• Gilgamesh and the Great Goddess of Uruk

      Maier, John R.; College at Brockport (2018-05-01)
      As early as five thousand years ago the Sumerians who were developing a complex city-state based on plow agriculture and animal husbandry in what is now southern Iraq illustrated their culture in great vases, one band of which can be interpreted as a “Sacred Marriage” between the highest power in the universe, the Great Goddess “Inanna” (in Semitic Babylonia and Assyria “Ishtar”). In the very complicated scene at the topmost band of the Uruk Vase the goddess raises the status of her human lover to semi-divine status. The position he held the Sumerians called en, and on the vase he is seen receiving from the goddess a symbolic wrap and a cap that indicate his new status. The most famous of the Sumerian ens was an Urukean known a “Bilgamis” later “Gilgamesh,” and his exploits are recounted in a variety of poems, epics as important to his people as Odysseus and Achilles were to the ancient Greeks. From the 4th millennium BCE Uruk Vase to the 1st millennium BCE versions of Gilgamesh poems the peoples of Mesopotamia celebrated the often combative relationship between the en and the Great Goddess.