The religions of Babylon and Assyria are early
attestations of Ancient Semitic religion in the region of Mesopotamia. The
Assyrians and Babylonians practiced polytheism, a belief in many gods, before
largely converting to Christianity from the 1st to 4th centuries AD. Borrowing
from earlier religions of the Ancient Near East, predominantly those of the
Sumerians and their Akkadian ancestors, religious practice was centered on cults
of regional patron deities. Examples of this relationship include Marduk in
Babylon, Ishtar in Akkad, or Sin in Ur and Harran.
The religion of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, 911 BC-608 BC, sometimes called Ashurism by Assyrians today, centered around the god Assur, patron deity of the city of Assur, besides Ishtar patroness of Nineveh. The Assyrians adopted Eastern Rite Christianity during the course of the 1st to the 4th centuries AD (which they still retain} and the religion died out, although there is some evidence to suggest that it survived in isolated pockets well into the late Middle Ages in northern Mesopotamia/Assyria, particularly around Harran.
Assyrian religion was an evolution of the ancient polytheistic Sumerian and Akkadian religions into henotheism, a religion based on the worship of one supreme god, but recognizing the existence of others. This was represented through the gradual takeover by Ashur of the roles of other gods, and this process runs parallel with the expansionist policies of the Assyrian Empire. As the Assyrians extended their domain over other lands, they considered it important that the local peoples acknowledge the Assyrian king as the king of their lands as well. However, kingship at the time was linked very closely with the idea of divine mandate. The Assyrian king, whilst not being a god himself, was acknowledged as the chief servant of the chief god, Ashur. In this manner, the king's authority was seen as absolute so long as the high priest reassured the peoples that the gods, or in the case of the henotheistic Assyrians, the God, was pleased with the current ruler. For the Assyrians who lived in Assur and the surrounding lands, this system was the norm. For the conquered peoples, however, it was novel, particularly to the people of smaller city-states. In time, Assur was promoted from being the local deity of Assur to the overlord of the vast Assyrian domain, with worship being conducted in his name throughout the lands of the Assyrians. With the worship of Assur across much of the Fertile Crescent, the Assyrian king could command the loyalty of his fellow servants of Assur.
Some Babylonian Gods;
Apsu - He is the underworld ocean, the begetter of the skies (Anshar) and the earth (Kishar) and the father of Lahmu and Lahamu.
Tiamat - She is primeval Chaos, bearer of the skies (Anshar) and the earth (Kishar) and the mother of Lahmu, and Lahamu. Traditionally conceived of as a serpent or dragon of some sort, this idea does not have any basis in the Enuma Elish itself.
Lahmu and Lahamu - 'the hairy one' or 'muddy' they have three pairs of curls, and are naked except for a triple sash. Dalley
Anshar - 'whole sky' He is the father of Anu and the child of Tiamat and Apsu. He is often paired with Kishara, and his qualities were assimilated with Ashur.
Kishar - 'whole earth' , She is the mother of Anu and the child of Tiamat and Apsu.
Anu - Sumerian for "heaven", a sky god, father and king of the gods. He is the son of Anshar and Kishar. He lives in the third heaven. The Eanna in Uruk was dedicated both to him and consort. His first consort was Antu. They produced the Anunnaki - the underworld gods, and the utukki - the seven evil demons. His second consort was Innina (Ishtar). He is a god of monarchs and is not friendly to the common people. He is a "King of the Igigi". He is assigned the sky as his domain in 'Atrahasis'. His 'kishru's (shooting stars) have awesome strength. He has the ability that anything he puts into words, becomes reality. He is Niudimmud's (Ea's) father.
Antu(m) - Sumerian for "the earth", she is a colorless being who was the first consort of Anu. They produced the Anunnaki - the underworld gods, and the utukki - the seven evil demons. She was replaced by Isthar (Inanna) who is sometimes her daughter.
Aruru (Ninmah, Nintu, Ninhursaga, Belet-ili, Mami) - She is the mother goddess and was responsible for the creation of man with the help of Enlil or Enki. She is also called the womb goddess, and midwife of the gods. Acting on Ea's advice and direction, she mixed clay with the blood of the god Geshtu-e, in order to shape and birth seven men and seven women. These people would bear the workload of the Igigi. She also added to the creation of Gilgamesh, and, at Anu's command, made Enkidu in Anu's image by pinching off a piece of clay, throwing it into the wilderness, and birthing him there. Ea called her to offer her beloved Ninurta as the one who should hunt Anzu. She does so
Mammetum - the maker or mother of fate.
Nammu - one of "the pure goddesses", Ea's mother, associated with fresh water.
