The city of Mari and Marduk
Posted by Fredsvenn on June 14, 2016
The Kura–Araxes culture or the early trans-Caucasian culture was a civilization that existed from 3400 BC until about 2000 BC, which has traditionally been regarded as the date of its end; in some locations it may have disappeared as early as 2600 or 2700 BC. The earliest evidence for this culture is found on the Ararat plain; it spread northward in Caucasus by 3000 BC (but never reaching Colchis).
Altogether, the early trans-Caucasian culture enveloped a vast area approximately 1,000 km by 500 km, and mostly encompassed, on modern-day territories, the Southern Caucasus (except western Georgia), northwestern Iran, the northeastern Caucasus, eastern Turkey, and as far as Syria.
The name of the culture is derived from the Kura and Araxes river valleys. Kura–Araxes culture is sometimes known as Shengavitian, Karaz (Erzurum), Pulur, and Yanik Tepe (Iranian Azerbaijan, near Lake Urmia) cultures. It gave rise to the later Khirbet Kerak-ware culture found in Syria and Canaan after the fall of the Akkadian Empire.
Khirbet Kerak (“the ruin of the fortress”) or Beth Yerah (“House of the Moon (god)”) is a tell (archaeological mound) located on the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee in modern-day Israel. The tell spans an area of over 50 acres—one of the largest in the Levant—and contains remains dating from the Early Bronze Age (c. 3000 BC – 2000 BC) and from the Persian period (c. 450 BC) through to the early Islamic period (c. 1000 AD).
Beth Yerah means “House of the Moon (god)”. Though it is not mentioned in the Hebrew Bible or other Bronze or Iron Age sources, the name may preserve, at least in part, the Canaanite toponym of Ablm-bt-Yrh, “the city/fort (qrt) of his-majesty Yarih”. As Ablm (Heb. Abel), this location is mentioned in the 14th century BCE Epic of Aqht, and is thought to be a reference to the Early Bronze Age structure extant at Khirbet Kerak.
The tell of Khirbet Kerak lies where the Sea of Galilee empties into the Jordan river and rises 15 meters above the level of the Sea of Galilee. It is triangular in shape and approximately 1.2 km by 380 m (at its widest point), covering 60-75 acres. The Jordan river runs to the south, although it previously (until the medieval period at the earliest) ran north and west of it.
“Khirbet Kerak ware” is a type of Early Bronze Age Syro-Palestinian pottery first discovered at this site. It is also found in other parts of the Levant (including Jericho, Beth Shan, Tell Judeideh, and Ugarit). Khirbet Kerak culture appears to have been a Levantine version of the Early Transcaucasian Culture.
The ware consists of a variety of bowls, kraters, jars and stands beautifully burnished in red and black, as well as of unburnished cooking ware and portable hearths, all made in a style and technique clearly alien to the local traditions.
This ware has been linked to groups of Early Transcaucasian migrants who emerged in the Kura-Araxes region, and spread to southeastern Anatolia and the Levant during the 3rd millennium BC, producing distinctive ceramics known in Turkey and Syria as Karaz Ware or Red-Black Burnished Ware.
At Tel Bet Yerah, Khirbet Kerak Ware was introduced at the beginning of EB III, ca. 2750 BCE, and produced in large quantities on-site, alongside traditional local ceramics. Production of this ware continued throughout EB III, in diminishing quantities, and ended with the demise of the Early Bronze Age town.
The 2009 discovery at the tell of a stone palette with Egyptian motifs, including an ankh, points to trade/political relations with the First dynasty of Egypt, at approximately 3000 BCE. Around 2000 BC, the city was destroyed or abandoned.
From the Middle Bronze Age I, a paved street, a potters workshop and other remains were excavated. Middle Bronze Age II is represented by a tomb. Parts of the city walls are also dated to the MB. There are no signs of habitation from 1200-450 BC until the site’s reuse during the Persian period.
Mari (modern Tell Hariri), was an ancient Semitic city in Syria. Its remains constitute a tell located 11 kilometers north-west of Abu Kamal on the Euphrates river western bank, some 120 kilometers southeast of Deir ez-Zor.
The name of the city can be traced to Mer, an ancient storm deity of northern Mesopotamia and Syria who was considered the patron deity of the city, Georges Dossin noted that the name of the city was spelled identically like the name of the storm god and concluded that Mari was named after him.
