SUMER - LAND OF THE GODS

THERE IS NO DOUBT that the "olden words," which for thousands of years constituted the language of higher learning and religious scriptures, was the language of Sumer. There is also no doubt that the "olden gods" were the gods of Sumer; records and tales and genealogies and histories of gods older than those pertaining to the gods of Sumer have not been found anywhere.

When these gods (in their original Sumerian forms or in the later Akkadian, Babylonian, or Assyrian) are named and counted, the list runs into the hundreds. But once they are classified, it is clear that they were not a hodgepodge of divinities.

 

They were headed by a pantheon of Great Gods, governed by an Assembly of the Deities, and related to each other. Once the numerous lesser nieces, nephews, grandchildren, and the like are excluded, a much smaller and coherent group of deities emerges - each with a role to play, each with certain powers or responsibilities.

There were, the Sumerians believed, gods that were "of the heavens." Texts dealing with the time "before things were created" talk of such heavenly gods as Apsu, Tiamat, Anshar, Kishar. No claim is ever made that the gods of this category ever appeared upon Earth. As we look closer at these "gods," who existed before Earth was created, we shall realize that they were the celestial bodies that make up our solar system; and, as we shall show, the so-called Sumerian myths regarding these celestial beings are, in fact, precise and scientifically plausible cosmologic concepts regarding the creation of our solar system.

There were also lesser gods who were "of Earth." Their cult centers were mostly provincial towns; they were no more than local deities. At best, they were given charge of some limited operation - as, for example, the goddess NIN.KASHI ('lady-beer"), who supervised the preparation of beverages. Of them, no heroic tales were told.

 

They possessed no awesome weapons, and the other gods did not shudder at their command. They remind one very much of the company of young gods that marched last in the procession depicted on the rocks of Hittite Yazilikaya.

Between the two groups there were the Gods of Heaven and Earth, the ones called "the ancient gods." They were the "olden gods" of the epic tales, and, in the Sumerian belief, they had come down to Earth from the heavens.

These were no mere local deities. They were national gods - indeed, international gods. Some of them were present and active upon Earth even before there were Men upon Earth. Indeed, the very existence of Man was deemed to have been the result of a deliberate creative enterprise on the part of these gods. They were powerful, capable of feats beyond mortal ability or comprehension. Yet these gods not only looked like humans but ate and drank like them and displayed virtually every human emotion of love and hate, loyalty and infidelity.

Although the roles and hierarchical standing of some of the principal deities shifted over the millennia, a number of them never lost their paramount position and their national and international veneration. As we take a close look at this central group, there emerges a picture of a dynasty of gods, a divine family, closely related yet bitterly divided.

The head of this family of Gods of Heaven and Earth was AN (or Anu in the Babylonian/Assyrian texts). He was the Great Father of the Gods, the King of the Gods. His realm was the expanse of the heavens, and his symbol was a star.

 

In the Sumerian pictographic writing, the sign of a star also stood for An, for "heavens," and for "divine being," or "god" (descended of An).

 

This fourfold meaning of the symbol remained through the ages, as the script moved from the Sumerian pictographic to the cuneiform Akkadian, to the stylized Babylonian and Assyrian.

From the very earliest times until the cuneiform script faded away - from the fourth millennium B.C. almost to the time of Christ - this symbol preceded the names of the gods, indicating that the name written in the text was not of a mortal, but of a deity of heavenly origin.

Anu's abode, and the seat of his Kingship, was in the heavens.

 

That was where the other Gods of Heaven and Earth went when they needed individual advice or favor, or where they met in assembly to settle disputes among themselves or to reach major decisions. Numerous texts describe Anu's palace (whose portals were guarded by a god of the Tree of Truth and a god of the Tree of Life), his throne, the manner in which other gods approached him, and how they sat in his presence.

The Sumerian texts could also recall instances when not only the other gods but even some chosen mortals were permitted to go up to Anu's abode, mostly with the object of escaping mortality. One such tale pertained to Adapa ("model of Man"). He was so perfect and so loyal to the god Ea, who had created him, that Ea arranged for him to be taken to Anu.

 

Ea then described to Adapa what to expect.

Adapa,
thou art going before Anu, the King;
The road to Heaven thou wilt take.
When to Heaven thou hast ascended,
and hast approached the gate of Anu,
the "Bearer of Life" and the "Grower of Truth"
at the gate of Anu will be standing.

Guided by his creator, Adapa,

"to Heaven went up ... ascended to Heaven and approached the gate of Anu."

But when he was offered the chance to become immortal, Adapa refused to eat the Bread of Life, thinking that the angry Anu offered him poisoned food. He was thus returned to Earth as an anointed priest but still a mortal.

The Sumerian claim that not only gods but also selected mortals could ascend to the Divine Abode in the heavens is echoed in the Old Testament tales of the ascents to the heavens by Enoch and the prophet Elijah.

Though Anu lived in a Heavenly Abode, the Sumerian texts reported instances when he came down to Earth - either at times of great crisis, or on ceremonial visits (when he was accompanied by his spouse ANTU), or (at least once) to make his great-granddaughter IN.ANNA his consort on Earth.

Since he did not permanently reside on Earth, there was apparently no need to grant him exclusivity over his own city or cult center; and the abode, or "high house," erected for him was located at Uruk (the biblical Erech), the domain of the goddess Inanna.

 

The ruins of Uruk include to this day a huge man-made mound, where archaeologists have found evidence of the construction and reconstruction of a high temple - the temple of Anu; no less than eighteen strata or distinct phases were discovered there, indicating the existence of compelling reasons to maintain the temple at that sacred site.

The temple of Anu was called E.ANNA ("house of An"). But this simple name applied to a structure that, at least at some of its phases, was quite a sight to behold. It was, according to Sumerian texts,

"the hallowed E-Anna, the pure sanctuary."

Traditions maintained that the Great Gods themselves "had fashioned its parts."

"Its cornice was like copper"

"its great wall touching the clouds - a lofty dwelling place"

"it was the House whose charm was irresistible, whose allure was unending"

And the texts also made clear the temple's purpose, for they called it "the House for descending from Heaven."

A tablet that belonged to an archive at Uruk enlightens us as to the pomp and pageantry that accompanied the arrival of Anu and his spouse on a "state visit." Because of damage to the tablet, we can read of the ceremonies only from some midpoint, when Ami and Antu were already seated in the temple's courtyard. The gods, "exactly in the same order as before," then formed a procession ahead of and behind the bearer of the scepter.

 

The protocol then instructed:

They shall then descend to the Exalted Court,
and shall turn towards the god Anu.
The Priest of Purification shall libate the Scepter,
and the Scepter-bearer shall enter and be seated.
The deities Papsukal, Nusku and Shala
shall then be seated in the court of the god Anu.

Meanwhile, the goddesses,

"The Divine Offspring of Anu, Uruk's Divine Daughters," bore a second object, whose name or purpose are unclear, to the E.NIR, "The House of the Golden Bed of the Goddess Antu."

Then they returned in a procession to the courtyard, to the place where Antu was seated.

