by Christopher B. Siren
The Assyro-Babylonian Mythology FAQ version 1.9html
by Christopher B. Siren (Nov. 1994)
cbsiren at alum dot mit dot edu
last revised (October, 2003)
changes since last revision:
October 2003: added the Biblical parallels section (in progress) and some more citations
August 1999: added clarifying remark to Bahamut answer.
October 1995: lengthened Bahamut answer; added a couple external links; made changes for move to UNH.
The web version at home.comcast.net/~chris.s/assyrbabyl-faq.html is the most up to date, however the last copy of this FAQ posted to Usenet should also be available via anonymous ftp at:
rtfm.mit.edu at /pub/usenet/news.answers/assyrbabyl-faq
* I. Overview (including regional history)
* II. So these are just like the Sumerian deities right?
* III. Who were the gods and heroes of the Babylonians?
o A. The older gods
o B. The younger Anunnaki and Igigi
o C. The chthonic gods
o D. The heroes and monsters
* IV. What about the Underworld and Heaven and all that?
* V. Hey! I read that Cthulhu is really some Babylonian or Sumerian god, how come he's not there under Kutu?
* VI. So, in AD&D, Tiamat is this five-headed evil dragon, but they got her from the Enuma Elish, right? What about her counterpart, Bahamut?
* VII. I've heard there are Biblical parallels in Babylonian literature. What are they anyway?
* VIII. Where did you get this info and where can I find out more?
I. Overview (including regional history)
First, some definitions: Mesopotamia, in general, refers to the area of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Assyria, was the northern portion of Mesopotamia, who's capital was Ashur (until 883 BCE, when it was moved to Calah/Nimrud) and whose reach included the major city of Nineveh (Ninua). Sumer refers to the southern delta region, whose primary cities included Ur, Uruk, and Eridu. Akkad was a region north of Sumer which included the area around modern Baghdad as well as the ancient sites of Babylon, Kish, and Nippur.
The political organization of the region was basically a collection of city-states. Sargon of Agade (2371-16 BCE) united the regions of Sumer and Akkad. His descendants eventually lost control of the empire due to pressures from the Hurrians, the Hittites, and other invaders, not to mention internal pressures. In the south Sumer again gained ascendancy, dominated by the city-state Ur. Sumer then collapsed under the Amorites around 2000 BCE. They established many sub- kingdoms including Assyria and Babylon.
Assyria attained a brief period of dominance under Shamshi-Adad (1813-1781 BCE) but was soon superseded by Babylon under Hammurapi (Hammurabi) (1792-50 BCE) who established what once were thought to be the first written law codes (more recent discoveries include law codes from a couple centuries prior to Hammurapi). The first Babylonian dynasty had begun in 1894 BCE, coinciding with the Old Babyonian period of literature. It collapsed in 1595 BCE when the Hittites sacked its eponymous capital.
Assyria had been taken over by the Mitanni (a Hurrian speaking kingdom) but established its independence in the mid 14th century BCE. Under Tukulti-Ninurta I Assyria dominated the entire fertile crescent in the late 13th century. By the time of Tiglath-Pileser I, about a century later it had directed more of its attention westwards towards the Levant in the West and lost control of Babylon and the south. Slowly Assyria began to expand again, reaching its apex between 750 and 650 BCE under the rulers Tiglath-Pileser III, Sargon II, Sennacherib, and Ashuribanipal (668-627 BCE). The empire collapsed from invaders with Nineveh falling to Nabopalasar of Babylon in 612 BCE and the empire dying in 605 BCE.
Meanwhile, Babylon had been reasserting itself. Nabopalasar had begun the Chaldean dynasty during his rule begining in 625 BCE. This period is also known as the Neo-Babylonian period although that term also describes the language of that era. Under Nabopalasar's son Nebuchadnezzar II, Babylon expanded westward, taking Jerusalem in 586 BCE. Babylon fell in the mid-540's to Cyrus the Persian whose empire lasted until the late 300's BCE when Alexander of Macedon established his empire and renamed the area "Mesopotamia". (See also Shawn Bayern's History Babylonia)
II. So these guys were just like the Sumerian Deities right?
Well some of them were mostly like the Sumerian Deities, but as you might expect, they have their own kinks and differences. In general the following relationships apply:
Sumerian name Babylonian Name
Ki/Ninhursag Aruru, Mammi
Ninlil Mullitu, Mylitta
This is not a cut and dry relation. Sumerian and Babylonian names appear in the same Babylonian document, sometimes referring to the same entity. In addition, there are numerous local variations of these deities names which, in the next section, such 'optional' names appear in parentheses after the more prevalent name.
III. Who were the gods and the heroes of the Babylonians then?
A. The Older (genealogically) Gods:
"The Epic of Creation (Enuma Elish): Tablet I"
He is the underworld ocean, the begetter of the skies (Anshar) and the earth (Kishar) and the father of Lahmu and Lahamu. He could not quell the noise of them or of their children, so he colluded with his vizier Mummu to silence the gods and allow his mate Tiamat to rest, after Tiamat herself rejected the idea. Ea found out about his plans, cast a sleeping spell on him and killed him.
(Dalley pp. 232-235, 318)
"The Epic of Creation (Enuma Elish): Tablets I-III"
She is primeval Chaos, bearer of the skies (Anshar) and the earth (Kishar) and the mother of Lahmu, and Lahamu. Traditionally conceived of as a serpent or dragon of some sort, this idea does not have any basis in the Enuma Elish itself. Within that work her physical description includes, a tail, a thigh, "lower parts" (which shake together), a belly, an udder, ribs, a neck, a head, a skull, eyes, nostrils, a mouth, and lips. She has insides, a heart, arteries, and blood. The clamor of the younger gods disturbed her, but she continued to indulge them.
When her mate Apsu and his vizier Mummu suggested that they kill the younger gods, she grew furious, then calmed down and rejected the plan. Her restless subservient gods goaded her into action after Apsu is slain. They prepared to wage war against the other gods. As Mother Hubur, (the underworld river, who fashions all things), she bore giant snakes with venom for blood, and cloaked dragons with a godlike radiance yet with a terrible visage, for the war. She rallied a horned serpent, a mushussu-dragon, a lahmu-hero, a ugallu-demon, a rabid dog, a scorpion-man, umu-demons, a fish-man, a bull-man, and eleven others underneath her champion and new lover, Qingu. She gave Qingu the Tablet of Destinies to facilitate his command and attack.
