The Sumerian civilization, originated mid-fourth-millennia BC in Southern Mesopotamia (now Southern Iraq), is considered the oldest in the world. The place of origin of this Arian population (Caucasian race) is yet to be discovered, as well as the place to which it disappeared during the second millennia BC. Beginning with 2900 BC, Sumerians fought for six centuries with the Akkadians, the first Semitic people recorded by history, for supremacy in Mesopotamia. After the fall of the Akkadian Empire founded by Sargon of Akkad, the Akkadians left the area, just to make their appearance later as Babylonians and Assyrians. During the second millennia BC Sumerians disappeared without a trace, leaving Mesopotamia in the hand of the Semitic peoples. Not without leaving their religion as heritage, one that was taken over in different forms by all ancient civilizations.
The Sumerians referred to themselves „ug sag gig-ga”, which means „black headed ones”. Their territory, which we know today as Sumer, was called Sumeru by the Akkadians, Šin’ar by the Hebrews, Sngr by the Egyptians, and Šanhar by the Hittite. The name attributed by the Sumerians to their land was Kengir, name that can be translated into „the country of the noble lords”, a reference to the gods, whom they called „dingir” („noblemen that give life” translated freely) and the Akkadians „illu”. Dingir were divided in two categories: Anunna and Igigi. It is considered that Anunna were the major gods, the leaders, the ones of royal blood, and the Igigi were the minor gods, the servants of the mighty Anunna, of which there aren’t many known details. The name Anunna, made of „an” („sky”), „nun” („noble”) and „na” („man”), translates as „Noblemen of the Sky”. Igigi is made out of „igi” („eye”) and „gi” („Earth”), meaning „The Eyes of the Earth”, that is the observers, the monitors or the watchers of the planet. In the Babylonian poem Enuma Elish, Igigi are called „fallen gods” and in the Atra-Hasis Epic is written that they rebelled against one of the Anunnas, that forced them into forced labour, the rebellion leading to the appearance of humans. So, for the Sumerians, the Anunna were the celestial gods and Igigi the earthly ones. The Akkadians named them all Anunnaki or Anunnaku, meaning „Noble being of Heaven and Earth”. The great Mesopotamian dingir / illu, as much Anunna as Igigi, were retrieved along with their legend by all the other civilisations that followed the Sumerians.
The Sumerian pantheon was led by a trinity formed by An and his sons, Enlil and Enki. An’s name, written in cuneiform symbols through a cross, it means „sky”. The Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians and Hittites called him Anu or Anum. His symbol was the royal crown, often adorned with two bull horns. An was the supreme source of authority, the god of the sky and the constellations, the master of all gods, spirits and demons. He could raise the ranks of other gods, offer royalty on Earth and decide fate. In order to emphasize his authority, he was often named „An Gal” („The Great An”). His consort was named Ki („Earth”). A few royal texts form the Sargonide Era depict advancing of the goddess Inanna in the rank of An’s consort. The supreme god had many children, most important being Enki, Enlil and Ninhursag. His main temple was Eanna from the city of Uruk, which he shared with Inanna. Surprisingly, the Akkadian, Babylonian and Assyrian odes and prayers devoted to Anu are extremely rare. In Enuma Elish, Anu is the son of Anshar and Kishar and his consort is Antum. Here he is called „the father of the gods” but also „the host of the demons”. The Lahar and Ashnan text credits Anu with the divine intelligence that created the Universe.
An lived in the sky with his wife, leaving his younger son Enlil, heir to the throne, to rule Earth. There are no myths to explain why the heir was not the eldest son, Enki, as the succesion laws requested, but the answer can be found in other peoples’ legends. Enlil was considered the god of wind, air and storm, his name meaning literally „The God of the Storm”. The bull and the lion are amongst his symbols. The Akkadians, Hittite and Canaanites sometimes called him Ellil and the Babylonians Bel („Lord” or „Master”). His main religious centre was the city of Nippur, where the temple Ekur („The House of the Mountain”) was dedicated to him. His wife, Ninlil („The Goddess of the Storm”), initially named Sud, gave him three sons: Nanna (named by the Akkadians Su’en or Sin), Ninurta and Nergal. Enlil is the one that brought agriculture to people, while his brother, Enki, taught them shepherding. Being An’s heir and second in command, Enlil was inheriting not just the heavenly throne, but all the duties and epithets of his father, the most important one being that of „the father of the gods”. Even though the myths claim that he wanted to destroy humanity through different plagues and a flood, he was considered a beneficial god.
The third divinity of the supreme Sumerian triad was Enki, the eldest son of An. Being accredited with the making of the humans, he was considered the god of intelligence, wisdom, but also of fertility. His name means „The God of the Earth”, but it can also be interpreted as „The God of the Underworld”. No legend has been discovered yet to explain the reason why he got this name. From what we know today, Enlil was the ruler of Earth and their father, An, the ruler of the heavenly world. But, in a Sumerian text, Enki says that he was the first god that arrived on our planet. When he got here, accompanied by other gods, he pulled the land from under water, making it liveable. From this statement we can deduct that that is the moment he got the epithet „The God of the Earth”, title that he kept up until his brother Enlil’s arrival. After the youngster took his place, taking over ruling Earth, Enki was compelled to take refuge in the Underworld. The Akkadians and Babylonians took up his Sumerian name, later naming him Ea („The House of the Water”). His symbols included the snake, crescent moon, the goat, the fish (which later were combined in a creature with the upper half a male goat and the lower one of a fish), the turtle, the staff with the head of a ram, the trident and a ship with water flowing out of it. In Assyro-Babylonian baso-reliefs, he is shown as a tall man wearing the body of a fish whose mouth, opened wide and facing upwards toward the sky, gives the impression of being connected with the head of the character. Enki brought to the people knowledge, laws and magical rituals, taught them how to build cities and raise animals. More than that, he saved humanity from the Great Flood. He was the most important god for incantations, the patron of priests, the one to be in perfect mastery of magic and the one who had the capacity to assign a fate, at the same time being the god of craftsmen and of the arts. In Babylon it was believed that he destroyed the large primordial reptiles together with his son, Marduk. His residence was in Abzu (groundwater or subterranean ocean), named Apsu in Akkadian, the reason for which he was considered the god of waters. His main cult centre was Eridu (Iraq’s Tell Abu Shahrain today), considered the oldest city in the world, in Sumerian named Urudu or Nunki („The Great Place” or „The Prince’s Place”). His sister, Ningikuga (an epithet of Ninhursag), gave him a daughter, Ningal, also called Ninsar. He had many other children with her: Abu, Nintulla, Ninsutu, Ninkasi, Nanse, Azimua, Ninti and Ensag. His daughter, Ninsar, bore him a girl, Ninkurra. With her, Enki had a daughter named Uttu. For Babylonians, his wife was Damkina (also named Damgalnuna or Ninki by Sumerians), with whom he had Marduk, his heir. In some Assyro-Babylonian texts, Ea / Enki was considered to be the father of the goddess Ishtar (Inanna to Sumerians).
