Myths and Legends of Babylonia and Assyria
Types of En-lil, the Chief God of Nippur, and of his Consort, Nin-lil from Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria, by Professor Morris Jastrow.—By permission of Messrs G. P. Putnam's Sons
In the chapter on cosmology we have seen how Merodach gained the lordship of heaven. It has been shown that the rise of this god to power was comparatively recent. Prior to the days of Khammurabi a rather different pantheon from that described in later inscriptions held sway. In those more primitive days the principal gods appear to have been Bel or En-lil, Belit or Nin-lil his queen, Nin-girsu, Ea, Nergal, Shamash, Sin, Anu, and other lesser divinities. There is indeed a sharp distinction between the pre- and post-Khammurabic types of religion. Attempts had been made to form a pantheon[Pg 95] before Khammurabi's day, but his exaltation of Merodach, the patron of Babylon, to the head of the Babylonian pantheon was destined to destroy these. A glance at the condition of the great gods before the days of Khammurabi will assist us to understand their later developments.
Bel, or, to give him his earlier name, En-lil, is spoken of in very early inscriptions, especially in those of Nippur; of which city he was the tutelar deity. He was described as the 'lord of the lower world,' and much effort seems to have been made to reach a definite conception of his position and attributes. His name had also been translated 'lord of mist.' The title 'Bel' had been given to Merodach by Tiglath-pileser I about 1200 B.C., after which he was referred to as 'the older Bel.' The chief seat of his worship was at Nippur, where the name of his temple, E-Kur or 'mountain-house,' came to be applied to a sanctuary all over Babylonia. He was also addressed as the 'lord of the storm' and as the 'great mountain,' and his consort Nin-lil is also alluded to as 'lady of the mountain.' Jastrow rightly concludes that "there are substantial reasons for assuming that his original city was on the top of some mountain, as is so generally the case of storm-deities.... There being no mountains in the Euphrates valley, however, the conclusion is warranted that En-lil was the god of a people whose home was in a mountainous region and who brought their god with them when they came to the Euphrates valley."