Monday, September 28, 2015

Stewards of the earth: a role for humankind

This post was inspired by a meeting held last week in Florence on the subject of the Pope's climate encyclical, and, in particular, by the presentation given there by Father Bernardo. prior of the San Miniato church. I had been thinking about the relation of religion and the environment for some time and, as a comment, I reproduce below a text that I wrote on the interpretation of an ancient Sumerian myth that, in my opinion, describes an ancient ecological catastrophe, not unlike the one we are facing nowadays. Many elements of the ancient Sumerian religion have survived through the millennia and are still with us; in particular the concept that humans have both power and responsibility: they are there to serve the creation, not to use it for their purposes. (h/t Antonella Giachetti)

When I started my career in scientific research, I could hardly have imagined that the Catholic Pope would, one day, teach to scientists (and not just to them) how to do their job. And yet, it seems that we have arrived exactly to this point.

The attempts performed so far to settle the debate on the various disasters befalling on us (and that we ourselves created) have led to nothing. For how many decades have we been trying to get an agreement to avoid the climate change disaster? Now we are putting our residual hopes on the Paris conference of this year, but do you really think that a group of politicians and bureaucrats dressed in dark suits will be able to save the planet?

What we are seeing, instead, is the utter failure of a way of thinking that we call sometimes "positivism" that has its origins in the 19th century with thinkers such as Condorcet, Saint Simon, Comte, and others. At that time, it seemed to be a good idea to use the reason and science to settle all questions. Maybe a good idea, but, in practice, it doesn't work. We know everything about what's happening and why. It is all scientific method and logic. And, yet, the message doesn't pass; we keep destroying everything, including ourselves.

Pure reason doesn't tell us that we should do something to keep alive the other species sharing the earth with us. Pure reason has led us to such absurdity as believing that individual egoism is the best way to manage the earth's commons (this idea is a kind of religion, but an evil one). Pure reason turns the ecosystem into a giant supermarket where you don't even have to pay for what you get (as long as there remains something to get).

We need to take a different view. A view that doesn't see humans as the owners (or perhaps parasites) of the planet, but as stewards of the earth. A view that tells us that humans have a responsibility toward the planet. Without such a view, we'll keep behaving like bacteria in a Petri dish; unworthy of creatures said to have been created "in the image and the likeness of God". I think you don't have to be Christian to take this attitude, and, likely, not even religious or a believer in a transcendent God. But I think you have to have at least a feeling that there exists something, out there, that goes beyond the mere satisfaction of personal desires. It is not even a question of survival, more a question of dignity for humankind.

This is an old idea, the idea that humans are not here to be the masters, but as stewards of the planet on which they live. It goes back to the ancient Sumerians, and, below, I report a paper that I wrote about an ancient Sumerian myth that may describe a plight similar to the one we are facing now.


 From "Chimeras", Aug 23, 2015

Inanna and Ebih: a report of an ancient ecological catastrophe?

Ugo Bardi
Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra – Università di Firenze
Polo Scientifico di Sesto Fiorentino,
Sesto Fiorentino (Fi) via della Lastruccia 3, 50019, Italy


“Inanna and Ebih” is the modern title of a text written by the Sumerian poet Enheduanna around the second half of the third millennium BCE. It describes the conflict between the Goddess Inanna and the mountain called Ebih, which ends with the destruction of the latter. I suggest that the poem may be interpreted as the result of the way the ancient perceived what we call today an “ecological catastrophe,” that is the result of overgrazing and deforestation of a fragile mountain environment.

1. Introduction

The “Inanna and Ebih” poem was composed around 2300 BCE by the Sumerian poetess Enheduanna and it was rediscovered in the 20th Century (1)⁠. The story told in the poem can be summarized in a few lines. We read first that the Goddess Inanna is preparing to do battle against the mountain "Ebih," because the mountain “showed her no respect”. Before attacking, Inanna goes to see the God An, whom she calls “father,” apparently to ask for his help. An, however, is perplexed and Inanna decides to fight alone; eventually managing to triumph over the mountain. This story must have been well known in Sumerian times; so much that several copies of it have arrived to us, written in cuneiform on clay tablets. So, its meaning must have been clear enough for the people of ancient times and they must have found the story interesting enough that they kept copying it many times, apparently also as a standard exercise for young scribes (2)⁠. 

