The Louvre/Art Resource, NY

In a display of spiritual devotion, a Sumerian priest-king (the figure at right) presides over rituals in honor of the fertility goddess Inanna, in this 2.5-inch-high, 5,000-year-old clay cylinder seal impression from Iraq. The king’s assistant (left) makes an offering of a sheaf of wheat. Sumerian kings emphasized their divine nature through association with Inanna (known to the Assyrians as Ishtar and to the Canaanites as Astarte); the great Ur III king Shulgi (2094‒2047 B.C.E.) even went so far as to celebrate sacred marriage rites with the goddess, casting himself in the role of Inanna’s husband, Dumuzi.