Mesopotamian Mythology Reexamined: the Gods

If you’ve ever taken a course on Western Civilization, you would remember that one of the first civilizations to spring up at this time would be Mesopotamia which flourished in ancient times from 4000 BCE to the rise of the Persian Empire in 539 BCE. Now this area is in modern day Iraq along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers where it was prone to a series of unpredictable disasters as well as ongoing clashes with city states. Yet, its one of the cradles of civilization and history since it was known to invent one of the oldest systems of writing in the world known as Cuneiform. And whether you tend to be a Sumerian, Akkadian, Chaldean, Assyrian, Hittite, Babylonian, Amorite, or Who-Knows-What-Ian, its mythology is a bit easier to study this old mythology because of literacy and that a lot of the gods were borrowed between civilizations. It also helps that a lot of early biblical stories were influenced by Mesopotamian mythology (note the emphasis of “early” like Genesis), the fact Abraham was from Ur, and that the Hebrews tend to run in with these people a lot, especially during the Babylonian captivity. Still, it’s not a consistent mythology. However, as for the Mesopotamian gods, well, they weren’t a nice bunch so to speak. However, I’m not sure how they compare to the Greek and Aztec pantheons that seem to consist of the biggest divine jerks so far. Seriously, in two of my theology classes in college, we had to read part of Sumerian epic known as the Enuma Elish which is their creation story, and let’s just say it’s not the kind of story you want to hear in Sunday school. Still, the Mesopotamians viewed themselves as slaves to the gods and if they didn’t honor them, they were fucked. And if they did, they might still be fucked. But when they died, they still went to the same gloomy underworld. So yeah, it sucks to be a human in Mesopotamia. Nevertheless, there are a lot of Mesopotamian deities out there but I’m just going to focus the major deities we know most about. So without further adieu, here are the major gods of Mesopotamian mythology.

1. Anu

Anu is the supreme deity of the heavens as well as seen as king and father of the gods. In myths he functions as an authority figure with imperfect parenting skills. Yet, in later mythology, his role is greatly reduced.

Anu is the supreme deity of the heavens as well as seen as king and father of the gods. In myths he functions as an authority figure with imperfect parenting skills. Yet, in later mythology, his role is greatly reduced.

AKA: An

Origin: Sumerian, one of the oldest gods in the pantheon.

Type: Among the Four Primary gods out of the Seven Gods Who Decree

Domain: God of heaven, the stars, and the firmament, lord of constellations, as well as king of gods, spirits, and demons. Dwells in the highest heavenly regions. Sometimes seen as the father of the gods. In charge of the Bull of Heaven which can be used to avenge the gods. Chief god of the Great Triad with Enki and Enlil.

Pro: Was popularly believed to have the power to judge those who committed crimes and created the stars to destroy the wicked. Is generally nice to Sumerian people and rarely goes up to Heaven as far as the Assyrians and Babylonians are concerned. And yes, he was right to answer the prayers of Uruk who wanted to rein Gligamesh in. Gave Marduk 4 winds as a birthday present.

Con: Letting Ishtar borrow the Bull of Heaven was probably not a good idea, especially since Ishtar asked for it because she was enraged that Gilgamesh rejected her (for very good reasons). Also, while he’s Isthar’s father in The Epic of Gilgamesh, he’s sometimes seen as a consort (yeah, I know what you’re thinking). Has a lot of children to different consorts. Oh, and he didn’t do well on his mission to Tiamat but that’s understandable. Nevertheless, despite being the Sumerian chief deity, he doesn’t have much of a personality, doesn’t play a large role in myths, and is rarely featured in art. However, it’s basically due to that he became less of a divine entity in later times.

Symbols and Motifs: Main attribute is the royal tiara and is sometimes depicted as a hermaphrodite or jackal. “60” is his sacred number. Sometimes appears as a bull with a man’s horns. Sometimes seen resting on his throne.

City: Uruk

2. Enlil

Second only to Anu, Enlil is a supreme deity with the propensity to be either as benevolent or destructive to mankind as he pleases. Though credited with giving humans agriculture, he also tried to destroy mankind by sending the Great Flood just because he was sick of the people noise. At least he gets his when he tries to get in Ninlil's skirt.

Second only to Anu, Enlil is a supreme deity with the propensity to be either as benevolent or destructive to mankind as he pleases. Though credited with giving humans agriculture, he also tried to destroy mankind by sending the Great Flood just because he was sick of the people noise. At least he gets his when he tries to get in Ninlil’s skirt.

AKA: Ellil

Origin: Sumerian

Type: Among the Four Primary gods out of the Seven Gods Who Decree

Domain: God of wind, breath, air, sky, loft, and breadth (height and distance) as well as the weather. Father of Nanna, Namtar, and Ninurta. Son of Anu. Is probably the hero in the lost Sumerian version of the Enuma Elish. Decreed kingship and declared fates. No. 2 of the Great Triad among Anu and Enki.

Pro: Believed to be the inventor of the mattock (a key agricultural pick, hoe, ax or digging tool of the Sumerians) and helped plants grow. Advised his son Ninurta on a strategy to slay the demon Asag via his talking mace Sharur which the latter sent to the realm of the gods to seek counsel from him directly. Served as intermediary between Anu and the city of Nippur as well as his No. 2. Was seen as a model for kingship.

Con: Was banished to the Underworld for seducing (or raping) Ninlil. Also requested the creation of a slave race but then got tired of their noise and tried to kill them all by sending a flood. Luckily, Enki couldn’t shut up so Utnapishtim but at least Enlil was nice enough to make him immortal after he cooled off. Yet, he did send predators and naturals disasters to keep humans in check. Oh, and he was the chief deity of Nippur in 3000 BCE before getting demoted to No. 2, and later had his role reduced in the Enuma Elish. But once he makes a decision, it’s unalterable.

