Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

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  • The Fertile Crescent

    The Fertile Crescent is a term for an old fertile area north, east and west of the Arabian Desert in Southwest Asia. The Mesopotamian valley and the Nile valley fall under this term even though the mountain zone around Mesopotamia is the natural zone for the transition in a historical sense.

    As a result of a number of unique geographical factors the Fertile Crescent have an impressive history of early human agricultural activity and culture. Besides the numerous archaeological sites with remains of skeletons and cultural relics the area is known primarily for its excavation sites linked to agricultural origins and development of the Neolithic era.

    It was here, in the forested mountain slopes of the periphery of this area, that agriculture originated in an ecologically restricted environment. The western zone and areas around the upper Euphrates gave growth to the first known Neolithic farming communities with small, round houses , also referred to as Pre Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) cultures, which dates to just after 10,000 BC and include areas such as Jericho, the world’s oldest city.

    During the subsequent PPNB from 9000 BC these communities developed into larger villages with farming and animal husbandry as the main source of livelihood, with settlement in the two-story, rectangular house. Man now entered in symbiosis with grain and livestock species, with no opportunity to return to hunter – gatherer societies.

    The area west and north of the plains of the Euphrates and Tigris also saw the emergence of early complex societies in the much later Bronze Age (about 4000 BC). There is evidence of written culture and early state formation in this northern steppe area, although the written formation of the states relatively quickly shifted its center of gravity into the Mesopotamian valley and developed there. The area is therefore in very many writers been named “The Cradle of Civilization.”

    The area has experienced a series of upheavals and new formation of states. When Turkey was formed in the aftermath of the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians perpetrated by the Young Turks during the First World War it is estimated that two-thirds to three-quarters of all Armenians and Assyrians in the region died, and the Pontic Greeks was pushed to Greece.

    Israel was created out of the Ottoman Empire and the conquering of the Palestinian terretories. The existence of large Arab nation states from the Maghreb to the Levant has since represented a potential threat to Israel which should be neutralised when opportunities arise.

    This line of thinking was at the heart of David Ben Gurion’s policies in the 1950s which sought to exacerbate tensions between Christians and Muslims in the Lebanon for the fruits of acquiring regional influence by the dismembering the country and the possible acquisition of additional territory.

    The Christians are now being systematically targeted for genocide in Syria according to Vatican and other sources with contacts on the ground among the besieged Christian community.

    According to reports by the Vatican’s Fides News Agency collected by the Centre for the Study of Interventionism, the US-backed Free Syrian Army rebels and ever more radical spin-off factions are sacking Christian churches, shooting Christians dead in the street, broadcasting ultimatums that all Christians must be cleansed from the rebel-held villages, and even shooting priests.

    It is now time that the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Assyrians and Armenians is being recognized, that the Israeli occupation, settlements and violence against the Palestinians stop, and that the various minorities in the area start to live their lifes in peace – without violence and threats from majority populations, or from the West, and then specificially from the US.

    War in the Fertile Crescent
    https://aratta.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/war-in-the-fertile-crescent

    Everyone is free to use the text on this blog as they want. There is no copyright etc. This because knowledge is more important than rules and regulations.

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Lagash, Nineveh and Nina

Posted by Sjur Cappelen Papazian on February 20, 2019

Goddess Nina

Lagash

Lagash (modern Al-Hiba) is an ancient city located northwest of the junction of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers and east of Uruk, about 22 kilometres (14 mi) east of the modern town of Ash Shatrah, Iraq. Lagash was one of the oldest cities of the Ancient Near East.

From inscriptions found at Girsu such as the Gudea cylinders, it appears that Lagash was an important Sumerian city in the late 3rd millennium BC. It was at that time ruled by independent kings, Ur-Nanshe (24th century BC) and his successors, who were engaged in contests with the Elamites on the east and the kings of Kienĝir and Kish on the north.

Some of the earlier works from before the Akkadian conquest are also extremely interesting, in particular Eanatum’s Stele of the Vultures and Entemena’s great silver vase ornamented with Ningirsu’s sacred animal Anzu: a lion-headed eagle with wings outspread, grasping a lion in each talon.

With the Akkadian conquest Lagash lost its independence, its ruler or ensi becoming a vassal of Sargon of Akkad and his successors; but Lagash continued to be a city of much importance and above all, a centre of artistic development.

After the collapse of Sargon’s state, Lagash again thrived under its independent kings (ensis), Ur-Baba and Gudea, and had extensive commercial communications with distant realms. According to one estimate, Lagash was the largest city in the world from c. 2075 to 2030 BC.

According to his own records, Gudea brought cedars from the Amanus and Lebanon mountains in Syria, diorite from eastern Arabia, copper and gold from central and southern Arabia, while his armies were engaged in battles with Elam on the east.

His was especially the era of artistic development. We even have a fairly good idea of what Gudea looked like, since he placed in temples throughout his city numerous statues or idols depicting himself with lifelike realism.

At the time of Gudea, the capital of Lagash was actually in Girsu. The kingdom covered an area of approximately 1,600 square kilometres (620 sq mi). It contained 17 larger cities, eight district capitals, and numerous villages (about 40 known by name).

Soon after the time of Gudea, Lagash was absorbed into the Ur III state as one of its prime provinces. There is some information about the area during the Old Babylonian period. After that it seems to have lost its importance; at least we know nothing more about it until the construction of the Seleucid fortress mentioned, when it seems to have become part of the Greek kingdom of Characene.

