Who was the world’s first author? – Soraya Field Fiorio

4,300 years ago
in ancient Sumer, the most powerful person in the city of Ur
was banished to wander the vast desert. Her name was Enheduanna. She was the high priestess of the moon god
and history’s first known author. By the time of her exile, she had written
42 hymns and three epic poems— and Sumer hadn’t heard the last of her. Enheduanna lived 1,700 years
before Sappho, 1,500 years before Homer, and about 500 years before
the biblical patriarch Abraham. She was born in Mesopotamia, the land
between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and the birthplace of the first cities
and high cultures. Her father was King Sargon the Great,
history’s first empire builder, who conquered the independent city-states
of Mesopotamia under a unified banner. Sargon was a northern Semite
who spoke Akkadian, and the older Sumerian cities in the south
viewed him as a foreign invader. They frequently revolted to regain
their independence, fracturing his new dynasty. To bridge the gap between cultures, Sargon appointed his only daughter,
Enheduanna, as high priestess in the empire’s most important temple. Female royalty traditionally
served religious roles, and she was educated to read
and write in both Sumerian and Akkadian, and make mathematical calculations. The world’s first writing started in Sumer
as a system of accounting, allowing merchants to communicate
over long distances with traders abroad. Their pictogram system of record keeping
developed into a script about 300 years
before Enheduanna’s birth. This early writing style,
called cuneiform, was written with a reed stylus pressed
into soft clay to make wedge-shaped marks. But until Enheduanna, this writing mostly took the form
of record keeping and transcription, rather than original works attributable
to individual writers. Enheduanna’s Ur was a city
of 34,000 people with narrow streets, multi-storied brick homes, granaries,
and irrigation. As high priestess, Enheduanna
managed grain storage for the city, oversaw hundreds of temple workers,
interpreted sacred dreams, and presided over the monthly
new moon festival and rituals celebrating the equinoxes. Enheduanna set about unifying
the older Sumerian culture with the newer Akkadian civilization. To accomplish this,
she wrote 42 religious hymns that combined both mythologies. Each Mesopotamian city
was ruled by a patron deity, so her hymns were dedicated
to the ruling god of each major city. She praised the city’s temple,
glorified the god’s attributes, and explained the god’s relationship
to other deities within the pantheon. In her writing,
she humanized the once aloof gods— now they suffered, fought, loved,
and responded to human pleading. Enheduanna’s most valuable
literary contribution was the poetry she wrote to Inanna,
goddess of war and desire, the divinely chaotic energy
that gives spark to the universe. Inanna delighted in all forms
of sexual expression and was considered so powerful that
she transcended gender boundaries, as did her earthly attendants, who could
be prostitutes, eunuchs or cross-dressers. Enheduanna placed Inanna at the top of
the pantheon as the most powerful deity. Her odes to Inanna mark the first time
an author writes using the pronoun “I,” and the first time writing is used
to explore deep, private emotions. After the death of Enheduanna’s father,
King Sargon, a general took advantage
of the power vacuum and staged a coup. As a powerful member of the ruling family,
Enheduanna was a target, and the general exiled her from Ur. Her nephew,
the legendary Sumerian king Naram-Sin, ultimately crushed the uprising
and restored his aunt as high priestess. In total, Enheduanna served
as high priestess for 40 years. After her death,
she became a minor deity, and her poetry was copied, studied,
and performed throughout the empire for over 500 years. Her poems influenced
the Hebrew Old Testament, the epics of Homer, and Christian hymns. Today, Enheduanna’s legacy still exists, on clay tablets that have
stood the test of time.

100 thoughts on “Who was the world’s first author? – Soraya Field Fiorio

  1. Hi folks. We hope you're staying safe and healthy. These are trying times, but we want you to know we're committed to doing our best to continue creating and translating free, high-quality educational videos for people around the world. For videos that can help you understand viruses and immunology, we created this playlist: https://bit.ly/3blAwGA And if you would like a handful of TED-Ed lessons (organized by age) delivered to your email inbox daily, you can sign up for our new newsletter, [email protected] here: https://bit.ly/2wndYq9.

  2. I know it maybe be due to contrast purposes, but we are not white. So if you want to be more accurate draw us in a light shade of brown. This mistake is often repeated in art especially Jesus who is definitely not white with blue eyes.

