Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

Ar/Su – Ara/Sun

Posted by Fredsvenn on June 1, 2015

Huri/Seri – Aratta/Sumer – Armani/Subartu – Ararat/Assyria – Armenia/Syria – Kurmanji/Sorani

Ar/Su – Ara/Sun

Asha/Arta is the Avestan language term (corresponding to Vedic language ṛta) for a concept of cardinal importance to Zoroastrian theology and doctrine. Its Old Persian equivalent is arta-.[c] In Middle Iranian languages the term appears as ard-.[a] The word is attested in Old Persian as arta.

In the moral sphere, aša/arta represents what has been called “the decisive confessional concept of Zoroastrianism.” The significance of the term is complex, with a highly nuanced range of meaning. It is commonly summarized in accord with its contextual implications of ‘truth’ and ‘right(eousness)’, ‘order’ and ‘right working’.

The word is also the proper name of the divinity Asha, the Amesha Spenta that is the hypostasis or “genius” of “Truth” or “Righteousness”. In the Younger Avesta, this figure is more commonly referred to as Asha Vahishta (Aša Vahišta, Arta Vahišta), “Best Truth”.

The opposite of Avestan aša is druj, “lie.” Avestan druj, like its Vedic Sanskrit cousin druh, appears to derive from the PIE root *dhreugh, also continued in Persian d[o]rūġ “lie”, German Trug “fraud, deception”. Old Norse draugr and Middle Irish airddrach mean “spectre, spook”. The Sanskrit cognate druh means “affliction, afflicting demon”.

In the Vedic religion, Ṛta (Sanskrit ṛtaṃ “that which is properly/excellently joined; order, rule; truth”) is the principle of natural order which regulates and coordinates the operation of the universe and everything within it. In the hymns of the Vedas, Ṛta is described as that which is ultimately responsible for the proper functioning of the natural, moral and sacrificial orders.

Conceptually, it is closely allied to the injunctions and ordinances thought to uphold it, collectively referred to as Dharma, and the action of the individual in relation to those ordinances, referred to as Karma – two terms which eventually eclipsed Ṛta in importance as signifying natural, religious and moral order in later Hinduism.

Sanskrit scholar Maurice Bloomfield referred to Ṛta as “one of the most important religious conceptions of the Rig Veda”, going on to note that, “from the point of view of the history of religious ideas we may, in fact we must, begin the history of Hindu religion at least with the history of this conception”.

Ṛta is derived from the Sanskrit verb root ṛ- “to go, move, rise, tend upwards”, and the derivative noun ṛtam is defined as “fixed or settled order, rule, divine law or truth”. As Mahony (1998) notes, however, the term can just as easily be translated literally as “that which has moved in a fitting manner”, abstractly as “universal law” or “cosmic order”, or simply as “truth”. The latter meaning dominates in the Avestan cognate to Ṛta, Asha.

Oldenberg (1894) surmised that the concept of Ṛta originally arose in the Indo-Aryan period from a consideration of the natural order of the world and of the occurrences taking place within it as doing so with a kind of causal necessity.

Both Vedic Ṛta and Avestan Asha were conceived of as having a tripartite function which manifested itself in the physical, ethical and ritual domains. In the context of Vedic religion, those features of nature which either remains constant or which occur on a regular basis were seen to be a manifestation of the power of Ṛta in the physical cosmos.

In the human sphere, Ṛta was understood to manifest itself as the imperative force behind both the moral order of society as well as the correct performance of Vedic rituals. The notion of a universal principle of natural order is by no means unique to the Vedas, and Ṛta has been compared to similar ideas in other cultures, such as Ma’at in Ancient Egyptian religion, Moira and the Logos in Greek paganism, and the Tao.

The concept of Tao differs from conventional (western) ontology: it is an active and holistic conception of Nature, rather than a static, atomistic one. It is worth comparing to the original Logos of Heraclitus, c. 500 BC.

Ashur is a remnant city of the last Ashurite Kingdom. The remains of the city are situated on the western bank of the river Tigris, north of the confluence with the tributary Little Zab river, in modern-day Iraq, more precisely in the Al-Shirqat District (a small panhandle of the Salah al-Din Governorate).

The city was occupied from the mid-3rd millennium BC (Circa 2600–2500 BC) to the 14th Century AD, when Tamurlane conducted a massacre of its population. Archaeology reveals the site of the city was occupied by the middle of the third millennium BC. This was still the Sumerian period, before the Assyrian kingdom emerged in the 23rd to 21st century BC.

The oldest remains of the city were discovered in the foundations of the Ishtar temple, as well as at the Old Palace. In the following Old Akkadian period, the city was ruled by kings from Akkad. During the “Sumerian Renaissance”, the city was ruled by a Sumerian governor. By the time the Neo-Sumerian Ur-III dynasty collapsed at the hands of the Elamites in ca. the 21st century BC, the local Akkadian kings, including those in Assur, came to power.

