by Morris Jastrow | 1911 | 121,372 words
More than ten years after publishing his book on Babylonian and Assyrian religion, Morris Jastrow was invited to give a series of lectures. These lectures on the religious beliefs and practices in Babylonia and Assyria included: - Culture and Religion - The Pantheon - Divination - Astrology - The Temples and the Cults - Ethics and Life After Death...
THE religion of Babylonia and Assyria passes, in the course of its long development, through the various stages of the animistic conception of nature towards a concentration of the divine Powers in a few supernatural Beings. Naturally, when our knowledge of the history of the Euphrates Valley begins, we are long past the period when practically all religion possessed by the people was summed up in the personification of the powers of nature, and in some simple ceremonies revolving largely around two ideas, Taboo and Totemism. The organisation of even the simplest form of government, involving the division of the community into little groups or clans, with authority vested in certain favoured individuals, carries with it as a necessary corollary a selection from the various personified powers who make themselves felt in the incidents and accidents of daily life. This selection leads ultimately to the formation of the pantheon.
The gods that are prominent in the cult of a religion, in both its official and its popular forms, may be defined as the remainder of the large and indefinite number of Powers recognised everywhere by primitive man. While in the early animistic stage of religion the Power or spirit that manifests itself in the life of the tree is put on the same plane with the spirit supposed to reside in a flowing stream, or with the Power that manifests itself in the heat of the sun or in the severity of a storm, repeated experience gradually teaches man to differentiate between such Powers as markedly and almost continuously affect his life, and such as only incidentally force themselves on his notice. The process of selection receives, as has been already intimated, a strong impetus by the creation of little groups, arising from the extension of the family into a community. These two factors, repeated experience and social evolution, while perhaps not the only ones involved, constitute the chief elements in the unfolding of the religious life of a people.
In the case of the religion of Babylonia and Assyria we find the process of selection leading in the main to the cult of the sun and the moon, of the Power that manifests itself in vegetation, and of the Power that is seen in storms and in bodies of water. Sun, moon, vegetation, storms, and water constitute the forces with which man is brought into frequent, if not constant, contact. Agriculture and commerce being two leading pursuits in the civilisation that developed in the Euphrates Valley, it is natural to find the chief deities worshipped in the various political centres of the earliest period of Babylonian history to be personifications of one or the other of these five Powers. The reasons for the selection of the sun and moon are obvious.
The two great luminaries of the heavens would appeal to a people even before a stage of settled habitation, coincident with the beginnings of agriculture, would be reached. Even to the homeless nomad the moon would form a guide in his wanderings, and as a measure of time would be singled out among the Powers that permanently and continuously enter into the life of the group and of the individual. With an advance from the lower to the higher nomadic stage, marked by the domestication of animals, with its accompanying pastoral life, the natural vegetation of the meadows would assume a larger importance, while, when the stage is reached when man is no longer dependent upon what nature produces of her own accord but when he, himself, becomes an active partner in the work of nature, his dependency upon the Power that he recognises in the sun would be more emphatically brought home to him. Long experience will teach him how much his success or failure in the tilling of the soil must depend upon the favour of the sun, and of the rains in the storms of the winter season. Distinguishing between the various factors involved in bringing about his welfare, he would reach the conception of a great triad—the sun, the power of vegetation and fertility residing in the earth, and the power that manifests itself in storms and rains.
All this applies with peculiar force to the climate of the Euphrates Valley, with its two seasons, the rainy and the dry, dividing the year. The welfare of the country depended upon the abundant rains, which, beginning in the late fall, continued uninterruptedly for several months, frequently accompanied by thunder, lightning, and strong winds. In the earliest period to which we can trace back the history of the Euphrates Valley we find entire districts covered with a network of canals, serving the double purpose of avoiding the destructive floods occasioned by the overflow of the Euphrates and the Tigris, and of securing a more direct irrigation of the fields. To the sun, earth, and storms there would thus be added, as a fourth survival from the animistic stage, the Power residing in the two great streams, and in the Persian Gulf, which to the Babylonians was the “Father of Waters.” Commerce, following in the wake of agriculture, would lend an additional importance to the watery element as a means of transportation, and the sense of this importance would find a natural expression in the cult of water deities. While the chief gods of the pantheon thus evolved are identical with the Powers or spirits that belong to the animistic stage of religion, we may properly limit the designation “deities” to that period in the development of the religious life with which we are here concerned and which represents, to emphasise the point once more, a natural selection of a relatively small number out of a promiscuous and almost unlimited group of Powers.
It is perhaps more or less a matter of accident that we find in one of the centres of ancient Babylonia the chief deity worshipped as a sun-god, in another as a personification of the moon, and in a third as the goddess of the earth. We have, however, no means of tracing the association of ideas that led to the choice of Shamash, the sun-god, as the patron deity of Larsa and Sippar, the moon-god Sin as patron of Ur and Harran, and Ishtar, the great mother-goddess, the personification of the power of vegetation in the earth and of fertility among animals and mankind, as the centre of the cult in Uruk. On the other hand, we can follow the association of ideas that led the ancient people of the city of Eridu, lying at one time at or near the mouth of the Persian Gulf, to select a water deity known as Ea as the patron deity of the place. In the case of the most important of the storm deities, Enlil or Ellil, associated with the city of Nippur, we can also follow the process that resulted in this association; but this process is of so special and peculiar a character that it merits to be set forth in ampler detail.
We have seen that the city of Nippur occupied a special place among the older centres of the Euphrates Valley, marked not by any special political predominance—though this may once have been the case—but by a striking religious significance. Corresponding to this position of the city, we find the chief deity of the place, even in the oldest period, occupying a commanding place in the pantheon and retaining a theoretical leadership even after Enlil was forced to yield his prerogatives to Marduk. The name Enlil is composed of two Sumerian elements and signifies the “lord of the storm.” His character as a storm-god, thus revealed in his name, is further illustrated by traits ascribed to him. The storm constitutes his weapon. He is frequently described and addressed as the “Great Mountain.” His temple at Nippur is known as E-Kur, “Mountain House,” which term, because of the supreme importance of this Temple, became, as we have seen, the general name for a sanctuary. Since, moreover, his consort Ninlil is designated as Nin-Kharsag, “Lady of the Mountain,” there are substantial reasons for assuming that his original seat was on the top of some mountain, as is so generally the case with storm-deities like Jahweh, the god of the Hebrews, the Hittite god Teshup, Zeus, and others. There being no mountains in the Euphrates Valley, the further conclusion is warranted that Enlil was the god of a people whose home was in a mountainous region, and who brought their god with them when they came to the Euphrates Valley, just as the Hebrews carried the cult of Jahweh with them when they passed from Mt. Sinai into Palestine.
Nippur is so essentially a Sumerian settlement that we must perforce associate the earliest cult of Enlil with the non-Semitic element in the population. Almost the only region from which the Sumerians could have come was the east or the north-east—the district which in a general way we may designate by the name Elam, though the Sumerians, like the Cassites in later days, might have originated in a region considerably to the north of Elam. While, as has been pointed out, it is not ordinarily possible to separate the Sumero-Akkadian civilisation into its component parts—Semitic and non-Semitic—and more particularly in reference to gods, beliefs, and rites is any detailed attempt to exactly differentiate between the additions made by one group or another destined to failure, yet in some instances it is possible to do so. The god Enlil is an example of a deity whose Sumerian origin may be set down as certain. His mountainous origin is indicated in an ancient lamentation-hymn in which he is addressed as the “offspring of the mountain,” while the seven chief names given to him clearly demonstrate his Sumerian origin.
Many of these Sumerian hymns, forming part of a ritual of lamentation, give an enumeration of these names:
O lord of the lands!
O lord of the living command!
O divine Enlil, father of Sumer!
O shepherd of the dark-headed people!
O hero who seest by thine own power!
Strong lord, directing mankind!
Hero, who causest multitudes to repose in peace!
The terms in which he is addressed, however, reflect also the broader and more general character given to him, pointing to a deity who has far outgrown the original proportions of a local god with limited sway. The great antiquity of the Enlil cult at Nippur was probably the most important factor in giving to this deity and his temple such significance in the eyes of the inhabitants of the Euphrates Valley. As he pertained to a great religious centre the control whereof stirred the ambition of the various rulers of Euphratean states, it was a natural tendency to assign to Enlil attributes and qualities belonging of right to personifications of natural powers other than the one which he originally represented. Transferred from his original mountain home to a valley dependent for its support on the cultivation of the soil, Enlil assumes the traits of the Power that fosters vegetation. This association becomes all the more likely in view of the climate of the Euphrates Valley, where fertility is dependent upon the storms and rains of winter which Enlil so distinctly personified. In these same ancient compositions he is, therefore, addressed also as the “lord of vegetation,” as well as the “lord of storms.” The storm, sweeping over the land, is personified as his “word” or “command” and described as bringing on devastation and ruin, overwhelming the meadows in their beauty, flooding the crops, and laying waste the habitations of men.
The god is pictured as a rushing deluge that brings woe to mankind, a torrent sweeping away buttresses and dikes, an onrushing storm which none can oppose.
The word that causes the heavens on high to tremble,
The word that makes the earth below to quake,
The word that brings destruction to the Annunaki.
His word is beyond the diviner, beyond the seer,
His word is a tempest without a rival.
The power residing in his word is well summed up in a refrain:
The word of the lord the heavens cannot endure,
The word of Enlil the earth cannot endure.
The heavens cannot endure the stretching forth of his hand,
The earth cannot endure the setting forth of his foot.
But it is this same word which elsewhere is described as having created the world, as having laid the foundations of the earth, and called the upper world into existence. His character as a god of vegetation is directly indicated in another hymn which opens as follows:
O Enlil, Councillor, who can grasp thy power?
Endowed with strength, lord of the harvest lands!
Created in the mountains, lord of the grain fields!
Ruler of great strength, father Enlil!
The powerful chief of the gods art thou,
The great creator and sustainer of life!
Among the ancient Hebrews we have a parallel development; where Jahweh, originally a god of storms, perhaps also of earthquakes, who manifests himself in the lightning, and whose voice is heard in » the thunder, is magnified into the creator of the universe, the producer of vegetation, and the protector of harvests and of crops. Like Enlil, Jahweh comes from the mountains. His seat is on the top of Mt. Sinai, or, as it is said in the Song of Deborah, on Mt. Seir in Edom.
Traces of this early conception of Jahweh as a storm-god still linger in the metaphors of late Psalms where the power of the god of the universe is described:
The voice of Jahweh is upon the waters,
The god of glory thundereth,
Jahweh is upon the great waters.
The voice of Jahweh is full of power,
The voice of Jahweh is full of might,
The voice of Jahweh breaketh cedars,
Jahweh breaks the cedars of Lebanon and makes them skip like a calf,
Lebanon and Sirion like a young mountain-bull.
The voice of Jahweh hews flames of fire,
The voice of Jahweh shakes the wilderness,
Jahweh shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
A vivid description, indeed, of a storm-god rushing onward in furious haste, uprooting mighty cedars and driving them before him like a flock of cattle! The voice of Jahweh is the thunder in the storm, and the flame of fire is the lightning, but what is set down as a metaphor in this late composition is really the survival in language of the conceptions that once were held as literal.
Like Enlil, however, Jahweh assumes also the attributes of the Canaanitish deities of vegetation —the Baals—when the Hebrews, dispossessing the older inhabitants, definitely entered on the agricultural stage. Jahweh himself becomes a Baal to whom the first fruits of the field are offered as a tribute to his power in making the grass to grow and the fields to be covered with verdure (Ps. civ., 14). A further analogy between Enlil and Jahweh is suggested by the description of the former as a mighty ox or bull, which recalls the fact that Jahweh was worshipped in the northern Hebrew kingdom under the symbol of a calf. An entire series of hymns and lamentations is recognised as addressed to Enlil from the opening words “the Bull to his sanctuary,” where the bull designates Enlil.
In a fragment of a hymn, Enlil is described as
In another composition the refrain reads, “A sturdy bull art thou.” When we see votive offerings with the figure of a bull, or representations of a crouching bull with a human face, we are tempted to assert that they are symbols of Enlil; and if this be so, further traces of the association between the god and the animal may be seen both in the colossal bulls which form a feature of Assyrian art and were placed at the entrance to temples and palaces, and in the bull as the decoration of columns in the architecture of the Persian period.
