Worship[ edit ] The main temple to Enki was called E-abzu, meaning " abzu temple" also E-en-gur-a, meaning "house of the subterranean waters" , a ziggurat temple surrounded by Euphratean marshlands near the ancient Persian Gulf coastline at Eridu.
It was the first temple known to have been built in Southern Iraq. Four separate excavations at the site of Eridu have demonstrated the existence of a shrine dating back to the earliest Ubaid period , more than 6, years ago. Over the following 4, years, the temple was expanded 18 times, until it was abandoned during the Persian period.
Steinkeller believes that, during the earliest period, Enki had a subordinate position to a goddess possibly Ninhursag , taking the role of divine consort or high priest,  later taking priority.
The Enki temple had at its entrance a pool of fresh water, and excavation has found numerous carp bones, suggesting collective feasts. Carp are shown in the twin water flows running into the later God Enki, suggesting continuity of these features over a very long period. These features were found at all subsequent Sumerian temples, suggesting that this temple established the pattern for all subsequent Sumerian temples.
He is often shown with the horned crown of divinity. On the Adda Seal, Enki is depicted with two streams of water flowing into each of his shoulders: He is shown wearing a flounced skirt and a cone-shaped hat. An eagle descends from above to land upon his outstretched right arm. This portrayal reflects Enki's role as the god of water, life, and replenishment. His grandson Enki, chosen to represent the younger gods, puts a spell on Abzu "casting him into a deep sleep", thereby confining him deep underground.
Enki subsequently sets up his home "in the depths of the Abzu. Reeds were an important local building material, used for baskets and containers, and collected outside the city walls, where the dead or sick were often carried. This links Enki to the Kur or underworld of Sumerian mythology. In another even older tradition, Nammu , the goddess of the primeval creative matter and the mother-goddess portrayed as having "given birth to the great gods," was the mother of Enki, and as the watery creative force, was said to preexist Ea-Enki.
In one evocative passage in a Sumerian hymn, Enki stands at the empty riverbeds and fills them with his 'water'". In the epic Enki and Ninhursag, Enki, as lord of Ab or fresh water also the Sumerian word for semen , is living with his wife in the paradise of Dilmun where "The land of Dilmun is a pure place, the land of Dilmun is a clean place, The land of Dilmun is a clean place, the land of Dilmun is a bright place; He who is alone laid himself down in Dilmun, The place, after Enki is clean, that place is bright" Despite being a place where "the raven uttered no cries" and "the lion killed not, the wolf snatched not the lamb, unknown was the kid-killing dog, unknown was the grain devouring boar", Dilmun had no water and Enki heard the cries of its Goddess, Ninsikil, and orders the sun-God Utu to bring fresh water from the Earth for Dilmun.
As a result, "Her City Drinks the Water of Abundance, Dilmun Drinks the Water of Abundance, Her wells of bitter water, behold they are become wells of good water, Her fields and farms produced crops and grain, Her city, behold it has become the house of the banks and quays of the land. This mingling of waters was known in Sumerian as Nammu , and was identified as the mother of Enki. The subsequent tale, with similarities to the Biblical story of the forbidden fruit, repeats the story of how fresh water brings life to a barren land.
Not knowing her to be his daughter, and because she reminds him of his absent consort, Enki then seduces and has intercourse with her. A second time, Enki, in his loneliness finds and seduces Ninkurra, and from the union Ninkurra gave birth to Uttu weaver or spider, the weaver of the web of life.
A third time Enki succumbs to temptation, and attempts seduction of Uttu. Upset about Enki's reputation, Uttu consults Ninhursag, who, upset at the promiscuous wayward nature of her spouse, advises Uttu to avoid the riverbanks, the places likely to be affected by flooding, the home of Enki.
In another version of this myth Ninhursag takes Enki's semen from Uttu's womb and plants it in the earth where eight plants rapidly germinate. With his two-faced servant and steward Isimud , "Enki, in the swampland, in the swampland lies stretched out, 'What is this plant , what is this plant.
His messenger Isimud, answers him; 'My king, this is the tree-plant', he says to him. He cuts it off for him and he Enki eats it".