 

While the evening meal was being prepared according to a strict ritual, a special priest smeared a mixture of "good oil" and wine on the door sockets of the sanctuary to which Anu and Antu were later to retire for the night - a thoughtful touch intended, it seems, to eliminate squeaking of the doors while the two deities slept.

While an "evening meal" - various drinks and appetizers - was being served, an astronomer-priest went up to the "topmost stage of the tower of the main temple" to observe the skies. He was to look out for the rising in a specific part of the sky of the planet named Great Anu of Heaven.

 

Thereupon, he was to recite the compositions named,

"To the one who grows bright, the heavenly planet of the Lord Anu," and "The Creator's image has risen."

Once the planet had been sighted and the poems recited, Anu and Antu washed their hands with water out of a golden basin and the first part of the feast began.

 

Then, the seven Great Gods also washed their hands from seven large golden trays and the second part of the feast began. The "rite of washing of the mouth" was then performed; the priests recited the hymn "The planet of Anu is Heaven's hero."

 

Torches were lit, and the gods, priests, singers, and food-bearers arranged themselves in a procession, accompanying the two visitors to their sanctuary for the night.

Four major deities were assigned to remain in the courtyard and keep watch until daybreak. Others were stationed at various designated gates. Meanwhile, the whole country was to light up and celebrate the presence of the two divine visitors. On a signal from the main temple, the priests of all the other temples of Uruk were "to use torches to start bonfires"; and the priests in other cities, seeing the bonfires at Uruk, were to do likewise.

 

Then:

The people of the Land shall light fires in their homes,
and shall offer banquets to all the gods....
The guards of the cities shall light fires
in the streets and in the squares.
The departure of the two Great Gods was also planned, not only to the day but to the minute.
On the seventeenth day,
forty minutes after sunrise,
the gate shall be opened before the gods Anu and
Antu,
bringing to an end their overnight stay.

While the end of this tablet has broken off, another text in all probability describes the departure: the morning meal, the incantations, the handshakes ("grasping of the hands") by the other gods.

 

The Great Gods were then carried to their point of departure on thronelike litters carried on the shoulders of temple functionaries. An Assyrian depiction of a procession of deities (though from a much later time) probably gives us a good idea of the manner in which Anu and Antu were carried during their procession in Uruk.

Special incantations were recited when the procession was passing through "the street of the gods"; other psalms and hymns were sung as the procession neared "the holy quay" and when it reached "the dike of the ship of Anu."

 

Good-byes were then said, and yet more incantations were recited and sung "with hand-raising gestures."

Then all the priests and temple functionaries who carried the gods, led by the great priest, offered a special "prayer of departure." "Great Ami, may Heaven and Earth bless you!" they intoned seven times. They prayed for the blessing of the seven celestial gods and invoked the gods that were in Heaven and the gods that were upon Earth.

 

In conclusion, they bade farewell to Anu and Antu, thus:

May the Gods of the Deep,
and the Gods of the Divine Abode,
bless you!
May they bless you daily -
every day of every month of every year!

Among the thousands upon thousands of depictions of the ancient gods that have been uncovered, none seems to depict Anu.

 

Yet he peers at us from every statue and every portrait of every king that ever was, from antiquity to our very own days. For Anu was not only the Great King, King of the Gods, but also the one by whose grace others could be crowned as kings. By Sumerian tradition, rulership flowed from Anu; and the very term for "Kingship" was Anutu ("Anu-ship").

 

The insignia of Anu were the tiara (the divine headdress), the scepter (symbol of power), and the staff (symbolizing the guidance provided by the shepherd).

The shepherd's staff may now be found more in the hands of bishops than of kings. But the crown and scepter are still held by whatever kings Mankind has left on some thrones.

The second most powerful deity of the Sumerian pantheon was EN.LIL. His name meant "lord of the airspace" - the prototype and father of the later Storm Gods that were to head the pantheons of the ancient world.

He was Anu's eldest son, born at his father's Heavenly Abode. But at some point in the earliest times he descended to Earth, and was thus the principal God of Heaven and Earth. When the gods met in assembly at the Heavenly Abode, Enlil presided over the meetings alongside his father.

 

When the gods met for assembly on Earth, they met at Enlil's court in the divine precinct of Nippur, the city dedicated to Enlil and the site of his main temple, the E.KUR ("house which is like a mountain").

Not only the Sumerians but the very gods of Sumer considered Enlil supreme. They called him Ruler of All the Lands, and made it clear that "in Heaven - he is the Prince; On Earth - he is the Chief."

 

His "word [command] high above made the Heavens tremble, down below made the Earth quake":

Enlil,
Whose command is far reaching;
Whose "word" is lofty and holy;
Whose pronouncement is unchangeable;
Who decrees destinies unto the distant future....
The Gods of Earth bow down willingly before him;
The Heavenly gods who are on Earth
humble themselves before him;
They stand by faithfully, according to instructions.

Enlil, according to Sumerian beliefs, arrived on Earth well before Earth became settled and civilized.

 

A "Hymn to Enlil, the All-Beneficent" recounts the many aspects of society and civilization that would not have existed had it not been for Enlil's instructions to "execute his orders, far and wide."

No cities would be built, no settlements founded; No stalls would be built, no sheepfolds erected; No king would be raised, no high priest born.

The Sumerian texts also stated that Enlil arrived on Earth before the "Black-Headed People" - the Sumerian nickname for Mankind - were created. During such pre-Mankind times, Enlil erected Nippur as his center, or "command post," at which Heaven and Earth were connected through some "bond."

 

The Sumerian texts called this bond DUR.AN.KI ("bond heaven-earth") and used poetic language to describe Enlil's first actions on Earth:

Enlil,
When you marked off divine settlements on Earth,
Nippur you set up as your very own city.
The City of Earth, the lofty,
Your pure place whose water is sweet.
You founded the Dur-An-Ki
In the center of the four corners of the world.

In those early days, when gods alone inhabited Nippur and Man had not yet been created, Enlil met the goddess who was to become his wife. According to one version, Enlil saw his future bride while she was bathing in Nippur's stream - naked.

 

It was love at first sight, but not necessarily with marriage in mind:

The shepherd Enlil, who decrees the fates,
The Bright-Eyed One, saw her.
The lord speaks to her of intercourse;
she is unwilling.
Enlil speaks to her of intercourse;
she is unwilling:
"My vagina is too small [she said],
It knows no copulation;
My lips are too little,
they know not kissing."

But Enlil did not take no for an answer.

 

He disclosed to his chamberlain Nushku his burning desire for "the young maid," who was called SUD ("the nurse"), and who lived with her mother at E.RESH ("scented house"). Nushku suggested a boat ride and brought up a boat. Enlil persuaded Sud to go sailing with him. Once they were in the boat, he raped her.

 

The ancient tale then relates that though Enlil was chief of the gods they were so enraged that they seized him and banished him to the Lower World.

"Enlil, immoral one!" they shouted at him. "Get thyself out of the city!"

This version has it that Sud, pregnant with Enlil's child, followed him, and he married her. Another version has the repentant Enlil searching for the girl and sending his chamberlain to her mother to ask for the girl's hand. One way or another, Sud did become the wife of Enlil, and he bestowed on her the title NIN.LIL ("lady of the airspace").