The bull is so commonly in ancient religions a symbol of the power residing in the sun that the association of this animal with Enlil and Jahweh presumably belongs to the period when the original traits of these deities as storm-gods were overlaid by the extended conception of them as gods of vegetation, presiding, therefore, like the solar deities over agricultural life. The Baals of the Canaanites, we know, were personifications of the sun; and in the case of Nippur we can with reasonable certainty name the solar deity, whose attributes were transferred to Enlil.
By the side of Enlil we find a god whose name is provisionally read Ninib prominently worshipped in Nippur in the earliest days to which we can trace back the history of that city. Indeed, Ninib belongs to Nippur quite as much as does Enlil, and there are reasons for believing that he is the original chief protecting deity of the region who was replaced by Enlil. Was he worshipped there before the Sumerians brought their mountain god to the Euphrates Valley? Prof. Clay, who has shown that the real form of the god’s name was En-Mashtu, is of the opinion that he is of Amoritish origin. Without entering into a discussion of this intricate problem, which would carry us too far, it would indeed appear that non-Sumerian influences were at work in evolving the figure of Ninib or En-Mashtu. If it could be definitely shown, as Clay assumes, that Mashtu is a variant form of Martu,—the common designation of Amurru as the “land of the west,”—En-Mashtu, “the lord of Mashtu,” would be the “Sumerian” designation of this non-Sumerian deity.
In the systematised pantheon of the old Babylonian period Ninib is viewed as the son of Enlil, a relationship that expresses the superior position which Enlil acquired, and which is revealed in the common designation of Nippur as the “place of Enlil,” though we find Nippur described also as “the beloved city of Ninib.”
The two gods in combination, the storm and the sun, stand for the two chief forces of nature that control the prosperity and welfare of the Euphrates Valley; and this combination was viewed in terms of human relationship, with the natural consequence of an harmonious exchange of their attributes. It is from Ninib that Enlil receives the traits of a god of vegetation, and, in return, the father transfers to the son, as in another religious centre Ea does to Marduk, some of his own attributes. Like Enlil, Ninib is addressed as the “honoured one.” He is the exalted hero of the universe and it is said of him, as it is said of Enlil, that “no one can grasp the power of his word.” A warrior, he rides forth to carry out his father’s command. So close is this association with Enlil that Ninib even assumes some of the traits belonging to the father as the storm-god.
In a composition that appears to beholder than the days of Hammurapi, Ninib is portrayed as an onrushing storm:
In the thunderous rolling of thy chariot
Heaven and earth quake as thou advancest.'
Most significant, however, as illustrating the exchange of traits between Enlil and Ninib, is the form assumed in an ancient myth symbolising the conquest of chaos—pictured as a great monster—by the Power that brings order into the universe. The obvious interpretation of the myth is the triumph of the sun in the spring over the storms and torrents of the winter.
The character of conqueror belongs, therefore, of right to a solar deity like Ninib, just as it fits the god of Babylon, the later Marduk, who is likewise the sun personified; but in a composition describing the powerful weapons wielded in this conflict by Ninib, we find among the names of the weapons such expressions as
- “storm-god with fifty mouths,”
- “miraculous storm,”
- “destroyer of mountains,”
- “invincible mountain,”
which point unmistakably to a personification of the storm, like Enlil.
These designations appear by the side of others, such as the
- “weapon whose sheen overpowers the land,”
- “the one made of gold and lapis-lazuli,”
- “burning like fire,”
that clearly belong to Ninib as the personification of the fiery sun. The conclusion has generally been drawn that the myth was originally told of Enlil and transferred to Ninib; but Enlil, as a god of the storms and rains of winter, would more naturally be identified with the conquered monster. The more reasonable assumption is that the myth dates from the period when Ninib still held a commanding postion in the “Nippur” circle of deities, and that, with the advance of Enlil to the headship of the pantheon, he was given a share in the conquest of chaos as a necessary condition of the creation of the universe of law and order. Enlil was, accordingly, represented as the power behind the throne who hands over his attributes— symbolised by the storm weapons—to his beloved son, who at the command of his father proceeds to conquer the monster.
We see the same process repeated, though under somewhat different circumstances, at a subsequent period when, in consequence of the political ascendency of Babylon, Marduk is advanced to the head of the systematised pantheon. The time-honoured nature myth, somewhat modified in form, is transferred to him, but by this time the Ninib cult had receded into the background, and Enlil alone is introduced as transferring his powers and attributes to Marduk. Marduk is represented as replacing Enlil, from which one might conclude that, as a further compromise between Enlil and Ninib, the myth was actually told of both, despite the incongruity involved in making a storm-god the conqueror of chaotic confusion. This is not only possible but probable, since, with the expansion of Enlil into a god presiding over vegetation, thus taking on the traits of a sun-god, his original character would naturally be obscured. As he was the head of the pantheon, possessing all the powers attributed to other gods, the tendency would arise to make him the central figure of all myths—the pre-eminent hero and conqueror. At the same time Ninib, as the old-time solar deity of Nippur, also absorbs the duties of other solar gods worshipped in other centres. He is identified with a god Ningirsu, “the lord of Girsu,”—a section of Lagash—who became the chief god of the district controlled by Gudea and his predecessors, of whose solar character there can be no doubt.
In a certain hymn Ninib, is associated not only with Girsu, which here as elsewhere stands for Lagash and the district of which it was the centre, but also with Kish whose patron deity was known as Zamama. In this same composition he is identified also with Nergal, the solar deity of Uruk, with Lugal-Marada, “King of Marada,” the designation of the solar god localised in Marada, and with the sun-god of Isin. The god Ninib appears to have become in fact a general designation for the sun and the sun-god, though subsequently replaced by Babbar, “the shining one,” the solar deity of Sippar. This title in its Semitic form, Shamash, eventually became the general designation for the “sun” because of the prominence which Sippar, through the close association between Sippar and Babylon, acquired as a centre of the sun cult.
Back of Enlil and Ninib, however, there lies still another deity who in an ancient inscription is called the “beloved father” of Enlil. This deity is Anu, whose cult was specially associated with the city of Uruk. While in the active cults of Babylonia and Assyria Anu is comparatively inconspicuous, the position assigned to him in the systematised pantheon is most significant. As early as the days of Lugal-zaggisi we find the endeavour made to group the great gods recognised in connection with the important political centres into a kind of theological system— an endeavour that reveals the intellectual activity of the priests at this early period. In this grouping Anu is given the first place, and Enlil the second. Anu and Enlil, together with Ea, form a triad summarising, as we shall presently see, the three divisions of the universe—the heavens, the earth (together with the region immediately above it), and the waters flowing around and under the earth. But a god of the heavens is an abstraction, and it is difficult to suppose that this should have been the original view taken of Anu.
Popular fancy deals with realities and with personified powers whose workings are seen and felt. It would hardly, therefore, have evolved the view that there was a power to be identified with the heavens as a whole, of which the azure sky is a symbol, as little as it would personify the earth as a whole or the bodies of waters as a whole. It is only necessary to state the implications involved to recognise that the conception of a triad of gods corresponding to three theoretical divisions of the universe is a bit of learned speculation. It smacks of the school. The conception of a god of heaven fits in, moreover, with the comparatively advanced period when the seats of the gods were placed in the skies, and the gods identified with the stars.
Such an astral theology, however, is not a part of the earlier religious beliefs of the Babylonians; it reflects the later conditions produced under the influence of the religious system devised in the temple schools of one or another centre. The deities popularly recognised, particularly in the earlier period, are personifications, each of some definite power, of the sun, of the moon, of the water, of the storms, or of the fields, as the case may be. Analogy, therefore, taken in connection with the great antiquity of Uruk, the seat of Anu worship, justifies the assumption that Anu was originally the personification of some definite power of nature; and everything points to this power having been the sun in the heavens. Starting from this point of view, we can understand how the great luminary of heaven should have been identified with the heavens in an artificially devised theological system, just as Enlil became in this system the designation of the earth and of the region above the earth viewed as a whole.
Anu and Enlil—sun-god and storm-god—would thus represent the same combination as was in later times represented by Shamash and Adad—likewise sun-god and storm-god respectively,—who are so constantly associated together. The two would stand again for the two great forces of nature which control the well-being of the Euphrates Valley. In this respect they present a parallel to the pair, Ninib and Enlil, with this difference, however, that whereas in the latter combination Ninib, the sun-god, is the son, and Enlil, the storm-god, is the father, in the case of Anu and Enlil the relationship is reversed, Anu being the father and Enlil the son. When, therefore, Hammurapi calls himself “the proclaimer of Anu and Enlil,” and derives his royal authority from these two, he is using a form of invocation that is co-extensive with the powers practically controlling the universe as it presented itself to the inhabitants of the Euphrates Valley. That Anu should become the father of Enlil accords also with the physical conditions, for to an agricultural people, as has been pointed out, the sun would naturally be the supreme Power; and we have seen that the pre-eminence accorded in the practical cult to Enlil of Nippur was due to the special circumstances attendant upon the introduction of the worship of the Sumerian storm-god in Nippur. Enlil replaces Ninib at Nippur, whereas the absence of any rivalry between the Anu centre and the Enlil centre led to a more natural combination in which the old sun-god retained his place at the head of the systematised pantheon.
The beginning of an ancient myth in which .Ninib is again the chief character, illustrates the relation in which these three figures—Anu, Enlil, and Ninib—were pictured as standing to one another.
Ninib is addressed:
Like Anu thou art formed,
Like Enlil thou art formed!
The evident purpose of this apostrophe is to show that Ninib has been given the qualities of both Anu and Enlil. As a sun-god, Ninib could be addressed as Anu, while, as we have seen, he derives his qualities as a storm-god direct from Enlil.
The material at our disposal does not permit us as yet to penetrate to the earliest history of such ancient centres as Nippur and Uruk, but the indications in myths and hymns point unmistakably to the currency of stories, attributing to both Anu and Enlil the creation of the universe. It was natural that each centre should claim the privilege for its patron deity; and we shall see that other centres did the same. In the national epic of the Babylonians, recounting the adventures of Gilgamesh, and which is a composite production, dating from various periods, the first scene is laid in Uruk, and the goddess Aruru is portrayed as forming man in the image of Anu. This clearly points to Anu as the source of all being. In an ancient version of a creation myth, which however is modified in the process of adaptation to later conditions, the first two cities to be founded are Nippur and Uruk, while the third city is Eridu, the seat of the Ea cult. The myth, therefore, reflects the constitution of the triad, Anu, Enlil, and Ea. In another form of the myth to which attention was above directed, Ninib appears as the hero; but even in this version, which became the favourite one, the story retained traces of the assignment of the part of conqueror of primaeval chaos to Anu. The same story was evidently told of different solar gods in the various centres. In Uruk the conqueror was the sun-god Anu, in Nippur the sun-god Ninib; but with the definite establishment of Enlil as the head of the pantheon, Ninib becomes merely the agent acting at the command of Enlil, and invested with some of Enlil’s attributes in return for the extension of the sphere of Enlil to include the qualities of his son Ninib.
It was inevitable that with several distinctive factors contributing to the culture and religion of Babylonia and Assyria, the endeavour should be made to adapt the conceptions of the gods and their relationships to one another, and to modify the ancient folk-tales and the cult to meet changed conditions. The evolution of a religion that at each stage reflects a different combination of the political and social kaleidoscope is necessarily complicated.
We have already had occasion to touch upon still more momentous changes introduced into all three elements of the religion,—the pantheon, the myths, and the cult,—by the rise of the predominating influence of Babylon, which was coincident, as we have seen, with the period of Hammurapi, ca. 2000 B.C. The patron deity of the city, whose foundation takes us beyond the time of Sargon, was again a solar deity, Marduk, who, however, belongs to a different group than Anu, Enlil, and Ninib. He is so constantly termed the “son of Ea” that there can be no doubt of his having originated in the region of the Persian Gulf at the head of which lay Eridu, the seat of the worship of Ea. Ea and Marduk thus bear the same relation to each other as do Enlil and Ninib on the one hand, and Anu and Enlil on the other. Of the character of Ea there is fortunately no doubt. He is the god of the waters, and the position of Eridu, at (or near) the point where the Euphrates and Tigris empty into the Persian Gulf, suggests that he is more particularly the guardian spirit of these two streams.
Pictured as half-man, half-fish, he is the skar Apsi, “King of the Watery Deep.” The “Deep,” however, is not the salt ocean but the sweet waters flowing under the earth, which feed the streams, and through streams and canals irrigate the fields. This Apsu was personified, and presented a contrast and opposition to Tiamat, the personification of the salt ocean. The creation myth of Eridu, therefore, pictures a conflict at the beginning of time between Apsu and Tiamat, in which the former, under the direction of Ea, triumphs and holds in check the forces accompanying the monster Tiamat.
