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Introducing Uruk

June 7, 2016

Merry Meet Everyone!

As of today, IshtarFest is a week and a half away! This will be the last of the blog posts that have been featuring IshtarFest and Mesopotamian mythology! I sincerely hope you enjoyed learning with me through this series and we hope to see you there. This week we’re going to introduce to you Uruk, the city in which the entire ritual drama takes place and where we will transport our guests back with us through time. Continue reading on for all the fun:

urukUruk was one of the most important cities (at one time, the most important) in ancient Mesopotamia. According to the Sumerian King List, it was founded by King Enmerkar sometime around 4500 BCE.  Located in the southern region of Sumer (modern day Warka, Iraq), Uruk was known in the Aramaic language as Erechwhich, it is believed, gave rise to the modern name for the country of Iraq (though another likely derivation is Al-Iraq, the Arabic name for the region of Babylonia). The city of Uruk is most famous for its great king Gilgamesh and the epic tale of his quest for immortality but also for a number of `firsts’ in the development of civilization which occurred there. It is considered the first true city in the world, the origin of writing, the first example of architectural work in stone and the building of great stone structures, the origin of the ziggurat, and the first city to develop the cylinder seal which the ancient Mesopotamians used to designate personal property or as a signature on documents. Considering the importance the cylinder seal had for the people of the time, and that it stood for one’s personal identity and reputation, Uruk could also be credited as the city which first recognized the importance of the individual in the collective community. The city was continuously inhabited from its founding until c. 300 CE when, owing to both natural and man-made influences, people began to desert the area. It lay abandoned and buried until excavated in 1853 CE by William Loftus for the British Museum.

The city was divided into two sections, the Eanna District and the older Anu District, named for, and dedicated to, the goddess Inanna and her grand-father-god Anu, respectively. The famous Mask of Warka (also known as `The Lady of Uruk’) a sculpted marble female face found at Uruk, is considered a likeness of Inanna and was most likely part of a larger work from one of the temples in her district. The Eanna District was walled off from the rest of the city but it is unclear if this was for ceremonial purposes or if, in building the newer Eanna District, the builders required a wall for some reason. The historian Samuel Noah Kramer suggests that Anu, the male god, presided over the early city until the rise in popularity of his daughter Inanna and, at this time, she was given a private dwelling, complete with a wall, in the Eanna District. Since temples were considered the literal dwelling place of deities on earth, and since Inanna is regularly depicted as a goddess who very much preferred things her own way, perhaps the walled district was simply to provide her with some privacy. Kramer also notes that, even though Inanna continued to be a popular deity throughout Mesopotamia (eventually merging into Ishtar) goddesses declined in power and prestige at the same time, and at the same rate, as women’s rights deteriorated. This being the case, perhaps the Eanna district was walled off to restrict access to a male priestly class. As with much concerning Uruk’s history, however, this theory remains largely speculation.

Inanna played a pivotal role in the mythological history of Uruk as it was she who stole the sacred meh from her father-god Enki at the sacred city of Eridu and brought them to Uruk. The meh were, in the words of Kramer (who first translated the cuneiform) “divine decrees which are the basis of the culture pattern of Sumerian civilization.” As Eridu was considered, by the Sumerians, the first city created by the gods and a place holy to them, the removal of the meh to Uruk signified a transference of power and prestige from one city to the other. In the tale ofInanna and The God of Wisdom, Enki god goes to great lengths, once he finds the meh are stolen, to have them brought back to Eridu – but in vain. Inanna has tricked her father and now Uruk, not Eridu, would be the seat of power. Eridu was associated with rural life and the primordial sea from which life sprang; Uruk was the embodiment of the new way of life – the city. The story would have provided an ancient Mesopotamian with the reason why Eridu declined in importance and Uruk rose to the heights it did: it was the work of the gods.

To experience the city of Uruk with all of us, join us on Friday, June 17th, 2016 – Sunday, June 19th, 2016 for the IshtarFest in Central NJ. This information is brought to you by the Hands of Change coven, a non-profit organization for Earth based spirituality. Interested attendees and venders must email Ganshmi in order to attend due to the time proximity of this post.

Source: Mark, Joshua. “Uruk.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. 28 Apr. 2011. Web. 25 Mar. 2016. <http://www.ancient.eu/uruk/&gt;.

 

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