Mesopotamian Gods

Mesopotamian religion refers to the religious beliefs and practices followed by the Sumerian and Akkadian (Assyrian/Babylonian) peoples living in Mesopotamia (around the area of modern Iraq) that dominated the region for a period of 4200 years from the fourth millennium to approximately the 3rd century AD. Christianity began to take root among the Mesopotamians in the 1st Century AD, and over the next 300 years the native religion largely died out. However, it is known that the god Ashur was still worshipped in Assyria as late as the 4th Century AD and it is rumoured that Ashurism was still practiced by tiny minorities in northern Assyria (around Harran) until the 17th Century AD. Commonly thought of as a form of paganism, Mesopotamian religion was polytheistic, worshipping over two thousand different deities, many of which were associated with a specific city or state within Mesopotamia such as Sumer, Akkad, Assyria, Assur, Nineveh, Ur, Uruk, Mari and Babylon.

The peoples of Mesopotamia originally consisted of two peoples, the Semitic Akkadians (later to be known as Assyrians and Babylonians) and the Sumerians. These peoples were not originally one united nation, but members of various different city-states. In the fourth millennium BC, when the first evidence for what is recognisably Mesopotamian religion can be seen with the invention in Mesopotamia of writing circa 3500 BC, the Sumerians appeared, although it is not known if they migrated into the area in pre historic times or whether they were some of the original inhabitants. They settled in southern Mesopotamia, which became known as Sumer, and had a great influence over the Semitic Akkadian peoples and their culture. The Sumerians were incredibly advanced, as well as inventing Writing, they also invented Mathematics, Wheeled Vehicles, Astronomy, Astrology, The Calendar and created the first City States/Nations such as Uruk,Ur, Lagash, Isin, Umma and Larsa. In the north, in an area known as Akkad, a civilisation known as the Akkadians arose, who spoke a semitic language that was distinct from that of the Sumerians who spoke a language isolate.

Gradually there was increasing syncreticism between the Sumerian and Akkadian cultures and deities, with the Akkadians typically preferring to worship fewer deities, but elevating them to greater positions of power. In circa 2300 BC the Akkadian king Sargon the Great conquered all of Mesopotamia, uniting the Akkadian and Sumerians in the worlds first empire, though this Akkadian empire collapsed after two centuries. The empire broke up into two Akkadian states, Assyria in the north, and Babylon in the south. Some time after this the Sumerians disappeared, becoming wholly absorbed into the Assyrio-Babylonian population. In around 1800 BC, the king of Babylon, King Hammurabi, conquered much of Mesopotamia, but this Babylonian empire collapsed a century later due to attacks from mountain-dwelling people known as the Kassites from Asia Minor. Also around this time, a leader named Abraham led his people, the Hebrews, out of Mesopotamia where they appeared to have been living for many centuries.

Assyria became a major power from the 14th Century BC after throwing off the influence of the Hittites and Mitanni, and the Neo Assyrian Empire was probably the most dominant power on earth between the 10th Century BC and the 7th Century BC, with an empire stretching from Cyprus in the west to central Iran in the east, and from the Caucasus mountains in the north to Nubia and Arabia in the south, facilitating the spread of Mesopotamian culture and religion far and wide under emperors such as Ashurbanipal, Tukulti-Ninurta, Tiglath-Pileser, Sargon II, Sennacherib and Esarhaddon. The empire fell in 608 BC with the death of Ashur-uballit II after a period of internal strife followed by an attack by a coalition of Babylonians, Medes, Scythians, Persians and Cimmeriansled by Nabopolassar of Babylon. During the Neo Assyrian Empire Aramaic became the lingua franca of the empire, and also Mesopotamia proper. The last written records in Akkadian were Astrological Texts dating from 78 AD discovered in Assyria.

