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Inana/Ištar (goddess

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Inana (Sumerian)/Ištar (Akkadian) is among the most important deities and the most important goddess in the Mesopotamian pantheon. She is primarily known as the goddess of sexual love but is equally prominent as the goddess of warfare. In her astral aspect, Inana/Ištar is the planet Venus, the morning and the evening star.

Cylinder seal TT (the Adda seal) at the British Museum, showing the goddess Ištar (full face) carrying weapons on her back, standing on a mountain (BM 89115). The seal dates to the Old Akkadian period (ca. 2300 BCE). © The Trustees of the British Museum.

Glazed brick relief from the city of Babylon, showing the lion, the symbol of Ištar. The relief was part of the processional way from the temple of Marduk to the akÄ«tuhouse, where the New Year's festival was celebrated. The relief dates to the time of king Nebuchadnezzar II (r. 604-562 BCE). (Louvre Museum, AO 21118) © RMN.

Functions
Inana/Ištar is by far the most complex of all Mesopotamian deities, displaying contradictory, even paradoxical traits (Harris 1991; see also Bahrani 2000). In Sumerian poetry, she is sometimes portrayed as a coy young girl under patriarchal authority (though at other times as an ambitious goddess seeking to expand her influence, e.g., in the partly fragmentary myth Inana and Enki,

whose two most important aspects in this period. The role of the goddess in legitimizing political power was not. the sacred marriage rite. Attributed to early Sumerian history. Leick 1994: 193ff). namely. Inana/Ištar goes in search for the hiding boy. in-between. Accordingly. Inana/Ištar was the recipient of prayers regarding (im)potency or unrequited love (Biggs 1967: 115. It has been argued by Barret 2007: 19-20 that Mesopotamian grave goods reflect the iconography of Inana/Ištar more than that of any other deity because of this inherent association with transition between the world of the living and the dead. The course she takes in searching her violator has been suggested to mimic that of the astral course of the Venus star (Cooley 2008). Taken by the handsome Gilgameš. There is. The young Inana of Sumerian poetry. Accordingly. which does not appear before the Old Akkadian period (Selz 2000: 34). Inana/Ištar was also the patron goddess of prostitutes. In her mythological descent to the netherworld. is Inana/Ištar able to come alive again and return to the world above (Dalley 2000). Inana/Ištar invites him to be her lover. . so put your hand and touch our vulva!" (Dalley 2000: 79). Only through the agency of her minister Ninšubur.3). Westenholz 1999: 49) and becomes more prominent in the Neo-Assyrian veneration of Inana/Ištar. when Naram-Sin frequently invokes the "warlike Ištar" (aštar annunÄ«tum) in his inscriptions (A. Inana/Ištar is equally fond of making war as she is of making love: "Battle is a feast to her" Harris 1991: 269). Enraged at what has happened. the clumsy gardener boy Šu-kale-tuda has intercourse with the goddess whilst she is asleep under a tree. albeit indirectly. Her marriage to Dumuzi is arranged without her knowledge. who secures the help of Enki/Ea. rather than an event in real life". emphasizes her masculine characteristics. recalls the cycle of Venus.4. The warrior aspect of Inana/Ištar. These actions are in stark contrast with the portrayal of Inana/Ištar as a femme fatale in the Epic of Gilgameš. man of my heart" Leick 1994: 91) is no less desirous than the Inana/Ištar portrayed in Gilgameš: "Let us enjoy your strength. Ištar of Nineveh and Ištar of Arbela. who says "Plough my vulva. are rejected by the hero who accusingly recounts a string of past lovers she has cast aside and destroyed (Dalley 2000: 77ff). which may have "have been only an intellectual construct.1). restricted to her masculine aspect as the warlike Ištar but is attested also for the sexual Inana in her female aspect.ETCSL 1. arguably. Practiced in the late third and early second millennium BCE. that is. A liminal. (Abusch 2000: 23). points to Inana's significant agency in wielding political power (Westenholz 2000: 75). she sits on her sister Ereškigal's throne. Presumably the same journey was carried out terrestrially in festivals (Alster 1975: 27-9). ETCSL 1. rouses the anger of the Anunnaki and is turned to a corpse. In the myth Inana and Šu-kale-tuda (ETCSL 1. in another myth. nevertheless served to express the relationship between the king and the divine world (Jones 2003: 291). Even when given independent agency.3. Likewise.3. This is already visible in the Old Akkadian period. in which the goddess travels first to Enki's city Eridu from Uruk and travels back again. Her advances.1). the so-called "sacred marriage" ceremony celebrated the marriage of Inana (represented by her high priestess) and Dumuzi (represented by the ruler) during the New Year's festival to ensure prosperity and abundance (SzarzyÅ„ska 2000: 63). she convinces him to propose to her in the proper fashion (Jacobsen 1987: 10). among the MEs TT she takes from Enki/Ea are those associated with "going down into the netherworld" and "coming up from the netherworld". however. were intimately linked to the person of the king (Porter 2004: 42). role may also be ascribed to Inana/Ištar by virtue of having travelled to and back from the underworld (Barret 2007). that many third-millennium rulers described themselves as her spouse.1 and in the myth Inana's Descent to the Netherworld. a persistent commonality between these two natures of Inana/Ištar: her sexuality. Some mythological narratives dwell on the astral aspect of Inana/Ištar. either by her parents or by her brother Utu (Jacobsen 1987: 3). Notably. The warlike aspect of the goddess tends to be expressed in politically charged contexts (Leick 1994: 7) in which the goddess is praised in connection with royal power and military might. her movements in the myth of Inana and Enki (ETCSL 1. whereas her sexuality is feminine.3. she is mindful of boundaries: rather than lying to her mother and sleeping with Dumuzi. however.

