Chapter 5: A Heifer from Thy Stable: Goddesses and the Status of Women in the Ancient Near East, by Carole R. Fontaine

The Pleasures of Her Text
by Alice Bach

Chapter 5: A Heifer from Thy Stable: Goddesses and the Status of Women in the Ancient Near East, by Carole R. Fontaine

Carole Fontaine is associate professor of Hebrew Bible at Andover Newton Theological School. She is the author of Traditional Sayings in the Old Testament: A Contextual Study (Almond Press, 1982). Her poetry and artwork have appeared in the journal Anima. She is presently at work recovering ancient women’s voices for a full-length study Holy Torch of Heaven: Goddesses, Queens and Ordinary Women, of which her article in this volume is a part.

The question of how women relate to religious systems of signification is always a complex one. This is particularly true when we try to probe ancient texts concerning the relationship between the status of women and the presence of goddesses in a given culture. The standard feminist critique of history and its interpreters holds for any investigation of these issues in ancient Near Eastern societies: "history," as it has come down to us through cuneiform and hieroglyphic sources, is very much the province of the "winners" — elite males whose ideological interests were served by the "disappearing" of the voices of women and other subject peoples. Added to this inherent bias within the texts themselves is the problem of piecemeal survival, with some texts surviving the destructions of war or abandonment of sites and others perishing. Nor do all texts survive in good condition: clay tablets break or become worn down around the edges and outer sheets of papyrus rolls may be victims of decay and rough handling by graverobbers or inept restorers. Further, even where text critical work is able to establish a readable text, translation problems exist. Not all lexical items or contextual allusions are readily intelligible to translators, and considerable debate may ensue. In short, we do not have a complete record of past, even though biased, sources on which to base our studies and what we do have to work with is often shrouded in ambiguity or limited in scope and value.

The situation is even more difficult should we try to trace the development of the "historical" goddess cults from their supposed Neolithic precursors. In the absence of texts from the Neolithic era, we are forced to rely on iconographic representations, and recovery of material culture through archaeological excavation. Archaeological reconstructions of culture are no more free from the biases and preconceptions of their excavators than literary readings of ancient texts are free from the values imposed on them by their modern critics. Hence, we may observe widely divergent interpretations of a single artifact: do Paleolithic and Neolithic "Venus" figurines represent a celebration of the sacrality of the female body with its life-creating and sustaining abilities, or do we have instead male art which finds its outlet in the creation of female "sex objects"? Both interpretations appear in the literature, and in the absence of epigraphic confirmation of either hypothesis, the anepigraphic evidence retains a mystery as it gestures toward a functional meaning we may imagine but cannot "prove." We may choose to endorse Mellaart’s conclusions from the evidence of burial practices, grave goods, and iconography at Catal Huyuk that women were held in high esteem, holding religious offices and participating in the vital activities of the community.1 We may even relate this alleged high status for women to the overwhelming presence of goddesses in the community’s cultic installations, but without corroborating texts and a thorough excavation of the site, as feminist historians we still find ourselves operating in the realm of scholarly conjecture. Excavations from Minoan Crete, covering a time period which ranges from the middle of the Early Bronze Age into the Late Bronze Age, are often used to support the presence of peace-loving matriarchies in the ancient world. Here we find another case in point where speculation sometimes outstrips solid reconstruction. Where evidence is embarrassing or contradictory to the matriarchal hypothesis, it is ignored or redated to reflect the warlike practices of the later Mycenaean invaders, thereby preserving the desired view of the Minoans.2 What we may say about the Neolithic Anatolian and later Minoan communities mentioned here is that they appear to be relatively peaceful, compared to the later imperialistic, clearly patriarchal empires of the Nile Valley and the Fertile Crescent, and that this cultural configuration was enabled both by their geographical locations and socioeconomic adaptations to their ecosystems. Within this cultural matrix, it appears that the relations between the sexes may have been organized along more egalitarian lines, at least judging from iconography and burial practices, and that the presence of goddesses in these cultures may have served to both symbolize and legitimize the position of women. No matriarchies can be proven to exist in the absence of genealogical texts, and we must pose the question of whether or not that is something to be mourned. Feminist critique of power relations suggests that a simple reversal of the roles of oppressed and oppressing groups is not enough, at least from an evolutionary perspective (even though such reversal must certainly appear advantageous to those in the oppressed group). What is needed is a thorough-going dismantling of the structures by which any group is able and allowed to oppress another. Matriarchal rule is not necessarily the answer, so that the failure to uncover such "ideal" cultures need not deter us from the task of envisioning an alternative future to patriarchal destruction of the earth.

Once we move into the historical periods of the Bronze and Iron Ages, the goddess cults known to us are well integrated into the patriarchal ideology of their cultures. Isis, the Egyptian redeemer, acts on behalf of Osiris her husband and Horus her son rather than for herself. The Hattic goddesses of pre-Hittite Anatolia are incorporated into the Hittite pantheon, and engage in activities which benefit the new imperial power structure. The Sumerian Inanna acts on behalf of her city Uruk (biblical Erech), and by the time she is identified with the semitic Istar, her divine power has been fully harnessed to support kingship.3 While it is tempting to see this "domestication" of the ancient Near Eastern goddesses as an analog for the slow but steady decline of the status of women known to us from legal and economic texts, we are brought to another critical question in our attempts at reconstruction of women’s past: what is the relationship of a text to the society that spawned it? Dare we assume a simple, one-to-one correspondence between literary symbol and social reality? Can a patriarchal text speak truth about the reality of women’s lives?4 This, of course, is not a question confined only to feminist discourse on history and literature, but one that consistently plagues all the disciplines.5

It might be helpful to propose here a model for sorting through the various types of texts preserved, with an emphasis on the amount of social verisimilitude likely to be preserved in them. The figure below represents a kind of sliding scale ranging from texts which are most likely to contain the highest degree of verisimilitude to those judged least likely to reflect social reality, at least in any direct way. It is important to remember that the creation of a text, even a humdrum economic or legal text, is still an imaginative, creative act undertaken by someone with the leisure or mandate to engage in such activities. Texts both respond to social reality and help to shape it.6 Texts may be classed along a continuum of those which are based in purely referential discourse (high degree of verisimilitude) to those which are highly symbolic and expressive (small degree of verisimilitude), i.e., those which are mapped on the combinative, syntagmatic axis of language as opposed to those whose nature is more related to the associative, paradigmatic axis.7 Further, anyone with experience of modern legal or economic texts knows that even such supposedly "neutral" texts as these may contain a large measure of wishful thinking or outright disinformation. The walls of Karnak give adequate testimony to the fact that ancient writers were no more adverse to casting recorded reality into their desired image than are modern lawyers and businesspeople.8 Additionally complicating the task of judging a text’s relation to society, types of texts may blend across genres, mixing elements that are referential and imaginative ("secular" love poetry developed from models of ritual performance of a "sacred marriage," for example, or imaginative tales which become embedded in annalistic or etiological narratives). Hence, the following model should be taken as a guide only. Texts must be evaluated for verisimilitude on an individual basis, in conjunction with study of material culture, parallel texts and comparative ethnography.9


Even were we to solve the riddle of text-and-society, our problems in the use of ancient Near Eastern texts are still legion. Androcentric language was often used inclusively, so that we may not automatically assume the absence of women even when they are not explicitly mentioned as present. Further, as noted above, these texts reflect the agendas of their elite male authors and tend to focus on the public domain where male power is located and exercised. The private domain of the extended family, even though it functioned as the primary unit of economic production in antiquity,10 is usually known to us only through hints or textual "asides" because it was not of particular interest to the authors. Since the private domain was the arena in which the lives of most women were lived out, we are generally left with a nebulous picture of women’s everyday lives. Reflecting the class issues involved in the creation of "literary" and referential texts for the ruling classes, it is also the case that we know less about the lives of women of middle or lower class than we do about elite women. Generally, then, we have very little access to what women themselves actually thought about their lot in life and scholarly models of reconstruction which are insensitive to the web of considerations involved in the formation and interpretation of these texts often do not advance our knowledge.

