is the ancient Sumerian
goddess of love, procreation, and of war
who later, became identified with the Akkadian
, and further with the Phoenician Astarte and the Greek Aphrodite
, among others. Through the work of the Akkadian poet and high priestess, Enheduanna
(2285-2250 BCE) daughter of Sargon of Akkad
(who conquered Mesopotamia
and built the great Akkadian Empire
) Inanna was carefully identified with Ishtar and rose in prominence from a local vegetative deity of the Sumerian people to the Queen of Heaven and the most popular goddess in all of Mesopotamia.
The goddess Inanna appears in many ancient Mesopotamian myths, most notably Inanna and the Huluppu-Tree
(an early creation myth), Inanna and the God of Wisdom
(in which she brings knowledge and culture to the city
after receiving the gifts from the god of wisdom, Enki, while he is drunk), The Courtship of Inanna and Dumuzi
(the tale of Inanna’s marriage to the vegetation-god), and the best known poem The Descent of Inanna
(c. 1900-1600 BCE) in which the Queen of Heaven journeys to the underworld. Besides these works and short hymns to Inanna, she is also known through the longer, more intricate hymns written by Enheduanna: Inninsagurra
, and Inninmehusa
, which translate as 'The Great-Hearted Mistress’, The Exaltation of Inanna’, and 'Goddess of the Fearsome Powers’, all three powerful hymns which influenced generations of Mesopotamians in their understanding of the goddess and elevated her status from a local to a supreme deity.
In the famous Sumerian poem The Epic of Gilgamesh
(c. 2700 - 1400 BCE) Inanna appears as Ishtar and, in Phoenician mythology
, as Astarte. In the Greek myth The Judgment of Paris
, but also in other tales of the ancient Greeks, the goddess Aphrodite is traditionally associated with Inanna through her great beauty and sensuality. Inanna is always depicted as a young woman, never as mother or faithful wife, who fully aware of her feminine power confronts life boldly and without fear of how she will be perceived by others, especially by men. She is often shown in the company of a lion, denoting courage, and sometimes even riding the lion as a sign of her supremacy over the 'king of beasts’.
In her aspect as goddess of war, Inanna is depicted in the armor of a male, in battle
dress (statues frequently show her armed with a quiver and bow) and so is also identified with the Greek goddess Athena Nike
. She has been further associated with the goddess Demeter
as a fertility deity, and with Persephone as a dying-and-reviving god figure, no doubt a carry-over from her original incarnation as a rural goddess of agriculture
In the Mesopotamian pantheon
Inanna is the daughter of the sky-god An, but also is depicted as the daughter of the moon-goddess Ningal and her consort Nanna. Alternately, she is the daughter of the god of wisdom Enki and sister to Ereshkigal (goddess of the underworld) and Utu the sun god. Her husband Dumuzi transforms in time (as Inanna does into Ishtar) into the dying-and-reviving god Tammuz and, annually at the autumn equinox, the people would celebrate the holy marriage rites of Inanna and Dumuzi as he returned from the underworld to mate again with Inanna, thus bringing the land to life. Her temples
throughout Mesopotamia were numerous, and sacred prostitutes of both genders were employed to ensure the fertility of the earth and the continued prosperity of the communities.