Queen of Heaven
Goddess of Love, Wisdom, War, Fertility and Lust
Ishtar vase Louvre AO17000-detail.jpg
Inanna on the Ishtar Vase
French museum Louvre
Abode Heaven
Symbol Sky, Clouds, Wars, Birth, Skin
Consort Dumuzi or Tammuz
Parents Sin and Ningal
Siblings Utu, Ishkur and Ereshkigal
Children Lulal and Shara

Inanna (/ɪˈnænə/ or /ɪˈnɑːnə/; Cuneiform: 𒀭𒈹 (Old Babylonian) or DINGIRINANNA (Neo-Assyrian) DMUŠ3; Sumerian: Inanna; Akkadian: Ištar; Unicode: U+12239) was the Sumerian goddess of love, beauty, sexual desire, fertility, knowledge, wisdom, war, and combat. She was also the patron goddess of the E-Anna temple at the city of Uruk, which was her main cult center. She was one of the most widely venerated deities in the ancient Sumerian pantheon. Her Akkadian and Babylonian equivalent was the goddess Ishtar. Several of her most important myths involve the story of her descent into and return from Kur, the ancient Sumerian Underworld.



Inanna was the most prominent female deity in ancient Mesopotamia.[1] As early as the Uruk period (ca. 4000–3100 BC), Inanna was associated with the city of Uruk. The famous Uruk Vase (found in a deposit of cult objects of the Uruk III period) depicts a row of naked men carrying various objects, bowls, vessels, and baskets of farm products, and bringing sheep and goats, to a female figure facing the ruler. This figure was ornately dressed for a divine marriage, and attended by a servant. The female figure holds the symbol of the two twisted reeds of the doorpost, signifying Inanna behind her, while the male figure holds a box and stack of bowls, the later cuneiform sign signifying En, or high priest of the temple. Especially in the Uruk period, the symbol of a ring-headed doorpost is associated with Inanna.[1]

Seal impressions from the Jemdet Nasr period (ca. 3100–2900 BC) show a fixed sequence of city symbols including those of Ur, Larsa, Zabalam, Urum, Arina, and probably Kesh. It is likely that this list reflects the report of contributions to Inanna at Uruk from cities supporting her cult. A large number of similar sealings were found from the slightly later Early Dynastic I phase at Ur, in a slightly different order, combined with the rosette symbol of Inanna, that were definitely used for this purpose. They had been used to lock storerooms to preserve materials set aside for her cult.[2] Inanna's primary temple of worship was the Eanna, located in Uruk (c.f. Worship).

The mythos of Inanna's assumption of the "me" from Enki, has been interpreted as a late insertion of the Goddess into the Sumerian pantheon, possibly associated with the archaeologically confirmed eclipse in the importance of Eridu and the rise of the importance of Uruk, at the end of the Ubaid period. Her temple, the Eanna would also seem to have been taken from Anu, the head of the Sumerian pantheon, prior to the rise of Enlil of Nippur. Inanna's name, which has no Sumerian etymology, has been linked with that of Hurrian Hannahannah, which supports this thesis of a later arrival, associated with the arrival of Proto-Euphratean farmers in Southern Iraq (see below, Etymology).


Inanna's name derives from Lady of Heaven (Sumerian: nin-an-ak). The cuneiform sign of Inanna (𒈹); however, is not a ligature of the signs lady (Sumerian: nin; Cuneiform: 𒊩𒌆 SAL.TUG2) and sky (Sumerian: an; Cuneiform: 𒀭 AN).[3]

These difficulties have led some early Assyriologists to suggest that originally Inanna may have been a Proto-Euphratean goddess, possibly related to the Hurrian mother goddess Hannahannah, accepted only latterly into the Sumerian pantheon, an idea supported by her youthfulness, and that, unlike the other Sumerian divinities, at first she had no sphere of responsibilities.[4] The view that there was a Proto-Euphratean substrate language in Southern Iraq before Sumerian is not widely accepted by modern Assyriologists.[5]