Girsu

Nearby Girsu at the site of modern Tell Telloh, Dhi Qar Governorate, Iraq, about 25 km (16 mi) northwest of Lagash, was the religious center of the Lagash state. Girsu was possibly inhabited in the Ubaid period (5300-4800 BC), but significant levels of activity began in the Early Dynastic period (2900-2335 BC).

From inscriptions found at Girsu such as the Gudea cylinders, it appears that Lagash was an important Sumerian city in the late 3rd millennium BC. At the time of Gudea, during the Second Dynasty of Lagash, Girsu became the capital of the Lagash kingdom and continued to be its religious center after political power had shifted to city of Lagash.

During the Ur III period, Girsu was a major administrative center for the empire. After the fall of Ur, Girsu declined in importance, but remained inhabited until approximately 200 BC.

It’s main temple was the E-Ninnu, dedicated to the god Ningirsu, also known as Ninurta, an ancient Mesopotamian god associated with farming, healing, hunting, law, scribes, and war who was first worshipped in early Sumer.

Ninurta was worshipped in Mesopotamia as early as the middle of the third millennium BC by the ancient Sumerians, and is one of the earliest attested deities in the region. His main cult center was the Eshumesha temple in the Sumerian city-state of Nippur, where he was worshipped as the god of agriculture and the son of the chief-god Enlil.

In the earliest records, he is a god of agriculture and healing, who releases humans from sickness and the power of demons. In later times, as Mesopotamia grew more militarized, he became a warrior deity, though he retained many of his earlier agricultural attributes. He continued to be seen as a healer and protector, and he was commonly invoked in spells to protect against demons, disease, and other dangers.

Though they may have originally been separate deities, in historical times, the god Ninĝirsu, who was worshipped in the Sumerian city-state of Girsu, was always identified as a local form of Ninurta. Ninĝirsu was honored by King Gudea of Lagash (ruled 2144–2124 BC), who rebuilt Ninĝirsu’s temple in Lagash. As the city-state of Girsu declined in importance, Ninĝirsu became increasingly known as “Ninurta”

Nina

The ancient site of Nina (modern Surghul) is around 10 km (6.2 mi) away and marks the southern limit of the state. The tell Surghul was inhabited from the period of Ubaid, around 5000 BC, until the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC.

A Tello brick with the text: « For Nina (the goddess), Gudea, Lagash’s patési, do all that is right: In Nina, her beloved city, her temple Sirara, which rises higher than the others, he built» shows that Sirara is the name of the temple, while Nina is both the name of the goddess and of the town. However, specialists consider that the reading of the hieroglyphs is uncertain as regards the designation of the city, “Nigin” is prefer to “Nina”.

15 bricks and 11 cones covered with hieroglyphs were exhumed there. They advanced the knowledge of the places. Indeed, the writings commemorate, as was usual at this time, the construction of the temple Sirara for the goddess Nanshe (or Nina) by Gudea of Lagash.

Nanshe was the daughter of Enki (god of wisdom, magic and water) and the earth and mother goddess Ninhursag. According to tradition, Enki organized the universe and placed her in charge of fish and fishing.

Nanshe was also described as a divine soothsayer and dream interpreter. Although at times overshadowed by her sister Inanna (Akkadian: Ishtar), Nanshe was, nevertheless, important in her own geographic area, and many rulers of Lagash record that they were chosen by her.

She was a goddess of social justice, prophecy, fertility and fishing. Like her father, she was heavily associated with water. She held dominion over the Persian Gulf and all the animals within. Her seat of power was the Sirara temple, located in the city of Nina.

Nanshe has two major symbols, both of which are also seen in Christian folklore. The fish represents her original role as a water and fishing goddess. The pelican, said in folklore to rip open its own chest to feed its young, represents her role as a protector and caregiver.

Her consort was Haia, god of storerooms, and her vizier was Hendursag who was in charge of judging people’s deeds and transgressions. Her husband/consort was originally Nindara, Hendursag’s older brother, the local god of Lagash, known as a great warrior and the ‘tax collector of the sea,’ though the meaning of the epithet is unclear. However, she is most commonly associated with Haia.

Ninevhe

Nineveh (Akkadian: URUNI.NU.A Ninua) was an ancient Assyrian city of Upper Mesopotamia, located on the outskirts of Mosul in modern-day northern Iraq. It is located on the eastern bank of the Tigris River, and was the capital of the Neo-Assyrian Empire. Today it is a common name for the half of Mosul which lies on the eastern bank of the Tigris.

Nineveh was one of the oldest and greatest cities in antiquity. The area was settled as early as 6000 BC during the late Neolithic. The deep sounding at Nineveh uncovered layers now dated to early Hassuna culture period. By 3000 BC, the area had become an important religious center for the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar.

The original meaning of the name is unclear but may have referred to a patron goddess. The English placename Nineveh comes from Latin Ninive and Septuagint Greek Nineuḗ under influence of the Biblical Hebrew Nīnewēh, from the Akkadian Ninua (var. Ninâ) or Old Babylonian Ninuwā.

The cuneiform for Ninâ is a fish within a house (cf. Aramaic nuna, “fish”). This may have simply intended “Place of Fish” or may have indicated a goddess associated with fish or the Tigris, possibly originally of Hurrian origin. The city was later said to be devoted to “the goddess Ishtar of Nineveh” and Nina was one of the Sumerian and Assyrian names of that goddess.

