Excerpts from

History Begins at Sumer -
Thirty-Nine Firsts in Recorded History

University of Pennsylvania Press; Copyright © 1956 Samuel Noah Kramer
Chapter 13 Philosophy - Man's First Cosmogony and Cosmology

In the eyes of the Sumerian teachers and sages, the major components of the universe were heaven and earth; indeed, their term for universe was an-ki, a compound word meaning "heaven- earth."

The Sumerian theologian assumed as axiomatic the existence of a pantheon consisting of a group of living beings, manlike in form but superhuman and immortal, who, though invisible to mortal eye, guide and control the cosmos in accordance with well- laid plans and duly prescribed laws. It was each of these invisible, anthropomorphic yet superhuman and immortal beings that the Sumerian designated by his word "dingir", which we translate by the word "god." The Sumerian pantheon was therefore conceived as functioning as an assembly with a king at its head, its most important groups consisting of seven gods who "decree the fates" and fifty known as "the great gods."

Similarly, the Sumerian theologians arrived at what was for them a satisfying metaphysical inference to explain what keeps the cosmic entities and cultural phenomena, once created, operating continuously and hannoniously, without conflict and confusion. This is the concept designated by the Sumerian word "me", whose exact meaning is still uncertain. In general it would seem to denote a set of rules and regulations assigned to each cosmic entity and cultural phenomenon for the purpose of keeping it operating forever in accordance with the plans laid down by the deities creating it. These divine laws, rules, and regulations, according to the Sumerian philosophers, governed the universe from the days of its creation and kept it operating. In this case we have considerable direct evidence, particularly in regard to the "me's" governing man and his culture. One of the ancient Sumerian poets, in composing or redacting one of his myths, found it desirable to list all these cultural "me's". He therefore divided civilization as he knew it into over one hundred elements. Only sixty-odd of these elements are at present intelligible, and some are only bare words which, because of lack of context, give but a hint of their real significance. But enough remains to show the character and import of this first recorded attempt at culture analysis, resulting in a considerable list of what are now generally termed "culture traits and complexes." These consist of various institutions, priestly offices, ritualistic paraphernalia, mental and emotional attitudes, and sundry beliefs and dogmas.

The more intelligible portions of the list of "me's" in the exact order given by the ancient Sumerian writer himself: (1) lordship; (2) godship; (3 ) the exalted and enduring crown; (4) the throne of kingship; (5) the exalted Scepter; (6) the royal insignia; (7) the exalted shrine; (8) shepherdship; (9) kingship; (10) lasting ladyship; (11) "divine lady" (the priestly office); (12) ishib (the priestly office); (13) lumah (the priestly office); (14) gutug (the priestly office); (15) truth; (16) descent into the nether world; (17) ascent from the nether world; (18) kurgarnt (the eunuch); (19 ) girbadara (the eunuch); (20) sagursag (the eunuch); (21) the (battle) standard; (22) the flood; (23) weapons (?); (24) sexual intercourse; (25) prostitution; (26) law (?); (27) libel (?); (28) art; (29) the cult chamber; (30) "hierodule of heaven"; (31) gusilim (the musical instrument); (32) music; (33) eldership; (34) heroship; (35) power; (36) enmity; (37) straightforwardness; (38) the destruction of cities; (39) lamentation; (40) rejoicing of the heart; (41) falsehood; (42) the rebel land; (43) goodness; (44) justice; (45) art of woodworking; (46) art of metal working; (47) scribeship; (48) craft of the smith; (49) craft of the leatherworker; (50) craft of the builder; (51) craft of the basket weaver; (52) wisdom; (53) attention; (54) holy purification; (55) fear; (56) terror; (57) strife; (58) peace; (59) weariness; (60) victory; (61) counsel; (62) the troubled heart; (63) judgment; (64) decision; (65) lilis (the musical instrument); (66) ub (the musical instrument); (67) mesi (the musical instrument); (68) ala (the musical instrument).


