her.
Ereshkigal opened her mouth to speak,
Saying (these) words to Namtar, her vizier:
'Go, Namtar, lock her up in my palace!
Release against her, against Ishtar, the sixty miseries:
Misery of the eyes against her eyes,
Misery of the sides against her sides,
Misery of the feet against her feet,
Misery of the head against her head-
Against every part of her, against her whole body!'
After Lady Ishtar had descended to the Land of no Return,
The bull springs not upon the cow, the ass impregnates not the jenny,
In the street the man impregnates not the maiden.
The man lay in his (own) chamber, the maiden lay on her side [Source: Translation by E. A. Speiser, “Ancient Near Eastern Texts” (Princeton, 1950), pp. 106-109, reprinted in Isaac Mendelsohn (ed.), “Religions of the Ancient Near East,” Library of Religion paperbook series (New York, 1955), pp. 119-25]

“The countenance of Papsukkal, the vizier of the great gods,
Was fallen, his face was clouded.
He was clad in mourning, long hair he wore.
Forth went Papsukkal before Sin his father, weeping.
His tears flowing before Ea, the king:
'Ishtar has gone down to the nether world, she has not come up.
Since Ishtar has gone down to the Land of no Return,
The bull springs not upon the cow, the ass impregnates -not the jenny,
In the street the man impregnates not the maiden.
The man lay down in his (own) chamber,
The maiden lay down on her side.'
Ea in his wise heart conceived an image,
And created Asushunamir, a eunuch:
'Up, Asushunamir, set thy face to the gate of the Land of no Return;
The seven gates of the Land of no Return shall be opened for thee.
Ereshkigal shall see thee and rejoice at thy presence.
When her heart is calmed, her mood is happy,
let her utter the oath of the great gods.
(Then) lift up thy head, paying mind to the life-water bag.-
'Pray, Lady, let them give me the life-water bag
That water therefrom I may drink.'
[The scheme evidently succeeds, as Ereshkigal, distracted by the beauty of Asushunamir (meaning 'His Appearance is brilliant), does not recover until it is too late]

As soon as Ereshkigal heard this,
She smote her thigh, bit her finger.-
'Thou didst request of me a thing that should not be requested.
Come, Asushunamir, I will curse thee with a mighty curse!
The food of the city's plows 6 shall be thy food,
The sewers of the city shall be thy drink.
The shadow of the wall shall be thy station,
The threshold shall be thy habitation,
The besotted and the thirsty shall smite thy cheek!'
Ereshkigal opened her mouth to speak,
Saying (these) words to Namtar, her vizier.
'Ea, Namtar, knock at Egalgina, 7
Adorn the thresholds with coral-stone,
Bring forth the Annunaki and seat (them) on thrones of gold,
Sprinkle Ishtar with the water of life and take her from my presence!'
Forth went Namtar, knocked at Egalgina.
Adorned the thresholds with coral-stone,
Brought forth the Anunnaki, seated (them) on thrones of gold,
Sprinkled Ishtar with the water of life and took her from her presence.
When through the first gate he had made her go out,
He returned to her the breechcloth for her body. [As Ishtar passes through each of the seven gates, her ornaments arereturned to her one by one.]

'If she does not give thee her ransom price, bring her back.
As for Tammuz, the lover of her youth,
Wash him with pure water, anoint him with sweet oil;
Clothe him with a red garment, let him play on a flute of lapis.
Let courtesans turn his mood.'
When Belili had ... her jewelry,
And her lap was filled with 'eye-stones,
On hearing the sound of her brother, Belili struck the jewelry on
So that the 'eye-stones' filled her chamber.
'My only brother, bring no harm to me!
On the day when Tammuz welcomes me,
When with him the lapis flute (and) the carnelian ring welcome Me,
When with him the wailing men and the wailing women welcome me-
May the dead rise and smell the incense.'

Sumerian Version: Inana's Descent to the Underworld

“Inana's Descent to the Underworld” (the Sumerian precursor to “Descent of Ishtar into the Netherworld”) begins: “1-5 From the great heaven she set her mind on the great below. From the great heaven the goddess set her mind on the great below. From the great heaven Inana set her mind on the great below. My mistress abandoned heaven, abandoned earth, and descended to the underworld. Inana abandoned heaven, abandoned earth, and descended to the underworld. [Source: J.A. Black, G. Cunningham, E. Robson, and G. Zlyomi 1998, 1999, 2000, Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature, Oxford University, Babylonia Index, piney.com]

“6-13 She abandoned the office of en, abandoned the office of lagar, and descended to the underworld. She abandoned the E-ana in Unug, and descended to the underworld. She abandoned the E-muc-kalama in Bad-tibira, and descended to the underworld. She abandoned the Giguna in Zabalam, and descended to the underworld. She abandoned the E-cara in Adab, and descended to the underworld. She abandoned the Barag-dur-jara in Nibru, and descended to the underworld. She abandoned the Hursaj-kalama in Kic, and descended to the underworld. She abandoned the E-Ulmac in Agade, and descended to the underworld.

“14-25 She took the seven divine powers. She collected the divine powers and grasped them in her hand. With the good divine powers, she went on her way. She put a turban, headgear for the open country, on her head. She took a wig for her forehead. She hung small lapis-lazuli beads around her neck. She placed twin egg-shaped beads on her breast. She covered her body with a pala dress, the garment of ladyship. She placed mascara which is called "Let a man come, let him come" on her eyes. She pulled the pectoral which is called "Come, man, come" over her breast. She placed a golden ring on her hand. She held the lapis-lazuli measuring rod and measuring line in her hand.

“26-47 Inana travelled towards the underworld. Her minister Nincubura travelled behind her. Holy Inana said to Nincubura: "Come my faithful minister of E-ana, my minister who speaks fair words, my escort who speaks trustworthy words. "On this day I will descend to the underworld. When I have arrived in the underworld, make a lament for me on the ruin mounds. Beat the drum for me in the sanctuary. Make the rounds of the houses of the gods for me. "Lacerate your eyes for me, lacerate your nose for me. In private, lacerate your buttocks for me. Like a pauper, clothe yourself in a single garment and all alone set your foot in the E-kur, the house of Enlil. "When you have entered the E-kur, the house of Enlil, lament before Enlil: "Father Enlil, don't let anyone kill your daughter in the underworld. Don't let your precious metal be alloyed there with the dirt of the underworld. Don't let your precious lapis lazuli be split there with the mason's stone. Don't let your boxwood be chopped up there with the carpenter's wood. Don't let young lady Inana be killed in the underworld."

“48-56 "If Enlil does not help you in this matter, go to Urim. In the E-mud-kura at Urim, when you have entered the E-kic-nu-jal, the house of Nanna, lament before Nanna: "Father Nanna, don't let anyone kill your daughter in the underworld. Don't let your precious metal be alloyed there with the dirt of the underworld. Don't let your precious lapis lazuli be split there with the mason's stone. Don't let your boxwood be chopped up there with the carpenter's wood. Don't let young lady Inana be killed in the underworld."

“57-72 "And if Nanna does not help you in this matter, go to Eridug. In Eridug, when you have entered the house of Enki, lament before Enki: "Father Enki, don't let anyone kill your daughter in the underworld. Don't let your precious metal be alloyed there with the dirt of the underworld. Don't let your precious lapis lazuli be split there with the mason's stone. Don't let your boxwood be chopped up there with the carpenter's wood. Don't let young lady Inana be killed in the underworld." "Father Enki, the lord of great wisdom, knows about the life-giving plant and the life-giving water. He is the one who will restore me to life." When Inana travelled on towards the underworld, her minister Nincubura travelled on behind her. She said to her minister Nincubura: "Go now, my Nincubura, and pay attention. Don't neglect the instructions I gave you."

