Nannar and Sin
Moon, Harran, Name, Worship, Former, Called
Nannar, a reduplicated form like Babbar, with the assimilation of the first r to n (nar-nar = nannar), has very much the same meaning as Babbar. The latter, as we have seen, is the "lustrous one," the former, the "one that furnishes light." The similarity in meaning is in keeping with the similarity of function of the two deities, thus named: Babbar being the sun and Nannar, the moon. It was under the name of Nannar that the moon-god was worshipped at Ur, the most famous and probably the oldest of the cities over which the moon-god presided. The association of Nannar with Ur is parallel to that of Shamash with Sippar,—not that the moon-god's jurisdiction or worship was confined to that place, but that the worship of the deity of that place eclipsed others, and the fame and importance at Ur led to the overshadowing of the moon-worship there, over the obeisance to him paid elsewhere.
What further motives led to the choice of the moon-god as the patron of Ur, lies beyond the scope of our knowledge. Due allowance must be made for that natural selection, which takes place in the realm of thought as much as in the domain of nature. Attention has already been called to the predominance given by the Babylonians to the moon over the sun. The latter is expressly called the "offspring of the lord of brilliant beginning," that is, the moon-god (Delitzsch, Assyr. Hdw., p. 234 a). It is needless, therefore, to do more, at this place, than to emphasize the fact anew. The moon serving much more as a guide to man, through the regular character of its constant changes, than the sun, was connected in the religious system with both the heavenly and the terrestrial forces. In view of Nannar's position in the heavens, he was called the "heifer of Anu." Anu, it will be recalled, was the god of heaven (and heaven itself), while the "heifer" is here used metaphorically for offspring, the picture being suggested probably by the "horn" that the moon presents at a certain phase. This 'horn' constitutes his crown, and he is frequently represented on seal cylinders with a crescent over his head, and with a long flowing beard, that is described as having the color of lapislazuli. A frequent title is the 'lord of the crown.' On the other hand, by virtue of its influence on the earth, regulating, as the ancients observed, the tides, the moon was connected by the Babylonians with the reckoning of time. Because of this connection with the 'lower world,' it seems, he was also regarded as the first-born of Bel. His sacred edifice at Ur was one to which all rulers of the place devoted themselves. Ur-Gur, Nur-Rammân, Sin-iddina, and Kudur-mabuk tell of their embellishment of the temple, each one appropriating to himself the title of 'builder,' in which they gloried. So close, again, was the identification of the city with the deity, that the latter was frequently known simply as the god of Ur, and the former, as the city of Nannar.
Another name of the moon-god was Sin,—the meaning of which escapes us. At the side of Ur, Harran is the place most celebrated by reason of its moon-worship, and there is every reason to believe that the name Sin was originally attached to Harran. The migrations of the ancient Hebrews were connected as we now know with political movements in Babylonia. They proceed from Ur—or Ur-Kasdim, i.e., Chaldean Ur—northward to Harran, which, by virtue of its position, became a town of much importance. This association of Ur with Harran furnishes an indication for historical relations of some sort, existing between the two places. It is therefore not accidental, that the patron deity of both places was the same. As yet, no excavations have been made at Harran, and we are, therefore, dependent upon incidental notices for our knowledge of its history. These sufficiently show that the place continued through a long period to preserve its sacred character. The old temple there, was one of the many that stirred up the religious zeal of Nabonnedos; and previous to this, we find several Assyrian kings occupied in embellishing and restoring the structure. An interesting reference to Harran, bearing witness to its ancient dignity, is found in an inscription of Sargon II. of Assyria (722-706 B.C.), who enumerates among his claims to the favor of the gods, that he restored the "laws and customs of Harran," by which he evidently means that he was instrumental in giving the place, the dignity it once enjoyed. A curious feature connected with Sin, is the occurrence of the name in Mount Sinai, in the wilderness of Sin, as well as in an inscription of Southern Arabia. May not this be a further testimony to the association of Harran with Sin, since it is from Harran that the departure of the Hebrews for the west took place? What more natural than that in the migrations which carried the Hebrews to the west, the worship of Sin should have been transferred to Arabia? Important as Ur and Harran are as sacred towns, politically they do not retain their prominence after the days of Hammurabi. The amalgamation of Nannar with Sin, and the almost exclusive occurrence of the latter name in later times, does not of necessity point to a preponderating influence of Harran over Ur, but may be due to the greater fame which the former place acquired as the goal of religious pilgrimages. The situation of Harran—the name itself signifies 'road'—as the highway leading to the west, must have been an important factor, in bringing this about. However this may be, Sin and Nannar are as thoroughly identical in the period following Hammurabi, as Babbar and Shamash. The attributes of the one are transferred to the other so completely, that a separation of the two is no longer possible.
The ideographs with which the name of Sin is written show him to have been regarded as the god of wisdom, but while wisdom and light may be connected, it is Nannar's character as the "illuminator" that becomes the chief trait of the god. No doubt the preëminence of Ea in this respect, who is the personification of wisdom, par excellence, made it superfluous to have another deity possessing the same trait. It is, accordingly, as the god of light, that Sin continues to be adored in the Babylonian religion; and when he is referred to, in the historical texts and hymns, this side of his nature is the one dwelt upon. Through his light, the traps laid by the evil spirits, who are active at night, are revealed. In later times, apparently through Assyrian influence, the reckoning of time was altered to the extent of making the day begin with sunrise, instead of with the approach of night; and this, together with the accommodation of the lunar cycle to the movements of the sun, brought about a partial change of the former conditions, and gave somewhat greater prominence to Shamash. As a consequence, the rôle of Sin is not as prominent in the hymns that belong to a later period as in those of earlier days.
The oracles of the Assyrian kings are addressed to Shamash, and not to Sin. Moreover, the personal factor in the case of Sin, if one may express oneself thus, is not as strong as in that of some other gods. His traits are of a more general kind. He is supreme; there is none like him, and the spirits are subservient to his will. But terms of endearment are few, while on the mythological side, comparatively little is made of him. He is strong and he is holy. He is called upon to clothe the evil-doer with leprosy, as with a dress. In a robe, befitting his dignity, he stalks about. Without him, no city is founded, no district restored to former glory. Sin is called the father of the gods, but in a metaphorical rather than in a real sense. The only one of his children who takes an important part in the later phases of Babylonian-Assyrian worship is his daughter Ishtar. She seems to have taken to herself some of the traits of right belonging to Sin, and the prominence of her worship may be regarded as an additional factor in accounting for the comparative obscurity to which Sin gradually is assigned. At all events, Sin is a feature of the earlier period of the Babylonian religion rather than of the later periods.
|Written By Morris Jastrow|
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