Part of the front of Inanna's temple from Uruk

Inanna was one of the most widely venerated deities in the Sumerian pantheon.[6][3] Many shrines and temples dedicated to Inanna were built along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The House of Heaven (Sumerian: e2-anna; Cuneiform: 𒂍𒀭 E2.AN) temple[7] in Uruk[8] According to Leick 1994 persons of asexual or hermaphroditic bodies and feminine men were particularly involved in the worship and ritual practices of Inanna's temples (see gala). The deity of this fourth-millennium city was probably originally An. After its dedication to Inanna the temple seems to have housed priestesses of the goddess. The high priestess would choose for her bed a young man who represented the shepherd Dumuzid, consort of Inanna, in a hieros gamos or sacred marriage, celebrated during the annual Akitu (New Year) ceremony, at the spring Equinox. According to Samuel Noah Kramer in The Sacred Marriage Rite, in late Sumerian history (end of the third millennium) kings established their legitimacy by taking the place of Dumuzi in the temple for one night on the tenth day of the New Year festival.[9] A Sacred Marriage to Inanna may have conferred legitimacy on a number of rulers of Uruk. Gilgamesh is reputed to have refused marriage to Inanna, on the grounds of her misalliance with such kings as Lugalbanda and Dumuzid.


One version of the star symbol of Inanna/Ishtar

Inanna's symbol is an eight-pointed star or a rosette.[10] She was associated with lions – even then a symbol of power – and was frequently depicted standing on the backs of two lionesses. Her cuneiform ideogram was a hook-shaped twisted knot of reeds, representing the doorpost of the storehouse (and thus fertility and plenty).[11]

Inanna as the planet Venus

Inanna was associated with the planet Venus, which at that time was regarded as two stars, the "morning star" and the "evening star." There are hymns to Inanna as her astral manifestation. It also is believed that in many myths about Inanna, including Inanna's Descent to the Underworld and Inanna and Shukaletuda, her movements correspond with the movements of Venus in the sky. Also, because of its positioning so close to Earth, Venus is not visible across the dome of the sky as most celestial bodies are; because its proximity to the sun renders it invisible during the day. Instead, Venus is visible only when it rises in the East before sunrise, or when it sets in the West after sunset.[12]

Photograph of the planet Venus seen with the naked eye, as the Sumerians would have seen it

Because the movements of Venus appear to be discontinuous (it disappears due to its proximity to the sun, for many days at a time, and then reappears on the other horizon), some cultures did not recognize Venus as single entity, but rather regarded the planet as two separate stars on each horizon as the morning and evening star. The Mesopotamians, however, most likely understood that the planet was one entity. A cylinder seal from the Jemdet Nasr period expresses the knowledge that both morning and evening stars were the same celestial entity.[13] The discontinuous movements of Venus relate to both mythology as well as Inanna's dual nature.[13] Inanna is related like Venus to the principle of connectedness, but this has a dual nature and could seem unpredictable. Yet as both the goddess of love and war, with both masculine and feminine qualities, Inanna is poised to respond, and occasionally to respond with outbursts of temper. Mesopotamian literature takes this one step further, explaining Inanna's physical movements in mythology as corresponding to the astronomical movements of Venus in the sky.

Inanna's Descent to the Underworld explains how Inanna is able to, unlike any other deity, descend into the netherworld and return to the heavens. The planet Venus appears to make a similar descent, setting in the West and then rising again in the East.

In Inanna and Shukaletuda, in search of her attacker, Inanna makes several movements throughout the myth that correspond with the movements of Venus in the sky. An introductory hymn explains Inanna leaving the heavens and heading for Kur, what could be presumed to be, the mountains, replicating the rising and setting of Inanna to the West. Shukaletuda also is described as scanning the heavens in search of Inanna, possibly to the eastern and western horizons.[13]

Furthermore, in the Qur'an, it is stated that the people of Abraham used to worship the Sun, moon and a star that 'disappeared during night'.

Inanna was associated with the eastern fish of the last of the zodiacal constellations, Pisces. Her consort Dumuzi was associated with the contiguous first constellation, Aries.[14]


Ancient Akkadian cylinder seal depicting Inanna resting her foot on the back of a lion while Ninshubur stands in front of her paying obeisance, c. 2334-2154 B.C.

