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Ancient Near Eastern Gods Enki and Ea: Diachronical Analysis of Texts and Images from the Earliest Sources to the Neo-Sumerian Period



Co-supervised by Prof. WALTHER SALLABERGER
TARTU 2006
1. Prehistoric Manifestations of Enki 10
1.1. Eridu Temple 10
1.2. Abzu 13
1.3. Conclusions 17
2. Names and Origins of Enki and Ea 18
2.1. Enki 19
2.1.1. Enki in UD.GAL.NUN Texts and Emesal Speech 19
2.1.2. Enki-Ninki Deities 22
2.1.3. Possible Translations of the Name Enki 23 Enki Translated “Lord of the Earth” 23 Enki Interpreted Enki(g/k) 27 Possible Pre-Sumerian Etymology of the
Name Enki 30
2.2. Ea 31
2.2.1. Semitic Etymology of Ea 32
2.2.2. É-a Translated “Living” 34
2.2.3. Pre-Sumerian Origins of Ea 35
2.3. Conclusions 36
3. Enki in Old-Sumerian Sources 39
3.1. Enki Related to Abzu and Eridu 39
3.2. Enki Related to ¡estú 41
3.3. Urukagina 4, Ur-Nanše 49, and the Reeds of Enki 42
3.4. Enki-Ninki Deities and the God Enki in Old-Sumerian Sources 46
3.5. Enki in Old-Sumerian Texts of Varied Contents 49
3.5.1. Mythological Texts 49
3.5.2. Incantations 52
3.5.3. Offering Lists and Personal Names 54
3.6. Enki in Listings of Deities 55
3.6.1. Abū alābīkh and Fāra God Lists 56
3.6.2. Listings of Deities in Old-Sumerian Royal Inscriptions 58
3.7. An Attempt of Genealogy of Enki Based on Old-Sumerian Sources 59
3.8. Conclusions 60
4. Enki/Ea in Old-Akkadian Sources 63
4.1. Enki/Ea in Old-Akkadian Royal Inscriptions 63
4.2. Enki/Ea in God Lists and Offering Lists from Ebla 66
4.3. Enki/Ea in Old-Semitic Literary and Magical Compositions 67
4.4. Representations of Enki/Ea in Old-Akkadian Glyptic Art 74
4.5. Conclusions 79
5. Enki in Neo-Sumerian Sources 81
5.1. Second Dynasty of Lagaš 81
5.2. Ur III Period Royal Praise Poetry and Royal Inscriptions 84
5.2.1. Ur-Namma 84
5.2.2. Šulgi 88
5.2.3. Amar-Su’en 93
5.2.4. Šu-Su’en 94
5.2.5. Ibbi-Su’en 95
5.2.6. Puzur-Eštar 96
5.3. “The Curse of Agade” 97
5.4. Enki in Neo-Sumerian Incantations 98
5.5. The God aia 101
5.6. Enki’s Representations in Neo-Sumerian Art 103
5.7. Conclusions 105
6. Enki in Sumerian Epic Stories and Myths 107
6.1. Enki in Sumerian Epic Stories 108
6.1.1. Enmerkar and Lugalbanda 108
6.1.2. Gilgameš 110
6.2. Myths of Enki 111
6.2.1. “Enki and Nin`ursa¡ 113
6.2.2. “Enki and Ninma` 116
6.3. Conclusions 121
The current master’s thesis is a continuation of a bachelor’s thesis defended in June
2004 at the Faculty of Theology of Tartu University under the title “Diachronical
Analysis of the Theological Concept of Enki and Ea.”
I would like to express my deep gratitude to Thomas Richard Kämmerer, Professor of
Ancient Near Eastern Studies of the Faculty of Theology at Tartu University, for
supervising the thesis and providing me with several critical comments during the
preparation of the study. I am especially thankful to Professor Walther Sallaberger,
whose suggestions and critical remarks during my six-month stay at the Institut für
Assyriologie und Hethitologie in Munich were of especial value for the completion of
the thesis. I would also like to thank Tarmo Kulmar, Professor of Comparative
Religion at Tartu University, and my colleague in Ancient Near Eastern studies at
Tartu University, Vladimir Sazonov, for allowing me their advice and help when ever
The thesis was supported by Kristjan Jaak Scholarship of the Archimedes Foundation
for working at the library of the Institut der Assyriologie und Hethtitologie of
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München from October 2005 to April 2006.
The purpose of the master’s thesis titled “Ancient Near Eastern Gods Enki and Ea:
Diachronical Analysis of Texts and Images from the Earliest Sources to the Neo-
Sumerian Period” is to offer an overview of the religious-historical development of
the Mesopotamian deities Enki and Ea from the earliest archaeological and written
records until the Neo-Sumerian era.
The mentioning of “diachronical analysis” in the title refers to the methodological aim
to study all the textual examples and other evidence in a chronological order, as much
as it is possible in the case of the Mesopotamian sources.1 The chronological order of
the given examples should enable to detect when and where a specific characteristic
of the gods Enki and Ea2 appeared during the course of Mesopotamian history. The
reason for such a practice stands in the fact that too often the materials concerning the
god Enki or other topics from the ancient Near Eastern history of religion and
mythology seem to be presented as a unit not directly taking into consideration the
possible change of ideas and beliefs during the course of time.
The main concept of the divine figure of Enki/Ea has also at present remained the
same as was defined by A. Deimel in 1914: “É-a, deus abyssi et aquae (dulcis?); deus
sapientiae et artium; deus magorum.”3 Enki/Ea is described as the god of underground
sweet water ocean Abzu, god of wisdom and crafts, and god of magic. The current
study does not intend to produce an overall Mesopotamian concept of the god Enki/Ea
but aims to investigate his characteristics in a row over certain defined periods of
history for tracking the evolution and changes in the nature of that god in the minds of
ancient Mesopotamians. The task of studying the evidence in a diachronical
perspective is made difficult by the fact that most of the myths and other texts
composed in the Neo-Sumerian and Old-Babylonian periods concerning the god
Enki/Ea probably have their predecessors already in the Early-Dynastic period
religion and mythology. It is impossible to say with certainty, which motives are later
1 Cf. D. O. Edzard, Kindlers Literatur Lexikon (1973), pp. 9092-9115.
2 The name Enki will be used in cases of Sumerian context, Ea referring to possible Semitic god, and
the compound term Enki/Ea will be used to denote the overall Sumerian and Semitic concept of the
3 Pantheon Babylonicum (1914), p. 111.
additions and what part comes from the older tradition. It might, therefore, not seem
justified to claim that when a certain characteristic is missing from older texts but
present in newer sources, such a newer element was not already firmly established in
the layers of older religion. A missing characteristic from sources of the older periods
might simply indicate that the text containing this element is not preserved or not
found yet. However, conclusions in this study are made based on the material actually
present from a certain period of time and always leaving space to the possibility that a
certain characteristic could have been in existence even without a textual proof.
From previous scientific studies concerning the gods Enki and Ea, the most detailed
one is offered by H. D. Galter’s doctoral dissertation in Karl-Franzens-Universiät
Graz “Der Gott Ea/Enki in der Akkadischen Überlieferung. Eine Bestandsaufnahme
des vorhandenen Materials” printed in 1983. The dissertation presents an overview of
all the most important textual evidence about Enki and Ea that were known at the time
of the work’s composition. However, the aim of the study was not to analyse Ea and
Enki directly in light of his historical development but to give summaries of certain
features of that god in thematically ordered topics. E. D. van Buren established the
connection between the deity with streams flowing out from his shoulders and the god
Enki/Ea already in 1933 in her book “The Flowing Vase and the God with Streams.”
The main results of this pioneering study have proved adequate up to this day. M. W.
Green’s doctoral dissertation at the University of Chicago from the year 1975 “Eridu
in Sumerian Literature” offers a detailed study about Enki’s city Eridu in archaeology,
history, Mesopotamian mythology and literature. The most recent book about the
Enki myths and literary tradition is “Myths of Enki, the Crafty God” by S. N. Kramer
and J. Maier published in 1989. The book is not a scientific assyriological research
and is meant for the general reader, however it “serves as testimony to the maturing of
Assyriology: the field has arrived at a new plateau when a comprehensive survey can
be offered for the single Mesopotamian deity among the dozen major ones and the
more than five thousand lesser ones that make up the Sumero-Akkadian pantheon.”4
The topic of Enki and Ea in Sumerian mythology and history of religion has been
treated in one way or an other by almost every assyriologist due to the high
4 W. W. Hallo, JNES 116 (1996), p. 233.
importance of that god in Mesopotamian cultural context. All the major Enki myths
and thousands of other texts featuring Enki and Ea have been published during the last
fifty years of Ancient Near Eastern studies. However, no larger detailed research
about the god in specific has been undertaken during the last twenty five years. The
current study tries to present and analyse the choice of texts and representations in art
of Enki/Ea starting from the prehistoric periods and concluding with the image of the
god in Sumerian epic literature and mythology.
Chapter 1 Prehistoric Manifestations of Enki tries to interpret the earliest known
manifestations of the deity Enki based on the archeological material known so far
from the ancient site of Eridu (Tell Abu Shahrein). A possible interpretation of the
early concept of Abzu, known as Enki’s underground domain is given. Chapter 2
Names and Origins of Enki and Ea discusses the different possibilities of interpreting
the etymology of Enki and Ea. A historical overview of different scholars’ approach
to the problem is given. Possible origins of the divine concepts will also be studied.
Chapter 3 Enki in Old-Sumerian Sources analyses the textual information preserved to
us from the Early-Dynastic period. The discussed texts include royal inscriptions,
mythological and literary compositions, god lists, incantations, offering lists, and
personal names. Chapter 4 Enki/Ea in Old-Akkadian Sources treats Old-Akkadian
royal inscriptions and other sources from the period. Special intention is given to the
mythological compositions from the third millennium Ebla, where Enki has an
important role to play. A selection of Akkadian cylinder seals possibly featuring Enki
in mythological context is offered. Chapter 5 Enki in Neo-Sumerian Sources tracks
the image of Enki in the texts from the Neo-Sumerian period beginning with the
sources of the Second Dynasty of Lagaš. The texts revealing most of the information
about Enki from the Neo-Sumerian period are the royal hymns of Ur III rulers which
will be studied in detail. Incantations and Enki’s representations in the glyptic art of
the period are discussed. The thematic of the god aia, a deity closely related to
Enki/Ea, is also briefly summarised. Chapter 6 Enki in Sumerian Epic Stories and
Myths represents an overview of the epical and mythological body of literature
featuring Enki composed in their final form possibly during the first part of the Old-
Babylonian period. The epic stories of Enmerkar, Lugalbanda, and Gilgameš
featuring Enki will be studied. The contents of the myths “Enki and Nin`ursa¡” and
“Enki and Ninma`” are summarised serving as best and probably among the most
ancient examples of Enki mythology.
The time gap between the first Eridu temple and that of the composition of the
Sumerian epics and myths treated in the current thesis is more than 3000 years – a
period in history as long as it takes from the foundation of the state in Israel by David
to the present day. So it must be taken into consideration that even the presentation
and analysis of all the possible sources available would only give a fragmentary
image about the god Enki/Ea during that period. Therefore, the current study does not
pretend to claim to directly recreate a concept “who” and “what” the god Enki/Ea was
for the minds of the ancient Mesopotamians but first of all only tries to present
systematically the preserved authentic material.
1. Prehistoric Manifestations of Enki
Before giving an overview of the god Enki in written sources of the third and second
millennia, some remarks about his city Eridu and his divine domain Abzu are offered
in the following chapter. The earliest evidence about the god Enki can be traced to the
archaeological finds in his ancient temple in Eridu and will be summarised. The
chapter does not aim to be a separate study of Eridu, Abzu, Engur and other related
terms, but only tries to give an introductory overview of the concepts related to the
god Enki. The same terms will be discussed in the following chapters dealing with
Enki in Old-Sumerian, Old-Akkadian, and Neo-Sumerian sources, where they appear
in written texts related to the god Enki.
1.1. Eridu Temple
The god Enki is starting from the first written sources associated with the city of
Eridu5 situated in southern Mesopotamia,6 by its modern name Abu Shahrein. The
ancient site of Eridu7 which has been excavated by four different expeditions has
become a model image of how a small village structured around an ancient cultic site
became a town.8 Based on the findings and information collected during the
excavations it can be stated that in the lagoon-based Eridu, “swampy place that can
still become a sizeable lake in the months of high water,”9 there was an ancient Pre-
Sumerian sanctuary (Fig. 1) deepest layers XIX-XVIII of which date from ca. 5000
B.C. corresponding to the Ubaid level I. Among the findings from the layer VIII,
5 Cf. E. Unger, RlA 2 (1938), p. 467: In Sumerian the name was written using NUNki. NUN represents
a tree or a reed, the word nun meaning “prince” – sign often associated with the deity Enki. Also the
city of Babylon is sometimes written NUNki that might mean a wish to designate the Babylonian capital
with the sign of the “first city.” Cf. W. W. Hallo, JCS 23 (1970), p. 63.
6 Cf. M. Green, Eridu, pp. 4-13 for geographical features of the site and pp. 15-22 for the prehistory of
the city.
7 Cf. M. Green, op. cit., pp. 149-150. It would be possible to translate the name as eri-du10.g meaning
“the good city,” “the beautiful city.” Another possibility is to connect the name with urudu, “copper.”
The name Eridu(g) might also belong either to an archaic and therefore untranslatable layer of
Sumerian speech, or then to the language layer of the alleged Pre-Sumerian substratum of languages,
since the Sumerian etymology of the name is not certain.
8 Cf. A. M. T. Moore, Iraq 64 (2002), p. 69-70; F. Safar – M. A. Mustafa – S. Lloyd, Eridu (1981), pp.
9 G. Leick, Mesopotamia. The Invention of the City (2001), pp. 4-9.
below the altar, a number of curious clay coils were found; possibly the
representations of snakes, which might indicate ritual usages associated with them.
According to P. Charvát, these may have been connected to chthonic cults10 or an
underworld cult.11 Among other finds, layer VI contained bones of fish and small
animals. A bowl filled with appliqué snakes was found.12 During the same period
however, fish offerings were common practice in other temples and places of
sacrifice, for example in Uruk and Lagaš, suggesting that there is no reason to draw
direct parallels between the burnt fish offerings13 found in the ancient site of Eridu14
and later symbol of Enki in Old-Akkadian glyptic art represented by the fish
swimming in two water streams coming out from the shoulders of Enki.15
Fig. 1: Eridu Temple XVI
Although Enki, the patron deity of Eridu is starting from the composition of the first
known god-lists usually not considered first in rank in the Mesopotamian pantheon,
his city Eridu remains the oldest and first mentioned cities almost throughout the
10 P. Charvát, Mesopotamia Before History (1993), p. 47 (= Ancient Mesopotamia. Humankind’s
Long Journey into Civilization (1993), p. 69.)
11 G. Leick, op. cit., p. 7.
12 P. Charvát, op. cit., p. 47.
13 Cf. E. D. van Buren, Iraq 14 (1952), p. 76; F. Safar – M. A. Mustafa – S. Lloyd, op. cit., p. 45.
14 Cf. J. Oates, Iraq 22 (1960), p. 50: “The finds at Eridu, and at a considerably later period at Lagash,
show that in these places the people dedicated to Enki his portion of their goods, not in the form of
grain or meat, the basic form of wealth among farming communities, but in fish, the product of river,
lagoon and marsh.”
15 Cf. the treatment of Old-Akkadian glyptic art in 4.4. of the current study.
tradition of Sumerian literature.16 This was true even when the city itself was never a
major political power centre during historical periods and lost its importance as a city
completely in the middle of the second millennium.17 Such a “posthumous sanctity”18
that continued in case of Eridu until the end of the cuneiform culture should underlie
the early spiritual importance of the ancient town of Eridu.19 The pre-historic temple
of Eridu must have become a symbol for every later sanctuary and in the construction
of the later temple building in Mesopotamia “all the rules laid down at Eridu were
faithfully observed.”20 Since the sequence of temples at Eridu show “an attitude
towards the preservation of the earlier foundations, which can only be explained in the
light of a persistence of religious beliefs,”21 it is not hard to imagine that also the
ancient divine figure honoured during the first temple period must have given its
characteristics to the god worshiped during the next architectural phase. However,
there seems to be little grounds on claiming that in its earliest periods the ancient
deity was already named Enki sharing the same characteristics with the later figure of
the historical periods. By an analogy it could be imagined that the most ancient god in
Eridu has in common with the historical Enki figure as much as the first small temple
compared to the much huger complex during the Early-Dynastic period. The place
was the same,22 the landscape surrounding the temple must have been similar, and the
popular collective memory must have been touched by the ancient echo of the first
temple. But during the historical periods, the memory of that ancient divine figure
must have gone through a considerable change in every aspect, though its first image
was buried in the religious subconscience as the first temple of Eridu was hidden deep
below the earth.
16 Cf. 5.2.2. of the current study. In Old-Sumerian sources, the title of the “first city” seems to be
attested to Nippur of Enlil.
17 Cf. H. D. Galter, Ea/Enki, p. 287.
18 S. Lloyd, Iraq 36 (1974), p. 137.
19 M. Green, Eridu, p. 151: In later literary texts, Enki is associated more intimately with his city and
its powers than any other Sumerian god with its dwelling place. Cf. p. 153: Green concludes that
Eridu’s position as a “locus of magical powers” might well have been established already during the
Ubaid period and could have been the reason for continued maintenance of the shrine at Eridu into the
Neo-Babylonian period.
20 E. D. van Buren, OrNs 21 (1952), p. 293.
21 J. Oates, op. cit., p. 45.
22 Cf. S. Lloyd, Iraq 22 (1960), p. 30: When the change from the Al ’Ubaid phase of culture towards
the Uruk phase occurred, the influence was drastic economically and socially, but the rebuilding of the
shrines gives evidence about unbroken religious continuity.
Another question arising about the ancient deity in Eridu concerns the possible female
dominance in early Sumerian pantheon. As believed by P. Steinkeller, during the
Uruk period, most of the city states might have had “goddesses as their titulary divine
owners.”23 By Steinkeller, Enki – head of the earliest Sumerian pantheon, must have
been paired with most of the female deities of Sumer and complementing them as a
male element, “a sort of universal husband.”24 The possibility of female dominance in
early and more archaic stages of religion is certainly imaginable. It is possible to
assume that also the ancient divine power in Eridu must have been female in gender,
and by later developments caused by the growth of male dominance in society
general,25 the original female deity was replaced by a male one. However, the
statement about Enki being a universal male reproductive element in the early
pantheon can not be confirmed to be based on any known source.
1.2. Abzu
Closely associated with the city of Eridu is the region below the earth’s surface –
Abzu,26 often interpreted as an underground sweet water ocean.27 Abzu is already
mentioned in the lexical lists “Cities”28 from Uruk levels IV-III. In Sumerian, Abzu is
usually written phonetically with signs being in reversed order as su/zu-ab of
unknown etymology. The original nature of this region is still largely obscure, and
possibly no generally fixed understanding about the concept ever existed among the
ancient Mesopotamians.29 Sumerian sources reveal no direct information about the
23 Priests and Officials (1999), p. 112.
24 Ibid., pp. 112-113.
25 The spread of mother-goddess figure in almost all the early civilisations known to us might of course
draw to the conclusion that the original divine figure in Eridu temple must have also been imagined
female in gender. Cf. contradictory opinions of M. Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess (1991),
where two phases in society and religion are imagined: in the first stage, the dominating force should
be the Neolithic goddess cult which is then overthrown by the Bronze Age patriarchal beliefs and
social order. Then it would be possible to speculate that Enki as a divine figure must be a later phase of
the original female-goddess cult in Eridu. For opposing views to the model offered by M. Gimbutas, cf.
