Inanna/Ishtar in Mesopotamian Mythology — The Goddess of Love & War

Inanna-Ishtar in Mesopotamian Mythology - The Goddess of Love & War

Who is Inanna/Ishtar?

Inanna or Ishtar, the goddess of love and fertility, was a fearsome, often violent, deity, sometimes known as the “Lady of Battles”. The Babylonian form of the Sumerian goddess Inanna was the guardian spirit of life and the creator of wisdom. Her symbol was the eight-pointed star. Although she had countless lovers, she usually treated them cruelly.

On one momentous occasion, Ishtar descended to the underworld realm of her sister Ereshkigal. However, Ereshkigal cursed her sister, who subsequently died. As a result of Ishtar’s death, the earth became infertile and neither birds nor beasts nor human beings mated. Ea, the water god, eventually managed to save Ishtar by using his magic incantations, but Ereshkigal demanded she be given someone in her sister’s stead. It was finally decided that Dumuzid, her husband, should replace her for six months each year.

Uruk or Erech, Ishtar’s holy city, was called the town of the sacred courtesans, for prostitution formed part of her cult and she protected harlots, as well as alehouses. The personification of the planet Venus, Ishtar was sometimes believed to be the daughter of the moon god, Sin, sometimes of the sky god Anu.

In Mesopotamian mythology, many of the deities and heroes can at times seem larger than life with their imposing presence, dedicated worship, and tremendous power—all of which were conducive to life on earth.

In some instances, the gods—most notably Enlil—are so revered, that they allow humanity to live. Whilst other gods like Enki bargain in favour of humanity, bidding to ensure their survival. In any case, the gods were seen as a conduit for life and without them in some way or another, humanity would perish.

Yet, despite these formidable entities, it is the Sumerian goddess Inanna—otherwise known as Ishtar by the Akkadians, Assyrians, and Babylonians—who appears more frequently in the stories than any other god or hero.

The Popularity of Inanna/Ishtar

As the goddess of love, sensuality, fertility and even war, she certainly had more than enough influence to go around and perhaps might have even overshadowed some of the more popular deities given the broadness of her powers.

She would be known to such an extent, that it is believed she was the inspiration behind the Hittite Goddess Sauska (or Shaushka), a goddess of fertility, healing and war; the Greek Goddess Aphrodite; the Greek goddess of love and or the Roman goddess Venus, who also represented love, beauty, sex and desire.

As mentioned, Inanna was known to the Sumerians, but the Akkadians, Assyrians and Babylonians would come to know her as Ishtar. Both were thought to be two individual deities at some point in time, but during the reign of Sargon the Great, the first ruler of the Akkadian empire and conqueror of many Sumerian states, Inanna and Ishtar became conflated into one deity.

Interestingly, it is believed that when Sargon the Great acknowledged both Anu and Inanna or Ishtar as being the sources of his success and authority, her popularity dramatically increased.

The Meaning of the Name Inanna and Ishtar

The name Inanna on the one hand was believed to have been derived from the Sumerian ‘nin-an-ak’ which meant the Queen of Heaven, or the ‘Lady of Heaven’, thus signifying her importance as a figure of some great prominence.

The name Ishtar meanwhile is believed to have been related to the West Semitic god Attar—he or she who was also associated with the planet Venus. In some ideas, Attar was associated with a specific day star that was determined to be a male deity who presided over the arts of war.

Yet, if the star was in the nighttime, then it was a female deity who presided over the art of love. Interestingly, both the art of war and love fall under Ishtar’s realm of influence, so a correlation can be made between the two deities and suggest the origin of her name.

Yet, with many Mesopotamian gods, the origin of their names is frequently contested and there is no way to know for sure where certain deities earned their titles. In Inanna’s case, more than just the origins of her name is contested—mostly on the account that the elements she represents are bound to some contradictions when compared to the other gods and goddesses.

