by Christopher Siren , 1992, 1994, 2000
cbsiren at alum dot mit dot edu
Sumer may very well be the first civilization in the world (although long term settlements at Jericho and Çatal Hüyük predate Sumer and examples of writing from Egypt and the Harappa, Indus valley sites may predate those from Sumer). From its beginnings as a collection of farming villages around 5000 BCE, through its conquest by Sargon of Agade around 2370 BCE and its final collapse under the Amorites around 2000 BCE, the Sumerians developed a religion and a society which influenced both their neighbors and their conquerors. Sumerian cuneiform, the earliest written language, was borrowed by the Babylonians, who also took many of their religious beliefs. In fact, traces and parallels of Sumerian myth can be found in Genesis.
Sumer was a collection of city states around the Lower Tigris and Euphrates rivers in what is now southern Iraq. Each of these cities had individual rulers, although as early as the mid-fourth millennium BCE the leader of the dominant city could have been considered the king of the region. The history of Sumer tends to be divided into five periods. They are the Uruk period, which saw the dominance of the city of that same name, the Jemdat Nasr period, the Early Dynastic periods, the Agade period, and the Ur III period - the entire span lasting from 3800 BCE to around 2000 BCE. In addition, there is evidence of the Sumerians in the area both prior to the Uruk period and after the Ur III Dynastic period, but relatively little is known about the former age and the latter time period is most heavily dominated by the Babylonians. The Uruk period, stretched from 3800 BCE to 3200 BCE. It is to this era that the Sumerian King Lists ascribe the reigns of Dumuzi the shepherd, and the other antediluvian kings. After his reign Dumuzi was worshipped as the god of the spring grains. This time saw an enormous growth in urbanization such that Uruk probably had a population around 45,000 at the period's end. It was easily the largest city in the area, although the older cities of Eridu to the south and Kish to the north may have rivaled it. Irrigation improvements as well as a supply of raw materials for craftsmen provided an impetus for this growth. In fact, the city of An and Inanna also seems to have been at the heart of a trade network which stretched from what is now southern Turkey to what is now eastern Iran. In addition people were drawn to the city by the great temples there.
The Eanna of Uruk, a collection of temples dedicated to Inanna, was constructed at this time and bore many mosaics and frescoes. These buildings served civic as well as religious purposes, which was fitting as the en, or high priest, served as both the spiritual and temporal leader. The temples were places where craftsmen would practice their trades and where surplus food would be stored and distributed.
The Jemdat Nasr period lasted from 3200 BCE to 2900 BCE. It was not particularly remarkable and most adequately described as an extension and slowing down of the Uruk period. This is the period during which the great flood is supposed to have taken place. The Sumerians' account of the flood may have been based on a flooding of the Tigris, Euphrates, or both rivers onto their already marshy country.
The Early Dynastic period ran from 2900 BCE to 2370 BCE and it is this period for which we begin to have more reliable written accounts although some of the great kings of this era later evolved mythic tales about them and were deified. Kingship moved about 100 miles upriver and about 50 miles south of modern Bahgdad to the city of Kish. One of the earlier kings in Kish was Etana who "stabilized all the lands" securing the First Dynasty of Kish and establishing rule over Sumer and some of its neighbors. Etana was later believed by the Babylonians to have rode to heaven on the back of a giant Eagle so that he could receive the "plant of birth" from Ishtar (their version of Inanna) and thereby produce an heir.
Meanwhile, in the south, the Dynasty of Erech was founded by Meskiaggasher, who, along with his successors, was termed the "son of Utu", the sun-god. Following three other kings, including another Dumuzi, the famous Gilgamesh took the throne of Erech around 2600 BCE and became in volved in a power struggle for the region with the Kish Dynasts and with Mesannepadda, the founder of the Dynasty of Ur. While Gilgamesh became a demi-god, remembered in epic tales, it was Mesannepadda who was eventually victorious in this three-way power struggle, taking the by then traditional title of "King of Kish".
Although the dynasties of Kish and Erech fell by the wayside, Ur could not retain a strong hold over all of Sumer. The entire region was weakened by the struggle and individual city-states continued more or less independent rule. The rulers of Lagash declared themselves "Kings of Kish" around 2450 BCE, but failed to seriously control the region, facing several military challenges by the nearby Umma. Lugalzagesi, ensi or priest-king of Umma from around 2360-2335 BCE, razed Lagash, and conquered Sumer, declaring himself "king of Erech and the Land". Unfortunately for him, all of this strife made Sumer ripe for conquest by an outsider and Sargon of Agade seized that opportunity.
Sargon united both Sumer and the northern region of Akkad - from which Babylon would arise about four hundred years later - not very far from Kish. Evidence is sketchy, but he may have extended his realm from the Medeterranian Sea to the Indus River. This unity would survive its founder by less than 40 years. He built the city of Agade and established an enormous court there and he had a new temple erected in Nippur. Trade from across his new empire and beyond swelled the city, making it the center of world culture for a brief time.
After Sargon's death, however, the empire was fraught with rebellion. Naram-Sin, Sargon's grandson and third successor, quelled the rebellions through a series of military successes, extending his realm. He declared himself 'King of the Four corners of the World' and had himself deified. His divine powers must have failed him as the Guti, a mountain people, razed Agade and deposed Naram-Sin, ending that dynasty.
After a few decades, the Guti presence became intolerable for the Sumerian leaders. Utuhegal of Uruk/Erech rallied a coalition army and ousted them. One of his lieutenants, Ur-Nammu, usurped his rule and established the third Ur dynasty around 2112 BCE. He consolidated his control by defeating a rival dynast in Lagash and soon gained control of all of the Sumerian city-states. He established the earliest known recorded law-codes and had constructed the great ziggurat of Ur, a kind of step-pyramid which stood over 60' tall and more than 200' wide. For the next century the Sumerians were extremely prosperous, but their society collapsed around 2000 BCE under the invading Amorites. A couple of city-states maintained their independence for a short while, but soon they and the rest of the Sumerians were absorbed into the rising empire of the Babylonians. (Crawford pp. 1-28; Kramer 1963 pp. 40-72)
Seated along the Euphrates River, Sumer had a thriving agriculture and trade industry. Herds of sheep and goats and farms of grains and vegetables were held both by the temples and private citizens. Ships plied up and down the river and throughout the Persian gulf, carrying pottery and various processed goods and bringing back fruits and various raw materials from across the region, including cedars from the Levant.
Sumer was one of the first literate civilizations leaving many records of business transactions, and lessons from schools. They had strong armies, which with their chariots and phalanxes held sway over their less civilized neighbors (Kramer 1963, p. 74). Perhaps the most lasting cultural remnants of the Sumerians though, can be found in their religion.
The religion of the ancient Sumerians has left its mark on the entire middle east. Not only are its temples and ziggurats scattered about the region, but the literature, cosmogony and rituals influenced their neighbors to such an extent that we can see echoes of Sumer in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition today. From these ancient temples, and to a greater extent, through cuneiform writings of hymns, myths, lamentations, and incantations, archaeologists and mythographers afford the modern reader a glimpse into the religious world of the Sumerians.
Each city housed a temple that was the seat of a major god in the Sumerian pantheon, as the gods controlled the powerful forces which often dictated a human's fate. The city leaders had a duty to please the town's patron deity, not only for the good will of that god or goddess, but also for the good will of the other deities in the council of gods. The priesthood initially held this role, and even after secular kings ascended to power, the clergy still held great authority through the interpretation of omens and dreams. Many of the secular kings claimed divine right; Sargon of Agade, for example claimed to have been chosen by Ishtar / Inanna . ( Crawford 1991: 21-24)
The rectangular central shrine of the temple, known as a 'cella,' had a brick altar or offering table in front of a statue of the temple's deity. The cella was lined on its long ends by many rooms for priests and priestesses. These mud-brick buildings were decorated with cone geometrical mosaics, and the occasional fresco with human and animal figures. These temple complexes eventually evolved into towering ziggurats. ( Wolkstein & Kramer 1983: 119)
The temple was staffed by priests, priestesses, musicians, singers, castrates and hierodules. Various public rituals, food sacrifices, and libations took place there on a daily basis. There were monthly feasts and annual, New Year celebrations. During the later, the king would be married to Inanna as the resurrected fertility god Dumuzi, whose exploits are dealt with below.
When it came to more private matters, a Sumerian remained devout. Although the gods preferred justice and mercy, they had also created evil and misfortune. A Sumerian had little that he could do about it. Judging from Lamentation records, the best one could do in times of duress would be to "plead, lament and wail, tearfully confessing his sins and failings." Their family god or city god might intervene on their behalf, but that would not necessarily happen. After all, man was created as a broken, labor saving, tool for the use of the gods and at the end of everyone's life, lay the underworld, a generally dreary place. ( Wolkstein & Kramer 1983: pp.123-124)
From verses scattered throughout hymns and myths, one can compile a picture of the universe's (anki) creation according to the Sumerians. The primeval sea (abzu) existed before anything else and within that, the heaven (an) and the earth (ki) were formed. The boundary between heaven and earth was a solid (perhaps tin) vault, and the earth was a flat disk. Within the vault lay the gas-like 'lil', or atmosphere, the brighter portions therein formed the stars, planets, sun, and moon. ( Kramer , The Sumerians 1963: pp. 112-113) Each of the four major Sumerian deities is associated with one of these regions. An , god of heaven, may have been the main god of the pantheon prior to 2500 BC., although his importance gradually waned. (Kramer 1963 p. 118) Ki is likely to be the original name of the earth goddess, whose name more often appears as Ninhursag (queen of the mountains), Ninmah (the exalted lady), or Nintu (the lady who gave birth). It seems likely that these two were the progenitors of most of the gods.
According to "Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Netherworld", in the first days all needed things were created. Heaven and earth were separated. An took Heaven, Enlil took the earth, Ereshkigal was carried off to the netherworld as a prize, and Enki sailed off after her.
