The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria


By Theophilus G. Pinches, LL.D.

First Published 1906 by Archibald Constable & Co. Ltd.




Lecturer in Assyrian at University College, London,
Author of “The Old Testament in the Light of the
Records of Assyria and Babylonia”; “The Bronze
Ornaments of the Palace Gates of Balewat” etc. etc.





Position, and Period.

The religion of the Babylonians and Assyrians was the polytheistic
faith professed by the peoples inhabiting the Tigris and Euphrates
valleys from what may be regarded as the dawn of history until the
Christian era began, or, at least, until the inhabitants were brought
under the influence of Christianity. The chronological period covered
may be roughly estimated at about 5000 years. The belief of the
people, at the end of that time, being Babylonian heathenism leavened
with Judaism, the country was probably ripe for the reception of the
new faith. Christianity, however, by no means replaced the earlier
polytheism, as is evidenced by the fact, that the worship of Nebo and
the gods associated with him continued until the fourth century of the
Christian era.

By whom followed.

It was the faith of two distinct peoples–the Sumero-Akkadians, and
the Assyro-Babylonians. In what country it had its beginnings is
unknown–it comes before us, even at the earliest period, as a faith
already well-developed, and from that fact, as well as from the names
of the numerous deities, it is clear that it began with the former
race–the Sumero-Akkadians–who spoke a non-Semitic language largely
affected by phonetic decay, and in which the grammatical forms had in
certain cases become confused to such an extent that those who study
it ask themselves whether the people who spoke it were able to
understand each other without recourse to devices such as the “tones”
to which the Chinese resort. With few exceptions, the names of the
gods which the inscriptions reveal to us are all derived from this
non-Semitic language, which furnishes us with satisfactory etymologies
for such names as Merodach, Nergal, Sin, and the divinities mentioned
in Berosus and Damascius, as well as those of hundreds of deities
revealed to us by the tablets and slabs of Babylonia and Assyria.

The documents.

Outside the inscriptions of Babylonia and Assyria, there is but little
bearing upon the religion of those countries, the most important
fragment being the extracts from Berosus and Damascius referred to
above. Among the Babylonian and Assyrian remains, however, we have an
extensive and valuable mass of material, dating from the fourth or
fifth millennium before Christ until the disappearance of the
Babylonian system of writing about the beginning of the Christian era.
The earlier inscriptions are mostly of the nature of records, and give
information about the deities and the religion of the people in the
course of descriptions of the building and rebuilding of temples, the
making of offerings, the performance of ceremonies, etc. Purely
religious inscriptions are found near the end of the third millennium
before Christ, and occur in considerable numbers, either in the
original Sumerian text, or in translations, or both, until about the
third century before Christ. Among the more recent inscriptions–those
from the library of the Assyrian king Assur-bani-apli and the later
Babylonian temple archives,–there are many lists of deities, with
numerous identifications with each other and with the heavenly bodies,
and explanations of their natures. It is needless to say that all this
material is of enormous value for the study of the religion of the
Babylonians and Assyrians, and enables us to reconstruct at first hand
their mythological system, and note the changes which took place in
the course of their long national existence. Many interesting and
entertaining legends illustrate and supplement the information given
by the bilingual lists of gods, the bilingual incantations and hymns,
and the references contained in the historical and other documents. A
trilingual list of gods enables us also to recognise, in some cases,
the dialectic forms of their names.

The importance of the subject.

Of equal antiquity with the religion of Egypt, that of Babylonia and
Assyria possesses some marked differences as to its development.
Beginning among the non-Semitic Sumero-Akkadian population, it
maintained for a long time its uninterrupted development, affected
mainly by influences from within, namely, the homogeneous local cults
which acted and reacted upon each other. The religious systems of
other nations did not greatly affect the development of the early
non-Semitic religious system of Babylonia. A time at last came,
however, when the influence of the Semitic inhabitants of Babylonia
and Assyria was not to be gainsaid, and from that moment, the
development of their religion took another turn. In all probably this
augmentation of Semitic religious influence was due to the increased
numbers of the Semitic population, and at the same period the Sumero-
Akkadian language began to give way to the Semitic idiom which they
spoke. When at last the Semitic Babylonian language came to be used
for official documents, we find that, although the non-Semitic divine
names are in the main preserved, a certain number of them have been
displaced by the Semitic equivalent names, such as Samas for the
sun-god, with Kittu and Mesaru (“justice and righteousness”) his
attendants; Nabu (“the teacher” = Nebo) with his consort Tasmetu (“the
hearer”); Addu, Adad, or Dadu, and Rammanu, Ramimu, or Ragimu = Hadad
or Rimmon (“the thunderer”); Bel and Beltu (Beltis = “the lord” and
“the lady” /par excellence/), with some others of inferior rank. In
place of the chief divinity of each state at the head of each separate
pantheon, the tendency was to make Merodach, the god of the capital
city Babylon, the head of the pantheon, and he seems to have been
universally accepted in Babylonia, like Assur in Assyria, about 2000
B.C. or earlier.

The uniting of two pantheons.

We thus find two pantheons, the Sumero-Akkadian with its many gods,
and the Semitic Babylonian with its comparatively few, united, and
forming one apparently homogeneous whole. But the creed had taken a
fresh tendency. It was no longer a series of small, and to a certain
extent antagonistic, pantheons composed of the chief god, his consort,
attendants, children, and servants, but a pantheon of considerable
extent, containing all the elements of the primitive but smaller
pantheons, with a number of great gods who had raised Merodach to be
their king.

In Assyria.

Whilst accepting the religion of Babylonia, Assyria nevertheless kept
herself distinct from her southern neighbour by a very simple device,
by placing at the head of the pantheon the god Assur, who became for
her the chief of the gods, and at the same time the emblem of her
distinct national aspirations–for Assyria had no intention whatever
of casting in her lot with her southern neighbour. Nevertheless,
Assyria possessed, along with the language of Babylonia, all the
literature of that country–indeed, it is from the libraries of her
kings that we obtain the best copies of the Babylonian religious
texts, treasured and preserved by her with all the veneration of which
her religious mind was capable,–and the religious fervour of the
Oriental in most cases leaves that of the European, or at least of the
ordinary Briton, far behind.

The later period in Assyria.

Assyria went to her downfall at the end of the seventh century before
Christ worshipping her national god Assur, whose cult did not cease
with the destruction of her national independence. In fact, the city
of Assur, the centre of that worship, continued to exist for a
considerable period; but for the history of the religion of Assyria,
as preserved there, we wait for the result of the excavations being
carried on by the Germans, should they be fortunate enough to obtain
texts belonging to the period following the fall of Nineveh.

In Babylonia.

Babylonia, on the other hand, continued the even tenor of her way.
More successful at the end of her independent political career than
her northern rival had been, she retained her faith, and remained the
unswerving worshipper of Merodach, the great god of Babylon, to whom
her priests attributed yet greater powers, and with whom all the other
gods were to all appearance identified. This tendency to monotheism,
however, never reached the culminating point–never became absolute–
except, naturally, in the minds of those who, dissociating themselves,
for philosophical reasons, from the superstitious teaching of the
priests of Babylonia, decided for themselves that there was but one
God, and worshipped Him. That orthodox Jews at that period may have
found, in consequence of this monotheistic tendency, converts, is not
by any means improbable–indeed, the names met with during the later
period imply that converts to Judaism were made.

The picture presented by the study.

Thus we see, from the various inscriptions, both Babylonian and
Assyrian–the former of an extremely early period–the growth and
development, with at least one branching off, of one of the most
important religious systems of the ancient world. It is not so
important for modern religion as the development of the beliefs of the
Hebrews, but as the creed of the people from which the Hebrew nation
sprang, and from which, therefore, it had its beginnings, both
corporeal and spiritual, it is such as no student of modern religious
systems can afford to neglect. Its legends, and therefore its
teachings, as will be seen in these pages, ultimately permeated the
Semitic West, and may in some cases even had penetrated Europe, not
only through heathen Greece, but also through the early Christians,
who, being so many centuries nearer the time of the
Assyro-Babylonians, and also nearer the territory which they anciently
occupied, than we are, were far better acquainted than the people of
the present day with the legends and ideas which they possessed.



The Sumero-Akkadians and the Semites.

For the history of the development of the religion of the Babylonians
and Assyrians much naturally depends upon the composition of the
population of early Babylonia. There is hardly any doubt that the
Sumero-Akkadians were non-Semites of a fairly pure race, but the
country of their origin is still unknown, though a certain
relationship with the Mongolian and Turkish nationalities, probably
reaching back many centuries–perhaps thousands of years–before the
earliest accepted date, may be regarded as equally likely. Equally
uncertain is the date of the entry of the Semites, whose language
ultimately displaced the non-Semitic Sumero-Akkadian idioms, and
whose kings finally ruled over the land. During the third millennium
before Christ Semites, bearing Semitic names, and called Amorites,
appear, and probably formed the last considerable stratum of tribes of
that race which entered the land. The name Martu, the Sumero-Akkadian
equivalent of Amurru, “Amorite”, is of frequent occurrence also before
this period. The eastern Mediterranean coast district, including
Palestine and the neighbouring tracts, was known by the Babylonians
and Assyrians as the land of the Amorites, a term which stood for the
West in general even when these regions no longer bore that name. The
Babylonians maintained their claim to sovereignty over that part as
long as they possessed the power to do so, and naturally exercised
considerable influence there. The existence in Palestine, Syria, and
the neighbouring states, of creeds containing the names of many
Babylonian divinities is therefore not to be wondered at, and the
presence of West Semitic divinities in the religion of the Babylonians
need not cause us any surprise.

The Babylonian script and its evidence.

In consequence of the determinative prefix for a god or a goddess
being, in the oldest form, a picture of an eight-rayed star, it has
been assumed that Assyro-Babylonian mythology is, either wholly or
partly, astral in origin. This, however, is by no means certain, the
character for “star” in the inscriptions being a combination of three
such pictures, and not a single sign. The probability therefore is,
that the use of the single star to indicate the name of a divinity
arises merely from the fact that the character in question stands for
/ana/, “heaven.” Deities were evidently thus distinguished by the
Babylonians because they regarded them as inhabitants of the realms
above–indeed, the heavens being the place where the stars are seen, a
picture of a star was the only way of indicating heavenly things. That
the gods of the Babylonians were in many cases identified with the
stars and planets is certain, but these identifications seem to have
taken place at a comparatively late date. An exception has naturally
to be made in the case of the sun and moon, but the god Merodach, if
he be, as seems certain, a deified Babylonian king, must have been
identified with the stars which bear his name after his worshippers
began to pay him divine honours as the supreme deity, and naturally
what is true for him may also be so for the other gods whom they
worshipped. The identification of some of the deities with stars or
planets is, moreover, impossible, and if Ea, the god of the deep, and
Anu, the god of the heavens, have their representatives among the
heavenly bodies, this is probably the result of later development.[*] [*] If there be any historical foundation for the statement that
Merodach arranged the sun, the moon, the planets, and the stars,
assigning to them their proper places and duties–a tradition
which would make him the founder of the science of astronomy
during his life upon earth–this, too, would tend to the
probability that the origin of the gods of the Babylonians was not
astral, as has been suggested, but that their identification with
the heavenly bodies was introduced during the period of his reign.

Ancestor and hero-worship. The deification of kings.

Though there is no proof that ancestor-worship in general prevailed at
any time in Babylonia, it would seem that the worship of heroes and
prominent men was common, at least in early times. The tenth chapter
of Genesis tells us of the story of Nimrod, who cannot be any other
than the Merodach of the Assyro-Babylonian inscriptions; and other
examples, occurring in semi-mythological times, are /En-we-dur-an-ki/,
the Greek Edoreschos, and /Gilgames/, the Greek Gilgamos, though
Aelian’s story of the latter does not fit in with the account as given
by the inscriptions. In later times, the divine prefix is found before
the names of many a Babylonian ruler–Sargon of Agade,[*] Dungi of Ur
(about 2500 B.C.), Rim-Sin or Eri-Aku (Arioch of Ellasar, about 2100
B.C.), and others. It was doubtless a kind of flattery to deify and
pay these rulers divine honours during their lifetime, and on account
of this, it is very probable that their godhood was utterly forgotten,
in the case of those who were strictly historical, after their death.
The deification of the kings of Babylonia and Assyria is probably due
to the fact, that they were regarded as the representatives of God
upon earth, and being his chief priests as well as his offspring (the
personal names show that it was a common thing to regard children as
the gifts of the gods whom their father worshipped), the divine
fatherhood thus attributed to them naturally could, in the case of
those of royal rank, give them a real claim to divine birth and
honours. An exception is the deification of the Babylonian Noah,
Ut-napistim, who, as the legend of the Flood relates, was raised and
made one of the gods by Aa or Ea, for his faithfulness after the great
catastrophe, when he and his wife were translated to the “remote place
at the mouth of the rivers.” The hero Gilgames, on the other hand, was
half divine by birth, though it is not exactly known through whom his
divinity came.

[*] According to Nabonidus’s date 3800 B.C., though many
Assyriologists regard this as being a millennium too early.

The earliest form of the Babylonian religion.

The state of development to which the religious system of the
Babylonians had attained at the earliest period to which the
inscriptions refer naturally precludes the possibility of a
trustworthy history of its origin and early growth. There is no doubt,
however, that it may be regarded as having reached the stage at which
we find it in consequence of there being a number of states in ancient
Babylonia (which was at that time like the Heptarchy in England) each
possessing its own divinity–who, in its district, was regarded as
supreme–with a number of lesser gods forming his court. It was the
adding together of all these small pantheons which ultimately made
that of Babylonia as a whole so exceedingly extensive. Thus the chief
divinity of Babylon, as has already been stated, as Merodach; at
Sippar and Larsa the sun-god Samas was worshipped; at Ur the moon-god
Sin or Nannar; at Erech and Der the god of the heavens, Anu; at Muru,
Ennigi, and Kakru, the god of the atmosphere, Hadad or Rimmon; at
Eridu, the god of the deep, Aa or Ea; at Niffur[*] the god Bel; at
Cuthah the god of war, Nergal; at Dailem the god Uras; at Kis the god
of battle, Zagaga; Lugal-Amarda, the king of Marad, as the city so
called; at Opis Zakar, one of the gods of dreams; at Agade, Nineveh,
and Arbela, Istar, goddess of love and of war; Nina at the city Nina
in Babylonia, etc. When the chief deities were masculine, they were
naturally all identified with each other, just as the Greeks called
the Babylonian Merodach by the name of Zeus; and as Zer-panitum, the
consort of Merodach, was identified with Juno, so the consorts, divine
attendants, and children of each chief divinity, as far as they
possessed them, could also be regarded as the same, though possibly
distinct in their different attributes.

[*] Noufar at present, according to the latest explorers. Layard
(1856) has Niffer, Loftus (1857) Niffar. The native spelling is
Noufer, due to the French system of phonetics.

How the religion of the Babylonians developed.

The fact that the rise of Merodach to the position of king of the gods
was due to the attainment, by the city of Babylon, of the position of
capital of all Babylonia, leads one to suspect that the kingly rank of
his father Ea, at an earlier period, was due to a somewhat similar
cause, and if so, the still earlier kingship of Anu, the god of the
heavens, may be in like manner explained. This leads to the question
whether the first state to attain to supremacy was Der, Anu’s seat,
and whether Der was succeeded by Eridu, of which city Ea was the
patron–concerning the importance of Babylon, Merodach’s city, later
on, there is no doubt whatever. The rise of Anu and Ea to divine
overlordship, however, may not have been due to the political
supremacy of the cities where they were worshipped–it may have come
about simply on account of renown gained through religious enthusiasm
due to wonders said to have been performed where they were worshipped,
or to the reported discovery of new records concerning their temples,
or to the influence of some renowned high-priest, like En-we-dur-an-ki
of Sippar, whose devotion undoubtedly brought great renown to the city
of his dominion.

Was Animism its original form?

But the question naturally arises, can we go back beyond the
indications of the inscriptions? The Babylonians attributed life, in
certain not very numerous cases, to such things as trees and plants,
and naturally to the winds, and the heavenly bodies. Whether they
regarded stones, rocks, mountains, storms, and rain in the same way,
however, is doubtful, but it may be taken for granted, that the sea,
with all its rivers and streams, was regarded as animated with the
spirit of Ea and his children, whilst the great cities and
temple-towers were pervaded with the spirit of the god whose abode
they were. Innumerable good and evil spirits were believed in, such as
the spirit of the mountain, the sea, the plain, and the grave. These
spirits were of various kinds, and bore names which do not always
reveal their real character–such as the /edimmu/, /utukku/, /sedu/,
/asakku/ (spirit of fevers), /namtaru/ (spirit of fate), /alu/
(regarded as the spirit of the south wind), /gallu/, /rabisu/,
/labartu/, /labasu/, /ahhazu/ (the seizer), /lilu/ and /lilithu/ (male
and female spirits of the mist), with their attendants.