This is understandable considering what we have here is a goddess who stands for both love and war. One idea surrounding this is regarding the time before the synchronisation of Inanna and Ishtar, where Inanna received not only the domains of Ishtar but also domains from other deities that may have caused her to adopt features that were not congruent with each other, such as love and war—two seemingly opposites.

Yet, another idea proposes that Inanna may have originally been a Proto-Euphratean goddess and was only incorporated into the Sumerian pantheon after it had been already established. In some regards, this would explain her youthful nature as the newest addition to the line of gods and would see her adopt the domains that were either not assigned to others or could be better utilised by herself.

Inanna’s Cult and Worship

Facade in Inanna's Temple
This is part of the facade of the temple of Inanna at Uruk. There are standing male and female deities in alternate niches. Each figure holds a vessel in his/her hands and pours life-giving water forth on to the earth. The cuneiform inscriptions on the bricks mention the name of the Kassite ruler Kara-indash as the person who ordered the building of this temple. Circa 1413 BCE. From Uruk, southern Mesopotamia, Iraq. (The Pergamon Museum, Berlin). — Source: WorldHistory.com

After Sargon’s reign, Inanna’s cult would grow rapidly and she would have temples in the regions of Lagash, Nippur, Shuruppak, Ur and Zabalam. Her main temple was thought to have been in Uruk however and was known as the Eanna temple, which meant ‘House of Heaven.’

Now originally, the Eanna temple was a space dedicated to Anu and was the main cult centre of this once important god. But with the increased popularity of Inanna, the temple itself was transformed in favour of her where it would also serve as an abode for her priestesses.

Interestingly, there exists some mythology to show this transition in the fragmented poem ‘Inanna Takes Command of Heaven.’ We learn that Inanna becomes dejected over the fact that such a grand temple does not belong to her and that she intends to claim it as her own.

After overcoming various trials to obtain it, she later reaches Anu who is shocked by her ambitions. Despite being her superior, he concedes the temple to her and thus, it becomes a part of her domain.

Some believe that this represents Anu’s acceptance that he is simply no longer the most favoured God in the eyes of the people and so, submits his temple to Inanna knowing full well that such usurpation is inevitable.

Others see the poem as a representation of old authority becoming eclipsed by a new one and the transference of power from the priests of Anu to the priestesses of Inanna.

Ishtar’s Cult and Worship

While Innana’s cult in Uruk prospered, the entity Ishtar also gained popularity in the kingdom of Assyria during the reign of the Assyrian king Assurbanipal. Here, Ishtar was able to become one of the most venerated deities in the Assyrian pantheon, even going on to overtake the importance of the national Assyrian god Ashur.

Gala Priests of Inanna
Ancient Sumerian statuette of two gala priests, dating to c. 2450 BCE, found in the temple of Inanna at Mari

Another interesting feature about the temples of Inanna was that a set of her priests, those known as the Gala priests, were thought to be those who had deferred from the traditional gender binary and were known to adopt female names.

There are also accounts of the servants of Ishtar in Akkadia who were thought to dress in female clothing and performed dances in her temples. Ancient Akkadian stories also suggest that the parties involved may have also been homosexual—a glimpse perhaps into how little issue sexuality and gender identification was in early Sumerian and Akkadian society.

According to some scholars, the kings of Uruk may have roleplayed as the god Dumuzid—he who was the consort of Inanna. To establish their legitimacy as king, they would partake in such a ceremony, usually under the new year festival and commit to a sacred marriage where the king would sleep with one of Innana’s priestesses—those who were also roleplaying as Inanna.

Yet another idea suggests that Ishtar’s cult held a domain in sacred prostitution and possibly owed to her role as a sexuality goddess—though accounts are sketchy as to whether this was the case. In other accounts of worship, Ishtar was also paid homage to by women who baked her cakes from ash.

Models made from clay were also presented as voluptuous women, which were possibly a sign of strength and a testament or representation of Ishtar herself.

