Ishtar was the Babylonian Venus or goddess of love. The story of her descent to Hades and return to the world of the living is found on a tablet now in the British Museum, and is perhaps the most 8 Pointed Star Ishtarpoetical legend of the recovered Assyrian literature.

It has been suggested that the story is the text of a religious drama, resembling the miracle-plays of mediaeval Europe. The legend shows no reason for Ishtar's desire to enter Hades, but it is easy to suppose that she went thither to rescue some beloved person.

This supplies a connection with the familiar story of Venus and Adonis (or Tammuz), which the Greek writers declare to be of Syrian origin. The drama, if such it were, was probably part of the annual celebration of the return of Spring. Ninkigal, the Queen of Hades, corresponds to the Greek Persephone, and Latin Proserpina, the wife of Pluto. In like manner, Hea, the king of the gods, corresponds to Zeus or Jupiter, and the divine messenger to Hermes or Mercury.

Ishtar, daughter of the Moon-god San, turned her mind to the land of Hades, the region of her desire. She determined to go to the house where all meet, the dwelling of the god Irkalla; to the house which men enter, but cannot depart from; to the road men go, but cannot return. In that abode of darkness and famine earth is their food, clay their nourishment. No light is there seen; they dwell in darkness. There ghosts, like birds, flutter their wings; the dust lies undisturbed on the door and gate posts.

Ishtar, daughter of the Moon-god San, turned her mind to the land of Hades, the region of her desire. She determined to go to the house where all meet, the dwelling of the god Irkalla; to the house which men enter, but cannot depart from; to the road men go, but cannot return. In that abode of darkness and famine earth is their food, clay their nourishment. No light is there seen; they dwell in darkness. There ghosts, like birds, flutter their wings; the dust lies undisturbed on the door and gate posts.

When Ishtar arrived at the gate of Hades she spoke to the keeper of the gate: "O keeper! open thy gate! open thy gate! I say, that I may enter! If thou openest not thy gate, I will assault the door; I will break down the gate; I will attack the entrance; I will split open the portals. I will raise the dead to be the devourers of the living! The dead shall prey upon the living!"

Then the Porter opened his mouth and said to the great Ishtar, "Stay, lady! shake not the door! I will go and tell this to the Queen Nin-ki-gal." The Porter entered and said to Nin-ki-gal, "Thy sister Ishtar blasphemes thee with great curses.''

When Nin-ki-gal heard this she grew pale as a plucked flower, and trembled like the stem of a reed. '11 will cure her rage," she said, "I will cure her fury; I will repay these curses to her! Light up consuming flames! light up blazing straw! Let her groan with the husbands who deserted their wives! Let her groan with wives who departed from their husbands' side! Let her groan with the youths who led dishonored lives! Go, Porter, open the gate for her, but strip her as others are stripped at other times."

The Porter went and opened the gate. "Enter, Lady of Tiggaba city! It is permitted! The Sovereign of Hades will come to meet thee!" Ishtar passed the first gate, but she was detained, and the great crown was taken from her head. "Keeper! take not the great crown from me!" "Enter, Lady! for the Queen of the land demands her jewels !''

When she passed the second gate she was detained, and her earrings were taken from her ears. "Keeper! take not my earrings from me!" "Enter, Lady! for the Queen of the land demands her jewels!"

When she passed the third gate she was detained, and the gems were taken from her head. "Keeper! take not the gems of my head from me!" "Enter, Lady! for the Queen of the land demands her jewels!"

When she passed the fourth gate she was detained, and the small lovely gems were taken from her forehead. "Keeper! take not the gems of my forehead from me!" "Enter, Lady! for the Queen of the land demands her jewels!"

When she passed the fifth gate she was detained, and the emerald girdle was taken from her waist. "Keeper! take not my emerald girdle from me!" "Enter, Lady! for the Queen of the land demands her jewels!"

When she passed the sixth gate she was detained, and the golden rings were taken from her hands and feet "Keeper! take not my golden rings from me!" "Enter, Lady! for the Queen of the land demands her jewels !''

When she passed the seventh gate she was detained, and the last garment was taken from her body. '' Keeper! take not the last garment from me!" "Enter, Ladyl for the Queen of the land demands her jewels!"

After Mother Ishtar had descended into Hades, Queen Nin-ki-gal saw her and derided her to her face. Ishtar became enraged and heaped curses upon her. Nin-ki-gal then opened her mouth and commanded Namtar, her Messenger: "Go, Namtar! Bring her out for punishment."

Namtar was then commanded to afflict Ishtar with dire distress of the eyes, the side, the feet, the heart, and the head.

[The story then says, that after the goddess of Love had thus descended to Hades, the upper world of the living soon felt the loss of her influence. Nature was thrown into universal disorder, and the gods were entreated to restore peace and harmony. The gods alarmed sent their messenger to the king of heaven.]