However, for us, "Inanna and Ebih" is hard to classify as a poem, even baffling. The characters, their conflict, and the very fact of a God battling a mountain appear totally alien to our modern feelings. As a story, it is far away from all the modern canons of what we define as “literature” or “poetry.”

The present paper adds some considerations to the understanding of the story of Inanna and Ebih. It is based on the concept that the ancient faced the same physical problems as we do, for instance soil erosion, deforestation, and the like. However, their way to see and describe these problems was much different. So, it may be that the story we are considering describes an ancient ecological catastrophe, the destruction of a forest ecosystem, told in a form that is not easy for us to recognize but that appears clear, once understood. The story also may be an echo of a conflict still existing in modern times: the need to preserve natural environments against the attempt of overexploiting them.

The author does not claim to be able to read Sumerian and the present discussion is based on the versions of the story available in modern languages; that is on the one by Betty De Shong Meador (3)⁠, the one available in the electronic corpus of Sumerian Literature (4)⁠, the version in French by Attinger (5)⁠, and the Italian one by Pettinato (6)⁠. These translations were found to differ in some details, but the overall content was the same.

2. Inanna and Ebih: interpreting the myth

There are several ways to interpret ancient myths. Perhaps the best known one is the “comparative” method, pioneered, among others, by Claude Levi-Strauss (7)⁠. It consists in finding common elements among different myths; as they can be found in different cultures and different ages. These common elements evidence the basic structure of the myth and help understand its general meaning, framing it in its specific context.

In the case of "Inanna and Ebih", we could first look for stories involving Gods engaged in fighting mountains, but such a plot appears to be very rare. A similar plot is the Sumerian text referred to as “Lugal-e,” from the first term it begins with (8)⁠. It goes back to times close to those of Enheduanna, but it is probably later. In Lugal-e, we are told of the divine hero, Ninurta, fighting a demon called “Asag” that turns out to be a “pile of stones”, perhaps to be identified as a mountain with that name. Karahashi has discussed this myth explicitly in comparison with that of Inanna and Ebih, finding several points in common, especially in the terminology used. (8)⁠

Another myth showing some structural similarities is the Greek myth of the Chimera. In this case, the hero is Bellerophon, semi-divine as the son of the God Poseidon and, as a monster, the Chimera has some Chthonic elements, especially in its fiery breath that may lead to identify it with a mountain. Both Pliny the Elder in his “Natural History” and Maurus Servius Honoratus in his commentary to Virgil's Aeneid state that the Chimera has to be intended as a representation of a volcano. We also find a similar interpretation in Plutarch's “Moralia” (3.16.9) where we are told of how Bellerophon cut away a section of a mountain called “Chimera” which was producing a nasty reflection on the plain; which, in turn, dried up the crops. In an earlier work (9)⁠, the author of the present paper proposed that the source of the myth of the Chimera is to be found in ancient East Asian mythology. It is not impossible that one source could be the story of Inanna and Ebih.

Apart from these stories, mountainous monsters are rare in the world's lore. Some mountains were certainly important in religious terms, such as Mount Olympus for the ancient Greek and Mount Fuji in Japan, up to relatively recent times. Neither, however, were deified in the role given to Ebih in the story we are discussing here. We can find occasional stone monsters in modern fiction; for instance in The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien (1937), we can read the description of stone monsters hurling gigantic boulders against each other. Other fantasy chthonic monsters appear in environments such as role playing games. On the whole, however, we can say that a plot describable as “God fights mountain” is very rare both in ancient and in modern lore. Hence, it is nearly impossible to use it as a basis for the comparative method of interpretation of the myth of Inanna and Ebih.

At this point, we could attempt to classify the myth of Inanna and Ebih as an example of the generic theme of a shining hero fighting an ugly monster. There are plenty of ancient and modern myths based on this idea; however, such an interpretation misses some of the elements that make the slaying of Ebih so puzzling. Why is the monster a mountain? Why does it enrage Inanna so much? What are the reasons of Inanna's quarrel with the other Gods? Clearly, there is something more in this story that makes it unlike the traditional hero/monster conflict.