In ancient times, Inanna was worshipped as the Sumerian goddess of love. In the Babylonian epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh points out Inanna's infamous ill-treatment of her lovers. Inanna also has a very complicated relationship with her lover, Dumuzi, in "Inanna's Descent to the Underworld".[15]

Inanna was also worshipped as one of the Sumerian war deities: "She stirs confusion and chaos against those who are disobedient to her, speeding carnage and inciting the devastating flood, clothed in terrifying radiance. It is her game to speed conflict and battle, untiring, strapping on her sandals."[16]

A description of her from one of her hymns declares, "When the servants let the flocks loose, and when cattle and sheep are returned to cow-pen and sheepfold, then, my lady, like the nameless poor, you wear only a single garment. The pearls of a prostitute are placed around your neck, and you are likely to snatch a man from the tavern."[citation needed][17] Inanna also was associated with rain and storms and with the planet Venus, the morning and evening star,[11] much like the Greco-Roman goddesses Aphrodite[18] and Venus.[19]


Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta

Inanna has a central role in the myth of Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta.[20] A major theme in the narrative is the rivalry between the rulers of Aratta and Uruk for the heart of Inanna. Ultimately, this rivalry results in natural resources coming to Uruk and the invention of writing. The text describes a tension between the cities:

The lord of Aratta placed on his head the golden crown for Inana. But he did not please her like the lord of Kulaba [A district in Uruk]. Aratta did not build for holy Inana [sic.; Alternate spelling of 'Inanna'] — unlike the Shrine E-ana [Temple in Uruk for Inanna].[21]

The city Aratta is structured as a mirror image of Uruk, only Aratta has natural resources (i.e. gold, silver, lapis lazuli) that Uruk needs. Enmerkar, king in Uruk, comes to Inanna requesting that a temple be built in Uruk with stones from Aratta, and she orders him to find a messenger to cross the Zubi mountains and go to the Lord of Aratta demanding precious metals for the temple.[22] The messenger makes the journey and all the peoples he passes along the way praise Inanna. He makes his demands, and the Lord of Aratta refuses, saying that Aratta will not submit to Uruk. He is upset, however, to learn that Inanna is pleased with the Shrine E-ana.[23] The Lord of Aratta issues a challenge to Enmerkar to bring barley to Aratta because Aratta is currently experiencing a severe famine. Enmerkar mobilizes men and donkeys to deliver the food. Still, the Lord of Aratta will not submit.[24] A series of riddles, or challenges, follows. Enmerkar, with the wisdom of Enki succeeds at every task. Eventually, the Lord of Aratta challenges Enmerkar to have a champion from each city fight in single combat.[25] By this point, however, the messenger is tired. Enmerkar gives him a message, but he is unable to repeat it verbally. So, the messenger writes it down, thus inventing writing:

(Enmerkar's) speech was substantial, and its contents extensive. The messenger, whose mouth was heavy, was not able to repeat it. Because the messenger, whose mouth was tired, was not able to repeat it, the lord of Kulaba patted some clay and wrote the message as if on a tablet. Formerly, the writing of messages on clay was not established. Now, under that sun and on that day, it was indeed so. The lord of Kulaba inscribed the message like a tablet.[26]

The Lord of Aratta cannot read the text, but the god Ishkur causes rains to end the drought in Aratta. The Lord of Aratta decides that his city has not been forsaken after all.[27] The champion of Aratta dresses in a "garment of lion skins," possibly a reference to Inanna.[28] The end of the text is unclear, but it seems that the city of Uruk is able to access Aratta's resources.

Inanna and the Mes

A cylinder seal from sometime around 2300 B.C. or thereabouts depicting the deities Inanna, Utu, Enki, and Isimud.

One of the most important myths involving Inanna is a myth that comes from an ancient Sumerian epic poem entitled "Inanna and Enki," which tells the story of how Inanna stole the sacred Mes from Enki, the ancient Sumerian god of culture. In ancient Sumerian mythology, the Mes were sacred documents or tablets that contained all of the blueprints for human civilization. Each Me embodied one specific aspect of human culture. These aspects were very diverse and the Mes listed in the poem include abstract concepts such as Truth, Victory, and Counsel, technologies such as writing and weaving, and also social constructs such as law, priestly offices, kingship, and even prostitution. The Mes were believed to grant power over, or possibly existence to, all the aspects of civilization (both positive and negative).

