The Sumerian civilization, which emerged in the middle of the 4th millennium BC in southern Mesopotamia (in modern day Iraq), is considered to be the oldest in the world. The place of origin of this Aryan population (of white race) has not been discovered to this day, nor where it disappeared in the second millennium BC. Starting in 2900 BC, the Sumerians fought for six centuries with the Akkadians, the first Semitic people recorded in history, for supremacy in Mesopotamia. After the fall of the Akkadian Empire founded by Sargon the Great, the Akkadians left the area, only to reappear later as Babylonians and Assyrians. In the second millennium BC, the Sumerians vanished without a trace, leaving Mesopotamia in the hands of the Semitic peoples. Not without leaving their religion as a legacy, which was assimilated in various forms by all ancient civilizations.
The Sumerians called themselves „ug sag gig-ga„, which means „black-headed people”. Their territory, which we know today as Sumer, was called Shumer by the Akkadians, Shinar by the Hebrews, Sngur by the Egyptians and Shanhar by the Hittites. The name given by the Sumerians to their land was Kiengir, which can be translated as „The Land of the Noble Rulers”, a reference to the gods, whom they called „dingir” („the nobles who give life” in a loose translation), while the Akkadians called them „illu„. The dingir were divided into two categories: Anunna and Igigi. It is believed that Anunna were the great gods, the rulers, the ones with royal blood, while Igigi were the lower-ranking deities, the servants of the great Anunna, about whom not much is known. The name Anunna, composed of „an” („heaven”), „nun” („noble”) and „na” („man”), translates as „Noble Men from Heaven”. Igigi is composed of „igi” („eyes”) and „gi” („earth”), therefore it means „The Eyes of the Earth” that is, the observers, overseers or watchers of the planet. In the Babylonian poem Enuma Elish, Igigi are called „fallen gods”, and according to The Myth of Atra-Hasis they rebelled against one of the Anunna, who forced them into hard labor, leading to the creation of humans. Therefore, for the Sumerians, Anunna were the celestial deities and Igigi were the earthly ones. The Akkadians called them all Anunnaki or Anunnaku, which means „The Noble Men of Heaven and Earth”. The great Mesopotamian dingir, both Anunna and Igigi, together with their legends, were adopted by all the peoples who followed after the Sumerians.
The Sumerian pantheon was led by a trinity composed of An and his sons, Enlil and Enki. An’s name, written in cuneiform with a cross, means „heaven”. 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 constellations, the lord of the gods, spirits and demons. He could elevate other gods in rank, confer royalty on Earth and determine fate. To emphasize his authority, he was often called „an gal” („The Great An”). His consort was named Ki („Earth”). Some royal texts from the Sargonic period describe the elevation of the goddess Inanna to the rank of An’s consort. The supreme god had many children, the most important being Enki, Enlil and Ninhursag. His main temple was the Eanna in the city of Uruk, which he shared with Inanna. Surprisingly, Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian hymns and prayers dedicated to Anu are extremely rare. In the 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 demons„. The text Lahar and Ashnan gives him credit for the divine intelligence that created the Universe.
An lived in heaven with his wife, allowing his younger son, Enlil, the heir to the throne, to rule the Earth. There are no myths that explain why the older son, Enki, was not the heir, as the laws of succession always provided, but the answer is found in the legends of other peoples. Enlil was considered the god of the air, wind and storms, his name meaning „Lord of the Storm”. The bull and the lion are among his symbols. The Akkadians, Hittites and Canaanites sometimes called him Ellil and the Babylonians called him Bel („Lord” or „Master”). His main religious center was the city of Nippur, where the Ekur temple („House of the Mountain”) was dedicated to him. His wife, Ninlil („Lady of the Storm”), initially called Sud, gave him three sons: Nanna (called Su’en or Sin by the Akkadians), Ninurta and Nergal. Enlil was the one who brought agriculture to humans, while his brother, Enki, taught them how to shepherd. As the inheritor and representative of An on Earth, Enlil inherited not only the heavenly throne but also all of his father’s epithets and functions, „the father of the gods” being the most important of them. Although myths suggest that he wanted to destroy humanity through various plagues and a flood, he was considered a benevolent god.
The third deity in the Sumerian supreme triad was Enki, the eldest son of An. Credited with creating humans, he was considered the god of intelligence, wisdom and fertility. His name means „Lord of the Earth”, but it can also be interpreted as „Lord of the Underworld”. To date, no legend has been discovered that explains why he was given this name. As far as we know, Enlil was the ruler of the Earth and their father, An, was the ruler of the celestial world. However, in a Sumerian text, Enki claims that he was the first god to arrive on our planet. When he arrived here, accompanied by other gods, he lifted the earth out of the water, making it habitable. This statement leads us to deduce that he received the epithet „Lord of the Earth” at that time, a title he held until his brother Enlil arrived. After the younger one took his place, assuming the leadership of the Earth, Enki was forced to take refuge in the Underworld. The Akkadians and Babylonians adopted his Sumerian name and later called him Ea („House of Water”). His symbols included the snake, the crescent moon, the goat, the fish (which later were combined into a creature with the upper body of a goat and the lower body of a fish), the turtle, the staff with a ram’s head, the trident and a vessel from which water flowed. In Assyrian-Babylonian reliefs he is depicted as a tall man carrying the body of a fish, whose wide-open mouth is directed towards the sky, merging with the head of the god. Enki brought humanity knowledge, laws and magical rituals, taught them how to build cities and raise animals. Moreover, he saved humanity from the Flood. He was the most important god for incantations, the patron of priests, the one who mastered magic and had the ability to assign fate, being also the god of artisans and arts. In Babylon it was believed he destroyed the primordial giant reptiles together with his son, Marduk. His residence was in Abzu (groundwater or the underground ocean), called Apsu in Akkadian, which is the reason why he was also considered the god of water. His main cult center was Eridu (now Tell Abu Shahrain in Iraq), considered to be the oldest city in the world, called Urudu or Nunki („Great Place” or „Prince’s Place”) in Sumerian. His sister, Ningikuga (an epithet of Ninhursag), bore him a daughter, Ningal, also known as Ninsar. They had many other children: Abu, Nintulla, Ninsutu, Ninkasi, Nanshe, Azimua, Ninti and Enshag. His daughter, Ninsar, gave him a daughter, Ninkurra, which gave him a daughter named Uttu. For the Babylonians, his wife was Damkina (also known as Damgalnuna or Ninki by the Sumerians), with whom he had his successor, Marduk. In some Assyrian-Babylonian texts, Ea / Enki was considered the father of the goddess Ishtar (Inanna in Sumerian).
