Temple Hymn 15
to the Gishbanda Temple of Ningishzida
by Enheduanna (circa 2285-2250 BCE)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
Most ancient and terrible shrine,
set deep in the mountain
like a mother's womb ...
like a mother's wounded breast,
blood-red and terrifying ...
Though approaching through a safe-seeming field,
our hair raises as we near you!
like a neck-stock,
like a fish net,
like a foot-shackled prisoner's manacles ...
your ramparts are massive,
like a trap!
But once we’re inside,
as the sun rises,
you yield widespread abundance!
is the pure-handed priest of Inanna, heaven's holy one,
Oh, see how his thick, lustrous hair
cascades down his back!
he has built this beautiful temple to house your radiance!
He has placed his throne upon your dais!
Enheduanna, the daughter of the famous King Saragon the Great of Akkad, is the first ancient writer whose name remains known today. She appears to be the first named poet in human history and the first known author of prayers and hymns. Enheduanna, who lived circa 2285-2250 BCE, is also one of the first women we know by name. She was the entu (high priestess) of the goddess Inanna (Ishtar/Astarte/Aphrodite) and the moon god Nanna (Sin) in the Sumerian city-state of Ur. Enheduanna's composition Nin-me-šara ("The Exaltation of Inanna") details her expulsion from Ur, located in southern Iraq, along with her prayerful request to the goddess for reinstatement. Enheduanna also composed 42 liturgical hymns addressed to temples across Sumer and Akkad. And she was the first editor of a poetry anthology, hymnal or songbook. Now known as the Sumerian Temple Hymns, this was the first collection of its kind; indeed, Enheduanna so claimed at the end of the final hymn: "My king, something has been created that no one had created before." And poems and songs are still being assembled today via the model she established over 4,000 years ago! Enheduanna may also have been the first feminist, as she made Inanna the supreme deity. Keywords/Tags: Enheduanna, Gishbanda, Ningishzida, Inanna, translation, Akkad, Ur, Sumerian temple hymns, Sumer