Inana Arrives at the Gates of the Underworld


Inana in the Underworld Story

“Inana's Descent to the Underworld” continues: “73-93 When Inana arrived at the palace Ganzer, she pushed aggressively on the door of the underworld. She shouted aggressively at the gate of the underworld: "Open up, doorman, open up. Open up, Neti, open up. I am all alone and I want to come in."Neti, the chief doorman of the underworld, answered holy Inana: "Who are you?" "I am Inana going to the east." "If you are Inana going to the east, why have you travelled to the land of no return? How did you set your heart on the road whose traveller never returns?" Holy Inana answered him: "Because lord Gud-gal-ana, the husband of my elder sister holy Erec-ki-gala, has died; in order to have his funeral rites observed, she offers generous libations at his wake -- that is the reason." Neti, the chief doorman of the underworld, answered holy Inana: "Stay here, Inana. I will speak to my mistress. I will speak to my mistress Erec-ki-gala and tell her what you have said." [Source: J.A. Black, G. Cunningham, E. Robson, and G. Zlyomi 1998, 1999, 2000, Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature, Oxford University, Babylonia Index, piney.com]

“94-107 Neti, the chief doorman of the underworld, entered the house of his mistress Erec-ki-gala and said: "My mistress, there is a lone girl outside. It is Inana, your sister, and she has arrived at the palace Ganzer. She pushed aggressively on the door of the underworld. She shouted aggressively at the gate of the underworld. She has abandoned E-ana and has descended to the underworld. "She has taken the seven divine powers. She has collected the divine powers and grasped them in her hand. She has come on her way with all the good divine powers. She has put a turban, headgear for the open country, on her head. She has taken a wig for her forehead. She has hung small lapis-lazuli beads around her neck.

“108-122 "She has placed twin egg-shaped beads on her breast. She has covered her body with the pala dress of ladyship. She has placed mascara which is called "Let a man come" on her eyes. She has pulled the pectoral which is called "Come, man, come" over her breast. She has placed a golden ring on her hand. She is holding the lapis-lazuli measuring rod and measuring line in her hand." When she heard this, Erec-ki-gala slapped the side of her thigh. She bit her lip and took the words to heart. She said to Neti, her chief doorman: "Come Neti, my chief doorman of the underworld, don't neglect the instructions I will give you. Let the seven gates of the underworld be bolted. Then let each door of the palace Ganzer be opened separately. As for her, after she has entered, and crouched down and had her clothes removed, they will be carried away."

Inana Passes Through the Gates of the Underworld

“Inana's Descent to the Underworld” continues: “ 123-133 Neti, the chief doorman of the underworld, paid attention to the instructions of his mistress. He bolted the seven gates of the underworld. Then he opened each of the doors of the palace Ganzer separately. He said to holy Inana: "Come on, Inana, and enter."And when Inana entered, the turban, headgear for the open country, was removed from her head. "What is this?" "Be satisfied, Inana, a divine power of the underworld has been fulfilled. Inana, you must not open your mouth against the rites of the underworld." [Source: J.A. Black, G. Cunningham, E. Robson, and G. Zlyomi 1998, 1999, 2000, Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature, Oxford University, Babylonia Index, piney.com]

“134-148 When she entered the second gate, the small lapis-lazuli beads were removed from her neck. "What is this?" "Be satisfied, Inana, a divine power of the underworld has been fulfilled. Inana, you must not open your mouth against the rites of the underworld." When she entered the third gate, the twin egg-shaped beads were removed from her breast. "What is this?" "Be satisfied, Inana, a divine power of the underworld has been fulfilled. Inana, you must not open your mouth against the rites of the underworld." When she entered the fourth gate, the "Come, man, come" pectoral was removed from her breast. "What is this?" "Be satisfied, Inana, a divine power of the underworld has been fulfilled. Inana, you must not open your mouth against the rites of the underworld."

“149-163 When she entered the fifth gate, the golden ring was removed from her hand. "What is this?" "Be satisfied, Inana, a divine power of the underworld has been fulfilled. Inana, you must not open your mouth against the rites of the underworld." When she entered the sixth gate, the lapis-lazuli measuring rod and measuring line were removed from her hand. "What is this?" "Be satisfied, Inana, a divine power of the underworld has been fulfilled. Inana, you must not open your mouth against the rites of the underworld." When she entered the seventh gate, the pala dress, the garment of ladyship, was removed from her body. "What is this?" "Be satisfied, Inana, a divine power of the underworld has been fulfilled. Inana, you must not open your mouth against the rites of the underworld."

“164-182 After she had crouched down and had her clothes removed, they were carried away. Then she made her sister Erec-ki-gala rise from her throne, and instead she sat on her throne. The Anuna, the seven judges, rendered their decision against her. They looked at her -- it was the look of death. They spoke to her -- it was the speech of anger. They shouted at her -- it was the shout of heavy guilt. The afflicted woman was turned into a corpse. And the corpse was hung on a hook. After three days and three nights had passed, her minister Nincubura carried out the instructions of her mistress. She made a lament for her in her ruined (houses). She beat the drum for her in the sanctuaries. She made the rounds of the houses of the gods for her. She lacerated her eyes for her, she lacerated her nose. In private she lacerated her buttocks for her. Like a pauper, she clothed herself in a single garment, and all alone she set her foot in the E-kur, the house of Enlil.

Inana Enters the Underworld of Enlil

“Inana's Descent to the Underworld” continues: “183-194 When she had entered the E-kur, the house of Enlil, she lamented before Enlil: "Father Enlil, don't let anyone kill your daughter in the underworld. Don't let your precious metal be alloyed there with the dirt of the underworld. Don't let your precious lapis lazuli be split there with the mason's stone. Don't let your boxwood be chopped up there with the carpenter's wood. Don't let young lady Inana be killed in the underworld." 190-194 In his rage father Enlil answered Nincubura: "My daughter craved the great heaven and she craved the great below as well. Inana craved the great heaven and she craved the great below as well. The divine powers of the underworld are divine powers which should not be craved, for whoever gets them must remain in the underworld. Who, having got to that place, could then expect to come up again?"[Source: J.A. Black, G. Cunningham, E. Robson, and G. Zlyomi 1998, 1999, 2000, Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature, Oxford University, Babylonia Index, piney.com]

“195-208 Thus father Enlil did not help in this matter, so she went to Urim. In the E-mud-kura at Urim, when she had entered the E-kic-nu-jal, the house of Nanna, she lamented before Nanna: "Father Nanna, don't let your daughter be killed in the underworld. Don't let your precious metal be alloyed there with the dirt of the underworld. Don't let your precious lapis lazuli be split there with the mason's stone. Don't let your boxwood be chopped up there with the carpenter's wood. Don't let young lady Inana be killed in the underworld." In his rage father Nanna answered Nincubura: "My daughter craved the great heaven and she craved the great below as well. Inana craved the great heaven and she craved the great below as well. The divine powers of the underworld are divine powers which should not be craved, for whoever gets them must remain in the underworld. Who, having got to that place, could then expect to come up again?"