Mesopotamian legends reveal there was a permanent animosity between Enki and Enlil. Clearly rivals, they never missed an opportunity to argue, especially in front of the Assembly of the Gods. We do not know the reason for their disagreement, but it can be guessed. Being the firstborn of Anu, Enki should have inherited the throne. However, for unknown reasons, the Emperor preferred Enlil. Undoubtedly, the rivalry between the two brothers has at least some connection with the succession to the throne. No myths have been preserved describing battles between them, but there are enough clues in this regard. Unfortunately, only a very small part of Sumerian mythology has reached us. However, we do know that at one point Enki instigated the fallen gods, Igigi, to revolt against Enlil. We also know that Enlil took Enki’s wife. Additionally, there is a mention of a battle between Enki and Ninurta, Enlil’s son, as well as a suggestion of a battle between Enlil and Marduk, Enki’s son. Therefore, the rivalry between the two brothers also affected their families. Although we lack the details of the battle between the two divine families in Mesopotamian religions, fortunately they can be found in the myths of other peoples.
Another very important dingir was Sud, the daughter of An, the goddess of Earth, the ruler of heaven and the mother of the gods. Because she created humans together with Enki, she was also considered the goddess of fertility. The Sumerians gave her many epithets, including Ninmah („Great Queen”), Nintu („Lady of Birth”), Mami („Mother”), Aruru („Plow”) or Ningikuga („Lady of the Pure Reed”). According to legends, one of her sons, Ninurta, changed her name from Ninmah to Ninhursag („Lady of the High Mountain”), and after her marriage to Enlil she adopted the epithet Ninlil („Lady of the Storm”). The Akkadians also called her Belet-Ili („Lady of the Gods”). Her symbol was an unidentified object shaped like the Greek letter „omega„. She was often depicted wearing a horned crown, usually holding a mace or a staff decorated with the „omega” symbol and sometimes accompanied by a lion cub on a leash. Eridu was her main religious center, the city dedicated to Enki. Myths suggest that she was the consort of Enki, Enlil and An. As the wife of her father, An, she was called Ki („Earth”) by the Sumerians and Antu (the feminine form of the noun „heaven”) by the Akkadians and Babylonians. As the wife of Enki, the Babylonians called her Damkina, while the Sumerians called her Damgalnuna or Ninki („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, Enshag 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 called Sarpanitum, their son was Nabu and his sister was Ishtar. His emblematic animal was Mušhuššu / Mushkhushshu, a monstrous combination of a serpent and a dragon, and his symbol was the „marrn„, a hoe-shaped tool. His main sanctuaries in Babylon, the temple of Esagil and the ziggurat of Etemenanki, represented the ancient center of the Universe. At first, he was the god of the Sun, also associated with vegetation, water and magic. During the reign of King Hammurabi (around 1800 BC), he became the ruler of the divine pantheon, receiving the magic number 50, previously held by Enlil. Marduk not only took over this number from his uncle but also all his attributes and titles. For this reason, Marduk was also called Bel („Lord”), a title originally attributed to Enlil. During the Neo-Babylonian period, Marduk’s cult developed to such an extent that it became unrivalled, gradually spreading beyond Central Mesopotamia. Marduk’s nature became increasingly complex as he absorbed the functions and characteristics of other gods. This is evidenced by the large number of hymns, prayers and theological works dedicated to him, as well as numerous references in private and official documents or personal names. He was part of the supreme triad, along with his father and sister, replacing the original Mesopotamian triad consisting of Anu, Ellil and Ea. Among his titles there were „Counselor of the Aquatic God Ea”, „Teacher of Men”, „God of War and Weapons”, „Eternal Ruler”, „Sun-Child”, „God of Anger and Forgiveness”, „Healer”, „Watcher of Purity”, „The True One Everywhere”, „The Wise One, Lord of Oracles” or „The Glorified One by Future Generations”. The Babylonian poem Enuma Elish, which celebrates the glory of Marduk, was composed to justify the god’s superior position in the pantheon, considered the organizer of the known universe and liberator from the forces of primordial chaos represented by the monster Tiamat.