In the myth, Inanna travels from her own city of Uruk to Enki's city of Eridu, where she visits his temple, the E-Abzu. Inanna is greeted by Enki's sukkal, Isimud, who offers her food and drink. Inanna starts up a drinking competition with Enki. Then, once she has gotten Enki thoroughly intoxicated, Inanna cunningly persuades Enki into giving her the Mes using clever rhetoric. Inanna flees from Eridu in the Boat of Heaven, taking the Mes back with to Uruk. Enki wakes up to discover that the Mes are gone and asks Isimud what has happened to them. Isimud replies that Enki has given all of them to Inanna. Enki becomes infuriated and sends multiple sets of fierce monsters after Inanna to take back the Mes before she reaches the city of Uruk. Inanna's sukkal, Ninshubur, however, fends off all of the monsters that Enki sends after them. Through Ninshubur's aid, Inanna successfully manages to take the Mes back with her to the city of Uruk. After Inanna escapes, Enki reconciles with her and bids her a positive farewell.[29]

It is possible that this legend may represent a historic transfer of power from the city of Eridu to the city of Uruk. It is also possible that this legend may be a symbolic representation of Inanna's maturity and her readiness to become the Queen of Heaven.[30]

Inanna and Ebih

The original Sumerian clay tablet of "Inanna and Ebih," which is currently housed in the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago

This myth comes from a 184-line-long poem entitled "Inanna and Ebih," which describes Inanna's confrontation with the Kur of Ebih, in which she destroys the Kur utterly and entirely.[31] In the poem, the exact meaning of the word, Kur, is somewhat unclear since the word had many different possible meanings. The word usually referred to the Zagros mountain range (Jebel Hamrin, which is located in modern-day Iraq).[32] The same word, however, was commonly used in Sumerian mythology to refer to the first dragon.[33] The poem appears to be using the word in the context of a mountain. This is indicated by the fact that the poem repeatedly refers to Mount Ebih, which was located in the Zagros mountain range.

Samuel Noah Kramer interprets the poem as an account of Inanna slaying a dragon. He identifies two earlier myths also describing the slaying of a dragon. In the two earlier versions of the myth of the destruction of the Kur, the hero responsible for the slaying of the Kur is either Enki or Ninurta.[33] The possibility that, in this myth, Inanna plays the role of the dragon-slayer is highly unusual since the hero of a dragon-slaying myth is almost always male.

The poem begins with an introductory hymn praising Inanna.[34] The goddess then journeys all over the entire world, until she comes across Mount Ebih, and becomes infuriated by its glorious might and natural beauty, considering its very existence as an outright affront to her own authority. She rails at Mount Ebih, shouting:

Mountain, because of your elevation, because of your height,
Because of your goodness, because of your beauty,
Because you wore a holy garment,
Because An organized(?) you,
Because you did not bring (your) nose close to the ground,
Because you did not press (your) lips in the dust.[35]

Inanna petitions to An, the Sumerian god of the heavens, to allow her to destroy Mount Ebih. An responds by giving Inanna a lengthy and detailed account of all the terrible mischief that the mountain has inflicted against the gods. Ultimately, however, An warns Inanna against attacking the mountain, but Inanna ignores his warnings. She then proceeds to attack and destroy Mount Ebih regardless, utterly annihilating it and leaving massive destruction in her wake. In the conclusion of the myth, she explains to Mount Ebih why she attacked it.[31]

In Sumerian poetry, the phrase "destroyer of Kur" is occasionally used as one of Inanna's epithets.[36]

Inanna and Shukaletuda

Inanna and Shukaletuda begins with a hymn to Inanna which praises her as the planet Venus (as it appears in the sky).

The story then goes on to introduce the reader to Shukaletuda, a gardener who is terrible at his job and partially blind. All of his plants die, with the exception of one poplar tree. Shukaletuda prays to the deities for guidance in his work. To his surprise, the goddess Inanna sees his one poplar tree and decides to rest under the shade of its branches. While Inanna is asleep, Shukaletuda decides it would be a good idea to undress and rape her. The goddess awakes and realizes she was violated in her sleep. She is furious and determined to bring her attacker to justice. In a fit of rage, Inanna unleashes plagues upon the Earth to punish and identify her attacker. She turns water to blood in an attempt to punish her rapist. Shukaletuda, terrified for his life, asks his father for advice on how to escape Inanna's wrath. His father tells him to hide in the city, amongst the hordes of people and blend in. Inanna searches the mountains of the East for her attacker, and is not able to find him. She then releases a series of storms and closes the roads to the city, and is still unable to find Shukaletuda in the mountains. After her plagues, Inanna is still not able to find her rapist and asks Enki for help in revealing him. Inanna threatens to leave her temple at Uruk unless Enki helps her find her attacker. He consents, and allows her to "fly across the sky like a rainbow". Inanna finally finds Shukaletuda. He attempts to make his excuses for his crime against her, but she will have nothing to do with it and kills him.[13]