Models of the Past

In our search for answers, we must begin by posing the proper questions. In any consideration of the "status" of women, the researcher must be aware of the comprehensive difficulties involved in such a project. As Martin K. Whyte points out in The Status of Women in Preindustrial Societies, there is no such thing as the status of women, for there is wide variability both cross-culturally and within cultures, where women’s "class" identity, with all its possible benefits and detriments, is linked to the class of their men.11 Elite women may have a quite different status than do their out-group sisters. In his sample of 93 preindustrial cultures, covering a time period from 1750 BCE to 1800 CE, Whyte investigated the status of women through use of the following variables: property control, kin power, value of life, value of labor, domestic authority, ritualized female solidarity, control of sexuality, ritualized fear of women, joint participation with men, and informal influence. Despite the difficulties in use of the cross-cultural method (inability to deal with evolutionary change in the status of women in a given culture, inability to handle class variations in status in a sample, need to rely on data gathered in ways that reflected gender-bias in either informant or fieldworker, focus on formal rather than informal aspects of the status of women, etc.), significant hypotheses were tested and important findings made.12 Whyte concluded that no one key factor could be used to predict the status of women for a particular culture, nor was there any one factor which, if improved, resulted in raising the entire status of women. In matrilineal and matrilocal societies, women enjoyed modest benefits in status in the area of property rights, female solidarity, kin power, sexual restrictions and value of life. Male hunting, male bonding and male strength did not account for the low status of women, but cultures which were dominated by the "classical" religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism) consistently displayed lower statuses for their women. This last finding may be related to the fact that these religions tend to appear in more culturally complex societies (in which women generally fare worse) rather than in simpler, less stratified, and diversified cultures.13 Whyte’s study did not offer any specific correlation on the relation of the presence of goddesses to women’s status, and lack of explicit focus on the religious ideologies used to legitimate low or high status for women limits its usefulness for our purposes here. Nevertheless, this study alerts us to the incredible complexity involved in any investigation of the status of women.

Specific attention to the variations in women’s status when goddesses are present in a culture is found in Peggy R. Sanday’s seminal study, "Female Status in the Public Domain."14 Four variables are used to chart female power (the ability to act effectively) and authority (recognized and legitimized power) in a sample of twelve cultures: female material control, demand for female produce, female political participation, and female solidarity groups (see Fig. 2). It was found that where women contributed approximately 40 percent to the groups’s subsistence needs, their status generally improved, especially where they retained control over the allocation of their products.15 Where systems of religion and/or magic held a favorable view of female power, Sanday determined this to be a response to changes in production, rather than a cause. While there was no correlation between the number of female deities in a culture and women’s status, there was a strong correlation between the percentage of goddesses and women’s contribution to group subsistence needs. There were low but positive correlations between goddesses with general powers (i.e., power over both females and males) and female status.16

Sanday’s results are intriguing for the questions raised with respect to the ancient Near East, but as she acknowledges, more work needs to be done in this area before we can propose hard and fast conclusions. Further, there are elements in Sanday’s shaping of the study which deserve attention. By focusing on female status in the public domain, the entire sphere of women’s role and status within the domestic unit is pushed aside. If one of the goals of feminist research in this area is to reclaim and re-value the worlds in which women actually live, the public domain cannot become our exclusive locus of inquiry. Similarly, by attending primarily to goddesses with "general powers" and excluding those with power exclusively over women, we see a subtle modern bias at work to devalue the role of fertility in women’s lives and self-understanding. While it is true that a "full-service" goddess might be more appealing to modern people seeking to expand their horizons of divinity, the "fertility" goddesses of antiquity cannot be so easily dismissed without losing important insights into ancient women’s concerns and religious sensibilities. Although it has rightly been pointed out that the designation "fertility goddess" is an appellation which has allowed predominantly male scholars to dismiss and discount the role of goddesses in ancient religions,17 it is still the case that the roles of these goddesses in promoting and sustaining fertility were significant aspects of their personalities and functions. At this point, it becomes important to remain aware of how modern trends in rethinking the "biological destiny" of women may be skewing our vision of the past.

In Die Gottin und ihr Heros: die matriarchalen Religionen in Mythos, Marc hen und Dichtung (Munchen: Frauenoffensive, 1980), feminist philosopher and aesthetician Heide Gottner-Abendroth uses world mythology in an attempt to reconstruct the "matriarchal mythology" of early civilizations. She outlines three stages in the development of matriarchal religions, which she understands as "religions of rebirth" rather than simply as "fertility religions" (see Fig. 3).

I. Pre-Indo-European (Matriarchal periods)

a. early rural matriarchies: chthonic goddesses

b. developed urban matriarchies: astral goddesses

c. continued urban matriarchies: cyclic battle with nature demons

II. Indo-European transformations (imposition of patriarchy)

a. sex change: Great Mother becomes All-Knowing Father

b. role change: Goddess as God’s "Wife"

c. generational change: Goddess as Father’s "Daughter"

d. myths of rebellion against Father

e. matriarchal cults survive in secret opposition

III. Patriarchal Major Religions (absolute father-god)

a. abstract mythology

b. philosophical abstractions

Fig. 3: Heide Gottner-Abendroth’s stages of transformation in matriarchal religions (adapted from Die Gottin und ihr Heros, 119-20)

While Gottner-Abendroth has performed a valuable service in calling our attention to patterns which seem to extend across time and region in mythological texts, there are a number of problems with her reconstruction. Even discounting a too-easy identification of matrilineal and matriocal cultures as matriarchal ones and her reliance on the scholarship of Bachofen and Graves, her simplistic assumptions of the way in which mythology reflects out-group history must give pause to historians and literary critics alike. As is typical of most attempts to develop a comprehensive, universal scheme, she is obliged to "tinker" with the evidence from certain cultures which does not fit her patterns and this results in violation of some of the basic rules of good ethnography. A case in point is her phase I.c. of developed urban matriarchies, where she sees battles with nature demons (i.e., dragons and the like) as a feature of classical matriarchal mythology.18 This conclusion is certainly a questionable one for Mesopotamian myth, where the cosmic battle between the chaos dragon Tiamat and the god-king Marduk represents not a development from goddess-centered mythology but a patriarchal rejection of the ancient goddess as the source of cosmic life. Others may be bothered not only by her historical reconstructions based on myth, but also by the political position which affirms mother-right and mother-rule without reflection on the possibilities of abuse inherent in any such system of gender dominance. However, Gottner-Abendroth does see matriarchal social organization as far more egalitarian and wholesome than any known to us under patriarchy, but once again, this is a very complex argument to sustain when based primarily on imaginative texts.19