P. Ucko, Anthropomorphic Figurines of Predynastic Egypt and Neolithic Crete (1968) where the cultic
role of the so-called mother-goddess figurines is doubted.
26 M. Green, op. cit., p. 156: “abzu is often applied to a cosmological region whereas Eridu more
precisely designates a geographical site.”
27 W. G. Lambert, RAI 44 (1997), pp. 75-77 finds no evidence that ancient Mesopotamians ever
contrasted fresh waters and salt waters in a way that Abzu would be directly opposed to the sea (a-ab-
ba). Cf. B. Alster, Fs. Klein (2005), p. 17.
28 ATU 13: II, 33 and 60.
29 Cf. W. G. Lambert, op. cit., p. 75.
creation of Abzu30 and in the older narratives describing the creation of the world in
terms of An and Ki having intercourse and Enlil separating the earth from the sky,31
no mention of Abzu occurs. With certainty the term Abzu is used to designate a space
or area in lower regions of the world as An “sky” is for the highest parts of the known
It can be assumed that the original concept of Abzu must have had something to do
with the geographical features of the site of Eridu. The Eridu temple was probably
built on a place regarded somehow sacred. Since the authentic landscape in
prehistoric periods of the territory is not directly reconstructable it is also hard to
imagine what exactly made the place sacred. Some sort of a natural phenomenon is
imaginable to have been in existence. Considering that Eridu was situated in a marshy
and continuously flooded area, this original numen perceived by the ancients could
have had something to do with rising and decreasing water in the marshes.
According to several opinions, Abzu was a watery lagoon surrounding the sanctuary
of Eridu and so a cult “for the god or goddess of sweet water” 33 must have had its
centre there. Th. Jacobsen has concluded that the earliest form of Enki could have
been Abzu, “later seen as an opponent vanquished by”34 Enki who then had stepped
into the place of Abzu that in turn became his domain.35 Such a change of concepts,
where an ancient form of a deity becomes a mere attribute to a more contemporary
divine figure can be paralleled for example with “Enūma Eliš” where all the earlier
divine forms are described attributed to Marduk. However, the theory seems more to
be an artificial product of modern scholarly imagination than actually having taken
place in a real religious situation. Divine names containing the element Abzu are
30 Cf. W. Horowitz, Cosmic Geography, p. 335. “This apparently indicates that the Sumerians
conceived Apsu to be a primordial element, just as the divine Apsu exists at the very start of Enuma
Elish.” This kind of interpretation is modified by B. Alster, loc. cit., “Abzu might, indeed, have
denoted the waters of the marsh areas, as they were available for fishing and traffic by boat, basically
without any cosmological connotations.” The composition titled “The Song of the Hoe” (43-45) has a
reference to Enki as the builder of Abzu after the É-Kur temple of Enlil was built.
31 Cf. 3.4. (Ukg. 15) and 3.5.1. of the current study.
32 Å. Sjöberg, PSD A/II (1994), p. 202 concludes, that “abzu/apsû is used to designate the very lowest
part of the world (opposite to heaven).” Correctness of the claim can be illustrated by the archaic Keš
Hymn 35-36: é m[ùš] / an [šà lá] / te-me abzu / [x x] {si-ga} – “temple, (its) surface (area) / (from) the
midst of the sky hangs down / (its) foundations (to) the abzu / are placed (?). Cf. Ur-Namma C: 3,
where walls of Ur are described growing or rising out from Abzu (abzu-ta mú-a).
33 G. Leick, op. cit., p. 3.
34 Mesopotamian Gods and Pantheons, in Tammuz, p. 22.
35 Cf. H. D. Galter, Ea/Enki, p. 8-9.
attested in Abū alābīkh and Fāra god lists,36 but Abzu never seems to be a
personified divine concept in Sumerian sources.37
Engur is often synonymously used with Abzu from the earliest sources onwards, and
in the lexical and bilingual texts from the later periods Engur is translated apsû.38 The
terms seem to be originally distinct,39 but their exact nature is hard to determine due
to a lack of authentic written material.40 Sumerian sources use them both do designate
a temple dedicated to Enki. As for evidence characterising Abzu and Engur as distinct
entities, it must be mentioned that in Sumerian sources there are attestations for the
“fish of Engur” (ku6-engur-ra) but no references for the “fish of Abzu” seem to
exist.41 Only one Old-Sumerian text mentions fish related to Abzu. The fish are
probably sent towards the Abzu for magical reasons – possibly as a carrier of an
incantation or a prayer to Enki in his domain Abzu:
su`urku6 abzu-šè gub-gub-ba42
Carp-fish43 that is sent to its Abzu
Clay (im-abzu: “clay of the Abzu”) seems to be characteristic to Abzu and is only
rarely used in case of Engur.44 In “Enki’s Journey to Nippur” the following statement
about the Eridu temple describes Engur and Abzu in parallel but slightly different
é da engur-ra piri¡ abzu šà-ga45
Temple at the side of Engur, lion at the centre of Abzu
36 Å. Sjöberg, op. cit., p. 199, 8; M. Green, Eridu, p. 161.
37 B. Alster, Fs. Klein (2005), p. 7.
38 M. Green, op. cit., p. 158. Cf. p. 160: “From the fact that abzu and engur are both translated apsû in
Old Babylonian texts, it is clear that already by that time the concept had undergone significant
39 Å. Sjöberg, op. cit., p. 202
40 M. Green, op. cit., pp. 158-160.
41 Ibid., p. 159.
42 Ean. 1: xix, 17.
43 Cf. E. Sollberger – J.-R. Kupper, IRSA, IC5a, p. 52, and note 8, p. 57: “les carpes qui sont au service
de l’Apsu.“ H. Steible, FAOS 5/I, p. 135: “Bei den su`ur-Fischen, die für den Abzu (als Opfer)
hingestellt sind.” Cf. G. Selz, UGASL, p. 119, note 49: “Könnten nicht statt der sonst üblichen Tauben
die Suhur-Fische freigelassen werden?” Cf. also Å. Sjöberg, op. cit., p. 184: “Eannatum swore (?) by
the carp…for the abzu.”
44 M. Green, op. cit., p. 159.
45 Enki’s Journey to Nippur: 57.
The temple here seems to be near or at the sides (banks) of Engur. On the other hand,
the Eridu temple is described as being inside or in the middle of Abzu. Besides fish,
Engur is also connected to reeds growing out of water in Old-Sumerian texts:
gi ¡eš-gi-engur46
Reed of the canebrake of Engur
When combining the scarce evidence about Abzu and Engur in the earliest sources
available, it can be concluded that Abzu refers to a place situated below the surface of
the earth being in contact with the foundations of temples metaphorically having their
lower parts placed in Abzu and higher parts reaching the heavens.47 Engur again
seems to be more related to water represented in water lagoons in the marsh areas.
The fact that Abzu is associated with clay and no Old-Sumerian text seems to relate
Abzu directly with an area of waters might indicate that Abzu originally might have
been an underworld domain that was not filled with water. In turn Engur could then
be a synonym for the ground waters surrounding Enki’s underworld region Abzu. A
later reference to the fact that Enki conquered himself a netherworld region and not an
under-earth sweet water ocean48 can be found in the epic story “Gilgameš, Enkidu and
the Netherworld” where Enki sets sail to conquer himself the lower regions of the
earth – Kur (kur-šè).49
However, the fact that Abzu is not associated with water in any Old-Sumerian texts
does not prove that in earlier periods Abzu was seen as a cosmic entity empty of
water. Texts found so far dealing with mythology from Old-Sumerian and Old-
Akkadian periods are too small in number to give any conclusions having probative
46 Urn. 49: 2.
47 Cf. Gudea Cyl. A: xxii 11-13 in 5.1. of the current study.
48 Cf. Th. Jacobsen, Fs. Hallo (1993), p. 122: The descent of Enki “may simply by a mythopoeic
explanation of how Enki and his realm, the Apsu, came to be underground where the Ancients knew
them to be located.”
49 Gilgameš, Enkidu and the Netherworld: 16. Cf. 6.1.2. of the current study.
1.3. Conclusions
Except for the fact that Eridu was situated in a watery place – marshland, and among
other things large quantities of fish and snake figures were probably offered to the god
or goddess occupying the temple; nothing can be said about the nature of that Pre-
Sumerian divine figure. It should be considered possible, that we are dealing with an
early figure or an ancestor of Sumerian Enki known from the Early-Dynastic written
sources. Even if Sumerian Enki is not the direct offspring of the deity worshipped
already at the times of Ubaid level I, some common points should be imaginable to
exist between them. At least the memory of the older divine figure should be
preserved in some layers of Sumerian mythology – either directly or then
subconsciously. It must be considered possible, that an earlier form of the god could
have been more closely associated with the natural phenomena or a sacred place
named Abzu. Nature of that Abzu is still largely difficult to conceptualise. At least
Sumerian sources do not describe Abzu directly as an ocean of waters or sweet
waters. Engur in turn is associated with fish and reeds and should most probably mean
the ground waters in the marshland area. Although Abzu and Engur are both used
synonymously when referring to the temple of Enki, it should be considered possible
that they were originally different concepts.
2. Names and Origins of Enki and Ea
The next evidence in a diachronical perspective about the ancient god worshiped at
the temple of Eridu might be found in the etymology of the names of these deities. It
is reasonable to believe that both the names of Enki and Ea were already phonetically
similarly used hundreds of years before the appearance of these names in cuneiform
script. Understanding and interpreting all the possible meanings of the name forms
should also allow understanding the more ancient concept of the deity. Every name –
personal or divine – has to have an original meaning. This original meaning might be
closely connected to concrete objects (for instance a sacred place: stone, marshland,
lake, etc.), to a verb (characteristic action), to a toponym (also a name for a cosmic
region), or to a natural phenomenon (rain, storm, wind, etc.). One deity might have
had several names used for him simultaneously. During the course of time an older
name could have disappeared and developed into a new form – a later attribute of a
deity could for instance have been his older name. However, it should be taken into
consideration that an original meaning of the name of a deity might mean nothing
interpretable to a community of people using that name many centuries after the name
was first used. The name of the Israelite god YHWH must have had a translatable
meaning possibly in the beginning of the first millennium B.C. when the Israelite
religion was in an early state of development. The later composed Hebrew Scriptures
thus show no firm and unanimous translation in interpreting the name. Possibly the
original meaning had no importance for the Hebrews in the fifth century B.C. who
used besides YHWH several divine names all possibly referring to some deities of
older layers of Israelite religion or neighbourhood. The graphic form and
pronunciation of YHWH was although considered sacred as was the deity behind the
name itself; and was never changed.
The situation with the name Enki can be imagined to be similar – even if Enki and Ea
once had a clearly translatable meaning – understandable to autochthonic people, it is
not guaranteed that the original meaning was interpretable for the inhabitants in the
middle third millennium city states of Sumer and Akkad. The following chapter tries
to understand various existing possibilities for translating the names and possible
origins of Enki and Ea. As was the case with the previous chapter dealing with the
archaeological evidence, the etymologies cannot be studied without a reference to the
later written material available.
2.1. Enki
The direct translation of the Sumerian name den-ki, recorded as a divine name in
written sources since the composition of the texts from Fāra and Abū alābīkh,50
would mean “Lord Earth,” and in case of a genitival construction (en+ki+ak), “Lord
of the Earth.” As for the name Enki does not seem to refer to a genitival construction
in many textual examples, the form en-ki(g) with an amissible -g51 seems to be a well
based possibility for an original form. As for variations in Sumerian sources, Enki’s
name possibly also occurs as ki-ki52 and *enkid53 in magical texts from Meturan.54
2.1.1. Enki in UD.GAL.NUN Texts and Emesal Speech
Some late Early-Dynastic inscriptions from Abū alābīkh and Fāra, named
UD.GAL.NUN texts by R. D. Biggs,55 contain an orthographic style for writing the
name Enki as UD.GAL.UNU or dGAL.UNU.56 The name of Enlil occurs as
UD.GAL.NUN, so the code could be explained as follows: UD = AN, GAL = en,
50 Cf. Chapter 3 of the current study for Enki in Old-Sumerian texts.
51 W. G. Lambert, BSOAS 52 (1989), p. 116.
52 A. Cavigneaux – F. N. H. Al-Rawi, ZA 83 (1993), p. 189: explained that the title en is not used
because the ancient primordial Enki-Nunki gods are involved in speaking considered more ancient and
important from the god Enki(k). In turn, when less important personalities speak to Enki, he sometimes
is titled with the redoubled en: en den-ki.
53 Ibid., p. 179, line 30. Magical texts from Meturan contain several variations for writing the name
Enki. (Cf. p. 189 for the collection of different different forms.) Analysing the forms used in the texts,
it seems certain that (p. 190) “on a à faire à une forme /enkidke/ ou /enkedke/ (à l’ergatif qui se réduit
dans certains cas devant voyelle à /e(n)kike/, et devant consonne à /enkid/ attesté dans le datif i-ni-in-
ki-id-ra).” The original form of the name in Meturan sources might then be *enkid. The different
writings attested in Meturan texts could represent an older tradition but a certain jeu d’esprit or esoteric
writing as might be the case with the UD.GAL.NUN texts also seems possible.
54 Cf. parrallel forms for the name Enki in dative in A. Cavigneaux – F. N. H. Al-Rawi, ZA 85 (1995),
p. 23: text MA 24 has den-ki-ke4-ra, parallel text C 20 has den-ki-ra. Cf. p. 35: “La graphie den-ki-ke4-ra
(MA) // den-ki-ra (C) n’est pas isolée à Meturan; même si c’est une ‘faute’, elle est peut-être
55 JCS 20 (1966), p. 81.
56 W. G. Lambert, OA 20 (1981), p. 81ff.; BSOAS 39 (1976), pp. 430-432.
NUN = líl, and UNU = ki.57 The reason for the use of coded language is still not
completely explained, although many different interpretations do exist.
W. G. Lambert finds this system to be a jeu d’esprit, “and it probably served to jog
the memories of scribes who used it.”58 H. Sauren suggests possible Pre-Sumerian
origins.59 A system of cryptographic writing should be considered possible60 arising
from the need to hide something or give more importance to a sacred or scholarly text
by deliberately adding to it an esoteric value. As noticed by R. D. Biggs, the text
corpus reflects “a different orthographic tradition in which even a partially different
repertory of signs is in use.”61 A different dialect of the main language has been
suggested as an option for UD.GAL.NUN texts instead of the possibility of
cryptography. B. Alster gives an opinion that “this peculiar writing system may
indicate, namely a specific pronunciation of certain words,”62 and the dialect would be
In emesal speech of later periods, two different forms for den-ki are found: umun-ki
and am-an-ki. Umun is an emesal form for the en “lord/master.” The form aman is
used for the Sumerian en only in case of the divine name den-ki:63
ù-mu-un dam-an-ki-ra [a]-ra-zu du5-mu-n[a-ab-bé] 64
To the lord Enki I shall utter a plea
When in UD.GAL.NUN text a pronunciation different from the ordinary Sumerian
versus emesal is meant, then UD.GAL.NUN should correspond to emesal dmu.ul.líl
and UD.GAL.UNU to emesal of the later periods.65 An argument
supporting this kind of logic would be the fact that emesal known from the Sumerian
texts from the early Old-Babylonian period onward,66 should have its predecessor in
57 J. Krecher, BiOr 35 (1978), p. 155; W. G. Lambert, OA 20 (1981), pp. 81-82.
58 W. G. Lambert, OA 20 (1981), p. 92.
59 H. Sauren, Fs. Hallo (1993), p. 205, note 21.
60 W. G. Lambert, BSOAS 39 (1976), p. 432 defined as “a limited system of cryptography.”
61 R. D. Biggs, ZA 61 (1971), p. 195.
62 B. Alster, ASJ 4 (1982), p. 4.
63 H. D. Galter, Ea/Enki, p. 9.
64 Inanna and Enki: A/B: 3.
65 B. Alster, loc. cit.
66 Ibid., p. 5.
the older layers of the Sumerian language.67 One of the probable answers explaining
the UD.GAL.NUN system would be, as concluded by J. Krecher – deliberate
cryptography that might be caused by cultic taboos or prohibitions for writing down
texts of mythological contents of some unknown type.68 As summarised by M.
Krebernik, the cryptography possibly does not represent any dialect different from the
Sumerian language of the period, and no great distinction between the UD.GAL.NUN
literature and the literature written in normal orthography seems to exist.69
Why this orthographic system is mostly used when dealing with Enlil and Enki only
“whereas other gods seemingly are written with the ordinary orthography70 is
unclear.71 P. Michalowski makes an intriguing suggestion claiming that Enlil who was
a Semitic newcomer in the Sumerian pantheon had taken away Enki’s place as the
leading native deity of Sumer.72 When the interpretation of Michalowski would turn
out to be correct, then during the times of composition of the UD.GAL.NUN texts a
sort of rivalry between the theologies of Enlil and Enki must have occurred. However,
theories claiming that Enlil was a newcomer in Sumerian pantheon and for that reason
would be a “rival” to Enki and his theology are mainly defended using the argument
that Enlil’s name was of Semitic origins73 – proved by Ebla sources where the name
was written i-li-lu.74 Since the name can also be explained to be stemming from the
Sumerian language, the option of Enlil being “aus dem semitischen Bereich
67 Cf. I. M. Diakonoff, JAOS 103 (1983), p. 88, note 40: emesal /umun/, /aman-/ (in /Aman-ki/) for
emegir /ên/ < /*ewen/; and p. 89, note 48: emesal da-ma-an-ki = emegir den-ki, and also emesal u-mu-
un = emegir en (/ên/</*ewen/), with a>u because of the labial. Cf. p. 88 where Diakonoff assumes, that
emesal in Sumerian “differs from the language of men in phonetics, in retaining certain archaisms” –
so, aman/umun would be an archaism. Cf. A. Alberti, N.A.B.U. 1990/4, pp. 102-103 for *emen as an
archaic form of en.
68 J. Krecher, QuSem 18 (1992), p. 301. W. G. Lambert, BSOAS 39 (1976), p. 432 finds “the motive
was hardly to conceal, since the system is so easy.”
69 M. Krebernik, OBO 160/1, p. 299.
70 B. Alster, ASJ 4 (1982), p. 2.
71 Cf. J. Krecher, QuSem 18 (1992), p. 302: “A more detailed study of the Fāra time religious literature
will perhaps show that Enlil (and Enki) play more extensive role in the UD.GAL.NUN texts than in
texts of the normal orthography.”
72 P. Michalowski, RAI 43 (1996), pp. 241-242. For that reason “the usurpation of Enki’s place by the
new god may also be the source of the use of the NUN sign (in case of Enlil), a symbol widely
associated with the older god, in the UD.GAL.NUN (=dingir.en.líl) writing of Enlil’s name, and in the
early writing convention for the name of his city Nippur, which may be found, spelled EN.NUN in the
city seal from Jemdet Nasr.” P. Steinkeller, Gs. Jacobsen (2002), p. 255, note 29 sees no justification
interpreting EN.NUN for Nippur.