But little did he and the gods who banished him know that it was not Enlil who had seduced Ninlil, but the other way around. The truth of the matter was that Ninlil bathed naked in the stream on her mother's instructions, with the hope that Enlil - who customarily took his walks by the stream - would notice Ninlil and wish to "forthwith embrace you, kiss you."

In spite of the manner in which the two fell for each other, Ninlil was held in the highest esteem once she was given by Enlil "the garment of ladyship."

 

With one exception, which (we believe) had to do with dynastic succession, Enlil is never known to have had other indiscretions. A votive tablet found at Nippur shows Enlil and Ninlil being served food and beverage at their temple. The tablet was commissioned by Ur-Enlil, the "Domestic of Enlil."

Apart from being chief of the gods, Enlil was also deemed the supreme Lord of Sumer (sometimes simply called "The Land") and its "Black-Headed People."

 

A Sumerian psalm spoke in veneration of this god:

Lord who knows the destiny of The Land,
trustworthy in his calling; Enlil who knows the destiny of Sumer,
trustworthy in his calling; Father Enlil,
Lord of all the lands;
Father Enlil,
Lord of the Rightful Command; Father Enlil,
Shepherd of the Black-Headed Ones. ... From the Mountain of Sunrise
to the Mountain of Sunset, There is no other Lord in the land;
you alone are King.

The Sumerians revered Enlil out of both fear and gratitude.

 

It was he who made sure that decrees by the Assembly of the Gods were carried out against Mankind; it was his "wind" that Hew obliterating storms against offending cities. It was he who, at the time of the Deluge, sought the destruction of Mankind. But when at peace with Mankind, he was a friendly god who bestowed favors; according to the Sumerian text, the knowledge of fanning, together with the plow and the pickax, were granted to Mankind by Enlil.

Enlil also selected the kings who were to rule over Mankind, not as sovereigns but as servants of the god entrusted with the administration of divine laws of justice. Accordingly, Sumerian, Akkadian, and Babylonian kings opened their inscriptions of self-adoration by describing how Enlil had called them to Kingship.

 

These "calls" - issued by Enlil on behalf of himself and his father Anu - granted legitimacy to the ruler and outlined his functions.

 

Even Hammurabi, who acknowledged a god named Marduk as the national god of Babylon, prefaced his code of laws by stating that,

"Anu and Enlil named me to promote the welfare of the people... to cause justice to prevail in the land."

God of Heaven and Earth, Firstborn of Anu, Dispenser of Kingship, Chief Executive of the Assembly of the Gods, Father of Gods and Men, Granter of Agriculture, Lord of the Airspace - these were some of the attributes of Enlil that bespoke his greatness and powers.

 

His "command was far reaching," his "pronouncements unchangeable"; he "decreed the destinies." He possessed the "bond heaven-earth," and from his "awesome city Nippur" he could "raise the beams that search the heart of all the lands" - "eyes that could scan all the lands."

Yet he was as human as any young man enticed by a naked beauty; subject to moral laws imposed by the community of the gods, transgressions of which were punishable by banishment; and not even immune to mortal complaints.

 

At least in one known instance, a Sumerian king of Ur complained directly to the Assembly of the Gods that a series of troubles that had befallen Ur and her people could be traced back to the ill-fated fact that,

"Enlil did give the kingship to a worthless man... who is not of Sumerian seed."

As we go along, we shall see the central role that Enlil played in divine and mortal affairs on Earth, and how his several sons battled among themselves and with others for the divine succession, undoubtedly giving rise to the later tales of the battles of the gods.

The third Great God of Sumer was another son of Anu; he bore two names, E.A and EN.KI. Like his brother Enlil, he, too, was a God of Heaven and Earth, a deity originally of the heavens, who had come down to Earth.

His arrival on Earth is associated in Sumerian texts with A time when the waters of the Persian Gulf reached inland much farther than nowadays, turning the southern part of the country into marshlands. Ea (the name meant literally "house-water"), who was a master engineer, planned and supervised the construction of canals, the diking of the rivers, and the draining of the marshlands. He loved to go sailing on these waterways, and especially in the marshlands.

 

The waters, as his name denoted, were indeed his home. He built his "great house" in the city he had founded at the edge of the marshlands, a city appropriately named HA.A.KI ("place of the water-fishes"); it was also known as E.RI.DU ("home of going afar").

Ea was "Lord of the Saltwaters," the seas and oceans. Sumerian texts speak repeatedly of a very early time when the three Great Gods divided the realms among them. "The seas they had given to Enki, the Prince of Earth," thereby giving Enki "the rulership of the Apsu" (the "Deep"). As Lord of the Seas, Ea built ships that sailed to far lands, and especially to places from which precious metals and semiprecious stones were brought to Sumer.

The earliest Sumerian cylinder seals depicted Ea as a deity surrounded by flowing streams that were sometimes shown to contain fish. The seals associated Ea, as shown here, with the Moon (indicated by its crescent), an association stemming perhaps from the fact that the Moon caused the tides of the seas.

 

It was no doubt in reference to such an astral image that Ea was given the epithet NIN.IGI.KU ('lord bright-eye").

According to the Sumerian texts, including a truly amazing autobiography by Ea himself, he was born in the heavens and came down to Earth before there was any settlement or civilization upon Earth.

"When I approached the land, there was much flooding," he stated.

He then proceeded to describe the series of actions taken by him to make the land habitable: He filled the Tigris River with fresh, "life-giving waters"; he appointed a god to supervise the construction of canals, to make the Tigris and Euphrates navigable; and he unclogged the marshlands, filling them up with fish and making them a haven for birds of all kinds, and causing to grow there reeds that were a useful building material.

Turning from the seas and rivers to the dry land, Ea claimed that it was he who,

"directed the plow and the yoke... opened the holy furrows... built the stalls... erected sheepfolds."

Continuing, the self-adulatory text (named by scholars "Enki and the World Order") credited the god with bringing to Earth the arts of brickmaking, construction of dwellings and cities, metallurgy, and so on.

Presenting the deity as Mankind's greatest benefactor, the god who brought about civilization, many texts also depicted him as Mankind's chief protagonist at the councils of the gods. Sumerian and Akkadian Deluge texts, on which the biblical account must have drawn, depict Ea as the god who - in defiance of the decision of the Assembly of the Gods - enabled a trusted follower (the Mesopotamian "Noah") to escape the disaster.

Indeed, the Sumerian and Akkadian texts, which (like the Old Testament) adhered to the belief that a god or the gods created Man through a conscious and deliberate act, attribute to Ea a key role: As the chief scientist of the gods, he outlined the method and the process by which Man was to be created. With such affinity to the "creation" or emergence of Man, no wonder that it was Ea who guided Adapa - the "model man" created by Ea's "wisdom" - to the abode of Anu in the heavens, in defiance of the gods' determination to withhold "eternal life" from Mankind.

Was Ea on the side of Man simply because he had a hand in his creation, or did he have other, more subjective motives? As we scan the record, we find that invariably Ea's defiance - in mortal and divine matters alike - was! aimed mostly at frustrating decisions or plans emanating from Enlil.

The record is replete with indications of Ea's burning! jealousy of his brother Enlil.