Abisimti: Mother of Shu- Sin, king of Ur.
Abu: One of the deities fashioned by Ninhursag to heal one of Enki's sick organs.
Abzu: Sea, abyss; home of the water-god Enki.
Adab: An important city of Sumer, midway between Lagash and Nippur.
Agade: A city in northern Sumer founded by Sargon the Great, who made it his capital. For a short time it was the richest and most powerful city in the ancient world. According to Sumerian tradition, it was destroyed and laid waste during the reign of Naram- Sin, Sargon's grandson, and remained a city forever cursed. Following the reign of Sargon and his dynasty, the land known as Sumer was called "Sumer and Akkad" — Akkad being a variant pronunciation of Agade.
Agga: A ruler of the first dynasty of Kish, one the main protagonists in the epic "Gilgamesh and Agga."
Akkad: See Agade.
Akkadians: The Semitic inhabitants of Mesopotamia. The word is derived from the place name Akkad (so written in the Book of Genesis). Akkadian is the name of the Semitic language used by the people, the two main dialects of which are Assyrian and Babylonian.
ala: A musical instrument, probably the tambourine.
algar: A musical instrument, probably a type of lyre.
allari: A type of love song.
Ama-ushumgalanna: A byname of Dumuzi; literally it seems to mean "Mother-Dragon of Heaven." At times the name is written as Ushumgalanna.
An: The Sumerian heaven-god; the word means "heaven." In Akkadian the name is Anu.
Anshan: An Elamite city-state in southwestern Iran.
Antasurra: A district north of Lagash.
Anu: See An.
Anunna (also Anunnaki): A general name for a group of gods who were probably originally "heaven- gods"; some of them, however, must have fallen from grace and were carried off to the Nether World.
Anzu: Anzu is now known to be the real pronunciation of the name of the mythological bird known in the earlier literature as the Inrdugud bird.
Arali: One of the names of the Nether World.
Aratta: An as yet unidentified city in Iran, noted for its wealth of metal and stone; it may have been conquered and subjugated by Erech early in the third millennium
Asag: A vicious demon whom the god Ninurta slew in tire kur. See kur.
Ashnan: Grain-goddess, sister of Lahar. See Lahar.
Ashurbanipal: The last great king of Assyria who reigned during the seventh century B.C. His library at Nineveh was uncovered in the middle of the nineteenth century and most of its tablet collection is now in the British Museum.
Azimua (also Ninazimua): A deity fashioned by Ninhursag to heal Enki's ailing ami

Babylon: A city in northern Sumer which became the capital of the land early in the second millennium B.C. — hence the name Babylonia for the land first known as Sumer and later as Sumer and Akkad.
Badtibira: A city in southern Sumer, the legendary seat of one of Sumer's antediluvian dynasties. Its tutelary deity was Dumuzi whose temple was known as Emush and Emushkalamma.
balbale: A type of Sumerian song sometimes characterized by a dialogue between deities. ban: A measure of capacity, about a gallon and a fifth.
Bilalama: A mler of Eshnunna who may be the promulgator of the Law Code excavated at Hamral near Baghdad — Eshnuna is a city-state in northern Sumer that flourished in the first half of the second millennium B.C.
Blackheads (or Blackheaded people): An epithet of the Sumerians; its origin is obscure.

Dilmun: A still unidentified land, conceived by the Sumerians as a kind of Paradise.
Dimgal-abzu: A temple near the southern boundary of Lagash. dubban- reeds: Hedge-sized reeds.
Duku: Creation chamber of the gods.
Dumuzi (Biblical Tammuz): The shepherd- king of Erech who came to be known as the first mler to wed the goddess Inanna in a Sacred Marriage ceremony.
Dynasty of Akkad: Dynasty founded by Sargon the Great.

Eanna: Inanna's temple in Erech; its literal meaning is "House of An."
Eannatum: A ruler of Lagash who for a brief period reigned over all Sumer. edubba: "Tablet House," the designation of the Sumerian school or academy.
Ekishnugal: The temple of the moon- god Nanna-Sin at Ur.
Ekur: Enid's temple in Nippur, Sumer's holiest shrine; its literal meaning is "Mountain House."
Elam: The land to the east of Sumer and often in conflict with it.
Emesh: "Summer," one of the protagonists in the "Disputation Between Summer and Winter."
Emush (also Emushkalamma): Dumuzi's temple in Badtibira. See Badtibira.
en: "High priest" or "high priestess." The en was the spiritual head of the temple; his residence was the gipar, the shrine where the Sacred Marriage Rite may have taken place.
Enakalli: An ensi of Umma who made a treaty with Eannatum of Lagash. See ensi.
Enannatum: The brother of Eannatum.
Enheduanna: The daughter of Sargon the Great whom he appointed to be high priestess of Ur and who may have composed a number of literary works.
Eninnu: Ningirsu's temple in Lagash, rebuilt and restored by Gudea
Enki: The god of wisdom and of the sea and rivers, his main seat of worship was the "Sea- House" in Eridu.
Enkidu: The faithful servant and companion of the hero Gilgamesh.
Enkimdu: The "farmer," rival of the "shepherd" Durnuzi for the hand of Inanna.
Enlil: The leading deity of the Sumerian pantheon; the literal meaning of the name is "Lord Air"; his main seat of worship was Nippur with its temple the Ekur. Enmebaraggesi: One of the last mlers of the first dynasty of Kish and the father of Agga.
Enmerkar: One of the heroic mlers of the first dynasty of Kish, celebrated for his conquest of Aratta.
ensi: The Sumerian title for the mler of a city, who, at times, was as powerful as the king. In Akkadian this word became ishakku.
Enshag: The tutelary deity of Dilmun.
Ensuhkeshdanna (or Ensukushsiranna): A Lord of Aratta who challenged Enmerkar for first place in Inanna's affections, and lost.
Entemena: Son of Enannatum and nephew of Eannatum.
Enten: "Winter," one of the protagonists in the "Disputation Between Summer and Winter."
Erech (or Uruk): One of Sumer's leading cities; the capital of Sumer during its Heroic Age.
Ereshkigal: "Queen of the Great Below"; the goddess in charge of the Nether World.
Eridu: The city in southern Sumer whose tutelary deity was Enki. eshesh. A religious feast about which little is known at present.

