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Love, Sex and Desire in the Ancient World. Love at the Beginning of Civilization The Geography of Mesopotamia. SUMER: The First Civilization. Sumerian Writing c. 3100-2800 = Protoliterate period pictographic writing c. 2800 = Literate period begins syllabic writing. Key Terms cuneiform.

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Love sex and desire in the ancient world

Love, Sex and Desirein the Ancient World

Love at the beginning of civilization the geography of mesopotamia
Love at the Beginning of CivilizationThe Geography of Mesopotamia

Sumer the first civilization
SUMER: The First Civilization

  • Sumerian Writing

    • c. 3100-2800 = Protoliterate period

      • pictographic writing

    • c. 2800 = Literate period begins

      • syllabic writing

Key Terms


Early dynastic period c 2800 2350 bce
Early Dynastic Period c. 2800-2350 BCE

  • Power and Politics

  • Classes of Society

  • Warfare

Key Terms


Akkadian empire c 2334 2100 bce
Akkadian Empire c. 2334-2100 BCE

  • Origins

  • Sargon of Akkad (2334-2279)

  • Literature

Key Terms


Akkadian Empire

Sargon of Akkad


Stela of Naram-Sin

Sargon of akkad
Sargon of Akkad

  • “I am Sargon, the great king, the king of Akkad. My mother was a high priestess, my father I did not know. The brothers of my father dwelled in the hills. My city is Azupiranu, which is situated on the banks of the Euphrates. My mother the high priestess conceived me, in secret she bore me. She set me in a reed basket, with bitumen she sealed my lid. She cast me into the river from where I could not get out. The river bore me up and carried me to Akki, the drawer of water. Aqqi, the drawer of water, brought me up as he dipped his basket. Aqqi, the drawer of water, took me as his adopted son. Aqqi, the drawer of water, appointed me as his gardener. While I was a gardener, Ishtar granted me her love, and for 55 years I exercised kingship.” –The Birth Legend of Sargon.

Old babylonian empire c 1894 1595 bce
Old Babylonian Empire c. 1894-1595 BCE

  • Origins

  • Hammurabi (1792-1750)

Key Terms



Excerpts of hammurabi s code
Excerpts of Hammurabi’s Code

  • If any one brings an accusation against a man, and the accused goes to the river and leaps into the river, if he sinks in the river his accuser shall take possession of his house. But if the river proves that the accused is not guilty, and he escapes unhurt, then he who had brought the accusation shall be put to death, while he who leaped into the river shall take possession of the house that had belonged to his accuser.

  • If any one brings an accusation of any crime before the elders, and does not prove what he has charged, he shall, if it be a capital offense charged, be put to death.

  • If any one is committing a robbery and is caught, then he shall be put to death.

  • If any one "points the finger" (slander) at a sister of a god or the wife of anyone, and cannot prove it, this man shall be taken before the judges and his brow shall be marked.

  • If a man takes a woman to wife, but has no intercourse with her, this woman is no wife to him.

  • If a man's wife is surprised with another man, both shall be tied and thrown into the water, but the husband may pardon his wife and the king his slaves.

  • If a man brings a charge against one's wife, but she is not surprised with another man, she must take an oath and then may return to her house.

More excerpts
More excerpts…

  • If the "finger is pointed" at a man's wife about another man, but she is not caught sleeping with the other man, she shall jump into the river for her husband.

  • If a man wishes to separate from a woman who has borne him children, or from his wife who has borne him children: then he shall give that wife her dowry, and a part of the usufruct of field, garden, and property, so that she can rear her children. When she has brought up her children, a portion of all that is given to the children, equal as that of one son, shall be given to her. She may then marry the man of her heart.

  • If a man wishes to separate from his wife who has borne him no children, he shall give her the amount of her purchase money and the dowry which she brought from her father's house, and let her go.

  • If a man's wife, who lives in his house, wishes to leave it, plunges into debt, tries to ruin her house, neglects her husband, and is judicially convicted: if her husband offers her release, she may go on her way, and he gives her nothing as a gift of release. If her husband does not wish to release her, and if he take another wife, she shall remain as servant in her husband's house.

  • If a woman quarrels with her husband, and says: "You are not congenial to me," the reasons for her prejudice must be presented. If she is guiltless, and there is no fault on her part, but he leaves and neglects her, then no guilt attaches to this woman, she shall take her dowry and go back to her father's house.

And a few more
…and a few more…

  • If she is not innocent, but leaves her husband, and ruins her house, neglecting her husband, this woman shall be cast into the water.

  • If a man takes a wife and this woman gives her husband a maid-servant, and she bears him children, but this man wishes to take another wife, this shall not be permitted to him; he shall not take a second wife.

  • If a man takes a wife, and she bears him no children, and he intends to take another wife: if he takes this second wife, and brings her into the house, this second wife shall not be allowed equality with his wife.

  • If a man puts out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out.

  • If a man knocks out the teeth of his equal, his teeth shall be knocked out.

  • If a builder builds a house for someone, and does not construct it properly, and the house which he built falls in and kills its owner, then that builder shall be put to death.