“209-225 Thus father Nanna did not help her in this matter, so she went to Eridug. In Eridug, when she had entered the house of Enki, she lamented before Enki: "Father Enki, don't let anyone kill your daughter in the underworld. Don't let your precious metal be alloyed there with the dirt of the underworld. Don't let your precious lapis lazuli be split there with the mason's stone. Don't let your boxwood be chopped up there with the carpenter's wood. Don't let young lady Inana be killed in the underworld." Father Enki answered Nincubura: "What has my daughter done? She has me worried. What has Inana done? She has me worried. What has the mistress of all the lands done? She has me worried. What has the hierodule of An done? She has me worried." He removed some dirt from the tip of his fingernail and created the kur-jara. He removed some dirt from the tip of his other fingernail and created the gala-tura. To the kur-jara he gave the life-giving plant. To the gala-tura he gave the life-giving water.

“226-245 Then father Enki spoke out to the gala-tura and the kur-jara: "Go and direct your steps to the underworld. Flit past the door like flies. Slip through the door pivots like phantoms. The mother who gave birth, Erec-ki-gala, on account of her children, is lying there. Her holy shoulders are not covered by a linen cloth. Her breasts are not full like a cagan vessel. Her nails are like a pickaxe upon her. The hair on her head is bunched up as if it were leeks. "When she says "Oh my heart", you are to say "You are troubled, our mistress, oh your heart". When she says "Oh my liver", you are to say "You are troubled, our mistress, oh your liver". (She will then ask:) "Who are you? Speaking to you from my heart to your heart, from my liver to your liver -- if you are gods, let me talk with you; if you are mortals, may a destiny be decreed for you." Make her swear this by heaven and earth. 1 line fragmentary

“246-62 "They will offer you a riverful of water -- don't accept it. They will offer you a field with its grain -- don't accept it. But say to her: "Give us the corpse hanging on the hook." (She will answer:) "That is the corpse of your queen." Say to her: "Whether it is that of our king, whether it is that of our queen, give it to us." She will give you the corpse hanging on the hook. One of you sprinkle on it the life-giving plant and the other the life-giving water. Thus let Inana arise." The gala-tura and the kur-jara paid attention to the instructions of Enki. They flitted through the door like flies. They slipped through the door pivots like phantoms. The mother who gave birth, Erec-ki-gala, because of her children, was lying there. Her holy shoulders were not covered by a linen cloth. Her breasts were not full like a cagan vessel. Her nails were like a pickaxe upon her. The hair on her head was bunched up as if it were leeks.

“263-281 When she said "Oh my heart", they said to her "You are troubled, our mistress, oh your heart". When she said "Oh my liver", they said to her "You are troubled, our mistress, oh your liver". (Then she asked:) "Who are you? I tell you from my heart to your heart, from my liver to your liver -- if you are gods, I will talk with you; if you are mortals, may a destiny be decreed for you." They made her swear this by heaven and earth. They .......They were offered a river with its water -- they did not accept it. They were offered a field with its grain -- they did not accept it. They said to her: "Give us the corpse hanging on the hook." Holy Erec-ki-gala answered the gala-tura and the kur-jara: "The corpse is that of your queen." They said to her: "Whether it is that of our king or that of our queen, give it to us." They were given the corpse hanging on the hook. One of them sprinkled on it the life-giving plant and the other the life-giving water. And thus Inana arose.”


part of an Ishtar temple in Uruk


Inana Escapes from the Underworld

“Inana's Descent to the Underworld” continues: “282-294 Erec-ki-gala said to the gala-tura and the kur-jara: "Bring your queen ......, your ...... has been seized." Inana, because of Enki's instructions, was about to ascend from the underworld. But as Inana was about to ascend from the underworld, the Anuna seized her: "Who has ever ascended from the underworld, has ascended unscathed from the underworld? If Inana is to ascend from the underworld, let her provide a substitute for herself." So when Inana left the underworld, the one in front of her, though not a minister, held a sceptre in his hand; the one behind her, though not an escort, carried a mace at his hip, while the small demons, like a reed enclosure, and the big demons, like the reeds of a fence, restrained her on all sides.[Source: J.A. Black, G. Cunningham, E. Robson, and G. Zlyomi 1998, 1999, 2000, Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature, Oxford University, Babylonia Index, piney.com]

“295-305 Those who accompanied her, those who accompanied Inana, know no food, know no drink, eat no flour offering and drink no libation. They accept no pleasant gifts. They never enjoy the pleasures of the marital embrace, never have any sweet children to kiss. They tear away the wife from a man's embrace. They snatch the son from a man's knee. They make the bride leave the house of her father-in-law.

306-321 After Inana had ascended from the underworld, Nincubura threw herself at her feet at the door of the Ganzer. She had sat in the dust and clothed herself in a filthy garment. The demons said to holy Inana: "Inana, proceed to your city, we will take her back." Holy Inana answered the demons: "This is my minister of fair words, my escort of trustworthy words. She did not forget my instructions. She did not neglect the orders I gave her. She made a lament for me on the ruin mounds. She beat the drum for me in the sanctuaries. She made the rounds of the gods' houses for me. She lacerated her eyes for me, lacerated her nose for me. In private, she lacerated her buttocks for me. Like a pauper, she clothed herself in a single garment.

“322-343 "All alone she directed her steps to the E-kur, to the house of Enlil, and to Urim, to the house of Nanna, and to Eridug, to the house of Enki. She brought me back to life. How could I turn her over to you? Let us go on. Let us go on to the Sig-kur-caga in Umma." At the Sig-kur-caga in Umma, Cara, in his own city, threw himself at her feet. He had sat in the dust and dressed himself in a filthy garment. The demons said to holy Inana: "Inana, proceed to your city, we will take him back." Holy Inana answered the demons: "Cara is my singer, my manicurist and my hairdresser. How could I turn him over to you? Let us go on. Let us go on to the E-muc-kalama in Bad-tibira." At the E-muc-kalama in Bad-tibira, Lulal, in his own city, threw himself at her feet. He had sat in the dust and clothed himself in a filthy garment. The demons said to holy Inana: "Inana, proceed to your city, we will take him back."

“344-358 Holy Inana answered the demons: "Outstanding Lulal follows me at my right and my left. How could I turn him over to you? Let us go on. Let us go on to the great apple tree in the plain of Kulaba." They followed her to the great apple tree in the plain of Kulaba. There was Dumuzid clothed in a magnificent garment and seated magnificently on a throne. The demons seized him there by his thighs. The seven of them poured the milk from his churns. The seven of them shook their heads like .... They would not let the shepherd play the pipe and flute before her .She looked at him, it was the look of death. She spoke to him , it was the speech of anger. She shouted at him , it was the shout of heavy guilt: "How much longer? Take him away." Holy Inana gave Dumuzid the shepherd into their hands.

“359-375 Those who had accompanied her, who had come for Dumuzid, know no food, know no drink, eat no flour offering, drink no libation. They never enjoy the pleasures of the marital embrace, never have any sweet children to kiss. They snatch the son from a man's knee. They make the bride leave the house of her father-in-law. Dumuzid let out a wail and turned very pale. The lad raised his hands to heaven, to Utu: "Utu, you are my brother-in-law. I am your relation by marriage. I brought butter to your mother's house. I brought milk to Ningal's house. Turn my hands into snake's hands and turn my feet into snake's feet, so I can escape my demons, let them not keep hold of me."