A different line of interpretations of the myth is reported by Delnero (2)⁠. It is based on the idea that the story is, actually, a representation of the conflict existing at the time of the author, Enheduanna, between the Akkadic and the Sumerian elements of the Mesopotamian civilization. It is known that such a conflict existed and other poems by Enheduanna may refer to it. For instance, in “nin-me-sarra” (Lady of bright virtues) Enheduanna appears to describe an insurrection that leads to her being chased away from her temple. The interpretation reported by Meador (p. 181) is that the insurgents were led by a man named Lugalanne, or Lugalanna, possibly of Sumerian ethnical origin, against the Akkadian ruler of the time, Naram-Sin, Enheduanna's nephew (3)⁠. 

There is clearly something in these interpretations and the violence that pervades Enheduanna's texts may well be a reflection of the violence that characterized her times. However, there remains the problem that “Inanna and Ebih” is so abstract in the characterization of its protagonists that, if it really describes a local conflict of Enheduanna's times, it is not clear which side should be identified with which element of the myth. Maybe this interpretation was clear to the ancient Sumerians, but that may be reasonably doubted.

Meador (3) provides a deeper interpretation of the story, seeing the poem as an early version of the Biblical myth of the Garden of Eden; with Inanna as the Sumerian equivalent of Eve/Lilith. Whereas, in the Bible, Eve is punished for her action, in the Sumerian myth Inanna takes the initiative and refuses to submit to the father-God; destroying Eden in the process. Meador also sees the story as a reflection of an ancient conflict between a female dominated pantheon, with Inanna in the role of the Mother Goddess, and an emerging male dominated pantheon, with An as a fatherly figure, ruling the other gods. This conflict is evident in several other Sumerian and Akkadian mythological stories where, for instance, Inanna is pitted against her brother Gilgamesh. This is a very interesting interpretation as it implies that “Inanna and Ebih” is related to even more ancient myths, perhaps going back to pre-literate times. This seems to be hinted in the text, when Inanna is said (in Meador's translation) to “wear the robes of the old, old Gods” (3)⁠. Attinger (5)⁠ and Pettinato (6)⁠ explicitly name these "old Gods" as “Enul and Enŝar” who may be, indeed, Gods of a more ancient age (10)⁠ (p. 53). 

However, even this way of seeing the myth does not explain the meaning of some elements; for instance, if this is the story of a conflict between a mother Goddess and a father God, what is exactly the role of the mountain Ebih?

A different way to look at this myth is the “Euhemeristic” or “rationalistic” way, consisting in explaining the myth in terms of natural phenomenaThis way of interpreting ancient myths was more popular in the past than it is today, but it never went out of fashion. However, modern scholars tend to be much more cautious in explaining (some could say, “explaining away”) the elements of complex stories into banal physical phenomena. When Servius said that the Chimera was a volcano, he may have meant that the ancient were so naïve to mistake a volcano for a lion, but that, of course, is unlikely, to say the least. Rather, the ancient were facing the same physical phenomena as we do and, for them, describing a thunderstorm in terms of actions performed by a God named Zeus was a way to make it consistent with their cultural and mental tools. We do the same in modern times when we ascribe certain events to abstract and perhaps supernatural entities whose existence can be reasonably doubted (e.g. “the free market”).

Regarding Sumerian/Akkadian myths, naturalistic explanations have been proposed by Jacobsen (11)⁠, but not specifically for the story of Inanna and Ebih. However, if we examine the story in light of a possible rationalistic interpretation, we immediately see how the destruction of the mountain hints to an ecological catastrophe caused by deforestation and overgrazing.

In the myth, the Ebih mountain is described as a luxuriant place: fruits hang in its flourishing gardens. It has magnificent trees, lions, wild bulls and deer are abundant, just as wild bulls and grass. Then, we see Inanna attacking the mountain with fire and with a rain of rocks. In another of Enheduanna's poems, translated by Meador as “Lady of Largest Heart” (3)⁠ we read some lines that may refer to Inanna's fight against Ebih:

She crushes the mountain to garbage,
scattering the trash from dawn to dark,
with mighty stones she pelts,
and the mountain,
like a clay pot
with her might
she melts the mountain
into a vat of sheepfat.

It takes little imagination to see that the poem could well be referring here to the degradation of the soil on the slopes of a mountain, turned into mud slipping downhill. Mountain terrains are especially sensitive to soil erosion and the problem is especially severe in hot climates subjected to episodes of heavy rain interspersed with dry period, as it is the case of the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern climate.