72 Cf. theories of S. N. Kramer concerning Enki in of the current chapter.
73 Cf. P. Steinkeller, Priests and Officials (1999), p. 114, note 36 where it is stated that Enlil was a
secondary development in the Sumerian pantheon, and “the cult of Enlil was brought to Nippur from
northern Babylonia (though in great antiquity).”
74 Cf. 4.2. of the current study.
stammender uralter Eindringling im sumerischen Pantheon, müsste mit kräftigeren
Argumenten untermauert warden.”75
On the other hand, “the usurpation of Enki’s place” could emerge from “the decline of
his city Eridu, due to geographical factors, which resulted in Enlil’s emerging
supreme”76 and then give grounds for rivalry between two theologies. Several
indications can be imagined, that approximately in the beginning of the Early-
Dynastic period, Sumerian political and religious organisation “underwent a dramatic
transformation, by which its focal point was transferred from Uruk to Nippur,”77 and
instead of Inanna and Enki, the god of Nippur, Enlil became the head of the
pantheon.78 If the theories about the change of power centres in Babylonia in the
beginning of the Early-Dynastic period would turn out to be correct, then at least
some special connection between the writing style of the names of Enki and Enlil in
UD.GAL.NUN texts and the relations of these gods might seem imaginable.
2.1.2. Enki-Ninki Deities
The name form en-ki is also used for the en-ki – nin/nun-ki79 deities who are
mentioned already in several Early-Dynastic texts. The original character of the en-
ki80– nin-ki deities and their connection to the deity Enki will be studied in more
detail in Chapter 3.4. of the current study. As illustrated by a later emesal bilingual
75 D. O. Edzard, Fs. Fronzaroli (2003), p. 184.
76 W. G. Lambert, MARI 4 (1985), p. 538.
77 P. Steinkeller, Gs. Jacobsen (2002), p. 257.
78 Ibid.
79 Th. Jacobsen, Treasures, p. 252, note 173: “This deity, whose name denotes ‘Lord Earth’ (en-ki) is a
chthonic deity distinct from the god of the fresh waters Enki, whose name denotes ‘Lord (i.e.,
productive manager) of the earth’ (en-ki (.ak)).” Cf. Th. Jacobsen, JNES 5 (1946), pp. 138-139: “the
powers manifest in Earth viewed in their male and female aspects as dEn-ki, ‘The earth lord,’ and dNin-
ki, ‘The earth lady.’”
80 For the possible parallelism of the en-ki – nin-ki and the īgī, cf. S. N. Kramer, JAOS 88 (1968), p.
111, note 13: Kramer claims that the den-ki – den-ki in line 6 of the praise Poem for Išme-Dagan
parallels the initial da-nun-na-ke4-ne of the preceding line 5 - “it is not unlikely, therefore, that den-ki –
den-ki stands for the īgī (usually written nun-gal-e-ne)” (Cf. Išme-Dagan A: 5-6: da-nun-na-ke4-ne
temen-bi / den-ki-den-ki túg zi-¡ál-bi: foundation peg of the Anunna gods / life protecting garment of
the Enki deities). J. van Dijk in AOAT 25 (1976), p. 126, note 7 finds the parallelism possible:
“L’assimilation in (= en: in-si = énsi) -ki < ī-ki; (n)in-ki < ī-ki; avant le ‘soundshift’ cela dû être: i-gi-i-
gi (-u) < īgīgû..” Cf. F. Wiggermann, NatPhen (1992), p. 281-282 who believes the equation of Igigu
and Enki-Enki seems not to fit the larger context of Sumerian or Babylonian mythology.
vocabulary, the similar name form of en-ki and nin-ki they share with the god Enki
studied here was already problematical to Babylonian scribes:81
dumun-ki = den-ki = dé-a]
dgašan-ki = dnin-ki = ddam-ki-n[a] 82
2.1.3. Possible Translations of the Name Enki
In light of the previous discussion, two possible forms of the name seem probable –
den-ki or then den-ki(g/k). Assuming the name is Sumerian, different interpretations
and direct translations can be taken into account. Another possibility would be that
den-ki represents an older form of the divine name with no available translation based
on the Sumerian language. All the options will be taken into consideration in the
following discussion. Enki Translated “Lord of the Earth”
From the beginnings of the scientific sumerological studies, a number of attempts
have been made to translate and interpret the name Enki by giving different variations
to the direct translation “Lord (of the) Earth.”83 Ch. Jean elaborates further: “En-ki
signifie ‘seigneur de la terre’, par opposition au ciel AN, ou ‘seigneur du territoire’ au
centre duquel il est honoré; ou bien encore ‘seigneur du sol’ et du sous-sol, y compris
les nappes d’eau douce que l’on voyait sourdre en certains lieux.”84 E. Ebeling
clarifies that the Sumerian ki in case of Enki could be understood as a space below,
the under-earth sweet-water ocean Abzu, thus translating Enki’s name as “Herr des
Although the translation “Lord of the Earth” might seem at first sight to be the most
probable one,86 serious problems arise when comparing the idea of the “lord of the
81 Cf. A. Deimel, Pantheon Babylonicum (1914), p. 111: d nin-ki is seen as a spouse of Enki.
82 MSL 4: i 2-3.
83 Cf. A. Deimel, loc. cit., Enki = dominus terrae.
84 Ch. Jean, Religion sumérienne, p. 45.
85 E. Ebeling, RlA 2 (1938), p. 375.
86 Ch. Jean, loc. cit., “L’étymologie autorise, sans les imposer, ces trois conceptions.”
earth” in context with the functions and character generally attested to Enki.87 “Selbst
wenn man annimmt, der Name sei in den Flussmarschen des Mündungsgebietes von
Euphrat und Tigris entstanden, wo Land und Wasser fliessend ineinander übergehen,
so bleibt doch die Frage ungeklärt, warum dieses Phänomen dann auf die gesamte
Erde übertragen wurde.”88 Th. Jacobsen sees Enki as productive manager of the soil
reflecting the role of water in fructifying earth, and when moistening clay, giving it
“plasticity and the ability to assume and hold all manner of shapes.”89 So, due to his
watery nature Enki can be imagined to be a real “ruler” of the fertile soil, form-giver
and master of the clay.90 Interpretation of Enki as husband of Ki is given by H.
Sauren, who in his approach to the myth “Enki and Ninma`” hypothesises that
Namma was taken in marriage by Enki: “Nammu is divided into An = heaven and Ki
= earth,” and Enki is “the husband of Ki as his name indicates.”91 Understanding the
deity Enki as a ruler of the cosmic entity Ki – “earth” seems highly improbable in
light of the fact that not a single text in Sumerian sources describes Enki married or
directly associated to Ki.92 C. H. Gordon finds that Enki’s status as the “Lord of the
Earth” is proven by his nature as god of fertility. Since in Ugarit, the god of fertility
was “Baal ‘the Lord,’ who is specifically B‘l-ar
‘Lord of the Earth,’” then he should
also be “the precise equivalent of EN-KI.”93 The argument does not seem to be
confirmed, since in West-Semitic sources Enki/Ea is possibly equated with deities like
El and K
ss, and no direct relation with Baal – dying and then ressurected god,
seems to exist.94
87 S. N. Kramer, Genava NS 8 (1960), p. 276: “it seems rather strange that the epithet en-ki ‘Lord of the
Earth’ should be given to a deity who is primarily the god in charge of waters rather than of the earth.”
88 H. D. Galter, Ea/Enki, p. 8. Cf. B. Groneberg, Die Götter des Zweistromlandes (2004), pp. 135-136,
who argues that Enki’s element is sweet water that should be represented in his name, and not the
earth. However, no Old-Sumerian text exists, where Enki’s element would be the sweet waters – also
Abzu as a cosmic region cannot be explained simply as a sweet water ocean.
89 Treasures, p. 111.
90 Cf. K. Butz, Ebla 1975-1985 (1987), p. 337: “‘Erde’ ist hier zu verstehen als ‘bewässertes Land.’
‘Erde’ ohne wasser ist ohne Leben und daher ohne bedeutung.”
91 Fs. Hallo (1993), p. 204. “It is only with Nammu = Ki that Enki begets children, their offspring
being the myriads of gods, the šaršara.” Sauren therefore considers Nammu Enki’s wife, and not
mother. For Nammu as Enki’s mother, cf. H. D. Galter, Ea/Enki, pp. 123-124. The view that
Damgalnunna/Damkina is a later development and the mother-goddess was the original spouse of Enki
is supported also by P. Michalowski, RAI 43 (1996), p. 242. For the role of Damgalnunna/Damkina
and also Nin`ursa¡ as Enki’s spouse, cf. H. D. Galter, Ea/Enki, pp. 124-125.
92 Cf. F. A. M. Wiggermann, RlA 9 (1998-2001), p. 138 for the mother-goddess Namma’s relation to
Enki and Eridu.
93 C. H. Gordon, Eblaitica 1 (1987), p. 20.
94 C. H. Gordon, Eblaitica 2 (1990), p. 145 tries to combine results from, Sumerian, Eblaite and
Ugaritic texts and prove that Baal who is “Lord of the Earth” is also titled “living” – possible name of
The name Enki could originally have been an epithet of a deity claiming his lordship
and power over the earth and its inhabitants; and during the course of time the original
name of the deity might have been replaced by the epithet “Lord of the Earth.”95
According to the hypothesis of Th. Jacobsen, the ancient name of Enki must have
been Abzu, under-earth sweet-water ocean, later understood as a domain and living-
place of Enki.96 H. Sauren also develops the idea: “We find afterwards Apsu (=Enki?)
in the Enuma Eliš myth as the father of great gods. In the myth of Atramhasis, Enki is
the lord of Apsu, opposed to heaven.”97 S. N. Kramer argues that the complex en-ki
was originally an epithet “which may have been substituted by the Sumerian
theologians for a Semitic deity – in this case, the god Ea.”98 “Here in Eridu there was
a local deity by the name of Ea, and the aspiring theologians of that city, eager to
make him the supreme deity of the land, pressed forward his claim for lordship over
the earth, and in an effort to insure his claim applied to him the epithet en-ki, ‘Lord of
the Earth,’ which then became his Sumerian name.”99 Here, a power struggle between
the Eridu oriented and Nippur tradition theologians is presupposed, so the assumed
quest of Enki (Eridu theologians) is making the cult of Enki and Eridu leading power
in Sumerian theology instead of Enlil.100 “The title ‘Lord of the Earth’ seems to point
to an effort on the part of the Sumerian theologians to make him a rival of Enlil who
‘had carried off the earth’ after heaven had been separated from it, and would
therefore presumably be the real ‘Lord of the Earth.’”101 Th. Jacobsen in turn sees no
Semitic Ea. That in turn should convince toward the conclusion that the name of Enki must also be
“Lord of the Earth.”
95 Cf. H. D. Galter, Ea/Enki, pp. 8-9.
96 Tammuz, p. 21. A similar argument given by S. N. Kramer – J. Maier in Myths of Enki, p. 3 claiming
the original name to have been En-kur. “His very name, the complex en-ki, ‘Lord of the earth,’ does
not correspond to his position as king of the Abzu, the watery deep that was part of the Kur, the cosmic
entity below the earth, the home of all kinds of evil demons and terrifying monsters. In fact, it is not
unlikely that at an earlier period he was called En-kur, ‘Lord Kur,’ a name he acquired by conquering
the monster-infested Kur.”
97 Fs. Hallo (1993), p. 204.
98 Genava NS 8 (1960), p. 276.
99 S. N. Kramer, Sumerian Mythology (1961), p. xiii. In Myths of Enki, p. 3 another way of events is
proposed: Some time about 2500 B.C., the Akkadians introduced the name Ea for Enki.
100 S. N. Kramer, OrNS 39 (1970), pp. 103-104; cf. Genava NS 8 (1960), p. 276: “All of which may
point to the conclusion that Enki was not a ‘native’ to the Sumerian pantheon, but rather a foreign
101 S. N. Kramer, Genava NS (1960), p. 276. Kramer thinks to have found evidence about the rivalry of
Enlil and Enki in the so-called “Golden Age” passage, where Enki by the speculation of Kramer
developed in JAOS 63 (1943) pp. 191-194, and further developed in JAOS 88 (1968), pp. 108-111,
confuses the tongues of humankind to stop them giving praise to Enlil in one language. The real
meaning of the nam-šub of Nudimmud contained in lines 136-155 of “Enmerkar and the Lord of
Aratta” epic still contains many uncertainties. For opposite views to Kramer, cf. Th. Jacobsen’s
interpretation in Fs. Talmon (1992), pp. 403-416. Enki’s inferior position towards Enlil is represented
convincing trace of such a power struggle between Enki and Enlil because “the title
en, traditionally translated ‘lord,’ never denotes ‘owner’ in Sumerian but rather
‘productive manager;’ as Enki’s name refers to the role of water in fertilising the earth
and making it produce, it implies no challenge to anybody.”102
Different interpretations of S. N. Kramer and Th. Jacobsen seem to be rooted in two
opposite conceptions of pre-historic Mesopotamian religion. Kramer considers the
deities in Mesopotamia to be anthropomorphic since their first appearance as gods,
while according to Jacobsen, the Mesopotamian gods originally emerged from
different powers and numina of nature symbolised in their emblems, and “the
anthropomorphic form in which these deities appear in literature and art is a later
development.”103 The theories of Jacobsen seem to be based on the belief that Enki
was an ancient water-deity – a symbol of water later personified in an
anthropomorphic form. Water makes clay (of the Abzu) plastic, and then, from clay
different forms can be shaped. This should find expression in Enki’s epithet
Nudimmud “image fashioner,” “god of shaping.”104 Jacobsen’s interpretation of the
name Nudimmud should again underline Enki’s function as god of artisans and
craftsmen.105 Old-Sumerian and also Neo-Sumerian texts do show Enki in some
connection with canals and irrigation, reeds growing out from the Abzu, but nowhere
is it seen that Sumerians actually ever saw him as a god who “personifies the
numinous powers in the sweet waters in rivers and marshes or rain.”106 In addition,
the cleansing power of the incantation waters107 seems to be connected to Enki by
later influence not attested before the incantations of the Neo-Sumerian period.108
in one of the epithets of Enki, den-líl-bàn-da (Cf. Enmerkar and Lord of Aratta: 128: den-líl-bàn-da-ke-
en-gi-ra-ke4: Junior Enlil of Sumer). His status as “younger Enlil” does not reflect his smaller
importance directly. However, it states that Enki is seen as an organiser of Earth instead of Enlil. The
rivalry motive is however present in the later Flood stories. Cf. W. W. Hallo, JAOS 110 (1990), p. 195:
“From the perspective of religious history, the Flood originates as a chapter in the struggle between the
deities Enki and Enlil or, if one prefers, between the rival theologies and priesthoods of the first city,
Eridu and the later center of amphictyony, Nippur. (...) In its ultimate form, it becomes a simple, albeit
dramatic, paradigm for divine caprice, for redistribution unmotivated by any particular human delict.”
102 Fs. Talmon (1992), p. 415.
103 O. R. Gurney, BSOAS 34 (1971), p. 596.
104 Th. Jacobsen, Treasures, p. 111. Cf. 3.1. of the current study for the epithet Nudimmud.
105 Ibid.
106 Ibid., p. 110.
107 Cf. ibid., p. 112.
108 Cf. M. J. Geller, BSOAS 50 (1987), p. 125. In Ebla and Fāra texts, Enlil and goddess Ningirim are
instead of Enki and Asallu`i the main incantation figures. Cf. 5.4. of the current study for the general
character of incantations related to Enki in the Neo-Sumerian period.
The theory of Jacobsen about Enki as an ancient water deity is not provable at least by
any written source from the third millennium. However, as Jacobsen himself states
about Kramer’s theory of struggle between Enki and Enlil, no convincing evidence
that Enki was ever directly jealous of Enlil can be detected with certainty from
Sumerian texts.109
It cannot be excluded, that the name Enki is an epithet of a deity previously having
carried a different name. Whether this hypothetical name is represented in underworld
cosmic regions such as Abzu or Kur is impossible to prove, but imaginable. The
translation “Lord of the Earth” is doubtful in many ways. First of all, it does not seem
to fit the functions of the deity, secondly it poses serious problems for interpreting the
name as a genitive complex based on Sumerian grammar. For those reasons, other
ways of interpreting the name must be taken into consideration, however, not
claiming the translation “Lord of the Earth” has to be erroneous. Enki Interpreted Enki(g/k)
In UD.GAL.NUN texts, the name of Enki was written UD.GAL.UNU. The value
UNU is used for the ki of Enki as well as for the ki denoting “earth.”110 This aspect
seems to indicate the possibility that the composers of the UD.GAL.NUN text might
have interpreted ki of Enki as “earth.” However, according to W. G. Lambert, ki
cannot be a specific value for UNU because ki “earth” and ki(g) belonging to the
name den-ki are probably different nouns.111 The translation “Lord of the Earth” is
doubtful, “first because ancient Babylonian scholars seem never to use or imply such
a meaning, despite their obsession with etymology of divine names; secondly,
because the -ki is not ‘earth,’ since it ends with an omissible -g. It is properly -kig, of
unknown meaning.”112 The view has not been generally accepted, since “den-ki-ak
109 Fs. Talmon (1992), p. 415. However, the motive where Enki saves humankind against the will of
Enlil in the Flood stories is an example of direct opposition between these gods.
110 W. G. Lambert, BSOAS 39 (1976), p. 432.
111 Ibid. Cf. P. Michalowski, Gs. Kutscher (1993), p. 123 argues that AB/UNUG might have been
originally a symbol for city, geographical name or a temple. During “one phase in the invention of the
writing system it had a value ki, and that ki was the original Sumerian word for ‘city.’” When the old
word was replaced by a Semitic loan uru, ki “became generalized in the meaning ‘place,’ and was later
used as a classifier for geographical names.”
112 W. G. Lambert, BSOAS 52 (1989), p. 116 – statement given in review of C. H. Gordon, Eblaitica 1
(1987), p. 19, where it is claimed, that Enki undoubtedly means “Lord of the Earth.” Cf. K. Butz, Ebla
may have developed den-ki(g) by dissimilation,”113 although there seems to be no
direct parallels for such a dissimilation in the Sumerian language.
Concerning the translation of that hypothetical ki(g) in the name of Enki, not many
options have been offered. E. Sollberger has understood the ki of den-ki as the
Sumerian root ki(g) meaning “favour,” “benevolence,” “love,114 and so in parallel
with the name En-líl115 as “seigneur bienvéillance.”116 The existence of the verbal
construction ki.a¡a “to love, beloved” in the hypothetical ki(g) of Enki is hard to
defend in lack of parallels for such an occurrence.
