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Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East

Ištar's Descent to the Netherworld, lines 1-125, read by Martin West

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With the kind permission of Professor B. R. Foster, the translation below is taken from his work Before the Muses (Bethesda, 2005), with minor modifications. The transcription is based on the transliteration provided in R. Borger, Babylonisch-assyrische Lesestücke vol. 1 (Rome, 2006), again with minor modifications.

Original TranscriptEnglish Translation

1 ana kurnugi qaqqari l[ā târi]

2 ištar mārat sîn uzunša [iškun]

To the netherworld, land of n[o return],

Ištar, daughter of Sîn, [set] her mind.

3 iškun-ma mārat sîn uzu[nša]

4 ana bīti eṭê šubat ir[kalla]

5 ana bīti ša ēribūšu lā aṣû

6 ana harrāni ša alaktaša lā tayyā[rat]

7 ana bīti ša āšibūšu zummû nū[ra]

The daughter of Sîn did set [her] mind

to the gloomy house, the seat of the ne[therworld]

to the house that none leaves who enters,

to the road whose journey has no return,

to the house whose entrants are bereft of light,

8 ašar epru bubūssunu akalšunu ṭi[ṭṭu]

9 nūra ul immarū ina eṭûti aš[bū]

10 labšū-ma kīma iṣṣūri ṣubāt gap[pi]

11 eli dalti u sikkūri šabuh epru

where dust is their sustenance, and clay their food.

They see no light and dwell in darkness,

they are clothed like birds in wings for garments,

and dust has gathered on the door and the bolt.

12 ištar ana bāb kurnugi ina kašādīša

13 ana atu bābi amātum izzakkar

When Ištar reached the gate of the netherworld,

the said (these) words to the gatekeeper:

14 atû mê petâ bābka

15 petâ bābka-ma lūruba anāku

"O gatekeeper! Open your gate for me,

open your gate, that I may enter!

16 šumma lā tapattâ bābu lā erruba anāku

17 amahhaṣ daltum sikkūru ašabbir

18 amahhaṣ sippū-ma ušbalakkat dalāti

19 ašabbir gišrinam-ma aša[hhaṭ k]arra

"If you do not open the gate, that I may enter,

I will break down the door, I will smash the bolt,

I will break down the frame, I will topple the doors.

I will break the ..., I will te[ar off the kn]ob.

19 ušellâ mītūti ikkalū balṭūti

20 eli balṭūti ima’’idū mītūti

"I will raise up the dead so that they devour the living,

and the dead will outnumber the living."

21 atû pâšu īpuš-ma iqabbi

22 izzakkara ana rabīti ištar

The gatekeeper made ready to speak,

saying to Ištar the great:

23 izizzī bēltī lā ta-na-da-aš-ši

24 lullik zikirki lušanni ana šarrati e[reški]gal

"Stay, my lady, do not knock it down (?),

let me go and repeat what you said to Queen Ereškigal.

25 ērum-ma atû izzakkara [ana ereškigal]The gatekeeper went in and said [to Ereškigal]:

26 annītu mê ahātaki ištar [izzaz ina bābi]

27 m[u]kiltu ša keppê rabûti dā[lihat apsî mahar ea šarri]

"Here is your sister Ištar at [your gate],

she who holds the great play-ropes, who roils up the deep before Ea the king".

28 ereški[ga]l annī[t]a in[a] šemîša

29 kīma nikis bīni ēriqū pānūša

30 kīma šapat kunīni iṣlimā šabātūša

When Ereškigal heard this,

her face went pale as a freshly cut tamarisk,

her lips went dark as the rim of a vat.

31 miná libbaša ublanni miná kabt[assa] ušperdânni

32 annītu mê itti anunnakī mê ašatti

33 kīma aklī akal ṭiṭṭa kīma šikāri ašattâ mê dalhūti

"Why did she set her heart on me? Why would her mood lighten mine?

Here now, shall I drink water with the Anunnaki-gods,

Shall I eat a loaf of clay for bread, shall I drink dirty water for beer?

34 lubki ana eṭlūti ša ēzibū hīrēti

35 lubki ana ardāti ša ultu sūn hāirišina [šallupāni]

36 ana šerri lakê lubki ša ina lā ūmīšu ṭardu

"Shall I weep for the young men who have left (their) helpmeets?

Shall I weep for the young women who are wrenched from their lovers' loins?

Shall I weep for the helpless infant who was taken before his time?

37 alik atû pitâšši bāb[ka]

38 uppissi-ma kīma parṣī labirūti

"Go, gatekeeper, open [your] gate for her,

treat her according to the age-old rules."

39 illik atû iptâšši bāb[šu]Off went the gatekeeper and opened [his] gate for her:

40 erbī bēltī kutâ lirīški

41 ekal kurnugi lihdu ina pānīki

"Come in, my lady, so that Kutha rejoice over you,

that the palace of the netherworld be glad at your presence."

42 ištēn bāba ušēribši-ma umtaṣṣi ittabal agâ rabâ ša qaqqadīša

43 ammīni atû tatbal agâ rabâ ša qaqqadīya

44 erbī bēltī ša bēlet erṣetim kī’am parṣūša

He brought her in through the first gate, he loosened and removed the great tiara on her head.

