Of all of man's greatest accomplishments few rival the written word. Through the power of writing we can hear the voices of those who have passed on decades, centuries and even millennia ago. We talk of immortality as if it is an impossible dream which man will never reach, when in fact he reached it over 5,000 years on the fertile grounds of Mesopotamia, where written language is believed to have been invented.
The only writings to survive from the first few centuries after the invention of writing are fragmentary, with no name authors attached to them. The earliest known author was a woman by the name of Enheduanna.
Enheduanna was the daughter of Sargon the Great (c. 2334-2279 BCE), a Mesopotamian king who basically united the region, gving the people a system of roads and even a postal service. Much of his success was due to Enheduanna's efforts as the High Priestess of the Temple of Nanna. She was responsible for essentially combining the worship of all of the city-states' goddesses into the worship of Inanna, the daughter of Nanna. She wrote numerous hymns and poems about Nanna, Inanna and various other gods and goddesses. Many of the surving tablets upon which her writings were preserved, were etched nearly 500 years after Enheduanna passed away, showing just how cherished her work was by the people of ancient Mesopotamia.
Enheduanna: Wonderful writer, nightmare to all ancient pedicurists.
Following is an excerpt from her poem entitled "The Exaltation of Inanna":
Lady of all the divine powers, resplendent light, righteous woman clothed in radiance, beloved of An and Urac! Mistress of heaven, with the great pectoral jewels, who loves the good headdress befitting the office of en priestess, who has seized all seven of its divine powers! My lady, you are the guardian of the great divine powers! You have taken up the divine powers, you have hung the divine powers from your hand. You have gathered up the divine powers, you have clasped the divine powers to your breast. Like a dragon you have deposited venom on the foreign lands. When like Ickur you roar at the earth, no vegetation can stand up to you. As a flood descending upon (?) those foreign lands, powerful one of heaven and earth, you are their Inana.
Think of what you just read. You have just read the words of a woman who lived 5,000 years ago. You have been given a glimpse into the heart and soul of a woman who lived at a time when the Pyramids at Giza looked like this:
Cleopatra lived closer to the landing on the moon than she did to the time when Enheduanna first wrote the words you just read. We take reading fro granted these days, but we really should stop and think about the wonderful opportunity writing gives us to connect with the minds of those whose bodies have long since turned to dust.