The oldest known form of writing dates back to about 5,000 years ago and was found in ancient Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq). However, have you ever wondered who was the first author in the world? According to the sources available to us it was the princess, priestess and poet known as Enheduanna.
Dating back to a period that predates Homer’s writings by 1,000 years“the first author we know by name that we can link with an existing text – says Benjamin Foster, an Assyriologist at Yale University – it is Enheduanna. Much of Mesopotamian literature we do not know who wrote it, but she is the exception.“
The woman was the daughter of Akkadian king Sargon, who lived from about 2334 BC to 2279 BC, and united most of Mesopotamia under his rule. The emperor appointed his daughter high priestess of the Sumerian moon god, Nanna, in the city of Ur as part of his efforts to consolidate his new empire (by the way, what is the first civilization in history?).
“The princess was clearly a very important figure in the city of Ur‘said Erhan Tamur, postdoctoral curatorial fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and co-author of an exhibition on Enheduanna at the Morgan Library and Museum.’And on top of all these responsibilities, he wrote poetry.“
The first written evidence of Enheduanna they come from the remains of an alabaster disk unearthed in 1927 during the excavations of Ur by the British archaeologist Sir Leonard Woolley. In her poems, the high priestess very often spoke of Inanna – daughter of the goddess Nanna – the goddess of love and war: “Inanna is both fierce and cruel, loving and kind, capable of both destruction and generosity“, can be read in the ancient scriptures.
“Enheduanna is the first author we know of who incorporated autobiographical details into her narrative“, finally says Tamur. “Furthermore, she is the first author who tells us something about the creation of these poems. She compares the act of literary creation to childbirth, the first known use of this metaphor, which will remain in use for millennia in world literature.“