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Enheduanna (Akkadian: 𒂗𒃶𒁺𒀭𒈾; 2285–2250 BCE),[1] also transliterated as Enheduana, En-hedu-ana or EnHeduAnna[2] ("en" means high priest or high priestess, and "hedu" means adornment, so this name translates to "high priestess adornment of the god, An"[3][4]), was the daughter of king Sargon of Akkad and High Priestess of the moon god Nanna (Sin)[5] in the Sumerian city-state of Ur. She was the first known holder of the title "En Priestess", a role of great political importance that was often held by royal daughters.[6] Enheduanna was one of the earliest women in history whose name is known.

Regarded by literary and historical scholars as possibly the earliest known author and poet, Enheduanna served as the "High Priestess" during the third millennium BCE.[1] She was appointed to the role by her father, King Sargon of Akkad. Her mother was probably Queen Tashlultum.[7][8] Enheduanna has left behind a corpus of literary works, definitively ascribed to her, that include several personal devotions to the goddess Inanna and a collection of hymns known as the "Sumerian Temple Hymns," regarded as one of the first attempts at a systematic theology. In addition, scholars, such as Hallo and Van Dijk, suggest that certain texts not ascribed to her may also be her works.[9]

Enheduanna was appointed to the role of High Priestess in a shrewd political move by Sargon to help secure power in the Sumerian south where the City of Ur was located.[10]

She continued to hold office during the reign of Rimush, her brother. It was during the reign of Rimush that she was involved in some form of political turmoil, expelled, then eventually reinstated as high priestess. Her composition 'The Exaltation of Inanna' or ‘nin me sar2-ra’[11] details her expulsion from Ur and eventual reinstatement (Franke 1995: 835). This correlates with 'The Curse of Akkade'[12] in which Naram-Sin, under whom Enheduanna may have also served, is cursed and cast out by Enlil. After her death, Enheduanna continued to be remembered as an important figure, perhaps even attaining semi-divine status.[13]


  • Archaeological and textual evidence 1
  • Her literary work 2
  • List of Enheduanna's compositions 3
  • In modern culture 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Archaeological and textual evidence

Enheduanna is well-known from archaeological and textual sources. Two seals bearing her name, belonging to her servants and dating to the Sargonic period, have been excavated at the Royal Cemetery at Ur.[14][15] In addition an Alabaster disc bearing her name and likeness was excavated in the Gipar at Ur, which was the main residence of the En Priestess. The statue was found in the Isin-Larsa (c. 2000–1800 BCE) levels of the Giparu alongside a statue of the En Priestess Enannatumma.[16]

Copies of Enheduanna's work, many dating to hundreds of years after her death, were made and kept in Nippur, Ur and possibly Lagash alongside Royal inscriptions which indicates that they were of high value, perhaps equal to the inscriptions of Kings (Westenholz 1989:540).

Her literary work

Enheduanna composed 42 hymns addressed to temples across Sumer and Akkad including Eridu, Sippar and Esnunna.[17] The texts are reconstructed from 37 tablets from Ur and Nippur, most of which date to the Ur III and Old Babylonian periods (Sjöberg and Bergman 1969:6–7). This collection is known generally as 'The Sumerian Temple Hymns'. The temple hymns were the first collection of their kind; in them Enheduanna states: “My king, something has been created that no one has created before.”[18] The copying of the hymns indicates the temple hymns were in use long after Enheduanna's death and were held in high esteem.

Her other famous work is 'The Exaltation of Inanna'[19] or 'Nin-Me-Sar-Ra'[20] which is a personal devotion to the goddess Inanna and also details Enheduanna's expulsion from Ur.

