Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

Nergal – the sun of noontime and of the summer solstice that brings destruction – Apollo

Posted by Fredsvenn on November 27, 2013

Apollo

Aplu was a Hurrian deity of the plague — bringing it, or, if propitiated, protecting from it — and resembles Apollo Smintheus, “mouse-Apollo” Aplu, it is suggested, comes from the Akkadian Aplu Enlil, meaning “the son of Enlil”, a title that was given to the god Nergal, who was linked to Shamash, Babylonian god of the sun.

The name Nergal refers to a deity worshipped throughout Mesopotamia (Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia) with the main seat of his cult at Cuthah,  an ancient city of Sumer on the right bank of the eastern branch of the Upper Euphrates, north of Nippur and around 25 miles northeast of Babylon, represented by the mound of Tell-Ibrahim.

Nergal is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible as the deity of the city of Cuth (Cuthah): “And the men of Babylon made Succoth-benoth, and the men of Cuth made Nergal” (2 Kings, 17:30). According to the rabbins, his emblem was a cock and Nergal means a “dunghill cock”. Although standard iconography pictured Nergal as a lion. He is the son of Enlil and Ninlil.

Nergal actually seems to be in part a solar deity, sometimes identified with Shamash, but only a representative of a certain phase of the sun. Portrayed in hymns and myths as a god of war and pestilence, Nergal seems to represent the sun of noontime and of the summer solstice that brings destruction, high summer being the dead season in the Mesopotamian annual cycle.

Nergal was also the deity who presides over the netherworld, and who stands at the head of the special pantheon assigned to the government of the dead (supposed to be gathered in a large subterranean cave known as Aralu or Irkalla). In this capacity he has associated with him a goddess Allatu or Ereshkigal, though at one time Allatu may have functioned as the sole mistress of Aralu, ruling in her own person. In some texts the god Ninazu is the son of Nergal and Allatu/Ereshkigal.

In the late Babylonian astral-theological system Nergal is related to the planet Mars. As a fiery god of destruction and war, Nergal doubtless seemed an appropriate choice for the red planet, and he was equated by the Greeks either to the combative demigod Heracles (Latin Hercules) or to the war-god Ares (Latin Mars) – hence the current name of the planet. In Assyro-Babylonian ecclesiastical art the great lion-headed colossi serving as guardians to the temples and palaces seem to symbolise Nergal, just as the bull-headed colossi probably typify Ninurta.

Being a deity of the desert, god of fire, which is one of negative aspects of the sun, god of the underworld, and also being a god of one of the religions which rivaled Christianity and Judaism, Nergal was sometimes called a demon and even identified with Satan. According to Collin de Plancy and Johann Weyer, Nergal was depicted as the chief of Hell’s “secret police”, and worked as an “an honorary spy in the service of Beelzebub”.

Nergal’s chief temple at Cuthah bore the name Meslam, from which the god receives the designation of Meslamtaeda or Meslamtaea, “the one that rises up from Meslam”. The name Meslamtaeda/Meslamtaea indeed is found as early as the list of gods from Fara while the name Nergal only begins to appear in the Akkadian period.

Amongst the Hurrians and later Hittites Nergal was known as Aplu, a name derived from the Akkadian Apal Enlil, (Apal being the construct state of Aplu) meaning “the son of Enlil”. As God of the plague, he was invoked during the “plague years” during the reign of the Hittite king Suppiluliuma, when this disease spread from Egypt.

Aplu may be related with Apaliunas who is considered to be the Hittite reflex of *Apeljōn, an early form of the name Apollo. Apaliunas is considered to be the Hittite reflex of *Apeljōn, an early form of the name Apollo.

Apaliunas is a theonym, attested in a Hittite language treaty as a tutelary of Wilusa, often identified with Troy VIIa in archaeology (destroyed in ca. 1190 BC), and with legendary Troy of the Greek Trojan War cycle (according to the chronology of Saint Jerome dated to the 1180s BC).

Apaliunas is among the gods who guarantee a treaty drawn up about 1280 BCE between Alaksandu of Wilusas, interpreted as “Alexander of Ilios” and the great Hittite king, Muwatalli II. He is one of the three deities named on the side of the city. In Homer, Apollo is the builder of the walls of Ilium, a god on the Trojan side. A Luwian etymology suggested for Apaliunas makes Apollo “The One of Entrapment”, perhaps in the sense of “Hunter”.

