by George Smith | 1876 | 63,564 words
The Chaldean account of Genesis, containing the description of the creation, the fall of man, the deluge, the tower of Babel, the times of the patriarchs, and Nimrod; Babylonian fables, and legends of the gods; from the cuneiform inscriptions Author: Smith, George, 1840-1876 Subject: Bible; Mythology, Assyro-Babylonian; Creation Publisher: London ...
- Greek accounts.
- Mythology local in origin.
- Three great gods.
- Twelve great gods.
- Equivalent to Yenus.
- Bel or Jupiter.
- Zirat-banit, Succoth Benoth.
- Sin the moon god.
- Table of gods.
IN their accounts of the Creation and of the early history of the human race the Babylonian divinities figure very promi nently, but it is difficult in many cases to identify the deities mentioned by the Greek authors, because the phonetic reading of the names of the Babylonian gods is very obscure, and the classical writers often mention these divinities by the terms in their own mythology, which appeared to them to correspond with the Babylonian names.
In this chapter it is only proposed to give a general account of some parts of the Babylonian mythology, to show the relationship between the deities and their titles and work.
Babylonian mythology was local in origin ; each of the gods had a particular city which was the seat of his worship, and it is probable that the idea of weaving the gods into a system, in which each should have his part to play, only had its origin at a later time. The antiquity of this mythology may be seen by the fact, that two thousand years before the Christian era it was already completed, and its deities definitely connected into a system which remained with little change down to the close of the kingdom.
It is probable that the gods were in early times only worshipped at their original cities or seats, the various cities or settlements being independent of each other; but it was natural as wars arose, and some cities gained conquests over others, and kings gradually united the country into monarchies, that the people of conquering cities should claim that their gods were superior to those of the cities they conquered, and thus came the system of different ranks or grades among the gods. Again, colonies were sent out of some cities, and the colonies, as they considered themselves sons of the cities they started from, also considered their gods to be sons of the gods of the mother cities. Political changes in early times led to the rise and fall of various cities and consequently of their deities, and gave rise to numerous myths relating to the different personages in the mythology. In some remote age there appear to have been three great cities in the country, Erech, Eridu, and Nipur, and their divinities Anu, Hea, and Bel were considered the " great gods " of the country. Subsequent changes led to the decline of these cities, but their deities still retained their position at the head of the Babylonian system.
These three leading deities formed members of a circle of twelve gods, also called great. These gods and their titles are given as :
- Anu, king of angels and spirits, lord of the city of Erech.
- Bel, lord of the world, father of the gods, creator, lord of the city of Nipur.
- Hea, maker of fate, lord of the deep, god of wisdom and knowledge, lord of the city of Eridu.
- Sin, lord of crowns, maker of brightness, lord of the city of Ur.
- Merodach, just prince of the gods, lord of birth, lord of the city of Babylon.
- Vul, the strong god, lord of canals and atmosphere, lord of the city of Muru.
- Shamas, judge of heaven and earth, director of all, lord of the cities of Larsa and Sippara.
- Ninip, warrior of the warriors of the gods, destroyer of wicked, lord of the city of Nipur.
- Nergal, giant king of war,, lord of the city of Cutha.
- Nusku, holder of the golden sceptre, the lofty god.
- Belat, wife of Bel, mother of the great gods, lady of the city of Nipur.
- Ishtar, eldest of heaven and earth, raising the face of warriors.
Below these deities there was a large body of gods forming the bulk of the pantheon, and below these were arranged the Igege, or angels of heaven, and the Anunnaki, or angels of earth. Below these again came various classes of spirits or genii called Sedu, Yadukku, Ekimu, Gallu, and others; some of these were evil, some good.
The relationship of the various principal gods and their names, titles, and offices will be seen by the following remarks.
At the head of the Babylonian mythology stands a deity who was sometimes identified with the heavens, sometimes considered as the ruler and god of heaven. This deity is named Anu, his sign is the simple star, the symbol of divinity, and at other times the Maltese cross. Anu represents abstract divinity, and he appears as an original principle, perhaps as the original principle of nature. He represents the universe as the upper and lower regions, and when these were divided the upper region or heaven was called Anu, while the lower region or earth was called Anatu ; Anatu being the female principle or wife of Anu. Anu is termed the old god, and the god of the whole of heaven and earth; one of the manifestations of Anu was as the two forms Lahma and Lahama, which probably correspond to the Greek forms Dache and Dachus, see p. 50.
These forms are said to have sprung out of the original chaos, and they are followed by the two forms sar and kisar (the Kissare and Assorus of the Greeks), sar means the upper hosts or expanse, kisar the lower hosts or expanse; these are also forms of manifestations of Ann and his wife. Aim is also lord of the old city, and he bears the names Alalu and Papsukul. His titles generally indicate height, antiquity, purity, divinity, and he may be taken as the general type of divinity. Ami was originally worshipped at the city of Erech, which was called the city of Anu and Anatu, and the great temple there was called the u house of Anu," or the u house of heaven."
Anatu, the wife or consort of Anu, is generally only a female form of Anu, but is sometimes contrasted with him; thus, when Anu represents height and heaven, Anatu represents depth and earth; she is also lady of darkness, the mother of the god Hea, the mother producing heaven and earth, the female fish-god, and she is one of the many goddesses called I star or Venus.
