An Introduction to Mythology

Page: 128


Merodach, chief god of Babylon, possessed a solar significance; but it may be improper to connect him in any manner with the sun in its seasonal stages. He is, in fact, more the lord of light than of the sun in any special aspect. Although there is evidence that he was regarded as the spring sun, this was probably a secondary or derived conception of him, like that which made him a god of battle.


Ea was the Babylonian Neptune. He was figured as half man, half fish, and was a great culture-hero and the lord of wisdom, probably because of the depths whence he emanated, symbolic of the profundity of knowledge. He came every day to the city of Eridu to instruct its inhabitants in the arts of life, and he was the inventor of writing, geometry, and law.


Bel, called the 'older Bel' to distinguish him from Bel-Merodach, was also called Mul-lil or En-lil. He was a god of the Underworld and may have been relegated thence, like many other deities, on the coming to power of Merodach.

Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven

seems to have been the thought of other ancient divinities than Milton's Satan.

The Babylonians themselves seemed rather doubtful as to the exact status of this god.

Nirig was a favourite deity in Assyria, and is called in inscriptions 'god of war.'

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Anu was the father of the great gods. He may at one time have been the supreme being of the Babylonian religion, and his cult is of extreme antiquity.

Nusku was the messenger of the gods and without him the King of Heaven could not pass judgment upon anything. He seems to have personified flame or light.

Shamash was the sun in a different sense from Merodach, and he seems also to have been looked upon as the great judge of the universe, probably because the sun is able to direct his beams into the darkest places. He it was who gave the famous code of laws into the hands of King Hammurabi—according to the 'sun-god tablet' in the British Museum.


Ishtar, the Queen of Heaven, was the great mother-goddess and sexual goddess of Babylon, and among the Assyrians appears to have been looked upon as a goddess of battle. She was identified with the planet Venus, and her cult was associated with that of Tammuz. Her descent into the Underworld stamps her as a corn-mother, like the Greek Demeter, the reappearance of whose daughter Persephone clothes the earth with fertility.

Allatu was the goddess of the Babylonian Otherworld. Nergal assisted her, and he was also a god of conflict, disease, and pestilence, symbolizing the misery and destruction which accompanies warfare.

Sin was the moon-god, and, probably from his connexion with the calendar, was called 'lord of wisdom.' His worship was surrounded by much mystery, and a beautiful and touching prayer in the library of Assurbanipal describes him as being "full of love like the far-off heaven and the broad ocean."