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Encyclopedia > Babylonian and Assyrian religion
This diorite head is believed to represent king Hammurabi
This diorite head is believed to represent king Hammurabi

Babylonian and Assyrian religion was a series of belief systems in places in the early civilisations of the Euphrates valley. This article examines the period of c. 3500 BCE to c. 300 BCE. The development of the religion of Babylonia was important in the history of the people who practiced it, and in many ways was a direct reflection of developments in their society. Download high resolution version (563x700, 69 KB)Many scholars believe this diorite head discovered at Susa represents king Hammurabi. ... Download high resolution version (563x700, 69 KB)Many scholars believe this diorite head discovered at Susa represents king Hammurabi. ... Categories: Mineral stubs | Igneous rocks ... This diorite head is believed to represent king HammurabiHammurabi (also transliterated Hammu-rapi or Khammurabi) was the sixth king of Babylon. ... Length 2,800 km Elevation of the source 4,500 m Average discharge 818 m³/s Area watershed 765,831 km² Origin  Eastern Turkey Mouth  Shatt al Arab Basin countries Turkey Syria Iraq Boat on the Shatt-al-Arab The Euphrates (the traditional Greek name for the river, which is... (36th century BC - 35th century BC - 34th century BC - other centuries) (5th millennium BC - 4th millennium BC - 3rd millennium BC) Events ? - Formation of the Sahara Desert 3450 (?) - Stage IId of the Naqada culture in Egypt Significant persons Inventions, discoveries, introductions ? _ Irrigation in Egypt ? - First use of Cuneiform (script) Categories... Centuries: 4th century BC - 3rd century BC - 2nd century BC Decades: 350s BC 340s BC 330s BC 320s BC 310s BC - 300s BC - 290s BC 280s BC 270s BC 260s BC 250s BC Years: 305 BC 304 BC 303 BC 302 BC 301 BC - 300 BC - 299 BC 298 BC... Babylon is the Greek variant of Akkadian Babilu, an ancient city in Mesopotamia (Location: 32°32′11″ N 44°25′15″ E, modern Al Hillah, Iraq). ...

Contents


The impact of Hammurabi

Leaving aside the primitive phases of the religion as lying beyond historical investigation, a sharp distinction can be made between the pre-Hammurabic age and the post-Hammurabic age.


While the political movement represented by Hammurabi may have been proceeding for some time prior to the appearance of the great conqueror; the period of c. 1700 BCE, when the union of the Euphratean states was effected by Hammurabi, marks the beginning of a new epoch in the religion as well as in the political history of the Euphrates valley. Politics is the process and method of decision-making for groups of human beings. ... This diorite head is believed to represent king HammurabiHammurabi (also transliterated Hammu-rapi or Khammurabi) was the sixth king of Babylon. ... (18th century BC - 17th century BC - 16th century BC - other centuries) (1690s BC - 1680s BC - 1670s BC - 1660s BC - 1650s BC - 1640s BC - 1630s BC - 1620s BC - 1610s BC - 1600s BC - 1590s BC - other decades) (3rd millennium BC - 2nd millennium BC - 1st millennium BC) Events 1700 - 1500 BC -- Hurrian conquests...


In the post-Hammurabic period, the pantheon assumed distinct shapes. The strong tendency towards concentrating in one deity — Marduk — the attributes of all others was offset by the natural desire to make the position of Marduk accord with the rank acquired by the secular rulers. As these emphasized their supremacy by grouping around them a court of loyal attendants dependent in rank and ready to do their master's bidding, so the gods of the chief centres and those of the minor local cults formed a group around Marduk; and the larger the group the greater was the reflected glory of the chief figure. This article concerns secularity, that is, being secular, in various senses. ...


Hence, throughout the subsequent periods of Babylonian history, and despite a decided progress towards a monotheistic conception of divine government of the universe, the recognition of a large number of gods and their consorts by the side of Marduk remained firmly embedded doctrine in the Babylonian religion, as it did in the Assyrian religion, with the important variation, however, of transferring the role of the head of the pantheon from Marduk to Assur. Monotheism (in Greek monon = single and Theos = God) is the belief in a single, universal, all-encompassing deity. ... Doctrine, from Latin doctrina, (compare doctor), means a body of teachings or instructions, taught principles or positions, as the body of teachings in a branch of knowledge or belief system. ... The city of Asshur (or Assur or Ashur) on the Tigris was originally a colony of Babylonia, and later became the first capital city of Assyria, to which it gave its name. ...