Mesopotamia is a flat land, but its inhabitants briskly traded wood and other forest commodities. Today, most of the mountain ranges of Northern Africa and Middle East are degraded and eroded in various degrees. But that was not the case in ancient times and it will suffice to note how the mountains of Lebanon were a source of timber for ancient Sumerians (as recorded in the myth of Gilgamesh and Enkidu), whereas in modern times these regions are nearly completely deforested and eroded (12)⁠. From the available data (13)⁠, it appears clear that the mountains of the Zagros region, which are probably where the “Inanna and Ebih” refers to, were still largely forested in Sumerian times, but it is also clear that they were already being deforested; a slow process that has led to the present condition of serious environmental degradation (14)⁠.

The ancient knew about the problem of soil degradation. McNeill and Viniwarter (15) summarized several elements of the question, reporting that already in 2000 BCE, that is at a time not far from that of Enheduanna, farmers in the Middle East had already developed ways to fight soil erosion. They also report how Roman writers, such as Varro, had a keen interest in soil quality and on the need of avoiding erosion. It is also well known how Plato, in his "Critias" (4th century BCE) describes the erosion and the degradation of the mountains of Greece. An interesting pre-industrial document on this issue was written by Matteo Biffi Tolomei around the end of the 18th Century (16)⁠. It tells of the attempt to maintain the forest cover of the Appennini mountains in Tuscany, Italy, and of how the attempt failed after much debate among those who defined themselves the “modern” party (favoring the cutting of the trees) and the “old” party (favoring, instead, to keep the forest cover). This conflict of a few centuries ago is not framed in religious terms, but, in it, we may perhaps see a reflection of the much older conflict of Sumerian time that may be reflected in the story of Inanna and Ebih.

3. Conclusion: religion as a way to interpret the world

Religion in Sumerian times was certainly something very different than the way we intend it nowadays. However, certain elements of the concept of religion are common to all its forms (see e.g. Thorkild Jacobsen (11)⁠ for an exhaustive account of the characteristics and of the historical development of the Sumerian religious view of the world). A religious view of the world may see beyond the simple, short term advantage of an action (cutting trees), to note the long terms disadvantages (soil erosion). Today, we may see this kind of approach in the recent papal encyclical on climate change (17)⁠ and the Islamic declaration on global climate change (18)⁠. That may have been the point also of the history of Inanna “punishing” the mountain named Ebih, something that may be interpreted as destroying the humans who weren't been careful enough to maintain and sustain its ecosystem.


1. Kramer SN. Sumerian Aythology: A Study of the Spiritual and Literary Achieve-ment in the 3rd Millennium B.C. Memoirs of. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society; 1944.
2. Delnero P. Inana and Ebih and the Scribal Tradition. A Common Cultural Heritage:Studies on Mesopotamia and the Biblical World in Honor of Barry L Eichler [Internet]. CDL Press; 2011 [cited 2015 Aug 8]. Available from:
3. Meador B. Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart: Poems of the Sumerian High Priestess Enheduanna [Internet]. Austin (Tx): University of Austin Press; 2000 [cited 2015 Aug 3]. Available from:
4. Black JA, Cunningham G, Fluckiger-Hawker E, Robson E, Zólyomi G. Inana and Ebih: translation [Internet]. The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature. [cited 2015 Aug 3]. Available from:
5. Attinger P. Inana and Ebih. Zeitschrift für Assyriologie und Vor Archäologie [Internet]. 1998;88:164–95. Available from:$002fzava.1998.88.issue-2$002fzava.1998.88.2.164$002fzava.1998.88.2.164.xml
6. Pettinato G. Mitologia sumerica [Internet]. Torino: UTET; 2001 [cited 2015 Aug 9]. Available from:
7. Levi-Strauss C. Myth and Meaning. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, U.K; 1978.
8. Karahashi F. Fighting the Mountain: Some Observations on the Sumerian Myths of Inanna and Ninurta*. J Near East Stud [Internet]. 2004 [cited 2015 Aug 3];63(2):111–8. Available from:
9. Bardi U. Il Libro della Chimera. Firenze, Italy: Polistampa; 2008.
10. Espak P. Some Early Developments in Sumerian God-Lists and Pantheon. In: Kanmerer T, editor. Identities and Societiesin the Ancient East-Mediterranean Regions [Internet]. Munster: Ugarit-Verlag; 2011 [cited 2015 Aug 23]. Available from:
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  1. I really like the sentiment of this posting -- particularly the notion of stewardship. Sadly in the US, religious people tend to be Republican, more supportive of war, against gun control and again government environmental regulation; not a good mix to promote our joint responsibility for managing the commons.

