The myth 53
involving Lahar, the cattle-god, and his sister Ashnan, the
grain-goddess, represents another variation of the Cain-Abel motif
in Near East mythology. Labar and Ashnan, according to
our myth, were created in the creation chamber of the gods in order
that the Annunnaki, the children and followers of the
heaven-god An, might have food to eat and clothes to wear.
But the Anunnaki were unable to make effective use of the
products of these deities; it was to remedy this situation that man
was created. All this is told in an introductory passage which,
because of its significance for the Sumerian conception of the
creation of man.
The passage following the introduction is another
poetic gem; it describes the descent of Lahar and Ashnan from
heaven to earth and the cultural benefits which they bestow on
In those days
Enki says to Enlil:
"Father Enlil, Lahar and Ashnan,
They who have been created in the Dulkug,
Let us cause them to descend from the Dulkug."
At the pure word of Enki and Enlil,
Lahar and Ashnan descended from the Dulkug.
For Lahar they (Enlil and Enki) set up the sheepfold,
Plants, herbs, and . . . they present to him;
For Ashnan they establish a house,
Plow and yoke they present to her.
Lahar standing in his sheepfold,
A shepherd increasing the bounty of the sheepfold is he;
Ashnan standing among the crops,
A maid kindly and bountiful is she.
Abundance of heaven . . . ,
Lahar and Ashnan caused to appear,
In the assembly they brought abundance,
In the land they brought the breath of life,
The decrees of the god they direct,
The contents of the warehouses they multiply,
The storehouses they fill full.
In the house of the poor, hugging the dust,
Entering they bring abundance;
The pair of them, wherever they stand,
Bring heavy increase into the house;
The place where they stand they sate, the place where they
sit they supply,
They made good the heart of An and Enlil.
But then Labar
and Ashnan drank much wine and so they began to quarrel in
the farms and fields. In the arguments which ensued, each deity
extolled its achievements and belittled those of its opponent.
Finally Enlil and Enki intervened, but the end of the
poem which contains their decision is still wanting.
The poem consists of close to 200 lines of text reconstructed
from the following tablets and fragments: BBI 8; BE XXXI 15; CBS
7344, 7916, 15161, 29.15.973; HAV 6; Ni 2308, 4036, 4094; SEM
38, 54, 55, 56, 57; SRT 25, 44. The following groups form
"joins": CBS 7344 + 7916 + SEM 5 + SEM 77; CBS 29.15.973 + SEM
38. All in all, therefore, we now have 17 pieces belonging to
the myth, and the statement in SL 322 no. 5 is to be modified
accordingly (the number 9 there given resulted from the fact
that the four fragments constituting the first "join" mentioned
above were counted as one while the 5 pieces Ni 2308, 4036,
4044, SEM 38, and SRT 41 were not identified until after the
publication of SL). The first 70 lines of the poem were
transliterated and translated by Chiera in SRT pp. 26 ff.