Amurru and Martu are names given in Akkadian and Sumerian texts to the god of the Amorite or Amurru people, often forming part of personal names. He is sometimes called Ilu Amurru (MAR.TU). He was the patron god of the Mesopotamian city of Ninab, whose exact location is unknown.
Amurru/Martu was probably a western Semitic god originally. He is sometimes described as a ‘shepherd’ or as a storm god, and as a son of the sky-god Anu. He is sometimes called bêlu šadī or bêl šadê, ‘lord of the mountain’; dúr-hur-sag-gá sikil-a-ke, ‘He who dwells on the pure mountain’; and kur-za-gan ti-[la], ‘who inhabits the shining mountain’. In Cappadocian Zinčirli inscriptions he is called ì-li a-bi-a, ‘the god of my father’.
Accordingly, it has been suggested by L. R. Bailey (1968) and Jean Ouelette (1969), that this Bêl Šadê might be the same as the Biblical ’Ēl Šaddāi who is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the “Priestly source” of narrative, according to the documentary hypothesis. Bêl Šadê could have been the fertility-god ‘Ba’al’, possibly adopted by the Canaanites, a rival and enemy of the Hebrew God YHWH, and famously combatted by the Hebrew prophet Elijah.
Amurru also has storm-god features. Like Adad, Amurru bears the epithet ramān ‘thunderer’, and he is even calledbāriqu ‘hurler of the thunderbolt’ and Adad ša a-bu-be ‘Adad of the deluge’. Yet his iconography is distinct from that of Adad, and he sometimes appears alongside Adad with a baton of power or throwstick, while Adad bears a conventional thunderbolt.
Amurru’s wife is usually the goddess Ašratum (Asherah) who in northwest Semitic tradition and Hittite tradition appears as wife of the god Ēl which suggests that Amurru may indeed have been a variation of that god. If Amurru was identical with Ēl, it would explain why so few Amorite names are compounded with the name Amurru, but so many are compounded with Il; that is, with Ēl.
Another tradition about Amurru’s wife (or one of Amurru’s wives) gives her name as Belit-Sheri, ‘Lady of the Desert’. A third tradition appears in a Sumerian poem in pastoral style, which relates how the god Martu came to marry Adg̃ar-kidug the daughter of the god Numushda of the city of Inab. It contains a speech expressing urbanite Sumerian disgust at uncivilized, nomadic Amurru life which Adg̃ar-kidug ignores, responding only: “I will marry Martu!”.
Utu (Akkadian rendition of Sumerian UD “Sun”, Assyro-Babylonian Shamash “Sun”) is the Sun god in Sumerian mythology, the son of the moon god Nanna and the goddess Ningal. His brother and sisters are Ishkur, Ereshkigal, and his twin sister Inanna. His center cult was located in the city of Larsa.
Utu is the god of the sun, justice, application of law, and the lord of truth. He is usually depicted as wearing a horned helmet and carrying a saw-edged weapon not unlike a pruning saw. He is also depicted as carrying a mace, and standing with one foot on a mountain. Its symbol is “sun rays from the shoulders, and or sun disk or a saw”.
It is thought that every day, Utu emerges from a mountain in the east, symbolizing dawn, and travels either via chariot or boat across the Earth, returning to a hole in a mountain in the west, symbolizing sunset. Every night, Utu descends into the underworld to decide the fate of the dead.
The sun god is only modestly mentioned in Sumerian mythology with one of the notable exceptions being the Epic of Gilgamesh. In the myth, Gilgamesh seeks to establish his name with the assistance of Utu, because of his connection with the cedar mountain.
Gilgamesh and his father, Lugalbanda were kings of the first dynasty of Uruk, a lineage that Jeffrey H. Tigay suggested could be traced back to Utu himself. He further suggested that Lugalbanda’s association with the sun-god in the Old Babylonian version of the epic strengthened “the impression that at one point in the history of the tradition the sun-god was also invoked as an ancestor”.
Marduk, a late-generation god from ancient Mesopotamia and patron deity of the city of Babylon, is spelled AMAR.UTU in Sumerian, literally, “the calf of Utu” or “the young bull of the Sun”. In the perfected system of astrology, Jupiter was associated with Marduk by the Hammurabi period.