Although scholars believe that Marduk was initially an obscure, local god who became important only due to the rise of Babylon led by Hammurabi in the 18th century BC, things do not seem to be so. Marduk’s name comes from Sumerian, where he was called Amar Utu („Solar Calf”). Later, the name became Martu, by eliminating the first letter at the beginning of each word and combining the remaining ones. The Babylonians took the name Martu, transforming it into Marduk. The Sumerians preferred to eliminate the first word from Amar Utu, naming the god only Utu („Sun”). According to Sumerian mythology, Utu was the son of the gods Nanna and Ningal. In the text Enki and the World Order it is written: „Enki gave the entire Universe into the care of Utu, the son born of Ningal„. Utu was never the ruler of the Universe, but this was one of the titles of the Babylonian Marduk. In addition, Enki would not have given the Universe into the care of anyone other than his heir, namely Marduk. Utu’s twin sister was Inanna, whom all scholars identify with the Akkadian goddess Ishtar. And Ishtar was Marduk’s sister in Babylon, both belonging to the supreme holy triad, along with their father. Utu was equated with the Sun, while one of Marduk’s epithets was ” Sun-Child”. Therefore, we can conclude that Amar Utu, Martu and Utu of the Sumerians, as well as Marduk of the Babylonians, represent the same character. The pictographic symbol of Utu appears in the oldest written cuneiform evidence, and some kings from the early Sumerian period speak of Utu as their lord. King Lugalzaggisi even claimed that he was appointed by Utu as „the supreme minister of Sin„. Therefore, Utu / Marduk was not a minor, unknown god who became important in the second millennium BC, but one of the great Anunnaki.
The Akkadians adopted Utu from the Sumerians and named him Shamash. For the Akkadians and later for the Babylonians, Shamash was also the judge of the dead. As a god of justice, he was a deity of cosmic and national importance, considered by the Akkadians and Assyrians the „Lord of Heaven and Earth„. And this title confuses researchers because, in the existing myths, Shamash never received the supreme position. If we understand that Utu or Shamash were different aspects of Marduk, things become clear. Shamash was a warrior, which reminds us of one of Marduk’s epithets, „God of War and Weapons”. In fact, for the Romans, Mars / Martis (derived from Martu or Marduk) was the god of war.
Why did the Babylonians use two names for the same deity? The answer is not as complicated as it seems at first glance. First of all, „sun-god” meant „supreme god”. Just as the Sun is at the center of the solar system, with planets orbiting around it, so the supreme god was at the center of the other gods, who „orbited” around him. Marduk was considered the leader of the pantheon, so the epithet „sun-god” suited him. Identified with the star of the day, as a judge and god of justice, he was called Shamash, which was just an aspect of the supreme god, the part that the humans could see. As the supreme god who lived alongside the other deities, who destroyed Babylon’s enemies, defended people from diseases and offered them abundant harvests, or as the organizer (or architect, as the Freemasons call him) of the Universe, he was called Bel or Marduk. Just as today Christians call their supreme deity God, Lord, Adonai, Lord of Hosts, Almighty, Creator and so on. Throughout history, each deity has been attributed various names, which signify different attributes. Not only that, but also various alter-egos, depending on their predominant aspects.
The twin sister of Marduk, goddess of sexuality, fertility and war, was known in Sumer by many names, such as Inanna („Daughter of the Moon”), Innin, Ennin, Ninnin, Ninni, Ninanna, Ninnar, Innina, Ennina, Irnina, Innini, Nana or Nin. In the fourth millennium BC, Uruk was her city. Numerous temples of Inanna could be found along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the largest of which was Eanna („House of Heaven”) in Uruk. Her symbol was the eight-pointed star or the planet Venus, which she was associated with. Inanna was usually depicted naked, often on the backs of two lions. Her husband was Dumuzi, her father was considered either Anu or Nanna and her siblings were the sun god Utu, the rain god Ishkur and Ereshkigal, the goddess of the Underworld. In Assyria and Babylon, the goddess of love, sexuality, fertility and war was called Ishtar („Destroyer of Mountains”). She was associated with the planet Venus and the lion and the eight-pointed star were among her symbols. She had many lovers, which earned her the epithet „Courtesan of the Gods” and her sacred city, Uruk, was called „The City of the Sacred Courtesans„. Additionally, the goddess was also called „The Queen of Heaven„. She was the consort of Tammuz, the sister of Shamash and the daughter of Anu or Sin. All of this leads to the conclusion that Inanna and Ishtar were one and the same goddess, a conclusion reached by many researchers.
In A Hymn to Ishtar, written around 1600 BC, the goddess is called „the Greatest among the Igigi„, „the Most exalted among the goddesses„, „the Lady of the people” and „the Queen of women„. In order to get an idea of how she was perceived, here is her description in the hymn mentioned:
„The Goddess, counsel lies in her,
Destiny of whatever she holds in her hand,
At her sight joy is obtained,
Power, generosity, protective divinity and guardian spirit,
She is near, she is full of mercy and friendship.
And she is incredibly attractive.
Whether there is a slave, an orphan girl or a simple mother, she defends all.
Everyone invokes her; women call her name.
Who can compares to her greatness?
Powerful, exalted, great are her decisions.
Ishtar, who can be equal to her greatness?
Powerful, exalted are her decisions.
She is sought after among the gods; her rank is unbeatable.
Her word is respected; it is above all.
Ishtar among the gods, her rank is inconceivable.
Her word is respected, it is above all.
She is their queen; they fulfill her orders at all times.„
The Epic of Gilgamesh, the oldest written story discovered so far, presents to us a completely different image of the goddess. When Ishtar tried to seduce King Gilgamesh, he rejected her, probably in the most sensitive manner:
„If I were to take you as my wife, I know what to expect.