(Dalley pp. 231-249)
"The Epic of Creation (Enuma Elish): Tablets IV-V"
Marduk came with his host to attack her. Qingu's strategy initially confused him, and Tiamat tried to enspell him, hurling jibes at him. She was rebuffed and incited into single combat with Marduk. She continued to cast her spell and Marduk netted her, and threw a wind at her. She tried to swallow it and was undone - distended, shot, sliced in two and cut in the heart. Her crushed skull heralded her death, and half of her body was used to roof up the sky. Her eyes became the sources of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
(Dalley pp. 249-257)
Lahmu and Lahamu
'the hairy one' or 'muddy' they have three pairs of curls, and are naked except for a triple sash. Dalley (p. 324)
"The Epic of Creation (Enuma Elish)>): Tablets I-III"
They were the first children of Tiamat and Apsu. Kappa was sent to fetch them by Anshar, to help send off Marduk on his fight with Tiamat and be rallied to his side. They complied and helped find a princely shrine for Marduk. (Dalley pp. 232, 244-249)
- 'whole sky' He is the father of Anu and the child of Tiamat and Apsu. He is often paired with Kishara, and his qualities were assimilated with Ashur. When Ea learned of Tiamat's planned war, Anshar tried to stir him into attacking her first, but was rebuffed. He turned to Anu and sent him on a peace mission to Tiamat, but Anu returned unsuccessful. An assembly was convened and Marduk came forth at Ea's urging, promising to deliver Tiamat's defeated body to Anshar's feet. He required of the assembly a promise that he would be given the leadership of the pantheon after he is victorious. He had Kappa gather Lahmu, Lahamu, and the other gods together to send off Marduk on his fight and rally them to his side. When they arrive they help find a princely shrine for Marduk.
- 'whole earth' , She is the mother of Anu and the child of Tiamat and Apsu.
- Sumerian for "heaven", a sky god, father and king of the gods. He is the son of Anshar and Kishar. He lives in the third heaven. The Eanna in Uruk was dedicated both to him and consort. His first consort was Antu. They produced the Anunnaki - the underworld gods, and the utukki - the seven evil demons. His second consort was Innina (Ishtar). He is a god of monarchs and is not friendly to the common people. He is a "King of the Igigi". He is assigned the sky as his domain in 'Atrahasis'. His 'kishru's (shooting stars) have awesome strength. He has the ability that anything he puts into words, becomes reality. He is Niudimmud's (Ea's) father.
When Anzu stole the Tablet of Destinies from Ellil, he called for one of the gods to slay Anzu and thereby greatly increase his reputation.
He gave Marduk the four winds to play with. He made a whirlwind and a flood wave and stirred up Tiamat on purpose. When Tiamat's retaliation for Apsu's death was discovered, Anshar sent him on a peace mission to her, but he returned unsuccessfully. He helps form a princely shrine for Marduk prior to his battle with Tiamat, and gives him the Anu-power of decreeing fates, such that his word is law.
He calls Dumuzi and Gizzida speak on Adapa's behalf.
He and Earth father the Sebitti. He gives them fearsome fates and powers and puts them at Erra's command, to aid in killing noisy, over-populous people and animals.
He agrees to send the Bull of Heaven after Gilgamesh on Ishtar's behalf, if she has made sure that the people of Uruk are properly provisioned for seven years. He decrees that either Gilgamesh or Enkidu must die for the slaying of Humbaba and the Bull of Heaven. He sends Kakka to Kurnugi to tell Ereshkigal to send a messenger to receive a gift from him.
(See also the Sumerian An and the Hittite Anus)
Symbol: sacred shine surmounted by the divine horned cap.
Sacred number: 60
Astrological region: heavenly equator
Sacred animal: the heavenly Bull
- Sumerian for "the earth", she is a colorless being who was the first consort of Anu. They produced the Anunnaki - the underworld gods, and the utukki - the seven evil demons. She was replaced by Isthar (Inanna) who is sometimes her daughter.
Aruru (Ninmah, Nintu, Ninhursaga, Belet-ili, Mami)
-She is the mother goddess and was responsible for the creation of man with the help of Enlil or Enki. She is also called the womb goddess, and midwife of the gods. Acting on Ea's advice and direction, she mixed clay with the blood of the god Geshtu-e, in order to shape and birth seven men and seven women. These people would bear the workload of the Igigi. She also added to the creation of Gilgamesh, and, at Anu's command, made Enkidu in Anu's image by pinching off a piece of clay, throwing it into the wilderness, and birthing him there. Ea called her to offer her beloved Ninurta as the one who should hunt Anzu. She does so. (See also the Hittite Hannahannas)
- the maker or mother of fate.
- one of "the pure goddesses", Ea's mother, associated with fresh water.
B. The Anunnaki, Igigi, and the Younger Gods
Ellil (Enlil) - Sumerian for "wind/storm-god".
Initially the leader of the pantheon, he has since relinquished his spot to Anu. Possible slayer of Enmesharra and avenger of his father Anu. His role in this was upplanted by Marduk by the Babylonians. He is a short-tempered god who was responsible for the great flood. He is the creator of mankind. He is thought to favor and help those in need. He guards the "tablets of destiny", which allow him to determines the fate of all things animate or inanimate. They was once stolen from him by a Zu, a storm- bird (a bird with some human qualities). They were recovered and Zu faced judgment by Ellil. His consort is Ninlil, his chief-minister is Nusku. He was also god of the lands and of the earth. He is a "King of the Anunnaki". He was their counselor warrior. He and his people receive the earth in 'Atrahasis'. His temple is Duranki.
When the Igigi rebelled against him, and surrounded his house and called for Anu. After man was created in response to the Igigi's grievances, he grew weary of their noise and released several disasters upon them, after each one, man recovered and then he released a new one. The disasters included disease, flood, drought, and the great flood. He appointed Humbaba to guard the cedar forest and terrify mankind. He decreed that Enkidu must die for the slaying of the Bull of Heaven and Humbaba. He does not answer Gilgamesh's plea to restore Enkidu to life. He found a throne for Etana to rule from in Kish. He appointed Anzu as the guardian of his bath chamber, but while bathing, Anzu stole from him the Tablet of Destinies, and his Ellil-power. Ninurta, with Ea's advise and Belet-ili's urgings slew Anzu and recovered the Tablet of Destinies. (See also the Hittite Ellil)
Symbol: Seven small circles representing the Pleiades.