Goddess Nina

A very ancient mother Goddess figure in Mesopotamia, Nina has many powers, including healing, herb magic, dream interpretation, magic and meditation, cooperation and helping civilization along when needed. Her symbols are lions, fish and serpents (Her sacred animals).

Nina is another name of the Goddess Inanna. Nina, in Assyro-Babylonian mythology, was the daughter of Ea, the god of water, wisdom and technical skill.  Nina is also the Goddess [of] Ninevah, the capital city of ancient Assyria.

Nowhere else is this more true than in the case of The Oldest One, Serpent Goddess of the Oracles, Mistress of Unfathomable Decrees, Interpreter of Dreams, Prophetess of Deities, Queen Nina, or, if you prefer, Nana, of the Sumerians. However, because Nin prefixes many goddesses’ names (some researchers have even translated nin to mean goddess.

The list of her other names doesn’t stop there: In the cities of Harran and Ur, they called her Ningal or Nikkal; in Nippur, Ninlil; and, at the shrine at Al Ubaid, she was Ninhursag. When spoken of in conjunction with Nammu and the myth of the formation of the people of the Earth, she was Ninmah.

The Goddess Nina has been described as She who assigned the destinies of lives while swimming as a fish, and it was also said that … the sacred sign that spelled Her name [was] the same as the sign of the City of Nineveh…

In her capacity as Comforter of Orphans, Caretaker of the Elderly and the Ill, Shelterer of the Homeless and Feeder of the Hungry, She was called Nanshe; on the plains of Khafajah, Ninti or Nintu; on the Isle of Dilmun, Nin Sikil.

When she provided: healing herbs, Ninkarrak, Gula or Bau; dream interpretation, Ninsun or Ninsunna; beer and wine for holy rites, Ninkasi, or, as She arose from the deep waters of the primordial sea, simply: Ama Gal Dingir, the Mother Great Goddess.

Closely related to Nina, too, is the Babylonian “Great Mother of the Sea”, Tiamat (although the epic, Enuma Elish appears to be the only piece of literature that survives containing any reference to a goddess specifically by that name).

The mermaid

The legends of the existence of aquatic creatures that are half-human and half-fish have their roots in the dim and distant past. The word mermaid is a compound of the Old English mere (sea), and maid (a girl or young woman). The male equivalent of the mermaid is the merman, also a familiar figure in folklore and heraldry.

Mermaids appear in the folklore of many cultures worldwide, including the Near East, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Depictions of entities with the tails of fish, but upper bodies of human beings appear in Mesopotamian artwork from the Old Babylonian Period onwards. These figures are usually mermen, but mermaids do occasionally appear.

The name for the mermaid figure may have been kuliltu, meaning “fish-woman”. Such figures were used in Neo-Assyrian art as protective figures and were shown in both monumental sculpture and in small, protective figurines.

Atargatis

The first known mermaid stories appeared in ancient Assyria c. 1000 BC, in which the goddess Atargatis or Ataratheh, the chief goddess of northern Syria in Classical antiquity and mother of Assyrian queen Semiramis, transformed herself into a mermaid out of shame for accidentally killing her human lover.

The earliest representations of Atargatis showed her as a fish with a human head and arm, similar to the Babylonian god Enki. However, she loved a mortal (a shepherd) and unintentionally killed him. Ashamed, she jumped into a lake and took the form of a fish, but the waters would not conceal her divine beauty. Thereafter, she took the form of a mermaid.

She has been called “the great mistress of the North Syrian lands”. The Greeks recognized Atargatis under the name Derketo. Ctesias also used the name Derketo for her, and the Romans called her Dea Syria, or in one word Deasura.

Her chief sanctuary was at Hierapolis, modern Manbij, northeast of Aleppo, Syria. She is sometimes described as a mermaid-goddess, due to identification of her with a fish-bodied goddess at Ascalon. However, there is no evidence that Atargatis was worshipped at Ascalon, and all iconographic evidence shows her as anthropomorphic.

Her epithets included “Pure,” “Virgin,” “Savior,” and “Mother of the Gods”, and her iconography connected her particularly to Cybele, the Great Mother. Like her, Atargatis was often depicted riding or accompanied by a lion. Often she sat on a throne flanked by two sphinxes or two lions.

Primarily she was a goddess of fertility, but, as the baalat (“mistress”) of her city and people, she was also responsible for their protection and well-being. Her consort is usually Hadad. As Ataratheh, doves and fish were considered sacred to her: doves as an emblem of the Love-Goddess, and fish as symbolic of the fertility and life of the waters.

Her headdress was usually topped by a crescent moon and draped with a veil. In her hands she carried various objects: a plate or cup, a scepter or staff, and ears of grain, but most often she held a spindle and a mirror.

Sometimes doves or fish were near or actually on her. In some places Atargatis was associated with dolphins. At other places, the eight-pointed star emphasized her association with the planet Venus.

The name Atargatis derives from the Aramaic form ʿAtarʿatheh, which comes in several variants. It has also been proposed that the element -gatis may relate to the Greek gados “fish”. (For example, the Greek name for “sea monster” or “whale” is the cognate term ketos). So Atar-Gatis may simply mean “the fish-goddess Atar”.