"Why, gatekeeper, did you remove the great tiara on my head?"

"Come in, my lady. Thus are the rules of the lady of the netherworld."

45 šanâ bāba ušēribši-ma umtaṣi ittabal inṣabāte ša uznīša

46 ammīni atû tatbal inṣabāte ša uznīya

47 erbī bēltī ša bēlet erṣetim kī’am parṣūša

He brought her in through the second gate, he loosened and removed the earrings on her ears.

"Why, gatekeeper, did you remove the earrings on my ears?"

"Come in, my lady. Thus are the rules of the lady of the netherworld."

48 šalšu bāba ušēribši-ma umtaṣi ittabal erimmāti ša kišādīša

49 ammīni atû tatbal erimmāti ša kišādiya

50 erbī bēltī ša bēlet erṣetim kī’am parṣūša

He brought her in through the third gate, he loosened and removed the beads on her neck.

"Why, gatekeeper, did you remove the the beads around my neck?"

"Come in, my lady. Thus are the rules of the lady of the netherworld."

51 rebû bāba ušēribši-ma umtaṣi ittabal dudinnāte ša irtīša

52 ammīni atû tatbal dudinnāte ša irtīya

53 erbī bēltī ša bēlet erṣetim kī’am parṣūša

He brought her in through the fourth gate, he loosened and removed her breast pins.

"Why, gatekeeper, did you remove the pins on my breast?"

"Come in, my lady. Thus are the rules of the lady of the netherworld."

54 hamšu bāba ušēribši-ma umtaṣi ittabal šibbu aban alādi ša qablīša

55 ammīni atû tatbal šibbu aban alādi ša qablīya

56 erbī bēltī ša bēlet erṣetim kī’am parṣūša

He brought her in through the fifth gate, he loosened and removed the girdle of birth stones around her waist.

"Why, gatekeeper, did you remove the girdle of birth stones around my waist?"

"Come in, my lady. Thus are the rules of the lady of the netherworld."

57 šeššu bāba ušēribši-ma umtaṣi ittabal šemerī qātīša u šēpīša

58 ammīni atû tatbal šemerī qātīya u šēpīya

59 erbī bēltī ša bēlet erṣetim kī’am parṣūša

He brought her in through the sixth gate, he loosened and removed her bracelets and ankles.

"Why, gatekeeper, did you remove my bracelets and ankles?"

"Come in, my lady. Thus are the rules of the lady of the netherworld."

 

60 sebû bāba ušēribši-ma umtaṣi ittabal ṣubāt balti ša zumrīša

61 ammīni atû tatbal ṣubāt balti ša zumrīya

62 erbī bēltī ša bēlet erṣetim kī’am parṣūša

He brought her in through the seventh gate, he loosened and removed the loincloth on her body.

"Why, gatekeeper, did you remove the loincloth on my body?"

"Come in, my lady. Thus are the rules of the lady of the netherworld."

63 ištu ullânum-ma ištar ana kurnugi ūridu

64 ereškigal īmurši-ma ina pānīša ir’ub

65 ištar ul immalik elênušša ušbi

As soon as Ištar had gone down into the netherworld,

Ereškigal saw her and trembled in fury at her.

Ištar, without thinking, sat(?) above her.

66 ereškigal pâša īpuš-ma iqabbi

67 ana namtar [sukkallīša amātum izzakkar]

Ereškigal made ready to speak, and said

[these words] to Namtar [her vizier]:

68-69 alik namtar [...] / šūṣâšši šūši m[urṣī ana rabīti] ištar"Come, Namtar [...], let loose sixty diseases against Ištar the great:

70 muruṣ īni ana īnīša

71 muruṣ ahi a[na ahī]ša

72 muruṣ šēpī a[na šēpī]ša

73 muruṣ libbi a[na libbīša]

74 muruṣ qaqqadi [ana qaqqadīša]

"Eye disease against her eyes,

arm disease ag[ainst] her [arms],

foot disease ag[ainst] her [feet],

heart disease ag[ainst her heart]

head disease [against her head],

75 ana šâša gabbīša-ma [šūṣâšši murṣī]"Let loose diseases against all of her!"

76 arki ištar bēltī [ana kurnugi ūridu]

77 ana būrti alpu ul išahhi[ṭ imēru atānu ul ušarra]

78 ardatum ina sūqi [ul ušarra eṭlu]

After the lady Ištar went down into the netherworld,

the bull would not mount the cow, [the ass would not impregnate the jenny],

the young man [would not impregnate] the girl in the thoroughfare.

79 ittīl eṭ[lu ina kummīšu]

80 [it]tīl a[rdatum ina ahītīša]

The young [man] slept [in his bedroom],

the g[irl sl[ept by herself].

81 papsukkal sukkal il[ī] rabûti quddud appašu pānūšu [arpū]

82 karru labiš malê na[škun]

Papsukkal, vizier of the gods, was downcast, and his features [were gloomy].

He was dressed in mourning garments and wo[re] his hair unkempt.