The brief review of these models for evaluating the status of ancient women and the relationship of that status to the presence of goddesses and their worship leaves us with some directions for inquiry and cautions about how we proceed. As we turn to women’s texts from the ancient world then, we must beware of the temptation of generalization. Status of elite, goddess-identified women (see Enheduanna and Puduhepa, below) may not extend to their lower-class sisters, nor should we assume that the presence of goddesses always implies a higher view of female authority and power. Questions of status should always be asked in conjunction with study of the economic power held by women. Future work should attempt to test Sanday’s hypothesis about women’s contribution to a culture’s subsistence needs and the percentage of full-service goddesses in the society, although that is beyond the scope of the present essay. Further, in so far as possible given the texts with which we are working, we should attempt to press our questions about women’s roles and status into the domestic sphere and not simply in the public domain where only a few exceptional women find a place. We should be alert to recurring patterns within the literature and cultures studied, while simultaneously resisting the easy assumption that a given motif or pattern will carry the same oncology and meaning in one culture as it does in another. Finally, we must be sensitive to the "literary" nature of the texts studied with respect to the proportion of cultural verisimilitude likely to be present, preferencing economic texts and correspondence, for example, more highly than tales and myths. With these injunctions in mind, let us now turn to the examination of texts by some ancient women of Mesopotamia and Anatolia.

"Be it known!": Ancient Women Speak

In the cuneiform sources reflecting the rise of the kingdom of Akkad in the last half of the third millennium we meet a truly remarkable woman: Enheduanna of Ur (ca. 2300-2230 BCE). Daughter of the great political leader Sargon of Akkad, Enheduanna combined the roles of princess, priestess, and poet to such an extent that centuries later her literary works were still being catalogued and held in great esteem by the cultures which had inherited them. One scholar has gone so far as to declare her the "first non-anonymous author in literature ."20

The origins of her father Sargon, salient to our discussion here, have been mythologized: he claimed to be the son of the union between a high priestess and an unknown father. A water-drawer plucked him from the river where his mother had placed him after she secretly gave birth, and he later came into power when the goddess Istar gave him her love as he worked as a gardener.21 Some scholars take this to mean that he was aided by women, perhaps devotees of Istar, in his rise to power. Subsequently, Sargon was able to unite the city-state kingdoms of Sumer (Ur and Uruk) with his own kingdom of Akkad. Several political and theological moves paved the way for and symbolized his consolidation of Sumerian and Akkadian culture. He appointed his daughter Enheduanna to a dual cultic role as high priestess-bride of the moongod Nanna in Ur and also installed her as a cultic functionary in Uruk, thus honoring the Sumerian traditions wherein a male deity was served by a female cult official or en, and vice versa. He synthesized Sumerian and Akkadian theologies by identifying his patron deity, the Semitic Iitar, with the Sumerian Inanna.22 In the masterful Sumerian poetic compositions of his daughter Enheduanna, this identification is carried through with style and fervor, and constitutes one of the world’s first efforts at a "systematic theology." Enheduanna’s life and work are known to us through her seals, inscriptions, and the cycle of hymns to Inanna and the temples of Sumer which comes from her hand or has been attributed to her. We have her portrait preserved on a badly damaged disc from Ur.23

In her composition nin-me-sar-ra, or "The Exaltation of Inanna" as it has come to be known, Enheduanna moves beyond a mere propagation of her father’s political theology to a personal identification with the fortunes of her beloved goddess. The same terms used to depict Inanna’s past flights from the cities of Sumer are employed to describe the usurper Lugalanna’s expulsion of Enheduanna from her priestly offices in Ur and Uruk. When appeals to the moon god Nanna and the sky god An prove futile (since Lugalanna now controls their cults), she turns hopefully to Inanna. She says of her own composition that inspiration came to her at night and that she "gave birth" to this song, "that which I recited to you at (mid)night/May the singer repeat it to you at noon!" (lines 139-140).24 By casting her predicament in terminology which has been applied to the goddess’ own past trials, Enheduanna forges a bond of compassionate empathy by which she hopes to return to her former position of service to the goddess. Given the reconstructed political context which informs the composition, it is not surprising that it is the martial aspects of Inanna, rather than the fertility functions, which receive the most emphasis:

That you are lofty as Heaven — be it known!

That you are broad as the earth — be it known!

That you devastate the rebellious land — be it known!

That you roar at the land — be it known!

That you smite the heads — be it known!

That you devour cadavers like a dog — be it known!

That your glance is terrible — be it known!

That you lift your terrible glance — be it known!

That your glance is flashing — be it known!

That you attain victory — it known!

Oh my lady beloved of An, I have verily recounted your fury!

lines 123-130, 132, 135

Since the text considered here is a prayer text which contains clear liturgical elements ("be it known!"), it can be rated fairly high on our scale of verisimilitude. While Enheduanna certainly makes use of hymnic convention and hyperbole, both in the invocatory epithets and the "complaint" section which details her humiliation at the hands of the usurper, since she is seeking redress of tangible wrongs we must assume that her account and plea bear some clear relationship to the historic events that occasioned them. Like the individual complaint psalms of the Hebrew Bible, we may not know the precise details of what has afflicted the psalmist, but we are generally on safe ground in concluding that something happened. She who had "carried the ritual basket" and "intoned the acclaim" has been "placed in the lepers’ ward" (lines 68-69).26 Enheduanna had encountered the "catch-22" in the status of women "elites": where status derives from the politics and pleasures of one’s male relatives, one can be easily "de-classed" when new elite males take charge. When the gods to whom she had been espoused turned a deaf ear to her lament, she turned to the goddess Inanna-Istar with the cry "O my divine impetuous wild cow, drive out this man, capture this man!" (line 91).27 If we are to believe the composition’s concluding lines, the goddess did not desert her as had her gods. It may have been Enheduanna’s father who placed her in power, but it was her goddess who restored her and her own talents which insured her an enduring place in Sumerian literature.

"If truly you are my daughter. . ."

The opportunities and pitfalls associated with the role of princess in Mesopotamia are well attested in the literature from the city-state of Mari (Tell Hariri) in the Old Babylonian period.28 During the reign of King Zimri-Lim (ca. 1780-1760 BCE, middle chronology) women in his court held a remarkable range of positions in both the public and private spheres. An able strategist, Zimri-Lim was often away from Mari while conducting his numerous campaigns to establish and maintain Mari’s hegemony along the upper Euphrates. For this reason, he often had occasion to leave matters of state and religion in the capable hands of his head queen Sibtu, herself a princess from the court of Aleppo in Yamhad. It was there that she apparently met and married Zimri-Lim when he had fled Mari in exile at his father’s death. Although he had many wives and a large harem, Sibtu clearly held a preeminent place in his affections and trust. Scholars speculate that since no such broad role for the queen or queen-mother was known in Mari either before or after Zimri-Lim’s reign, that the extraordinary activity of the women in Zimri-Lim’s family is an example of women claiming "unassigned power" when circumstances permit, rather than of any institutionalized "assigned power" in the city-state. Our main textual evidence for this period comes from correspondence from the royal archives.29

