Learn more about Mesopotamian mythology
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| Mesopotamian mythology|
The Sumerians practiced a polytheistic religion, with anthropomorphic gods or goddesses representing forces or presences in the world, much as in the later Greek mythology. The gods originally created humans as servants for themselves but freed them when they became too much to handle.
Many stories in Sumerian religion appear homologous to stories in other middle-eastern religions. For example, the Biblical account of the creation of man as well as Noah's flood narrative resemble the Sumerian tales very closely though fragments of the Sumerian myths were written many centuries earlier than the Tanakh (Old Testament) and the Bible. Gods and goddesses from Sumer have distinctly similar representations in the religions of the Akkadians, Caananites, and others. A number of related stories and deities have Greek parallels as well; for example, it has been argued by some that Inanna's descent into the underworld strikingly recalls (and predates) the story of Persephone.
 The primary deities for each phase of Mesopotamian religion
Each walled city of Mesopotamian civilization in early times was centred upon a temple complex, including the state granary, which archaeology has shown grew from quite modest shrines associated with the earliest unwalled levels of settlement about 6500 years ago,initiatly the shrines where basically a elevated yard surrounding a small building of wood and branches which inside of which people came to offer tributes to Namma,the mother goddest, or An,the sky lord,the structures were later covered in mud and later in bricks of burned metrial, as the villages and towns which in the center of which these shrines where built grown-up so did the shrines, and the yard was sorrounded with an brick wall of it self, which later turned to be the shrine's outer wall. Each city began as a small town centred upon a particular shrine. As said, over the course of the centuries as the towns grew, eventually into walled city-states, the big shrines were frequently rebuilt after crashes, its walls torn down and the site flattened, with a larger temple built upon it. This gradually raised the temples above the level of the surrounding buildings, so that eventually a temple platform ( ziggurat or later zikkurat ) was deliberately constructed, raising the temple towards the heavens - possibly the origin of the Hebrew myth of the Tower of Babel. Temples were called the E'kur or "High House" (E = house, Kur = Mound, at Nippur) or E'anna (House of Heaven, E = house, Anu = Heavens, sky at Uruk). The ziggurats were, as the meaning of their names, elevated stair-towers, somewhat like the shape of a pyramid stretched upwards, with each level being devoted to one of the known stars of that time, to the sun or moon or to some gods, with the main part of the shrine on the roof, which was a flat surface on which ceremonies were conducted. The ziggurats where considered a place closer to heavens, a gateway and shrine to the gods and a place for the ruler god of the sky (An in Sumer, Marduk in Babylon and Ashur in Assyria) to lay his feet upon.
In the historic period, each temple was under the control of an Ensi (male for female divinities, female for male divinities) associated with a named male or female god, complete with a temple staff and functionaries who not only conducted the important civic rituals, such as the sacred marriage of the New Year Festival, which in some way "acted out" important cosmological events of the seasonal cycle. The Ensi were also responsible for organising the considerable economic affairs associated with the temple. Literacy seems to have emerged as a requirement of the complexities of temple book-keeping.
As it was believed that the sacred realm mirrored the profane, wars between cities on Earth were seen as paralleling struggles between the divinities in heaven. Associations between the movements of the planets and earthly events were carefully collected, and came to be resources associated with limmu lists for compiling important historical events, and which has been developed into "Chaldean" astrology.
Each shrine was named after a single god, and with the development of the wide ranging Sumerian civilisation these gods became part of a Pantheon or single family of divinities, known as the Anunaki (Anu = Heaven, Na = And, Ki = Earth). Rather than Anu being seen as "the god" of the heavens, he was the heavens. In this way to the Earliest Sumerians, humankind lived inside a living divine realm.
With the growth in size and importance of the temples, so the temple functionaries (priests = Sumerian sanga) grew in importance in their communities, and a hierarchy developed led by the En or chief priest. Thus the chief priest of the God of Air (Lil) at the E-kur temple at the city of Nippur became "Enlil", and gods became more and more anthropomorphic.
- An, The god of Heaven (Pan-Mesopotamian) at the E'anna temple - Uruk
- Enlil, The god of the air and storms (Pan-Mesopotamian) at the E'kur temple - Nippur
- Enki, The god of water and fertile earth (Pan-Mesopotamian) at the E'abzu temple - Eridu
- Ki, or Ninhursag The goddess of the earth (Sumerian) at the E'saggila temple - Eridu, and also at Kish.