The name Marduk was probably pronounced Marutuk. The origin of Marduk’s name may reflect an earlier genealogy, or have had cultural ties to the ancient city of Sippar (whose god was Utu, the sun god), dating back to the third millennium BC.
When Babylon became the political center of the Euphrates valley in the time of Hammurabi (18th century BC), he slowly started to rise to the position of the head of the Babylonian pantheon, a position he fully acquired by the second half of the second millennium BC. In the city of Babylon, he resided in the temple Esagila. “Marduk” is the Babylonian form of his name.
Mari is not considered a small settlement that later grew, but rather a new city that was purposely founded during the Mesopotamian Early Dynastic period I c. 2900 BC, to control the waterways of the Euphrates trade routes that connect the Levant with the Sumerian south.
It flourished as a trade center and hegemonic state between 2900 BC and 1759 BC. As a purposely built city, the existence of Mari was related to its position in the middle of the Euphrates trade routes; this position made it an intermediary between Sumer in the south and the Levant in the west.
Mari was first abandoned in the middle of the 26th century BC but was rebuilt and became the capital of a hegemonic East-Semitic state before 2500 BC. This second Mari engaged in a long war with its rival Ebla, and is known for its strong affinity with the Sumerian culture.
It was destroyed in the 23rd century BC by the Akkadians who allowed the city to be rebuilt and appointed a military governor bearing the title of Shakkanakku (military governor). The governors later became independent with the rapid disintegration of the Akkadian empire and rebuilt the city as a regional center in the middle Euphrates valley.
The Shakkanakkus ruled Mari until the second half of the 19th century BC when the dynasty collapsed for unknown reasons. A short time after the Shakkanakku collapse, Mari became the capital of the Amorite Lim dynasty.
The Amorite Mari was short lived as it was annexed by Babylonia in c. 1761 BC, but the city survived as a small settlement under the rule of the Babylonians and the Assyrians before being abandoned and forgotten during the Hellenistic period.
The Mariotes worshiped both Semitic and Sumerian deities and established their city as a center of old trade. However, although the pre-Amorite periods were characterized by heavy Sumerian cultural influence, Mari was not a city of Sumerian immigrants but rather a Semitic speaking nation that used a dialect similar to Eblaite.
The Amorites (Sumerian MAR.TU; Akkadian Tidnum or Amurrūm; Egyptian Amar; Hebrew Ĕmōrī) were West-Semites who began to settle the area before the 21st century BC; by the Lim dynasty’s era (c. 1830 BC), they became the dominant population in the Fertile Crescent.
Amorite is an early Northwest Semitic language, spoken by the Amorite tribes prominent in ancient Near Eastern history. It is known exclusively from non-Akkadian proper names recorded by Akkadian scribes during periods of Amorite rule in Babylonia (the end of the 3rd and the beginning of the 2nd millennium), notably from Mari, and to a lesser extent Alalakh, Tell Harmal, and Khafajah.
Known Amorites wrote in a dialect of Akkadian found on tablets at Mari dating from 1800–1750 BC. Since the language shows northwest Semitic forms, words and constructions, the Amorite language is believed to be a northwest branch of the Canaanite languages.
The main sources for the extremely limited knowledge about Amorite are the proper names, not Akkadian in style, that are preserved in such texts. The Akkadian language of the native Semitic states, cities and polities of Mesopotamia was from the east Semitic, as was the Eblaite of the northern Levant.
The Amorites occupied large parts of southern Mesopotamia from the 21st century BC to the end of the 17th century BC, where they established several prominent city states in existing locations, notably Babylon which was raised from a small administrative town to an independent state and major city. The term Amurru in Akkadian and Sumerian texts refers to them, as well as to their principal deity.
There is a wide range of views regarding the Amorite homeland. One extreme is the view that kur mar.tu/māt amurrim covered the whole area between the Euphrates and the Mediterranean Sea, the Arabian Peninsula included. The other extreme is the view that the “homeland” of the Amorites was a limited area in northern Syria (Jebel Bishri).
Since the Amorite language is one of the Canaanite languages, a branch of the Northwestern Semitic languages, as opposed to the South Semitic languages found in the Arabian Peninsula, they are usually considered native to the region around Syria and the Transjordan.