Sibtu’s correspondence is quite varied, permitting some glimpses into personal life, even though most of it is economic and routine in nature, as she carries out tasks delegated to her by Zimri-Lim and updates him on the state of affairs in the palace and city. Much of the interchange between the pair which is private in nature consists of her inquiries about the king’s health, reports of favorable omens which she had ordered taken for him, and his reassuring replies about his welfare and the fortunes of the army. In ARM X 26, she reports, "(To my lord) say: Thus Sibtu (your) maidservant: I have (just given) birth to twins — a son and a daughter. May my lord rejoice!"30 Elsewhere (ARM X 17) she writes that she is sending Zimri-Lim a coat and other articles of clothing that she has made herself, requesting that he wear them. But apart from such typical domestic roles, Sibtu was involved in acting as an all-purpose factotum for her absent lord. She oversaw the direction of the palace, the harem, the temple, workshops, and the entire city, receiving and sending diplomatic correspondence to the outlying provinces, showing that her influence and authority extended well beyond the city of Mari itself. Aside from overseeing the city archives, she supervised the work of various officials, many of whom sought her influence in settling a variety of official and personal matters. She was also in contact with her father’s court and acted to secure positive treatment for favorites. In the realm of cultic activity, she filled the role of king or governor as needed, escorting the cult statues, ordering sacrifices, and relaying divine oracles to the king.

That she was a concerned and thoughtful queen is evident from the number of appeals for help which she received and the letters from her which direct officials to give aid and comfort. In ARM X 153, one Kibri-Dagan was requested by her to discover what was causing a particular woman’s "heartache"; in ARM X 160, she arranges for the release of women who had been given in pledge for a debt. In ARM X 114, TariThattu, a woman of higher rank (perhaps a widow of Zimri-Lim’s father?), writes to Sibtu to settle a matter of slander, saying "If truly you are my daughter and you love my health, then you will convey (this matter) to the king. . .31

Also evident from her letters is the fact that she had fully internalized the values of imperial patriarchy, among them the well-known "double-standard" that limits the sexual activity of women while allowing a full range of opportunities for men. So great is Zimri-Lim’s trust in his queen’s solidarity with his goals that he is able to direct her to select the most beautiful of the women taken in battle for his harem (ARM X 126), though he later decides to see to the matter himself. When an epidemic strikes the harem (X 129-130), it is Sibtu who carries out Zimri-Lim’s instructions for limiting the spread of the disease.32 From the correspondence available to us, we can conclude that Sibtu firmly understood that her welfare was tied to the fortunes of her lord; she does not grudge him a fine harem or lesser wives to oversee other palaces, for such arrangements were expected of a great king and testified to his prominence, hence augmenting her own. As is often seen in ethnographic data, a variety of factors determine whether or not the addition of another woman to the household is seen as threatening to personal status or as enhancing the available pool of workers.33 The "other woman" only becomes a threat where the head wife’s status or husband’s affections are jeopardized by the addition of the new female — we may think here of the fates of Sarah and Leah in the biblical narratives. Unlike them, Sibtu, daughter of the powerful king of Yamhad, was secure in her position and assured in her relationship with Zimri-Lim.

"Even if I am a woman . . ."

Not all of the princesses of Mari were so fortunate as Queen Sibtu and that we ought not to generalize from her position is brought home in letters concerning Zimri-Lim’s daughters’ struggles with their co-wives. Part of Zimri-Lim’s plan for the maintenance of strong vassal alliances involved the giving of daughters in political marriages. Royal daughters in such positions also served their father by acting as trusted informants on political and socioeconomic conditions in their region, actions which predictably caused friction when vassal husbands were less than whole-hearted in their allegiance to Mari. One of Zimri-Lim’s daughters, Inibsarri, was given in marriage to Ibal-Addu of Aslakka, only to discover, much to her dismay, that a previous wife still held the position of head-wife and queen (ARM X 74). After writing to Zimri-Lim concerning her husband’s potentially traitorous activities, she flees to a neighboring city and writes her father entreating him to return her to Mari (ARM X 77, II 112, 113). While in "exile" in Nahur, she corresponds with an official on various matters, at one point invoking the blessing of Belet-ekallim (= Ningal?), her goddess, to protect him (ARM X 78)34 We do not know the outcome of her requests to return home.

Another daughter who was successful in achieving the dissolution of a noxious political marriage was Kiru, married to one Haya-Sumu of Ilansura. Again, the father’s political motives set the stage for the daughter’s misery: Zimri-Lim had not only given Kiru in marriage but had also established her as mayor in her own right; at the same time, he gave Haya-Sumu another (adoptive?) daughter, Sibatum, perhaps by a lesser ranking wife, and this is the queen favored by Haya-Sumu. Domestic battles escalate among the trio, until Haya-Sumu threatens Kiru’s life (ARM X 32). Desperate, Kiru writes home to daddy: "If he (the king) does not bring me back, I shall die; I will not live," and again, "If my lord does not bring me back, I will head toward Mari (and there) jump (fall) from the roof" (ARM X 33). Humiliated before guests, deprived of her rightful servants and prerogatives, and finally threatened with death, Kiru’s pleas were finally heard. In ARM X 135, Zimri-Lim instructs Sibtu to make arrangements to return Kiru to Mari.35

Other examples of unhappily married daughters of Zimri-Lim exist, but not all marriages ended so unfortunately as Kiru’s and Inibsarri’s. Other daughters found sufficient happiness in their politically motivated marriages to write to Zimri-Lim on their husbands’ behalf (ARM X 98). At least one daughter was sent into the cloister as a naditu-woman (ARM X 38), and we also hear the daughters of other kings mentioned in the Mari correspondence. While Zimni-Lim did not hesitate to make use of his daughters as instruments of foreign policy, he maintained contact with them although we may wonder how much of his correspondence was due to fatherly affection since the information obtained by his daughters was of great benefit to his own political maneuvering. Indeed, Kiru even writes Zimni-Lim reminding him of previous problems caused when he disregarded her reports (ARM X 31), concluding "And now, even if I am a woman, may my father and lord listen to my message."36 Still, Zimni-Lim sought to influence the fate of his daughters for the good, occasionally even giving them assigned powers within the political structure. But if the rank of princess could bequeath special status and opportunities to a woman like Sibtu, it is clear it could also bring considerable hazards as in the cases of Kiru and Inibsarri. Once again, the fate of royal women, like that of their lower-class sisters, was almost entirely dependent on the wishes and whims of the men who controlled their lives.

In the realm of religion, we are given intriguing hints from the Mari letters about how women related to the gods and goddesses of their regions. Women are often found offering prayers before the gods Samas, Adad, and Dagan for the safety of the king and his armies. Women also offer sacrifices, commission oracles and are found worshiping both the main gods of Mari, Dagan and Adad, as well as other gods (Samas, Itur-Mer, Nanna, Tesub, etc.) and the goddesses of their own and surrounding areas (Istar, Istar.RA.DA.NA, Annunitum, Hebat, Belet-ekallim). Women served as lay and professional prophetesses for both gods and goddesses, and could be attached to specific cult centers (including cloisters) in a variety of capacities. While such a dedication provided status and authority to the women involved, it offered only moderate protection in time of war: in ARM X 126, we learn that some ugbabatum-priestesses were taken as war captives, but were not forced into the textile factories as slave labor as the other female captives were.37

Two tantalizingly brief events relating women to their goddesses might be mentioned. In ARM X 87, one Sattamkiyazi has left her own city to serve the king in another, apparently against the wish of her goddess, Istar.RA.DA.NA, as expressed in a liver omen. As a consequence, she has become quite ill ("the hand of Istar.RA.DA.NA presses heavily against me"), and requests leave of the king to offer another sacrifice to her goddess in hope of restoring her health.38 In ARM X 112, women servants of the palace tell the male palace servants that "we are constantly praying for you to Belet-ekallim."39 While the evidence from Mari does not permit us to conclude that it was the presence of goddesses there that accounted for the relatively high status of elite women and widespread activities of women in the cult, it is clear that women had deeply-felt "personal" relationships with their deities, goddesses as well as gods, and in official capacities could be regarded as legitimate representatives of the divine before the king, and vice versa.