Mesopotamian legends reveal that between Enki and Enlil was an everlasting animosity. Clearly rivals, the two never lost an opportunity to bicker, especially in front of the Gathering of the Gods. We do not know the reason for their fallout, but it can be suspected. Normally, as Anu’s firstborn, Enki was supposed to inherit the throne. But, for unknown reasons, the emperor preferred Enlil. No doubt, the rivalry between the two brothers has at least some connection with the succession to the throne. There were not any myths that described fights between them that have been preserved, but there are enough clues in this regard. Unfortunately, only a small part of the Sumerian mythology reached us. We do know that, at some point, Enki instigated the fallen gods Igigi to rebel against Enlil. We also know that Enlil took Enki’s wife. Also, there is mention of a fight between Enki and Enlil’s son, Ninurta, as well as suggestions of a fight between Enlil and Enki’s son, Marduk. Thus, the rivalry between the two brothers encompassed their families as well. Even though we are missing the details of the fight between the two divine families from the Mesopotamian religions, these can be found, luckily, in the myths of other peoples.
Another very important dingir was An’s daughter, Sud, the goddess of the Earth, the mistress of the sky and the mother of the gods. Because she created the humans alongside Enki, she was considered the goddess of fertility. Sumerians attributed to her many epithets, amongst which Ninmah („The Great Queen”), Ninu („The Lady of Birth”), Mami („The Mother”), Aruru („The Swath”) or Ningikuga („The Lady of Pure Reed”). According to the legends, one of her sons, Ninurta, changed her name from Ninmah to Ninhursag („The Lady of the High Mountain”) and, after her marriage with Enlil, she took the name Ninlil („The Lady of the Storm”). The Akkadians called her also Belet-Ili („The Lady of the Gods”). Her symbol was an unidentified object, in the shape of the Greek letter „omega”. She was often represented wearing a crown with horns, many times holding a bludgeon or a staff decorated with the omega symbol and sometimes she is accompanied by a lion cub held by a leash. Her main religious centre was in Eridu, the city devoted to Enki. The myths suggest that she was Enki, Enlil and An’s consort. As the wife of her father, An, she was called by the Sumerians Ki („Earth”) and by Akkadians and Babylonians Antu (the feminine form of the noun „sky”). As Enki’s wife, Babylonians named her Damkina and the Sumerians Damgalnuna of Ninki („The Lady of the Earth”). The Sumerians claimed that she had ten children with her brother Enki: Ningal / Ninsar, Abu, Nintulla, Ninsutu, Ninkasi, Nanse, Azimua, Ninti, Ensag and Martu and to Enlil she bore Nanna, Ninurta and Nergal.
Marduk, the son of Ea / Enki and Damkina / Ninhursag, was the supreme god of Babylon. His wife was named Sarpanitum, their son was Nabu and his sister, Ishtar. His iconic animal was Mushussu, a monstrous combination between a snake and a dragon, and his symbol was the marrn, a tool in the shape of a spud. His main shrines in Babylon, the Esagil temple and the Etemenanki ziggurat, represented for the ancestors the central point of the Universe. In the beginning, he was the Sun god, having connections as well with vegetation, water and magic. During the reign of King Ammurapi, around 1800 BC, he reached the head of the divine pantheon, receiving the magic number 50, held up until that point by Enlil. Marduk did not took over just this number from his uncle, but also all his titles and attributes. For that reason Marduk was also named Bel („The Lord”), title initially attributed to Enlil. During the Neo-Babylonian period his cult extended so much that it had no rival, reaching beyond Central Mesopotamia. Marduk’s nature became more and more complex as he totally absorbed the functions and characteristics of the other gods. The fact is proved by the large number of odes, prayers and theological writings that had been dedicated to him, as well as many other references in private and official documents or names of people. He was part of the supreme triad, next to his father and his sister, replacing the original Mesopotamian triad, formed of Anu, Ellil and Ea. Among his titles there are „The Chancellor of the aquatic god Ea”, „The Teacher of humans”, „The God of war and weapons”, „The Eternal ruler”, „ The Sun-child”, „The God of anger and forgiveness”, „The Healer”, „The Watcher of purification”, „The One true everywhere”, „The Wise one, god of the Oracles”, or „The One worshiped by future generations”. The Babylonian poem Enuma Elish, which celebrates Marduk’s glory, was composed to justify his superior rank in the pantheon, considering him to be the organizer of the known Universe and the deliverer from the forces of primordial chaos, represented by the monster Tiamat.
