The Transfer Of The Arts Of Civilization From Eridu To Erech
from Sumerian Mythology by Samuel Noah Kramer
from SacredTexts Website
This magnificent myth with its particularly charming story involves Inanna, the queen of heaven, and Enki, the lord of wisdom. Its contents are of profound significance for the study of the history and progress of civilization, since it contains a list of over one hundred divine decrees governing all those cultural achievements which, according to the more or less superficial analysis of the Sumerian scribes and thinkers, made up the warp and woof of Sumerian civilization.
As early as 1911 a fragment belonging to this myth and located in the University Museum at Philadelphia was published by David W. Myhrman. Three years later, Arno Poebel published another Philadelphia tablet inscribed with part of the composition; this is a large, well-preserved six-column tablet whose upper left corner was broken off. This broken corner piece I was fortunate enough to discover in 1937, twenty-three years later, in the Museum of the Ancient Orient at Istanbul. 63 As early as 1914, therefore, a large part of the myth had been copied and published. However, no translation was attempted in all these years since the story seemed to make no connected sense; and what could be made out, seemed to lack intelligent motivation. In 1937 I located and copied in Istanbul a small piece 64 which supplied the missing clue, and as a result, this tale of the all too human Sumerian gods can now be told.
Inanna, queen of heaven, and tutelary goddess of Erech, is anxious to increase the welfare and prosperity of her city, to make it the center of Sumerian civilization, and thus to exalt her own name and fame. She therefore decides to go to Eridu, the ancient and hoary seat of Sumerian culture where Enki, the Lord of Wisdom, who "knows the very heart of the gods," dwells in his watery abyss, the Abzu.
For Enki has under his charge all the divine decrees that are fundamental to civilization. And if she can obtain them, by fair means or foul, and bring them to her beloved city Erech, its glory and her own will indeed be unsurpassed. As she approaches the Abzu of Eridu, Enki, no doubt taken in by her charms, calls his messenger Isimud and thus addresses him:
Isimud does exactly as bidden by his master, and Inanna and Enki sit down to feast and banquet. After their hearts had become happy with drink, Enki exclaims:
Pure Inanna took them.
Pure Inanna took them.
Among these divine decrees
presented by Enki to Inanna are those referring to
lordship, godship, the exalted and enduring crown, the throne of
kingship, the exalted scepter, the exalted shrine, shepherdship,
kingship, the numerous priestly offices, truth, descent into the nether
world and ascent from it, the "standard," the flood, sexual intercourse
and prostitution, the legal tongue and the libellous tongue, art, the
holy cult chambers, the "hierodule of heaven," music, eldership,
heroship and power, enmity, straightforwardness, the destruction of
cities and lamentation, rejoicing of the heart, falsehood, the rebel
land, goodness and justice, the craft of the carpenter, metal worker,
scribe, smith, leather worker, mason, and basket weaver, wisdom and
understanding, purification, fear and outcry, the kindling flame and the
consuming flame, weariness, the shout of victory, counsel, the troubled
heart, judgment and decision, exuberance, musical instruments.
The upset Enki greatly rues his munificence and decides to prevent the "boat of heaven" from reaching Erech at all costs. He therefore dispatches his messenger Isimud together with a group of sea monsters to follow Inanna and her boat to the first of the seven stopping stations that are situated between the Abzu of Eridu and Erech.
Here the sea monsters are to seize the "boat of heaven" from Inanna; Inanna, herself, however, must be permitted to continue her journey to Erech afoot. The passage covering Enki's instructions to Isimud and Isimud's conversation with Inanna, who reproaches her father Enki as an "Indian-giver," will undoubtedly go down as a classic poetic gem. It runs as follows:
Isimud does as bidden, overtakes the "boat of heaven," and says to Inanna:
Holy Inanna answers him:
Holy Inanna says to the messenger Isimud:
This Ninshubur does. But Enki is persistent. He sends Isimud accompanied by various sea monsters to seize the "boat of heaven" at each of the seven stopping points between Eridu and Erech. And each time Ninshubur comes to Inanna's rescue. Finally Inanna and her boat arrive safe and sound at Erech, where amidst jubilation and feasting on the part of its delighted inhabitants, she unloads the divine decrees one at a time.
The poem ends with a speech
addressed by Enki to Inanna, but the text is seriously damaged and it is
not clear whether it is reconciliatory or retaliatory in character.