An Assyrian king named Ushpia is alleged to have founded the temple of Ashur at the city of Assur, according to the much later inscriptions of Shalmaneser I (13th century BC) and Esarhaddon (8th century BC). However, he has yet to be confirmed by contemporary artifacts and nothing else of him is known. His name is interpreted as Hurrian.

Ashur is also the name of the chief deity of the city. He was considered the highest god in the Assyrian pantheon and the protector of the Assyrian state. In the Mesopotamian mythology he was the equivalent of Babylonian Marduk.

The site of Assur is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but was placed on the list of World Heritage Sites in danger in 2003, in part due to the conflict in that area, and also due to a proposed dam, that would flood part of the site. It is about 40 miles south of the former Nimrud and 60 miles south of Nineveh.

At a late date it appears in Assyrian literature in the forms An-sar, An-sar (ki), which form was presumably read Assur. The name of the deity is written A-šur or Aš-sùr, and in Neo-assyrian often shortened to Aš.

In the Creation tablet, the heavens personified collectively were indicated by this term An-sar, “host of heaven,” in contradistinction to the earth, Ki-sar, “host of earth.”

In view of this fact, it seems highly probable that the late writing An-sar for Assur was a more or less conscious attempt on the part of the Assyrian scribes to identify the peculiarly Assyrian deity Asur with the Creation deity An-sar.

On the other hand, there is an epithet Asir or Ashir (“overseer”) applied to several gods and particularly to the deity Asur, a fact which introduced a third element of confusion into the discussion of the name Assur. It is probable then that there is a triple popular etymology in the various forms of writing the name Assur; viz. A-usar, An-sar and the stem asdru.

The name Syria has since the Roman Empire’s era historically referred to the region of Syria. It is the Latinized from the original Indo-Anatolian and later Greek. Etymologically and historically, the name is accepted by majority mainstream academic opinion as having derived from Ασσυρία, Assuria/Assyria, from the Akkadian Aššur or Aššūrāyu, which is in fact located in Upper Mesopotamia (modern northern Iraq southeast Turkey and northeast Syria).

A Hieroglyphic Luwian and Phoenician bilingual monumental inscription found in Çineköy, Turkey, (the Çineköy inscription) belonging to Urikki, vassal king of Que (i.e. Cilicia), dating to the eighth century BC, reference is made to the relationship between his kingdom and his Assyrian overlords. The Luwian inscription reads su-ra/i whereas the Phoenician translation reads ʾšr, i.e. ašur, which according to Robert Rollinger (2006) “settles the problem once and for all”.

Some 19th-century historians such as Ernest Renan had dismissed the etymological identity of the two toponyms. Various alternatives had been suggested, including derivation from Subartu (a term which most modern scholars in fact accept is itself an early name for Assyria, and which was located in northern Mesopotamia), the Hurrian toponym Śu-ri, or Ṣūr (the Phoenician name of Tyre).

Syria is known as Ḫrw (Ḫuru, referring to the Hurrian occupants prior to the Aramaean invasion) in the Amarna Period Egypt, and as Aram in Biblical Hebrew. J. A. Tvedtnes had suggested that the Greek Suria is loaned from Coptic, and due to a regular Coptic development of Ḫrw to *Šuri. In this case, the name would directly derive from that of the Language Isolate speaking Hurrians, and be unrelated to the name Aššur. Tvedtnes’ explanation was rejected as highly unlikely by Frye in 1992.

The land of Subartu (Akkadian Šubartum/Subartum/ina Šú-ba-ri, Assyrian mât Šubarri) or Subar (Sumerian Su-bir4/Subar/Šubur) is mentioned in Bronze Age literature. The name also appears as Subari in the Amarna letters, and, in the form Šbr, in Ugarit. Subartu may have been in the general sphere of influence of the Hurrians.

Subartu was apparently a polity in Northern Mesopotamia, at the upper Tigris. Some scholars suggest that Subartu is an early name for Assyria proper on the Tigris and westward, although there are various other theories placing it sometimes a little farther to the east and/or north. Its precise location has not been identified. From the point of view of the Akkadian Empire, Subartu marked the northern geographical horizon, just as Martu, Elam and Sumer marked “west”, “east” and “south”, respectively.

The Sumerian mythological epic Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta lists the countries where the “languages are confused” as Subartu, Hamazi, Sumer, Uri-ki (Akkad), and the Martu land (the Amorites). Similarly, the earliest references to the “four quarters” by the kings of Akkad name Subartu as one of these quarters around Akkad, along with Martu, Elam, and Sumer. Subartu in the earliest texts seem to have been farming mountain dwellers, frequently raided for slaves.

Eannatum of Lagash was said to have smitten Subartu or Shubur, and it was listed as a province of the empire of Lugal-Anne-Mundu; in a later era Sargon of Akkad campaigned against Subar, and his grandson Naram-Sin listed Subar along with Armani, which has been identified with Aleppo, among the lands under his control. Ishbi-Erra of Isin and Hammurabi also claimed victories over Subar.