Nammu Nammu is the Goddess of the watery abyss, the primeval sea. She may be the earliest of deities within Sumerian cosmology as she gave birth to heaven and earth. (Kramer 1961 p. 39) She is elsewhere described both as the mother of all the gods and as the wife of An . (Kramer 1961 p. 114) She is Enki 's mother. She prompts him to create servants for the gods and is then directed by him on how, with the help of Nimmah/ Ninhursag to create man. (Kramer 1963 p. 150; Kramer 1961 p. 70)
It is notable that the Sumerians themselves may not have grouped these four as a set and that the grouping has been made because of the observations of Sumerologists. An An, god of heaven, may have been the main god of the pantheon prior to 2500 BC., although his importance gradually waned. (Kramer 1963 p. 118) In the early days he carried off heaven, while Enlil carried away the earth. (Kramer 1961 p. 37-39) It seems likely that he and Ki/ Ninhursag were the progenitors of most of the gods. although in one place Nammu is listed as his wife. (Kramer 1961 p. 114) Among his children and followers were the Anunnaki. (Kramer 1961 p. 53) His primary temple was in Erech. He and Enlil give various gods, goddesses, and kings their earthly regions of influence and their laws. (Kramer 1963 p. 124) Enki seats him at the first seat of the table in Nippur at the feast celebrating his new house in Eridu. (Kramer 1961 p. 63) He hears Inanna's complaint about Mount Ebih (Kur?), but discourages her from attacking it because of its fearsome power. (Kramer 1961 pp. 82-83) After the flood, he and Enlil make Ziusudra immortal and make him live in Dilmun. (Kramer 1961 p. 98) (See also Anu .) Ninhursag (Ki, Ninmah, Nintu) Ki is likely to be the original name of the earth goddess, whose name more often appears as Ninhursag (queen of the mountains), Ninmah (the exalted lady), or Nintu (the lady who gave birth). (Kramer 1963 p. 122) Most often she is considered Enlil's sister, but in some traditions she is his spouse instead. (Jacobsen p.105) She was born, possibly as a unified cosmic mountain with An , from Nammu and shortly thereafter, their union produced Enlil . (Kramer 1961 p. 74) In the early days, as Ki, she was separated from heaven (An) and carried off by Enlil. (Kramer 1961 pp. 37-41) It seems likely that she and An were the progenitors of most of the gods. She later unites with Enlil and with the assistance of Enki they produce the world's plant and animal life. (Kramer 1961 p. 75)
"Enki and Ninhursag"
In Dilmun, she (as Nintu) bears the goddess Ninsar from Enki, who in turn bears the goddess Ninkur, who in turn bears Uttu, goddess of plants. Uttu bore eight new trees from Enki. When he then ate Uttu's children, Ninhursag cursed him with eight wounds and dissapears. After being persuaded by Enlil to undo her curse, she bore Enki eight new children which undid the wounds of the first ones. (Kramer 1963 pp. 147-149; Kramer 1961 pp. 54-59)
Enki seats her (as Nintu) on the big side of the table in Nippur at the feast celebrating his new house in Eridu. (Kramer 1961 p. 63)
"Enki and Ninmah"
She is the mother goddess and, as Ninmah, assists in the creation of man. Enki, having been propted by Nammu to create servants for the gods, describes how Nammu and Ninmah will help fashion man from clay. Prior to getting to work, she and Enki drink overmuch at a feast. She then shapes six flawed versions of man from the heart of the clay over the Abzu, with Enki declaring their fates. Enki, in turn also creates a flawed man which is unable to eat. Ninmah appears to curse him for the failed effort. (Kramer 1963 pp. 149-151; Kramer 1961 pp. 69-72)
(See also Aruru )
Enlil An and Ki 's union produced Enlil (Lord of 'lil'). Enlil was the air-god and leader of the pantheon from at least 2500 BC, when his temple Ekur in Nippur was the spiritual center of Sumer (Kramer 1961 p. 47). In the early days he separated and carried off the earth (Ki) while An carried off heaven. (Kramer 1961 p. 37-41) He assumed most of An's powers. He is glorified as "'the father of the gods, 'the king of heaven and earth,' ' the king of all the lands'". Kramer portrays him as a patriarchal figure, who is both creator and disciplinarian. Enlil causes the dawn, the growth of plants, and bounty (Kramer 1961 p. 42). He also invents agricultural tools such as the plow or pickaxe (Kramer 1961 pp 47-49). Without his blessings, a city would not rise (Kramer 1961 pp. 63, 80) Most often he is considered Ninlil's husband, with Ninhursag as his sister, but some traditions have Ninhursag as his spouse. (Jacobsen p.105) "Enlil and Ninlil"
He is also banished to the nether world (kur) for his rape of Ninlil , his intended bride, but returns with the first product of their union, the moon god Sin (also known as Nanna ). (Kramer, Sumerians 1963: pp.145-147). Ninlil follows him into exile as his wife. He tells the various underworld guardians to not reveal his whereabouts and instead poses as those guardians himself three times, each time impregnating her again it appears that at least on one occasion Enlil reveals his true self before they unite. The products of these unions are three underworld deities, including Meslamtaea (aka. Nergal ) and Ninazu. Later, when Nanna visits him in Nippur, he bestows Ur to him with a palace and plentiful plantlife. (Kramer 1961 p. 43-49) Enlil is also seen as the father of Ninurta (Kramer 1961 p. 80).
"Enki and Eridu"
When Enki journeys to Enlil's city Nippur in order for his own city, Eridu to be blessed. He is given bread at Enki's feast and is seated next to An, after which Enlil proclaims that the Anunnaki should praise Enki. (Kramer 1961 pp. 62-63)
"The Dispute between Cattle and Grain"
Enlil and Enki, at Enki's urging, create farms and fields for the grain goddess Ashnan and the cattle goddess Lahar . This area has places for Lahar to take care of the animals and Ashnan to grow the crops. The two agricultural deities get drunk and begin fighting, so it falls to Enlil and Enki to resolve their conflict - how they do so has not been recovered. (Kramer 1961 pp. 53-54; Kramer 1963 pp. 220-223)
"The Dispute between Emesh and Enten"
Enlil creates the herdsman deity Enten and the agricultural deity Emesh. He settles a dispute between Emesh and Enten over who should be recognized as 'farmer of the gods', declaring Enten's claim to be stronger. (Kramer 1961 p. 49-51).
"Enki and Ninhursag"
He helps Enki again when he was cursed by Ninhursag . Enlil and a fox entreat her to return and undo her curse. (Kramer 1961 p. 57)
"Enki and the World Order"
The me were assembled by Enlil in his temple Ekur, and given to Enki to guard and impart to the world, beginning with Eridu, Enki's center of worship. (Kramer 1963 pp. 171-183)
"Inanna's Descent to the Nether World"
Enlil refuses Ninshubur's appeal on behalf of his [grand-]daughter, Inanna to help rescue her from Ereshkigal in the underworld. (Kramer 1961 pp. 86, 87, 89, 93)
After the flood, he and An gave Ziusudra eternal life and had him live in Dilmun. (Kramer 1961 p. 98)
"Gilgamesh, Enkidu and the Netherworld"
When Gilgamesh looses his pukku and mikku in the nether world, and Enkidu is held fast there by demons, he appeals to Enlil for help. Enlil refuses to assist him. (Kramer 1961 p. 35-36)
(See also the Babylonian Ellil )
Enki Enki is the son of Nammu , the primeval sea. Contrary to the translation of his name, Enki is not the lord of the earth, but of the abzu (the watery abyss and also semen) and of wisdom. This contradiction leads Kramer and Maier to postulate that he was once known as En-kur, lord of the underworld, which either contained or was contained in the Abzu. He did struggle with Kur as mentioned in the prelude to "Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Underworld", and presumably was victorious and thereby able to claim the title "Lord of Kur" (the realm). He is a god of water, creation, and fertility. He also holds dominion over the land. He is the keeper of the me , the divine laws. ( Kramer & Maier Myths of Enki 1989: pp. 2-3) "Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Underworld"
Enki sails for the Kur, presumably to rescue Ereshkigal after she was given over to Kur. He is assailed by creatures with stones. These creatures may have been an extension of Kur itself. (Wolkstein and Kramer p. 4; Kramer 1961 p. 37-38, 78-79)
"Enki and Eridu" Enki raises his city Eridu from the sea, making it very lush. He takes his boat to Nippur to have the city blessed by Enlil. He throws a feast for the gods, giving Enlil, An, and Nintu spacial attention. After the feast, Enlil proclaims that the Anunnaki should praise Enki. (Kramer 1961; pp. 62-63)
"Enki and the World Order"
The me were assembled by Enlil in Ekur and given to Enki to guard and impart to the world, beginning with Eridu, his center of worship. From there, he guards the me and imparts them on the people. He directs the me towards Ur and Meluhha and Dilmun, organizing the world with his decrees. (Kramer 1963 pp. 171-183)
"The Dispute between Cattle and Grain"
Enlil and Enki, at Enki's urging, create farms and fields for the grain goddess Ashnan and the cattle goddess Lahar . This area has places for Lahar to take care of the animals and Ashnan to grow the crops. The two agricultural deities get drunk and begin fighting, so it falls to Enlil and Enki to resolve their conflict - how they do so has not been recovered. (Kramer 1961 pp. 53-54; Kramer 1963 pp. 220-223)
"Enki and Ninhursag"
He blessed the paradisical land of Dilmun, to have plentiful water and palm trees. He sires the goddess Ninsar upon Ninhursag , then sires Ninkur upon Ninsar, finally siring Uttu, goddess of plants, upon Ninkur. Uttu bore eight new types of trees from Enki. He then consumed these tree-children and was cursed by Ninhursag, with one wound for each plant consumed. Enlil and a fox act on Enki's behalf to call back Ninhursag in order to undo the damage. She joins with Enki again and bears eight new children, one to cure each of the wounds. (Kramer 1963 pp. 147-149; Kramer 1961 pp. 54-59)
"Enki and Ninmah: The Creation of Man"
The gods complain that they need assistance. At his mother Nammu's prompting, he directs her, along with some constructive criticism from Ninmah (Ninhursag), in the creation of man from the heart of the clay over the Abzu. Several flawed versions were created before the final version was made. (Kramer 1963 pp. 149-151; Kramer 1961 pp. 69-72)
"Inanna's Descent to the Nether World"
He is friendly to Inanna and rescued her from Kur by sending two sexless beings to negotiate with, and flatter Ereshkigal. They gave her the Food of Life and the Water of Life, which restored her. (Wolkstein and Kramer pp. 62-64)
"Inanna and Enki"