In the 539 BC Mesopotamia was invaded by the Persian empire, then ruled by Cyrus the Great. This brought to an end over 3000 years of Mesopotamian dominance of the near east. The Persians maintained and did not interfere in the native culture and religion and Assyria and Babylon continued to exist as entities, and Assyria was strong enough to launch a major rebellion against Persia in 482 BC. Then, two centuries later in 330 BC the Greek emperor Alexander the Great overthrew the Persians and took control of Mesopotamia itself, bringing Hellenic influence to the region with the Seleucid Empire. Assyria and Babylonia later came under Parthian, Roman and Sassanid Persian rule.
Over the next few centuries Mesopotamia saw an influx of Arabs, Kurds and later Turkic peoples, and people retaining native ethnicity, culture, customs and language gradually became a minority. This process was completed by the massacres of native Mesopotamians by Tamurlane in the 14th Century.

Mesopotamian religion was polytheistic, thereby accepting the existence of many different deities, both male and female, though it was also henotheistic, with certain gods being viewed as superior to others by their specific devotees. These devotees were often from a particular city or city-state that held that deity as its patron deity, for instance the god Enki was often associated with the city of Eridu, and the god Marduk was associated with Babylon. The Mesopotamian gods bore many similarities with humans, and were anthropomorphic, thereby having humanoid form. Similarly, they often acted like humans, requiring food and drink, as well as drinking alcohol and subsequently suffering the effects of drunkenness. In many cases, the various deities were family relations of one another, a trait found in many other polytheistic religions.


Some Mesopotamian Gods;

Adad or Ishkur - god of storms, venerated as a supreme power especially in Syria and Lebanon

Anshur - head of the Assyrian pantheon, regarded as the equivalent of Enlil

Anu or An - god of heaven and the sky, lord of constellations, and father of the gods

Enki or Ea - god of the freshwater Abzu, crafts, water, intelligence, mischief and creation

Enlil - god of the wind and divine ruler of the Earth and its human inhabitants

Ereshkigal - goddess of Irkalla, the Underworld

Inanna or Ishtar - goddess of fertility, love, sex and war

Marduk - patron deity of Babylon who eventually became regarded as the head of the Babylonian pantheon

Nabu - god of wisdom and writing

Nanshe - goddess of social justice, prophecy, fertility and fishing

Nergal - god of plague, war, and the sun in its destructive capacity; later husband of Ereshkigal

Ninhursag - earth and mother goddess; also known as Mami, Belet-Ili, Ki, Ninmah, Nintu and Aruru

Ninlil - goddess of the air; consort of Enlil

Ninurta - champion of the gods, the epitome of youthful vigour, and god of agriculture

Shamash or Utu - god of the sun, arbiter of justice and patron of travellers

Sin or Nanna - god of the moon

Tammuz or Dumuzi - god of food and vegetation

Lesser deitiesAbu - a minor god of plants

Ama-arhus - Akkadian fertility goddess; later merged into Ninhursag

Amasagnul - Akkadian fertility goddess

Amathaunta - goddess of the ocean

Amurru - god of the Amorite people

An - a goddess, possibly the female principle of Anu

Asaruludu or Namshub - a protective deity

Ashnan - goddess of grain

Aya - a mother goddess and consort of Shamash

Azimua - a minor Sumerian goddess

Bau - dog-headed patron goddess of Lagash

Belet-Seri - recorder of the dead entering the underworld

Birdu - an underworld god; consort of Manungal and later syncretized with Nergal

Damgalnuna - mother of Marduk

Damu - god of vegetation and rebirth; possibly a local offshoot of Dumuzi

Druaga - an underworld god

Emesh - god of vegetation, created to take responsibility on earth for woods, fields, sheep folds, and stables

Enbilulu - god of rivers, canals, irrigation and farming

Endursaga - a herald god

Enkimdu - god of farming, canals and ditches

Enmesarra - an underworld god of the law, equated with Nergal

Ennugi - attendant and throne-bearer of Enlil

Enshag - a minor deity born to relieve the illness of Enki

Enten - god of vegetation, created to take responsibility on earth for the fertility of ewes, goats, cows, donkeys, birds

Erra - Akkadian god of mayhem and pestilence

Gaga - a minor deity featured in the Enűma Eliš

Gatumdag - a fertility goddess and tutelary mother goddess of Lagash

Geshtu-E - minor god of intelligence

Gibil or Gerra - god of fire

Gugalanna - the Great Bull of Heaven, the constellation Taurus and the first husband of Ereshkigal