However a deity who is also called “benevolent” can be found from Ugaritic
mythology represented by El or Ilu – l
pn ’il dp’id: “the Benevolent, Ilu the Good-
natured.”117 L
pn – possibly vocalised la
n is not only an epithet or adjective
describing the deity El, but “might even be the proper name of Ilu (bearing in mind
that Ilu simply means ‘god’).”118 Besides the possible etymological relations between
Enki and El, they share similarities also in terms of their cosmic regions, since
“according to the Ugaritic myths El lived in ‘the sources of the (two) rivers, within the
springs of the (two) seas’ (mbk nhrm qrb apq thmtm), which is the nearest Syrian
equivalent to the Sumerian Apsû.”119 W. G. Lambert suggests that in Mari El hides
under a disguise of Enki/Ea where they share several characteristics, among them
both are titled as being leaders of the assembly of gods.120 If the equation of several
1975-1985 (1987), p. 337: “Der Auslaut -g in, er tritt nicht immer auf, findet sich auch in ‘Erdsplatte.’ Es ist demnach wohl *kig bzw. *ki anzusetzen.”
113 B. Alster, ASJ 4 (1982), p. 6, note 1.
114 TCS 1, p. 141, 393: “In the name En-ki, god of the (underground, sweet) waters, -ki cannot be
‘earth’ (…); in view of the frequent ending –g (…), and of the well attested rôle of the god as man’s
friend, I assume a translation ‘Lord Love,’ parallel to En-lil ‘Lord Breath’ (and, perhaps, En-sun ‘Lord
Wisdom’). Verbal construction ki.a¡a would mean “to love, beloved (a verbal phrase constructed with
the dative, literally, ‘to mete out ki(g) to someone’). (Sollberger’s interpretation seems to be connected
to some ideas of S. N. Kramer, Belleten 16 (1952), p. 362 where in one balbale for Inanna - ki-ig-ka
‘dear,’ looks like “an unusual writing for ki-á¡-¡á.”)
115 Cf. H. D. Galter, Ea/Enki, p. 8.
116 E. Sollberger – J.-R. Kupper, IRSA, p. 301.
117 J. F. Healey, AOAT 250 (1998), p. 349.
118 Ibid., p. 350.
119 W. G. Lambert, BSOAS 48 (1985), p. 451. Cf. M. Dietrich – O. Loretz, UF 29 (1997), pp. 126-127
and 134-139. The problematic aspect that “El kein Wassergott sei” (p. 139) could be answered, that
also Old-Sumerian Enki does not seem to be a “water deity” at least by any written source available.
120 MARI 4 (1985), pp. 537-538 and Puzur-Eštar 1 in 5.2.6. of the current study. Cf. E. Lipiński, UF 20
(1988), p. 143: “Ceci dit, il est certain que l'assimilation d’El à Éa ne s’est pas produite à Ugarit, où ces
dieux sont bien distincts. Il faut dès lors songer à un autre centre de la Syrie du Nord, qu’il serait vain
de vouloir determiner en l’absence de toute donnée concrete.”
features121 of Enki and El in West-Semitic mythology might also arise from the fact
that Enki’s name was understood as “Lord Benevolence” as possibly was considered
one of the titles of Semitic El, seems doubtful but not completely excluded.
A use for the ki(g) of the name den-ki(g) might be found in the name of Nin-MAR.KI.
The element -ki in the divine name dnin-MAR.KI seems to have similar
characteristics as has the -ki of den-ki.122 If the -ki in these two names actually has the
same meaning is difficult to answer, since the similar comportments (den-ki-k(/g) =
dnin-mar-ki-k(/g)) do not prove it but only suggest that possibility. As the most
important function of this goddess having its main cultic centre in Lagašite Ni¡in
(NINA) seems to be taking care for cattle,123 it seems possible to interpret the MAR of
the name as amar – “young (animal).” And if again the interpretation of Sollberger for
ki(g) would turn out to be correct, the translation of the name might be “Madam, who
makes good for the (young) animals.” Considering the fact that Nin-MAR.KI belongs
to the circle of Enki in Lagaš, and also Enki is characterised as abundance giver to
animals in Old-Babylonian mythological compositions featuring him, the similar
etymology of the two gods is not excluded, but remains doubtful. A syllabic reading
for Nin-MAR.KI as dNin-mar-ki.g/k is hard to defend because in Old-Sumerian ¤irsu
the name was also written dNin-MAR without the element ki(g).124
Clarifying the name Enki as “good maker” seems intriguing in light of some newer
studies interpreting the name Enlil excluding the possibility of líl translated “wind” in
his name – a deity most often occurring paired or related to Enki from Old-Sumerian
texts onward. D. O. Edzard claims: “Dort wo wir eine Übersetzung ‘(böser) Wind’
nicht vertreten können, bleiben uns die Bedeutungen ‘Schemen’, ‘Phantom’, ‘Leere’,
‘Nichts’. Über etwaige ältere Bedeutungen von líl zu spekulieren, ist müssig.”125
When interpreting Enki as “Lord Good-maker / Love” and Enlil as “Lord Phantom /
Nothing” – assuming that both names are etymologically Sumerian – then the
121 Cf. M. Dietrich – O. Loretz, UF 24 (1992), pp. 34-36 for the similar concepts of “wisdom” of El and
122 P. Attinger, N.A.B.U. 1995/2, p. 28.
123 Cf. W. Sallaberger, RlA 9 (1998-2001), p. 463-468.
124 Ibid., p. 463: “Man könnte deshalb daran denken, in MAR.(KI)(-g/k) ein noch ungelesenes und
nach-altbab. wohl auch vergessenes Graphem zu sehen, in dem -ki (bzw. Fāra -gi4) als Lautindikator
(?) gedient haben könnte, dessen Schreibung bis in präsarg. Zeit fakultativ war.”
125 Fs. Fronzaroli (2003), p. 183.
“rivalry” or contradiction between these two most important deities in Sumerian
mythology might not come from one god being a newcomer in Sumerian pantheon,
but from a sort of a reciprocal opposition between the two concepts existing inside the
Sumerian way of thought: one as benevolent, other as not. Or as summarised by
Edzard: “Wir empfinden Enlil – ganz im Gegensatz zu seinem Bruder Enki – als
einen zutiefst unsympatischen Gott. Wenn die altmesopotamische Götterwelt ihre
liebe Not ihm gehabt hat, sollte es uns da besser ergehen?”126
The translation “Lord Benevolence” would fit the nature of the deity represented in
Sumerian and Old-Babylonian mythology. Parallels from West-Semitic mythology
can also be drawn. However, the ki(g) might mean something completely different
from the interpretation of Sollberger, and therefore is only one option of translation
among the others, though one of the most fitting ones. Possible Pre-Sumerian Etymology of the Name Enki
As stated by H. Sauren “We do not know if the Sumerian name den-ki “lord of the
earth” is a Sumerian translation or interpretation of older names.”127 On the other
hand, it is impossible to conclude if there even was a Pre-Sumerian name for Enki
attested first in Old-Sumerian texts.128 Although not directly proven by the linguistic
analysis of alleged Pre-Sumerian toponyms and other terms and archaeological
evidence,129 the Sumerians might not have been the first linguistic and ethnic group
occupying the Southern part of Mesopotamia. A multitude of tribal or regional groups
probably speaking different language and honouring different deities might have
preceded them there. It would be possible to assume a non-Sumerian etymology and
background also for the name Enki. Possible etymologies given to the name Enki
described above have all proved to be insufficient for announcing one of them correct.
Therefore, one of the options for understanding the name would be to assume that
126 Ibid., p. 184.
127 H. Sauren, Fs. Hallo (1993), p. 205, note 21.
128 Ibid., p. 204.
129 Cf. G. Rubio, JCS 51 (1999), pp. 1-16 for an overview concerning the so-called “Sumerian
problem” and the alleged “Pre-Sumerian substratum.” No direct evidence concerning the pre-Sumerian
language or ethnic group seems to be possible to indicate based on the current knowledge; p. 11: “All
one can detect is a complex and fuzzy web of borrowings whose directions are frequently difficult to
determine.” Same could be concluded about the origins, borrowings, and movements of religious ideas
during the archaic periods.
Enki originally emerged from the Southern Mesopotamian Ubaidian culture and
belonged to the language spoken by the so-called Proto-Tigridian or Proto-Euphratic
peoples. The fact that the etymology of Enki’s living-place, the Abzu, has proven
difficult to explain based on the Sumerian or Akkadian vocabulary, could also be an
indicator of the Pre-Semitic and Pre-Sumerian origins of his name.
Without any chance of verifying the assumable Pre-Sumerian etymology due to the
lack of linguistic data coming from the hypothetical Pre-Sumerian language, and
considering that it is possible to translate the name based on Sumerian language, the
most probable options for the name would be “Lord of the Earth” or “Lord
Benevolence.” As for other options, the possibility that the name Enki comes from an
archaic layer of the Sumerian language already not comprehendible for the people of
the Early-Dynastic periods, always remains an option.
2.2. Ea
The god Ea is first mentioned in personal names of the Pre-Sargonic era.130 The name
is most often written using É-A.131 Because Enki/Ea was considered a water-deity and
the presence of the Sumerian a (“water”) as a composing element of the name seemed
to refer to the characteristics of this deity, a misconception in some early studies had
developed that the name must have had an original meaning such as “House of the
Water.”132 Since the possibility of a Sumerian etymology for the name cannot be
justified on any grounds,133 and especially because Ea in Old-Akkadian personal
names is almost exclusively connected with Semitic elements,134 there is a strong
basis for concluding that the name Ea is of Semitic origins. However, in some few
contemporary studies the connection with “House of the Water” is still considered an
130 OIP 14: 23, 2: the first known record from Adab - šu-é-a. Cf. H. D. Galter, Ea/Enki, p. 3. Cf. pp.
216-286 for the catalogue of personal names, and p. 266 for the supposedly first record “Der des Ea”.
131 H. D. Galter, Ea/Enki, p. 4. Cf. J. M. Roberts, ESP, p. 20 and p. 79, note 111.
132 Cf. Ch. Jean, Religion sumérienne, p. 48.
133 S. N. Kramer, Genava NS 8 (1960), p. 276, note 19: “Nor does the suggestion that é-a means ‘in the
water’ seem very likely.”
134 H. D. Galter, Ea/Enki, p. 3. Cf. E. Ebeling, RlA 2 (1938), p. 375; J. M. Roberts, ESP, p. 20-21:
“since the name is written without the determinative and occurs almost exclusively in Akkadian
contexts, it is probably Semitic.”
option135 in a form of scribal popular etymology.136 C. H. Gordon believes the
influence of popular etymology in case of the name É-A “because sea is down like
earth, rather than up like sky. Moreover Enki’s shrine is surrounded by water,”137 and
the iconography often presented in cylinder seals “of the watery shrine is thus
secondary, prompted by the scribal popular etymology of É-A as “House of Water,”
for in Sumerian, É = “house” and A = “water.”138 Although in Akkadian cylinder
seals Enki/Ea appears emerging from a house or a temple surrounded by waves of
water and indeed É = “house” and A = “water” in Sumerian, no ancient scribal
etymologies of that nature seem to exist.139
2.2.1. Semitic Etymology of Ea
Before his approach to the name, H. D. Galter states that although the religious names
tend to preserve their ancient form in a continuous change inside a language, the
chance of different readings arising from possible folk-etymology or from other
pseudo-renderings allows only hypothetical nature without probative force to any
conclusion drawn.140 As was seen in the case of Enki, no matter how seemingly clear
an interpretation of a name might look like at first sight, no certain answers can be
given, since the original form and translation of the name is impossible to reach due to
a lack of written evidence from archaic periods.
In Sargonic era writing, the sign É was used for denoting the value ’à, and the é value
is not attested until the Ur III period.141 ’à in turn should go back to the proto-
Akkadian form *`a,142 and the proto-Akkadian form of the full name of É-a must be
135 Cf. G. Leick, A Dictionary of Ancient Near Eastern Mythology (1991), p. 37: “Ancient Babylonians
derived it from Sumerian É.a, ‘house of the water.’”
136 Cf. J. Bottéro, StSem 1 (1958), p. 37 names this popular etymology “une graphie sumérienne
secondaire par laquelle les théologiens auraient cherché à donner, dans leur language savante, une
signification precise au nom de cette divinité: ‘Récidence-de-l’Eau’, ou ‘dans-l’Eau’, font
manifestement allusion au domaine aqueux que l’on avait attribute à Éa.” Then Éa would not be
original name of the deity but possibly phonetically close to it.
137 Eblaitica 1 (1987), p. 19.
138 Ibid., note 6.
139 W. G. Lambert, BSOAS 52 (1989), p. 116. Cf. 4.4. (Fig. 2 and 3) of the current study for Enki
represented in a house or a temple surrounded by water.
140 Ea/Enki, p. 3.
141 I. J. Gelb, MAD 2, p. 24 and pp. 88-89; cf. J. M.Roberts, ESP, p. 20; H. D. Galter Ea/Enki, p. 4.
142 I. J. Gelb, op. cit., p. 119f.; J. M. Roberts, op. cit, p. 20 and p. 79, note 113. Cf. M. Krebernik, AfO
32 (1985), p. 58.
*`a-a,143 “which assuming the name is Semitic, would suggest a root *h-x-x.”144 The
alphabetic writing of the name in Hurrian pantheon list from Rash Shamra as ey145
suggests the pronunciation of ’à-a with internal -y(y)-.146 This is further supported by
a trilingual vocabulary from the same site proving the deity was assimilated to the
goddess Ay(y)a in Ugarit.147 J. M. Roberts finds the existence of the -y(y)- in the
name of Ea quite problematic, since in Mesopotamia proper the variant É-ya or É-ya8
is never attested instead of É-a.148 However, he supports the element -y(y)- by the
argument: “The writing of the divine name was obviously fixed in the tradition quite
early, È-a being the only clearly attested variant to this writer, and when traditional
orthography dominates to this extent, it is precisely in the peripheral areas where one
must look for clues to actual pronunciation.”149 This evidence is further supported by
the information from Ebla: “Les listes lexicaux éblaïtes, en effet, qui donnent
l’équivalence den-ki = ’à-u9, indiquent une étymologie sémitique assez évidente, de la
racine *hyy, “vivre” (/hayyu(m)/...).”150 W. G. Lambert however calls ’à-u9 a declined
form of Ea that seems to be unique: “It can be argued that É should always be read ’à
at Ebla, but that ignores the fact that the orthography of names may have been fixed
elsewhere.”151 The writing è-a is attested in the late Akkad period,152 and Ur III
143 H. D. Galter, Ea/Enki, p. 4.
144 J. M. Roberts, ESP, p. 20.
145 E. Laroche, JAOS 88 (1968), p. 148, 8: Ey-d = Eya-da. Cf. J.-M. Durand, N.A.B.U. 1989/4, pp. 83-
146 J. M. Roberts, op. cit., p. 20.
147 Ibid., p. 79: “The assimilation was precipitated by the need to find a masculine counterpart to
Ay(y)a, the wife of the Akkadian sun god Šamaš, since the West Semitic Šapšu was a goddess, and
therefore needed a husband, not wife, but the choice of É-a was clearly more dependant on the
similarity between his name and Ay(y)a than on any resemblance in essential nature.” Cf. J. Nougayrol,
Ugaritica 5 (1968), p. 248: 137 IVa 19: dA-A: e-
a-an: ku-šar-ru; E. Laroche, Ugaritica 5 (1968), p.
520 and 525; H. D. Galter, DDD (1999), p. 126.
148 ESP p. 20, and pp. 79-80, note 116.
149 Ibid., pp. 79-80, and note 116.
150 F. Pomponio – P. Xella, AOAT 245, p. 168. Cf. H.-P. Müller, Fs. Dietrich (2002), pp. 505-507; M.
Dietrich – O. Loretz, UF 31 (2000), pp 168-170; H. D. Galter, DDD (1999), p. 125; C. H. Gordon,
Eblaitica 2 (1990), p. 145; G. Conti, QuSem 17 (1990), p. 193; B. Kienast, Ebla 1975-1985 (1987), p.
37; C. H. Gordon, Eblaitica 1 (1987), pp. 19-20; E. Arcari, OrNS 53 (1984), p. 443; M. Krebernik, ZA
73 (1983), p. 31. Cf. J.-M. Durand in Annuaire de l’École Pratique des Hautes Études IVe Section
(1976-77) p. 173, note b apud D. Charpin, Clergé, p. 352 note 2 summarises: “il y a toutes chances
pour que é-a se soit prononcé hay-a, sur le modèle de é-gal donnant haykal en hébreu. À Mari, Hayyâ
est bien attesté sous les graphies ha-ya et ha-yà. Un texte donne de plus pour un nom propre une
équivalence a-ya pour é-a. Il est donc possible que les trois graphies soient à ramener à l’unité de ha-
ya, a-ya et é-a (a-ya étant d’ailleurs une des graphies de é-a dans le domaine Syro-hittite du milieu du
IIe millénaire.”
151 Bilinguismo (1984), p. 399.
152 Cf. W. von Soden, ZA 66 (1976), p. 137 who questions the correctness of À’-a for the writing É-a,
because also È-a, E-a, and I-a in Old-Assyrian are used as parallel forms.
personal names include, for example, i-ti-ne-a and na-ra-me-a what might shed some
doubpt on the interpretation *`yy.153
Taking into consideration that the divine name arises from Semitic languages, and no
other convincing etymology has ever been offered, the original root *`yy – if not
completely proved, is at least for the moment the most certain and only option for
interpreting the name.
2.2.2. É-a Translated “Living”
In case of the original root *hyy, “to live,” a relation to the adjective `ayy(um) is
obvious, ”which is used in Hebrew, Syriac, and Arabic to describe spring fed or
running water.”154 H. D. Galter explains: “Die Form *hajja würde dann einem
altsemitischen Status absolutus nach dem Muster pars (< pāris) + a entsprechen,”
meaning “der Lebende“155 which would be unusual for a divine name. However, the
final -a instead of the expected nominative -u, which poses some problems, can be
explained by the parallels from the Old-Semitic divine names such as Anda, Ab(b)a,
Erra, Mama, etc.156 A better and convincing explanation is given by B. Kienast, who
relates the element -ā to an archaic status determinatus possibly present in pre Old-
Akkadian language in the middle of the third millennium.157 The function of that
archaic status determinatus should be identical or close to that of status emphaticus in
Aramaic: as the ending -ā
in case of malkā “the king.”158 Following the interpretation
of Kienast, the original meaning of the name would then not be “a Living” but “the
Living one (as a deity).”
The fact that the name is also present in the early sources from Ebla might suggest his
North-West Semitic origins “appartenant très probablement au vieux fond de la
153 J. M. Roberts, ESP, p. 20, and p. 79, note 111.
154 Ibid., p. 80, note 117. Cf. CT 24: 14, 48: (d).na-aq-buIDIM = É-a. Cf. H. D. Galter, Ea/Enki, p. 11.
155 Ea/Enki, p. 5. The form pāris + a is not a regular form of status absolutus and comes from the
156 J. M. Roberts, op. cit., p. 80. Then the name would be a “Lallname” as H. D. Galter, Ea/Enki, p. 6
157 Ebla 1975-1985 (1987), p. 39-46. Cf. p. 39: “Das morpheme -ā bezeichnet hier also keinen Kasus,
es hat vielmeht determinierende Funktion und scheint somit in einer gewissen Konkurenz zum status
rectus auf -u(m) zu stehen.” (“Abbā ist nicht ‘(irgend)ein Vater’ sondern ‘der (eine) Vater (als
158 Ibid., p, 45.
tradition religieuse syrienne.”159 If to consider the root *`yy correct in case of Ea,
then it seems to refer to the West-Semitic origins origins of the name since in
Akkadian the root denoting “to live,” “alive” is *bl˜ – distinct from its western
equivalent.160 A possible Western Semitic origin of the name, however, does not
prove that the god behind the name Ea has to be West-Semitic.
