Myths of Babylonia and Assyria
Page: 30If Eridu was not the "cradle" of the Sumerian race, it was possibly the cradle of Sumerian civilization. Here, amidst the shifting rivers in early times, the agriculturists may have learned to control and distribute the water supply by utilizing dried-up beds of streams to irrigate the land. Whatever successes they achieved were credited to Ea, their instructor and patron; he was Nadimmud, "god of everything".
Why Different Gods were Supreme at Different Centres--Theories regarding Origin of Life--Vital Principle in Water--Creative Tears of Weeping Deities--Significance of widespread Spitting Customs--Divine Water in Blood and Divine Blood in Water--Liver as the Seat of Life--Inspiration derived by Drinking Mead, Blood, &c.--Life Principle in Breath--Babylonian Ghosts as "Evil Wind Gusts"--Fire Deities--Fire and Water in Magical Ceremonies--Moon Gods of Ur and Harran--Moon Goddess and Babylonian "Jack and Jill"--Antiquity of Sun Worship--Tammuz and Ishtar--Solar Gods of War, Pestilence, and Death--Shamash as the "Great Judge"--His Mitra Name--Aryan Mitra or Mithra and linking Babylonian Deities--Varuna and Shamash Hymns compared--The Female Origin of Life--Goddesses of Maternity--The Babylonian Thor--Deities of Good and Evil.
In dealing with the city cults of Sumer and Akkad, consideration must be given to the problems involved by the rival mythological systems. Pantheons not only varied in detail, but were presided over by different supreme gods. One city's chief deity might be regarded as a secondary deity at another centre. Although Ea, for instance, was given first place at Eridu, and was so pronouncedly Sumerian in character, the moon god Nannar remained supreme at Ur, while the sun god, whose Semitic name was Shamash, presided at Larsa and Sippar. Other deities were similarly exalted in other states.
As has been indicated, a mythological system must have been strongly influenced by city politics. To hold a community in sway, it was necessary to recognize officially the various gods worshipped by different sections, so as to secure the constant allegiance of all classes to their rulers. Alien deities were therefore associated with local and tribal deities, those of the nomads with those of the agriculturists, those of the unlettered folks with those of the learned people. Reference has been made to the introduction of strange deities by conquerors. But these were not always imposed upon a community by violent means. Indications are not awanting that the worshippers of alien gods were sometimes welcomed and encouraged to settle in certain states. When they came as military allies to assist a city folk against a fierce enemy, they were naturally much admired and praised, honoured by the women and the bards, and rewarded by the rulers.