Myths of Babylonia and Assyria
Whate'er exists within this earth, and all within the sky,Yea, all that is beyond, King Varuna perceives....Rigveda, iv, 16.O Varuna, whatever the offence may beThat we as men commit against the heavenly folk,When through our want of thought we violate thy laws,Chastise us not, O god, for that iniquity.Rigveda, vii, 89.
Shamash was similarly exalted in Babylonian hymns:
The progeny of those who deal unjustly will not prosper.What their mouth utters in thy presenceThou wilt destroy, what issues from their mouth thou wilt dissipate.Thou knowest their transgressions, the plan of the wicked thou rejectest.All, whoever they be, are in thy care....He who takes no bribe, who cares for the oppressed,Is favoured by Shamash,--his life shall be prolonged.
The worshippers of Varuna and Mitra in the Punjab did not cremate their dead like those who exalted the rival fire god Agni. The grave was the "house of clay", as in Babylonia. Mitra, who was identical with Yama, ruled over departed souls in the "Land of the Pitris" (Fathers), which was reached by crossing the mountains and the rushing stream of death. As we have seen, the Babylonian solar god Nergal was also the lord of the dead.
As Ma-banda-anna, "the boat of the sky", Shamash links with the Egyptian sun god Ra, whose barque sailed over the heavens by day and through the underworld of darkness and death during the night. The consort of Shamash was Aa, and his attendants were Kittu and Mesharu, "Truth" and "Righteousness".
Like the Hittites, the Babylonians had also a sun goddess: her name was Nin-sun, which Jastrow renders "the annihilating lady". At Erech she had a shrine in the temple of the sky god Anu.
We can trace in Babylonia, as in Egypt, the early belief that life in the Universe had a female origin. Nin-sun links with Ishtar, whose Sumerian name is Nana. Ishtar appears to be identical with the Egyptian Hathor, who, as Sekhet, slaughtered the enemies of the sun god Ra. She was similarly the goddess of maternity, and is depicted in this character, like Isis and other goddesses of similar character, suckling a babe. Another Babylonian lady of the gods was Ama, Mama, or Mami, "the creatress of the seed of mankind", and was "probably so called as the 'mother' of all things".
A characteristic atmospheric deity was Ramman, the Rimmon of the Bible, the Semitic Addu, Adad, Hadad, or Dadu. He was not a presiding deity in any pantheon, but was identified with Enlil at Nippur. As a hammer god, he was imported by the Semites from the hills. He was a wind and thunder deity, a rain bringer, a corn god, and a god of battle like Thor, Jupiter, Tarku, Indra, and others, who were all sons of the sky.
In this brief review of the representative deities of early Babylonia, it will be seen that most gods link with Anu, Ea, and Enlil, whose attributes they symbolized in various forms. The prominence accorded to an individual deity depended on local conditions, experiences, and influences. Ceremonial practices no doubt varied here and there, but although one section might exalt Ea and another Shamash, the religious faith of the people as a whole did not differ to any marked extent; they served the gods according to their lights, so that life might be prolonged and made prosperous, for the land of death and "no return" was regarded as a place of gloom and misery.