You are nothing but a dying ember when the cold comes,
A poorly closed door that does not stop the wind or the cold,
A palace that crushes its defending warriors,
An elephant that tears its own covering,
You are the soot that stains the one who carries it,
The sack that spills onto the one who carries it,
The limestone that crumbles the stone wall,
The siege ram that devastates the enemy’s land,
The shoe that hurts the foot of the one who wears it!„
A prominent dualistic aspect can be observed In Inanna / Ishtar. Most frequently called a prostitute, she was also often considered a virgin. It is a little difficult to imagine a virgin as a prostitute (but not impossible). On one hand she is a pacifist goddess of love, while on the other hand she is a fierce warrior. Her father is sometimes Anu, sometimes Nanna / Sin. How can a person be both a pacifist and a warrior at the same time, a prostitute and a virgin? And how can she have two fathers? This enigma has only one logical solution: there is not only one, but two similarly goddesses, named Inanna / Ishtar. In a chronicle of the Battle of Halule in 691 BC, written in cuneiform on a clay tablet, the Assyrian king Sennacherib (Sin-ahhi-eriba in original) wrote that he prayed for victory „to Ashur, to Sin, to Shamash, to Bel, to Nabu, to Nergal, to Ishtar of Nineveh, to Ishtar of Arbailsk – my protecting gods„. Therefore, for the ancients, there were two goddesses sharing the same name. One was the pacifist virgin, daughter of Anu, the other was the warrior prostitute, daughter of Enki. The first was Sud / Ninhursag, the creator of humans, who was considered a goddess of fertility. As people are naturally born through sexual contact, the ancients also called her the goddess of sexuality. The myths say she lost her virginity by being raped, but for her followers she kept her virtue, still being called „the Virgin„. Daughter of Anu she was the mother of Marduk and Ishtar as the wife of Enki, and mother of Ninurta as the wife of Enlil. The second Inanna / Ishtar was Ningal („Great Lady”) or Ninsar („Princess Lady”), the eldest daughter of Enki and Ninhursag. When she took over the rule of the Earth as the wife of her brother Marduk, the second Inanna / Ishtar took on her mother’s attributes and her followers even assigned her the deeds of Ninhursag. An additional proof is that, initially, planet Venus was the symbol of Ninhursag and later of Inanna / Ishtar. The struggle for power transformed her into a warrior goddess, different from her pacifist mother. Her countless sexual relationships with various deities as well as mortals transformed her into „The Vulva of Heaven„, as she is called in The Epic of Gilgamesh. When she took on the titles and functions of her mother, her status as a promiscuous woman perfectly suited her image as a goddess of sexuality. Not only the Mesopotamians confused the two deities, but all the ancient peoples, as we will see. It is certain that both Ninhursag and Ninsar are hidden behind the names Inanna / Ishtar.
In many Mesopotamian cities, Nanna („Moon”) was the god of the Moon and wisdom. In Sumerian, his name was usually written as Sheshki („Brother of the Earth”). The Babylonians and Akkadians called him Sin, derived from Su’en. Because in Sumerian the syllables of a word could be interchanged without changing the meaning of the word, Suen was also written as Ensu or Enzu. And Enzu in Sumerian means „Lord of Wisdom”, an epithet that suits Nanna. The biblical city of Jericho (Yeriho in Hebrew) had the Moon as its symbol and was dedicated to Sin. The Sinai Peninsula became his territory at a certain point in history, as highlighted by the name of the place: „ai” in Hebrew means „mine”, as we can see in the epithet Adonai („my Lord”). Therefore, Sinai means „my Sin”. As the patron of the cities of Ur and Harran, Nanna / Sin was closely associated with fertility, especially that of cattle, due to the similarity between the crescent moon and horns. His number was 30, representing the number of days the Moon takes to complete a full rotation around the Earth. Among the epithets of the god are „ašimbabbar” („The Luminous One”), „amar” („Calf”), „magur” („Boat”), and „amar.ban.da.en.lil.a” („Calf of Enlil”), the last three clearly alluding to the sickle shape of the new moon, which resembles the horns of cattle or the slender reed boats. Considered the eldest son of Enlil, Nanna / Sin was an important oracle and healing god. His children were Utu / Shamash and Inanna / Ishtar, with whom he formed the Babylonian supreme trinity. Although a popular god with many prayers addressed to him, Sin played no role in Babylonian mythology. This is extremely odd, considering that he was one of the most important deities, being the father of the most important gods. Moreover, one of Nanna / Sin’s epithets was „Lord of the Earth„, although no myth has been discovered to prove that the god ever held this position. So how is this epithet explained? The answer is very simple: Nanna / Sin is none other than Enki. Because Ningal was Nanna’s wife, it means that, at some point, Enki took his eldest daughter as his wife, as Sumerian myths already revealed through the fact that she gave birth to his daughter.