The divine messenger of the gods lacerated his face before them. He tore his garment and lamented greatly. The Sun approached; he joined his father, the Moon. Weeping they spoke thus to Hea the king: '' Ishtar has descended into the earth, and has not risen again. Since her departure the bull has not sought the cow, nor the male of any animal the female. The master has ceased from commanding; the slave has ceased from obeying. Peace has departed; confusion prevails."

Then the god Hea, in the depth of his mind, laid a plan for Ishtar's escape. He formed the figure of a man and said, "Go save her, Phantom! present thyself at the portal of Hades. The seven gates of Hades will open before thee, Nin-ki-gal will see thee, and will come to meet thee. When her mind shall become calm and her anger shall be worn off, awe her with the names of the great gods! Prepare thy frauds! Fix thy mind on deceitful tricks! Bring forth fishes of the waters out of an empty vessel! This thing will astonish Nin-ki-gal; then she will restore to Ishtar her clothing. There shall not fail to be a great reward for her deliver, ance. Go, save her, Phantom! and the great assembly of the people shall crown thee! The choicest meats shall be thy food! The most delicious wine shall be thy drink! A royal palace shall be thy dwelling! A throne of state shall be thy seat! Magicians and conjurors shall kiss the hem of thy garment."

When the Phantom, Anunnak, arrived at Hades, he accomplished his work and prevailed over the powers of darkness. Nin-ki-gal opened her mouth and commanded Namtar, the messenger, "Go, Namtar! clothe the Temple of Justice! adorn the images and the altars! Bring out Anunnak! Seat him on a golden throne! Pour out for Ishtar the waters of life, and let her depart from my dominions!" Namtar went and clothed the Temple of Justice; he adorned the images and the altars; he brought out Anunnak and seated him on a golden throne; he poured out the waters of life for Ishtar and let her go.

Then the first gate let her forth and restored the first garment of her body; the second gate let her forth and restored the jewels of her hands and feet; the third gate let her forth and restored the emerald girdle of her waist; the fourth gate let her forth and restored the small lovely gems of her forehead; the fifth gate let her forth and restored the gems of her head; the sixth gate let her forth and restored the earrings of her ears; the seventh gate let her forth and restored the great crown on her head.
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Gyges, king of Lydia, reigned B.C. 716-678. The Greek historian Herodotus has given an interesting account of him, but still more interesting is the following extract showing how he was regarded by the great king of Assyria, Assurbanipal (Sardanapalus).

Gyges was the king of Lydia, a country beyond the seas, a distant land, of which the kings, my fathers, had never even heard the name. Assur, my divine generator, revealed my name to him in a dream, saying: "Assurbanipal, the king of Assyria; place thyself at his feet, and thou shalt conquer thy enemies in his name.'' The same day that he dreamed this dream, Gyges sent horsemen to salute me, and related to me the dream which he had had, by the mouth of his messengers. When the latter reached the frontiers of my empire and encountered the people of my empire, they said to him, "Who then art thou, stranger, whose land has never yet been visited by one of our couriers?"

They sent him to Nineveh, the seat of my royalty, and brought him before me. The languages of the East and of the West, which Assur had given into my hand, none of those who spoke them could understand his language, and none of those who surrounded me had ever heard speech like unto it. In the space of my empire at last I found one who understood it, and he told me the dream. The same day that he placed himself at the feet of me, the king Assurbanipal, he defeated the Cimmerians, who oppressed the people of his land, who had not feared the kings, my fathers, and had not placed themselves at my feet. By the grace of Assur and Ishtar, the gods my masters, they took amidst the chiefs of the Cimmerians, whom he had defeated, two chiefs whom he chained heavily with manacles and fetters of iron, and he sent them to me with a rich present.

Nevertheless the horsemen that he at first sent regularly to pay homage to me, he soon ceased to send. He would not obey the commands of Assur, my divine generator, but foolishly trusted in his own strength, and in the wishes of his heart. He sent his troops to the assistance of Psammetichus, king of Egypt, who had contemptuously thrown off my yoke. I heard this, and prayed to Assur and Ishtar: "May his body be thrown down before his enemies, and may his bones be dispersed." The Cimmerians, whom he had crushed in my name, reappeared and subjugated his whole land, and his son succeeded him upon the throne. The punishment which the gods, who are my strength, had drawn upon his father at my request, he told me by his messengers, and he placed himself at my feet, saying: "Thou art a king acknowledged by the gods. Thou cursedst my father, and misfortune fell upon him. Send me thy blessing, for I am thy servant, who fears thee, and will wear thy yoke."

SOURCE: The Masterpieces and the history of literature: analysis ..., Volume 1 edited by Julian Hawthorne, John Porter Lamberton, John Russell Young, Oliver Herbrand Gordon Leigh.

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