Sacred number: 50
Astrological region: north of "the way of Anu" ie. 12 degrees north of the equator.
Ea (Enki, Nudimmud)
- god of the waters. He is in charge of the bolt which bars the sea. He knows everything. He is the "Lord of Wisdom" and "Lord of Incantations". When he speaks, of a thing, it will be made. He is the son of Anu, but sometimes he is the son of Anshar. Dumkina is his consort. He created Zaltu as a complement to Ishtar. He discovered the plot of Apsu and Mummu, put Apsu under a sleeping spell, and slew him and put Mummu into a daze, tied him up, and slew him. He then named his quarters Apsu, the underworld ocean that supports the world. He and Damkina produced Bel and Marduk. (Bel is likely to be another name for Marduk.)
He learned that Tiamat was planning a war of revenge against the gods. His father Anshar tries to spur him into making the first attack against Tiamat, but Ea rebuffs him. When Anu's peace mission fails, he urges Marduk into action.
He suggests the method of creating man, in response to the heavy workload of the Igigi. As mankind's patron, he is the instructor of all crafts, writing, building, farming, and magic. He advises mankind when other gods would do them harm. He granted Adapa understanding, to teach mankind. When Adapa used this knowledge to break the wing of the South Wind, he cursed him and told him to complain of Dumuzi and Gizzida's absence to Anu. While in Anu's court, he advises Adapa not to eat the bread of eternal life (lest he forfeit his life on earth). He refuses to flood mankind for Ellil. Eventually he accedes, but only after advising Atrahasis to build a boat in which to weather the flood.
He tells Nergal to allow Enkidu's spirit to visit with Gilgamesh. When Ea is informed of Ishtar's imprisonment in the Underworld, he creates 'His appearance is bright' to stand at Ereshkigal's gate and mellow her mood and have her swear an oath by the great gods. He instructs Nergal on how to build the gift throne for Ereshkigal, and hides him with spring water to hide him from Namtar after he returned from the underworld.
When Anu and the gods could not locate a volunteer to kill Anzu, he told the Igiggi that he would pick one. He instructs Belet-ili/Mami to send Ninurta to slay Anzu and, through Sharur advises Ninurta on how to defeat the creature. (See also the Canaanite Heyan aka Kothar-u-Khasis and the Hittite Ayas)
Symbol: Ram's head; goat-fish (a goat's head on a fish's body)
Sacred number: 40
Astrological region: 12 degrees south in the sky (includes Pisces and Aquarius)
- the craftsman god. He is attendant to Ea and Apsu's vizier. He is very fond of Apsu and colludes with him to disperse the younger gods when they disturb Tiamat, even after Tiamat rejects the plan. Ea found out about his plan, enspelled him and tied him up.
Qingu (older spelling - Kingu)
- Tiamat's battle leader and second husband/lover after Apsu. He is promoted and enhanced to a leading position from among the ranks. Tiamat places the Tablet of Destinies in his possession, giving him the Anu-power, such that his word is law and affects reality. He gives his army fire-quenching breath and paralyzing venom. His battle strategy initially confuses Marduk. He is defeated by Marduk and counted among the dead gods. For his part in the war he was made by Marduk to provide the blood for the creation of man - filling the role that Geshtu-e takes in other versions of the creation of man story.
- moon god, son of Enlil. He has a beard of Lapis Lazuli and rides a winged bull. His consort is Ningal. He is the father of Shamash. He does not answer Gilgamesh's plea to restore Enkidu to life.
Sacred number: 30
Sphere of influence: the moon, calendars, vegetation, cattle fertility
- the consort of Sin, the mother of Shamash
Ishtar (Ishhara, Irnini, Inanna)
She is Anu's second consort, daughter of Anu and Antum, (sometimes daughter of Sin), and sometimes the sister of Ereshkigal. She is the goddess of love, procreation, and war. She is armed with a quiver and bow. Her temples have special prostitutes of both genders. She is often accompanied by a lion, and sometimes rides it. The Eanna in Uruk is dedicated both to her and Anu. As Irnini, she has a parakku (throne-base) at the cedar mountain.
"The Descent of Ishtar to the Underworld"
She determines to go to the Underworld. She threatened to smash the gate and raise the dead so that they would eat and outnumber the living unless the gatekeeper would open it for her. She holds the great keppu-toy (a whipping top). She is allowed in by the gate keeper, who takes her through seven gates to Ereshkigal's realm. By Ereshkigal's rites, she is stripped of items of clothing as she passes through each of the gates: first her crown, then her earrings, then her necklace, then her tudditu (breast pins), then her belt of birthstones, then her wrist and ankle bangles, and finally her garment. While in the underworld, no creatures engaged in acts of procreation. She was kept in Egalgina and brought forth by Namtar after being sprinkled with the water of life, and after 'His appearance is bright' has been cursed. She is led back out through the gates, given back her accouterments, and released in exchange for Dumuzi (Tammuz).
Cylinder Seal of Ishtar (Image from the Oriental Institute at U. Chicago)
"The Epic of Gilgamesh"
She loved Tammuz in her youth, although he spends half the year in the nether world wailing. She loved a lion, a stallion, a shepherd, all of whom she required great sacrifice from and abandoned. She loved Ishullanu, a gardener who offered her fruit, but was taken aback when she revealed herself to him, so she turned him into a frog.
After Gilgamesh cleans himself up, following his defeat of Humbaba, she asks him to be her lover and husband, and offers him many gifts and the homage of earthly rulers and kingdoms. She is rejected, both because of her godly nature, and as a fair-weather lover. Ishtar asks Anu to send the Bull of Heaven to kill Gilgamesh, and he agrees.
(See also the Hittite Shaushka and the Canaanite Astarte and Anat)
Symbol: an eight or sixteen-pointed star
Sacred number: 15
Astrological region: Dibalt (Venus) and the Bowstar (Sirius)
Sacred animal: lion, (dragon)
- the barmaid, a manifestation of Ishtar who dwells at the lip of the sea, beyond which is the Land of Life, where Utnapishtim lives. She speaks with Gilgamesh. She wears a veil.