- Ashur, Main god of Assyria (sky god) (Assyrian) - at Asshur
- Ninlil, goddess of creation (Sumerian) - at the E'kur Temple - Nippur
- Inanna, The goddess of love and war (Sumerian) - at the E'anna temple - Uruk
- Marduk, Main god of Babylon (Babylonian) - at the E'saggila - Babylon
- Nanna (Sumerian) or Sin (Babylonian) God of the moon - at the E'hursag temple of Ur and Harran
- Utu (Sumerian) or Shamash (Babylonian) God of the sun - at the E'barbara temple of Sippar
- Ninurta (Sumerian = Lord Plough) (Pan Mesopotamian) at the E'Girsu (hence also called Ningirsu) temple - Lagash
As social complexity in these cities increased, each god came to resemble a human monarch (Lugal, Lu = Man, Gal = Big), or high priest (Ensi, En = Lord, Si = Country), complete with a family and a court of divine stewards and servants. Wars between cities were seen to reflect wars in heavens between the gods.
Minor gods were seen as family members of these major divinities. Thus Ereshkigal (Eresh = Under, Ki = Earth, Gal = Great) came to be seen as the sister of Inanna, and she came to acquire a husband too, originally Gugalanna, the Wild Bull of Heaven, (from Gu = Bull, Gal = Great, Anu = Heaven), and subsequently Nergal, the Lord of Death, son of Enlil and Ninlil. Servants too became minor divinities, as Isimud the Steward of Enki; or Ninshabur (Lady Evening) the chief lady-in-waiting of Inanna.
Divinities then proliferated, with there being specific gods of tooth-ache, or aching limbs, goddesses for "Greenery" and "Pasture". Every aspect of life thus came to be surrounded with its own minor divinity that required gifts or placation, as magic spells multiplied, trying to give people certainty in very uncertain times.
 The three Sky deities
- Nanna, The God of the moon
- Shamash (aka Sumerian "Utu"), The Sun God
- Ishtar (aka Sumerian "Inanna"), The Queen of the Heavens and goddess of love and war
 Mesopotamian Cosmology
Mesopotamian cosmology seems to have been seen as a genealogical system of binary opposites being considered as male and female, and, through sacred marriage or hieros gamos, giving birth to successive generations of divinities. The universe first appeared when Nammu, a presumably formless abyss, curled in upon herself, giving birth to the primary Gods. According to the Babylonian Enuma Elish, the primary union divided into Tiamat, (from Sumerian Ti=Life, Ama=mother, t (Akkadian, a feminine terminal marker)a salt water divinity, and Apsu (earlier Abzu from Ab=water, Zu=far) a fresh water divinity. These in turn gave birth to Lahamu and Lahmu, called the "muddy" or "the hairy ones", the title given to the gatekeepers of the E'Abzu temple in Eridu, who gave birth to Anshar (Sky Pivot (or Axle)) and Kishar (Earth Pivot (or Axle)) possible referring to the celestial poles, and considered the parents of Anu (the Heavens) and Ki (the Earth). These Gods gave their name to the Mesopotamian pantheon, collectively called Anunaki.
The union of An and Ki produced Enlil, who in the Sumerian period eventually became leader of the pantheon. After the banishment of Enlil from Dilmun (the home of the gods) for raping Ninlil, Ninlil had a child, Sin (god of the moon), also known in Sumerian as Nanna. Sin and Ningal gave birth to Inanna and to Utu (sumerian) or Shamash(Akkadian). During Enlil's banishment, he fathered three underworld deities with Ninlil, most notably Nergal.
Nammu also gave birth to Enki. Enki also controlled the Me until Inanna took them away from Enki's city of Eridu to her city of Uruk. The "me" were holy decrees that governed such basic things as physics and complex things such as social order and law. Their transfer from Eridu to Uruk may reflect ancient political events in Southern Iraq.
This accounts for the origin of most of the world as we know it according to the a summary of most of the myths.
 See also
- Ancient Near Eastern religion
- Ancient Semitic religion
- Family tree of the Babylonian gods
- Babylonian mythology
- Wikipedia:Shortpages/Mythology/Chaldean for many fragmentary entries.
- Samuel Noah Kramer
 External links
de:Sumerische Religion el:Μεσοποταμιακή μυθολογία es:Mitología caldea fr:Mythologie mésopotamienne it:Mitologia sumera he:מיתולוגיה מסופוטמית ja:メソポタミア神話 nl:Mythologie van Mesopotamië pl:Mitologia sumeryjska pt:Mitologia suméria ru:Шумеро-аккадская мифология sr:Sumerska mitologija sv:Mesopotamisk mytologi The Temple of The First Covenant http://t1c.org/