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Enlil (also EN.lil : cuneiform ? ? ? ; Akkadian: Ellil ) is the main god of the Sumerian and Akkadian pantheon. He is the predecessor and model of later deities of various ancient oriental peoples.

As the son of the sky god An , Enlil was worshiped as supreme god and called "King of heaven and earth, king of countries, father of gods". His main sanctuary was the temple complex E-Kur (house mountain) in Nippur , but also the temple E-Adda (house of the father) in Lagas , E-Ugal in Dur Kurigalzu and the temple E-am-kur-kur-ra (house of the wild bull) in Assyria were dedicated to him.

His wife is the goddess Ninlil , in some traditions also the goddess Mami (Anzu myth) or the goddess Ninhursanga . Basically he is also married to the goddess Sud (city goddess of Šurrupag ), but she is equated with Ninlil.

Father of the gods

He is considered the father of several of the most important gods of the Sumerian pantheon as Ninurta , Ningirusu , Nergal , Nanna (Sin) and Ischkur (Adad). His messenger was Nusku , his concubine, Šuzianna.

Through the ME tables, with which he could rule over fate, he ruled over people, but also over the other gods.

In the Babylonian religion, Enlil's role was replaced by the rise of Babylon to power by the local city god Marduk , who accomplished his works and also took on his 50 honorary titles. This takeover of power by a new religion is told in the famous Babylonian creation myth Enuma Elish . In the Assyrian culture Enlil was often equated with the main god Aššur , accordingly the wife Ninlil stood by his side [1].


The name EN.lil is Sumerian and literally translated means "Lord Wind", accordingly the storm wind is the element of the god Enlil, which can be traced back the furthest. Further considerations also go over to the interpretation “Lord of the people” (EN.lillu), which is not entirely absurd, since he is generally considered to be the creator of men.

Enlil's name can also be replaced by other designations on inscriptions. So are Nunamnir, the worthy and Kurgal, the great mountain, but also the seven titles of Enlil ("Lord of the Lands", "Lord of the Faithful Word", "Father of the Land", "Shepherd of the Black Heads" (self-designation of the Sumerians), "Hero who has a face of himself", "Lord who leads his army", "He who gives rest to disturbed sleep") are common synonyms for the god Enlil.

Ruins of E-kur the main temple of Enlil
The ruins of E-kur the main temple of Enlil

Main place of worship

Its main place of worship and most important center of the Sumerian religion was the temple complex E-Kur in Nippur. Enlil was probably the patron god of Nippur from the beginning. As a special distinction, Nippur was also written with the logogram EN.lili KI , which means “place of Enlil”.

The other gods traveled to Nippur once a year as real god steles to receive Enlil's blessing. Various literary travel descriptions of these gods on their way to Nippur have come down to us.

This worship of the main god brought Nippur a special status among the city-states. Many kings, including the Assyrians, boasted that the sanctuary of Enlil had been restored, rebuilt or expanded, and the reputation of the city was correspondingly high, without Nippur ever having produced a powerful dynasty.


The main attribute of Enlil is the crown of horns on a throne . This symbol basically denotes divinity in Mesopotamian iconography and, with a few exceptions in the late period, was reserved for the gods. As a symbol for Enlil, it was enough to depict only the crown of horns on a throne.

His main weapon was the net, the scepter and the destiny tablets.

His emblem was the abajEnlil-dim “Who is like Ellil?”, But we don't know what it looked like.

The crown of horns on a throne, sign of Enlil
The crown of horns on a throne, sign of Enlil

In Sumerian numerology , fifty was the number enlil. The Bear Guardian constellation represents him in the sky .

Mythological representations

Enlil was treated several times in Sumerian and Akkadian poetry. He is seldom the main actor, but he often has a prominent, arbitrating or causal position in the texts.

The song of the hoe

In a didactic poem, which should probably focus on the special text structure, Enlil is reported as the creator of the world and people. The word hoe (al or ar) is used here in all its variations as often as possible in other words and denotes the tool that Enlil used to create everything.

Enlil and Ninlil

Enlil desires the beautiful Ninlil. Since she resists his advances, he seduces her with his magic and impregnates her with the god Nanna. When Enlil returns to the gods, they describe him as unclean and cast him into the underworld. Ninlil, who finds out about this, then follows him. On the way to the underworld, she has to pass three gates. But Enlil pretends to be the gatekeeper of these gates and persuades Ninlil to be allowed to impregnate them. The resulting child should go to the underworld instead of Nanna's. Ninlil agrees each time and thus begets the underworld gods Nergal, Nianzu and Enbilulu. These stay in the underworld, while Nanna, as god of the moon, is allowed to leave the underworld again and again.

Enlil and Sud

This myth tells how Enlil falls in love with Sud and asks for her hand. In the text it is said that Sud becomes Ninlil after marrying Enlil.

Atrahasis epic

(See main article Atraḫasis epic )

In the Akkadian flood legend, which is mentioned both as a separate tradition and in the Gilgamesh epic , the supreme god Enlil sends the plagues, diseases and the flood to destroy humanity.

Anzu myth

(See main article Anzu Myth )

In the Anzu myth, Enlil is robbed of the fate tables while bathing. Ninurta, the actual main character in this myth, defeats Anzu and thus restores the divine order.

Enuma Anu Enlil

(See main article Enuma Anu Enlil )

In the canonical cuneiform tablet series Enuma Anu Enlil, which comprises 70 tablets, ominous appearances of the moon, sun, planets and fixed stars are treated in 7000 omina.


  • Brigitte Groneberg: The gods of the Mesopotamia. Cults, myths, epics . Artemis & Winkler, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-7608-2306-8 .
  • Michael v. Streck, (Ed.): Reallexikon der Assyriologie und Vorderasiatischen Aräologie . Volume 2, p. 382 ff.
  • Manfred Krebernik: Gods and Myths of the Ancient Orient . 1st edition. Beck, Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3-406-60522-2 .
  • Samuel Noah Kramer: History begins at Sumer: thirty-nine firsts in man's recorded history . 3. Edition. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia 1981, ISBN 0-8122-7812-7 .
  • Gwendolyn Leick: A Dictionary of Ancient Near Eastern Mythology . 2002.

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d Michael v. Streck, (Ed.): Reallexikon der Assyriologie und Vorderasiatischen Aräologie . tape 2 , p. 382 ff .
  2. Brigitte Groneberg: The Gods of the Mesopotamian: Cults, Myths, Epics . Artemis & Winkler, Düsseldorf 2004, ISBN 3-7608-2306-8 .
  3. Manfred Krebernik: Gods and Myths of the Ancient Orient . 1st edition. Beck, Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3-406-60522-2 .
  4. ^ Samuel Noah Kramer: History begins at Sumer: thirty-nine firsts in man's recorded history . 3rd rev. ed. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia 1981, ISBN 0-8122-7812-7 .
  5. Otto Kaiser (Ed.): Texts from the environment of the Old Testament . tape 2 , p. 175 .
  6. ^ The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature. Retrieved January 1, 2019 .