The Symbols of Inanna and Ishtar

Symbols of Inanna

Amongst these gestures, symbols were also assigned to Inanna and Ishtar such as the eight-pointed star—that which was thought to either be associated with the heavens or Venus. There are also accounts of slaves who worked in Ishtar’s temples being branded with the star symbol during the Babylonian times.

Another symbol often associated with Inanna is the knot of reeds that represent the doorpost of a storehouse —that which was thought of as a symbol of fertility. A rosette, a round flowery design, was also commonly associated with Inanna and would eventually replace the eight-pointed star as Inanna’s primary symbol.

Amongst these symbols, it was not uncommon for Inanna and Ishtar to be associated with lions, those which were fierce and powerful, much like the goddess herself. Some beliefs also indicate that Inanna could take the form of a lion, or that a lion would accompany her into battle.

Amongst a lion form and keeping company with lions, it was also believed that Inanna could take the form of a dove or was keen to be around doves as they became something of a sacred bird for her.

Depiction of Inanna or Ishtar

Depiction of Inanna or Ishtar

Throughout much of the mythology, Inanna has been somewhat reckless and even foolhardy; a goddess with a devil may care attitude that strives not only for power but to conquer, if not for the sake of conquering.

Despite being a goddess of love, we can certainly see from various tales that her association with warfare and conquest comes to sway her thinking, making her almost antagonistic at times. Furthermore, her association with love does lean to the more promiscuous side where she is seen to treat her lover and consort Dumuzid in a most mercurial fashion.

Going by some of the myths, most notably ‘Inanna’s Descent into the Underworld’, she is seen to ditch Dumuzid and employ demons to drag him down to the Underworld. She would come to develop something of a reputation of capriciousness regarding her sexual appetites, where she was noted by Gilgamesh in the ‘Epic of Gilgamesh’ that she mistreats her lovers.

Family Lineage of Inanna

There are also some accounts in the stories that Utu the sun God, her brother, was amongst one of her lovers and that the two were extremely close. Together, they would serve as something of a holy trinity amongst their parent Nanna, the Mesopotamia god of the moon.

Inanna also had an older sister Ereshkigal, the Mesopotamian goddess of the underworld, though they seldom seem to appear in the mythology together except for Innan’s Descent into the Underworld where the two are pitted against each other.

In some interpretations, Inanna appears to be the daughter of Nanna whilst also appearing as the daughter of the supreme sky God Anu. Furthermore, there are some traditions where Enlil the god of earth and Enki the god of the waters take on the role of her father respectively.

The Children of Inanna

As far as her offspring go, there doesn’t seem to be much evidence to suggest that she mothered any herself, though there does exist a Sumerian idea that the warrior god Shara was her son—though there is little in the way of substance here. The god Lulal, the younger brother of Shara, was also thought to have been descended from Inanna, though again there is little to support this.

The Stories of Inanna in Various Poems and Texts

As mentioned previously, Inanna is the most frequently mentioned deity across the mythology; she appears to take on a series of strikingly different roles, those which are sometimes heroic, those which place her in the role of an innocent and those that paint her in a far grizzlier light.

Inanna and Utu

For example, in the Sumerian hymn ‘Inanna and Utu’, we see Inanna portrayed as being new to her powers and that despite being a goddess of sex, she is ultimately inexperienced. With this, she descends to the underworld with the guidance of her brother Utu so that she can taste the fruit of a tree that grows there.

By consuming this fruit, the secrets of sex are revealed to her, and she demonstrates mastery over sensuality thereafter.

Inanna Prefers the Farmer

Another tale that highlights her innocence is in the poem ‘Inanna Prefers the Farmer’, where we see the gods Enkimdu and Dumuzid, those who are described as a farmer and a shepherd respectively, competing for Inanna’s hand in marriage.

Originally, Inanna prefers Enkimdu the farmer, but after much convincing from Dumuzid the shepherd and some intervention of her brother Utu, she is ultimately swayed into accepting Dumuzid’s offer and marrying him instead.