The old regional gods

Before Hammurabi, corresponding to the states into which we find the country divided before 1700 BC, there were a number of religious centres such as Nippur, Erech, Kutha (Cuthah), Ur, Sippar, Shirgulla (Lagash), Eridu, and Agade, in each of which some god was looked upon as the chief deity around whom there were gathered a number of minor deities and with whom there was invariably associated a female consort. The city of Nippur [nipoor] (Sumerian Nibru, Akkadian Nibbur) was one of the most ancient of all the Babylonian cities of which we have any knowledge, the special seat of the worship of the Sumerian god, Enlil, ruler of the cosmos subject to An alone. ... For uses in the fiction of J. R. R. Tolkiens, see Uruk-hai, Erech (Middle-earth). ... Kutha in the sumerian culture refers to the underworld. ... UR, Ur, or ur can refer to several things: The City of Ur Internet slang for your or youre Ur, the first known continent Royal Game of Ur Ur is the name of a minor Gnostic deity. ... Sippara (Zimbir in Sumerian, Sippar in Assyro-Babylonian) was an ancient Babylonian city on the east bank of the Euphrates, north of Babylon. ... Lagash or Sirpurla was one of the oldest cities of Sumer and later Babylonia. ... Eridu (or Eridug) was an ancient city seven miles southwest of Ur. ... Akkad (or Agade) was a city and its region of northern Iraq) between Assyria to the northwest and Sumer to the south. ... A deity or a god, is a postulated preternatural being, usually, but not always, of significant power, worshipped, thought holy, divine Jeffrey, or sacred, held in high regard, or respected by human beings. ... A consort is somebodys spouse, usually a royalty. ...


The rise of Marduk

The jurisdiction of this chief god was, however, limited to the political extent or control of the district in which the main seat of the cult of the deity in question lay. Mild attempts to group the chief deities, associated with the most important religious and political centres into a regular pantheon, were made — notably in Nippur, and later in Ur — but such attempts lacked the enduring quality which attached to Hammurabi's avowed policy to raise Marduk – the patron deity of the future capital, Babylon – to the head of the entire Babylonian pantheon, as Babylon itself came to be recognized as the real centre of the entire Euphrates valley. Marduk and his dragon, from a Babylonian cylinder seal Marduk [märdook] (Sumerian spelling in Akkadian AMAR.UTU solar calf; Biblical Merodach) was the name of a late generation god from ancient Mesopotamia and patron deity of the city of Babylon, who, when Babylon permanently became the political center... Babylon is the Greek variant of Akkadian Babilu, an ancient city in Mesopotamia (Location: 32°32′11″ N 44°25′15″ E, modern Al Hillah, Iraq). ... A Pantheon (Greek: παν, pan, all + θεόν, theon, of the gods), is a set of all the gods of a particular religion or mythology, such as the gods of Hinduism, Greek mythology, Norse mythology. ...


Associated with Marduk was his consort Sarpanit, and grouped around the pair, as princes around a throne, were the chief deities of the older centres, like Ea and Damkina of Eridu, Nabu and Tashmit of Borsippa, Nergal, and Allatu of Kutha, Shamash and A of Sippar, Sin and Ningal of Ur, as well as pairs like Ramman (or Adad), and Shala, whose central seat is unknown to us. For other meanings see the disambiguation page EA Ea (written by means of two signs signifying house and water), in the Babylonian religion, originally Enki, the patron deity of the city of Eridu, situated in the wetlands of the Euphrates valley at some distance from the Persian Gulf. ... In Sumerian mythology, Ninhursag (or Ki) was the earth and mother-goddess. ... Eridu (or Eridug) was an ancient city seven miles southwest of Ur. ... It has been suggested that Nebo (god) be merged into this article or section. ... Borsippa was an important ancient city of Mesopotamia (Iraq), built on both sides of a lake about eleven km (7. ... The name Nergal (or Nirgal or Nirgali) refers to a deity in Babylonia with the main seat of his cult at Cuthah (or Kutha) represented by the mound of Tell-Ibrahim. ... Kutha in the sumerian culture refers to the underworld. ... Shamash in his trone from the tablette of Sippar ca. ... Sippara (Zimbir in Sumerian, Sippar in Assyro-Babylonian) was an ancient Babylonian city on the east bank of the Euphrates, north of Babylon. ... Sin was the name of the lunar god in Babylonia and Assyria. ... Nanna is a god in Sumerian mythology, god of the moon, son of Enlil and Ninlil. ... UR, Ur, or ur can refer to several things: The City of Ur Internet slang for your or youre Ur, the first known continent Royal Game of Ur Ur is the name of a minor Gnostic deity. ... Adad in Akkadian and Ishkur in Sumerian are the names of the storm-god in the Babylonian-Assyrian pantheon, both usually written by the logogram dIM. The Akkadian god Adad is cognate in name and functions with northwest Semitic god Hadad. ... Adad in Akkadian and Ishkur in Sumerian are the names of the storm-god in the Babylonian-Assyrian pantheon, both usually written by the logogram dIM. The Akkadian god Adad is cognate in name and functions with northwest Semitic god Hadad. ... Adad in Akkadian and Ishkur in Sumerian are the names of the storm-god in the Babylonian-Assyrian pantheon, both usually written by the logogram dIM. The Akkadian god Adad is cognate in name and functions with northwest Semitic god Hadad. ...