Ellil (Enlil) - Sumerian for "wind/storm-god".
Initially the leader of the pantheon, he has since relinquished his spot to Anu. Possible slayer of Enmesharra and avenger of his father Anu. His role in this was upplanted by Marduk by the Babylonians. He is a short-tempered god who was responsible for the great flood. He is the creator of mankind. He is thought to favor and help those in need. He guards the "tablets of destiny", which allow him to determines the fate of all things animate or inanimate.
Ea (Enki, Nudimmud) - god of the waters. He is in charge of the bolt which bars the sea. He knows everything. He is the "Lord of Wisdom" and "Lord of Incantations". When he speaks, of a thing, it will be made. He is the son of Anu, but sometimes he is the son of Anshar. Dumkina is his consort. He created Zaltu as a complement to Ishtar. He discovered the plot of Apsu and Mummu, put Apsu under a sleeping spell, and slew him and put Mummu into a daze, tied him up, and slew him. He then named his quarters Apsu, the underworld ocean that supports the world. He and Damkina produced Bel and Marduk. (Bel is likely to be another name for Marduk.) He learned that Tiamat was planning a war of revenge against the gods. His father Anshar tries to spur him into making the first attack against Tiamat, but Ea rebuffs him. When Anu's peace mission fails, he urges Marduk into action.
Mummu - the craftsman god. He is attendant to Ea and Apsu's vizier. He is very fond of Apsu and colludes with him to disperse the younger gods when they disturb Tiamat, even after Tiamat rejects the plan. Ea found out about his plan, enspelled him and tied him up.
Qingu (older spelling - Kingu) - Tiamat's battle leader and second husband/lover after Apsu. He is promoted and enhanced to a leading position from among the ranks. Tiamat places the Tablet of Destinies in his possession, giving him the Anu-power, such that his word is law and affects reality. He gives his army fire-quenching breath and paralyzing venom. His battle strategy initially confuses Marduk. He is defeated by Marduk and counted among the dead gods. For his part in the war he was made by Marduk to provide the blood for the creation of man - filling the role that Geshtu-e takes in other versions of the creation of man story.
Sin (Nannar) - moon god, son of Enlil. He has a beard of Lapis Lazuli and rides a winged bull. His consort is Ningal. He is the father of Shamash. He does not answer Gilgamesh's plea to restore Enkidu to life.
Ningal - the consort of Sin, the mother of Shamash
Ishtar (Ishhara, Irnini, Inanna) She is Anu's second consort, daughter of Anu and Antum, (sometimes daughter of Sin), and sometimes the sister of Ereshkigal. She is the goddess of love, procreation, and war. She is armed with a quiver and bow. Her temples have special prostitutes of both genders. She is often accompanied by a lion, and sometimes rides it. The Eanna in Uruk is dedicated both to her and Anu. As Irnini, she has a parakku (throne-base) at the cedar mountain.
Siduri - the barmaid, a manifestation of Ishtar who dwells at the lip of the sea, beyond which is the Land of Life, where Utnapishtim lives. She speaks with Gilgamesh. She wears a veil.
Shamash (Babbar, Utu) Shamash is the sun god, the son of Sin and Ningal. He rises from the mountains with rays out of his shoulders. He enters and exits the underworld through a set of gates in the mountain (exits from Mt. Mashu, "Gilgamesh IX ii") guarded by scorpion-people. He travels both on foot and in a chariot, pulled by fiery mules. He upholds truth, and justice. He is a lawgiver and informs oracles. Nergal is a corrupt aspect of his nature.
Nusku - the god of fire and Ellil's vizier.
Gerra(Gibil) - the god of fire, Anunitu (Antu)'s son. He despairs and will not attack Anzu after Anzu has stolen the Tablet of Destinies from Ellil.
Ishum (Hendursanga - 'lofty mace') - He is the god of fire, and is adept at using weapons. He lights the way in front of Erra and the Sebitti. He advises Erra against attacking Marduk or his people in Babylon. When Erra takes Marduk's seat, Ishum persuades him against destroying Babylon, finally appeasing him by promising that the other gods would acknowledge themselves as his servants.
Kalkal - Ellil's doorkeeper in Nippur.
Dumkina - Ea's lover, mother of Bel and Marduk (note Bel is likely to be another title for Marduk).
Nash (Nanshe) - one of "the pure goddesses", Ea's daughter. Her cult center is Sirara near Lagash.
Zaltu - "strife", goddess created by Ea to complement Ishtar.