"A Heifer from Thy Stable": Women of Anatolia

From the royal archives at Hattusa, capital of the Hittite empire which flourished in central Anatolia during the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1450-1200 BCE), comes a wealth of materials which shed light on the position of women in this most sophisticated of conqueror-kingdoms. Since space does not permit a thorough review of all the materials found at Hattusa, we will concentrate on two figures which represent the far ends of the social scale: Queen Puduhepa and the MI.SU.GI of Hittite ritual texts.

Queen Puduhepa was the wife and consort of Hattusili III, an able military and political leader who came to the throne through the irregular process of deposing his nephew. Hattusili later explains with some piety that this was all the idea of his personal goddess, Istar of Samuha, whom he was bound to obey since she had saved his life when he was only a sickly child. When the same Istar told him to take Puduhepa, a girl half his age, as wife, he naturally obeyed. That Puduhepa was the daughter of a priest of Istar in the southern province of Kizzuwatna, possibly of royal extraction, but certainly in a position to consolidate allegiances to the Hittites in a territory notable for its Human and Mitannian ties only made obedience to the goddess that much more satisfying. The marriage was apparently a happy and fruitful one: Puduhepa bore four children that are known, and her prayers and intercessions for Hattusili’s health in his old age suggest that her relationship to her husband was a positive and fulfilling one. Due to the peculiarities of Hittite succession in the Old Kingdom, the Queen (-Mother) retained a powerful position even after the death of her husband, and Puduhepa continues to be mentioned during the reign of her son, Tudhaliya IV.40

Because of her mention in her husband’s "Apology" and the many vows, prayer-texts and items of personal correspondence to and from the Hittite court, we know more about Puduhepa than any other woman of the Late Bronze Age. Although Hittite queens were always active in the religious sphere through their position as high priestess of the cult of the Sun-goddess of Arinna, the head of the Hittite pantheon, Puduhepa expanded her activities into the political and social realms. She had her own seal, carried on her own diplomatic correspondence, took a hand in arranging the settlements for her daughters in their political marriages (one married to Ramesses II, the other to the prince of Amurru), and is the only woman of the ancient world known to have received a divine "message" dream (as opposed to the "symbolic" dreams usually recorded for women).41 She had her own chariot, probably to rush her to her cultic duties throughout the kingdom, and had access to temple treasuries, though she could not collect taxes. She carried out normal cultic and administrative duties associated with her rank, even took part in a count case (which was highly unusual in Hittite legal proceedings), and ordered materials from her home province of Kizzuwatna copied and archived in Hattusa.42

In the realm of personal theology, this queen left us materials which allow a glimpse into the religious sensibilities of a Bronze Age woman. Puduhepa’s seal, like those of the Hittite kings and queens before her, shows her clasped in the embrace of the Sun-goddess of Arinna whose high-priestess she was. Both females wear strikingly similar costumes, and the seal reads GEME.DINGIR.LIM, "the servant of the goddess."43 In KUB XXI, 27 Puduhepa addresses this goddess to plead for the restoration of her husband’s health. The tone of her prayer is intimate, persuasive, and trusting. She tells the goddess

To the Sun-goddess of Arinna, my lady, the mistress of the Hatti lands, the queen of heaven and earth. Sun-goddess of Arinna, thou art queen of all countries! In the Hatti country thou bearest the name of the Sungoddess of Arinna; but in the land which thou madest the cedar land thou bearest the name Hebat. I, Puduhepa, am a servant of thine from of old, a heifer from thy stable, a foundation stone (upon which) thou (canst rest). Thou, my lady, rearedst me and Hattusili, thy servant to whom thou espousedst me, was closely associated with the Storm-god of Nerik, thy beloved son. . .44

A number of features are of interest here. Puduhepa, whose name means "Servant of Hebat," has made a clear connection between her patron goddess Hebat, a Hurrian mother goddess worshiped in her native "cedar" land,45 and the Hattic mother-goddess (probably to be identified as Wuru(n)semu) who heads the official Hittite pantheon. She further goes on to identify this Hebat/Wuru(n)semu as the goddess who gave her in marriage to Hattusili, even though his "Apology" clearly states that it was Istar of Samuha who did so. In another portion of the "Apology" (12, 11. 7-15), we learn of one of Puduhepa’s dreams:

Now, while My Lady Ishtar had even before this been promising me the kingship, at that time My Lady Ishtar appeared to my wife in a dream: "I shall march before your husband. And all Hattusas shall be led with your husband. Since I thought highly of him, I did not — no, not ever — abandon him to the hostile trial, the hostile deity." Now also I will exalt him, and make him priest of the sun goddess of Arinnas. Do you also make me, Ishtar, (your) patron deity."46

Since the prayer of Puduhepa cited above (KUB XXI, 27) is usually dated toward the end of Hattusili’s reign, we presume here that the dream appearance of Istar occurred earlier since it is clearly narrated as taking place before Hattusili’s seizure of the throne. Has Puduhepa taken her husband’s Istar as her patron deity, thus fusing this militant goddess with the mother-goddesses of her youth and her official cultic roles? Though modern scholars are often apt to separate the military roles of the nubile "maiden" goddess from the nurturing roles of the "mother" goddess, it is clear that such distinctions did not hold for at least one ancient devotee.