Symbols and Motifs: Identified with Jupiter. Sacred number is “50.” Represented wearing a horned helmet.

City: Nippur. Temple Ekur is known as “the Mountain House.”

3. Enki

Enki is seen as a creator and benefactor of mankind who warned humanity about the Great Flood. He is the keeper of the Mes gifts of civilization. However, his personal life is utterly depraved.

Enki is seen as a creator and benefactor of mankind who warned humanity about the Great Flood. He is the keeper of the Mes gifts of civilization. However, his personal life is utterly depraved.

AKA: Ea

Origin: Sumerian.

Type: Among the Four Primary gods out of the Seven Gods Who Decree

Domain: God of water, wisdom, knowledge, crafts, mischief, creation, magic, life, replenishment, contracts, mankind, civilization, and male fertility. Husband of Ninhursag and father of Marduk. Keeper of the divine powers called Mes, the gifts of civilization (or the rules of the universe). No. 3 in the Great Triad with Anu and Enlil. Attended by a god with 2 faces called Usmu.

Pro: He’s much more fond of humanity than most of the other gods (since he helped create mankind) and is generally one of the nicest and good natured gods around. Had a lot of enduring popularity since he managed play prominent roles in most of the Mesopotamian cultures.Helped humanity survive a massive flood of Enlil’s doing (by pretending to talk to himself). Refused to get involved with dealing with Tiamat. Prefers persuasion to conflict, which he avoids as much as possible. Helped revive Inanna’s in the Underworld after what she did to him (though the gods didn’t give him much choice in the matter. He did this by creating 2 zombies to come to her aid). Built a school of learning for Nidaba. In many ways, he’s basically a Sumerian Quetzalcoatl.

Con: Banged his daughters (as well as his granddaughter and great-granddaughter) while his wife was away with his encounter with Uttu being among the sickest way possible as well as tried to eat their children. Even knocked up himself after ingesting his own semen. Also, has a lot of kids with different consorts. Confused people’s languages for almost no reason. Has a tumultuous history with Inanna who tricks him into giving the Mes when they get drunk but he fails to recover it. Put Abzu to sleep before murdering him as well as bound and gagged his adviser Mummu. Turned Abzu’s body into the heavens. Has a reputation as quite of a trickster and in some ways a Mesopotamian equivalent to Loki.

Symbols and Motifs: Identified with Mercury and referred by the number “40.” Image is a double helix snake or the Caduceus (a modern symbol in medicine). Shown in a horned crown of divinity and dressed in the skin of a carp. Symbols are goat and fish which were combined into the constellation of Capricorn. Depicted with 2 streams flowing into his shoulder with trees alongside him. Has a scepter with a ram’s head.

City: Eridu, a key sacred center of ancient Mesopotamia.

4. Ereshkigal

Ereshkigal is the ruler of Irkalla, the Mesopotamian netherworld, which isn't fun for anybody. Though not necessarily evil, she can be dark and violent as well as really hates being disrespected.

Ereshkigal is the ruler of Irkalla, the Mesopotamian netherworld, which isn’t fun for anybody. Though not necessarily evil, she can be dark and violent as well as really hates being disrespected.

AKA: Allatu, Irkalla

Origin: Sumerian

Type: Major deity since she’s the ruler of the Underworld

Domain: Goddess of Irkalla, land of the dead or the Underworld as well as death, darkness, and dust. Older sister of Inanna and wife of Nergal.

Pro: Was the only one who can pass judgement and give laws in her Underworld kingdom. As queen of the Underworld, she was a goddess her peers looked up to. She’s not intimidated by any other gods or goddesses. Is devoted to Nergal that she threatened Anu to revive the dead so they would outnumber the living if he ever took him away from her. Is very cunning and clever. Sees her few children as precious.

Con: Trapped Inanna into her Underworld kingdom and only let her go if she sacrificed her husband Dumuzid in exchange for herself (since he failed to mourn her while she was dead). Also forced her to take off her clothes at the seven gates so she’d be stripped of her powers when they met. In later myths, she later gets displaced in the Underworld by Nergal since Assyrians and Babylonians were rather patriarchal societies. Tends to be jealous of her sister’s beauty and has a long name. Can be dark and violent. Really doesn’t like being disrespected.Her abode is a boring, dreary, and crowded place. May have become queen of the Underworld after being kidnapped by the dragon Kur.

Symbols and Motifs: Lion and owl are her animals and lapis lazuli is her crystal. Depicted as nude and winged with talons as feet. Has dark hair and wears a horned headdress and a pleated cape over her shoulders.

City: Kutha

5. Ishkur

As a storm deity, Ishkur can be a force of nature. Sometimes his rains can lead to great abundance and fertility while his propensity for natural disasters can lead to widespread devastation.

As a storm deity, Ishkur can be a force of nature. Sometimes his rains can lead to great abundance and fertility while his propensity for natural disasters can lead to widespread devastation.

AKA: Adad

Origin: Akkadian

Type: Major deity

Domain: God of weather, hurricanes, storms, thunder, rain, and divination as well as inspector of the cosmos. Son of Nanna and Ningal as well as husband of Shala.

Pro: Is the Mesopotamian god who literally makes it rain, which makes the land fertile and prosperous even if they’re barren mountainsides. Can also predict the future.