In this process of accommodating ancient prerogatives to new conditions, it was inevitable that attributes belonging specifically to the one or the other of these gods, should have been transferred to Marduk, who thus becomes an eclectic power, taking on the traits of Enlil, Ea, Shamash, Nergal, Adad, Sin (the moon-god), and Shamash — a kind of composite residuum of all the chief gods. Enlil was the name of a chief deity in Babylonian religion, perhaps pronounced and sometimes rendered in translations as Ellil in later Akkadian. ...


In the religious literature, this process can be traced with perfect definiteness. The older incantations, associated with Ea, were re-edited so as to give to Marduk the supreme power over demons, witches and sorcerers; the hymns and lamentations, composed for the cult of Enlil, Shamash, and of Adad were transformed into paeans and appeals to Marduk, while the ancient myths arising in the various religious and political centres underwent a similar process of adaptation to changed conditions, and as a consequence their original meaning was obscured by the endeavour to assign all mighty deeds and acts, originally symbolical of the change of seasons or of occurrences in nature, to the patron deity of Babylon — the supreme head of the entire Babylonian pantheon. See also hymn - a program to decrypt iTunes music files. ... The Book of Lamentations is a book of the Bible Old Testament and Jewish Tanakh. ...


Besides the chief deities and their consorts, various minor ones, representing, likewise, patron gods of less important localities, were added at one time or the other to the court of Marduk. However, these deities still retained, for the most part, their independence — for example, Anu was still the god of the high heavens, and Ishtar still symbolized fertility and vitality in general. In Sumerian mythology and later for Assyrians and Babylonians, Anu (see also An) was a sky-god, the god of heaven, lord of constellations, king of gods, spirits and demons, and dwelt in the highest heavenly regions. ... Ishtar is the Akkadian counterpart to the Sumerian Inanna and to the cognate northwest Semitic goddess Astarte. ...


The cult of Anu

There are some reasons for believing that the oldest seat, and possibly the original seat, of the Anu cult was in Uruk, as that is where the earliest records show Inanna, Ishtar's Sumerian counterpart, had her most prominent cult centre. Uruk (Sumerian Unug, Biblical Erech, Greek Orchoë and Arabic Warka), was an ancient city of Sumer and later Babylonia, situated east of the present bed of the Euphrates, on the line of the ancient Nil canal, in a region of marshes, about 140 miles SSE from Baghdad. ... Innana was one of the most revered of Goddess names among the later Sumerian peoples. ... Sumer (or Shumer, Sumeria, Shinar, native ki-en-gir) formed the southern part of Mesopotamia from the time of settlement by the Sumerians until the time of Babylonia. ...


Anu remained more or less of an abstraction during the various periods of the Babylonian-Assyrian religion, and took little part in the active cult of the temples. Associated with Anu was a pale reflection, a consort, Antum, perhaps assigned to him under the influence of the widely prevalent view of the early Semites which conceived of gods always in pairs. Semitic is an adjective which in common parlance mistakenly refers specifically to Jewish things, while the term actually refers to things originating among speakers of Semitic languages or people descended from them, and in a linguistic context to the northeastern subfamily of Afro-Asiatic. ...


The triads

Anu's unique position as the chief god of the highest heavens was always recognized in the theological system developed by the priests, which found an expression in making him the first figure of a triad, consisting of Anu, Enlil and Ea, among whom the priests divided the three divisions of the universe, the heavens, the earth with the atmosphere above it, and the watery expanse respectively. Theology is literally rational discourse concerning God (Greek θεος, theos, God, + λογος, logos, rational discourse). By extension, it also refers to the study of other religious topics. ... Triad is a collective term that describes many branches of an underground society and organizations based in Hong Kong and also operating in Mainland China, Macao, and Chinatowns in Europe and North America. ... The deepest visible-light image of the cosmos. ...