Like Enheduanna’s fusion of the Sumerian Inanna and the Semitic Istar, Puduhepa’s thealogical move here can be understood as growing out of her experience of her goddesses. Both thealogical and political motivations are at work. The Hittites of the New Kingdom were known for their syncretistic policies which incorporated the deities of conquered territories into the official pantheon rather than repressing indigenous worship. They were self-styled as "people of the thousand gods," and indeed, it seems they never met a deity they didn’t like, which resulted in a cultic calendar so ridiculously full that wars had to be interrupted so that the king could perform his assorted ritual duties. Hence, Puduhepa’s syncretism takes place against a background of easy tolerance and official approval. While it is not too far a "stretch" to identify Hebat with the Sun-goddess of Arinna since they are both understood as consorts of the Weather-god of Hatti and mothers of the divine son, the Weather-god of Nerik (the Hurrian Sarruma), the immediate coherence between these mother figures and the battle-ready Istar, the Weather-god’s sister, is not so readily apparent. Politically, it was important that the official head of the Hittite pantheon, the Sun-goddess of Arinna, accept Hattusili, the favorite of Istar, as an acceptable if irregular king. Puduhepa’s syncretism allows this by identifying the goddess who brought her husband to power with the goddess who sustains and authorizes Hittite kingship.47 But the Queen’s consolidation of these divine females moves beyond simple pragmatic politics into the realm of faith — could the power that moved her from her home into an unknown land actually be any different from the loving power she knew as a child and continued to experience as queen? Puduhepa’s Hurrian roots have been posited as an explanation of the marked Hurrian-Hittite theological syncretism during Hattusili’s reign, though the beginning of this trend can be traced back further. However, it is to the common condition of women that we must turn for the deeper psychological motivation behind the politics. Like the royal daughters of Sumer and Mari, Puduhepa probably had very little choice in her marriage partner or place of residence. Dedicated to Hebat by her very name, it is scarcely possible that a woman of faith would leave her native deities behind, and highly probable that she would identify the divine figures with whom she was familiar with those who populated her new world. Where women are moved and traded like game-pieces on the board of political hegemony, they cannot afford inflexible deities bound to a given location. The goddesses a woman worshiped had to be thealogically "portable" if they were to be of any use to the devotee — a goddess only effective in the "Cedar Land" was of limited value to the Queen in Hattusa. As Puduhepa grew, changed residence and social rank, her understanding of her goddess grew and traveled along with her. She can speak of herself as "a heifer from thy stable," a "foundation stone (upon which) thou (canst rest)," both metaphors which conjure up images of service, dedication, and long-term intimacy. Later in her prayer Puduhepa goes on to draw parallels between the motherhood of the Sun-goddess and her own travail over Hattusili’s illness. In a culture obsessed by ritual purity, Puduhepa can speak to her divine helper using images drawn from the world of women, from the time when a woman’s body is presented in all its primal "otherliness" and potential impurity, and be guaranteed a positive hearing not in spite of her sex but because of it, since this gender marking is shared with the goddess. A reader of the biblical book of Leviticus can conceive of such a relationship between women and the exclusive male god of ancient Israel only with the greatest of difficulty, though to be sure, the female characters of the Bible are often presented as relating their birth-giving activities in some way to that same god they are not allowed to approach.48

"I am speaking the gods’ words. . ."

A fascinating look at the role certain females might play that crosses the boundaries between the public and private domains can be found in the recorded rituals of the MI.SU.GI (Hittite: MI.hasauwas), or "old women."49 These women constitute the class of practitioners most often mentioned in Hittite ritual texts, and were truly indispensable to the functioning of that society. Many of the rituals by them are recorded in the first person, so we have a sense of a qualified informant bequeathing her "recipe" for the restoration of health, purity and peace to the tradition for use in similar circumstance. Many of these women appear to be from the provinces of Kizzuwatna and Arzawa, and the Human element in these rituals is especially pronounced.50 An Old Kingdom edict of Hattusili I aims at curtailing the influence of the MI.SU.GI on the women of the palace, and it has been suggested that they, along with the Hattic city elders and the Tawananna (the king’s wife in Hittite times, but originally the king’s sister and mother of the heir-presumptive in the Hattic period), represented one of the indigenous groups attempting to resist the imposition of cultural changes brought by the Indo-European Hittite conquerors.51 We know the names of thirteen women designated as MI.SU.GI, with many other women appearing as "authors" of magical rituals whom scholars also consider to be recognized practitioners.52 Among these, the proposed MI.SU.GI Ayatarsa is said to be the female slave of one Nawila; one Anniwiyani is called "mother of Armatis, the bird-maker, slave of Hurlus," so that we know that MI.SU.GI were not cloistered as the naditu were.53 Here, then, we have an exception which tests the rule by which modern scholars usually assume that slave-women are necessarily women of low status. The Hittite MI.SU.GI was endowed with powers so formidable that kings must legislate against them and tradition must encode her words, and yet she could be owned by another.

The MI.SU.GI performed her services in a number of areas. The rituals with whose authorship she is credited on those which may reasonably be attributed to her include evocation magic (calling enemy gods away from their towns and calling native gods back to their own place), countermagic against sorcery, removal of ritual impurity and quarrels, restoration of sexual functions, the healing of children, the interpretation of omens, and royal funerary rites.54 An example of how authoritative were her words and actions comes from the preamble of Annanna’s mugawar ritual designed to entice the Sungod’s return to his own land: "I am speaking the gods’ words and am evoking him" (VBoT 58 iv 9-10).55 A full picture of the sphere of her activities emerges from a reading of the variety of rituals recorded. She selected rituals appropriate for a given situation, assembled or created necessary equipment (wax and clay figures, woolen thread, household items, food and drink, wooden pegs, stones, mud, herbs, dung), gave orders, made sacrifices, interpreted omens, and pronounced words of blessing and curse. She most frequently called upon the Sungod in her rituals, but invoked other deities as necessary for the given situation. She speaks decisively when her rituals are recorded, and her words and deeds were obviously considered efficacious enough to be recorded for posterity. An excerpt from the Ritual of Tunnawi gives some of the flavor of her words and deeds:

If a person, either a man or a woman, has been placed in any impurity, or someone else has named him/her for impurity, or (if) her children repeatedly die within the woman, or (if) her children are born prematurely, or (if) in a man or woman the sexual organs are disabled as a result of a formula of impurity, and that person is experiencing impurity, then that person, whether a man or woman, performs the ritual of impurity. . .56

After various hex-breaking activities, she recites the incantation "Evil impurity, witchcraft, sin, anger of the god, terror of the dead, the wickedness of mankind, remove (all) that!"57 Although the Hittite’s possessed other male and female ritual practitioners and physician-priests, it was the work of the MI.SU.GI which was most frequently called upon by society.58

"I am at peace and sisterly": Letters from Egypt

From the Hittite royal archives found at Boghazkoy also comes evidence of the correspondence carried on between "Naptera" (= Nefertari), the Great Royal Wife of Ramesses II, and "Petkhep" (=Puduhepa) of Hattiland. After Ramesses and Hattusili (then serving his brother, the king Muwatalli) fought one another over Syrian hegemony at the battle of Kadesh (ca. 1286/85) with the Egyptian army only narrowly escaping an ignominious defeat at the hands of the Hittites, the two nations sought to come to agreement by treaty (ca. 1271) rather than through clash of arms. As usual, the agreements of nations were sealed "with a kiss" — by the exchange of appropriate females. In this case, M3T-HR-NFRW-R ("Justice is the beautiful face of God (Re)"), the daughter of Puduhepa and Hattusili was given to Ramesses as a wife, and the letters (KBo I 29; KBo I 21?) passing between to the two queens seem related to this occasion.59 As was noted in the correspondence between Sibtu and Zimri-Lim, the head wife has little concern over the double standard which provides her husband with many wives as a political matter of course. Nefertari writes in response to Puduhepa’s routine inquiry over her health, and speaks of the "good brotherhood" which Re, the Sungod, will give to Hattusili and Ramesses. For her own part, she says "And I am at peace and sisterly with the great queen, my sister; I, now (and forever)."60

Along with these treaty texts comes an interesting reflection of the "gender" question regarding deities. The Egyptian copy of "Hittite treaty" contains a notice describing the seal of Puduhepa which the treaty bears. The Egyptian scribe wrote