As in the case of Enlil, Ea’s strength rests in his word, but the word of Ea is of a character more spiritual than that of Enlil—not the roar of the ocean but the gentle flow of streams. He commands, and what he plans comes into existence. A wholly beneficent power, he blesses the fields and heals mankind. His most striking trait is his love of humanity; in conflicts between the gods and mankind, he is invariably on the side of the latter. When the gods at the instance of Enlil as the god of storms decide to bring on a deluge to sweep away mankind, it is Ea who reveals the secret to his favourite Utnapishtim, who saves himself, his family, and his belongings on a ship that he is instructed to build. At Eridu it is Ea who is regarded as the creator of the universe, including mankind, but he is an artificer who produces by the cunning of his hand. The world is made by him as an architect builds a house. This character he retains throughout all periods. It is to him that the origin of the Arts is attributed: he is the patron of smiths and of all workers in metals. Down through the Greek period the tradition is preserved which makes him the teacher of mankind to whom all knowledge and science are due—the knowledge of effective incantations, the purification from disease, the art of writing, and the wisdom of the heavens.
The waters thus personified by Ea present a striking contrast both to the angry billows of the turbulent and treacherous ocean, and to the waters that on the command of Enlil come from on high, causing the rivers to overstep their banks, bursting the dams and canals, flooding the fields, and working general havoc among the habitations of mankind. The deluge story just referred to not only illustrates this contrast between Ea and Enlil but suggests the rivalry that must at one time have existed between the two centres, Eridu and Nippur. Ea is represented as thwarting the purpose of Enlil, and on discovering what Ea has done, Enlil is enraged with his rival. At the same time, the reconciliation described at the close of the tale indicates the process of combination and assimilation of the two cults under the influence of the priests in their endeavour to systematise the relationship between the deities worshipped in the important centres. Ea eloquently implores Enlil as the god of storms not to bring on a deluge again. Let mankind be punished by sending lions and jackals, by famine or pestilence, but not by a deluge.
Enlil is touched with pity, and, after blessing Utnapishtim and his wife, consents to their being carried to the confluence of the streams, there to live a life like that of the gods. Just as in the association of Anu with Enlil we have the endeavour to bring the cults of Uruk and Nippur into relationship with each other, so in the reconciliation of Enlil with Ea there is foreshadowed, or rather reflected, the addition of the Eridu group of deities to those worshipped in Nippur and Uruk. To the duality of gods represented by Anu and Enlil, the priests in their systematising efforts were thus led to add a third member, Ea. All three were delocalised, as it were, and converted into symbolisations of the three divisions of the universe— heavens, earth, and water. To be sure, the division was not always made with the desirable precision. The earth was in a measure common ground on which Enlil and Ea met. Of the numerous designations for Ea, a very common one was En-ki which describes him as “lord of the earth.” As a water deity it was natural that he should be associated with the earth, also the scene of his beneficent activity. Earth and water represent a close partnership, more particularly in a low country like the Euphrates Valley where one does not have to dig far before coming to the domain of Ea. Enlil thus controls the surface of the earth and the region of storms just above it, while to Ea belongs the control of the waters and the interior of the earth, fed by the streams over which he presides.
There are thus chiefly two factors at work in leading to the formation of a definite and theoretically constructed pantheon:
- the gradual rise of a limited number of important religious and political centres,
- and the endeavour of the priests to bring the cults in these centres into relationship with one another.
The delocalisation involved in the position of Ea as the third member of the triad could proceed without any loss of prestige on his part, since Ea was represented as voluntarily transferring to his son> Marduk, his chief share in the practical cult—that of securing through purification-rites and incantation-formulas release from sickness and physical suffering, brought on by demons or through the machinations of witches and sorcerers. Marduk is the complement to Enlil. Ea and Marduk, personifying the watery element and the sun, thus sum up the two chief Powers of nature, precisely as Enlil and Ninib represent this combination, only from another and more austere point of view.
The solar character of Marduk appears in the two signs with which his name—in its most common form —is written, which designate him as “child of day.” The terms in which he is addressed in hymns further illustrate this character. He is “the shining one” whose course is across “the resplendent heavens.”
His appearance is pictured as a flaming fire. He illuminates the universe, and he is directly associated with Shamash, the chief sun-god of the later pantheon:
Thou art like Shamash, illuminator of darkness.
On the other hand, his association with Ea is equally marked, and as a consequence of this association he assumes the attributes of the god of waters. In incantation-texts a dialogue is frequently introduced in which Ea, when appealed to by the exorcising priests, is represented as calling upon his son to perform the healing act:
What dost thou not know that I could tell thee?
What I know, thou also knowest.
Go! My son Marduk! To the house of purification bring him [i.e., the sick person]!
Break the ban! Release him from the curse!
Marduk, like Ea, is often addressed as the god of canals, and the opener of subterranean fountains:
Lord of mountain streams and of waters,
Opener of sources and cisterns, controller of streams.
Like Ea, again, he is addressed as the source of the wisdom of mankind:
Wise one, first-born of Ea, creator of all humanity.
In representations of the god he stands above the watery deep, with a horned creature at his feet that is also the symbol of Ea. Lastly, Marduk’s temple at Babylon bears the same name, Esagila, “the lofty house,” as Ea’s sanctuary at Eridu, though this, or perhaps another sanctuary of Ea at Eridu, was also known as E-Apsu, “house of the watery deep.”
This agreement in the name of the sanctuaries of the two gods confirms the evidence from other sources, which enables us actually to trace the cult of Marduk back to Eridu. If we find, therefore, the Marduk cult, from a certain period on, centred in a northern city like Babylon, we have every reason to believe that the settlement of this place was due to a movement from the south—and more particularly from the district of which Eridu was the centre—in accord, therefore, with the general course of civilisation in Babylonia from south to north. Babylon thus turns out to be an offshoot of Eridu. Its foundation antedates Sargon, for he finds the city already in existence and enlarges it; but it is possible that it was he who gave to it the name of Babylon.
Opposite Babylon lies the famous town of Borsippa, designated in the inscriptions as “the city of the Euphrates,” which, as may be concluded from the name and from other indications, appears to be an older settlement than Babylon itself, and to have assumed earlier a position of importance as an intellectual and religious centre. When, however, Hammurapi raised Babylon to be the capital of his empire, Borsippa was obliged to yield its prerogatives, and gradually sank to the rank of a mere dependency upon Babylon—a kind of suburb to the capital city. The patron deity of Borsippa was a god known as Nebo, whose cult appears at one time to have been carried over into Babylon—perhaps before Marduk became the patron deity of the place. Marduk, however, replaces Nebo as Enlil replaced Ninib; but, just as at Nippur the older sun cult does not disappear, and Ninib becomes the son of Enlil, so the Nebo cult at Babylon is maintained, and Nebo is viewed as the son of Marduk. In both places, therefore, the “father” god appears to be the intruder who sets aside an older chief deity. The combination of Marduk and Nebo, expressed in these terms of relationship, continues to the end of the Babylonian empire. Nebo has a sanctuary within the temple area of Esagila at Babylon which bears the same name, Ezida, “the true house,” as the one given to Nebo’s temple at Borsippa. In return, Marduk has an Esagila, a “lofty house,” in Borsippa. In the Assyrian and later Babylonian periods the two names, Esagila and Ezida, are generally found in combination, as though inseparable in the minds of the Babylonians.
Similarly, the two gods, Marduk and Nebo, are quite commonly invoked together, e.g., in the formula of greeting at the beginning of official letters, which, even in the case of the correspondence of the Assyrian monarchs, begin:
May Nebo and Marduk bless the king my lord!
Who was this god Nebo? The question is not easy to answer, though the most satisfactory view is to regard him as a counterpart of Ea. Like Ea, he is the embodiment and source of wisdom. The art of writing—and therefore of all literature—is more particularly associated with him. A common form of his name designates him as the “god of the stylus,” and his symbol on Boundary Stones is likewise the stylus of the scribes. He was regarded by the Assyrians also as the god of writing and wisdom, and Ashurbanapal, in the colophons to the tablets of his library, names Nebo and his consort Tashmit as the pair who instructed the king to preserve and collect the literary remains of the past. The study of the heavens formed part of the wisdom which is traced back to Nebo; and the temple school at Borsippa became one of the chief centres for the astrological and, subsequently, for the astronomical lore of Babylonia. The archives of that school in fact formed one of the chief resources for the scribes of Ashurbanapal, though the archives at Babylon were also largely drawn upon. In the Persian and Greek periods the school of Borsippa is frequently mentioned in colophons attached to school texts of various kinds, and it is not improbable that the school survived the one at Babylon.
Like Ea, Nebo is also associated with the irrigation of the fields and with their consequent fertility. A hymn praises him as the one who fills the canals and the dikes, who protects the fields and brings the crops to maturity. From such phrases the conclusion has been drawn by some scholars that Nebo was originally a solar deity, like Marduk, but his traits as a god of vegetation can be accounted for on the supposition that he was a water-deity, like Ea, whose favour was essential to rich harvests. We may, however, also assume that the close partnership between him and Marduk had as a consequence a transfer of some of the father Marduk’s attributes as a solar deity to Nebo, his son, just as Ea passed his traits on to his son, Marduk. Although he is called upon to heal, Nebo plays no part in the incantation-ritual, which revolves, as we shall see, around two ideas—water, represented by Ea, and fire, represented by the fire-god Gibil or Nusku. The predominance of the Ea ritual in incantations left no room for a second water-deity— there was place only for Marduk as an intermediary between Ea and suffering mankind. We may, therefore, rest content with the conclusion that Nebo, like Marduk, belongs to the Eridu group of deities, that, as a counterpart to Ea, his duty was always of a secondary character, and that, with the growing importance of the Marduk cult, he becomes an adjunct to Marduk. This relationship is expressed by making Nebo the son of Marduk. The two pass down through the ages as an inseparable pair—representing a duality, and forming a parallel to that constituted by Ea and Marduk.
Marduk and Nebo sum up, again, the two chief Powers of nature conditioning the welfare of the country—the sun and the watery element— precisely as do Ea and Marduk; with these latter, however, for reasons that have been given, the order is reversed, just as we have the double order, Anu and Enlil—sun and storm—by the side of Enlil and Ninib—storm and sun. The name Nebo designates the god as a “proclaimer,” while another sign with which his name is commonly written describes him as an artificer or creator. No doubt in his seat of worship, Borsippa, Nebo was at one time looked upon as the creator of the universe, just as Ea, Enlil, Ninib, and Marduk were so regarded in their respective centres. He is portrayed as holding the “tablets of fate” on which the destinies of individuals are inscribed. As “writer” or “scribe” among the gods, he records their decisions, as proclaimer or herald, he announces these decisions. Such functions point to his having occupied from an early period the position of an intermediary, and we are probably not wrong in supposing that the god whose orders he carries out was originally Ea, who was later replaced in this capacity by Marduk. Nebo could, however, retain his attributes as the god of writing without injury to the dignity and superiority of Marduk, for in the ancient Orient, as in the Orient of to-day, the kdtib or scribe is not a person of superior rank. Authorship was at no time in the ancient Orient a basis for social or political prestige. A writer was essentially a secretary who acted as an intermediary.
The rank that Nebo holds in the systematised pantheon is due, therefore, almost entirely to his partnership with Marduk, and it is interesting to note that the Assyrian kings avail themselves of this association occasionally to play off Nebo, as it were, against Marduk. Some of them appear to pay their homage to Nebo rather than to Marduk, because the latter was in a measure a rival to the head of the Assyrian pantheon.
Adad-nirari IV. (810-782 B.C.) goes so far in his adoration of Nebo as to inscribe on a statue of this god (or is it his own statue?):
Trust in Nebo! Trust in no other god !
The Nebo cult, which, like that of other gods, had its ebb and flow, must have enjoyed a special popularity in Assyria in the 9th century.
