Monday, April 25, 2022

28 Lines for History's FIRST recorded author

     Earlier this month I attended (virtually) a mathematics conference and focused my attention on sessions that linked math and the arts.  One of these was a math-poetry presentation by Sarah Glaz which celebrated Enhuedanna (early Sumerian author -- 23rd century, BCE) "Enheduanna – Princess, Priestess, Poet and Mathematician" and included this wonderfully descriptive poem by Glaz.

Twenty-Eight Lines for the En-Priestess Enheduanna    by Sarah Glaz    

       In the beginning there is no beginning.
       Eternity’s dark fingers hold a lantern
       casting a glow
       over the city-state of Ur,
       where the Sumerian princess,
       high priestess of the Moon God, Nanna,
       daughter of King Sargon,  
       stretches the cord
       measuring land and irrigation canals,
       tall ziggurats
       and massive ramparts.
       Her other task is time reckoning,
       Nanna dictates the calendar
       expecting priests
       to iron out the details.
       She measures the heavens
       to keep his lunar months
       in sync with the four seasons,
       and to exalt the pantheon of gods
       and let her heart
       be at peace,  
       conceives the words.
       Poet and mathematician —
       the first
       to sign her own work:
       The compiler of this tablet, Enheduanna.
       My lord, that which has been created [here]
                  no one has created [before].     

Notes from Glaz:  The two lines in italics are from a translation by Sjoberg and Bergmann of Enheduanna’s Temple Hymn 42.  Enheduanna (circa 2300 BCE) [Sumerian for “Ornament of Heaven”] is the first recorded author in history. She is the author of several poems, written on clay tablets in Sumerian  cuneiform script, and as high priestess of the moon god, Nanna, she is likely to have been involved in the mathematical activities of her days.   A slightly different version  of the poem was first published here in The Mathematical Intelligencer 2020. 

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