2.2.3. Pre-Sumerian Origins of Ea
However, the Semitic etymology represented in the possible root *`yy cannot be
proved with complete certainty based only on few textual examples, “and likewise the
view that Ea can only be West Semitic.”161 An intriguing idea is proposed by S. N.
Kramer who based on the probability that the names of the Tigris and Euphrates
rivers, idiglat and buranum, as well as the names of Sumer’s most important urban
centres might be of “Ubaidian” origins, concludes that the name Ea might also be
“another crucial word which may turn out to be Ubaidian.”162 Further, he establishes a
theory according to which the Ubaidians were those who might have brought the
water cult to the Indus Valley civilisations and “Ea could be the name of the god
about whom it centred, and it would not be too surprising to find the name in one or
another of the Indus seals.”163 Kramer’s theory about the “Ubaidians” who moved to
the Indus Valley and brought the water cult with them can not be justified on any
serious grounds. Nevertheless, it opens some new perspectives for understanding the
possibilities concerning the movements of theological ideas from one territory to
another. Since the first records about the deity Ea in Sumero-Akkadian territory are at
least contemporary to the oldest records found from the West-Semitic Ebla area, it is
not impossible to imagine that the Semites actually adopted the deity Ea from the
Ubaid or unknown national groups. The “movement” of the water-deity is not limited
to only one direction from the western territories to the East. Springs and rivers are
usually considered sacred in most of the ancient or archaic religions.164 To conclude
159 Fr. Pomponio – P. Xella, AOAT 245, p.169.
160 Cf. C. H. Gordon, Eblaitica 1 (1987), p. 20.
161 W. G. Lambert, BSOAS 52 (1989), p. 116.
162 S. N. Kramer, In the World of Sumer (1986), p. 200.
163 Ibid., p. 202. As concluded by Kramer himself, “all this is theory and hypothesis.”
164 Although divine figures related to rivers and springs seem to be in most religions only locally
important – genies or spirits of the spring or the river in an area populated by a group directly involved
with that certain river or spring. By an imaginative speculation, it should be then possible to argue that
also Ea – representing “running water” for the Semitic peoples, was actually never a Semitic god of
based on the few textual examples from the western parts of the Near East that the
deity Ea must be of western origins, even if the linguistic data seems to confirm the
idea, seems highly unjustified.
As noted by S. N. Kramer, the cult of the water-deity was well established also in the
Indus Valley civilisations:165 Nor is it reasonable to think the Sumerians or other
groups of people of the region “lacked a god for something as vital for them as water
and had to borrow one.”166 Probably every national or tribal group in ancient
Mesopotamia had developed its own water-cult of some sort. It should be justified to
conclude that the god Ea in Old-Semitic sources is a representation of a highly
synchronised deity having taken many of its characteristics from other deities of the
nations the Sumerians and Akkadians had contacts with, and in the same time keeping
the characteristics of their own beliefs. This synchronisation inside the deity Ea is
most probably complemented with the influence of Sumerian Enki. Therefore, an
attempt to see behind the concept of Ea only one or two West-Semitic deities he
shares some common features with, seems unproductive.
2.3. Conclusions
The divine name Enki, still most often translated “Lord of the Earth” in contemporary
studies, poses several interpretational difficulties related to the inconvenience of the
translation when put in context with the nature and characteristics of this god. In
UD.GAL.NUN texts Enki often appears together with Enlil. It seems possible that the
orthography of these deities in UD.GAL.NUN texts might also have something to do
with relations of Enlil and Enki. That might result from a rivalry either due to their
differences in nature inside the Sumerian pantheon, or from the fact that one of the
deities could be a newcomer from Semitic religions. The similar name form is also
used for en-ki – nin-ki deities.
overall importance. But since the Sumerian god Enki had also connections to canals and rivers and to
his underworld region Abzu, the Semitic name Ea might have been attributed to the Sumerian god Enki
simply as a name of a concept of the “running water.” Then the god Ea would not be a major Semitic
(or West-Semitic) god who was “synchronised” with the Sumerian Enki in the third millennium, but
only a Semitic name or word given to designate the Sumerian god of high importance in Mesopotamia
– Enki.
165 S. N. Kramer, In the World of Sumer (1986), pp. 182-204.
166 Th. Jacobsen, Fs. Talmon (1992), p. 415.
S. N. Kramer or Th. Jacobsen interpreted the name “Lord of the Earth.” They both
concluded that the name den-ki was not an original name of the deity but an epithet
given to the god by later theological speculation. The main reason for such a
conclusion was the consideration that the name “Lord of the Earth” does not
correspond directly to the functions of Enki. Th. Jacobsen found a solution to the
problem by claiming that Enki is the power in water giving shapes to the clay (i.e.
Earth). S. N. Kramer in turn believed that Eridu oriented theologians and priests gave
the name “Lord of the Earth” to the god in their attempt to secure Enki’s position as
the leading deity alongside Enlil.
E. Sollberger and W. G. Lambert took a different position in interpreting the name
Enki, and both determined that the last morpheme of the name ki(g) had a different
meaning than “earth.” E. Sollberger translated the name as “Lord Benevolence.” This
might well fit into the larger context of Sumerian and Semitic beliefs. Also the god El,
possibly equated with Enki in sources from Mari, was titled as being “god-willing.”
The element ki(g) in the name of Nin-MAR.KI also reveals similarities with the
possible ki(g) of Enki.
The etymology of the name Enki remains unclear. “Lord of the Earth” is still widely
used in lack of any better convincing etymology, although “Lord Benevolence” also
fits the context. Origination from an unknown Pre-Sumerian language and religion
might also be an option.
In Old-Semitic personal names, Ea is alongside Ištar, Šamaš and Su’en the most often
used,167 and the meaning of the root *`yy can be explained based on Semitic
vocabulary. All this leads to the conclusion, that behind the name Ea stands an ancient
Semitic deity closely associated with water.168 The translation “Living-one” seems to
be the only option for reasonable interpretation. Possibility of Sumerian origins or
then secondary scribal popular etymology for the name is unjustified.
167 J. M. Roberts, ESP, p. 57-58; H. D. Galter, Ea/Enki, p. 6.
168 J. M. Roberts, op. cit., p. 58: “his popularity could reflect the concern of semi-nomadic herdsmen to
find water for their animals.”
The suggestion of S. N. Kramer claiming that Ea is an Ubaidian name makes it clear
how hypothetical the nature of all the theories attempting to interpret the name can be.
Almost every statement made concerning the etymologies is actually only a surmise.
One estimate or opinion leads to another guess that in turn produces several more.
Assuming that even one guess in a row of them turns out to be mistaken, the final
result as well must be defective. However, even if the Semitic origins of the name or
its translation based on the root *`yy are not certain, the possibility of mistake does
not seem great. The assumption that Ea attested in Old-Semitic texts has to be West-
Semitic seems doubtful; even if the name form É-a comes from that linguistic area, it
does not make the god behind that name attested in Sumero-Akkadian sources a
West-Semitic god.
Enki and Ea were synchronised with all the probability already during or before the
Early-Dynastic era, and before the synchronisation of these two gods they both were
synchronised with other similar divinities of the region. They both had to have
influences from unimaginable number of different national groups and religions.
Therefore, Sumerian Enki and Semitic Ea can not be seen as denoting a divine
concept from a certain exclusive area or linguistic group. Rather they are concepts in
continuous development and change and the main core of their nature is represented
in some way or another in every religion of wider Near East and bordering regions.
3. Enki in Old-Sumerian Sources
The aim of the following chapter is to present the most important texts from the
Early-Dynastic period mentioning the god Enki, so that it would be possible to offer a
summary of the concept of the divine figure based on the earliest written sources
available to this date. No texts from the later periods will be taken into consideration
when making conclusions about Enki in these early periods of written records in
Mesopotamia, although references to later texts are made when relevant. That does
not mean that by such a methodology it is claimed that characteristics of the deity
Enki present in later texts could not have been existing already in the middle of the
third millennium. It is reasonable enough to believe that large part of the mythological
body composed during the Ur III or Old-Babylonian periods had its predecessor
already in Early-Dynastic literature or popular belief. However, in lack of
contemporary evidence, no conclusions will be drawn – leaving space to the
possibility that a certain characteristic could have been in existence.
Enki figures in several of Old-Sumerian royal inscriptions, also a number of Old-
Sumerian literary sources can be taken into consideration showing Enki already in
larger mythological context. Royal inscriptions of Ur-Nanše, Enanatum, Eanatum I,
Enmetena, Urukagina, Elili and Lugalzagesi mention Enki in different aspects.
Besides the royal inscriptions, a variety of different categories of Old-Sumerian texts
give information about Enki, such as Sumerian incantations from Ebla,169 literary and
lexical texts from Abū alābīkh, Fāra, and other locations.
3.1. Enki Related to Abzu and Eridu
“The Stele of the Vultures” describing the victory of Lagaš over their Umma
neighbours in a long lasting border conflict between these states contains an oath of
obedience demanded from the loosing Umma side to the victorious state of
Enanatum’s Lagaš, the Son of Akurgal. The first oath is given by the life of Enlil,
169 W. G. Lambert, JCS 41 (1989), p. 1: Although composed in Ebla, the incantations represent
Sumerian textual tradition and religious ideas.
then Nin`ursa¡, Enki, Su’en, Utu and Ninki. The oath170 by the life of Enki describes
him as the king of Abzu:
sašuš-gal / den-ki / lugal abzu-ka171
(by the) great net172 / of Enki / king of Abzu
zi den-ki / lugal abzu-ka173
(by the) life of Enki / king of the Abzu
Elili, the king of Ur, titles Enki “king of Eridu” and confirms having built his Abzu:
den-ki / lugal / eriduki-ra / é-li-li / lugal-uríki-ma-ke4 / abzu-ni / mu-na-dù174
Enki / to the king / of Eridu / Elili / the king of Ur / his Abzu / has built.
Enmetena claims having built a temple for Enki in Pasir,175 and É-Engur for Nanše in
Zulum,176 meaning that É-Engur was not exclusively the temple of Enki, and confirms
the close relation that must have existed between Nanše and Enki during Early-
Dynastic periods: 177
den-ki / lugal eriduki-ra / abzu pa5-sír-ra / mu-na-dù178
for Enki / the king of Eridu / Abzu of Pasir / has built
dnanše / é-engur-ra zú-lum-ma / mu-na-dù179
for Nanše / É-Engur of Zulum / has built
170 Ean. 1: xviii 23-xix 34.
171 Ibid.: xviii 24-26.
172 The “great net” here is not an attribute of Enki but of all the deities mentioned.
173 Ean. 1: xvii 33-34.
174 Elili 1: 1-7.
175 Cf. G. Selz, UGASL, p. 121 for the city Pasira and offerings to Enki.
176 Cf. Å. Sjöberg, PSD 1 A/II (1994), p. 189, 1.7. for the mentions of other deities than Enki in
connection with Abzu.
177 V. E. Crawford, JCS 29 (1977), p. 198: AnLag. 25 mentions Nanše and Enki together. Cf. H. D.
Galter, Ea/Enki, p. 127.
178 Ent. 1: ii 9-12 = Ent. 33: i 4-7 = Ent. 23: 34-36.
179 Ent. 1: ii 6-8 = Ent. 33: i 1-3 = Ent. 23: 14-16. Cf. Ukg. 16: vi 6-8.
The Zame Hymns mention Enki and his temple Abzu. Enki is called Nudimmud,180 a
later epithet of Enki possibly referring to his role as a form-giver and engenderer. dnu-
dím-mud can be interpreted containing a nominal prefix nu-, a verbal element dím
and mud, possible to translate “to engender.”181 D. O. Edzard interprets the whole
name “der mit Erschaffen (und) Erzeugen zu tun hat,” and “der erschafft (und)
erzeugt.”182 It is not clear if the title Nudimmud had to have a similar meaning during
the Old-Sumerian period. The name is written den-nu-de4-mud in the Zame Hymns
and for example GAL-nu-te-me-mud183 is attested in another Abū alābīkh source.184
Therefore the connection of the name with the verb dím might be a later etymological
speculation that does not represent the original meaning of the name.
Abzu ki kur-gal men-nun-an-ki den-nu-de4-mud zà-me185
Abzu, place that is a big mountain, princely crown of the heaven and earth. To the
lord Nudimmud, (give) praise!
“The Barton Cylinder” has a reference to Enki and Abzu in an unclear context. There
Enlil, Inanna, and Enki are said to express angriness towards their own sanctuaries or
den-ki-ra abzu-šè / gig-šè mu-¡ar-¡ar186
to Enki toward Abzu / caused to pile up troubles187
3.2. Enki Related to ¡estú
The quality most often given to a king by Enki starting from the Early-Dynastic royal
inscriptions is ¡estú. The word is used to denote capability to receive through the ears,
180 Cf. H. D. Galter, Ea/Enki, p. 13-14.
181 D. O. Edzard, ZA 55 (1963), p. 103 concludes that in the divine epithet Nudimmud, it is the only
known example where the nominal nu- is related with a verb; in the case of Nudimmud, with two verbs
dím and mud.
182 Ibid.
183 OIP 99: 116, x 21.
184 Cf. A. Cavigneaux – M. Krebernik, RlA 9 (1998-2001), p. 607; M. Krebernik, OBO 160/1 (1998), p.
185 Zame Hymns: 30-32.
186 Barton Cylinder: iv 8-9 = vi 3-4.
187 B. Alster – A. Westenholz, ASJ 16 (1994), p. 27 and commentary p. 34: “He caused Enki to feel
bitterness toward Abzu.” Cf. Å. Sjöberg, PSD 1 A/II (1994), p. 185: “For Enki, for the abzu, (…)
stored (?) wheat.”
practical skill, understanding, and cleverness.188 This feature is repeated in relation to
Enki throughout the history of Sumerian texts. By the simplest translation ¡estú
means “ear” in Sumerian. Connecting “wisdom” and “understanding” with the ear
gives an indication of the auditory nature of the ancient Mesopotamian culture. The
human ear was considered as the seat of intelligence.189 In the same sense the
Akkadian uznu, “ear,” “wisdom” was used. In lexical lists also
assu “intelligent” and
mū “knowing” are equated with Sumerian logograms gašam (NUN.ME.TAG,
“skilled in crafts”) and ¡estú (GIŠ.TÚG.PI).190 In the following textual examples the
word will be translated as “understanding,” “knowledge,” and not “wisdom,” the
latter having too much in common with the modern understanding of philosophical or
religious learning and knowledge not present in Ancient Near East in the same sense:
¡estú šúm-ma den-ki191
(to Eannatum) knowledge has Enki given
3.3. Urukagina 4, Ur-Nanše 49, and the Reeds of Enki
In Ukg. 4 the god Enki is associated in a way unclear with reeds. The text known as
the “Reforms of Urukagina,” glorifying the so-called reforms he had undertaken to
ease the life of his citizens, fixes the amount of tax for a person who had to bring a
man to the “reeds of Enki:”
gi den-ki-ka-ka / lú ù-túm / kas-ni 7 dug / ninda 420-nam192
(when) to the reeds of Enki / brought a man / his beer was 7 jars / bread was 420
The reeds of Enki could denote a place name, a burial place outside the city.193 The
passage about the reeds of Enki is preceded by a text explaining the costs of bringing
188 H. Galter, Ea/Enki, pp. 95-99.
189 S. Denning-Bolle, Wisdom in Akkadian Literature (1992), p. 36.
190 Ibid., pp. 37-38. In turn NUN.ME is equated with apkallu in some lexical lists (Ibid., p. 36). Abgal
probably was a profession in the third millennium and in later times “refers to a mythological sage at
the court of Enki” (Ibid., p. 53, and note 94).
191 Ean.1: rev. v 51-52. For other occurrences: Ean. 2: ii 6-7; Ean. 3: ii 9-10; Ean. 4: ii 7-8; En. I. 33: ii
2-3; Ent 28 = 29: v 24-25 = vi 5-6; Ent. 42: ii 5-6; Luzag. 3: ii 3-4.
192 Ukg. 4: vi 15-18 = Ukg. 5: vi 6-9.
193 G. Pettinato, OA 18 (1979), p. 115: “il luogo cioè di sepoltura degli abitanti di Lagaš.”
a dead person to the cemetery.194 Similarly, the tax collected for burying a dead
person is 7 jars of beer and 420 breads. Therefore, the place called the “reeds of Enki”
could be an alternative burial place.195 Another possibility would be to understand the
“reeds of Enki” as a place or territory “an dem ein Beschwörungsritual für einen
Kranken vollzogen wurde.”196 It is not excluded that the person should actually be
brought to a temple for medical or magical procedures. P. Steinkeller relates the term
gi den-ki with the name of Enegi, the centre of Ninazus cult and the centre of the cult
of the dead in Sumer, usually written Enegix (EN.DÍM.GIG) in third millennium
sources.197 The name possibly occurs as ki-en-gi4 in a document dating from the
second year of Urukagina, not referring to the city of Enegi but rather denoting the
necropolis of Lagaš itself.198 Steinkeller hypothesises “that the mysterious gi dEn-ki,
‘reed of Enki,’ which designates the locus of elaborate interements in the ‘Urukagina
Reforms,’ is a pun on the name Enegi, too, and that, in this context, it likewise
denotes the necropolis of Lagash.”199
The text Ur-Nanše 49 written on a diorite plaque describes one of the building
projects of Ur-Nanše and is therefore classified as a royal inscription. The first three
columns where Enki as well as the Enki-Nunki deities are mentioned contain
“incantation-like material in praise of the reed.”200 The concluding part, however, is a
regular building inscription where it is informed that Ur-Nanše has built a temple in
¤irsu. This composition is unique in terms of the structure of the text. The incantation
part might stand for insuring the “efficacy of reeds used in a ground breaking
ceremony”201 or it might well be explained that the whole text is a scribal exercise.202
A connection between the “reeds of Enki” and the shrine of ¤irsu (èš-¡ír-sú) in Ur-
Nanše 49 has been proposed.203 The “noble reed” could be a metaphor for the temple
èš-¡ír-sú204 Ur-Nanše is going to build. Many aspects of the text “which has been the
194 Ukg, 4, vi 4-6 = 5, v 24-26.
195 Cf. S. N. Kramer, The Sumerians (1963), p. 317: “He who brought a citizen to rest among the reeds
of Enki.”
196 J. Bauer apud H. Steible, FAOS 5/ II, p. 148.
197 P. Steinkeller, JAOS 115 (1995), p. 542.
198 Ibid., pp. 542-543.
199 Ibid.
200 G. Cunningham, StPohl 17, p. 6.
201 J. C. Cooper, RA 74 (1980), p. 104.
202 Ibid.
203 H. Steible, FAOS 5/II, p. 148.
204 H. Steible, FAOS 5/I, p. 111, v 1.
object of many ludicrous interpretations”205 remain unclear. Following is an attempt
of a translation of the first part of the inscription where Enki is mentioned: 206
i gi Pure reed!
gi ¡eš-gi engur Reed of the canebrake of Engur!207
gi pa-zu5 Reed, your top (arms)
su4-su4 are growing.
