Religion and Humanity in Mesopotamian Myth and Epic (2024)

  • 1. Gwendolyn Leick, Historical Dictionary of Mesopotamia (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2010), xiii.

  • 2. Graham Cunningham, “The Sumerian Language,” in The Sumerian World, ed. Harriet Crawford (New York: Routledge, 2013), 118.

  • 3. For the complications involved in unquestioningly linking “Sumerian mythology” to an independent Sumerian culture, see Benjamin R. Foster, “Sumerian Mythology,” in The Sumerian World, ed. Harriet Crawford (New York: Routledge, 2013), 451–452.

  • 4. Benjamin R. Foster, “Akkadian Literature,” in From an Antique Land: An Introduction to Ancient Near Eastern Literature, ed. Carl Ehrlich (Plymouth: Rowman & Littlefield, 2009), 137–214.

  • 5. Gonzalo Rubio, “Sumerian Literature,” in From an Antique Land: An Introduction to Ancient Near Eastern Literature, ed. Carl S. Ehrlich (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2009), 22–25.

  • 6. Jack Sasson, “Comparative Observations on the Near Eastern Epic Traditions,” in A Companion to Ancient Epic, ed. John Miles Foley (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005), 220.

  • 7. Lowell Edmunds, “Epic and Myth,” in A Companion to Ancient Epic, ed. John Miles Foley (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005), 31–32.

  • 8. The Epic of Gilgamesh, Standard Babylonian Version VI.46–47.

  • 9. Julia Kindt, “The Story of Theology and the Theology of the Story,” in The Theologies of Ancient Greek Religion, ed. Julia Kindt, Esther Eidinow and Robin Osborne (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016).

  • 10. For an overview of Mesopotamian religion, as well as the roles and characters of the individual deities of the Mesopotamian pantheon, see Astrid Nunn’s article in ORE, “Ancient Near Eastern Gods (and Religion).”

  • 11. See, for example, the significance of providing a definition for “religion,” in Armin W. Geertz, “Definition as Analytical Strategy in the Study of Religion,” Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historique 25.3 (1999): 445–475.

  • 12. For a recent discussion of the problem see Michael B. Hundley, “Here a God, There a God,” Altorientalische Forschungen 40.1 (2013): 68–72.

  • 13. Jean Bottéro, Religion in Ancient Mesopotamia, trans. Teresa L. fa*gan (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), 2–3. Note that Bottero’s definition is considerably longer, more nuanced, and more complex than has been presented here.

  • 14. See, for example, The Chronological Study Bible, New International Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2014), 5; J. H. Walton, “Creation,” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch, ed. T. Desmond Alexander and David W. Baker (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2003), 165; and Jack Newton Lawson, The Concept of Fate in Ancient Mesopotamia of the First Millennium: Toward an Understanding of Šīmtu (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1994).

  • 15. Benjamin R. Foster, “Animals in Mesopotamian Literature,” in A History of the Animal World in the Ancient Near East, ed. Billie Jean Collins (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2002), 272.

  • 16. Benjamin S. Arbuckle, “Animals in the Ancient World,” in A Companion to the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East, ed. D. T. Potts (Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2012), 201.

  • 17. Nadine Nys, “Scorpion People: Deadly or Protective?,” Studia Mesopotamica 1 (2014): 18.

  • 18. Wilfred G. Lambert, Babylonian Creation Myths (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2013), 472, n. I.142.

  • 19. Louise M. Pryke, Gilgamesh (London: Routledge, 2017).

  • 20. Foster, “Sumerian Mythology,” 452. Foster notes the main feature of Sumerian myth as the story form; this observation can further be applied to Mesopotamian myth more generally.

  • 21. Thorkild Jacobsen, “Mesopotamian Religions: An Overview (First Edition),” in Encyclopedia of Religion, ed. Lindsay Jones (2d ed.; Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2005), 5949–5950.

  • 22. Benjamin R. Foster, “Mesopotamia,” in A Handbook of Ancient Religions, ed. John R. Hinnells (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 187.

  • 23. Benjamin R. Foster, From Distant Days: Myths, Tales, and Poetry of Ancient Mesopotamia (Bethesda, MD: CDL Press, 1995), 58.

  • 24. This link between beating hearts and drums is poetically described by William L. Moran in his analysis of this passage in “The Creation of Man in Atrahasis I 192–248,” in The Most Magic Word: Essays on Babylonian and Biblical Literature, ed. William L. Moran (Washington. DC: Catholic Biblical Association of America, 2002), 84–86.

