"Ishara" ("transl|hit|išḫara") is the Hittite word for "treaty, binding promise", also personified as a goddess of the oath. In Hurrian and Semitic traditions, Išḫara is a love goddess, often identified with Ishtar. Her cult was of considerable importance in Ebla from the mid 3rd millennium, and by the end of the 3rd millennium, she had temples in Nippur, Sippar, Kish, Harbidum, Larsa and Urum.


The word is attested as a loanword in the Assyrian Kültepe texts from the 19th century BC, and is as such the earliest attestation of a word of any Indo-European language.The name is from a PIE root "PIE|*sh2ei" "to bind (also magically)", "char" in Bulgarian "magical charming", also in Greek "transl|grc|himas" "strap" and Old Norse / Old High German " _ge. seil" "rope". Possibly also cognate is soul, and Welsh " _cy. Gwen-hwyfar" (Irish " _sn. Find-abair", from Proto-Celtic " _in. *windo-seibaro-" "white ghost", from a meaning "enchanted" of the extended root "PIE|*sh2ei-bh-"). "transl|hit|ishar" (or "transl|hit|eshar"), oblique "transl|hit|ishan-", the Hittite for "blood" is probably derived from the same root, maybe from a notion of "bond" between blood-relations (c.f. Sanskrit "IAST|bandhu"). The verb "transl|hit|ishiya" "to bind, fetter", "to oblige" is directly cognate to Sanskrit "IAST|syati" or Russian "transl|ru|shyot" with similar meanings.

The Indo-European etymology of the theonym has been called into question, since the goddess appears from as early as the mid 3rd millennium as one of the chief goddesses of Ebla, and her name appears as an element in theophoric names in Mesopotamia in the later 3rd millennium (Akkad period).

Variants of the name appear as Ašḫara (in a treaty of Naram-Suen of Akkad with Hita of Elam) and Ušḫara (in Ugarite texts).In Ebla, there were various logographic spellings involving the sign AMA "mother". In Alalah, her name was written with the Akkadogram IŠTAR plus a phonetic complement "-ra", as IŠTAR-"ra".

Hittite goddess

As a goddess, Ishara could inflict severe bodily penalties to oathbreakers, in particular ascites (see Hittite military oath). In this context, she came to be seen as a "goddess of medicine" whose pity was invoked in case of illness. There was even a verb, "transl|hit|isharis-" "to be afflicted by the illness of Ishara".

Hurrian and Syrian goddess

Ishara was also worshipped within the Hurrian pantheon. She was associated with the underworld.Her astrological embodiment is the constellation Scorpio and she is called the mother of the Sebittu (the Seven Stars) (Seux, 343). Ishara was well known in Syria from the third millennium B.C. (Ebla). She became a great goddess of the Hurrian population. She was worshipped with Teshub and Simegi at Alakh, and also at Ugarit, Emar and Chagar Bazar. While she was considered to belong to the entourage of Ishtar, she was invoked to heal the sick (Lebrun)." (Leick 1991).

The Hurrian cult of Ishara as a love goddess also spread to Syria."Ishara first appears in the pre-Sargonic texts from Ebla and then as a goddess of love in Old Akkadian potency-incantations (Biggs). During the Ur III period she had a temple in Drehem and from the Old Babylonian time onwards, there were sanctuaries in Sippar, Larsa and Harbidum. In Mari she seems to have been very popular and many women were called after her, but she is well attested in personal names in Babylonia generally up to the late Kassite period. Her main epithet was belet rame, 'Lady of Love, which was also applied to Ishtar. In the Epic of Gilgamesh (Tablet II, col. v.28) it says: 'For Ishara the bed is made' and in Atra-hasis (I 301-304) she is called upon to bless the couple on the honeymoon."Fact|date=August 2008


*"Ishara/Eshara." Gwendolyn Leick. A Dictionary of Ancient Eastern Mythology. London. Routledge. 1991, pp. 94-95
*Volkert Haas, "Handbuch der Orientalistik" (1994), ISBN 9789004097995, pp. 393ff.

ee also

* Hittite mythology
* Hittite laws

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