úr-zu5 Your root209
ii den-ki Enki
ki u-¡ál (in) the earth has placed.210
pa-zu5 Your top
u4 šùd mu-rá when (I) bless,211
sun4-zu5 your beard
za-gìn (is) lapis-lazuli,
gi kur.mùš túm brought from the mountain crests.212
gi en-ki nun-ki Reed, Enki and Nunki gods
du10 `é-gá-gá may (they) make good (for you)213.
iii den-ki Enki,
éš-bar-kí¡ the decision / prognostics
`é-e let speak out !214
ŠEŠ.IB K[Ù].GI (The pure corner upright (?))215
zà-me-bi its praise.
205 M. Civil, JNES 26 (1967), p. 211: the text “is nothing but an incantation about reeds.”
206 Urn 49: i 1-iii 7.
207 Th. Jacobsen, JNES 5 (1946), pp. 139-140, and note 21: “Here, accordingly, the engur is the
subterraneous waters as they come to the surface in the marshes.”
208 H. Steible, FAOS 5/II, p. 13: “rot-braun“; cf. M.Civil, JNES 26 (1976), p. 211, note 33.
209 Cf. Th Jacobsen, JNES 2 (1943), p 118: pa-zu5 and úr-zu5 are in opposition as “thy top” and “thy
210 G. Cunningham, StPohl 17, p. 29: “had set in the underworld”. Cf. Th Jacobsen, JNES 2 (1943), p
118: “thy root being at one place with Enki.”
211 G. Cunningham, loc. cit.: ud-sudx (ŠÙD) mu-DU: “he made you bear perpetually.” Th. Jacobsen,
JNES 2 (1943), p 118: “When I bring a prayer to thy top.”
212 Interpretation of Th. Jacobsen OrNS 54 (1985), p. 67-68. H. Steible, FAOS 5/I, p. 111: “Rohr (dein)
Antlitz reicht (bis) ins Fremdland.“
213 Cf. Th. Jacobsen, OrNS 54 (1985), p. 67 and 69 for lines ii 8-9: gi ki.en(-na) ki.nun(-na-ka) / dùg
`é-¡á-¡á(-an) “may you be settling down, / O reed in a lord’s place, a prince’s place!”
214 Cf. ibid., p. 70 for the interpretation.
215 Following the translation and interpretation (urì-ib kù-ge) of Th. Jacobsen, OrNS 54 (1985), p. 67
and 70-71, seeming more probable than J. S. Cooper, Sumerian and Akkadian Royal Inscriptions I:
Pre-Sargonic Inscriptions (1986), p. 32: The … , O reed, its praises, Enki has cast his (magic) hoop.”
den-ki ¡eš-bu10 Enki the circle
šè-šub has cast.216
It is difficult to see a direct connection between Enki and the “noble reed”217 in Urn.
49 since the reed could be a metaphor for the temple suggesting “that the building for
incantatory purposes was seen under the image of a reed structure.”218 According to
Th. Jacobsen “The notion underlying the passage appears to be that the reed, rooted in
the waters of the subsoil, Enki’s abode, is able to communicate a prayer addressed to
its top to the god Enki at its root below.”219 It cannot be excluded that the author of
the composition actually considered possible that the top of a reed could carry a
prayer to Enki in the watery deep, but the text is still too difficult to understand in
order to give clear interpretations. What also might seem possible is that Enki is here
probably seen as an organiser of temple building – he gives the order for building it,
and the process is described as Enki planting the root of the reed into the ground.220
Interesting is the occurrence of Enki-Ninki deities in context with Enki. In this case,
they are asked to be favorable to the reed possibly symbolising the temple. As for the
lines iii 6-7, it would be reasonable to suggest that Enki somehow explains (or then
builds) a structure of the temple. A similar passage is present in Gudea Cylinder A,
xvii 17 where Enki puts ¡eš`ur “the plan” of the temple in order. “The circle” can also
be understood as a place for symbolic separation from the temporal world – domain in
which human contact with divine is possible221 – then maybe denoting a place, where
Enki gives his divine instructions for the temple for its builders.
216 Cf. M.-L. Thomsen, Mesopotamia 10, p. 207: ¡BÙLUG še-šub “...”; and translation of M.
Civil in JNES 26 (1976): “Enki will put you in a (magic) circle.” H. Steible, FAOS 5/I, p. 111: “…hat
Enki fürwahr…geworfen!”
217 G. Cunningham, StPohl 17, p. 29 underlines the reed’s ability to purify by the examples of later
218 Th. Jacobsen, OrNS 54 (1985), p. 66.
219 Th. Jacobsen, JNES 2 (1943), p. 118.
220 Cf. Ibid., where Jacobsen offers a parallel from Gudea Cylinder A: xxii 11-13: The temple É-Ninnu
also consults with the watery deep and Enki.
221 G. Cunningham, op. cit., p. 76.
3.4. Enki-Ninki Deities and the God Enki in Old-Sumerian Sources
In some textual examples, Enki-Ninki deities seem to be in a certain way related to
Enki and his city Eridu and Abzu.222 Adding to this the fact that they share a similar
name form with the deity Enki studied here, a short overview of the concepts of Enki-
Ninki will be presented here.
As was defined by Th. Jacobsen, it seems possible that Enki-Ninki deities have
something to do with a sort of a chthonic or underworld cult: “This deity, whose name
denotes ‘Lord Earth’ (en-ki) is a chthonic deity distinct from the god of the fresh
waters Enki, whose name denotes ‘Lord (i.e., productive manager) of the earth’ (en-ki
(.ak)).”223 The explanation seems to be quite possible in light of two Sumerian
incantations from Ebla where roots of a Tamarisk tree are equated with Enki and
¡eš-šinig ¡eš-gi ¡eš-an / úr-pi ki-šè / den-ki dnin-ki / pa-pi-ta / an gudu4-nun224
Tamarisk, unique tree, a tree of heaven / its roots in the earth / are Enki and Ninki /
from its branches / An, the priest (?)225
Based on the example above, it can be imagined that Enki-Ninki are seen here as
residing inside the earth just as the roots of a tree. The function of these deities in
several mythological texts seems to be giving birth to major deities of the present
world, especially being the ancestors of Enlil.226 This feature of the Enki-Ninki deities
seems to be described on a small piece of an Early-Dynastic tablet from ¤irsu first
analysed by J. van Dijk in his article “Le motif cosmique dans la pansée
222 A. Cavigneaux – F. N. H. Al-Rawi, ZA 83 (1993), p. 179, line 26, La grande texte contre Namtar.
Cf. commentary on p. 188: “le fait qu’ils soient des ad-da eridu-ga-ke4-ne ‘anciens d’Eridu’, et qu’ils
soient familiers avec Enki est assez troublant; cela suggère un lien particulier de ces dieux avec Enki,
même si ce lien n’est pas l’étymologie.“
223 Treasures, p. 252, note 173. Cf. Th. Jacobsen, JNES 5 (1946), pp. 138-139: “the powers manifest in
Earth viewed in their male and female aspects as dEn-ki, ‘The earth lord,’ and dNin-ki, ‘The earth
224 M. Krebernik, Beschwörungen, pp. 96-97, no. 19: i 4 – ii 4 = G. Pettinato, OA 28 (1979), p. 339,
text a: i 4 – ii 4. Cf. F. Pomponio – P. Xella, AOAT 245 (1997), p. 166. For Enki-Ninki equated with
the roots of tamarisk, cf. G. Pettinato, op. cit., p. 340 text b.
225 Cf. G. Pettinato, op. cit. p. 340, who interprets dgúda-nun.
226 F. Wiggermann, NatPhen (1992), p. 282.
sumérienne.”227 Action seems to take place immediately before or after the separation
of heaven and earth and “avant la théogonie et avant l’existence des ‘luminaria
magna’, des corps célestes, et de la vegetation.”228 The text does not concern the deity
Enki as J. van Dijk suggests in his translation229 but “rather the homophonous group
of Enkis and Ninkis, primordial gods who reappear in later traditions as the first in a
series of ancestors of Enlil and eventually also of An:”230
an-ki téš-ba SIG4 an-gi4-gi4 231
u4-ba en-ki nun-ki nu-sig7
den-líl nu-tìl
dnin-líl nu-tìl
An and Ki in union, they are shouting232
On that day, Enki-Nunki are not alive (yet)
Enlil is not alive (yet)
The text obviously describes the cosmic marriage between the primordial concepts of
male An and female Ki – heaven and earth. The existence of Enkis and Nunkis seems
to be coming directly from the union of An and Ki. They are mentioned before Enlil
and Ninlil and so are corresponding to their role as primordial ancestors of Enlil.233 J.
van Dijk confused the Enki and Nunki with Enki and Eridu234 because NUNki can also
be translated as Eridu, Enki’s city. However, since the verb nu-sig7 is plural and the
use of nun instead of nin in the name form nin-ki is also attested in other textual
examples,235 the possibility of translating “Enki and Eridu” seems highly improbable.
227 AcOr 28 (1965), pp. 39-44.
228 Ibid., pp 39-40.
229 Ibid., p. 40.
230 P. Michalowski, RAI 43 (1996), p. 239.
231 Ukg. 15: ii 1-4.
232 M.-L. Thomsen, Mesopotamia 10, translates “heaven and earth are shouting together” and adds that
the translation is uncertain. J. van Dijk, AcOr 28 (1965), p. 40 translates “An et Ki échangeaient des
cris, l’un avec l’autre.” P. Michalowski, RAI 43 (1996), p. 240, note 4: “This is, of course, but a
metaphor for sexual union.”
233 W. G. Lambert, RlA 3 (1971), p. 469.
234 J. van Dijk in AcOr 28 (1965), p. 40 has “Enki (et) Eridu n’avaient pas commence à exister.” The
plural form of the verb (ti.l) could then mean either “Enki and Eridu” or “Enkis (pl.) in Eridu.” Cf. P.
Michalowski, RAI 43 (1996), p. 239.
235 Å. Sjöberg, Gs. Jacobsen (2002), p. 237, note 14; B. Alster, RA 64 (1970), p. 190.
Similar mentions of Enki-Ninki before Enlil and Ninlil are well attested also from god
lists from Abū alābīkh and Fāra,236 followed then by several en and nin pairs. It is
interesting to notice, that the Early-Dynastic god lists (SF 23 and OIP 99: 82) seem
not to refer to Enki-Ninki as ancestors of Enlil and Ninlil after the seven pairs of en
and nin primordial gods - they are listed before Enlil and Ninlil, but all the other en
and nin pairs are following them. This is not the case in later Old-Babylonian lists
(TCL XV and CT XXIV) where Enki and Ninki start the list, but Enlil is mentioned
after the en and nin pairs designated as his ancestors. This might suggest that Enki
mentioned in the beginning of the lists might well be the same Enki present in Fāra
list SF 1: an, den-líl, dinanna, den-ki, d
nanna, dutu.237 However, mythological
UD.GAL.NUN texts from Abū alābīkh and Fāra seem to deny this possibility,
because both divine concepts of Enki – Ninki and Enki(g) occur independently in the
same passage of the text:
d[GA]L.UNU / d[GA]L.UNU a.AMA238 / udGAL.UNU a.tu239
Enki and Ninki bore Enki(g)240
The textual example makes it clear that Enki and Ninki are responsible for giving
birth to the deity Enki designated as king of Eridu and Abzu in later royal inscriptions.
The whole narrative of the text might describe how Enki and Ninki gave birth to
seven pairs of primordial deities, and also to Enlil, Enki, Suen, and other major
deities of the Sumerian pantheon.241
It should be concluded, that in the earliest Sumerian mythology, Enki and Nunki
deities were seen as a primordial pair who later gave birth to all the major divine
236 Cf. J. van Dijk, AcOr 28 (1965), p. 6ff.
237 Cf. 3.6.1. of the current study for the Early-Dynastic god-lists. Cf. P. Espak, Verbum Habet Sakala
2004: Täiendusköide (2005), p. 49. When the first pair Enki and Ninki are usually considered not to be
related to the god Enki(g), then why should the next pair Enlil and Ninlil be designating the god of
Nippur, Enlil. By logical reasoning, the both pairs – Enki and Ninki, Enlil and Ninlil should either
designate Enki of Eridu and Enlil of Nippur; or then both should be the so-called primordial pairs of
gods. This confusion in early Sumerian mythology might refer to a deliberate scribal speculations (or
“playing with names”) rather than to the “real” popular beliefs or mythology of the period.
238 OIP 99, 114: i 11-12.
239 SF: 37 i 7-8.
240 W. G. Lambert, OA 20 (1981), p. 84.
241 Ibid., p. 85 and 93.
figures of the pantheon. At least according to the text Ukg 15, they are in turn a result
of an intercourse between the concepts of Heaven and Earth. Whether the similar
name form and close connections indicate that the two concepts might have been
understood as one in earlier periods remains unanswerable.
3.5. Enki in Old-Sumerian Texts of Varied Contents
Different textual evidence exists from personal names, offering lists, mythological
texts, and incantations showing Enki in contexts other than Abzu, Eridu, ¡estú or
reeds of Enki. Those adding a new aspect concerning Enki not categorised in previous
topics, will be discussed here.
3.5.1. Mythological Texts
The relatively small number of literary texts found so far does not indicate the actual
lack of oral and written traditions about Enki or other mythological narratives in Old-
Sumerian times but the existence of even that small number of texts having a lot in
common with the later Old-Babylonian tradition only confirms that the tradition of
Sumerian literature was well established already in the middle of the third
millennium.242 Besides Enlil, who according to some texts separated the sky from the
earth, the other male deity, Enki, often appears in the early texts, “but his role is
difficult to fathom.”243 In UD.GAL.NUN myths Enki clearly has an important role to
play and with Enlil they are both equally represented in these texts: “There is good
reason for suspecting that if we had intelligible Sumerian myths from the first half of
the third millennium B.C. Enki would appear as an equal rival of Enlil.”244 P.
Michalowski thinks the violent copulation motive of Enki and the mother-goddess,
later strongly expressed in the mythological narrative “Enki and Nin`ursa¡,” was
already a common idea during the Early-Dynastic literature, “but unfortunately in
every extant text from this time in which copulation is expressly described, the
242 P. Michalowski, RAI 43 (1996), p. 239: “Third millennium Mesopotamian texts are filled with
myth.” Primeval earth and sky were clearly thought of as male and female, different traditions about
the origins of the world already existed.
243 Ibid.
244 W. G. Lambert, MARI 4 (1985), p. 538.
passages containing the name of the male protagonist are broken away.”245 In the texts
where Enki’s name is not broken away, it is hard to understand the role of Enki
especially because of the homophonous group of Enkis and Ninkis.246 Motives where
Enki and the mother-goddess are both active in the process of engendering are well
known from the Old-Babylonian Enki myths but since the early texts do not preserve
the name of Enki in relevant context; further discussion would only be hypothetical in
nature. A mythological text “The Barton Cylinder” firstly mentions the sanctuary of
Nippur just after the description of the cosmic marriage of An and Ki.247 After a break
in the text, “we learn that someone, perhaps Enki, made love to the mother-goddess,
Nin`ursa¡, the sister of Enlil, and planted the seed of seven deities in her midst:”248
nin-gal den-líl / dnin-`ur-sa¡-ra / ¡èš mu-ni-dug4 / ne mu-ni-sub5 / a maš imin / š[à]
Enlil’s older sister / with Nin`ursa¡ / he had intercourse / he kissed her / the semen of
seven twins / he impregnated into her womb.250
Although the text does not give any proof that the impregnator would be Enki, the
motive described here seems to be similar enough to the intercourses conducted by
Enki in the later myth “Enki and Nin`ursa¡251 for suggesting the same parties acting
also in the Old-Sumerian myth.
From other texts adding a new aspect about Enki during the period, one passage from
Fāra texts mentions Enki in context with his two faced vizier Isimu:252
den-ki isimu (SIG8.PAP.NUN) gù dé253
Enki said to Isimu
245 RAI 43 (1996), pp. 242-243.
246 Ibid., p. 239.
247 J. van Dijk, AcOr 28 (1965), pp. 36-38.
248 P. Michalowski, RAI 43 (1996), p. 240.
249 Barton Cylinder: ii 5-10.
250 Translation of B. Alster – A. Westenholz, ASJ 16 (1994), pp. 26-27.
251 Cf. 6.2.1. of the current study.
252 Cf. W. G. Lambert, RlA 5 (1976-1980), p. 179.
253 SF: 40 viii 4. M. Civil – R. D. Biggs, RA 60 (1966), p. 12.
From Tell Beydar, an Early-Dynastic fragment contains a mythological narrative
about Enki, so far the only example of Sumerian Early-Dynastic literature from the
Syrian Djezirah.254 The text does not seem to be an incantation or neither a hymnal
composition and is therefore interpreted by W. Sallaberger as a mythological tale
about Enki.255 All of the five columns of the tablet should have contained
approximately 28 lines meaning that more than 20 are missing from the preserved part
of every column.
i 1 nam-nun-ni His princeliness,
nam-nun-ni his princeliness,
sa¡nam-ma-[(x?)]-dab5 the head has been overwhelmed (seized).
nam-nun-ni His princeliness,
5 [x x]-ma-[(x?)]-x
ii 1 su me nu-me-a A body that does not have strength,
sa me nu-me-a tendons (muscles) that do not have strength.
den-kisu menu-me-a Enki, a body that does not have strength,
sa me nu-me-a tendons (muscles) that do not have strength;
5 an a-ne ba-na-šúm above, to him was given …
iii 1 den-ki me-lám Enki, the splendour
a-ne ba-i-i has left him.
géme-kar-ke4 A harlot
ÍL-ta from carrying (task).
den-ki me-lám Enki, the splendour …
iv 1 den-kime-lám Enki, the splendour
a-ne ba-i-i has left him.
muš-la`5 A snake charmer
é-simug-ta from the house of the smith.
254 W. Sallaberger, Subartu 12 (2002), pp. 37-38.
255 Ibid., p. 39.
5 den-ki me-lám Enki, the splendour …
v 1 […]
den-[ki me-lám] Enki, the splendour
a-ne [ba]-i-[i] has left him.
nagar […-ta] A carpenter … from
5 den-ki [me-lám] Enki, the splendour …
Since less than twenty percent of the overall narrative is preserved, it is hard to
describe its nature. The beginning of the text seems to underline Enkis powers
describing him as nun – the prince. Then the beginning of the second column counts
that power has gone away from the body and sinews of somebody, possibly Enki
himself. First lines of columns iii to v state that power has gone away from Enki
followed by a name of profession in a context otherwise not common for the
characteristics of this profession. A harlot is described as performing the work of
carrying or brick-carrying, then a snake charmer is said to be coming out from the
house of a smith that might again refer to the fact that smith’s house is not a suitable
working place for a snake charmer.256 The text is not attested in any other duplicates
known so far, and the preserved part does not allow concluding nothing more
concerning Enki than that he is described as princely and powerful, and then again
possibly having lost that power.
3.5.2. Incantations
Enki related to a magur-boat occurs in a Sumerian therapeutic incantation from Ebla
still containing many obscurities and understanding difficulties:
den-ki má-gur8 / mun-ù / den-ki má-gur8 / mun-da-a257
Enki the magur-boat / drives / Enki the magur-boat / sails258
256 For possibilities of interpretation, W. Sallaberger, op. cit., pp. 40-42.
257 M. Krebernik, Beschwörungen, pp. 172-175, no. 34: xiii 3-6 = G. Pettinato, OA 28 (1979), p. 349,
text 25: iv 3-6.