No such rivalry between the Marduk and Nebo cults appears ever to have existed in Babylonia, though it is perhaps not without significance that in the days of the neo-Babylonian empire no less than three of the rulers bear names in which Nebo enters as one of the elements. The position of Marduk was, however, at all times too strong to be seriously affected by fashions in names or changes in the cult. He not only remains during all periods after Hammurapi the head of the pantheon, but as the ages rolled on he absorbed, as has already been pointed out, the attributes of all the great gods of the pantheon. He becomes the favourite of the gods as well as of men. Starting out at Babylon with the absorption of the character of Ea, combining in his person the two Powers, water and the sun, which comprise so large a share of divine government and control of the universe, he ends by taking over also the duties of Enlil of Nippur. This is of the greatest significance. It argues for the boldness of the Marduk priests and for the security of Marduk’s position that they gave to Marduk the title that was so long the prerogative of Enlil, to wit, bel, “the lord” paramount. The old nature-myths are once more adopted by the priests of Marduk and transformed so as to give to Marduk the central position. It is he who seizes the tablets of fate from the Zu bird—the personification of some solar deity,—and henceforth holds the destiny of mankind in his hands.
The creation-myth is transformed into a paeon celebrating the deeds of Marduk. What in one version was ascribed to Anu, in another to Ninib, in a third to Enlil, and in a fourth to Ea, is in the Babylon version ascribed to Marduk. Two series of creation-stories are combined; one embodying an account of a conflict with a monster, the symbol of primaeval chaos, the other a story of rebellion against Ea which is successfully quelled. In the first group we can distinguish three versions, one originating at Uruk in which the solar god Anu becomes the conqueror of Tiamat, the other two originating at Nippur, an earlier one in which the solar god Ninib takes the part assigned, in the Uruk version, to Anu, and a later one in which Enlil replaces Ninib. The character of the myth is thereby changed. Instead of symbolising the triumph of the sun of the springtime over the storms of winter, it becomes an illustration of the subjugation of chaos by the rise of law and order in the universe.
In the Babylon or Marduk version, Anu is at first dispatched by the gods against the monster but is frightened at the sight of her. All the other gods, too, are in mortal terror of Tiamat but Marduk offers to proceed against her on condition that in case of his triumph the entire assemblage of the gods shall pay him homage and acknowledge his sway. The compact is accepted, and Marduk arms himself for the fray. The weapons that he takes— the four winds and the various storms, the tempest, the hurricane, and tornado—symbolise his absorption of the part of Enlil, the god of storms. Marduk meets Tiamat, and dispatches her by inflating her with an evil wind, and then bursting her open with his lance. The gods rejoice and give him their names, a procedure which, according to the views of antiquity, is equivalent to bestowing upon him their essence and their attributes.
After all the gods have thus done, Enlil advances and hails Marduk as bêl mâtâti, “lord of lands,” which was one of Enlil’s special names, and finally Ea solemnly declares that Marduk’s name shall also be Ea:
He who has been glorified by his fathers,
He shall be as I am—Ea be his name!
The purpose of the story is evident. All the religious centres pay homage to Babylon—the seat of the Marduk cult; Marduk absorbs the attributes and powers of all the other gods.
In the schools this prominence of Marduk as a reflection of the political supremacy of Babylon is still further developed, and finds a striking expression in a fragment of composition preserved for us by a fortunate chance:
Ea (?) is the Marduk of canals;
Ninib is the Marduk of strength;
Nergal is the Marduk of war;
Zamama is the Marduk of battle;
Enlil is the Marduk of sovereignty and control;
Nebo is the Marduk of possession;
Sin is the Marduk of illumination of the night;
Shamash is the Marduk of judgments;
Adad is the Marduk of rain;
Tishpak is the Marduk of the host;
Gal is the Marduk of strength;
Shukamunu is the Marduk of the harvest.
From this text, scholars have drawn the conclusion that the Babylonian religion resulted in a monotheistic conception of the universe. Is this justified? In so far as Marduk absorbs the characters of all the other gods, there is no escape from this much of the conclusion:—there was a tendency towards monotheism in the Euphrates Valley, as there was at one time in Egypt. On the other hand, it must be borne in mind that similar lists were drawn up by priests. They reveal the speculations of the temple-schools rather than popular beliefs, but even when thus viewed, their aim was probably to go no farther than to illustrate in a striking manner the universality of the god’s nature so as to justify his position at the head of the pantheon. This position was emphasised in an equally striking manner by the ceremonies of New Year’s day, when a formal assembly of the gods was held in a special shrine in Babylon, close by the temple area, with all the chief gods grouped about Marduk, (just as the princes, governors, and generals stand about the king), paying homage to him as their chief, and deciding in solemn state the fate of the country and of individuals for the coming year.
The Babylonian priest could re-echo the ecstatic cry of the Psalmist (Ps. lxxxvi., 8):
There is none like thee among the gods, O Lord,
And there is nothing like thy works;
with this important difference, however, that, in the mind of the Hebrew poet, Jahweh was the only power that had a real existence, whereas to the Babylonian priest Marduk was merely the first and highest in the divine realm. Still, that the other gods are merely manifestations of Marduk (a fair implication of the list) is a thought which not improbably presented itself to some of the choicer minds among the priests, though it remained without practical consequences. A certain tendency toward a monotheistic conception of the universe is after all no unusual phenomenon, nor is monotheism in itself necessarily, the outcome of a deep religious spirit— it may sometimes be the product of rationalistic speculation. In many a Babylonian composition the term ilu, “god,” is used in a manner to convey the impression that there was only one god to be appealed to. Greek and Roman writers often speak of 0so<; and deus in much the same way as we ourselves do; and even among people on a low level of culture we are constantly surprised by indications that, albeit in a faint and imperfect manner, the thought occurs that all nature is the manifestation of a single Power, though generally not a Power to be directly approached. The distinctive feature of Hebrew monotheism is its consistent adherence to the principle of a transcendent deity, and of the reorganisation of the cult in obedience to this principle. No attempt was made at any time in Babylonia and Assyria to set aside the cult of other gods in favour of Marduk. On the contrary, side by side with the Marduk cult in Babylonia and with the cult of Ashur in Assyria, we find down to the latest period all— Sin, Shamash, Nebo, Ninib, Nergal, Adad, Ishtar —receiving in their special shrines the homage which tradition and long established ritual had prescribed.
After having thus sketched in some detail the character and development of Anu, Enlil, Ea, Ninib, Nebo, and Marduk, we can be briefer in our consideration of the remaining chief figures in the Babylonian-Assyrian pantheon.
The importance of solar cults in an agricultural community explains the circumstance that we encounter so many centres in which the chief deity is a sun-god. It has been already pointed out that the god who was probably the original patron deity of Nippur—Ninib—was a solar deity, that Anu of Uruk was such a deity and Marduk likewise, and that Ninib, becoming in consequence of the pre-eminent religious position of Nippur the chiefest sun-god, absorbs other sun-gods such as Ningirsu of Lagash and Zamama of Kish. In addition, there are three other important centres in ancient Babylonia in which the patron deity represents some phase of the sun—Cuthah, Larsa, and Sippar. In Cuthah he was known as Nergal, in Larsa and Sippar as Ut, “day,” or Babbar “shining one,” for which the Semitic form is Shamash. Cuthah appears to have been a very early Sumerian settlement, though it never rose to any striking political importance, and the same is the case with Larsa, while Sippar, not far from Babylon, seems to have been one of the earliest strongholds of the Semites.
Too much stress must not be laid, however, on such distinctions, for, as we have seen, the mixture of Sumerians and Semites was so pronounced, even in the oldest period revealed by the documents at our command, that a differentiation between Semitic and non-Semitic elements in the conceptions formed of the gods is not generally possible. Climatic and sociological conditions are more effective factors in such conceptions than racial traits. More important for our purposes is it to recognise that there are two phases presented by the sun in a climate like that of Babylonia and Assyria. On the one hand, he is the great beneficent power who triumphs over the storms and rains of winter, who repairs the havoc wrought by the flooding of the land and by the destruction through violent winds, and clothes nature in a garment of verdant glory. But he is also a destructive force. The fierce heat of the summer evokes distress and sickness.
The sun may become a fire that burns up the crops. For reasons that are not as clear as one might wish, Nergal becomes, in Babylonian theology, the type of the sun’s destructive power. He is associated with pestilence, famine, and the grave; and we shall see, in a subsequent lecture, that, as a gloomy and morose god, he is assigned to a position at the head of a special pantheon of the lower world where the dead dwell. His city, Cuthah, becomes a poetical designation for the great gathering-place of the dead, and his name is explained, perhaps fancifully, as “the lord of the great dwelling,” that is, the grave. It is quite within the range of possibility that Cuthah may have been a place that acquired special sanctity as a burial-place, as Kerbela, in the same region, is still regarded as such by the Shiite sect of Islam. The animal associated with Nergal, as a symbol, is a fierce lion, and he is pictured as greedy for human victims. The various names assigned to him, almost without exception, emphasise this forbidding phase of his nature, and the myths associated with him deal with destruction, pestilence, and death. Naturally, Nergal is also pictured as a god of war, bringing about just the results for which he would be held responsible. In Babylonian-Assyrian astrology, he is identified with the planet Mars, and the omen-literature shows that Mars in ancient days, as still at the present time, was regarded as the planet unlucky above all others.
Whatever the reasons that led to this concentration of all the unfavourable phases of the sun-god on Nergal, the prominence that the cult of Babbar (or Shamash) at Sippar acquired was certainly one of the factors involved. This cult cannot be separated from that at Larsa. The designation of the god at both places is the same, and the name of the chief sanctuary of the sun-god at both Larsa and Sippar is E-Babbar (or E-Barra), “the shining house.” The cult of Babbar was transferred from the one place to the other, precisely as Marduk’s worship was carried from Eridu to Babylon. While Larsa appears to be the older of the two centres, Sippar, from the days of Sargon onward, begins to distance its rival, and, in the days of Hammurapi, it assumes the character of a second capital, ranking immediately after Babylon, and often in close association with that city. Even the cult of Marduk could not dim the lustre of Shamash at Sippar. During the closing days of the neo-Babylonian empire, the impression is imparted that there was, in fact, some rivalry between the priests of Sippar and those of Babylon. Nabonnedos, the last king of Babylonia, is described as having offended Marduk by casting his lot in with the adherents of Shamash, so that when Cyrus enters the city he is hailed as the saviour of Marduk’s prestige and received with open arms by the priests of Babylon.
The original solar character of Marduk, we have seen, was obscured by his assuming the attributes of other deities that were practically absorbed by him, but in the case of Shamash at Sippar no such transformation of his character took place. He remains throughout all periods the personification of the beneficent power residing in the sun. The only change to be noted as a consequence of the pre-eminence of the cult at Sippar is that the sun-god of this place, absorbing in a measure many of the minor localised sun-cults, becomes the paramount sun-god, taking the place occupied in the older Babylonian pantheon by Ninib of Nippur. The Semitic name of the god—Shamash— becomes the specific term for the sun, not only in Babylonia but throughout the domain of the Semites and of Semitic influence.
A place had, however, to be found for sun-cults at centres so important that they could not be absorbed even by Shamash of Sippar. Nippur retained its religious prestige throughout all vicissitudes, and its solar patron was regarded in the theological system as typifying more particularly the sun of the springtime; wThile at Cuthah Nergal was pictured as the sun of midsummer with all the associations connected with that trying season. The differentiation had to a large extent a purely theoretical import. The practical cult was not affected by such speculations and no doubt, at Cuthah itself, Nergal was also worshipped as a beneficent power. On the other hand, Ninib, as a survival of the period when he was the “Shamash” of the entire Euphrates Valley, is also regarded, like Nergal, as a god of war and of destruction along with his beneficent manifestations. In ancient myths dealing with his exploits his common title is “warrior,” and the planet Saturn, with which he is identified in astrology, shares many of the traits of Mars-Nergal. Shamash of Sippar also illustrates these two phases. Like Ninib, he is a “warrior,” and often shows himself enraged against his subjects.
The most; significant feature, however, of the sun-cult in Babylonia, which applies more particularly to Shamash of Sippar, is the association of justice and righteousness with the god. Shamash, as the judge of mankind, is he who brings hidden crimes to light, punishing the wrongdoers and righting those who have been unjustly condemned. It is he who pronounces the judgments in the courts of justice. The priests in their capacity of judges speak in his name. Laws are promulgated as the decrees of Shamash; it is significant that even so ardent a worshipper of Marduk as Hammurapi places the figure of Shamash at the head of the monument on which he inscribes the regulations of the famous code compiled by him, thereby designating Shamash as the source and inspiration of law and justice.
The hymns to Shamash, almost without exception, voice this ascription. He is thus addressed:
The progeny of those who deal unjustly will not prosper.
What their mouth utters in thy presence
Thou wilt destroy, what issues from their mouth thou wilt dissipate.
Thou knowest their transgressions, the plan of the wicked thou rejectest.