Shamash (Babbar, Utu)
Shamash is the sun god, the son of Sin and Ningal. He rises from the mountains with rays out of his shoulders. He enters and exits the underworld through a set of gates in the mountain (exits from Mt. Mashu, "Gilgamesh IX ii") guarded by scorpion-people. He travels both on foot and in a chariot, pulled by fiery mules. He upholds truth, and justice. He is a lawgiver and informs oracles. Nergal is a corrupt aspect of his nature.
In Kish, the eagle and the serpent swore an oath to Shamash that they would not overstep the limits of Shamash. The eagle broke the oath and ate the eggs of the serpent. Shamash, 'whose net is as wide as earth', told the serpent how to serve the eagle justice. The serpent lured the eagle with a bull carcass and captured him. The eagle requested to be spared and the serpent refused, saying that Shamash's punishment would fall on him if he did not carry it out. He cut the eagle's wings and left him to die in a pit. The eagle prayed to Shamash for mercy, and Shamash refused to help personally, but sent Etana to help the eagle. He agreed to help Etana's infertility problem if Etana would help the eagle.
"Epic of Gilgamesh"
He loves Gilgamesh, hates evil and instigates Gilgamesh's quest against Humbaba, guiding him and receiving prayers from him along the way. He tries to intercede to Ellil on Enkidu's behalf, but is unsuccessful. He rebukes Enkidu for cursing the Stalker and the temple prostitute for bringing him out of the wild.
See also the Hittite Sun-god and the Canaanite Shapshu.
Symbol: Solar disk with a four point star inside with rays coming from between the points. A winged disk.
Sacred Number: 20
- Shamash's consort
Anshar and Anu's vizier, who is sent to Kurnugi to deliver Ereshkigal the message that Anu wishes to deliver a gift to her via one of her messengers. Anshar sends him to round up Lahmu and Lahamu to send off Marduk for his battle with Tiamat and rally them to his side.
(see also the Sumerian Ninlil.)
the god of fire and Ellil's vizier.
- the god of fire, Anunitu (Antu)'s son. He despairs and will not attack Anzu after Anzu has stolen the Tablet of Destinies from Ellil.
Ishum (Hendursanga - 'lofty mace')
- He is the god of fire, and is adept at using weapons. He lights the way in front of Erra and the Sebitti. He advises Erra against attacking Marduk or his people in Babylon. When Erra takes Marduk's seat, Ishum persuades him against destroying Babylon, finally appeasing him by promising that the other gods would acknowledge themselves as his servants.
- Ellil's doorkeeper in Nippur.
- Ea's lover, mother of Bel and Marduk (note Bel is likely to be another title for Marduk).
- one of "the pure goddesses", Ea's daughter. Her cult center is Sirara near Lagash.
- "strife", goddess created by Ea to complement Ishtar.
Ninurta (shares some characteristics with Ningrisu)
Chamberlain of the Anunnaki, the war god, the champion of the land. He is the child of Ellil and Mami. He was born in Ekur, Ellil's temple in Ekur. He is responsible for some small scale irrigation. He has a bow and arrow, sometimes they are poisoned. He also carries the mace, Sharur, which can act as a messenger between Ninurta and other beings (notably Ea). He can marshal the Seven of Battle, who can generate whirlwinds.
He bound the Mountain of Stones in his fury, conquered the Anzu with his weapon and slew the bull-man inside the Sea. (Dalley p. 204).
After the Tablet of Destinies was stolen, Belit-ili, at Ea's advice, instructed him to kill Anzu. Initially his assault was futile, but Sharur relayed advise from Ea to him, which, when it was carried out allowed him to slay Anzu in a great onslaught. He recovered the Tablet of Destinies for Ellil. Nissaba performs a purification ceremony on him and he receives the following new names and shrines: Duku - 'holy mound' in Sumerian, Hurabtil - an Elamite god, Shushinak - patron god of the Elamite city Susa, Lord of the Secret, Pabilsag - god of the antediluvian city Larak, Nin-Azu - god of Eshunna, Ishtaran - god of Der, Zababa - warrior god of Kish, Lugalbanda - Gilgamesh's father, Lugal-Marada - patron god of Marad, Warrior Tishpak - similar to Nin-Azu, Warrior of Uruk, Lord of the Boundary-Arrow, Panigara - a warrior god, and Papsukkal - vizier of the great gods.
Known as 'the great wild cow' and the great queen, she is Gilgamesh's mother and Lugalbanda's mate. She is wise, 'knows everything' and interprets Gilgamesh's dreams. She offers incense and drink to Shamash and questions his decision to send Gilgamesh against Humbaba. When doing so, she wears a circlet on her head and an ornament on her breast. She adopts Enkidu prior to the quest against Humbaba.
- son of Ea and Dumkina. He supplants the other Babylonian deities to become the central figure of their pantheon. He is a "King of the Igigi" He often works with and asks questions of his father. He has fifty names many of which are those of other deities whose attributes he usurped. He was of proud form and piercing stare, born mature, powerful, and perfect and superior. He has four eyes, four ears, and emits fire from his mouth when he speaks. He is also gifted in magic.
Anu gave him the four winds to play with. When Anu's peace mission to Tiamat fails, Ea urges him into action. He goes before Anshar and the divine assembly and declares that he will defeat Tiamat and lay her head at his feet, but that the assembly must promise that he should be the one to fix fates and more or less assume the role of the leader of the pantheon. Anshar, Lahamu, and Anu find him a shrine and Anu instills upon him the Anu-power in which, his word decrees fate. He is proclaimed king and invested with the scepter, throne, and staff-of-office. He is given an unfaceable weapon, the flood-weapon. He takes a bow and arrow and mace. He puts lightning in front of him, marshals his winds, makes a net to encircle Tiamat, fills his body with flame. He rides his storm-chariot driven by Slayer, Pitiless, Racer, and Flyer, poison-toothed, tireless steeds. He had a spell on his lips and an anti-toxin in his hand. He led the gods to battle. (P.251-252 Dalley)
Qingu's strategy confused him. Tiamat tried to enspell him and wheedled at him. Marduk reproaches her and calls her out for single combat. She looses her temper and they fight. He unleashes his weapons at her, distended her body with winds, shot her in the belly with an arrow, split her in two and slit her heart. He defeats the rest of her forces and retrieves the Tablet of Destinies.