Even though researchers believe that Marduk was initially an obscure god, local, who became important just because of the rise of Babylon led by Ammurapi in 18th century BC, things do not seem to be like that at all. Marduk’s name originates from Sumerian, where he was called Amar Utu („The Solar Calf”). Next, the name became Martu by eliminating the first letter of every word and the fusion of what’s left. The Babylonians took the name Martu, turning it into Marduk. The Sumerians preferred to eliminate from Amar Utu the first word, naming the god just Utu („The Sun”). According to Sumerian mythology, Utu was the son of the gods Nanna and Ningal. In Enki and the World Order there is written: „Utu, the son born of Ningal, to him Enki gave the whole Universe to care for”. Utu was never the ruler of the Universe, but this is one of the titles of the Babylonian Marduk. Also, Enki never would have given the Universe to care to anyone but his heir, meaning the same Marduk. Utu’s twin sister was Inanna, whom all researchers identify as the Akkadian Ishtar. And Ishtar was in Babylon Marduk’s sister, both of them being part of the supreme holy triad next to their father. Utu was equivalent to the Sun, while one of Marduk’s epithets was „The Sun-child”. Hence, we can conclude without a doubt that the Sumerians Amar Utu, Martu and Utu, as well as the Babylonian Marduk, represent the same character. Utu’s pictographic symbol appears in the oldest cuneiform proofs written and a few kings from the old Sumerian period speak of Utu as being their master. King Lugalzaggisi even affirmed that he was named by Utu „the high minister of Sin”. So, Utu / Marduk wasn’t a minor unknown god, that became important around the second millennia BC, but one of the great Anunnaki.
The Akkadians took Utu from the Sumerians and called him Shamash. God of justice, he was a divinity of a cosmic and national importance, being considered by the Akkadians and Assyrians „The Master of Heaven and Earth”. Even this title is confusing the researchers because, in the existing lists of the gods, Shamash never received the higher position. If it is understood that Utu or Shamash were different variants of Marduk, things become clear. Shamash was a warrior, thing that reminds of one of Marduk’s epithets, „The God of war and weapons”. Otherwise, for the Romans, Mars / Martis (derived from Martu or Marduk) was the god of war. For the Akkadians and later for the Babylonians, Shamash was also the judge of the dead.
Why did the Babylonians use two names for the same deity? The answer is not as complicated as it may seem at first sign. First, „Sun-god” meant „supreme god”. Just as the Sun is located at the center of the solar system, with the planets rotating around it, the high god was in the middle of the other gods, which „rotated” around him. Marduk was considered the leader of the pantheon, and so the epithet of „Sun-god” fits him. Identified as the day orb, as a judge and the god of justice, he was named Shamash, this being just a depiction of the high god, the side that the believers could see. In return as a high god, which lived together with the other gods, that destroyed the enemies of Babylon, protected people of disease and offered them bountiful harvests, or as an organizer (or architect as the freemasons call him) of the Universe, he was known as Bel or Marduk. Exactly how nowadays Christians call their supreme god the Lord, God, Adonai, Almighty, The Creator etc. Various names have always been given to every deity, which signified different attributes he had. Not just that but also different alter egos, depending on his predominant traits.
Marduk’s twin sister, the goddess of sexuality, fertility and war, was known in Sumer under different names, as Inanna („The Child of the Moon”), Innin, Ennin, Ninnin, Ninni, Ninanna, Ninnar, Innina, Ennina, Irnina, Innini, Nana or Nin. During the fourth millennia BC, Uruk was her city. Along the Euphrates and Tigris rivers could be found many of Inanna’s temples, the biggest being Eanna („The House of the Heaven”) in Uruk. Her symbol was the eight-pointed star or the planet Venus, with which she was also associated. Inanna was usually depicted naked, often on the backs of two lionesses. Her husband was Dumuzi, her father was considered to be either Anu or Nanna and her brothers were the Sun-god Utu, the god of rain Ishkur and Ereshkigal, the goddess of the Underworld. In Assyria and Babylon, the goddess of love, sexuality, fertility and war was called Ishtar („The Destroyer of the Mountain”). She was associated with the planet Venus and the lion and the eight-pointed star were part of her symbols. She had many lovers, which brought her the epithet „The Courtesan of the gods”, her sacred city, Uruk, being named „The City of the sacred courtesans”. Also, the goddess was called „The Queen of Heaven”. She was Tammuz’s consort, Shamash’s sister and Anu or Sin’s daughter. All these lead to the conclusion that Inanna and Ishtar were one and the same goddess, conclusion reached by the researchers a long time ago.
In an ode to Ishtar, written in 1600 BC, the goddess is called „The greatest amongst Igigi”, „The most worshiped amongst goddesses”, „The mistress of humans” and „The queen of women”. To get a glimpse at the way in which she was seen, here is the description from the ode:
„The goddess, in her lays the counsel,
The fate of everything she holds in her hand,
At her look joy is achieved,
Power, generosity, protective divinity and guarding spirit,
She is close, she is full of mercy and friendship.
On top, she is unseeingly attractive.
Be it a slave-girl, a little orphan girl or an ordinary mother, she defends everyone.
Everyone invokes her; women call her name.
Who can be like her greatness?
Powerful, almighty, great are her decisions.
Ishtar, who can equal her greatness?
Powerful, almighty are her decisions.
She is sought after amongst gods; undefeated is her rank.
Respected is her word; it is above all.
Ishtar among gods, unsuspected is her title.
Respected is her word; it is above all.
She is their queen; they always do her bidding”.
The Epic of Gilgamesh, the oldest discovered this far, presents to us a completely different image of the goddess. When Ishtar tried to seduce the king Gilgamesh, he refused her, probably in the gentlest way he could:
„If I took you for a wife, I know what awaits me.