Con: His storms can bring havoc and destruction as well as tend to bring him notoriety. Plays a minor role in early Sumerian myths where he’s seen as an assistant but had more prominence among the Akkadians and Assyrians due to the prevalence of storms in their areas. But he slowly became less integral during the time of the Babylonians. Can be very unpredictable ranging from benign to outright violent. Is also capable of drought and famine as well as flood.

Symbols and Motifs: Key symbols are a bull, lion, and thunderbolt. Is seen wearing a horned helmet and carrying an axe and sticks. Sacred number was “6.” Portrayed as a warrior holding a lightning bolt and club.

City: Karkara and Assur

6. Uttu

Though a minor goddess of weaving and clothing, Uttu is perhaps the best known Mesopotamian deity of the domestic sphere as well as the model for the perfect wife. However, her relationship with Enki is disturbing.

Though a minor goddess of weaving and clothing, Uttu is perhaps the best known Mesopotamian deity of the domestic sphere as well as the model for the perfect wife. However, her relationship with Enki is disturbing.

AKA: N/A

Origin: Sumerian

Type: Minor goddess

Domain: Goddess of weaving and clothing. Said to be in charge of everything pertaining to women.

Pro: Had 8 children/trees with Enki with the 8th being the Ti or the Tree of Life. Said to be a model of a perfect Sumerian wife.

Con: Was raped by Enki (her great-grandfather, grandfather, and father) and cursed him when he tried to eat their 8 children (which made him protective of her future to make it even more disgusting, but this is one version). Also, doesn’t appear much and doesn’t have much of a personality.

Symbols and Motifs: Illustrated as a spider in a web.

City: None

7. Nammu

As the original primordial goddess, Tiamat brought forth a progeny of gods with her consort Abzu. But when Abzu is murdered, she really gets nasty and creates an army of monsters.

As the original primordial goddess, Tiamat brought forth a progeny of gods with her consort Abzu. But when Abzu is murdered, she really gets nasty and creates an army of monsters.

AKA: Tiamat

Origin: Sumerian

Type: Primordial Being

Domain: Goddess of primeval waters and the sea. Symbol of chaos and primordial creation. Wife of Abzu, mother and foremother of most of the gods in the pantheon.

Pro: Well, she’s quite the badass and knows how to prepare for what to expect. Warned Enki about Abzu. Can amass large armies.

Con: While she was the sole creator goddess of the Sumerian myths, she is regulated as co-creator with Abzu and became tyrant after his murder. Made her son Kingu consort (though to be fair, there weren’t many guys available who weren’t related to her). Not only that, but she’s said to have a monstrous appearance. Has a terrrible temper that you don’t want to get her angry and is driven to murder her descendents in retaliation of her husband’s (very deserved) death. Gets sliced in half by Marduk who proceeds to create the universe through her hacked body parts. Yes, she’s one nasty bitch.

Symbols and Motifs:Traditionally seen as a dragon or sea serpent along with her husband.

City: None.

8. Ninhursag

As Lady of the Mountains, Ninhursag can be a calming influence in the pantheon as well as a co-creator of mankind.  However, while she cured Enki of his woes, she wasn't happy with him cheating on her.

As Lady of the Mountains, Ninhursag can be a calming influence in the pantheon as well as a co-creator of mankind. However, while she cured Enki of his woes, she wasn’t happy with him cheating on her.

AKA: Ninmah, Nintu, Mamma, Aruru, Belet-Ili, Ki

Origin: Sumerian, one of the oldest gods in the pantheon.

Type: Among the Four Primary gods out of the Seven Gods Who Decree

Domain: Goddess of earth, nature, mountains, and fertility as well as charged with pregnancy and birth. Wife of Enki and mother of 9 of his children. Deity of Sumerian rulers. Said to be the mother of the gods. Said to be attended by foxes.

Pro: Helped create mankind with Enki and created vegetation. Said to help children when still in the womb and feeds them once born. Reputed to be a calming influence among the rest of the pantheon as well as a source of comfort, which is real major asset.

Con: Her role in creating mankind was more diminished in later myths and doesn’t seem to have much of a personality. Also, cursed Enki after he ate the plants that were actually his children to Uttu (in one version, or possibly for his incestuous affairs) so that each plant would cause a different disease (she later helped cure him, but still the other gods had to pressure her). This resulted in a barren earth and Enki begging for forgiveness. Then there’s the fact she has a lot of names and might be identified with other goddesses.

Symbols and Motifs: Tends to be depicted with Omega shaped hair and at times wears a horned headdress and a tiered skirt, often with a bow around her shoulder. Can also carry a mace or baton as well be accompanied by a lion cub on a leash. Fox is her sacred animal.

City: Eridu and Kish.

9. Ninlil

Though her name means Lady of the Wind, Ninlil is primarily known as Enlil's wife and mother of a bunch his kids. Yet, while Enlil is banished to the netherworld for raping her, she comes to his aid as well as help him procreate their way out of there. Hey, the Mesopotamians weren't feminists here!

Though her name means Lady of the Wind, Ninlil is primarily known as Enlil’s wife and mother of a bunch his kids. Yet, while Enlil is banished to the netherworld for raping her, she comes to his aid as well as help him procreate their way out of there. Hey, the Mesopotamians weren’t feminists here!

AKA: Sud, Mulittu

Origin: Sumerian

Type: Minor goddess

Domain: Goddess of the wind. Wife of Enlil and usually the mother of Nanna, Nergal, Ninazu, Ninurta, and Enbilulu.

Pro: Has an aspect of healing to her. Seems to forgive Enlil of what he did to her since she went to the Underworld for him, according to one story.

