CHAPTER XIII. THE TRIAD AND THE COMBINED INVOCATION OF DEITIES
Gods, Ashur, Ramman, Ishtar, Shamash, Pantheon
The Assyrian kings, in imitation of the example set by their Babylonian predecessors, are fond of introducing into their inscriptions, a series of gods under whose protection they place themselves. They do not do this as the earlier Babylonian rulers did, to emphasize the extent of their jurisdiction by adding to their pantheon the deities of towns or districts vanquished by them. The day of independent states being over, the importance of merely local deities had ceased. The theological system evolved in Babylonia in combination with the popular instinct had led to a selection out of the mass of deities of a limited number, each with tolerably definite attributes, and who together embraced all the forces under whose power mankind stood. Of these deities again, as we have seen, some acquired greater favor in Assyria than others, but for all that, the kings especially of the later period of Assyrian history were fond of including in an enumeration of the pantheon, even those who had no special significance. Policy and the meaningless imitation of earlier examples played an equal part in thus giving to the lists an aspect of formality that deprives them of the impression that they might otherwise make.
The combined invocations are found usually at the beginning and at the end of the inscriptions—at the beginning for invoking the aid of the gods, at the close for invoking their curses upon those who would attempt to destroy the ambitious monuments set up by the kings. Often, however, the narrative is interrupted for the purpose of making acknowledgment to a larger or smaller series of gods for victory, granted or hoped for. In these combined references a separate place belongs to the triad, Anu, Bel, and Ea. While not occupying the prominent position they have in Babylonian inscriptions, still the kings often mention Anu, Bel, and Ea separately, or Anu and Bel alone, ascribing victory to them, putting them down as the originators of the calendar system, and declaring themselves to have been nominated by them to rule over Assyria. Sargon, with his antiquarian zeal, appears to have made an effort to reinstate the triad as a special group in the pantheon. In general, however, they take their place with other gods. So Ramman-nirari I. invokes the curse of Ashur, Anu, Bel, Ea, and Ishtar, together with the Igigi and Anunnaki; but, what is more important, already at an early period the triad disappears altogether from the pantheon, except for the artificial attempts of Sargon to revive interest in them. In both the longer and shorter lists of gods enumerated by the kings from the time of Tiglathpileser, the triad is conspicuous for its absence.
As for the other gods, it is to some extent a matter of caprice which ones happen to be invoked, though just as frequently we see the motive for selecting certain ones of the pantheon. Thus, when proceeding to Babylonia for war or sacrifices, the gods of Babylonia are invoked, either Marduk and Nabu alone, as the chief gods, or Bel (i.e., Marduk), Sarpanitum, Nabu, Tashmitum, Nanâ, Nergal, with Ashur, or Ashur and Marduk, or Marduk and Nabu in combination with Ashur. At other times it depends upon the gods to whom certain kings may be especially attached, or with whom they may have special dealings in their inscriptions. Thus Tiglathpileser I., when speaking of the temple of Anu and Ramman, contents himself with invoking these two gods alone at the close of his great inscription. Elsewhere, when referring to the special gods of his city, he combines Anu and Ramman with Ishtar; but again, for no special reason, his prayer is addressed to Ashur, Shamash, and Ramman. The pantheon of Ramman-nirari I. consists either of the longer one above enumerated, or of Anu, Ashur, Shamash, Ramman, and Ishtar. As we proceed down the centuries, the formal lists at the beginning of inscriptions have a tendency to grow larger. Ashurnasirbal's pantheon consists of Bel and Nin-ib, Anu and Dagan, Sin, Anu, Ramman, and, of course, Ashur, though on special occasions, as when speaking of his achievements in the chase, he contents himself with a mention of Nin-ib and Nergal. He loves, too, to vary the style of his inscriptions by naming various groups of deities in pairs: now Ashur and Shamash, again Ashur and Nin-ib, or Ashur and Bel; then Shamash and Ramman, or a group of three deities, Ashur, Shamash, and Ramman, or Sin, Anu, and Ramman. His successors imitate this example, though each one chooses his own combinations. Shalmaneser II.'s pantheon embraces Ashur, Anu, Bel, Ea, Sin, Shamash, Nin-ib, Nergal, Nusku, Belit, and Ishtar—eleven in all. Sargon's practice varies. The best list is furnished by his account of the eight gates of his palace and of two walls, which he names after the gods in the following order:
Shamash, who grants victory. } As the names for the
Ramman, who brings superabundance. } eastern gates.
Bel, who lays foundations. } For the northern gates.
Belit, who brings fertility. }
Anu, who blesses handiwork. } For the western
Ishtar, who causes the inhabitants to flourish. } gates.
Ea, who unlocks fountains. } For the southern gates.
Belit ilâni, who increases the offspring. }
Ashur, who permits the king to grow old, and protects the troops.—For the inner wall.
Nin-ib, who lays the foundations of the city.—For the outer wall.
The order here is dictated by the directions of the gates. Elsewhere he sets up the group Ea, Sin, Shamash, Nabu, Ramman, Nin-ib, and their consorts.
Sennacherib's fuller group consists of Ashur, Sin, Shamash, Bel (i.e., Marduk), Nabu, Nergal, Ishtar of Nineveh, and Ishtar of Arbela—only eight. But at the close of one of his building inscriptions he invokes some twenty deities, adding to these eight, Nusku, Khani, Gaga, Sherua, Nin-gal, a god Azag-sir, and Nin-ib under three different forms; but it is evident that most of these are added to give effect and solemnity. They do not form part of the active pantheon. His successor, Esarhaddon, sets up various groups. At one time he enumerates Ashur, Sin, Shamash, Nabu, Marduk, Ishtar of Nineveh, Ishtar of Arbela; at another he prefers different combinations of these gods. Ashurbanabal is more consistent than most of the Assyrian rulers, and furnishes at the same time the best list. While he, too, frequently mentions only a few deities, grouping three or four together, his longer series consists, with but one or two exceptions, invariably of the following, and who always occur in the same order: Ashur, Belit, Sin, Shamash, Ramman, Bel (i.e., Marduk), Nabu, Ishtar of Nineveh, the queen of Kidmuru, Ishtar of Arbela, Nin-ib, Nergal, and Nusku—thirteen in all. Of these, as we have seen, only some were actively worshipped at all times in Assyria; as for the others, the popularity of their cult varied from age to age, now being actively carried on under the stimulus afforded by the erection or improvement of an edifice sacred to the god, and again falling into comparative insignificance; but formally, at least, all these gods were regarded at all times as forming part of the pantheon of the 'great gods.' The testimony of Ashurbanabal thus becomes valuable as a proof that to the latest days of the Assyrian monarchy, the attachment to these gods was still strong enough to merit the formal acknowledgments of the king to them on all occasions, and that through their combined aid the glorious achievements of the past and present were attained.
|Written By Morris Jastrow|
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