You are nothing but an ember that goes out when it get cold,
A badly closed door, that does not stop neither the wind, nor the cold,
A palace which crushes the warriors that guard it,
An elephant that rips its skin,
You are the tar that smears the person to carry it,
The bellows that spills on the person to wear it,
The limestone that makes the stone wall to crumble,
The siege ram that empties the enemy land,
The shoe that hurts the foot which wears it!”
There is a dual side that can be observed in Inanna / Ishtar. Called a prostitute for the most part, she is also often considered a virgin. It is a little hard to imagine a virgin prostitute (although not impossible). On one side, she is a pacifistic goddess of love, and on the other side a ferocious warrior. Her father is sometimes Anu, others Nanna / Sin. How can it be that a person is a pacifist but also a warrior, a virgin but also a prostitute? More so, how can she have two fathers? This enigma has but one logical solution: it is not about just one goddess, but two named the same, Inanna / Ishtar. In a chronicle from the battle on Halule in 691 BC, written in cuneiform on a clay tablet, the Assyrian king Sin-ahhi-eriba (Sennacherib) wrote that he prayed for victory „to Assur, to Sin, to Shamash, to Bel, to Nabu, to Nergal, to Ishtar of Nineveh, to Ishtar of Arbailsk – to my guardian gods”. So, for the ancients there were two goddesses with the same name. One was the pacifist virgin, daughter of Anu, the other was the warrior prostitute, daughter of Enki. The first one was Sud / Ninhursag, the creator of humans who was considered the goddess of fertility. And as humans naturally come from sexual contact, the ancients named her the goddess of sexuality. The myths say that she lost her virginity by being raped, but for her worshipers she kept her virtue, still being called „The Virgin”. She was the daughter of Anu and, as Enki’s wife, Marduk and Ishtar’s mother, and as Enlil’s wife, Ninurta’s mother. The second Inanna / Ishtar was Ningal („The Great Lady”) / Ninsar („The Lady Princess”), Enki and Ninhursag’s eldest daughter. When she got the ruling of the Earth as the wife of her brother Marduk, the second Inanna / Ishtar took over also the attributes of her mother and her followers attributed to her Ninhursag’s actions. Extra evidence is the fact that, in the beginning, Venus was Ninhursag’s symbol, and later Inanna / Ishtar’s one. The power struggle transformed her into a warrior goddess, separate from her pacifist mother. Her numerous sexual relations with different deities but also with mortals transformed her into „The Vulva of Heaven”, that is the name given to her in The Epic of Gilgamesh. When she took over her mother’s titles and functions, her status as an easy woman fitted perfectly with the image of the goddess of sexuality. Not only the Mesopotamians mixed the two deities, but all ancient civilisations, as we will see. One thing is for sure and that is that under the name of Inanna / Ishtar hide Ninhursag and Ninsar as well.
In many Mesopotamian cities, Nanna („The Moon”) was the god of the Moon and of wisdom. In Sumerian, his name was usually written Sheshki („The Brother of the Earth”). Babylonians and Akkadians called him Sin, derived from Su’en. Seeing as in Sumerian the syllables of a word can be change between them without running the risk of changing the meaning of the word, Suen was also written Ensu or Enzu. And Enzu in Sumerian means „The God of wisdom”, epithet that fits Nanna. The biblical city of Jericho (Yeriho in Hebrew) had as its symbol the Moon and it was devoted to Sin. The Sinai Peninsula became at one point in history his territory, event marked by the name of the place: „ai” in Hebrew means „mine”, following the model of Adonai („My Lord”). Therefore, Sinai means „My Sin”. Patron of the cities of Ur and Harran, Nanna / Sin was in tight connection with fertility, especially of cattle, because of the resemblance between the crescent moon and the horns. His number was 30, which represents the number of days the Moon needs to complete a full rotation around the Earth. Among the god’s epithets there are „Ashimbabbar” („The Luminous One”), „Amar” („The Calf”), „Magur” („The Boat”) and „Amar.ban.da.en.lil.a” („Enlil’s Calf”), the last three obviously being allusions to the sickle shape of the crescent moon, which is reminiscent of the horns of cattle or the slender reed boats. Considered to be Enlil’s eldest son, Nanna / Sin was an important oracle and healing god. His children were Utu / Shamash and Inanna / Ishtar, beside whom he was in the supreme Babylonian triad. Even though he was a popular god, having many prayers addressed to him, Sin played no part in the Babylonian mythology. Something that was extremely odd, considering that he was one of the most important deities, the father of the ruling gods. Furthermore, one of Nanna / Sin’s epithets was „The Master of the Earth”, even though there was not any myth discovered that would prove that the god held at any point that position. So how can this epithet be explained? The answer is very easy: Nanna / Sin is none other than Enki. Because Nanna’s wife was Ningal, it results that, at some point, Enki married his eldest daughter as well, something that the Sumerian myths already uncovered through the fact that she bore him a daughter.