As the representative of Anu on Earth, Enlil received his father’s titles, including that of „the father of the gods„. For this reason, Enki is considered in some texts to be the son of Enlil, an epithet that has confused researchers. Since Enki was one of the great Anunnaki, part of Sumerian holy trinity, his followers did not allow him to fall from the role of Enlil’s brother to that of his son. Enlil’s supporters wanted badly to emphasize their god’s supremacy over all other gods, especially over his rival brother. Thus, an alter-ego of Enki was created, named Nanna and viewed as the son of Enlil, allowing Enki to maintain his role as a brother. The Babylonians called him Sin when he represented the Moon and Ea when he represented water, introducing him into the supreme trinity alongside Babylon’s greatest gods, his children, Shamash / Marduk and Ishtar. This is the reason why Sin is not present in Babylonian mythology, but only in prayers: because in myths he is called Ea. Both Nanna / Sin and Enki are the gods of the Moon, wisdom, magic and considered „the rulers of the Earth„, although mythology does not imply that either of them ever ruled our planet. In Sumer it was believed that during the new moon, Nanna spent his „days in sleep” in the Underworld, where he decided the fate of the deceased. But the Underworld was the realm of Enki, where the god often spent his time sleeping. An old Babylonian hymn considered Sin „the first among all, the powerful one, whose uncontainable heart no god can scrutinize, a swift runner with tireless knees, who opens the path for the gods and his brothers„. Although this passage has been interpreted by researchers in an absurd way, arguing that the Moon opens the way for the stars and the Sun, logic suggests that the hymn refers to Enki. „The first among all” suggests that he was the firstborn of Anu, the eldest among his brothers and also the first god to arrive on Earth. „Who opens the path for the gods and his brothers” does not describe the movement of the Moon across the sky, but indicates that Enki was the first god to arrive on our planet, „opening the way” for the gods and his brothers who followed him. Even the legends of the two gods are similar. Enki was the eldest son of An, but the heir to the throne was his younger brother, Enlil. Nanna was the eldest son of Enlil, but the heir to the throne was his younger brother, Ninurta. Nanna / Sin was the father of the siblings Utu / Shamash and Inanna / Ishtar, although in many myths Enki is the father of the goddess Inanna / Ishtar, and Marduk, Enki’s son, was initially called Utu by the Sumerians and Shamash by the Akkadians and Babylonians. Therefore, Enki and Nanna or Sin can only represent the same divinity.
According to the Babylonian priest Berossus, the god Oannes (or Uan for the Sumerians) appeared from the waters of the Persian Gulf, where he returned every night. He taught humans the art of writing, various sciences and crafts (such as how to build their houses or temples using geometry), how to cultivate the land and harvest crops. It is said that he taught the antediluvian king Evedurahos the art of divination. Oannes had a fish body with two heads (a human one under the fish one), human legs and a tail. Oannes’ description is identical to that of Enki / Ea in Assyrian-Babylonian reliefs. The fact that Oannes lived in water and brought the knowledge of the gods to humans (writing, crafts, agriculture) indicates the same entity.
Enki’s symbols include a serpent coiled around the Tree of Life or two coiled serpents. The two serpents may symbolize DNA, as Enki was the creator of humans, the divine geneticist, and the serpent around the Tree of Life also signifies the creation of life by the deity often called „the Serpent„. The symbol of the two coiled serpents was first used for the god Ningishzida („Lord of the Good Tree”), the serpent with a human head, and was later adopted onto the caduceus (the staff with coiled serpents) of the Greek gods Hermes, Dionysus and Asclepius (Mercury, Bacchus and Esculapius for the Romans). It later became the symbol of medicine, representing life. In one myth, Ningishzida is the son of the gods Ninazu and Ningiridda, in another myth he is the son of the goddess Ereshkigal, while an inscription from Lagash considers him the son of the supreme god, An. As far as we know, only one son of Anu was equated with the serpent: Enki. Ningishzida’s symbol is Enki’s symbol, which means that there are not two different deities, but only two epithets of the same one.
The Sumerians have left us enough clues about the conflict between the two divine families of Enki and Enlil. Today we know that each god, in the area he ruled, declared himself a benefactor of humans, while his rival was presented as the absolute evil. Enki’s supporters portrayed Enlil as an evil deity who wanted to destroy humanity repeatedly, while the serpent-god was presented as a savior. In turn, Enlil’s followers described their god as a just, benevolent deity, the real protector of humans, while Enki was depicted as a demon. An example is Pazuzu, the king of demons in Assyrian-Babylonian mythology, who represented the hot southwest wind. On the back of a statuette dating back to the 9th – 8th centuries BC, which depicts him, it is written: „I am Pazuzu, son of Hanpa, king of the evil spirits of the air, which come out of the mountains like a storm, causing havoc„. Pazuzu is represented with a human body, wings, vulture claws and a serpent instead of a penis. He always has his right hand raised and his left hand pointed towards the ground. Not much is known about him, except that he was often invoked to stop his wife, the goddess Lamashtu. Although he was a demon, a negative entity, he often protected humans from other malevolent spirits or diseases. The serpent instead of the penis signifies the creator serpent, which is Enki. „Zu” in his name means „wisdom” in Sumerian and „pa” means „wing”. Therefore, Pazuzu could be translated as „The Twice-Wise Winged One”, a fit epithet since he was depicted with wings. In ancient times, it was not uncommon to repeat a syllable to emphasize the quality of a deity. For example, Isis, the name given by the Greeks to the Egyptian goddess Aset, was formed by doubling the first syllable of the Babylonian goddess Ishtar. A phrase like „twice-wise” can also be found in Hermes Trismegistus’ name, the „thrice-great” god. „Twice-wise” could mean that Pazuzu was not just wise, but the wisest of all, a description that could only apply to the god of wisdom, Enki. His father was An, and Pazuzu’s father was Hanpa. The similarity between the names of the two, with Hanpa translating as „The Winged One of Heaven” or „The Winged One of An”, is noteworthy. The hot southwest wind, which Pazuzu was matched with, also indicates his identity: the south represents the Underworld, where he ruled, and the west is the left side, namely the negative or maleficent aspect. Pazuzu was another name for Enki, demonized by his brother’s followers.
Dimme for the Sumerians or Lamashtu for the Akkadians, Pazuzu’s wife, was a female demon believed to abduct children while they were being breastfed and suck their blood, eat people, infest waters and bring nightmares, illness and death. She was considered to be the daughter of Anu. Her name was always written in cuneiform alongside the logogram for deity, indicating her divine nature. She was represented as a hybrid with a lioness head, donkey teeth and ears, long fingers and nails, bird legs and a hairy body, riding a donkey, holding snakes or breastfeeding a pig or a dog. She is considered one of the lilitu, Mesopotamian female demonic spirits. Being the daughter of Anu and the wife of Enki, Dimme / Lamashtu can only be the demonized form of Ninhursag.