  2. Sadly it appears that you have fallen into the ecomodernist trap. What is quite clear is tha people depend on ecological services provided by the web of life and that we cannot replace or displace these. To see this (as the Pope does) does not require giving up on positivism.


    1. Eli, It seems clear to me that the "ecomodernist trap" is just what you say: to see the ecosystem only in terms of the "services" it can provide. It is the religion of the supermarket: you take what you need and you don't care about anything else.

      We have been trying to play this card, the "for your own good" one, over and over: telling people, "damaging the ecosystem is bad for you". It doesn't seem to work: people don't see the consequences of what they are doing, and when that will be evident, it will be too late (and they STILL won't see what's happening).

      I think the stewardship idea at least tells people that the ecosystem has a value that goes beyond the services it provides to humans. Whether it will be an idea that can be diffused it is all to be seen, but I think it should be considered

    2. We have been trying to play this card, the "for your own good" one, over and over: telling people, "damaging the ecosystem is bad for you". It doesn't seem to work: people don't see the consequences of what they are doing,

      That is absolutely true. The question is why it is happening.

      I think the best answer is that people cannot understand the situation because they have been conditioned by the culture they've grown up in to think that humans have a special places in the cosmological order. An idea that once you've internalized it, makes your thinking refractory to understanding our precarious dependence on nonrenewable resources and on the health of the ecosystems of the planet. Some people will pay lip service to the whole issue, others will engage in fantasies about green growth, etc., but very few actually have a good grasp of the situation.

      Now where does that misguided idea come from? Religion is not always the ultimate source of it, but is the proximal reason why it persists and proliferates. And all this talk about stewardship does very little to change things -- "stewardship" implies a subordinate relationship with humans on top, which is precisely the kind of thinking that has gotten us in this mess in the first place. So the Pope is not our friend no matter how green he sounds, and more generally, there can be in all likelihood no true sustainability without the complete eradication of all sorts of religious belief.

      Because the step from believing the right things for the wrong reasons to believing the wrong things for the wrong reasons is very short, especially when very powerful biological instincts (expand to and beyond the limits of your environment, fight for social status by acquiring material wealth, etc.) are pushing you in that direction.

      You have to believe the right things for the right reasons, and you have to have an as good as possible understanding of your place in nature. Religion by definition gives you a wrong such understanding.

    3. How true, Mr Marinov.

      I am inclined to ask, how can people possibly be 'stewards', when they neither understand nor are masters of themselves?

      Very stimulating post Prof. Bardi, aever.

    4. As a further note to comment to Eli's post; I read the "ecomodernist" manifesto and I see that they use the term "decoupling" in a different way than I understood it. Economists say that "decoupling" is linked to the "dematerialization" of the economy; and the GDP keeps growing even if the resource consumption goes down. You run out of cake, but you still think you are eating it. The ecomodernists, instead, see humans "decoupling" from the ecosystem by means of technology; mainly by using nuclear energy in place of fossil fuels. The concept is a little murky, because fossil fuels were not part of the ecosystem before being extracted; but, anyway, it is like leaving the cake where it is, while feeding oneself by intravenous glucose infusion. Something like that....

    5. As a further note to comment to Eli's post; I read the "ecomodernist" manifesto and I see that they use the term "decoupling" in a different way than I understood it. Economists say that "decoupling" is linked to the "dematerialization" of the economy; and the GDP keeps growing even if the resource consumption goes down. You run out of cake, but you still think you are eating it. The ecomodernists, instead, see humans "decoupling" from the ecosystem by means of technology; mainly by using nuclear energy in place of fossil fuels. The concept is a little murky, because fossil fuels were not part of the ecosystem before being extracted; but, anyway, it is like leaving the cake where it is, while feeding oneself by intravenous glucose infusion. Something like that....