 

Indeed, Ea's other (and perhaps first) name was EN.KI ("lord of Earth"), and the' texts dealing with the division of the world among the three gods hint that it may have been simply by a drawing of lots that Ea lost mastery of Earth to his brother Enlil.

The gods had clasped hands together,
Had cast lots and had divided.
Anu then went up to Heaven;
To Enlil the Earth was made subject.
The seas, enclosed as with a loop,
They had given to Enki, the Prince of Earth.

As bitter as Ea/Enki may have been about the results of this drawing, he appears to have nurtured a much deeper resentment.

 

The reason is given by Enki himself in his autobiography: It was he, not Enlil, who was firstborn, Enki claimed; it was then he, and not Enlil, who was entitled to be the heir apparent to Anu:

"My father, the king of the universe,
brought me forth in the universe....
I am the fecund seed,
engendered by the Great Wild Bull;
I am the first born son of Anu.
I am the Great Brother of the gods. ...
I am he who has been born
as the first son of the divine Anu."

Since the codes of laws by which men lived in the ancient Near East were given by the gods, it stands to reason that the social and family laws applying to men were copies of those applying to the gods.

 

Court and family records found at such sites as Mari and Nuzi have confirmed that the biblical customs and laws by which the Hebrew patriarchs lived were the laws by which kings and noblemen were bound throughout the ancient Near East. The succession problems the patriarchs faced are therefore instructive.

Abraham, deprived of a child by the apparent barrenness of his wife Sarah, had a firstborn son by her maidservant. Yet this son (Ishmael) was excluded from the patriarchal succession as soon as Sarah herself bore Abraham a son, Isaac.

Isaac's wife Rebecca was pregnant with twins. The one who was technically firstborn was Esau - a reddish, hairy, and rugged fellow. Holding onto Esau's heel was the more refined Jacob, whom Rebecca cherished. When the aging and half-blind Isaac was about to proclaim his testament, Rebecca used a ruse to have the blessing of succession bestowed on Jacob rather than on Esau.

Finally, Jacob's succession problems resulted from the fact that though he served Laban for twenty years to get the hand of Rachel in marriage, Laban forced him to marry her older sister Leah first. It was Leah who bore Jacob his first son (Reuben), and he had more sons and a daughter by her and by two concubines. Yet when Rachel finally bore him her firstborn son (Joseph), Jacob preferred him over his brothers.

Against the background of such customs and succession laws, one can understand the conflicting claims between Enlil and Ea/Enki. Enlil, by all records the son of Anu and his official consort Antu, was the legal firstborn.

 

But the anguished cry of Enki:

"I am the fecund seed ... I am the first born son of Anu," must have been a statement of fact.

Was he then born to Anu, but by another goddess who was only a concubine? The tale of Isaac and Ishmael, or the story of the twins Esau and Jacob, may have had a prior parallel in the Heavenly Abode.

Though Enki appears to have accepted Enlil's succession prerogatives, some scholars see enough evidence to show a continuing power struggle between the two gods.

 

Samuel N. Kramer has titled one of the ancient texts "Enki and His Inferiority Complex."

 

As we shall see later on, several biblical tales - of Eve and the serpent in the Garden of Eden, or the tale of the Deluge - involve in their original Sumerian versions instances of defiance by Enki of his brother's edicts.

At some point, it seems, Enid decided that there was no sense to his struggle for the Divine Throne; and he put his efforts into making a son of his - rather than a son of Enlil - the third-generation successor. This he sought to achieve, at least at first, with the aid of his sister NIN.HUR.SAG ("lady of the mountainhead").

She, too, was a daughter of Anu, but evidently not by Antu, and therein lay another rule of succession. Scholars have wondered in years past why both Abraham and Isaac advertised the fact that their respective wives were also their sisters - a puzzling claim in view of the biblical prohibition against sexual relations with a sister.

 

But as the legal documents were unearthed at Mari and Nuzi, it became clear that a man could marry a half-sister. Moreover, when all the children of all the wives were considered, the son born of such a wife - being fifty percent more of the "pure seed" than a son by an unrelated wife - was the legal heir whether or not he was the firstborn son. This, incidentally, led (in Mari and Nuzi) to the practice of adopting the preferred wife as a "sister" in order to make her son the unchallenged legal heir.

It was of such a half-sister, Ninhursag, that Enki sought to have a son. She, too, was "of the heavens," having come to Earth in earliest times. Several texts state that when the gods were dividing Earth's domains among themselves, she was given the Land of Dilmun -

"a pure place... a pure land... a place most bright."

A text named by the scholars "Enki and Ninhursag - a Paradise Myth" deals with Enki's trip to Dilmun for conjugal purposes.

 

Ninhursag, the text repeatedly stresses, "was alone" - unattached, a spinster. Though in later times she was depicted as an old matron, she must have been very attractive when she was younger, for the text informs us unabashedly that, when Enki neared her, the sight of her "caused his penis to water the dikes."

Instructing that they be left alone, Enki "poured the semen in the womb of Ninhursag. She took the semen into the womb, the semen of Enki"; and then, "after the nine months of Womanhood... she gave birth at the bank of the waters." But the child was a daughter.

Having failed to obtain a male heir, Enki then proceeded to make love to his own daughter. "He embraced her, he

kissed her; Enki poured the semen into the womb." But she, too, bore him a daughter. Enki then went after his granddaughter and made her pregnant, too; but once again the offspring was a female. Determined to stop these efforts, Ninhursag put a curse on him whereby Enki, having eaten some plants, became mortally sick. The other gods, however, forced Ninhursag to remove the curse.

While these events had great bearing on divine affairs, other tales pertaining to Enki and Ninhursag have great bearing on human affairs; for, according to the Sumerian texts, Man was created by Ninhursag following processes and formulas devised by Enki.

 

She was the chief nurse, the one in charge of medical facilities; it was in that role that the goddess was called NIN.TI ("lady-life").

Some scholars read in Adapa (the "model man" of Enki) the biblical Adama, or Adam.

 

The double meaning of the Sumerian TI also raises biblical parallels. For ti could mean both "life" and "rib," so that Ninti's name meant both 'lady of life" and "lady of the rib." The biblical Eve - whose name meant "life" was created out of Adam's rib, so Eve, too, was in a way a "lady of life" and a "lady of the rib."

As giver of life to gods and Man alike, Ninhursag was spoken of as the Mother Goddess.

 

She was nicknamed "Mammu" - the forerunner of our "mom" or "mamma" - and her symbol was the "cutter" - the tool used in antiquity by midwives to cut the umbilical cord after birth.

Enlil, Enki's brother and rival, did have the good fortune to achieve such a "rightful heir" by his sister Ninhursag. The youngest of the gods upon Earth who were born in the heavens, his name was NIN.UR.TA ('lord who completes the foundation").

 

He was,

"the heroic son of Enlil who went forth with net and rays of light" to battle for his father; "the avenging son... who launched bolts of light."

His spouse BA.U was also a nurse or a doctor; her epithet was "lady who the dead brings back to life."

The ancient portraits of Ninurta showed him holding a unique weapon - no doubt the very one that could shoot "bolts of light."