The Mesopotamians do not clearly specify, but imply that at some point Enki was killed by Enlil, which led to Marduk gaining the throne of the Earth. The priests created other deities who were killed, different from Enki at first glance, while the believers were told that Enki was „sleeping” in his underground world. However, the initiates knew the truth. One such deity is the shepherd god Dumuzi, called Tammuz in Babylon. He was imagined as a beautiful young man who was killed at the command of the Assembly of the Gods. Inanna descended into the Underworld to save him. Eventually she succeeded and Dumuzi was forced to live half a year on Earth and half in the other world. In Babylon, Tammuz was considered „the only brother of Ishtar” as well as her beloved from her youth. The brother and lover of the goddess Ishtar / Ninhursag was Enki. In another Sumerian 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 the true son of An and the rightful heir to his throne, unlike his younger brother, Enlil.
In Sumerian mythology, Gibil was the god of fire, the son of An and Ki. The Akkadians called him Gerra. According to Enuma Elish, Gibil kept the weapons sharpened, brought wisdom and his mind was „so vast that even all the gods together could not understand it„. Some myths also suggest that the god possessed the wisdom of metallurgy. The only son of Anu who brought wisdom and was also the patron of craftsmen was Enki. Although this alter-ego of his played a minor role in Mesopotamia, it was adopted by many peoples, which gave him greater importance.
In the Akkadian, Babylonian and Assyrian pantheon, the god of storms was Adad, known as 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 a prayer he is considered the son of An, the twin brother of Enki, the great bull, the lion of heaven and the Lord who 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 constellation Virgo. His animal symbol was the bull. He was usually depicted with lightning and thunderbolts in his hands, wearing a crown with horns on his head. In Assyria, starting with the reign of Tiglath-Pileser I (Tukulti-apil-Esharra), in the 12th century BC, Adad was worshipped alongside Anu. As the son of Anu, the brother of Enki and the god of storms, associated with the bull and the lion, worshipped together with his father, Ishkur / Adad / Hadad / Ramman could only be Enlil or, more precisely, the personification of his stormy side.
For the Akkadians, Babylonians and Assyrians, Nergal was the god of war, diseases, and the destructive midday Sun, as well as the deity of the Underworld alongside his consort, Ereshkigal. His symbols were the rooster and the lion. Among his epithets are „Lugal-banda” („Fierce King”), „Sharrapu” („Burner”) or „Sibitti” („Seven”). The Hurrians called him Aplu, while the Hittites called him Apaliunas, considering him the god of plagues. Although mythologies consider Nergal to be the son of Enlil, a different entity from Marduk, the ancients did not make this confusion. According to the Hittites, when Ninhursag gave birth to Marduk, she was no longer the wife of Enki but of Enlil. The son of Enlil’s wife became Enlil’s son, although the young god’s true father remained the god of wisdom. Nergal was assigned the planet Mars (a name that, by the way, comes from the Sumerian Martu). Christianity equated Nergal with Satan, even though Marduk is named so in The New Testament. For the ancients, Marduk was the supreme deity, a complex entity; Shamash represented his positive aspect and Nergal his negative one. Being the god of the Sun and war, as well as the ruler of the Underworld after his father’s death, Nergal is undoubtedly Marduk.
The eldest son of Enlil, his right hand and heir to his throne, was Ninurta („Lord of the Plow”), initially called Ningirsu („Lord of the city of Girsu”), Ninib or Ninip. In Nippur and Lagash he was Enlil’s firstborn, although for the rest of Mesopotamia this role was given to Nanna. As Nanna was Enki, it can be concluded that Ninurta was the true firstborn of Enlil. In Nippur he was part of a holy trinity along with his parents. His consort was the goddess Ugallu or Bau. Initially an agricultural deity, as indicated by his name, but also sometimes a solar divinity, Ninurta became the god of war. A very large number of hymns and incantations were dedicated to him, in which he is presented as a hero who saves the world from diseases and the influence of demons. It was said that he defeated a series of monsters known as „the Slain Heroes” such as the Dragon Warrior, the Palm Tree King, the Lord Saman-ana, the Bull-Bison, the Mermaid, the Seven-Headed Snake, the Six-Headed Wild Ram or the Anzu Bird. He was mostly represented with a bow, a curved sword and a mace called Sharur, which could speak and take the form of a winged lion. After the old Babylonian period, his role diminished as Marduk took on some of his traits and even his heroic deeds, as researchers have discovered. The story of Marduk’s victory over Tiamat and her children, which emerged after the god’s elevation to national rank by King Hammurabi, is very similar to that of Ninurta’s victory over Anzu and the other „Slain Heroes„. Because the legend of Enlil’s son is older, it can be assumed that Marduk’s story is a plagiarism. Deprived of his attributes and glorious deeds by the god of Babylon, Ninurta found followers in Assyria where, starting in the Middle Kingdom, he was promoted as a fierce warrior.
In Babylonian and Assyrian mythology, the consort of Marduk was Sarpanit, also known as Erua, Zarpanit, Zarpandit, Zerpanitum, Zerbanitu or Zirbanit. Their wedding was celebrated annually in Babylon during the New Year festival. Sarpanit was associated with the planet Venus and often depicted as pregnant. Researchers believe that Sarpanit is only a title of the goddess Ishtar and they may be right. Tablet CBS-14061 states that she was the daughter of a priest, but religion had not yet appeared on Earth at that time, therefore what we have here is a figure of speech. Priests were considered mediators between humans and divinities and Enki was the one who established this connection. Moreover, Enki is the inventor of the primordial religion, which symbolically makes him the first priest on the planet. Even her name indicates her origin from the great serpent god, as Sarpanit is the root from which the word „serpent” was formed in French and English, as well as the Indo-European term „serp„, meaning „to crawl”. Being a serpent deity, Sarpanit was part of Enki’s family. And she could only be the first daughter of the god of wisdom, the sister of Marduk, named Ninsar by the Sumerians and Ishtar by the Akkadians, Babylonians and Assyrians.