Later, Inanna comes to Enki and complains at having been given too little power from his decrees. In a different text, she gets Enki drunk and he grants her more powers, arts, crafts, and attributes - a total of ninety-four me . Inanna parts company with Enki to deliver the me to her cult center at Erech. Enki recovers his wits and tries to recover the me from her, but she arrives safely in Erech with them. (Kramer & Maier 1989: pp. 38-68)
(See also Ea )
In addition to the four primary deities, there were hundreds of others. A group of seven "decreed the fates" - these probably included the first four , as well as Nanna , his son Utu , the sun god and a god of justice, and Nanna's daughter Inanna, goddess of love and war. Nanna (Sin, (Suen), Ashgirbabbar) Nanna is another name for the moon god Sin . He is the product of Enlil 's rape of Ninlil . (Kramer, 1963, pp. 146-7.) He travels across the sky in his gufa, (a small, canoe-like boat made of woven twigs and tar), with the stars and planets about him. (Kramer 1961 p. 41) Nanna was the tutelary deity of Ur (Kramer 1963 p. 66), appointed as king of that city by An and Enlil. (Kramer 1963 pp. 83-84) He journeyed to Nippur by boat, stopping at five cities along the way. When he arrived at Nippur, he proffered gifts to Enlil and pleaded with him to ensure that his city of Ur would be blessed, prosperous, and thus, not be flooded. (Kramer 1963 pp. 145-146, Kramer 1961 pp. 47-49) Nanna was married to Ningal and they produced Inanna and Utu . (Wolkstein and Kramer pp. 30-34; Kramer 1961 p. 41) He rests in the Underworld every month, and there decrees the fate of the dead. (Kramer 1963 p. 132, 135, 210) He refuses to send aid to Inanna when she is trapped in the underworld. (Kramer 1963 pp. 153-154) He established Ur-Nammu as his mortal representative, establishing the third Ur dynasty. (Kramer 1963 p. 84) Utu Utu is the son of Nanna and Ningal and the god of the Sun and of Justice. He goes to the underworld at the end of every day setting in the "mountain of the west" and rising in the "mountain of the east". While there decrees the fate of the dead, although he also may lie down to sleep at night. (Kramer 1963 p. 132, 135; Kramer 1961 pp. 41-42) He is usually depicted with fiery rays coming out of his shoulders and upper arms, and carrying a saw knife. (Kramer 1961 p. 40) When Inanna 's huluppu tree is infested with unwelcome guests, he ignores her appeal for aid. (Wolkstein and Kramer pp. 6-7) He tries to set her up with Dumuzi, the shepherd, but she initially rebuffs him, preferring the farmer. (Wolkstein and Kramer pp. 30-33) He aided Dumuzi in his flight from the galla demons by helping him to transform into different creatures. (Wolkstein and Kramer pp. 72-73, 81) Through Enki's orders, he also brings water up from the earth in order to irrigate Dilmun, the garden paradise, the place where the sun rises. (Kramer 1963 p. 148) He is in charge of the "Land of the Living" and, in sympathy for Gilgamesh, calls off the seven weather heroes who defend that land. (Kramer 1963 pp. 190-193) He opened the "ablal" of the Underworld for the shade of Enkidu , to allow him to escape, at the behest of Enki . (Kramer 1963 p. 133; Kramer 1961 p. 36)
(See also Shamash ) Inanna Nanna and Ningal 's daughter Inanna, goddess of love and war. "Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Underworld"
A woman planted the huluppu tree in Inanna's garden, but the Imdugud-bird (Anzu bird?) made a nest for its young there, Lilith (or her predecessor, a lilitu-demon) made a house in its trunk, and a serpent made a home in its roots. Inanna appeals to Utu about her unwelcome guests, but he is unsympathetic. She appeals to Gilgamesh, here her brother, and he is receptive. He tears down the tree and makes it into a throne and bed for her. In return for the favor, Inanna manufactures a pukku and mikku for him. (Wolkstein and Kramer pp. 5-9)
"Gilgamesh and the Bull of Heaven"
Later, Inanna seeks out Gilgamesh as her lover. When he spurns her she sends the Bull of Heaven to terrorize his city of Erech. (Kramer 1963 p. 262)
"The Courtship of Inanna and Dumuzi"
Her older brother Utu tries to set her up with Dumuzi, the shepherd, but she initially rebuffs him, preferring the farmer. He assures her that his parents are as good as hers and she begins to desire him. Her mother, Ningal, further assures her. The two consummate their relationship and with their exercise in fertility, the plants and grains grow as well. After they spend time in the marriage bed, Inanna declares herself as his battle leader and sets his duties as including sitting on the throne and guiding the path of weapons. At Ninshubur's request, she gives him power over the fertility of plants and animals. (Wolkstein and Kramer pp. 30-50)
"Inanna's Descent to the Nether World"
Inanna also visits Kur, which results in a myth reminiscent of the Greek seasonal story of Persephone. She sets out to witness the funeral rites of her sister-in-law Ereshkigal 's husband Gugalanna, the Bull of Heaven. She takes precaution before setting out, by telling her servant Ninshubur to seek assistance from Enlil , Nanna , or Enki at their shrines, should she not return. Inanna knocks on the outer gates of Kur and the gatekeeper, Neti, questions her. He consults with queen Ereshkigal and then allows Inanna to pass through the seven gates of the underworld. After each gate, she is required to remove adornments and articles of clothing, until after the seventh gate, she is naked. The Annuna pass judgment against her and Ereshkigal killed her and hung her on the wall. (see Ereshkigal ) ( Wolkstein & Kramer 1983 pp. 52-60)
Inanna is rescued by the intervention of Enki . He creates two sexless creatures that empathize with Ereshkigal's suffering, and thereby gain a gift - Inanna's corpse. They restore her to life with the Bread of Life and the Water of Life, but the Sumerian underworld has a conservation of death law. No one can leave without providing someone to stay in their stead. Inanna is escorted by galla/demons past Ninshubur and members of her family. She doesn't allow them to claim anyone until she sees Dumuzi on his throne in Uruk. They then seize Dumuzi, but he escapes them twice by transforming himself, with the aid of Utu . Eventually he is caught and slain. Inanna spies his sister, Geshtinanna , in mourning and they go to Dumuzi. She allows Dumuzi, the shepherd, to stay in the underworld only six months of the year, while Geshtinanna will stay the other six. (Wolkstein & Kramer pp. 60-89) As with the Greek story of the kidnapping of Persephone, this linked the changing seasons, the emergence of the plants from the ground, with the return of a harvest deity from the nether world. Geshtinanna is also associated with growth, but where her brother rules over the spring harvested grain, she rules over the autumn harvested vines ( Wolkstein & Kramer p. 168).
"Inanna and Mount Ebih"
Inanna complains to An about Mount Ebih ( Kur ?) demanding that it glorify her and submit lest she attack it. An discourages her from doing so because of its fearsome power. She does so anyway, bringing a storehouse worth of weapons to bear on it. She destroys it. Because she is known as the Destroyer of Kur in certain hymns, Kramer identifys Mt. Ebih with Kur. (Kramer 1961 pp. 82-83)
"Inanna and Enki"
The me were universal decrees of divine authority -the invocations that spread arts, crafts, and civilization. Enki became the keeper of the me . Inanna comes to Enki and complains at having been given too little power from his decrees. In a different text, she gets Enki drunk and he grants her more powers, arts, crafts, and attributes - a total of ninety-four me . Inanna parts company with Enki to deliver the me to her cult center at Erech. Enki recovers his wits and tries to recover the me from her, but she arrives safely in Erech with them. ( Kramer & Maier 1989: pp. 38-68)
(See also Ishtar )
At the next level were fifty "great gods", possibly the same as the Annuna, although several gods confined to the underworld are specifically designated Annuna, An's children. The Annuna are also said to live in Dulkug or Du-ku, the "holy mound".( Kramer 1963: pp. 122-123, Black and Green p. 72, Kramer 1961, p. 73). In the "Descent of Inanna to the Nether World" the Anunnaki are identified as the seven judges of the nether world. (Kramer 1963 p. 154; Kramer 1961 p. 119) Ereshkigal Ereshkigal is the queen of the underworld, who is either given to Kur in the underworld or given dominion over the underworld in the prelude to "Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Underworld". (Wolkstein and Kramer p. 157-158; Kramer 1961 p. 37-38) She has a palace there with seven gates and is due a visit by those entering Kur. (Kramer 1963 pp. 131, 134) She was married to Gugalanna , the Bull of Heaven, and is Inanna 's older sister. When Inanna trespassed on her domain, Ereshkigal first directs her gatekeeper to open the seven gates a crack and remove her garments. (Wolkstein and Kramer pp. 55-57) Then when Inanna arrives she: ...fastened on Inanna the eye of death.
She spoke against her the word of wrath.
She uttered against her the cry of guilt
She struck her.
Inanna was turned into a corpse,
...And was hung from a hook on the wall.( Wolkstein & Kramer 1983 p. 60)
Later, when Enki 's messengers arrive, she is moaning in pain. When they empathize with her, she grants them a boon. They request Inanna's corpse and she accedes. (Wolkstein & Kramer pp. 64-67) (See also Babylonian Ereshkigal ) Nergal (Meslamtaea) - Nergal is the second son of Enlil and Ninlil . (Kramer 1961 pp. 44-45) He is perhaps the co-ruler of Kur with Ereshkigal where he has a palace and is due reverence by those who visit. He holds Enkidu fast in the underworld after Enkidu broke several taboos while trying to recover Gilgamesh 's pukku and mikku . He is more prominent in Babylonian literature and makes a brief appearance in II Kings 17:30.
(See Babylonian Nergal ) Ninlil Ninlil was the intended bride of Enlil and the daughter of Nunbarshegunu, the old woman of Nippur. Enlil raped her and was then banished to the nether world (kur). She follows him to the nether world, where she gives birth to the moon god Sin (also known as Nanna ). They have three more children in the nether world including Meslamtaea/( Nergal ) and Ninazu who remain there so that Sin may be allowed to leave. ( Kramer , Sumerians 1963: pp.146-7; Kramer 1961 pp. 43-46). In some texts she is Enlil's sister while Ninhursag is his bride. (Jacobsen p.105) Her chief shrine was in the Tummal district of Nippur. (See also Babylonian Ninlil ) Ningal She is Nanna 's wife and the mother of Inanna and Utu . She begs and weeps before Enlil for them not to flood her city, Ur.