Inanna and the Huluppu-Tree

This same innocence and youth, which paints her as almost helpless or otherwise naive also appear in the story ‘Inanna and the Huluppu-Tree’. Here, we see the goddess plant a tree in her patron city of Uruk, which she plans to nurture to use its wood to make herself a throne.

But in the years taken to care for the tree, a snake was able to build a nest in its roots while a bird was able to make its home in the branches. Coincidentally, an evil spirit known as a Lillitu was also able to claim the tree as its home and burrowed itself deep within the centre of the bark.

When Inanna learned of the presence of these inhabitants, she became very upset and cried all night until dawn.

When dawn came, she noticed Utu soaring across the sky as he began his journey from the east to the west. Hoping he would help her in her predicament, she called out to him and told him of the unwanted guests in her tree. But Utu puts his duty first and tells her there is nothing that he can do, for he must complete the journey to carry the sun across the sky.

Furthermore, he indicates that even if he could stop, he probably wouldn’t because this wasn’t something he cared about. So, Inanna turned to the hero Gilgamesh for help, who killed the snake, scared off the bird and banished the evil Lillitu spirit.

Afterwards, he even cut the wood from the tree and presented it to Inanna, so she could have her throne.

As we can see here, Inanna comes across far less as this revered goddess of war who conquered territories and instead becomes helpless. She does not appear to possess the strength nor even the will to drive the bird, the snake or the Lillitu spirit from the tree and instead calls to her brother for assistance.

This might be chalked up to her believing that these tasks are beneath her, but she appears visibly distressed by the circumstances and even recruits a mortal in Gilgamesh to do the work for her.

It’s strange to think of the goddess of war needing anyone to engage in conflict on her behalf, let alone a mortal, yet Inanna does not hesitate and even appears grateful for Gilgamesh’s intervention.

Inanna and Enki

We start to get a glimpse of her more ambitious and seemingly insidious side in the poem ‘Inanna and Enki’, which shows us that Enki owns the sacred ‘Meh’—a power that determines the laws of the universe and facilitates creation itself.

Knowing of this, Inanna travelled to Enki’s temple in the region of Eridu where she enters a drinking competition with the god. When Enki becomes intoxicated, Inanna steals the meh from him and flees from his temple in the Boat of Heaven.

When Enki awakens the next morning and realises what has transpired, he sends monsters and creatures after Inanna to retrieve the power from her clutches. None of the creatures is a match for Inanna, however, and she can escape to her home in Uruk before Enki gives up the chase and concedes the loss of his powers to her.

In some ways, you might say that this was a narrative to represent the transition of power between Enki and Inanna, considering the shifting of influence that Inanna inspired amongst the people, that saw the other gods begin to pale in comparison.

Inanna Takes Command of Heaven

This same ambitious attitude also extends to the fragmentary poem ‘Inanna Takes Command of Heaven’, where we see Inanna seek to obtain the Eanna temple in Uruk.

Whilst the text is sketchy given its missing pieces, we do see her traverse through treacherous marshland—something which is deemed to be dangerous and unadvisable. Yet, Inanna does emerge unscathed from the marshes to which her father Anu is shocked—not just by her navigation of the land, but her arrogance in aspiring to take the Eanna temple at all.

Despite his misgivings, Inanna succeeds in absorbing the region into her domain and there does not seem to be anything that Anu can do about it. Yet again, this may have been another narrative to demonstrate the rapid acceleration of Inanna’s popularity and how her rise would see her eclipse many of the other gods as she consumed their regions.

Inanna and Ebih

An even more profound story that showcases Inanna’s more destructive side comes from an Akkadian poem known as ‘Inanna and Ebih’.

The poem tells us of Inanna’s journeys throughout the world where one day she comes across Mount Ebih. Whilst she is compelled by the beauty of the mountain, she soon comes to resent it, as she comes to view its very existence as an insult to her, for surely a mountain could not have been allowed to have been as glorious as herself.

