Enheduanna, the princess and priestess author of the first signed literary work in history

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Daughter of one of the first emperors in ancient Mesopotamia, she was the first person recognized for producing her own literary work.

Enheduanna was a woman who lived in the 23rd century BC in ancient Mesopotamia, and is widely regarded as the first person in history to create her own literary work.

She was a notable character: in addition to being a writer of prose and poetry, she was a princess and priestess.

The third millennium BC was a hectic time in Mesopotamia.

The conquest of Sargon the Great it derived in the development of the first great empire. The city of Acadia became the first great urban center and the north and south of Mesopotamia were united for the first time in history.

It is in the midst of this extraordinary historical setting that we find the fascinating character of Enheduanna, the daughter of Sargón.

She was the senior priestess of the lunar deity Nanna Suen in her temple in Ur (currently, southern Iraq). And the heavenly work of this woman is indeed reflected in her name, which means “ornament from heaven.”

Enheduanna wrote many literary works, including two hymns dedicated to Inanna, the Mesopotamian goddess of love.

The authorship of the Inanna and Enki myth, a collection of 42 hymns.

The traditions of writing in the ancient world are often considered exclusively men’s work, but Enheduanna’s work is a fundamental part of the rich literary history of ancient Mesopotamia.

That Enheduanna is identified as the author behind those works is significant due to the anonymity that frequently surrounded the creations of other previous authors.

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Wikimedia Commons
Enheduanna’s disc was discovered by British archaeologist Charles Leonard Woolley and his excavation team in 1927.

Despite this, she is quite unknown to history and her literary achievements have been largely overlooked (except for the work done by the academic Betty De Shong Meador).

His writings are deeply personal and contain numbersthe data biographicalors.

Enheduanna’s work known as the Temple Hymns concludes with a affirmation on its originality:

“The compiler for the tablets was En-hedu-ana. My king, something has been created that no one has created before. ”

In addition to claiming authorship of the work, Enheduanna too toward comments on the difficulties of the creative process – apparently, blocking the blank page was a problem even in ancient Mesopotamia.

“Many hours of work at night”

In her hymns, Enheduanna comments on the challenges of encapsulating divine wonders in the world of the word.

He describes the long hours he spent working on his compositions at night, so that they would be performed during the day. The fruits of her labor are dedicated to the goddess of love.

His poetry has a reflective quality that emphasizes the superlative qualities of his divine muse, while also highlighting the skills that were needed for written compositions.

Enheduanna figure

Wikimedia Commons
In the figure of Enheduanna, we see a powerful personality of great creativity, whose passionate devotion and praise to the gods of love continues to echo.

His work of praise to heavenly deities has been recognized in the field of modern astronomy.

Descriptions of stellar measurements and movements are possibly considered as the first scientific observations of the sky.

In fact, in 2015 a crater on Mars was named after him.

The works of Enheduanna They were written in cuneiform, an ancient form of writing that used clay tablets, but only copies survived that were made around 1800 BC, from the Palaeo-Babylonian period and later.

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The lack of earlier sources has raised doubts about the authorship of many of Enheduanna’s works and her status as a high priestess.

However, historical records clearly identify this woman as the author of ancient literary works and this is undoubtedly an important aspect of the traditions that surrounded her.

But, in addition to poetry, The archaeologists they discovered otrthe records from the life of this authorto.

These include cylindrical seals that belonged to servants and an alabaster relief that was dedicated to her.

Enheduanna’s disc was discovered by British archaeologist Charles Leonard Woolley and his excavation team in 1927.

Sargon Mask

Getty Images
Enheduanna was the daughter of Sargon the Great, one of the first emperors in history.

The disc was discarded and apparently disfigured in antiquity, but these pieces were recovered in different excavations and the scenes they represented were successfully restored.

The scene portrays the priestess at her workplace: Along with three male assistants, she makes a liquid offering that is poured from a jar.

Enheduanna is located in the center of the image, with his gaze fixed on the religious offering and his hand raised in a gesture of pity.

The image on the disc emphasizes the social and religious status of the priestess, who wears a cape and a ruffled garment.

Art imitates life

Enheduanna’s poetry contains what are thought to be autobiographical elements, such as descriptions of her struggle against a usurper of her post, Lugalanne.

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In her composition “The Exaltation of Inanna”, Enheduanna describes Lugalanne’s attempts to remove her from her role within the temple.

Clay board.

Getty Images
Most of Enheduanna’s texts were inscribed on clay tablets, but none of those originals are preserved to this day.

The requests of the poet to the moon goddess did not obtain the desired response. She then sought the help of Inanna, who is praised for restoring her to her post.

The challenge to Enheduanna’s authority and gratitude for divine help are echoed in another of her works, the myth known as Inanna and Enki.

In her narrative, the goddess Inanna conflicts with an arrogant mountain, Enki. The mountain offends the goddess by standing higher than the deity and refusing to bow in reverence. Inanna then goes to her father, the god Anu.

He advises her to give up on her intentions to go to war against the wrath of the mountain.

Inanna, boldly, ignore this instruction and annihilate the mountain, while thanking toGod Enlil for your help.

The myth contains parallels with the conflict described in Enheduanna’s poetry.

In the figure of this first literary author with her own name, we see a powerful personality of great creativity, whose passionate devotion and praise to the gods of love continues to echo through the ages, 4,000 years after she wrote it on some tablets clay.

* Louise Pryke. Professor of Languages ​​and Literatures of Ancient Israel, Macquarie University.


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