He smashed Tiamat's skull to herald her death and made half of her body the roof of the sky. He leveled Apsu, measured it and established numerous shrines for many of the gods. He set up stands for the gods, constructed the heavens and regulated the year, giving Shamash some dominion over the months and the year. He made the Tigris and Euphrates rivers from Tiamat's eyes and made mountains from her udders. He smashed the weapons of Tiamat's army and put images of them at the gates to the underworld. He set up his temple at Esharra and his seat in Babylon. The gods honored him as king. He put blood and bones together as and made early man to bear the work of the gods, as in Atrahasis. For Qingu's part in the war he was made to provide the blood for the creation of man. He divided the Anunnaki and placed 300 to guard the sky, and six hundred to dwell in heaven and earth. He had them create Babylon building the Esagalia temple and a high ziggurat. Anshar gave him many new names: 1. Asarluhi, 2. Marduk, 3. The Son, The Majesty of the Gods, 4. Marukka, 5. Mershakushu, 6. Lugal-dimmer-ankia (King of heaven and earth), 7. Bel, 8. Nari-lugal-dimmer-ankia, 9. Asarluhi, 10. Namtila, 11. Namru, 12. 'Asare, 13. Asar-alim, 14. Asar-alim-nuna, 15. Tutu, 16. Zi-ukkina, 17. Ziku, 18. Agaku, 19. Shazu, 20. Zisi, 21. Suhrim, 22. Suhgurim, 23. Zahrim, 24. Zahgurim, 25. Enbilulu, 26. Epadun, 27. Gugal, 28. Hegal, 29. Sirsir, 30. Malah, 31. Gil, 32. Gilima, 33. Agilima, 34. Zulum, 35. Mummu, 36. Zulum-ummu, 37. Gizh- numun-ab, 38. Lugal-ab-dubur, 39. Pagal-guena, 40. Lugal-Durmah, 41. Aranuna, 42. Dumu-duku, 43. Lugal-duku, 44. Lugal-shuanna, 45. Iruga, 46. Irqingu, 47. Kinma, 48. Kinma, 49. E-sizkur, 50. Addu, 51. Asharu, 52. Neberu, 53. Enkukur. He becomes a firm lawgiver and judge who, when angered is not stoppable.
Later he becomes somewhat negligent and Erra challenges him by preparing to attack his people in Babylon. He responds to the challenge by saying that he already killed most of the people in the flood and would not do so again. He also states that no- one would be in control of things if he got off of his throne to work up a flood, to which Erra volunteers to run things from Marduk's throne.
Bel (Canaanite Baal)
Cleverest of the clever and sage of the gods, he is the child of Ea and Dumkina. This name (meaning 'lord') is most likely referring to Marduk.
Ashur (A-sir, Arusar, A-shar, Assur)
god of Assyria and war. He is a "King of the Igigi"
Symbol: winged disk enclosing upper body, while he shoots an arrow.
- Shamash's servant.
- vizier of the Great Gods, son of Sin. While Ishtar was in the Underworld, he became gloomy and informed Sin and Ea of this plight.
- the weather god's servant.
Adad (the Canaanite Hadad, the Sumerian Ishkur, the Hurrian Teshub, the Canaanite/Egyptian Resheph, Rimmon)
a storm god, Anu's son. He holds a lightning bolt in his right hand and an axe in his left. He is partially responsible for the flood. He despairs and will not attack Anzu after Anzu has stolen the Tablet of Destinies from Ellil.
Sacred number: 6
Sacred animal: Bull
- Anu and Ishtar's son. He despairs and will not attack Anzu after Anzu has stolen the Tablet of Destinies from Ellil.
- the carpenter god. He carries the pure axe of the sun.
- creator of god and man, goldsmith god.
- 'lord strong-arm' patron god of smiths. He chews copper and makes tools.
C. The Anunnaki and other chthonic deities and demons
- the supreme goddess of the underworld. Nergal is her consort. She is often considered Ishtar's sister. When angered, her face grows livid and her lips grow black.
She doesn't know why Ishtar would visit her, but she allows her in, according to the ancient rites. She instructs Namtar to release his diseases upon Ishtar. When 'His appearance is bright' tries to get her to swear an oath, she curses him. She has Namtar release Ishtar in exchange for Dumuzi.
Anu sends Kakka to her with a message and then sends Nergal to give her a throne upon which she is to sit and give judgment. She offers Nergal food, drink, a foot bath, and entices him with her body. Eventually he succumbs and they sleep with each other for seven days. She is enraged when he wishes to leave. She sends Namtar to heaven to request that Anu, Ellil, and Ea send Nergal to her as one of the few favors she has ever had. If they do not, she will raise the dead and they will eat and outnumber the living. Nergal is brought back. In some versions of the myth, Nergal takes control of Namtar's attendant demons and grabs Ereshkigal by the hair. In this position she proposes marriage to him. In both versions they are married. (See also Sumerian Ereshkigal and the Hittite Lelwanis)
tablet-scribe of the underworld. She kneels before Ereshkigal.
- the Fate-Cutter, Ereshkigal's messenger and vizier, the herald of death. He commands sixty diseases, which are grouped by the part of the body which they affect. Offerings to him may stave off diseases. He takes Ishtar back out of the Underworld at Ereshkigal's command. He acts as her messenger to Anu.
- the cattle god, he resides in the underworld, in Ereshkigal's court.
Nergal (Erragal, Erra, Engidudu
- 'lord who prowls by night') -, the Unsparing, god of the underworld, husband of Ereshkigal, lover of Mami. As Erra he is a hunter god, a god of war and plague. He is submissive to Ea. He can open the doorposts to the underworld to allow the passage of a soul.
He achieved his post by refusing to stand before an address of Namtar. When Ereshkigal called him to be punished, he dragged her off of her throne by the hair, and threatened to decapitate her. She offered him the position as her consort and he accepted.
