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Seven of the Best Epic Poems by Female Poets

The best epics by women

The IliadThe OdysseyParadise Lost – these are some of the titles that immediately spring to mind when we think of epic poetry. But this ignores the contributions made to epic poetry by women writers over the millennia. Here are seven of the best classic epic poems written by women.

Enheduanna, The Descent of Inanna. This is not just the oldest female epic; it’s the oldest work of poetry written by any named poet, male or female. Enheduanna was a Sumerian high priestess who lived in the 23rd century BC – that’s around 1,500 years before Homer. Enheduanna lived in the city of Ur (in modern-day Iraq), and was a priestess of the Sumerian moon god Nanna. This poem describes the goddess Inanna’s descent into the underworld – Inanna being the daughter of Nanna, and the Sumerian goddess of love, beauty, fertility, and wisdom, among other things. Although it’s a short work (it runs to little over 400 lines), it contains many of the elements we associate with epic poetry, and elements of the story are found in the later myths of the descent of Ishtar and the Greek story of Persephone and Hades. You can read a modern English translation of Enheduanna’s poem here. Read the rest of this entry

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