Detail of the reconstructed Ishtar Gate
Detail of the reconstructed Ishtar Gate

This systematization of the pantheon, after the days of Hammurabi, did not seriously interfere with the independence of the goddess, Ishtar. She was frequently associated with Marduk, and still more closely with the chief god of Assyria, the god Assur (Assur occupied in the north the position accorded to Marduk in the south). Ishtar was sometimes spoken of as Assur's consort. The belief persisted that, as the source of all life, Assur stood apart. Detail of the Ishtar Gate (Pergamon Museum, Berlin. ... Detail of the Ishtar Gate (Pergamon Museum, Berlin. ... The reconstructed Ishtar Gate in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin A detail from the reconstructed gate. ... A Pantheon (Greek: παν, pan, all + θεόν, theon, of the gods), is a set of all the gods of a particular religion or mythology, such as the gods of Hinduism, Greek mythology, Norse mythology. ... Assyria in earliest historical times referred to a region on the Upper Tigris river, named for its original capital, the city of Ashur. ... The city of Asshur (or Assur or Ashur) on the Tigris was originally a colony of Babylonia, and later became the first capital city of Assyria, to which it gave its name. ...


By the side of the first triad, consisting of Anu, Enlil and Ea —disconnected in this form entirely from all local associations — we encounter a second triad composed of Shamash, Sin, and Ishtar. As the first triad symbolized the three divisions of the universe — the heavens, earth and the watery element — so the second represented the three great forces of nature — the sun, the moon and the life-giving power. At times Ishtar also appears in hymns and myths as the general personification of nature. A seventh great Sumerian deity, the mother goddess Ninhursag/Ninmah, seems to have declined in popularity as Ishtar's popularity increased. See also hymn - a program to decrypt iTunes music files. ... This dog has been dressed in human accessories for humorous effect. ... In Sumerian mythology, Ninhursag (or Ki) was the earth and mother-goddess. ...


The rivalry between Assur and Marduk

Originally the patron god of the city of Assur, when this city became the centre of a growing and independent district, Assur was naturally advanced to the same position in the north that Marduk occupied in the south. The religious predominance of the city of Babylon served to maintain for Marduk, recognition even on the part of the Assyrian rulers, who, in the political side likewise, conceded to Babylonia the form at least of an independent district even when, as kings of Assyria, they exercised absolute control over it. They appointed their sons or brothers governors of Babylonia, and in the long array of titles that the kings gave themselves, a special phrase was always set aside to indicate their mastery over Babylonia. "To take the hand of Bel-Marduk" was the ceremony of installation which Assyrian rulers recognized equally with Babylonians as an essential preliminary to exercising authority in the Euphrates valley.


Marduk and Assur became rivals only when Babylonia gave the Assyrians trouble; and when in 689 BC, Sennacherib, whose patience had been exhausted by the difficulties encountered in maintaining peace in the south, actually besieged and destroyed the city of Babylon, he removed the statue of Marduk to Nineveh as a symbol that the god's rule had come to an end. His grandson, Assur-bani-pal, with a view of reestablishing amicable relations, restored the statue to the temple E-Saggila, in Babylon and performed the time-honoured ceremony of "taking the hand of Bel" as a symbol of his homage to the ancient head of the Babylonian pantheon. Centuries: 8th century BC - 7th century BC - 6th century BC Decades: 730s BC 720s BC 710s BC 700s BC 690s BC - 680s BC - 670s BC 660s BC 650s BC 640s BC 630s BC Events and Trends 689 BC - King Sennacherib of Assyria sacks Babylon 687 BC - Gyges becomes king of... Sennacherib in his chariot Sennacherib (in Akkadian Sin-ahhe-eriba, Sin (the moon god) has taken the place of brothers to me) was the son of Sargon II, whom he succeeded on the throne of Assyria (705 BC–681 BC). ... This article is about the ancient Middle Eastern city of Nineveh. ... Assurbanipal in a relief from the north palace at Nineveh There were several Assyrian kings named Assur-bani-pal, also spelled Asurbanipal, Assurbanipal (most commonly), Ashurbanipal and Ashshurbanipal, but the best known was Assurbanipal IV.  Ashurbanipal, or Assurbanipal, (reigned 668 - 627 BCE), the son of Esarhaddon and Naqia-Zakutu...


But for the substitution of Assur for Marduk, the Assyrian pantheon was the same as that set up in the south, though some of the gods were endowed with attributes which differ slightly from those which mark the same gods in the south. The war-like nature of the Assyrians was reflected in their conceptions of the gods, who thus became little Assurs by the side of the great protector of arms, the big Assur. The cult and ritual in the north likewise followed the models set up in the south. The hymns, composed for the temples of Babylonia, were transferred to Assur, Calah, Harran, Arbela, and Nineveh in the north; and the myths and legends also wandered to Assyria, where, to be sure, they underwent certain modifications. To all practical purposes, however, the religion of Assyria was identical with that practised in the south. The city of Asshur (or Assur or Ashur) on the Tigris was originally a colony of Babylonia, and later became the first capital city of Assyria, to which it gave its name. ... Categories: Historical stubs | Assyria ... Ruins of the Ulu Cami (Great Mosque) at Harran Harran, also known as Carrhae, is an archeological site in present day southeastern Turkey, 24 miles (39 kilometers) southeast of Sanli Urfa. ... Arbil, (or Erbil or Irbil, known as Hewler in Kurdish), is one of Iraqs larger cities, located at 36. ... This article is about the ancient Middle Eastern city of Nineveh. ...