  • If a slave says to his master: "You are not my master," if they convict him his master shall cut off his ear.

Mesopotamian culture
Mesopotamian Culture

  • Religion

    • Gods

    • Images

    • Sacrifices

    • Priests

  • Old Babylonian Literature

Key Terms



The cosmological articulation of sexuality
The Cosmological Articulation of Sexuality

  • From “The Disputation Between Wood and Reed”:

    • “The Great Earth (Ki) made herself glorious, her body flourished with greenery.

      Wide Earth put on silver metal and lapis-lazuli ornaments,

      Adorned herself with diorite, chalcedony, cornelian, and diamonds.

      Sky (An) covered the pasture with [irresistible] sexual attraction, presented himself in majesty,

      The pure young woman (Earth) showed herself to the pure Sky,

      The vast Sky copulated with the wide Earth,

      The seed of the heroes Wood and Reed he ejaculated into her womb.

      The Earth, the good cow, received the good seed of Sky in her womb.

      The Earth, for the happy birth of the plants of Life, presented herself.”

Key Terms


Sexuality and civilization
Sexuality and Civilization

  • The Domestication of Enkidu in The Epic of Gilgamesh

Key Terms



Masculine sexuality in sumerian literature
Masculine Sexuality in Sumerian Literature

  • “Enki and the World Order”

    • “After Father Enki lifted his eyes over the Euphrates,

      He stood up full of lust like an attacking bull,

      Lifted his penis, ejaculated,

      Filled the [Euphrates] with flowing water.”

    • “He lifted his penis, he brought the bridal gifts,

      Like a great wild bull he thrilled the heart of the Tigris, [stood by] as it gave birth.”

Key Terms


  • “The Myth of Enlil and Ninlil”

    • In those days did the mother who gave her birth advise the girl, Ninbarshegunu advised Ninlil: May you not, O woman, bathe in the pure canal, in the pure canal, may you not O Ninlil, come stepping back unto the bank of Nunbirdu! He who is all bright eyes, will be laying eyes upon you, the great mountain, Father Enlil, who is all bright eyes, will be laying eyes upon you, the shepherd, the decision maker, who is all bright eyes, will be laying eyes upon you. Forthwith that penis will come burgeoning, he will be kissing you and, happy, will gladly leave with you the glorious sperm

      filled into the womb.

  • “The Myth of Enlil and Ninlil” (cont’d)

    • He who is all bright eyes, the master, who is all bright eyes, laid eyes upon her, the great mountain, Father Enlil, who is all bright eyes, laid eyes upon her, the shepherd, the decision maker, who is all bright eyes, laid eyes upon her: "Let me make love with you!" he was saying to her, but was not thereby able to make her agree to it. "Let me kiss you!" Enlil was saying to her, but was not thereby able to make her agree to it. "My parts are little, know not how to stretch, my lips are little, know not how to kiss! If my mother learned about it she would be slapping my hand, if my father learned about it, he would be grabbing hold of me harshly, and it would not be for me, now, to tell my girlfriend, I should be drying up on her!

  • As he was hugging her he held her hands, followed the urge to kiss those lips; and she for her part was making lie up next to him the bottom and the little moist place. He followed the urge to make that love, followed the urge to kiss those lips, and at his first making love, at his first kiss, he poured into the womb for her the sperm, germ of Suen the moon, the bright lone divine traveler!

Key Terms



Feminine sexuality in sumerian literature
Feminine Sexuality in Sumerian Literature

  • Inanna and Dumuzi

    • The Bridal Songs

    • Other Songs

Key Terms




Basic paradigm for literary analysis
Basic Paradigm for Literary Analysis

  • A. plot/narrative/story/action

    • 1. beginning, middle, end

    • 2. climax/ denouement

    • 3. interlude

  • B. character

    • 1. name

    • 2. type: gender/age/class/profession/family ties/community and cultural ties

    • 3. physical appearance: body and clothing

    • 4. interior qualities: personality, emotions, ethical standards

    • 5. change [through the action]

    • 6. relationships

  • C. setting

    • 1. time: historical period; movement through time

    • 2. space: geography, places; travel

  • D. theme

    • 1. abstract idea, polarity

    • 2. didactic moral

  • E. language

    • 1. sound effects

    • 2. style: register, unit lengths, repetition and variation [parallel and balance]

    • 3. symbol

    • 4. figures of speech

    • 5. irony

    • 6. allusion

Questions for discussion
Questions for discussion

  • In poem B, there are two speakers, the boy and the girl. Can you identify who is saying what? What metaphors are being used here?

  • What is the basic procedure of the wedding-day rite, according to the texts C, H (segment B), and T?

  • According to the songs (D, H [segment A], I, J, Y), were young persons of both sexes able to meet in public and form romantic attachments?

  • What is Dumuzi trying to do in poem B1?

  • What connection is there between Inanna and Dumuzi’s sexual relationship and divine blessings (D1)?

  • What is going on in “Dumuzid and Enkimdu”? What light does the poem shed on this society?