A. The Kingdom of Akkadia
1. About 2300BCE, Sargon I of Akkad united the two regions of Akkad in the northwest and Sumer in the southeast, creating a much larger and stronger state.
2. His achievement was remarkable—given the limitations of communication and transportation of the time, governing a large area was difficult, and he had to overcome some cultural and linguistic barriers. Akkadia had a distinctly different language and religion—yet he recognized the need for the institutions that Sumer’s cities already possessed to maintain his control over the region.
B. Enheduanna: Priestess and Poet
1. His daughter, Enheduanna, became the high priestess to the Sumerian moon and fertility goddess, Inanna, also known as Ishtar in Akkadian. As we’ll find out tomorrow, she played an important role in the merging of the two regions into one greater Akkadia, which in turn became Babylonia, when the city of Babylon gained the dominant role over the area about 1850 BCE.
2. Her hymn to Innana is the earliest poem in which the author is actually named—an extraordinary first, when you consider the number of poems we’ll read this quarter with anonymous authors.
C. Invasion and Restoration
1. The poem’s central theme is the praise of the goddess, not only because she is great and wonderful—standard fare in these poems—but also because her temple was invaded and then restored. The possibility of restoration after invasion and desecration shows a great deal of boldness on Enheduanna’s part—she’s telling us that no matter who invades, the goddess won’t let her priestess or her city down.
2. In a way, she was entirely right—we’re still reading the poem, and later civilizations found the literature, language, and even some of their art of Akkadia and Bablyonia worth preserving, as the Assyrian king Asurbanipal did much later, in the seventh century BCE, where the majority of the text of Gilgamesh was found by British archaeologists two thousand years later.
II. Mesopotamian Religion and Institutions
A. Gods and Goddesses: An, Enlil, Enki, Inanna
1. The pantheon of Sumer, Akkadia, and Babylonia—that is, their roster of gods and goddesses—had a number of idiosyncrasies. They do not easily divide into “good” and “evil”; they have distinct, but overlapping functions and characteristics. Overall, they are anthropomorphic—although divine, they possess human weaknesses, including jealousy, impatience, gullibility, and even pettiness.
2. We’ll spend some more time with each god, but for now, An, or Anu is the king of the gods and is a remote sky-god. Enlil is much closer to humanity, and often their chief antagonist—you’ll see him pretty frequently. Enki is humanity’s benefactor, the god of wisdom and trickery—he often figures out clever solutions to humanity’s problems.
B. Marriage and Prostitution
1. One of these clever solutions involves sending a prostitute to visit one of the characters in Gilgamesh, and the oldest profession turns out to be very old, indeed.
2. There are also many portraits of husbands and wives, as well as references to wedding ceremonies.
3. Overall, these are more signs of a settled society—surplus food for wedding feasts, marriage as the bonding not only of individuals, but of entire families, with complex economic and social obligations.
4. Prostitution merely demonstrates the alternative to lasting commitment and its place in this economy, and the acknowledgement of pleasure and ease as one of the benefits of settled living.
C. Hunting and Drinking
1. Other pleasures, too, appear, including what is really recreational hunting—accepting the risk and challenge of an older way of life voluntarily, and as a means of confirming one’s manhood.
2. Drinking, too, appears both as a benefit of civilization and a social institution.