All this points to animism as the pervading idea of the worship of the
peoples of the Babylonian states in the prehistoric period–the
attribution of life to every appearance of nature. The question is,
however, Is the evidence of the inscriptions sufficient to make this
absolutely certain? It is hard to believe that such intelligent
people, as the primitive Babylonians naturally were, believed that
such things as stones, rocks, mountains, storms, and rain were, in
themselves, and apart from the divinity which they regarded as
presiding over them, living things. A stone might be a /bit ili/ or
bethel–a “house of god,” and almost invested with the status of a
living thing, but that does not prove that the Babylonians thought of
every stone as being endowed with life, even in prehistoric times.
Whilst, therefore, there are traces of a belief similar to that which
an animistic creed might be regarded as possessing, it must be
admitted that these seemingly animistic doctrines may have originated
in another way, and be due to later developments. The power of the
gods to create living things naturally makes possible the belief that
they had also power to endow with a soul, and therefore with life and
intelligence, any seemingly inanimate object. Such was probably the
nature of Babylonian animism, if it may be so called. The legend of
Tiawthu (Tiawath) may with great probability be regarded as the
remains of a primitive animism which was the creed of the original and
comparatively uncivilised Babylonians, who saw in the sea the producer
and creator of all the monstrous shapes which are found therein; but
any development of this idea in other directions was probably cut
short by the priests, who must have realised, under the influence of
the doctrine of the divine rise to perfection, that animism in general
was altogether incompatible with the creed which they professed.

Image-worship and Sacred Stones.

Whether image-worship was original among the Babylonians and Assyrians
is uncertain, and improbable; the tendency among the people in early
times being to venerate sacred stones and other inanimate objects. As
has been already pointed out, the {diopetres} of the Greeks was
probably a meteorite, and stones marking the position of the Semitic
bethels were probably, in their origin, the same. The boulders which
were sometimes used for boundary-stones may have been the
representations of these meteorites in later times, and it is
noteworthy that the Sumerian group for “iron,” /an-bar/, implies that
the early Babylonians only knew of that metal from meteoric ironstone.
The name of the god Nirig or Enu-restu (Ninip) is generally written
with the same group, implying some kind of connection between the two
–the god and the iron. In a well-known hymn to that deity certain
stones are mentioned, one of them being described as the “poison-
tooth”[*] coming forth on the mountain, recalling the sacred rocks at
Jerusalem and Mecca. Boundary-stones in Babylonia were not sacred
objects except in so far as they were sculptured with the signs of the
gods.[+] With regard to the Babylonian bethels, very little can be
said, their true nature being uncertain, and their number, to all
appearance, small. Gifts were made to them, and from this fact it
would seem that they were temples–true “houses of god,” in fact–
probably containing an image of the deity, rather than a stone similar
to those referred to in the Old Testament.

[*] So called, probably, not because it sent forth poison, but on
account of its likeness to a serpent’s fang.

[+] Notwithstanding medical opinion, their phallic origin is doubtful.
One is sculptured in the form of an Eastern castellated fortress.


With the Babylonians, the gods were represented by means of stone
images at a very early date, and it is possible that wood was also
used. The tendency of the human mind being to attribute to the Deity a
human form, the Babylonians were no exception to the rule. Human
thoughts and feelings would naturally accompany the human form with
which the minds of men endowed them. Whether the gross human passions
attributed to the gods of Babylonia in Herodotus be of early date or
not is uncertain–a late period, when the religion began to
degenerate, would seem to be the more probable.

The adoration of sacred objects.

It is probable that objects belonging to or dedicated to deities were
not originally worshipped–they were held as divine in consequence of
their being possessed or used by a deity, like the bow of Merodach,
placed in the heavens as a constellation, etc. The cities where the
gods dwelt on earth, their temples, their couches, the chariot of the
sun in his temple-cities, and everything existing in connection with
their worship, were in all probability regarded as divine simply in so
far as they belonged to a god. Sacrifices offered to them, and
invocations made to them, were in all likelihood regarded as having
been made to the deity himself, the possessions of the divinity being,
in the minds of the Babylonians, pervaded with his spirit. In the case
of rivers, these were divine as being the children and offspring of
Enki (Aa or Ea), the god of the ocean.

Holy places.

In a country which was originally divided into many small states, each
having its own deities, and, to a certain extent, its own religious
system, holy places were naturally numerous. As the spot where they
placed Paradise, Babylonia was itself a holy place, but in all
probability this idea is late, and only came into existence after the
legends of the creation and the rise of Merodach to the kingship of
heaven had become elaborated into one homogeneous whole.

An interesting list.

One of the most interesting documents referring to the holy places of
Babylonia is a tiny tablet found at Nineveh, and preserved in the
British Museum. This text begins with the word Tiawthu “the sea,” and
goes on to enumerate, in turn, Tilmun (identified with the island of
Bahrein in the Persian Gulf); Engurra (the Abyss, the abode of Enki or
Ea), with numerous temples and shrines, including “the holy house,”
“the temple of the seer of heaven and earth,” “the abode of Zer-
panitum,” consort of Merodach, “the throne of the holy place,” “the
temple of the region of Hades,” “the supreme temple of life,” “the
temple of the ear of the corn-deity,” with many others, the whole list
containing what may be regarded as the chief sanctuaries of the land,
to the number of thirty-one. Numerous other similar and more extensive
lists, enumerating every shrine and temple in the country, also exist,
though in a very imperfect state, and in addition to these, many holy
places are referred to in the bilingual, historical, and other
inscriptions. All the great cities of Babylonia, moreover, were sacred
places, the chief in renown and importance in later days being the
great city of Babylon, where E-sagila, “the temple of the high head,”
in which was apparently the shrine called “the temple of the
foundation of heaven and earth,” held the first place. This building
is called by Nebuchadnezzar “the temple-tower of Babylon,” and may
better be regarded as the site of the Biblical “Tower of Babel” than
the traditional foundation, E-zida, “the everlasting temple,” in
Borsippa (the Birs Nimroud)–notwithstanding that Borsippa was called
the “second Babylon,” and its temple-tower “the supreme house of

The Tower of Babel.

Though quite close to Babylon, there is no doubt that Borsippa was a
most important religious centre, and this leads to the possibility,
that its great temple may have disputed with “the house of the high
head,” E-sagila in Babylon, the honour of being the site of the
confusion of tongues and the dispersion of mankind. There is no doubt,
however, that E-sagila has the prior claim, it being the temple of the
supreme god of the later Babylonian pantheon, the counterpart of the
God of the Hebrews who commanded the changing of the speech of the
people assembled there. Supposing the confusion of tongues to have
been a Babylonian legend as well as a Hebrew one (as is possible) it
would be by command of Merodach rather than that of Nebo that such a
thing would have taken place. E-sagila, which is now the ruin known as
the mount of Amran ibn Ali, is the celebrated temple of Belus which
Alexander and Philip attempted to restore.

In addition to the legend of the confusion of tongues, it is probable
that there were many similar traditions attached to the great temples
of Babylonia, and as time goes on, and the excavations bring more
material, a large number of them will probably be recovered. Already
we have an interesting and poetical record of the entry of Bel and
Beltis into the great temple at Niffer, probably copied from some
ancient source, and Gudea, a king of Lagas (Telloh), who reigned about
2700 B.C., gives an account of the dream which he saw, in which he was
instructed by the gods to build or rebuild the temple of Nin-Girsu in
his capital city.

E-sagila according to Herodotus.

As the chief fane in the land after Babylon became the capital, and
the type of many similar erections, E-sagila, the temple of Belus,
merits just a short notice. According to Herodotus, it was a massive
tower within an enclosure measuring 400 yards each way, and provided
with gates of brass, or rather bronze. The tower within consisted of a
kind of step-pyramid, the stages being seven in number (omitting the
lowest, which was the platform forming the foundation of the
structure). A winding ascent gave access to the top, where was a
chapel or shrine, containing no statue, but regarded by the
Babylonians as the abode of the god. Lower down was another shrine, in
which was placed a great statue of Zeus (Bel-Merodach) sitting, with a
large table before it. Both statue and table are said to have been of
gold, as were also the throne and the steps. Outside the sanctuary (on
the ramp, apparently) were two altars, one small and made of gold,
whereon only unweaned lambs were sacrificed, and the other larger, for
full-grown victims.

A Babylonian description.

In 1876 the well-known Assyriologist, Mr. George Smith, was fortunate
enough to discover a Babylonian description of this temple, of which
he published a /precis/. According to this document, there were two
courts of considerable extent, the smaller within the larger–neither
of them was square, but oblong. Six gates admitted to the temple-area
surrounding the platform upon which the tower was built. The platform
is stated to have been square and walled, with four gates facing the
cardinal points. Within this wall was a building connected with the
great /zikkurat/ or tower–the principal edifice–round which were
chapels or temples to the principal gods, on all four sides, and
facing the cardinal points–that to Nebo and Tasmit being on the east,
to Aa or Ea and Nusku on the north, Anu and Bel on the south, and the
series of buildings on the west, consisting of a double house–a small
court between two wings, was evidently the shrine of Merodach (Belos).
In these western chambers stood the couch of the god, and the golden
throne mentioned by Herodotus, besides other furniture of great value.
The couch was given as being 9 cubits long by 4 broad, about as many
feet in each case, or rather more.

The centre of these buildings was the great /zikkurat/, or temple-
tower, square on its plan, and with the sides facing the cardinal
points. The lowest stage was 15 /gar/ square by 5 1/2 high (Smith, 300
feet by 110), and the wall, in accordance with the usual Babylonian
custom, seems to have been ornamented with recessed groovings. The
second stage was 13 /gar/ square by 3 in height (Smith, 260 by 60
feet). He conjectured, from the expression used, that it had sloping
sides. Stages three to five were each one /gar/ (Smith, 20 feet) high,
and respectively 10 /gar/ (Smith, 200 feet), 8 1/2 /gar/ (170 feet),
and 7 /gar/ (140 feet) square. The dimensions of the sixth stage are
omitted, probably by accident, but Smith conjectures that they were in
proportion to those which precede. His description omits also the
dimensions of the seventh stage, but he gives those of the sanctuary
of Belus, which was built upon it. This was 4 /gar/ long, 3 1/2 /gar/
broad, and 2 1/2 /gar/ high (Smith, 80 x 70 x 50 feet). He points out,
that the total height was, therefore, 15 /gar/, the same as the
dimensions of the base, i.e., the lowest platform, which would make
the total height of this world-renowned building rather more than 300
feet above the plains.

Other temple-towers.

Towers of a similar nature were to be found in all the great cities of
Babylonia, and it is probable that in most cases slight differences of
form were to be found. That at Niffer, for instance, seems to have had
a causeway on each side, making four approaches in the form of a
cross. But it was not every city which had a tower of seven stages in
addition to the platform on which it was erected, and some of the
smaller ones at least seem to have had sloping or rounded sides to the
basement-portion, as is indicated by an Assyrian bas-relief. Naturally
small temples, with hardly more than the rooms on the ground floor,
were to be found, but these temple-towers were a speciality of the

Their origin.

There is some probability that, as indicated in the tenth chapter of
Genesis, the desire in building these towers was to get nearer the
Deity, or to the divine inhabitants of the heavens in general–it
would be easier there to gain attention than on the surface of the
earth. Then there was the belief, that the god to whom the place was
dedicated would come down to such a sanctuary, which thus became, as
it were, the stepping-stone between heaven and earth. Sacrifices were
also offered at these temple-towers (whether on the highest point or
not is not quite certain), in imitation of the Chaldaean Noah,
Ut-napistim, who, on coming out of the ark, made an offering /ina
zikkurat sade/, “on the peak of the mountain,” in which passage, it is
to be noted, the word /zikkurat/ occurs with what is probably a more
original meaning.



This is the final development of the Babylonian creed. It has already
been pointed out that the religion of the Babylonians in all
probability had two stages before arriving at that in which the god
Merodach occupied the position of chief of the pantheon, the two
preceding heads having been, seemingly, Anu, the god of the heavens,
and Ea or Aa, also called Enki, the god of the abyss and of deep
wisdom. In order to show this, and at the same time to give an idea of
their theory of the beginning of things, a short paraphrase of the
contents of the seven tablets will be found in the following pages.

An Embodiment of doctrine.

As far as our knowledge goes, the doctrines incorporated in this
legend would seem to show the final official development of the
beliefs held by the Babylonians, due, in all probability, to the
priests of Babylon after that city became the capital of the federated
states. Modifications of their creed probably took place, but nothing
seriously affecting it, until after the abandonment of Babylon in the
time of Seleucus Nicator, 300 B.C. or thereabouts, when the deity at
the head of the pantheon seems not to have been Merodach, but Anu-Bel.
This legend is therefore the most important document bearing upon the
beliefs of the Babylonians from the end of the third millennium B.C.
until that time, and the philosophical ideas which it contains seem to
have been held, in a more or less modified form, among the remnants
who still retained the old Babylonian faith, until the sixth century
of the present era, as the record by Damascius implies. Properly
speaking, it is not a record of the creation, but the story of the
fight between Bel and the Dragon, to which the account of the creation
is prefixed by way of introduction.

Water the first creator.

The legend begins by stating that, when the heavens were unnamed and
the earth bore no name, the primaeval ocean was the producer of all
things, and Mummu Tiawath (the sea) she who brought forth everything
existing. Their waters (that is, of the primaeval ocean and of the sea)
were all united in one, and neither plains nor marshes were to be
seen; the gods likewise did not exist, even in name, and the fates
were undetermined–nothing had been decided as to the future of
things. Then arose the great gods. Lahmu and Lahame came first,
followed, after a long period, by Ansar and Kisar, generally
identified with the “host of heaven” and the “host of earth,” these
being the meanings of the component parts of their names. After a
further long period of days, there came forth their son Anu, the god
of the heavens.

The gods.

Here the narrative is defective, and is continued by Damascius in his
/Doubts and Solutions of the First Principles/, in which he states
that, after Anos (Anu), come Illinos (Ellila or Bel, “the lord” /par
excellence/) and Aos (Aa, Ae, or Ea), the god of Eridu. Of Aos and
Dauke (the Babylonian Aa and Damkina) is born, he says, a son called
Belos (Bel-Merodach), who, they (apparently the Babylonians) say, is
the fabricator of the world–the creator.

The designs against them.

At this point Damascius ends his extract, and the Babylonian tablet
also becomes extremely defective. The next deity to come into
existence, however, would seem to have been Nudimmud, who was
apparently the deity Aa or Ea (the god of the sea and of rivers) as
the god of creation. Among the children of Tauthe (Tiawath) enumerated
by Damascius is one named Moumis, who was evidently referred to in the
document at that philosopher’s disposal. If this be correct, his name,
under the form of Mummu, probably existed in one of the defective
lines of the first portion of this legend–in any case, his name
occurs later on, with those of Tiawath and Apsu (the Deep), his
parents, and the three seem to be compared, to their disadvantage,
with the progeny of Lahmu and Lahame, the gods on high. As the ways of
these last were not those of Tiawath’s brood, and Apsu complained that
he had no peace by day nor rest by night on account of their
proceedings, the three representatives of the chaotic deep, Tiawath,
Apsu, and Mummu, discussed how they might get rid the beings who
wished to rise to higher things. Mummu was apparently the prime mover
in the plot, and the face of Apsu grew bright at the thought of the
evil plan which they had devised against “the gods their sons.” The
inscription being very mutilated here, its full drift cannot be
gathered, but from the complete portions which come later it would
seem that Mummu’s plan was not a remarkably cunning one, being simply
to make war upon and destroy the gods of heaven.

Tiawath’s preparations.

