Ancient Summerian Mythology

One of the many ancient civilizations that need to be clarified is ancient Sumeria. Sumer was an ancient region in southern Mesopotamia, located in the extreme southeastern part of what is now Iraq. The land of Sumer was virtually devoid of human occupants until about 5000 BC, when settlers moved into the swamps at the head of the Persian Gulf and gradually spread northward up the lower Tigris-Euphrates Valley. Although the Sumerians as people disappeared, their language and literature continued to influence the religion of their successors.

Their basic economic organization and system of writing cuneiform, architectural forms, and legal practices remained in use. “Later generations elaborated upon the mathematics and astronomy that the Sumerians had originated. ” (Beret 113. ) Almost every culture or ancient civilization has a flood story. For example, in the Old Testament, there was a flood story that lasted forty days and forty nights. In the Sumerian civilization, there is a flood story as well. The motive for the flood story in the Old Testament is similar to the motive in the flood story in the Sumerian culture.

This motive was to punish the wickedness of men. The flood happened in a city called Shurrupak. It stands on the bank of the Euphrates River. The city grew old and the gods that were in it grew old. The city was in an uproar and the god Enlil heard the clamor and he said to the god in the council, “The uproar of mankind is intolerable and sleep is no longer possible by reason of the babel. ” (Bailey 59. ) The gods decided to exterminate mankind. “For six days and six nights the winds blew, torrent and tempest and flood overwhelmed the world, tempest and flood raged together like warring hosts. (Bailey 57. ) Even the gods were terrified at the flood, they fled to the highest heaven, the firmament of Anu. In Babylonian civilizations, a god is responsible for reasoning and wisdom. This god of wisdom is Enki. Enki receives his power from the resources and fertility of the land.

The myth of Inanna and the god of wisdom begins with Inanna delighting in her womanhood and wishing to test its powers. In this myth, Inanna goes on a journey. Inanna sets out to visit Enki, the god of Wisdom, who is also the god of Waters. In Sumerian, “Enki” means the god of the Earth. (Beret 111. As god of wisdom, Enki knows that the powers of knowledge need to be shared. As king of Eridu, he knows that the best rule is the self-sufficiency of his citizens. (Beret 111. ) As a father, he knows the best way to raise his children is by encouraging initiative and independence. “Like a first drop of water, which generously offers a place o the second drop, Enki in his state of drunkenness, freely shares his own powers. ” (Beret 111. ) Enki belives that power should be concurrent. Powers should be shared among citizens. He believes that when this task is done, more wisdom is gained to the individual.

A hero is a character whose actions are inspiring and or noble. Deeply troubled by the death of his friend Enkidu, Gilgamesh embarks on a quest not for glory but for everlasting life in the flesh. Gilgamesh is a great hero known for defeating Humbaba. Gilgamesh has a restless and arrogant nature. Enkidu was created by the goddess Aruru because of Gilgamesh’s strong arrogance. Enkidu was made to contend with Gilgamesh and absorb his energies. However, Enkidu was no match for Gilgamesh. Instead he became his faithful companion. Enkidu is like the rational type while Gilgamesh acts bold and fearless.

O my Lord, you may go on if you choose into this land, but I will go back to the city, I will tell the lady mother all your glorious deeds till she shouts for joy; and then I will tell her the death that followed till she weeps for bitterness. ” (Wolkstein 143. ) This quote shows how Enkidu is rather reluctant to assist Gilgamesh in fighting Humbaba. Gilgamesh on the other hand is so arrogant and naive he doesn’t know Humbaba’s strength. When Gilgamehs was fighting Humbaba, Enkidu died. Gilgamesh is deeply troubled by the death of his companion and friend Enkidu. “Hear me, great ones of Uruk, I weep for Enkidu, my friend.

I weep for my brother. ” (Wolkstein 144. ) The king can’t accept the inevitability of death, and with all the energy of his proud and restless nature, he begins a quest, or search, for everlasting life. He determines to find Utnapishtim, survivor of an ancient flood and the only man to whom the gods have granted immortality. Up until this time, Gilgamesh was ambitious for glory. He undertook the battle with the giant Humbaba in order to rid the land of evil and create a name for himself. The hero’s quest in this case is a search for immortal life or some kind of secret knowledge.

This is a theme found in literature of many cultures. Usually, the hero must suffer a number of ordeals in the course of his search. This suffering can be compared to an initiation. In fact, the initiation into a club or fraternity resembles in a minor way the difficulties faced on a quest. In both situations, suffering leads to special knowledge or privileges. Like any serious quest, Gilgamesh’s journey is dangerous because it takes him past the boundaries of the similar world. “He travels to distant places known only in legend, such as the Great Mountains. ” (Philip 21. His appearance, too, becomes less and less civilized as he journeys farther from Uruk. One goddess that the Sumerians adored was the goddess of creation.

Her name was Inanna. “Inanna’s descent is needed to set in motion the annual cycle of life on earth. ” (Wolkstein 167. ) “According to the me, which dictates the order and form of things, a New Year’s Day is ordained that marks the earth’s awakening to new life” (Philip 48. ) Inanna, the great goddess followed all these philosophies. The mystery of human life, connected to the mystery of natural life, dwells with the goddess of creation.

It is she who brings fertility to all things. The Sumerians has many myths and hymns that are similar to many other cultures. However, some may differ vigorously. The Epics of Gilgamesh portrays Gilgamesh as a typical archetype. He is the typical hero who is in search for immortality. The gods and goddesses of ancient Sumeria/Babylon were respected highly among it’s people. The myths of ancient Sumeria seem controversial to many other cultures. This is because the belief and faith of their own cultures are very strong. This is what makes the origin of the Sumerians unknown. It seems like we will never know.


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