All, whoever they be, are in thy care;
Thou directest their suit, those imprisoned thou dost release;
Thou hearest, O Shamash, petition, prayer, and imploration.
Another passage of the hymn declares that
He who takes no bribe, who cares for the oppressed
Is favoured by Shamash,—his life shall be prolonged.
The moon-cult of Babylon is associated chiefly with two centres, Ur and Harr an, of which Ur is the older and the more important, and the centre of a Sumerian dynasty which represents almost the last effort of the non-Semitic population to control the Euphrates Valley. Harran, to the north, falls within the domain where the Semites developed their greatest strength, but despite this fact the moon-cult at that place may represent a transfer from Ur, as that of the sun-god was transferred from Larsa to Sippar. The god, Sin, appears under various designations; prominent among them is that of En-Zu, “the lord of knowledge,” of which the name Sin may be a derivative. As the god of wisdom, he reminds us of Nebo, but his knowledge lies more particularly in reading the signs in the heavens. It is in astrological lore and through the widespread influence of astrology in Babylonia and Assyria that Sin appears in the full exuberance of his powers. The moon as the great luminary of the night, with its constantly changing phases, forms, in fact, the basis of divination through the phenomena observed in the heavens. This form of divination, as we shall see in a subsequent lecture, is the direct outcome of speculation in the temple-schools—not an outgrowth of popular beliefs,—but such was the importance that astrology (which may be traced back to the days of Sargon) acquired in the course of time that in an enumeration of the gods, even in texts other than astrological compilations, Sin invariably takes precedence over Shamash.
The Semitic form of his name is Nannar, which means “illumination” or “luminary,” and this appears to be a designation more particularly connected with the cult at Harran. It is by virtue of being the great luminary of the night also that he becomes the “father of the gods,” as he is frequently called in hymns. He is depicted on seal cylinders as an old man with a flowing beard, said in poetical compositions to be of a lapis-lazuli colour. His headgear consists of a cap on which the horns of the moon are generally indicated; and it is interesting to note, as pointing to the influence acquired by the moon-cult, that the horns became a general symbol of divinity which, e.g., Naram-Sin attaches to his head on the famous monument on which he depicts himself as a ruler with the attribute of divinity.
The antiquity of the moon-cult is attested by very ancient Sumerian hymns that have come down to us, in which he is frequently described as sailing along the heavens in a ship. It is a reasonable supposition that the moon’s crescent suggested this picture of a sailing bark. The association between Sin and the city of Ur is particularly close, as is seen in the common designation of this centre as the “city of Nan-nar.” No doubt the political importance of the place had much to do with maintaining the high rank accorded to Sin in the systematised pantheon. And yet outside of his sphere in Baby Ionian-Assyrian astrology, the moon-cult, apart from special centres like Ur and Harr an, is not a prominent feature in the actual worship. The agricultural life is too closely dependent on the sun to permit of any large share being taken by the moon. He is not among the Powers whose presence is directly felt in communities whose chief occupation is the tilling of the soil; and, as has already been suggested, his position in astrological divination determines the relationship in which he stands to both gods and mankind. The goddess Ishtar is often spoken of as the daughter of the moon, but this is due to the identification of Ishtar in the astrological system with Venus; it is natural that Venus should be regarded as the offspring of the luminary of night, just as the other planets, and the stars in general, would be so regarded. This did not hinder Ishtar from being viewed also as the daughter of Anu. The most common sign with which the name of the moon is written is the number “thirty” —taken evidently from the average period of her course.
Ishtar, as the daughter of the moon, is, therefore, written with the number fifteen, while the sun appears as twenty. So at every turn we encounter, as regards the moon, some association with astrology or with the calendar, which was naturally regulated among the Babylonians, as among all other nations, by the course and phases of the moon. There was no possibility of rivalry between the moon and the sun. Each had its function; and the harmonious division of the direction of the heavens between the two was the form in which the relationship between them was viewed by both Babylonians and Assyrians. The moon, to be sure, was popularly viewed as having been captured when at the end of the month it disappeared for three days, but its discomfiture was not supposed to be due to any conflict between the moon and the sun. Hostile powers of the night had temporarily gained the supremacy in the heavens, and the same explanation was offered in the case of an eclipse, whether of the moon or of the sun.
As a consequence of this harmonious relationship, it was not felt to be an inconsistency that, on the one hand, Sin should be the “father” of the gods, while on the other hand, Anu as the first member of the “theological” triad should be also thus regarded and that, therefore, Ishtar should be at once the daughter of Sin and of Anu. As a solar deity Anu directs the heavens by day; and the local sun-god of Uruk becoming in the pantheon devised by the priests the god of the heavens viewed as a whole, it was natural that under the added influence of the astrological system which placed the seats of all the gods in heaven, Anu should become the progenitor of the entire pantheon. A further outcome of this double current of theological speculation is that we obtain by the side of the triad Anu, Enlil, and Ea (representing, it will be recalled, the three great divisions of the universe) a second triad of a more restricted character, betraying the influence of the astrological system, which assigns to Sin the first place, followed by Shamash, with Ishtar, as the planet Venus, as the third member. From another point of view these three deities summed up again the chief manifestations of divine Power in the universe: Sin as the leader of the hosts of the mighty heavens, Shamash, the beneficent power of the sun, and Ishtar, by virtue of her original attribute, as the goddess of the earth, the mother of life and the source of fertility.
To this triad, a fourth figure is frequently added— the god Adad, who is also known as Ramman, and who in several respects occupies a peculiar position in the Baby Ionian-Assyrian pantheon. He is essentially a god of storms and rains, as Enlil originally was. His symbol is the thunderbolt or the forked lightning which he holds in his hand. Though often referred to in myths of a high antiquity, and not infrequently mentioned in votive inscriptions of the earlier rulers of Babylonia, he does not appear to have had any special centre of worship in Babylonia proper. There is no city specifically associated with the Adad cult. This fact, together with the circumstance that a common designation of the god describes him as a deity of the west or Amurru, points to his being an importation into the Euphrates Valley, brought there by an Amoritish wave of migration, and, though assimilated by the Babylonian pantheon, he retains traces of his foreign origin. Moreover, at the time that Adad, or Ramman, was carried into the Euphrates Valley, the chief political and religious centres must have been already definitely constituted, so that Adad appears in the character of an interloper. He bears this character also in Assyria for, although the oldest temple in Assyria is dedicated to him, it is in association with Anu. The double temple of this pair of gods at Ashur has been recently thoroughly excavated, and can now be traced back to the very beginnings of Assyrian history—to about 2400 B.C. The temple is always spoken of as that of Anu and Adad; and this unusual combination of two gods, associated in the name of the temple, suggests that the one or the other represents an afterthought. Since the name of Anu always appears first, there can be no doubt that he is the original deity in whose honour the sanctuary at Ashur was erected.
Anu, as we have seen, was a solar deity and his association with Adad is, accordingly, of the same nature as the partnership of Anu and Enlil, of Ninib and Enlil, and of Shamash and Adad, the sun-god and the storm-god in all these cases forming a duality which symbolises and sums up the two chief Powers of nature determining the welfare of the country. The addition of Adad to Anu thus reveals the introduction of the worship of the former in the old capital of Assyria, and the importance of the western influence represented by Adad may be gauged by the position accorded him at the side of Anu. Since Prof. Clay has made it probable that traces of this influence are to be seen in some of the conceptions connected with the other chief deities of Babylonia—Ninib, Shamash, Marduk, and even Ea—we may assume this influence to have first manifested itself in Assyria, and then to have spread to the south. We should thus have a counter-current to that northern extension of the Euphratean culture that would account for the presence of the Anu cult in the old city of Ashur. That Anu, and not Ninib or Shamash should have been the solar deity to be thus carried to the north is an indication of the great antiquity of the settlement of Ashur, since the transfer must have taken place at a time when Uruk—the seat of the Anu cult in the south—was one of the chief centres of sun-worship, just as the influence of Uruk is to be seen again in the choice of Anu as the first member of the triad. We thus have indicated the probable order in the predominance of the centres of sun-worship, Anu, Ninib, Shamash, and Marduk, corresponding to the centres, Uruk, Nippur, Sippar, and Babylon.
Adad is also designated as the “great mountain,” precisely as is Enlil, and, indeed, he is so completely a counterpart of Enlil that this was perhaps a reason why Adad was never assigned to any special cult centre. It is significant, however, that in the collection of astrological omens it is Adad and not Enlil who appears as the representative of atmospheric disturbances such as thunder, lightning, tempests, tornadoes, inundations, and hail-storms—an indication, therefore, that the astrological system was not yet worked out at a time when Enlil held supreme sway. Correspondingly, in the “liver” omens—the other great division of Baby Ionian-Assyrian divination—the deities invoked are Shamash and Adad. The home of the Amorites being in the mountainous regions of northern Palestine and Syria, their chief deity would naturally be a mountain god, associated with storms and thunder and lightning. Like Enlil and Jahweh, however, Adad at least in his old home, Syria, under the form of Hadad takes on the traits also of a solar deity. There are some indications that in Babylonia and Assyria this transformation, through a partial assimilation of Adad with Enlil, likewise took place, though never to the extent of obscuring the original character of the god as the one presiding over the violent phenomena of nature.
In Assyria Anu is replaced by a god, bearing the same name as the ancient capital, Ashur. The Assyrian theologians themselves explained Ashur as a contraction of An-shar, which would convey the idea of “Anu of the universe.” An older form of Ashur appears to be Ashir, which may have the general sense of “leader.” Linguistically, the change of Ashir to Ashur can be accounted for, but not the transformation of An-shar to Ashur or Ashir; so that we must assume the “etymology” of Ashur, proposed by some learned scribe, to be in the nature of a play upon the name. The correct instinct underlying this play is, however, the reminiscence that the chief god of Ashur was originally Anu, whose cult was transferred from Uruk, or some other seat in the south, following in the wake of the northward extension of the culture, just as the cult of Marduk moved from Eridu to Babylon. This presiding deity of Ashur was so generally termed the god of Ashur that in time both god and place became identical. This identification may have been assisted by the addition of the title skar to Anu, conveying the idea of large sway, and added, perhaps, in order to distinguish this later Anu from his southern prototype. Be this as it may, the solar character of Ashur is beyond doubt. He is the counterpart of Anu, as well as of Ninib and Shamash. His symbol is the sun-disc with wavy rays extending to the circumference of the disc; and though this impressive symbol was materialised, so to speak, by the addition of a warrior with an arrow within the disc, as an expression of the warlike attributes associated by the Assyrians with their patron deity, still the influence of the symbol was not lost, in lending to the conception of the deity a more spiritual character than is possible when gods are portrayed in human or in animal shape; and, as has been pointed out, it was the Assyrians who thus made a contribution, of no small import, to the stock of religious ideas which they owed to the Babylonians.
The cult of Ashur was essentially a worship devoid of images. This did not, however, prevent the god from absorbing the traits of other gods to whom he stood in no direct relationship. To the Assyrians Ashur, naturally, assumed the same rank as Enlil acquired in the older Babylonian pantheon, and as in later periods Marduk assumed. He becomes in fact the Marduk of the north, and like Marduk is regarded as the great bel —the lord paramount. Other members of the pantheon affect his colour,—little Ashurs by the side of the great one. In a manner, therefore, somewhat different from the case of Marduk, he becomes the dominating figure that over-shadows all others. He is the Great God, the God of Gods beside whom all others pale into insignificance. He is the embodiment of the genius of Assyria and, with the definite establishment of Assyria as a great war power whose watchword is conquest and the aim of whose rulers is universal sway, Ashur becomes first and foremost a war-lord, the protector of Assyrian armies, and whose symbol is carried into camp and battle as an assurance of the direct presence of their god in the midst of the fray. The victories of the Assyrian armies were triumphs for Ashur, and the booty of war was his property. The standing phrase in the annals of the Assyrian kings is that “by the help of Ashur” the enemy was overthrown.