  3. I’d like to see more videos on great Western minds such as Tolstoy, Plato, Dostoevsky, Joyce, Shakespeare, Aristotle, Bach, Mozart, Siddartha, Confucius, etc…

  4. So are we just going to forget the epic of Gilgamesh which was the first written story in all of history making it's author the first

  5. What about the Epic of Gilgamesh? This is older as it was a story written using cuneiform. I think Enheduanna is awesome, but I don't think she should be considered the world's first author.

  6. Man, women play such an interesting role in literature, they have a lot of firsts! First author, first novelist (Murasaki Shikibu, 1100s) first modern novel (Jane Austen)
    You go girls!

  7. So this just proves that religions are fiction. She invented these stories to combine mythologies to create peace which then went on to inspire other “religions”

  8. She can be documented first lady to write something first but we have present the writings of much before those are completely unnoticed. The Mystery of Indian civilisation could never be accepted.

  9. Hi Ted! Love the video. Just a note: it’s more apt to call the Hebrew/Jewish “Old Testament” the “Torah.” The Old Testament is the name given to the Torah by Christianity not the name used by those who practice Judaism. It’s much in the same way as calling the Quran “the Muslim bible” doesn’t quite make sense.

  10. Well, damn I was going to rip somebodies backside about the first caveman or cavewoman that got bored in the cave and started playing with ashes. But, wow this is cool.

  11. I am unsubscribing at this moment itself. It is as if Ted-Ed is blind to the Great Oriental Traditions. You can be so grateful to Sumer and Mesopotamia but never ever the Indus Valley Civilization. It is the worst form of prejudice where you are polarising Culture! Shame.

  12. This is cool, i've also found out that the slangcronym "LOL" is now in the Oxford Dictionary, excited for the future when people will be like "LOL Tha (ha) pepol back then wur su demb" or "Lol Lmao Lol, tha (Ha) writing back then wuz su strenje" or something like that…

  13. Oh I love your videos …. Every history explained with great pictures and for better understanding the voices and background music fits so perfectly ….. This is the channel where you can explore the most of the world .. oh I thank youu …. Please continue with your work

  14. this is rubbish

    the oldest text known is Surya Siddhanth whose original version is at least 2 million years old

    you europeans have always neglected the hugh contributions of bharat


  16. World first author is women then if men ??? see wow there are 15000 years ago Writing a poem , Books & many more

  17. You are forgetting about Indian authors who wrote Ramcharitra Manas, Mahabharat etc. Way before these people

  18. I mean, it's so cool. He didn't make her someone's wife, he made her leader of the city to bridge the cultures.

  19. Ted-ed always happens to know how to weave beautiful lessons using great stories, amazing animation and soothing music and vibrant voices.

  20. If you guys could do videos on other early writers that would be so cool. It's a very fascinating subject to me. Especially Murasaki Shikubi who wrote the Tale of Genji, considered to be the world's first novel. If you reading this want to find out more about why I think it's a fascinating subject please see the "Literary Context" of the novel in this article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tale_of_Genji#Literary_context

  21. I don’t think we can be academically sure about period of Abraham’s life, let alone that he historically existed at all or not.

  22. This video is pretty misleading. Enheduanna is the first author known by name, not necessarily the first person ever to write literature. There are a few works older than her, like the Kesh temple hymn.

  23. Dear Ted Ed,
    If possible , can you provide a video with the general outline of world history. Just the basics. The mentioning of Sapho and Homer being before Abraham really drew my attention to how we don't have a clear understanding of chronological world history. Who came before who? How long ago was it ? The video are amazing and thank you.


