Enheduanna: The First Author in World History

ancient Akkadian cylindrical seal depicting the goddess Inanna/Ishtar and her sukkal Ninshubur

Enheduanna was the daughter of the Sargon of Akkad, a famous Mesopotamian king, and lived for 35 years period from 2285 – 2250 BCE. Enheduanna is known to us as the very first author and poet in the world history. She is one of the earliest women that we have a record of today.

Her father elevated her to the position of the High-priestess of the moon god Nanna, Enheduanna then probably became the first woman to be in this position.

As an author, Enheduanna’s work span a number of Sumerian temple hymns, and personal devotional poems to the Godess of Inanna. Copies of Enheduanna’s works were stored for hundreds of years after her death, possibly meaning that her work was highly valued and used as a source of understanding of the divine.

Ancient Akkadian Cylindrical Seal Depicting Inanna and Ninshubur

The Role of Enheduanna

One of her jobs was to ensure that there is a better synthesis between the different gods in the Sumerian and the Akadian kingdoms. Her life is no less magical: she was exiled from the kingdom during after her father bequeathed the empire to is brother but came back.

The hymns that she wrote to the goddess Inanna, and the moon god Nanna gave people a deeper understanding into the character of these gods.

While the general populace considered gods to be threatening or intimidating, Enheduanna’s works brought a layer of compassion in these gods, reconciled the Sumerian and Accadian gods, which brought people closer to understanding their relation with the gods and helped create more stability in the empire of the time.

Enheduanna was considered to be divine by the Sumerians and was remembered for hundreds of years after her death.

“Records suggest that offerings continued to be made to these dead priestesses. That one of the most striking artefacts, physical proof of Enheduanna’s existence, was found in a layer dateable to many centuries after her lifetime, makes it likely that she in particular was remembered and honoured long after the fall of the dynasty that had appointed her to the management of the temple.” – Paul Kriwaczek

Ancient Sumerian Bas-Relief depicting Enheduanna
Ancient Sumerian Bas-Relief depicting Enheduanna

Her works

Her works span a total of 42 hymns for temples, and the value of her own work was not lost on her when she says “My king, something has been created that no one has created before.” 

“My king, something has been created that no one has created before.” Click To Tweet

It’s interesting to note that she doesn’t say I created something, perhaps implying that the gods created for her or that it was implicit that she created it.

Women in Mesopotamia

Many women in ancient Mesopotamia are known to have composed poetry, which leads us to believe that women, at least the ones in royal families, may have been literate and engaged in cultural activities.

Further reading

In my book, “The  Things We Don’t Know”, The life of Enheduanna, The Epic of Gilgamesh and Sumerian cultures are touched upon for their cultural significance and their impact on our cultural and religious history. Check out the book here!

Interesting read on the first known author in world history! http://tarunbetala.com/?p=318 Click To Tweet

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