The preparations made for this were elaborate. Restlessly, day and
night, the powers of evil raged and toiled, and assembled for the
fight. ‘Mother Hubur,” as Tiawath is named in this passage, called her
creative powers into action, and gave her followers irresistible
weapons. She brought into being also various monsters–giant serpents,
sharp of tooth, bearing stings, and with poison filling their bodies
like blood; terrible dragons endowed with brilliance, and of enormous
stature, reared on high, raging dogs, scorpion-men, fish-men, and many
other terrible beings, were created and equipped, the whole being
placed under the command of a deity named Kingu, whom she calls her
“only husband,” and to whom she delivers the tablets of fate, which
conferred upon him the godhead of Anu (the heavens), and enabled their
possessor to determine the gates among the gods her sons.

Kingu replaces Absu.

The change in the narrative which comes in here suggests that this is
the point at which two legends current in Babylonia were united.
Henceforward we hear nothing more of Apsu, the begetter of all things,
Tiawath’s spouse, nor of Mummu, their son. In all probability there is
good reason for this, and inscriptions will doubtless ultimately be
found which will explain it, but until then it is only natural to
suppose that two different legends have been pieced together to form a
harmonious whole.

Tiawath’s aim.

As will be gathered from the above, the story centres in the wish of
the goddess of the powers of evil and her kindred to retain creation–
the forming of all living things–in her own hands. As Tiawath means
“the sea,” and Apsu “the deep,” it is probable that this is a kind of
allegory personifying the productive power seen in the teeming life of
the ocean, and typifying the strange and wonderful forms found
therein, which were symbolical, to the Babylonian mind, of chaos and
confusion, as well as of evil.

The gods hear of the conspiracy.

Aa, or Ea, having learned of the plot of Tiawath and her followers
against the gods of heaven, naturally became filled with anger, and
went and told the whole to Ansar, his father, who in his turn gave way
to his wrath, and uttered cries of the deepest grief. After
considering what they would do, Ansar applied to his son Anu, “the
mighty and brave,” saying that, if he would only speak to her, the
great dragon’s anger would be assuaged, and her rage disappear. In
obedience to this behest, Anu went to try his power with the monster,
but on beholding her snarling face, feared to approach her, and turned
back. Nudimmud was next called upon to become the representative of
the gods against their foe, but his success was as that of Anu, and it
became needful to seek another champion.

And choose Merodach as their champion.

The choice fell upon Merodach, the Belus (Bel-Merodach) of Damascius’s
paraphrase, and at once met with an enthusiastic reception. The god
asked simply that an “unchangeable command” might be given to him–
that whatever he ordained should without fail come to pass, in order
that he might destroy the common enemy. Invitations were sent to the
gods asking them to a festival, where, having met together, they ate
and drank, and “decided the fate” for Merodach their avenger,
apparently meaning that he was decreed their defender in the conflict
with Tiawath, and that the power of creating and annihilating by the
word of his mouth was his. Honours were then conferred upon him;
princely chambers were erected for him, wherein he sat as judge “in
the presence of his fathers,” and the rule over the whole universe was
given to him. The testing of his newly acquired power followed. A
garment was placed in their midst:

“He spake with his mouth, and the garment was destroyed,
He spake to it again, and the garment was reproduced.”

Merodach proclaimed king.

On this proof of the reality of the powers conferred on him, all the
gods shouted “Merodach is king!” and handed to him sceptre, throne,
and insignia of royalty. An irresistible weapon, which should shatter
all his enemies, was then given to him, and he armed himself also with
spear or dart, bow, and quiver; lightning flashed before him, and
flaming fire filled his body. Anu, the god of the heavens, had given
him a great net, and this he set at the four cardinal points, in order
that nothing of the dragon, when he had defeated her, should escape.
Seven winds he then created to accompany him, and the great weapon
called /Abubu/, “the Flood,” completed his equipment. All being ready,
he mounted his dreadful, irresistible chariot, to which four steeds
were yoked–steeds unsparing, rushing forward, rapid in flight, their
teeth full of venom, foam-covered, experienced in galloping, schooled
in overthrowing. Being now ready for the fray, Merodach fared forth to
meet Tiawath, accompanied by the fervent good wishes of “the gods his

The fight with Tiawath.

Advancing, he regarded Tiawath’s retreat, but the sight of the enemy
was so menacing that even the great Merodach (if we understand the
text rightly) began to falter. This, however, was not for long, and
the king of the gods stood before Tiawath, who, on her side, remained
firm and undaunted. In a somewhat long speech, in which he reproaches
Tiawath for her rebellion, he challenges her to battle, and the two
meet in fiercest fight. To all appearance the type of all evil did not
make use of honest weapons, but sought to overcome the king of the
gods with incantations and charms. These, however, had not the
slightest effect, for she found herself at once enclosed in Merodach’s
net, and on opening her mouth to resist and free herself, the evil
wind, which Merodach had sent on before him, entered, so that she
could not close her lips, and thus inflated, her heart was
overpowered, and she became a prey to her conqueror. Having cut her
asunder and taken out her heart, thus destroying her life, he threw
her body down and stood thereon. Her followers then attempted to
escape, but found themselves surrounded and unable to get forth. Like
their mistress, they were thrown into the net, and sat in bonds, being
afterwards shut up in prison. As for Kingu, he was raised up, bound,
and delivered to be with Ugga, the god of death. The tablets of fate,
which Tiawath had delivered to Kingu, were taken from him by Merodach,
who pressed his seal upon them, and placed them in his breast. The
deity Ansar, who had been, as it would seem, deprived of his rightful
power by Tiawath, received that power again on the death of the common
foe, and Nudimmud “saw his desire upon his enemy.”

Tiawath’s fate.

The dismemberment of Tiawath then followed, and her veins having been
cut through, the north wind was caused by the deity to carry her blood
away into secret places, a statement which probably typifies the
opening of obstructions which prevent the rivers flowing from the
north from running into the southern seas, helped thereto by the north
wind. Finally her body was divided, like “a /masde/-fish,” into two
parts, one of which was made into a covering for the heavens–the
“waters above the firmament” of Genesis i. 7.

Merodach orders the world anew.

Then came the ordering of the universe anew. Having made a covering
for the heavens with half the body of the defeated Dragon of Chaos,
Merodach set the Abyss, the abode of Nudimmud, in front, and made a
corresponding edifice above–the heavens–where he founded stations
for the gods Anu, Bel, and Ae. Stations for the great gods in the
likeness of constellations, together with what is regarded as the
Zodiac, were his next work. He then designated the year, setting three
constellations for each month, and made a station for Nibiru–
Merodach’s own star–as the overseer of all the lights in the
firmament. He then caused the new moon, Nannaru, to shine, and made
him the ruler of the night, indicating his phases, one of which was on
the seventh day, and the other, a /sabattu/, or day of rest, in the
middle of the month. Directions with regard to the moon’s movements
seem to follow, but the record is mutilated, and their real nature
consequently doubtful. With regard to other works which were performed
we have no information, as a gap prevents their being ascertained.
Something, however, seems to have been done with Merodach’s net–
probably it was placed in the heavens as a constellation, as was his
bow, to which several names were given. Later on, the winds were bound
and assigned to their places, but the account of the arrangement of
other things is mutilated and obscure, though it can be recognised
that the details in this place were of considerable interest.

The creation of man.

To all appearance the gods, after he had ordered the universe and the
things then existing, urged Merodach to further works of wonder.
Taking up their suggestion, he considered what he should do, and then
communicated to his father Ae his plan for the creation of man with
his own blood, in order that the service and worship of the gods might
be established. This portion is also unfortunately very imperfect, and
the details of the carrying out of the plan are entirely wanting.

Berosus’ narrative fills the gap.

It is noteworthy that this portion of the narrative has been preserved
by Abydenus, George the Syncellus, and Eusebius, in their quotations
from Berosus. According to this Chaldaean writer, there was a woman
named Omoroca, or, in Chaldaean, Thalatth (apparently a mistake for
Thauatth, i.e. Tiawath), whose name was equivalent to the Greek
Thalassa, the sea. It was she who had in her charge all the strange
creatures then existing. At this period, Belus (Bel-Merodach) came,
and cut the woman asunder, forming out of one half the earth, and of
the other the heavens, at the same time destroying all the creatures
which were within her–all this being an allegory, for the whole
universe consists of moisture, and creatures are constantly generated
therein. The deity then cut off his own head, and the other gods mixed
the blood, as it gushed out, with the earth, and from this men were
formed. Hence it is that men are rational, and partake of divine

A second creation.

This Belsus, “who is called Zeus,” divided the darkness, separated the
heavens from the earth, and reduced the universe to order. The animals
which had been created, however, not being able to bear the light,
died. Belus then, seeing the void thus made, ordered one of the gods
to take off his head, and mix the blood with the soil, forming other
men and animals which should be able to bear the light. He also formed
the stars, the sun, the moon, and the five planets. It would thus seem
that there were two creations, the first having been a failure because
Belus had not foreseen that it was needful to produce beings which
should be able to bear the light. Whether this repetition was really
in the Babylonian legend, or whether Berosus (or those who quote him)
has merely inserted and united two varying accounts, will only be
known when the cuneiform text is completed.

The concluding tablet.

The tablet of the fifty-one names completes the record of the tablets
found at Nineveh and Babylon. In this Merodach receives the titles of
all the other gods, thus identifying him with them, and leading to
that tendency to monotheism of which something will be said later on.
In this text, which is written, like the rest of the legend, in
poetical form, Merodach is repeatedly called /Tutu/, a mystic word
meaning “creator,” and “begetter,” from the reduplicate root /tu/ or
/utu/–which was to all appearances his name when it was desired to
refer to him especially in that character. Noteworthy in this portion
is the reference to Merodach’s creation of mankind:–

Line 25. “Tuto: Aga-azaga (the glorious crown)–may he make the crowns
26. The lord of the glorious incantation bringing the dead to
27. He who had mercy on the gods who had been overpowered;
28. Made heavy the yoke which he had laid on the gods who were
his enemies,
29. (And) to redeem(?) them, created mankind.
30. ‘The merciful one,’ ‘he with whom is salvation,’
31. May his word be established, and not forgotten,
32. In the mouth of the black-headed ones[*] whom his hands have

[*] I.e. mankind.

Man the redeemer.

The phrase “to redeem them” is, in the original, /ana padi-sunu/, the
verb being from /padu/, “to spare,” “set free,” and if this rendering
be correct, as seems probable, the Babylonian reasons for the creation
of mankind would be, that they might carry on the service and worship
of the gods, and by their righteousness redeem those enemies of the
gods who were undergoing punishment for their hostility. Whether by
this Tiawath, Apsu, Mummu, Kingu, and the monsters whom she had
created were included, or only the gods of heaven who had joined her,
the record does not say. Naturally, this doctrine depends entirely
upon the correctness of the translation of the words quoted. Jensen,
who first proposed this rendering, makes no attempt to explain it, and
simply asks: “Does ‘them’ in ‘to redeem(?) them’ refer to the gods
named in line 28 or to mankind and then to a future–how meant?–
redemption? Eschatology? Zimmern’s ‘in their place’ unprovable.
Delitzsch refrains from an explanation.”

The bilingual account of the creation. Aruru aids Merodach.

Whilst dealing with this part of the religious beliefs of the
Babylonians, a few words are needed concerning the creation-story
which is prefixed to an incantation used in a purification ceremony.
The original text is Sumerian (dialectic), and is provided with a
Semitic translation. In this inscription, after stating that nothing
(in the beginning) existed, and even the great cities and temples of
Babylonia were as yet unbuilt, the condition of the world is briefly
indicated by the statement that “All the lands were sea.” The renowned
cities of Babylonia seem to have been regarded as being as much
creations of Merodach as the world and its inhabitants–indeed, it is
apparently for the glorification of those cities by attributing their
origin to Merodach, that the bilingual account of the creation was
composed.. “When within the sea there was a stream”–that is, when the
veins of Tiawath had been cut through–Eridu (probably = Paradise) and
the temple E-sagila within the Abyss were constructed, and after that
Babylon and the earthly temple of E-sagila within it. Then he made the
gods and the Annunnaki (the gods of the earth), proclaimed a glorious
city as the seat of the joy of their hearts, and afterwards made a
pleasant place in which the gods might dwell. The creation of mankind
followed, in which Merodach was aided by the goddess Aruru, who made
mankind’s seed. Finally, plants, trees, and the animals, were
produced, after which Merodach constructed bricks, beams, houses, and
cities, including Niffer and Erech with their renowned temples.

We see here a change in the teaching with regard to Merodach–the gods
are no longer spoken of as “his fathers,” but he is the creator of the
gods, as well as of mankind.

The order of the gods in the principal lists.

It is unfortunate that no lists of gods have been found in a
sufficiently complete state to allow of the scheme after which they
were drawn up to be determined without uncertainty. It may,
nevertheless, be regarded as probable that these lists, at least in
some cases, are arranged in conformity (to a certain extent) with the
appearance of the deities in the so-called creation-story. Some of
them begin with Anu, and give him various names, among them being
Ansar and Kisar, Lahmu and Lahame, etc. More specially interesting,
however, is a well-known trilingual list of gods, which contains the
names of the various deities in the following order:–


Sumer. Dialect Sumer. Standard Common Explanation
(Semit. or Sumer.)

1. Dimmer Dingir Ilu God.
2. U-ki En-ki E-a Ea or Aa.
3. Gasan(?)-ki Nin-ki Dawkina Dauke, the consort of Ea.
4. Mu-ul-lil En-lil-la Bel The God Bel.
5. E-lum A-lim Bel
6. Gasan(?)-lil Nin-lil-la dam-bi sal Bel’s consort.
7. U-lu-a Ni-rig Enu-restu The god of Niffer.
8. U-lib-a Ni-rig Enu-restu

9-12 have Enu-restu’s consort, sister, and attendant.

13. U-sab-sib En-sag-duga Nusku Nusku

14-19 have two other names of Nusku, followed by three names of his
consort. A number of names of minor divinities then follow. At
line 43 five names of Ea are given, followed by four of

48. U-bi-lu-lu En-bi-lu-lu Marduk Merodach
49. U-Tin-dir ki En-Tin-dir ki Marduk Merodach as “lord of Babylon.”
50. U-dimmer-an-kia En-dinger-an-kia Marduk Merodach as “lord god of heaven and earth.”
51. U-ab-sar-u En-ab-sar-u Marduk Merodach, apparently as “lord of the 36,000 steers.”
52. U-bar-gi-si Nin-bar-gi-si Zer-panitum Merodach’s consort.
53. Gasan-abzu Nin-abzu dam-bi sal “the Lady of the Abyss,” his consort.

The remainder of the obverse is mutilated, but gave the names of Nebo
in Sumerian, and apparently also of Tasmetum, his consort. The
beginning of the reverse also is mutilated, but seems to have given
the names of the sun-god, Samas, and his consort, followed by those of
Kittu and Mesarum, “justice and righteousness,” his attendants. Other
interesting names are:


8. U-libir-si En-ubar-si Dumu-zi Tammuz
9. Sir-tumu Sir-du ama Dumuzi-gi the mother of Tammuz
12. Gasan-anna Innanna Istar Istar (Venus) as “lady of heaven.”
20. Nin-si-anna Innanna mul Istar the star (the planet Venus).
21. Nin Nin-tag-taga Nanaa a goddess identified with Istar.
23. U-sah Nina-sah Pap-sukal the gods’ messenger.
24. U-banda Lugal-banda Lugal-banda
26. U-Mersi Nin-Girsu Nin-Girsu the chief god of Lagas.
27. Ma-sib-sib Ga-tum-duga Bau Bau, a goddess identified with Gula.

Four non-Semitic names of Gula follow, of which that in line 31 is the
most interesting:–

31. Gasan-ti-dibba Nin-tin-guua Gula “the lady saving from death.”
33. Gasan-ki-gal Eres-ki-gala Allatu Persephone.
36. U-mu-zi-da Nin-gis-zi-da Nin-gis-zida “the lord of the everlasting tree.”
37. U-urugal Ne-eri-gal Nerigal Nergal.
42. Mulu-hursag Galu-hursag Amurru the Amorite god.
43. Gasan-gu-edina Nin-gu-edina (apparently the consort of Amurru).

In all probability this list is one of comparatively late date, though
its chronological position with regard to the others is wholly
uncertain–it may not be later, and may even be earlier, than those
beginning with Anu, the god of the heavens. The important thing about
it is, that it begins with /ilu/, god, in general, which is written,
in the standard dialect (that of the second column) with the same
character as that used for the name of Anu. After this comes Aa or Ea,
the god of the earth, and his consort, followed by En-lilla, the older
Bel–Illinos in Damascius. The name of Ea is repeated again in line 43
and following, where he is apparently re-introduced as the father of
Merodach, whose names immediately follow. This peculiarity is also
found in other lists of gods and is undoubtedly a reflection of the
history of the Babylonian religion. As this list replaces Anu by
/ilu/, it indicates the rule of Enki or Ea, followed by that of
Merodach, who, as has been shown, became the chief divinity of the
Babylonian pantheon in consequence of Babylon having become the
capital of the country.