Further east of the Luwian language area, a Hurrian god Aplu was a deity of the plague – bringing it, or, if propitiated, protecting from it – and resembles Apollo Smintheus, “mouse-Apollo” worshiped at Troy and Tenedos, who brought plague upon the Achaeans in answer to a Trojan prayer at the opening of Iliad. Aplu, it is suggested, comes from the Akkadian Aplu Enlil, meaning “the son of Enlil”, a title that was given to the god Nergal, who was linked to Shamash, Babylonian god of the sun.

Apollo is one of the most important and complex of the Olympian deities in classical Greek and Roman religion and Greek and Roman mythology. The ideal of the kouros (a beardless, athletic youth), Apollo has been variously recognized as a god of light and the sun, truth and prophecy, healing, plague, music, poetry, and more. Apollo is the son of Zeus and Leto, and has a twin sister, the chaste huntress Artemis. Apollo is known in Greek-influenced Etruscan mythology as Apulu.

Resheph

Resheph was a Canaanite deity of plague and war. According to myth, Resheph exerted a benign influence against disease. In Ugarit, Resheph was identified with Nergal, in Idalion, Cyprus, with Apollo.

Resheph is mentioned in Ugaritic mythological texts such as the epic of Kirta and The Mare and Horon. In Phoenician inscriptions he is called rshp gn ‘Resheph of the Garden’ and b`l chtz ‘lord of the arrow’. Phoenician-Hittite bilinguals refer to him as ‘deer god’ and ‘gazelle god’.

Resheph is found in the third millennium tablets from Ebla (Tell Mardikh) as Rasap or Ra-sa-ap. He is listed as the divinity of the cities of Atanni, Gunu, Tunip, and Shechem. Rasap is also one of the chief gods of the city of Ebla having one of the four city gates named in his honor.

In Kition, Cyprus, Resheph had the epithet of ḥṣ, interpreted as “arrow” by Javier Teixidor, who consequently interprets Resheph as a god of plague, comparable to Apollo whose arrows bring plague to the Danaans (Iliad I.42-55).

The ancient town of Arsuf in central Israel, also known as Arsur or Apollonia, still incorporates the name Resheph, thousands of years after his worship ceased.

The town was settled by Phoenicians in the 6th or 5th century BC, and named Reshef after Resheph, the Canaanite god of fertility and the underworld. It was then a part of the Persian Empire and governed from Sidon. Phoenicians of Reshef produced precious purple dye, derived from murex mollusks, which they exported to the Aegean.

During the Hellenistic period it was an anchorage town, ruled by Seleucids and renamed Apollonia, as the Greeks identified Phoenician God Reshef with Apollo.

Montu

Resheph became popular in Egypt under Amenhotep II (18th dynasty), where he served as god of horses and chariots. Originally adopted into the royal cult, Resheph became a popular deity in the Ramesside Period, at the same time disappearing from royal inscriptions.

In Egyptian iconography Resheph is depicted wearing the crown of Upper Egypt (White Crown), surmounted in front by the head of a gazelle. He has links with Theban war god Montu, in Ancient Egyptian religion a falcon-god of war, and was thought of as a guardian deity in battle by many Egyptian pharaohs.

Montu was an ancient god, his name meaning nomad, originally a manifestation of the scorching effect of the sun, Ra, and as such often appeared under the epithet Montu-Ra. The destructiveness of this characteristic led to him gaining characteristics of a warrior, and eventually becoming a war-god. Montu had several consorts, including the goddess Tenenet, the goddess Iunit, and a female form of Ra, Raettawy.

Because of the association of raging bulls with strength and war, Montu was also said to manifest himself in a white bull with a black face, which was referred to as the Bakha, the manifestation of the deification of Ka (power/life-force) of the war god Montu, worshipped in the region of Hermonthis. Eventually, the Bakha was identified as a form of the Apis, and consequently became considered an incarnation of Osiris.

Egypt’s greatest general-kings called themselves Mighty Bulls, the sons of Montu. In the famous narrative of the Battle of Kadesh, Ramesses II was said to have seen the enemy and “raged at them like Montu, Lord of Thebes”.