Sin (Akkadian: Su’en, Sîn) or Nanna (Sumerian: ŠEŠ.KI, NANNA) was the god of the moon in the Mesopotamian mythology of Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia. Nanna is a Sumerian deity, the son of Enlil and Ninlil, and became identified with Semitic Sin. The two chief seats of Nanna’s/Sin’s worship were Ur in the south of Mesopotamia and Harran in the north.

Shamash (Akkadian: Šamaš, “Sun”) was a native Mesopotamian deity and the Sun god in the Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian pantheons. Shamash was the god of justice in Babylonia and Assyria, corresponding to Sumerian Utu. Akkadian šamaš is cognate to Syriac šemša or šimšu Hebrew šemeš and Arabic šams. In Sumerian tradition, Utu is the son of the moon god Nanna-Suen and the twin brother of Inana. Akkadian tradition sometimes made Šamaš the son of Anu or Enlil. The sun god’s wife was Aya, goddess of the dawn

Both in early and in late inscriptions Shamash is designated as the “offspring of Nannar”; i.e. of the Moon-god, and since, in an enumeration of the pantheon, Sin generally takes precedence of Shamash, it is in relationship, presumably, to the Moon-god that the Sun-god appears as the dependent power.

Such a supposition would accord with the prominence acquired by the Moon in the calendar and in astrological calculations, as well as with the fact that the Moon-cult belongs to the nomadic and therefore earlier stage of civilization, whereas the Sun-god rises to full importance only after the agricultural stage has been reached.

The two chief centres of Sun-worship in Babylonia were Sippar, represented by the mounds at Abu Habba, and Larsa, represented by the modern Senkerah. At both places the chief sanctuary bore the name E-barra (or E-babbara) “the shining house”—a direct allusion to the brilliancy of the Sun-god. Of the two temples, that at Sippara was the more famous, but temples to Shamash were erected in all large centres – such as Babylon, Ur, Mari, Nippur, and Nineveh.

The attribute most commonly associated with Shamash is justice. Just as the Sun disperses darkness, so Shamash brings wrong and injustice to light. Hammurabi attributes to Shamash the inspiration that led him to gather the existing laws and legal procedures into code, and in the design accompanying the code the king represents himself in an attitude of adoration before Shamash as the embodiment of the idea of justice. Several centuries before Hammurabi, Ur-Engur of the Ur dynasty (c. 2600 BC) declared that he rendered decisions “according to the just laws of Shamash.”

It was a logical consequence of this conception of the Sun-god that he was regarded also as the one who released the sufferer from the grasp of the demons. The sick man, therefore, appeals to Shamash as the god who can be depended upon to help those who are suffering unjustly. This aspect of the Sun-god is vividly brought out in the hymns addressed to him, which are, therefore, among the finest productions in the entire realm of Babylonian literature.

Šamaš also played an essential role in sacrificial divination (extispicy) rituals. Extispicy was an important branch of royal court scholarship in existence for over a millennium, whereby the king could receive answers from the gods to specific questions regarding matters of state.

The king’s diviners (bārû) asked the gods to write the answer in the liver of a sheep, which was then ‘read’ through examining the liver and counting up its ominous features. As god of truth and justice, Šamaš was implored to help provide a correct answer. A late second-millennium prayer to Šamaš by a diviner asks him to guide the inquiry and to ‘let there be truth’ in their interpretations of the omens.

In localised Celtic polytheism practised in Britain, Sulis was a deity worshipped at the thermal spring of Bath (now in Somerset). She was worshipped by the Romano-British as Sulis Minerva, whose votive objects and inscribed lead tablets suggest that she was conceived of both as a nourishing, life-giving mother goddess and as an effective agent of curses wished by her votaries.

The exact meaning of the name Sulis is still a matter of debate among linguists, but one possibility is “Eye/Vision”, cognate with Old Irish súil “eye, gap”, perhaps derived from a Proto-Celtic word *sūli- which may be related to various Indo-European words for “sun” (cf. Homeric Greek ηέλιος, Sanskrit sūryah “sun”, from Proto-Indo-European *suhlio-).

Surya (“the Supreme Light”), also known as Aditya, Bhanu or Ravi Vivasvan in Sanskrit, and in Avestan Vivanhant, is the chief solar deity in Hinduism and generally refers to the Sun.

Saulė (Lithuanian: Saulė, Latvian: Saule) is a solar goddess, the common Baltic solar deity in the Lithuanian and Latvian mythologies. The noun Saulė/Saule in the Lithuanian and Latvian languages is also the conventional name for the Sun and originates from the Proto-Baltic name *Sauliā > *Saulē.

Ṛta (Hinduism)

Arthaśāstra (Hinduism)

Asha (Zoroastrianism)

Ma’at (Egyptian religion)

Me (Sumerian Religion)

Moira (Greek paganism)

Tao (Chinese Taoism)

Wyrd (Germanic paganism)

Fard (Islam)

God (Abrahamic)

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