The goddess Atargatis maintained a presence at the temple of Ascalon on the Mediterranean Coast, famous for its dove cotes and as a shrine of oracular prophesy. Whether Atargatis came ashore from the Mediterranean at Ascalon, or was born of the waters of the Tigris, is a matter for debate. That she bore a daughter who walked on two feet, Shammuramat, is not. Also, it is known that upon her altars, her priestesses and devotees sacrificed to her fish.

Atargatis is considered to be quite possibly connected to the early Sumerian images of Nina or Nammu because of her association with the city of Nineveh (on the Tigris River) and her primary image as a goddess of the sea — depicted with the tail of a fish.

The snake and the feminine principle

In the Sumerian goddesses’ family tree, we find Nammu, whose sign is identical to that used for ”the sea”. As a dragon she is linked with Tiamat. The Sumerian goddess Nidaba is symbolized as a serpent or woman with a serpent’s tail. The close association between the ancient “Mother Goddess” religion and the symbol of the fish is undeniable.

Throughout history the connection between the snake and the feminine principle has been profound and intimate. From east to west, serpents have always tempted, personified, accompanied, awakened, transformed, and empowered women and goddesses.

This accounts from Eve to the Serpent Lady of Ashtoreth and Kadesh. From Ishtar, the Babylonian Lady of Vision to the Serpent Goddess of Crete, from Kebhut, the goddess of freshness who played a part in Egyptian funerary ceremonies to the asp that transported Cleopatra to the afterlife, from Greece’s ancient Earth Mother Gaea to the Golden Age’s Queen, Hera, and her step-daughter Athena, goddess of wisdom.

A snake is one of the most versatile of all creatures. It can live in the ground or in a tree, in the desert or in the water, but it is primarily considered a chthonic creature, i.e. as pertaining to the earth and the spirits of the underworld.

This accounts for its association with the physical death of the body; however, because it periodically sheds its skin and emerges as if reborn, it is also seen as a symbol of transformation and the perpetual capacity for renewal.

Those goddesses that are described as having a connection to serpents include Lilith, known in the Epic of Gilgamesh as having lived within the huluppu tree, around which a serpent did entwine, Amo Usum Gal Ana, also known as “Great Mother Serpent of Heaven” and “Indunna’s Eye”, and Bealat, known in prayers that invoked her as “The Serpent Lady”.

Later, when invaders with a more patriarchal-centered society conquered the goddess-worshipping Middle East, she and her symbol were reduced to the respective roles of dupe and trickster (i.e., Eve and the Serpent) and “cast out”– eventually to be buried, completely, in the shifting sands of time…

This apostasy of the formerly matriarchal theology is well-illustrated in the legend of the mythical murder of Tiamat by Marduk. In that myth, the reptilian goddess is killed by the strong king and her body made into the heavens and the earth.

Tiamat possessed the Tablet of Destinies and in the primordial battle she gave them to Kingu, the deity she had chosen as her lover and the leader of her host, and who was also one of her children.

The deities gathered in terror, but Anu, first extracting a promise that he would be revered as “king of the gods”, overcame her, armed with the arrows of the winds, a net, a club, and an invincible spear. Anu later became replaced by the god Enlil and in the late version that has survived after the First Dynasty of Babylon by Marduk, the son of Ea.

Slicing Tiamat in half, he made from her ribs the vault of heaven and earth. Her weeping eyes became the source of the Tigris and the Euphrates, her tail became the Milky Way. With the approval of the elder deities, he took from Kingu the Tablet of Destinies, installing himself as the head of the Babylonian pantheon.

Kingu was captured and later was slain: his red blood mixed with the red clay of the Earth would make the body of humankind, created to act as the servant of the younger Igigi deities.

The principal theme of the epic is the justified elevation of Marduk to command over all the deities. “It has long been realized that the Marduk epic, for all its local coloring and probable elaboration by the Babylonian theologians, reflects in substance older Sumerian material,” The exact Sumerian prototype, however, has not turned up so far.

This surmise that the Babylonian version of the story is based upon a modified version of an older epic, in which Enlil, not Marduk, was the god who slew Tiamat, is more recently dismissed as “distinctly improbable”. In fact, Marduk has no precise Sumerian prototype.

It is generally accepted amongst modern Assyriologists that the Enûma Elish, the Babylonian creation epic to which this mythological strand is attributed, was written as political and religious propaganda rather than reflecting a Sumerian tradition.

The dating of the epic is not completely clear, but judging from the mythological topics covered and the cuneiform versions discovered thus far, it is likely to date to the 15th century BC.

Astarte

Atargatis is seen as a continuation of Bronze Age goddesses. These shared many traits with each other and may have been worshipped in conjunction or separately during 1500 years of cultural history.

In many cases Atargatis, ‘Ashtart, and other goddesses who once had independent cults and mythologies became fused to such an extent as to be indistinguishable. Not unnaturally she is identified with the Greek Aphrodite.

At Ugarit, cuneiform tablets attest the three great Canaanite goddesses: ʾAṭirat, described as a fecund “Lady Goddess of the Sea” and identified with Asherah, the war-like virgin goddess ʿAnat, and the goddess of love ʿAțtart, the namesake of the Phoenician goddess ʿAštart, called Astarte in Greek.

Some 58 miles south of Nineveh, evidence of a goddess named Asherah was found at a temple later renamed for Ishtar. The Imagery of Asherah, as suggested in the tablets of Ugarit, is reminiscent of the traditions of the traditions of Atargatis — as Asherah is called “the Goddess Who Walks the Sea”.

