Babylonian religion

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The Babylonian religion developed, among other things, from the Sumerian religion , whose content it took up and expanded. Since the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC there have also been Chr. Wisdom forms.

Beings of the gods

In the minds of the Babylonians , their gods were all human. As in Greek and Roman mythology , the Babylonian pantheon also consisted of family deities. They were assigned various properties and characteristics. The relationships with one another were partly structured like within the cities. This was not least because the gods were generally city deities. Thus, with the growth or loss of power, the importance of a god could increase or decrease. The main deities, like kings by their servants, were supported by servant deities of various kinds.


The most important gods are listed in a list of gods called An = Anum . Traditionally this list was written in two columns: on the one hand Sumerian , on the other hand the Babylonian equivalent. For the main gods, the partners and children and the assigned subordinate gods are also written. The roots and forerunners of this list go back to the 3rd millennium BC. It received its final, canonical form (presumably as the oldest canonical religion in the world) until the second half of the 2nd millennium BC. After that the most important deities are:

Marduk and his dragon - drawing after a Babylonian cylinder seal
  • Anu - Until the 2nd millennium BC Supreme god of Mesopotamia. Some see him as the father of Ištar.
  • Enlil - the god of the wind
  • Ea - The god of the primordial sea, on which the world floats, as well as of knowledge and the sciences and protector of the human race is the father of Marduk.
  • Sin - This moon god rules the months. The crescent moon is his boat with which he travels across the sky. He is the father of Šamaš and Ištar.
  • Šamaš - The sun god stands for justice and truth.
  • Ištar - the goddess of war and erotic love
  • Marduk - The imperial god of Babylon presides over the heaven of gods in Babylonia. In the world creation myth Enuma Eliš , the creation of the world is ascribed to him. Its symbolic animal is the Mušḫuššu dragon.
  • Nabu - The son of Marduk is the god of literature and fate. Little by little he ousts his father.
  • Ninurta - the god of battles
  • Nusku - the fire god
  • Nergal - husband of Ereškigal , with whom he rules the underworld
  • Adad - the god of storms, thunderstorms and rain
  • Tammuz - lover of Ištar and god of vegetation

The pantheon was not static, the amalgamation of less important deities with important ones is not uncommon, especially in Marduk various smaller deities are merging - there was even a few opinion that Marduk was the only god - an early form of monolatry or henotheism . Marduk was equated with the following gods, among others:

  • Asalluchi , son of Enki and city god of Kumar , was an incantation helper . As a result, Marduk became the son of Enki and rose in the pantheon, which corresponded to the rise of the city of Babylon.
  • Tutu , city god of the city of Borsippa , which issubordinate to Babylon, which is why Marduk's son Nabu could become the new city god of Borsippa.

Mythology and religion

The partial separation from the Sumerian, traditional religion took place in the second half of the 2nd millennium BC. BC, in which Babylon's city god Marduk, to date a rather less important god of the pantheon, breaks the traditional triad of An, Enlil and Enki (or the quartet, if you include the mother goddess) and sits alone at the head of the pantheon.

The process reached its climax under Nebuchadnezzar I , under whose rule the epic of creation of the world, Enûma elîsch , was written. Here Marduk - asked for help by the other gods after he had slain Tiamat (female personification of the sea ) because of the flood she triggered and with which she wanted to destroy all other gods - holds up his bow as a sign of victory and places it in the sky as an arc-shaped constellation of stars in memory of the fact that he has averted the danger of the flood. This is also an example of the reception of the Babylonian religion, which continues to have an impact in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Because the biblical God YHWH - Elohim also places the rainbow in the sky as a sign of benevolence after the flood .

The previous supreme god of the pantheon, Enlil, was moved to a middle heaven, between the highest heaven of his father An and the heaven of the star gods. Now Babylon took the place of Enlil's city of Nippur as the religious center of Babylonia. Often the names of the old gods were replaced by new ones or the names of the old gods were used as synonyms for the new ones.

Traditionally, up to the usurpation of Marduk , the idea was as follows: The disc of earth has its seat in the center of a salt sea . Several skies arch above it, the ruler of the top is An , the bottom is the sky of the stars. The sky is carried by the freshwater ocean , the Abzu , in which the supreme god Enki (Ea) lives. Below is the shadow world (also called the underworld) ruled by the gods of the underworld .

In the Enûma elîsch this underworld does not play a role. It all starts there with the couple Abzu and Tiamat. All other gods descend from these two. In a generation struggle, Enki and Marduk both kill them. Marduk creates the earth and the sky from Tiamat's body. Humans are also made from clay and the blood of a dead god (although which god this is varies here). It is the blood that gives people the orderly understanding. Humans are of primary importance to the gods. Without the worship of people and their sacrifices, the gods starve.

So it comes to the fact that one can face the gods as a person quite self-confidently and also make demands, especially on one's personal God. On cuneiform tablets, people complained to their gods of alleged unjust punishment, who threatened to seek another personal god who would then be the recipient of prayers and sacrifices. The gods were not loved, but they were respected and sometimes feared.

In addition to the gods of the pantheon, the Babylonians believed in hybrid beings who, although divine, were subordinate to the gods in their power and only became active on their instructions. Most of these hybrids were evil nature, such Rabisu (the Lurker ) Lilitu , one at normal sexuality incompetent female hybrids, which turned his aggression toward young men and tried to compensate for this weakness it. Lamaštu , a lion-headed, female hybrid creature, was often seen as responsible for puerperal fever .

Most of the other hybrids had no personal characteristics. Since the hybrid beings were sent by the gods to punish the wicked , they had to be fought off with the help of the gods. So there was a real branch of industry in which scribes (scholars) dealt with sacrificial review and omens. Medicine, too, was primarily based on appeasing the god and banishing the demons sent by a god . It did not matter whether the sinner was aware of a guilt; one could anger the gods with all kinds of deeds, even if they were not at all conscious to one at first or would perhaps never be recognized.

See also


  • Helmut Freydank u. a .: Lexicon of the Old Orient. Egypt, India, China, Middle East , VMA-Verlag, Wiesbaden 1997, ISBN 3-928127-40-3
  • Brigitte Groneberg : The gods of the Mesopotamia. Cults, Myths, Epen , Artemis & Winkler , Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-7608-2306-8 .
  • Morris Jastrow: The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria. Töpelmann, Giessen, Volume 1, 1905; Volume 2, 1912 (online: Volume 1 and Volume 2 at
  • Thomas R. Kämmerer: Shima milka. Induction and reception of the Middle Babylonian poetry by Ugarit, Emar and Tell el-Amarna , Ugarit , Münster 1998, ISBN 3-927120-47-2 (= Old Orient and Old Testament , Volume 251).

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