  • 25. Y. S. Chen, The Primeval Flood Catastrophe: Origins and Early Developments in Sumerian and Babylonian Traditions (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 248.

  • 26. Rubio, “Sumerian Literature.”

  • 27. Foster, “Mesopotamia,” 185.

  • 28. Benjamin R. Foster, Before the Muses: An Anthology of Akkadian Literature (3d ed.; Bethesda, MD: CDL Press, 2005), 437.

  • 29. Anne Kilmer notes the narrative parallels between the beginning of Enki and Ninmah and Atrahasis, which both involve overworked and rebellious deities surrounding the house of a primary god, prior to the creation of humans by Enki. Anne D. Kilmer, “The Mesopotamian Concept of Overpopulation and Its Solution as Reflected in the Mythology,” Orientalia 41.2 (1972): 161, fn. 6.

  • 30. Tzvi Abusch, “Sacrifice in Sacrifice in Mesopotamia,” in Sacrifice in Religious Experience, ed. Albert I. Baumgarten (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2002), 44.

  • 31. Gwendolyn Leick, “Sexuality and Religion in Mesopotamia,” Religion Compass 2.2 (2008): 119–133.

  • 32. Jean Bottéro, Au commencement étaient les dieux (Paris: Tallander, 2004), 95.

  • 33. Louise M. Pryke, Ishtar (London: Routledge, 2017).

  • 34. Sexual violence in Enki and Ninhursaga has been considered in detail by Alhena Gadotti, “Why It Was Rape: The Conceptualization of Rape in Sumerian Literature,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 129.1 (2009): 73–82. Gadotti sees Enki’s first three sexual encounters as rape, but the experience with Uttu as a “failed sexual encounter,” 76.

  • 35. The complicated nature of Uttu’s parental involvement with the plants that result from her encounter with Enki is considered by Dickson, and considered to be not “really” pregnancy. Keith Dickson, “Enki and Ninhursag: The Trickster in Paradise,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 66.1 (2007): 20–21.

  • 36. Dina Katz, “Enki and Ninhursaga, Part 2: The Story of Enki and Ninhursaga,” Bibliotheca Orientalis 65 (2008): 331–332.

  • 37. JoAnn Scurlock, “But Was She Raped? A Verdict through Comparison,” NIN 4 (2003): 103.

  • 38. Gadotti, “Why it was Rape.”

  • 39. Sasson, “Comparative Observations, 220.

  • 40. Caitlin Barrett, “Was Dust Their Food and Clay Their Bread? Grave Goods, the Mesopotamian Afterlife, and the Liminal Role of Inana/Ishtar,” Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions 7 (2007): 54.

  • 41. Dina Katz, The Image of the Netherworld in the Sumerian Sources (Bethesda, MD: CDL Press, 2003), 235.

  • 42. Gilgamesh, Enkidu and the nether world,ETCSL

  • 43. JoAnn Scurlock, “Death and the Afterlife in Ancient Mesopotamian Thought,” in Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, ed. Jack M. Sasson (New York: Simon & Schuster Macmillan, 1995), vol. 1, 1892.

  • 44. Cristiano Grottanelli and Pietro Mander, “Kingship: Kingship in the Ancient Mediterranean World,” in Encyclopedia of Religion, ed. Lindsay Jones (2d ed.; Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2005), 5163.

  • 45. Jeffrey H. Tigay, The Evolution of the Gilgamesh Epic (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982), 13–16.

  • 46. Scott Noegel, “Mesopotamian Epic,” in A Companion to Ancient Epic, ed. John Miles Foley (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005), 242.

  • 47. Noegel, “Mesopotamian Epic,” 238.

  • 48. Sasson has noted that ancient Near Eastern myths and epics share this tendency to blend historical (or ahistorical) features with fantastical or supernatural elements. See Sasson, “Comparative Observations,” 220.

  • 49. Herman L. J. Vanstiphout, “Enmerkar’s Invention of Writing Revisited,” in DUMU-E2-DUB-BA-A: Studies in Honor of Åke W. Sjöberg, ed. Hermann Behrens, Darlene M. Loding and Martha T. Roth (Philadelphia: Samuel Noah Kramer Fund, University Museum, 1989), 522–524.

  • 50. Sagburu is noted by Gadotti as one of very few women mentioned by name in the Old Babylonian Sumerian literary corpus. Alhena Gadotti, “Portraits of the Feminine in Sumerian Literature,” Journal of American Oriental Society 131.2 (2011): 196.

  • 51. Herman L. J. Vanstiphout, Epics of the Sumerian Kings: The Matter of Aratta, ed. Jerrold S. Cooper (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003), 26.

