The life of enkheduanna the great poet

enkheduanna, the oldest known writer Enheduanna (or Enheduana, En-hedu-ana or EnHeduAnna, 23rd century BC), priestess and poetess of Akkadian origin, is the oldest writer whose name and some of her writings have come down to us.


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The princess and the priestess

The “Enheduanna Record” at the Penn Museum in Philadelphia.

Daughter of Sargon of Akkad, the founding king of the Akkadian or Agadê empire in Mesopotamia, Princess Enheduanna was born in the 23rd century B.C.; her father’s reign is usually around 2334-2279 B.C., or a little later.

Originally from the city of Akkad, Enheduanna is more likely to be the daughter of a concubine of Sargon, a Sumerian priestess of the moon god Nanna or Sîn, than of Queen Tsutum.

Sargon has great confidence in his daughter. To better control the southern Sumerian populations, he sends her to the city of Ur, one of the most important cities in Mesopotamia, to become the high priestess of Nanna, the female moon goddess Ningal and the goddess of love and war Inanna.

Enheduanna was the first to carry this title of high priestess, which other princesses would later carry in turn.

Her name, adopted in her new role as High Priestess, may mean “Noble Ornament of God”.

The rebel city

When his father died, probably in 2279 B.C., revolts broke out and his half-brother Rimush, son of Sargon, fought to keep power.

Enheduanna continues to hold office, although the city of Ur has risen up against Sargon’s heir to the point of appointing a new king.

The priestess is said to have kept her temple against a rebel named Lugal-Ane. For some time, she was in exile.

He described this situation in a prayer to the goddess Inanna, whom he begged to intercede before the father of all gods An and tell him about Lugal-Ane and the destiny that awaited him.

Enheduanna is finally restored to her post and Rimush reconquers the rebel cities.

The oldest known writer.

A poetess, as well as a priestess and princess, Enheduanna is known to have left religious hymns of which we still have traces today.

Mainly dedicated to Inanna, these poems have been found on more than one hundred cuneiform tablets.

He wrote The Victory of Inanna over the Ebih, The Brave Goddess, The Exaltation of Inanna, as well as a set of 42 poems known as Hymns of the Sumerian Temples.

Although marked by devotion and prayer, these poems have a more personal style and reflect the personal reflections, hopes and despairs, of their author.

These hymns and poems, some of which are probably apocryphal, will be copied and recopied for almost 2,000 years, as the recovered tablets reveal. Other hymns could also be attributed to the god Nanna.

These texts make her the oldest known writer.

Enheduanna has been in office for about 40 years. It is possible that she was deified after her death.

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