He is an evil aspect of Shamash. He allows Enkidu's spirit to visit Gilgamesh at the behest of Ea. He is sometimes the son of Ea. Prior to his first journey to the underworld, he builds a chair of fine wood under Ea's instruction to give to Ereshkigal as a gift from Anu. He is advised not to take part of the food, drink and entertainment offered there. He is tempted by Ereshkigal and eventually succumbs, sleeping with her for seven days. He then takes his leave, angering her. The gatekeeper lets him out and he climbs the stairway to heaven. He hides from Namtar in heaven, but is discovered and returns to the underworld to marry Ereshkigal. In some versions, on the way back to the Underworld, he seizes control of Namtar's attendant demons and grabs Ereshkigal by the hair. In this position she offers marriage.
He commands the Sebitti, seven warriors who are also the Pleadies, they aid in his killing of noisy, over-populous people and animals. He rallies them when he feels the urge for war, and calls Ishum to light the way. They prefer to be used in war instead of waiting while Erra kills by disease.
He regards Marduk as having become negligent and prepares to attack his people in Babylon. He challenges Marduk in Esagila in Shuanna/Babylon. Marduk responds that he already killed most of the people in the flood and would not do so again. He also states that he could not run the flood without getting off of his throne and letting control slip. Erra volunteers to take his seat and control things. Marduk takes his vacation and Erra sets about trying to destroy Babylon. Ishum intervenes on Babylon's behalf and persuades Erra to stop, but not before he promises that the other gods will acknowledge themselves as Erra's servants. (See also Sumerian Nergal
- plague god, underling of Nergal
- Underworld god
- a dread female demon also known as 'she who erases'.
- god of writing and wisdom
- the guardian of the first gate of the underworld. (Dalley p. 175, "Nergal and Ereshkigal"). Also known as Neti to the Sumerians.
- a guardian of the gate of heaven; a god of the underworld.
Tammuz (Dumuzi, Adonis)
the brother and spouse to Ishtar, or the lover of her youth. He is a vegetation god. He went into the underworld and was recovered through the intervention of Ishtar. He is sometimes the guardian of heaven's gates and sometimes a god of the underworld. He is friends with Ningizzia. He is exchanged for Ishtar in the Underworld. He guards the Gate of Anu with Gizzida.
- Tammuz/Dumuzi's sister, 'the one who always weeps', the wife of Ningishzida.
- son of Ninazu, consort of Belili, doorkeeper of Anu.
- cereal grain harvest goddess. Her breast nourishes the fields. Her womb gives birth to the vegetation and grain. She has abundant locks of hair. She is also a goddess of writing and learned knowledge. She performs the purification ceremony on Ninurta after he has slain Anzu and is given his additional names and shrines.
Dagan (Ugaritic for 'grain')
- chthonic god of fertility and of the Underworld. He is paired with Anu as one who acknowledges directives and courses of action put forth in front of the assembly of the gods.
(See also the Canaanite Dagon)
- (means 'pimple') an underworld god. Ellil used him as a messenger to Ninurta
- god of submission
- boatman to Utnapishtim
- canal-controller of the Anunnaki.
- 'ear', god whose blood and intelligence are used by Mami to create man.
D. Demigods, heroes, and monsters:
- the first of the seven antediluvian sages who were sent by Ea to deliver the arts of civilization to mankind. He was from Eridu. He offered food an water to the gods in Eridu. He went out to catch fish for the temple of Ea and was caught in a storm. He broke the South Wind's wing and was called to be punished. Ea advised him to say that he behaved that way on account of Dumuzi's and Gizzida's absence from the country. Those gods, who tended Anu's gate, spoke in his favor to Anu. He was offered the bread and water of eternal life, but Ea advised against his taking it, lest he end his life on earth.
Atrahasis and Ut-napishtim,
Like the Sumerian Ziusudra (the Xisuthros of Berossus) or Noah from the Pentateuch, were the long-lived survivors of the great flood which wiped out the rest of humanity. In Atrahasis' case, Ellil had grown tired of the noise that the mass of humanity was making, and after a series of disasters failed to eliminate the problem, he had Enki release the floodgates to drown them out. Since Enki had a hand in creating man, he wanted to preserve his creation, warned Atrahasis, and had him build a boat, with which he weathered the flood. He also had kept his ear open to Enki during the previous disasters and had been able to listen to Enki's advice on how to avoid their full effects by making the appropriate offerings to the appropriate deities. He lived hundreds of years prior to the flood, while Utnapishtim lives forever after the flood.
Utnapishtim of Shuruppak was the son of Ubaratutu. His flood has no reason behind it save the stirrings of the hearts of the Gods. As with Atrahasis, Utnapishtim is warned to build an ark by Ea. He is also told to abandon riches and possessions and seek life and to tell the city elders that he is hated by Enlil and would go to the watery Abyss to live with Ea via the ark. He loads gold, silver, and the seed of all living creatures into the ark and all of his craftsmen's children as well. After Ea advises Enlil on better means to control the human population, (predators, famine, and plague), Enlil makes Utnapishtim and his wife immortal, like the gods.
- the human taken to the sky by an eagle. He was the king of Kish. Ishtar and the Igigi searched for a king for Kish. Ellil found a throne for Etana and they declared him the king. He was pious an continued to pray to Shamash, yet he had no son. Shamash told him to where to find the eagle with the cut wings, who would find for him the plant of birth. He found the eagle, fed it, and taught it to fly again. Not being able to find the plant, the eagle had Etana mount on his back and they journeyed to Ishtar, mistress of birth. On flying up to heaven, Etana grew scared at the height and went down. Then after some encouraging dreams tried to ascend to heaven on the eagle again. They succeeded. Etana had a son, Balih.
- a warrior-king and, with Ninsun, the progenitor of Gilgamesh. He is worshipped, being Gilgamesh's ancestor, by Gilgamesh as a god.
Gilgamesh (possibly Bilgamesh) and Enkidu
"Epic of Gilgamesh: Tablet I"
The son of the warrior-king Lugalbanda and the wise goddess Ninsun, Gilgamesh built the walls of the city Uruk, and the Eanna (house of An) temple complex there, dedicated to Ishtar. He is two-thirds divine and one-third human. He is tall and a peerless warrior. He is the king and shepherd of the people of Uruk, but he was very wild, which upset his people, so they called out to Anu. Anu told Aruru to make a peer for Gilgamesh, so that they could fight and be kept occupied, so she created the wild-man Enkidu. Enkidu terrorizes the countryside, and a Stalker, advised by his father, informs Gilgamesh. They bring a love-priestess to bait Enkidu. She sleeps with him, and educates him about civilization, Gilgamesh and the city. Gilgamesh dreams about Enkidu and is anxious to meet him. Enkidu comes into the city Gilgamesh is on his way to deflower the brides in the city's "bride-house" and the two fight. They are evenly matched and become friends.
