Myths and Legends of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 90

Jensen in his Kosmologie points out that Ninib represents the eastern sun and the morning sun. If this is so, it is strange to find a god representing the sun of morning in the status of a war-god. It is usually when the sun-god reaches the zenith of the heavens that he slays his thousands and his tens of thousands. As a variant of Nin-girsu he would of course be identified with Tammuz. His consort was Gula, to whom Assur-nazir-pal erected a sanctuary.

Tiglath-Pileser I directed by Ninib.—Evelyn Paul.


Dagan the fish-god, who, we saw, was the same as Oannes or Ea, strangely enough rose to high rank in Assyria. Some authorities consider him of Philistian or Aramæan origin, and do not compare him with Ea, who rose from the waters of the Persian Gulf to enlighten his people, and it is evident that the Mesopotamian-Palestinian region contained several versions of the origin of this god, ascribing it to various places. In the Assyrian pantheon he is associated with Anu, who rules the heavens, Dagan supervising the earth. It is strange to observe a[Pg 217] deity, whose sphere must originally have been the sea, presiding over the terrestrial plane, and this transference it was which cost Dagan his popularity in Assyria, for later he became identified with Bel and disappeared almost entirely from the Assyrian pantheon.


Anu in Assyria did not differ materially from Anu in Babylon, but he suffered, as did other southern deities, from the all-pervading worship of Asshur. He had a temple in Asshur's own city, which was rebuilt by Tiglath-pileser I 641 years after its original foundation. He was regarded in Assyria as lord of the Igigi and Anunnaki, or spirits of heaven and earth, probably the old animistic spirits, and to this circumstance, as well as to the fact that he belonged to the old triad along with Bel and Ea, he probably owed the prolongation of his cult. As an elemental and fundamental god opposition could not possibly displace him, and as ruler of the spirits of air and earth he would have a very strong hold upon the popular imagination. Gods who possess such powers often exist in folk-memory long after the other members of the pantheon which contained them are totally forgotten, and one would scarcely be surprised to find Anu lingering in the shadows of post-Assyrian folk-lore, if any record of such lore could be discovered. Anu was frequently associated with Ramman, but more usually with Bel and Eausas in Babylonia.


Ramman enjoyed much greater popularity in Assyria than in Babylonia, for there he exercised the functions of a second Asshur, and was regarded as[Pg 218] destruction personified. Says an old Assyrian hymn concerning Ramman:

The mighty mountain, thou hast overwhelmed it.
At his anger, at his strength,
At his roaring, at his thundering,
The gods of heaven ascend to the sky,
The gods of the earth ascend to the earth,
Into the horizon of heaven they enter,
Into the zenith of heaven they make their way.

What a picture have we here in these few simple lines of a pantheon in dread and terror of the wrath and violence of one of its number. We can almost behold the divine fugitives crowding in flight, some into the upper regions of air to outsoar the anger of the destroyer, others seeking the recesses of the earth to hide themselves from the fierceness of his countenance, the roar of his thunderbolts, and the arrows of his lightning. Simple, almost bald, as the lines are they possess marvellous pictorial quality, bringing before us as they do the rout of a whole heaven in a few simple words.