gakkul: A special kind of lettuce.
galla: The cruel little demons of the Nether World.
gamgam: A bird as yet unidentified.
Gana-ugigga: Scene of a battle between Enannatum and Ur-Lumma. ganun: The sleeping chamber of the sun- god Utu.
Ganzir: A byname of the Nether World.
Geshtinanna: Dumuzi's self-sacrificing sister.
giguna: A grove- like shrine found in Sumer's more important temples. It is also the name of Inanna's temple at Zabalam.
Gilgamesh: A ruler of the first dynasty of Erech who came to be celebrated as Sumer's outstanding heroic figure. gipar. The part of the temple in which the en had his or her residence. gir: Perhaps "courier"; his death was mourned by an unnamed "maid."
Girsu: One of the quarters of the city-state of Lagash. gishban; gishban-sikin: Types of garments.
Gudea: The devout ensi of Lagash who rebuilt the Eninnu. See ensi.
Guedinna: The northernmost territory belonging to Lagash which the Ummaites tried to make then own. gug: An unidentified animal.
Gugalanna: "Great Bull of Heaven," the husband of Ereshkigal. gur: A measure of capacity equaling 144 sila. See sila.
Guti (or Gutians): A barbarous mountain people to the east that overwhelmed Sumer toward the end of the second millennium B.C.

Haiia: Husband of he goddess Nidaba.
Harnazi: See Shubur-Hamazi.
Hammurabi: The ruler of Babylon, famous for his Law Code.
Harmal: A relatively small site east of Baghdad which yielded many tablets, including the Eshnunna Law Code. hashur: A type of cedar tree.
Hendursag: The vizier of the goddess Nanshe. See Nanshe. huluppu: An as yet unidentified tree.
Hursag: "Highland," the mountainous region to the east of Sumer, so named by the god Ninurta.
Huwawa: The monster who guarded the cedars of the Land of the Living; he was slain by Gilgamesh and Enkidu.

Ibbi-Sin: The last ruler of the Third Dynasty of Ur, who was earned off into captivity by the Elamites.
Idal: A misread name to be eliminated.
Iddin-Dagan: The third ruler of the Dynasty of Ism, which followed the Third Dynasty of Ur; one of the documents from his reign is quite significant for the Sacred Marriage Rite.
Idnun: A canal in southern Sumer.
II: An ensi of Umma.
ildag: An as yet unidentified tree.
Imdugud: See Anzu.
Inanna: The goddess of love, fertility, and procreation who was the tutelary deity of Erech and the principal protagonist of the Sacred Marriage Rite; literally her name means "Queen of Heaven." Her Semitic name was Ishtar.
irina: An as yet unidentified tree.
ishakku: See ensi.
ishib: A purification priest.
Ishkur: The deity in charge of rain.
Ishme-Dagan: Son of Iddin-Dagan, who was the savior of Nippur.
Ishtar: See Inanna.
Isimud: Enki's vizier.
Isin: The city that became the capital of Sumer after the fall of the Third Dynasty of Ur. itirda: A kind of milk.

Kabta: A minor deity in charge of the brickmold.
kalatur (or kalaturru ): A sexless devotee of the goddess Inanna; a mythological being created by Enki to help revive Inanna in the Nether World.
Karu: A measure of capacity equaling 3600 sila. See sila.
Kesh: A twin city of Adab.
Ki: Mother Earth.
Kish: Sumer's first capital after the Flood. kisim: A kind of milk.
kiur: Part of a temple and particularly of the Ekur in Nippur.
Kubatum: A lukur of Shu-Sin; a necklace presented her by the king; excavated in Erech.
Kuli-Enlil: "Friend of Enlil," an epithet of Dumuzi.
Kullab: Twin city of Erech.
kur: Principal meaning "mountain"; the word also designates the cosmic realm below the earth as well as the Nether World. kurgarra (or kurgarru): A sexless devotee of the goddess Inanna, companion to the kalatur. See kalatur. kusu: An epithet of the goddess Ashnan, whose meaning is uncertain.

