Feminism in History: Enheduanna – The First Woman Poet.

Four thousand years ago, when the Akkadians (one of the ancient Mesopotamian races) invaded Sumeria (the southern part of Mesopotamia, also known the Fertile Crescent or  the cradle of civilization,) they realized that if they didn’t meld their religion with the existing Sumerian religion, they would never win the hearts of the local populace. The Akkad king Sargon the Great placed the burden of this difficult task upon the shoulders of his daughter Enhedduana, by making her the high priestess of Nanna, the Moon god, and bestowing upon her the coveted title of En or the priest.

My imagination shows me a young Enhedduana entrusted with the responsibility of combining the Sumerian gods with the Akkadian gods in a subliminal way. I see her researching, holding conferences, determining the key religious symbols of the new (Sumerian religion) and synthesizing them with the Akkadian ones. I see her as an organizer, manager, visualizer, writer, and poet.

And I see many cynical faces around her. These faces belong to people who wanted her to fail, and who, away from the prying eyes, come together to plan her fall. For over the last four thousand years, things haven’t changed all that much.

Recently, in a program that I conducted for some senior managers of an organization, a woman participant told me that a woman has to work three times more than a man to prove that she is equal to a man. I couldn’t disagree with her.

I see Enhedduana as a similar woman manager, who despite her privileged position as the eldest princess of the conquering people, would have to work doubly hard than a man, to prove that her father’s confidence in her capability wasn’t misplaced.

I see her reflecting upon her strengths and realizing that the matters of belief can only be worked through the hearts of the people, and only by evoking their feelings would she be able to bring about a lasting change in their religious beliefs. Her father Sargon knew that for the task of bringing the Sumerians onboard, his daughter was the right person for she had the empathy of an artist and the gumption of a princess.

In addition to discharging her other duties as the priestess, Enhedduana can historically claim to be the first poetess ever. She wrote forty-two poems, and three hymns to be sung in the praise of goddess Inanna, the powerful Sumerian goddess of love, sensuality, fertility, and war.

Image shows Goddess Inanna. Image Source: By Ramblings of the Claury [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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