Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 64

Figure V.3. The winged Ishtar above the rising sun god, the river god, and other deities


Jastrow suggests that the women of Israel wept for Tammuz, offered cakes to the mother goddess, &c., because "in all religious bodies ... women represent the conservative element; among them religious customs continue in practice after they have been abandoned by men".[142] The evidence of Jeremiah, however, shows that the men certainly co-operated at the archaic ceremonials. In lighting the fires with the "vital spark", they apparently acted in imitation of the god of fertility. The women, on the other hand, represented the reproductive harvest goddess in providing the food supply. In recognition of her gift, they rewarded the goddess by offering her the cakes prepared from the newly ground wheat and barley--the "first fruits of the harvest". As the corn god came as a child, the children began the ceremony by gathering the wood for the sacred fire. When the women mourned for Tammuz, they did so evidently because the death of the god was lamented by the goddess Ishtar. It would appear, therefore, that the suggestion regarding the "conservative element" should really apply to the immemorial practices of folk religion. These differed from the refined ceremonies of the official cult in Babylonia, where there were suitable temples and organized bands of priests and priestesses. But the official cult received no recognition in Palestine; the cakes intended for a goddess were not offered up in the temple of Abraham's God, but "in the streets of Jerusalem" and those of other cities.[143]

The obvious deduction seems to be that in ancient times women everywhere played a prominent part in the ceremonial folk worship of the Great Mother goddess, while the men took the lesser part of the god whom she had brought into being and afterwards received as "husband of his mother". This may account for the high social status of women among goddess worshippers, like the representatives of the Mediterranean race, whose early religion was not confined to temples, but closely associated with the acts of everyday life.

[105] Ezekiel, viii.
[106] Psalms, cxxvi.
[107] The Burden of Isis, J.T. Dennis (Wisdom of the East series), pp. 21, 22.
[108] Religion of the Semites, pp. 412, 414.
[109] Egyptian Myth and Legend, pp. 45 et seq.
[110] Langdon's Sumerian and Babylonian Psalms, pp. 319-321.
[111] Campbell's West Highland Tales, vol. iii, p. 74.
[112] West Highland Tales, vol. iii, pp. 85, 86.
[113] If Finn and his band were really militiamen--the original Fenians--as is believed in Ireland, they may have had attached to their memories the legends of archaic Iberian deities who differed from the Celtic Danann deities. Theodoric the Goth, as Dietrich von Bern, was identified, for instance, with Donar or Thunor (Thor), the thunder god. In Scotland Finn and his followers are all giants. Diarmid is the patriarch of the Campbell clan, the MacDiarmids being "sons of Diarmid".
[114] Isaiah condemns a magical custom connected with the worship of Tammuz in the garden, Isaiah, xvii, 9, 11. This "Garden of Adonis" is dealt with in the next chapter.
[115] Quotations are from Sumerian and Babylonian Psalms, translated by Stephen Langdon, Ph.D. (Paris and London, 1909), pp. 299-341.
[116] Beowulf, translated by J.R. Clark Hall (London, 1911), pp. 9-11.
[117] For Frey's connection with the Ynglings see Morris and Magnusson's Heimskringla (Saga Library, vol. iii), pp. 23-71.
[118] The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria, p. 72.
[119] Langdon's Sumerian and Babylonian Psalms, pp. 325, 339.
[120] Professor Oldenberg's translation.
[121] Osiris is also invoked to "remove storms and rain and give fecundity in the nighttime". As a spring sun god he slays demons; as a lunar god he brings fertility.
[122] Like the love-compelling girdle of Aphrodite.
[123] A wedding bracelet of crystal is worn by Hindu women; they break it when the husband dies.
[124] Quotations from the translation in The Chaldean Account of Genesis, by George Smith.
[125] Langdon's Sumerian and Babylonian Psalms, p. 329 et seq.
[126] The Burden of Isis, translated by J.T. Dennis (Wisdom of the East series), pp. 24, 31, 32, 39, 45, 46, 49.
[127] The Burden of Isis, pp. 22, 46.
[128] Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria, p. 137, and Herodotus, book i, 199.
[129] The Burden of Isis, p. 47.
[130] Original Sanskrit Texts, J. Muir, London, 1890, vol. i, p. 67.
[131] Original Sanskrit Texts, vol. i, p. 44.
[132] Adi Parva section of Mahàbhàrata (Roy's translation), pp. 553, 555.
[133] Ancient Irish Poetry, Kuno Meyer (London, 1911), pp. 88-90.
[134] Translations from The Elder Edda, by O. Bray (part i), London, 1908.
[135] Babylonian Religion, L.W. King, pp. 160, 161.
[136] Tennyson's A Dream of Fair Women.
[137] Greece and Babylon, L.R. Farnell (Edinburgh, 1911), p. 35.
[138] The goddesses did not become prominent until the "late invasion" of the post-Vedic Aryans.
[139] Greece and Babylon, p. 96.
[140] Jeremiah, xliv.
[141] Jeremiah, vii, 18.
[142] Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria, pp. 348, 349.
[143] Jeremiah, vii, 17.

Chapter VI. Wars of the City States of Sumer and Akkad


Civilization well advanced--The Patesi--Prominent City States--Surroundings of Babylonia--The Elamites--Biblical References to Susa--The Sumerian Temperament--Fragmentary Records--City States of Kish and Opis--A Shopkeeper who became a Queen--Goddess Worship--Tammuz as Nin-Girsu--Great Dynasty of Lagash--Ur-Nina and his Descendants--A Napoleonic Conqueror--Golden Age of Sumerian Art--The First Reformer in History--His Rise and Fall--The Dynasty of Erech--Sargon of Akkad--The Royal Gardener--Sargon Myth in India--A Great Empire--The King who Purchased Land--Naram Sin the Conqueror--Disastrous Foreign Raid--Lagash again Prominent--Gudea the Temple Builder--Dynasty of Ur--Dynasty of Isin--Another Gardener becomes King--Rise of Babylon--Humanized Deities--Why Sumerian Gods wore Beards.

When the curtain rises to reveal the drama of Babylonian civilization we find that we have missed the first act and its many fascinating scenes. Sumerians and Akkadians come and go, but it is not always possible to distinguish between them. Although most Semites are recognizable by their flowing beards, prominent noses, and long robes, some have so closely imitated the Sumerians as to suffer almost complete loss of identity. It is noticeable that in the north the Akkadians are more Semitic than their contemporaries in the south, but it is difficult at times to say whether a city is controlled by the descendants of the indigenous people or those of later settlers. Dynasties rise and fall, and, as in Egypt at times, the progress of the fragmentary narrative is interrupted by a sudden change of scene ere we have properly grasped a situation and realized its significance.