Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

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Adad-nirari and Queen Sammu-rammat on equal terms. The Assyrian spouse of Nebo was called Tashmit. This "goddess of supplication and love" had a lunar significance. A prayer addressed to her in association with Nannar (Sin) and Ishtar, proceeds:

In the evil of the eclipse of the moon which ... has taken place,
In the evil of the powers, of the portents, evil and not good, which are in my palace and my land,
(I) have turned towards thee!...
Before Nabu (Nebo) thy spouse, thy lord, the prince, the first-born of E-sagila, intercede for me!
May he hearken to my cry at the word of thy mouth; may he remove my sighing, may he learn my supplication!

Damkina is similarly addressed in another prayer:

O Damkina, mighty queen of all the gods,
O wife of Ea, valiant art thou,
O Ir-nina, mighty queen of all the gods ...
Thou that dwellest in the Abyss, O lady of heaven and earth!...
In the evil of the eclipse of the moon, etc.

Bau is also prayed in a similar connection as "mighty lady that dwellest in the bright heavens", i.e. "Queen of heaven".[497]

Tashmit, whose name signifies "Obedience", according to Jastrow, or "Hearing", according to Sayce, carried the prayers of worshippers to Nebo, her spouse. As Isis interceded with Osiris, she interceded with Nebo, on behalf of mankind. But this did not signify that she was the least influential of the divine pair. A goddess played many parts: she was at once mother, daughter, and wife of the god; the servant of one god or the "mighty queen of all the gods". The Great Mother was, as has been indicated, regarded as the eternal and undecaying one; the gods passed away, son succeeding father; she alone remained. Thus, too, did Semiramis survive in the popular memory, as the queen-goddess of widespread legends, after kings and gods had been forgotten. To her was ascribed all the mighty works of other days in the lands where the indigenous peoples first worshipped the Great Mother as Damkina, Nina, Bau, Ishtar, or Tashmit, because the goddess was anciently believed to be the First Cause, the creatrix, the mighty one who invested the ruling god with the powers he possessed--the god who held sway because he was her husband, as did Nergal as the husband of Eresh-ki-gal, queen of Hades.

The multiplication of well-defined goddesses was partly due to the tendency to symbolize the attributes of the Great Mother, and partly due to the development of the great "Lady" in a particular district where she reflected local phenomena and where the political influence achieved by her worshippers emphasized her greatness. Legends regarding a famous goddess were in time attached to other goddesses, and in Aphrodite and Derceto we appear to have mother deities who absorbed the traditions of more than one local "lady" of river and plain, forest and mountain. Semiramis, on the other hand, survived as a link between the old world and the new, between the country from which emanated the stream of ancient culture and the regions which received it. As the high priestess of the cult, she became identified with the goddess whose bird name she bore, as Gilgamesh and Etana became identified with the primitive culture-hero or patriarch of the ancient Sumerians, and Sargon became identified with Tammuz. No doubt the fame of Semiramis was specially emphasized because of her close association, as Queen Sammu-rammat, with the religious innovations which disturbed the land of the god Ashur during the Middle Empire period.

Adad-nirari IV, the son or husband of Sammu-rammat, was a vigorous and successful campaigner. He was the Assyrian king who became the "saviour" of Israel. Although it is not possible to give a detailed account of his various expeditions, we find from the list of these which survives in the Eponym Chronicle that he included in the Assyrian Empire a larger extent of territory than any of his predecessors. In the north-east he overcame the Median and other tribes, and acquired a large portion of the Iranian plateau; he compelled Edom to pay tribute, and established his hold in Babylonia by restricting the power of the Chaldaeans in Sealand. In the north he swayed--at least, so he claimed--the wide domains of the Nairi people. He also confirmed his supremacy over the Hittites.

The Aramaean state of Damascus, which had withstood the attack of the great Shalmaneser and afterwards oppressed, as we have seen, the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, was completely overpowered by Adad-nirari. The old king, Hazael, died when Assyria's power was being strengthened and increased along his frontiers. He was succeeded by his son Mari, who is believed to be identical with the Biblical Ben-Hadad III.[498]

Shortly after this new monarch came to the throne, Adad-nirari IV led a great army against him. The Syrian ruler appears to have been taken by surprise; probably his kingdom was suffering from the three defeats which had been previously administered by the revolting Israelites.[499] At any rate Mari was unable to gather together an army of allies to resist the Assyrian advance, and took refuge behind the walls of Damascus. This strongly fortified city was closely invested, and Mari had at length to submit and acknowledge Adad-nirari as his overlord. The price of peace included 23,000 talents of silver, 20 of gold, 3000 of copper, and 5000 of iron, as well as ivory ornaments and furniture, embroidered materials, and other goods "to a countless amount". Thus "the Lord gave Israel a saviour, so that they went out from under the hand of the Syrians: and the children of Israel dwelt in their tents, as beforetime". This significant reference to the conquest of Damascus by the Assyrian king is followed by another which throws light on the religious phenomena of the period: "Nevertheless they departed not from the sins of the house of Jeroboam, who made Israel sin, but walked therein: and there remained the grove also in Samaria".[500] Ashtoreth and her golden calf continued to be venerated, and doves were sacrificed to the local Adonis.

It is not certain whether Adad-nirari penetrated farther than Damascus. Possibly all the states which owed allegiance to the king of that city became at once the willing vassals of Assyria, their protector. The tribute received by Adad-nirari from Tyre, Sidon, the land of Omri (Israel), Edom, and Palastu (Philistia) may have been gifted as a formal acknowledgment of his suzerainty and with purpose to bring them directly under Assyrian control, so that Damascus might be prevented from taking vengeance against them.