258 Cf. G. Pettinato, op. cit., p. 337: “Enki, sulla nave è salito, una volta che Enki sulla nave è salito.”
The passage clearly describes Enki somehow travelling on his boat. A similar motive
is known from later Sumerian myths, for example the beginning of the text
“Gilgameš, Enkidu and the Netherworld,” where Enki conducts a campaign against
the Kur with his boat. The motive where Enki is sailing on board his boat in the
marshlands is especially known from the myth “Enki and Nin`ursa¡.259
Two Sumerian incantations from Ebla show Enki and Abzu somehow related to
snakes. The snake here could also symbolise illness or troubles coming from Enki:260
muš den-ki / KA mu-kú / [ ] KA261
the snake (of?) Enki / the mouth eats / …. the mouth (?)262
ki muš-gi6 / SU.AB-šà263
place, black snake / inside Abzu
The incantations are hard to interpret, except the fact that here Enki, Abzu and snake
(= illness, trouble, a deamon?) occur together. The second incantation might have a
reference to Enki coming out of the river Euphrates: bur-nun-ta / den-ki,264 and then
having something to do with snakes, but the passage is too confusing to give any
direct opinions of the content.265 Another Sumerian266 incantation from Ebla mentions
Enki possibly as a causer of an illness or trouble:
den-ki gi / šà mu-kešda / dnisaba mu-du8267
Enki the trouble / bind in the midst / Nisaba let it loose
259 Cf. Enki and Nin`ursa¡: 97ff.
260 Cf. T. R. Kämmerer, Fs. Kasemaa (2003), p. 52ff. for examples of Mesopotamian gods as trouble
and illness bringers.
261 M. Krebernik, Beschwörungen, pp. 176-178, no. 35: xiv 10-11 = G. Pettinato, OA 28 (1979), p. 350,
no. 26: v 10 – vi 1.
262 Following G. Pettinato, op. cit., p. 337: “…il serpente a cui Enki 'mangia la bocca'.”
263 M. Krebernik, Beschwörungen, pp. 180-183, no. 36: xv 9-10 = G. Pettinato, OA 28 (1979), p. 350,
no. 27, vi 9-10.
264 M. Krebernik, Beschwörungen, p. 182: bur-nun as a syllabic variant for buranun.
265 G. Pettinato, OA 28 (1979), p. 337: “Ancora una volta ritroviamo il tema del serpente associate
all’Apsu e ad Enki.”
266 M. Krebernik, Beschwörungen, p. 150: beginning of the text is Sumerian, end of the incantation in
Semitic language.
267 Ibid., pp. 150-152, no. 28: iii 4-6 = G. Pettinato, AO 28 (1979), p. 347, no. 16, iii 4-6.
The translation follows M. Krebernik who interprets gi as a syllabic writing for gig
“trouble,” “illness.”268 G. Pettinato, however, translates gi to mean “reed:” “Enki il
cuore della canna ha legato, Nisaba ha sciolto.”269 The situation where Enki himself is
a causer of illness does not correspond to his later role as an advice giver to heal
illnesses in the incantations of the Neo-Sumerian period.270
Finally a Sumerian incantation from the Sargonic period Susa compares Enki to a
kiškanû-tree, refers to Enki’s creation in a “pure place,” and mentions Enki filling the
earth with abundance:
é é incantation
[lugal] ¡eš-kín-gen7 [King], like a kiškanû-tree
ki sikil mú-a who is created in a pure place.
den-ki ¡eš-kín-gen7 Enki, like a kiškanû-tree
ki sikil mú-a created in a pure place.
kur-ku-rá-a-ni kur `é-¡ál sud His flood sinks the land with abundance.
ki DU.DU-ni ¡issu-bi His place of walking is its shadow
múš za-gìn-na-gen7 a ground of lapis lazuli just like
ab-šà-ga lá-a in the middle of the sea stretches out.
The text itself comes from the Sargonic period and is found from Susa, but it certainly
should represent an authentic Sumerian incantation tradition. At least no earlier
Sumerian source has a reference to Enki being equated with “giver of abundance:” `é-
3.5.3. Offering Lists and Personal Names
From “Nanše-offering lists” we learn that Enki (den-ki-gi-gù-na: Enki of the Giguna
sanctuary)272 receives offerings during the main festival day in Ni¡in (NINA) after his
268 Beschwörungen, p. 151: “Enki hat das Übel im Inneren gebunden / Nisaba hat es gelöst.” Also G.
Cunningham, StPohl 17, p. 41 sees Enki as the causer of illness.
269 OA 28 (1979), p. 337.
270 Cf. Neo-Sumerian incantations in 5.4. of the current study.
271 M. J. Geller, Iraq 42 (1980), p. 24: obv. 1-10.
272 G. Selz, UGASL, p. 120.
daughter Nanše, probably referring to Enki’s theological importance.273 Enki is
followed by Nin¡irsu, Nindara, Nin-MAR.KI and Nin-MUŠ6-bar. The list clarifies
some genealogical understandings about Enki’s circle in Lagaš area. Enki is probably
seen as father of Nanše and mentioned second. Nanše’s brother Nin¡irsu follows
Enki. Nin¡irsu is followed by Nindara, husband of Nanše. Then come Nanše’s and
Nindara’s daughter Nin-MAR.KI 274 and her husband Nin-MUŠ6-bar. Another
offering list for Nin-MAR.KI festival275 shows dnin-MAR.KI, den-ki-pa5-sír-ra, den-
ki-ki-¡eš-gi-gíd,276 and dnin-¡ír-su occurring together, referring to the importance and
close relations those deities must have had in the pantheon of Lagaš.
One personal name relates Enki with abundance in oil and milk producing:
den-ki ì gará sud277
Enki (makes) oil and cream abundant
3.6. Enki in Listings of Deities
A valuable source of information concerning the relations of the deities, their
genealogy, division into pairs, and into larger groups is given by the listings of deities
occurring in most cases in a certain order. Two categories of lists of deities exist:
lexically or theologically ordered god lists;278 and listings of deities that are
mentioned in a certain order inside a text other than a god list. Ch. Jean collected all
the listings from the Old-Sumerian period and used them to study the earliest
Sumerian pantheon.279 J. M. Roberts found from the similar Old-Akkadian listings
that “the fixed order of the list suggests that one is dealing with a partial canonical
listing of the imperial pantheon, so it will pay to examine this list in detail.”280
However, when studying the lists where Enki is mentioned, it should be taken into
273 G. Selz, ASJ 12 (1990), p. 114. The ordering of the deities should, of course, also reflect the fact that
the festival is dedicated for a female deity.
274 A deity whose main responsibility seems to be taking care for cattle, cf. W. Sallaberger, RlA 9
(1998-2001), p. 468.
275 G. Selz, FAOS 15/II, p. 607, text 98.
276 Ibid.: “Enki vom 'Platz (des) Langrohres'.”
277 G. Selz, UGASL, p. 121: den-ki-ì-gará!-sù(g): “Enki lässt Fett (und) Fettmilch reiclich sein”
278 W. G. Lambert, RlA 3 (1971), p. 473.
279 Religion sumérienne, pp. 32-34.
280 ESP, p. 146.
consideration that many other listings do exist where the deity Enki is not mentioned
at all, and again in several texts Enki occurs in context with only one or two deities
again not mentioned in the god lists in the same context. So the information given
about Enki in the following deity listings does not mirror his possible “real” position
in the pantheon and popular cult or genuine relations with other deities,281 but rather
reflects the ideas of the author; in case of royal inscriptions, the political ideology of
the composer of the text.282
3.6.1. Abū alābīkh and Fāra God Lists
SF 23283 list from Fāra shows seven divine pairs headed by Enki and Ninki, followed
by Enlil and Ninlil, then five en and nin pairs. Similar order is followed in the Abū
alābīkh284 list with slight variations.
SF 23: 1-22 OIP 99: 82, rev. i 1-24
en-ki nin-ki den-ki dnin-ki
en-líl nin-KID den-líl dnin-KID
en-U nin-U den-U dnin-U
en-bulùg nin-bulùg den-bulùg dnin-bulùg
en-du6-uduax nin-du6-uduax den-uduax (LAK 777)-x dnin-uduax (LAK 777)-x
en-gukkal nin-gukkal den-gukkal dn[in]-gukkal
en-á nin-á den-á dnin-á
den-an [d]nin-an
tùr dlugal-BU.NUN.gána.x
gírid dNÁM.K[IŠ]
LA.TIM dlugal-¡asalx (TU.GAB.LIŠ)
SAL.KID damar-utu
281 Limits of only few chosen texts as sources for analysing the so-called canonical pantheon and
drawing conclusions from them are made clear by I. Nakata, ASJ 1 (1979), pp. 65-67.
282 G. Komoróczy, OrNS 45 (1976), p. 82.
283 P. Mander, PAS, p. 109; J. van Dijk, AcOr 28 (1965), p. 6ff.
284 P. Mander, op. cit., pp. 9-10 = A. Alberti, SEL 2 (1985), pp. 12-13.
SF 5-6 and SF 39 VII-VIII both start with Enlil whereas the second place is held by
SF 5-6: 285 den-líl, den-ki, dgibil6, dnin-kin-nir, dsu’en, dama-ušumgal, dnísaba.
SF 39 VII-VIII:286 Enlil, Enki, Nanna, Inanna, Gibil, Ašgi, Nergal, Nisaba.
SF 1 and Abū alābīkh god list seem to begin with An and then followed by Enlil,
Inanna or Ninlil, and Enki:
SF 1:287 an, den-líl, dInanna, den-ki, dnanna, dutu, dAN.MENx, dBAR. MENx, dnísaba.
Abū alābīkh list:288 [AN?], [den-líl], [dnin-K]ID, [de]n-k[i], [dna]n[na], dinanna,
d[IN]ANNA, dnin-gír-su, dašgi.
The Zame Hymns belong to the same period as the god lists recited above,289 also lists
deities in a certain order: den-líl, dnin-unug, dinanna, den-nu-te-mud, dasar-lú-KAL,
dnanna, dutu, dnin-gal, an, ddam-gal-nun.
Three different traditions of god list seem to exist at the same time during the
composition of Abū alābīkh and Fāra texts. The first starts with Enki and Ninki
followed by Enlil and Ninlil – altogether seven en and nin pairs. The second group
has Enlil and Enki heading the list. And finally the third group starts with An
followed by Enlil, then a female deity (Inanna and Ninlil), and Enki having the fourth
position. Do they also reflect a different tradition in cosmology for example is
difficult to answer,290 since “phrases used to sum up these lists offer great
divergences, which suggest that not even the ancient scholars were unanimous in their
understanding of these lists.”291
285 M. Krebernik, ZA 76 (1986), p. 189: 1-7; P. Mander, PAS, p. 40.
286 P. Mander, ibid. Cf. SF 7: den-líl, dinanna, NUN, dsùd, dgibil, dlama, dnanna, dèš, d[š]ul?, dnisaba,
287 M. Krebernik, op. cit., p. 168: i 1-9; P. Mander, PAS, p. 70.
288 Reconstruction of P. Mander, op. cit., p. 40, 1-9 = A. Alberti, SEL 2 (1985), p. 7.
289 Cf. P. Mander, op. cit., p. 40.
290 For example in Hebrew Scriptures, coexistence of different parallel genealogies seems never to
bother the authors and might be a result of combining different traditions and written sources into one
larger work based on the wish to collect together all the existing written or oral traditions, and not on a
desire to understand all the logical relations.
291 W. G. Lambert, RlA 3 (1971), p. 469.
3.6.2. Listings of Deities in Old-Sumerian Royal Inscriptions
Following are the listings of deities from different royal inscriptions of Enanatum,
Eanatum I, Enmetena and Lugalzagesi. When the god lists represented a tradition
from Fāra and Abū alābīkh local pantheons, then in turn inscriptions of Enanatum
and Eanatum I, Enmetena reflect the official pantheon of the state of Lagaš.292
Ean.1, xvi 14- rev. v, 36: Enlil, Nin`ursa¡, Enki, Su’en, Utu, Ninki.
Ean.1, rev. v 45-vi 8: Enlil, Nin`ursa¡, Inanna, Enki, Nanše, Nin¡irsu, Dumuzid-Abzu,
endursa¡, Lugal-uru.
Ean.2, i 5-ii 13: Enlil, Nin¡irsu, Nanše, Nin`ursa¡, Inanna, Enki, Dumuzid-Abzu, endursa¡,
Ean.3, i 10-ii 14 = Ean. 4, i 10-ii 9: Enlil, Nin¡irsu, Nanše, Nin`ursa¡, Inanna, Enki,
Dumuzid-Abzu, endursa¡.
En. I., 33 i 5-ii 5: Enlil, Nanše, Nin¡irsu, Inanna, Enki, Lugal-uru.
Ent. 1, i 17-iii 7: Nin¡irsu, Lugaluru, Nanše, Enki, Nin`ursa¡,, Nin¡irsu, Gatumdu, Nanše,
Ent. 23, 1-41: Nin¡irsu, Nanše, Enlil, Gatumdu, Ninma`, Lugaluru, Enki, Nin¡irsu.
Ent. 31: Enlil, Enki, Nanše, Nin¡irsu, Šulutul.293
Luzag 1, i 14-32: An, Enlil, Enki, Utu, Su’en, Utu, Inanna, Nisaba, Nin`ursa¡, Ningirim.
Luzag. 2, 9-15: Ninur, Enki, Ištaran, Enlil, Inanna.
Luzag. 3 ii, 2-5: (….) Inanna, Enki, Ningirim (…).
An is mentioned only in Luzag 1,294 in other cases Enlil usually has the first ranking.
While the Ean.1 mentions the great gods of the larger Sumerian territory probably in
canonical order, the other inscriptions of the ruler are mostly concerned with the local
Lagašite pantheon dominated by Nin¡irsu and his sister Nanše. The order Enlil,
Nin`ursa¡, Enki, Suen and Utu is in the Neo-Sumerian times the canonical order in
Ur III texts. In four of the lists, Inanna precedes Enki. Also in earlier SF 1 and Abū
alābīkh god lists as well as in Zame Hymns, Enki comes after Inanna or Ninlil.
Nanše and Nin¡irsu, brother and sister, are mostly listed as a pair. Dumuzid-Abzu
292 Cf. W. Sallaberger, RlA 10 (2004), pp. 300-303 for the terms “local pantheon” and “state’s
293 Ent. 28: v 23-vi 2 = Ent. 29: vi 4-14. Cf. the mention of Enlil, Enki, Nin`ursa¡ in Ent. 29: iv 35-37.
294 Cf. Ch. Jean, Religion sumérienne, p. 33.
following Enki in Ean. 2 and 3-4 is from later sources known to have been the child of
Enki. Listings of deities in the inscriptions of Enmetena and Lugalzagesi mentioning
Enki seem not to be systematised following the rules common for the earlier listings
of Eanatum. Based on the examples of the deity-listings of Enmetena, no genealogical
relations seem to be underlined concerning Enki. In turn the listing occurring in the
Luzag. 1, beginning with An, seems to contain the canonical order of the later listings
of the Neo-Sumerian period, except that the mother-goddess usually occurring third in
most of the Ur III texts, here occupies the eighth place.
3.7. An Attempt of Genealogy of Enki Based on Old-Sumerian Sources
Although the textual evidence showing the genealogical relations between different
deities in Old-Sumerian sources is in many ways confusing and the small number of
texts available makes the task more complicated, some observations though allow
making general conclusions. The material from the state of Lagaš dominated by
Nin¡irsu and his sister Nanše presents only a local Lagašite concept of the relations
between the gods. Mythological texts from Abū alābīkh and the god lists from Fāra
again give views from regions far from Lagaš. The text Ukg. 15 found from ¤irsu
mentions the cosmic marriage of An and Ki followed by Enki – Ninki and Enlil –
Ninlil making clear that understandings close to Abū alābīkh and Fāra texts were
also present in Lagaš.
An -----------Ki
(?) --------(?)--------- Enlil--------Ninlil
Enki--------Ninki |
(?) |
Enki----------Damgalnunna (?) |
Nanše------------Nindara ---- (?) ---- Nin¡irsu--------Baba
Nin-MAR.KI ---- -----Nin-MUŠ6-bar
Text Ukg. 15 shows that An and Ki have intercourse that might result in births of
Enki-Ninki deities.295 After them, Enlil and Ninlil are mentioned. The text does not
give any evidence whether Enlil and Ninlil are direct offsprings of An and Ki or given
birth by Enki and Ninki.296 At least one text shows Enlil separating An from Ki,297
and therefore it seems that two different traditions might have been in existence
concerning the genealogies of deities. One relates An and Ki to the birth of all the
other gods; the second tradition again places Enki and Ninki first. UD.GAL.NUN
texts reveal that Enki and Ninki were responsible of giving birth to Enlil and Enki as
well as to other major gods of Sumer. Enki’s female counterpart is impossible to
name based on Old-Sumerian sources. Damgalnunna is mentioned in god lists, but no
direct relation comes forth when examining the Old-Sumerian texts. The SF 1 list has
a reference to ddam-ga[l?-nun?] then followed by a deity dnun-g[al],298 possibly
referring to Enki.299 His daughter seems to be Nanše and possibly then Nanše’s
brother Nin¡irsu should also be included in Enki’s circle. One solution to the problem
is offered by G. Selz, who explains the idea of Nanše and Nin¡irsu being siblings
might be a later invention arising from political reasons. When the originally
independent cities of Ni¡in (NINA) and ¤irsu became subjects of one central political
unit, the patron deity of ¤irsu – Nin¡irsu was already married to Baba.300 The only
suitable way to stress the equal importance of Nanše’s NINA and Nin¡irsu’s ¤irsu
was then to present them as brother and sister.
3.8. Conclusions
From the Old-Sumerian royal inscriptions, only few characteristics of Enki can be
established with certainty. Enki is associated with Eridu and called its king; Enki is
associated with Abzu and called its king. Several kings have built temples for Enki
295 Earliest evidence of a cult of the sky-god An in Lagaš comes from the Akkad period, G. Selz, ASJ
12 (1990), p. 124 and 132, text 4.
296 W. G. Lambert, RlA 3 (1971), p. 469.
297 J. Krecher (RAI 22, 1975) apud W. G. Lambert, BSOAS 39 (1976), p. 431, column iii of OIP 99, text
no. 136 and B. Alster, ASJ 4 (1982), p. 1: UD.GAL.NUN / an UNU-ta bad / ki an-ta bad: ”Enlil / to
separate heaven from earth / to separate earth from heaven.”
298 M. Krebernik, ZA 76 (1986), p. 179: xi 17-18. Cf. P. Mander, PAS, p. 84, v: i, 16-17.
299 R. L. Litke, RAGB, p. 2, note 11.
300ASJ 12 (1990), p. 121. Cf. H. D. Galter, Ea/Enki, p. 126: “Die Frage, ob hier zwei zeitlich
differierende Überlieferungsschichten vorliegen, die den Gott dem jeweils wichtigeren Götterkreis
zuordneten, oder ob diese Traditionen parallel entstanden sind, lässt sich noch nicht mit Sicherheit
outside Eridu meaning that Enki was a god whose cult had spread all over the
Sumerian territory, and Abzu did not denote only one specific location in Eridu.
