Etana was an ancient, legendary Sumerian king of the city of Kish, and was, according to the Sumerian king list, one of the kings who reigned after the deluge. He is listed as the successor of “Arwium, the son of Mashda“, as king of Kish. The list also calls Etana “the shepherd, who ascended to heaven and consolidated all the foreign countries”, and states that he ruled 1560 years (some copies read 635) before being succeeded by Balih, said to have ruled 400 years.
Myth of Etana
A Babylonian legend says that Etana was desperate to have a child, until one day he helped to save an eagle from starving, who then took him up into the sky to find the plant of birth. This led to the birth of his son, Balih.
In the detailed form of the legend, there is a tree with the eagle’s nest at the top, and a serpent at the base. Both the serpent and eagle have promised Utu (the sun god) to behave well toward one another, and they share food with their children.
But one day, the eagle eats the serpent’s children. The serpent comes back and cries. Utu tells the serpent to hide inside of the stomach of a dead bull. The eagle goes down to eat the bull. The serpent captures the eagle, and throws him into a pit to die of hunger and thirst. Utu sends a man, Etana, to help the eagle. Etana saves the eagle, but he also asks the bird to find the plant of birth, in order to become father of a son. The eagle takes Etana up to the heaven of the god Anu, but Etana becomes afraid in the air and he goes back to the ground. He makes another attempt, and finds the plant of birth, enabling him to have Balih.
So far, three versions of different language have been found. The Old Babylonian version comes from Susa and Tell Harmal. The Middle Assyrian version comes from Assur. The Standard version is from Nineveh (Dalley 189).
King of Kish, in Sumer. The gods asked him if he wanted to journey to Anu’s heavenly abode to ask Anu for eternal life. He came 500 years before Gilgamesh, around 3400 B.C.
“Balih, the son of Etana, ruled 400 years;…”
Balih of Kish was the fourteenth Sumerian king in the First Dynasty of Kish (after ca. 2900 BC), according to the Sumerian king list.
He was a Sumerian king who followed Etana, his father to the throne of Kish. After the reign of twenty-three kings in Kish, “Kingship was removed to the E.Anna”, the temple of Anu in Uruk (/ Biblical Erech). In Uruk, the city of Anu, a demigod dynasty began with the son of god Utu / Shamash, Meskiaggasher.
Etana King of Sumer
after ca. 2900 BC
En-me-nuna Ensi of Kish
after ca. 2900 BC
Ngushur of Kish was the first post-diluvian king of Sumer, establishing the First Dynasty of Kish, according to the Sumerian king list. He thus marks the beginning of the Early Dynastic Period of Sumer, corresponding to about the Early Bronze Age II or roughly the 29th century BC.
Ubara-Tutu of Shuruppak
King of Sumer
after ca. 2900 BC
Ensi of Kish
after ca. 2900 BC
(Kug-Bau) Kububa, holding a pomegranate (or poppy) in her right hand and a mirror in her left
Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara, Turkey
Ku-Bau, the innkeeper, “she who made firm the foundations of Kish”, ruled for 100 years as ‘king’ before Kish was defeated and its kingship carried off to Akshak.
Kubaba (in the Weidner or Esagila Chronicle; Sumerian: Kug-Bau) is the only queen on the Sumerian king list, which states she reigned for 100 years — roughly in the “Early Dynastic III” period (ca. 2500-2330 BC) of Sumerian history. Most versions of the king list place her alone in her own dynasty, the 3rd Dynasty of Kish, following the defeat of Sharrumiter of Mari, but other versions combine her with the 4th dynasty, that followed the primacy of the king of Akshak. Before becoming monarch, the king list says she was a tavern-keeper.
The Weidner Chronicle is a propagandistic letter , attempting to predate the shrine of Marduk there to an early period, and purporting to show that each of the kings who had neglected its proper rites had lost the primacy of Sumer. It contains a brief account of rise of “the house of Kubaba” occurring in the reign of Puzur-Nirah of Akshak:
“In the reign of Puzur-Nirah, king of Akšak,
the freshwater fishermen of Esagila were catching fish
for the meal of the great lord Marduk;
the officers of the king took away the fish.
The fisherman was fishing when 7 (or 8) days had passed
[…] in the house of Kubaba, the tavern-keeper
[…] they brought to Esagila.
At that time BROKEN anew for Esagila […]
Kubaba gave bread to the fisherman and gave water,
she made him offer the fish to Esagila.
Marduk, the king, the prince of the Apsû,
favored her and said: “Let it be so!”
He entrusted to Kubaba, the tavern-keeper,
sovereignty over the whole world.”
Shrines in her honour spread throughout Mesopotamia. In the Hurrian area she may be identified with Kebat, or Hepat, one title of the Hurrian Mother Goddess Hannahannah (from Hurrian hannah, “mother”). Abdi-Kheba (= the servant of Kheba), was the palace mayor, ruling Jerusalem at the time of the Amarna letters (1350 BC).
A Roman sculpture dedicated to “Cybebe”, but interpreted by modern scholars instead as Cybele.
Kubaba became the tutelary goddess who protected the ancient Syrian city of Carchemish on the upper Euphrates, in the late Hurrian – Early Hittite period. Relief carvings, now at the Museum of Anatolian Antiquities, Ankara, show her seated, wearing a cylindrical headdress like the polos and holding a circular mirror in one hand and the poppy capsule or pomegranate in the other. She plays a role in Luwian texts, and a minor role in Hittite texts, mainly in Hurrian religious rituals.
According to Mark Munn (Munn 2004), her cult later spread and her name was adapted for the main goddess of the Hittite successor-kingdoms in Anatolia, which later developed into the Phrygian matar (mother) or matar kubileya whose image with inscriptions appear in rock-cut sculptures.
Her Lydian name was Kuvav or Kufav which Ionian Greeks transcribed Kybêbê, not Kybele; Jan Bremmer notes in this context the seventh-century Semonides, who calls one of her Hellene followers a kybêbos, and he observes that in the following century she has been further Hellenized by Hipponax as “Kybêbê, daughter of Zeus”. The Phrygian goddess otherwise bears little resemblance to Kubaba, who was a sovereign deity at Sardis, known to Greeks as Kybebe.
En-shag-kush-ana of Uruk Queen of Sumer
ca. 25th century BC
King of Ashak
(unknown) Ruler of Kish
ca. 25th century BC
“Ur-Zababa, son of Puzur-Sin, ruled 400 years;…”
Ur-Zababa is listed on the Sumerian king list as the second king in the 4th Dynasty of Kish, the son of Puzur-Suen and the grandson of Kug-Bau. The king list also says Sargon of Akkad was a cup-bearer for Ur-Zababa before becoming king of Akkad.
Puzur-Suen Ensi of Kish
ca. 2300 BC
GILGAMESH AND KING AKKA OF KISH
LINES 1 – 60
MS in Neo Sumerian on clay, Babylonia, ca. 18th c. BC, 1 tablet, 14,5×5,5 cm, single column, 60 lines in cuneiform script.
Context: In line 25 there is a possible, much earlier parallel from ca. 2600 BC, in MS 1952/37. There would possibly have been a companion tablet with the remaining lines, 61-114 of this work.
For 5 of the 6 Sumerian forerunners of the Gilgamesh Epic, see MSS 2652/1-2, 2887, 3026, 3027 and 3361.
Commentary: There are two literary traditions concerning the war between Kish and Uruk, the present and Shulgi Hymn O, taking up themes from other tales, such as Gilgamesh in the Cedar forest, and Gilgamesh and the Bull of Heaven, eventually melting together in the famous Epic of Gilgamesh.