This myth and Shukaletuda is cited as a Sumerian Astral myth, as the movements of Inanna to only the mountains correspond with the movements of the planet Venus. When Shukaletuda was praying to the goddess, he may have been looking toward Venus in the horizon.[13]

Inanna and Gudam

This fragmentary myth focuses on the actions of Gudam, who is described as a fierce warrior, who dined on flesh and drank blood instead of beer.[37] Gudam walks through Uruk, killing many and damaging the Eanna temple, until a "fisherman of Inanna" turns his axe against him and defeats him. Gudam, humbled, pleads to Inanna for forgiveness, promising to praise her through words and offerings.

Inanna and An

This myth, also fragmentary, begins with a conversation between Inanna and her brother Utu. She laments the fact that the Eanna temple is not of their domain, and resolves to reach or secure it. The text becomes increasingly fragmentary at this point in the narrative, but appears to describe her difficult passage through a marshland to reach it, while being advised by a fisherman as to the best route.

Ultimately she reaches her father, An. While he is shocked by her arrogance in attempting to capture the Eanna temple for herself, he nevertheless concedes that she has succeeded and it is now her domain. The text ends with an exaltation of her qualities and powers.[38] This myth may represent an eclipse in the authority of the priests of Anu in Uruk, and a transfer of power to the priests of Inanna.

Inanna's Descent to the Underworld

A modern illustration depicting Inanna/Ishtar's descent into the Underworld taken from Lewis Spence's Myths and Legends of Babylonia and Assyria (1916)

The story of Inanna's descent to the underworld is a relatively well-attested and reconstructed composition.

In Sumerian religion, the Kur was conceived of as a dreary, dark place; a home to deceased heroes and ordinary people alike. While everyone suffered an eternity of poor conditions, certain behavior while alive, notably creating a family to provide offerings to the deceased, could alleviate conditions somewhat.

Inanna's reason for visiting the underworld is unclear. The reason she gives to the gatekeeper of the underworld is that she wants to attend the funeral rites of Ereshkigal's husband, here said to be Gugalanna. In The Epic of Gilgamesh, Gugalanna is the Bull of Heaven, who is killed by Gilgamesh and Enkidu. To further add to the confusion, Ereshkigal's husband is typically the plague god Nergal,[39] who is said to have raped the goddess after the disappearance of Gugalanna.

Before leaving, Inanna instructs her minister and servant Ninshubur to plead with the deities Enlil, Sin, Anu, her father and Enki to save her if anything goes amiss. The attested laws of the underworld dictate that, with the exception of appointed messengers, those who enter it may never leave.

Inanna dresses elaborately for the visit, with a turban, a wig, a lapis lazuli necklace, beads upon her breast, the 'pala dress' (the ladyship garment), mascara, pectoral, a golden ring on her hand, and she held a lapis lazuli measuring rod. These garments are each representations of powerful mes she possesses. Perhaps Inanna's garments, unsuitable for a funeral, along with Inanna's haughty behavior, make Ereshkigal suspicious.[40]

Following Ereshkigal's instructions, Neti, the gatekeeper of the underworld, tells Inanna she may enter the first gate of the underworld, but she must hand over her lapis lazuli measuring rod. She asks why, and is told 'It is just the ways of the Underworld'. She obliges and passes through. Inanna passes through a total of seven gates, at each one removing a piece of clothing or jewelry she had been wearing at the start of her journey, thus stripping her of her power.

When she arrives in front of her sister, she is naked. "After she had crouched down and had her clothes removed, they were carried away. Then she made her sister Erec-ki-gala rise from her throne, and instead she sat on her throne. The Anna, the seven judges, rendered their decision against her. They looked at her – it was the look of death. They spoke to her – it was the speech of anger. They shouted at her – it was the shout of heavy guilt. The afflicted woman was turned into a corpse. And the corpse was hung on a hook."