Chronology

There can be considered to have been four periods in the development of the Babylonian-Assyrian religion:

  1. the oldest period from c. 3500 BC to the time of Hammurabi (c. 1700 BCE)
  2. the post-Hammurabic period in Babylonia
  3. the Assyrian period (c. 1365 BC) to the destruction of Nineveh in 612 BCE
  4. the neo-Babylonian period, beginning with Nabopolassar (625 BC605 BCE), the first independent ruler under whom Babylonia inaugurates a new though short-lived era of power and prosperity, which ends with Cyrus's conquest of Babylon and Babylonia in 539 BCE, though since the religion proceeds on its undisturbed course for several centuries after the end of the political independence, we might legitimately carry this period to the Greek conquest of the Euphrates valley (331 BCE), when new influences began to make themselves felt which gradually led to the extinction of the old cults.

In this long period of c. 3500 to c. 300 BCE, the changes introduced after the adjustment to the new conditions, produced by Hammurabi's union of the Euphratean states, are of a minor character. As already indicated, the local cults in the important centres of the south and north maintained themselves despite the tendency towards centralization, and while the cults themselves varied according to the character of the gods worshipped in each centre, the general principles were the same and the rites differed in minor details rather than in essential variations. (36th century BC - 35th century BC - 34th century BC - other centuries) (5th millennium BC - 4th millennium BC - 3rd millennium BC) Events ? - Formation of the Sahara Desert 3450 (?) - Stage IId of the Naqada culture in Egypt Significant persons Inventions, discoveries, introductions ? _ Irrigation in Egypt ? - First use of Cuneiform (script) Categories... (18th century BC - 17th century BC - 16th century BC - other centuries) (1690s BC - 1680s BC - 1670s BC - 1660s BC - 1650s BC - 1640s BC - 1630s BC - 1620s BC - 1610s BC - 1600s BC - 1590s BC - other decades) (3rd millennium BC - 2nd millennium BC - 1st millennium BC) Events 1700 - 1500 BC -- Hurrian conquests... (Redirected from 1365 BC) Centuries: 15th century BC - 14th century BC - 13th century BC Decades: 1410s BC 1400s BC 1390s BC 1380s BC 1370s BC - 1360s BC - 1350s BC 1340s BC 1330s BC 1320s BC 1310s BC Events and Trends Significant People 1368 BC - Death of Erichthonius, mythical King of... Centuries: 8th century BC - 7th century BC - 6th century BC Decades: 660s BC 650s BC 640s BC 630s BC 620s BC - 610s BC - 600s BC 590s BC 580s BC 570s BC 560s BC Events and trends 619 BC - Alyattes becomes king of Lydia 619 BC - Death of Zhou xiang wang... Nabopolassar (Akkadian:Nabû-apal-usur) was the first king of the Chaldean Empire, better known as Babylon (625 BC-605 BC). ... Centuries: 8th century BC - 7th century BC - 6th century BC Decades: 670s BC 660s BC 650s BC 640s BC 630s BC - 620s BC - 610s BC 600s BC 590s BC 580s BC 570s BC Events and Trends 627 BC - Death of Assurbanipal, king of Assyria; he is succeeded by Assur_etel_ilani (approximate... Centuries: 8th century BC - 7th century BC - 6th century BC Decades: 650s BC 640s BC 630s BC 620s BC 610s BC - 600s BC - 590s BC 580s BC 570s BC 560s BC 550s BC Events and trends Fall of the Assyrian Empire and Rise of Babylon 609 BC - King Josiah of... Cyrus the Great Cyrus II of Persia, widely known as Cyrus the Great, (ca. ... Centuries: 7th century BC - 6th century BC - 5th century BC Decades: 580s BC - 570s BC - 560s BC - 550s BC - 540s BC - 530s BC - 520s BC - 510s BC - 500s BC - 490s BC - 480s BC Events and trends 538 BC - Babylon occupied by Cyrus the Great 537 BC - Jews transported to Babylon... Centuries: 5th century BC - 4th century BC - 3rd century BC Decades: 380s BC 370s BC 360s BC 350s BC 340s BC - 330s BC - 320s BC 310s BC 300s BC 290s BC 280s BC Years: 336 BC 335 BC 334 BC 333 BC 332 BC - 331 BC - 330 BC 329 BC... In religion and sociology, a cult is a relatively small and cohesive group of people (often a new religious movement) devoted to beliefs or practices that the surrounding culture or society considers to be far outside the mainstream. ...


