Gods, Pantheon, Names, Assyrian, Deities, Lists
Of the consort of Ea, it is sufficient to note that she is occasionally referred to in the historical texts of the Assyrian period. In the inscriptions of Sargon she appears under the rather strange title of 'Belit ilâni,' i.e., the mistress of the gods. This 'mistress' cannot be, as might at first blush appear, Ishtar or the old Belit, for elsewhere Ishtar, Belit, and Belit ilâni occur side by side. Sargon declares that he owes his wisdom to Ea and Belit ilâni. In naming the gates of his palace, he again associates Ea with 'the mistress of the gods,' from which it is clear that the epithet is used of Ea's consort.
A sanctuary to the old Babylonian goddess Nin-gal is included by Sargon among the holy edifices erected by him in his official residence.
We have pointed out in a previous chapter how faint the dividing line sometimes becomes between gods and spirits. Among the minor deities, ranking hardly above demons, is the plague-god, whose name may provisionally be read Dibbarra. The god plays a rôle in some of the ancient legends of Babylonia. Remains have been found of a kind of epic in which Dibbarra is the chief personage. In the historical texts he is once incidentally mentioned by Ashurbanabal, who in the course of his campaign against Babylonia describes how the corpses of those killed by Dibbarra, i.e., through hunger and want, filled the streets of the cities. Evidently Dibbarra here is a mere personification of the dreadful demon of want that so often follows in the wake of a military destruction. Still there can be no doubt that at one time he was regarded as a real deity, and not merely a spirit or demon. Dibbarra is identified in the theological system of Babylonia with Nergal.
Damku, Sharru-ilu, and Sha-nit(?)-ka
In an interesting passage recounting the restoration of the city Magganubba, Sargon says that he prayed to Damku, i.e., 'grace,' Sharru-ilu, i.e., 'king-god,' and Sha-nit(?)-ka. The two former he calls the judges of mankind. That Damku and Sharru-ilu are titles and not names is evident from the meaning of the words, but at present it is impossible to say what gods are meant. Perhaps that these are the translations of names of the old deities of Magganubba. We have at least one other example of a foreign deity introduced into the Assyrian pantheon. At Dur-ilu, a town lying near the Elamitic frontier, there flourished the cult of Ka-di, evidently a god imported into the Assyrian pantheon from Elam or some other eastern district. Sargon's scribes are fond of translating foreign names and words, and they may have done so in this case, and thus added two new deities to the glorious pantheon protecting their royal chief. As for Sha-nit(?)-ka, were it not that she is called the mistress of Nineveh, one would also put her down as a foreign goddess. In view of this, however, it may be that Sha-nit(?)-ka is an ideographic designation of Ishtar.
Before leaving the subject, a word needs to be said regarding the relation between the active Assyrian pantheon and the long lists of deities prepared by the schoolmen of Babylonia and Assyria. Reference has already been made to these lists. They vary in character. Some of them furnish an index of the various names under which a god was known, or the titles assigned to him. These names and titles are frequently indications that some great god has absorbed the attributes of smaller ones, whose independence was in this way destroyed. Other lists are simple enumerations of local deities, and when to these names some indications are added, as to the locality to which the gods belong, their importance is correspondingly increased. There can be no doubt that most of these lists were prepared on the basis of the occurrence of these gods in texts, and it seems most plausible to conclude that the texts in question were of a religious character. References to local cults are numerous in the incantations which form a considerable proportion of the religious literature, while in hymns and prayers, gods are often referred to by their titles instead of their names. In some respects, however, these lists of gods are still obscure. It is often difficult to determine whether we are dealing with gods or spirits, and the origin and meaning of many of the names and epithets assigned to gods are similarly involved in doubt. Use has been made of these lists in determining the character of the gods included in this survey of the Babylonian and Assyrian pantheon, but it would be manifestly precarious to make additions to this pantheon on the basis of the lists alone. Despite the tendency towards centralization of divine power in a limited number of gods, local cults, no doubt, continued to enjoy some importance in Assyria as well as Babylonia; but, in the present stage of our knowledge, we have no means of determining either the number or the character of these local cults. While, therefore, a complete treatment of the pantheon of Babylonia and Assyria would include all the minor local cults, we may feel quite certain that these local cults furnish few, if any, additions to the concepts connected with these gods which we have discussed. I have therefore contented myself with some illustrations, in each of the three divisions under which the pantheon has been surveyed, of some of the minor deities chosen, such as actually occur in historical, commercial, or religious texts. For the Assyrian pantheon, we may place Nin-gal and most of the consorts of the gods among the minor gods, and also such deities as Ka-di, Khani, Gaga, Dibbarra, Sherua, and Azag-sir, who are merely incidentally referred to. These illustrations suffice for placing clearly before us the distinction to be made in the pantheon between gods whose worship was actively carried on, and those who occupy more of a theoretical position in the system perfected by the schoolmen, standing under the political and social influences of their days. With this distinction clearly impressed upon us, we will be prepared for such modifications of our views of the Babylonian-Assyrian pantheon as further researches and discoveries may render necessary.
|Written By Morris Jastrow|
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