Lagash: A city in southern Sumer, the first Sumerian city to be excavated to a significant extent. lahama: A type of sea monster.
Lahar: Cattle goddess, the sister of Ashnan.
Larak: One of Sumer's antediluvian capitals; perhaps near Isin.
Larsa: The principal seat of worship of the sun-god Utu; a capital of Sumer in the early second millennium B.C.
Latarak: See Lulal. lilis: A kettledrum.
Lilith: A female demon.
Lipit-lshtar: A mler of the Isin Dynasty whose Law Code has been recovered in large part.
Lisin: A Sumerian mater dolorosa.
Ludingirra: Presumed author of the "Ideal Mother" poem, and of two elegies.
Lugalbanda: One of the heroic kings of the First Dynasty of Erech, who was later deified.
Lugalzaggesi: A king of Umma who defeated Urukagina of Lagash and was later vanquished by Sargon the Great. lukur: A priestess and devotee of Inanna who may have represented the goddess in the Sacred Marriage Rite.
Lulal: A god of Badtibira, the son of Inanna (the name was misread as Latarak). lumah: An important priest whose fimctions are still unknown.

Magan: A country whose location is still uncertain; perhaps Egypt.
magur. A type of boat.
magilum: A word of unknown meaning.
mah: A priest whose functions are unknown.
Marduk: The leading deity of the Babylonian pantheon.
Marhashi: A city-state in western Iran. mashgur: An as yet unidentified tree.
Mashgula: One of Nidaba's shepherds. mashmash: An exorcist.
me: The divine rules and regulations that keep the universe operating as planned. melam: Divine awe-inspiring radiance.
Meluhha: A country whose location is still unknown; perhaps Ethiopia. mes: An as yet unidentified tree.
Mesilim: A mler of Kish who arbitrated a dispute between Lagash and Umma.
Meslamtaea: Another name for Nergal. See Nergal.
mikku: An unidentified object that fell into the Nether World to the dismay of Gilgamesh. mina: A measure of weight, roughly equal to a pound.
Mushdamma: A minor deity in charge of building and construction. mushhush: A mythological serpent or dragon.

Namhani: A mler of Lagash defeated by Ur-Nammu.
Namennaduma: The vizier of Enmerkar.
Nammu: The goddess in charge of the primeval sea; the mother of Enki.
Namtar: "Fate" or "Death"; a Nether World demon.
Nanibgal: An epithet of Nidaba of uncertain meaning.
Nanna: The Sumerian name of the moon-god whose Semitic name is Sin; he was tutelary deity of Ur and the father of Inanna. Nanna was also the name of Ludingirra's father. See Ludingirra.
Naram-Sin: Grandson of Sargon the Great, the defiler of the Ekur.
Nanshe (or Nazi): A goddess of Lagash in charge of moral conduct.
Nawirtum: Ludingirra's wife.
Nergal: King of the Nether World.
Neti: Chief gatekeeper of the Nether World.
Nidaba: The goddess in charge of writing and literature.
Ninazimua: SeeAzimua.
Ninazu: A Nether World deity.
Nineagal: "Queen of the Palace," an epithet often applied to Inanna.
Ningal: The spouse of the moon-godNanna and the mother of Inanna.
Ningirsu: The son of Enlil and tutelary deity of Lagash.
Ninhursag: "Queen of the Highland"; the Sumerian mother- goddess also known as Nintu, "The Birth-giving Queen," and Ninmah, "The Noble Queen."
Ninisinna: The tutelary deity of Isin, one of Sumer's "weeping goddesses."
Ninkasi: Sumerian goddess of strong drink, fashioned by Ninhursag to heal Enki's ailing mouth.
Ninkilim: Deity in charge of field mice and vennin.
Ninkun'a: Dilmun deity engendered by Enki.
Ninlil: Faithful spouse of Enlil. See Nunbirdu.
Ninmah: See Ninhursag.
Ninmu: Dilmun deity engendered by Enki.
Ninmug: Dilmun deity engendered by Enid.
Ninshubur: Inanna's faithful vizier.
Ninsun: The spouse of the deified Lugalbanda, and divine mother of the rulers of the Third Dynasty of Ur.
Ninti: "Lady of the Rib," or "Lady Who Makes Live"; the goddess fashioned by Ninhursag to heal Enki's ailing rib.
Nintu: See Ninhursag.
Nintulla: The goddess fashioned by Ninhursag to heal Enki's ailing jaw.
Ninurta: A son of Enlil in charge of the South Wind; a storm and warrior god also known as the "Farmer of Enlil."
Nippur: Sumer's holiest city, seat of its leading deity, Enlil. Nippur was the home of one of the great academies of Sumer, and most of the literary tablets excavated to date come from its scribal quarter.
Nudimmud: A byname of Enki.
numun (or shumun ): Rushes carried by the weeping mother searching for her lost son.
Nunnamnir: A byname of Enlil.
Nunbarshegunu: Mother of Ninlil and mother- h- law of Enlil.
Nunbirdu: A canal bounding Nippur on the northwest: scene of the rape of Ninlil. nunuz-stones: Probably egg-shaped stones.
Nusku: Enil's faithful vizier.