Three days and three nights pass, and Ninshubur, following instructions, goes to the temples of Enlil, Nanna, Anu, and Enki, and pleads with each of them to rescue Inanna. The first three deities refuse, saying Inanna's fate is her own fault, but Enki is deeply troubled and agrees to help. He creates two asexual figures named gala-tura and the kur-jara from the dirt under the fingernails of the deities. He instructs them to appease Ereshkigal and, when she asks them what they want, ask for the corpse of Inanna, which they must sprinkle with the food and water of life. When they come before Ereshkigal, she is in agony like a woman giving birth. She offers them whatever they want, including life-giving rivers of water and fields of grain, if they can relieve her; nonetheless they take only the corpse.

The gala-tura and the kur-jara sprinkle Inanna's corpse with the food and water of life and revive her. Galla demons sent by Ereshkigal follow Inanna out of the Underworld, insisting that she is not free to go until someone else takes her place. They first come upon Ninshubur and attempt to take her. Inanna refuses, as Ninshubur is her loyal servant, who rightly mourned her while she was in the underworld. They next come upon Cara, Inanna's beautician, still in mourning. The demons say they will take him, but Inanna refuses, as he too had mourned her. They next come upon Lulal, also in mourning. The demons offer to take him, but Inanna refuses.

Finally, they come upon Dumuzi, Inanna's husband. Despite Inanna's fate, and in contrast to the other individuals who were properly mourning Inanna, Dumuzi is lavishly clothed and resting beneath a tree, or upon her throne, entertained by slave-girls. Inanna, displeased, decrees that the demons shall take him, using language which echoes the speech Ereshkigal gave while condemning her. Dumuzi is then taken to the underworld.

A depiction taken from an ancient Sumerian cylinder seal showing Dumuzid being brutally tortured in the Underworld by the galla demons

In other recensions of the story, Dumuzi tries to escape his fate, and is able to flee from the demons for a time, as Inanna's brother Utu, the god of the Sun, repeatedly intervenes and transforms Dumuzi into a variety of different animals, enabling him to escape. Nonetheless, the galla eventually capture Dumuzid and drag him down to the Underworld. However, Geshtinanna, Dumuzi's sister, out of love for him, begs to be taken in his place. Inanna decrees that Dumuzi will spend half the year in the underworld with Ereshkigal, but that his sister will take the other half. Inanna, displaying her typically capricious behavior, mourns Dumuzi's time in the underworld. This she reveals in a haunting lament of his deathlike absence from her, for "[he] cannot answer . . . [he] cannot come/ to her calling . . . the young man has gone."[41] Her own powers, notably those connected with fertility, subsequently wane, to return in full when he returns from the netherworld each six months. This cycle then approximates the shift of seasons.

In the story, Ereshkigal, too, is bound by the laws of the underworld; she cannot leave her kingdom of the underworld to join the other 'living' deities, nor can they visit her in the underworld, or else they can never return.

Additional discussion of Inanna's descent to the underworld, with new interpretation since discoveries of additional material in 1963, is included at Tammuz (deity)#Dumuzid and Inanna.

Interpretations of the Inanna descent myth

Additionally, the myth may be described as a union of Inanna with her own "dark side", her twin sister-self, Ereshkigal, as when she ascends it is with Ereshkigal's powers, while Inanna is in the underworld it is Ereshkigal who apparently takes on fertility powers, and the poem ends with a line in praise, not of Inanna, but of Ereshkigal. It is in many ways a praise-poem dedicated to the more negative aspects of Inanna's domain, symbolic of an acceptance of the necessity of death to the continuance of life. It can also be interpreted as being about the psychological power of a descent into the unconscious, realizing one's own strength through an episode of seeming powerlessness, and/or an acceptance of one's own negative qualities, as is discussed by Joseph Campbell.[42]

Another recent interpretation, by Clyde Hostetter, indicates that the myth is an allegorical report of related movements of the planets Venus, Mercury, and Jupiter; and those of the waxing crescent Moon in the Second Millennium, beginning with the Spring Equinox and concluding with a meteor shower near the end of one synodic period of Venus. The three-day disappearance of Inanna refers to the three-day planetary disappearance of Venus between its appearance as a morning or evening star. The fact that Gugalana is slain, refers to the disappearance of the constellation Taurus when the sun rises in that part of the sky, which in the Bronze Age marked the occurrence of the vernal equinox.[43]

