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Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

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Throughout this volume special attention has been paid to the various peoples who were in immediate contact with, and were influenced by, Mesopotamian civilization. The histories are traced in outline of the Kingdoms of Elam, Urartu (Ancient Armenia), Mitanni, and the Hittites, while the story of the rise and decline of the Hebrew civilization, as narrated in the Bible and referred to in Mesopotamian inscriptions, is related from the earliest times until the captivity in the Neo-Babylonian period and the restoration during the age of the Persian Empire. The struggles waged between the great Powers for the control of trade routes, and the periodic migrations of pastoral warrior folks who determined the fate of empires, are also dealt with, so that light may be thrown on the various processes and influences associated with the developments of local religions and mythologies. Special chapters, with comparative notes, are devoted to the Ishtar-Tammuz myths, the Semiramis legends, Ashur and his symbols, and the origin and growth of astrology and astronomy.

The ethnic disturbances which occurred at various well-defined periods in the Tigro-Euphrates valley were not always favourable to the advancement of knowledge and the growth of culture. The invaders who absorbed Sumerian civilization may have secured more settled conditions by welding together political units, but seem to have exercised a retrogressive influence on the growth of local culture. "Babylonian religion", writes Dr. Langdon, "appears to have reached its highest level in the Sumerian period, or at least not later than 2000 B.C. From that period onward to the first century B.C. popular religion maintained with great difficulty the sacred standards of the past." Although it has been customary to characterize Mesopotamian civilization as Semitic, modern research tends to show that the indigenous inhabitants, who were non-Semitic, were its originators. Like the proto-Egyptians, the early Cretans, and the Pelasgians in southern Europe and Asia Minor, they invariably achieved the intellectual conquest of their conquerors, as in the earliest times they had won victories over the antagonistic forces of nature. If the modern view is accepted that these ancient agriculturists of the goddess cult were of common racial origin, it is to the most representative communities of the widespread Mediterranean race that the credit belongs of laying the foundations of the brilliant civilizations of the ancient world in southern Europe, and Egypt, and the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates.

Figure 1. TEMPTATION OF THE EA-BANI


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