The name of this divinity is derived from the Sumero-Akkadian /ana/,
“heaven,” of which he was the principal deity. He is called the father
of the great gods, though, in the creation-story, he seems to be
described as the son of Ansar and Kisar. In early names he is
described as the father, creator, and god, probably meaning the
supreme being. His consort was Anatu, and the pair are regarded in the
lists as the same as the Lahmu and Lahame of the creation-story, who,
with other deities, are also described as gods of the heavens. Anu was
worshipped at Erech, along with Istar.


Is given as if it were the /Semitic/ equivalent of /Enki/, “the lord
of the earth,” but it would seem to be really a Sumerian word, later
written /Ae/, and certain inscriptions suggest that the true reading
was /Aa/. His titles are “king of the Abyss, creator of everything,
lord of all,” the first being seemingly due to the fact that Aa is a
word which may, in its reduplicate form, mean “waters,” or if read
/Ea/, “house of water.” He also, like Anu, is called “father of the
gods.” As this god was likewise “lord of deep wisdom,” it was to him
that his son Merodach went for advice whenever he was in doubt. On
account of his knowledge, he was the god of artisans in general–
potters, blacksmiths, sailors, builders, stone-cutters, gardeners,
seers, barbers, farmers, etc. This is the Aos (a form which confirms
the reading Aa) of Damascius, and the Oannes of the extracts from
Berosus, who states that he was “a creature endowed with reason, with
a body like that of a fish, and under the fish’s head another head,
with feet below, like those of a man, with a fish’s tail.” This
description applies fairly well to certain bas-reliefs from Nimroud in
the British Museum. The creature described by Berosus lived in the
Persian Gulf, landing during the day to teach the inhabitants the
building of houses and temples, the cultivation of useful plants, the
gathering of fruits, and also geometry, law, and letters. From him,
too, came the account of the beginning of things referred to in
chapter III. which, in the original Greek, is preceded by a
description of the composite monsters said to have existed before
Merodach assumed the rule of the universe.

The name of his consort, Damkina or Dawkina, probably means “the
eternal spouse,” and her other names, /Gasan-ki/ (Sumerian dialectic)
and /Nin-ki/ (non-dialectic), “Lady of the earth,” sufficiently
indicates her province. She is often mentioned in the incantations
with Ea.

The forsaking of the worship of Ea as chief god for that of Merodach
seems to have caused considerable heartburning in Babylonia, if we may
judge from the story of the Flood, for it was on account of his
faithfulness that Utnipistim, the Babylonian Noah, attained to
salvation from the Flood and immortality afterwards. All through this
adventure it was the god Ea who favoured him, and afterwards gave him
immortality like that of the gods. There is an interesting Sumerian
text in which the ship of Ea seems to be described, the woods of which
its various parts were formed being named, and in it, apparently, were
Enki (Ea), Damgal-nunna (Damkina), his consort, Asari-lu-duga
(Merodach), In-ab (or Ines), the pilot of Eridu (Ea’s city), and
Nin-igi-nagar-sir, “the great architect of heaven”:–

“May the ship before thee bring fertility,
May the ship after thee bring joy,
In thy heart may it make joy of heart . . . .”

Ea was the god of fertility, hence this ending to the poetical
description of the ship of Ea.


The deity who is mentioned next in order in the list given above is
the “older Bel,” so called to distinguish him from Bel-Merodach. His
principal names were /Mullil/ (dialectic) or /En-lilla/[*] (standard
speech), the /Illinos/ of Damascius. His name is generally translated
“lord of mist,” so-called as god of the underworld, his consort being
/Gasan-lil/ or /Nan-lilla/, “the lady of the mist,” in Semitic
Babylonian /Beltu/, “the Lady,” par excellence. Bel, whose name means
“the lord,” was so called because he was regarded as chief of the
gods. As there was considerable confusion in consequence of the title
Bel having been given to Merodach, Tiglath-pileser I. (about 1200
B.C.) refers to him as the “older Bel” in describing the temple which
he built for him at Assur. Numerous names of men compounded with his
occur until the latest times, implying that, though the favourite god
was Merodach, the worship of Bel was not forgotten, even at Babylon–
that he should have been adored at his own city, Niffur, and at Dur-
Kuri-galzu, where Kuri-galzu I. built a temple for “Bel, the lord of
the lands,” was naturally to be expected. Being, like Ea, a god of the
earth, he is regarded as having formed a trinity with Anu, the god of
heaven, and Ea, the god of the deep, and prayer to these three was as
good as invoking all the gods of the universe. Classification of the
gods according to the domain of their power would naturally take place
in a religious system in which they were all identified with each
other, and this classification indicates, as Jastrow says, a deep
knowledge of the powers of nature, and a more than average
intelligence among the Babylonians–indeed, he holds it as a proof
that, at the period of the older empire, there were schools and
students who had devoted themselves to religious speculation upon this
point. He also conjectures that the third commandment of the Law of
Moses was directed against this doctrine held by the Babylonians.

[*] Ordinarily pronounced /Illila/, as certain glosses and Damascius’s
/Illinos/ (for /Illilos/) show.


This goddess was properly only the spouse of the older Bel, but as
/Beltu/, her Babylonian name, simply meant “lady” in general (just as
/Bel/ or /belu/ meant “lord”), it became a title which could be given
to any goddess, and was in fact borne by Zer-panitum, Istar, Nanaa,
and others. It was therefore often needful to add the name of the city
over which the special /Beltu/ presided, in order to make clear which
of them was meant. Besides being the title of the spouse of the older
Bel, having her earthly seat with him in Niffur and other less
important shrines, the Assyrians sometimes name Beltu the spouse of
Assur, their national god, suggesting an identification, in the minds
of the priests, with that deity.

Enu-restu or Nirig.[*]

Whether /Enu-restu/ be a translation of /Nirig/ or not, is uncertain,
but not improbable, the meaning being “primeval lord,” or something
similar, and “lord” that of the first element, /ni/, in the Sumerian
form. In support of this reading and rendering may be quoted the fact,
that one of the descriptions of this divinity is /assarid ilani
ahe-su/, “the eldest of the gods his brothers.” It is noteworthy that
this deity was a special favourite among the Assyrians, many of whose
kings, to say nothing of private persons, bore his name as a component
part of theirs. In the bilingual poem entitled /Ana-kime gimma/
(“Formed like Anu”), he is described as being the son of Bel (hence
his appearance after Bel in the list printed above), and in the
likeness of Anu, for which reason, perhaps, his divinity is called
“Anuship.” Beginning with words praising him, it seems to refer to his
attitude towards the gods of hostile lands, against whom, apparently,
he rode in a chariot of the sacred lapis-lazuli. Anu having endowed
him with terrible glory, the gods of the earth feared to attack him,
and his onrush was as that of a storm-flood. By the command of Bel,
his course was directed towards E-kur, the temple of Bel at Niffur.
Here he was met by Nusku, the supreme messenger of Bel, who, with
words of respect and of praise, asks him not to disturb the god Bel,
his father, in his seat, nor make the gods of the earth tremble in
Upsukennaku (the heavenly festival-hall of the gods), and offers him a
gift.[+] It will thus be seen that Enu-restu was a rival to the older
Bel, whose temple was the great tower in stages called E-kura, in
which, in all probability, E-su-me-du, the shrine of Enu-restu, was
likewise situated. The inscriptions call him “god of war,” though,
unlike Nergal, he was not at the same time god of disease and
pestilence. To all appearance he was the god of the various kinds of
stones, of which another legend states that he “determined their
fate.” He was “the hero, whose net overthrows the enemy, who summons
his army to plunder the hostile land, the royal son who caused his
father to bow down to him from afar.” “The son who sat not with the
nurse, and eschewed(?) the strength of milk,” “the offspring who did
not know his father.” “He rode over the mountains and scattered
seed–unanimously the plants proclaimed his name to their dominion,
among them like a great wild bull he raises his horns.”

[*] /Enu-restu/ is the reading which I have adopted as the Semitic
Babylonian equivalent of the name of this divinity, in consequence
of the Aramaic transcription given by certain contract-tablets
discovered by the American expedition to Niffer, and published by
Prof. Clay of Philadelphia.

[+] The result of this request is not known, in consequence of the
defective state of the tablets.

Many other interesting descriptions of the deity Nirig (generally read
Nin-ip) occur, and show, with those quoted here, that his story was
one of more than ordinary interest.


This deity was especially invoked by the Assyrian kings, but was in no
wise exclusively Assyrian, as is shown by the fact that his name
occurs in many Babylonian inscriptions. He was the great messenger of
the gods, and is variously given as “the offspring of the abyss, the
creation of Ea,” and “the likeness of his father, the first-born of
Bel.” As Gibil, the fire-god, has likewise the same diverse parentage,
it is regarded as likely that these two gods were identical. Nusku was
the god whose command is supreme, the counsellor of the great gods,
the protector of the Igigi (the gods of the heavens), the great and
powerful one, the glorious day, the burning one, the founder of
cities, the renewer of sanctuaries, the provider of feasts for all the
Igigi, without whom no feast took place in E-kura. Like Nebo, he bore
the glorious spectre, and it was said of him that he attacked mightily
in battle. Without him the sun-god, the judge, could not give

All this points to the probability, that Nusku may not have been the
fire-god, but the brother of the fire-god, i.e. either flame, or the
light of fire. The sun-god, without light, could not see, and
therefore could not give judgment: no feast could be prepared without
fire and its flame. As the evidence of the presence of the shining
orbs in the heavens–the light of their fires–he was the messenger of
the gods, and was honoured accordingly. From this idea, too, he became
their messenger in general, especially of Bel-Merodach, the younger
Bel, whose requests he carried to the god Ea in the Deep. In one
inscription he is identified with Nirig or Enu-restu, who is described


Concerning this god, and how he arose to the position of king of all
the gods of heaven, has been fully shown in chapter III. Though there
is but little in his attributes to indicate any connection with Samas,
there is hardly any doubt that he was originally a sun-god, as is
shown by the etymology of his name. The form, as it has been handed
down to us, is somewhat shortened, the original pronunciation having
been /Amar-uduk/, “the young steer of day,” a name which suggests that
he was the morning sun. Of the four names given at the end of chapter
III., two–“lord of Babylon,” and “lord god of heaven and earth,”–may
be regarded as expressing his more well-known attributes. /En-ab-sar-
u/, however, is a provisional, though not impossible, reading and
rendering, and if correct, the “36,000 wild bulls” would be a
metaphorical way of speaking of “the 36,000 heroes,” probably meaning
the gods of heaven in all their grades. The signification of /En-
bilulu/ is unknown. Like most of the other gods of the Babylonian
pantheon, however, Merodach had many other names, among which may be
mentioned /Asari/, which has been compared with the Egyptian Osiris,
/Asari-lu-duga/, “/Asari/ who is good,” compared with Osiris Unnefer;
/Namtila/, “life”, /Tutu/, “begetter (of the gods), renewer (of the
gods),” /Sar-azaga/, “the glorious incantation,” /Mu-azaga/, “the
glorious charm,” and many others. The last two refer to his being the
god who, by his kindness, obtained from his father Ea, dwelling in the
abyss, those charms and incantations which benefited mankind, and
restored the sick to health. In this connection, a frequent title
given to him is “the merciful one,” but most merciful was he in that
he spared the lives of the gods who, having sided with Taiwath, were
his enemies, as is related in the tablet of the fifty-one names. In
connection with the fight he bore also the names, “annihilator of the
enemy,” “rooter out of all evil,” “troubler of the evil ones,” “life
of the whole of the gods.” From these names it is clear that Merodach,
in defeating Tiawath, annihilated, at the same time, the spirit of
evil, Satan, the accuser, of which she was, probably, the Babylonian
type. But unlike the Saviour in the Christian creed, he saved not only
man, at that time uncreated, but the gods of heaven also. As “king of
the heavens,” he was identified with the largest of the planets,
Jupiter, as well as with other heavenly bodies. Traversing the sky in
great zigzags, Jupiter seemed to the Babylonians to superintend the
stars, and this was regarded as emblematic of Merodach shepherding
them–“pasturing the gods like sheep,” as the tablet has it.

A long list of gods gives as it were the court of Merodach, held in
what was apparently a heavenly /E-sagila/, and among the spiritual
beings mentioned are /Mina-ikul-beli/ and /Mina-isti-beli/, “what my
lord has eaten,” and “what has my lord drunk,” /Nadin-me-gati/, “he
who gives water for the hands,” also the two door-keepers, and the
four dogs of Merodach, wherein people are inclined to see the four
satellites of Jupiter, which, it is thought, were probably visible to
certain of the more sharp-sighted stargazers of ancient Babylonia.
These dogs were called /Ukkumu/, /Akkulu/, /Ikssuda/, and /Iltebu/,
“Seizer,” “Eater,” “Grasper,” and “Holder.” Images of these beings
were probably kept in the temple of E-sagila at Babylon.


This was the name of the consort of Merodach, and is generally read
Sarp(b)anitum–a transcription which is against the native orthography
and etymology, namely, “seed-creatress” (Zer-banitum). The meaning
attributed to this word is partly confirmed by another name which
Lehmann has pointed out that she possessed, namely, /Erua/ or /Aru’a/,
who, in an inscription of Antiochus Soter (280-260 B.C.) is called
“the queen who produces birth,” but more especially by the
circumstance, that she must be identical with Aruru, who created the
seed of mankind along with Merodach. Why she was called “the lady of
the abyss,” and elsewhere “the voice of the abyss” (/Me-abzu/) is not
known. Zer-panitum was no mere reflection of Merodach, but one of the
most important goddesses in the Babylonian pantheon. The tendency of
scholars has been to identify her with the moon, Merodach being a
solar deity and the meaning “silvery”–/Sarpanitum/, from /sarpu/, one
of the words for “silver,” was regarded as supporting this idea. She
was identified with the Elamite goddess named Elagu, and with the
Lahamum of the island of Bahrein, the Babylonian Tilmun.

Nebo and Tasmetum.

As “the teacher” and “the hearer” these were among the most popular of
the deities of Babylonia and Assyria. Nebo (in Semitic Babylonian
Nabu) was worshipped at the temple-tower known as E-zida, “the ever-
lasting house,” at Borsippa, now the Birs Nimroud, traditionally
regarded as the site of the Tower of Babel, though that title, as has
already been shown, would best suit the similar structure known as
E-sagila, “the house of the high head,” in Babylon itself. In
composition with men’s names, this deity occurs more than any other,
even including Merodach himself–a clear indication of the estimation
in which the Babylonians and Assyrians held the possession of
knowledge. The character with which his name is written means, with
the pronunciation of /ak/, “to make,” “to create,” “to receive,” “to
proclaim,” and with the pronunciation of /me/, “to be wise,” “wisdom,”
“open of ear,” “broad of ear,” and “to make, of a house,” the last
probably referring to the design rather than to the actual building.
Under the name of /Dim-sara/ he was “the creator of the writing of the
scribes,” as /Ni-zu/, “the god who knows” (/zu/, “to know”), as
/Mermer/, “the speeder(?) of the command of the gods”–on the Sumerian
side indicating some connection with Addu or Rimmon, the thunderer,
and on the Semitic side with Enu-restu, who was one of the gods’
messengers. A small fragment in the British Museum gave his attributes
as god of the various cities of Babylonia, but unfortunately their
names are lost or incomplete. From what remains, however, we see that
Nebo was god of ditching(?), commerce(?), granaries(?), fasting(?),
and food; it was he who overthrew the land of the enemy, and who
protected planting; and, lastly, he was god of Borsippa.

The worship of Nebo was not always as popular as it became in the
later days of the Babylonian empire and after its fall, and Jastrow is
of opinion that Hammurabi intentionally ignored this deity, giving the
preference to Merodach, though he did not suppress the worship. Why
this should have taken place is not by any means certain, for Nebo was
a deity adored far and wide, as may be gathered from the fact that
there was a mountain bearing his name in Moab, upon which Moses–also
an “announcer,” adds Jastrow–died. Besides the mountain, there was a
city in Moab so named, and another in Judaea. That it was the
Babylonian Nebo originally is implied by the form–the Hebrew
corresponding word is /nabi/.