In the earliest Sumerian sources concerning the Amorites, beginning about 2400 BC, the land of the Amorites (“the Mar.tu land”) is associated not with Mesopotamia but with the lands to the west of the Euphrates, including Canaan and what was to become Syria by the 3rd century BC, then known as The land of the Amurru, and later as Aram and Eber-Nari.
In the earliest Sumerian language texts, all western lands beyond the Euphrates, including the modern Levant, were known as “the land of the mar.tu (Amorites)”. This term appears in Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta, which describes it in the time of Enmerkar as one of the regions inhabited by speakers of a different language.
Another text known as Lugalbanda and the Anzud bird describes how, fifty years into Enmerkar’s reign, the Martu people arose in Sumer and Akkad, (southern Mesopotamia) necessitating the building of a wall to protect Uruk.
They appear as an uncivilized and nomadic people in early Mesopotamian writings from Sumer, Akkad and Assyria, especially connected with the mountainous region now called Jebel Bishri in northern Syria called the “mountain of the Amorites”. The ethnic terms Amurru and Amar were used for them in Sumerian, Akkadian and Ancient Egyptian respectively.
There are also sparse mentions in tablets from the East Semitic-speaking kingdom of Ebla, dating from 2500 BC to the destruction of the city c. 2250 BC: from the perspective of the Eblaites, the Amorites were a rural group living in the narrow basin of the middle and upper Euphrates in northern Syria.
For the Akkadian kings of central Mesopotamia Mar.tu was one of the “Four Quarters” surrounding Akkad, along with Subartu, Sumer, and Elam. Naram-Sin of Akkad records successful campaigns against them in northern Syria c. 2240 BC, and his successor, Shar-Kali-Sharri, followed suit.
By the time of the last days of the Third Dynasty of Ur, immigrating Amorites had become such a force that kings such as Shu-Sin, a king of Sumer and Akkad who reigned c. 1972-1964 BC, were obliged to construct a 170 miles (270 km) wall from the Tigris to the Euphrates to hold them off.
These Amorites appear as nomadic clans ruled by fierce tribal chiefs, who forced themselves into lands they needed to graze their herds. Some of the Akkadian literature of this era speaks disparagingly of the Amorites, and implies that the Akkadian and Sumerian speakers of Mesopotamia viewed their nomadic and primitive way of life with disgust and contempt.
From the 21st century BC, possibly triggered by a long major drought starting about 2200 BC, a large-scale migration of Amorite tribes infiltrated southern Mesopotamia. They were one of the instruments of the downfall of the Third Dynasty of Ur.
Amorite dynasties both usurped native rulers of long-extant Babylonian city-states such as Isin, Larsa, Eshnunna and Kish and also established new ones, the most famous of which was to become Babylon, although it was initially a minor and insignificant state.
As the centralized structure of the Third Dynasty slowly collapsed, the component regions, such as Assyria in the north and the city-states of the south such as Isin, Larsa and Eshnunna, began to reassert their former independence, and areas in southern Mesopotamia where Amorites resided were no exception. Elsewhere, the armies of Elam in southern Iran were attacking and weakening the empire, making it vulnerable.
Many Amorite chieftains in southern Mesopotamia aggressively took advantage of the failing empire to seize power for themselves. There was not an Amorite invasion of southern Mesopotamia as such, but Amorites did ascend to power in many locations, especially during the reign of the last king of the Neo-Sumerian Empire, Ibbi-Sin.
Leaders with Amorite names assumed power in various places, usurping native Akkadian rulers, including in Isin, Eshnunna and Larsa. Babylon, hitherto a small, politically and military unimportant town was raised to the status of a minor independent city state under Sumu-abum in 1894 BC.
The Elamites finally sacked Ur in c. 2004 BC. Sometime later, the Old Assyrian Empire (c. 2050-1750 BC) became the most powerful entity in Mesopotamia immediately preceding the rise of the Amorite king Hammurabi of Babylon.
The new Assyrian monarchic line was founded by c. 2050 BC; their kings repelled attempted Amorite incursions, and may have countered their influence in the south as well under, Erishum I, Ilu-shuma and Sargon I. However, eventually even Assyria found its throne usurped by an Amorite in 1809 BC: the latter two rulers of the Old Assyrian Empire period, Shamshi-Adad I and Ishme-Dagan, were Amorites who originated in Terqa (now in modern north eastern Syria).
