CATTLE AND GRAIN
from EarthHistory Website
The myth 53 involving Lahar, the cattle-god, and his sister Ashnan, the grain-goddess, represents another variation of the Cain-Abel motif in Near East mythology. Labar and Ashnan, according to our myth, were created in the creation chamber of the gods in order that the Annunnaki, the children and followers of the heaven-god An, might have food to eat and clothes to wear.
But the Anunnaki were unable to make effective use of the products of these deities; it was to remedy this situation that man was created. All this is told in an introductory passage which, because of its significance for the Sumerian conception of the creation of man.
The passage following the introduction is another poetic gem; it describes the descent of Lahar and Ashnan from heaven to earth and the cultural benefits which they bestow on mankind:
In those days Enki says to Enlil:
“Father Enlil, Lahar and Ashnan,
They who have been created in the Dulkug,
Let us cause them to descend from the Dulkug.”
At the pure word of Enki and Enlil,
Lahar and Ashnan descended from the Dulkug.
For Lahar they (Enlil and Enki) set up the sheepfold,
Plants, herbs, and . . . they present to him;
For Ashnan they establish a house,
Plow and yoke they present to her.
Lahar standing in his sheepfold,
A shepherd increasing the bounty of the sheepfold is he;
Ashnan standing among the crops,
A maid kindly and bountiful is she.
Abundance of heaven . . . ,
Lahar and Ashnan caused to appear,
In the assembly they brought abundance,
In the land they brought the breath of life,
The decrees of the god they direct,
The contents of the warehouses they multiply,
The storehouses they fill full.
In the house of the poor, hugging the dust,
Entering they bring abundance;
The pair of them, wherever they stand,
Bring heavy increase into the house;
The place where they stand they sate, the place where they sit they supply,
They made good the heart of An and Enlil.
But then Labar and Ashnan drank much wine and so they began to quarrel in the farms and fields. In the arguments which ensued, each deity extolled its achievements and belittled those of its opponent. Finally Enlil and Enki intervened, but the end of the poem which contains their decision is still wanting.
53. The poem consists of close to 200 lines of text reconstructed from the following tablets and fragments: BBI 8; BE XXXI 15; CBS 7344, 7916, 15161, 29.15.973; HAV 6; Ni 2308, 4036, 4094; SEM 38, 54, 55, 56, 57; SRT 25, 44. The following groups form “joins”: CBS 7344 + 7916 + SEM 5 + SEM 77; CBS 29.15.973 + SEM 38. All in all, therefore, we now have 17 pieces belonging to the myth, and the statement in SL 322 no. 5 is to be modified accordingly (the number 9 there given resulted from the fact that the four fragments constituting the first “join” mentioned above were counted as one while the 5 pieces Ni 2308, 4036, 4044, SEM 38, and SRT 41 were not identified until after the publication of SL). The first 70 lines of the poem were transliterated and translated by Chiera in SRT pp. 26 ff.