We see her become so consumed with jealousy and rage towards the mountain that she begins to shout at it and soon, begins to argue with Anu, telling him that she ought to be able to destroy such a thing that rivals her importance. But Anu appears to be fond of the mountain himself and forbids her from doing such a thing.

Regardless, Inanna disobeys Anu and ends up destroying the mountain anyway.

In this narrative, we get a more capricious side of Inanna who not only gives in to her impulses in destroying something but also shows dissent as she disobeys the supreme god Anu.

The more envious side of her character is brought into the limelight, and she is portrayed more as the villain, not only surrendering to impetuousness and reckless abandon but also succumbing to the role of aggressor.

Inanna’s seemingly spontaneous and unpredictable rage certainly makes her a more fearsome deity, for evidently, she is not afraid to lash out and exact devastation on any who have wronged her. The mountain in this instance was of course innocent, as far as a mountain can be, yet it is still obliterated, providing us with yet another glimpse as to the scope of her power.

Inanna and Shukaletuda

But what about when Inanna’s victims deserve her destructive wrath? Well, we are privy to such an account in the hymn known as ‘Inanna and Shukaletuda’.

Shukaletduda, a hopeless gardener is seen to be planting trees, but his trees never appear to grow due to his inexperience and lack of skill. But he can produce one single tree—a tree which Inanna comes to rest under. Now, instead of seeing this as a blessing or divine preference that Inanna had for him and his tree, Shukaletuda decides to strip Inanna in her sleep and rape her.

When the goddess realises what has happened, she goes crazy and proceeds to hunt down Shukaletuda to make him pay for his crime.

But unlike with the mountain in the previous story where Inanna’s rage is directed and concentrated at the mountain, her rage spills out of control and she ends up unleashing terrible plagues upon all of humanity, where the oceans are turned to blood.

Fearing for his life, Shukaletuda hides in the city after having been advised by his father to blend in with other mortals to shield him from Inanna’s wrath. Whilst this is successful, Innana’s rage takes another turn for the worse and she unleashes a series of storms that terrorise the earth.

When she does finally find her rapist, Shukaletuda proceeds to beg for his life. But the goddess proves to be in no mood for forgiveness and she brutally murders him in revenge.

Inanna’s Descents to Kur, the Mesopotamian Underworld

Inanna’s Descents to Kur, the Mesopotamian Underworld

One of the most famous tales that detail Inanna’s descents into the Mesopotamian underworld is known as Kur. Here, we see not only the vengeful side of Inanna as she comes to resent her husband for his lack of grief over her demise but also her sentiments towards her sister and her duty to fulfil more familial expectations.

We understand from the Sumerian version of the tale that Inanna’s sister Ereshkigal rules over the Underworld and that she was mourning the death of her husband Gugalanna.

But before descending into the underworld, Inanna instructs her servants to appease Enlil, Nanna, Anu and Enki to come and rescue her should she not return from the underworld in three days.

Inanna dons a sumptuous attire to attend her brother in law’s funeral and it is suggested that each garment she wore including a turban, beads, jewellery, and a measuring rod was a representation of her powers.

When Inanna reaches the Underworld, the gatekeeper Neti demands to know why she has come to which Inanna explains that she has come to pay her respects and to support her sister in mourning.

With this, we can see the more compassionate side of Inanna and that despite her more reckless and wild ways, she does hold her family dear to her and seeks to provide comfort to them when they are in need.

The gatekeeper notifies Ereshkigal as to Inanna’s presence, but instead of welcoming her sister, Ereshkigal tells Neti to bolt the gates of the underworld and that one by one, he should open each gate by a narrow crack, allowing Inanna to enter by only by a mere fraction at a time.

