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Ishtar

The Goddess Of War

By Cosmic SecretsPublished about a month ago 3 min read
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The Mesopotamian Goddess of Love and War

Ishtar, the Mesopotamian Goddess of Love and War, was significant in the ancient Near East. For thousands of years, her worship spanned across civilizations such as the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians, and others. Revered for her associations with love, sexuality, fertility, war, and political power, Ishtar was a multifaceted deity. Known by names like Inanna, Astarte, and Aphrodite, Ishtar's origins and roles in the ancient world are fascinating study subjects.

The Origins of Ishtar

The name Ishtar comes from the Akkadian language, spoken by the people who ruled Mesopotamia from the 24th to the 6th century BCE. The Akkadians adopted Ishtar from the Sumerians, who called her Inanna. The Sumerians were the first civilization to emerge in Mesopotamia, around the 4th millennium BCE. They developed a complex writing system called cuneiform, which was used to record their myths, laws, and history. Inanna was one of the earliest deities attested in cuneiform texts, and she had a prominent role in the Sumerian pantheon.

The meaning and origin of Inanna are uncertain, but it may be related to the word in, which means "lady" or "queen" in Sumerian. Inanna was sometimes considered the daughter of An, the sky god, or Enlil, the wind god. She was also sometimes regarded as the wife or lover of Dumuzi, the god of vegetation and fertility. Inanna had many symbols and attributes, such as lions, owls, stars, and a hook-shaped knot of reeds called the ring-post. She was also associated with the planet Venus, which was seen as her celestial manifestation.

Inanna had a complex and diverse personality. She was a goddess of love and beauty who enjoyed sex and romance. She was also a goddess of war and violence who led armies and conquered enemies. She was a goddess of life and death who could grant fertility or cause droughts. She was a goddess of wisdom and cunning who could trick or deceive others. She was a goddess of power and sovereignty who could bestow kingship or overthrow rulers. She was a goddess of adventure and curiosity who traveled to different realms and faced various challenges.

Ishtar in Mesopotamian Mythology

Ishtar's popularity transcended borders and cultures as her worship spread from the Akkadians to other Mesopotamian peoples. She assimilated aspects of other goddesses like Astarte and became closely associated with Venus, the brightest star in the sky. Ishtar'sIshtar's influence extended beyond Mesopotamia, reaching Anatolia, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Her worship was marked by numerous temples and shrines, where priests and priestesses performed rituals and ceremonies in her honor. Some of these rituals involved sacred prostitution, a testament to the depth of devotion to Ishtar.

Ishtar appears in many myths and legends, illustrating her various roles and attributes. One of the most famous stories is the Descent of Ishtar to the Underworld (also known as Inanna's Descent), which tells how she decided to visit her sister Ereshkigal, the queen of the dead. She had to pass through seven gates to reach the Underworld, where she had to remove one piece of clothing or jewelry at each gate. When she arrived naked and powerless before Ereshkigal's throne, she was struck dead by Ereshkigal's gaze and hung on a hook like a piece of meat. Meanwhile, everything became barren and lifeless on earth without Ishtar'sIshtar's presence. Her lover Dumuzi (or his substitute) agreed to take her place in the Underworld for half of the year so that she could return to life. This story explains the cycle of seasons and vegetation in Mesopotamia.

Another famous story is the Epic of Gilgamesh (also known as Gilgamesh and Enkidu), which tells how Ishtar fell in love with Gilgamesh, the king of Uruk and a legendary hero. She proposed marriage to him, but he rejected her harshly, reminding her of how she mistreated her previous lovers. Enraged by his refusal, Ishtar asked her father, Anu, to send the Bull of Heaven to punish Gilgamesh. The bull caused havoc in Uruk until Gilgamesh and his friend Enkidu killed it. Ishtar then cursed them both for killing her sacred animal. Enkidu later died from an illness sent by the gods due to this curse. Gilgamesh then went on a quest to find the secret of immortality but failed. This story shows the dangers and consequences of offending Ishtar's pride and wrath.

Ishtar is a fascinating and complex figure who has captured the imagination of many generations. She represents femininity's dark and light aspects and the challenges and opportunities of human existence. She is a symbol of mystery, power, and transformation.

World HistoryResearchPlacesFiguresEventsDiscoveriesAncient
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Cosmic Secrets

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