 

The ancient texts hailed him as a mighty hunter, a fighting god renowned for his martial abilities. But his greatest heroic fight was not in behalf of his father but for his own sake. It was a wide-ranging battle with an evil god named ZU ("wise"), and it involved no less a prize than the leadership of the gods on Earth; for Zu had illegally captured the insignia and objects Enlil had held as Chief of the Gods.

The texts describing these events are broken at the beginning, and the story becomes legible only from the point when Zu arrives at the E-Kur, the temple of Enlil. He is apparently known, and of some rank, for Enlil welcomes him,

"entrusting to him the guarding of the entrance to his shrine."

But the "evil Zu" was to repay trust with betrayal, for it was "the removal of the Enlilship" - the seizing of the divine powers - that "he conceived in his heart."

To do so, Zu had to take possession of certain objects, including the magical Tablet of Destinies.

 

The wily Zu seized his opportunity when Enlil undressed and went into the pool for his daily swim, leaving his paraphernalia unattended.

At the entrance of the sanctuary,
which he had been viewing,
Zu awaits the start of day.
As Enlil was washing with pure water -
his crown having been removed
and deposited on the throne -
Zu seized the Tablet of Destinies in his hands,
took away the Enlilship.

As Zu fled in his MU (translated "name," but indicating a flying machine) to a faraway hideaway, the consequences of his bold act were beginning to take effect.

Suspended were the Divine Formulas;
Stillness spread all over; silence prevailed....
The Sanctuary's brilliance was taken off.

"Father Enlil was speechless."

"The gods of the land gathered one by one at the news."

The matter was so grave that even Anu was informed at his Heavenly Abode.

He reviewed the situation and concluded that Zu must be apprehended so that the "formulas" could be restored.

 

Turning "to the gods, his children," Anu asked,

"Which of the gods will smite Zu? His name shall be greatest of all!"

Several gods known for their valor were called in. But they all pointed out that having taken the Tablet of Destinies, Zu now possessed the same powers as Enlil, so that "he who opposes him becomes like clay."

 

At this point, Ea had a great idea: Why not call upon Ninurta to take up the hopeless fight?

The assembled gods could not have missed Ea's ingenious mischief. Clearly, the chances of the succession falling to his own offspring stood to increase if Zu were defeated; likewise, he could benefit if Ninurta were killed in the process. To the amazement of the gods, Ninhursag (in this text called NIN.MAH - "great lady"), agreed.

 

Turning to her son Ninurta, she explained to him that Zu robbed not only Enlil but Ninurta, too, of the Enlilship. "With shrieks of pain I gave birth," she shouted, and it was she who "made certain for my brother and for Anu" the continued "Kingship of Heaven."

 

So that her pains not be in vain, she instructed Ninurta to go out and fight to win:

Launch thy offensive... capture the fugitive Zu....
Let thy terrifying offensive rage against him....
Slit his throat! Vanquish Zu!...
Let thy seven ill Winds go against him....
Cause the entire Whirlwind to attack him....
Let thy Radiance go against him....
Let thy Winds carry his Wings to a secret place....
Let sovereignty return to Ekur;
Let the Divine Formulas return
to the father who begot thee.

The various versions of the epic then provide thrilling descriptions of the battle that ensued.

 

Ninurta shot "arrows" at Zu, but "the arrows could not approach Zu's body... while he bore the Tablet of Destinies of the gods in his hand." The launched "weapons were stopped in the midst" of their flight. As the inconclusive battle wore on, Ea advised Ninurta to add a til-lum to his weapons, and shoot it into the "pinions," or small cog-wheels, of Zu's "wings."

 

Following this advice, and shouting "Wing to wing," Ninurta shot the til-lum at Zu's pinions. Thus hit, the pinions began to scatter, and the "wings" of Zu fell in a swirl. Zu was vanquished, and the Tablets of Destiny returned to Enlil.

Who was Zu? Was he, as some scholars hold, a "mythological bird"?

Evidently he could fly. But so can any man today who takes a plane, or any astronaut who goes up in a spaceship. Ninurta, too, could fly, as skillfully as Zu (and perhaps better). But he himself was not a bird of any kind, as his many depictions, by himself or with his consort BA.U (also called GU.LA), make abundantly clear. Rather, he did his flying with the aid of a remarkable "bird," which was kept at his sacred precinct (the GIR.SU) in the city of Lagash.

Nor was Zu a "bird"; apparently he had at his disposal a "bird" in which he could fly away into hiding. It was from within such "birds" that the sky battle took place between the two gods. And there can be no doubt regarding the nature of the weapon that finally smote Zu's "bird."

 

Called TIL in Sumerian and til-lum in Assyrian, it was written pictorially thus: >----------- , and it must have meant then what til means nowadays in Hebrew: "missile."

Zu, then, was a god - one of the gods who had reason to scheme at usurpation of the Enlilship; a god whom Ninurta, as the legitimate successor, had every reason to fight.

Was he perhaps MAR.DUK ("son of the pure mound"), Enki's firstborn by his wife DAM.KI.NA, impatient to seize by a ruse what was not legally his?

There is reason to believe that, having failed to achieve a son by his sister and thus produce a legal contender for the Enlilship, Enki relied on his son Marduk. Indeed, when the ancient Near East was seized with great social and military upheavals at the beginning of the second millennium B.C., Marduk was elevated in Babylon to the status of national god of Sumer and Akkad.

 

Marduk was proclaimed King of the Gods, replacing Enlil, and the other gods were required to pledge allegiance to him and to come to reside in Babylon, where their activities could easily be supervised.

This usurpation of the Enlilship (long after the incident with Zu) was accompanied by an extensive Babylonian effort to forge the ancient texts.

 

The most important texts were rewritten and altered so as to make Marduk appear as the Lord of Heavens, the Creator, the Benefactor, the Hero, instead of Anu or Enlil or even Ninurta. Among the texts altered was the "Tale of Zu"; and according to the Babylonian version it was Marduk (not Ninurta) who fought Zu. In this version, Marduk boasted: "Mahasti moh il Zu" ("I have crushed the skull of the god Zu").

 

Clearly, then, Zu could not have been Marduk.

Nor would it stand to reason that Enki, "God of Sciences," would have coached Ninurta regarding the choice and use of the successful weapons against his own son Marduk. Enki, to judge by his behavior as well as by his urging Ninurta to "cut the throat of Zu," expected to gain from the fight, no matter who lost. The only logical conclusion is that Zu, too, was in some way a legal contender to the Enlilship.

This suggests only one god: Nanna, the firstborn of Enlil by his official consort Ninlil. For if Ninurta were eliminated, Nanna would be in the unobstructed line of succession.

Nanna (short for NAN.NAR - "bright one") has come down to us through the ages better known by his Akkadian (or "Semitic") name Sin.

As firstborn of Enlil, he was granted sovereignty over Sumer's best-known city-state, UR ("The City"). His temple there was called E.GISH.NU.GAL ("house of the seed of the throne"). From that abode, Nanna and his consort NIN.GAL ("great lady") conducted the affairs of the city and its people with great benevolence. The people of Ur reciprocated with great affection for their divine rulers, lovingly calling their god "Father Nanna" and other affectionate nicknames.