Anu and Anatu have a numerous family; among their sons are numbered Sar-ziri, the king of the desert, Latarak, Abgula, Kusu, and the air-god, whose name is uncertain. The air-god is usually called Yul, he has also the name Pur, and the epithets Ramman or Rimmon, the self-existent, and Uban or Ben. Vul is god of the region of the atmosphere, or space between the heaven and earth, he is the god of rain, of storms and whirlwind, of thunder and lightning, of floods and watercourses. Vul was in high esteem in Syria and Arabia, where he bore the name of Daddi; in Armenia he was called Teiseba. Yul is always considered an active deity, and was extensively worshipped.
Another important god, a son of Ami, was the god of fire; his name may be read Bil-kan, with the possibility of some connection with the Biblical Tubal Cain and the classical Yulcan. The fire-god takes an active part in the numerous mythological tablets and legends, and he is considered to be the most potent deity in relation to witchcraft and spells generally.
The most important of -the daughters of Anu was named Istar ; she was in some respects the equivalent of the classical Yenus. Her worship was at first sub ordinate to that of Anu, and as she was goddess of love, while Anu was god of heaven, it is probable that the first intention in the mythology was only to represent love as heaven-born ; but in time a more sensual view prevailed, and the worship of Istar became one of the darkest features in Babylonian mythology. As the worship of this goddess increased in favour, it gradually superseded that of Anu, until in time his temple, the house of heaven, came to be regarded as the temple of Yenus.
The planet Yenus, as the evening star, was iden tified with the Ishtar of Erech, while the morning star was Anunit, goddess of Akkad.
There were various other goddesses called Istar among which may be noticed Istar, daughter of Sin the moon-god, who is sometimes confounded with the daughter of Anu.
A companion deity with Anu is Hea, who is god of the sea and of Hades, in fact of all the lower regions. He has two features, and corresponds in some respects to the Saturn or Cronos of the ancients, in others to their Poseidon or Neptune. Hea is called god of the lower region, he is lord of the sea or abyss; he is lord of generation and of all human beings, he bears the titles lord of wisdom, of mines and treasures ; he is lord of gifts, of music, of fishermen and sailors, and of Hades or hell. It has been supposed that the serpent was one of his emblems, and that he was the Cannes of Berosus; these things do not, however, appear in the inscriptions. The wife of Hea was Dav-kina, the Davke of Damascius, who is the goddess of the lower regions, the consort of the deep ; and their principal son was Maruduk or Merodach, the Bel of later times.
Merodach, god of Babylon, appears in all the earlier inscriptions as the agent of his father Hea ; he goes about in the world collecting information, arid receives commissions from his father to set right all that appears wrong. Merodach is an active agent in creation, but is always subordinate to his father Hea. In later times, after Babylon had been made the capital, Merodach, who was god of that city, was raised to the head of the Pantheon. Merodach or Bel was identified with the classical Jupiter, but the name Bel, " the lord," was only given to him in times subsequent to the rise of Babylon. The wife of Merodach was Zirat-banit, the Succoth Benoth of the Bible.
Nebo, the god of knowledge and literature, who was worshipped at the neighbouring city of Borsippa, was a favourite deity in later times, as was also his consort Tasmit. Beside Merodach Hea had a nume rous progeny, his sons being principally river gods.
A third great god was united with Anu and Hea, his names were Enu, Elu, Kaptu, and Bel; he was the original Bel of the Babylonian mythology, and was lord of the surface of the earth and the affairs of men. Elu was lord of the city of Nipur, and had a consort named Belat or Beltis. Elu, or Bel, is the most active of the gods in the general affairs of mankind, and was so generally worshipped in early times that he came to be regarded as the national divinity, and his temple at the city of Nipur was regarded as the type of all temples. The extensive worship of Bel, and the high honour in which he was held, seem to point to a time when his city, Nipur, was the metro polis of the country.
Belat, or Beltis, the wife of Bel, is a famous deity celebrated in all ages, but as the title Belat was only u lady," or u goddess," it was a common one for many goddesses, and the notices of Beltis probably refer to several different personages. The same remark may be applied to the name Is tar, or Ishtar, meaning " goddess," which is applied to any female divinity.
Eluhad, like the other gods, a numerous family; his eldest son was the moon-god called Ur, Agu or Aku, Sin and Itu, in later times generally termed Sin. Sin was presiding deity of the city of Ur, and early assumed an important place in the mythology. The moon-god figures prominently in some early legends, and during the time the city of Ur was capital of the country his worship became very extensive and popular in the whole of the country.
Ninip, god of hunting and war, was another celebrated son of Elu ; he Avas worshipped with his father at Nipur. Ninip was also much worshipped in Assyria as well as Babylonia, his character as presiding genius of war and the chase making .him a favourite deity with the warlike kings of Assur.
Sin the moon-god had a son Sharnas, or Samas, the sun-god, and a daughter, Istar or Venus. Shamas is an active deity in some of the Izdubar legends and fables, but he is generally subordinate to Sin. In the Babylonian system the moon takes precedence of the sun, and the Shamas of Larsa was probably considered a different deity to Shamas of Sippara.
Among the other deities of the Babylonians may be counted Nergal, god of Cutha, who, like Ninip, presided over hunting and war, and Anunit, the deity of one city of Sippara, and of the city of Akkad.
The following table will exhibit the relationship of the principal deities ; but it must be noted that the Assyrian inscriptions are not always consistent, either as to the sex or paternity of the gods: