The essential privilege of the gods was immortality. But they had the same needs and

passions as mortals.

They were subject to fear.

During the deluge the gods were disquieted to see the waters rise.

They climbed to the sky of Anu and there:

The gods crouched like dogs; on the wall they cowered.

The gods were also greedy.

When they forgathered they never failed to feast and drink themselves into a state of boisterous

intoxication. The Epic of the Creation says:

They grow drunk with drinking; their bodies are joyful,

They shout aloud, their hearts exult.

They were equally fond of sacrifices. When Uta Napishtim was saved from the Deluge

and, in gratitude, placed offerings on the summit of the mountain, 'the gods smelled the good

odor, the gods swarmed like flies above him who offered them sacrifice'.

Like men the gods had wives and families. They were celestial sovereigns and, like kings

of earth, had their courts, servants and soldiers. They inhabited palaces situated either in regions

above the sky, on the great Mountain of the East, or in the subterranean depths of the underworld.

Although each had his own sphere of influence they would sometimes gather together to debate

common problems. They would then assemble in a hall called the Upshukina. In particular they

would congregate there at the beginning of each year, on the feast of Zagmuk, in order to

determine men's destiny. The gods thus formed a thoroughly organized and hierarchical society.

The divine hierarchy was not immediately established and was often modified. The great

primordial principle of fertility and fecundity, at first worshipped by the Sumerians, was quickly

dispersed into a crowd of divinities who had no precise connection with each other. Later, under

the influence of national pride, the gods acquired rank, the dignity of which corresponded to the

importance in the country as a whole of the city in which they were particularly venerated. Finally

the official theologians of Babylon fixed the hierarchy of the gods more or less definitely, dividing

them into triads. The two principal triads were those of the great gods Anu, Enlil and Ea, and of

the astral gods Sin, Shamash and Ishtar.


When the victory of Marduk over Tiamat had re-established peace and order in the world

of the gods each divinity received his own particular sphere of influence. The universe was

divided into three regions each of which became the domain of a god. Anu's share was the sky.

The earth was given to Enlil. Ea became the ruler of the waters. Together they constituted the triad

of the Great Gods.


Anu was the son of Anshar and Kishar. His name signified 'sky' and he reigned over the

heavens. There he resided in the uppermost region, which was called the 'sky of Anu'. He was god

in the highest sense, the supreme god. All the other deities honored him as their 'father', that is to

say, their chief. They came to him for refuge when danger threatened them, during the Deluge for

example. It was to him they came when they had complaints to lodge. Thus the goddess Ishtar,

harshly repelled by the hero Gilgamesh, goes to find Anu, her father. 'Oh my father,' she said to

him, 'Gilgamesh has cursed me,' and she requested him to make 'a celestial bull' to send against

Gilgamesh. In the same way Anu summoned all cases of importance before his tribunal. When

Adapa broke the wings of the South Wind Anu ordered him to appear before him. He combined

power and justice, all the marks of sovereignty. Before the raised throne on which he sat were

placed the insignia of royalty: 'the scepter, the diadem, the crown and the staff of command.' On

monuments a tiara placed on a throne represented Anu. He had, moreover, an army at his

command: the stars, which he had created to destroy the wicked were called 'the soldiers of Anu'.

Anu never left the heavenly regions and never came down to earth. When he abandoned

his majestic immobility it was to walk in that portion of the sky, which was exclusively reserved

for him, the name of which was 'Anu's Way'.

In spite of his uncontested supremacy he was not, however, exempt from weaknesses. We

have seen, that, for example, when he was sent to do battle against Tiamat he was unable to face

the monster and left the glory of victory to Marduk.

Aided by his companion, the goddess Antu, he presided from above over the fates of the

universe and hardly occupied himself with human affairs. Thus, although he never ceased to be

universally venerated, other gods finally supplanted him and took over certain of his prerogatives.

But the great god's prestige remained such that the power of these usurper gods was never firmly

established until they, too, assumed the name Anu.

Enlil (Bel)

Enlil was much more involved in the events, which took place on earth. In the land of

Sumer, and particularly at Nippur, Enlil, Lord of the Air, had been worshipped from early times.

Enlil was the god of the hurricane and his weapon was the amaru, that is, the deluge. Like the

Greek Zeus he symbolized the forces of nature and again like Zeus he was soon considered to be

the master of men's fates.

When the people of Babylon took over the gods of Sumer, far from overlooking Enlil they

made him the second element in their supreme triad. They virtually assimilated Enlil to their god

Marduk, to whom they applied the name Bel, which means 'Lord'. Bel then became Lord of the

World and his rule extended throughout the earth. He was called 'King of the Land' or 'Lord of all


Enlil, like Anu, had a reserved promenade in the heavens - 'Enlil's Way' - but he normally

resided on the Great Mountain of the East.

Like Anu, Enlil (Bel) held the insignia of royalty, which he dispensed to the person of his

choice. Earthly kings, then, were only the representatives or vicars of Enlil (or Bel). In order to

raise them above other men it was enough that the god should pronounce their name, for the

word of Bel was all-powerful.

The word of Enlil is a breath of wind; the eye sees it not.

His word is a deluge, which advances and has no rival.

His word above the slumbering skies makes the earth to slumber.

His word when it comes in humility destroys the country.

His word when it comes in majesty overwhelms houses and brings weeping to the land.

At his word the heavens on high are stilled.

For men, then, Enlil is the dispenser of good and evil. It was he who in an angry mood sent

down the deluge to annihilate the human race.

In the most ancient period Enlil was associated with the goddess Ninkhursag, 'Lady of the

Great Mountain", though to the systematizing theologians his consort was Ninlil. When Bel took

over the attributes of Enlil, his consort could correspondingly be called Belit, that is to say, 'The

Lady'. Although she sometimes bore the title 'Mother of the Gods', Ninkhursag or Belit enjoyed no

supremacy over the Babylonian Olympus. On the contrary, with her sacred milk she nourished

those whom Bel had chosen to be kings among men. Thus, thanks to her, earthly sovereigns could

boast of divine origin.


The name of this divinity, which means 'House of the Water', is alone sufficient to indicate

his character and the nature of his sphere of influence. It would, however, be a mistake to identify

him with the Poseidon of the Greeks. Ea was not a marine deity. His proper domain was the Apsu

- in other words that stretch of fresh water, which surrounded the earth and on which at the same

time the earth floated. The springs, which gushed from the earth, the great rivers, which watered

the Chaldean plain, came from the Apsu. We have seen how, during the creation, the fertilizing

waters of the Apsu encountered the salty and tumultuous waves of the sea. In the same way the

Greeks distinguished between the River Oceanus and the 'sterile sea'. While the waters of the Apsu

spread abundance and happiness over the earth they were also the source of all knowledge and


In the land of Sumer, Ea bore the name of Enki, 'Lord of the Earth'. As god of the Apsu he

was also god of supreme wisdom. He presided over magic incantations and the gods themselves

willingly consulted him. Sometimes he was also called 'Lord of the sacred Eye', Ninigiku, that is to

say 'he whom nothing escapes'. When necessary his vigilant wisdom corrected the errors of the

gods themselves. When Bel decided to drown the race of man by flood it was Ea who warned Uta-

Napishtim and prevented the destruction of mankind.

God of knowledge, Ea, jointly with Shamash, spoke oracularly and he was invoked in

incantations. But he also presided over men's work. Carpenters, stonecutters, goldsmiths

venerated him as their patron. It is even possible, on one interpretation of a very damaged text,

that Ea was sometimes regarded as the creator of man, whom he had fashioned with clay.

The earthly residence of Ea was the holy city of Eridu, which, situated in the extreme south

of the land of Sumer on the Persian Gulf, had been the first city to be raised from the waters. Here

Ea had his dwelling, the Ezuab, or the 'House of the Apsu'. Nearby rose a wondrous tree, a black

Kishkanu, the foliage of which shone like a lapis-lazuli and cast a thick shade like that of a forest.

Ea is represented as a goat with a fish's tail. He is also seen in human form with waves springing

from his shoulders or from a vase held in his hands.

Ea's companion, whose physiognomy is rather vague, bears the name of Ninki, 'Lady of the

Earth', or else Damkina, or again Damgalnunna, 'The Great Spouse of the Lord'.

Such was the triad of the great gods, and such it remained until the day when Babylon

became mistress of all the land of Sumer and Akkad. Then, naturally, she placed her own national

god, Marduk, at the head of the pantheon.


Marduk was the oldest son of Ea. He came from the Apsu and originally personified the

fertilizing action of the waters; it was he who made plants grow and grain ripen. He thus had

above all the character of an agricultural deity, as his attribute the marn, which is simply a spade,

testifies. His fortunes grew with the greatness of Babylon, the city of his choice, and finally he

occupied the first place among the gods. He had, moreover, attained this position by right of

conquest. It will be remembered how, after the failure of Anu and Ea - the Epic of the Creation does

not mention Bel in this connection - Marduk dared to face the monstrous Tiamat. And it will also

be remembered how before he joined battle he insisted that the assembly of the gods should invest

him with supreme authority and the privilege of determining fates. All this was accorded to him.

After his victory the gods showed their gratitude by awarding him fifty titles, each of

which corresponded to a divine attribute. In this way the fullness of divinity was united in

Marduk. He was not only 'he who created grain and plants and made green things to grow' but also:

The light of the father, who begot him,

He who renews the gods,

The Lord of pure incantation, making the dead to live,

He who knows the hearts of the gods,

Guardian of justice and law,

The creator of all things,

Among lords, the first,

The Lord of Kings,

The shepherd of the gods

Bel conferred upon him his own title of 'Lord of the Land' and Ea, overjoyed at his son's

victory, cried:

Let him, like me; be called Ea;

The commands that I command let him pronounce them!

Thus Marduk absorbed all the other gods and took over all their various functions and

prerogatives. It was he who organized the universe, assigned dwelling-places to the gods, and

fixed the course of the heavenly bodies. It was he who created man from the blood of Kingu; he

was the 'Lord of Life', the great healer and took the place of his father, Ea, in magic incantations.

From Enlil he obtained the governorship of the four quarters of the earth. Henceforward he was

the supreme commander of the Anunnaki and each year he himself determined men's fates in the

Duku, i.e. 'the pure abode', during the feast of Zagmuk. Even Anu, the supreme god, felt the

effects of Marduk's growing glory. Marduk took from him the Anutu - that is, his own dignity -

and his word became 'like the word of Anu'.

It was the privilege of the supreme gods to ordain the destiny of men. The possession of

the Tablets of Fate was the token of omnipotence. Now, one day, the storm-bird Zu stole the

famous tablets. Anu offered the divine kingship to the one who recovered them. When

approached, Adad and Shara each in turn declined. Though the text then becomes fragmentary,

another composition makes it probable that it was Marduk who succeeded in over- coming the

thief Zu and recovering the stolen tablets.

Marduk proved his indomitable courage on another occasion. The god Sin, whose

watchfulness pursued nocturnal malefactors, provoked evil genii. They wove a plot against him

and with the complicity of Shamash, Ishtar and Adad they succeeded in eclipsing his light. As in

the days of Tiamat, Anu and Ea were seized with terror. But Marduk gave battle to the rebels, put

them to flight and gave back Sin his brilliance. The poet was right when he said:

When he is angered no god can resist his wrath,

Before the sharp blade of his sword the gods flee.

Terrible master, without rival among the great gods!

In the tempest his weapons flash,

In his flames steep mountains are overthrown.

Marduk was generally represented armed with a kind of scimitar felling a winged dragon,

a souvenir of his victory over Tiamat. In this way he could be seen in the Esagil, his famous temple

in Babylon, where he was enthroned beside his spouse Zarpanit.

Each year on a fixed date the god's statue was carried solemnly through the immense

crowd out of the Esagil and out of the city to a place in the country called the Akini, which was a

temple. Here it remained for several days. The ritual of this ceremony, which has been restored for

us by Thureau-Dangin, comprised prayers chanted by the priests, magic ceremonies, purifications

and sacrifices: the king himself came to receive investiture from Bel-Marduk. These festivals lasted

no less than ten days. It seems that during them a mystery play was given in which were

represented the death of the god, his resurrection and finally his marriage with the goddess.

Similar ceremonies, arranged in the same way, took place annually at Uruk in honour of Anu and

Ishtar, and at Ur in honor of Nannar.


But the day came when the might of Babylon faded before that of Nineveh. The national

god of the Assyrians, Asshur, then took the first place. In order to make this substitution easier

Asshur was identified with the ancient Babylonian god Anshar. Thus Asshur became 'king of all the

gods, self-created, father of the gods, maker of the sky of Anu and of the underworld, author of mankind, who

lives in the bright heavens, Lord of the gods, he who ordained men's fate...'

Asshur was above all a warrior-god who shared the bellicose instincts of his people. He

accompanied their armies into battle, fought at their side, directed the soldiers' blows and

rendered their arms victorious. Thus he received the first fruits of the booty and the vanquished

became his subjects. Nor did he disdain to appear to his followers in order to stimulate their

courage and strengthen their confidence. Such was that king of Lydia to whom he showed himself

and said: 'Kiss the feet of the king of Asshur, Ashurbanipal, and in his name thou shall surely

triumph over thine enemies.'

Asshur is generally represented in the form of a winged disk, or mounted on a bull, or

floating through the air. These are warrior representations. But he was not merely a warlike god.

In his quality of supreme divinity he was also the great god of fertility. He is then represented

surrounded by branches and his attribute is a female goat.

Asshur's principal consort was the goddess Ninlil.



The moon-god occupied the chief place in the astral triad. Its other two members, Shamash the

sun and Ishtar the planet Venus, were his children. Thus it was, in effect, from the night that light

had emerged.

In his physical aspect Sin - who was venerated at Ur under the name of Nannar - was an old man

with a long beard the colour of lapis-lazuli. He normally wore a turban. Every evening he got into

his barque - which to mortals appeared in the form of a brilliant crescent moon - and navigated the

vast spaces of the nocturnal sky. Some people, however, believed that the luminous crescent was

Sin's weapon. But one day the crescent gave way to a disk which stood out in the sky like a

gleaming crown. There could be no doubt that this was the god's own crown; and then Sin was

called 'Lord of the Diadem'. These successive and regular transformations lent Sin a certain

mystery. For this reason he was considered to be 'He whose de6p heart no god can penetrate'.

Because he illuminated the night Sin was an enemy of evil-doers whose criminal enterprises were

favoured by darkness. We have already seen how wicked spirits plotted against him. They had

won to their cause even the god's children Shamash and Ishtar as well as Adad, the god of

thunder. Their combined efforts succeeded in eclipsing Sin, and only Marduk's intervention reestablished


Sin had other functions. It was he who measured time; for so Marduk had decided on the day of

the creation.-

At the month's beginning to shine on earth Thou shall show two horns to mark six days. On the

seventh day divide the crown in two; On the fourteenth day, turn thy full face.

Sin was also full of wisdom. At the end of every month the gods came to consult him and he made

decisions for them.

His wife was Ningal, 'the great Lady'. He was the father not only of Shamash and Ishtar but also of

a son Nusku, the god of fire.


Every morning the scorpion-men who inhabit the Mountain of the East and defend its approaches,

open in the mountain's flank a great folding door. From it will spring, on his daily journey,

Shamash, the sun god. The god appears. Luminous rays seem to issue from his shoulders. In his

hand he grasps an object which resembles the blade of a saw: is it a weapon or more simply the

key to the Eastern Gate? With alert footstep he climbs the mountain and joins Bunene, his

coachman, who is harnessing the chariot in which the god will take his place. In a dazzle of light

Shamash begins slowly to mount the sky. When evening falls Shamash guides his chariot towards

the great Mountain of the West. A gate opens and he penetrates the depths of the earth. The sun

has disappeared. During the night Shamash pursues his subterranean course so that before dawn

he shall have regained the Mountain of the East.

Vigour and courage were the distinctive qualities of this god who triumphed over the night and

put the winter to flight. But above all he was the god of justice. His bursting light which chased

away the shadows where crime throve made him the terror of the evil-doer: he 'breaks the horn of

him who meditates evil'. How could one escape him? Not only did he see everything, but his rays

were a vast net which caught all who committed iniquities. Thus he bore the title of 'Judge of the

Heavens and the Earth', 'Sublime Judge of the Anunnaki', 'Lord of Judgment'. His temple in

Babylon was called the 'House of the Judge of the World'. In his role of judge the god was

represented seated on a throne, holding

in his right hand the sceptre and the ring.

Shamash had another role. Like the later Greek Apollo, who was also a sun-god, Shamash was the

god of divination. Through the intermediary of a soothsayer, the baru, he revealed to men the

secrets of the future. After he had offered sacrifice to Shamash the soothsayer would observe the

various shapes assumed by oil poured on the water in the sacred tub, or examine the liver of the

sacrificial victim, or decipher what the gods had decreed from the position of the stars, the

movements of the planets, the appearance of meteorites. It was especially at Sippar, where the

sun-god was particularly honoured, that the art of divination flourished.

There Shamash with his wife, Aya, was venerated. To the divine couple two gods of abstract

character were born: Kittu who was justice, and Misharu who was law.


According to some, Ishtar was the daughter of Anu; according to others, of Sin. She called herself

'goddess of the morn and goddess of the evening'. One of the most prominent figures in the

Assyro-Babylonian pantheon, Ishtar was the divine personification of the planet Venus. While the

Assyro-Babylonians made Ishtar a goddess, the Arabs made her a god under the name Athtar.

The same complexity occurs in her functions, depending on whether she was considered to be the

daughter of Sin or of Anu. In the former case she was a war goddess, in the latter the goddess of


The warrior Ishtar was the daughter of Sin and the sister of Shamash. She was the 'Lady of Battles,

valiant among goddesses'. She retained this character in the forms in which she was worshipped

by the Assyrians. Like Asshur she went on expeditions, took part in battles 'covered with combat

and arrayed in terror'. She is represented standing on a chariot drawn by seven lions, with a bow

in her hands. She was particularly worshipped at Nineveh and Arbela (Erbil). She was the sister of

Ereshkigal, queen of the underworld, and she helped greatly to people the infernal regions; for she

was the 'Star of Lamentation' who 'made brothers who were on good terms quarrel among

themselves, and friends forget friendship'.

On the other hand at Erech, Ishtar, daughter of Anu, was above all the goddess of love and

voluptuousness, not indeed that her

character manifested much more tenderness. On every occasion the goddess was irritable, violent

and incapable of tolerating the least obstacle to her wishes. 'If you do not create the celestial bull,'

she said to her father Anu, 'I shall break (something) open.. .the dead will become more numerous

than the living.' Finding that the gates of the underworld did not open quickly enough for her she

threatened the porter:

If you open not the gate that I may pass,

I shall burst it in and smash the lock,

I shall destroy the threshold and break the doorposts,

I shall make the dead to rise and they will outnumber the living!

It was, however, she who roused amorous desire in all creatures. As soon as she withdrew her


The bull refuses to cover the cow, the ass no longer approaches

the she-ass, In the street the man no longer approaches the maid-servant.

Sacred prostitution formed part of her cult and when she descended to earth she was

accompanied by 'courtesans, harlots and strumpets'. Her holy city Erech was called the 'town of

the sacred courtesans'. Ishtar herself, moreover, was the 'courtesan of the gods' and she was the

first to experience the desires which she inspired. Her lovers were legion and she chose them from

all walks of life. But woe to him whom Ishtar had honoured! The fickle goddess treated her

passing lovers cruelly, and the unhappy wretches usually paid dearly for the favors heaped on

them. Animals, enslaved by love, lost their native vigor: they fell into traps laid by men or were

domesticated by them. 'Thou hast loved the lion, mighty in strength', says the hero Gilgamesh to

Ishtar, 'and thou hast dug for him seven and seven pits! Thou hast loved the steed, proud in battle,

and destined him for the halter, the goad and the whip.'

Even for the gods Ishtar's love was fatal. In her youth the goddess had loved Tammuz, god of the

harvest, and - if we are to believe Gilgamesh - this love caused the death of Tammuz. Ishtar was

overcome with grief and burst into lamentations over her dead lover. In such a way, later,

Aphrodite was to bewail the death of Adonis.

In order to find Tammuz again and snatch him from his sad abode, Ishtar conceived the audacious

plan of descending into the underworld, 'to journey towards that land without return, towards

that house from which he who enters does not come out again'. She had the gates opened and

penetrated the seven precincts, at each gate stripping off one by one a piece of adornment or dress:

the great crown from her head, pendants from her ears, the necklace from her throat, the jewels

from her breast, her girdle adorned with birthstones, the bracelets from her hands and from her

feet; and finally the garment which covered her nakedness. She arrived in the presence of

Ereshkigal, queen of the infernal regions. But Ereshkigal called Namtaru, her messenger, and

ordered him to lock up Ishtar in the palace and to let loose against her the sixty maladies. Thus

Ishtar was a prisoner, and on earth there was desolation and in the heavens great sorrow.

Shamash and Sin, her father, carried their grief to Ea. Ea, in order to deliver Ishtar, thereupon

created the effeminate Asushu-Namir and sent him to the land of no return, instructed with magic

words to restrain the will of Ereshkigal. In vain the queen of the infernal regions strove to resist. In

vain did she attempt 'to enchant Asushu-Namir with a great enchantment'. Ea's spell was mightier

than her own, and Ereshkigal had to set Ishtar free. Ishtar was sprinkled with the water of life and,

conducted by Namtaru, again passed through the seven gates, recovering at each the adornment

she had abandoned.

In spite of the violence of her character Ishtar's heart was not a stranger to kindness. Mortals often

experienced her benefactions. Many a king owed his elevation to the throne to Ishtar's love and

the story of Sargon, King of Agade, related by himself, is significant.

'My mother was a priestess. I did not know my father. The priestess, my mother, conceived me

and gave birth to me in hiding. She placed me in a basket made of reeds and closed the lid with

pitch. She put the basket in the river which was not high. The river carried me away and brought

me to Akki who was a man responsible for libations. Akki looked upon me with kindness and


me from the river. He adopted me as his child and brought me up. He made me his gardener. It

was while I was his gardener that the goddess Ishtar loved me. Then I became king.' (Dhorme's


Those whom she cherished Ishtar treated with maternal tenderness. Addressing Ashurbanipal she


My face covers thy face like a mother over the fruit of her womb,

I will place thee like a graven jewel between my breasts,

During the night will I give thee covering.

During the day I shall clothe thee,

Fear not, oh my little one, whom I have raised.

Sovereign of the world by virtue of love's omnipotence, Ishtar was the most popular goddess in

Assyria and Babylonia. Under the name Astarte she was one of the great goddesses of Phoenicia

and bequeathed more than one of her traits to the Greek Aphrodite.

Ninurta. Ishtar completes the great triad of the astral deities. In Sumer and Akkad, however,

another god continued to be honoured who was of much the same character and who has been

identified with the constellation Orion. His name, according to place, was variously Ningirsu or


Ningirsu, who was worshipped at Lagash, was the son of Enlil. Ninurta was similarly a part of the

Enlil cycle. Ningirsu, patron of a part of the city of Lagash, was not only concerned with irrigation,

as 'the god of fields and canals, who brings fertility', but was also a war-god and this is the aspect

which Ninurta retained, a hunter and warrior. He was called the 'champion of the celestial gods'.

He was the 'strong one who destroys the wicked and the enemy'. His weapon and attribute was a

kind of club flanked by two S-shaped snakes.

The warlike disposition of Ninurta caused a fearful coalition to rise against him, in which the

whole of nature joined. The very stones took part in the struggle. Some ranged themselves on the

side of Ninurta while others went to swell the ranks of his enemies. When Ninurta emerged

victorious he did not forget his humble allies. He blessed the stones which had remained faithful

to him and cursed the others. And that is why certain stones such as the amethyst and lapis-lazuli

shine with such glittering brilliance, are valued by man and are reserved for noble usage while

others are trodden under foot in disdain.

Ningirsu's wife was the goddess Bau, daughter of Anu, she who breathed into men the breath of

life. Every year, on New Year's Day, the solemn nuptials of Ningirsu and Bau were celebrated. The

goddess was ushered into the bridal chamber in the midst of a cortege of worshippers who bore

wedding gifts. To this divine couple were born septuple! virgins. At other places and times Bau's

role was assumed by others, such as Nin-Karrak or Gula.


We have already seen that the god of Nippur, Enlil, was the god of the hurricane, 'Lord of the

winds'. But when he became Lord orba'alof the earth, Enlil slowly lost this primitive character.


From the beginning of the second millennium the mastery of the storm was conferred on a special

divinity: Adad. Adad is usually represented standing on a bull and grasping thunderbolts in each

hand; he is the god of lightning and the tempest. It is he who lets loose the storm, makes the

thunder growl and bends the trees under the fury of the winds. Enveloped in black clouds he

roars with his mighty voice. While Bel decreed the deluge Adad executed his will, and the tumult

rose to the very heavens.

But Adad's aspect was not always so terrifying. Adad, the tempest god, was also the god who

brought the beneficent wind and with it the welcome rains. He was the god of the inundation

which fertilizes, he who each year caused the river to rise and cover the earth with nourishing

slime. Hence, when Bel wished to send a series of plagues to chastise men he first addressed

Adad: 'From on high Adad hoarded the rains. Below, the flood-waters were stubborn and no

longer rose in the springs. The abundance of the fields diminished.'

Finally, Adad shared with Shamash the privilege of revealing the future. He was also the 'Lord of



May Gibil devour you! May Gibll catch you! May Gibil kill you! May Gibil consume you!

Such was the imprecation pronounced by the wizard, the Ashipu, as he consigned to the flames

the clay image of a sorcerer whose malignant charm he wished to break, or - infallible method of

destroying spells - as he burned a peeled onion and a crushed date.

GIBIL, the divinity thus invoked, was the god of fire and was called the son of Anu.

Another fire-god was NUSKU whose attribute was a lamp shaped like a wooden clog. More

especially he represented the sacred fire which consumed burnt offerings and carried their

delectable fragrance up to the gods. Thus he was'called 'Bel's sublime messenger'. He was invoked

during sacrifices:

Without thee, a banquet cannot be prepared in the temple, Without thee, the great gods cannot

breathe the incense.

Gibil and Nusku helped - and sometimes took the place of -Sin and Shamash in dispensing justice.

O mighty Nusku, warrior-god! He burns the wicked,

He orders and decrees, he is attentive to the smallest fault;

Equitable judge, he sees into the hearts of men,

He makes justice and law to shine forth.

O Gibil, the powerful, the roaring tempest,

Thou governor of gods and kings,

Thou sittest in judgment on the unjust judge.



Enki (or Ea), god of the Apsu, was the principal divinity of the liquid elements. But he had a

daughter, the goddess NANSHE who shared his functions. She was the goddess of springs and

canals. Like her father she was particularly honoured in Eridu, the holy city, which was situated at

the mouth of the Apsu. She was also worshipped at Lagash and each year, on a canal near the city,

there was a procession of boats to escort the sacred barge in which the goddess rode. Nanshe's

emblem was a vase in which a fish swam.

Finally, the rivers too were deified. They were invoked not only as the creators of all things but

also as instruments of the gods' justice.

It is thou, O river, who judges man's judgment,

O great river, O river sublime, O river of the sanctuaries.


From remotest times the Earth-mother was worshipped under the names of Ga-Tum-Dug at

Lagash, of Bau and Innini at Der and at Kish, or of Gula and of Ninkhursag.

All these divinities represented, like the Gaea of the Greeks, the great creative principle.

Later the specialised role of these earth divinities became more marked.

Over the harvest presided Nisaba, goddess of the grain, the Babylonian Ceres. She was the sister

of Nanshe.

The vine had its own goddess: Geshtin.

But the chief vegetation god was Tammuz, who was probably originally a tree god.

Tammuz, or Dumuzi, to use a more original form of the name, was the son of Ningishzida, 'Lord

of the wood of life', whose own father was Ninazu, 'Lord of Soothsaying by means of water'. He

was loved by Ishtar but, for a mysterious and doubtless involuntary reason, this love caused his

death. Like the ear of corn which the reaper's scythe cuts off in the glory of its yellow ripeness,

Tammuz, the harvest-god, was ravished by death in the fullness of youth, and forced to descend

into the underworld. Heartbroken by the death of her lover Ishtar bewailed her sorrow in bitter

lamentations which she poured forth from the midst of a choir of weeping men and women. This

tradition was perpetuated among the people and each year when the earth, sweltering under the

summer sun, had lost its harvest mantle, the death of Tammuz was bewailed in funeral chants.

Similarly at Byblos the 'passion' of Adonis was commemorated by public mourning.

Ishtar descended into the infernal regions to dispute with her sister Ereshkigal possession of the

'lover of her youth'. Tammuz returned to the abode of the gods and remained thenceforth at the

gate of Anu where with his father Ningishzida he stood guardian.


The Origin of Humanity: The Deluge

Whether man was moulded by Marduk with his own blood, whether he was born of the union of

Marduk and the goddess Aruru, or whether - as they told at Eridu - he had been fashioned by the

goddess Mami from clay mixed with the blood of a god whom Ea had slain, one point is clear:

namely, that humanity was the work of divine hands - men were children of the gods.

Nevertheless the gods one day resolved to destroy the human race. The motive for this remains

unexplained. Assembled in the town of Shuruppak, which is situated on the banks of the

Euphrates, the great gods Anu, Enlil, Ninurta and Ennugi decided to drown the earth with a

deluge. But Ea, who was also present, took pity on mankind. He confided the secret of the project

to a reed hut. As Ea intended, the secret was overheard by an inhabitant of Shuruppak named


Man of Shuruppak, son of Ubar-Tutu,

Destroy thy house, build a vessel,

Leave thy riches, seek thy life,

Store in thy vessel the seeds of all of life.

Uta-Napishtim listened to Ea's advice and set to work without delay. He built a great ship a

hundred and twenty cubits high. He loaded it with all he possessed in gold and silver. He took his

family aboard and herded in his cattle, together with the animals and birds of the land. Meanwhile

the hour appointed by Shamash had arrived. That evening the Lord of Shadows caused the rain to

fall, a rain of filth. Uta-Napishtim hastened to board his vessel and make fast the door.

When dawn broke

A cloud black as night rose from heaven's foundation.

Within it Adad bellowed!

Shullat and Khanish march at the head,

Nergal tears away the mast.

He comes, Ninurta, he spurs the attack,

The Anunnaki are bearing torches, Their brilliance lights up the land, Adad's tumult reaches the

skies, All that is bright is changed into darkness.

The terror which spread through the universe reached the gods themselves. Seized with fear they

sought refuge in the sky of Ami. They crouched like dogs on the ramparts and their burning lips

quivered with fright. Ishtar 'cried out like a woman in labour'. She repented having supported,

perhaps even provoked, the decision of the gods. She had not contemplated a chastisement so


May that day become as mud,

That day when I spoke evil to the assembled gods,

For I spoke evil to the assembled gods,

In order that my people might perish, I commanded the battle.

I give birth to my people!

Like the spawn of fish they fill the sea!

But nothing could stop the scourge. 'Six days and six nights the winds were abroad and the deluge

descended.' At last, on the dawn of the seventh day the evil wind grew peaceful, the sea became

calm; the voices of men were stilled, 'and all mankind was changed into mud'.

At this spectacle Uta-Napishtim could not hold back his tears. Meanwhile his ship had come to

rest on the summit of Mount Nisir, the only land which had emerged from the waves. Uta-

Napishtim let loose a dove and then a swallow, but they came back to the ship, having found

nowhere to alight. A raven, in his turn released, did'not come back at all. Then Uta-Napishtim

came out from his boat. He poured a libation and placed a burnt offering on the summit of the

mountain. With joy the gods smelled the good odour of sacrifice. Only Enlil was enraged to see

that some mortals had escaped the disaster. But Ea managed to appease him by carefully chosen

words. In token of reconciliation Enlil took Uta-Napishtim and his wife by the hand. He touched

them on the face and said:

Formerly Uta-Napishtim was a human being,

Now Uta-Napishtim and his wife will be like unto us, gods.

And he fixed their abode 'far away, at the mouth of the rivers', in an inviolable retreat.

Gods and Men

Numerous divinities presided over the various phases of human life. When a mother felt the first

pains of labor Mami was invoked, she who had created the new race of men. BELIT-ILI, 'the Lady

of the Gods', who then took the name NINTUD, or 'The Lady of Childbirth', also watched over the

birth of the newly born whose destiny was determined, from the moment of his arrival in the

world, by the goddess MAMMITU.

The entire course of human life was, moreover, regulated by the sovereign will of the gods, whose

chief attribute was deciding the fates of men. We have already seen how highly the gods valued

this privilege which fell successively to Anu, Enlil, Ea and Marduk. Although it was the supreme

god who made the final decision, all could discuss it. At the beginning of every year, while on

earth the festival of the Zagmuk was being celebrated, the gods assembled in the Upshukina, the

Sanctuary of Fates. The king of the gods in the later Babylonian period, Bel-Marduk, took his place

on the throne. The other gods knelt with fear and respect -before him. Removing from his bosom

the Tablet of Fates, Bel-Marduk confided it to his son Nabu, who wrote down on it what the gods

had decided. Thus the fate of the country was fixed for the coming year.

These decisions naturally remained secret. Men could, however, receive warnings from the gods,

either in dreams or by apparitions. Dreams were sent to men by the god ZAQAR, the messenger

of Sin. If they were too obscure one consulted the goddess NANSHE, 'the

interpreter of dreams'. Apparitions were less frequent and only occurred to people of importance.

Thus it was that Gudea, who reigned at Lagash, undertook the construction of the temple of

Ningirsu in that city on the formal order of the god who had appeared to him while he was asleep.

'In the midst of my dreaming a man as tall as the sky, as big as the earth, who as to his head was a

god, as to his arms was the divine bird Imdugud, as to his feet was the hurricane, to the right and

left of whom crouched a lion has ordered me to construct his house. Happiness and unhappiness

came from the gods. It was they

who sent disease, having for this purpose recourse to IRRA, an aspect of NERGAL, king of the

underworld, and NAMTAR, a plague demon. Men's health, on the other hand, depended

especially on the goddess NIN-KARRAK and on the goddess GULA. Both were thought to be

daughters of Anu. Gula could at will inflict illness or restore health. She was called 'the Great

Doctoress' and her symbol was a dog.

Morality was also under the control of a deity. We have seen that Shamash and Nusku were the

gods of justice. The same role was shared by KADI, the goddess of Der who had at first

symbolised the creative earth. Kadi's attribute was a snake with, sometimes, a human bust.

Intellectual activity was placed under the protection of NABU whose principal sanctuary was at

Borsippa, near Babylon. Nabu was the son of Marduk. The prestige of his father was reflected on

to him and in the end he took over some of the paternal power. We have already seen how on the

day when destinies were determined it was Nabu who engraved the gods' decisions on the sacred

tablets. But his role was not confined to that of a simple scribe: he could, at will, increase or

diminish the number of days allotted to each mortal being, and from this he derived his

importance. Nabu had been chosen as secretary of the assembled gods because he - and his wife

TASHMETUM - had invented writing. For this reason he also presided over belles-lettres. His

attribute - like that of his father Marduk - was the serpent-headed dragon, and additionally the

chisel and engraving tablet.

Various other divinities presided over men's arts and crafts. We have seen that Ea was the patron

of carpenters and goldsmiths. The latter also appealed to the god GUHKIN-BANDA, if we can

believe Ashurbanipal's statement: 'With the help of the god Guhkin-Banda I have made as an

offering an artistic platter in bright gold.'


Under the earth, beyond the abyss of the Apsu, lay the infernal dwelling-place to which men

descended after death. It was the ' Land of no return', 'the house from which he who enters does

not come out'. What hope was there to escape from this kingdom defended by seven-fold walls?

To enter it a man had successively to penetrate seven gates, abandoning at each a part of his

apparel. When the last gate had closed behind him he found himself naked and imprisoned for

ever in the 'dwelling-place of the shadows'. The audacious Ishtar who had imprudently ventured

into the' land of no return was unable to escape, goddess though she was, and remained there a

prisoner. To free her nothing less than the aid of Ea and the power of his magic incantations had

been required. Sometimes the gods gave an especially privileged inhabitant of the underworld

permission to come up for a moment into the light. Thus Enkidu, the companion of the hero

Gilgamesh, was authorised to go and tell his friend what took place in the kingdom of the

shadows. It was a sad picture. In these regions of eternal darkness the souls of the dead - edimmu

-'clad, like birds, in a garment of wings' are all jumbled together:

In the house of dust Live lord and priest.

Live the wizard and the prophet. .. Live those whom the great gods Have anointed in the abyss.

Dusk is their nourishment And their food is mud.

Only certain edimmu, especially favoured, had the right to a bed and fresh water.

As well as the souls of the dead the underworld also contained the 'captive gods' - Kingu and his

accomplices who in the great civil war among the gods had taken the side of Tiamat and been

vanquished by Marduk.

Over all this subterranean world reigned the goddess Ereshkigal, 'Princess of the great earth'.

Originally she was sole sovereign. But one day the god NERGAL, 'Lord of the great dwelling' -

who under another form bore the name Meshlamthea - invaded the infernal regions. With him

were fourteen demons whom he posted at the different gates. To obtain peace Ereshkigal

consented to take Nergal for her husband. 'Thou shall be my husband', she said to him, 'and I shall

be thy wife. I shall make thee ruler over the vast kingdom and place in thy hand' the tablet of

wisdom.' And so Nergal, who until then had been god of destruction and war, became the

overlord of the dead. His symbol was a sword or a lion's head. To administer his commands he

had Namtaru, god of the plague, 'who crouches by Nergal'. Among other infernal deities we meet

BELILI, the sister of Tammuz, and the scribe BELIT-SERI.


Inferior to the gods but nevertheless participating in their nature and sharing certain prerogatives

with them were the genii, the utukku. They were divided into two groups, the good and the evil.

Even more than the gods they played a major role in the daily life of man.

The good genii, who were called shedu or lamassu, acted as guardian spirits. They defended the

individual against evil powers, carried his homage to the gods and drew down on him divine

favour. They could be seen standing before the gates of temples in the form of winged bulls with

human heads. But their duty was not only to stand guard over sacred enclosures. Invisible but

omnipresent they remained at a man's side, following him in the streets and into battle; for, as it

was said, 'he who has no god when he walks in the street wears a headache like a garment".

This was because men were constantly exposed to malignant forces, represented by the evil

utukku. These were, firstly, the edimmu - the souls of the dead - who had not received burial or

whose funeral rites had been neglected: they avenged themselves by tormenting the living. They

could, to be sure, be appeased by the offer of a funeral repast, the Kispu, or by a libation of water.

But there were other, more redoubtable utukku to be reckoned with. These evil genii issued from

the lower world, the arallu, or emanated from the bile of Ea, and overwhelmed men with disease,

inspired them to criminal acts, spread disunion among families, decimated the flocks. They were

rightly compared with 'the storm which breaks loose with fury in the skies', or the 'rising wind

which casts darkness over the bright day'. There was no way of appeasing them, 'for they heeded

neither prayer nor supplication'. We have seen how they had no respect even for the gods and

how they dared to attack Sin whose benevolent light they attempted to eclipse. Who precisely

were these malevolent spirits? It is not known, only that 'they do not take wives and beget no

children'. Seven of them were particularly dangerous. 'They were born in the Mountain of the

West, they dwell in holes in the ground, they live among the ruin of the earth.' When they

appeared to mortals it was in the form of terrifying creatures, as for example an apparition with a

human body, the head of a lion bristling with horns, and feet armed with powerful claws. They

could not be driven away except by incantations. The victim had recourse to the exorcist - the

ashipu - who in Ea's name pronounced the liberating formula:

Evil alu, turn thy breast and depart!

O, inhabitant of the ruins, get thee to thy ruins;

For the great Lord Ea has sent me:

He has made his incantation fitting for my mouth, He has given into my hand the cauldron for the

Seven, according to the holy ordinances.


Tradition retained the memory of legendary persons who had been in direct contact with the gods

and whose adventures were of a mythical character. The most famous of these - omitting Uta-

Napishtim, the hero of the deluge - were Etana, Adapa and above all Gilgamesh. If we wish to

attribute a moral significance to these myths we can interpret them as men's efforts to rise above

their wretched surroundings, conquer the heavens and achieve immortality.


In the days before there was a king on earth, when the 'sceptre, the diadem, the crown and the

staff of office were placed before Anu in the heavens' the great Anunnaki, who determined men's

fate, held counsel on the subject of the earth. The gods, especially Ishtar and Enlil, set about

finding a king for men and, it seemed, chose Etana. All went well, until Etana complained that he

had no heir. He addressed Shamash and said:

O my Lord, by your order let it come forth:

Grant me the herb of birth.

Tell me which is the herb of birth.

Set aside my shame, set for me a name.

Shamash, to whom Etana's libations and offerings of wild sheep had been agreeable, answered

him: 'Take to the road and reach the mountain.'

Now this mountain had recently been the scene of a drama enacted by an eagle and a serpent. The

two creatures lived side by side with their progeny. One day the eagle conceived the criminal

design of eating the serpent's little ones. He accomplished the heinous crime in spite of the wise

remonstrance of one of his little ones, 'young, but very intelligent', who put into him the fear of

Shamash's wrath:

The net, the spell of Shamash would fall upon thee and seize thee. He who trespasses on what is

Shamash's, Shamash will punish him with his own hand.

And the serpent, in fact, brought his plaint before the god of justice, who said to him:

Take to the road and reach the mountain. I will keep thee a buffalo.

Open his interior and pierce his belly!

Make thy habitation in his belly.

Birds of all kinds will descend from the sky.

The eagle will descend with them.

He will seize on the flesh.

When he comes inside the beast thou shall clutch him by the


Cut off his wings, his pinions, his claws, Tear him and throw him into a ditch; Let him die there

from hunger and thirst!

And so it was done. Deceived by the serpent's stratagem, the eagle fell into his power and was

condemned to perish slowly in the ditch. When Etana had come to the mountain he found the

eagle in his prison and, as Shamash had counselled him to do, he asked for the herb which would

give him a son. The eagle promised to procure it for him as soon as he had regained his strength.

For eight months Etana brought food until the eagle was at last able to fly again. He offered to

carry Etana up to the very sky of Anu.

On my bosom place thy back,

In the feathers of my wings place thy hands,

Place thy flanks on my flanks,

And I shall carry thee to Anu's sky.

Either from curiosity, or ambition to seize the insignia of power, or, more probably, in the hope of

obtaining the wondrous herb, Etana accepted; and the two companions soared into the air. At the

end of three double-hours the sea below looked to Etana no more than 'a small ditch in a garden.'

The travelers reached the sky of Anu without incident and prostrated themselves before the gods.

But the eagle wished to fly further until he reached Ishtar. For two double-hours more they rose

and Etana marvelled to see the earth turn into a garden while the vast sea was like a basket. But at

the third double-hour he was seized by vertigo. In vain he cried to the eagle: 'My friend, I can

climb no higher into the sky! Stop!' The fall was appalling. The eagle spun downwards with Etana

and the two imprudent ones crashed to the ground.


In the holy city of Eridu, Adapa had been created by Ea to reign among men. The god had given

him great wisdom and extreme prudence; only immortality, reserved for the gods, had been

denied him. Every day Adapa issued from the enclosure of Eridu, approached the bright harbor

and, boarding his boat, sailed out on to the broad sea to fish. One day while he was fishing the

South Wind rose, upset his boat and sent Adapa to the home of fishes. In a fury Adapa broke the

wings of the South Wind, and for seven days the wind blew no more. Anu grew uneasy and,

learning of the affair, summoned Adapa into his presence with the intention of offering him the

food of death.

But Ea, who watched over his protege, taught him how to conciliate the gods who kept vigil at

Anu's threshold, at the same time warning him to accept from Anu neither food nor drink. Adapa

then put on a robe of mourning and, conducted by Ilabrat, Anu's messenger, arrived at the gates

of heaven. There he met the two guardians, Tammuz and Ningishzida, who, seeing him, asked:

'Man, for whom dost thou wear a robe of mourning?' Adapa answered as Ea had instructed him to

do: 'On earth two gods have perished and therefore do I wear mourning.' 'And who are these

gods?' they asked, and Adapa replied: 'Tammuz and Ningishzida.' Delighted with this mark of

respect Tammuz and Ningishzida ushered Adapa into Anu's presence and interceded on his

behalf. The great god was appeased and, wishing in his turn to honour the magnanimous Adapa

he offered him the Food of Life. But Adapa remembered Ea's warning and refused either to eat or

drink. This was how he lost the chance to become immortal.

Was he the victim of bad luck, or was it not that Ea, whom nothing escaped, had foreseen Anu's

offer and had not willed that Adapa -and with him humanity - should acquire that immortality

which he had judged it best to deny him?


Of all the Assyro-Babylonian heroes the most famous is certainly Gilgamesh whose figure and

exploits have been immortalized in a vast poem, the masterpiece of Babylonian literature, and

entitled, according to how it is interpreted, either as 'He who discovered the source' or 'He who

saw all'.

The chief text which we possess comes from the Library of Ashurbanipal of Nineveh and dates

from the seventh century B.C. It comprises twelve cantos of about three hundred verses each. The

poem, however, is much more ancient, for a Babylonian fragment of it has been preserved which

goes back to the beginning of the second millennium.

The hero of the poem - Gilgamesh - does not seem to have been purely imaginary. It is generally

agreed that he was a king of the land of Sumer who reigned in the third millennium over the city

of Uruk or Erech in probable succession to the king Dumuzi. Among the chiefs of these small

Sumerian towns Gilgamesh doubtless distinguished himself for his courage and the success of his

enterprises. As happened in similar cases a legend grew up about him and he became the central

figure in a series of marvelous adventures which form the material of the poem of which the

following is a resume:

Over the ancient walled city of Erech, where Anu had his earthly dwelling, 'Eanna the holy', there

once reigned a wise but despotic prince whose name was Gilgamesh. 'His two-thirds was a god,

his other third a man.' He spread consternation among local families, taking daughters from their

fathers, maidens from heroes, wives from their husbands. The inhabitants of Erech complained to

the gods. The gods, too, were moved and spoke to Aruru the Great: 'Thou hast created Gilgamesh.

Now create another man in his image so that they shall fight each other and leave Erech in peace.'

Aruru took mud, cut it and from it fashioned in Anu's image the hero Enkidu - who was also

called Eabani. His body was covered with hair; on his head his hair was like a woman's, 'growing

like the harvest'. He grew up in the desert among the wild beasts.

With gazelles he ate the grass,

With the cattle he quenched his thirst,

With the flocks his heart rejoiced to drink.

In order to defend his friends, the beasts, he filled in the trenches dug by hunters, removed the

nets they had spread and, as his strength equalled an army of Anu, no one dared to venture into

the desert. It was decided to seize him. But how? Gilgamesh suggested an expedient:

Go, my hunter, and take with thee a harlot. While he accompanies his flock to the drinking trough,

she - let her remove her robe. Let him take his pleasure of her. He will see her and approach her.

Thus it was done. Posted near the drinking trough the hunter and the harlot, after waiting for two

days, saw Enkidu and his familiar flock arrive. The girl exposed her bosom and drew off her robe.

Enkidu was overcome with passion and lay with her. When he had his fill of pleasure he returned

to his flock, but upon seeing him the gazelles fled. 'The desert cattle shunned him.' Deprived of his

innocence Enkidu was no longer worthy to live in familiarity with animals. In vain he tried to

rejoin them. His knees betrayed him, his body was as though paralysed. He returned and sat sadly

at the harlot's feet and she completed his enslavement by flattering words.

Thou art beautiful, Enkidu, thou art like a god.

Why dost thou roam the desert with wild flocks?

Come! I shall lead thee to Erech within the walls,

Where Gilgamesh is perfect in strength

And, like a wild ox, has established himself over the people.

And without resistance Enkidu let himself be conducted to Erech. Meanwhile Gilgamesh, in his

palace, was disturbed by a dream: in his sleep he had seen a man of prodigious strength with

whom he had vainly attempted to struggle. He went to find his mother Ninsun who 'knew all

knowledge' and confided to her his uneasiness.

My mother, I have seen a dream in the night:

Whilst there were stars in the heavens,

Someone swooped down upon me like an army of Anu;

I bore him and he was stronger than I,

His anger I repulsed violently, but I could not shake him off...

I overlaid him like a woman.

I laid him at thy feet:

Thou madest him measure himself with me.

Ninsun, who knew all knowledge, reassured her son. The dream signified that Enkidu, who

surpassed Gilgamesh in strength, would

the palace, after a tierce wrestling bout, Gilgamesh welcomed him with friendliness and the two

sat down side by side like brothers.

Enkidu became Gilgamesh's inseparable companion and led a royal existence. He was dressed in a

magnificent robe, he slept in a well-made bed and sat in peace at Gilgamesh's left hand. The kings

of the earth kissed his feet and the people of Erech acclaimed him with their voices. One night,

however, Enkidu had a bad dream: a mysterious being with sombre visage and the claws of an

eagle carried him above the clouds and cast him into the house of shadows where Nergal dwelt,

'the house from which he who enters does not come out'.

When day broke Enkidu recounted his dream to Gilgamesh and described the vision he had

brought back from the nether world. Gilgamesh filled a pot of jet with honey, filled a pot of lapislazuli

with butter and offered them as gifts to Shamash. The god advised Gilgamesh to go and

fight Khumbaba the Strong, king of the Cedar Mountain.

As soon as she heard of the project Ninsun, the mother of Gilgamesh, dressed in her sacred

ornaments and went up to the terrace of the palace. There she offered incense to Shamash and

addressed him with a mother's tears.

'Why,' she asked, 'hast thou given my child a heart which does not sleep? And now thou hast

touched him and he is going away by far-off paths towards Khumbaba. He faces a combat which

he understands not; he undertakes a campaign which he does not understand.'

In vain the inhabitants of Erech attempted to restrain Gilgamesh by pointing out the perils of the

enterprise. Khumbaba was a terrifying monster, and it required a march of twenty thousand hours

to reach his retreat. In vain Enkidu himself showed his distaste for the expedition. Gilgamesh

stubbornly insisted on carrying out his plan. He closed his ears to the advice of his elders,

overcame Enkidu's hesitations and the two friends set out.

The itinerary of Gilgamesh and Enkidu has been widely discussed. For long it was believed that

the Mountain of the Cedars was in Elam, in the neighborhood of Susa in south-west Persia. But

Virolleaud, on the strength of new fragments of the poem recently deciphered, has demonstrated

that the mysterious Mountain of the Cedars was probably the Amanus, the mountain which

separates Syria on the north-west from Asia Minor. So Gilgamesh's expedition, stripped of its

legendary trimmings, simply commemorates the first expeditions of the inhabitants of Babylonia,

who, lacking wood and stone in their own land, ascended the Euphrates valley in search of these

materials which they finally found on the rocky and wooded slopes of the Amanus.

But to return to our heroes. After a long journey they arrived at the green mountain, mantled with

its forest of cedar, which was the domain of Khumbaba. Enlil had placed Khumbaba there to keep

the cedars intact. His voice was a tempest, his mouth was the mouth of the gods, his breath was a

wind. 'Whoever cuts down his cedars is stricken with infirmity.' Enkidu again wished to dissuade

Gilgamesh 'My friend,' he said, 'let us not go into the forest. My hands are weak and my ribs are

paralysed.' But Gilgamesh led him on.

The forest, covered with majestic and sweet-smelling cedars, was the dwelling of the gods and the

sanctuary of Irnini, probably a form of Ishtar. Before the two heroes stretched its shadows, filled

with delights and well-traced paths. The two friends took a path and soon came to an enclosure

which marked the beginning of Khumbaba's domain. Gilgamesh called aloud upon the monster

and challenged him. But the savage guardian of the forest refused to reply. Before the fight began

Gilgamesh took care to consult the

omens. He made an offering to the dead, chanted the funeral dirge, dug a trench into which he

threw seed-corn and, climbing to the summit of the mountain, invoked Shamash: 'O Lord,' he said,

'send a dream for Enkidu.' And suddenly in the middle of the night Gilgamesh awoke and spoke

to Enkidu who knelt, watching beside him. 'My friend,' he said to Enkidu, 'didst thou not call me?

Why have I awakened? Has not a god passed by? Why is my flesh overwhelmed? Dreaming I saw

the heavens cry out and the earth

roar. In the darkness lightning flashed, fire burst forth; death fell like rain. Then the fire was

extinguished...' Enkidu presumably interpreted the dream as an omen of victory, though the next

part of the text is lost. He invoked the aid of the gods and went into battle. The gods let loose the

elements against Khumbaba who confessed himself vanquished and was slain by Gilgamesh.

After his triumph Gilgamesh purified himself of his battle-stains, rearranged his hair and put on

clean raiment. He fastened his robe and resumed his crown. The goddess Ishtar saw the hero and,

struck by his beauty, spoke to him:

Come, Gilgamesh, be my lover!

Be my husband and I shall be thy wife!

I shall harness thee a chariot of lapis-lazuli and gold.

Come into our dwelling, in the perfume of the cedars.

When thou comest in our dwelling

They who sit on thrones will kiss thy feet,

Kings will prostrate themselves before thee, Lords and Princes...

But Gilgamesh roughly repelled the goddess. He well knew how inconstant she was and what

wretched fate she reserved for her lovers when they had ceased to please her.

Come, I will reveal thy harlotry!

For Tammuz, lover of thy youth,

Year after year thou hast mourned.

The bird, the 'little gardener', the speckled one,

Thou hast loved him:

And struck him and broken his wing!

Thou hast loved the lion, mighty in strength:

And thou hast dug for him seven and seven pits.

Thou hast loved the steed, proud in battle,

And destined him for the halter, the goad and the whip.

Thou hast loved the shepherd:

To thee each day he sacrificed his kids;

Thou hast struck him and changed him into a leopard...

Me, too, wilt thou now love - and like them transform.

On hearing these harsh words Ishtar smouldered with rage. She rose to the skies, approached

Anu, her father, and said: 'Gilgamesh has cursed me! Gilgamesh has recounted my shame... To

chastise his impudence create a celestial bull to send against him!' Anu granted his daughter's

request. He sent against Gilgamesh a furious

bull who was about to overthrow the hero when Enkidu rushed to his assistance, seized the beast

by its tail and tore it to pieces. Then, seeing Ishtar on the walls of Erech, weeping in the midst of

her sacred courtesans, he skinned off the right flank of the celestial bull and flung it derisively into

the goddess's face, saying: 'And thou too, let me but catch thee -1 shall do as much to thee.'

Gilgamesh removed the bull's vast horns, which could hold much oil, and reserved them for the

ritual of anointing required by the cult of Lugal-banda for whom he had an especial veneration.

After which the two friends, having washed their hands in the Euphrates, returned to Erech

amidst the acclamations of the people who cried:

Gilgamesh is dazzling among men! Gilgamesh is mighty among men!

Having accomplished their marvellous exploits our heroes rested. But the cruel Ishtar meditated

her revenge. Enkidu was stricken with illness and for twelve days struggled against it. Thus was

fulfilled the funereal dream which had disturbed him at the beginning of the poem. At dawn on

the thirteenth day Enkidu expired in the arms of his friend. Gilgamesh bewailed him:

Enkidu, my friend, my little brother, who chased the tiger of

the desert;

Together have we gone everywhere and climbed mountains: What sleep has seized thee now?

Darkness has come over thee and thou hearest me not!

He felt his heart and his heart no longer beat. Suddenly seized with panic before the corpse

Gilgamesh rushed from his palace and fled through the countryside. Those whom he met said to


Why is thy strength devoured? Why is thy face lowered? Thy heart is in a sorry state; thy features

are cast down. And there is sorrow in thy bowels; Sadness and mourning burn thy visage.

And Gilgamesh answered them:

Why should I not flee through the land?

Enkidu, my friend, my little brother, who chased the panther

of the desert,

My friend who with me killed lions, My friend who faced with me all difficulties,

His fate has overtaken him.

Six days and six nights have I wept over him.

Then was I afraid of death and I fled through the land.

My friend whom I loved has become like unto mud.

And I, must I too, lie down like him and never rise again?

So it was the fear of death which made Gilgamesh flee.

But where could he discover the secret of how to escape this inevitable fate? Finally he thought of

going to consult Ula-Nap-ishtim, that fortunate man who, having survived the deluge, had

received from the gods the gift of immortality. To reach him the road was long and dangerous. To

Gilgamesh that mattered not: he would face all perils.

If I meet lions and am afraid,

I shall raise my head and call upon Sin;

To Ishtar, courtesan of the gods, my prayers shall rise.

First he reached Mount Mashu. It was here that every evening the sun sought repose. The gates of

the mountain were guarded by scorpion-men whose heads touched the terrace of the gods and

whose breasts reached the netherworld. Their dazzling brilliance overthrew mountains.'

Seeing them Gilgamesh felt his face grow dark with fear and horror. Nevertheless he recovered his

courage and bowed before them. A scorpion-man, who had recognised in Gilgamesh the flesh of

the gods, obligingly indicated the route, and the hero strode forward into the depths of the

mountain. For eleven double-hours he marched through impenetrable darkness. Finally, at the

twelfth double-hour, the light again shone, and Gilgamesh found himself in a wonderful garden

which lay beside the sea. Before him rose the tree of the gods whose fruits, magnificent to behold,

were borne on branches of lapis-lazuli. The ground was strewn with precious stones. This place of

delights was the dwelling of the goddess Siduri Sabitu (that is, the inn-keeper) 'who lives at the

edge of the sea'. At the sight of the hero, dressed in the skin of a wild animal, Siduri took fright

and locked herself in her house. But Gilgamesh threatened to break the bolt and smash in the

door. The goddess then consented to listen to him. When he had told her the object of his journey

she first pointed out that it was useless.

O Gilgamesh, why dost thou run ii< all directions?

The life thou seekest thou shall never find.

When the gods created man

They gave him Death.

Life they kept in their own hands.

Let Gilgamesh, then, be satisfied with earthly joys.

Fill thy belly,

Night and day rejoice,

Make every day a festival!

Put on lavish raiment,

Let thy head be washed! Wash thee with water,

Consider the child who grasps thy hand,

Let thy wife rejoice on thy bosom!

Moreover, to what perils would he not expose himself if he persisted in his design:

O Gilgamesh! There has never been a way,

And no one since the days of old has passed the sea.

The way is hard and the road is rough,

And deep are the waters of Death which close the entrance.

Where, then, Gilgamesh, shall thou pass over Ihe sea ?

When Ihou reachesl Ihe waters of Dealh, whal shall Ihou do?

Being, however, unable lo overcome Ihe hero's slubbornness Siduri advised him to seek

Urshanabi, Ula-Napishlim's boalman, who alone could guide him on Ihis difficull voyage.

Urshanabi bade Gilgamesh cul in the forest a hundred and Iwenty poles each sixty cubits long.

After lhal he invited him on board his boal. They reached Ihe waters of Death which surrounded

the paradise of Uta-Napishlim and defended ils approaches. Woe lo him who louched Ihese

waters! But thanks to Urshanabi's foresighl Gilgamesh avoided Iheir deadly conlacl. He Ihrew


each pole after having used il only once. Wilh Ihe one hundred and iwenlielh pole Ihe crossing

was accomplished.

Gilgamesh found Ula-Napishlim and explained his desire for immortality. But 'he who had found

everlasting life' urged upon him death's inescapable necessily.

'Do we make a house lo lasl for ever? Does Ihe river rise for ever? No one knows Ihe face of dealh.

Mammilu who created fate decides, wilh the Anunnaki, Ihe fates. They determine life and death

and they never make known the days when dealh will come!'

If, after the deluge, he himself had become immortal the privilege was due to the benevolence of a

god. And to prove lo Gilgamesh Ihe force of desliny he proposed an experimenl. Since sleep is the

image of death lei Gilgamesh nol go lo bed for six days and seven nighls. Alas! Gilgamesh had

scarcely sat down before he was asleep! Uta-Napishtim said wilh contempl lo his wife:

Behold Ihe slrong man who desired everlasting life! Sleep, like a hurricane, breaks over him.

So Gilgamesh returned home and retained his mortal state. Before he departed, however, Uta-

Napishtim at his wife's request revealed lo Gilgamesh a wondrous secrel: al the bottom of the

ocean there was a prickly plant - 'like Ihe bramble ils Ihorn pricks the hand, but its name is "theold-

man-becomes-young" and he who eats of il regains his youlh.' Gilgamesh al once attached

heavy stones to his feet, plunged inlo Ihe ocean, gathered the planl which pricked his hand and,

removing the stones, rose again and regained Urshanabi's boal. His journey would nol have been

useless. But alas! during his return journey he bathed in a fountain of fresh water; when a snake,

attracted by the odour of the plant, stole the magic branch. Then Gilgamesh sal down and wepl.

Doubly disappointed, Gilgamesh regained Erech wilh ils enclosure. Slill haunled by Ihe fear of

death he evoked the shade of Enkidu, lo learn from him Ihe 'law of Ihe world'; but Enkidu could

only describe to his friend the mournful- condilion of ihose who are everlastingly imprisoned in

the sombre kingdom of Nergal. And il is upon Ihis. disheartening vision lhal the adventures of

Gilgamesh close.


In Ihe mounlainous country east of Babylonia lay the land of Elam - which was once, in the fourth

millennium B.C., The scene of a flourishing civilization whose chief cenlre was the city of Susa.

This civilization was'closely related lo lhal of the land of Sumer and their religions had much in

common. Unless they had a common origin - which some have suggested - their similarity of

religious belief can be simply explained by Iheir propinquily.

The chief divinity of the Elamiles was IN-SHUSHINAK, 'He of Susa' who was nol only, as his

name seems lo indicate, Susa's local god, but was also considered the 'Sovereign of the Gods',

'Master of heaven and earth', 'Maker of the Universe'. These are the same lilies which in Babylon

were given lo supreme gods. IN-SHUSHINAK is a personal name ralher lhan an indication of


It is nol easy lo idenlify In-Shushinak exaclly, bul it is generally agreed that he corresponded to

Ninurta, 'Ihe champion of the celeslial gods', or even Adad, god of lighlning and the tempest. We

must nol forgel that these two divinilies had, as well as their terrible aspect, a more beneficenl

function: they were gods of the welcome rain and fruitful flood and, hence, gods of fertility. In-

Shushinak must withoul doubt have also shared this double nalure.

Among Ihe olher divinilies who peopled the Elamite pantheon and who, since we know scarcely

more than their names, can only be enumerated are: KIRIRISHA, the sovereign goddess whose

spouse was the god KHUMBAM who is identified with the Babylonian Marduk; LAGAMAL,

described as the son of Ea; NAH-HUNTE, the sun who, like Shamash, was at the same lime god of

light and of justice; TESHUB, god of the lempesl, who was, moreover, worshipped Ihroughoul

Western Asia; NARUTI, whom we only know from an offering presented lo Ihe deity by Ihe

ishakku of Susa.

These nalional deilies were later joined by the gods and goddesses of Sumer and Akkad who may

have been imported inlo Elam when il fell under the hegemony of the rulers of Agade, Ur and

Lagash; or else may have been introduced when the Elamites extended their dominalion over




The Phoenicians were a part of the Canaanite world which was formed at the dawn of history by

Semitic immigration into the territories between the Mediterranean and the Syrian desert. The

mythology of the Phoenicians is thus largely derived from a background common to a more

widely extended ethnic group. We know much less about it than about the mythology of the

Egyptians or the Assyro-Babylonians. In the last few decades, however, such progress has been

made, thanks to excavations at Byblos and Ras Shamrah, that our sources of information have

been much enlarged.

At the moment our sources consist of four groups of texts.

The most ancient go back to the times of the Old Kingdom in Egypt, that is to say to the beginning

of the third millennium B.C. They were discovered by Pierre Montet in central Phoenicia, in the

ruins of Gubla, the Byblos of the Greeks, to-day Jebeil, a little village of the Lebanon Republic,

north of Beirut. They are of especial value when studied in conjunction with Egyptian texts of

various periods and the illustrations on contemporary monuments.

The second group of Phoenician mythological texts comes from Schaeffer and Chenet's excavation

in the ruins of Ugarit, a town which was a little to the north of the Phoenicia of classical authors, a

place which to-day is called Ras Shamrah. They are very valuable documents, written in the first

half of the fourteenth century B.C., discovered in 1929 and the years following, transcribed and

translated by Virolleaud in the review Syria and the subject of a brilliant commentary by R.

Dussaud in the Revue de 1'histoire des religions.

The third group consists of certain inscriptions and illustrations on monuments, of the literary

works of Philo of Byblos, of Damas-cius, Mochus, the Bible and of Assyrian and Egyptian texts.

One cannot overlook the mythology peculiar to Carthage, Phoenicia's principal colony.

Carthaginian documents thus form the fourth and last of these groups which we shall now

consider in turn.


In the days of the first Egyptian dynasties Byblos was a small town on a hill beside the sea. It did a

lively trade in the wood of the neighbourhood. The Egyptians came to Byblos in search of the

timber they required for the construction of sea-going ships, the masts decorated with streamers

which rose before their temples, the hewn planks they used in making furniture and coffins. From

Byblos they also brought back the resin which was so important in embalming. Many documents

bear witness to these economic relations, which were non-existent between Egypt and any other

towns on the Phoenician coast. The result was an exchange of myths between Egypt and Byblos.

The chief deity of Byblos was a goddess. She was probably already known under the title of

Ba'alat, that is 'the Lady (of Byblos)'. On a cylinder seal, engraved at Byblos itself for a prince

whose name has not come down to us, she is represented seated, dressed in a tight robe with

shoulder straps, wearing her hair in the Egyptian manner, her head surmounted by a disk

between two horns. Thus she resembles the goddess Hathor, who was venerated on the banks of

the Nile.

An Egyptian bas-relief, discovered by Renan and preserved in the Louvre, portrays her

welcoming and embracing a Pharaoh. From one of the horns above her face is suspended a uraeus

which poises its head against that of the uraeus ornamenting the brow of the king.

Another bas-relief in the museum of Beirut has two symmetrical scenes in each of which a king of

some dynasty between the fifth and the eleventh - probably one of the Pepis - kneels and presents

two vases to a divinity. In one scene it is the Lady of Byblos; in the other a lion-headed god, who,

like the goddess, is designated by the epithet: 'Beloved of Hathor'.

From the time of the twelfth dynasty, relations between Egypt and Byblos became such that the

Lady of Byblos was finally equated with Hathor. Henceforth she seems eager to copy the Egyptian

manner of attitude and costume. For example, the stela of Yehaw-melek, during the Achaemenian

Empire, shows the Lady of Byblos wearing the head-dress of the goddess Hathor of Ptolemaic

times -a vulture skin surmounted by a mortier.

According to the cylinder seal already mentioned there existed in Byblos a great god who was

assimilated to the Egyptian sun-god Ra. He was distinguished by two epithets which were not

used in Egypt: he was called 'Ra, of Foreign Lands' and 'Ra, who is on Pharaoh's Lake'.

His son was the god of Byblos, to whom the cylinder gives the Egyptian name of Ruti, that is to

say, 'He who resembles a Lion'. It is he whom we have already seen on the bas-relief with

symmetrical scenes, depicted with a human body and a lion's head.

The cylinder seal gives us the name of a fourth divinity: Hay-Tau of Nega, of whom the prince

calls himself the well-loved.

Nega is mentioned several times in Egyptian texts. It was either the territory between northern

Lebanon and the sea, which later formed the district of Byblos, or else merely the region of Nahr

Ibrahim, five miles to the south of Jebeil, which became the centre of the cult of Adonis. It was a

wooded region where grew various species of conifers, junipers and a tree with red wood called

the mer. The god of Nega, Hay-Tau, a prototype of Adonis, was the spirit of forest vegetation. At

some period he became metamorphosed into a tree.

The Egyptians adopted Hay-Tau and identified him with their Osiris, according to the legend

recounted by Plutarch which has been referred to in the section on Egyptian mythology. The resin

of the conifers was the tears of Osiris; and, if the coffins of Egyptian priests were by preference

made of resinous wood, that was because the priests had become 'Osirises'. The pyramid texts

mention the god Hay-Tau of Nega three times, with whom the Pharaoh is

identified in his tomb. It is requested, moreover, that the dead king shall not be treated like Osiris

who is changed into a tree in Nega. An Egyptian document long before Plutarch, the Story of the

Two Brothers, shows another form of Hay-Tau's introduction into Egyptian mythology. The

Egyptian hero is called Ba-Tau. His brother had wished to kill him. He therefore fled to the Valley

of the Pine, very likely the Valley of Nahr Ibrahim, and placed his heart on the topmost branch of

the pine. Egyptian soldiers came to carry off his wife. She had the tree cut down and immediately

Ba-Tau died. He came to life again four years later when his brother found the heart. He

transformed himself into a bull and returned to Egypt, carrying his brother on his back. The

identification of Ba-Tau with Hay-Tau was for the Egyptians especially clear because the god of

Nega, in the hieroglyphic texts, was associated with a bull. We shall see that in Phoenician

mythology, as the Ras Shamrah texts present it, the bull is frequently associated with gods.


The cuneiform tablets of Ras Shamrah reveal in the fourteenth century B.C. mythological material

of a tradition which was already ancient and which, moreover, was to continue, though not

without modifications, until the end of paganism, since echoes of it are found in the works of Philo

of Byblos.

The basis of this mythology was the cult of the elements and of natural phenomena. In it, all the

divinities have clearly been transformed into human shape and are arranged in a strict hierarchy.

At the head of the pantheon stood El. the great god who from remote times was honoured among

all the western Semites. He governed the entire land of Canaan. He made the rivers flow into the

abyss of the ocean and thus assured the fertility of the earth. As 'father of years', for he regulated

their course, and as 'the king', El dwelt in a pavilion near the shore where rivers flow into the sea.

He was honoured under various titles. The most important of these seems to have been 'Bull' or

'Bull-El'; not that he was identified with an animal, though in certain cases he was thus

represented. But the idea of power and strength was symbolised among the Canaanites by the

bull, which was also the symbol or animal-attribute of other divinities.

After El the greatest god was Ba'al. He was often El's enemy. He was less ancient than El in

Phoenician mythology. Ba'al did not appear before the arrival of the Phoenicians on the

Mediterranean coast when they emigrated from the Negeb, south of Palestine, where they had

previously lived. Ba'al, in the Ras Shamrah texts, is the same god as Ba'al Tsaphon, a name which

can be translated 'Lord of the North'. He is the same god as Ba'al Lebanon, 'Lord of Lebanon', later

venerated in all the places of cult in the Lebanon Mountains, in the attitude popularised by the

images of the Helio-politan Jupiter.

But, as in all the other cases where a Canaanite divinity was called Ba'al, the name was never a

proper name. It was an appellation that hid the god's true name, which was known only to the

initiated. Like the name of the god of Israel it could, apparently, be pronounced only in

exceptional cases which were laid down by tradition. Ba'al, in the Ras Shamrah texts, is Hadad,

god of the atmosphere, of clouds and the tempest. His voice sounded in the clouds, he wielded the

thunderbolt, he dispensed rain.

This god did not, like El, exist before the birth of the gods. He had a mother, the goddess Asheratof-

the-Sea. His consort also is Asherat, but it is impossible to say whether she is the same goddess

or one of her hypostases. In Ugarit. the ancient city whose ruins to-day bear the name Ras

Shamrah, she was many times represented on the stelae erected in his temple.

After 1350 B.C. we see him on a stela with the general traits of the god Sutekh - a type created by

the Egyptians to represent foreign gods. This stela indicates the influence of the Pharaoh in

Phoenicia, an influence of which we were already aware thanks to the famous diplomatic

correspondence called the 'Letters of el Amarna'.

Elsewhere, under the influence of the Hittites who disputed the control of Upper Syria with the

Egyptians, the same god, wearing a pointed helmet adorned«with the symbolic horns which the

Sumer-ians reserved for the head-dress of their gods, thrusts his spear intc the earth and the shaft

of his spear appears to simulate the lightning's zigzag.

A famous cylinder seal in the Boston Museum, though noi

actually of Phoenician origin, represents Ba'al Hadad. Not only has he overthrown a man with his

lance, but behind him there is a representation of his animal attribute, the bull. This representation

was traditional among the western Semites. At the beginning of the second millennium in the

Semitic colonies of Asia Minor, Hadad, armed with a thunderbolt and standing on a bull, faces a

god who holds a spear with its point lowered towards a man stretched at his feet. Mot. one of the

sons of El, was the spirit of the harvest. He ruled

the countryside when the ground lay dry beneath the burning sun, when the corn had reached

maturity. The plains on which it never rains were the domains of Mot, the divine son. He was the

god El's favourite son.

At the time of the harvest Mot was sacrificed by the goddess Anat, but he did not remain dead for

long. Almost immediately he was reborn and his reign seemed scarcely to have been interrupted.

But he was to be vanquished in a combat with the son of Ba'al at the beginning of the rainy season

and abandoned by El his father, who himself had determined that such should be the unfortunate

Mot's fate.

Aleyin, Mot's Opponent, was the son of Ba'al. As with Mot, his relationship and dependence upon

his father was close. Indeed it seems that he was merely another concept of Ba'al with the special

function of maintaining the water supply. Most of the rivers in Phoenicia had divine names which

were connected with the cycle of Aleyin. Aleyin, the spirit of springs, fostered vegetation which

relied upon the season of the rains. He was called the 'Ba'al of the Earth', 'the House of Water'.

Perhaps it was he who was honoured later with those monuments called 'Memnonia' erected at

the mouths of most rivers in Phoenicia, temples where mourning rites were celebrated.

Aleyin, 'he who rode the clouds', was accompanied by seven companions and a troop of eight wjld


The goddess Asherat-of-the-Sea was called 'Mother of the Gods' and was said to have seventy

children. She was also 'Creator of the Gods', and In Wisdom the Mistress of the Gods'. She was El's

counsellor and the mother of Ba'al. Asherat, consort of Ba'al, may be merely a hypostasis of

Ashtart. There was also an Asherat of Tyre.

Ashtart (in Greek Astarte) and Elat, whose names occur together in a list of sacrifices, are only

rarely mentioned in the Ras Shamrah texts.

Ashtart of the Sky of Ba al was the most beautiful of heavenly bodies, the planet Venus.

Elat is the feminine form of the name El. There was a goddess Elat of the Sidonians.

The virgin Anat was the daughter of Ba'al and the sister of Aleyin. She was above all a divinity of

bellicose temperament. We see her proceeding to the ritual murder of the god Mot. Later she finds

herself obliged to ask her father's aid to put an end to the life of the harvest-god. The role which El

had assigned to her was that of perpetuating the life of the gods - not in giving them life but in

procuring for them the means of preserving it, especially by being responsible for constant


The Hyksos introduced her into Egypt. At Avaris she was honoured as the consort of a god

sometimes called Ba'al, some-times Sutekh. Her cult continued to flourish after the expulsion of

the Hyksos.

As a daughter of the rain-god and sister of the water-god, Anat also played a part in fostering

vegetation. She sprinkled the earth with dew; for the dew, like the rain, is the 'fat of the earth'.