Nanše who belongs to the circle of Enki has a temple called É-Engur, name associated
with the temple of Enki. Nanše and probably also her brother Nin¡irsu might have
been considered offsprings of Enki in the pantheon of Lagaš.
The texts reveal that the most important quality Enki can offer to a king is
“understanding,” “skill,” or “knowledge” (¡estú). Nature of that “knowledge” is not
clear based on the few textual examples. In later texts, ¡estú seems to have its
meaning in technical skill. The En-ki – Nin-ki deities are mentioned together with
Enki in Ur-Nanše 49 and UD.GAL.NUN texts. Urukagina 15 describes them as the
first creatures after the cosmic marriage of An and Ki. Based on these few textual
examples, the relation of the En-ki – Nin-ki gods to Enki is difficult to figure out. It is
imaginable that some sort of special connection must have been established between
the two theological concepts sharing similar names. Based on the lists of gods and a
passage from UD.GAL.NUN texts, it seams reasonable to conclude that En-ki and
Nin-ki were somehow considered ancestors of all the later deities including Enki.
Enki is also associated with reeds, probably because the reed has its roots in the “clay
of Abzu.” Th. Jacobsen summarises “Enki is the numinous inner will to form in the
Deep, visualised as a gigantic ibex, the antlers of which showed above the water as
reeds.”301 As some Sumerian incantations from Ebla show, Enki might also be a
bringer of illness and troubles. One text mentions his magur-boat; his vizier Isimu is
associated with Enki in Old-Sumerian sources. The Zame Hymns call him
Nudimmud. Whether the epithet refers to his qualities in creating and birth giving
already in Old-Sumerian texts is uncertain, since the etymology of later Nudimmud
does not have to stand in the verbs dím and mud. His powers as an abundance giver to
the mankind seem to be underlined in a later Sargonic period Sumerian incantation;
one personal name titles him to be a deity who increases production of oil and cream.
It is reasonable to believe, that some elements of the Old-Babylonian Enki myths had
their predecessors already in Early-Dynastic literature. Whether the copulation motive
301 Tammuz, p. 7.
represented in the Barton Cylinder concerns also Enki, is still impossible to answer
but in no way excluded.
Enki belongs to the most important gods of the Old-Sumerian pantheon, but his lower
status compared to Enlil seems to be clear. When combining the evidence from Zame
Hymns where Enlil’s temple is mentioned first, and the god listings which in most
cases are headed by Enlil, there seems to be little doubt about his supremacy over the
pantheon in official cult. The nature of relations of Enlil and Enki and their origins
during the periods older than recorded by written sources remains unsolvable.
4. Enki/Ea in Old-Akkadian Sources
Except for personal names in sources from Mesopotamia proper, Enki/Ea figures only
in a small number of royal inscriptions of the period, most of which reveal limited
information related to him. Only one royal inscription adds a new aspect not present
in previously discussed Old-Sumerian texts. Information from the third millennium
Ebla on the other hand includes two Semitic302 mythological literary compositions
mentioning Enki/Ea, offering lists, and few incantations, all of them containing
material not previously attested in Sumerian texts. The Šamaš and Nisaba myths
(ARET 5, 6 and 7) from Ebla reveal more information about the nature of this god
than the Old-Sumerian literary mythological corpus altogether which was still in
larger parts difficult to interpret due to lack of knowledge in understanding the
UD.GAL.NUN orthography and structure of archaic texts. The chapter is concluded
by an overview of the Akkadian motive of flowing water and the god with water
streams in the Akkadian period glyptic art – most probably representing Enki/Ea.
4.1. Enki/Ea in Old-Akkadian Royal Inscriptions
An inscription of Narām-Su’en on the pedestal of the “Bassetki-Statue” made of
copper representing a seated male figure, possibly meant to represent Narām-Su’en
himself, 303 counts that in Agade a temple dedicated to Narām-Su’en was built by his
citizens after he had won nine battles against rebellious kings. Inhabitants of Narām-
Su’en’s city are described as demanding the building from different deities of Sumer
and Akkad, who are listed with their temples in a following order: dINANNA in
Eanna (Uruk), Enlil in Nippur, Dagān in Tuttul, Nin`ursa¡ in Keš, dEN.KI in Eridu,
dEN.ZU in Ur, dUTU in Sippar and Nergal in Kutha.304 Enki is titled “king of Eridu”
302 Since parallel texts for the myths found from Ebla are also present in Abū alābīkh texts, it is not
completely appropriate to call the myths Semitic. They possibly represent literary tradition spread all
over the area of influence of the third millennium cuneiform culture. The myths are treated in the
chapter treating Old-Akkadian material about Enki/Ea, because the main language of the myths from
Ebla is Semitic.
303 A.-H. Al-Fouadi, Sumer 32 (1976), pp. 64-67.
304 Narām-Su’en 10: 25-48.
similarly to Old-Sumerian inscriptions: iś-te4 / dEN.KI / in NUNki:305 with / Ea / in
Eridu. It is difficult to evaluate to what extent dINANNA, dEN.ZU, and dUTU are
considered Semitic, or are Sumerian deities meant by these names.306 Both the names
of Su’en and also Nanna do not have to be neither Sumerian nor Semitic.307 Therefore
it seems unjustified to use the concept of Sumerian-Semitic syncretism when dealing
with deities in the Old-Akkadian period. Several reciprocal influences are most
probably present from a number of possible religions and cultures. The extent of
“syncretism” of Enki and Ea is unclear based on the Old-Akkadian sources and
whether a Semitic deity differing considerably from the Old-Sumerian Enki308 is
meant in Akkadian royal inscriptions is hard to answer based on few texts available.
A fragment of a Narām-Su’en Stele from Pir Hüseyin, possibly written after a victory
during his military campaign in the region of Šimānum, states that Enki/Ea was
favourable to Narām-Su’en in his military campaigns for not having given him any
powerful enemy opposition:
dEN.KI / in ki-ib-ra-tim / ar-ba-im / na-e / [i]r-tim / [ul i-d]ì-[-śum6]309
Ea / in directions of the world / four / no-one / (for) opposition / was not given (to
Old-Babylonian copies from two inscriptions of Narām-Su’en contain a curse
formula, where Enki/Ea’s role is underlined at the end.310 A text preserved from
copies from Ur is about a dedication of a statue for Su’en by Narām-Su’en, possibly
after defeating an enemy leader.311
305 Narām-Su’en 10: ii 12-14; cf. H. D. Galter, Ea/Enki, p. 177.
306 Cf. L. J. Gelb – B. Kienast, FAOS 7 p. 83: Not Sumerian Inanna but Akkadian Ištar as a patron deity
of the dynasty of Akkade stands in the first place. Cf. J. M. Roberts, ESP, p. 149 for the equation of
Nanna and Utu with Su’en and Šamaš in Old-Akkadian context.
307 Cf. W. G. Lambert, CM 7 (1997), pp. 1-2.
308 Cf. J and A. Westenholz, OrNS 46 (1977), p. 204.
309 Narām-Su’en 24: ii 1-6.
310 It is interesting to notice, that the god Ea/Enki does not occur in the curse formula alongside with
the other deities but his role is underlined at the closing part of the both inscriptions.
311 D. Frayne, RIME 2, p. 100. Cf. J. M. Roberts, ESP, pp. 145-146.
dEN.[KI] / ÍD-śu / A li-im-dú-ud / ù GIŠ.TÚG.PI / a ù-ra-pí-iš312
Ea / (in) his canal / water may block / and his understanding / let him not make
Another Narām-Su’en inscription describing his campaign314 to Magan found in two
Old-Babylonian copies from Nippur contains almost an identical curse formula:
dEN.KI / I7-śu4 / sà-ki-kà-am / li-im-dú-ud315
Ea / his canal / with silt / may block
It does not seem clear what exactly is expected from Enki/Ea to do with the person
harming the inscriptions except it should somehow be harmful to the canals316
Enki/Ea is described as potentially taking away the moistening water meant for the
fields. Enki associated directly with water, rivers, or canals was never directly
mentioned in Old-Sumerian sources, though his relation with Abzu and Engur was
underlined. It is therefore not impossible to imagine that the name Enki might have
been used here within Akkadian context317 corresponding to the etymology of his
Semitic name behind the root *`yy – “living,” referring to a water source or running
From Elam, a text from a stele of Puzur-Inšušinak mentions Enki included in a curse
formula. Sumerian deities are incorporated into a system of Elamite deities in pairs of
two. J. M. Roberts finds that the political implications of the Sumerian city gods were
such “that even Puzur-inšušinak, the native Elamite iššiakum of Susa, includes many
of them in his inscriptions along with his own Elamite deities.”318
312 Narām-Su’en 5: iii 27-31.
313 I. J. Gelb B. Kienast, FAOS 7, p. 260: “Enki soll seinen Kanal nicht ‘voll machen’ und seinen
Verstand nicht weit machen.”
314 Cf. C. Wilcke, ZA 87 (1997), pp. 11-13.
315 Narām-Su’en 3: rev. vii 6-9.
316 J. M. Roberts, ESP, p. 151. Cf. H. D. Galter, Ea/Enki, p. 209.
317 M. Green, Eridu, p. 27.
318 J. M. Roberts, op. cit., p. 152.
dNIN.MÙŠ.EREN ù dUT[U] dEn-lí[l] ù dEN.KI dINANN[A] ù dEN.Z[U] dNin-ur-
sa[¡] ù dNa-<ru>-t[i]319
Inšušinak and Šamaš, Enlil and Enki, Ištar and Su’en, Nin`ursa¡ and Nanurte.
Inšušinak, an Elamite sun-deity is, paired with Šamaš. Pairing up Enlil and Enki
might suggest the prominent status these deities together had in Sumer and Akkad.
4.2. Enki/Ea in God Lists and Offering Lists from Ebla
A bilingual lexical list from Ebla mentions Enki after Enlil. Enki is translated as
ayyu(m).320 Enlil and Enki follow each other as was the case in the inscription of
den-lí[l] / = i-li-[lu] / den-ki / = à-u9 / den-TE / = áš-tá-tár / dinanna / = aš-tár / dnè-
eri10 / = ra-sa-ap321
The Semitic underworld deity Rasap is equated with the Sumerian god Nergal322 in
the same list. In two offering lists from Ebla, Enki and Rasap appear together in one
text as receivers of goods. As shown by the example of the abovementioned god list,
behind the name den-ki might stand a Semitic god à-u9 in a local cultic context:
1 túg-SAL323 A fine textile
ma-nu-wa-adki (in) Manuwat,
du11-ga ordered
nídba (for) offering
dra-sa-ap (to) Rasap
dEN.KI (and) Ea,
in in
du-si-gúki Dusigu,
319 Puzur-Inšušinak 2: 67-74.
320 M. Krebernik, ZA 73 (1983), p. 31.
321 MEE 4, 47-48: 802-806.
322 Equating Nergal and Rasap was also common in Ugaritic sources where Ea is usually equated with
r. Cf. J. F. Healey, SEL 2 (1985), p. 118 and 122.
323 M. G. Biga – L. Milano, ARET 4, p. 112, no. 12, 21. Cf. M. Baldacci, Partially Published Eblaite
Texts (1992), p. 30, no. 0410, where Rasap and then Enki receive offerings.
šu ba4-ti he received.
Another offering list names Ea somehow related to an orchard or calls him gardener:
dEN.KI / lú ¡eš-nu-kiri6.324 The term ¡eš-nu-kiri6 possibly refers to a place (garden)
where cultic ceremonies were held.325 Sumerian ¡eš-nu-kiri6 might be an ideogram for
closely connected Semitic cultic term or toponym326 gú-nu/núm(ki) employed only in
connection with the name of Rasap.327 Enki/Ea’s unexplained relation to an
underworld deity Rasap in Ebla and their common association with orchards or
gardens (i.e. shared cultic offering place) might refer to some sort chthonic
characteristics attributed to both deities in the region.328 Based on few texts available,
the nature of the relation of Rasap and Enki in Ebla is, however, indeterminable.
4.3. Enki in Old-Semitic Literary and Magical Compositions
A small number of incantations have been found belonging to the third millennium
Semitic sources. One incantation from Ebla titles Enki “king of Abzu”- den-ki lugal
SU.AB.TA.329 Another incantation from Kiš is meant for a man to gain the love of his
desired woman through different magical procedures. The beginning lines mention
Enki/Ea and Ištar. The position of Enki/Ea at the beginning of the incantation where
he is asked to be favourable to love coming from Ištar might refer to his character as
friendly to man in general:
dEN.KI ir-e-ma-am / è-ra-[?]-am / ir-e-mu-um DUMU dINANNA330
Ea the love desire / loves / the love desire, son of Ištar
Two longer literary texts survive from Ebla: a Šamaš myth ARET 5, 6 having
parallels from Abū alābīkh tablets;331 and ARET 5, 7 – mythological composition
324 MEE 10, 3: obv. v 10-11.
325 P. Mander, MEE 10, p. 26. G. Pettinato, OA 18 (1979), p. 115 connects the term with the gi-den-ki
“reeds of Enki” in Ukg. 4: vi 15.
326 M. Dahood – G. Pettinato, OrNS 46 (1977), pp. 230-232.
327 Ibid.
328 F. Pomponio – P. Xella, AOAT 245, p. 169. C. Simonetti, N.A.B.U. 1993/104, p. 89 has drawn
attention that the structure of offerings to Enki is similar to that of a deity of Ganana by the study of
offering lists from Ebla.
329 G. Pettinato, OA 28 (1979), p. 349, text 24, iii 7-8 = M. Krebernik, Beschwörungen, pp. 170-171,
no. 33.
330 J and A. Westenholz, OrNS 46 (1977), p. 201, 1-3.
about Nisaba. Enki/Ea has a role to play in both of them. The myths do not represent
religious ideas from Syrian Ebla but seem to be Sumero-Akkadian mythical
compositions332 where Šamaš, Enlil, Nisaba, and Enki/Ea act as main figures.333 The
beginning of the ARET 5, 6 myth gives praise to the sun god Šamaš, who is described
as travelling in the sky during the daytime and possibly by night visiting the
underground lands of Enki/Ea.334 In the beginning of the myth, Šamaš is described as
being favoured by Enki/Ea:
ŠU.UM / ne-si-gi-im335 / dEN.KI / ì-lú rí-sa-dím336
ŠU.ÁG / NÌ.SIG / dEN.KI / DINGIR AN.[X?.] X337
beloved of / niššiku / Ea / god of rejoicing
The ephitet of Enki/Ea – niššiku338 occurs here for the first time in written sources. It
seems probable that the title ì-lú rí-sa-dím: “god of rejoicing” might belong to Šamaš
and not Enki/Ea.339 The same text has a passage where Šamaš, Enlil, and Enki/Ea
appear in a close context, the nature of which does not allow giving any certain
interpretations except for the fact that a place name called “land of Enki/Ea” is
[X.?E]N340 [U]D341 Then
na-gàr-ga-ra GAL.NIMGIR great herald
UR.SAG UR.SAG (of) mountain(s)
ti-ma-u9 [ ] X goes around (?).
331 OIP 99: 326 and 342.
332 W. G. Lambert, JCS 41 (1989), p. 3; QuSem 18 (1992), p. 43.
333 W. G. Lambert, JCS 41 (1989), p. 25 concludes that Sippar is the obvious place of composition of
the myth. Cf. J. Krecher, QuSem 18 (1992), p. 286: “narrations centre around deities Enlil, Enki/Ea,
Inanna, (Ama-)Ušumgalanna; incantations are related to Ningirima even if written in a Semitic
334 B. R. Foster, Before the Muses: An Anthology of Akkadian Literature (2005), p. 50-51: Titled “The
Valorous Sun.”
335 W. G. Lambert, JCS 41 (1989), p. 6 finds that ne-si-gi-im refers to the well known title of Ea –
336 ARET 5, 6: i 6-7.
337 OIP 99, 326: i 7-9.
338 A. Cavigneaux – M. Krebernik, RlA 9 (1998-2001), p. 590: niššiku is most probably refers to Enki’s
Sumerian epithet nun: “prince,” “leader.” Cf. H. D. Galter, Ea/Enki, p. 12-13.
339 W. G. Lambert, JCS 41 (1989), p. 6.
340 ARET 5, 6: ii 5 – iii 2.
341 OIP 99, 326: i 17 – ii 7.
ENGAR AN NIMGIR AN Herald oh heavens (An),
Ù KI KAS.NIMGIR KI herald of earth (Ki),
dEN.LÍL (of) Enlil (?).
nu-ru12-um DUGUD UD X Strong light
i-du-wa-ar AN.NÍGIN circles around
i-a-ma-am6 UD daytime;
giš-ti-tam (UD) GI6 during the night
i-na-sar EN.NUN.NAK guards
TIM.TIM KALAM the land;
ti-gi-li Á.ÁG orders
TIM.TIM dEN.KI (of) the land (of) Ea.
Whether the text actually refers to Šamaš visiting the underground regions of Enki/Ea
during the night period is difficult to answer.342 The idea would be supported by a
passage occurring before a mention of the “land of Enki/Ea” where Šamaš is
described somehow related to Abzu and being its radiance or light bringer:
à-šum / BIR5.BÍ.IR / ¡NÍ.KAS7.AK / AB.ZU343
UŠ / BIR5.BIR5 / NÍ.KAS7 / ABZU (ZU+AB)344
red / radiance / (for the) terror (?) / (of) Abzu345
Although the interpretation of the lines above presents only one possibility among
several others, the connection between Šamaš and Abzu/Enki/Ea seems to be
underlined. The text continues with a description of deeds of Šamaš, after which there
appears to be a meeting of gods taking place. Then Šamaš is described travelling to
meet Enki/Ea in his Abzu.
342 P. Steinkeller, QuSem 18 (1992), p. 258, note 39 finds the motive possible based on later texts such
as Temple Hymns 15-16, where Enki greets Utu in his Abzu.
343 ARET 5, 6: i 9 – ii 1.
344 OIP 99, 326: i 11 – i 12.
345 Cf. W. G. Lambert, JCS 41 (1989), p. 33: “shining light: because of the brilliance of the terror of the
Apsû.” M. Krebernik, QuSem 18, p. 82: “the burning light, the fiery radiance, the splendour (?) of the
346 ARET 5, 6: xii 2 – xiv 2.
u-ru12 gathered together (?).
TIM.TIM The land
GEŠTUG.GESTUG was listening.
ÉRIN+X dUTU U5 (MÁ.U) ÉRIN+X-(bull)
347 Šamaš rode
du-rí-iš to the wall (fortress)
dEN.KI (of) Ea.
zi-la-ti-zu His (wheel)-pins (?)
BA5.TI brought near348
IG AB.ZU (to) the door of Abzu.
du-u9 du-u9-(creatures?)
GABA in front of
EN TI.URU.DA-a lord (of) TI.URU.DA,349
dEN.KI Ea,
a-bí ZU.UG !(ZU+PIRIG).BANDA father of
ru12-zi UR.SAG-a help of the hero.
du-i The du-i-(creatures?)
iš-da-du fought,
i-da-gi-bux(NI) struggled,
wa-da-ar GURUŠ the pre-eminent youngsters.
u9-ru12-du Descended