In Mesopotamian religions, Ereshkigal („Great Lady of the Underworld”) was the queen of the underworld realm Irkalla, which sometimes bore her name, just as Hades did later in Greek mythology, a name that represented both the Underworld and its ruler. It was believed that she was abducted and brought forcibly into the Underworld, where she was made queen against her will. In the text The Descent of Inanna, the goddess considers Ereshkigal her older sister. In some myths, Ereshkigal rules the Underworld alone. In others, she rules alongside her husband, who is either Gugalanna („Bull of Heaven”) or Nergal / Marduk. She is the mother of the goddess Nungal or Manungal and the gods Namtar (fathered by Enlil) and Ninazu (by Gugalanna). Here we can see the duality of the two goddesses, Ninhursag and Ninsar. The raped goddess, who was also the consort of Anu and Enlil, is Ninhursag. However, the wife of Marduk and the mistress of the Underworld can only be his sister, Ninsar. In fact, in The Descent of Inanna, the two of them appear together, with Inanna as Ninhursag and Ereshkigal as Ninsar.
Agasaya was a little-known Semitic goddess of war who became an aspect of the goddess Ishtar / Ninsar as a warrior. No details are known about her, but we notice her name because it appears in a similar form in other religions.
One of the most important goddesses, though little known, is Namma or Nammu, who was part of the earliest generation of Sumerian deities, being associated with the pantheon of Eridu and with magic. In the text Enki and Ninmah, Namma is called „the primordial mother who gave birth to the gods of the Universe„. In Tablet 1 of the An-Anum deity list, she bears the title of „the mother who gave birth to heaven and Earth„. In the same text, she is called „the mother of the god Enki„, being the one who had the idea of creating humans. In one myth, she is also the mother of the goddess Ningikuga or Ninhursag. In an inscription in a temple built in her honor, King Lugal-Kisal-si described her as „the consort of An„. Because her name is written in cuneiform with the same symbol as the underground waters, some researchers have called her „the cosmic ocean„. Apart from a few mentions of her name in some texts, no myth of the goddess has been preserved. Her importance in ancient times, before Enki took over most of her functions, is also evident from the name of King Ur-Nammu, the founder of the Third Dynasty of Ur. Later, she was replaced by Tiamat, the primordial goddess of the ocean and chaos, the consort of Abzu (the god of groundwater). In the Babyloniaca, the Babylonian priest Berossus called her Omoroca. Her epithet „the primordial mother who gave birth to the gods of the Universe” in Enki and Ninmah finds its meaning in the Enuma Elish, the Babylonian myth of creation, where she and her husband Apsu / Abzu are the first beings to appear in this Universe. The two of them give birth to the pair of gods Lahmu and Lahamu, who in turn have two children, Anshar and Kishar, the parents of Anu. After a while, Tiamat / Namma and Apsu / Abzu go to war with the young gods. Apsu is killed by Enki and Tiamat by Marduk, who creates the heaven and the Earth from her body.
In addition to the great Anunnaki, Mesopotamian myths also record a few important Igigi, the personal servants or viziers (the most important counselors) of the great gods:
– In Babylonian and Akkadian mythology, Ilabrat is Anu’s companion and minister of state.
– In Sumerian myths, Isimud / Isinu (called Usmu or Usumu by the Akkadians) was the vizier of Enki. He was represented with two faces looking in opposite directions.
– The minister of Enlil (and sometimes his son) was Nusku, the god of light and fire in Babylon and Assyria, a minor deity different from Gibil / Gerra. Because the fire burns the offerings to the gods, Nusku was the mediator between humans and gods.
– Ninsubur, Ninsubar or Nincubura was the right hand of the goddess Inanna (Ninhursag) in Sumerian mythology. A full-fledged goddess, her name can be translated as „Lady of the East”. Inanna being associated with the planet Venus, Ninsubur was equated with Mercury, as the two planets appeared together in the sky. Although described as a never-married virgin, in a few places she is mentioned as being the lover of Inanna. In Akkadian mythology Ninsubur is male, A Hymn to Nergal considering him „the minister of the Underworld„. The Akkadians called him Papsukkal and made him the messenger of the gods. His consort was Amasagnul, a goddess of fertility.
– In Akkadian mythology, Ishum was the counselor of Erra, a deity who seems to describe Ninurta. It is believed that Ishum developed from the Sumerian Endursaga, a deity who led the gods in a war. In addition to Ishum in The Epic of Erra, Ninurta’s counselor was usually his mace, called Sharur, an enchanted weapon that had the ability to talk to its master, often serving as his emissary, but also capable of transforming into a winged lion.
– The minister and messenger of the goddess Ereshkigal was Namtar / Namtaru / Namtara („Destiny” or „Fate”), a minor deity of death. He was considered the son of the goddess and Enlil. It was believed that he was responsible for various 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. Sacrifices were often offered to him to prevent these conditions. For the Sumerians he was the spirit of fate, the one who had power over humans and even gods. In other writings he is described as a personification of death, much like the Grim Reaper in medieval European folklore. His consort is the chthonic goddess Husbishag, with whom he has a daughter, Hemdikug.
