The History of Ancient Sumeria (Sumer) including its cities, kings, religions culture and contributions or civilization
The Art of Sumeria
by: Liliana Osses Adams
Other Mesopotamian Peoples
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Cosmogony and cosmologyThorkild Jacobsen: Professor of Assyriology,
Harvard University, 1962-74. Author of The Sumerian Kinglist; "Mesopotamia"
in The Intellectual History of Ancient Man Reprinted by Permission
Though the "Eridu
Genesis" may have come close to treating existence as a whole, a true
cosmogonic and cosmological myth that deals centrally with the origins,
structuring, and functional principles of the cosmos does not actually
appear until Old Babylonian times, when Mesopotamian culture was entering
a millennium and a half of doubts about the moral character of world
government and even of divine power itself. Yet, the statement is a
positive one, almost to the point of defiance. Enuma elish tells of a
beginning when all was a watery chaos and only the sea, Tiamat, and the
sweet waters under ground, Apsu, mingled their waters together. Mummu, the
personified original watery form, served as Apsu's page. In their midst
the gods were born. The first pair, Lahmu and Lahamu, represented the
powers in silt; the next, Anshar and Kishar, those in the horizon. They
engendered the god of heaven, Anu, and he in turn the god of the flowing
sweet waters, Ea.
is known in a more complete form from an ancient list of gods called An:
Anum. There, after a different beginning, Lahmu and Lahamu give rise to
Duri and Dari, "the time-cycle"; and these in turn give rise to Enshar and
Ninshar, "Lord and Lady Circle." Enshar and Ninshar engender the concrete
circle of the horizon, Anshar and Kishar, probably conceived as silt
deposited along the edge of the universe. Next was the horizon of the
greater heaven and earth, and then--omitting an intrusive line--heaven and
earth, probably conceived as two juxtaposed flat disks formed from silt
deposited inward from the horizons.
truncates these materials and violates their inner logic considerably.
Though they are clearly cosmogonic and assume that the cosmic elements and
the powers informing them come into being together, Enuma elish seeks to
utilize them for a pure theogony (account of the origin of the gods). The
creation of the actual cosmos is dealt with much later. Also, the
introduction of Mummu, the personified "original form," which in the
circumstances can only be that of water, may have led to the omission of
Ki, "Earth," who--as nonwatery--did not fit in.
The gods, who in Enuma elish come into being within Apsu and Tiamat, are viewed as dynamic creatures, who contrast strikingly with the older generation. Apsu and Tiamat stand for inertia and rest. This contrast leads to a series of conflicts in which first Apsu is killed by Ea; then Tiamat, who was roused later to attack the gods, is killed by Ea's son Marduk. It is Marduk, the hero of the story, who creates the extant universe out of the body of Tiamat. He cuts her, like a dried fish, in two, making one-half of her into heaven--appointing there Sun, Moon, and stars to execute their prescribed motions--and the other half into the Earth. He pierces her eyes to let the Tigris and Euphrates flow forth, and then, heaping mountains on her body in the east, he makes the various tributaries of the Tigris flow out from her breasts. The remainder of the story deals with Marduk's organization of the cosmos, his creation of man, and his assigning to the gods their various cosmic offices and tasks. The cosmos is viewed as structured as, and functioning as, a benevolent absolute monarchy.
Man: his origin,
nature, and destiny
notions about man's origin seem to have been current in ancient
Mesopotamian religions. Brief mentions in Sumerian texts indicate that the
first men grew from the earth in the manner of grass and herbs. One of
these texts, the "Myth of the Creation of the Hoe," adds a few details:
Enlil removed heaven from earth in order to make room for seeds to come
up, and after he had created the hoe he used it to break the hard crust of
earth in Uzumua ("the flesh-grower"), a place in the Temple of Inanna in
Nippur. Here, out of the hole made by Enlil's hoe, man grew forth.
notion presented the view that man was created from select "ingredients"
by Enki, or by Enki and his mother Nammu, or by Enki and the birth goddess
called variously Ninhursag, Nintur, and Ninmah. In the myth of "Enki and
Ninmah" recounted above, Enki had man sired by the "engendering clay of
the Apsu"--i.e., of the waters underground--and borne by Nammu. The
Akkadian tradition, as represented by the "Myth of Atrahasis," had Enki
advise that a god--presumably a rebel--be killed and that the birth
goddess Nintur mix his flesh and blood with clay. This was done, after
which 14 womb goddesses gestated the mixture and gave birth to 7 human
pairs. A similar--probably derived--form of this motif is found in Enuma
elish, in which Enki (Ea) alone fashioned man out of the blood of the
slain rebel leader Kingu. The creation of man from the blood shed by two
slain gods is yet another version of the motif that appears in a bilingual
myth from Ashur.
then, is part clay (earthly) and part god (divine). The divine aspect,
however, is not that of a living god but rather that of a slain, powerless
divinity. The Atrahasis story relates that the etemmu (ghost) of the slain
god was left in man's flesh and thus became part of man. It is this
originally divine part of man, his etemmu, that was believed to survive at
his death and to give him a shadowy afterlife in the netherworld. No other
trace of a notion of divine essence in man is discernible; in fact, man by
himself was viewed as being utterly powerless to act effectively or to
succeed in anything. For anything he might wish to do or achieve, man
needed the help of a personal god or goddess, some deity in the pantheon
who for one reason or other had taken an interest in him and helped and
protected him, for "Without his personal god a man eats not."
About man's destiny all sources agree. However man may have come into being, he was meant to toil in order to provide food, clothing, housing, and service for the gods, so that they, relieved of all manual labor, could live the life of a governing upper class, a landed nobility. In the scheme of existence man was thus never an end, always just a means.