(see also Babylonian Ningal and Nikkal of the Canaanites.) Nanshe Nanshe is a goddess of the city of Lagash who takes care of orphans and widows. She also seeks out justice for the poor and casts judgement on New Year's Day. She is supported by Nidaba and her husband, Haia. (Kramer 1963 pp. 124-125) Nidaba The goddess of writing and the patron deity of the edubba (palace archives). She is an assistant to Nanshe . (Kramer 1963 pp. 124-125) Ninisinna (Nininsinna) The patron goddess of the city Isin. She is the "hierodule of An" Ninkasi ("The Lady who fills the mouth") She is the goddess of brewing or alcohol , born of "sparkling-fresh water". (Kramer 1963 pp. 111, 206) She is one of the eight healing children born by Ninhursag for Enki She is born in response to Enki's mouth pain and Ninhursag declares that she should be the goddess who "sates the heart" (Kramer 1961 p. 58) or "who satisfies desire". (Kramer and Maier p. 30) Ninurta Ninurta is Enlil's son and a warrior deity, the god of the south wind. (Kramer 1963 p. 145; Kramer 1961 p. 80) In "The Feats and Exploits of Ninurta", that deity sets out to destroy the Kur . Kur initially intimidates Ninurta into retreating, but when Ninurta returns with greater resolve, Kur is destroyed. This looses the waters of the Abzu, causing the fields to be flooded with unclean waters. Ninurta dams up the Abzu by piling stones over Kur's corpse. He then drains these waters into the Tigris. (Kramer 1961 pp. 80-82). The identification of Ninurta's antagonist in this passage as Kur appears to be miscast. Black and Green identify his foe as the demon Asag, who was the spawn of An and Ki, and who produced monstrous offspring with Kur. The remainder of the details of this story are the same as in Kramer's account, but with Asag replacing Kur. In other versions, Ninurta is replaced by Adad / Ishkur . (Black & Green pp. 35-36)
(See also the Babylonian Ninurta ) Ashnan The kindly maid. Ashnan is a grain goddess, initially living in Dulkug (Du-ku). (Kramer 1961 p. 50) Enlil and Enki , at Enki's urging, create farms and fields for her and for the cattle god Lahar . This area has places for Lahar to take care of the animals and Ashnan to grow the crops. The two agricultural deities get drunk and begin fighting, so it falls to Enlil and Enki to resolve their conflict - how they do so has not been recovered. (Kramer 1961 pp. 53-54) Lahar Lahar is the cattle-goddess, initially living in Duku (Dulkug). Enlil and Enki , at Enki's urging, create farms and fields for him and the grain goddess Ashnan . This area has places for Lahar to take care of the animals and Ashnan to grow the crops. The two agricultural deities get drunk and begin fighting, so it falls to Enlil and Enki to resolve their conflict - how they do so has not been recovered. (Kramer 1961 pp. 53-54; Kramer 1963 pp. 220-223) Emesh Created by Enlil this god is responsible for agriculture. He quarrels with his brother Enten, and makes a claim to be the 'farmer of the gods', bringing his claim to Enlil after Enten. When Enlil judges Enten's claim to be stronger, Emesh relents, brings him gifts, and reconciles. (Kramer 1961 pp. 49-51) Enten He is a farmer god, and is Enlil 's field worker and herdsman. He quarrels with his brother Emesh and makes an appeal to Enlil that he deserves to be 'farmer of the gods'. Enlil judges Enten's claim to be the stronger and the two reconcile with Emesh bringing Enten gifts. (Kramer 1961 pp. 42, 49-51) Uttu She is the goddess of weaving and clothing (Kramer 1963 p. 174; Black and Green p. 182) and was previously thought to be the goddess of plants. She is both the child of Enki and Ninkur, and she bears eight new child/trees from Enki. When he then ate Uttu's children, Ninhursag cursed him with eight wounds and disappears. (Kramer 1961 pp. 57-59) Enbilulu The "knower" of rivers. He is the god appointed in charge of the Tigris and Euphrates by Enki . (Kramer 1961 p. 61) Ishkur God appointed to be in charge of the winds by Enki . He is in charge of "the silver lock of the 'heart' of heaven". (Kramer 1961 p. 61) He is identified with the Akkadian god, Adad . (Black and Green pp. 35-36) Enkimdu God placed in charge of canals and ditches by Enki . (Kramer 1961 p. 61) Kabta God placed in charge of the pickax and brickmold by Enki . (Kramer 1961 p. 61) Mushdamma God placed in charge of foundations and houses by Enki . (Kramer 1961 p. 61) Sumugan The god of the plain or "king of the mountain", he is the god placed in charge of the plant and animal life on the plain of Sumer by Enki . (Kramer 1961 pp. 61-62; Kramer 1963 p. 220)
Dumuzi (demigod) (Tammuz) A shepherd, he is the son of Enki and Sirtur. (Wolkstein & Kramer p. 34) He is given charge of stables and sheepfolds, filled with milk and fat by Enki . (Kramer 1961 p. 62) He has a palace in Kur, and is due a visit by those entering Kur. He is Inanna 's husband. In life, he was the shepherd king of Uruk.
"The Courtship of Inanna and Dumuzi"
Utu tries to set Inanna up with him but she initially rebuffs him, preferring the farmer. He assures her that his parents are as good as hers and she begins to desire him. The two consummate their relationship and with their exercise in fertility, the plants and grains grow as well. After they spend time in the marriage bed, Inanna declares herself as his battle leader and sets his duties as including sitting on the throne and guiding the path of weapons. At Ninshubur's request, she gives him power over the fertility of plants and animals. (Wolkstein and Kramer pp. 30-50)
"Descent of Inanna to the Nether World"
Upon her rescue from the dead, he was pursued by galla demons, which he eluded for a time with the aid of Utu . Eventually he was caught and slain; however, he was partially freed from his stay in the underworld by the actions of his sister Geshtinanna . Now he resides there only half of the year, while she lives there the other half year; this represents seasonal change (see Inanna and Geshtinanna ). (Wolkstein and Kramer pp. 71-89)
(See also the Babylonian Tammuz .)
Geshtinanna (demigoddess) She is Dumuzi's sister. After his death, she visited him in the underworld with Inanna, and was allowed to take his place there for six months out of the year. Her time in the underworld and her periodic emergence from it are linked with her new divine authority over the autumn vines and wine. (see also Inanna , Dumuzi ) Ziusudra (Ziusura) In the Sumerian version of the flood story, the pious Ziusudra of Shuruppak (Kramer 1963 p. 26), the son of Ubartutu (or of Shuruppak?) (Kramer 1963 p. 224) is informed of the gods decision to destroy mankind by listening to a wall. He weathers the deluge and wind-storms aboard a huge boat. The only surviving detail of the boat is that it had a window. The flood lasts for seven days before Utu appears dispersing the flood waters. After that, Ziusudra makes appropriate sacrifices and protrations to Utu, An and Enlil . He is given eternal life in Dilmun by An and Enlil. (Kramer 1963 pp. 163-164; Kramer 1961 pp. 97-98)
Jacobsen reports a more complete version of "The Eridu Genesis" than Kramer or Black and Green which is close to the Babylonian story of Atrahasis . In this account, man had been directed to live in cities by Nintur but as they thrived, the noise irritated Enlil, who thus started the flood. In this account, Enki warns Ziusudra, instructing him to build the boat for his family and for representatives of the animals. The remainder is consistent with the accounts of Kramer and Black and Green. (Jacobsen p. 114)
Gilgamesh (demigod) The son, either of a nomad or of the hero-king Lugalbanda and of the goddess Ninsun, Gilgamesh, may have been a historical King of Erech, during the time of the first Ur dynasty. His kingship is mentioned in various places, including the Sumerian King list and he was also an en , a spiritual head of a temple. He was also the lord of Kulab and by one account, the brother of Inanna . He was "the prince beloved of An", (Kramer p. 260, 188) and "who performs heroic deeds for Inanna" (Kramer 1963 p. 187)
"Gilgamesh and Agga" - (Pritchard pp.44-47; Kramer 1963 pp. 187-190)
King Agga of Kish sent an ultimatum to Erech. Gilgamesh tried to convince the elders that Erech should sack Kish in response, but the elders wanted to submit. He responded by taking the matter to the men of the city, who agreed to take up arms. Agga laid seige to Erech and Gilgamesh resisted with the help of his servant, Enkidu . He sent a soldier through the gate to Agga. The soldier is captured and tortured with a brief respite while another of Gilgamesh's soldiers climbs over the wall. Gilgamesh himself then climbs the wall and Agga's forces are so taken aback by the sight of them that Agga capitulates. Gilgamesh graciously accepts Agga's surrender, prasing him for returning his city.
After this episode, he apparently took Nippur from the son of the founder of the Ur I dynasty.
"Gilgamesh and the Land of the Living" (Pritchard pp. 47-50, Kramer 1963 pp. 190-197)
Gilgamesh, saddened by the dying he sees in his city, decides to go to the "Land of the Living" says so to Enkidu. At Enkidu's urging, Gilgamesh makes a sacrifice and first speaks to Utu , who is in charge of that land. After he informs Utu of his motives, the god calls off his seven guardian weather heroes. Gilgamesh recruits fifty single men to accompany them and commissions swords and axes. They travel over seven mountains, felling trees along the way eventually finding the "cedar of his heart". After some broken text Gilgamesh is in a deep sleep, presumably after an encounter with Huwawa . Enkidu or one of the others wakes him. They come upon Huwawa and Gilgamesh distracts him with flatery, then puts a nose ring on him and binds his arms. Huwawa grovels to Gilgamesh and Enkidu and Gilgamesh almost releases him. Enkidu argues against it and when Huwawa protests, he decapitates Huwawa. Gilgamesh is angered by Enkidu's rash action.
"Gilgamesh, Enkidu and the Netherworld" (Kramer 1963 p.197-205)
Inanna appeals to Gilgamesh, here her brother, when her huluppu tree has been occupied and he is receptive. He tears down the tree and makes it into a throne and bed for her. In return for the favor, Inanna manufactures a pukku and mikku for him.
He leaves them out, goes to sleep and can't find them where he left them when he awakens. They had fallen into the underworld. Enkidu asks him what is wrong and Gilgamesh asks him to retrieve them, giving him instructions on how to behave in the underworld. Enkidu enters the "Great Dwelling" through a gate, but he broke several of the underworld taboos of which Gilgamesh warned, including the wearing of clean clothes and sandals, 'good' oil, carrying a weapon or staff, making a noise, or behaving normally towards ones family (Kramer 1963: pp. 132-133). For these violations he was "held fast by 'the outcry of the nether world'". Gilgamesh appeals to Enlil, who refuses to help. Intervention by Enki , rescued the hero - or at least raised his shade for Gilgamesh to speak with.
"Gilgamesh and the Bull of Heaven"
He rejects Inanna's advances, so she sends the " Bull of Heaven " to ravage Erech in retribution. (Kramer 1963 p. 262)
"Death of Gilgamesh" (Pritchard pp. 50-52, Kramer 1963 pp. 130-131)
Gilgamesh is fated by Enlil to die but also to be unmatched as a warrior. When he dies, his wife and household servants make offerings (of themselves?) for Gilgamesh to the deities of the underworld.
He is given a palace in the nether world and venerated as lesser god of the dead. It is respectful to pay him a visit upon arrival. If he knew you in life or is of your kin he may explain the rules of Kur to you - which he helps to regulate.
His son and successor was either Ur-lugal or Urnungal.
(see Babylonian Gilgamesh )
He accompanies Gilgamesh and his soldiers on the trip to the "Land of the Living". Probably after an initial encounter with Huwawa , Gilgamesh falls asleep and Enkidu awakens him. They come upon Huwawa and Gilgamesh distracts him with flatery, then puts a nose ring on him and binds his arms. Huwawa grovels to Gilgamesh and Enkidu and Gilgamesh almost releases him. Enkidu argues against it and when Huwawa protests, he decapitates Huwawa. Gilgamesh is angered by Enkidu's rash action.
The main body of the Gilgamesh tale includes a trip to the nether-world. Enkidu enters the "Great Dwelling" through a gate, in order to recover Gilgamesh's pukku and mikku , objects of an uncertain nature. He broke several taboos of the underworld, including the wearing of clean clothes and sandals, 'good' oil, carrying a weapon or staff, making a noise, or behaving normally towards ones family (Kramer 1963: pp. 132-133). For these violations he was "held fast by 'the outcry of the nether world'". Intervention by Enki , rescued the hero or at least raised his shade for Gilgamesh to speak with.