“376-403 Utu accepted his tears. Utu turned Dumuzid's hands into snake's hands. He turned his feet into snake's feet. Dumuzid escaped his demons...Holy Inana wept bitterly for her husband... She tore at her hair like esparto grass, she ripped it out like esparto grass. "You wives who lie in your men's embrace, where is my precious husband? You children who lie in your men's embrace, where is my precious child? Where is my man?... A fly spoke to holy Inana: "If I show you where your man is, what will be my reward?" Holy Inana answered the fly: "If you show me where my man is, I will give you this gift...The fly helped holy Inana. The young lady Inana decreed the destiny of the fly: "In the beer-house and the tavern , may there ...... for you. You will live like the sons of the wise." Now Inana decreed this fate and thus it came to be.

Ishtar’s Descent into the Netherworld —Babylonian Version

The following is the Babylonian version of Ishtar's descent into the Underworld.
To Kurnugi, land of no return,
Ishtar daughter of Sin was determined to go;
The daugher of Sin was determined to go
To the dark house, dwelling of Erkalla's God,
To the house which those who enter cannot leave,
On the road where travelling is one-way only,
To the house where those who enter are deprived of light,
Where dust is their food, clay their bread.
They see no light, they dwell in darkness,
They are clothed like birds, with feathers.
Over the door and the bolt, dust has settled.
[Source: piney.com]

“Ishtar, when she arrived at the gate of Kurnugi,
Addressed her words to the keeper of the gate,
"Here, gatekeeper, open your gate for me,
Open your gate for me to come in!
If you do not open the gate for me to come in,
I shall shamsh the door and shatter the bolt,
I shall smash the doorpost and overturn the doors,
I shall raise up the dead and they shall eat the living:
The dead shall outnumber the living!"

“The gatekeeper made his voice heard and spake,
He said to great Ishtar,
"Stop, lady, do not break it down!
Let me go and report your words to queen Ereshkigal."
The gatekeeper went in and spole to Ereshkigal,
"Here she is, your sister Ishtar,
Who holds the great keppu-toy,
Stirs up the Apsu in Ea's presence."

“When Ereshkigal heard this,
Her face grew livid as cut tamarisk,
Her lips grew dark as the rim of a kuninu-vessel.
"What brings her to me? What has encited her against me?
Surely not because I drink water with the Anunnaki,
I eat clay for break, I drink muddy water for beer?
I have to weep for young men forced to abandon sweethearts.
I have to weep for girls wrenched from their lovers' laps.
For the infant child I have to weep, expelled before it's time.
Go, gatekeeper, open your gate to her.
Treat her according to the ancient rites."

Ishtar Passes Through the Gates of the Netherworld —Babylonian Version

“The gatekeeper went. He opened the gate to her.
"Enter, my lady: may Kutha give you joy,
May the palace of Kurnugi be glad to see you."
He let her in through the first door,
but stripped off and took away the great crown on her head.
"Gatekeeper, why have you taken away the great crown on my head?"
"Go in, my lady. Such are the rites of the Mistress of Earth."
He let her in through the second door,
but stripped off and took away the rings in her ears.
"Gatekeeper, why have you taken away the rings in my ears?"
"Go in, my lady. Such are the rites of the Mistress of Earth."
He let her in through the third door, but stripped off and took away the beads around her neck.

“"Gatekeeper, why have you taken away the beads around my neck?"
"Go in, my lady. Such are the rites of the Mistress of Earth."
He let her in through the fourth door, but stripped off and took away the toggle-pins at her breast.
"Gatekeeper, why have you taken away the toggle-pins at my breast?"
"Go in, my lady. Such are the rites of the Mistress of Earth."
He let her in through the fifth door, but stripped off and took away the girdle of birth-stones around her waist.
"Gatekeeper, why have you taken away
the girdle of birth-stones around my waist?"
"Go in, my lady. Such are the rites of the Mistress of Earth."

“He let her in through the sixth door, but stripped off and took away the bangles on her wrists and ankles.
"Gatekeeper, why have you taken away the bangles from my wrists and ankles?"
"Go in, my lady. Such are the rites of the Mistress of Earth."
He let her in through the seventh door,
but stripped off and took away the proud garment of her body.
"Gatekeeper, why have you taken away the proud garment of my body?"
"Go in, my lady. Such are the rites of the Mistress of Earth."

Ishtar in the Netherworld —Babylonian Version

“As soon as Ishtar went down to Kurnugi,
Ereshkigal looked at her and trembled before her.
Ishtar did not deliberate, but leant over her.
Ereshkigal made her voice heard and spake,
Addressed her words to Namtar her vizier,
"Go, Namtar...Send out against her sixty diseases
] Ishtar:Disease of the eyes to her eyes,
Disease of the arms to her arms,
Diseiase of the feet to her feet,
Disease of the heart to her heart,
Disease of the head to her head,
To every part of her and to [ ]."

“After Ishtar the mistress of [ ] had gone down to Kurnugi,
No bull mounted a cow, no donkey impregnated a jenny,
No young man impregnated a girl in the street,
The young man slept in his private room,
The girl slept in the company of her friends.
Then Papsukkal, vizier of the great gods,
hung his head, his face became gloomy;
He wore mourning clothes, his hair was unkempt.
Dejected, he went and wept before Sin his father,
His tears flowed freely before king Ea.
"Ishtar has gone down to the Earth and has not come up again.
As soon as Ishtar went down to Kurnugi
No bull mounted a cow, no donkey impregnated a jenny,
No young man impregnated a girl in the street,
The young man slept in his private room,
The girl slept in the company of her friends."

“Ea, in the wisdom of his heart, created a person.
He created Good-looks the playboy.
"Come, Good-looks, set your face towards the gate of Kurnugi.
The seven gates of Kurnugi shall be opened before you.
Ereshkigal shall look at you and be glad to see you.
whe she is relaxed, her mood will lighten.
Get her to swear the oath by the great gods.
Raise your head, pay attention to the waterskin,
Saying, 'O, my lady, let them give me the waterskin, that I may drink water from it.'"

Ishtar Escapes from the Netherworld —Babylonian Version

“When Ereshkigal heard this,
She struck her thigh and bit her finger.
"You have made a request of me that should not have been made!
Come, Good-looks, I shall curse you with a great curse.
I shall decree for you a fate that shall never be forgotten.
Bread gleaned from the city's ploughs shall be your food,
The city drains shall be your only drinking place,
The shade of a city wall your only standing place,
Threshold steps your only sitting place,
The drunkard and the thirsty shall slap your cheek."
Ereshkigal made her voice heard and spake;
She addressed her words to Namtar her vizier,
"Go, Namtar, knock at Egalgina,
Decorate the threshold steps with coral,
Bring the Anunnaki out and seat them on golden thrones,
Sprinkle Ishtar with the waters of life and conduct her into my presence."

“Namtar went, knocked at Egalgina,
Decorated the threshold steps with coral,
Brought out the Anunnaki, seated them on golden thrones,
Sprinkled Ishtar with the waters of life and brought her to her sister.
He let her out through the first door,
and gave back to her the proud garment of her body.
He let her out through the second door,
and gave back to her the bangles for her wrists and ankles.
He let her out through the third door,
and gave back to her the girdle of birth-stones around her waist.
He let her out through the fourth door,
and gave back to her the toggle-pins at her breast.
He let her out through the fifth door,
and gave back to her the beads around her neck.
He let her out through the sixth door,
and gave back to her the rings for her ears.
He let her out through the seventh door,
and gave back to her the great crown for her head.

“"Swear that she has paid you her ransom, and give her back in exchange for him, for Dumuzi, the lover of her youth.
Wash him with pure water, anoint him with sweet oil,
Clothe him in a red robe, let the lapis lazuli pipe play.
Let the party-girls raise a loud lament."