But while the kings of Assyria never fail to give to Ashur the homage due him, and invariably begin the enumeration of the pantheon with his name, the gods of Babylonia by the force of tradition retain their influence also in the north. The greatest among these kings, Tiglathpileser I., Shalmaneser III., Sargon, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon, and Ashurbanapal, manifest the greatest anxiety to associate with Ashur all the great gods of the pantheon,—Marduk, Nebo, Ea, Sin, Shamash, Adad, Ninib, Nergal, and Nusku. They apparently take every opportunity of enumerating the long list in order to emphasise their attachment to these associates of their patron deity and, by implication, the devotion of all the great gods to the service of themselves as kings. To the title “King of Assyria,” they were on every occasion ambitious to add that of “King of Sumer and Akkad,” and “King of the Four Regions.” To these titles that had come down to them from hoary antiquity, they even added “lieutenant of Bel,” to indicate their control of the south, and “King of Universal Rule,” to symbolise the policy, consistently maintained, of their conquest of the world. To the array of gods, with Ashur at the head, whom they invoke as the protectors of their realm and allies of their ambitions, they never failed to add the powerful goddess Ishtar.
This brings us in a general survey to the last of the important deities of Babylonia and Assyria, the great mother-goddess, worshipped in a threefold capacity as the goddess of fertility and vegetation, as the goddess of war, and as the goddess of love. In many respects she is the most interesting figure in the B abyIonian-Assyrian pantheon.
While every male god of the pantheon had a consort, these goddesses had but a comparatively insignificant share in the cult. In many cases, they have not even distinctive names but are merely the counterpart of their consorts, as Nin-lil, “lady of the storm,” by the side of En-lil, “lord of the storm,” or still more indefinitely as Nin-gal, “the great lady,” the consort of the moon-god Sin, or as Dam-kina, “the faithful spouse,” the female associate of Ea, or as Shala, “the lady” paramount, the consort of Adad. In other cases they are specified by titles that furnish attributes reflecting the traits of their consorts, as Sarpanit, “the brilliantly shining one,” the common designation of the consort of Marduk—clearly an allusion to the solar quality of Marduk himself,—or as Tashmit, “obedience,” the consort of Nebo—plausibly to be explained as reflecting the service which Nebo, as son, owes to his father and superior, Marduk. In the case of Anu we find his consort designated by the addition of a feminine ending to his name. As Antum, this goddess is merely a pale reflection of her lord and master. Somewhat more distinctive is the name of the consort of Ninib, Gula, meaning “great one.” This, at least, emphasises the power of the goddess, though in reality it is Ninib to whom “greatness” attaches, while Gula, or Bau, as she is also termed, shines by reflected glory.
In all these instances it is evident that the association of a female counterpart with the god is merely an extension to the circle of the gods of the social customs prevalent in human society; and the inferior rank accorded to these goddesses is, similarly, due to the social position assigned in the ancient Orient to woman, who, while enjoying more rights than is ordinarily supposed, is yet, as wife, under the complete control of her husband—an adjunct and helpmate, a junior if not always a silent partner, her husband’s second self, moving and having her being in him.
But by the side of these more or less shadowy consorts there is one goddess who occupies an exceptional position, and even in the oldest historical period has a rank equal to that of the great gods. Appearing under manifold designations, she is the goddess associated with the earth, the great mother-goddess who gives birth to everything that has life—animate and inanimate. The conception of such a power clearly rests on the analogy suggested by the process of procreation, which may be briefly defined as the commingling of the male and female principles. All nature, constantly engaged in the endeavour to reproduce itself, was thus viewed as a result of the combination of these two principles. On the largest scale sun and earth represent such a combination. The earth bringing forth its infinite vegetation was regarded as the female principle, rendered fruitful by the beneficent rays of the sun. “Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return” illustrates the extension of this analogy to human life, which in ancient myths is likewise represented as springing into existence from mother-earth. It is, therefore, in centres of sun-worship, like that of Uruk, where we find the earliest traces of the distinctive personality of a mother-goddess. To this ancient centre we can trace the distinctive name, Ishtar, as the designation of this goddess, though even at Uruk, she is more commonly indicated by a vaguer title, Nana, which conveys merely the general idea of “lady.” The opening scene of the great national epic of Babylonia, known as the adventures of Gilgamesh, is laid in Uruk, which thus appears as the place in which the oldest portion of the composite tale originated.
In various parts of this epic, the goddess, Ishtar is brought forward, accompanied by her maidens, who, symbolising various phases of the feminine principle, compose a court of love and passion. Ishtar woos Gilgamesh, the hero of the epic, here portrayed as a solar deity; but the hero rejects the advances of the goddess and reminds her of the sad fate incurred by her lovers, who after a brief union are driven forth from her embrace, and encounter various misfortunes, that involve a loss of vitality. The tale is clearly a form of the general nature-myth of the union of sun and earth, which, after a short time, results in the decline of the sun’s force. Tammuz, an ancient personification of the sun of the springtime, is named as the first of Ishtar’s lovers; he becomes her consort and is then slain by the goddess, and consigned to the nether world, the abode of the dead. The promise made by Ishtar to Gilgamesh to present him with a chariot of lapis-lazuli, and to shelter him in a palace of plenty, unmistakably points to the triumph of the sun when vegetation is at its height. Tammuz and Ishtar, like Gilgamesh and Ishtar, thus represent the combination of the two principles which bring about life; and upon their separation follow decay and death.
Thus, parallel with the dual principle of sun and storm (variously personified as Anu and Enlil, Ninib and Enlil, Shamash and Adad, representing the two chief Powers controlling the welfare of the country), we have another and more philosophical duality, representing the male and female principles; and this, likewise, is variously personified. Under its influence the consorts of the chief gods become forms of the great mother-goddess. Sarpanit, the consort of Marduk, becomes an Ishtar and is frequently so designated. In the north, Ishtar becomes the consort of Ashur, and is then still further differentiated as the Ishtar of Nineveh, the Ishtar of Arbela, and the “Queen of Kidmurru.” Though we are no longer able to follow the process in detail which led to the disassociation of Ishtar from the local limitations that must originally have hemmed her in, there can be no question that the title, Ishtar, became, in time, the general designation of the supreme goddess herself, who, in association with some personification of the supreme male principle, becomes virtually the only distinctive female figure in the pantheon.
The name, Ishtar, becomes, in fact, the generic designation of “goddess,” from which a plural ishtardti is formed to convey the idea of “goddesses,” or consorts of male deities, independent of the specific character of the latter. In the astrological system developed in Babylonia, Ishtar is identified with the planet Venus, and as such becomes known as the “queen of heaven,” furnishing guidance for mankind through the omens connected with her double character of evening and morning star. It is due to this more purely speculative phase of the conceptions connected with Ishtar that she is represented in the Gilgamesh epic as the daughter of Anu, and not, as we might have expected, his consort. The epic reflects herein, as in other particulars, the results of the theological and astrological elaboration of popular beliefs, which, as we have seen, led to Anu becoming the personification of the heavens as a whole. All the planets, including Ishtar, become therefore Anu’s children, just as from another aspect of astrological speculation Ishtar is viewed as the daughter of the moon-god Sin. Sin is the head of the hosts of heaven, and in the astrological system, as we have seen, takes precedence of the sun, thereby assuming the highest position as “the father of the gods,” and forming the basis of all divination-lore derived from the observance of heavenly phenomena.
The goddess Ishtar of Uruk, though traced back to an early period and undergoing various transformations, was not, as will, I trust, have become evident by this time, peculiar to that place. A similar deity, symbolising the earth as the source of vegetation—a womb wherein seed is laid,—must have been worshipped in other centres, where the sun-cult prevailed. So, as has already been intimated, the consort of the old solar deity Ninib represents this great female principle. Their union finds a striking expression in a myth which represents the pair, Ninib and Gula (or Bau), celebrating a formal marriage ceremony on the New Year’s day (coincident with the vernal equinox), receiving wedding presents, and ushered into the bridal chamber with all the formalities incident to the marriage rite, as observed to this day in the modern Orient.
When, therefore, the Psalmist describes the sun as
Coming like a bridegroom from his bridal chamber,
he is using a metaphor derived from the old myth of the marriage of the sun with the earth in the happy springtime of nature’s awakening.
This conception of a great mother-goddess was not limited to the Euphrates Valley. It is found where-ever Semites settled and, apparently through their influence, spread to other nations. The Ashtart of the Phoenicians (Greek Astarte) and the Ashtoreth— an intentional corruption of Ashtart—of the Ca-naanites, all represent the same goddess and the same idea of the combination of the two principles, male and female, designated by the Phoenicians and Ca-naanites as Baal. On Hittite monuments representations of the mother-goddess are found, and classical writers record the tradition that the worship of Aphrodite among the Greeks originated in Cyprus, where traces of the Ashtart cult have been discovered. Ishtar is, therefore, distinctively a Semitic idealisation, as the name is certainly-Semitic.' Both the conception and name must therefore have been carried to the Euphrates by the earliest. Semitic settlers.
As the one great goddess and as .the consort of the chief god of the pantheon/ Ishtar, in addition to her specific character, naturally takes the traits of her consort. A close association of:two deities, as .we have seen, always brings about a: certain interchange of attributes, Just as two persons living together are very apt to acquire each other’s peculiarities, and even come to look alike. Enlil'becomes like Ninib, and Ninib like Enlil, and so the association of Ishtar— under whatsoever name—with the sun-god leads to her being described in "terms which might with equal propriety be addressed to Ninib, Nergal, Marduk, or Shamash.
She is called
- “the light of heaven and earth,”
- “the shining torch of heaven,”
- “light of all dwellings.”
Her sheen is compared to a fire that illumines the land. In part, no doubt, such,descriptions arise from the astrological identification of the goddess with the planet Venus, but they occur also in compositions which are free from any allusions to the planetary orb; and when we find her also apostrophised as the one who “directs mankind,” “judging the cause of-man with justice and righteousness,” and “as punishing the bad and the wicked,” there can be no doubt that such traits, which, we have seen, form the special prerogatives of the sun-god, are the reflections of her association with that deity. Again, the association with Enlil, the storm-god, whose consort Ninlil, as has been pointed out, becomes an Ishtar, must be regarded as the factor which leads to Ishtar’s being described as “a controller of the clouds,” “a raging storm devastating heaven and earth,” whose voice “thunders over all:partsof the universe.” The association with the water-god Ea is to be seen again in the figure of the'goddess presiding over streams and canals.
More significant still is the development of the mother goddess-into the Ishtar of battles, pictured as armed with bow and quiver, and encouraging the army to the fray. This transformation is evidently due to the reflection of the warlike attributes of her consort—the patron deity of a great centre or the chief god of the entire pantheon, who naturally becomes the protector of the ruler and of his army, either for defence or offence. A storm-god like Enlil was especially adapted to become a god of war,—but so, also, was a deity like Nergal, personified as the destructive power of the fierce rays of the sun of midsummer. We have seen how Ninib, the sun-god of the spring, also takes on the traits of the warrior Enlil, his father. Shamash, likewise, is not merely the “judge of heaven and earth” but also the “warrior,” and is very frequently so termed; and when Marduk, as the head of the later pantheon, receives the qualities of all the great gods, he too becomes a god of battles and passes on those qualities to his consort Sarpanit, identified with Ishtar. In an ancient hymn, attached to a song of praise in honour of Hammurapi (probably an adaptation of a composition much earlier than the time of the great conqueror), Ishtar is described as the deity who furnishes aid “in war and battle.” In many of the religious compositions prepared for her cult, both of the earlier and of the later periods, the goddess is called “the warlike Ishtar,” “the powerful one among the goddesses,” the martial “lady of victory,” “girded for the fray,” and invoked to secure the stability of the throne and of the kingdom.
More particularly in Assyria, in association with the war-lord Ashur—reflecting the martial genius of king and people,—is she celebrated in high-sounding terms as the lady of war and battles. In an impressive passage in one of Ashurbanapal’s inscriptions the king describes how, on the eve of an encounter with the Elamites, Ishtar with the quiver on her shoulder, armed with bow and sword, appears to him in a vision of the night and proclaims,
“I walk before Ashurbanapal, the King, created by my hands.”
It is Ishtar who on another occasion appears clothed in flames of fire and rains destruction on the Arabian host. Ashurbanapal appears to have been particularly devoted to the cult of Ishtar, though he merely followed, therein, the example of his father Esarhaddon, who restored her temple at Uruk. When he takes Susa, the capital of Elam, his first step is to restore to its resting-place, in the temple E-Anna at Uruk, the statue of the goddess which 1635 years before (i.e., 2300 B.C.) had been captured by the Elamites. He almost invariably associates the name of Ishtar with Ashur. At the command of these two deities he enters on his campaigns. Ashur and Ishtar, representing once more the combination of sun and earth—the male and female principles,— send the king encouraging signs, and stand by him in the thick of the fight.