Kur Kur literally means "mountain", "foreign land", or "land" and came to be identified both with the underworld and, more specifically, the area which either was contained by or contained the Abzu. (Kramer 1961 p. 76) In the prelude to "Gilgamesh, Enkidu and the Underworld, Ereshkigal was carried off into the Kur as it's prize at about the same time as An and Enlil carried off the heaven and the earth. Later in that same passage, Enki also struggled with Kur as and presumably was victorious, thereby able to claim the title "Lord of Kur" (the realm). Kramer suggests that Kur was a dragon-like creature, calling to mind Tiamat and Leviathan. The texts suggests that Enki's struggle may have been with instruments of the land of kur - its stones or its creatures hurling stones. (Kramer 1961 p. 37-38, 78-79) (See also Apsu and Tiamat .)
In "The Feats and Exploits of Ninurta ", that deity sets out to destroy the Kur. Kur initially intimidates Ninurta into retreating, but when Ninurta returns with greater resolve, Kur is destroyed. This looses the waters of the Abzu, causing the fields to be flooded with unclean waters. Ninurta dams up the Abzu by piling stones over Kur's corpse. He then drains these waters into the Tigris. (Kramer 1961 pp. 80-82). The identification of Ninurta's antagonist in this passage as Kur appears to be miscast. Black and Green identify his foe as the demon Asag, who was the spawn of An and Ki, and who produced monstrous offspring with Kur. The remainder of the details of this story are the same as in Kramer's account, but with Asag replacing Kur. In other versions, Ninurta is replaced by Adad / Ishkur . (Black & Green pp. 35-36)
"Inanna and Mt. Ebih": Inanna is also described in Hymns as a destroyer of Kur. If one, as Kramer does, identifies Kur with Mt. Ebih, then we learn that it has directed fear against the gods, the Anunnaki and the land, sending forth rays of fire against the land. Inanna declares to An that she will attack Mt. Ebih unless it submits. An warns against such an attack, but Inanna procedes anyway and destroys it. (Kramer 1961 pp. 82-83).
Gugalanna (Gugal-ana) He is Ereshkigal 's husband, and according to Kramer, the Bull of Heaven. (Wolkstein and Kramer p. 55) Black and Green tentatively identify him with Ennugi, god of canals and dikes, rather than the Bull of Heaven. (Black and Green p. 77) After Gilgamesh spurned Inanna, she sends the Bull of Heaven to terrorize Erech. (Kramer 1963 p. 262) Huwawa Guardian of the cedar of the heart in the the "Land of the living", Huwawa has dragon's teeth, a lion's face, a roar like rushing flood water, huge clawed feet and a thick mane. He lived there in a cedar house. He appears to have attacked Gilgamesh, Enkidu and company when they felled that cedar. They then come upon Huwawa and Gilgamesh distracts him with flatery, then puts a nose ring on him and binds his arms. Huwawa grovels to Gilgamesh and Enkidu and Gilgamesh almost releases him. Enkidu argues against it and when Huwawa protests, he decapitates Huwawa. See also the Babylonian Humbaba Gods in Kur with palaces who are due reverence:
Namtar - "Fate", the demon responsible for death. Namtar has no hands or feet and does not eat or drink. (Pritchard p. 51)
Ningishzida - the god of dawn Dimpemekug - due gifts, no palace
Neti - the chief gatekeeper
the scribe of Kur - due gifts, no palace The Sumerians had many other deities as well, most of which appear to have been minor.
The underworld of the Sumerians is revealed, to some extent, by a composition about the death and afterlife of the king and warlord Ur-Nammu. After having died on the battlefield, Ur- Nammu arrives below, where he offers sundry gifts and sacrifices to the "seven gods" of the nether world: ... Nergal , [the deified] Gilgamesh , Ereshkigal [the queen of the underworld, who is either given to Kur in the underworld or given dominion over the underworld in the prelude to Gilgamesh (Kramer & Maier 1989: p. 83) (Wolkstein & Kramer 1983: p. 4)] , Dumuzi [the shepherd, Inanna's husband], Namtar, Hubishag, and Ningishzida - each in his own palace; he also presented gifts to Dimpimekug and to the "scribe of the nether- world."... [After arriving at his assigned spot] ...certain of the dead were turned over to him, perhaps to be his attendants, and Gilgamesh, his beloved brother, explained to him the rules and regulations of the nether world. ( Kramer 1963: p. 131) Another tablet indicates that the sun, moon, and their respective gods, spent time in the underworld as well. The sun journeyed there after setting, and the moon rested there at the end of the month. Both Utu and Nanna '''decreed the fate' of the dead" while there. ( Kramer 1963: p. 132) Dead heroes ate bread, drank, and quenched the dead's thirst with water. The gods of the nether world, the deceased, and his city, were prayed to for the benefit of the dead and his family.
The Sumerian version of Gilgamesh includes a trip to the nether world as well. In the prologue, Enki sails for the Kur, presumably to rescue Ereshkigal after she was given over to Kur . He is assailed by creatures with stones. The main body of the tale includes a trip to the nether world as well. Enkidu enters the "Great Dwelling" through a gate, in order to recover Gilgamesh's pukku and mikku, objects of an uncertain nature. He broke several taboos of the underworld, including the wearing of clean clothes and sandals, 'good' oil, carrying a weapon or staff, making a noise, or behaving normally towards ones family ( Kramer 1963: pp. 132-133). For these violations he was "held fast by 'the outcry of the nether world'". Intervention by Enki, rescued the hero.
When Enlil visits the nether world, he must pass by a gatekeeper, followed by a "man of the river" and a "man of the boat" - all of whom act as guardians.(Kramer 1961 pp. 45-47)
Inanna also visits Kur, which results in a myth reminiscent of the Greek seasonal story of Persephone. She sets out to witness the funeral rites of her sister-in-law Ereshkigal 's husband Gugalanna , the Bull of Heaven. She takes precaution before setting out, by telling her servant Ninshubur to seek assistance from Enlil , Nanna , or Enki at their shrines, should she not return. Inanna knocks on the outer gates of Kur and the gatekeeper, Neti, questions her. He consults with queen Ereshkigal and then allows Inanna to pass through the seven gates of the underworld. After each gate, she is required to remove adornments and articles of clothing, until after the seventh gate, she is naked. The Annuna pass judgment against her and Ereshkigal slays her and hangs her on the wall ( Wolkstein & Kramer 1983 p. 60)
Inanna is rescued by the intervention of Enki . He creates two sexless creatures that empathize with Ereshkigal 's suffering, and thereby gain a gift - Inanna's corpse. They restore her to life with the Bread of Life and the Water of Life, but the Sumerian underworld has a conservation of death law. No one can leave without providing someone to stay in their stead. Inanna is escorted by galla/demons past Ninshubur and members of her family. She doesn't allow them to claim anyone until she sees Dumuzi on his throne in Uruk. They then seize Dumuzi, but he escapes them twice by transforming himself, with the aid of Utu . Eventually he is caught and slain. Inanna spies his sister, Geshtinanna , in mourning and they go to Dumuzi. She allows Dumuzi, the shepherd, to stay in the underworld only six months of the year, while Geshtinanna will stay the other six. ( Wolkstein & Kramer pp. 60-89) As with the Greek story of the kidnapping of Persephone, this linked the changing seasons, the emergence of the plants from the ground, with the return of a harvest deity from the nether world. Although he had always been a shepherd (and possibly a mortal king) he was blessed with the powers of fertility following the consummation of his marriage to Inanna in "The Courtship of Inanna and Dumuzi".
As the farmer, let him make the fields fertile,
As the shepherd, let him make the sheepfolds multiply,
Under his reign let there be vegetation,
Under his reign let there be rich grain ( Wolkstein & Kramer p. 45) Geshtinanna is also associated with growth, but where her brother rules over the spring harvested grain, she rules over the autumn harvested vines ( Wolkstein & Kramer p. 168)
Another important concept in Sumerian theology, was that of me . The me were universal decrees of divine authority. They are the invocations that spread arts, crafts, and civilization. The me were assembled by Enlil in Ekur and given to Enki to guard and impart to the world, beginning with Eridu, his center of worship. From there, he guards the me and imparts them on the people. He directs the me towards Ur and Meluhha and Dilmun, organizing the world with his decrees. Later, Inanna comes to Enki and complains at having been given too little power from his decrees. In a different text, she gets Enki drunk and he grants her more powers, arts, crafts, and attributes - a total of ninety-four me . Inanna parts company with Enki to deliver the me to her cult center at Erech. Enki recovers his wits and tries to recover the me from her, but she arrives safely in Erech with them. ( Kramer & Maier 1989: pp. 38-68)
Traces of Sumerian religion survive today and are reflected in writings of the Bible. As late as Ezekiel, there is mention of a Sumerian deity. In Ezekiel 8:14 , the prophet sees women of Israel weeping for Tammuz ( Dumuzi ) during a drought.
The bulk of Sumerian parallels can, however be found much earlier, in the book of Genesis. As in Genesis, the Sumerians' world is formed out of the watery abyss and the heavens and earth are divinely separated from one another by a solid dome. The second chapter of Genesis introduces the paradise Eden, a place which is similar to the Sumerian Dilmun, described in the myth of " Enki and Ninhursag ". Dilmun is a pure, bright, and holy land - now often identified with Bahrain in the Persian Gulf. It is blessed by Enki to have overflowing, sweet water. Enki fills it with lagoons and palm trees. He impregnates Ninhursag and causes eight new plants to grow from the earth. Eden, "in the East" ( Gen. 2:8 ) has a river which also "rises" or overflows, to form four rivers including the Tigris and Euphrates. It too is lush and has fruit bearing trees. ( Gen. 2:9-10 ) In the second version of the creation of man "The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being." Enki and Ninmah (Ninhursag) use a similar method in creating man. Nammu , queen of the abyss and Enki's mother, bids Enki to "Kneed the 'heart' of the clay that is over the Abzu " and "give it form" ( Kramer & Maier p. 33) From there the similarities cease as the two create several malformed humans and then the two deities get into an argument.
Returning to Enki and Ninhursag , we find a possible parallel to the creation of Eve. Enki consumed the plants that were Ninhursag's children and so was cursed by Ninhursag, receiving one wound for each plant consumed. Enlil and a fox act on Enki's behalf to call back Ninhursag in order to undo the damage. She joins with him again and bears eight new children, each of whom are the cure to one of his wounds. The one who cures his rib is named Ninti, whose name means the Queen of months, ( Kramer & Maier 1989: pp. 28-30) the lady of the rib, or she who makes live. This association carries over to Eve. ( Kramer , History Begins at Sumer 1981: pp. 143-144) In Genesis, Eve is fashioned from Adam's rib and her name hawwa is related to the Hebrew word hay or living. ( New American Bible p. 7.) The prologue of "Gilgamesh, Enkidu and the Underworld" may contain the predecessor to the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This tree not only contains a crafty serpent, but also Lilith , the legendary first wife of Adam. The huluppu tree is transplanted by Inanna from the banks of the Euphrates to her garden in Uruk, where she finds that:
...a serpent who could not be charmed
made its nest in the roots of the tree,
The Anzu bird set his young in the branches of the tree,
And the dark maid Lilith built her home in the trunk. ( Wolkstein and Kramer 1983: p. 8) It should be noted that Kramer's interpretation that this creature is Lilith has come into quiestion of late .