How old the worship of Tasmetum, his consort, is, is doubtful, but her
name first occurs in a date of the reign of Hammurabi. Details
concerning her attributes are rare, and Jastrow regards this goddess
as the result of Babylonian religious speculations. It is noteworthy
that her worship appears more especially in later times, but it may be
doubted whether it is a product of those late times, especially when
we bear in mind the remarkable seal-impression on an early tablet of
3500-4500 B.C., belonging to Lord Amherst of Hackney, in which we see
a male figure with wide-open mouth seizing a stag by his horns, and a
female figure with no mouth at all, but with very prominent ears,
holding a bull in a similar manner. Here we have the “teacher” and the
“hearer” personified in a very remarkable manner, and it may well be
that this primitive picture shows the idea then prevailing with regard
to these two deities. It is to be noted that the name of Tasmetum has
a Sumerian equivalent, namely, /Kurnun/, and that the ideograph by
which it is represented is one whose general meaning seems to be “to
bind,” perhaps with the additional signification of “to accomplish,”
in which case “she who hears” would also be “she who obeys.”

Samas and his consort.

At all times the worship of the sun in Babylonia and Assyria was
exceedingly popular, as, indeed, was to be expected from his
importance as the greatest of the heavenly bodies and the brightest,
without whose help men could not live, and it is an exceedingly
noteworthy fact that this deity did not become, like Ra in Egypt, the
head of the pantheon. This place was reserved for Merodach, also a
sun-god, but possessing attributes of a far wider scope. Samas is
mentioned as early as the reign of E-anna-tum, whose date is set at
about 4200 B.C., and at this period his Semitic name does not,
naturally, occur, the character used being /Utu/, or, in its longer
form, /Utuki/.

It is worthy of note that, in consequence of the Babylonian idea of
evolution in the creation of the world, less perfect beings brought
forth those which were more perfect, and the sun was therefore the
offspring of Nannara or Sin, the moon. In accordance with the same
idea, the day, with the Semites, began with the evening, the time when
the moon became visible, and thus becomes the offspring of the night.
In the inscriptions Samas is described as “the light of things above
and things below, the illuminator of the regions,” “the supreme judge
of heaven and earth,” “the lord of living creatures, the gracious one
of the lands.” Dawning in the foundation of the sky, he opened the
locks and threw wide the gates of the high heavens, and raised his
head, covering heaven and earth with his splendour. He was the
constantly righteous in heaven, the truth within the ears of the
lands, the god knowing justice and injustice, righteousness he
supported upon his shoulders, unrighteousness he burst asunder like a
leather bond, etc. It will thus be seen, that the sun-god was the
great god of judgment and justice–indeed, he is constantly alluded to
as “the judge,” the reason in all probability being, that as the sun
shines upon the earth all day long, and his light penetrates
everywhere, he was regarded as the god who knew and investigated
everything, and was therefore best in a position to judge aright, and
deliver a just decision. It is for this reason that his image appears
at the head of the stele inscribed with Hammurabi’s laws, and legal
ceremonies were performed within the precincts of his temples. The
chief seats of his worship were the great temples called E-babbara,
“the house of great light,” in the cities of Larsa and Sippar.

The consort of Samas was Aa, whose chief seat was at Sippar, side by
side with Samas. Though only a weak reflex of the sun-god, her worship
was exceedingly ancient, being mentioned in an inscription of
Man-istusu, who is regarded as having reigned before Sargon of Agade.
From the fact that, in one of the lists, she has names formed by
reduplicating the name of the sun-god, /Utu/, she would seem once to
have been identical with him, in which case it may be supposed that
she personified the setting sun–“the double sun” from the magnified
disc which he presents at sunset, when, according to a hymn to the
setting sun sung at the temple at Borsippa, Aa, in the Sumerian line
Kur-nirda, was accustomed to go to receive him. According to the list
referred to above, Aa, with the name of Burida in Sumerian, was more
especially the consort of Sa-zu, “him who knows the heart,” one of the
names of Merodach, who was probably the morning sun, and therefore the
exact counterpart of the sun at evening.

Besides Samas and Utu, the latter his ordinary Sumerian name, the sun-
god had several other non-Semitic names, including /Gisnu/,[*] “the
light,” /Ma-banda-anna/, “the bark of heaven,” /U-e/, “the rising
sun,” /Mitra/, apparently the Persian Mithra; /Ume-simas/ and Nahunda,
Elamite names, and Sahi, the Kassite name of the sun. He also
sometimes bears the names of his attendants Kittu and Mesaru, “Truth”
and “Righteousness,” who guided him upon his path as judge of the

[*] It is the group expressing this word which is used for Samas in
the name of Samas-sum-ukin (Saosduchinos), the brother of Assur-
bani-apli (Assurbanipal). The Greek equivalent implies the
pronunciation /Sawas/, as well as /Samas/.

Tammuz and Istar.

The date of the rise of the myth of Tammuz is uncertain, but as the
name of this god is found on tablets of the time of Lugal-anda and
Uru-ka-gina (about 3500 B.C.), it can hardly be of later date than
4000 B.C., and may be much earlier. As he is repeatedly called “the
shepherd,” and had a domain where he pastured his flock, Professor
Sayce sees in Tammuz “Daonus or Daos, the shepherd of Pantibibla,”
who, according to Berosus, ruled in Babylonia for 10 /sari/, or 36,000
years, and was the sixth king of the mythical period. According to the
classic story, the mother of Tammuz had unnatural intercourse with her
own father, being urged thereto by Aphrodite whom she had offended,
and who had decided thus to avenge herself. Being pursued by her
father, who wished to kill her for this crime, she prayed to the gods,
and was turned into a tree, from whose trunk Adonis was afterwards
born. Aphrodite was so charmed with the infant that, placing him in a
chest, she gave him into the care of Persephone, who, however, when
she discovered what a treasure she had in her keeping, refused to part
with him again. Zeus was appealed to, and decided that for four months
in the year Adonis should be left to himself, four should be spent
with Aphrodite, and four with Persephone, and six with Aphrodite on
earth. He was afterwards slain, whilst hunting, by a wild boar.

Nothing has come down to us as yet concerning this legend except the
incident of his dwelling in Hades, whither Istar, the Babylonian
Venus, went in search of him. It is not by any means unlikely,
however, that the whole story existed in Babylonia, and thence spread
to Phoenicia, and afterwards to Greece. In Phoenicia it was adapted to
the physical conditions of the country, and the place of Tammuz’s
encounter with the boar was said to be the mountains of Lebanon,
whilst the river named after him, Adonis (now the Nahr Ibrahim), which
ran red with the earth washed down by the autumn rains, was said to be
so coloured in consequence of being mingled with his blood. The
descent of Tammuz to the underworld, typified by the flowing down of
the earth-laden waters of the rivers to the sea, was not only
celebrated by the Phoenicians, but also by the Babylonians, who had at
least two series of lamentations which were used on this occasion, and
were probably the originals of those chanted by the Hebrew women in
the time of Ezekiel (about 597 B.C.). Whilst on earth, he was the one
who nourished the ewe and her lamb, the goat and her kid, and also
caused them to be slain–probably in sacrifice. “He has gone, he has
gone to the bosom of the earth,” the mourners cried, “he will make
plenty to overflow for the land of the dead, for its lamentations for
the day of his fall, in the unpropitious month of his year.” There was
also lamentation for the cessation of the growth of vegetation, and
one of these hymns, after addressing him as the shepherd and husband
of Istar, “lord of the underworld,” and “lord of the shepherd’s seat,”
goes on to liken him to a germ which has not absorbed water in the
furrow, whose bud has not blossomed in the meadow; to the sapling
which has not been planted by the watercourse, and to the sapling
whose root has been removed. In the “Lamentations” in the Manchester
Museum, Istar, or one of her devotees, seems to call for Tammuz,
saying, “Return, my husband,” as she makes her way to the region of
gloom in quest of him. Eres-e-gala, “the lady of the great house”
(Persephone), is also referred to, and the text seems to imply that
Istar entered her domain in spite of her. In this text other names are
given to him, namely, /Tumu-giba/, “son of the flute,” /Ama-elaggi/,
and /Si-umunnagi/, “life of the people.”

The reference to sheep and goats in the British Museum fragment
recalls the fact that in an incantation for purification the person
using it is told to get the milk of a yellow goat which has been
brought forth in the sheep-fold of Tammuz, recalling the flocks of the
Greek sun-god Helios. These were the clouds illuminated by the sun,
which were likened to sheep–indeed, one of the early Sumerian
expressions for “fleece” was “sheep of the sky.” The name of Tammuz in
Sumerian is Dumu-zi, or in its rare fullest form, Dumu-zida, meaning
“true” or “faithful son.” There is probably some legend attached to
this which is at present unknown.

In all probability Istar, the spouse of Tammuz, is best known from her
descent into Hades in quest of him when with Persephone (Eres-ki-gal)
in the underworld. In this she had to pass through seven gates, and an
article of clothing was taken from her at each, until she arrived in
the underworld quite naked, typifying the teaching, that man can take
nothing away with him when he departs this life. During her absence,
things naturally began to go wrong upon the earth, and the gods were
obliged to intervene, and demand her release, which was ultimately
granted, and at each gate, as she returned, the adornments which she
had left were given back to her. It is uncertain whether the husband
whom she sought to release was set free, but the end of the
inscription seems to imply that Istar was successful in her mission.

In this story she typifies the faithful wife, but other legends show
another side of her character, as in that of Gilgames, ruler of her
city Erech, to whom she makes love. Gilgames, however, knowing the
character of the divine queen of his city too well, reproaches her
with her treatment of her husband and her other lovers–Tammuz, to
whom, from year to year, she caused bitter weeping; the bright
coloured Allala bird, whom she smote and broke his wings; the lion
perfect in strength, in whom she cut wounds “by sevens”; the horse
glorious in war, to whom she caused hardship and distress, and to his
mother Silili bitter weeping; the shepherd who provided for her things
which she liked, whom she smote and changed to a jackal; Isullanu, her
father’s gardener, whom she tried, apparently, to poison, but failing,
she smote him, and changed him to a statue(?). On being thus reminded
of her misdeeds, Istar was naturally angry, and, ascending to heaven,
complained to her father Anu and her mother Anatu, the result being,
that a divine bull was sent against Gilgames and Enki-du, his friend
and helper. The bull, however, was killed, and a portion of the animal
having been cut off, Enki-du threw it at the goddess, saying at the
same time that, if he could only get hold of her, he would treat her
similarly. Apparently Istar recognised that there was nothing further
to be done in the matter, so, gathering the hand-maidens, pleasure-
women and whores, in their presence she wept over the portion of the
divine bull which had been thrown at her.

The worship of Istar, she being the goddess of love and war, was
considerably more popular than that of her spouse, Tammuz, who, as
among the western Semitic nations, was adored rather by the women than
the men. Her worship was in all probability of equal antiquity, and
branched out, so to say, in several directions, as may be judged by
her many names, each of which had a tendency to become a distinct
personality. Thus the syllabaries give the character which represents
her name as having also been pronounced /Innanna/, /Ennen/, and /Nin/,
whilst a not uncommon name in other inscriptions is /Ama-Innanna/,
“mother Istar.” The principal seat of her worship in Babylonia was at
Erech, and in Assyria at Nineveh–also at Arbela, and many other
places. She was also honoured (at Erech and elsewhere) under the
Elamite names of Tispak and Susinak, “the Susian goddess.”


From the name /Nin/, which Istar bore, there is hardly any doubt that
she acquired the identification with Nina, which is provable as early
as the time of the Lagasite kings, Lugal-anda and Uru-ka-gina. As
identified with Aruru, the goddess who helped Merodach to create
mankind, Istar was also regarded as the mother of all, and in the
Babylonian story of the Flood, she is made to say that she had
begotten man, but like “the sons of the fishes,” he filled the sea.
Nina, then, as another form of Istar, was a goddess of creation,
typified in the teeming life of the ocean, and her name is written
with a character standing for a house or receptacle, with the sign for
“fish” within. Her earliest seat was the city of Nina in southern
Babylonia, from which place, in all probability, colonists went
northwards, and founded another shrine at Nineveh in Assyria, which
afterwards became the great centre of her worship, and on this account
the city was called after her Ninaa or Ninua. As their tutelary
goddess, the fishermen in the neighbourhood of the Babylonian Nina and
Lagas were accustomed to make to her, as well as to Innanna or Istar,
large offerings of fish.

As the masculine deities had feminine forms, so it is not by any means
improbable that the goddesses had masculine forms, and if that be the
case, we may suppose that it was a masculine counterpart of Nina who
founded Nineveh, which, as is well known, is attributed to Ninos, the
same name as Nina with the Greek masculine termination.


This deity is principally of importance in connection with the ancient
Babylonian state of Lagas, the home of an old and important line of
kings and viceroys, among the latter being the celebrated Gudea, whose
statues and inscribed cylinders now adorn the Babylonian galleries of
the Louvre at Paris. His name means “Lord of Girsu,” which was
probably one of the suburbs, and the oldest part, of Lagas. This deity
was son of En-lila or Bel, and was identified with Nirig or Enu-restu.
To all appearance he was a sun-deity. The dialectic form of his name
was /U-Mersi/, of which a variant, /En-Mersi/, occurs in an
incantation published in the fourth volume of the /Cuneiform
Inscriptions of Western Asia/, pl. 27, where, for the Sumerian “Take a
white kid of En-Mersi,” the Semitic translation is “of Tammuz,”
showing that he was identified with the latter god. In the second
volume of the same work Nin-Girsu is given as the pronunciation of the
name of the god of agriculturalists, confirming this identification,
Tammuz being also god of agriculture.


This goddess at all times played a prominent part in ancient
Babylonian religion, especially with the rulers before the dynasty of
Hammurabi. She was the “mother” of Lagas, and her temple was at
Uru-azaga, a district of Lagas, the chief city of Nin-Girsu, whose
spouse she was. Like Nin-Girsu, she planted (not only grain and
vegetation, but also the seed of men). In her character of the goddess
who gave life to men, and healed their bodies in sickness, she was
identified with Gula, one of those titles is “the lady saving from
death”. Ga-tum-duga, whose name probably means “making and producing
good,” was also exceedingly popular in ancient times, and though
identified with Bau, is regarded by Jastrow has having been originally
distinct from her.

Eres-ki-gal or Allatu.

As the prototype of Persephone, this goddess is one of much importance
for comparative mythology, and there is a legend concerning her of
considerable interest. The text is one of those found at Tel-el-
Armana, in Egypt, and states that the gods once made a feast, and sent
to Eres-ki-gal, saying that, though they could go down to her, she
could not ascend to them, and asking her to send a messenger to fetch
away the food destined for her. This she did, and all the gods stood
up to receive her messenger, except one, who seems to have withheld
this token of respect. The messenger, when he returned, apparently
related to Eres-ki-gal what had happened, and angered thereat, she
sent him back to the presence of the gods, asking for the delinquent
to be delivered to her, that she might kill him. The gods then
discussed the question of death with the messenger, and told him to
take to his mistress the god who had not stood up in his presence.
When the gods were brought together, that the culprit might be
recognised, one of them remained in the background, and on the
messenger asking who it was who did not stand up, it was found to be
Nerigal. This god was duly sent, but was not at all inclined to be
submissive, for instead of killing him, as she had threatened, Eres-
ki-gal found herself seized by the hair and dragged from her throne,
whilst the death-dealing god made ready to cut off her head. “Do not
kill me, my brother, let me speak to thee,” she cried, and on his
loosing his hold upon her hair, she continued, “thou shalt be my
husband, and I will be thy wife–I will cause you to take dominion in
the wide earth. I will place the tablet of wisdom in thine hand–thou
shalt be lord, I will be lady.” Nerigal thereupon took her, kissed
her, and wiped away her tears, saying, “Whatever thou hast asked me
for months past now receives assent.”

Eres-ki-gal did not treat her rival in the affections of Tammuz so
gently when Istar descended to Hades in search of the “husband of her
youth.” According to the story, not only was Istar deprived of her
garments and ornaments, but by the orders of Eres-ki-gal, Namtar smote
her with disease in all her members. It was not until the gods
intervened that Istar was set free. The meaning of her name is “lady
of the great region,” a description which is supposed to apply to
Hades, and of which a variant, Eres-ki-gal, “lady of the great house,”
occurs in the Hymns to Tammuz in the Manchester Museum.