In Ancient Egyptian art, he was pictured as a falcon-headed or bull-headed man who wore the sun-disc, with two plumes on his head, the falcon representing the sky, and the bull representing strength and war. He would hold various weaponry, including scimitars, bows and arrows, and knives in his hands.

The Temple of Montu at Medamud was probably begun during the Old Kingdom era. During the New Kingdom, large and impressive temples to Montu were constructed in Armant. In fact, the Greek name of the city of Armant was Hermonthis, meaning the land of Montu. Earlier temples to Montu include one located adjacent to the Middle Kingdom fortress of Uronarti below the Second Cataract of the Nile, dating to the nineteenth century BCE.

Mentuhotep, a name given to several pharaohs in the Middle Kingdom, the period in the history of ancient Egypt between about 2000 BC and 1700 BC, stretching from the establishment of the Eleventh Dynasty to the end of the Twelfth Dynasty, although some writers include the Thirteenth and Fourteenth dynasties in the Second Intermediate Period, means “Montu is satisfied”.

Representing the concept of salvation he is identified with Horus and in particular “Horus the Child”. Rather than have formal worship in a temple or as an official cult, he appears to have been a god that ordinary Egyptians looked to to save them from illness, misfortune or danger. He is shown on the Metternich Stela as vanquishing danger in the form of a serpent, a scorpion and a crocodile.

Shed

Shed is an Ancient Egyptian deity, popularly called, “the savior” and is first recorded after the Amarna Period. Representing the concept of salvation he is identified with Horus and in particular “Horus the Child”. He has been viewed as a form of savior, a helper for those in need when state authority or the king’s help is wanting.

Shed has also been viewed as a form of the ancient Semitic god Resheph (Rašap, Rešef, Reshef; Canaanite/Hebrew ršp), a Canaanite deity of plague and war. In Ugarit, Resheph was identified with Nergal, in Idalion, Cyprus, with Apollo.

Although the iconography of Resheph shares the gazelle with that of the Egyptian-Canaanite Shed, an Ancient Egyptian deity, popularly called, “the savior”, the rest of the attributes are totally different. According to myth, Resheph exerted a benign influence against disease.

Rather than have formal worship in a temple or as an official cult, he appears to have been a god that ordinary Egyptians looked to save them from illness, misfortune or danger. He is shown on the Metternich Stela as vanquishing danger in the form of a serpent, a scorpion and a crocodile.

The rise of “Savior” names in personal piety during the Amarna period has been interpreted as the popular response of ordinary people to the attempts by Akhenaten to proscribe the ancient religion of Egypt. Shed can be depicted as a young prince overcoming snakes, lions and crocodiles.

The increased reliance on divine assistance could even extend to saving a person from the underworld, even to providing a substitute, and lengthening a person’s time in this world. In the New Kingdom Shed “the savior” is addressed on countless stelae by people searching or praising him for help.

Kadesh and Min

In this later period, Resheph is often accompanied by Qetesh, also Kadesh, a goddess adopted into Egyptian mythology from the Canaanite religion, popular during the New Kingdom, and Min, an Ancient Egyptian god whose cult originated in predynastic times (4th millennium BCE).

In the Qetesh stele, Qetesh is represented as a frontal nude standing on a lion between Min of Egypt and the Canaanite warrior god Resheph. She is holding snakes in one hand and a lotus flower in the other as symbols of creation.

She is associated with Anat, Astarte, and Asherah. She also has elements associated with the goddesses of Myceneae, the Minoans of Crete, and certain Kassite goddesses of the metals trade in Tin, Copper and Bronze between Lothal and Dilmun.

On some versions of the Qetesh stele her register with Min and Resheph is placed over another register showing gifts being presented to Anat the goddess of War and below a register listing the lands belonging to Min and Resheph.

She is called “Mistress of All the Gods”, “Lady of the Stars of Heaven”, “Beloved of Ptah”, “Great of magic, mistress of the stars”, and “Eye of Ra, without her equal”. Qadshu is also used as an epithet of Athirat, the Great Mother Goddess of the Canaanites.

Min was represented in many different forms, but was often represented in male human form, shown with an erect penis which he holds in his left hand and an upheld right arm holding a flail. As Khem or Min, he was the god of reproduction; as Khnum, he was the creator of all things, “the maker of gods and men”.

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