Astral theology

An important factor which thus served to maintain the rites in a more or less stable condition was the predominance of what may be called the astral theology as the theoretical substratum of the Babylonian religion, and which is equally pronounced in the religious system of Assyria. The essential feature of this astral theology is the assumption of a close link between the movements going on in the heavens and occurrences on earth, which led to identifying the gods and goddesses with heavenly bodies — planets and stars, besides sun and moon — and to assigning the seats of all the deities in the heavens.


The personification of the two great luminaries — the sun and the moon — was the first step in the unfolding of this system, and this was followed by placing the other deities where Shamash and Sin had their seats. This process, which reached its culmination in the post-Hammurabic period, led to identifying the planet Venus with Ishtar, Jupiter with Marduk, Mars with Nergal, Mercury with Nabu, and Saturn with Ninurta. (*min temperature refers to cloud tops only) Atmospheric characteristics Atmospheric pressure 9. ... Atmospheric characteristics Atmospheric pressure 70 kPa Hydrogen ~86% Helium ~14% Methane 0. ... Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in the solar system, named after the Roman god of war (the counterpart of the Greek Ares), on account of its blood red color as viewed in the night sky. ... For additional meanings, see Mercury (disambiguation). ... Atmospheric characteristics Atmospheric pressure 140 kPa Hydrogen >93% Helium >5% Methane 0. ...


The system represents a harmonious combination of two factors, one of popular origin, the other the outcome of speculation in the schools attached to the temples of Babylonia. The popular factor is the belief in the influence exerted by the movements of the heavenly bodies on occurrences on earth — a belief naturally suggested by the dependence of life, vegetation and guidance upon the two great luminaries. Starting with this belief the priests built up the theory of the close correspondence between occurrences on earth and phenomena in the heavens. The heavens presenting a constant change even to the superficial observer, the conclusion was drawn of a connection between the changes and the everchanging movement in the fate of individuals and of nature as well as in the appearance of nature.


To read the signs of the heavens was therefore to understand the meaning of occurrences on earth, and with this accomplished, it was also possible to foretell what events were portended by the position and relationship to one another of sun, moon, planets and certain stars. Myths that symbolized changes in season or occurrences in nature were projected on the heavens, which were mapped out to correspond to the divisions of the earth.


All the gods, great and small, had their places assigned to them in the heavens, and facts, including such as fell within the domain of political history, were interpreted in terms of astral theology. So completely did this system in the course of time sway men's minds that the cult, from being an expression of animistic beliefs, took on the colour derived from the "astral" interpretation of occurrences and doctrines. It left its trace in incantations, omens and hymns, and it gave birth to astronomy, which was assiduously cultivated because a knowledge of the heavens was the very foundation of the system of belief unfolded by the priests of Babylonia and Assyria. Political history is what most people refer to simply as history. ... Omens or portents are signs encountered fortuitously that are believed to foretell the future. ... In ancient Greece and other early civilizations, astronomy consisted largely of astrometry, measuring positions of stars and planets in the sky. ...


"Chaldaean wisdom" became, in the classical world, the synonym of this science, which in its character was so essentially religious. The persistent prominence which astrology continued to enjoy down to the border-line of the scientific movement of our own days, and which is directly traceable to the divination methods perfected in the Euphrates valley, is a tribute to the scope and influence attained by the astral theology of the Babylonian and Assyrian priests.


As an illustration of the manner in which the doctrines of the religion were made to conform to the all-pervading astral theory, it will be sufficient to refer to the modification undergone in this process of the view developed in a very early period which apportioned the control of the universe among the three gods Anu, Enlil and Ea. Disassociating these gods from all local connections, Anu became the power presiding over the heavens, to Enlil was assigned the earth and the atmosphere immediately above it, while Ea ruled over the deep. With the transfer of all the gods to the heavens, and under the influence of the doctrine of the correspondence between the heavens and the earth, Anu, Enlil and Ea became the three "ways" (as they are called) on the heavens.


The "ways" appear in this instance to have been the designation of the ecliptic circle, which was divided into three sections or zones — a northern, a middle and a southern zone, Anu being assigned to the first, Enlil to the second, and Ea to the third zone. The astral theology of the Babylonian-Assyrian religion, while thus bearing the ear-marks of a system devised by the priests, succeeded in assimilating the beliefs which represented the earlier attempts to systematize the more popular aspects of the religion, and in this way a unification of diverse elements was secured that led to interpreting the contents and the form of the religion in terms of the astral-theological system.