“Then Belili tore off her jewellery,
Her lap was filled with eyestones.
Belili heard the lament for her brother, she struck the jewellery from her body,
The eyestones with which the front of the wild cow was filled.
"You shall not rob me forever of my only brother!
On the day when Dumuzi comes back up, and the lapis lazuli pipe and the
carnelian ring come up with him,
When male and female mourners come up with him,
the dead shall come up and smell the smoke of offering."

Hymn to Ishtar

This Hymn to Ishtar, Mother Lover of Tammuz, written c. 1600 B.C. goes:
“Praise the goddess, the most awesome of the goddesses.
Let one revere the mistress of the peoples, the greatest of the Igigi.
Praise Ishtar, the most awesome of the goddesses.
Let us revere the queen of women, the greatest of the Igigi.
She is clothed in pleasure and love.
She is laden with vitality, charm, and voluptuousness.
Ishtar is clothed in pleasure and love.
She is laden with vitality, charm, and voluptuousness.

“In lips she is sweet; life is in her mouth.
At her appearance rejoicing becomes full.
She is glorious; veils are thrown over her head.
Her figure is beautiful; her eyes are brilliant.
The goddess - with her there is counsel.
The fate of everything she holds in her hand.
At her glance there is created joy,
Power, magnificence, the protecting deity and guardian spirit.

“She dwells in, she pays heed to compassion and friendliness.
Besides, agreeableness she truly possesses.
Be it slave, unattached girl, or mother, she preserves (her).
One calls on her; among women one names her name.
Who - to her greatness who can be equal?
Strong, exalted, splendid are her decrees.
Ishtar - to her greatness who can be equal?
Strong, exalted, splendid are her decrees.

“She is sought after among the gods; extraordinary is her station.
Respected is her word; it is supreme over them.
Ishtar among the gods, extraordinary is her station.
Respected is her word; it is supreme over them.
She is their queen; they continually cause her commands to be executed.
All of them bow down to her.
They receive her light before her.
Women and men indeed revere her.

“In their assembly her word is powerful; it is dominating.
Before Anum their king she fully supports them.
She rests in intelligence, cleverness, (and) wisdom.
They take counsel together, she and her lord.
Indeed they occupy the throne room together.
In the divine chamber, the dwelling of joy,
Before them the gods take their places.
To their utterances their attention is turned.

“The king their favorite, beloved of their hearts,
Magnificently offers to them his pure sacrifices.
Ammiditana, as the pure offering of his hands,
Brings before them fat oxen and gazelles.
From Anum, her consort, she has been pleased to ask for him
An enduring, a long life.
Many years of living, to Ammiditana
She has granted, Ishtar has decided to give.
By her orders she has subjected to him
The four world regions at his feet;
And the total of all peoples
She has decided to attach them to his yoke.”

Prayer of Lamentation to Ishtar

This prayer to Ishtar, to be accompanied by a ritual of incantation, helps understand the Ishtar/Tammuz worship by the Hebrews in the Temple (Ezekiel 8). Ishtar is regarded by some as the mother of Easter and the musical sun rise rituals of modern churches. Ishtar, in her aspect as goddess of valor and of war, is addressed as the greatest of goddesses. The supplicant describes his bitter afflition and prays for a restoration of his prosperity, so that he and all who see him may praise and glorify the goddess. A colophon of the text indicates that it was the property of the temple Esagila in Babylon; and that it was copied from an older version at Borsippa. The extant text was written in the Neo-Babylonian period as, in all probability, was the older text from which it was copied. [Source: piney.com]

Prayer of Lamentation to Ishtar goes: I pray to thee, O Lady of ladies, goddess of goddesses.
O Ishtar, queen of all peoples, who guides mankind aright,
O Irnini, ever exalted, greatest of the Igigi,
O mighty of princesses, exalted is thy name.
Thou indeed art the light of heaven and earth, O valiant daughter of Sin.
O supporter of arms, who determines battle,
O possessor of all divine power, who wears the crown of domination,
O Lady, glorious is thy greatness; over all the gods it is exalted.
O star of lamentation, who causes peaceable brothers to fight,
Yet who constantly gives friendship,
O mighty one, Lady of battle, who suppresses the mountains,
O Gushea, the one covered with fighting and clothed with terror
Thou doest make complete judgment and decision, the ordinances of heaven and earth.

“Chapels, holy places, sacred sites, and shrines pay heed to thee.
Where is not thy name, where is not thy divine power?
Where are thy likenesses not fashioned, where are thy shrines not founded?
Where art thou not great, where art thou not exalted?
Anu, Enlil, and Ea have made thee high; among the gods they have caused thy domination to be great.
They have made thee high among all the Igigi; they have made thy position pre-eminent.
At the thought of thy name heaven and earth tremble.
The gods tremble; the Anunnaki stand in awe.
To thine awesome name mankind must pay heed.
For thou art great and thou art exalted.

“All the black-headed (people Persians and) the masses of mankind pay homage to thy might.
The judgment of the people in truth and righteousness thou indeed dost decide.
Thou regardest the oppressed and mistreated; daily thou causest them to prosper.
Thy mercy! O Lady of heaven and earth, shepheress of the weary people.
Thy mercy! O Lady of holy Eanna the pure storehouse.
Thy mercy! O Lady; unwearied are thy feet; swift are thy knees.
Thy mercy! O Lady of conflict and of all battles.
O shining one, lioness of the Igigi, subduer of angry gods,
O most powerful of all princes, who holdest the reins (over) kings,
(But) who dost release the bridles of all maidservants,
Who art exalted and firmly fixed, O valiant Ishtar, great is thy might.
O brilliant one, torch of heaven and earth, light of all peoples,
O unequaled angry one of the fight, strong one of the battle,
O firebrand which is kindled against the enemy, which brings about the destruction of the furious,

“O gleaming one, Ishtar, assembler of the host,
O deity of men, goddess of women, whose designs no one can conceive,
here thou dost look, one who is dead lives; one who is sick rises up;
The erring one who sees thy face goes aright.
I have cried to thee, suffering, wearied, and distressed, as thy servant.
See me O my Lady, accept my prayers.
Faithfully look upon me and hear my supplication.
Promise my forgiveness and let thy spirit be appeased.
Pity! For my wretched body which is full of confusion and trouble.
Pity! For my sickened heart which is full of tears and suffering.
Pity! For my wretched intestines (which are full of) confusion and trouble.

“Pity! For my afflicted house which mourns bitterly.
Pity! For my feelings which are satiated with tears and suffering.
O exalted Irnini, fierce lion, let thy heart be at rest.
O angry wild ox, let thy spirit be appeased.
Let the favor of thine eyes be upon me.
With thy bright features look faithfully upon me.
Drive away the evil spells of my body (and) let me see thy bright light.
How long, O my Lady, shall my adversaries be looking upon me,

Tammuz, Ishtar’s Lover

Tammuz (Dumuzid) is a sun god perhaps best known as Ishtar’s lover. Originally known as Dumuzid the Shepherd, he was a fertility god closely was associated with crops. In the lean months of summer, when Tammuz resided in the Underworld, people fasted until Tammuz rose from dead and made the world green again.The myth explaining why he resides in the Underworld is similar to the Greek story of Demeter and Persephone. In Old Testament times, some people, including Jews, worshiped Tammuz. In the Bible the prophet Ezekiel was disgusted by women in Jerusalem who were “weeping for Tammuz.”