The prosperity of Ur was attributed by its people directly to Nanna. Shulgi, a ruler of Ur (by the god's grace) at the end of the third millennium B.C., described the "house" of Nanna as "a great stall filled with abundance," a "bountiful place of bread offerings," where sheep multiplied and oxen were slaughtered, a place of sweet music where the drum and timbrel sounded.

Under the administration of its god-protector Nanna, Ur became the granary of Sumer, the supplier of grains as well as of sheep and cattle to other temples elsewhere.

 

A "Lamentation over the Destruction of Ur" informs us, in a negative way, of what Ur was like before its demise:

In the granaries of Nanna there was no grain.
The evening meals of the gods were suppressed;
in their great dining halls, wine and honey ended....
In his temple's lofty oven, oxen and sheep are not prepared;
The hum has ceased at Nanna's great Place of
Shackles:
that house where commands for the ox were shouted -
its silence is overwhelming…
Its grinding mortar and pestle lie inert…
The offering boats carried no offerings…
Did not bring offering bread to Enlil in Nippur.
Ur's river is empty, no barge moves on it…
No foot trods its banks; long grasses grow there.

Another lamentation, bewailing the "sheepfolds that have been delivered to the wind," the abandoned stables, the shepherds and herdsmen that were gone, is most unusual: It was not written by the people of Ur, but by the god Nanna and his spouse Ningal themselves.

 

These and other lamentations over the fall of Ur disclose the trauma of some unusual event. The Sumerian texts inform us that Nanna and Ningal left the city before its demise became complete. It was a hasty departure, touchingly described.

Nanna, who loved his city,
departed from the city. Sin, who loved Ur,
no longer stayed in his House. Ningal...
fleeing her city through enemy territory, hastily put on a garment,
departed from her House.

The fall of Ur and the exile of its gods have been depicted in the lamentations as the results of a deliberate decision by Anu and Enlil. It was to the two of them that Nanna appealed to call off the punishment.

May Anu, the king of the gods,
utter: "It is enough"; May Enlil, the king of the lands,
decree a favorable fate!
Appealing directly to Enlil, "Sin brought his suffering heart to his father; curtsied before Enlil, the father who begot him," and begged him:
O my father who begot me,
Until when will you look inimically
upon my atonement?
Until when? ...
On the oppressed heart that you have made
flicker like a flame -
please cast a friendly eye.

Nowhere do the lamentations disclose the cause of Anu's and Enlil's wrath. But if Nanna were Zu, the punishment would have justified his crime of usurpation. Was he Zu?

He certainly could have been Zu because Zu was in possession of some kind of flying machine - the "bird" in which he escaped and from which he fought Ninurta. Sumerian psalms spoke in adoration of his "Boat of Heaven."

Father Nannar, Lord of Ur...
Whose glory in the sacred Boat of Heaven is ...
Lord, firstborn son of Enlil.
When in the Boat of Heaven thou ascendeth,
Thou art glorious.
Enlil hath adorned thy hand
With a scepter everlasting
When over Ur in the Sacred Boat thou mountest.

There is additional evidence. Nanna's other name, Sin, derived from SU.EN, which was another way of pronouncing ZU.EN.

 

The same complex meaning of a two-syllable word could be obtained by placing the syllables in any order: ZU.EN and EN.ZU were "mirror" words of each other. Nanna/Sin as ZU.EN was none other than EN.ZU ("lord Zu"). It was he, we must conclude, who tried to seize the Enlilship.

We can now understand why, in spite of Ea's suggestion, the lord Zu (Sin) was punished, not by execution, but by exile. Both Sumerian texts, as well as archaeological evidence, indicate that Sin and his spouse fled to Haran, the Human city protected by several rivers and mountainous terrain. It is noteworthy that when Abraham's clan, led by his father Terah, left Ur, they also set their course to Haran, where they stayed for many years en route to the Promised Land.

Though Ur remained for all time a city dedicated to Nanna/Sin, Haran must have been his residence for a very long time, for it was made to resemble Ur - its temples, buildings, and streets - almost exactly.

 

Andre Parrot (Abraham et son temps) sums up the similarities by saying that,

"there is every evidence that the cult of Harran was nothing but an exact replica of that of Ur."

When the temple of Sin at Haran - built and rebuilt over the millennia - was uncovered during excavations that lasted more than fifty years, the finds included two stelae (memorial stone pillars) on which a unique record was inscribed.

 

It was a record dictated by Adadguppi, a high priestess of Sin, of how she prayed and planned for the return of Sin, for, at some unknown prior time,

Sin, the king of all the gods,
became angry with his city and his temple,
and went up to Heaven.

That Sin, disgusted or despairing, just "packed up" and "went up to Heaven" is corroborated by other inscriptions.

 

These tell us that the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal retrieved from certain enemies a sacred "cylinder seal of the costliest jasper" and "had it improved by drawing upon it a picture of Sin." He further inscribed upon the sacred stone "a eulogy of Sin, and hung it around the neck of the image of Sin."

 

That stone seal of Sin must have been a relic of olden times, for it is further stated that,

"it is the one whose face had been damaged in those days, during the destruction wrought by the enemy."

The high priestess, who was born during the reign of Ashurbanipal, is assumed to have been of royal blood herself.

 

In her appeals to Sin, she proposed a practical "deal": the restoration of his powers over his adversaries in return for helping her son Nabunaid become ruler of Sumer and Akkad. Historical records confirm that in the year 555 B.C. Nabunaid, then commander of the Babylonian armies, was named by his fellow officers to the throne.

 

In this he was stated to have been directly helped by Sin. It was, the inscriptions by Nabunaid inform us, "on the first day of his appearance" that Sin, using "the weapon of Ami" - was able to "touch with a beam of light" the skies and crush the enemies down on Earth below.

Nabunaid kept his mother's promise to the god. He rebuilt Sin's temple E.HUL.HUL ("house of great joy") and declared Sin to be Supreme God. It was then that Sin was able to grasp in his hands,

"the power of the Anu-office, wield all the power of the Enlil-office, take over the power of the Ea-office - holding thus in his own hand all the Heavenly Powers."

Thus defeating the usurper Marduk, even capturing the powers of Marduk's father Ea, Sin assumed the title of "Divine Crescent" and established his reputation as the so-called Moon God.

How could Sin, reported to have gone back to Heaven in disgust, have been able to perform such feats back on Earth? Nabunaid, confirming that Sin had indeed "forgotten his angry command... and decided to return to the temple Ehulhul," claimed a miracle.

 

A miracle "that has not happened to the Land since the days of old" had taken place: A deity "has come down from Heaven."

This is the great miracle of Sin,
That has not happened to the Land
Since the days of old;
That the people of the Land
Have not seen, nor had written
On clay tablets, to preserve forever:
That Sin,
Lord of all the gods and goddesses,
Residing in Heaven,
Has come down from Heaven.

Regrettably, no details are provided of the place and manner in which Sin landed back on Earth.

 

But we do know that it was in the fields outside of Haran that Jacob, on his way from Canaan to find himself a bride in the "old country," saw "a ladder set up on the earth and its top reaching heavenward, and there were angels of the Lord ascending and descending by it."