Con: Joined her husband Enlil in the Underworld after he was banished for raping her (granted it was Ancient Mesopotamia, but still it doesn’t help that she was willing to have him impregnate her several times to get out of there). Associated with northern winter storms. Still, she seems to be defined strictly as Enlil’s consort as well as a mother to a few prominent gods other than possible inspiration to the Hebrew Lilith legend.

Symbols and Motifs: Very little iconography is attributed to her.

City: Nippur and Assur

10. Nanna

As god of the moon, Nanna is among the most benevolent and respected of the pantheon. However, his temperament is dependent on the time of the month.

As god of the moon, Nanna is among the most benevolent and respected of the pantheon. However, his temperament is dependent on the time of the month. The famous ziggurat of Ur is dedicated to him.

AKA: Suen, Sin

Origin: Sumerian

Type: Among the Three Sky Gods of the Seven Gods Who Decree

Domain: God of the moon, cattle, divination, and fertility. Son of Enlil and Ninlil. Father of Utu. Husband of Ningal. Phases govern the tide as well as the all important growth of crops.

Pro: Great with cows. Can be a diviner of fates or judge of the dead. Had a long popularity and continued to play a significant role in myths after the Akkadians lost dominance. Said to regularly visit his parents. Dispensed wisdom to humans through priests and to the other gods who consulted him. One of the most respected in the pantheon. Reputed to be a benevolent figure as well as a loving husband and father.

Con: Has unfortunate names mistaken for bad things and female babysitters. Temper waxes and wanes on a monthly cycle. Wisdom is said to be expressed in astrology.

Symbols and Motifs: Said to have a beard of lapis lazuli and rode on a winged bull. Symbols are a crescent and the tripod lamp stand. Can be represented as an old man in a flowing beard. Sacred number is “30” referring to the average successive days of a lunar month through new moon phases.

City: Ur, has a famous ziggurat attributed to him. Was once head of the pantheon in that city. A princess basically was in charge of his temple. Also has a seat in Harran.

11. Nergal

As one of the most unpleasant and feared deities in the pantheon, Nergal embodies the most destructive aspects of the sun. He's a raging bully who brings devastation wherever he goes. He accepts no surrender or mercy.

As one of the most unpleasant and feared deities in the pantheon, Nergal embodies the most destructive aspects of the sun. He’s a raging bully who brings devastation wherever he goes. He accepts no surrender or mercy.

AKA: Nirgali, Erra

Origin: Akkadian

Type: Major deity

Domain: God of fire, destruction, war, plagues, and occasionally the sun, especially during the summer or noon. Son of Enlil and Ninli. Husband of Ereshkigal. In later myths, becomes ruler of the Underworld.

Pro: Has a metal band named after him as well as a significant presence in pop culture. Him and Ereshkigal seem made for each other in the Underworld where he made his home, though he did trick his way out if it once which is a remarkable feat.

Con: Tends to be fiery and destructive as well as quite selfish and rude. He’s also a raging bully with a scorched earth policy and a penchant for satisfying his violent urges when he feels like it. Accepts no surrender and no mercy. Said to depict the negative aspects of the sun than anything and is associated with disease, demons, and evil forces. Always leaves a trail of destruction, disease, plague, and wasteland wherever he goes unless it’s the Underworld. More likely feared by the Mesopotamians than actively worshiped outside Cuthah. Also, we’re not sure about his relationship with Ereshkigal (though they might just be unusually kinky)who seems to dominate her in the Underworld in later tradition and doesn’t seem to respect her assistant. Seems not to be liked by the other gods. More like a Mesopotamian Ares.

Symbols and Motifs: Identified with Mars. Associated with a lion, bull, and rooster. Sometimes depicted with a mace or a schmitar. Can be seen wearing a lion’s mane.

City: Cuthah

12. Ninurta

Champion of the gods, Ninurta plays a role in countless myths fighting monsters and trying to do what's best for the pantheon.  However, sometimes he tends to get a little too into the action. But he's seen as a hero and the perfect warrior among the Assyrians.

Champion of the gods, Ninurta plays a role in countless myths fighting monsters and trying to do what’s best for the pantheon. However, sometimes he tends to get a little too into the action. But he’s seen as a hero and the perfect warrior among the Assyrians.

AKA: Nigrursu

Origin: Sumerian, one of the oldest gods in the pantheon.

Type: Major deity

Domain: God of agriculture, healing, war, hunting, victory, thunder, fertility, rain, and destruction. Champion of the gods. Son of Enlil and husband of Ugallu.

Pro: Brought about agriculture after defeating a stone army of the demon Asag. Said to be a healing god who releases humans from sickness or demon possession. Is known to be a great warrior who fought a series of monsters and demons. Was entrusted by Enki with several powerful Mes. Rescued the Tablets of Destiny from the beast Anzu and the “Slain Heroes.” And used Anzu to as his chariot driver that accompanies him into battle. Created mountains to beat Kur. While he can be quite fiery like Nergal, he’s aware of his duties and strives to put the pantheon first. Seen as the perfect warrior by the Assyrians. Kind of like a Mesopotamian version of Thor.

Con: While he’s not as bad as Nergal, sometimes tends to enjoy violence a little too much since even the heat of battle, the gods can’t prevent him from wreaking unimaginable havoc on enemies and/or the entire landscape. Also, tried to steal back the Tablets after safely returning them to his father, even destroying the security precautions. Can be arrogant and impetuous.

Symbols and Motifs: Identified with Saturn and the plow. Often appears with a bow and arrow, a sickle sword named Sargaz, and a talking and shape shifting mace named Sharur. Can be depicted as standing over a monster.