Another possible Sumerian carry-over related to the Fall of man is the lack of "pangs of childbearing" for those in Dilmun. In particular, Ninhursag gives birth in nine days, not nine months, and the pass "like good princely cream" ( Kramer 1981: p. 142,145) or "fine oil" ( Kramer & Maier 1989: p. 25)
The quarrels between herder god and farmer deity pairs such as Lahar and Ashnan or Enten and Emesh are similar in some respects to the quarrels of Cain and Abel. In the Sumerian versions death appears to be avoided, although we do not have the complete Lahar and Ashnan story. (Kramer 1961 pp. 49-51, 53-54)
The ten patriarchs in Genesis born prior to the flood lived very long lives, most in excess of 900 years. The seventh patriarch, Enoch, lived only 365 years before he "walked with God". (Genesis 5). The account which numbers those Patriarchs as ten is attributed to the Priestly source. The Yahwist source (J), details only seven Patriarchs prior to Noah, so that with him included, there are eight antediluvian patriarchs. (Genesis 4: 17-18) The eight antediluvian kings of in the Sumerian King List also lived for hundreds of years. (Kramer 1963 p. 328) S. H. Hooke notes another version of the Sumerian King list, found in Larsa details ten antediluvian kings. (Hooke, p. 130) The clearest Biblical parallel comes from the story of the Flood . In the Sumerian version, the pious Ziusudra is informed of the gods decision to destroy mankind by listening to a wall. He too weathers the deluge aboard a huge boat. Noah's flood lasts a long time, but Ziusudra comes to rest within seven days and not the near year of the Bible. He does not receive a covenant, but is given eternal life. (Kramer 1963 pp. 163-164; Kramer 1961 pp. 97-98)
As far as the New Testament goes, many also draw a parallel between Dumuzi and Jesus because Dumuzi is a shepherd-king and he is resurrected from the dead. This is perhaps appealing to some as Dumuzi's Akkadian analog, Tammuz, appears in the Bible, however Dumuzi's periodic return from the underworld is not unique even in Sumerian literature. His sister Geshtinanna also rises from the dead, and if one counts those born as deities, Inanna does as well. Periodic death and rebirth is a common theme in agricultural myths where the return of the deities from the earth mirrors a return to life of plants.
Black, Jeremy and Green, Anthony, Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia: An Illustrated Dictionary , University of Texas Press, Austin, 1992. This up-to-date and thorough resource on Mesopotamian mythology has great photos and illustrations by Tessa Rickards and very useful entries which often indicate the times and places when variant tales were current. My only complaint is that it is not always clear whether information in an entry is applicable to the Sumerian, Akkadian, or both versions of a particular deity or hero.
Crawford, Harriet, Sumer and the Sumerians , Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1991. (This is a briefer but more up to date archaeological look at the Sumerians than you'll find with Kramer. There isn't much mythic content in this one, but there are many wonderful figures detailing city plans, and the structure of temples and other buildings.)
Jacobsen, Thorkild, The Treasures of Darkness , Yale University Press, New Haven, 1976. A good alternative to Kramer, Jacobsen explores Mesopotamian religious development from early Sumerian times through the Babylonian Enuma Elish . Most of the book winds up being on the Sumerians.
Kramer, Samuel Noah, and Maier, John, Myths of Enki, the Crafty God , Oxford University Press, New York,1989. The most recent work that I've been able to find by Kramer. They translate and analyze all of the availible myths which include Enki. I've only seen it availible in hardcover and I haven't seen it in a bookstore yet.
Kramer, Samuel Noah, Sumerian Mythology , Harper & Brothers, New York, 1961. This slim volume contains much of the mythological material that wound up in The Sumerians but concentrated in one spot and without much cultural or historical detail. Many of the myths are more developed here, some of which are only glossed over in The Sumerians , however in some cases The Sumerians holds the more complete or updated myth.
Kramer, Samuel Noah The Sumerians The University of Chicago Press, Chicago,1963. (This is a more thorough work than Kramer's Section at the end of Inanna , but the intervening 20 or so years of additional research and translation allow Inanna 's section to be perhaps more complete, regarding mythology.)
Wolkstein, Diane and Kramer, Samuel Noah, Inanna: Queen of Heaven and Earth , Harper & Row, NY, 1983. (Ms. Wolkstein's verse translations of the Inanna/Dummuzi cycle of myths are excellent, but differ somewhat Kramer's originals. Kramer gives a 30 or so page description of Sumerian cosmology and society at the end).
The New American Bible , Catholic Book Publishing Co., New York, 1970.
Algaze, Guillermo, "The Uruk Expansion", Current Anthropology, Dec. 1989. This article helped with the introduction material.
Hooke, S. H. Middle Eastern Mythology , Penguin Books, New York, 1963. This work covers Sumerian, Babylonian, Canaanite/Ugaritic, Hittite, and Hebrew mythologic material in brief and with comparisons.
Fagan, B. M., People of the Earth , Glenview Il, Scott Forsman, 1989. This archaeology text book helped provide some of the introductory material.
Kramer, Samuel Noah, History Begins at Sumer , University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1981. (This text runs through a bunch of "firsts" that Kramer attributes to the Sumerians. I only looked at it briefly, but it seemed to contain about the same information as was in The Sumerians only in a "Wow neat!" format instead of something more coherent.)
Pritchard J. B., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament , Princeton, 1955. There is also a 1969 edition of this work and a companion volume of pictures. It seems to be the authoritative source for all complete texts of the Sumerians, Babylonians, Canaanites, Hittites, and perhaps other groups as well. It's pricy but many libraries have a copy.
Stephenson, Neal, Snowcrash , Bantam Books, New York, 1992. Cyberpunk meets "Inanna, Enki, and the Me ".
Wooley, C. Leonard, Excavations at Ur , 1954. This is one of the earlier works on the subject, and as such is not as complete as the others although it is of historical interest.
Sargon, the mighty king, the King of Agade, am I.
My mother was of humble estate, I knew not my father.
The brother of my father (or paternal uncle) was a dweller in the mountains (a forester?).
My city is Azupirani, which lies on the bank of the Euphrates .
My humble mother conceived me, she brought me forth in secret.
She laid me in a basket [made] of reeds, she smeared my door with bitumen, she committed me to the river which did not submerge me.
The river carried me to Akki, a man who watered the fields.
Akki, the man who watered the fields ... lifted me out of the basket.
Akki, the man who watered the fields, brought me up as his own son.
Akki, the man who watered the fields, made me his gardener.
Whilst I was a gardener the goddess Ishtar fell in love with me. And for ... four years I ruled the kingdom.
Sargon of Agade is frequently mentioned the Omen texts, and it is clear that he was regarded as a great and popular national hero for about two thousand years.
From George A. Barton, Archaeology and the Bible, 7th edition, p[. 375]:
Sargon, the mighty king of Agade, am I.
My mother was a lowley; my father I knew not.
The brothers of my father loved the mountain.
My city is Azupiranu, which is situated on the bank of the Euphrates.
My lowley mother conceived me, in secret she brought me forth.
She placed me in a basked of reeds, she closed my entrance with bitumen, She case me upon the river, which did not overflow me.
The river carried me, it brought me to Akki, the irrigator.
Akki, the irrigator, in the goodness of his heart lifted me up;
Akki, the irrigator, as his own son....brought me up;
Akki, the irrigator, as his gardener appointed me.
When I was a gardener the goddess Ishtar loved me, And for four years I ruled the kingdom.
The blacked-headed peoples I ruled, I goverened;
Mighty mountains with axes of bronze I destroyed.
I ascended the upper mountains/ I burst through the lower mountains.
The country of the sea I besieged three times;
Dilmun I captured. Unto the great Dur-ilu I went up, I.... .......I altered....
Whatsoever king shall be exalted after me, ....... Let him rule, let him govern the black-headed peoples;
Mighty mountains with axes of bronze let him destroy;
Let him ascend the upper mountains, Let him break through the lower mountains;
The country of the sea let him besiege three times;
Dilmun let him capture;
To great Dur-ilu let him go up.
The rest of the text is broken.
large portions of which are preserved in the British Museum . According to this, in the beginning nothing existed, except an inert mass of watery matter, of boundless extent, called Apsu. Out of Apsu came hideous devils of composite forms, and gods in the forms of men; the former lived in Apsu and the latter above it. The place where the gods lived we may call heaven, and the space immediately below it, together with Apsu, we may call earth. The two oldest gods to spring from Apsu were Lakhmu and Lakhamu, but about them we know nothing. After a long and indefinite period the gods Anshar and Kishar appeared, and heaven and earth were established as separate entities. Next there came into being Anu, the god of heaven and the sky, and the god Ea, god of the "House of Water," and several other gods. The disposition of things, which the text calls the "Way of the gods," was displeasing to Apsu, who is here made to be the predominant being in Apsu, and he took counsel with the monster she-devil, Tiamat, with the view of finding a way of overthrowing the order which had taken the place of chaos. Tiamat was imagined to be a composite creature, part animal, part serpent, part bird, revolting in appearance, and evil in every way. But at the same time she was the Universe-Mother, and she had in her possession the Tablet of Fate. Tiamat was the personification of chaos, night, darkness and inertness, and of every kind of evil. Apsu and Tiamat having taken counsel together determined that, with the help of Mummu, they would fight the gods and abolish their arrangement of heaven and earth. When Ea knew of their decision he went forth to do battle with the powers of darkness and chaos, and gained a victory over them, but we have no details of the encounter. One text says that he used a "holy incantation," which, of course, possessed great power; the recital of it cast a spell on the allies of Tiamat, and they were rendered impotent.
For a time Tiamat was dismayed at the death of Apsu, but she recovered, and her anger against the gods increased. She called to her help the female devil Ummu-Khubur, who at once spawned a brood of monster devils and put them at her disposal. Tiamat next summoned her male counterpart Kingu, and placed under his command the evil powers of the air, to which the texts give the names of the Viper, the Snake, Lakhamu, the Whirlwind, the Ravening Dog, the Scorpion-man, the Storm Wind, the Fishman, the Horned Beast, and all these were armed with an invincible weapon. These, together with Kingu and Tiamat, probably represent the primitive Twelve Signs of the Zodiac, which were powers of evil. Kingu was the king and leader of all the powers of the kingdom of darkness, and Tiamat, when she appointed him to be the captain of her hosts, recited over him a spell which would make him invincible, and preserve him from wounds and death. She gave him also the Tablet of Fate which she carried in her bosom, so that his words would possess almighty power. Thus Kingu and his hosts of devils were ready to renew the fight with Ea and, if necessary, with the other gods.