This name is supposed to mean “lord of the great habitation,” which
would be a parallel to that of his spouse Eres-ki-gal. He was the
ruler of Hades, and at the same time god of war and of disease and
pestilence. As warrior, he naturally fought on the side of those who
worshipped him, as in the phrase which describes him as “the warrior,
the fierce storm-flood overthrowing the land of the enemy.” As pointed
out by Jastrow, he differs from Nirig, who was also a god of war, in
that he symbolises, as god of disease and death, the misery and
destruction which accompany the strife of nations. It is in
consequence of this side of his character that he appears also as god
of fire, the destroying element, and Jensen says that Nerigal was god
of the midday or of the summer sun, and therefore of all the
misfortunes caused by an excess of his heat.

The chief centre of his worship was Cuthah (/Kutu/, Sumerian /Gudua/)
near Babylon, now represented by the mounds of Tel Ibrahim. The
identity with the Greek Aries and the Roman Mars is proved by the fact
that his planet was /Mustabarru-mutanu/, “the death-spreader,” which
is probably the name of Mars in Semitic Babylonian.


Although this is not by any means a frequent name among the deities
worshipped in Babylonia, it is worthy of notice on account of its
bearing upon the date of the compilation of the tablet which has been
taken as a basis of this list of gods. He was known as “Lord of the
mountains,” and his worship became very popular during the period of
the dynasty to which Hammurabi belonged–say from 2200 to 1937 B.C.,
when Amurru was much combined with the names of men, and is found both
on tablets and cylinder-seals. The ideographic manner of writing it is
/Mar-tu/, a word that is used for /Amurru/, the land of the Amorites,
which stood for the West in general. Amorites had entered Babylonia in
considerable numbers during this period, so that there is but little
doubt that his popularity was largely due to their influence, and the
tablet containing these names was probably drawn up, or at least had
the Semitic equivalents added, towards the beginning of that period.

Sin or Nannara.

The cult of the moon-god was one of the most popular in Babylonia, the
chief seat of his worship being at Uru (now Muqayyar) the Biblical Ur
of the Chaldees. The origin of the name Sin is unknown, but it is
thought that it may be a corruption of Zu-ena, “knowledge-lord,” as
the compound ideograph expressing his name may be read and translated.
Besides this compound ideograph, the name of the god Sin was also
expressed by the character for “30,” provided with the prefix of
divinity, an ideograph which is due to the thirty days of the month,
and is thought to be of late date. With regard to Nannar, Jastrow
explains it as being for Narnar, and renders it “light-producer.” In a
long hymn to this god he is described in many lines as “the lord,
prince of the gods, who in heaven alone is supreme,” and as “father
Nannar.” Among his other descriptive titles are “great Anu” (Sum. /ana
gale/, Semitic Bab. /Anu rabu/)–another instance of the
identification of two deities. He was also “lord of Ur,” “lord of the
temple Gisnu-gala,” “lord of the shining crown,” etc. He is also said
to be “the mighty steer whose horns are strong, whose limbs are
perfect, who is bearded with a beard of lapis-stone,[*] who is filled
with beauty and fullness (of splendour).”

[*] Probably of the colour of lapis only, not made of the stone

Besides Babylonia and Assyria, he was also worshipped in other parts
of the Semitic east, especially at Harran, to which city Abraham
migrated, scholars say, in consequence of the patron-deity being the
same as at Ur of the Chaldees, where he had passed the earlier years
of his life. The Mountain of Sinai and the Desert of Sin, both bear
his name.

According to king Dungi (about 2700 B.C.), the spouse of Sin or
Nannara was Nin-Uruwa, “the lady of Ur.” Sargon of Assyria (722-705
B.C.) calls her Nin-gala.

Addu or Rammanu.

The numerous names which Hadad bears in the inscriptions, both non-
Semitic and Semitic, testify to the popularity which this god enjoyed
at all times in Babylonia. Among his non-Semitic names may be
mentioned Mer, Mermer, Muru, all, it may be imagined, imitative. Addu
is explained as being his name in the Amorite language, and a variant
form, apparently, which has lost its first syllable, namely, Dadu,
also appears–the Assyrians seem always to have used the
terminationless form of Addu, namely, Adad. In all probability Addu,
Adad, and Dadu are derived from the West Semitic Hadad, but the other
name, Rammanu, is native Babylonian, and cognate with Rimmon, which is
thus shown by the Babylonian form to mean “the thunderer,” or
something similar. He was the god of winds, storms, and rain, feared
on account of the former, and worshipped, and his favour sought, on
account of the last. In his name Birqu, he appears as the god of
lightning, and Jastrow is of opinion, that he is sometimes associated
on that account with Samas, both of them being (although in different
degrees) gods of light, and this is confirmed by the fact that, in
common with the sun-god, he was called “god of justice.” In the
Assyrian inscriptions he appears as a god of war, and the kings
constantly compare the destruction which their armies had wrought with
that of “Adad the inundator.” For them he was “the mighty one,
inundating the regions of the enemy, lands and houses,” and was prayed
to strike the land of the person who showed hostility to the Assyrian
king, with evil-working lightning, to throw want, famine, drought, and
corpses therein, to order that he should not live one day longer, and
to destroy his name and his seed in the land.

The original seat of his worship was Muru in South Babylonia, to which
the patesi of Girsu in the time of Ibi-Sin sent grain as an offering.
Its site is unknown. Other places (or are they other names of the
same?) where he was worshipped were Ennigi and Kakru. The consort of
Addu was Sala, whose worship was likewise very popular, and to whom
there were temples, not only in Babylonia and Assyria, but also in
Elam, seemingly always in connection with Addu.


In all the deities treated of above, we see the chief gods of the
Babylonian and Assyrian pantheon, which were worshipped by both
peoples extensively, none of them being specifically Assyrian, though
worshipped by the Assyrians. There was one deity, however, whose name
will not be found in the Babylonian lists of gods, namely, Assur, the
national god of Assyria, who was worshipped in the city of Assur, the
old capital of the country.

From this circumstance, it may be regarded as certain, that Assur was
the local god of the city whose name he bore, and that he attained to
the position of chief god of the Assyrian pantheon in the same way as
Merodach became king of the gods in Babylonia–namely, because Assur
was the capital of the country. His acceptance as chief divinity,
however, was much more general than that of Merodach, as temples to
him were to be found all over the Assyrian kingdom–a circumstance
which was probably due to Assyria being more closely united in itself
than Babylonia, causing his name to arouse patriotic feelings wherever
it might be referred to. This was probably partly due to the fact,
that the king in Assyria was more the representative of the god than
in Babylonia, and that the god followed him on warlike expeditions,
and when engaged in religious ceremonies–indeed, it is not by any
means improbable that he was thought to follow him wherever he went.
On the sculptures he is seen accompanying him in the form of a circle
provided with wings, in which is shown sometimes a full-length figure
of the god in human form, sometimes the upper part only, facing
towards and drawing his bow against the foe. In consequence of its
general appearance, the image of the god has been likened to the sun
in eclipse, the far-stretching wings being thought to resemble the
long streamers visible at the moment of totality, and it must be
admitted as probable that this may have given the idea of the symbol
shown on the sculptures. As a sun-god, and at the same time not the
god Samas, he resembled the Babylonian Merodach, and was possibly
identified with him, especially as, in at least one text, Beltu
(Beltis) is described as his consort, which would possibly identify
Assur’s spouse with Zer-panitum. The original form of his name would
seem to have been Ausar, “water-field,” probably from the tract where
the city of Assur was built. His identification with Merodach, if that
was ever accepted, may have been due to the likeness of the word to
Asari, one of that deity’s names. The pronunciation Assur, however,
seems to have led to a comparison with the Ansar of the first tablet
of the Creation-story, though it may seem strange that the Assyrians
should have thought that their patron-god was a deity symbolising the
“host of heaven.” Nevertheless, the Greek transcription of Ansar,
namely, /Assoros/, given by Damascius, certainly strengthens the
indications of the ideograph in this matter. Delitzsch regards the
word Assur, or Asur, as he reads it, as meaning “holy,” and quotes a
list of the gods of the city of Nineveh, where the word Assur occurs
three times, suggesting the exclamation “holy, holy, holy,” or “the
holy, holy, holy one.” In all probability, however, the repetition of
the name three times simply means that there were three temples
dedicated to Assur in the cities in question.[*] Jastrow agrees with
Delitzsch in regarding Asur as another form of Asir (found in early
Cappadocian names), but he translates it rather as “overseer” or
“guardian” of the land and the people–the terminationless form of
/asiru/, which has this meaning, and is applied to Merodach.

[*] Or there may have been three shrines to Assur in each temple
referred to.

As the use of the characters /An-sar/ for the god Assur only appears
at a late date (Jastrow says the eighth century B.C.), this would seem
to have been the work of the scribes, who wished to read into the name
the earlier signification of Ansar, “the host of heaven,” an
explanation fully in accord with Jastrow’s reasonings with regard to
the nature of the deity. As he represented no personification or power
of nature, he says, but the general protecting spirit of the land, the
king, the army, and the people, the capital of the country could be
transferred from Assur to Calah, from there back to Assur, and finally
to Nineveh, without affecting the position of the protecting god of
the land in any way. He needed no temple–though such things were
erected to him–he had no need to fear that he should suffer in esteem
by the preference for some other god. As the embodiment of the spirit
of the Assyrian people the personal side of his being remained to a
certain extent in the background. If he was the “host of heaven,” all
the deities might be regarded as having their being in him.

Such was the chief deity of the Assyrians–a national god, grafted on
to, but always distinct from, the rest of the pantheon, which, as has
been shown, was of Babylonian origin, and always maintained the
characteristics and stamp of its origin.

The spouse of Assur does not appear in the historical texts, and her
mention elsewhere under the title of Beltu, “the lady,” does not allow
of any identification being made. In one inscription, however,
Assuritu is called the goddess, and Assur the god, of the star Sib-zi-
anna, identified by Jensen with Regulus, which was apparently the star
of Merodach in Babylonia. This, however, brings us no nearer, for
Assuritu would simply mean “the Assurite (goddess).”

The minor divinities.

Among the hundreds of names which the lists furnish, a few are worthy
of mention, either because of more than ordinary interest, or in
consequence of their furnishing the name of some deity, chief in its
locality, but identified elsewhere with one of the greater gods.

Aa.–This may be regarded either as the god Ea (though the name is
written differently), or as the sun-god assuming the name of his
consort; or (what is, perhaps, more probable) as a way of writing A’u
or Ya’u (the Hebrew Jah), without the ending of the nominative. This
last is also found under the form /Aa’u/, /ya’u/, /yau/, and /ya/.

Abil-addu.–This deity seems to have attained a certain popularity in
later times, especially among immigrants from the West. As “the son of
Hadad,” he was the equivalent of the Syrian Ben-Hadad. A tablet in New
York shows that his name was weakened in form to /Ablada/.

Aku, the moon-god among the heavenly bodies. It is this name which is
regarded as occurring in the name of the Babylonian king Eri-Aku,
“servant of the moon-god,” the biblical Arioch (Gen. xiv.).

Amma-an-ki, Ea or Aa as lord of heaven and earth.

Amna.–A name only found in a syllabary, and assigned to the sun-god,
from which it would seem that it is a form of the Egyptian Ammon.

Anunitum, the goddess of one of the two Sippars, called Sippar of
Anunitum, who was worshipped in the temple E-ulmas within the city of
Agade (Akkad). Sayce identifies, on this account, these two places as
being the same. In a list of stars, Anunitum is coupled with
Sinunutum, which are explained as (the stars of) the Tigris and
Euphrates. These were probably names of Venus as the morning and
evening (or evening and morning) star.

Apsu.–The deep dissociated from the evil connection with Tiawath, and
regarded as “the house of deep wisdom,” i.e. the home of the god Ea or

Aruru.–One of the deities of Sippar and Aruru (in the time of the
dynasty of Hammurabi called Ya’ruru), of which she was the chief
goddess. Aruru was one of the names of the “lady of the gods,” and
aided Merodach to make the seed of mankind.

Bel.–As this name means “lord,” it could be applied, like the
Phoenician Baal, to the chief god of any city, as Bel of Niffur, Bel of
Hursag-kalama, Bel of Aratta, Bel of Babylon, etc. This often
indicates also the star which represented the chief god of a place.

Beltu.–In the same way Beltu, meaning “lady,” meant also the chief
goddess of any place, as “Aruru, lady of the gods of Sippar of Aruru,”
“Nin-mah, lady of the gods of E-mah,” a celebrated temple within
Babylon, recently excavated by the Germans, “Nin-hur-saga, lady of the
gods of Kes,” etc.

Bunene.–A god associated with Samas and Istar at Sippar and
elsewhere. He “gave” and “renewed” to his worshippers.

Dagan.–This deity, whose worship extends back to an exceedingly early
date, is generally identified with the Phoenician Dagon. Hammurabi
seems to speak of the Euphrates as being “the boundary of Dagan,” whom
he calls his creator. In later inscriptions the form Daguna, which
approaches nearer to the West Semitic form, is found in a few personal
names. The Phoenician statues of this deity showed him with the lower
part of his body in the form of a fish (see 1 Sam. v. 4). Whether the
deities clothed in a fish’s skin in the Nimroud gallery be Dagon or
not is uncertain–they may be intended for Ea or Aa, the Oannes of
Berosus, who was represented in this way. Probably the two deities
were regarded as identical.

Damu.–a goddess regarded as equivalent to Gula by the Babylonians and
Assyrians. She was goddess of healing, and made one’s dreams happy.

Dumu-zi-abzu, “Tammuz of the Abyss.”–This was one of the six sons of
Ea or Aa, according to the lists. His worship is exceedingly ancient,
and goes back to the time of E-anna-tum of Lagas (about 4000 B.C.).
What connection, if any, he may have with Tammuz, the spouse of Istar,
is unknown. Jastrow apparently regards him as a distinct deity, and
translates his name “the child of the life of the water-deep.”

Elali.–A deity identified with the Hebrew Helal, the new moon. Only
found in names of the time of the Hammurabi dynasty, in one of which
he appears as “a creator.”

En-nugi is described as “lord of streams and canals,” and “lord of the
earth, lord of no-return.” This last description, which gives the
meaning of his name, suggests that he was one of the gods of the realm
of Eres-ki-gal, though he may have borne that name simply as god of
streams, which always flow down, never the reverse.

Gibil.–One of the names of the god of fire, sometimes transcribed
Girru by Assyriologists, the meaning apparently being “the fire-
bearer” or “light-bearer.” Girru is another name of this deity, and
translates an ideographic group, rendered by Delitzsch “great” or
“highest decider,” suggesting the custom of trial by ordeal. He was
identified with Nirig, in Semitic Enu-restu.

Gusqi-banda or Kuski-banda, one of the names of Ea, probably as god of

Isum, “the glorious sacrificer,” seemingly a name of the fire-god as a
means whereby burnt offerings were made. Nur-Isum, “light of Isum,” is
found as a man’s name.

Kaawanu, the planet Saturn.

Lagamal.–A god identified with the Elamite Lagamar, whose name is
regarded as existing in Chedorlaomer (cf. Gen. xiv. 2). He was the
chief god of Mair, “the ship-city.”

Lugal-Amarada or Lugal-Marad.–This name means “king of Marad,” a city
as yet unidentified. The king of this place seems to have been
Nerigal, of whom, therefore, Lugal-Marad is another name.

Lugal-banda.–This name means “the powerful king,” or something
similar, and the god bearing it is supposed to be the same as Nerigal.
His consort, however, was named Nin-sun (or Nin-gul).

Lugal-Du-azaga, “the king of the glorious seat.”–The founder of
Eridu, “the good city within the Abyss,” probably the paradise (or a
paradise) of the world to come. As it was the aim of every good
Babylonian to dwell hereafter with the god whom he had worshipped upon
earth, it may be conjectured that this was the paradise in the domain
of Ea or Aa.

Mama, Mami.–Names of “the lady of the gods,” and creatress of the
seed of mankind, Aruru. Probably so called as the “mother” of all
things. Another name of this goddess is Ama, “mother.”

Mammitum, Mamitum, goddess of fate.

Mur, one of the names of Addu or Rammanu (Hadad or Rimmon).

Nana or Nanaa was the consort of Nebo at Borsippa, but appears as a
form of Istar, worshipped, with Anu her father, at Erech.

Nin-aha-kuku, a name of Ea or Aa and of his daughter as deity of the
rivers, and therefore of gardens and plantations, which were watered
by means of the small canals leading therefrom. As daughter of Ea,
this deity was also “lady of the incantation.”