Joshua Mark argues that it is most likely that the moral of the Descent of Inanna was that there are always consequences for one's actions. "The Descent of Inanna, then, about one of the gods behaving badly and other gods and mortals having to suffer for that behavior, would have given to an ancient listener the same basic understanding anyone today would take from an account of a tragic accident caused by someone’s negligence or poor judgment: that, sometimes, life is just not fair."[44]

Related deities

An ancient Sumerian depiction of the marriage of Inanna and Dumuzid

Inanna's Akkadian and Babylonian equivalent was the goddess Ishtar.[45] In different traditions, Inanna is described as either the daughter of the sky god An or as the daughter of the moon god Nanna (Sin). In different versions of her stories, her siblings sometimes include the sun god Utu, the rain god Ishkur, and the Queen of the Underworld Ereshkigal. In nearly all of her myths, her sukkal, or personal attendant, is the goddess Ninshubur. Dumuzi, the god of shepherds, is usually described as Inanna's husband, although Inanna's loyalty to him is questionable; in the myth of her descent into the Underworld, she abandons Dumuzi and permits the galla demons to drag him down into the Underworld as her replacement,[46] but in the later myth of "The Return of Dumuzi," Inanna paradoxically mourns over Dumuzi's death and ultimately decrees that he will be allowed to return to Heaven to be with her for one half of the year.

Inanna also is regarded in astral traditions as the morning and evening star.[15] The cult of Inanna may also have influenced the deities Ainina and Danina of the Caucasian Iberians mentioned by the medieval Georgian Chronicles.[47]

Role in modern feminism

Inanna has become an important figure in modern feminist theory largely due to the fact that she is one of the few major female deities in the otherwise male-dominated Sumerian pantheon. One modern work has even gone so far as to claim that Inanna was once regarded in parts of Sumer as the mother of all humanity.[48]

In January 2012 the Israeli feminist artist, Liliana Kleiner, presented in Jerusalem an exhibition of paintings of Inanna inspired by the myths described above.[49] Inanna also has a seat at The Dinner Party by American feminist artist Judy Chicago.[50]

Author and historian Anne O Nomis has cited the Sumerian myth of "Inanna and Ebih" as an early example of the archetype of a powerful female displaying dominating behaviors and forcing gods and men into submission to her.[51] She describes Inanna's rituals as "imbued with pain and ecstasy, bringing about initiation and journeys of altered consciousness; punishment, ecstasy, lament and song, participants exhausting themselves with weeping and grief."[52]

Dates (approximate)