And so, despite warnings, Enki consumes the other seven fruit. Consuming his own semen, he falls pregnant ill with swellings in his jaw, his teeth, his mouth, his hip, his throat, his limbs, his side and his rib. The gods are at a loss to know what to do, chagrinned they "sit in the dust". As Enki lacks a womb with which to give birth, he seems to be dying with swellings. Ninhursag relents and takes Enki's Ab water, or semen into her body, and gives birth to gods of healing of each part of the body.
The story thus symbolically reflects the way in which life is brought forth through the addition of water to the land, and once it grows, water is required to bring plants to fruit. It also counsels balance and responsibility, nothing to excess. Ninti, the title of Ninhursag, also means "the mother of all living", and was a title given to the later Hurrian goddess Kheba. Abzu God of fresh water, co-creator of the cosmos, threatens to destroy the world with his waters, and the Gods gather in terror.
Enki promises to help and puts Abzu to sleep, confining him in irrigation canals and places him in the Kur, beneath his city of Eridu. But the universe is still threatened, as Tiamat , angry at the imprisonment of Abzu and at the prompting of her son and vizier Kingu , decides to take back the creation herself. The gods gather again in terror and turn to Enki for help, but Enki who harnessed Abzu , Tiamat's consort, for irrigation refuses to get involved.
The gods then seek help elsewhere, and the patriarchal Enlil , their father, God of Nippur , promises to solve the problem if they make him King of the Gods. After dispatching Tiamat with the "arrows of his winds" down her throat and constructing the heavens with the arch of her ribs, Enlil places her tail in the sky as the Milky Way, and her crying eyes become the source of the Tigris and Euphrates.
But there is still the problem of "who will keep the cosmos working". Enki, who might have otherwise come to their aid, is lying in a deep sleep and fails to hear their cries. His mother Nammu creatrix also of Abzu and Tiamat "brings the tears of the gods" before Enki and says Oh my son, arise from thy bed, from thy slumber , work what is wise, Fashion servants for the Gods, may they produce their bread?
Enki then advises that they create a servant of the gods, humankind, out of clay and blood. Enki assembles a team of divinities to help him, creating a host of "good and princely fashioners". He tells his mother Oh my mother, the creature whose name thou has uttered, it exists, Bind upon it the will? Adapa, the first man fashioned, later goes and acts as the advisor to the King of Eridu, when in the Sumerian Kinglist, the " Me " of "kingship descends on Eridu".
Samuel Noah Kramer, believes that behind this myth of Enki's confinement of Abzu lies an older one of the struggle between Enki and the Dragon Kur the underworld  The Atrahasis-Epos has it that Enlil requested from Nammu the creation of humans. And Nammu told him that with the help of Enki her son she can create humans in the image of gods. Confuser of languages[ edit ] In the Sumerian epic entitled Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta , in a speech of Enmerkar , an incantation is pronounced that has a mythical introduction.
Kramer's translation is as follows: In those days, the lands of Subur and Hamazi , Harmony-tongued Sumer, the great land of the decrees of princeship, Uri, the land having all that is appropriate, The land Martu , resting in security, The whole universe, the people in unison To Enlil in one tongue [spoke]. Then Enki, the lord of abundance whose commands are trustworthy, The lord of wisdom, who understands the land, The leader of the gods, Endowed with wisdom, the lord of Eridu Changed the speech in their mouths, [brought] contention into it, Into the speech of man that until then had been one.
Enki and the Deluge[ edit ] Main article: Sumerian creation myth In the Sumerian version of the flood myth , the causes of the flood and the reasons for the hero's survival are unknown due to the fact that the beginning of the tablet describing the story has been destroyed. Nonetheless, Samuel Noah Kramer has stated that it can probably be reasonably inferred that the hero Ziusudra survives due to Enki's aid because that is what happens in the later Akkadian and Babylonian versions of the story.
He successively sends drought, famine and plague to eliminate humanity, but Enki thwarts his half-brother's plans by teaching Atrahasis how to counter these threats. Each time, Atrahasis asks the population to abandon worship of all gods, except the one responsible for the calamity, and this seems to shame them into relenting. Humans, however, proliferate a fourth time. Enraged, Enlil convenes a Council of Deities and gets them to promise not to tell humankind that he plans their total annihilation.