  3. As a further point that I would like to make about this post, it is the "flash" of understanding I had when hearing Father Bernardo speaking. He was discussing the "Canticle of the Creatures" by St. Francis, and making a rather erudite point. He said that it is often intended as saying "Be praised my Lord for this and that", intended as thanking the Lord for having provided "services" (the Sun, fruit, food, etc.) to people. Well, it is not that. Correctly understood and translated it is "Be praised my Lord THROUGH this and that"

    Now, the "be praised for" is the ecomodernist position. Thank you, my lord, for having created a supermarket at a walking distance to my home; a service I can use. The "be praised through" is the "stewardship" position. Everything you created, my lord, is part of the creation; it is your design, not a service.

    This can be seen in various ways, of course, but it seems to me a fundamental point. At least, something deeper and more satisfying than the silliness of the present debate.

    1. Ugo
      I agree, though this seems somewhat more than just an erudite point.
      Very valuable.

      We need to know something more about what (who) to thank for our disasters as well as our daily bread. (For the latter we owe it to a higher power for Brother Sun. We need reminding that the Sun powers a great deal more than us with that splendour.)
      ‘Daily bread’ was never a certainty but highly provisional, depending on a lot of detail and derogated activity. St Francis got the hierarchy right of course. It is brothers and sisters (a bit like turtles) “all the way down.”

  4. One cannot be a good steward without controlling one's population. The greater problem (or rather predicament) is just that. We are completely unable to address it or talk about it for a number of reasons. I suspect the adjustment (by force) in human numbers that we are going to see in the next 20 years is going to be quite violent.

  5. Perhaps we don't even need "progressivist" philosophy to destroy our local ecosystem (the earth); maybe it's in our DNA. In Diamond's "Collapse", he outlines a number of pre-industrial societies that cut down all the trees and fished the waters dry -- of course they aren't with us any longer.

    Years ago we bought an old house in the country with a derelict vineyard, and we had two cats. The first year they caught scores of cute little lizards. They brought lizards into the house every night as presents. We slowly rehabilitated the vineyard (lizard habitat loss) and the cats hunted the lizards to extinction. Within a few years there were zero lizards for the cats to hunt, and we stopped seeing them.

    We were feeding the cats, so their lack of planning wasn't a problem. But I always look back on that experience and chuckle that we are no better than our cats. Except that for humans, there isn't someone out there ready to feed us after we use everything up.

  6. Storytelling, mythology through religion or traditional practices, is a way of knowledge sharing and building of moral values. This predates our industrial age and since we lived as nomads for 97% of our human history, when our brains developed, most people still understand the world through some form of narrative. I agree that simply seeing nature as "a service to humans" is inadequate. But Im also wondering if oversimplified stories not tend to make the situation worse, like "the story of survival of the fittest through competition and war" like some parties in Europe now embrace. But I agree that stories that see us as stewards of the planet are essential. I guess we can only hope that the story that values all life wins the race of presenting a new "creation mythology".

    “For people, generally, their story of the universe and the human role in the universe
    is their primary source of intelligibility and value. The deepest crises experienced
    by any society are those moments of change when the story becomes inadequate
    for meeting the survival demands of a present situation.”
    Thomas Berry

  7. Positivism and scientism both have their serious problems. Science is something else. Using reason properly is part of real science. Looking to religions for answers is dangerous. They are depositories of much valuable human experience but they mix it in with significant philosophical errors. Organized religions are moreover self perpetuating political animals and exist in a political marketplace with many competing players. Most I think have run their historical course and need to be significantly upgraded, transformed or replaced. The above could be explained in fifty pages but it probably would not change the opinions of those who disagree. For similar reasons the Pope's good speech at the United Nations will not be heeded by those in attendance. Unless of course the Pope can mobilize God and bring him into the fray on the side of Justice, Reason, Science, Sustainability and etc.

  8. Rulers or servants, I think that it is a vision of power. There is someone or something that overpower anything. God, Gaia, Science or Nature. A perspective of confrontation, between humandkind and other powers.

    I think that there is a better vision. Protectors. Keepers.
    In a family, the parents are not rulers. It's a relationship of love and care, from the parents to their childs.

    That's the vision that I like. A relationship of love. Humans loving life. Each species, each living creature, as unique and special.

    And if we really overcome our resource limits and goes beyond Earth, we could be gardeners and guardians of the life in our corner of the galaxy.