Female figure in the likeness of (the great goddess) of the Khatti, clasping in her arms the figure of the Great Queen of Khatti. Circumscription: Seal of the Sun-god of the city of Arenna, (A-r-n-na) lord of the land; seal of Putu-khipa, Great Queen of Khatti, daughter of the land of Kizawaden, mistress (?) of the city of Arenna, mistress of the land, the ministress of the goddess. In the border: the seal of the Sun-god of Arenna, the lord of all the land61

This is actually an excellent description of Puduhepa’s seal, known to us from other archaeological finds, but it seems clear that the Egyptian scribe, undoubtedly male, felt some confusion. In Egypt, the solar deity was clearly male, yet in Hatti, a different gender tradition about this deity obtains. While the scribe has dutifully described the goddess who clasps Puduhepa, he has had trouble incorporating this female deity into his traditional theological language, choosing instead to translate by using the typical solar disc hieroglyph which stands for Re. While some scholars argue that this means that the hieroglyph must therefore carry an androgynous meaning, it also seems likely that the scribe, even while recording the outlandish Hittite view, reinforced his notion that the solar deity was male. That the disputes over appropriate gender designations for deity began at least as early as the Late Bronze Age should afford modern persons engaged in that struggle some comfort: obviously, these are not easy questions to decide.

Conclusion: Syncretistic Thealogy

In closing, this brief glimpse into the words and lives of ancient women has brought us closer to an understanding of the conditions that bounded their lives, and shown us the strength and wit with which they addressed and expanded the roles decreed for them by society. It was impossible to speak of the lives of these women, mostly elites, without also speaking of the menfolk to whom they were attached. Where we had access to the personal feelings of these women, we saw head wives generally content with their lot, and more attached to their men than to the less fortunate women, occasionally even their daughters, who surrounded them. Slavery was accepted as a matter of course; sexual exploitation of captives was regarded as routine. Women caught up in struggles with their cowives or in conflict with elite males outside their kinship group seemed more conscious of their lower status as female, but even so, this concern did not extend to women of lower classes who frequently appear as pawns traded in the battle for prestige. Few women of other-than-elite status were available for study, due to the nature of the materials available.62

At least some of the women considered here could be designated as "goddess-identified," particularly Enheduanna, Sattamkiyazi, and Puduhepa. In each case, the affiliation served as a basis for at least some of the high status each was accorded, and this, in turn, was tied into the political fortunes reflected in worship of that goddess. In the contexts where a relationship between women and the status-authorizing goddess could be discerned, the women in question also seemed fully engaged, at least in an administrative way, in the economic life of the temple, city-state or kingdom in question, providing tentative support for Sanday’s hypothesis.

A particular trend toward syncretism was recognized, in service of both politics and female religious sensibilities. Enheduanna could fuse the Sumerian Inanna to the Semitic Istar; Puduhepa found the goddess of her "Cedar Land" alive and well in the cult center of Arinna, and identified both with her husband’s patron goddess.

Egyptian women’s names also reflect a similar syncretizing perspective: the Egyptian name of Puduhepa’s daughter identified the goddess "Ma’at," or "Justice" as the beautiful face of the sungod Re; the throne name of Hatshepsut, M3 T-K3-R’, makes a similar move, proclaiming "Justice (Ma at) is the likeness of God (Re)." We might also think here of the Egyptian maidservant Hagar, who is narratively the first to identify the Hebrew patriarchal God-of-the-fathers with one of the indigenous gods of Canaan (Gen 16:13-14). As the women were moved from place to place, they found that their deities moved with them, and though both might acquire new names, the relationship of mutuality remained undisturbed.63



1. J. Mellaart, Catal Huyuk (London: Thames & Hudson, 1967) 101; "Excavations at Catal Huyuk, 1963: Third Preliminary Report," Anatolian Studies XIV (1964) 93.

2. The latest entry in the popular literature about Crete may be found in R. Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987) 29-41. For a critique of this popular view of the Minoans, see C. G. Stan, "Minoan Flower Lovers," The Minoan Thalassocracy: Myth and Reality, ed. R. Hagg and N. Marinator (Stockholm: Proc. Third International Symposium at the Swedish Institute in Athens, 31 May-S June, 1982) 9-12.

3. C. J. Bleeker, "Isis and Hathor: Two Ancient Egyptian Goddesses," The Book of the Goddess: Past and Present, ed. C. Olson (New York: Crossroad, 1985) 29-48; J. Ochshorn, "Ishtar and Her Cult," Olson, Goddess 16-28. Obviously, phrasing comments on historical goddess cults in this way has already injected a modern perspective into our interpretation.

4. C. Greene and C. Kahn, "Feminist Scholarship and the Social Construction of Woman," Making a Difference: Feminist Literary Criticism, ed. G. Greene and C. Kahn (New York: Methuen, 1985) 18.

5. Jonathan Culler, The Pursuit of Signs: Semiotics, Literature, Deconstruction (Ithaca: Cornell Univ., 1981) 3-17.

6. M. Bal, Lethal Love: Feminist Literary Readings of Biblical Love Stories (Bloomington: Indiana Univ., 1987) 132.

7. R. Jacobsen, "Closing Statement: Linguistics and Poetics," Style in Language, ed. T. A. Sebeok (Cambridge, MA: M.I.T., 1960) 350-77; T. Hawkes, Structuralism and Semiotics (Berkeley: Univ. of California, 1977) 76-87.

8. Inscriptions from Ramesses II claimed that he won the battle of Kadesh against the Hittites. He lied: at the very least, it must be considered a draw, if not an actual Hittite victory. See below.

9. For a discussion of the use of comparative ethnographic data, see R. R. Wilson, Genealogy and History in the Biblical World (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1977).

10. T. F. Carney, The Shape of the Past: Models and Antiquity (Lawrence, KS: Corondao, 1975) 149; C. Meyers, Discovering Eve: Ancient Israelite Women in Context (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1988) 139-57.

11. M. T. Whyte, The Status of Women in Preindustrial Societies (Princeton: Princeton Univ., 1978) 170; for an assessment of how women’s class affiliation is derived from the men to whom they are attached, see C. Lerner, The Creation of Patriarchy (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1986) 9.

12. Whyte, Status 13-26.

13. Whyte, Status 167-84.

14. Woman, Culture & Society, ed. M. Z. Rosaldo and L. Lamphere (Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ., 1974) 189-206.

15. Sanday, "Female Status" 198-200.

16. Sanday, "Female Status" 203-206.

17. J. Hackett, "Can a Sexist Model Liberate Us? Ancient Near Eastern "Fertility" Goddesses," JFSR forthcoming. For an analysis of the different roles filled by "fertility" deities, see J. Ochshorn, The Female Experience and the Nature of the Divine (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1981).

18. Gottner-Abendroth, Gottin 118.

19. Gottner-Abendroth, Gottin 12-16.

20. W. W. Hallo, "Women of Sumer," The Legacy of Sumer, BibMesop 4, ed. D. Schmandt-Besserat (Malibu, CA: Undena, 1976) 29.

21. E. A. Speiser, tr., "The Legend of Sargon," Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, 3rd. ed. with Supplement, ed. I. B Pritchard (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1969 = ANET) 119.

22. For a fuller portrait of the character of Inanna, see my study, "The Deceptive Goddess in Ancient Near Eastern Myth: Inanna and Annoyers," Semeia 42 (1988) 87-93.