When Ea heard what Tiamat had done, and how she had collected a mighty army of devils with Kingu at their head, he felt that he was not strong enough to do battle with them, and he went to Anshar and told him about Tiamat. Anshar, like Ea, was troubled, and called Anu, the Sky-god, to help him. When Anu came, Anshar sent him to Tiamat, perhaps with the belief that he would be able to persuade her to abate her anger and her hostility to the gods. But when Anu came to her, Tiamat raged at him, and on seeing her hideous form and features he turned and fled. On his return to report his failure to conciliate Tiamat, a council of the gods was called by Ea, and his son Marduk came with the rest, and offered to go as the champion of the gods to fight Tiamat. Anshar ordered a banquet to be prepared in Upshukkinaku, the chief abode of the gods, to which he invited all the gods; when they had come, and saluted each other, they sat down, and ate bread and drank hot wine, and discussed what was to be done. They appointed Marduk to be their champion, and conferred upon him magical powers of all kinds, and saluted him as their king and gave him the sceptre and the throne, and put on him all the outward symbols of sovereignty. This done, they commanded him to go and slay Tiamat.
Then Marduk armed himself with a bow, a spear, and a club, and filled himself with fire, and set the lightning before him. He took in one hand a net wherewith to catch Tiamat, and he grouped the four winds of heaven about him, to prevent her flight; in the other hand he grasped the thunderbolt, and created by means of it violent tempests and storms to help him. Then he mounted the [Chariot of] the Storm, which was drawn by four horses, and set out to capture Tiamat. Meanwhile Kingu had taken up his place in the middle of Tiamat, and when he saw Marduk clothed with thunder and girt about with lightnings entering in there, he was terrified and staggered about helplessly, and all his followers sank down in a stupefied state. As Marduk came on Tiamat cursed him, and when he attacked her she raged, and began to recite a spell which she believed would paralyse him. Marduk threw his net over her, and when a gale of wind entering through her mouth distended her body, he drove his spear into her hide, which at once burst asunder. Her fiends and devils tried to escape, but were prevented by the four winds; and having caught them all in his net Marduk trampled upon them. He took the Tablet of Fate from off Kingu's breast and, setting his seal upon it, placed it on his own. He then crushed the skull of Tiamat with his club, and scattered her blood to the' north wind. He split her body into two parts; of the hide of the one he made the vault of heaven and of the hide of the other he made the abode of Ea. The plenishing of heaven and earth next occupied attention, and he began by establishing abodes for Anu, god of I heavens, Bel, god of the earth, and Ea, god of the deep and the underworld.
The regulations that Marduk made for the heavenly bodies were set forth in the Fifth Tablet of Creation, of which only a very fragmentary copy has come down to us. From the text available it is evident that Marduk fixed stations for the great gods, the Lumashi, or Signs of the Zodiac, the Year, the three stars of each month (i.e. the Dekans), Nibiru, the Moon, etc. The gods, however, appear not to have been wholly satisfied with what Marduk had done for them, chiefly because there was no one to present offerings to them and to worship at their shrines. When Marduk heard their complaint he decided to create man out of "blood and bone," and announced his decision to Ea, who suggested that one of the gods should be sacrificed to provide "blood and bone" for the man who was to be made. Thereupon Marduk asked the gods in council who was the cause of the rebellion of Tiamat and had made war, and they named Kingu, the husband of Tiamat. And they bound Kingu with fetters, and brought him to Ea, and having chastised him they let out his blood, from which mankind was made. The Anunnaki gods then proposed to build a shrine for Marduk, and when Marduk heard this he was pleased, and said that he wished the shrine to be in Babylon . The gods spent a year in making bricks, and built Esagila and its zikkurat with their own hands. When the temple was finished Marduk took up his abode therein, and assigned places to the gods, and the Anunnaki sang a Hymn of Praise to him. A little later the gods met there in council and bestowed upon him the Fifty Names, which indicated that the power and wisdom of every god were collected in him.
The gods who dwelt in Shuruppak, a city on the Euphrates , persuaded the great gods Anu, Enlil (Bel), Enurta, Ennugi and Ea to make a mighty storm. The god Ea spoke in a dream to Utatim, who was sleeping in a reed hut, and told him to tear down his house, to build a ship, to abandon his goods and possessions and to save his life by means of the ship. It was to be as broad as it was long, and to have a roof, and he was to load the ship with all kinds of grain. Uta-Napishtim replied that he heard and understood his lord's commands and would fulfill them, but he asked Ea how he was to explain his action to his fellow-townsmen. Ea told him to say that he had incurred the wrath of Enlil, that he must leave Shuuruppak and never see it again, and that he was going to sail on the ocean to his lord Ea. The next morning Uta-Napishtim made men bring him bitumen and other materials for building the ship; it was 120 cubits high, and the roof had the same dimensions. He plastered it with bitumen, made a steering-pole and its fittings, and provided water-bolts. He slaughtered oxen and sheep for the workmen and supplied them with beer, oil and wine, and celebrated the completion of the ship by making a great feast like that held on New Year's Day, and anointed himself with unguent. He then loaded the ship with all his goods and possessions, gold, silver, grain, and sent into it his family and kinsfolk and servants and cattle. The god Shamash warned him that the great storm would break at eventide and, when the night fell and the storm drew nigh, Uta-Napishtim went up into his ship and shut the door, as Shamash had commanded him; and his pilot Puzur-BeI took charge of the ship. At dawn the storm was raging, black clouds covered the sky, lightnings rent the heavens, thunders pealed, and the whirlwind carried away the post of the ship. Darkness was everywhere, and torrents of rain poured down, and the waters reached to the mountains. The flood swept away the people, who struggled against it as if they were fighting a battle. The gods themselves were terrified at the storm and fled to the highest heaven and cowered by the wall like dogs. Ishtar lamented bitterly when she saw the bodies of the drowned folk filling the sea "like little fishes," and the gods joined their wailings to hers and sat down and wept. The rains descended and the cyclone raged for six days and six nights, but they ceased on the seventh day. When Uta-Napishtim looked out through the air-hole of the ship he saw water everywhere, for the land was laid flat and men had become mud; and he sat down and wept.
Twelve days later they saw an island, and the pilot steered the ship to the land of Nisir , and when it reached the slope of Mount Nisir it grounded and remained fast for six days. On the seventh day Uta-Napishtim sent out a dove from the ship, and though it flew away it came back, for it could not find land on which to alight. He then sent out a swallow, which flew away, but, like the dove, finding no land on which to alight, came back to the ship. Next he sent out a raven, which flew away, and, finding ground from which it could peck food, it did not return. Then Uta-Napishtim came out of his ship and offered up a sacrifice, and poured out a libation on the top of the mountain. The gods smelt the sweet savour of the sacrifice, and gathered together about it like flies. At this moment Ishtar came, and, lifting up her necklace of lapis-lazuli (i.e. the rainbow), which her father Anu had made for her, she swore that she would never forget the days that had just passed, and invited all the gods to partake of the sacrifice, except Enlil, who had made the flood and destroyed her people. But Enlil came, and when he saw the ship and the man who had escaped alive from the flood, he was filled with wrath, and declared that the man should die. Then Ea asked Enlil how it came about that he refused to be advised and made the flood. Let the man, he said, who is a sinner suffer for his sin, and the transgressor pay for his transgression; Enlil should be merciful and compassionate, otherwise man and everything else would be destroyed. "I would" (he said) "that a lion, or a wolf, or famine, or plague had come upon man rather than thy storm." And in order to save the life of Uta-Napishtim, Ea told Enlil that he had not revealed to Uta-Napishtim the decision of the gods to make a storm, but had only sent him a vision through which the man had found it out. Enlil apparently agreed to spare the life of Uta-Napishtim, for Ea went up into the ship and, taking him by the hand, led him out with his wife. Then Ea made them to kneel on the ground facing each other, and he stood up between them and blessed them, and pronounced the decree that Uta-Napishtim and his wife, who were mortals, should henceforward be immortal, like the gods, and he assigned to them a place at the mouth of the rivers in which they were to dwell. In accordance with Ea's decree, Uta-Napishtim and his wife were taken to a remote place at the mouth of the rivers, and there they dwelt.
Anu, the Father and King of the Gods, the God par excellence in fact. He was not a popular god in Babylonia , for he was too great and too remote to be called upon by worshippers to help them in the affairs of daily life. His position astronomically was the Equator of Heaven and his number was the perfect number Sixty. His oldest sanctuary was in Uruk (Warka), and his temple there was called E-Anna. His wife was called Ninzalli, and his concubine Ninursalla; in later times the name of his wife is given as Antu. Her position was usurped by Ishtar, to whom Anu gave a name corresponding to his own. A somewhat similar story is found in Egyptian, in which Isis succeeds in making Ra tell, or give, her his secret name. The goddess Nanai, or Nana, was the daughter of Anu, and the seat of her cult was Uruk.
Enlil, or Ellil, whom the Semites call Bel, was the god of the wind which brought with it rain and floods. He lived on the " Great Mountain " in the heaven of Bel, which united heaven with earth. The centre of his cult was Nippur , and his temple was called E-Kur, i.e. House of the Mountains. He also was the Father and King of the Gods, and he was the Keeper of the Tablet of Fate, which was, however, stolen from him by the Bird-god Zu. Though he protected kings, he was not especially benevolent towards mankind, for be created the dragon Labbu and caused the Flood. His principal wife was Ninlil, who possessed many of the attributes of the World-Mother. In Assyria the god Dagan, who was of foreign origin, was regarded as a sort of counterpart of Enlil; his wife also bore a foreign name, Shalash.
Ninurta was the son of Enlil and a god of war and the chase. He seems to have represented the sun at midday; as a planet he was Saturn, and as a fixed star Sirius. He dwelt in E-Shumedu in Nippur , but had sanctuaries in other great towns in Babylonia, and at Calah in Assyria . He was equipped with a sword, shield, bow, net and girdle. One of his wives was called Gula.
Nusku, a Fire-god and Light-god, was sometimes identified with Sin, the Moon-god. His wife was called Sadaranunna. The Cosseans identified him with their god Shuqamuna.
Makh, a Mother-goddess, was known as Ninmakh, Mama, Nintu, Aruru, and Ninkhursagga; she presided over the conception and birth of children and was their constant protector. She created the gods and suckled kings, and terracotta figures of her represent her suckling a child at her left breast. The consort of this goddess was Shulpa'e, of whom Jupiter was the symbol, and her son was called Lil.