  • 52. Sagburu’s appearance is likely the result of her having been summoned by Utu, in response to pleas from the shepherds. See Gadotti, “Portraits of the Feminine,” 201.

  • 53. Vanstiphout, Epics of the Sumerian Kings, 133.

  • 54. Jeremy Black, Reading Sumerian Poetry (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998), 110.

  • 55. Abraham Winitzer has noted the eagle’s transgression as part of a thematic concern in the narrative with boundaries and divine limits. See Abraham Winitzer, “Etana in Eden: New Light on the Mesopotamian and Biblical Tales in Their Semitic Context,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 133.3 (2013): 445.

  • 56. Winitzer, “Etana in Eden,” 445.

  • 57. Shlomo Izre’el, Adapa and the South Wind: Language has the Power of Life and Death (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2001), 123.

  • 58. Mario Liverani, Myth and Politics in Ancient Near Eastern Historiography, ed. Zainab Bahrani and Marc Van De Mieroop (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2004), 3–23.

  • 59. Liverani, Myth and Politics, 6–21.

  • 60. Noegel, “Mesopotamian Epic,” 237; and Sasson, “Comparative Observations,” 231.

  • 61. Keith Dickson, “Looking at the Other in ‘Gilgamesh’,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 127.2 (2007): 176; and Sara Mandell, “Liminality, Altered States, and the Gilgamesh Epic,” in Gilgamesh: A Reader, ed. John Maier (Wauconda, IL: Bolchazy-Carducci, 1997), 122–130.

  • 62. Andrew R. George, The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic: Introduction, Critical Edition and Cuneiform Texts (2 vols.; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 527.

  • 63. The Gilgamesh Epic, OB VA + BM iii.6–7, 12–14. Andrew George, trans., The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic: Introduction, Critical Edition and Cuneiform Texts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003).

  • 64. I borrow the descriptive term “fuzzy” to elucidate the boundary between the divine and mortal realms from Gary M. Beckman, while noting that his use of the term is much more precise and refers to the transitional space inhabited by the king. See Gary M. Beckman, “Review: Religion and Power: Divine Kingship in the Ancient World and Beyond, ed. Nicole Brisch,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 128.2 (2008): 390.

  • 65. Thorkild Jacobsen and Giovanni Pettinato, “Mesopotamian Religions: History of Study,” in Encyclopedia of Religion, ed. Lindsay Jones (2d ed.; Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2005), 5967.

  • 66. Noel K. Weeks, “Myth and Ritual: An Empirical Approach,” Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions 15.1 (2015): 92–111.

  • 67. Tikva S. Frymer-Kensky, In the Wake of the Goddesses: Women, Culture, and the Biblical Transformation of Pagan Myth (New York: Maxwell Macmillan International, 1992).

  • 68. John Maier, ed., Gilgamesh: A Reader (Wauconda, IL: Bolchazy-Carducci, 1997), 1–2.

  • 69. Stephanie Dalley, ed., The Legacy of Mesopotamia (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998).

  • 70. Scott B. Noegel, “Greek Religion and the Ancient Near East,” in A Companion to Greek Religion, ed. Daniel Ogden (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2007), 21–38.

  • 71. Jan N. Bremmer, “The Ancient Near East,” in The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Greek Religion, ed. Esther Eidinow and Julia Kindt (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 605–620.

  • 72. CDLI: Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative. A joint project of the University of California, Los Angelese, The University of Oxford and the Max Plancke-Institute for the History of Science, Berlin.

  • 73. J. A. Black, G. Cunningham, J. Ebeling, E. Flückiger-Hawker, E. Robson, J. Taylor, and G. Zólyomi, The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature, Oxford, 1998–2006.

  • 74. The Melammu Project, The Heritage of Mesopotamia and the Ancient Near East, University of Helsinki.

  • 75. Stephanie Dalley, Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989).

  • 76. Foster, Before the Muses.

  • 77. Thorkild Jacobsen, The Harps that Once Sounded: Sumerian Poetry in Translation (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1987).

  • 78. Foster, From Distant Days.

  • 79. Benjamin R. Foster, Douglas Frayne and Gary M. Beckman, The Epic of Gilgamesh: A New Translation, Analogues, Criticism (New York: Norton, 2001).

  • 80. Andrew George, The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic: Introduction, Critical Edition and Cuneiform Texts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003).

  • 81. Lambert, Babylonian Creation Myths.

Religion and Humanity in Mesopotamian Myth and Epic (2024)


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