Morris Jastrow said: “Tammuz, an ancient personification of the sun of the springtime, is named as the first of Ishtar’s lovers; he becomes her consort and is then slain by the goddess, and consigned to the nether world, the abode of the dead. The promise made by Ishtar to Gilgamesh to present him with a chariot of lapis-lazuli, and to shelter him in a palace of plenty, unmistakably points to the triumph of the sun when vegetation is at its height. Tammuz and Ishtar, like Gilgamesh and Ishtar, thus represent the combination of the two principles which bring about life; and upon their separation follow decay and death. [Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911 <>]

“Ishtar and Tammuz are closely related figures; both symbolise vegetation—one as the personification of the sun, the other as the personification of mother earth. The combination of Tammuz and Ishtar, as husband and wife, is merely the usual artificial attempt to combine two figures that represent the same idea—induced in this instance by the analogy of the male and female principles. There are, in fact, indications that Tammuz was, at certain places, or at an early period, regarded as a goddess and not as a god.

Tammuz’s Annual Visit to the Netherworld

One version of famous myth “Ishtar’s Descent Into the Underworld” has Ishtar going there to rescue Tammuz, wining his release from the abode of death along with her. Aralu — or Irkallu, the Underworld — was sometimes called “the house of Tammuz,” as Tammuz as the solar god of spring and vegetation was obliged to spend half of the year there. The is also a myth about Tammuz’s journey to the nether world.

Morris Jastrow said: “

“The story of Tammuz’s annual journey to the nether world is paralleled by Ishtar’s descent into the realm of Nergal and Ereshkigal. The two stories embody the same myth of the change of seasons, and it is natural, therefore, that with the later predominance of the Ishtar cult, Ishtar should gradually have displaced Tammuz in the official ritual of the temples. In place of the lament for Tammuz we have the myth of Ishtar’s enforced journey to Aralti,—as the nether world was commonly termed,—and of her ultimate escape, which was recited in the temples at the festival marking the waning of the summer season; the lament for the goddess was tempered, however, by the certain hope of her return. Popular customs survive theoretical and official reconstructions of beliefs and practices through the speculations and the intellectual influence of priests. The testimony of Ezekiel is a significant witness to the persistence in the Semitic world, as late as the sixth century B.C., of the custom of bewailing the disappearance of Tammuz. [Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911 <>]

“No less significant is the spread of the Tammuz myth under various forms far beyond the confines of the Semitic world. Is it, perhaps, also significant that the Hebrew prophet describes the women of Jerusalem as practising this rite? In all religious bodies, as has already been suggested, women represent the conservative element, among whom religious customs continue in practice after they have been abandoned by men. The women—outside of their functions as priestesses—took no part, so far as we know, in the official cult of Babylonia and Assyria, as they took no such part among the ancient Hebrews. It may turn out, therefore, to be the case that in Babylonia, as in Palestine, the non-official or extra-official cult of Tammuz was maintained outside of the temples through the influence of the female population—as a popular rite, surviving from very ancient days, and having had at one time a significance equal to that which was afterwards assumed by the cult of Ishtar. <>

“In another regard the mourning for Tammuz is invested with a special interest. Under the form Ad6n, —a title of Tammuz signifying “lord,”—the myth passed to the Phoenicians, and thence to the Greeks, who, adapting it to their own mythology (which may also have preserved a similar myth of the change of seasons), replace Ishtar by Aphrodite. The story of Adonis and Aphrodite in any case is to be traced directly to the Sumerian-Babylonian Tammuz-Ishtar myth. The weeping for the lost sun-god is the complement to the rejoicing at the return of the sun-god in the spring—the new year’s festival—when nature awakens to new life. The weeping and the rejoicing appear to have been continued up to late days. In one form or another we find among Greeks and Romans the commemoration in the spring of the death of a god, followed by a rejoicing at his return. In view of this, the theory has been advanced that in its last analysis, the story of the crucifixion and resurrection of the Christ embodies a late echo of the Tammuz-Adonis myth. The “son of God” is slain to reappear as the “risen Lord,” just as in the Phrygian story of Attis and Cybele, and in the Egyptian tale of Osiris and Isis, we have another form of the same myth symbolising the change of seasons.” <>

Dumuzid, Inana and the Demons of the Underworld

Dumuzid and Geshtin-ana reads: “A small demon opened his mouth and said to the big demon, "Come on, let's go to the lap of holy Inana ". The demons entered Unug and seized holy Inana . "Come on, Inana , go on that journey which is yours alone -- descend to the underworld. Go to the place which you have coveted -- descend to the netherworld. Go to the dwelling of Ereckigal -- descend to the underworld. Don't put on your holy ma garment, the pala dress of ladyship -- descend to the underworld. Remove the holy headdress, that splendid ornament, from your head -- descend to the underworld. Don't enhance your apperance with a wig -- descend to the underworld. Don't adorn your feet with ...... -- descend to the underworld. When you descend, ......." [Source: J.A. Black, G. Cunningham, E. Robson, and G. Zlyomi 1998, 1999, 2000, Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature, Oxford University, piney.com]

“They released at holy Inana , they ...... her. Inana handed over Dumuzid to them in exchange for herself. "As for the lad, we will put his feet in foot stocks. As for the lad, we will put his hands in hand stocks: we will put his neck in neck stocks." Copper pins, nails and pokers were raised to his face. They sharpened their large copper axes. As for the lad, they stood him up, they sat him down. "Let us remove his ...... garment, let us make him stand ......." As for the lad, they bound his arms, they did evil ....... They covered his face with his own garment.

“The lad raises his hands heavenward to Utu : "O Utu , I am your friend, I am a youth. Do you recognize me? Your sister, whom I married, descended to the underworld. Because she descended to the underworld, it was me that she was to hand over to the underworld as a substitute. O Utu , you are a just judge, don't disappoint me! Change my hands, alter my appearance, so that I may escape the clutches of my demons! Don't let them seize me! Like a sajkal snake that slithers across the meadows and mountains, let me escape alive to the dwelling of my sister Jectin-ana ."

“Utu accepted his tears. He changed his hands, he altered his appearance. Then like a sajkal snake that slithers across the meadows and mountains, like a soaring falcon that can swoop down on a live bird, Dumuzid escaped alive to the dwelling of his sister Jectin-ana . Jectin-ana looked at her brother. She scratched at her cheek: she scratched at her nose. She looked at her sides: she ...... her garment. She recited a lament of misfortune for the unfortunate lad: "O my brother! O my brother, lad who has not fulfilled those days! O my brother, shepherd Ama-ucumgal-ana , lad who has not fulfilled those days and years! O my brother, lad who has no wife, who has no children! O my brother, lad who has no friend, who has no companion! O my brother, the lad who is not a comfort to his mother!"

“The demons go hither and thither searching for Dumuzid . The small demons say to the big demons: "Demons have no mother; they have no father or mother, sister or brother, wife or children. When ...... were established on heaven and earth, you demons were there, at a man's side like a reed enclosure. Demons are never kind, they do not know good from evil. Who has ever seen a man, without a family, all alone, escape with his life? We shall go neither to the dwelling of his friend nor to the dwelling of his in-laws. Rather, for the shepherd let us go to the dwelling of Jectin-ana ." The demons clap their hands and begin to seek him out.

“Jectin-ana had barely finished that lament when the demons arrived at her dwelling. "Show us where your brother is," they said to her. But she spoke not a word to them. They afflicted her loins with a skin disease, but she spoke not a word to them. They scratched her face with ......, but she spoke not a word to them. They ...... the skin of her buttocks, but she spoke not a word to them. They poured tar in her lap, but she spoke not a word to them. So they could not find Dumuzid at the house of Jectin-ana .