Ninurta (shares some characteristics with Ningrisu) - Chamberlain of the Anunnaki, the war god, the champion of the land. He is the child of Ellil and Mami. He was born in Ekur, Ellil's temple in Ekur. He is responsible for some small scale irrigation. He has a bow and arrow, sometimes they are poisoned. He also carries the mace, Sharur, which can act as a messenger between Ninurta and other beings (notably Ea). He can marshal the Seven of Battle, who can generate whirlwinds.
Ninsun - Known as 'the great wild cow' and the great queen, she is Gilgamesh's mother and Lugalbanda's mate. She is wise, 'knows everything' and interprets Gilgamesh's dreams. She offers incense and drink to Shamash and questions his decision to send Gilgamesh against Humbaba. When doing so, she wears a circlet on her head and an ornament on her breast. She adopts Enkidu prior to the quest against Humbaba.
Marduk - son of Ea and Dumkina. He supplants the other Babylonian deities to become the central figure of their pantheon. He is a "King of the Igigi" He often works with and asks questions of his father. He has fifty names many of which are those of other deities whose attributes he usurped. He was of proud form and piercing stare, born mature, powerful, and perfect and superior. He has four eyes, four ears, and emits fire from his mouth when he speaks. He is also gifted in magic. Anu gave him the four winds to play with. When Anu's peace mission to Tiamat fails, Ea urges him into action. He goes before Anshar and the divine assembly and declares that he will defeat Tiamat and lay her head at his feet, but that the assembly must promise that he should be the one to fix fates and more or less assume the role of the leader of the pantheon. Anshar, Lahamu, and Anu find him a shrine and Anu instills upon him the Anu-power in which, his word decrees fate. He is proclaimed king and invested with the scepter, throne, and staff-of-office. He is given an unfaceable weapon, the flood-weapon. He takes a bow and arrow and mace. He puts lightning in front of him, marshals his winds, makes a net to encircle Tiamat, fills his body with flame. He rides his storm-chariot driven by Slayer, Pitiless, Racer, and Flyer, poison-toothed, tireless steeds. He had a spell on his lips and an anti-toxin in his hand. He led the gods to battle
Bel (Canaanite Baal) - Cleverest of the clever and sage of the gods, he is the child of Ea and Dumkina. This name (meaning 'lord') is most likely referring to Marduk.
Ashur (A-sir, Arusar, A-shar, Assur) god of Assyria and war. He is a "King of the Igigi"
Shullat - Shamash's servant.
Papsukkal - vizier of the Great Gods, son of Sin. While Ishtar was in the Underworld, he became gloomy and informed Sin and Ea of this plight.
Hanish - the weather god's servant.
Adad (the Canaanite Hadad, the Sumerian Ishkur, the Hurrian Teshub, the Canaanite/Egyptian Resheph, Rimmon) - a storm god, Anu's son. He holds a lightning bolt in his right hand and an axe in his left. He is partially responsible for the flood. He despairs and will not attack Anzu after Anzu has stolen the Tablet of Destinies from Ellil.
Shara - Anu and Ishtar's son. He despairs and will not attack Anzu after Anzu has stolen the Tablet of Destinies from Ellil.
Nin-ildu - the carpenter god. He carries the pure axe of the sun.
Gushkin-banda - creator of god and man, goldsmith god.
Ereshkigal (Allatu) - the supreme goddess of the underworld. Nergal is her consort. She is often considered Ishtar's sister. When angered, her face grows livid and her lips grow black.
Namtar(a) - the Fate-Cutter, Ereshkigal's messenger and vizier, the herald of death. He commands sixty diseases, which are grouped by the part of the body which they affect. Offerings to him may stave off diseases. He takes Ishtar back out of the Underworld at Ereshkigal's command. He acts as her messenger to Anu.
Sumuqan - the cattle god, he resides in the underworld, in Ereshkigal's court.
Nergal (Erragal, Erra, Engidudu - 'lord who prowls by night') -, the Unsparing, god of the underworld, husband of Ereshkigal, lover of Mami. As Erra he is a hunter god, a god of war and plague. He is submissive to Ea. He can open the doorposts to the underworld to allow the passage of a soul.
Irra - plague god, underling of Nergal
Enmesharra - Underworld god
Lamashtu - a dread female demon also known as 'she who erases'.
Nabu - god of writing and wisdom
Nedu - the guardian of the first gate of the underworld. Also known as Neti to the Sumerians.
Ningizzia - a guardian of the gate of heaven; a god of the underworld.
Belili (Geshtinanna) - Tammuz/Dumuzi's sister, 'the one who always weeps', the wife of Ningishzida.
Gizzida (Gishzida) - son of Ninazu, consort of Belili, doorkeeper of Anu.