Ea, also called Nudimmud, was the son of Anu by Nammu of E-Kur. As the lord of water in all forms, rivers, lakes, seas, the water in the earth and the celestial ocean, he was called Enki. The chief seat of his cult was Eridu, which in early Sumerian times was at the head of the swamps leading to the Persian Gulf , or on the sea itself. He was the god of wisdom and all knowledge, and instructed) men in handicrafts, and invented the characters used in writing. He also taught man to overcome their enemies by the use of spells and incantations, and was the arch-magician and master of the art of divination. By the use of a spell he paralysed Mummu, as we have already seen, and so defeated the champion of Apsu. His chief temple was E-Apsu in Eridu; the animal sacred to him was the ibex. His wife was Damgalnunna, or Damkina, and Adapa was their son. A god closely associated with him was Gibil, the Fire-god.
Marduk was also a son of Ea. The original seat of his cult was in Eridu, and he represented, like one of the forms of Horus in Egypt , the early morning sun. At an early period he was chosen as the chief god of Babylon , and after Khammurabi enlarged that city, the renown of the god increased, until at length he became the lord of all the land. Like his father, he engaged in battle against the powers of evil who were the enemies of all mankind, and as his father conquered Mummu, so he conquered Tiamat, and he was made king of the gods as the result. The animal sacred to him was the serpent-gryphon, and his sacred number was Ten; his star was Jupiter. His chief shrine was Eagila in Babylon , and his statue was made of pure gold ornamented with precious stones. His wife was called Sarpanitu, which the Semites turned into Zer-banitu.
Nabu (Nebo), i.e. the "Announcer," was the son of Marduk, and was also called Tutu. He was endowed with great wisdom, like his father, and he acted as scribe to the gods; he had charge of the Tablet of Fate of the gods, and had the power of prolonging the days of men. Like the Egyptian Thoth, his eyes traveled over the circuit of the heavens and over all the earth. He was the personification of knowledge, and as a god of vegetation he caused the earth to produce abundant crops. His chief shrines were in Borsippa (Birs-i-Nimnld) and in Calah ( Nimrud ) in Assyria . His star was Mercury, and his symbol was a scribe's stilus. His wife was called Tashmitu.
Sin, the Moon-god, the first-born son of Enlil, was also called Enzu and Nannar. When invisible on earth he was supposed to be in the Underworld, and during an eclipse he was thought to be fighting against evil spirits. He marked the lengths of the day, the month and the year, and as lord of the month his number was Thirty. His chief shrines were E-gishshirgal in Ur and E-khulkhul in Harran . Like Nabu, he was a god of vegetation. His wife was called Ningal, or Nikkal, and she is said to be the mother of the Sun-god; Nin-Mar, the goddess of the town of Mar, was associated with Sin, and by him she is said to have had 12 children.
Shamash, the Sun-god, who is also called Utu and Babbar, was the son of Sin. In primitive times he was supposed to stride over the heavens on foot, but in later times to do so in a fiery chariot which was drawn by animals driven by one Bunene. He was regarded as a gracious god, for he helped all who were in trouble, gave life to the dead, and set free him that was in bonds. Possessing the power to see everywhere, he knew all things, and judged men rightly. He is represented as an old, long-bearded man, from whose shoulders rays of light come forth, and as a disk with a star, or a disk with wings, like the winged disk of Horus of Edfu, which is seen sculptured over the door of his temple at Edfu. Shamash's chief sanctuaries in Babylonia were at Larsa (Sankarah) and Sippar (Abu Habbah), and the seat of his cult in Assyria was the "city of Asshur ." His wife was called Aia and Shenirda.
Dumuzi, i.e. Tammuz, united in his person the attributes of two gods, viz. Shamash and a son of Ea. He was in part a Water-god and in part a Vegetation-god; his cult was already old in Sumerian times, and he was honoured among the people until a very late period.
Ishtar, or Ninni, or Innina, was the daughter of Sin, the Moon-god; she usurped the position of Antu as the wife or concubine of Anu. She was the goddess of love, but in one of her forms her lovers suffered pain and death. She was also a goddess of battle, and one form of her was the goddess Anunitu, who dwelt in E-Ulmash and was the tutelary deity of Akkad . Her star was the planet Venus, and her sacred animal was the lion.
Lugalbanda was a son of Enlil, and his wife was called Ninsun. Urash was the first-born son of Enlil, and was identified sometimes with Ninurta; his city was Dilbat and his star was Centaurus. His wife was called Nin-uru and Nin-egal, and his son Lagamal.
Zamana, or Zababa, was a son of Enlil, and was a god of battle; the seat of his cult was his temple E-Meteursag, in Kish ; his wife was Ba'u.
Ningirsu, a son of Enlil, was a form of Ninurta and was a god of battle.
The gods of the passage to the Underworld, or the "Land of no return," were Birtu and Manungal. To reach the Underworld the spirits bound thither had to cross the river Khubur and pass through the Seven Gates, which divided it into seven parts, like the Seven Arits of the Book of the Dead. Its goddess was Ereshkigal, whom the Babylonians called Allatu; a temple called E-Urugal at Kuthah was dedicated to her. Her husband is sometimes called Gugulanna and sometimes Ninazu. Her minister was Namtar, and it was his duty to introduce the dead to his dread mistress. He had it in his power to strike men with 60 different kinds of sicknesses, and he and his wife Khushbisag produced a family of devils who caused diseases in man. Namtar is said to be the son of Enlil by Ereshkigal. The scribe of the Underworld was Belit-seri. Ninazu is also said to be the husband of Ningirda and the father of Ningishziida, the tutelary god of Gudea, whose symbol was two serpents twined about a staff. His star was Hydra.
Nergal, who in early times represented the destructive power of the sun, and was a Plague-god, became at a later period the god of the Underworld. His father was Anu, or Enlil, or Ea, and his mother was Kutusar. His temple was in Kuthah, and his star was Mars. His wife was either Ereshkigal or Mammitu.
Irra was a god of pestilence, fire, battle and the desert; his wife was called Ninmug, or Shubula.
The Babylonians and Assyrians adopted the greater number of the Sumerian gods mentioned above, but the latter adopted as their chief national god Ashur (Ashshur) the War-god, who was probably unknown to the Sumerians. He was originally the Local-god of the "city of Asshur " (Kal'ah Sharkat) and was of little importance outside its walls. As the power of Marduk became predominant when Babylon grew into a great city, so the power of Ashur waxed great when the Assyrians became a strong and warlike nation. He is called in the texts the self-begotten king of the gods, and he became to Assyria what Enlil had been and Marduk was to Babylon . His wife was called Ninlil and Ishtar. He dwelt at first in E-Sharra, and later in E-Kharsag-kurkurru. He is represented usually as a Warrior-god, wearing a pair of horns and carrying a bow and a quiver and standing within a winged disk. His short skirt is of feathers and has the form of a tail of a bird. Another Assyrian Local-god was Shulmanu, whose wife was called Shulmanitu.
The gods were divided into two main groups; the one group had dominion in heaven, and the other on earth and in the Underworld. The gods of heaven were called the Igigi, and those of earth Anunnaki; the former were in number 300, and the latter 600. A text published by Ebeling makes the number of the gods to be 3,600. From first to last the attributes and characters of the gods remained practically unchanged for at least 3,000 years. Besides these there were many spirits of various kinds, some good-natured and some ill-natured, some in human form and some in the forms of birds, animals, etc. Among the former class were the Shedu and Lamassu; and the colossal lions and man-headed bulls which protected palaces were representations of benevolent beings. Evil spirits were Labartu, Lilli, Lilitu (the Lilith of Isai), Asakku, Alu, Etimmu, Gallu, etc.
And the doctrines of the priests encouraged men to enjoy life to the full, for their descriptions of the Underworld were terrifying indeed. Once arrived there man's body turned into mud, and his spirit took the form of a bird and flitted about in darkness. The Underworld, which was usually called Kigallu, or Arallu, or Irkalla, was situated under the earth, and the spirit of the dead entered it through an opening in the earth in the West. The first obstacle was the river Khubur, which was crossed in a ferry worked by the ferryman Khumuttabal, who had a bird's head and four hands and feet. The Book of the Dead shows that the Egyptian soul was ferried over a river by a ferryman whose name was "Face-behind-him." When the spirit left the ferry it entered Dead Land , where it was judged by a company of gods. Then it had to pass through Seven, or Fourteen, Doors (like the Egyptian Arits and Pylons), each of which was guarded by one of the sons of the goddess Enmesharra. The porter announced the name of the soul to the goddess, who gave it permission to enter. The spirit was then, like Ishtar when she descended into the Underworld in quest of Tammuz, stripped of all clothing and it entered into the presence of the goddess naked. The doors passed, the spirit entered the dark house of Irkalla. He who once enters this house never comes out again, and never can return by the road by which he came. Those who are in it are without light, they feed upon dust and they eat mud; they never see the light, but sit in darkness; they wear feathers like the birds and the dust lies thick on the door and its bolts. In the House of Dust dwell Etana, Samugan and the Queen of the Underworld, Ereshkigal. She lives with the 300, or 600, Anunnaki, and like the spirits of the dead, eats mud and drinks dirty water, but, in her own way, she compassionates those who have left the world and come to dwell with her. Her husband Ninazu, or Nergal, wears a crown, carries weapons of war, and has a following of 14 devils, who cause disease and sickness in men. The names of the dead are written down by the goddess Belit-seri. Her chief minister is Namtar, the Plague-god; his wife Namtartu(?) has the head of a bull and the feet and hands of a man. Besides these, many devils and demons who cause sicknesses in men, and bring upon them calamities, dwell in the Underworld. After the spirit had appeared before Ereshkigal, it seems that the Anunnaki sat in judgment upon it, and with Mammitu, the goddess of the destinies of men, proceeded to discuss the good and evil deeds that it had done in the body. The details of this judgment are not known, but it seems to resemble the Egyptian judgment of the dead which took place in the hall of Osiris. One section of the Underworld must have been set apart for the spirits who were not condemned by the Anunnaki, for we read of some who reclined on couches and drank water, and of others who had their fathers and mothers to support their heads, and their wives to sit by their sides. Presumably such spirits lived upon the spirits of the offerings made to the dead by the living, and the libations poured out in this world found their way to those in the Underworld. It seems that the spirits of the dead whose bodies were unburied wandered about the villages and lived on such fragments of food as were thrown out into the streets. There must also have been a place set apart in the Underworld for those who were condemned in the judgment by the Anunnaki, where punishment was inflicted on them. The spirits of the dead were sometimes permitted to return to earth (we know that Enkidu was allowed by Nergal to appear before Gilgamish), and sometimes the spirits of the wicked escaped to earth, where, in the form of demons of sickness, they troubled mankind. But the only divine beings who went into the Underworld and came out of it and remained out of it were Ishtar and Bel-Marduk. Among the Babylonians the belief in the immortality of the soul (or spirit) was fundamental, and the doctrine of annihilation appears to have been wholly unknown to them.