Religious practice and rituals

The most noteworthy outcome of this system in the realm of religious practice was, as already intimated, the growth of an elaborate and complicated method of divining the future by the observation of the phenomena in the heavens. It is significant that in the royal collection of cuneiform literature, made by King Assur-bani-pal of Assyria (668 – 626 BC) and deposited in his palace at Nineveh, the omen collections connected with the astral theology of Babylonia and Assyria form the largest class. Assurbanipal in a relief from the north palace at Nineveh There were several Assyrian kings named Assur-bani-pal, also spelled Asurbanipal, Assurbanipal (most commonly), Ashurbanipal and Ashshurbanipal, but the best known was Assurbanipal IV.  Ashurbanipal, or Assurbanipal, (reigned 668 - 627 BCE), the son of Esarhaddon and Naqia-Zakutu...


There are also indications that the extensive texts dealing with divination through the liver of sacrificial animals, which represents a more popular origin than divination through the observations of the heavens, based as it is on the primitive view which regarded the liver as the seat of life and of the soul, were brought into connection with astral divination. Less influenced by the astral-theological system are the old incantation texts which were gathered together into series. In these series we can trace the attempt to gather the incantation formulae and prayers produced in different centres, and to make them conform to the tendency to centralize the cult in the worship of Marduk and his consort in the south, and of Assur and Ishtar in the north. Incantations originally addressed to Ea of Eridu, as the god of the watery element, and to Nusku, as the god of fire, were transferred to Marduk.


This was done by making Ea confer on Marduk as his son, the powers of the father, and by making Nusku, a messenger between Ea and Marduk. At the same time, since the invoking of the divine powers was the essential element in the incantations, in order to make the magic formulae as effective as possible, a large number of the old local deities are introduced to add their power to the chief ones; and it is here that the astral system comes into play through the introduction of names of stars, as well as through assigning attributes to the gods which clearly reflect the conception that they have their seats in the heavens. The incantations pass over naturally into hymns and prayers. The corinexion between the two is illustrated by the application of the term shiptu, "incantation," to the direct appeals to the gods, as well as by the introduction, on the one hand, of genuine prayers into the incantations and by the addition, on the other hand, of incantations to prayers and hymns, pure and simple. Nusku was the name of the light and fire-god in Babylonia and Assyria, who is hardly to be distinguished, from a certain time on, from a god Girru - formerly read Gibil. ...


In another division of the religious literature of Babylonia which is largely represented in Assur-bani-pal's collection - the myths and legends - tales which originally symbolized the change of seasons, or in which historical occurrences are overcast with more or less copious admixture of legend and myth, were transferred to the heavens, and so it happens that creation myths, and the accounts of wanderings and adventures of heroes of the past, are referred to movements among the planets and stars, as well as to occurrences or supposed occurrences on earth. Creation beliefs and stories describe how the universe, the Earth, life, and/or humanity came into being. ...


The ritual alone, which accompanied divination practices and incantation formulae and was a chief factor in the celebration of festival days and of days set aside for one reason or the other to the worship of some god or goddess or group of deities, is free from traces of the astral theology. The more or less elaborate ceremonies prescribed for the occasions when the gods were approached are directly connected with the popular elements of the religion. Animal sacrifice, libations, ritualistic purification, sprinkling of water, and symbolical rites of all kinds accompanied by short prayers, represent a religious practice which in the Babylonian-Assyrian religion, as in all religions, is older than any theology and survives the changes which the theoretical substratum of the religion undergoes. Sacrifice is the practice of offering food, or the lives of animals or people to the gods, as an act of propitiation or worship. ... Offerings given to the gods in Ancient Greece. ...


Ethics

On the ethical side, the religion of Babylonia more particularly, and to a less extent that of Assyria, advances to noticeable conceptions of the qualities associated with the gods and goddesses and of the duties imposed on man. Shamash, the sun-god, was invested with justice as his chief trait, Marduk is portrayed as full of mercy and kindness, Ea is the protector of mankind who is grieved when, through a deception practised upon Adapa, humanity is deprived of immortality. The gods, to be sure, are easily aroused to anger, and in some of them the dire aspects predominated, but the view becomes more and more pronouüced that there is some cause always for the divine wrath. Though, in accounting for the anger of the gods, no sharp distinction is made between moral offences and a ritualistic oversight or neglect, yet the stress laid in the hymns and prayers, as well as in the elaborate atonement ritual prescribed in order to appease the anger of the gods, on the need of being clean and pure in the sight of the higher powers, the inculcation of a proper aspect of humility, and above all the need of confessing one's guilt and sins without any reserve — all this bears testimony to the strength which the ethical factor acquired in the domain of the religion. Ethics is the branch of axiology – one of the four major branches of philosophy, alongside metaphysics, epistemology, and logic – which attempts to understand the nature of morality; to define that which is right from that which is wrong. ... Human beings are defined variously in biological, spiritual, and cultural terms, or in combinations thereof. ... Immortality is the concept of existing for a potentially infinite or indeterminate length of time. ... The Atonement is the central doctrine of Christianity: everything else derives from it. ... Humility is the state of being humble. ...