“The small demons said to the big demons: "Come on, let's go to the holy sheepfold!" There at the holy sheepfold they caught Dumuzid . They went hither and thither until they caught him. They searched for him until he was seen. The axe was wielded against the lad who had no family. They sharpened their daggers, they smashed his hut. His sister wandered about the city like a bird because of her brother: "My brother, let me take the great misfortune, come, let me ......."”

Dumuzi is Presented to Inanna

“Dumuzi is Presented to Inanna” (“Tammuz is Presented to Ishtar”) goes:
Ninshubur: "May the lord, the choice of your heart,
may the king, your beloved bridegroom, pass long days in your sweet thing, the pure loins!
Grant him a pleasant reign to come!
Grant him a royal throne, firm in its foundations;
grant him a sceptre righting (wrongs in) the land, all shepherds' crooks;
grant him the good crown, the turban that makes a head distinguished.
[Source: piney.com]

From sunrise to sunset
from south to north
from the Upper Sea to the Lower Sea,
from (where grows) the huluppu-tree, from (where grows) the cedar-tree,
and in Sumer and Akkad, grant him all shepherds' crooks,
and may he perform the shepherdship over their dark-headed people.

May he like a farmer till the fields,
may he like a good shepherd make the folds teem,
may there be vines under him, may there be barley under him,
may there be carp-floods in the river under him,
may there be mottled barley in the fields under him,
may fishes and birds sound off in the marshes under him.

May old and new reeds grow in the canebrake under him,
may shrubs grow in the high desert under him,
may deer multiply in the forests under him,
may (well) watered gardens bear honey and wine under him,
may lettuce and cress grow in the vegetable plots under him,
may there be long life in the palace under him.

May the high flood rise in the Tigris and Euphrates under him,
may grass grow on their banks, may vegetables fill the commons,
may the holy lady (of the grains), Nidaba, gather grainpiles there!
O milady, queen of heaven and earth, queen of

Hymn from Inanna to Tammuz

Hymn from Inanna to Tammuz goes:
Inanna sang:
"He has sprouted; he has burgeoned;
He is lettuce planted by the water.
He is the one my womb loves best.
[Source: Babylonia Index, piney.com]

“My well-stocked garden of the plain,
My barley growing high in its furrow,
My apple tree which bears fruit up to its crown,
He is lettuce planted by the water.

“My honey-man, my honey-man sweetens me always.
My lord, the honey-man of the gods,
He is the one my womb loves best.
His hand is honey, his foot is honey,
He sweetens me always.

“My eager impetuous caresser of the navel,
My caresser of the soft thighs,
He is the one my womb loves best,
He is lettuce planted by the water."
Inanna - Queen of Heaven and Earth, Wolkstein and Kramer

Hymn of Love from Inanna to Tammuz

Hymn of Love from Inanna to Tammuz goes:
Bridegroom, dear to my heart,
Goodly is your beauty, honeysweet,
Lion, dear to my heart,
Goodly is your beauty, honeysweet.
You have captivated me, let me stand tremblingly before you,
Bridegroom, I would be taken by you to the bedchamber,
You have captivated me, let me stand tremblingly before you,
Lion, I would be taken by you to the bedchamber.

Bridegroom, let me caress you,
My precious caress is more savory than honey,
In the bechamber, honey-filled,
Let me enjoy your goodly beauty,
Lion, let me caress you,
My precious caress is more savory than honey.
Bridegroom, you have taken your pleasure of me,
Tell my mother, she will give you delicacies,
My father, he will give you gifts.
Your spirit, I know where to cheer your spirit,

Bridegroom, sleep in our house until dawn,
Your heart, I know where to gladden your heart,
Lion, sleep in our house until dawn.
You, because you love me,
Give me pray of your caresses,
My lord god, my lord protector,
My (Dumuzi), who gladdens Enlil's heart,
Give me pray of your caresses.
Your place goodly as honey, pray lay (your) hand on it,
Bring (your) hand over it like a gishban-garment,
Cup (your) hand over it like a gishban-sikin-garment.
(From the Era of the reign of Shu-sin)
[Source: “The Sumerians,” by Samuel Noah Kramer, Babylonia Index, piney.com]

To Ishtar, Begetress of All: Babylonian Prayer, c. 1600 B.C.

“To Ishtar, Begetress of All” (1600 B.C.) goes:
1. O fulfiller of the commands of Bel..........
Mother of the gods, fulfiller of the commands of Bel
You who brings forth verdure, you O lady of mankind,---
5. Begetress of all, who makes all offspring thrive
Mother Ishtar, whose might no god approaches,
Majestic lady, whose commands are powerful
A request I will proffer, which---may it bring good to me!
O lady, from my childhood I have been exceedingly hemmed in by trouble!

“10. Food I did not eat, I was bathed in tears!
Water I did not quaff, tears were my drink!
My heart is not glad, my soul is not cheerful;
....................I do not walk like a man.
15. ...........painfully I wail!
My sighs are many, my sickness is great!
O my lady, teach me what to do, appoint me a resting-place!
My sin forgive, lift up my countenance!
.......................................................

“20. My god, who is lord of prayer, ----may he present my prayer to you!
My goddess, who is mistress of supplication, ---may she present my prayer to you!
God of the deluge, lord of Harsaga, ---may he present my prayer to you!
The god of pity, the lord of the fields, ---may he present my prayer to you!
God of heaven and earth, the lord of Eridu,---may he present my prayer to you!

“21. The mother of the great water, the dwelling of Damkina,---
may she present my prayer to you!
Marduk, lord of Babylon, ---may he present my prayer to you!
His spouse, the exalted offspring of heaven and earth,---
may she present my prayer to you!
The exalted servant, the god who announces the good name,---
may he present my prayer to you!

“22. The bride, the first-born of Ninib, ---may she present my prayer to you!
The lady who checks hostile speech, ---may she present my prayer to you!
The great, exalted one, my lady Nana, ---may she present my prayer to you!
[Source: George A. Barton, “Archaeology and the Bible”,” 3rd Ed., (Philadelphia: American Sunday School, 1920), pp. 398-401]

To Ishtar, He Raises to You a Wail: Babylonian Prayer

“To Ishtar, He Raises to You a Wail” (1600 B.C.) reads:
“1. ...........He raises to you a wail;
....................He raises to you a wail
On account of his face which for tears is not raised, he raises to you a wail;
On account of his feet on which fetters are laid, he raises to you a wail;

“5. On account of his hand, which is powerless through oppression, he raises to you a wail;
On account of his breast, which wheezes like a bellows, he raises to you a wail;
O lady, in sadness of heart I raise to you my piteous cry, "How long?"
O lady, to your servant---speak pardon to him, let your heart be appeased!
To your servant who suffers pain---favor grant him!

“10. Turn your gaze upon him, receive his entreaty!
To your servant with whom you are angry---be favorable unto him!
O lady, my hands are bound, I turn to you!
For the sake of the exalted warrior, Shamash, your beloved husband,
take away my bonds!

“15. Through a long life let me walk before you!
My god brings before you a lamentation, let your heart be appeased!
My goddess utters to you a prayer, let your anger be quieted!
The exalted warrior, Anu, your beloved spouse,---may he present my prayer to you!
Shamash, god of justice, may he present my prayer to you!

“20. .............the exalted servant, ---may he present my prayer to you!
..........the mighty one of Ebarbar, ---may he present my tears to you!
"Your eye turn truly to me," may he say to you!
"Your face turn truly to me," may he say to you!
"Let your heart be at rest", may he say to you!