Nin-azu, the consort of Eres-ki-gal, probably as “lord physician.” He
is probably to be identified with Nerigal.

Nin-igi-nagar-si, a name somewhat more doubtful as to its reading than
the others, designates Ea or Aa as “the god of the carpenter.” He
seems to have borne this as “the great constructor of heaven” or “of

Nin-mah, chief goddess of the temple E-mah in Babylon. Probably to be
identified with Aruru, and therefore with Zer-panitum.

Nin-sah, a deity whose name is conjectured to mean “lord of the wild
boar.” He seems to have been a god of war, and was identified with
Nirig or Enu-restu and Pap-sukal.

Nin-sirsir, Ea as the god of sailors.

Nin-sun, as pointed out by Jastrow, was probably the same as Istar or
Nana of Erech, where she had a shrine, with them, in E-anna, “the
house of Anu.” He renders her name “the annihilating lady,”[*] “appropriate for the consort of a sun-god,” for such he regards Lugal-
banda her spouse. King Sin-gasid of Erech (about 3000 B.C.) refers to
her as his mother.

[*] This is due to the second element of the name having, with another
pronunciation, the meaning of “to destroy.”

Nun-urra.–Ea, as the god of potters.

Pap-sukal.–A name of Nin-sah as the “divine messenger,” who is also
described as god “of decisions.” Nin-sah would seem to have been one
of the names of Pap-sukal rather than the reverse.

Qarradu, “strong,” “mighty,” “brave.”–This word, which was formerly
translated “warrior,” is applied to several deities, among them being
Bel, Nergal, Nirig (Enu-restu), and Samas, the sun-god.

Ragimu and Ramimu, names of Rimmon or Hadad as “the thunderer.” The
second comes from the same root as Rammanu (Rimmon).

Suqamunu.–A deity regarded as “lord of watercourses,” probably the
artificial channels dug for the irrigation of fields.

Ura-gala, a name of Nerigal.

Uras, a name of Nirig, under which he was worshipped at Dailem, near

Zagaga, dialectic Zamama.–This deity, who was a god of war, was
identified with Nirig. One of this titles was /bel parakki/, “lord of
the royal chamber,” or “throne-room.”

Zaraqu or Zariqu.–As the root of this name means “to sprinkle,” he
was probably also a god of irrigation, and may have presided over
ceremonial purification. He is mentioned in names as the “giver of
seed” and “giver of a name” (i.e. offspring).

These are only a small proportion of the names found in the
inscriptions, but short as the list necessarily is, the nature, if not
the full composition, of the Babylonian pantheon will easily be
estimated therefrom.

It will be seen that besides the identifications of the deities of all
the local pantheons with each other, each divinity had almost as many
names as attributes and titles, hence their exceeding multiplicity. In
such an extensive pantheon, many of the gods composing it necessarily
overlap, and identification of each other, to which the faith, in its
primitive form, was a stranger, were inevitable. The tendency to
monotheism which this caused will be referred to later on.

The gods and the heavenly bodies.

It has already been pointed out that, from the evidence of the
Babylonian syllabary, the deities of the Babylonians were not astral
in their origin, the only gods certainly originating in heavenly
bodies being the sun and the moon. This leads to the supposition that
the Babylonians, bearing these two deities in mind, may have asked
themselves why, if these two were represented by heavenly bodies, the
others should not be so represented also. Be this as it may, the other
deities of the pantheon were so represented, and the full planetary
scheme, as given by a bilingual list in the British Museum, was as

Aku Sin the moon Sin
Bisebi Samas the sun Samas
Dapinu Umun-sig-ea Jupiter Merodach
Zib[*] Dele-bat Venus Istar
Lu-lim Lu-bat-sag-us Saturn Nirig (acc. to Jensen)
Bibbu Lubat-gud Mercury Nebo
Simutu Mustabarru Mars Nergal

All the above names of planets have the prefix of divinity, but in
other inscriptions the determinative prefix is that for “star,”

[*] This is apparently a Sumerian dialectic form, the original word
having seemingly been Zig.

Moon and Sun.

Unfortunately, all the above identifications of the planets with the
deities in the fourth column are not certain, namely, those
corresponding with Saturn, Mercury, and Mars. With regard to the
others, however, there is no doubt whatever. The reason why the moon
is placed before the sun is that the sun, as already explained, was
regarded as his son. It was noteworthy also that the moon was
accredited with two other offspring, namely, Masu and Mastu–son and
daughter respectively. As /masu/ means “twin,” these names must
symbolise the two halves, or, as we say, “quarters” of the moon, who
were thus regarded, in Babylonian mythology, as his “twin children.”

Jupiter and Saturn.

Concerning Jupiter, who is in the above called Dapinu (Semitic), and
Umun-sig-ea (Sumerian), it has already been noted that he was called
Nibiru–according to Jensen, Merodach as he who went about among the
stars “pasturing” them like sheep, as stated in the Babylonian story
of the Creation (or Bel and the Dragon). This is explained by him as
being due to the comparatively rapid and extensive path of Jupiter on
the ecliptic, and it would seem probable that the names of Saturn,
/Kaawanu/ and /Sag-us/ (the former, which is Semitic Babylonian,
meaning “steadfast,” or something similar, and the latter, in
Sumerian, “head-firm” or “steadfast”–“phlegmatic”), to all appearance
indicate in like manner the deliberation of his movements compared
with those of the planet dedicated to the king of the gods.

Venus at sunrise and sunset.

A fragment of a tablet published in 1870 gives some interesting
particulars concerning the planet Venus, probably explaining some as
yet unknown mythological story concerning her. According to this, she
was a female at sunset, and a male at sunrise; Istar of Agade (Akad or
Akkad) at sunrise, and Istar of Erech at sunset: Istar of the stars at
sunrise, and the lady of the gods at sunset.

And in the various months.

Istar was identified with Nin-si-anna in the first month of the year
(Nisan = March-April), with the star of the bow in Ab (August-
September), etc. In Sebat (January-February) she was the star of the
water-channel, Iku, which was Merodach’s star in Sivan (May-June), and
in Marcheswan her star was Rabbu, which also belonged to Merodach in
the same month. It will thus be seen, that Babylonian astronomy is far
from being as clear as would be desired, but doubtless many
difficulties will disappear when further inscriptions are available.

Stars identified with Merodach.

The same fragment gives the celestial names of Merodach for every
month of the year, from which it would appear, that the astrologers
called him Umun-sig-ea in Nisan (March-April), Dapinu in Tammuz (June-
July), Nibiru in Tisri (September-October), Sarru (the star Regulus),
in Tebet (December-January), etc. The first three are names by which
the planet Jupiter was known.

As for the planets and stars, so also for the constellations, which
are identified with many gods and divine beings, and probably contain
references, in their names and descriptions, to many legends. In the
sixth tablet of the Creation-series, it is related of Merodach that,
after creating the heavens and the stations for Anu, Bel, and Ae,

“He built firmly the stations of the great gods–
Stars their likeness–he set up the /Lumali/,
He designated the year, he outlined the (heavenly) forms.
He set for the twelve months three stars each,
From the day when the year begins, . . . for signs.”

As pointed out by Mr. Robert Brown, jr., who has made a study of these
things, the “three stars” for each month occur on one of the remains
of planispheres in the British Museum, and are completed by a tablet
which gives them in list-form, in one case with explanations. Until
these are properly identified, however, it will be impossible to
estimate their real value. The signs of the Zodiac, which are given by
another tablet, are of greater interest, as they are the originals of
those which are in use at the present time:–

Month Sign Equivalent

Nisan (Mar.-Apr.) The Labourer The Ram
Iyyar (Apr.-May) /Mulmula/ and the Bull of heaven The Bull
Sivan (May-June) /Sib-zi-anna/ and the great Twins The Twins
Tammuz (June-July) /Allul/ or /Nagar/ The Crab
Ab (July.-Aug.) The Lion (or dog) The Lion
Elul (Aug.-Sep.) The Ear of corn(?) The ear of Corn (Virgo)
Tisri (Sep.-Oct.) The Scales The Scales
Marcheswan (Oct.-Nov.) The Scorpion The Scorpion
Chisleu (Nov.-Dec.) /Pa-bil-sag/ The Archer
Tebet (Dec.-Jan.) /Sahar-mas/, the Fish-kid The Goat
Sebat (Jan.-Feb.) /Gula/ The Water-bearer
Adar (Feb.-Mar.) The Water Channel and the Tails The Fishes

Parallels in Babylonian legends.

The “bull of heaven” probably refers to some legend such as that of
the story of Gilgames in his conflict with the goddess Istar when the
divine bull was killed; /Sib-zi-anna/, “the faithful shepherd of
heaven,” suggests that this constellation may refer to Tammuz, the
divine shepherd; whilst “the scorpion” reminds us of the scorpion-men
who guarded the gate of the sun (Samas), when Gilgames was journeying
to gain information concerning his friend Enki-du, who had departed to
the place of the dead. Sir Henry Rawlinson many years ago pointed out
that the story of the Flood occupied the eleventh tablet of the
Gilgames series, corresponding with the eleventh sign of the Zodiac,
Aquarius, or the Water-bearer.

Other star-names.

Other names of stars or constellations include “the weapon of
Merodach’s hand,” probably that with which he slew the dragon of
Chaos; “the Horse,” which is described as “the god Zu,” Rimmon’s
storm-bird–Pegasus; “the Serpent,” explained as Eres-ki-gal, the
queen of Hades, who would therefore seem to have been conceived in
that form; “the Scorpion,” which is given as /Ishara tantim/, “Ishara
of the sea,” a description difficult to explain, unless it refer to
her as the goddess of the Phoenician coast. Many other identifications,
exceedingly interesting, await solution.

How the gods were represented. On cylinder-seals.

Many representations of the gods occur, both on bas-reliefs, boundary-
stones, and cylindrical and ordinary seals. Unfortunately, their
identification generally presents more or less difficulty, on account
of the absence of indications of their identity. On a small cylinder-
seal in the possession of the Rev. Dr. W. Hayes Ward, Merodach is
shown striding along the serpentine body of Tiawath, who turns her
head to attack him, whilst the god threatens her with a pointed weapon
which he carries. Another, published by the same scholar, shows a
deity, whom he regards as being Merodach, driven in a chariot drawn by
a winged lion, upon whose shoulders stands a naked goddess, holding
thunderbolts in each hand, whom he describes as Zer-panitum. Another
cylinder-seal shows the corn-deity, probably Nisaba, seated in
flounced robe and horned hat, with corn-stalks springing out from his
shoulders, and holding a twofold ear of corn in his hand, whilst an
attendant introduces, and another with a threefold ear of corn
follows, a man carrying a plough, apparently as an offering. On
another, a beautiful specimen from Assyria, Istar is shown standing on
an Assyrian lion, which turns his head as if to caress her feet. As
goddess of war, she is armed with bow and arrows, and her star is
represented upon the crown of her tiara.

On boundary-stones, etc.

On the boundary-stones of Babylonia and the royal monoliths of Assyria
the emblems of the gods are nearly always seen. Most prominent are
three horned tiaras, emblematic, probably, of Merodach, Anu, and Bel
(the older). A column ending in a ram’s head is used for Ea or Ae, a
crescent for Sin or Nannar, the moon-god; a disc with rays for Samas,
the sun-god; a thunderbolt for Rimmon or Hadad, the god of thunder,
lightning, wind, and storms; a lamp for Nusku, etc. A bird, perhaps a
hawk, stood for Utu-gisgallu, a deity whose name has been translated
“the southern sun,” and is explained in the bilingual inscriptions as
Samas, the sun-god, and Nirig, one of the gods of war. The emblem of
Gal-alim, who is identified with the older Bel, is a snarling dragon’s
head forming the termination of a pole, and that of Dun-asaga is a
bird’s head similarly posed. On a boundary-stone of the time of
Nebuchadnezzar I., about 1120 B.C., one of the signs of the gods shows
a horse’s head in a kind of shrine, probably the emblem of Rimmon’s
storm-bird, Zu, the Babylonian Pegasus.

Other divine figures.

One of the finest of all the representations of divinities is that of
the “Sun-god-stone,” found by Mr. Hormuzd Rassam at Abu-habbah (the
ancient Sippar), which was one of the chief seats of his worship. It
represents him, seated in his shrine, holding in his hand a staff and
a ring, his usual emblems, typifying his position as judge of the
world and his endless course. The position of Merodach as sun-god is
confirmed by the small lapis-lazuli relief found by the German
expedition at the mound known as Amran ibn ‘Ali, as he also carries a
staff and a ring, and his robe is covered with ornamental circles,
showing, in all probability, his solar nature. In the same place
another small relief representing Rimmon or Hadad was found. His robe
has discs emblematical of the five planets, and he holds in each hand
a thunderbolt, one of which he is about to launch forth. Merodach is
accompanied by a large two-horned dragon, whilst Hadad has a small
winged dragon, typifying the swiftness of his course, and another
animal, both of which he holds with cords.



Good and evil spirits, gods and demons, were fully believed in by the
Babylonians and Assyrians, and many texts referring to them exist.
Naturally it is not in some cases easy to distinguish well between the
special functions of these supernatural appearances which they
supposed to exist, but their nature is, in most cases, easily
ascertained from the inscriptions.

To all appearance, the Babylonians imagined that spirits resided
everywhere, and lay in wait to attack mankind, and to each class,
apparently, a special province in bringing misfortune, or tormenting,
or causing pain and sickness, was assigned. All the spirits, however,
were not evil, even those whose names would suggest that their
character was such–there were good “liers in wait,” for instance, as
well as evil ones, whose attitude towards mankind was beneficent.

The /utukku/. This was a spirit which was supposed to do the will of
Anu, the god of the heavens. There was the /utukku/ of the plain, the
mountains, the sea, and the grave.

The /alu/. Regarded as the demon of the storm, and possibly, in its
origin, the same as the divine bull sent by Istar to attack Gilgames,
and killed by Enki-du. It spread itself over a man, overpowering him
upon his bed, and attacking his breast.

The /edimmu/. This is generally, but wrongly, read /ekimmu/, and
translated “the seizer,” from /ekemu/, “to seize.” In reality,
however, it was an ordinary spirit, and the word is used for the
wraiths of the departed. The “evil /edimmu/” was apparently regarded
as attacking the middle part of a man.

The /gallu/. As this word is borrowed from the Sumerian /galla/, which
has a dialectic form, /mulla/, it is not improbable that it may be
connected with the word /mula/, meaning “star,” and suggesting
something which is visible by the light it gives–possibly a will-o’-
the-wisp,–though others are inclined to regard the word as being
connected with /gala/, “great.” In any case, its meaning seems to have
become very similar to “evil spirit” or “devil” in general, and is an
epithet applied by the Assyrian king Assur-bani-apli to Te-umman, the
Elamite king against whom he fought.

The /ilu limnu/, “evil god,” was probably originally one of the
deities of Tiawath’s brood, upon whom Merodach’s redemption had had no

The /rabisu/ is regarded as a spirit which lay in wait to pounce upon
his prey.

The /labartu/, in Sumerian /dimme/, was a female demon. There were
seven evil spirits of this kind, who were apparently regarded as being
daughters of Anu, the god of the heavens.

The /labasu/, in Sumerian /dimmea/, was apparently a spirit which
overthrew, that being the meaning of the root from which the word

The /ahhazu/, in Sumerian /dimme-kur/, was apparently so called as
“the seizer,” that being the meaning indicated by the root.

The /lilu/, in Sumerian /lila/, is generally regarded as “the night-
monster,” the word being referred to the Semitic root /lil/ or /layl/,
whence the Hebrew /layil/, Arabic /layl/, “night.” Its origin,
however, is Sumerian, from /lila/, regarded as meaning “mist.” To the
word /lilu/ the ancient Babylonians formed a feminine, /lilithu/,
which entered the Hebrew language under the form of /lilith/, which
was, according to the rabbins, a beautiful woman, who lay in wait for
children by night. The /lilu/ had a companion who is called his
handmaid or servant.

The /namtaru/ was apparently the spirit of fate, and therefore of
greater importance than those already mentioned. This being was
regarded as the beloved son of Bel, and offspring of /Eres-ki-gal/ or
Persephone, and he had a spouse named /Hus-bi-saga/. Apparently he
executed the instructions given him concerning the fate of men, and
could also have power over certain of the gods.