This factor appears to less advantage in the unfolding of the views concerning life after death. Throughout all periods of Babylonian-Assyrian history, the conception prevailed of a large dark cavern below the earth, not far from the Apsu— the fresh water abyss encircling and flowing underneath the earth — in which all the dead were gathered and where they led a miserable existence of inactivity, amid gloom and dust. Occasionally a favoured individual was permitted to escape from this general fate and placed in a pleasant island. It would appear also that the rulers were always singled out for divine grace, and in the earlier periods of the history, owing to the prevailing view that the rulers stood nearer to the gods than other mortals, the kings were deified after death, and in some instances divine honours were paid to them even during their lifetime. Life After Death is the final album by East Coast rapper Notorious B.I.G. (Biggie Smalls), released on March 25, 1997 (see 1997 in music). ... In Sumerian mythology Abzu or Apsu was the god of fresh water, also representing the primeval water and sometimes the cosmic abyss. ... Divine grace is a Christian term for gifts granted to humanity by God, that God is under no need or obligation to grant. ...


Later influence

The influence exerted by the Babylonian-Assyrian religion was particularly profound on the Semites, while the astral theology affected the ancient world in general, including the Greeks and Romans. The impetus to the purification of the old Semite religion to which the Hebrews for a long time clung in common with their fellows — the various branches of nomadic Arabs — was largely furnished by the remarkable civilization unfolded in the Euphrates valley and in many of the traditions, myths and legends embodied in the Old Testament; traces of direct borrowing from Babylonia may be discerned, while the indirect influences in the domain of the prophetical books, as also in the Psalms and in the so-called "Wisdom Literature", are even more noteworthy. The Roman Empire is the term conventionally used to describe the Ancient Roman polity in the centuries following its reorganization under the leadership of Octavian (better known as Caesar Augustus). ... Hebrews (syns. ... The Arabs (Arabic: عرب Ê»arab) are an originally Arabian ethnicity widespread in the Middle East and North Africa. ... The Old Testament or the Hebrew Scriptures (also called the Hebrew Bible) constitutes the first major part of the Bible according to Christianity. ...


Even when we reach the New Testament period, we have not passed entirely beyond the sphere of Babylonian-Assyrian influences. In such a movement as early Christian gnosticism, Babylonian elements — modified, to be sure, and transformed — are largely present, while the growth of an apocalyptic literature is ascribed with apparent justice by many scholars to the recrudescence of views, the ultimate source of which is to be found in the astral-theology of the Babylonian and Assyrian priests. The New Testament, sometimes called the Greek Testament or Greek Scriptures is the name given to the part of the Christian Bible that was written after the birth of Jesus. ... Gnosticism is a blanket term for various mystical initiatory religions and sects, which were most prominent in the first few centuries CE. The occult nature of gnostic teaching and the fact that much of the evidence for that teaching has traditionally come from critiques by orthodox Christians made it difficult... Apocalyptic literature was a new genre of prophetical writing that developed in post-Exilic Jewish culture and was popular among millennialist early Christians. ...


See also

This article was originally based on content from the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica. Update as needed. See also Category:Babylonia and Category:Assyria. ... Chaldean mythology, also called Chaldaic mythology, is the collective name given to Sumerian, Assyrian and Babylonian mythologies, although Chaldea did not comprehend the whole territory inhabited by those peoples. ... 1911 was a common year starting on Sunday (click on link for calendar). ... 1913 advertisement for the 11th edition, with the slogan When in doubt - look it up in the Encyclopædia Britannica The Encyclopædia Britannica (properly spelt with æ, the ae-ligature) is the oldest English-language general encyclopedia. ...


  Results from FactBites:
 
Babylonian and Assyrian religion - LoveToKnow 1911 (2385 words)
The development of the religion of Babylonia, so far as it can be traced with the material at hand, follows closely along the lines of the periods to be distinguished in the history of the Euphrates valley.
Leaving aside the primitive phases of the religion as lying beyond the ken of historical investigation, we may note the sharp distinction to be made between the pre-Khammurabic age and the post-Khammurabic age.
The warlike nature of the Assyrians was reflected in their conceptions of the gods, who thus became little Assurs by the side of the great protector of arms, the big Assur.
Babylonian and Assyrian religion (550 words)
Babylonian and Assyrian religion coexisted as belief systems for a period of 1300 years, from the 18th century until the 5th century BCE.
Babylonian religion was a continuation of Sumerian religion, with the major change being that their god Marduk was placed on top of the Sumerian pantheon.
In times of hardship a Babylonian or Assyrian would place his or her problems in front of the chosen god(dess) with great humility, to confess sins and to hope for the help of the deity.
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