"Epic of Gilgamesh: Tablets II - V"
Gilgamesh decides to strengthen his reputation by taking on Humbaba, Enlil's guardian of the forest. Enkidu accompanies Gilgamesh and they spend much time in preparation. Eventually they find the monster and defeat him.
"Epic of Gilgamesh: Tablets VI - VIII"
Ishtar offers to become Gilgamesh's lover, but Gilgamesh insults her, saying that she has had many lovers and has not been faithful to them. Ishtar asks Anu to send the Bull of Heaven to punish Gilgamesh, and he does. Gilgamesh and Enkidu defeat the creature, but Enkidu falls ill and dies, presumably because the gods are unhappy that he helped kill Humbaba and the Bull of Heaven.
"Epic of Gilgamesh: Tablets IX - XI"
Gilgamesh mourns Enkidu and decides to visit Utnapishtim, the only human who does not die. He goes to the mountains of Mashu and passes by the guardian scorpion-demons into the darkness. It becomes light as he enters the Garden of the Gods and he finds Siduri the Barmaid, to whom he relates his quest. She sends him to cross the waters of death and he confronts the boatman, Urshanabi. They cross and Gilgamesh speaks with Utnapishtim. Utnapishtim recounts the tale of the flood and challenges Gilgamesh to remain awake for six days and seven nights. He fails, but Utnapishtim's wife urges him to reveal to Gilgamesh a rejuvinative plant. Gilgamesh takes it, but looses it to a serpent before returning to Uruk.
"Epic of Gilgamesh: Tablet XII"
Another tablet of the Babylonian Gilgamesh story exists, which is similar to the Sumerian version of the tale. Enkidu volunteers to enter the underworld to recover Gilgamesh's pukku and mikku (drum and throwing stick). Gilgamesh warns him of the proper etiquette for the underworld, lest Enkidu be kept there. Enkidu prepares to enter the underworld, and is dressed, scented and bade good-bye. The Earth seizes him and Gilgamesh weeps. He pleads for Enkidu's sake to Enlil, Sin, and finally to Ea. Ea tells Nergal to let Enkidu's ghost escape the underworld and tell Gilgamesh about it. He tells Gilgamesh of the dead which he has seen there, of those who are cared for and those who aren't, indicating the sort of judgment and ritual associated with the afterlife and death.
- this monster was appointed by Ellil to guard the cedar forest, which is in fact one large tree, the home of the gods, and terrify mankind. 'His shout is the storm-flood, his mouth, fire, his breath is death.' (Gardner & Maier p. 105) He has seven cloaks with which to arm himself. There is a gate and a path in the cedar mountain for Humbaba to walk on. Gilgamesh and Enkidu attack. Humbaba pleads for mercy, Enkidu argues against mercy, and Enkidu and Gilgamesh decapitate him. See also the Sumerian Huwawa.
The Bull of Heaven
- this creature was created by Anu to kill Gilgamesh at Ishtar's behest. At its snorting, a hole opened up and 200 men fell into it. When it fights Enkidu and Gilgamesh, it throws spittle and excrement at them. It is killed and set as an offering to Shamash.
- a demonic being with lion paws and face and eagle talons and wings. It was born on the mountain Hehe. Its beak is like a saw, its hide as eleven coats of mail. It was very powerful. Ellil appointed him to guard his bath chamber. He envied the Ellil-power inherent in Ellil's Tablet of Destinies and stole it while Ellil was bathing. With the Tablet of Destinies, anything he puts into words becomes reality. He takes advandtage of this by causing Ninurta's arrows to never reach their target. However, once Ea's advice reached Ninurta, Anzu was slain by the hero's onslaught.
- scorpion-man, the guardians of the gates of the underworld. Their "terror is awesome" and their "glance is death". They guard the passage of Shamash. They appraise Gilgamesh and speak with him.
- gods (mostly of the earth). The sky Anunnaki set the Igigi to digging out the rivers
- gods (mostly of the heavens) They are given the task of digging riverbeds by the Anunnaki. They rebelled against Ellil.
- the seven warrior gods led by Erra; in the sky they are the Pleadies. They were children of Anu and the Earth-mother. Anu gave them fearsome and lethal destinies and put them under Erra's command. They prefer to exercise there skills instead of letting Erra stay in the cities with his diseases.
Utukki - demons
Muttabriqu - Flashes of Lightning
Sarabda - Bailiff
Rabishu - Croucher
Tirid - Expulsion
Idiptu - Wind
Bennu - Fits
Sidana - Staggers
Miqit - Stroke
Bel Uri - Lord of the Roof
Umma - Feverhot
Libu - Scab
gallu-demons - can frequently alter their form.
umu-demons - fiercely bare their teeth.
IV. What about the Underworld and Heaven and all that?
For a more general discussion of this, take a look at the Underworld and Cosmology sections in the Sumerian FAQ, for the particulars, see below.
The Igigi and the Anunnaki met in heaven in Ubshu-ukkinakku, the divine assembly hall. The Gilgamesh epic has the gods dwelling in the cedar mountain. They had their parakku, throne-bases, there. It was an enormous tree at the cedar forest and was guarded by Humbaba. There is a stairway up to heaven from the underworld.
As for the underworld Kurnugi (Sumerian for 'land of no return'). It is presided over by Ereshkigal and Nergal. Within the house of Irkalla (Nergal), the house of darkness, the house of Ashes, no one ever exits. "They live on dust, their food is mud; their clothes are like birds' clothes, a garment of wings, and they see no light, living in blackness." It is full of dust and mighty kings serve others food. In Ereshkigal's court, heroes and priests reside, as well as Sumuqan and Belit-tseri. The scorpion-people guard the gates in the mountain to the underworld which Shamash uses to enter and exit. There are seven gates, through which one must pass. At each gate, an adornment or article of clothing must be removed. The gates (gatekeepers?) are named: Nedu, (En)kishar, Endashurimma, (E)nuralla, Endukuga/Nerubanda, Endushuba/Eundukuga, and Ennugigi. Beyond the gates are twelve double doors, wherein it is dark. Siduri waits there by the waters of death, beyond which, is the Land of the Living, where Utnapishtim and his wife dwell. Shamash and Utnapishtim's boatman, Urshanbi, can cross the waters. Egalginga, the everlasting palace, is a place where Ishtar was held.
