The Sumerian Sacred Marriage in the Light of Comparative Evidence

Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project, 2004 - 309 ˹

The primary purpose of this study is to increase understanding of Sumerian sacred marriage by approaching it from a comparative perspective. More generally, it is hoped that the study will illustrate the fruitfulness of the comparative approach for the study of Sumerian religion and royal ideology and that it will prove useful to the other fields of study whose sources were used as the comparative evidence.

The comparative evidence includes sources from six different fields of study: Assyriology (first and second millennium love lyrics and rituals), Biblical studies (The Song of Songs), Classics (Graeco-Roman philosophies, Chaldean Oracles), Gnostic studies, Jewish mysticism (Kabbalah) and Indology (Hindu rites and myths). Ancient Egyptian and Ugaritic evidence is also used.

Part One of the study presents and analyzes the primary evidence for the Sumerian sacred marriage, starting with the Sumerian love song corpus, also known as the Dumuzi-Inanna (DI) love songs. In addition to the love song corpus, the evidence discussed in Part One includes second millennium literary texts and royal inscriptions referring to a marital relationship between the ruling king and Inanna/Istar.

Part Two analyzes and discusses the constituent elements of the Sumerian sacred marriage (the actors of the marriage, and the timing and scene of the related ritual). At this point, some comparison with the parallel material is inevitable.

Part Three presents the comparative evidence and a detailed analysis of the thematic elements shared by the different traditions. This section also includes a discussion of the concept of the soul in Mesopotamia and in other parts of the ancient world. Concepts of the Netherworld and afterlife in Mesopotamia are also examined.


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The Evidence
Constituents of the Sumerian Sacred Marriage

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