" The Semitic name Ištar originally belonged to an independent goddess that was later merged . but has an ambivalent relationship with her lover Dumuzi/Tammuz whom she eventually condemns to death. Inana/Ištar does not have a permanent spouse per se. they probably do not all represent the goddess herself. often with at least one other weapon in her hand and sometimes with a beard. second and the first millennia. 4-5). A sound indication of divine status is the presence of the horned cap. Also during this period Ištar was made the spouse of Aššur and known by the alternative name of Mulliltu in this particular role (Porter 2004: 42). Figs. Inana/Ištar remains in the upper crust of the Mesopotamian pantheon through the third. It is most often etymologically interpreted as nin. Inana/Ištar is shown dressed in a flounced robe with weapons coming out of her shoulder. Šuruppak. Ur (Wilcke 1976-80: 78. standing before two such gateposts (Black and Green 1998: 150. SzarzyÅ„ska 2000: 71. however. Kiš. Her sister is Ereškigal. she had temples in all important cities: Adab. she is compared to a roaring.122). Isin.3.Divine Genealogy and Syncretisms The family tree of Inana/Ištar differs according to different traditions. on the back of which she often has one foot or fully stands. fearsome lion (see Inana and Ebih. In early iconography she is represented by a reed bundle/gatepost Frankfort 1939: 15. or else the daughter of Enki/Ea. She is variously the daughter of Anu or the daughter of Nanna/Sin and his wife Ningal. Iconography The Iconography of Inana/Ištar is as varied as her characteristics. Name and Spellings Inana/Inanna is the Sumerian name of this goddess. Fig. Time Periods Attested Inana is listed in third place after An and Enlil in the Early Dynastic Fara god-lists (Litke 1998). She is especially significant as a national Assyrian deity. As one of the foremost Mesopotamian deities. and the cooler blue and lapis lazuli. In her astral aspect. A different interpretation (Jacobsen 1976: 36) translates her name as "Lady of the date clusters. Babylon. to emphasize her masculine side. ETCSL 1. literally "Lady of the heavens" (Selz 2000: 29). The nude female is an extremely common theme in ancient Near Eastern art. particularly in the first millennium. Umma. Cult Place(s) The main city of Inana/Ištar is Uruk. Kazallu. In human form as the goddess of sexual love.a(k).2). and although variously ascribed to the sphere of Inana/Ištar (as acolytes or cult statuettes). Girsu. she often reveals herself by holding open a cape. were also used to symbolise the goddess. Inana/Ištar is often depicted fully nude. In her warrior aspect. Inana/Ištar is symbolized by the eight-pointed star. Badtibira. perhaps to highlight her female and male aspects respectively (Barret 2007: 27). In the Assyrian Empire.an. The colours red and carnelian. She is also paired with the war god Zababa. Akkade. Her attribute animal as the goddess of war is the lion. Larsa. The uppermost register of the famous Uruk Vase shows the goddess in anthropomorphic form. Sippar. In Syrian iconography. Nippur. Ištar of Nineveh and Ištar of Arbela were treated as two distinct goddesses in royal inscriptions and treaties of Assurbanipal. which is also the written form of her name in very early texts (Black and Green 1998: 108). In praise of her warlike qualities. and sister of Utu/Šamaš (Abusch 2000: 23). see also George 1993 for a comprehensive list).

Ashtar . diš-tar.and identified with the Sumerian Inana (Abusch 2000: 23). dnin-an-na. ni-in. din-nin. ni-in-na-na. din-ni-na. deš4-tár. den-ni-na. i-ni-en-na. dir-ni-na (Gelb 1960). in-na-anna. nin. d15 (= IŠTÀR) (Wilcke 1976-80: 75). in-na-na. The meaning of her name is also unclear (for more information see Westenholz 2000: 345). 'Aštar. Inanna Ištar: Ištar. na-na. Ištar: eš4-tár. Ištar. Written forms: Inana: dINNIN. din-na-na. dnin?-ni-na. (d)IŠTÁR. ni-in-ni. Normalised forms: Inana: Inana. Eštar. en-nin.