As Anu’s substitute on Earth, to Enlil were attributed his father’s titles, including the one of „The Father of the gods”. For that reason, Enki is considered in a few texts to be Enlil’s son, epithet that confused the researchers. As Enki was one of the great Anunnaki, part of Sumer’s holy triad, his followers didn’t allow for him to fall from his spot as Enlil’s brother into the one of his sons. Enlil’s sympathisers wished ardently to highlight their god’s superiority over all other gods and especially over his rival brother. Therefore, an alter ego for Enki was created, named Nanna and seen as Enlil’s son, Enki being able to keep his role as his brother. Babylonians called him Sin when he represented the Moon and Ea when he represented the water, introducing him in the supreme triad next to the greatest gods of Babylon, his children, Shamash / Marduk and Ishtar. This is the reason for which Sin is not present in Babylonian mythology and only in prayers: because in myths he is called Ea. Both Nanna / Sin and Enki are gods of the Moon, wisdom, magic and they are considered „rulers of the Earth”, even though mythology gives no clue that any one of them ever ruled our planet. In Sumer was believed that, during a New Moon, Nanna spends „his days sleeping” in the Underworld, where he decides the fate of the dead. But the Underworld was Enki’s dwelling, where the god spent most of his time sleeping. An old Babylonian ode considered Sin to be „the first amongst all, the strong one, the one to whom no god ever scoured his infinite heart, fast runner with relentless knees, who opens the way for the gods and his brothers”. Even though this paragraph has been interpreted by the researchers in an absurd way, claiming that the Moon opens the way for the stars and the Sun, logic suggests that the ode refers to Enki. „The first of all” suggests that he was Anu’s firstborn, the oldest of brothers but also the first god to arrive on Earth. „The one that open the way for the gods and his brothers” does not describe the trajectory of the Moon on the sky, instead indicating the fact that Enki was the first god to arrive on our planet, „opening the way” for other gods and for his brothers that followed him. Even the legends of the two gods are similar. Enki was An’s older son, but the heir to the throne was his younger brother, Enlil. Nanna was Enlil’s older son, but the heir of the throne was his younger brother, Ninurta. Nanna / Sin was the father of Utu / Shamash and Inanna / Ishtar even though, in many myths, Enki is the father of Inanna / Ishtar and Marduk, Enki’s son, was initially named Utu by the Sumerians and Shamash by the Akkadians and the Babylonians. Thus, Enki and Nanna or Sin can only represent the same deity.
According to the Babylonian priest Berossos, the god Oannes (Uan for the Sumerians) appeared from the waters of the Persian Gulf, where he returned every night. He taught the humans the art of writing, different sciences and crafts (for example how to raise houses or temples using geometry), how to cultivate the land and to reap the harvest. It is said that he taught the art of divination to the antediluvian king Evedurahos. Oannes had the body of a fish with two heads (a human one under the fish one), human legs and a tail. Oannes’ description is identical with Enki / Ea’s in the Assyro-Babylonian reliefs. The fact that Oannes lived in water and brought the knowledge of the gods to the humans (writing, crafts, and agriculture) indicates the same entity.
Among Enki’s symbols there is a snake coiled around the Tree of Life or two coiled snakes. The two snakes can symbolize the D.N.A., because Enki was the creator of humans, the divine geneticist, and the snake around the tree of life represent, as well, the creation of life by the deity often called „The Snake”. The symbol of the two snakes was first used by the god Ningishzida (The Master of the Good Tree), a snake with a human head, then it was taken over on the caduceus (the staff with the coiled snakes) of the gods Hermes, Dionysos and Asklepios (Mercur, Bacchus and Esculap for the Romans). Later it became the symbol of medicine, representing life. In one myth Ningishzida is the son of Ninazu and Ningiridda, in another one of the goddess Ereshkigal, while an inscription from Lagash considers him the son of the almighty god Anu. As far as we know, only one of Anu’s sons was equated with the snake: Enki. Ningishzida’s symbol is Enki’s symbol, which means that it is not about two separate deities, just about two epithets of the same one.
The Sumerians left us enough clues about the conflict between the two divine families, Enki’s and Enlil’s. We know today that every god, inside the area they ruled over, he declared himself benefactor of humans, while his rival was presented as being the absolute evil. Enki’s followers portrayed Enlil as being an evil deity, who wished to destroy the world many times, and the snake-god as being the saviour. Just like Enlil’s worshipers presented their god as a just, benevolent deity, a true benefactor of humanity, and Enki as being a demon. Such an example is Pazuzu, the king of demons in Assyro-Babylonian mythology, who represented the hot South-Western wind. On the back of a Babylonian statue from around 9th-8th century BC, that pictured him, it is written: „I am Pazuzu, son of Hanpa, king of the evil air spirits, which get out of the mountains like a storm, wreaking havoc”. Pazuzu is represented with a human body, wings, eagle claws and a snake for a penis. He always has his right hand raised and his left hand pointing towards the earth. There is not much we know about him, only that he was summoned very often to stop his wife, the goddess Lamashtu. Even though he was a demon, meaning an evil entity, he often protected humans from other evil entities or of sickness. The snake for a penis represents the creator snake, which is Enki. The „zu” particle in his name means „wisdom” in Sumerian, while „pa” means „wing”. Therefore, Pazuzu could translate into „The twice wise winged one”, an epithet that matches him, counting the fact that he was represented as having wings. In ancient times it wasn’t unusual for a syllable to be repeated in order to highlight the characteristic of a divinity. For example Isis, the name given by the Greeks to the Egyptian goddess Aset, was formed by doubling the first syllable of the Babylonian Ishtar. And a statement like „twice wise” can be also seen with Hermes Trismegistos, „the Thrice-Greatest”. „Twice wise” can mean that he was not just an ordinary Wiseman, but the wiser of them all, something that can only describe the god of wisdom, Enki. His father was An, Pazuzu’s father was Hanpa translated as „the Winged one of the Heaven” or „Winged An”. The hot South-Western wind, that Pazuzu was amounted to, is also indicative of his personality: the South represent downwardness, as in the Underworld which he ruled, and the West the left side, as in the evil or negative side. Pazuzu was a different name for Enki, demonised by his brother’s worshipers.
Dimme for Sumerians of Lamashtu for Akkadians, Pazuzu’s wife, was a female demon of whom was believed to be kidnaping breastfeed babies and drank their blood, ate people, poisoned the waters and brought nightmares, diseases and death. She was considered to be Anu’s daughter. Her name in cuneiform was always written next to the logogram for deity, which is indicative of her divine nature. She was represented by a hybrid with the head of a lioness, ears and teeth of a donkey, long nails, bird feet and a furry body, that was riding a donkey, holding in her arms snakes or breastfeeding a pig or a dog. She is considered one of the lilitu, demonic female spirits. Being Anu’s daughter and Enki’s wife, Dimme / Lamashtu can only be the demonised version of Ninhursag.