At the same time that Nabunaid restored the powers and temples of Nanna/Sin, he also restored the temples and worship of Sin's twin children, IN.ANNA ("Ami's lady") and UTU ("the shining one").

The two were born to Sin by his official spouse Ningal, and were thus by birth members of the Divine Dynasty. Inanna was technically the firstborn, but her twin brother Utu was the firstborn son, and thus the legal dynastic heir. Unlike the rivalry that existed in the similar instance of Esau and Jacob, the two divine children grew up very close to each other. They shared experiences and adventures, came to each other's aid, and when Inanna had to choose a husband from one of two gods, she turned to her brother for advice.

Inanna and Utu were born in time immemorial, when only the gods inhabited Earth. Utu's city-domain Sippar was listed among the very first cities to have been established by the gods in Sumer.

 

Nabunaid stated in an inscription that when he undertook to rebuild Utu's temple E.BABBARA ("shining house") in Sippar:

I sought out its ancient foundation-platform,
and I went down eighteen cubits into the soil.
Utu, the Great Lord of Ebabbara...
Showed me personally the foundation-platform
of Naram-Sin, son of Sargon, which for 3,200 years
no king preceding me had seen.

When civilization blossomed in Sumer, and Man joined the gods in the Land Between the Rivers, Utu became associated primarily with law and justice.

 

Several early law codes, apart from invoking Anu and Enlil, were also presented as requiring acceptance and adherence because they were promulgated "in accordance with the true word of Utu."

 

The Babylonian king Hammurabi inscribed his law code on a stela, at the top of which the king is depicted receiving the laws from the god.

Tablets uncovered at Sippar attest to its reputation in ancient times as a place of just and fair laws. Some texts depict Utu himself as sitting in judgment on gods and men alike; Sippar was, in fact, the seat of Sumer's "supreme court."

The justice advocated by Utu is reminiscent of the Sermon on the Mount recorded in the New Testament.

 

A "wisdom tablet" suggested the following behavior to please Utu:

Unto your opponent do no evil;
Your evildoer recompense with good.
Unto your enemy, let justice be done. ...
Let not your heart be induced to do evil....
To the one begging for alms -
give food to eat, give wine to drink....
Be helpful; do good.

Because he assured justice and prevented oppression - and perhaps for other reasons, too, as we shall see later on - Utu was considered the protector of travelers.

 

Yet the most common and lasting epithets applied to Utu concerned his brilliance. From earliest times, he was called Babbar ("shining one"). He was "Utu, who sheds a wide light," the one who "lights up Heaven and Earth."

Hammurabi, in his inscription, called the god by his Akkadian name, Shamash, which in Semitic languages means "Sun." It has therefore been assumed by the scholars that Utu/Shamash was the Mesopotamian Sun God. We shall show, as we proceed, that while this god was assigned the Sun as his celestial counterpart, there was another aspect to the statements that he "shed a bright light" when he performed the special tasks assigned to him by his grandfather Enlil.

Just as the law codes and the court records are human testimonials to the actual presence among the ancient peoples of Mesopotamia of a deity named Utu/Shamash, so there exist endless inscriptions, texts, incantations, oracles, prayers, and depictions attesting to the physical presence and existence of the goddess Inanna, whose Akkadian name was Ishtar.

 

A Mesopotamian king in the thirteenth century B.C. stated that he had rebuilt her temple in her brother's city of Sippar, on foundations that were eight hundred years old in his time. But in her central city, Uruk, tales of her went back to olden times.

Known to the Romans as Venus, to the Greeks as Aphrodite, to the Canaanites and the Hebrews as Astarte, to the Assyrians and Babylonians and Hittites and the other ancient peoples as Ishtar or Eshdar, to the Akkadians and the Sumerians as Inanna or Innin or Ninni, or by others of her many nicknames and epithets, she was at all times the Goddess of Warfare and the Goddess of Love, a fierce, beautiful female who, though only a great-granddaughter of Anu, carved for herself, by herself, a major place among the Great Gods of Heaven and Earth.

As a young goddess she was, apparently, assigned a domain in a far land east of Sumer, the Land of Aratta. It was there that "the lofty one, Inanna, queen of all the land," had her "house."

 

But Inanna had greater ambitions. In the city of Uruk there stood the great temple of Anu, occupied only during his occasional state visits to Earth; and Inanna set her eyes on this seat of power.

Sumerian king lists state that the first non-divine ruler of Uruk was Meshkiaggasher, a son of the god Utu by a human mother. He was followed by his son Enmerkar, a great Sumerian king. Inanna, then, was the great-aunt of Enmerkar; and she found little difficulty in persuading him that she should really be the goddess of Uruk, rather than of the remote Aratta.

A long and fascinating text named "Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta" describes how Enmerkar sent emissaries to Aratta, using every possible argument in a "war of nerves" to force Aratta to submit because "the lord Enmerkar who is the servant of Inanna made her queen of the House of Anu." The epic's unclear end hints at a happy ending: While Inanna moved to Uruk, she did not "abandon her House in Aratta."

 

That she might have become a "commuting goddess" is not so improbable, for Inanna/Ishtar was known from other texts as an adventurous traveler.

Her occupation of Anu's temple in Uruk could not have taken place without his knowledge and consent; and the texts give us strong clues as to how such consent was obtained. Soon Inanna was known as "Anunitum," a nickname meaning "beloved of Anu." She was referred to in texts as "the holy mistress of Anu"; and it follows that Inanna shared not only Anu's temple but also his bed - whenever he came to Uruk, or on the reported occasions of her going up to his Heavenly Abode.

Having thus maneuvered herself into the position of goddess of Uruk and mistress of the temple of Anu, Ishtar proceeded to use trickery for enhancing Uruk's standing and her own powers.

 

Farther down the Euphrates stood the ancient city of Eridu - Enki's center. Knowing of his great knowledge of all the arts and sciences of civilization, Inanna resolved to beg, borrow, or steal these secrets. Obviously intending to use her "personal charms" on Enki (her great-uncle), Inanna arranged to call on him alone.

 

That fact was not unnoticed by Enki, who instructed his housemaster to prepare dinner for two.

Come my housemaster Isimud,

hear my instructions;

a word I shall say to you,

heed my words:

The maiden,

all alone,

has directed her step to the Abzu...
Have the maiden enter the Abzu of Eridu,

Give her to eat barley cakes with butter,

Pour for her cold water that freshens the heart,

Give her to drink beer ...

Happy and drunk, Enki was ready to do anything for Inanna.

 

She boldly asked for the divine formulas, which were the basis of a high civilization. Enki granted her some one hundred of them, including divine formulas pertaining to supreme lordship, Kingship, priestly functions, weapons, legal procedures, scribeship, woodworking, even the knowledge of musical instruments and of temple prostitution.

 

By the time Enki awoke and realized what he had done, Inanna was already well on her way to Uruk. Enki ordered after her his "awesome weapons," but to no avail, for Inanna had sped to Uruk in her "Boat of Heaven."

Quite frequently, Ishtar was depicted as a naked goddess; flaunting her beauty, she was sometimes even depicted raising her skirts to reveal the lower parts of her body.

