The World’s First Author

Since reading is such a safe quarantine pastime, who would you think was the world’s first known author?

So far as we know now, our first credited author was Enheduanna, a woman who lived in the 23rd century BCE in Mesopotamia. According to the archaeological evidence, she was remarkable figure: a princess, a priestess and a writer & poet.

This era, 2285 – 2250 BCE, was a time of profound change in Mesopotamia. Enheduanna’s father, Sargon the Great, was building the world’s first great empire, uniting northern and southern Mesopotamia for the first time. His capital Akkad became one of the world’s largest cities.

In addition to being a high priestess and the king’s daughter, Enheduanna is credited with writing several works of literature, including two hymns to the Mesopotamian love goddess Inanna (Semitic Ishtar). She wrote the myth of Inanna and Ebih, and a collection of 42 temple hymns. 

The Disk of Enheduanna, depicting her at work attended by three servants. Photo by Zunkir/Mefman00/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY.

Yet she is unknown today. Perhaps because she wrote in cuneiform on clay tablets? The only reason her works have survived is through later copies from around 1800 BCE, from the Old Babylonian period and later. 

For the record, there were even earlier authors, but their names have apparently been lost to history. But at least we know about her.

For more on Enheduanna, see “Hidden Women of History: Enheduanna, Princess, Priestess and the World’s First Known Author” by Louise Pryke (https://getpocket.com/explore/item/hidden-women-of-history-enheduanna-princess-priestess-and-the-world-s-first-known-author). The photo came from that site.

1 comment on “The World’s First Author”

  1. Carolyn Bragg Reply

    “Mostly” or “largely unknown today,” otherwise you wouldn’t know about her either.

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