Inanna’s Descents to Kur - stripped naked

She also commands Neti that after Inanna passes through each gate, she is to remove a garment of her royal clothes—either on the account that her rich outfit was not suitable for the funeral rites, or to simply strip Inanna of her powers and to remind her that down here in the underworld, her influence was moot.

There’s also an idea that Ereshkigal did not trust her sister’s compassion and so sought to remove her clothes out of suspicion.

In any case, Inanna passes through all seven gates of the underworld and by the time she reaches the last one, she is entirely stripped of her clothes leaving her naked and vulnerable.

But evidently, the clothes did not make the goddess, for despite her nudity and I suppose humiliation at being stripped, she is seen to usurp her sister in her realm and seat herself upon the throne. But the judges of the Underworld—the children of Anu known as the Anunnaki—view Inanna’s actions with the utmost disgust and they are seen to scold Inanna with such devastating shouts that they cause her to turn into a corpse.

Three days pass and the servant Ninshubur realise that Inanna had not returned from her journey to the Kur. Heeding her instructions, Ninshubur pleads to Anu, Nanna, Enlil, and Enki to rescue the goddess from the Underworld. But all the gods except Enki reject the plea and determine that Inanna’s death was her fault for being haughty and that she had overstepped her mark by trying to take her sister’s realm.

Enki though, who is often seen as Inanna’s father, agrees to help and he creates two creatures named Gala-Tura and Kur-Jara from the grime under his fingernails—those who were two genderless beings.

Gala-Tura and Kur-Jara are sent to the underworld to retrieve Inanna’s corpse and to restore life to her by sprinkling her body with the food and water of life—that which they are successful in doing.

But her escape from the Underworld is not so easy, for Ereshkigal sends demons after her to keep her bound. She determines that Inanna cannot leave the underworld without someone taking her place, but realising she is not so powerful as to keep her sister here against her will, Ereshkigal sends the demons to earth to prey upon Inanna’s servants.

The demons first attempt to take Ninshurbur, but because of her loyalty, Inanna prevents the demons from taking her. The demons then try to take Shara, the beautician of Inanna, but because he had mourned his goddess, he is also spared.

The only person who does not seem to be mourning or who appeared to be utterly apathetic towards her death was her husband Dumuzid, who the demons find surrounded by slave-girls where he appears to be having the time of his life.

When Inanna sees that her husband has not mourned her and worse yet, had not even tried to get her back, she nominates him as her replacement and so the demons drag him to the underworld instead.

Yet again we are shown the dichotomy of Inanna, who appears in the first half of the story to be a more feeling hearted deity who seeks to support her sister in her time of need. But of course, by the second half, we see her scorn yet again and acknowledge her more vengeful tendencies as she explodes at her husband’s lack of regard for her.

But it might be argued that Inanna’s tendency to fly off the handle is a mirroring of a mortal’s response and exemplifies the typical reaction any one of us might have—at least, from an emotional point of view. But much like any outburst that anyone might have, we are often soon to regret our impulsiveness and may find ourselves less satisfied and more dismayed over the outcome.

The Return of Dumuzid

Inanna is shown to experience the same thing in the Sumerian poem ‘The Return of Dumuzid’, which sees Inanna pine for her husband alongside his sister Geshtinanna.

A passing fly makes itself known to Inanna and eventually leads her to the location of Dumuzid who has managed to make his way out of the Underworld for a small period. Relieved to have seen him and perhaps, willing to admit that she had missed him, Inanna decrees that he is to spend half the year in the underworld with her sister and half the year in heaven with her.

Interestingly, despite having more power than Ereshkigal in the heavens, Inanna still recognises and obeys the rules on this occasion, knowing that Dumuzid would need to be replaced in the Underworld.

This shows us the respect that Inanna has for each domain and that despite her power, she does not try to tread on the toes of her siblings and the other gods by bending the conventions to better suit her needs.

