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Ancient Mesopotamia

Updated on January 15, 2013

Introduction to Sumerian Mythology

Sumer, located between the twin rivers of the Euphrates and Tigris, is in modern day Iraq. The Sumerians are credited with the first historically known civilization between the years of 5000 BCE and 3000 BCE. With literally thousands of stone tablets inscribed in cuneiform and with the help of such institutions such as the Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature we have the opportunity to look far into our past and perhaps discover something of ourselves as humans. Although the translation of the myths can be quite complex at time, I hope that the re-tellings and commentaries on the myths will provide you with resources for entertainment and perhaps a bit more knowledge on the subject. I look forward to hearing from you.


In very ancient days...

"Pure are the cities

and you are the ones

to whom they are allotted."

The first line of the the myth Enki and Ninhursag

Even though the topic of ancient creation in the Sumerian mythology must be viewed through the fallible glasses of eons of time; taking in to account for current situations in culture, religion and politics, and remembering that many of the stories were changed as they were passed on we only now have the ability to study the creation stories from land between the twin rivers of the Euphrates and Tigris or otherwise known as the ancient civilization of Sumer.

Sumer, in the 120 miles stretch along the river Euphrates in the southern half of what is now Iraq and Kuwait in an area that is about 10,000 square miles. In it's prime, about 4500-3000 BCE, it eastern boarders are formed by the Zagros Mountains, being bordered on the west by the Syrian and Arabian deserts. To the south, Enki's watery realm, is a large amount of swamp lands leading into the Persian Gulf via a delta of rivers.

Early on in this land, there were a people called the Ubaid, named after the tell, or archeological mound, Al-Ubaid that is located west of the city of Ur, made famous later by the patriarch Abraham. The people flourish in the fertile crescent for thousands of years, farming as early as 9000 BCE through 4 phases (Ubaid I-IV) until about 4500 BCE. The ancient inhabitants, the Ubaid, established villages that very shortly turned into the city-states; Ur, Eridu, Adab, Isin, Larsa, Uruk, Lagash, Nippur and Kish. According to the legends, there also existed in those times a people of Semitic speech, nomads from the Syrian desert, referred to first as the Martu that seemed to invade, inhabit and became the prominent political group in the area sometime before 5000 BCE.

With the help of these groups of people, as history moved forward, eventually canals, roads and rivers connected the cities. When the Sumerians arrived in about 4500 BCE, perhaps from south-central Asia, through western Iran, The Anuna, literally the descendants of the heaven god An, the earth gods inhabited these cities, connecting those cities into collective nation of Sumer. In every city, the god or goddess of the city would bless the new king of the city. With the Temple and Palace balanced the cities flourished. In the nation's lead sanctuary, the E-Kur of Nippur, Enlil would bless any king or queen mighty enough to rule the nation, to rule "Heaven and Earth, An and Ki."

Many gods and goddesses went into the creation and structure of the nation of Sumer and in turn our current religious and political systems. Too often the Sumerian mythology is understood through a reflection our current and recent past political systems of rule. For example, Sumerian culture is regarded as a patriarchal system of government, commonly explained as similar to the current occupants of the region, when the myths indicate a balance of male and female responsibilities, a simple tone of government somewhat similar to the 'group' that comes from our modern-day socialistic ideals and independent rights and responsibilities found in a democracy. However there exists hints that perhaps something existed in those days without comparison in our societies, past or present; a thorough weave between the people, the gods, the cities, creating a unified nation of city-states that we call Sumer.

Goddesses as divine queens of cities and ideals, higher in status that mortal kings or priests and served in essential functions and roles to the nation right along side their male counterparts. And this is only the beginning of the problem of ethnocentrism as we, in this time, attempt to unravel the systems of life and rule in the Fertile Crescent from tablets that were inscribed about 5500 years in our past.

Echoes from a long distant past come bubbling from the sand, swamp and seas. That which has been hidden, that which has been oppressed, that which came directly from the mouths of gods, inscribed on to stone tablets in a form of writing called cuneiform, has now returned to the earth. That which was pure and innocent was labeled slanderous and literally demonized. Return again to the land of the twin rivers, leave the walls of your city learn of the gifts of the gods, the beginnings of our glorious culture of humans and what we, as humans, have forgotten.

Beyond classification of skin color, beyond the idea that a strong gender exists, we are human. We all have a common history, a common existence and a common planet. The sun and the moon rises and over all us humans, and has for thousands and thousands of years. Long has the shadows of racism and chauvinism darkened the face of our lovely lady. We are one, a pure race, human. For us the inheritors of the earth, it is always a new day.

I would love to hear your opinion, of my writing and the subject matter. The former because I am a novice writer. The later becaue it is a little know subject, the ancient near east. I hope you enjoyed my opinions and information.

I would love to hear your opinion!

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      LuizAvila 5 years ago

      Write more! Thanks!!!

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Good article...I love that the origins of Man aren't just man...they are woman too :)

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 5 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Really good lens, full of detail. I'm sure I'll be back a few times

    • ChristopherCres profile image

      ChristopherCres 6 years ago

      returned the lense roll favour buddy. Just completed my 2nd article on sub zer cooling computers

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      CanalBoat 6 years ago

      An excellent lens on the origins of civilization. Use this as a base for many more lens on this era of history. Also, you mention their use of canals - music to my ears! - good lens!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Well written about Ancient Mesopotamia...a fascinating part of history. Stopping by today to leave a Cupid Kiss in honor of Valentine's Day.

    • orgaard lm profile image

      orgaard lm 6 years ago

      Great job, I am very glad to have this information. Please keep posting. Can you tell us more. Thanks!