City: Nippur, Girsu, Kalhu, and Lagash.

13. Inanna

Better known as Ishtar, Inanna is easily one of the most prominent goddesses and deities in the pantheon.  However, while she may be a goddess of love and beauty, practically all mortal men who've been with her have ended up dead (explaining why Gilgamesh rejected her). Also, she can be such a power hungry and spoiled brat with a very violent temper.

Better known as Ishtar, Inanna is easily one of the most prominent goddesses and deities in the pantheon. However, while she may be a goddess of love and beauty, practically all mortal men who’ve been with her have ended up dead (explaining why Gilgamesh rejected her). Also, she can be such a power hungry and spoiled brat with a very violent temper.

AKA: Ishtar, Inana

Origin: Sumerian, one of the earliest gods.

Type: Among the Three Sky Gods of the Seven Gods Who Decree

Domain: Goddess of warfare, wisdom, love, sex, beauty, lust, and fertility as well as the stars and night sky. Younger sister of Ereshkigal. Wife of Dumuzid. Has her own sex changing attendant No. 2 Ninshubar and her own beautician Cara.

Pro: She’s the most prominent female deity in the pantheon as well as the most recognized Mesopotamian deity with a strong presence in pop culture. One of the few goddesses in the pantheon to retain her prominence (but maybe not much) as well as well as retain relative popularity over centuries. Is said to be very beautiful and knows how to dress. Embodies a lot of independence and self-determination as well as able to know her way around in a patriarchal system. Existence ensures that sex and procreation give joy and continue the circle of life. Recipient of prayers regarding impotency and unrequited love. Is formidable with a fearless nature and fertile imagination. Built a city for Dumuzid to rule called Uruk.

Con: Let’s not kid ourselves, her myths don’t really list her as having a consistent parentage or constant spouse, with her being sexually linked to various gods in the pantheon as well as some mortals to spare. It doesn’t help that a god can be her dad in one myth and her husband in another (like Anu, for instance) and/or perhaps her brother. Also, if you’re a mortal man she wants to sleep with, you might as well control your urges and just say no if you value your life. Seriously, men who’ve slept with her seldom live to tell the tale unless they’re deities. Gilgamesh rejects her for this very reason (but Dummuzid learns the hard way though). However, he soon learns that she doesn’t take rejection well, since she’s a self-absorbed and tantrum prone bitch who asks Anu for the Bull of Heaven (which he warned about causing drought) to terrorize Uruk. She can also start disasters, carnage, chaos, confusion, and all out war to those who disobey her (or just don’t give her what she wants {or does something she doesn’t like}, not that the alternative is much better). But she can be very volatile and unpredictable. Also, descended to Irkalla just to nab her sister’s powers after grabbing Enki’s Mes (by getting him drunk) in pursuit of world domination. Of course, she finds herself trapped since those who enter Irkalla should never leave unless told otherwise. Ereshkigal has a lot of fun with this.

Symbols and Motifs: Identified with Venus. Symbol is an 8 pointed star or rosette. Associated with lions and frequently depicted as standing on 2 lionesses. Represented by reeds in early iconography. Can be depicted nude or richly clothed with a string of attendants and devotees. Can also have stash of weapons or be seen with carnalian or lapis lazuli. Wears a horned headdress, tiered shirt, and occasionally a cape. In some portrayals, she can even have a beard.

City: Uruk, priestesses were said to practice sacred prostitution in her honor.

14. Utu

Sun god by day, underworld judge by night, Utu embodies the sun's positive aspects by bringing warmth and light. Best known for his image being on the Code of Hammurabi.

Sun god by day, underworld judge by night, Utu embodies the sun’s positive aspects by bringing warmth and light. Best known for his image being on the Code of Hammurabi.

AKA: Shamash

Origin: Sumerian, one of the oldest gods in the pantheon

Type: Among the Three Sky Gods of the Seven Gods Who Decree

Domain: God of justice, truth, law, divination, salvation, and the sun. Son of Nanna and Ningal. Travels through earth from his mountain sleeping quarters through chariot or boat. Presides as an Underworld judge by night (though we’re not sure how he gets any sleep). Husband of Aya who’s barely mentioned (mostly because he’s so busy). Responsible for maintaining order in the universe (and with a pantheon like this, it certainly needs it).

Pro: Was right to set up Inanna with Dummuzid (well, for awhile) and eagerly paid the bill for her wedding. Embodies the positive aspects of the sun by bringing warmth and light. Plays a role through treaties, oaths, and business transactions as well as sees through duplicity so he can’t be fooled. Can interpret divine judgement through omens and priests. Sought after by humans to ward against evil and curses. Protects travelers and merchants. Can also be rather persuasive. Assisted Gilgamesh in defeating Humbaba. Is of wholly heroic and ethical character.

Con: Doesn’t appear much in myths. Of course, he could be quite busy on human matters.

Symbols and Motifs: Depicted wearing a horned helmet and carrying a saw edge weapon or a notched dagger. Symbol is the sun or a sun disk (obviously). Sometimes holds a rod and rope. Associated with Saturn and lions. Sacred number is “20.”

City: Larsa

15. Marduk

Though a patron god of Babylon, Marduk is best known for defeating Tiamat using all what you see in a Michael Bay movie at his disposal. However,  he also created the world from her corpse and demanded to be in charge of all creation in order to defeat Tiamat. But to the Babylonians, he was totally awesome.