“25. Let your anger be pacified", may he say to you!
Your heart like the heart of a mother who has brought forth, may it rejoice!
Like a father who has begotten a child, may it be glad!
[Source: George A. Barton, “Archaeology and the Bible”,” 3rd Ed., (Philadelphia: American Sunday School, 1920), pp. 398-401]

Inana’s Blessing of Agade

Inana (Ishtar, Inanna) is known for blessing the city of Agade" (capital of Akkad and the Akkadian Empire of King Sargon) and then causing its fall. As the goddess of war and strife, she held the title Ninkur-ra-igi-ga, "the queen who eyes the highland" meaning that other lands feared her. Battle was called the "dance of Inanna, and she was at the very heart of it. She was "the star of the battle-cry, who can make brothers who have lived together in harmony fight each other". [Source: piney.com]

After Enlil had slaughtered the land of Unug in the dust as if it were a mighty bull, he gave 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. Inanna got Ea drunk and got the power of the ME away from Ea. She would use such powers as that of "the eldership, musical worship and kissing the phallus" to enhance her own kingdom.

The story of “Ishtar’s Cursing of Agade” reads: “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, and alum sheep with long wool would jostle each other in the public squares.

“She then filled Agade's stores for emmer wheat with gold, she filled its stores for white emmer wheat with silver; she delivered copper, tin, and blocks of lapis lazuli to its granaries and sealed its silos from outside. She endowed its old women with the gift of giving counsel, she endowed its old men with the gift of eloquence. She endowed its young women with the gift of entertaining, she endowed its young men with martial might, she endowed its little ones with joy.

“The nursemaids who cared for the general's children played the aljarsur instruments. Inside the city tigi drums sounded; outside it, flutes and zamzam instruments. Its harbour where ships moored was full of joy. All foreign lands rested contentedly, and their people experienced happiness. Its king, the shepherd Naram- Suen, rose as the daylight on the holy throne of Agade. Its city wall, like a mountain, reached the heavens. It was like the Tigris going to the sea as holy Inana opened the portals of its city-gates and made Sumer bring its own possessions upstream by boats. The highland Martu, people ignorant of agriculture, brought spirited cattle and kids for her. The Meluhans, the people of the black land, brought exotic wares up to her. Elam and Subir loaded themselves with goods for her as if they were packasses. All the governors, the temple administrators, and the accountants of the Gu-edina regularly supplied the monthly and New Year offerings.

“What a weariness all these caused at Agade's city gates! Holy Inana could hardly receive all these offerings. As if she were a citizen there, she could not restrain the desire to prepare the ground for a temple. But the statement coming from the E-kur was disquieting. Because of Enlil all Agade was reduced to trembling, and terror befell Inana in Ulmac. She left the city, returning to her home. Holy Inana abandoned the sanctuary of Agade like someone abandoning the young women of her woman's domain. Like a warrior hurrying to arms, she removed the gift of battle and fight from the city and handed them over to the enemy.”

Inana’s Cursing of Agade

The tone of the of “Ishtar’s Cursing of Agade” then changes: “ Not even five or ten days had passed and Ninurta brought the jewels of rulership, the royal crown, the emblem and the royal throne bestowed on Agade, back into his E-cumeca Utu took away the eloquence of the city. Enki took away its wisdom. Anu took up into the midst of heaven its fearsomeness that reaches heaven. Enki tore out its well-anchored holy mooring pole from the abzu. Inana took away its weapons. The life of Agade's sanctuary was brought to an end as if it had been only the life of a tiny carp in the deep waters, and all the cities were watching it. [Source: piney.com]

“Like a mighty elephant, it bent its neck to the ground while they all raised their horns like mighty bulls. Like a dying dragon, it dragged its head on the earth and they jointly deprived it of honour as in a battle. Naram- Suen saw in a nocturnal vision that Enlil would not let the kingdom of Agade occupy a pleasant, lasting residence, that he would make its future altogether unfavourable, that he would make its temples shake and would scatter its treasures. He realized what the dream was about, but did not put into words, and did not discuss it with anyone. Because of the E-kur, he put on mourning clothes, covered his chariot with a reed mat, tore the reed canopy off his ceremonial barge, and gave away his royal paraphernalia.

“Naram- Suen persisted for seven years! Who has ever seen a king burying his head in his hands for seven years? Then he went to perform extispicy on a kid regarding the temple, but the omen had nothing to say about the building of the temple. For a second time he went to perform extispicy on a kid regarding the temple, but the omen again had nothing to say about the building of the temple.

“In order to change what had been inflicted upon him, he tried to to alter Enlil's pronouncement. Because his subjects were dispersed, he now began a mobilization of his troops. Like a wrestler who is about to enter the great courtyard, he (lifted) his hands towards the E-kur. Like an athlete bent to start a contest, he treated the giguna as if it were worth only thirty shekels. Like a robber plundering the city, he set tall ladders against the temple. To demolish E-kur as if it were a huge ship, to break up its soil like the soil of mountains where precious metals are mined, to splinter it like the lapis lazuli mountain, to prostrate it, like a city inundated by Ickur.

“Though the temple was not a mountain where cedars are felled, he had large axes cast, he had double-edged agasilig axes sharpened to be used against it. He set spades against its roots and it sank as low as the foundation of the Land. He put axes against its top, and the temple, like a dead soldier, bowed its neck before him, and all the foreign lands bowed their necks before him. He ripped out its drain pipes, and all the rain went back to the heavens. He tore off its upper lintel and the Land was deprived of its ornament.

“From its "Gate from which grain is never diverted", he diverted grain, and the Land was deprived of grain. He struck the "Gate of Well-Being" with the pickaxe, and well-being was subverted in all the foreign lands. As if they were for great tracts of land with wide carp-filled waters, he cast large spades to be used against the E-kur. The people could see the bedchamber, its room which knows no daylight.

“The Akkadians could look into the holy treasure chest of the gods. Though they had committed no sacrilege, its lahama deities of the great pilasters standing at the temple were thrown into the fire by Naram- Suen. The cedar, cypress, juniper and boxwood, the woods of its giguna, were...... by him. He put its gold in containers and put its silver in leather bags. He filled the docks with its copper, as if it were a huge transport of grain. The silversmiths were re-shaping its silver, jewellers were re-shaping its precious stones, smiths were beating its copper. Large ships were moored at the temple, large ships were moored at Enlil's temple and its possessions were taken away from the city, though they were not the goods of a plundered city.

“With the possessions being taken away from the city, good sense left Agade. As the ships moved away from was removed. Enlil, the roaring storm that subjugates the entire land, the rising deluge that cannot be confronted, was considering what should be destroyed in return for the wrecking of his beloved E-kur. He lifted his gaze towards the Gubin mountains, and made all the inhabitants of the broad mountain ranges descend . Enlil brought out of the mountains those who do not resemble other people, who are not reckoned as part of the Land, the Gutians, an unbridled people, with human intelligence but canine instincts and monkeys' features. Like small birds they swooped on the ground in great flocks. Because of Enlil, they stretched their arms out across the plain like a net for animals.”

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Mesopotamia sourcebooks.fordham.edu , National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, especially Merle Severy, National Geographic, May 1991 and Marion Steinmann, Smithsonian, December 1988, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, BBC, Encyclopædia Britannica, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, World Religions edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); History of Warfare by John Keegan (Vintage Books); History of Art by H.W. Janson Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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