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The Doom of Aratta

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In ancient times before the days were named; Inana, the Eight-Pointed Star, Queen of All Lands, in her travels over the land, cast her gaze upon Aratta. Aratta, Lapis Lazuli of the Zubi mountains. She found it to her pleasing. The Lord of Aratta, En-suhgir-ana, Bright Jewel of the Lapis Lazuli she found to her liking. She said to him, “Build for me a sacred house and I will make my dwelling there.”

Lord En-suhgir-ana stood before her as a tall tamarisk, “Divine Inana, how are we to build a place for you of gold and brick? You whose dwelling place is the entire world?”

He called together his smiths; he called the chief gold-fashioner: “Make for me a bright crown that I may honor Inana the One of Many Blessings.” He offered his crown to Inana and it pleased her. Inana took his praise as her offering and placed the golden crown on his head.

As the seasons passed En-suhgir-ana’s black hair turned the shade of silver from the lode. The silver of his tongue faded. Wandering Star Inana grew restless as she cycled over the land. She came upon the city Unug. The Lord Enmerkar with the countenance of a young lion pleased her. Warm-Thighed Inana whispered to him, “Build for me a great house and I will make my dwelling here.”

Enmerkar bent low before her like a reed in the wind. Guile filled his heart as he spoke. “I will fashion a place worthy of you if only I had the hands and materials.”

Inana considered this, “Then let Aratta provide the hands and precious stones to crown my holy abode.”

Enmerkar sent an envoy to Aratta to convince its Lord to submit. No matter the challenges and riddles Aratta answered, “I will not submit to your yoke.”

And like a bull at the height of spring the Lord of Aratta driven by jealous rage, strode into his palace, where upon the holy bed sat Inana. En-sughir-ana cast down the golden crown. As a wild bull fighting the yoke he bellowed, “Flee back to Unug and spread yourself as bitch in heat does, for the cur Enmerkar!”

Wandering Eyed Inana fixed her gaze upon him. “Lord of the Prideful! King of the Foolish! God of the Unwise!”

En-sughir-ana laughed, bitterness filling his heart, “What weapons are left to me? Wisdom and justice too have abandoned the city. Nisaba and Enki sit with you in Unug plotting against Aratta.”

Inana shouted: “You cast aside wisdom and cleverness to take up arrogance as your shield and pride as your spear! It will destroy you!”

He shook his head. “I am a mere mortal. Only the gods unfashion what they have created. Only you can destroy me and my city. ”

Inana the Devouring Lioness bared her teeth at him, “I will.”

En-suhgir-ana called together his priests and advisors. The Lord of Aratta, En-suhgir-ana, Betrayed of Inana summoned the purification priests, the low priests, and the temple attendants with their drums and tambourines. “Compose a song that tells how Two--Faced Inana stole away with the blessings, wail of the doom that comes when the Fate demons descend and the gods flee, scattering destruction in their wake as frightened doves leave their dung on the war chariots.”

The chief advisors and priests bemoaned the fate of the city. Minister Ansiga-ria bewailed the doom of Aratta. So it was that the first lament was sung.

The gods decided the city’s doom. An, Inana, and Enlil have decreed the doom of Aratta. Its fate as fixed as the heavenly star.

Horror covered the land. The foundations of the mountains shook, raining down stone upon the cities. Susin and Ansan fell like birds struck by slingers’ stones. The army of Unug picked clean the cities like carrion birds. Inana unleashed the lions upon the land. Sheep in the sheepfold dashed their brains in terror. The cows in the cow pens dried up as desert pools shrink in the sun.

The fields that fed Aratta starved. Dust and dung were the peoples’ only sustenance. Angrily they cried out, “How are we to bake dust into bread?” Briars that hemmed in Unug’s army, glistening Inana’s soldiers, withered beneath brother Utu’s fierce gaze. The waters from the sacred pools fled before Enki as before a storm.

Wives were dry-eyed as their husbands were driven away like cattle. Infants turned from their mothers’ breasts. Men threw down their weapons when Enmerkar’s far-sighted troops laid eyes on their young girls. Blessed were the stillborn that knew no separation, only the milk and honey in the Netherworld.

Before the great gatepost Nanse, Mother of Mothers, Protector of the Poor, stood weeping, “How long will the Great Mountain shake the foundations of Aratta? How long will the Lady of Battle dance upon corpses?” She too fled in her grief.

The King-to-Be of Unug cut down the Tamarisk trees. Lugalbanda wielding his axe cut down the lone Tamarisk by the sacred pools. They beat it against the great lapis gate. Inana gave her strength to arms of Unug’s soldiers.

Utu blinded the soldiers of Aratta. He hefted his shining spear and thrust it into the eyes of the archers. Inana, Lady of Battle, Wielder of the Divine Powers crushed the heads of its’ defenders. Aratta’s bright brick and shining tin walls rusted with blood, the lapis gate cracked like marrow. Bodies were heaped up as slag from an ore mine.

They carried away the sacred bed. They carried away the priests to serve the goddess in a foreign land. The metal smiths were taken away to build for those in an alien place. The gold and the silver, the blue lapis were carried off to adorn Inana’s holy temple in Unug.

The Lord of Aratta sat in his palace, tongue stilled. En-sughir-ana garbed in gold, crowned with lapis lazuli sat in mute horror. His advisors cowered in terror before roaring Inana. They mocked his silence, “Do you have no words to save us?” Ansiga-ria tore the hem of En-sughir-ana’s robe, “Bend your will to the yoke for the sake of our city!”

The proud Lord lowered his eyes to his chief minister. En-sughir-ana gazed in sorrow at Ansiga-ria. “We are mere mortals. Only the gods unfashion what they have fashioned.”

Proud En-sughir-ana sat upon his throne as Dumuzid was said to do in the old stories. He sat even as the She-Lioness approached. So it was the doom of the city, the fate of Aratta—as Dumuzid was cast down, so was the proud Lord and his city, never to rise again.