V. Hey! I read that Cthulhu is really some Babylonian or Sumerian god, how come he's not there under Kutu?
I have yet to find any secondary (or for that matter primary) source which lists Kutu as a Mesopotamian deity, or for that matter lists any name resembling Cthulhu at all. However, having been given a pointer by DanNorder@aol.com, I have confirmed that Kutha or Cutch was the cult city of Nergal, the Akkadian god of plagues and the underworld (see above) and that 'lu' is the Sumerian word for man. So, Kuthalu would mean Kutha-man which could conceivably refer to Nergal. As far as I can tell it could mean Joe the Butcher or any of his neighbors who happen to live in Kutha just as easily. Nergal, of course bears little resemblance to Lovecraft's Cthulhu beyond the fact that both can be considered underworld powers. Those interested in further discussion about this might wish to contact Dan at the above address and they may wish to read alt.horror.cthulhu as well.
VI. So, in AD&D, Tiamat is this five-headed evil dragon, but they got her from the Enuma Elish, right? What about her counterpart, Bahamut?
Bahamut, according to Edgerton Sykes' Who's Who of Non-Classical Mythology, is "The enormous fish on which stands Kujara, the giant bull, whose back supports a rock of ruby, on the top of which stands an angel on whose shoulders rests the earth, according to Islamic myth. Our word Behemoth is of the same origin." (Sykes, p. 28)
[Note: Sykes's use of the phrase "Islamic myth" is misleading as this bit of cosmology is not considered Islamic doctrine. Bahamut is pre-Islamic, most likely Arabic. I don't have a second source for Kujara.]
Behemoth then, is usually the male counterpart to Leviathan, and is a great beast that roams on land. He is sometimes equated with a hippopotamus, and is alternately listed in the Old Testament as a creature on the side of God and as one over whom God has or will triumph over.
VII. I've heard there are Biblical parallels in Babylonian literature. What are they anyway?
Genesis: Creation of the universe
Ps:74:12-17 - YHWH vs. Leviathan; Marduk vs Tiamat. In the Enuma Elish, tablet IV, Marduk defeats the ocean goddess, Tiamat who is often depicted as a multi-headed dragon. He splits her apart, as YHWH splits apart the sea in Ps 74:13. He crushes her skull as YHWH crushes the skulls of the monster Leviathan in Ps 74:13-14. In tablet V, Marduk causes the crescent moon to appear, creates the seasons, the night and day, and creates springs from Tiamat's eyes, to form the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, as YHWH does in Ps 74:15-17 (Hooke p.106, Dalley pp.253-257)
Creation of humans.
Fall of man.
Adapa was the first "apkallu" (sage/priest), not the first man or first patriarch. He was given wisdom (knowledge of good and evil?) but not immortality. When in heaven (sent there for having broken the South Wind's wing), he is offered bread and water of eternal life. He refuses it, however having been tricked by Ea (in serpent role?) stating that he would be offered the bread and water of death instead. (Dalley pp. 182-188) In other references to the seven apkallu, he is the counsellor paired with the first anteluvian king on the Sumerian king lists (Dalley p. 328), Alulim - not Alulim himself, who was Adam's analog in patriarchal order.
Tower of Babel
As with the Sumerians, the most striking Biblical parallel within Akkadian myth is in the story of the flood. For the Babylonian account, see the entries on Atrahasis and Utnapishtim above.
Exodus - According to legend, Sargon was left in a basket in the Euphrates as an infant and "rose 'from an ark of bulrushes'" (Oppenheim, Ancient Mesopotamia p. 101). His adoptive father was a "laborer in a palm garden who spotted the basket containing the remarkable child" (Crawford p. 42) Sargon was originally the cupbearer to a king (Ur-Zababa) before achieving leadership on his own. (Crawford p. 25)
Weeping for Tammuz and the month of Tammuz.
See also Biblical Parallels in Sumerian Mythology
VIII. Where did you get this info and where can I find out more?
Well this FAQ is primarily derived from the following works:
* Barraclough, Geoffrey (ed.) The Times Consise Atlas of World History, Hammond Inc., Maplewood, New Jersey, 1982.
* Dalley, Stephanie Myths from Mesopotamia, Oxford University Press, New York, 1991. This inexpensive volume served as the bible for much of this FAQ. It contains translations of the major Akkadian language myths with footnotes, brief introductions, and a glossary.
* Gardner, John & Maier, John Gilgamesh: Translated from the Sin-Leqi-Unninni Version, Vintage Books, Random House, New York, 1984. A column by column translation with notes and commentary following each column, by the late author of Grendel.
* Hooke, S. H., Babylonian and Assyrian Religion, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman Oklahoma, 1963.
* Kinnier Wilson, J. V., The Rebel Lands : an Investigation Into the Origins of Early Mesopotamian Mythology, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1979.
* McCall, Henrietta, Mesopotamian Myths University of Texas Press, Austin, 1990. A summary account of Dalley's book with nice pictures more cultural context.
* Oppenheim, A. Leo, Ancient Mesopotamia: Portrait of a Dead Civilization, Chicato, The University of Chicago Press, 1977. This is the source for the history and culture of the Babylonians and Assyrians for the interested lay-person.
* The New American Bible, Catholic Book Publishing Co., New York, 1970.
In addition the following books have occasionally proven helpful:
* Carlyon, Richard, A Guide to the Gods, Quill, William Morrow, New York, 1981.
* Hooke, S. H. Middle Eastern Mythology, Penguin Books, New York, 1963. This work covers Sumerian, Babylonian, Canaanite/Ugaritic, Hittite, and Hebrew mythologic material in brief and with comparisons.
* Jacobsen, Thorkild, The Treasures of Darkness, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1976. A good alternative to Kramer, Jacobsen explores Mesopotamian religious development from early Sumerian times through the Babylonian Enuma Elish. Most of the book winds up being on the Sumerians.
* Pritchard, James B., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, with Suppliment, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1969.
* Sykes, Edgerton, Who's Who in Non-Classical Mythology, Oxford University Press, New York, 1993.
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