The contrast to this conception of the warlike Ishtar is the goddess who, as the symbol of creation, becomes the goddess of human love. Ishtar as the mother-goddess is not only the protector of flocks, and filled with love for the animal world, but the merciful progenitor of mankind; and when a destructive deluge sweeps away her offspring, she is the first among the gods to manifest her grief. In the Babylonian account of the deluge—incorporated in the Gilgamesh epic—she is described as weeping for her offspring, which she complains “fill the sea like so many fish,” and her sorrow arouses the sympathy of the other gods, who pity the sad fate of mankind, brought about at the instigation of Enlil and his divine consort. In a more real sense than is true of such gods as Enlil, Anu, Marduk, Ashur, or even Ea, she is the creator of mankind, “directing all births,” as it is said of her. She is described as the mother-goddess (in a text which sets forth the way in which the gods are represented by images,) “with exposed breasts, carrying a child on her left arm, sucking her breast.” Votive figurines have been found in Babylonia answering to this description, and it is a plausible conjecture that they were deposited in the temple or shrines of Ishtar by women who wished to secure the aid of the goddess in the hour of childbirth. A bymn, embodying addresses of the god Nebo to Ashurbanapal, reminds the king of the protection that was granted him when he “lay in the lap of the queen of Nineveh,” i.e., Ishtar, and was suckled by her breasts. The picture is evidently suggested by figurines portraying Ishtar as the nurse of mankind.
This phase of the goddess 'is emphasised in the incident in the Gilgamesh epic, on which we have already touched, when she becomes enamoured of the hero Gilgamesh. Despite the veiled language of mythological metaphor, one recognises that there is another and perfectly natural side to this goddess of love. She is the goddess of the human instinct, or passion which accompanies human love. Gilgamesh, it will be recalled, reproaches her with abandoning the objects of her passion after a brief period of union. This is brought out even more strikingly in another part of the epic where Uruk is described as the dwelling of Anu and Ishtar, and as the city where public maidens accept temporary partners, assigned to them by Ishtar. The enticements of these maidens, who win men by their charms, are described in so frank and naif a manner as to shock the sensibilities of the modern mind. In such descriptions, found elsewhere in Babylonian-Assyrian literature, we must recognise the reverse of the medallion. Ishtar, as the mother of mankind, is also she who awakens passion. She is attended by maidens who appear to be her priestesses; these may well be the prototypes of the Houris with whom Mohammed peopled the paradise reserved for true believers. Ishtar, herself, is called by a term, kadishtu , that acquires the sense of “sacred prostitute”; and while the famous passage in Herodotus, wherein is described the “shameful custom” of the enforced yet willing defilement of every woman in Babylon in the temple, before being eligible for marriage, rests in part on an exaggeration, in part on a misunderstanding of a religious rite, yet it has a basis of truth in the aforesaid religious custom in connection with the worship of Ishtar, which became an outward expression of the spiritual idea of the goddess as the mother of parturition, and as an instigator of the passion underlying the sexual mystery.
The pages of the Old Testament illumine the character of some of these rites connected with the worship of the divine mother, whose priestesses in various guises represented symbolically the marriage union. The Hebrew prophets, to whom all these rites were obscene, tell us something of the customs which the Hebrews themselves, in common with the nations around, at one time practised. Their language is generally veiled, for they abhorred even any allusion to the practices which they condemned so uncompromisingly; but when these stern moralists, in denouncing the people for falling away from the true worship of Jahweh, make frequent use of the metaphor of a faithless wife, berating Israel and Judah for having polluted the land with their wickedness, “playing the harlot,” as they term it, “on every high mountain and under every green tree” (Jeremiah iii., 6), they refer to some of those rites which were intended, both in Babylonia and in Canaan as elsewhere, as a sacred homage to the great goddess of love and of passion. The metaphor, we may be certain, was not chosen at random, but suggested by actual practices that formed part of the cult of Ashtart.
The Deuteronomic code finds it necessary to insert an express clause that there shall be no kedesha, i.e., no sacred defilement, among the daughters of Israel, and that the “harlot’s gift”—clearly again some religious rite—shall not be brought into the house of Jahweh. Are we to see in such rites among the Semites the evidence of foreign influence? It is not impossible, especially since Dr. W. Hayes Ward has recently, shown that the portrayal on seal cylinders of the naked goddess with-what is distinctively-female, emphasised, is due to the Hittites, who as we now know, early came into contact with the Semites both in the Euphrates Valley and in Canaan and elsewhere. On the other hand, the transition from the conception of the mother-goddess to that of the goddess df human love is so easy and natural, that it is not surprising to find that after the thought had once been suggested through extraneous channels, expressive rites should,have made their way into the cult. As often‘happens when a period of degeneracy gets in; it is these rites lending themselves to a mystic symbolism that retain their hold and survive other phases of the Ishtar cult.
Be.this as it may, the two orders of ideas, the one represented by the duality of sun-gods and storm-gods, the other by the combination of the sun with the earthy were harmoniously blended in the speculative system devised in the schools of the priests. We find, by the side of the supreme triad Anu, Enlil, and Ea, the tendency to form other groups of three, whereof Ishtar was invariably one, such as Shamash, Adad, and Ishtar, or, under the influence of the astrological system, Sin, Shamash, and Ishtar, or even combinations of four Powers; Sin, Shamash, Adad, and Ishtar, introduced to symbolise and sum up the chief forces of nature determining the prosperity of the land and the welfare of its inhabitants. It is significant that of the Powers involved in such combinations, Ishtar alone passed beyond the confines of’Semite settlements and continued to exercise a profound influence sifter all memory of the other gods had been lost. '
There is surely something impressive in the persistence of the cult of the mother-goddess; for when faith in the gods of Greece and Rome began to wane, people turned to the East and, giving to this cult a mystic interpretation, found their lost faith in the homage to the Mater magna of Asia Minor, who, was merely a slightly disguised Semitic Ishtar. Several centuries after almost all traces of the Babylonian-Assyrian religion had vanished, the Romans brought to Rome from distant Phrygia the sacred statue of Kybele—as the mother-goddess was there called,— in the hope that she might save the empire from impending disaster. During the most critical period of the struggle between Rome and Carthage, the Mater magna , or Mater dea, made her formal entry into the capital, a temple was built in her honour, and a festival instituted. It was the ancient Semitic goddess Ishtar, merely in a different garb, who thus celebrated a new triumph and an apotheosis—Ishtar of Babylonia with an admixture of Hittite influences, transformed to meet changed conditions, but showing all the essential traits of the original Semitic Ishtar, the great female principle in nature in its various phases as mother-earth, as the source of all fertility, presiding over vegetation and the animal world, at once the loving mother of mankind and of the gods.
Pl. 14. Types of Enlil the Chief God of Nippur, and his Consort Ninlil.
Terra-cotta figures found by Peters at Nippur, and now in the Museum of Archaeology of the University of Pennsylvania. The figure to the left is Enlil, the other two Ninlil. See Peters, Nippur, i., p. 128, and Hilprecht, Excavations in Assyria and Babylonia, p. 342.
Pl. 15. Types of Gods.
Fig. 1. (left) Marduk and Tiamat,—representing the conflict of a storm god against a monster symbolical of primaeval chaos. The god armed with the lightning fork in each hand is clearly a storm god such as Enlil, the chief god of Nippur (see p. 68), originally was. It was he to whom, as the head of the older pantheon, the conquest of Tiamat and the subsequent creation of the world were ascribed. With the transfer of the headship of the pantheon to Marduk, this solar deity takes on the attributes of Enlil. The subjection of the winged monster is ascribed to Marduk, and is represented in a large variety of forms on seal cylinders of the earlier and later periods. See Ward op. cit., Chaps. VIII. and XXXVI. The horned dragon (see Pl. 30), from being the symbol of Enlil, by the same process of transfer becomes the animal of Marduk, and subsequently of Ashur as the head of the Assyrian pantheon (see Pl. 17, Fig. 3). Alabaster slab found in the palace of Ashurnasirpal at Nimroud (site of Calah—N. W. Palace). See Layard, Monuments of Nineveh, ii., Pl. 5; Mansell’s “British Museum Photographs,” Part III. (Assyrian Sculptures), No. 361.
Fig. 2. (middle) Marduk, chief god of Babylon and head of the later Babylonian pantheon. Found at Babylon. Lapis-lazuli cylinder, with dedicatory inscription to Marduk by Marduk-nadinshum, king of Babylonia (c. 850 b.c), and deposited in the temple E-Sagila at Babylon. See Mitteilungen der Deutschen Orient-Gesellschaft, No. 5, pp. 14 - 15 .
Fig. 3. (right) The storm-god Adad (or Ramman). Found at Babylon. Lapis-lazuli cylinder, with dedicatory inscription to Marduk by Esarhaddon, King of Assyria (680-669 B.C.), but nevertheless expressly designated as “the seal of Adad of the temple E-Sagila,” forming part of the treasury of Marduk. See Mitteilungen der Deutschen Orient-Gesellschaft, No. 5, pp. 13-14.
Pl. 16. Fig. i. The Sun-god Shamash in his Shrine.
Stone tablet of Nebopaliddin, King of Babylonia (c . 880 B.C.), representing Shamash, the sun-god of Sippar, seated in his shrine with the king (second figure) led into the god’s presence by a priest, and followed by A, the consort of Shamash—the goddess interceding, as it were, on behalf of the king. Found by Rassam at Sippar. See'Rassam, Asshur and the Land of Nimrod, p. 402.
Fig. 2. Clay Model representing the Cult of the Sun-god.
In all probabilities it illustrates a ceremony of sun worship— perhaps the greeting of the sun-god at sunrise. Found at Susa and now in the Louvre. See J. E. Gautier, Recueil de Travaux, vol. xxxi., pp. 41-49.
P.. 17. Types of Gods.
Fig. 1. Seal Cylinder (hematite), showing Sin, the Moon-god.
Before Sin stands a worshipper, with the goddess Ningal, the consort of Sin, acting as interceder. The three circles behind the god symbolise the moon-god. See Menant, Collection de Clercq, Catalogue No. 125.
Fig. 2. Seal Cylinder (green porphyry), showing the god Ea.
Into Ea’s presence, the goddess Damkina, the consort of Ea is leading a worshipper. The goat fish or capricorn under the seat of the god is the symbol of Ea. See Menant, Collection de Clercq, Catalogue No. 106.
Fig. 3. Procession of gods.
Rock-relief at Malatia in the Anti-Taurus range, showing seven deities mounted on animals that represent their symbols. The head of the procession is formed by Ashur on two animals one of which is the Dragon—transferred to him from Enlil and Marduk, (see comment to Pl. 30, Fig. 2)—followed by his consort Ishtar of Nineveh on the lion, Sin the moon-god on the winged bull, Enlil (or Marduk) on the Dragon, the horn of which is worn away, Shamash on a horse with trappings, Adad on a winged bull and holding the lightning fork in his hand, and lastly another Ishtar on a lion—presumably the Ishtar of Arbela, though the Ishtar of Babylon is also possible. See Place, Ninive et VAssyrie, Pl. 45, from which it would appear that the design was repeated three times on the monument. See also Luschan, Ausgrabungen in Sendschirli , p. 23 seq. For another procession of gods (on an alabaster slab found at Nimroud) see Layard, Monuments of Nineveh, i., Pl. 65.
Pl. 18. Fig. i. Symbols of Ashur, the Chief God of Assyria.
The three smaller symbols are frequently found on seal cylinders and on Assyrian monuments—the symbol being generally placed above the head of the king. The central one of the three is the purer and more genuine symbol of Ashur as a solar deity—a sun disc with protruding rays. To this symbol, the warrior with the bow and arrow w as added—a despiritualisation that reflects the martial spirit of the Assyrian empire. The larger figure which appears to be the top of an Assyrian standard, carried along on the military expeditions and borne into the midst of the fray to symbolise the presence of Ashur as the protector of the Assyrian army, shows the sun’s rays, and bulls as symbols of the sun-god, while the circle within which these symbols and the full-length picture of the warrior are placed takes the place of the disc. Found at Khorsa-bad. See Botta et Flandin, Monument de Ninive, ii., Pl. 158.
Fig. 2. Votive Statuettes (Copper) Found at Telloh.
Now in the Louvre. They represent female figures with hands folded across the breast, and terminating in a point which would indicate that they were to be stuck into the ground, or possibly into the walls. See De Sarzec, Decouvertes, Pl. I. bis, and p. 239 seq.; Heuzey , Catalogue , pp. 294-298.
Pl. 19. Types of the Goddess Ishtar.
