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Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 72

Having broken the power of Lagash, Lugal-zaggisi directed his attention to the rival city of Kish, where Semitic influence was predominating. When Nanizak, the last monarch of the line of the famous Queen Azag-Bau, had sat upon the throne for but three years, he perished by the sword of the Umma conqueror. Nippur likewise came under his sway, and he also subdued the southern cities.

Lugal-zaggisi chose for his capital ancient Erech, the city of Anu, and of his daughter, the goddess Nana, who afterwards was identified with Ishtar. Anu's spouse was Anatu, and the pair subsequently became abstract deities, like Anshar and Kishar, their parents, who figure in the Babylonian Creation story. Nana was worshipped as the goddess of vegetation, and her relation to Anu was similar to that of Belit-sheri to Ea at Eridu. Anu and Ea were originally identical, but it would appear that the one was differentiated as the god of the waters above the heaven and the other as god of the waters beneath the earth, both being forms of Anshar. Elsewhere the chief god of the spring sun or the moon, the lover of the goddess, became pre-eminent, displacing the elder god, like Nin-Girsu at Lagash. At Sippar the sun god, Babbar, whose Semitic name was Shamash, was exalted as the chief deity, while the moon god remained supreme at Ur. This specializing process, which was due to local theorizing and the influence of alien settlers, has been dealt with in a previous chapter.

In referring to himself as the favoured ruler of various city deities, Lugal-zaggisi appears as a ruler of all Sumeria. How far his empire extended it is impossible to determine with certainty. He appears to have overrun Akkad, and even penetrated to the Syrian coast, for in one inscription it is stated that he "made straight his path from the Lower Sea (the Persian Gulf) over the Euphrates and Tigris to the Upper Sea (the Mediterranean)". The allegiance of certain states, however, depended on the strength of the central power. One of his successors found it necessary to attack Kish, which was ever waiting for an opportunity to regain its independence.

According to the Chronicle of Kish, the next ruler of Sumer and Akkad after Lugal-zaggisi was the famous Sargon I. It would appear that he was an adventurer or usurper, and that he owed his throne indirectly to Lugal-zaggisi, who had dethroned the ruler of Akkad. Later traditions, which have been partly confirmed by contemporary inscriptions, agree that Sargon was of humble birth. In the previous chapter reference was made to the Tammuz-like myth attached to his memory. His mother was a vestal virgin dedicated to the sun god, Shamash, and his father an unknown stranger from the mountains--a suggestion of immediate Semitic affinities. Perhaps Sargon owed his rise to power to the assistance received by bands of settlers from the land of the Amorites, which Lugal-zaggisi had invaded.

According to the legend, Sargon's birth was concealed. He was placed in a vessel which was committed to the river. Brought up by a commoner, he lived in obscurity until the Semitic goddess, Ishtar, gave him her aid.


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