Though a patron god of Babylon, Marduk is best known for defeating Tiamat using all what you see in a Michael Bay movie at his disposal. However, he also created the world from her corpse and demanded to be in charge of all creation in order to defeat Tiamat. But to the Babylonians, he was totally awesome.

AKA: N/A

Origin: Babylonian

Type: National deity of the Babylonian Empire.

Domain: God of vegetation, justice, magic, law, salvation, and water as well as lord of truth. Son of Enki. Custodian of the Tablets of Destiny.Husband of Sarpanit and father of Nabu. Drives a chariot with 4 poisonous horses. Said to have 50 names.

Pro: Defeated Tiamat in the Enuma Elish (at least the one we’re familiar with) by immobilizing her with the 11 winds while she broke into unstoppable rage and killed her with his bow which he made himself as well as fletched the arrows (while carrying a mace). Can throw lightning and fill his body with flame (thanks to his large hyperspace arsenal). But his mightiest weapon is the rain-flood. Also, trapped her with a net he made as well. Said to have a decent relationship with his dad. Seen as an almost messianic figure to the Babylonians and is said he would visit the Babylon again.

Con: He was basically created by the Babylonians to justify their dominance. Demanded he be made chief deity and have authority over all creation after defeating and mutilating Tiamat as well as creating the universe with her body parts. The notion that humans should be created as slaves to the gods was his idea, which he fashioned out of Kingu’s blood. May have a massive case of entitlement. Killed Tiamat and Kingu in very nasty ways. Created tornadoes. While he’s powerful enough to help people, he can easily destroy them. Other than his parents or some of his other relatives, had zero respect for his elders. Took the Tablets of Destiny from Kingu to affirm his supremacy in the universe.

Symbols and Motifs: Identified with Jupiter. Snake dragon is his symbol along with a spade.

City: Babylon. Temple is ziggurat Etemenanki.

16. Abzu

While he and Tiamat brought forth a progeny of gods, Abzu thought they were too noisy and decided to kill em all. Luckily, Enki murdered him.

While he and Tiamat brought forth a progeny of gods, Abzu thought they were too noisy and decided to kill em all. Luckily, Enki murdered him.

AKA: Apsu

Origin: Babylonian (as a deity, no less)

Type: Primordial Being

Domain: God of primeval waters but only in the Enuma Elish. In Sumer, Abzu is mostly the name of the primeval sea between the earth and the underworld. Husband of Tiamat as well as father and forefathers of a lot of other gods and goddesses. Assisted by Mummu.

Pro: Well, he managed to produce a badass family with Tiamat who seemed somewhat loyal to him.

Con: Decided to do away with his progeny just because they were making lots of noise that was distracting him from his work (which was making babies with Tiamat?).

Symbols and Motifs: Traditionally depicted as a dragon or sea serpent along with his wife.

City: None.

17. Kingu

After Abzu's death, Tiamat took her son as her consort and head of her army. Of course, he had leadership aspirations of his own but as soon as Marduk defeated Tiamat, he was next for the chopping block.

After Abzu’s death, Tiamat took her son as her consort and head of her army. Of course, he had leadership aspirations of his own but as soon as Marduk defeated Tiamat, he was next for the chopping block.

AKA: Qingu

Origin: Babylonian

Type: Major deity

Domain: Son and consort of Tiamat (with Abzu) as well as the general of her army (don’t ask) in the Enuma Elish. Candidate for ruler of the gods. Only appears in the Enuma Elish. Had Tablets of Destiny on his chest.

Pro: Well, he was loyal to his mother, for better or for worse.

Con: Was his mother’s consort and wanted to rule the universe himself. Not sure if Tiamat was under his influence after Abzu was murdered. Fled when Marduk came after despite being head of Tiamat’s army, but he got killed anyway as well as had his blood used to create humans by Enki.

Symbols and Motifs: Like his parents, tends to be depicted as a dragon.

City: None.

18. Dumuzid

Dumuzid is best known as a shepherd god and Inanna's husband whom she built a city for him to rule. But when she's trapped in the Underworld, he's the only man who doesn't mourn and is forced to take her place for 6 months.

Dumuzid is best known as a shepherd god and Inanna’s husband whom she built a city for him to rule. But when she’s trapped in the Underworld, he’s the only man who doesn’t mourn and is forced to take her place for 6 months.

AKA: Tammuz, Dumuzi

Origin: Sumerian

Type: Major deity

Domain: God of food, animals, fertility, and vegetation as well as life, death, and rebirth. Husband (or lover) of Inanna.

Pro: Seemed very determined to win Inanna (even if it was to be king for 36,000 years). Death was widely mourned by not just his goddesses, but also his animals. Reputed equivalent to the Macedonian Adonis.

Con: Didn’t mourn for Inanna when she was killed in the Underworld despite that she married him while he was a shepherd, built Uruk for him to rule, and gave him 2 demigod sons. Luckily he gets to spend 6 months on earth while his sister takes over for him during the winter. Perhaps he relished in Inanna’s absence a bit too much, but we all know what she can be like. Then again, I bet things have cooled down considerably between them.

Symbols and Motifs: Represented by date clusters or heart of date palm.

City: Uruk and Bad-Tibira

19. Mamitu

Mamitu is a judge of the Underworld who knows every history, life cycle, and fate for every creature in the universe. Still, stay on her good side. But she will tell you your fortune, for a fee.

Mamitu is a judge of the Underworld who knows every history, life cycle, and fate for every creature in the universe. Still, stay on her good side. But she will tell you your fortune, for a fee.

AKA: N/A

Origin: Akkadian

Type: Minor goddess

Domain: Goddess of destiny, oath, prophecy, and fate as well as judge of the Underworld. Decreed fates for newborns.