Fig. 1. (left) Ishtar as the goddess of war. Stele of Anu-banini, King of Lulubu representing himself in front of the goddess Inninna (or Ishtar) and erected in commemoration of his victories in the mountain of Batir (Zagros range). It is carved on a rock in the district of Zohab between Hassanabad and Ser-i-Pul. See De Morgan, Mission Scientifique en Perse, vol. iv., Pl. X., and p. 161 seq.; De Morgan and Scheil, Recueil de Travaux, vol. xii., pp. 100-106.
Fig. 2. (middle) Ishtar, the Mother-goddess.
Terra-cotta figurine found at Telloh and now in the Louvre, representing the naked goddess with a child in her arms. A similar figure was found at Babylon. See Heuzey, Figurines Antiques, Pl. 2, Fig. 3; and Catalogue, p. 356; De Sarzec, Decouvertes, p. 254.
Fig. 3. (right) Ishtar, the Goddess of Love.
Naked figure with accentuation of the female parts. Terracotta figurine. Exact provenance in Mesopotamia unknown. Now in the Louvre. See Heuzey, Catalogue, pp. 357-358. The naked goddess appears frequently on seal cylinders. See Heuzey, Origines Orientates de I’Art, p. 11; Ward, Seal Cylinders of Western Asia, Chap. XXVI.
Footnotes and references:
The n of Enlil is assimilated to the following l as is shown by the form Ellinos given to this deity in Damascius’ de primis Principiis (ed. Kopp, 1826), cap. 125, and by Aramaic endorsements to business documents of the Persian period. See the article, “Ellil, the god of Nippur” (American Journal of Semitic Lang., xxiii., pp. 269-279), by Professor Clay, who showed that the name of this deity was at all times Enlil or Ellil, and never Bel as had hitherto been assumed.
Above, p. 18.
Above, p. 18, note 2.
Above, p. 11 seq.
Cuneiform Texts , etc., in the British Museum, Part xv., pl. II, 3
E.g., Reisner, Sumerisch - Babylonische Hymnen, No. 13, 1-7; Cuneif. Texts, xv., pl. 10, 3-8 (six names), pl. 13, 3-9, etc. Frequently, in the adaptation of this old ritual to the Marduk cult, direct references to Marduk and the gods grouped around Marduk are added, as well as mention of cities like Sippar, Babylon, and Borsippa—likewise with a view to adapting the Nippur ritual to other centres and to later conditions. See Lecture V.
A frequent designation of the Sumerians, which later becomes synonymous with mankind in general.
E.g., Reisner, op. cit., No. i.
E.g., Reisner, op. cit., No. 13, rev. 15-24.
Reisner, op. cit., No. 22, rev. 13-22. See Langdon, Sumerian and Babylonian Psalms, p. 129.
Cuneiform Texts, xv., pl. 11. See Langdon, op. cit., p. 198.
Judges, v., 4.
E. g., Ps.. xxix.
The Hebrew word for “voice” might with equal propriety be rendered “word.”
Jeroboam (1 Kings, xii., 28) makes two golden calves, and places one at Bethel, and the other at the northern frontier at Dan, and tells his people, “Behold thy god, Israel, who brought thee out of Egypt.” The stoiy of the worship of the golden calf in Exodus, chap. xxxii., is based on this incident.
See Langdon, op. cit., No. x. Enlil is addressed as a “bull” in this composition (e.g., Langdon, p. 113, line 3. See also pp. 85, 127, 277, etc)
Rawlinson, Cuneiform Inscriptions of Western Asia, iv., 2d ed., pl. 27, No. 2. See Langdon, No. xviii.
See Plate 22, and Heuzey, Catalogue des Antiquites Chaldeennes, p. 269.
Perrot et Chipiez, History of Art in Persia, p. 93, and facing pp. 294, 298, etc.
Amurru , p. 121 seq.
See, e.g., Jastrow, Religion (German ed.), i., p. 459.
Reisner, No. 18; Langdon, p. 226.
Rawlinson, ii., pl. 19, No. i, obv. 16, 17; Jastrow, Religion (German ed.), i., p. 455.
See Jastrow, Religion (German ed.), i., p« 451.
See above, p. 40.
Reisner, No. 18. See Langdon, p. 226.
See also Langdon, pp. 146, 164-166, 208.
See Thureau-Dangin, Sumerisch-Akkadische Kōnigsin-schrif-ten, p. 154.
See p. 209, seq.
See Jastrow, Religion (German ed.), i., p. 137.
King, Inscriptions and Letters of Hammurabi , iii., pp. 182, 187, 190. Gudea also sets up this duality as embracing the two chief Powers of nature (Thureau-Dangin, Sumerisch-Akkadische Konigsinschriften, p. 140).
Jastrow, Religion (German ed.), i., p. 454.
Tablet I., col. ii., 33 (Jensen, Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek, vi., 1, p. 120).
Jastrow, Religion of Babylonia and Assyria, p. 444 seq.
See p. 78.
See above, p. 36 seq.
See above, p. 22.
See Jastrow, “On the Composite Character of the Babylonian Creation Story” (Nōldeke Festschrift , pp. 969-982).
In the present version of the nature myth (see Jensen, Keilin-schriftliche Bibliothek, vi., i, p. 230 seq.), Anu and Ennugi (= Nusku) are associated with Enlil; but the older form is still to be seen at the close of the story, where it is Enlil alone who discovers that Utnapishtim has escaped, and Ea is obliged to conciliate the angry god. Hommel’s supposition (Expository Times , 1910, p. 369) that in the new fragment of this deluge tradition, Enlil (whose name does not even appear on the few lines preserved) is the one who saves Utnapishtim, misses the point of the myth, which rests on a conflict between Enlil and Ea. There is not the slightest reason to assume that this new fragment, which adds nothing to our knowledge of the subject, represents a "Nippur” version. It is not even certain that the fragment was found at Nippur.
The Oannes in Berosus’ account of primaeval days is evidently Ea, however the name is to be explained. See Zim-mem, Keilinschrifte und das Alte Testament , ii., p. 535.
A direct allusion to this Babylonian system is to be seen in the Biblical prohibition (Ex. xx., 4; Deut. v., 8) against making any image of anything in the heavens above, on the earth beneath, or in the waters under the earth.
The first element might more literally be taken in the sense of “heifer,” but the force would be about the same, since the “heifer” suggests a young offspring.
See Jastrow, Religion (German ed.), i., pp. 495-519.
Ib., p. 500.
Jastrow, Religion (English ed.), p. 289; German ed., i., p. 142 seq .; and Thompson, Devils and Evil Spirits, ii., pp. 17, 33, 41, 47 seq., 57 seq., 67, 71, 75, 81, 93 seq., 101, etc.
Jastrow, Religion (German ed.), i., p. 498 seq.
See Plate 15, Fig. 3.
So passim in Harpers, Assyrian ond Babylonian Letters.
In the "omen” section of the library, Shamash and Adad as “the gods of divination,” take the place of Nebo and Tashmit.
See p. 312.
It is significant that there is no word for “author” in Biblical Hebrew (or in Babylonian), but merely one for “scribe,” the term being indifferently used for one who composes something, or for one who merely copies what others have written.
Schrader, Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek, i., p. 193.
Nabopolassar, Nebuchadnezzar, and Nabonnedos.
King, Seven Tablets of Creation , Tablet VII., 119, 120.
Cun. Texts, etc., Part xxiv., Plate 50 (No. 47,406, obverse). The reverse, badly preserved, gives a list of images of gods. The tablet is a neo-Babylonian copy of an older “Babylonian” text. See King’s discussion of the tablet, ib., p. 9 and Pinches in the Expository Times for February, 1911.
A foreign deity—perhaps a designation of the chief Elamite deity.
I.e., “great god”—also intended as a designation of a foreign god.
A Cassite deity.
See Steindorff, Religion of the Ancient Egyptians , p. 58 seq.
See Peters, Nippur , i., p. 322 seq. The tradition which places here the death of the sons of Ali is merely due to a desire to invest an ancient centre of burial with a significance for Islamism.
See above, p. 59 and Rogers, History of Babylonia and Assyria, ii., p. 362 seq.
See Plate 16, Fig. 1. Shamash in his shrine at Sippar.
Hrozny, Sumerisch-Babylonische Mythen von dem Gotte Nin - rag (Ninib). See also Radau, Ninib , the Determiner of Fates (Phila., 1910), whose view of Ninib, however (p. 23), is entirely erroneous.
Jastrow, Religion (German ed.), i., p. 435.
See above, p. 30, seq.
Sin may be a contraction of Si-in and this in turn equivalent to En-Zu inverted. See Combe, Histoire du Culte de Sin, pp. 1-16, for other names and designations of the moon-god.
See Lehmann-Haupt in Zeits. fur Assyriologie, vol. xvi., p. 405 .
See Plate 17, Fig. 1, and Ward, Seal Cylinders of Western Asia, p. 21 seq.
See illustration above, p. 22.
Cuneiform Texts , etc., Part xv., pl. 17. See Langdon, Sumerian and Babylonian Psalms, p. 296.
In astrological compositions and reports all months are assumed to have 30 days. It is only in the late astronomical texts that, through the more accurate regulation of the calendar, months of 29 and 30 days are distinguished.
See below, p. 126 seq.
See Plate 15, Fig. 3.
Mar-Tu, which is the ideographic form of Amurru as the land of the west. See on this whole subject, Clay, Amurru, p. 77 seq.
See Andrae, Anu-Adad Tempel (Leipzig, 1909). The excavations reveal two sanctuaries with a common entrance. See p. 281 seq. and the plan on Plate 24, Fig. 2.
See a paper by the writer on “The God Ashur” in the Journal of the Amer. Oriental Society, vol. xxiv., pp. 288-301.
See Plate 18, Fig. 1.
See above, p. 51 seq.
See above, p. 69.
The meaning of Bau is quite uncertain.
On the wide extension of this view, and the numerous folk-customs and religious or semi-religious rites to which the conception of the earth as the great mother of mankind (as of nature in general) gives rise, see Albrecht Dietric'’s valuable and suggestive monograph, Mutter Erder (Berlin, 1905), more particularly pp. 27-35.
See chap. xxiii. of the writer’s Religion of Babylon and Assyria.
Originally a designation of some local goddess. See Jastrow, Religion (German ed.), i., p. 243, note.
She is represented by the number 15—the half of 30, the symbol of the moon. See above, p. 115.
Psalms xix., 5.
See Barton, “The Semitic Ishtar Cult” (American Journal of Semitic Languages, vols. ix. and x.).
The form Ashtoreth which comes to us from the Old Testament was given the vowels of a word bosheth, “shame,” in order to avoid the sound of the objectionable name. Ashtart is Ishtar plus a feminine ending, which suggests that the name itself was once a general designation—meaning perhaps “leader” like Ashur,—applicable to either a male or a female deity. As a means of differentiation, a feminine ending was, therefore, attached to it by some branches of the Semites. In South-Arabic inscriptions, the equivalent form Athtar appears as a male deity. See Barton, A Sketch of Semitic Origins, p. 87 seq., who finds in this double aspect of Ishtar a support for his theory of a transformation of female deities to male deities.
Above, p. III.
Jastrow, Religion (German ed.), i., p. 535. 3 lb.
See the titles of Ishtar in the list, Cuneiform Texts, Part xxiv., Plate 41, emphasising her martial character, followed by others that belong to-her as the mother-goddess, and the goddess of vegetation.
See Schrader, Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek, iii., i, p. 112.
Jastrow, Religion (German ed.), i., p. 539 seq.
Rawlinson, v., Plate 5, 100 (Schrader, Keilinschriftliche Biblio-thek , ii., p. 201). See Plate 19, Fig. 1.
Plate 9, 79-81.
Plate 6, 107-124.
Tablet xi., 117-126. See Jastrow, Religion (English ed.), p. 501.
Cuneiform Texts, etc., Part xvii., Plate. 42, col. ii, 6-7. See Plate 19, Fig. 2.
Jastrow, Religion (German ed.), i., p. 444.
Above, p. 127 seq.
Herod., i., 199. See E. S. Hartland in Anthropological Essays presented to E. B. Tylor, pp. 189-202.
The incident related in Numbers xxv., 6-9, rests upon some rite of sacred prostitution, no longer understood by the later compilers.
Deut. xxiii., 18.
Seal Cylinders of Western Asia (Washington, 191 o), p. 161 seq. See also Plate 19, Fig. 3.
See above, p. 117.
See Cumont, Les Religions Orientales parmi les Peuples Romains (Paris, 1908), chap. iii.