Linked with Atargatis by the location of her temple upon the Euphrates River, in the Syrian holy city of Hieropolis, was the goddess Ashtart, “The Ancient Serpent Lady”, and Astarte, who is depicted with snakes coiled about her neck.

Ashtart was said to have fallen from the sky into the water linked, herself, with the holy one of the sea (probably Nina) at the sacred lake of Heiropolis where her pilgrims bathed near to an altar stone [which] rose out of the center of the water, with fish glowing with golden lines swimming all about them.

Astarte is the Hellenized form of the Middle Eastern goddess Astoreth (Northwest Semitic), a form of Ishtar (East Semitic), worshipped from the Bronze Age through classical antiquity. The name is particularly associated with her worship in the ancient Levant among the Canaanites and Phoenicians.

She was also celebrated in Egypt following the importation of Levantine cults there. The name Astarte is sometimes also applied to her cults in Mesopotamian cultures like Assyria and Babylonia.

Some ancient sources assert that in the territory of Sidon the temple of Astarte was sacred to Europa. According to an old Cretan story, Europa was a Phoenician princess whom Zeus, having transformed himself into a white bull, abducted, and carried to Crete.

Some scholars claim that the cult of the Minoan snake goddess who is identified with Ariadne (the “utterly pure”) was similar to the cult of Astarte. Her cult as Aphrodite was transmitted to Cythera and then to Greece.

Herodotus wrote that the religious community of Aphrodite originated in Phoenicia and came to Greeks from there. He also wrote about the world’s largest temple of Aphrodite, in one of the Phoenician cities.

Inanna

Inanna (Neo-Assyrian MUŠ; Sumerian: Inanna; Akkadian: Ištar) is an ancient Mesopotamian goddess associated with love, beauty, sex, desire, fertility, war, justice, and political power. Her husband was the god Dumuzid (later known as Tammuz) and her sukkal, or personal attendant, was the goddess Ninshubur (who later became the male deity Papsukkal).

Inanna’s name derives from Lady of Heaven (Sumerian: nin-an-ak). The cuneiform sign of Inanna, however, is not a ligature of the signs lady (nin) and sky (an). These difficulties have led some early Assyriologists to suggest that originally Inanna may have been a Proto-Euphratean goddess, possibly related to the Hurrian mother goddess Hannahannah (from Hittite hanna- “grandmother”), accepted only latterly into the Sumerian pantheon.

This is supported by her youthfulness, and that, unlike the other Sumerian divinities, at first she had no sphere of responsibilities. The view that there was a Proto-Euphratean substrate language in Southern Iraq before Sumerian is not widely accepted by modern Assyriologists.

She was originally worshipped in Sumer and was later worshipped by the Akkadians, Babylonians, and Assyrians under the name Ishtar. She was known as the “Queen of Heaven” and was the patron goddess of the Eanna temple at the city of Uruk, which was her main cult center. She was associated with the planet Venus and her most prominent symbols included the lion and the eight-pointed star.

Inanna appears in more myths than any other Sumerian deity. Many of her myths involve her taking over the domains of other deities. She was believed to have stolen the mes, which represented all positive and negative aspects of civilization, from Enki, the god of wisdom. She was also believed to have taken over the Eanna temple from An, the god of the sky. Alongside her twin brother Utu (later known as Shamash), Inanna was the enforcer of divine justice.

Inanna-Ishtar’s most famous myth is the story of her descent into and return from Kur, the ancient Sumerian Underworld, a myth in which she attempts to conquer the domain of her older sister Ereshkigal, the queen of the Underworld, but is instead deemed guilty of hubris by the seven judges of the Underworld and struck dead.

Three days later, Ninshubur pleads with all the gods to bring Inanna back, but all of them refuse her except Enki, who sends two sexless beings to rescue Inanna. They escort Inanna out of the Underworld, but the galla, the guardians of the Underworld, drag her husband Dumuzid down to the Underworld as her replacement. Dumuzid is eventually permitted to return to heaven for half the year while his sister Geshtinanna remains in the Underworld for the other half, resulting in the cycle of the seasons.

Inanna was worshipped in Sumer at least as early as the Uruk period (c. 4000 BC – c. 3100 BC), but she had little cult prior to the conquest of Sargon of Akkad. During the post-Sargonic era, she became one of the most widely venerated deities in the Sumerian pantheon, with temples across Mesopotamia.

The cult of Inanna-Ishtar, which may have been associated with a variety of sexual rites, including homosexual transvestite priests and sacred prostitution, was continued by the East Semitic-speaking people who succeeded the Sumerians in the region. She was especially beloved by the Assyrians, who elevated her to become the highest deity in their pantheon, ranking above their own national god Ashur.

Inanna-Ishtar is alluded to in the Hebrew Bible and she greatly influenced the Phoenician goddess Astarte, who later influenced the development of the Greek goddess Aphrodite. Her cult continued to flourish until its gradual decline between the first and sixth centuries AD in the wake of Christianity, though it survived in parts of Upper Mesopotamia as late as the eighteenth century.

Nane

Nane was an Armenian pagan mother goddess. She was the goddess of war, wisdom, and motherhood, and the daughter of the supreme god Aramazd. Nane looked like a young beautiful woman in the clothing of a warrior, with spear and shield in hand, like the Greek Athena, with whom she identified in the Hellenic period. In Armenia and other countries, the name Nane continues to be used as a personal name. Her cult was closely associated with the cult of the goddess Anahit.