23. W. W. Hallo and J. J. A. Van Dijk, The Exaltation of Inanna, YNER 3 (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1968) 1-11. contra J. Ochshorn, "Mothers and Daughters in Ancient Near Eastern Literature," The Lost Tradition: Mothers and Daughters in Literature (ed. C. N. Davidson and F. M. Broner; New York: Frederick Ungar, 1980) 7; Enheduanna writes in Sumerian, not Akkadian.

24. Hallo and Van Dijk, Exaltation 33.

25. Hallo and Van Dijk, Exaltation 31-32.

26. Hallo and Van Dijk, Exaltation 23.

27. Hallo and Van Dijk, Exaltation 27.

28. For an English introduction to the materials from Mari, see BA 47(1984) which is devoted to this topic.

29. G. Dossin, Archives royales de Mari, X: La correspondence feminine (Paris: Departement des Antiquites Orientales, Textes cuneiformes, XXI Musee du Louvre, 1967) = ARM X; W. H. Ph. Romer, Frauenbriefe uber Religion, Politik und Privatleben in Mari: Untersuchungen zu. G. Dossin, Archives Roses de Mari X (Paris 1967), AOAT 12 (Neukirchen-Vluyn, 1971); B. F. Batto, Studies on Women at Mari (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ., 1974); P. Artzi and A. Malamat, "The Correspondence of Sibtu, Queen of Mari in ARM X," Or, n.s., 40 (1971) 75-89; J. M. Sasson, "Biographical Notices on Some Royal Ladies from Mari," JCS 25 (1973) 59-78.

30. Artzi and Malamat, "Correspondence" 81.

31. Artzi and Malamat, "Correspondence" 78-79.

32. Batto, Studies 27-28.

33. L. Lamphere, "Strategies, Cooperation, and Conflict Among Women in Domestic Groups," Women, Culture, Society 97-112.

34. Batto, Studies 37-42, 131; Sasson, "Notices" 63-67.

35. Batto, Studies 42-48; Sasson, "Notices" 68-72.

36. Sasson, "Notices" 68.

37. Batto, Studies 79-139. Many of the women found in the service of the deities were elites, judging by their genealogical ties; where relationships to males are not mentioned it is difficult to decide whether or not lower-class women were involved in cult and religion in anything other than menial capacities.

38. Batto, Studies 128-29; Romer, Frauenbriefe 31.

39. Batto, Studies 131.

40. For Hattusili’s version of the truth, see "The Apology of Hattusili III" in F. H. Sturtevant and C. Bechtel, A Hittite Chrestomathy (Philadelphia: Univ. of Penn. Press, 1935) 65-83. For a fuller discussion of Puduhepa’s career, see the present writer’s "Queenly Proverb Performance: The Prayer of Puduhepa (KUB XXI, 27)," The Listening Heart: Essays in Wisdom and the Psalms in honor of Roland E. Murphy, O.Carm., ed. K. C. Hoglund, F. F. Huwiler, 1. T. Class and R. W. Lee (Sheffield, U.K.: JSOT Press, 1987; JSOT Supp 58) 95-126, and H. Otten, Puduhepa: Eine hethitische Konigin in ihren Textzeugnissen (Mainz: Franz Steiner, 1975).

41. A. L. Oppenheim, The Interpretations of Dreams in the Ancient Near East: With a Translation of an Assyrian Dream-Book (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1956= Trans. Amer. Philosophical Soc. 46/3) 254-55.

42. M. Darga, "Puduhepa: An Anatolian Queen of the Thirteenth Century B.C.," Mansel’e Armagan: Melanges Mansel=Festschrift Arif Mufid Mansel (Ankara: Turk Tarih Kurumu Basimevi, 1974) 2:944-45; I. Seibert, Woman in Ancient Near East, rev. C. Shepperson (Leipzig: Edition Leipzig, 1974) 47-49.

43. 5. R. Bin-Nun, The Tawananna in the Hittite Kingdom (Texte der Hethiter 5; Heidelberg: Carl Winter, 1975) 193. For a picture of Puduhepa’s seal, see E. Akurgal, The Art of the Hittites (New York: Harry Abrams, 1962).

44. A. Goetze, "Prayer of Puduhepas to the Sun-goddess of Arinna and her Circle," ANET 393. KUB = Keilschdften aus Boghazoi, I-XX V (Berlin, 1921-24).

45. For Hebat’s association with the biblical "Eve" (Hawwat), see V. Haas, Hethitische Berggotter und Hurritische Steindamonen: Riten, Kulte und Mythen (Kulturgeschichte der antiken Welt 10; Mainz: Philipp von Zabern, 1982) 30.

46. Sturtevant and Bechtel, Chrestomathy 79.

47. It should be noted, however, that elsewhere it is the Weather-god who commissions the king, and that the Sun-goddess of Arinna is absent from foreign treaties, but see discussion of Puduhepa’s seal by Egyptian scribes, below. Bin-Nun, Tawananna 203-204.

48. Cen 4:1; 21:1; 25:21; 29:31; Ruth 4:13; 1 Sam 1:19-20, 27; 1 Sam 2:1-10; Luke 1.

49. 0. R. Gurney, Some Aspects of Hittite Religion (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1976) 44-45.

50. Gurney, Aspects, 44; D. H. Englehard, "Hittite Magical Practices: An Analysis," (Ph.D. dissertation, Brandeis Univ., 1970) 13.

51. Bin-Nun, Tawananna 120-40.

52. Gurney, Aspects, 45, n. 2. Designated as MI.SU.GI are Annanna, Hebattarakki, Kuesa, Malli, Mallidunna, Silalluhi, Susumanniga and Tunnawiya; Allaidurahi, Alli, Anniwiyani, Mastikka, and Paskuwatti are referred to by the variant SAL.SU.GI.

53. Englehard, "Practices" 23; Sturtevant and Bechtel, Chrestomathy 107.

54. Englehard, "Practices" 6-24.

55. Cited in Englehard, "Practices" 11; VBoT= Verstreute Boghazkiii-Texte (Marburg, 1930).

56. Englehard, "Practices" 72.

57. Englehard, "Practices" 74.

58. Englehard, "Practices" 7.

59. D. D. Luckenbill, "Hittite Treaties and Letters," AJSL 37 (1921) 194. KBo=Keilschrifttexte aus Boghazkoi, Hefte 1-6 (Leipzig, 1916-23), Hefte 7-17 (Berlin, 1954-).

60. Luckenbill, "Treaties" 194.

61. J. Garstang, "The Sun-Goddess of Arinna," Annals of Archaeology and Anthropology 6 (1914) 109.

62. Slave-women do appear as literary "types" in various biblical and extrabiblical narratives and instructions. A further analysis of the literary use to which they are put will appear in Holy Torch of Heaven: Goddesses, Queens and Ordinary Women in the Ancient Near East, in progress.

63. The research presented here is an excerpt from my forthcoming book, Holy Torch of Heaven: Goddesses, Queens and Ordinary Women in the Ancient Near East. The study was made possible by a sabbatical grant from Andover Newton Theological School spent as a Visiting Research Scholar in the Near Eastern and Jewish Studies Department of Brandeis University. I wish to thank Dorothy Moore, Deborah Vickers, Gerry Brague, Cara Davis, and Connie Schutz for their technical assistance in the preparation of this manuscript.