Pro: Knows the life cycle, history, and the fate of every creature in the universe and will let anyone know (but for a price).

Con: We’re not sure if what she’s saying is real prophecy or stuff she made up. But please, it pays to stay on her good side and you will a long life. Also, if you want to know your future, just send her a blank check to her priests. Can also be a demon of irrevocable curses.

Symbols and Motifs: Has the head of a goat with a raven as a symbol, I think.

City: None

20. Nabu

Son and assistant of Marduk, Nabu engraves the destinies the gods have decided and can determine the length of a human life.  Other than this not much is known.

Son and assistant of Marduk, Nabu engraves the destinies the gods have decided and can determine the length of a human life. Other than this not much is known.

AKA: N/A

Origin: Amorite

Type: Major deity

Domain: God of wisdom, writing, and vegetation. Keeper of the Tablets of Destiny. Son of Marduk and Sarpanit in the Babylonian rendition as well as Marduk’s assistant and scribe. Husband of Tashmetum.

Pro: Engraves the destinies of each person as the gods have decided and can determine the length of human life. Seems to have a decent relationship with Marduk despite possibly being the Mesopotamian equivalent of a nerd.

Con: Doesn’t seem to have much of a role in myths or much of a personality. But since he can determine the length of your life, be on his good side.

Symbols and Motifs: Symbols are clay writing tablet and writing stylus. Wears a horned cap and stands with his hands clasped. Rides on a winged dragon, originally belonging to his dad. Has a long fringe robe under a slit skirt.

City: Borsippa

21. Namtar

A god of death and pestilence, Namtar is an assistant to his mother Ereshkigal in the Underworld. Though people give him offerings to prevent his wrath, he isn't well liked and he knows it. Possible inspiration for the Grim Reaper.

A god of death and pestilence, Namtar is an assistant to his mother Ereshkigal in the Underworld. Though people give him offerings to prevent his wrath, he isn’t well liked and he knows it. Possible inspiration for the Grim Reaper.

AKA: N/A

Origin: Sumerian

Type: Minor god

Domain: God of death and fate as well as minister and messenger to Anu, Nergal, and Ereshkigal. Son of Enlil and Ereshkigal as well as husband of Husibiag.

Pro: Very loyal to Ereskigal and willing to take her place if she can’t come. Can leave and return to the Underworld if he has to. Can be prevented with inflicting pestilence with offerings. Very knowledgeable in anatomy.

Con: Cursed Inanna with 60 diseases on her entrance to the Underworld on different parts of her body. Considered responsible for diseases and pests and can inflict them if he feels like it. Isn’t well liked and knows it. Still, his mother won’t take it well if he’s disrespected.

Symbols and Motifs: Very little iconography is attributed to him. But he’s sometimes likened to the Grim Reaper and may have been the inspiration for it.

City: None

22. Nanshe

A benevolent goddess, Nanshe embodies social justice principles like caring for orphans and widows, advising those in debt, and taking in refugees. Nevertheless, she doesn't figure as much in myths as goddess like Inanna and Ereshkigal do.

A benevolent goddess, Nanshe embodies social justice principles like caring for orphans and widows, advising those in debt, and taking in refugees. Nevertheless, she doesn’t figure as much in myths as goddess like Inanna and Ereshkigal do.

AKA: Nazi

Origin: Sumerian

Type: Major deity

Domain: Goddess of social justice, prophecy, fertility, storerooms, and fishing. Daughter of Enki and Ninhursag. Said to have dominion over all animals in the Persian Gulf.

Pro: She’s a benevolent goddess said to nurture orphans, provide for widows, give advice for those in debt, and take refugees from war torn areas. Can give oracular messages and interpret dreams to foretell the future. Seems to avert being sidelined in later mythology unlike many goddesses in Mesopotamia as her prominence seems to rise that she eventually has assistants. Sometimes other gods rely on her for guidance. Also, sees that weights and measures are correct. Not to mention, helped heal her father Enki.

Con: Unfortunately, the name “Nancy” is probably derived from her, which was a unisex name at the time (she shares the name of a king).Not to mention, she was originally referred to as, “Nazi.” Also, she doesn’t have as much role in myths as other goddesses who quickly overshadow her.

Symbols and Motifs: Associated with birds and bats, particularly ravens and pelicans. Sometimes depicted with scales as well as represented by a fish.

City: Nina. Seat was the Sirara Temple. Also, Lagash.

23. Ashur

While the Babylonians have Marduk, the Assyrians had  Ashur as their patron hero god. However, he's not nearly as memorable.

While the Babylonians have Marduk, the Assyrians had Ashur as their patron hero god. However, he’s not nearly as memorable.

AKA: N/A

Origin: Assyrian

Type: Major and national deity of the Assyrian Empire.

Domain: God of war and Assyria. More of a symbol than a deity but under the Assyrian Empire, he was the chief god who performed Marduk’s tasks in the Enuma Elish.

Pro: Well, if the Assyrians are to be believed, he must be quite a badass, since he tends to embody the Assyrian warlike spirit. And that people still named their kids after him in present day Syria.

Con: Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to have much of a personality and doesn’t appear much. Probably used by the Assyrians to justify their domination of northern Mesopotamia and anywhere else they ruled.

Symbols and Motifs: Represented by a winged disc with horns as well as portrayed with a bow and arrow. Sometimes seen riding a snake-dragon.

City: Assur

24. Nusku

A god of fire Nusku is seen as a mediator between the gods and humanity as well as protector of the family. He also figured in a lot of rituals but not so much in myths.