The /sedu/ were apparently deities in the form of bulls. They were
destructive, of enormous power, and unsparing. In a good sense the
/sedu/ was a protecting deity, guarding against hostile attacks. Erech
and the temple E-kura were protected by spirits such as these, and to
one of them Isum, “the glorious sacrificer,” was likened.

The /lamassu/, from the Sumerian /lama/, was similar in character to
the /sedu/, but is thought to have been of the nature of a colossus–a
winged man-headed bull or lion. It is these creatures which the kings
placed at the sides of the doors of their palaces, to protect the
king’s footsteps. In early Babylonian times a god named Lama was one
of the most popular deities of the Babylonian pantheon.

A specimen incantation.

Numerous inscriptions, which may be regarded as dating, in their
origin, from about the middle of the third millennium before Christ,
speak of these supernatural beings, and also of others similar. One of
the most perfect of these inscriptions is a large bilingual tablet of
which a duplicate written during the period of the dynasty of
Hammurabi (before 2000 B.C.) exists, and which was afterwards provided
with a Semitic Babylonian translation. This inscription refers to the
evil god, the evil /utukku/, the /utukku/ of the plain, of the
mountain, of the sea, and of the grave; the evil /sedu/, the glorious
/alu/, or divine bull, and the evil unsparing wind. There was also
that which takes the form of a man, the evil face, the evil eye, the
evil mouth, the evil tongue, the evil lip, the evil breath; also the
afflicting /asakku/ (regarded as the demon of fever), the /asakku/
which does not leave a man: the afflicting /namtaru/ (fate), the
severe /namtaru/, the /namtaru/ which does not quit a man. After this
are mentioned various diseases, bodily pains, annoyances, such as “the
old shoe, the broken shoe-lace, the food which afflicts the body of a
man, the food which turns in eating, the water which chokes in
drinking,” etc. Other things to be exorcised included the spirit of
death, people who had died of hunger, thirst, or in other ways; the
handmaid of the /lilu/ who had no husband, the prince of the /lilu/
who had no wife, whether his name had been recorded or unrecorded.

The method of exorcising the demons causing all these things is
curious. White and black yarn was spun, and fastened to the side and
canopy of the afflicted person’s bed–the white to the side and the
top or canopy, the black to the left hand–and then, apparently, the
following words were said:–

“Evil /utukku/, evil /alu/, evil /edimmu/, evil /gallu/, evil god,
evil /rabisu/, /labartu/, /labasu/, /ahhazu/, /lilu/, /lilithu/,
handmaid of /lilu/, sorcery, enchantment, magic, disaster, machination
which is not good–may they not set their head to his head, their hand
to his hand, their foot to his foot–may they not draw near. Spirit of
heaven, mayest thou exorcise, spirit of earth, mayest thou exorcise.”

But this was only the beginning of the real ceremony. The god Asari-
alim-nunna (Merodach), “eldest son of Eridu,” was asked to wash him in
pure and bright water twice seven times, and then would the evil lier-
in-wait depart, and stand aside, and a propitious /sedu/ and a
propitious /labartu/ reside in his body. The gates right and left
having been thus, so to say, shut close, the evil gods, demons, and
spirits would be unable to approach him, wherever he might be. “Spirit
of heaven, exorcise, spirit of earth, exorcise.” Then, after an
invocation of Eres-ki-gal and Isum, the final paragraph was

“The afflicted man, by an offering of grace
In health like shining bronze shall be made bright.
As for that man,
Samas shall give him life.
Merodach, first-born son of the Abyss,
It is thine to purify and glorify.
Spirit of heaven, mayest thou exorcise, spirit of
earth, mayest thou exorcise.”

Rites and ceremonies.

As may be expected, the Babylonians and Assyrians had numerous rites
and ceremonies, the due carrying out of which was necessary for the
attainment of the grace demanded, or for the efficacy of the thanks
tendered for favours received.

Perhaps the oldest ceremony recorded is that which Ut-napistim, the
Chaldaean Noah, made on the /zikkurat/ or peak of the mountain after
the coming forth from the ship which had saved him and his from the
Flood. The Patriarch’s description of this ceremony is short:–

“I sent forth to the four winds, I poured out a libation
I made an offering on the peak of the mountain:
Seven and seven I set incense-vases there,
Into their depths I poured cane, cedar, and scented wood(?).
The gods smelled a savour,
The gods smelled a sweet savour,
The gods gathered like flies over the sacrificer.”

Following in the footsteps of their great progenitor, the Babylonians
and Assyrians became a most pious race, constantly rendering to their
gods the glory for everything which they succeeded in bringing to a
successful issue. Prayer, supplication, and self-abasement before
their gods seem to have been with them a duty and a pleasure:–

“The time for the worship of the gods was my heart’s delight,
The time of the offering to Istar was profit and riches,”

sings Ludlul the sage, and all the people of his land were one with
him in that opinion.

It is noteworthy that the offering of the Chaldaean Noah consisted of
vegetable produce only, and there are many inscriptions referring to
similar bloodless sacrifices, and detailing the ritual used in
connection therewith. Sacrifices of animals, however, seem to have
been constantly made–in any case, offerings of cattle and fowl, in
list-form, are fairly numerous. Many a cylinder-seal has a
representation of the owner bringing a young animal–a kid or a lamb–
as an offering to the deity whom he worshipped, and in the
inscriptions the sacrifice of animals is frequently referred to. One
of the bilingual texts refers to the offering of a kid or some other
young animal, apparently on behalf of a sick man. The text of this,
where complete, runs as follows:–

“The fatling which is the ‘head-raiser’ of mankind–
He has given the fatling for his life.
He has given the head of the fatling for his head,
He has given the neck of the fatling for his neck,
He has given the breast of the fatling for his breast.”

Whether human sacrifices were common or not is a doubtful point. Many
cylinder-seals exist in which the slaying of a man is depicted, and
the French Assyriologist Menant was of opinion that they represented a
human offering to the gods. Hayes Ward, however, is inclined to doubt
this explanation, and more evidence would seem, therefore, to be
needed. He is inclined to think that, in the majority of cases, the
designs referred to show merely the victims of divine anger or
vengeance, punished by the deity for some misdeed or sin, either
knowingly or unknowingly committed.

In the Assyrian galleries of the British Museum, Assur-nasir-apli,
king of Assyria, is several times shown engaged in religious
ceremonies–either worshipping before the sacred tree, or about to
pour out, apparently, a libation to the gods before departing upon
some expedition, and priests bringing offerings, either animal or
vegetable, are also represented. Assur-bani-apli, who is identified
with “the great and noble Asnapper,” is shown, in bas-reliefs of the
Assyrian Saloon, pouring out a thank-offering over the lions which he
has killed, after his return from the hunt.




As the matter of Babylonian monotheism has been publicly touched upon
by Fried. Delitzsch in his “Babel und Bibel” lectures, a few words
upon that important point will be regarded in all probability as
appropriate. It has already been indicated that the giving of the
names of “the gods his fathers” to Merodach practically identified
them with him, thus leading to a tendency to monotheism. That tendency
is, perhaps, hinted at in a letter of Assur-bani-apli to the
Babylonians, in which he frequently mentions the Deity, but in doing
so, uses either the word /ilu/, “God,” Merodach, the god of Babylon,
or Bel, which may be regarded as one of his names. The most important
document for this monotheistic tendency, however (confirming as it
does the tablet of the fifty-one names), is that in which at least
thirteen of the Babylonian deities are identified with Merodach, and
that in such a way as to make them merely forms in which he manifested
himself to men. The text of this inscription is as follows:–

“. . . is Merodach of planting.
Lugal-aki-. . . is Merodach of the water-course.
Nirig is Merodach of strength.
Nergal is Merodach of war.
Zagaga is Merodach of battle.
Bel is Merodach of lordship and domination.
Nebo is Merodach of trading(?).
Sin is Merodach the illuminator of the night.
Samas is Merodach of righteous things.
Addu is Merodach of rain.
Tispak is Merodach of frost(?).
Sig is Merodach of green things(?).
Suqamunu is Merodach of the irrigation-channel.”

Here the text breaks off, but must have contained several more similar
identifications, showing how at least the more thoughtful of the
Babylonians of old looked upon the host of gods whom they worshipped.
What may be the date of this document is uncertain, but as the
colophon seems to describe it as a copy of an older inscription, it
may go back as far as 2000 years B.C. This is the period at which the
name /Yaum-ilu/ “Jah is God,” is found, together with numerous
references to /ilu/ as the name for the one great god, and is also,
roughly, the date of Abraham, who, it may be noted, was a Babylonian
of Ur of the Chaldees. It will probably not be thought too venturesome
to say that his monotheism was possibly the result of the religious
trend of thought in his time.


Damascius, in his valuable account of the belief of the Babylonians
concerning the Creation, states that, like the other barbarians, they
reject the doctrine of the one origin of the universe, and constitute
two, Tauthe (Tiawath) and Apason (Apsu). This twofold principle,
however, is only applicable to the system in that it makes of the sea
and the deep (for such are the meanings of the two words) two
personages–the female and the male personifications of primaeval
matter, from which all creation sprang, and which gave birth to the
gods of heaven themselves. As far as the physical constituents of
these two principals are concerned, their tenets might be described as
having “materialistic monism” as their basis, but inasmuch as they
believed that each of these two principals had a mind, the description
“idealistic monism” cannot be applied to it–it is distinctly a

And Monism.

Divested of its idealistic side, however, there would seem to be no
escape from regarding the Babylonian idea of the origin of things as
monistic.[*] This idea has its reflection, though not its
reproduction, in the first chapter of Genesis, in which, verses 2, 6,
and 7, water is represented as the first thing existing, though not
the first abode of life. This divergency from the Babylonian view was
inevitable with a monotheistic nation, such as the Jews were,
regarding as they did the Deity as the great source of everything
existing. What effect the moving of the Spirit of God upon the face of
the waters (v.2) was supposed by them to have had, is uncertain, but
it is to be noted that it was the land (vv. 11, 12) which first
brought forth, at the command of God.

[*] Monism. The doctrine which holds that in the universe there is
only a single element or principle from which everything is
developed, this single principle being either mind (/idealistic
monism/) or matter (/materialistic monism/). (Annandale.)

The future life.

The belief in a future life is the natural outcome of a religious
belief such as the Babylonians, Assyrians, and many of the surrounding
nations possessed. As has been shown, a portion of their creed
consisted in hero-worship, which pre-supposes that the heroes in
question continued to exist, in a state of still greater power and
glory, after the conclusion of their life here upon earth.

“The god Bel hates me–I cannot dwell in this land, and in the
territory of Bel I cannot set my face. I shall descend then to the
Abyss; with Aa my lord shall I constantly dwell.” It is with these
words that, by the counsel of the god Aa, Ut-napistim explained to
those who questioned him the reason why he was building the ship or
ark which was to save him and his from the Flood, and there is but
little doubt that the author of the story implied that he announced
thereby his approaching death, or his departure to dwell with his god
without passing the dread portals of the great leveller. This belief
in the life beyond the grave seems to have been that which was current
during the final centuries of the third millennium before Christ–when
a man died, it was said that his god took him to himself, and we may
therefore suppose, that there were as many heavens–places of
contentment and bliss–as there were gods, and that every good man was
regarded as going and dwelling evermore with the deity which he had
worshipped and served faithfully during his lifetime.

Gilgames, the half-divine king of Erech, who reigned during the half-
mythical period, on losing his friend and counsellor, Enki-du, set out
to find him, and to bring him back, if possible, from the underworld
where he was supposed to dwell. His death, however, had not been like
that of an ordinary man; it was not Namtaru, the spirit of fate, who
had taken him, nor a misfortune such as befalls ordinary men, but
Nerigal’s unsparing lier-in-wait–yet though Nerigal was the god of
war, Enki-du had not fallen on the battlefield of men, but had been
seized by the earth (apparently the underworld where the wicked are is
meant) in consequence, seemingly, of some trick or trap which had been
laid for him.

The gods were therefore prayed, in turn, to bring him back, but none
of them listened except Ea, who begged him of Nerigal, whereupon the
latter opened the entrance to the place where he was–the hole of the
earth–and brought forth “the spirit (/utukku/) of Enki-du like mist.”
Immediately after this come the words, “Tell, my friend, tell, my
friend–the law of the land which thou sawest, tell,” and the answer,
“I will not tell thee, friend, I will not tell thee–if I tell thee
the law of the land which I saw, . . . sit down, weep.” Ultimately,
however, the person appealed to–apparently the disembodied Enki-du–
reveals something concerning the condition of the souls in the place
of his sojourn after death, as follows:–

“Whom thou sawest [die] the death(?) [of][*] . . . [I see]–
In the resting-place of . . . reposing, pure waters he drinketh.
Whom in the battle thou sawest killed, I see–
His father and his mother raise his head,
And his wife upon [him leaneth?].
Whose corpse thou hast seen thrown down in the plain, I see–
His /edimmu/ in the earth reposeth not.
Whose /edimmu/ thou sawest without a caretaker, I see–
The leavings of the dish, the remains of the food,
Which in the street is thrown, he eateth.”

[*] (?)”The death of the righteous,” or something similar?

It is naturally difficult to decide in a passage like this, the
difference existing between a man’s /utukku/ and his /edimmu/, but the
probability is, that the former means his spiritual essence, whilst
the latter stands for the ghostly shadow of his body, resembling in
meaning the /ka/ of the Egyptians. To all appearance the abode
described above is not the place of the punishment of the wicked, but
the dwelling of those accounted good, who, if lucky in the manner of
their death, and the disposal of their bodies, enjoyed the highest
happiness in the habitation of the blest. The other place, however, is
otherwise described (it occurs in the account of Istar’s descent into
Hades, and in the seventh tablet of the Gilgames series–the latter
differing somewhat):–

“Upon the land of No-return, the region of . . .,
[Set] Istar, daughter of Sin, her ear.
The daughter of Sin set then her ear . . .
Upon the house of gloom, the seat of Irkalla–[*] Upon the house whose entrance hath no exit,[+] Upon the path whose way hath no return,
Upon the house whose enterers are deprived of light,
Where dust is their nourishment, their food mud,
Light they see not, in darkness they dwell,
Clothed also, like a bird, in a dress of feathers.
Upon the door and bolt the dust hath blown.”

[*] One of the names of Nergal.

[+] Or “whose enterer goeth not forth.”

Seven gates gave access to this place of gloom, and the porter, as he
let the visitor in, took from her (the goddess Istar in the narrative)
at each an article of clothing, until, at the last, she entered quite
naked, apparently typifying the fact that a man can take nothing with
him when he dieth, and also, in this case, that he has not even his
good deeds wherewith to clothe himself, for had they outweighed his
evil ones, he would not have found himself in that dread abode.

On the arrival of Istar in Hades, Eres-ki-gal commanded Namtaru, the
god of fate, to smite Istar with disease in all her members–eyes,
sides, feet, heart, and head. As things went wrong on the earth in
consequence of the absence of the goddess of love, the gods sent a
messenger to effect her release. When he reached the land of No-
return, the queen of the region threatened him with all kinds of
torments–the food of the gutters of the city were to be his food, the
oil-jars of the city (naptha?) his drink, the gloom of the castle his
resting-place, a stone slab his seat, and hunger and thirst were to
shatter his strength. These were evidently the punishments inflicted
there, but as the messenger threatened was a divine one, they were
probably not put into execution, and he obtained his demand, for Istar
was set free, receiving back at each gate, in reverse order, the
clothing and ornaments which had been taken from her when she had
descended thither. It is uncertain whether Tammuz, for whom she had
gone down, was set free also, but as he is referred to, it is not
improbable that this was the case.


Hibbert Lectures, 1887. The Religion of the Ancient Babylonians, by
Professor A. H. Sayce.

The Religious Ideas of the Babylonians, by the Author, 1895 (Journal
of the Victoria Institute, also separately).

The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria, by Morris Jastrow, jun., 1898.
(German edition, vol. i. 1905, vol. ii. in progress.)

Babylonian Religion and Mythology, by L. W. King, M.A., 1899.

Gifford Lectures, 1902. Religions of Egypt and Babylonia, by Professor
A. H. Sayce.

The O.T. in the Light of the Records of Assyria and Babylonia, by the
Author, 1903. (The portions referring to Babylonian Mythology.)

The Hymns to Tammuz in the Manchester Museum, Owens College, by the
Author, 1904.


Dictionary of the Bible, edited by Dr. James Hastings, and
Encyclopaedia Biblica, edited by Professor Cheyne.

End of The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria

This etext was retrieved by ftp from
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