4 The Mythology of Sumer

Enki and the World Order Paraphrase152

Download 266.63 Kb.
Date conversion14.06.2018
Size266.63 Kb.
1   ...   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13

Enki and the World Order


[a] Enki boasts that he makes all things fertile and prosperous. He is well-loved by An, Enlil, Nintu, and indeed by all the Anunnaki. His great temple is filled with good things and his magur-boat tours the marshes in a joyful progress. The boats of Dilmun and Magan, the magilum-boat of Meluhha[b], bring treasure to Nippur for Enlil.

Enki decrees the fate of Sumer: its mes will be noble, its kingship will be honoured, the gods will live therein and it will greatly prosper. Enki decrees the fate of the shrine Ur[c]: he can do no more, its fate is decreed by Enlil. Enki decrees the fate of Meluhha: may it prosper in harvests, mes, battles and minerals. He placed Ninsikilla in charge of Dilmun. Elam and Marhaši he destroyed and took the booty thereof to Nippur for Enlil. The Martu received cattle from Enki as a gift.

Enki, imagined as a bull, fills the Tigris, as a cow, with sweet water. To be the caretaker of the two rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates, he appoints Enbilulu, the inspector of canals. He set fish and reeds amongst the canebrake and appointed (unreadable) for them. He erects a holy shrine in the deep sea and appoints Nanše for it. Enki calls up the fertilising rain and appoints Iškur for it. Plow, yoke, oxen, furrows, and grain he calls forth, and appoints Enkimdu, the man of the ditch and the dyke, for them. The grain and the cultivated field he called forth and appointed Ašnan[d] for them. Enki put his ‘net’ upon the pickaxe and directed the mould, he assigned Kulla the brickmaker for them. Mušdamma is appointed for building work, Sumugan for the cattle of the high plain. For the stalls and sheepfolds he appointed Dumuzi. He fixed the borders and marked them with stones. Utu was set to watch the whole universe[e]. For the mug-cloth and women’s weaving work generally Enki appointed Uttu.

Inanna is now heard to complain that she has not been favoured by Enki. Aruru, Enlil’s sister, and Inanna’s sisters Ninisinna, Ninmug, Nidaba and Nanše have each their duties and insignia but where are her own[f]? Enki answers that she has been well blessed: with prophecy of battle, destruction of the indestructible, and beauty.


This seems to be not so much a proper myth as an outline of the major elements in Sumerian culture. The nucleus of the myth seems to have been a listing of the responsibilities of the water-god Enki, the traces of which may largely be found in the section between the filling of the Tigris and the assignment of duty to Uttu.153 (The relation of this latter to Enki and water is explored in the myth ‘Enki and Ninhursag in Dilmun’.) Given the scope of Enki’s responsibilities which this myth suggests it is not surprising that he was felt to have had all the mes, the elements of civilisation, in his charge. The further extension of his achievements to the decreeing of fates for the lands was probably a natural extension of this, although it infringes somewhat upon Enlil’s prerogatives.

The assignment of responsibilities to the various deities is not very successful in mythological terms and the intrusion of Inanna at the end of the myth seems intended to complete a sort of listing of goddesses (similar to the ‘An-Anum’ list perhaps). It may be that a scribal source has created this paean of praise to Enki about a merging of two reference texts.

  1. It has been suggested154 that the missing prologue of this text outlined Enki’s relationship to the great gods.

  2. Magan and Meluhha are usually identified with Oman and the Indus valley civilisation respectively.155 If Meluhha was the name by which the Harappan people called themselves then it may be that after the Aryan invasions that word became mleccha, the pejorative Sanskrit word for barbarian.156

  3. Particular mention of Ur may mark this as the city of the text’s author.

  4. Ezinu according to Jacobsen.157

  5. The relationship of Enki to border demarcation is doubtful but may be due to the common use of canals or dykes as boundary markers. Utu is given the task as a judicial deity who can be expected to observe all infraction.

  6. Note that of all the goddesses named only Nanše has featured in the section of the myth preceding it. Nintu was indeed mentioned, but only as one who loved Enki.

Inanna and the Mortal Sin of Šukalletuda


Šukalletuda was a gardener, but his garden would not bear fruit. Despite his best efforts at irrigation the plants withered and from the mountains came dust which the rude wind blew in his face. Lifting his eyes to the east and the west of heaven he read there the omens and gained the wisdom in the stars[a]. In his garden he therefore planted the sarbatu-tree which would give shade from sunrise to sunset. Now his garden was fruitful[b].

One day Inanna, being tired from her travels, lay down close by to his garden. Spying her from the garden’s edge Šukalletuda took advantage of her weariness and raped her. When she woke she realised what had happened and flew into a great rage, resolved to discover her defiler. Three times she sent scourges against Sumer. First she filled the wells with blood which then covered the irrigated lands. Secondly she sent great winds over the lands. Thirdly (unreadable)[c]. But after each attack Šukalletuda seeks and follows the advice of his father to stay in the cities of Sumer hiding amongst the black-heads. Thus Inanna is not able to find him. When this becomes clear to her she decides to go to Eridu and seek the advice of Enki ...


The purpose of this myth cannot be divined because the conclusion (at least) is missing. This and the flood myth are the only myths which feature mortals, if we except Dumuzi’s appearances in the Inanna-Dumuzi cycle. It seems already to be discernibly in two sections, the first concerned with the invention of a type of horticulture and the second being the myth proper.

  1. This method of discovery is unique in the mythology. The normal procedure would be to have the me of shade-tree gardening set up by a deity. In this case it seems to be acknowledged that the technique is due to the perspicacity of a mere mortal, with only very indirect divine help. Most interpretations of Sumerian culture would not credit them with any understanding of their own dynamic rôle in the formation of their civilisation. This now seems too extreme.

  2. It is interesting to find this technique being used so long ago, and it is unfortunate that the sarbatu-tree is unidentified.159

  3. Such trials are reminiscent of biblical plagues, especially the plague of blood upon Egypt mentioned in Ex. vii, 20ff.

1   ...   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13

The database is protected by copyright ©hestories.info 2017
send message

    Main page