Names are given in both their Sumerian and Akkadian forms, and all entries are fully cross-referenced. A particular problem which must also be mentioned is the evident disparity between those literary versions of the myths which happen to survive and the graphic versions of mythical themes used in various heraldic and iconic ways in Mesopotamian fine art. Although fairly plausible in itself, the application of this idea to the question of identification is problematic because it has allowed very imprecise correlations of art and literature. Find out more about Enlil in this lesson. The earliest periods in Mesopotamia have yielded figurines of clay or stone, some of which may represent gods or demons; certainty of interpretation in regard to these figurines is, however, difficult to attain. To the 1st millennium bce belong also the magnificent colossal statues of protective genies (spirits) in the shape of lions or human-headed bulls that guarded the entrances to Assyrian palaces, and also, on the gates of Nebuchadrezzar’s (died 562 bce) Babylon, the reliefs in glazed tile of lions and dragons that served the same purpose. He was thus seen as a god with a two-sided nature and was referred to as the 'East Wind' and 'North Wind' in one text. There are a number of extended essays, which are complemented by shorter entries covering the most interesting individual deities, motifs and symbols, and a selection of other topics. It is essential to bear in mind that every myth or legend preserved in written form is preserved as part of a (perhaps fragmentary) work of literature which was created in a specific historical environment and which was intended to serve a specific literary aim. He could bestow kingship and his decision was basically final. The date 1000 BC is then conventionally taken as marking the beginning of the Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian Periods, although the great days of the most famous Assyrian kings, ruling at successive capitals, Assur, Kalhu (modern Nimrud), Dur-Sarken (modern Khorsabad) and Ninua (Nineveh)—kings such as Sargon II, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal—came to an end with the fall of Nineveh in 612 BC at a time when the Neo-Babylonian Empire, founded in 626 BC, had barely begun. This book offers an introductory guide to the beliefs and customs of the ancient Mesopotamians, as revealed in their art and their writings between about 3000 B.C. Enlil's wife was a grain goddess called Ninlil (Sud). . Thanks for your patience. Inana, Nannasuen, Nergal, Ninurta (Ningirsu), Nusku (who is also Enlil's minister), Pabilsag, Utu (Samas), Uras, and Zababa. Ishtar was regarded as the supreme goddess of beauty and desire. At the sites of ancient settlements and in the museums of Iraq and of other countries one can contemplate and wonder at the monuments, arts, handicrafts and utensils of daily life of the Mesopotamians. © copyright 2003-2020 Study.com. Create your account, Already registered? Some scholars have argued that while on an individual seal the deity shown may not be the one mentioned, nevertheless in any given period there will be a rough correlation on seals in general between the deities most often depicted and those whose names are most frequently given. A Mesopotamian goddess of contrasting traits, Ishtar (or Inanna in Sumerian) was projected as the female divine entity of beauty, sex, and desire, while at the same time being the symbolic purveyor of war and combat. There are, however, a few unifying factors, such as the cuneiform script for writing, the pantheon of gods which through syncretism and assimilation was an evolving tradition, and the highly conservative works of art, especially religious art. The gods, goddesses and demons, the motifs, symbols and religious beliefs of the several thousand years of Mesopotamian civilisation are bewilderingly complex to the modern reader who stands on the threshold of that world. Originally, Enlil held the Tablets of Destiny, which gave him immense power and authority. Anyone can earn He is descended from Enki ('Lord Earth') and Ninki ('Lady Earth'). He was probably the son of An and was married to Ninlil, with whom he had numerous children, including his minister, Nusku. Not sure what college you want to attend yet? In the 2nd and 1st millennia bce the humble categories of clay plaques and clay figurines often contained representations of deities, and the numerous sculptured boundary stones (kudurrus) furnish representations of symbols and emblems of gods, at times identified by labels in cuneiform. *. Four south Mesopotamian kingdoms follow each other in succession, but the first of these is of special note since, apart from the quite remarkable extent of its rulers' conquests, it was centred on a city of northern Babylonia where a Semitic language was spoken. The cultures of Mesopotamia grew up through the interplay, clash and fusion of different peoples, with their separate social systems, religious beliefs and pantheons, languages and political structures. Some myths were created within the historical period; others are of indeterminate antiquity. imaginable degree, area of However, this view has itself led to some very wide and subjective interpretations of artistic themes. This crucial date in Mesopotamian history, the capture of Babylon by Cyrus, king of the Medes and Persians, marks the first point at which the whole of Mesopotamia was to become part of an empire ruled from outside its own borders. The age of 'world empires' had begun. the seat and horned crown of Anu, king of heaven; the walking bird of Enlil, lord of the lands; the ram's head and goat-fish, the sanctuary of great Ea; . Yet more usually this is not so. The tendencies that lead from a central concern with salvation from famine to a concern with salvation from attack, and finally to salvation from a sense of personal guilt, with the attendant deepening and enriching of the concept of the divine, invite close study. As one of the earliest religious systems in history to structure, and be itself structured by, the complexities of a high civilization, Mesopotamian religions are of significant interest to historians, historians of religion, and theologians. {{courseNav.course.mDynamicIntFields.lessonCount}} lessons Enlil was so powerful that he could grant kingship to a ruler. He is sometimes known as Nunamnir. Mesopotamia—'the land between two rivers'—was a name given first by the Greeks to the exceptionally fertile river valley of the twin streams Tigris and Euphrates, which both rise in the mountains of Turkey. The interpretation of elements in the religious art of ancient Mesopotamia encounters the difficulty that direct 'captions' (that have been so fundamentally useful in the study of Egyptian and Classical art) are extremely rare and hardly ever straightforward. An example is the Sages (apkallu) 'with the faces of birds, and wings, carrying in their right hands a "purifier" (mullilu) and in their left a bucket (banduddû)', or another set of Sages 'cloaked in the skins of fishes'. Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian figurines of supernatural beings are sometimes inscribed with incantations which name the creature concerned (for example, as Huwawa, Lamastu or Pazuzu). The University of Texas Press is a member of the Association of University Presses. and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you. first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. The Neo-Babylonian dynasty - whose territory reached its greatest extent under Nebuchadnezzar II (reigned 605-562 BC) - ruled until 539 BC. Mesopotamians were polytheistic; they worshipped several major gods and thousands of minor gods. . As might be expected from such a broad field, they display very considerable variety, and in many cases there are several different versions of a narrative, originating from different localities or in different periods, some of which directly contradict other versions. These gods controlled things like the weather, natural disasters, and crop production among other things. If some areas of history can be reconstructed down to the smallest detail, there are periods where enormous gaps in our knowledge remain. The climax of their history was the formation of the Hurrian kingdom of Mitanni, which reached its high point around 1400 BC. In this way, there was throughout Mesopotamian history a constant interference with the settled, traditional civilisation of the great ancient cities by a variety of groups moving into the area from the mountain fastnesses to the east or the rolling plains to the north-west. {{courseNav.course.topics.length}} chapters | Glyptic art (for the ancient Near East the term refers to the craft of cutting small seals) provides the most spectacular detail of the religious art of any period, including the association of figures and motifs. Study.com has thousands of articles about every The northern area is Assyria, named after its original capital city Assur; the southern is Babylonia, named after its principal city Babylon: the boundary between the two lay a little north of modern Baghdad. This means that they believe in not just one God, but multiple God's. Other early Semitic languages are Amorite, which we know only from personal names (the Amorites were apparently a largely nomadic people) and the recently discovered language of Ebla in western Syria, which seems to have been very close to Old Akkadian.