Nissaba (Nisaba) - cereal grain harvest goddess. Her breast nourishes the fields. Her womb gives birth to the vegetation and grain. She has abundant locks of hair. She is also a goddess of writing and learned knowledge. She performs the purification ceremony on Ninurta after he has slain Anzu and is given his additional names and shrines.
Dagan (Ugaritic for 'grain') - chthonic god of fertility and of the Underworld. He is paired with Anu as one who acknowledges directives and courses of action put forth in front of the assembly of the gods.
Birdu - (means 'pimple') an underworld god. Ellil used him as a messenger to Ninurta
Sharru - god of submission
Urshambi - boatman to Utnapishtim
Ennugi - canal-controller of the Anunnaki.
Geshtu-e - 'ear', god whose blood and intelligence are used by Mami to create man.
Adapa (Uan) - the first of the seven antediluvian sages who were sent by Ea to deliver the arts of civilization to mankind. He was from Eridu. He offered food an water to the gods in Eridu. He went out to catch fish for the temple of Ea and was caught in a storm. He broke the South Wind's wing and was called to be punished. Ea advised him to say that he behaved that way on account of Dumuzi's and Gizzida's absence from the country. Those gods, who tended Anu's gate, spoke in his favor to Anu. He was offered the bread and water of eternal life, but Ea advised against his taking it, lest he end his life on earth.
Etana - the human taken to the sky by an eagle. He was the king of Kish. Ishtar and the Igigi searched for a king for Kish. Ellil found a throne for Etana and they declared him the king. He was pious an continued to pray to Shamash, yet he had no son. Shamash told him to where to find the eagle with the cut wings, who would find for him the plant of birth. He found the eagle, fed it, and taught it to fly again. Not being able to find the plant, the eagle had Etana mount on his back and they journeyed to Ishtar, mistress of birth. On flying up to heaven, Etana grew scared at the height and went down. Then after some encouraging dreams tried to ascend to heaven on the eagle again. They succeeded. Etana had a son, Balih.
Lugalbanda - a warrior-king and, with Ninsun, the progenitor of Gilgamesh. He is worshipped, being Gilgamesh's ancestor, by Gilgamesh as a god.
Gilgamesh (possibly Bilgamesh) - The son of the warrior-king Lugalbanda and the wise goddess Ninsun, Gilgamesh built the walls of the city Uruk, and the Eanna (house of An) temple complex there, dedicated to Ishtar. He is two-thirds divine and one-third human. He is tall and a peerless warrior. He is the king and shepherd of the people of Uruk, but he was very wild, which upset his people, so they called out to Anu. Anu told Aruru to make a peer for
Humbaba (Huwawa) - this monster was appointed by Ellil to guard the cedar forest, which is in fact one large tree, the home of the gods, and terrify mankind. 'His shout is the storm-flood, his mouth, fire, his breath is death.' (Gardner & Maier p. 105) He has seven cloaks with which to arm himself. There is a gate and a path in the cedar mountain for Humbaba to walk on. Gilgamesh and Enkidu attack. Humbaba pleads for mercy, Enkidu argues against mercy, and Enkidu and Gilgamesh decapitate him. See also the Sumerian Huwawa.
The Bull of Heaven - this creature was created by Anu to kill Gilgamesh at Ishtar's behest. At its snorting, a hole opened up and 200 men fell into it. When it fights Enkidu and Gilgamesh, it throws spittle and excrement at them. It is killed and set as an offering to Shamash.
Anzu - a demonic being with lion paws and face and eagle talons and wings. It was born on the mountain Hehe. Its beak is like a saw, its hide as eleven coats of mail. It was very powerful. Ellil appointed him to guard his bath chamber. He envied the Ellil-power inherent in Ellil's Tablet of Destinies and stole it while Ellil was bathing. With the Tablet of Destinies, anything he puts into words becomes reality. He takes advandtage of this by causing Ninurta's arrows to never reach their target. However, once Ea's advice reached Ninurta, Anzu was slain by the hero's onslaught.
Aqrabuamelu (girtablilu) - scorpion-man, the guardians of the gates of the underworld. Their "terror is awesome" and their "glance is death". They guard the passage of Shamash. They appraise Gilgamesh and speak with him.
Anunnaki - gods (mostly of the earth). The sky Anunnaki set the Igigi to digging out the rivers
Igigi - gods (mostly of the heavens) They are given the task of digging riverbeds by the Anunnaki. They rebelled against Ellil.
Sebitti - the seven warrior gods led by Erra; in the sky they are the Pleadies. They were children of Anu and the Earth-mother. Anu gave them fearsome and lethal destinies and put them under Erra's command. They prefer to exercise there skills instead of letting Erra stay in the cities with his diseases.