Mesopotamians do not clearly specify but they allude to the fact that, at some point, Enki was killed by Enlil, which led to Marduk’s crowning to the Earth’s throne. The priests created other deities that were killed, different from Enki at first glance, while worshipers were told that Enki is „asleep” in his Underworld. But the initiated ones knew the truth. A deity like that is the shepherd god Dumuzi, named Tammuz in Babylon. He was imagined as a beautiful youngster who was killed by the order of the Assembly of the Gods. Inanna went for him in Inferno, to save him. She finally managed to do that, Dumuzi being forced to live half a year on the Earth and half in the other world. In Babylon, Tammuz was considered „Ishtar’s only brother” as well as her lover from her youth. Ishtar / Ninhursag’s brother and lover was Enki. In a different Sumeranian myth Dumuzi’s sister is Geshtinanna, whom we can easily identify with the same Inanna / Ishtar / Ninhursag. The name Dumuzi translates as „The True Son”, an obvious allusion to the fact that Enki considered himself to be An’s true son and the rightful heir of his throne, unlike his younger brother, Enlil.
In Sumerian mythology Gibil was the god of fire, An and Ki’s son. The Akkadians called him Gerra. In Enuma Elish is said that Gibil kept the edges of the weapons sharp, brought wisdom and his mind was „so extensive that not even all the gods together are able to understand it”. Some myths say that the god possessed the knowledge of metallurgy. The only one of Anu’s sons that brought wisdom, while also being a patron of craftsmen, was Enki. Even though this alter-ego played a small part in Mesopotamia, he was taken over by many other civilisations that gave him a higher purpose.
In the Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian pantheon, the god of storm was Adad, named Ishkur by the Sumerians and Hadad by the Canaanites. The Akkadians also called him Ramman. For the Sumerians he was the inspector of the Universe. In one prayer he is considered An’s son, Enki’s twin brother, the great bull, the lion of Heaven and the Lord that rides the storm. Other legends consider him the son of Nanna or Enlil. His wife was Shala, the goddess of war and grains, identified with the Virgo constellation. His animal was the bull. He was usually represented with thunder and lightning in his hands, wearing a horned crown. In Assyria, beginning with the reign on Tukulti-apil-Esharra (Tiglath-Pileser I), around 12th century BC, Adad was worshipped together with Anu. As Anu’s son, Enki’s brother and the god of the storm, associated with the bull and the lion, worshipped with his father, Ishkur / Adad / Hadad / Ramman can only be Enlil or, to be more precise, the personification of his more tempestuous side.
For the Akkadians, Babylonians and Assyrians, Nergal was the god of war, disease and the destructive Sun of midday, but also the deity of the Underworld alongside his consort, Ereshkigal. His symbols were the rooster and the lion. Among his epithets there are „Lugal-banda” („The Ferocious King”), „Sharrapu” („The Burning One”), or „Sibitti” („Seven”). The Hurrians called him Aplu and the Hettites Apaliunas, considering him to be the deity of the plague. Even though mythologists consider Nergal as being Enlil’s son, a different entity from Marduk, the ancients made no such confusion. The Hittites tell us that, when Ninhursag gave birth to Marduk, she was no longer Enki’s wife, but Enlil’s. The son of Enlil’s wife became Enlil’s son, though the true father of the young god remained the god of wisdom. Nergal was attributed the planet Mars (name that comes from the one of the Sumerian Martu). Christianity equalled Nergal with Satan, even if Marduk is called that in The New Testament. For the ancients, Marduk was the high divinity, a complex entity; Shamash represented his positive aspect and Nergal his negative one. Being a god of Sun and war, as well as the ruler of the Underworld after the death of his father, Nergal is with no doubt Marduk.
Enlil’s oldest son, his right hand and the heir of his throne was Ninurta („The Lord of the Furrows”), initialy named Ningirsu („The God of the Town of Girsu”), Ninib or Ninip. In Nippur and Lagash he was Enlil’s firstborn, although throughout the rest of the Mesopotamia Nanna got that role. As Nanna was Enki, we can reach the conclusion that Ninurta was Enlil’s true firstborn. In Nippur he was part of a holy triad next to his parents. His consort was the goddess Ugallu or Bau. Initially a farming god, as his name shows, but also a solar god sometimes, Ninurta became the god of war. A great number of odes and incantations were dedicated to him, in which he was shown as a hero that saves the world of diseases and from the influence of demons. It was told that he defeated a series of monsters known as „the Slain Heroes”, like The Dragon Warrior, The Palm King, Master Saman-ana, The Bison-Bull, The Siren, The Seven-headed Snake, The Wild Six-headed Ram or The Anzu bird. He was always represented with a bow, a curved sword and a mace called Sharur, that could talk and take the shape of a winged lion. After the old Babylonian period, his role diminished because Marduk took some of his characteristics and even some of his heroics, as the researchers discovered. The story of Marduk’s victory over Tiamat and his children, which appeared after the rise of the god in a national rank by King Ammurapi, is very similar to the one of Ninurta’s victory over Anzu and the other „Slain Heroes”. As the legend of Enlil’s son is older, we can be certain that Marduk’s one is plagiarism. Stripped by the Babylonian god of his attributes and his glorious actions, Ninurta found followers in Assyria where, starting with the Middle Kingdom, has been promoted as a fearsome warrior.