The cult of Ninurta, a Sumerian and the Akkadian god of hunting and war, can be traced back to the oldest period of Sumerian history. Enlil’s brother, Enki, was portrayed as Ninurta’s mentor from whom Ninurta was entrusted several powerful Mes, including the Deluge.
He was worshipped in Babylonia and Assyria and in Lagash he was identified with the city god Ningirsu. In the inscriptions found at Lagash he appears under his name Ningirsu, “the lord of Girsu”, Girsu being the name of a city where he was considered the patron deity. In older transliteration the name is rendered Ninib and Ninip, and in early commentary he was sometimes portrayed as a solar deity.
In Nippur, Ninurta was worshiped as part of a triad of deities including his father, Enlil and his mother, Ninlil. In variant mythology, his mother is said to be the harvest goddess Ninhursag. The consort of Ninurta was Ugallu in Nippur and Bau when he was called Ningirsu.
Ninurta appears in a double capacity in the epithets bestowed on him, and in the hymns and incantations addressed to him. On the one hand he is a farmer and a healing god who releases humans from sickness and the power of demons; on the other he is the god of the South Wind as the son of Enlil, displacing his mother Ninlil who was earlier held to be the goddess of the South Wind.
In the late neo-Babylonian and early Persian period, syncretism seems to have fused Ninurta’s character with that of Nergal. The two gods were often invoked together, and spoken of as if they were one divinity.
In the astral-theological system Ninurta was associated with the planet Saturn, or perhaps as offspring or an aspect of Saturn. In his capacity as a farmer-god, there are similarities between Ninurta and the Greek Titan Kronos, whom the Romans in turn identified with their Titan Saturn.
Ninurta often appears holding a bow and arrow, a sickle sword, or a mace named Sharur: Sharur is capable of speech in the Sumerian legend “Deeds and Exploits of Ninurta” and can take the form of a winged lion and may represent an archetype for the later Shedu.
In another legend, Ninurta battles a birdlike monster called Imdugud (Akkadian: Anzû); a Babylonian version relates how the monster Anzû steals the Tablets of Destiny from Enlil. The Tablets of Destiny were believed to contain the details of fate and the future.
Ninurta slays each of the monsters later known as the “Slain Heroes” (the Warrior Dragon, the Palm Tree King, Lord Saman-ana, the Bison-beast, the Mermaid, the Seven-headed Snake, the Six-headed Wild Ram), and despoils them of valuable items such as Gypsum, Strong Copper, and the Magilum boat.
Eventually, Anzû is killed by Ninurta who delivers the Tablet of Destiny to his father, Enlil. There are many parallels with both and the story of Marduk (son of Enki) who slew Abzu (or Apsu), and delivered the Tablets of Destiny from Kingu to his father, Enki.
When Babylon became the principal city of southern Mesopotamia during the reign of Hammurabi in the 18th century BC, the patron deity of Babylon was elevated to the level of supreme god. In order to explain how Marduk seized power, Enûma Elish was written, which tells the story of Marduk’s birth, heroic deeds and becoming the ruler of the gods. This can be viewed as a form of Mesopotamian apologetics. Also included in this document are the fifty names of Marduk.
In Enûma Elish, a civil war between the gods was growing to a climactic battle. The Anunnaki gods gathered together to find one god who could defeat the gods rising against them. Marduk, a very young god, answered the call and was promised the position of head god.
To prepare for battle, he makes a bow, fletches arrows, grabs a mace, throws lightning before him, fills his body with flame, makes a net to encircle Tiamat within it, gathers the four winds so that no part of her could escape, creates seven nasty new winds such as the whirlwind and tornado, and raises up his mightiest weapon, the rain-flood. Then he sets out for battle, mounting his storm-chariot drawn by four horses with poison in their mouths. In his lips he holds a spell and in one hand he grasps a herb to counter poison.
First, he challenges the leader of the Anunnaki gods, the dragon of the primordial sea Tiamat, to single combat and defeats her by trapping her with his net, blowing her up with his winds, and piercing her belly with an arrow.
Then, he proceeds to defeat Kingu, who Tiamat put in charge of the army and wore the Tablets of Destiny on his breast, and “wrested from him the Tablets of Destiny, wrongfully his” and assumed his new position. Under his reign humans were created to bear the burdens of life so the gods could be at leisure.