pala: A queenly garment worn by Inanna.
pukku: An unidentified object which like the mikku fell into the Nether World.

Rim-Sin: A ruler of Larsa who put an end to the Dynasty of Isin.

Sagburru: The old crone who outwitted the mashmash. See mashmash. sagursag: A devotee of Inanna, probably a castrate. sanger. A high temple administrator.
Sargon: One of the great rulers of the ancient world; founder of the city of Agade and of the Dynasty of Akkad.
Sataran: A deity who arbitrated complaints. shabra: A high temple official. shagan: A type of vessel. shakkir: An as yet unidentified plant.
Shara: Son of Inanna; tutelary deity of Umma. sham: An unidentified stone.
Sharur: Ninurta's personified weapon.
Shat-Istar: Ludingirra's idealized mother. shatammu: An official in the ensi's entourage. shekel: A sixtieth of a mina. See mina. shesh: An unidentified type of grain.
sheshgal: "Big Brother"; assistant to the teacher in the edubba.
shuba: A semiprecious stone; perhaps also name of highland region in Iran.
Shubur-Hamazi: Lands to the north and northeast of Sumer. shugurra: A turban- like crown worn by Inanna.
Shukalletuda: The gardener who raped Inanna. shuknr-reeds: Small reeds the size of a lance head.
Shulgi: One of the great kings of the ancient world; a patron of literature and music.
Shulutul: The personal god of the rulers of Lagash. shumun: See numun.
shunumun: Name of a month corresponding roughly to April-May.
Shuruppak: A city in south-central Sumer; home of the Sumerian "Noah." shushima: A type of reed.
shushua: A type of reed earned by the weeping mother searching for her son.
Shu-Sin: Son of Shulgi; main protagonist in a number of love songs. sila: A measure of capacity; about one fifth of a gallon.
Sin: The Semitic name of the moon-god Nanna.
Sippar: A city in northern Sumer; the seat of one of Sumer's antediluvian cities.
Subarians: The people that inhabited the land Shubur.
Su-people: An unidentified people who, together with the Elamites, put an end to the Third Dynasty of Ur.
Sumugan: A god in charge of the steppe and its animals.

Tammuz: See Durnuzi.
Third Dynasty of Ur: The dynasty of approximately 2050-1950 B.C., which inspired a Sumerian renaissance.
Tidnum: A Semitic land west of Sumer.
tigi: Sweet songs probably accompanied by a lyre.

ub: A small drum.
Ugarit: A city-state near the Mediterranean coast where tablets written in alphabetic cuneiform were excavated by a French expedition.
Umma: A city-state neighboring Lagash and almost constantly at war with it. ummia: Sage, savant; head of a Sumerian edubbci.
Unun: A canal in the vicinity of Erech.
Ur: One of the most important cities of Sumer and three times its capital.
Uredinna: One of Nidaba's shepherds.
Ur-Lumma: An ensi of Umma.
Ur-Nammu: Founder of the Third Dynasty of Ur.
Ur-Nanshe: Founder of an ambitious Lagash dynasty.
Ur-Ninurta: The fifth mler of the Isin dynasty.
Urukagina: A mler of Lagash; the first social refonner in recorded history. urnru: A type of chant.
Usaw: God of dusk/twilight.
Ush: An ishakku of Umma who violated a treaty between Lagash and Umma.
Ushumgalanna: See Ama-ushumgalanna.
Utanapishtim: The Semitic name of Ziusudra, the Sumerian Flood hero.
Uttu: Goddess of weaving.
Utu: The sun- god who had temples in Larsa and Sippar.

Zabalam: A city immediately north of Umma, where Inanna had a temple.
Zabu: A still unidentified locality in western Iran.
ziggurat: The stage- tower of temples that became a hallmark of Sumerian architecture.