According to some authors, Nane was adopted from the Akkadian goddess Nanaya, from the Phrygian goddess Cybele, or was from Elamite origin. Nanaya (Sumerian NA.NA.A; also transcribed as Nanâ, Nanãy or Nanãya; in Greek: Nαναια or Νανα) is the canonical name for a goddess worshipped by the Sumerians and Akkadians, a deity who personified “voluptuousness and sensuality”. Her cult was large and was spread as far as Syria and Iran.

She later became syncretised with the Babylonian Tashmetum, an Akkadian goddess, the consort of the god Nabu. She is called upon to listen to prayers and to grant requests. Tashmetum and Nabu both shared a temple in the city of Borsippa, in which they were patron deities. Tashmetum’s name means “Lady who listens”. She is also known as Tashmit and Tashmetu, and she was known by the epithets “Lady of Hearing” and “Lady of Favor”.

Nabu is the Assyrian and Babylonian god of wisdom and writing, worshipped by Babylonians as the son of Marduk and his consort, Sarpanitum (alternately Sarpanitu, Zarpanit, Zarpandit, Zerpanitum, Zerbanitu, or Zirbanit), and as the grandson of Ea (Enki). The etymology of his name is disputed. It could be derived from the root nb´ for “to call or announce”, meaning something like “He who has called”.

Nabu is accorded the office of patron of the scribes, taking over from the Sumerian goddess Nisaba, the Sumerian goddess of writing, learning, and the harvest. In late Babylonian astrology, Nabu was connected with the planet Mercury. As the god of wisdom and writing, he was equated by the Greeks to either Apollo or Hermes, the latter identified by the Romans with their own god Mercury.

In Babylonian mythology, Sarpanit is a mother goddess. Her name means “the shining one”, and she is sometimes associated with the planet Venus. By a play on words her name was interpreted as zēr-bānītu, or “creatress of seed”, and is thereby associated with the goddess Aruru, who, according to Babylonian myth, created mankind.

Her marriage with Marduk was celebrated annually at New Year in Babylon. She was worshipped via the rising moon, and was often depicted as being pregnant. She is also known as Erua. She may be the same as Gamsu, Ishtar, and/or Beltis.

Sherida

Sherida is one of the oldest Mesopotamian gods, attested in inscriptions from pre-Sargonic times, her name (as “Aya”) was a popular personal name during the Ur III period (21st-20th century BCE), making her among the oldest Semitic deities known in the region.

As the Sumerian pantheon formalized, Utu became the primary sun god, and Sherida was syncretized into a subordinate role as an aspect of the sun alongside other less powerful solar deities (c.f. Ninurta) and took on the role of Utu’s consort.

When the Semitic Akkadians moved into Mesopotamia, their pantheon became syncretized to the Sumerian. Inanna to Ishtar, Nanna to Sin, Utu to Shamash, etc. The minor Mesopotamian sun goddess Aya became syncretized into Sherida during this process.

The goddess Aya in this aspect appears to have had wide currency among Semitic peoples, as she is mentioned in god-lists in Ugarit and shows up in personal names in the Bible. Aya is Akkadian for “dawn”, and by the Akkadian period she was firmly associated with the rising sun and with sexual love and youth.

The Babylonians sometimes referred to her as kallatu (the bride), and as such she was known as the wife of Shamash. By the Neo-Babylonian period at the latest (and possibly much earlier), Shamash and Aya were associated with a practice known as Hasadu, which is loosely translated as a “sacred marriage.”

A room would be set aside with a bed, and on certain occasions the temple statues of Shamash and Aya would be brought together and laid on the bed to ceremonially renew their vows. This ceremony was also practiced by the cults of Marduk with Sarpanitum, Nabu with Tashmetum, and Anu with Antu.

Ishara

Ishara is the Hittite word for “treaty, binding promise”, also personified as a goddess of the oath. In Hurrian and Semitic traditions, Išḫara is a love goddess, often identified with Ishtar. She is identified as Ishwara in Sanskrit. Her cult was of considerable importance in Ebla from the mid 3rd millennium, and by the end of the 3rd millennium, she had temples in Nippur, Sippar, Kish, Harbidum, Larsa, and Urum.

The word is attested as a loanword in the Assyrian Kültepe texts from the 19th century BC, and is as such the earliest attestation of a word of any Indo-European language.

The name is from a PIE root *shei “to bind (also magically)”, also in Greek himas “strap” and Old Norse / Old High German seil “rope”. Possibly also cognate is soul, and Welsh Gwen-hwyfar (Irish Find-abair, from Proto-Celtic *windo-seibaro- “white ghost”, from a meaning “enchanted” of the extended root *shei-bh-).

ishar (or eshar), oblique ishan-, the Hittite for “blood” is probably derived from the same root, maybe from a notion of “bond” between blood-relations (c.f. Sanskrit bandhu). The verb ishiya “to bind, fetter”, “to oblige” is directly cognate to Sanskrit syati or Russian shyot with similar meanings.

The Indo-European etymology of the theonym has been called into question, since the goddess appears from as early as the mid 3rd millennium as one of the chief goddesses of Ebla, and her name appears as an element in theophoric names in Mesopotamia in the later 3rd millennium (Akkad period), and into the first (Assyria), as in Tukulti-apil-esharra (i.e., Tiglath-Pileser).