This is an interesting contrast from her attitude towards Anu who she disobeys repeatedly and proceeds to ultimately usurp in terms of worship. She even sees a practical step being put in place to fulfil Dumuzid’s absence whilst he is in heaven, for he is replaced with his sister Geshtinanna for the half of the year that he rejoins Inanna.

Ishtar in the Underworld

In the Akkadian version of this myth, however, we see the more belligerent side of Ishtar who after being stripped of her clothes in the underworld goes on the offence against her sister. However, she is ultimately subdued by her sister’s forces and punished by being infected with over fifty diseases.

With Ishtar imprisoned in the underworld, all sexual activity is halted upon the earth and no new life is born. Much like the Sumerian tale, it is the Akkadian equivalent of Enki, Ea, who sends two creatures to rescue her.

What’s interesting about this account is that Ishtar’s role as the goddess of sexuality and fertility becomes more apparent, for, with her absence from the earth, the notion of sex seems to be forgone by humans.

With this, life itself is threatened as without the birth of new individuals, mankind’s legacy is stopped in its tracks, which is what perhaps spurs on Ea into sending aid.

Epic of Gilgamesh

In the Epic of Gilgamesh meanwhile, we see Ishtar appear before Gilgamesh and his companion Enkidu after they have defeated the ogre Humbaba. So impressed by Gilgamesh, Ishtar seeks to make him her consort, though to no avail.

Gilgamesh points out that given her reputation, she was not a reliable lover and that those who were associated with her romantically, usually ended up worse off for it.

So offended that she had been rejected by a mortal, Ishtar reports to Anu and complains that she had been insulted by the hero. But Anu is not in the mood to hear about the slights against her and encourages her to exact her vengeance upon Gilgamesh if that’s what she wants to do.

Gilgamesh Slaying the Bull of Heavens
Ancient Mesopotamian terracotta relief showing Gilgamesh slaying the Bull of Heaven, sent by Ishtar in Tablet VI of the Epic of Gilgamesh after he spurns her amorous advances.

So, Ishtar takes his advice, but she first insists on taking the Bull of Heaven, a mythical beast, to use against Gilgamesh and that if Anu did not acquiesce to her request, then she would break the doors of the underworld and bring up the demons and the dead to feast upon the living.

Much as we’ve come to expect, Ishtar is quick to bring a gun to a knife fight and she does not seem to mind threatening the supreme God Anu to get what she wants. So intense is her reaction to Gilgamesh’s rejection that she appears to stop at nothing to exact her vengeance, going as far as to use the Bull of Heaven to maximize Gilgamesh’s suffering.

Her threat against Anu that she will raise the demons and death appears to certainly have some weight to it too, for Anu is seen to give Ishtar exactly what she wants, though it can be argued that he merely did this to mollify her.

But Ishtar is thwarted, or at least, the bull is. For when she sends it upon Gilgamesh and Enkidu, the two were able to kill it and end up sacrificing its heart to the sun-god Shamash.

Interestingly, there exists an epilogue where we see Ishtar standing on the walls of Uruk to curse Gilgamesh, only for Enkidu to chop off the leg of the bull and launch it at her face.

In Conclusion

We can certainly see from the vibrant tales about the goddess that she was no doubt one of the more popular deities from the Mesopotamian period. As mentioned, she is the most frequently named goddess throughout the mythology, despite being a relatively new addition when compared to the likes of Anu, Enlil and Enki.

With the rise of her popularity and influence, she would indeed become recognised amongst the big seven of the divinities including Anu, Enlil, Enki, Ninhursag, Nanna and Utu. It was these seven beings who would form the archetypes of the gods and would serve to inspire many of the characteristics that we later see in gods across several different pantheons.

Yet, there is still something unique about the brash, hot-headed, sensual, and calculating Inanna—she who despite her vengeful ways also came to be thought of as a compassionate, kindly, and gentle goddess who is often akin to that of a mother figure, or at the very least, a promoter of fertility.

Art Credit: Keja Blank, DocZenith, WorldHistory.Com.

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