Gilgamesh, a ruler of Uruk circa 2900 B.C. who was also partly divine (having been born to a human father and a goddess), reported how Inanna enticed him - even after she already had an official spouse.

 

Having washed himself after a battle and put on "a fringe cloak, fastened with a sash,"

Glorious Ishtar raised an eye at his beauty.
"Come, Gilgamesh, be thou my lover!
Come, grant me your fruit.
Thou shall be my male mate, I will be thy female."

But Gilgamesh knew the score.

"Which of thy lovers didst thou love forever?" he asked. "Which of thy shepherds pleased thee for all time?"

Reciting a long list of her love affairs, he refused.

As time went on - as she assumed higher ranks in the pantheon, and with it the responsibility for affairs of state - Inanna/Ishtar began to display more martial qualities, and was often depicted as a Goddess of War, armed to the teeth.

The inscriptions left by Assyrian kings describe how they went to war for her and upon her command, how she directly advised when to wait and when to attack, how she sometimes marched at the head of the armies, and how, on at least one occasion, she granted a theophany and appeared before all the troops.

 

In return for their loyalty, she promised the Assyrian kings long life and success.

"From a Golden Chamber in the skies I will watch over thee," she assured them.

Was she turned into a bitter warrior because she, too, came upon hard times with the rise of Marduk to supremacy?

 

In one of his inscriptions Nabunaid said:

"Inanna of Uruk, the exalted princess who dwelt in a gold cella, who rode upon a chariot to which were harnessed seven lions - the inhabitants of Uruk changed her cult during the rule of king Erba-Marduk, removed her cella and unharnessed her team."

Inanna, reported Nabunaid, "had therefore left the E-Anna angrily, and stayed hence in an unseemly place" (which he does not name). (Fig 54)

Seeking, perhaps, to combine love with power, the much-courted Inanna chose as her husband DU.MU.ZI, a younger son of Enki.

 

Many ancient texts deal with the loves and quarrels of the two. Some are love songs of great beauty and vivid sexuality. Others tell how Ishtar - back from one of her journeys - found Dumuzi celebrating her absence. She arranged for his capture and disappearance into the Lower World - a domain ruled by her sister E.RESH.KI.GAL and her consort NER.GAL. Some of the most celebrated Sumerian and Akkadian texts deal with the journey of Ishtar to the Lower World in search of her banished beloved.

Of the six known sons of Enki, three have been featured in Sumerian tales:

  • the firstborn Marduk, who eventually usurped the supremacy

  • Nergal, who became ruler of the Lower World

  • Dumuzi, who married Inanna/Ishtar

Enlil, too, had three sons who played key roles in both divine and human affairs:

  • Ninurta, who, having been born to Enlil by his sister Ninhursag, was the legal successor

  • Nanna/Sin, firstborn by Enlil's official spouse Ninlil

  • a younger son by Ninlil named ISH.KUR ("mountainous," "far mountain land"), who was more frequently called Adad ("beloved")

As brother of Sin and uncle of Utu and Inanna, Adad appears to have felt more at home with them than at his own house.

 

The Sumerian texts constantly grouped the four together. The ceremonies connected with the visit of Anu to Uruk also spoke of the four as a group. One text, describing the entrance to the court of Anu, states that the throne room was reached through "the gate of Sin, Shamash, Adad, and Ishtar." Another text, first published by V. K. Shileiko (Russian Academy of the History of Material Cultures) poetically described the four as retiring for the night together.

The greatest affinity seems to have existed between Adad and Ishtar, and the two were even depicted next to each other, as on this relief showing an Assyrian ruler being blessed by Adad (holding the ring and lightning) and by Ishtar, holding her bow. (The third deity is too mutilated to be identified.)

Was there more to this "affinity" than a platonic relationship, especially in view of Ishtar's "record"?

 

It is noteworthy that in the biblical Song of Songs, the playful girl calls her lover dod - a word that means both "lover" and "uncle." Now, was Ishkur called Adad - a derivative from the Sumerian DA.DA - because he was the uncle who was the lover?

But Ishkur was not only a playboy; he was a mighty god, endowed by his father Enlil with the powers and prerogatives of a storm god.

 

As such he was revered as the Hurrian/Hittite Teshub and the Urartian Teshubu ("wind blower"), the Amorite Ramanu ("thunderer"), the Canaanite Ragimu ("caster of hailstones"), the Indo-European Buriash ("light maker"), the Semitic Meir ("he who lights up" the skies).

A god list kept at the British Museum, as shown by Hans Schlobies (Der Akkadwche Wettergott in Mesopotamen), clarifies that Ishkur was indeed the divine lord in lands far from Sumer and Akkad.

 

As Sumerian texts reveal, this was no accident. Enlil, it seems, willfully dispatched his young son to become the "Resident Deity" in the mountain lands north and west of Mesopotamia.

Why did Enlil dispatch his youngest and beloved son away from Nippur?

Several Sumerian epic tales have been found about the arguments and even bloody struggles among the younger gods. Many cylinder seals depict scenes of god battling god; it would seem that the original rivalry between Enki and Enlil was carried on and intensified between their sons, with brother sometimes turning against brother - a divine tale of Cain and Abel. Some of these battles were against a deity identified as Kur - in all probability, Ishkur/Adad.

 

This may well explain why Enlil deemed it advisable to grant his younger son a far-off domain, to keep him out of the dangerous battles for the succession.

The position of the sons of Anu, Enlil, and Enki, and of their offspring, in the dynastic lineage emerges clearly through a unique Sumerian device: the allocation of numerical rank to certain gods.

 

The discovery of this system also brings out the membership in the Great Circle of Gods of Heaven and Earth when Sumerian civilization blossomed. We shall find that this Supreme Pantheon was made up of twelve deities.

The first hint that a cryptographic number system was applied to the Great Gods came with the discovery that the names of the gods Sin, Shamash, and Ishtar were sometimes substituted in the texts by the numbers 30, 20, and 15, respectively.

 

The highest unit of the Sumerian sexagesimal system - 60 - was assigned to Anu; Enlil "was" 50; Enki, 40; and Adad, 10. The number 10 and its six multiples within the prime number 60 were thus assigned to male deities, and it would appear plausible that the numbers ending with 5 were assigned to the female deities.

 

From this, the following cryptographic table emerges:

Male
60 - Anu
50 - Enlil
40 - Ea/Enki
30 - Nanna/Sin
20 - Utu/Shamash
10 - Ishkur/Adad
6 male deities

Female
55 - Antu
4.5 - Ninlil
35 - Ninki
25 - Ningal
15 - Inanna/Ishtar
5 - Ninhursag
6 female deities

Ninurta, we should not be surprised to learn, was assigned the number 50, like his father. In other words, his dynastic rank was conveyed in a cryptographic message: If Enlil goes, you, Ninurta, step into his shoes; but until then, you are not one of the Twelve, for the rank of "50" is occupied.

Nor should we be surprised to learn that when Marduk usurped the Enlilship, he insisted that the gods bestow on him "the fifty names" to signify that the rank of "50" had become his.

There were many other gods in Sumer - children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews of the Great Gods; there were also several hundred rank-and-file gods, called Anunnaki, who were assigned (one may say) "general duties."

 

But only twelve made the Great Circle.
 

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