Variants of the name appear as Ašḫara (in a treaty of Naram-Sin of Akkad with Hita of Elam) and Ušḫara (in Ugarite texts). In Ebla, there were various logographic spellings involving the sign AMA “mother”. In Alalah, her name was written with the Akkadogram IŠTAR plus a phonetic complement -ra, as IŠTAR-ra.

As a goddess, Ishara could inflict severe bodily penalties to oathbreakers, in particular ascites. In this context, she came to be seen as a “goddess of medicine” whose pity was invoked in case of illness. There was even a verb, isharis- “to be afflicted by the illness of Ishara”.

Ishara was also worshipped within the Hurrian pantheon. She was associated with the underworld. Her astrological embodiment is the constellation Scorpio and she is called the mother of the Sebitti (the Seven Stars).

Ishara was well known in Syria from the third millennium BC. She became a great goddess of the Hurrian population. She was worshipped with Teshub and Simegi at Alakh, and also at Ugarit, Emar and Chagar Bazar. While she was considered to belong to the entourage of Ishtar, she was invoked to heal the sick (Lebrun).

The Hurrian cult of Ishara as a love goddess also spread to Syria. “Ishara first appears in the pre-Sargonic texts from Ebla and then as a goddess of love in Old Akkadian potency-incantations (Biggs).

During the Ur III period she had a temple in Drehem and from the Old Babylonian time onwards, there were sanctuaries in Sippar, Larsa, and Harbidum. In Mari she seems to have been very popular and many women were called after her, but she is well attested in personal names in Babylonia generally up to the late Kassite period.

Her main epithet was belet rame, lady of love, which was also applied to Ishtar. In the Epic of Gilgamesh it says: ‘For Ishara the bed is made’ and in Atra-hasis she is called upon to bless the couple on the honeymoon.”

Ishtar is the East Semitic Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian goddess of fertility, love, war, and sex. She is the counterpart to the Sumerian Inanna, and is the cognate for the Northwest Semitic Aramean goddess Astarte. She was particularly worshipped in northern Mesopotamia, at the Assyrian cities of Nineveh, Ashur and Arbela (Erbil).

Like Inanna, Ishtar was the daughter of An. Besides the lions on her gate, her symbol is an eight-pointed star. In the Babylonian pantheon, she “was the divine personification of the planet Venus”. Even for the gods Ishtar’s love was fatal. In her youth the goddess had loved Tammuz, god of the harvest, and — if one is to believe Gilgamesh — this love caused the death of Tammuz.

Her cult may have involved sacred prostitution, though this is debatable. Guirand referred to her holy city Uruk as the “town of the sacred courtesans” and to her as the “courtesan of the gods”.

Like Ishtar, the Greek Aphrodite and the Aramean Northwestern Semitic Astarte were love goddesses. Donald A. Mackenzie, an early popularizer of mythology, draws a parallel between the love goddess Aphrodite and her “dying god” lover Adonis on one hand, and the love goddess Ishtar and her “dying god” lover Tammuz on the other.

Some scholars have suggested that the myth of Adonis was derived in post-Homeric times by the Greeks indirectly from the Eastern Semites of Mesopotamia (Assyria and Babylonia), via the Aramean and Canaanite Western Semites, the Semitic title ‘Adon’, meaning ‘lord’, having been mistaken for a proper name. This theory, however, cannot be accepted without qualifications.

Joseph Campbell, a more recent scholar of comparative mythology, equates Ishtar, Inanna, and Aphrodite, and he draws a parallel between the Egyptian goddess Isis who nurses Horus, and the Assyrian-Babylonian goddess Ishtar who nurses the god Tammuz.

Isis

Isis is part of the Ennead of Heliopolis, a family of nine gods descended from the creator god, Atum or Ra. She and her siblings—Osiris, Set, and Nephthys—are the last generation of the Ennead, born to Geb, god of the earth, and Nut, goddess of the sky.

The creator god, the world’s original ruler, passes down his authority through the male generations of the Ennead, so that Osiris becomes king. Isis, who is Osiris’s wife as well as his sister, is his queen.

Isis was a major goddess in ancient Egyptian religion whose worship spread throughout the Greco-Roman world. Isis was first mentioned in the Old Kingdom (c. 2686–2181 BCE) as one of the main characters of the Osiris myth, in which she resurrects her slain husband, the divine king Osiris, and produces and protects his heir, Horus.

She was believed to help the dead enter the afterlife as she had helped Osiris, and she was considered the divine mother of the pharaoh, who was likened to Horus. Her maternal aid was invoked in healing spells to benefit ordinary people.

Originally, she played a limited role in royal rituals and temple rites, although she was more prominent in funerary practices and magical texts. She was usually portrayed in art as a human woman wearing a throne-like hieroglyph on her head.

During the New Kingdom (c. 1550–1070 BCE), as she took on traits that originally belonged to Hathor, the preeminent goddess of earlier times, Isis came to be portrayed wearing Hathor’s headdress: a sun disk between the horns of a cow.

In the first millennium BCE, Osiris and Isis became the most widely worshipped of Egyptian deities, and Isis absorbed traits from many other goddesses. Isis is treated as the mother of Horus even in the earliest copies of the Pyramid Texts. Yet there are signs that Hathor was originally regarded as his mother, and other traditions make an elder form of Horus the son of Nut and a sibling of Isis and Osiris.

Isis may only have come to be Horus’s mother as the Osiris myth took shape during the Old Kingdom, but through her relationship with him she came to be seen as the epitome of maternal devotion. She helped to restore the souls of deceased humans to wholeness as she had done for Osiris.