Gunara - a minor god of uncertain status

Hahanu - a minor god of uncertain status

Hani - an attendant of the storm god Adad

Hayasum - a minor god of uncertain status

Hegir-Nuna - a daughter of the goddess Bau

Hendursaga - god of law

Ilabrat - attendant and minister of state to Anu

Ishum - brother of Shamash and attendant of Erra

Isimud - two-faced messenger of Enki

Ištaran - god of the city of Der (Sumer)

Kabta - god of pickaxes and the shaping of bricks

Kakka - attendant and minister of state to both Anu and Anshar

Kingu - consort of Tiamat; killed by Marduk, who used his blood to create mankind

Kubaba - tutelary goddess of the city of Carchemish

Kus (god) - god of herdsmen

Lahar - god of cattle

Lugal-Irra - possibly a minor variation of Erra

Lulal - the younger son of Inanna; patron god of Bad-tibira

Mamitu - goat-headed goddess of destiny, who decreed the fate of the new-borns

Manungal - an underworld goddess; consort of Birdu

Mammetun - Sumerian goddess of fate

Mandanu -god of divine judgment

Muati - obscure Sumerian god who became syncretized with Nabu

Mushdamma - god of buildings and foundations

Nammu - a creation goddess

Nanaya - goddess personifying voluptuousness and sensuality

Nazi - a minor deity born to relieve the illness of Enki

Negun - a minor goddess of uncertain status

Neti - a minor underworld god; the chief gatekeeper of the netherworld and the servant of Ereshkigal

Ngeshtin-ana - goddess of wine and cold seasons

Nibhaz - god of the Avim

Nidaba - goddess of writing, learning and the harvest

Namtar - minister of Ereshkigal

Nin-Ildu - god of carpenters

Nin-imma - goddess of the female sex organs

Ninazu - god of the underworld and healing

Nindub - god associated with the city Lagash

Ninegal - god of smiths

Ningal - goddess of reeds and consort of Nanna (Sin)

Ningikuga - goddess of reeds and marshes

Ningilin - obscure god of uncertain status

Ningirama - god of magic and protector against snakes

Ningishzida - god of the underworld

Ninkarnunna - god of barbers

Ninkasi - goddess of beer

Ninkurra - minor mother goddess

Ninmena - Sumerian mother goddess who became syncretized with Ninhursag

Ninsar - goddess of plants

Ninshubur - Queen of the East, messenger goddess and second-in-command to Inanna

Ninsun - "Lady Wild Cow"; mother of Gilgamesh

Ninsutu - a minor deity born to relieve the illness of Enki

Nintinugga - Babylonian goddess of healing

Nintulla - a minor deity born to relieve the illness of Enki

Nu Mus Da - patron god of the lost city of Kazallu

Nunbarsegunu - goddess of barley

Nusku - god of light and fire

Pabilsaĝ - tutelary god of the city of Isin

Pap-nigin-gara - Akkadian and Babylonian god of war, syncretized with Ninurta

Papsukkal - Akkadian messenger god

Sarpanit - mother goddess and consort of Marduk

The Sebitti - a group of minor war gods

Shakka - patron god of herdsmen

Shala - goddess of war and grain

Shara - minor god of war and a son of Inanna

Sharra Itu - Sumerian fertility goddess

Shu-pa-e - astral and fertility god associated with the planet Jupiter

Shul-utula - personal deity to Entemena, king of the city of Eninnu

Shullat - minor god and attendant of Shamash

Shulmanu - god of the underworld, fertility and war

Shulsaga - astral goddess

Sirara - goddess of the Persian Gulf

Siris - goddess of beer

Sirsir - god of mariners and boatmen

Sirtir - goddess of sheep

Sumugan - god of the river plains

Tashmetum - consort of Nabu

Tishpak - tutelary god of the city of Eshnunna

Tutu - tutelary god of the city of Borsippa

Ua-Ildak - goddess responsible for pastures and poplar trees

Ukur - a god of the underworld

Uttu - goddess of weaving and clothing

Wer - a storm god linked to Adad

Zaqar - messenger of Sin who relays communication through dreams and nightmares



Pantheons Index