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Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 142

Evidence of racial blending in Asia Minor is also afforded by Hittite mythology. In the fertile agricultural valleys and round the shores of that great Eur-Asian "land bridge" the indigenous stock was also of the Mediterranean race, as Sergi and other ethnologists have demonstrated. The Great Mother goddess was worshipped from the earliest times, and she bore various local names. At Comana in Pontus she was known to the Greeks as Ma, a name which may have been as old as that of the Sumerian Mama (the creatrix), or Mamitum (goddess of destiny); in Armenia she was Anaitis; in Cilicia she was Ate ('Atheh of Tarsus); while in Phrygia she was best known as Cybele, mother of Attis, who links with Ishtar as mother and wife of Tammuz, Aphrodite as mother and wife of Adonis, and Isis as mother and wife of Osiris. The Great Mother was in Phoenicia called Astarte; she was a form of Ishtar, and identical with the Biblical Ashtoreth. In the Syrian city of Hierapolis she bore the name of Atargatis, which Meyer, with whom Frazer agrees, considers to be the Greek rendering of the Aramaic 'Athar-'Atheh--the god 'Athar and the goddess 'Atheh. Like the "bearded Aphrodite", Atargatis may have been regarded as a bisexual deity. Some of the specialized mother goddesses, whose outstanding attributes reflected the history and politics of the states they represented, were imported into Egypt--the land of ancient mother deities--during the Empire period, by the half-foreign Rameses kings; these included the voluptuous Kadesh and the warlike Anthat. In every district colonized by the early representatives of the Mediterranean race, the goddess cult came into prominence, and the gods and the people were reputed to be descendants of the great Creatrix. This rule obtained as far distant as Ireland, where the Danann folk and the Danann gods were the children of the goddess Danu.

Among the Hatti proper--that is, the broad-headed military aristocracy--the chief deity of the pantheon was the Great Father, the creator, "the lord of Heaven", the Baal. As Sutekh, Tarku, Adad, or Ramman, he was the god of thunder, rain, fertility, and war, and he ultimately acquired solar attributes. A famous rock sculpture at Boghaz-Köi depicts a mythological scene which is believed to represent the Spring marriage of the Great Father and the Great Mother, suggesting a local fusion of beliefs which resulted from the union of tribes of the god cult with tribes of the goddess cult. So long as the Hatti tribe remained the predominant partner in the Hittite confederacy, the supremacy was assured of the Great Father who symbolized their sway. But when, in the process of time, the power of the Hatti declined, their chief god "fell... from his predominant place in the religion of the interior", writes Dr. Garstang. "But the Great Mother lived on, being the goddess of the land."[292]

In addition to the Hittite confederacy of Asia Minor and North Syria, another great power arose in northern Mesopotamia. This was the Mitanni Kingdom. Little is known regarding it, except what is derived from indirect sources. Winckler believes that it was first established by early "waves" of Hatti people who migrated from the east.


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