In Babylonian and Assyrian mythology, Marduk’s spouse was Sarpanit, also named Erua, Zarpanit, Zarpandit, Zerpanitum, Zerbanitu or Zirbanit. Their wedding was celebrated yearly in Babylon every New Year. She was associated with the planet Venus and often portrayed as pregnant. Researchers consider that Sarpanit is just another title of the goddess Ishtar and it may seem that they are right. The tablet CBS-14061 claims that she was the daughter of a priest, but religion had not yet been created on Earth in that time and so that is just a figure of speech. Priests are considered the mediators between humans and deities and Enki was the one that made that connection. Furthermore, Enki is the creator of the primordial religion, which might transform him, symbolically, in the first priest of Earth. Even her name indicates her provenience form the great snake-god, Sarpanit being the root from which the word „serpent” took form in English and French, but also the Indo-European term „serp” („to crawl”). Being a snake-deity, Sarpanit was part of Enki’s family. And she can only be the god of wisdom’s first daughter, Marduk’s sister, named Ninsar by the Sumerians and Ishtar by the Akkadians, Babylonians and Assyrians.
In Mesopotamian religions, Ereshkigal (The Great Lady from under the Earth) was the queen of the Irkalla underworld, to whom she sometimes wore the name of, just as Hades later in Greek mythology, name that represented both the Underworld and its leader. It was believed that she has been kidnaped and forcefully brought into the Underworld, where she was made queen against her will. In The Descent of Inanna text, the goddess considers Ereshkigal to be her older sister. In some myths, Ereshkigal rules the Underworld by herself. In others she does it together with her husband, who is either Gugalana („The Bull of Heaven”), or Nergal / Marduk. She is Nungal / Manungal’s mother as well as Namtar’s (with Enlil) and Ninazu’s (with Gugalana). Here as well we can observe the duality of the two goddesses, Ninhursag and Ninsar. The raped goddess, who was Anu and Enlil’s spouse, is Ninhursag. But Marduk’s wife and the mistress of the Underworld cannot be anyone but his sister, Ninsar. Besides, in The Descent of Inanna, the two of them appear together, Inanna being Ninhursag and Ereshkigal Ninsar.
Agasaya was a less known Semitic goddess of war, who became the warrior depiction of Ishtar / Ninsar. No details about her were kept but we must remember her name, because we will see it in a similar form in other religions.
One of the most important goddesses, even if less known, is Namma or Nammu, who was part of the oldest generation of Sumerian deities, being associated with the pantheon of Eridu and with magic. In the Enki and Ninmah text, Namma is called „the primordial mother, who gave birth to the gods of the Universe”. In tablet 1 of the An-Anum list of deities, she bears the title of „Enki’s mother”, she being the one who came with the idea of the making of the humans. In one myth, she is also Ningikuga / Ninhursag’s mother. In an inscription from a temple built in her honor, king Lugal-Kisal-si described her as being „An’s spouse”. Because her name is written in cuneiform through the same symbol as the underground waters, some researchers called her „The cosmic ocean”. Besides some mentions of her name in a few texts, no myth about her was preserved. Her importance in ancient times, before Enki took most of her functions, can be observed in King Ur-Nammu’s name, the founder of the 3rd dynasty of Ur. Later she was replaced with Tiamat, the primordial goddess of the ocean and of chaos, Abzu (the god of groundwater)’s spouse. In Babyloniaca, the Babylonian priest Berrosos called her Omoroca. Her epithet „the mother who gave birth to the gods of the Universe” from Enki and Ninmah finds its explanation in Enuma Elish, the Babylonian myth of creation, where she, together with her husband, Apsu / Abzu, are the first beings occurring in this universe. The two gave birth to the couple of gods Lahmu and Lahamu, who in turn have two children: Anshar and Kishar, An’s parents. After a while, Tiamat / Namma and Apsu / Abzu get into a war with the young gods. Apsu is killed by Enki and Tiamat by Marduk, who created from her body the sky and the Earth.
Aside from the great Anunnaki, the Mesopotamian myths recorded some important Igigi, personal servants or ministers / counselors (the highest advisers) of the great gods:
– In Babylonian and Akkadian mythology, Ilabrat is Anu’s companion and minister.
– In Sumerian myths, Isimud / Isinu (named Usmu or Usumu by the Akkadians) was Enki’s counsellor. He was represented with two faces that looked in opposite directions.
– Enlil’s minister (and sometimes his son) was Nusku, the god of fire and light in Babylon and Assyria, a minor deity, different from Gibil / Gerra. Because the fire is the one that burns the offerings brought to the deities, Nusku was considered the arbitrator between humans and gods.
– Ninshubur, Ninshubar or Nincubura was Inanna (Ninhursag)’s right hand in Sumerian mythology. Full-fledged goddess, her name can be translated as „The Lady of the East”. Inanna being associated with Venus, Ninshubur was equated with Mercury, because the two planets appeared together on the sky. Albeit described as a never married virgin, in some places she is mentioned as being Inanna’s mistress. In Akkadian mythology Ninshubur is a male, An ode to Nergal considering him „the minister of the Underworld”. Akkadians called him Papsukkal and transformed him in the herald of the gods. His spouse was Amasagnul, a fertility goddess.
– In Akkadian mythology, Ishum was Erra (a deity that seems to be describing Ninurta)’s counsellor. It is believed that Ishum developed from Sumerians’ Endursaga, a deity that led the gods in a war. Besides Ishum in The Epic of Erra, Ninurta’s adviser was usually his mace, called Sharur, an enchanted weapon which had the capacity to transform into a winged lion and to talk with its master, to whom he served as an emissary.
– Ereshigal’s minister and herald was Namtar / Namtaru / Namtara („Destiny” or „Fate”), a minor deity of death. He was considered the goddess and Enlil’s child. It was believed that he is responsible for different diseases. For example, according to Assyrian and Babylonian myths, Namtar commanded 60 diseases in the form of demons that penetrated different parts of the human body. He usually received sacrifices to prevent the respective affections. For Sumerians he was the spirit of fate, the one who even had power over men and gods. In other writings he was presented as a personification of death, just as the Grim Reaper from the European medieval folklore. His spouse is the chthonic goddess Hushbishag, with whom he has a daughter, Hemdikug.
