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Inanna's River of Blood

Dreamed c. 2335 BCE by the future King Sargon I


This is one of the earliest dreams on record, and it had large consequences; hence its presence here despite its brevity and the obvious uncertainty of any text this old. The excerpt is the middle of three cuneiform fragments apparently telling the story of Sargon's early life and rise to power. There are small gaps in the text but the gist is clear enough:

At the time of the dream, Sargon is a young man working as a delivery boy for King Ur-Zababa. The Goddess warns Sargon in a dream that King Zababa is doomed. He tells the king exactly that! Naïveté, or defiance? He may feel that with the Goddess on his side, he can't be touched. You'll see if he's right.


One day, after the evening had arrived and Sargon had brought the regular deliveries to the palace, Ur-Zababa was sleeping (and dreaming) in the holy bed-chamber, his holy residence. He realized what the dream was about, but did not put into words, did not discuss it with anyone. After Sargon had received the regular deliveries for the palace, Ur-Zababa appointed him cupbearer, putting him in charge of the drinks cupboard. Holy Inana did not cease to stand by him.

After five or ten days had passed, king Ur-Zababa...... and became frightened in his residence. Like a lion he urinated, sprinkling his legs, and the urine contained blood and pus. He was troubled, he was afraid like a fish floundering in brackish water.

It was then that the cupbearer of Ezina's wine-house, Sargon, lay down not to sleep, but lay down to dream. In the dream, holy Inana drowned Ur-Zababa in a river of blood. The sleeping Sargon groaned and gnawed the ground. When king Ur-Zababa heard about this groaning, he was brought into the king's holy presence, Sargon was brought into the presence of Ur-Zababa (who said:) "Cupbearer, was a dream revealed to you in the night?" Sargon answered his king: "My king, this is my dream, which I will tell you about: There was a young woman, who was as high as the heavens and as broad as the earth. She was firmly set as the base of a wall. For me, she drowned you in a great river, a river of blood."

Ur-Zababa chewed his lips, he became seriously afraid. He spoke to ......, his chancellor: "My royal sister, holy Inana, is going to change (?) my finger into a ...... of blood; she will drown Sargon, the cupbearer, in the great river. Belic-tikal, chief smith, man of my choosing, who can write tablets, I will give you orders, let my orders be carried out! Let my advice be followed! Now then, when the cupbearer has delivered my bronze hand-mirror (?) to you, in the E-sikil, the fated house, throw them (the mirror and Sargon) into the mould like statues."

Belic-tikal heeded his king's words and prepared the moulds in the E-sikil, the fated house. The king spoke to Sargon: "Go and deliver my bronze hand-mirrors (?) to the chief smith!" Sargon left the palace of Ur-Zababa. Holy Inana, however, did not cease to stand at his right hand side, and before he had come within five or ten nindan of the E-sikil, the fated house, holy Inana turned around toward him and blocked his way, (saying:) "The E-sikil is a holy house! No one polluted with blood should enter it!" Thus he met the chief smith of the king only at the gate of the fated house. After he delivered the king's bronze hand-mirror(?) to the chief smith, Belic-tikal, the chief smith, ...... and threw it into the mould like statues.

After five or ten days had passed, Sargon came into the presence of Ur-Zababa, his king; he came into the palace, firmly founded like a great mountain. King Ur-Zababa ...... and became frightened in his residence. He realized what was it about, but did not put into words, did not discuss it with anyone. Ur-Zababa became frightened in the bed-chamber, his holy residence. He realized what was it about, but did not put into words, did not discuss it with anyone.


At this early date, writing on clay tablets was already a millennium old, but messages weren't sealed. It was generally safe; few could read. So King Ur-Zababa dispatched Sargon, the creature of the gods, to Lugal-zage-si in Unug with a open message ordering Sargon's death! Note that he doesn't read the message and discover it's a death warrant; the Goddess Inanna warns him.


With the Goddess's help Sargon survived all the king's plots against him; eventually he rose to kingship and conquered all the surrounding lands, founding the first true empire in world history, two thousand years before Alexander the Great.

Source: the Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature

LISTS AND LINKS: dreams of work and career advice - royalty - gods and goddesses - nightmares - blood - violence - ambition - four centuries earlier, King Gilgamesh dreams of Enkidu - nearly 42 centuries later, Christina Rossetti dreams of an equally treacherous Mesopotamian ruler: Crocodile King, showing that things never change... Iraq -

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