Enheduanna's authorship raises the issue of female literacy in ancient Mesopotamia; in addition to Enheduanna royal wives are known to have commissioned or perhaps composed poetry[21] and the goddess Nindaba acted as a scribe: As Leick notes "to some extent the descriptive epithets of Mesopotamian goddesses reveal the cultural perception of women and their role in ancient society".[22]

List of Enheduanna's compositions

  • Nin-me-šara, "The Exaltation of Inanna", 153 lines, edited and translated first by Hallo and van Dijk (1968), later by Annette Zgoll (1997) in German. The first 65 lines address the goddess with a list of epithets, comparing her to An, the supreme god of the pantheon. Then, En-hedu-ana speaks in the first person to express her unhappiness at being exiled from the temple and the cities of Ur and Uruk. En-hedu-ana asks for intercession of Nanna. Lines 122–135 recite divine attributes of Inanna.
  • In-nin ša-gur-ra (named by incipit), 274 lines (incomplete), edited by Sjöberg (1976) using 29 fragments.
  • In-nin me-huš-a, "Inanna and Ebih", first translated by Limet (1969)
  • The Temple Hymns, edited by Sjöberg and Bergmann (1969): 42 hymns of varying length, addressed to temples.
  • Hymn to Nanna, edited by Westenholz

The majority of Enheduanna's work is available in translation at the Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature. [1]. It has also been translated and compiled into a unified narrative by Sumerian scholar Samuel Noah Kramer and poet Diane Wolkstein. Their version, published under the title Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth: Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer, was published by Harper Perennial in 1983.

Westenholz edited another fragmentary hymn dedicated to En-hedu-ana, apparently by an anonymous composer, indicating her apotheosis, becoming a deity following her death.

In modern culture

Minnesota author Cass Dalglish has published a contemporary poetic adaptation of Nin-me-sar-ra.[23] Jungian analyst Betty De Shong Meador has translated works by Enheduanna and written two books on the subject, Inanna: Lady of Largest Heart[24] and Princess, priestess, poet: the Sumerian temple hymns of Enheduanna.[25] Poet Diane Wolkstein, with Sumerian scholar Samuel Noah Kramer, compiled Enheduanna's poems into a unified epic poem, Inanna: Queen of Heaven and Earth,.[26] Wolkstein's version in turn inspired several other poetic works: Judy Grahn's Queen of Swords,[27] Alice Notley's The Descent of Alette,[28] and Annie Finch's Among the Goddesses.[29]

Enheduanna is the subject of the episode "The Immortals" of the science television series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, where she was voiced by Christiane Amanpour.

Having been one of the earliest known female poets and authors, Enheduanna has gained attention among feminists. To mark International Women's Day in 2014, the British Council hosted a pre-launch event for Niniti International Literature Festival in Erbil, Iraq, where 'writer and previous NINITI participant Rachel Holmes [delivered] a TED Talk looking back on 5000 years of feminism, from major female Sumerian poet Enheduanna, to contemporary writers who [attended] the festival'.[30]

In 2015, the IAU named a crater on Mercury after Enheduanna.[31] Under IAU rules, all new craters on Mercury must be named after an artist, composer, or writer who was famous for more than 50 years and has been dead for more than three years.