Like other goddesses, such as Hathor, she also acted as a mother to the deceased, providing protection and nourishment. Thus, like Hathor, she sometimes took the form of Imentet, the goddess of the west, who welcomed the deceased soul into the afterlife as her child. But for much of Egyptian history, male deities like Osiris were believed to provide the regenerative powers, including sexual potency, that were crucial for rebirth. Isis was thought to merely assist by stimulating this power.

Ishtaran

Ištaran is a male deity associated with justice. This role can be inferred from his assertion of the borders of Umma and Lagaš, while Gudea (ca. 2144-2124 BCE), the ruler of Girsu, said of himself, “I justly decide the lawsuits of my city like Ištaran”. In the poems praising the Ur III king, Šulgi (2094-2047 BCE), his justice is “comparable to that of Ištaran”, and a song to Nergal praises the god thus: “Like Ištaran … you reach correct judgments”.

There is a suggestion of an ophidian nature of Ištaran. Depictions from the Akkadian period show a snake-like form, an element which may have later split off and become Nirah, Ištaran’s messenger, whose logogram was dMUŠ, or dMUŠ.TUR, ‘snake’ and ‘little snake’ respectively. Further, a Kurigalzu dated brick from Der shows a snake above the inscription, which mentions Dagan.

Ištaran is often equated with Anu rabû “Great Anu”, and in the Babylonian Chronicles relating to Esarhaddon (680-669 BCE) the usual writing for his name is replaced with AN.GAL. Both these factors place Ištaran high in the pantheon.

In the god list AN = Anum Ištaran is assigned a vizier Qudmu, a counsellor Rasu, a son Zizanu, and two ‘standing gods’ Turma and Itur-matiššu. While the god-list AN = Anum does not attest a spouse, Šarrat-Deri, “Queen of Der”, or Deritum, seems to be Ištaran’s wife at the time of Esarhaddon. Ištaran also had a minister, Nirah, “Little snake”, a minor male chthonic deity, who carried the title, “the radiant god, the son of the house of Der”.

Ištaran was the chief deity of Der, a Sumerian city-state at the site of modern Tell Aqar near al-Badra in Iraq’s Wasit Governorate, which is east of the Tigris River on the ancient border between Mesopotamia and Elam. Its name was possibly Durum.

In the Sumerian text The Temple Hymns, Ištaran’s temple is similarly said to be located in Der. In the Early Dynastic period (2900-2350 BCE) there may have been a cultic installation on the border between Umma and Lagaš because the border between these two regions was said to be fixed “in accordance with the command of Ištaran”.

Pisces

Inanna in her aspect as Anunītu was associated with the eastern fish of the last of the zodiacal constellations, Pisces. Her consort Dumuzi was associated with the contiguous first constellation, Aries.

Pisces (Ancient Greek: Ikhthyes) is the twelfth astrological sign in the Zodiac. It spans 330° to 360° of celestial longitude. Under the tropical zodiac the sun transits this area between February 19 and March 20. In Sidereal astrology, the Sun currently transits the constellation of Pisces from approximately March 12 to April 18.

Pisces is a dim constellation located next to Aquarius, and Aries. While the astrological sign Pisces per definition runs from ecliptical longitude 330° to 0, this position is now mostly covered by the constellation of Aquarius, due to the precession from when the constellation and the sign coincided.

Pisces originates from some composition of the Babylonian constellations Šinunutu “the great swallow” in current western Pisces, and Anunitum the “Lady of the Heaven”, at the place of the northern fish. In the first-millennium BC texts known as the Astronomical Diaries, part of the constellation was also called DU.NU.NU (Rikis-nu.mi, “the fish cord or ribbon”).

Pisces is associated with Aphrodite and Eros, who escaped from the monster Typhon by leaping into the sea and transforming themselves into fish. In order not to lose each other, they tied themselves together with rope. The Romans adopted the Greek legend, with Venus and Cupid acting as the counterparts for Aphrodite and Eros. The knot of the rope is marked by Alpha Piscium (α Psc), also called Al-Rischa (“the cord” in Arabic).

In classical interpretations, the symbol of the fish is derived from the ichthyocentaurs, who aided Aphrodite when she was born from the sea. According to one Greek myth, Pisces represents the fish, sometimes represented by koi fish, into which Aphrodite (also considered Venus) and her son Eros (also considered Cupid) transformed in order to escape the monster Typhon. Typhon, the “father of all monsters,” had been sent by Gaia to attack the gods, which led Pan to warn the others before himself changing into a goat-fish and jumping into the Euphrates.

A similar myth, one in which the fish “Pisces” carry Aphrodite and her son out of danger, is resounded in Manilius’ five volume poetic work Astronomica: “Venus ow’d her safety to their Shape.” Another myth is that an egg fell into the Euphrates river. It was then rolled to the shore by fish. Doves sat on the egg until it hatched, out from which came Aphrodite. As a sign of gratitude towards the fish, Aphrodite put the fish into the night sky.

Because of these myths, the Pisces constellation was also known as “Venus et Cupido,” “Venus Syria cum Cupidine,” “Venus cum Adone,” “Dione,” and “Veneris Mater,” the latter being the formal Latin term for mother. Divine associations with Pisces include Poseidon/Neptune, Christ, Aphrodite, Eros, Typhon, Vishnu and the Sumerian goddess Inanna.

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