Myths and Legends of Babylonia and Assyria
Page: 92This later theory would make him of Aramaic origin, but his cult appears to have been of very considerable antiquity in Assyria, and it might have been indigenous there. Moreover, the earliest mention of his worship is in the city of Asshur. As has been indicated, he was probably a storm-god or a thunder-and-lightning god, but he was also associated with the sun-god Shamash. But whatever he may have been in Babylonia, in Assyria he was certainly the thunder-deity first and foremost.
A Babylonian text of some antiquity contains a really fine hymn to Ramman, which might be paraphrased as follows, omitting redundancies:—
"O lord Ramman, thy name is the great and glorious Bull, child of heaven, lord of Karkar, lord of plenty, companion of the lord Ea. He that rideth the great lion is thy name. Thy name doth charm the land, and covers it like a garment. Thy thunder shakes even the great mountain, En-lil,[Pg 221] and when thou dost rumble the mother Nin-lil trembles. Said the lord En-lil, addressing his son Ramman: 'O son, spirit of wisdom, with all-seeing eyes and high vision, full of knowledge as the Pleiades, may thy sonorous voice give forth its utterance. Go forth, go up, who can strive with thee? The father is with thee against the cunning foe. Thou art cunning in wielding the hail-stones great and small. Oh, with thy right hand destroy the enemy and root him up!' Ramman hearkened to the words of his father and took his way from the dwelling, the youthful lion, the spirit of counsel."
In later times in Babylonia Ramman seems to have typified the rain of heaven in its beneficent as well as its fertilizing aspect. Not only did he irrigate the fields and fill the wells with water, but he was also accountable for the dreadful tempests which sweep over Mesopotamia. Sometimes he was malevolent, causing thorns to grow instead of herbs. The people, if they regarded him in some measure as a fertilizing agent, also seem to have looked upon him as a destructive and lion-like deity quite capable of desolating the country-side and 'eating up the land.' His roar is typical of him, filling all hearts with affright as it does, and signifying famine and destruction. It is not strange that Mesopotamian regions should have had so many deities of a destructive tendency when we think of the furious whirlwinds which frequently rush across the face of the land, raising sand-storms and devastating everything in their track. Ramman was well likened to the roaring lion, seeking what he may devour, and this seems to have symbolized him in the eyes of the peasant population of the land. Indeed, the Assyrians, impressed by his destructive tendencies, made a war-god of him, and[Pg 222] considered his presence as essential to victory. No wonder that the great god of storm made a good war-god!
Assur-nazir-pal attended by a Winged Mythological Being.—Bas-relief from the north-western palace at Nimrûd.—Photo W. A. Mansell and Co.