See also


  1. ^ a b Binkley, Roberta (1998). "Biography of Enheduanna, Priestess of Inanna". University of Pennsylvania Museum. 
  2. ^ "En HeduAnna (EnHedu'Anna) philosopher of Iraq – 2354 BCE". Women-philosophers dot com. 
  3. ^ "The En-hedu-Ana Research Pages". 
  4. ^ With reference to Nanna, the Moon God, the title "heduana" is a poetic epithet denoting the beauty of the Moon in the sky. Hedu means "adornment", and Ana means "of the sky and earth".
  5. ^ Gods, Demons, and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia: An Illustrated Dictionary by Jeremy Black and Anthony Green (1992, ISBN 0-292-70794-0), p. 134 (entry "Nanna-Suen").
  6. ^ J Renger 1967: "Untersuchungen zum Priestertum in der altbabylonischen Zeit", Zeitschrift für Assyriologie und vorderasiatische Archäologie. Vol. 58. p. 118.
  7. ^ Elisabeth Meier Tetlow (2004). Women, Crime, and Punishment in Ancient Law and Society: The ancient Near East.  
  8. ^  
  9. ^ Hallo, William W. and Van Dijk, J.J.A. (1968). The Exaltation of Inanna. Yale University Press. p. 3.
  10. ^ Franke, Franke, S. Kings of Akkad: Sargon and Naram-Sin" in Sasson, Jack, M. "Civilizations of the Ancient Near East". Scribener, New York, 1995, p. 831
  11. ^ ETCSL translation: t.4.07.2
  12. ^ ETCSL translation: t.2.1.5
  13. ^ Hallo, William W. and Van Dijk, J.J.A. The Exaltation of Inanna, Yale University Press, 1968 p. 5
  14. ^ Gadd, C. J. et al Ur Excavations Texts I – Royal Inscriptions" Trustees of the British Museum and of the Museum of the University of Pennsylvania, London, 1928
  15. ^ Woolley, Leonard. Ur Excavations II: The royal cemetery: a report on the pre-dynastic and Sargonid graves excavated between 1926 and 1931". For the Trustees of the two Museums by the Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1934 p.312, 334–335 & 358.
  16. ^ Weadock, P. 1975 'The Giparu at Ur.' Iraq 37(2): 101–128.
  17. ^ Sjoberg, A. W. and Bergman, S.J 1969 'The Collection of Sumerian Temple Hymns' J.J Augustin Publisher, New York p.5
  18. ^ (ETCSL translation: t.4.80.1, line 543–544 )
  19. ^ Hallo, William W. and Van Dijk, J.J.A. The Exaltation of Inanna, Yale University Press, 1968
  20. ^ Angelfire description
  21. ^ Leick, Gwendolyn. "Sex and Eroticism in Mesopotamian Literature" Routledge, London, 1994 pp. 112 & 116
  22. ^ Leick, Gwendolyn. "Sex and Eroticism in Mesopotamian Literature" Routledge, London, 1994 p. 65
  23. ^ Dalglish, 2008
  24. ^ De Shong Meador, 2001
  25. ^ De Shong Meador, 2009
  26. ^ Harper Perennial, 1983
  27. ^ Beacon Press, 1987
  28. ^ Penguin Books, 1996
  29. ^ Red Hen Press, 2010
  30. ^ British Council Literature 'Poem for International Women's Day & NINITI International Festival of women writers in Iraq' [2]
  31. ^ Mercury Crater-naming Contest Winners Announced, IAU, press release, April 2015. The crater will appear in the IAU's Mercury gazetteer in due course.


  • Dalglish, Cass (2008). Humming The Blues: Inspired by Nin-Me-Sar-Ra, Enheduanna's Song to Inanna. Oregon: CALYX Books.  
  • De Shong Meador, Betty (2001). Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart: Poems of the Sumerian High Priestess Enheduanna, University of Texas ISBN 0-292-75242-3
  • Betty De Shong Meador, Princess, priestess, poet: the Sumerian temple hymns of Enheduanna, University of Texas Press, 2009, ISBN 978-0-292-71932-3
  • Hallo, William W. and Van Dijk, J.J.A. (1986). The Exaltation of Inanna, Yale University Press.
  • Roberts, Janet (2004). Enheduanna, Daughter of King Sargon: Princess, Poet, Priestess (2300 B.C.), Transoxiana 8 [3]
  • Sjoberg, Ake and E. Bermann, E. (1969). The Collection of the Sumerian Temple Hymns, Locust Valley, J.J. Augustin.
  • Sjoberg, Ake (1975). In-nin sa-gur-ra: A Hymn to the Goddess Inanna by the en-Priestess Enheduanna, Zeitschrift für Assyriologie und Vorderasiatische Archaeologie 65: 161–253.
  • Zgoll, Annette (1997). "Der Rechtsfall der En-hedu-Ana im Lied Nin-me-sarra", (En-hedu-Ana's legal case in the hymn Nin-me-sara) [Ugarit-Verlag, Muenster], 1997. For an English translation of Zgoll's translation of Nin-me-sara:

External links

  • Penn Museum Collections Database
  • Spotlight on the Disk of Enheduanna (Penn Museum Blog)
  • Enheduanna on Ancient History Encyclopedia
  • Biography of Enheduanna
  • The En-hedu-Ana Research Pages
  • "En-hedu-Ana: Ornament of the Sky" documentary posted on youtube
  • Inana and Ebih: translation (The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature)
  • The exaltation of Inana: Nin me šar-ra (Inana B): translation (The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature)
  • A hymn to Inana: In-nin šag gur-ra (Inana C): translation (The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature)
  • The temple hymns: translation (The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature)
  • The Enheduanna Society (The Enheduanna Society)
  • Project Continua: Biography of Enheduanna Project Continua is a web-based multimedia resource dedicated to the creation and preservation of women’s intellectual history from the earliest surviving evidence into the 21st Century.
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