The story of Etana, an antediluvian king who ascended to heaven to make a plea of great significance, is arguably one of the most fascinating myths of ancient Sumeria. What was that for, exactly? What happened on this historic journey? Let’s take a look at the history.
Etana and the list of Sumerian Kings
The gods designated Etana as the first king of Kish in the Sumerian King List, and he was tasked with restoring order and authority among humans. Under the authority of the gods who had developed conceptions of monarchy and government in humanity, he was regarded as “the one who stabilized the lands.”
Etana came to love and trust the gods who were beyond her station as a result of her encounters. What happened that caused Etana to draw some important conclusions? Let’s take a look at what this king’s wish was and what he did to make it a reality.
The legend of Etana
The story starts with the creation and foundation of Kish, a massive city for which the gods wanted a worthy ruler. Finally, Ishtar / Innana (the goddess of marriage, fertility, and war in Sumerian mythology) selected Etana to be the king and emperor. According to legend, an eagle and a snake existed in the roots of a tree near the sanctuary.
Both have offspring as time progresses, but the hawk, in a cruel act, devours the serpent’s children and flees. Shamash, the sun god, orders the serpent to avenge the eagle as a punishment.
When the eagle is alone and powerless, he appeals to Shamash, who dispatches Etana to assist him. Etana looks after the creature, and the two become fast friends. And the eagle has the ability to decipher the king’s visions.
The myth or legend of Etana tells of a Sumerian king who ascended ‘to heaven’ to ask the gods for the Birth Plant and, as a result, had a child. As a result, the eagle advises Etana to make this journey to the heights a reality.
The king freaks out and begs the eagle to return him to Earth, so Etana listens to the eagle’s advice and they continue their trip to heaven. “I looked at Earth but did not see it!” he shouts as he fell. My eyes couldn’t take in the vastness of the ocean! I’m not going to heaven; I’m going back to my hometown!”
Etana and his wife, on the other hand, dream of returning to heaven, so the eagle confirms that the gods are giving him another chance. As a result, Etana and the eagle try again to enter the heavens and challenge the gods for the Plant of Birth. Some hypotheses link this ‘Plant of Birth’ to the Tree of Life, whilst others say it’s the Planet Nibiru.
This occurred, according to a text fragment, when Etana went on his journey:
“The King of Kish took a deep breath and walked through the Gate, and the familiar clouds embraced him and carried him to the Inner Realms.” He gave himself a few minutes to adapt before continuing. The clouds dissipated quickly, and he found himself in a wide, well-lit room. Whose glazed windows let in the beauty of sunset time, the rainbow colors of shifting skies (5,000 years ago!). The space was large enough for a king’s chamber, and he saw Su on a dais (Inanna). He went on because his heart understood who she was.”
Unfortunately, the remainder of the plot was lost, and no one knows for sure what happened at the end. What we do know is that Etana had a son, Balih, who ascended to the throne after him.
As a result, Etana’s hope of finding a descendant to replace him on the throne has eventually come true.
A flying ship in ancient Sumerian history?
This account is very fascinating and intriguing; if we examine the tale from a different perspective, we might conclude that Etana’s journey was on a ship, with certain parallels to Enoch’s story, in which he, too, travelled across various celestial realms, according to his novel.
The reading of a segment of one of the tablets, as defined by Italian historian Alberto Fenoglio, reads: «King Etana was taken as a guest of honor within a flying ship shaped like a shield that landed behind the Royal Palace, engulfed by a whirlpool of fire. Huge, blond, dark-skinned men clad in white, claimed to be as lovely as gods, descended from this flying ship. They asked King Etana to join them, but the king’s advisors tried to talk him out of going into the flying object.
Etana ascended above Earth in this ship, joining the celestial realms of the gods Anu, Enlil, and Ea. Passing through the gods’ gates: the moon god Sin, the sun god Shamash, and the storm god Adad.
When the citizens of his kingdom were about to name a new king, thinking that the “gods” had kidnapped him, King Etana flew over the city and landed, joined by one of the “blond ones” who remained as the king’s guest.
The Sumerian Kings List, an ancient stone tablet that specifically establishes how the ancient Sumerian gods descended from heaven, also refers to Etana as “the shepherd, who ascended to heaven and consolidated all foreign nations,” and claims that he ruled 1,560 years ago, to be replaced by his son Balih, who is said to have ruled 400 years earlier.
This myth has been found in three different languages so far. The ancient Babylonian edition, the Middle Assyrian version from Assur, and the standard Nineveh version, all of which can be found in Ashurbanipal’s library. Without a question, an extremely fascinating occurrence from the far past.