    Bölüm 20

    İlk insan gelişmeyi merakına yenik düştüğü için, saklandığı mağaradan çıkabildi. Her yeni bilgi merakını daha da pekiştirdi. Sonunda uçak ile yolculuk yapan, uzayı merak eden bir medeniyet haline gelebildik. İki yüz elli bin yılda buralara geldik. İki yüz elli bin yıl sonra, başka yıldızlarda yeni bir ev satın alan bir ailenin evlerine yolculuk esnasında odalarını dayayıp döşediklerini düşünün. Muhtemelen yolda iken uzaktan bağlanıp evdeki eşyaları sıfırdan yapan makineler sayesinde, eve vardıklarında her şey hazır olmuş olacaktır. Bu bir hayal, ama mağara adamına aya gitmeyi nasıl anlatabilirdiniz? İşte bir merak iki eğitim, bizi geliştirebilir. Gelecek nesillere ne vereceğiniz çok önemlidir. Onlara önce hayal kurmayı sonrada hedefler koymayı öğretirsek. Doğru bir yol çizmiş oluruz. Belki de onlar bizden daha fazlasını hayal eder ve geliştirir. Bizleri bile şaşırtabilirler. Her hayat çok değerli ve çok hassastır. En küçük hediye bile insan hayatını derinden etkiler. Eğitimi eğlenceli bir şekilde çocuklara özgürce öğretmeliyiz. Meraklarını uyandıracak, yaratıcılık kazandıracak etkinlikler ile zekâlarını geliştirebiliriz. Ne kadar bilgi aldıkları değil, kendilerini ne kadar iyi yetiştirdikleri önemlidir. Bizler sadece yolu gösteririz, yolun dışına çıkmayı yâda yanlış seçimler yapmayı kendileri deneyecekler. Her bir deneyim önemli bir eğitimdir. İnsanlar okuyarak mı gezerek mi öğrenir sorusuna, insanı eğiten en önemli şey hatalarımızdır, deneyimlerimizdir derdim. Size çok basit bir örnek vereyim, birçoğunuz bebekken aynı hatayı yapmışsınızdır. Büyüklerinize mutlaka sorunuz. Bebekken, evinizde kömür yâda odunla yanan bir soba var ise, emeklemeye başladığınızda sobaya yaklaşıp sizi uyaran aile büyüklerinin, sıcaktır. Yanarsın gibi mimik hareketleri yapmasına rağmen ısrarla sobaya dokununca, minik elleri yandığında acı çekip ağlarsınız ya. İşte o andan sonra sobaya hiç elinizi sürmez ve korkarsınız. Sıcağın cildinize zararlı ve acı çektiren bir unsur olduğunu deneyimler siniz. Bu yüzden çocuklarınıza ne öğretirseniz öğretin sadece yol gösterirsiniz. Bu bebeğinizin elini tutup sobaya değdirin anlamına gelmesin. Bu sizi eğitmen değil zalim ve zorba yapar. O çocuk sobanın sıcağını anlar ama size karşı da kötü duygular beslemesine neden olur. Kendinizden soğutmayın, onları sevginizle kazanın. Cevabı bulmak için desteklerinizi bekliyorum. Tüm güzellikler siz ve sevdiklerinizle olsun. Saygılarımla…

    Murat Güven


  25. I am always very excited to learn new things and Ted-Ed always delivers. May I suggest that Émilie du Châtelet was a brilliant philosopher and you guys should make a video on her career?

  26. im gonna need to look more into enheduanna. great video. i always heard in my japanese courses of "the tale of genji" by lady murasaki as being the first novel. i think that could also make for a pretty cool video!

  27. It was nice until I heard Annuaki Inanna, she hurted Greek God Zeus and I love Zeus more than her. I will always be loyal to Zeus????

  28. Talked about a Sumerian High Prietess and first structured language but didn't see the need to mention Muazzez İlmiye Çığ? Allright then…

  29. Whatever you do, folks, do not, I repeat, do not read the works of Zechariah Sitchin. That guy claimed to know Sumerian at a time when few could fact-check him and thanks, in part, to the internet and actual Sumerian scholars, he's been discredited. Ancient Aliens may quote him, but that highlights what a bunch of idiots they really are.

  30. Thank you for sharing such an important fact on YouTube. I have a question – were ancient indian text and epics like the Vedas ,Ramayana and Mahabharata written before her existence?

  31. Another Ted-Ed video exposing how narrow the American education system is. How have I never heard of the historical figure who possibly invented our perception of self? And influenced so much of history?

  32. If she was the emperor's only daughter, where did her nephew come from? Was he a distant relative to her or she has a brother who was not mentioned in the video?

  33. You call her history’s first author but there were probably various authors before her who didn’t believe in writing down their poems or didn’t have a system for it. Look at how the Greeks shunned upon writing things down

  34. It's interesting that people have studied and have been deeply affected by writings influenced by hers for so long, yet I've never heard about her before and she isn't taught about in schools…

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