See also


  1. ^ a b Black & Green 1992.
  2. ^ Van der Mierop 2007.
  3. ^ a b Wolkstein & Kramer 1983, p. xiii-xix.
  4. ^ Harris, Rivkah (February 1991). "Inanna-Ishtar as Paradox and a Coincidence of Opposites". History of Religions. 30 (3): 261–278. doi:10.1086/463228. JSTOR 1062957. 
  5. ^ Rubio, Gonzalo (1999). "On the Alleged "Pre-Sumerian Substratum"". Journal of Cuneiform Studies. 51: 1–16. JSTOR 1359726. 
  6. ^ Kramer 1961, p. 101 "the seemingly ubiquitous Inanna".
  7. ^ é-an-na = sanctuary ('house' + 'Heaven'[='An'] + genitive) (Halloran 2009)
  8. ^ modern-day Warka, Biblical Erech
  9. ^ Encounters in the Gigunu
  10. ^ Black & Green 1992, pp. 156, 169–170
  11. ^ a b Thorkild 1976
  12. ^
  13. ^ a b c d e Cooley, Jeffrey L. (2008). "Inana and Šukaletuda: a Sumerian Astral Myth". KASKAL. 5: 161–172. ISSN 1971-8608. 
  14. ^ Foxvog, D. (1993). "Astral Dumuzi". In Hallo, William W.; Cohen, Mark E.; Snell, Daniel C.; et al. The Tablet and the scroll: Near Eastern studies in honor of William W. Hallo (2nd ed.). CDL Press. p. 106. ISBN 0962001392. 
  15. ^ a b Black & Green 1992, pp. 108–9
  16. ^ Enheduanna pre 2250 BCE "A hymn to Inana (Inana C)". The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature. 2003. lines 18–28. 4.07.3. 
  17. ^ Voices From the Clay: the development of Assyro-Babylonian Literature. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1965.
  18. ^ Greene, Ellen (1999). Reading Sappho: Contemporary Approaches. University of California Press. p. 54. ISBN 0-520-20601-0. 
  19. ^ Guillemin, Amédée; Lockyer, Norman; Proctor, Richard Anthony (1878). The Heavens: An Illustrated Handbook of Popular Astronomy. London: Richard Bentley & Son. p. 67. Retrieved 2009-05-16. 
  20. ^ "Enmerkar and the lord of Aratta". The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature. 2006. 
  21. ^ Enmerkar and the lord of Aratta, lines 25–32
  22. ^ Enmerkar and the lord of Aratta, lines 33–104; 108–133
  23. ^ Enmerkar and the lord of Aratta, lines 160–241
  24. ^ Enmerkar and the lord of Aratta, lines 242–372
  25. ^ Enmerkar and the lord of Aratta, lines 373–461
  26. ^ Enmerkar and the lord of Aratta, lines 500–514
  27. ^ Enmerkar and the lord of Aratta, lines 536–577
  28. ^ Especially her Akkadian counterpart Ishtar was represented with the lion as her beast. C.f. Black & Green 1992, p. 109
  29. ^
  30. ^ Wolkstein & Kramer 1983, p. 146-150.
  31. ^ a b
  32. ^ Postgate, Nicholas (2004). Early Mesopotamia: Society and Economy at the Dawn of History. Taylor & Francis. p. 9. ISBN 978-0-415-24587-6. 
  33. ^ a b Kramer, Samuel Noah (1961). Sumerian Mythology: A Study of Spiritual and Literary Achievement in the Third Millennium B.C.: Revised Edition. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 76–83. ISBN 0-8122-1047-6. 
  34. ^ Attinger, Pascal. Inana et Ebih. Zeitschrift für Assyriologie. 3 1988, pp 164–195
  35. ^ Karahashi, Fumi (April 2004). "Fighting the Mountain: Some Observations on the Sumerian Myths of Inanna and Ninurta". Journal of Near Eastern Studies. 63 (2): 111–8. JSTOR 422302. 
  36. ^ Kramer, Samuel Noah (1961). Sumerian Mythology: A Study of Spiritual and Literary Achievement in the Third Millennium B.C.: Revised Edition. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 82. ISBN 0-8122-1047-6. 
  37. ^ "Inana and Gudam". The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature. 2003. 1.3.4. 
  38. ^ "Inana and An". The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature. 2003. 1.3.5. 
  39. ^ "Nergal and Ereshkigal" in Myths from Mesopotamia, trans. S. Dalley (ISBN 0-199-53836-0)
  40. ^ Kilmer, Anne Draffkorn (1971). "How was Queen Ereshkigal tricked? A new interpretation of the Descent of Ishtar". Ugarit-Forschungen. 3: 299–309. 
  41. ^ Sandars, Nancy K. (1989). Poems of Heaven and Hell from Ancient Mesopotamia. Penguin. pp. 162, 164–5. ISBN 0140442499. 
  42. ^ Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Novato, California: New World Library, 2008), pp. 88–90.
  43. ^ Clyde Hostetter, Star Trek to Hawa-i'i (San Luis Obispo, California: Diamond Press, 1991), p. 53)
  44. ^ Mark, Joshua J. (2011). "Inanna's Descent: A Sumerian Tale of Injustice". Ancient History Encyclopedia
  45. ^ Mark, Joshua J. "Inanna." Ancient History Encyclopedia. 15 October 2010.
  46. ^
  47. ^ Tseretheli, Michael (1935). "The Asianic (Asia Minor) elements in national Georgian paganism". Georgica. 1 (1): 55–56. 
  48. ^ White 2013
  49. ^ Hebrew review by Michal Sadan and photos of Inana paintings
  50. ^ Chicago, Judy. The Dinner Party: From Creation to Preservation. London: Merrell (2007). ISBN 1-85894-370-1.
  51. ^ "Inana and Ebih". The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature. 2001.  cited in Anne O Nomis (2013). "The Warrior Goddess and her Dance of Domination". The History & Arts of the Dominatrix. Mary Egan Publishing. p. 53. ISBN 9780992701000. 
  52. ^ See "A Hymn to Inana (Inana C)". The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature. 2006. lines 70–80.  cited in Anne O Nomis 2013, pp. 59–60 Dominatrix Rituals of Gender, Transformation, Ecstasy and Pain


Further reading

External links