A god of fire Nusku is seen as a mediator between the gods and humanity as well as protector of the family. He also figured in a lot of rituals but not so much in myths.

AKA: Nuska, Girra, Gibil

Origin: Assyrian

Type: Minor god

Domain: God of fire, light, and human civilization. Patron of the arts. Assistant to Enlil.

Pro: Natural association of all human progress with the discovery use of fire. Seen as mediator between humans and the gods as well as protector of the family, especially during the night where he’s said to ensure good dreams and deter nightmares. Figures in a lot of rituals.

Con: Doesn’t play much of a role in myths and doesn’t have much of a personality.

Symbols and Motifs: Key symbols are a lamp and a rooster.

City: Harran and Nippur.

25. Tashmetum

Wife of Nabu,  Tashmetum is often called to listen to prayers and grant requests. A beauty in her own right, her relationship with Nabu was often celebrated through ritual and ceremony.

Wife of Nabu, Tashmetum is often called to listen to prayers and grant requests. A beauty in her own right, her relationship with Nabu was often celebrated through ritual and ceremony.

AKA: Tashmetu, Tashmit

Origin: Akkadian

Type: Minor goddess

Domain: Goddess of supplication. Listener of prayers and requests. Wife of Nabu.

Pro: Well, she’s called upon to listen to prayers and grant requests. Said to be rather popular since she shares a name with a queen. Reputed to be rather attractive.

Con: Unfortunately, the only references to her in mythology as far as we know is her marriage to Nabu in which they make love in a garden before her husband hunts an ox. So while she may be a significant figure in Mesopotamia, we’re not sure how big a role she played.

Symbols and Motifs: Very little iconography is attributed to her.

City: Borsippa

26. Ninshubur

As Innana's best friend and messenger to the gods, Ninshubur plead with Enki to revive Inanna after Ereshkigal struck her dead in the Underworld. However,  she also abetted in many of Inanna's schemes as well.

As Innana’s best friend and messenger to the gods, Ninshubur plead with Enki to revive Inanna after Ereshkigal struck her dead in the Underworld. However, she also abetted in many of Inanna’s schemes as well.

AKA: Papsukkal (as a guy)

Origin: Sumerian

Type: Minor goddess

Domain: Queen of the East, messenger and Inanna’s  second-in-command. Also travels and works for other gods as well.

Pro: She’s Inanna’s loyal confidante who’d do anything to assist or help her. Pleaded with Enki to save her life after she was trapped in the Underworld.

Con: Unfortunately, being loyal to Inanna means having to assist in dubious activities such as stealing the Mes from Enki. And she basically doesn’t do anything to call her out on it. Also, in later mythologies, she’s changed to a guy.

Symbols and Motifs: There is little iconography attributed to her.

City: None

27. Nidaba

As scribe and accountant to the gods, Nidaba kept records, chronicled events, as well as performed any bookwork related duties to the pantheon. She also had her own school and did charity drives with Nanshe. However, she was eventually displaced by Nabu in later myths.

As scribe and accountant to the gods, Nidaba kept records, chronicled events, as well as performed any bookwork related duties to the pantheon. She also had her own school and did charity drives with Nanshe. However, she was eventually displaced by Nabu in later myths.

AKA: Nanibgal, Nisaba

Origin: Sumerian

Type: Minor goddess

Domain: Goddess of writing, learning, education, accounting, and harvest. Sometimes chief scribe to Nanshe and at times scribe to the gods.

Pro: Has a school of learning Enki built for her so she could better serve those in need. Keeps records, chronicles events, and performs various other bookwork-related duties for the gods. In charge of marking regional borders. With Nanshe, she occasionally helps settle disputes with mortals and gives out aid. Also, records visitors to Nanshe as well as takes care of Ninhursag’s temple.Is also a teacher of mortal scribes and divine deities. Many gods turn to her for advice.

Con: In the Babylonian period, she was basically displaced by Nabu. It’s also said she bears some resemblance to Gilgamesh’s friend Enkidu. Also, being a benevolent goddess and divine a accountant, she probably doesn’t appear in myths much.

Symbols and Motifs: Depicted with flowing hair and a horned tiara while holding grain and a crescent moon.

City: Eresh and Umma.

28. Geshtinanna

As her brother was dragged off to the Underworld, Geshtinanna  mourned his loss for days and nights as well as offered to take his place. Thus, she tends to remain in the Underworld whenever Dumuzid isn't there. Also seen as a divine poet and interpreter of dreams as well as the goddess of the vine.

As her brother was dragged off to the Underworld, Geshtinanna mourned his loss for days and nights as well as offered to take his place. Thus, she tends to remain in the Underworld whenever Dumuzid isn’t there. Also seen as a divine poet and interpreter of dreams as well as the goddess of the vine.

AKA: Ngeshtin-ana

Origin: Sumerian, one of the oldest gods in the pantheon

Type: Major deity

Domain: Goddess of the heavenly vine, wine, writing, music, and cold seasons. Divine poet and interpreter of dreams. Sister of Dumuzid.

Pro: Devoted to her brother Dumuzid that she was willing to take his place in the Underworld after Inanna’s screw up which put him there (at least she’s there for 6 months). And when he died, she lamented his loss days and nights. Also willing to protect him as he changes into a gazelle.

Con: There’s not much else about her besides what pertains to certain fragments of hymns and Inanna’s descent to the Underworld. It’s said that her cult might’ve died into the Old Babylonian period.

Symbols and Motifs: Iconography is unknown.

City: Isin, Uruk, and Nippur.

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One response to “Mesopotamian Mythology Reexamined: the Gods

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