It can be observed that six of the seven Anunnaki had a minor deity as a minister of an adviser. The only one left out seems to have been Marduk, but appearances can be deceiving. His right hand was a deity more important than the rest of the ministers of the great gods. Nabu, the god of the city of Borsippa, Marduk and Sarpanitum’s son, was his father’s scribe and minister. In the Hebrew’s scriptures he is called Nebo. His name originates from the Akkadian root „nb”, which means „to call” or „to announce”, meaning „The One that was called” or “The One that announces” (highlighting his job as a herald). Initially the patron of scribes, Nabu became one of the great gods of Assyria after the expansion of the Assyrian Empire, beginning with the rule of Sharru-ukin (Sargon II). „The Tablets of destiny” were entrusted to him and he also „pronounced fate”, having the power to raise or shorten people’s lives. He was the god of writing, wisdom and sometimes of waters and the fertility of fields, attributes inherited from his grandfather, Enki / Ea. He was represented with a horned headpiece (in the shape of the crescent moon, the symbol of Enki’s family), clenching his hands (an ancient gesture of priesthood), sometimes riding Marduk’s winged dragon. In Babylonian astrology he was attributed the planet Mercury.
Descendants of Akkadians, just like the Babylonians, the Assyrians took over the Sumerians’ deities as well. The leader of their pantheon was Assur or Ashur. He was represented in a winged disk, holding a bow in his left hand, while his right was raised to the sky, precisely like the demon Pazuzu. Assyria and its capital, Assur, were named after him. Although it is believed that he was a local god, promoted to a higher rank at the same time as the birthing of the Assyrian empire, Ashur is mentioned for the first time in the Sumerian city of Ur, at the ending of the 3rd millennia. In Sumerian „as” means „unique” or „the only one”, Ashur could be translated as „the Only one from Ur”. As Ur was Nanna / Enki’s city, it is hard to believe that another divinity could pretend the spot. The name Ashur is very similar with Asar („the Prince of Water”), one of Enki’s epithets, most probable being a derivative of him. For the Assyrians, Ishtar was Ashur’s wife, which identifies him once again as Enki.
The Hittites, the Arians that founded their empire in Northern Mesopotamia approximately 3500 years ago, borrowed as well the Sumerian religion, which they modified to give the impression of a new one. Out of respect for the old deities, they kept some of the Sumerian and Akkadian names (Anu, Enki, Enlil, Ishtar). In Hittites’ religion, Alalu, Anu’s father, was exiled on Earth. In other variations he was considered Anu’s son and was called Kumarbi. He attacked and castrated his father, becoming the ruler of Earth. Meanwhile, the heir of the heavenly throne was Tarhun, the god of storm (named Teshub by the Hurrians), who was the usurper’s brother and son at the same time. Tarhun dethroned Kumarbi, then fought for supremacy with Kumarbi’s son, Illuyanka. The name Alalu is very similar with Alulim, the first antediluvian ruler of Sumer from The Sumerian King List. We can rightly presume that Hittites’ Alalu / Kumarbi was Enki and Tarhun / Teshub, the god of storm, none other than Enlil. Illuyanka was the son of Kumarbi and the goddess of the mountains from Nippur. As Nippur was Enlil’s city, the goddess of the mountains of that city couldn’t be anyone but Enlil’s wife, Ninhursag („The Lady of the High Mountain”). This bloodline, coupled with the battle for the throne with the god of storm, identifies Illuyanka as Marduk. At the Hittites we also meet the goddesses Inara and Ishara who are, without a doubt, versions of Inanna and Ishtar.
The Amorites occupied a large part of Southern Mesopotamia between the 21st and 17th century BC. Semites originating from Assyria, they were called Amurru by the Akkadians, Martu by the Sumerians and Amar by the Egyptians. They named their people after their almighty deity, Martu or Amar Utu, none other than Marduk of the Babylonians.
Even if it is fragmentary for us, the religion of the Sumerians represents the key to understanding everything that followed, the glue between all religious cults occurring on the surface of the Earth. No Mesopotamian religion was fully preserved. From what survived to this day, we deduce that Enki was exiled on our planet and fought a never-ending fight with his younger brother Enlil. Ninhursag was his spouse, later becoming Enlil’s wife and, in the end, their father Anu’s wife. Enki and Ninhursag are the creators of humankind but also of several hybrid monstrosities. The rivalry between the two brothers extended over the entirety of their families. Even though the Mesopotamian myths do not openly talk about a full-fledged war, but they just contain a few mentions of some divine fights, we can easily see Enki and his children, Marduk and Ishtar, on one side, and Enlil, Ninurta and later Ninhursag on the other side. Enki’s family was equated with the Moon, the night and the left side, and so with the evil, and Enlil’s with the Sun, the day, the right side, meaning with the good. From the fact that Marduk was initially a solar deity and later a lunar one we can infer that even though he was Enki’s son, he was raised by Enlil, being considered at the beginning a member of his family. Enki’s side had the snake as a symbol and Enlil’s had the eagle. The two animals represent the roles of the two divine families: the snake is indicative of earthly gods and the eagle of the heavenly ones. Anu is often presented as an impartial character, a judge of the two sides, thou he clearly prefers Enlil’s best. We do not know why was Enki named „The Lord of the Earth”, but we understand through this title that he was the first ruler of our planet. We do not know how Enlil received Earth’s throne, nor how Enki died and why the earth finally became Marduk’s. As well it is unclear what role the Igigi or „The Eyes of the Earth” had, although it is suggested that they were part of Enki’s side. The incomplete Mesopotamian myths raise a lot of questions which, luckily, find their answers in other civilisations’ religions, which helps us to eventually see the whole picture of the story of the gods on our planet.
 Hammurabi in English