Enki does not tell Atrahasis directly, but speaks to him in secret via a reed wall. He instructs Atrahasis to build a boat in order to rescue his family and other living creatures from the coming deluge.
After the seven-day Deluge, the flood hero frees a swallow, a raven and a dove in an effort to find if the flood waters have receded. Upon landing, a sacrifice is made to the gods.
Enlil is angry his will has been thwarted yet again, and Enki is named as the culprit. Enki explains that Enlil is unfair to punish the guiltless, and the gods institute measures to ensure that humanity does not become too populous in the future. This is one of the oldest of the surviving Middle Eastern Deluge myths. The next morning, when Enki awakes with a hangover, he asks his servant Isimud for the Mes, only to be informed that he has given them to Inanna.
Upset, he sends Galla to recover them. Inanna sails away in the boat of heaven and arrives safely back at the quay of Uruk. Eventually, Enki admits his defeat and accepts a peace treaty with Uruk. Politically, this myth would seem to indicate events of an early period when political authority passed from Enki's city of Eridu to Inanna's city of Uruk.
Inanna tells her servant Ninshubur Lady Evening, a reference to Inanna's role as the evening star to get help from Anu , Enlil or Enki if she does not return in three days. After Inanna has not come back, Ninshubur approaches Anu, only to be told that he knows the goddess' strength and her ability to take care of herself. While Enlil tells Ninshubur he is busy running the cosmos, Enki immediately expresses concern and dispatches his Galla Galaturra or Kurgarra, sexless beings created from the dirt from beneath the god's finger-nails to recover the young goddess.
These beings may be the origin of the Greco-Roman Galli , androgynous beings of the third sex , similar to the American Indian berdache , who played an important part in early religious ritual. Awaking, she discovers that she has been violated and seeks to punish the miscreant. Shukaletuda seeks protection from Enki, whom Bottero  believes to be his father. In classic Enkian fashion, the father advises Shukaletuda to hide in the city where Inanna will not be able to find him.
Enki, as the protector of whoever comes to seek his help, and as the empowerer of Inanna, here challenges the young impetuous goddess to control her anger so as to be better able to function as a great judge. Eventually, after cooling her anger, she too seeks the help of Enki, as spokesperson of the "assembly of the gods", the Igigi and the Anunnaki. After she presents her case, Enki sees that justice needs to be done and promises help, delivering knowledge of where the miscreant is hiding.
Enki and the Kur[ edit ] In the earliest surviving version of the myth of the slaying of the Kur , Enki is the hero responsible for the Kur being slain.
Unfortunately, this myth is highly fragmentary and what little that is known about it comes solely from the prologue at the beginning of the epic poem, "Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Nether World.
Enki sets out in a boat to attack the Kur and avenge the abduction of Ereshkigal. The Kur is described as defending itself using a storm of hailstones of all sizes and by attacking Enki using the waters beneath the boat. The account never actually tells who the winner of the fight is, but it can probably be assumed that Enki is the ultimate victor. Around the excavation of the 18 shrines found on the spot, thousands of carp bones were found, consumed possibly in feasts to the god.
This seems also implicated in the epic of the hieros gamos or sacred marriage of Enki and Ninhursag above , which seems an etiological myth of the fertilisation of the dry ground by the coming of irrigation water from Sumerian a, ab, water or semen.
The early inscriptions of Urukagina in fact go so far as to suggest that the divine pair, Enki and Ninki, were the progenitors of seven pairs of gods, including Enki as god of Eridu , Enlil of Nippur , and Su'en or Sin of Ur , and were themselves the children of An sky, heaven and Ki earth.
It is believed to remain today as the sacred pool at Mosques , or as the holy water font in Catholic or Eastern Orthodox churches. At all events the prominence of "Ea" led, as in the case of Nippur, to the survival of Eridu as a sacred city, long after it had ceased to have any significance as a political center. Myths in which Ea figures prominently have been found in Assurbanipal 's library, and in the Hattusas archive in Hittite Anatolia.
As Ea, Enki had a wide influence outside of Sumer, being equated with El at Ugarit and possibly Yah at Ebla in the Canaanite 'ilhm pantheon , he is also found in Hurrian and Hittite mythology, as a god of contracts, and is particularly favourable to humankind.