  9. Dejando claro desde el principio que cualquier opinión que yo pueda tener es muy aventurada, pues mi formación es muy lejana a la Historia), pienso que la interpretación del mito es poco consistente.
    Yo veo una interpretación bastante diferente: como un accidente minero, enmarcado en una época de conflicto religioso. Aunque se tienen indicios de uso del hierro cuatro milenios antes de Cristo, por parte de los sumerios y egipcios, en el segundo y tercer milenio, antes de Cristo, van apareciendo cada vez más objetos de hierro (que se distinguen del hierro procedente de meteoritos por la ausencia de níquel) en Mesopotamia, Anatolia y Egipto. Sin embargo, su uso parece ser ceremonial, siendo un metal muy caro, más que el oro. Algunas fuentes sugieren que tal vez se obtuviera como subproducto de la obtención de cobre.
    Al mismo tiempo que se extiende el hierro, se produce un cambio religioso y social fundamental, pasándose de representaciones de Diosas Lunares (la Diosa Blanca), madre y protectora de la tierra, a la preponderancia de dioses masculinos, lo que se traduce en sociedades guerreras, patriarcales, dominadas por los varones, diluyéndose el matriarcado. Poco a poco, estos guerreros van utilizando cada vez más frecuentemente armas de hierro, mucho más efectivas para la batalla que las de bronce.
    Los dioses masculinos son mucho más utilitarios. Leemos en el Génesis (1.26) que Dios dijo: “Hagamos al hombre a nuestra imagen, conforme a nuestra semejanza; y ejerza dominio sobre los peces del mar, sobre las aves del cielo, sobre los ganados, sobre toda la tierra, y sobre todo reptil que se arrastra sobre la tierra”. Esta es la mentalidad extractiva heredada de babilonios e hititas.

    Irán e Iraq tienen grandes depósitos de mineral de hierro. No me cuesta imaginar una mina a cielo abierto en cualquier montaña de la zona. No me cuesta imaginar un período de fuertes lluvias que originase un alud de lodo que enterrase un gran número de guerreros. No me cuesta imaginar que se atribuyese a una Diosa Madre (sobre todo una como Istar/Inanna caracterizada por dos cosas, la primera un fortísimo carácter, cuyos enfados tenían terribles consecuencias, y la segunda, un carácter sexualmente libre, que chocaría con la moral machista impuesta que subyugaba a la mujer) la destrucción de las minas.

    El gran fallo de esta teoría es que parece ser que el poema se escribió antes de que la tecnología de extracción y fundición del hierro se extendiese, pero quién sabe, el hierro pudo haberse descubierto localmente antes de lo supuesto, o puede que este accidente inicial retrasara durante algunos siglos el desarrollo de la tecnología minera.


    1. Clearly, there were many uses for wood, one was to use it to smelt iron and metals in general. So, you are right in pointing out that there may be a relation between iron use and deforestation. Another facet of the myth. And note that the goddess is using a mace, not a sword, and a mace needs not to be make in steel, can even be made with stone.

  10. Quizá puede ser también el resultado de la "ruina montium", descrita por Plino en su Historia naturalis (libro 33), un método empleado por los romanos en el noroeste de España. ( El resultado final parece consecuencia de una batalla entre un dios y la montaña.

    1. Surely. That's the interest of the myth: it applies not only to Sumerians, but to all our history

  11. Hi Ugo,

    You ask 'what is the mountain' if we consider this story as analogous to the story of Eden. From your description-- abundant fruits, etc...-- it is Eden itself. However, it still differs in that two Gods (father and daughter) disagree over its fate, whereas the story of Eden is a disagreement between mortal(s) and God.

    What about the possibility the mountain representations the metaphorical Axis Mundi between heaven and Earth? Perhaps she meant to sever the link somehow. Perhaps it is more than metaphorical, in that the mountain refers to a particularly large/important temple or ziggurat?

    What about a different interpretation still? What if the mountain is a play on words, of a person or group's name or nickname?


    1. About the Eden story, I suggest to you to read the book by Betty de Shong Meador "Inanna, lady of largest heart" - free translation of "Nin me Sarra". It is so deep that it can change one's vision of the world forever. About "Ebih", you have a good point. As far as I know, there are no interpretations of the meaning of the name. It seems to have been a person name; and I may vaguely surmise that it could be related to "Abal", Stone, but this means stretching the concept a lot.

    2. Thank you Ugo. I have added the book to my list.




Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome and the author of "Extracted: how the quest for mineral resources is plundering the Planet" (Chelsea Green 2014)