As we can see, six of the seven Anunnaki each had a minor deity as a minister or counselor. The only one left out seems to be Marduk, but appearances are deceiving. His right hand was a more important deity than the rest of the ministers of the great gods. Nabu, the god of the city of Borsippa, son of Marduk and Sarpanitum, was his father’s scribe and minister. In Jewish scriptures he is called Nebo. His name comes from the Akkadian root „nb„, which means „to call” or „to announce”, meaning „The one who was called” or „The one who announces” (emphasizing his messenger role). Initially the patron of scribes, Nabu became one of the great gods of Assyria after the expansion of the Assyrian Empire, beginning with the reign of Sargon II. He was entrusted with „the Tablets of Destiny” and he „pronounced fate„, having the power to increase or decrease people’s lifespan. He was the god of writing, wisdom and sometimes of waters and fertility of fields, attributes inherited from his grandfather, Enki / Ea. He was represented with a horned hat (in the shape of a crescent moon, the symbol of Enki’s family), clasping his hands (an ancient gesture of the priesthood), sometimes riding Marduk’s winged dragon. In Babylonian astrology he was assigned the planet Mercury.
As descendants of the Akkadians, like the Babylonians, the Assyrians also adopted the Sumerian deities. The leader of their pantheon was Ašur, Aššur or Ashur. He was represented in a winged disc, holding a bow in his left hand while his right one was raised to the sky, just like the demon Pazuzu. Assyria and its capital, Ashur, were named after him. Although it is believed that he was a local deity promoted to the rank of supreme deity with the appearance of the Assyrian Empire, Ashur is mentioned for the first time in the Sumerian city of Ur, at the end of the third millennium BC. In Sumerian, „aš” meant „the one” or „the only one” and Ashur could be translated as „The One of Ur”. Since Ur was the city of Nanna / Enki, it is hard to believe that another deity could claim his place. The name Ašur / Ashur is very similar to Asar („Prince of the Waters”), one of Enki’s epithets, most likely being a derivative of it. For the Assyrians, Ishtar was the wife of Ashur, which identifies him once again with Enki.
The Hittites, Aryans who founded an empire in northern Mesopotamia about 3500 years ago, adopted the religion of the Sumerians, which they modified to leave the impression of a new one. Out of respect for the old gods, they kept some Sumerian and Akkadian names (Anu, Enki, Enlil, Ishtar). In Hittite religion, Alalu, the father of the celestial god Anu, was exiled to Earth. In other versions he was considered Anu’s son and named Kumarbi. He attacked and castrated his father, becoming the ruler of the Earth. But the heir to the celestial throne was the storm god Tarhun (called Teshub by the Hurrians), who was both the usurper’s brother and son. Tarhun dethroned Kumarbi, then fought for supremacy with his son, Illuyanka. The name Alalu is very similar to Alulim, the first antediluvian ruler of Sumer in The Sumerian Kings List. We can safely assume that Alalu / Kumarbi of the Hittites was Enki and Tarhun / Tehsub, the storm god, was none other than Enlil. Illuyanka was the son of Kumarbi and the mountain goddess of Nippur. Since Nippur was Enlil’s city, the mountain goddess of that city could only be Enlil’s wife, Ninhursag („Lady of the High Mountain”). This descent, along with the battle against the storm god for the throne, identifies Illuyanka with Marduk. In Hittite religion, we also encounter the goddesses Inara and Ishara, who are undoubtedly derived from the names Inanna and Ishtar.
The Amorites occupied much of southern Mesopotamia between the 21st and 17th centuries BC. Semites from Assyria, they were called Amurru by the Akkadians, Martu by the Sumerians and Amar by the Egyptians. They named their people after their supreme deity, Martu or Amar Utu, none other than the Babylonian Marduk.
Although fragmented for us, Sumerian religion represents the key to understanding all those who followed it, the link between all the religious cults that ever appeared on Earth. The other Mesopotamian religions have not been fully preserved either. From what has survived to this day, we deduce that Enki was exiled to our planet and engaged in a constant fight with his younger brother, Enlil. Ninhursag was his consort who later became the wife of Enlil and eventually the wife of their father, Anu. Enki and Ninhursag are the creators of humans as well as several hybrid monstrosities. The rivalry between the two brothers extended to their families. Although Mesopotamian myths do not openly speak of a full-fledged war, but only contain a few mentions of divine battles, we can easily see Enki and his children, Marduk and Ishtar, on one side, and Enlil, his son Ninurta, and later Ninhursag on the other. Enki’s family was associated with the Moon, the night and the left side, and therefore with evil, while Enlil’s family was associated with the Sun, the day and the right side – goodness. From the fact that Marduk was initially a solar deity and later a lunar one, we conclude that, although he was Enki’s son, he was raised by Enlil, being considered at first a member of his family. Enki’s side had the serpent as its symbol and Enlil’s had the eagle. The two animals represent the roles of the two divine families: the serpent indicates the earthly gods and the eagle the celestial ones. Anu is often presented as an impartial character, a judge of the two sides, although he clearly prefers Enlil’s. We do not know why Enki was called „the Lord of the Earth” but we understand from this title that he was the first ruler of our planet. We do not know how Enlil ascended to the throne of Earth, how Enki died or why the Earth eventually became Marduk’s. Also, the role of „fallen gods” Igigi or the „Eyes of the Earth” is unclear, although it suggests their allegiance to Enki’s side. The incomplete Mesopotamian myths raise many questions, which fortunately have their answers in the religions of other peoples, ultimately helping us to perceive the complete picture of the story of the gods on our planet.