Myths and Legends of Babylonia and Assyria
Ea was of course accepted into the Assyrian pantheon because of his membership in the old Assyrian triad, but he was also regarded as a god of wisdom, possibly because of his venerable reputation; and we find him also as patron of the arts, and especially of building and architecture. Threefold was his power of direction in this respect. The great Colossi, the enormous winged bulls and mythological figures which flanked the avenues leading to the royal places, the images of the gods, and, lastly, the greater buildings, were all examples of the architectural art of which he was the patron.
Another Babylonian deity who was placed in the ranks of the Assyrian pantheon was Dibbarra, the plague-god, who can only be called a god through a species of courtesy, as he partook much more of a demoniac character, and was at one time almost certainly an evil spirit. We have already alluded to the poem in which he lays low people and armies by his violence, and it was probably from one of the texts of this that Assur-bani-pal conceived the idea that those civilians who had perished in his campaigns against Babylonia had been slaughtered by Dibbarra.
Some of the lesser Babylonian gods, like Damku and Sharru-Ilu, seem to have attracted a passing interest to themselves, but as little can be found[Pg 230] concerning them in Babylonian texts, it is scarcely necessary to take much notice of them in such a chapter as this. Most probably the Assyrians accepted the Babylonian gods on the basis not only of their native reputation, but also of the occurrence of their names in the ancient religious texts, with which their priests were thoroughly acquainted, and though, broadly speaking, they accepted practically the whole of the Babylonian religion and its gods in entirety, there is no doubt that some of these by their very natures and attributes appealed more to them than others, and therefore possessed a somewhat different value in their eyes from that assigned to them by the more peace-loving people of the southern kingdom.
Procession of Gods. Rock-relief at Malatia (Anti-Taurus range). Order from right to left: Asshur, Ishtar, Sin, En-lil, Shamash, Adad, and Ishtar of Arbela.—From Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria, by Prof. Jastrow (G. P. Putnam's Sons).
Ancient Chaldea was undoubtedly the birthplace of that mysterious science of astrology which was destined to exert such influence upon the European mind during the Middle Ages, and which indeed has not yet ceased to amuse the curious and flatter the hopes of the credulous. Whether any people more primitive than the Akkadians had studied the movements of the stars it would indeed be extremely difficult to say. This the Akkadians or Babylonians were probably the first to attempt. The plain of Mesopotamia is peculiarly suited to the study of the movements of the stars. It is level for the most part, and there are few mountains around which moisture can collect to obscure the sky. Moreover the climate greatly assists such observations.