83 illik anhiš ina pān sîn abīšu iba[kki]

84 ina pān ea šarri illakā dimāšu

Exhaustedly he went and cried before his father Sîn,

his tears coursed down before Ea the king.

85 ištar ana erṣetim ūrid ul īlâ

86 ultu ullânum-ma ištar ana kurnugi ūridu

87 ana būrti alpu ul išahhi[ṭ imēru atānu ul ušarra]

88 ardatum ina sūqi [ul ušarra eṭlu]

"Ištar has gone down to the netherworld, she has not come up.

From the moment that Ištar went down to the netherworld,

the bull will not mount the cow, the ass will not impregnate the jenny,

the young man will not impregnate the girl in the thoroughfare

89 ittīl eṭlu ina kum[m]īšu

90 ittīl ardatum ina ahī[tīša]

The young man sleeps in his be[dr]oom,

the young woman sleeps by [her] sel[f].

91 ea ina emqi libbīšu ibtani z[i]kru

92 ibnī-ma aṣûšu-namir assinnu

Ea, in his wise heart, conceived a plan:

he created Aṣûšu-namir, an assinnu. ((The word assinnu denotes a male cultic prostitute))

93 alka aṣûšu-namir ina bāb kurnugi šukun pānīka

94 sebet bābū kurnugi lippetû ina pānīka

95 ereškigal līmurka-ma in[a p]ānīka lihdu

"Come, Aṣûšu-namir, make your way to the netherworld,

may the seven gates of the Underworld be opened before you,

may Ereškigal see you and rejoice over you.

96 ultu libbaša inuhhu kabtassa ippereddû

97 tummeši-ma nīš ilī rabûti

98 šuqqi rēšīka ana halziqqi uzna šukun

When her heart has calmed and her mood is well disposed,

get her to swear an oath on the life of the great gods,

(then) look up and direct your attention to the waterskin.

99 ē bēltī halziqqu lid<di>nūni mê ina libbi luštatti"O my lady, let the waterskin be given to me, that I may drink water from it!"

100 ereškigal annīta ina šemîša

101 tamhaṣ pēmša taššuka ubānša

When Ereškigal heard this,

she struck her thigh and bit her finger.

102 tēteršanni erištum ša lā erēši

103 alka aṣûšu-namir lūzirka izra rabâ

"You have made an unmakable request of me!

Come, Aṣûšu-namir, I will curse you with a great curse,

104 aklī epinnēt āli lū akalka

105 habannāt āli lū maltītka

106 ṣillī dūri lū manzāzūka

107 askuppātu lū mušābūka

108 šakru u ṣamû limhaṣū lētka

"May bread from city ploughs be your food,

may the city sewer pipe be your drinking place,

may the shadow of the city wall be your station,

may the threshold be your dwelling,

may drunk and sober slap your cheek!"

109 ereškigal pâša īpuš-ma iqabbi

110 ana namtar sukkallīša amāta izzakkar

Ereškigal made ready to speak,

saying these words to Namtar, her vizier.

111 alik namtar mahaṣ ēkalla kitta

112 askuppāti za’’ina ša ayyarāti

113 anunnakī šūṣâ ina kussi hurāṣi šūšib

114 ištar mê balāṭi suluhši-ma leqâšši ina mahrīya

"Go, Namtar, knock at the true temple,

decorate the thresholds with cowrie shells,

bring out the Anunna-gods and seat them on thrones of gold,

sprinkle Ištar with water of life and take her into(?) my presence".

115 illik namtar imhaṣ ēkalla kitta

116 askuppāti uza’’inā ša ayyarāti

117 anunnakī ušēṣâ ina kussi hurāṣi ušēšib

118 ištar mê balāṭi isluhši-ma ilqâšši ana mahrīša

Namtar went and knocked at the true temple,

he decorated the thresholds with cowrie shells,

he brought out the Anunna-gods and sat them on thrones of gold,

he sprinkled Ištar with water of life and took her into(?) her presence".

119 ištēn bāba ušēṣiši-ma utterši ṣubāt balti ša zumrīša

120 šanâ bāba ušēṣiši-ma utterši šemer qātīša u šēpīša

121 šalša bāba ušēṣiši-ma utterši šibbu aban alādi ša qablīša

122 rebû bāba ušēṣiši-ma utterši dudinnāte ša irtīša

123 hamšu bāba ušēṣiši-ma utterši erimmāti ša kišādīša

124 šeššu bāba ušēṣiši-ma utterši inṣabāte ša uznīša

125 sebû bāba ušēṣiši-ma utterši agû rabâ ša qaqq[adīša]

He brought her out of the first gate and returned to her the loincloth of her body,

He brought her out of the second gate and returned to her her bracelets and anklets,

He brought her out of the third gate and returned to her the girdle of birth-stones around her waist

He brought her out of the fourth gate and returned to her her breast pins,

He brought her out of the fifth gate and returned to her the beads around her neck,

He brought her out of the sixth gate and returned to her the earrings on her ears,

He brought her out of the seventh gate and returned to her the great tiara on [her] he[ad].