Enheduanna: A Surprise From the Ancient World

In the last two blog posts I claimed that it was going to be all women warriors all the time here at the Margins as the publication date for Women Warriors hurtles at me like an out-of-control truck on an ice-coated highway. (1) And for the most part it’s true. But sometimes I stumble across something so cool that I want to share it right now. This is one of those times.


Enheduanna is the one in the middle.
Image courtesy of the University of Pennsylvania Museum, British Museum/University Museum Expedition to Ur, Iraq 1926.

Allow me to introduce you to the first author whose name is recorded in history, a WOMAN named Enheduanna (2285-2250 BCE). (2) Enheduanna was the daughter of Sargon the Great of Akkad, ruler of Mesopotamia. Her father appointed her the high priestess of the most important temple in the Sumerian city of Ur. She may have gotten the job thanks to Daddy, but there is no doubt that she earned it. Combining her roles as both priestess and poet, she wrote more than forty liturgical works that were copied and used for almost 2000 years. In those works, she created conventions for psalms and prayers that were used throughout the ancient Middle East and Mediterranean. Her work influenced the poetic forms of the Hebrew Bible, the Homeric hymns of ancient Greece, and the early hymns of the Christian church. (That’s a lot of influence for someone I never heard of until a few days ago.) She also wrote forty-two more personal poems in which she described her feelings about the world she lived in.

She served as high priestess for forty years, despite a coup attempt that drove her temporarily into exile.

Enheduanna was rediscovered as a historic figure in 1927, during British archaeologist Sir. Leonard Wooley’s excavations of Ur. You can’t say she’s been erased from history, but she isn’t exactly a pop culture icon. (3) Yet.

(1) I admit, that’s over the top. What can I say we’re coming out of the polar vortex here in Chicago. I have ice on the brain.
(2) With a hat tip to fantasy novelist Samantha Shannon for introducing me to Enheduanna on Twitter.
(3) Except among the people who believe that aliens built the pyramids.


And now for a word (or three) from our sponsor:

  •  Beacon Press is giving away 20 copies of Women Warriors on Goodreads. Enter here by February 15 to be included: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/288662
  • We’ve got pre-order swag.! If you buy Women Warriors before February 26 and want women warrior trading cards, a book mark and a signed bookplate, fill out this form and upload your receipt here: www.beacon.org/warriorspreorder

Just so there’s no confusion:
1. You don’t have to buy the book directly from Beacon: pre-orders from any vendor count. Including audio books: https://www.audible.com/pd/Women-Warriors-Audiobook/0807081116
2.  If you already pre-ordered, you can still get the swag.
In addition to swag, you also get my thanks.  Pre-orders matter.

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