Al Ugarit great care was taken to ensure that the dead were supplied with water. Wells, cisterns

covered with a flagstone pierced with a hole, gutters and jars sunk into the ground, provided

reservoirs of water not only for those buried in the cemetery but also for those who had perished

far from home. For the latter, funeral rites were piously performed and gifts deposited in the

tombs which they would never occupy; for their souls could return to the land of their fathers to

receive offerings and sacrifices.

Qadesh, the 'Holy', whose animal-attribute was the lion in Egyptian documents, was only an

epithet of the goddess Anat. By this name she was the consort of the god Amurru, god of the

'West', who in Egyptian texts was given the name Reshef. They appeared together in the sacrifice

of the ass at harvest time.

Offerings and Sacrifices. To nourish the gods, who like mortals were obliged to eat, one offered

them bread and wine on a golden table.

Come, give them drink. Put bread upon the table, bread. And pour wine into the cups. In the

golden goblet the blood of trees.

They were also offered a great variety of sacrifices, many of which are mentioned in the Bible.

There were, for instance, expiatory sacrifices. When Anat reproaches Mot for the death of her

brother Aleyin, Mot answers her:

I am Aleyin, son of Ba'al. Make ready, then, the sacrifice. I am • the lamb which is made ready

with pure wheat to be sacrificed in I expiation.

Animals offered in sacrifice were the ox, the sheep, the ram, the calf, the lamb. No female animal is

mentioned, at least in the ceremonies which accompanied the consecration of a temple.

A special sacrifice at the season of the harvest, to reawaken the spirit of the vine which the ass,

nibbling the leaves, might have eaten, shows Qadesh and Amurru - in other words, Anat and

Aleyin - intervening. Asherat-of-the-Sea gives them the following order:

Tie up the ass, bind the stallion. Make ready the vine-shoots with silvery leaves - of vivid green.

Remove the she-asses from the vine.

Qadesh and Amurru obey. They tie up the ass, bind the stallion. They make ready the vine with

silvery leaves, of vivid green. They remove the she-asses from the vine.

Qadesh and Amurru cross their hands. Asherat installs the ass on the high place. The stallion on

the ... of the high place.

Qadesh seizes them, Amurru embraces them - when the morning star appears before the

sanctuary of the virgin Anat. Then the sailor protects the sailor of Tsapuna.

The struggle between Aleyin and Mot One of the poems of Ras Shamrah presents the two

vegetation-gods and tells of their struggle which recurs every year.

The part of this poem which has been preserved begins at the moment when Aleyin, son of Ba'al,

has just died. Asherat, his grandmother, and Ba'al, his father, are deeply distressed.

Latpon, one of the sons of the god El, goes to find his father in the tent he inhabits where 'the

rivers meet the sea', to ask that the dead god be given a successor. El addresses Asherat-of-the-Sea

and begs her to designate one of her sons.

Here part of the text is missing. Later the goddess Anat demands that Mot give her back her

brother. She sets her dogs on the murderer's flocks, seizes him and puts him to death.

She seizes Mot, the son divine. With her sickle she cleaves him. With her flail she beats him. With

fire she grills him. With her mill she grinds him. In the fields she scatters him. To consume his

leaven, so that he no longer withholds his share (of the crop).

When Mot, the divine son, has perished, then Aleyin, son of Ba'al, is alive. The rains fall in

abundance, rivers overflow, floods threaten. El orders Anat to inquire into the situation. Anat

addresses the goddess Sapas, one of El's daughters, who is called the 'Torch of the Gods'. Sapas

departs in search of Aleyin.

Finally Ba'al intervenes when, at the end of seven years, Mot threatens Aleyin with the seven

chastisements of which he himself has been a victim. Aleyin takes up the challenge and the

goddess Sapas announces Mot's downfall.

'Listen well, Mot, O son of the Gods! Behold, thou shall do battle with Aleyin, son of Ba'al. Behold,

thy father, Shor-EI, will not listen to thee! May he tear away the gates of thy dwelling-place! May

he overthrow the throne of thy royalty! May he break the sceptre of thy sovereignty!'

Mot, vanquished, descends into the underworld. Aleyin is reestablished in his own, and his

triumph is the subject of another poem.

The death of Ba'al and the death of Aleyin. Ba'al was hunting in the desert, probably the desert of

Qadesh, when he suddenly found himself face to face with strange creatures, as big as wild bulls.

El had created them to bar Ba'al's way, and Amat Asherat, whom El had banished to the desert,

had brought them into the world.

The battle was merciless and at first Ba'al had the advantage. Finally, however, he succumbed and

fell like a bull.

Anat soon arrived to undertake the burial of him whom the legend here calls her son. She dug a

grave, transformed part of the desert into a garden and, after announcing the death of the god,

descended with him into the tomb, accompanied by the sun-goddess who remained there until

she became surfeited with the tears which she drank as though they were wine.

Aleyin also died. Anat bore him on her shoulders as far as the Mountain of the North. There she

offered perfume to the deities of the underworld, then six sacrificial bulls, rams, stags, ibex and

asses, in order that Aleyin should have enough to eat during his six months in the underworld.

Finally she sent an announcement to El saying that he and his wife Asherat could rejoice since

Ba'al and Aleyin were dead.

El and his wife rejoiced, but as Aleyin fulfilled an indispensable role they set about seeking

someone to replace him.

Then Anat appeared again and accused the god Mot of responsibility for her brother's death.

The temple of Ba'al. Another poem of ancient origin which describes the construction of the

Temple of Ba'al is purely mythical in substance and contains no mortals.

Though Ba'al was the owner of all space it was better that he, like other divinities, should possess

a dwelling less vast as a place of prayer.

Ba'al has not a temple like a god; neither a sacred enclosure like a son of Asherat.

Before beginning the construction, the authorisation of El had to be obtained, without which all

work would be in vain. To make sure of El's benevolence he was presented with a golden throne

and a golden table covered with offerings. It was the work of Hiyon, the divine craftsman, who

with his bellows and tongs 'melted silver, plated gold' and fashioned images of bulls in precious

metals to decorate the future sanctuary.

Asherat-of-the-Sea undertook to present the request to El. Then to Latpon - the god who shared

with her the gift of wisdom - she gave orders to begin work.

Latpon El Dped answered: 'I shall labour, I, the magician of Asherat. I shall work, I who perceive.

Behold, Amat Asherat fashions the bricks. A house shall be constructed for Ba'al, for he is a god;

and a holy enclosure, for he is a son of Asherat.'

Later the goddess urges Latpon to rest.

And the Lady Asherat-of-the-Sea, of all the gods Mistress in Wisdom, said: 'Rest from thy toil, for

thou art of great age. Rest, because of thy lungs... And delight also in his rain.'

Ba'al himself took part in the work. With the lightning - 'his earthly saw' - he felled cedars for the

roof of his dwelling. A message sent to Ba'al's son, Aleyin, shows that the erection of the holiest

part of the edifice was reserved for him.

'Build a chapel of gold and silver. It will be the chapel of the pure. I shall watch over them.'

Ba'al was finally installed, and Anat offered to him the sacrifice of a bull. Then two brothers,

Kusor and Hasisu, appeared and proposed to install windows in the temple.

And Kusor-and-Hasisu said: 'Listen, Aleyin, son of Ba'al, mark our words, O Rider of the Clouds.

Behold, I shall put a sky-light in Jthe sanctuaries, a window in the middle of the temples.'

But this did not suit Aleyin who retorted:

'Thou shall place no sky-light in the sanctuaries, nor window in Ihe middle of ihe lemples.'

The argument was not settled; they had to appeal to a higher divinity, Ba'al, or perhaps even to the

supreme god, El. Then Aleyin proposed a compromise.

'I myself shall place them. Kusor, the mariner, Kusor, son of the law (?), he shall open the window

in sanctuaries, the sky-light in the middle of temples. And Ba'al shall open a fissure in the clouds -

above the (face) of Kusor-and-Hasisu.'

Thenceforth the waters above would no longer spill from the heavens entirely by hazard and a

deluge need be feared no more. Ba'al would let the rain fall only when Kusor opened the windows

of the temple. Kusor became the regulator of the seasons, as Philo teaches us. Kusor also possessed

the art of incantation and soothsaying. He was the inventor of mechanical devices and of the

fishing boat.

The Epic of Keret. In the texts of Ras Shamrah Phoenician mythology is not exclusively occupied

with gods. There are also legends in which mortals appear, together with gods and with god-like

heroes who have commerce with the daughters of men.

Keret was a son of the supreme god, El, and the soldier of the goddess Sapas. He was also king of

Sidon. El, his father, ordered him to resist an invasion conducted by Etrah or Terah, a moon-god.

Allied with the enemy were the people of Zabulon - a tribe which was later to form part of the

people of Isn. ind occupy the country between Carmel and the Lake of Galilee. Also with the

enemy were the Koserites, who are mentioned in the lists of enemy towns inscribed on Egyptian

vases at the end of the eleventh dynasty.

Far from hastening to obey El's orders, Keret shut himself up in his chamber and burst into tears.

But in dreaming he regained his confidence: he dreamed that he would be the father of a son. This

decided him to execute the orders he had received, but before he departed on the campaign he

ascended a migdol, sat on the parapet of the tower and there, raising a hand to the sky, offered in

sacrifice wine in a silver cup, honey in a golden vase, and the blood of a bird and of a lamb.

He then returned to the town and made arrangements for six months' food supplies for the

population. But Terah had already occupied five towns and was attempting to cut the territory of

the Phoenicians in two. The battle took place in the Negeb to the south of Palestine. The

vanquished were obliged to emigrate: some did so in a body, others in small groups. Keret does

not seem to have emerged victorious from the struggle. When he returned to Sidon he bought a

wife and paid for her in gold and silver. By this wife he had a son, beautiful as Ashtart and

gracious as Anat. This son was a prodigy: he had scarcely been born before he cried out: 'I hate the

enemy!' He demanded justice for the widow, protection for the orphan and assistance against the


Danel is another mythological hero. He was versed in the art of divination and his daughter knew

all the secrets of astrology. His memory was preserved and, it seems, it is to Danel that the

prophet Ezekiel compares the king of Tyre when he says to him: 'Thou art wiser than Daniel, no

secrets are hidden from thee.' (xxvin. 3.)

Poem of the birth of the gracious and fair gods. This myth, like the Epic of Keret, reminded the

Phoenicians in mythological form of their land of origin, the Negeb, from where, via what was

later called the Philistine coast, they reached, towards the beginning of the third millennium, Tyre,

Sidon, Gubla and Arvad. In the fourteenth century B.C. they had not yet been driven by the

Philistines from the coast near Egypt and they continued to use the trade routes of the Negeb.

This poem, in its essential features, has survived in a sort of mnemonic for the use of reciters

during a religious ceremony which seems to have accompanied sacrifices made towards the end

of winter.

Mot-and-Shur is then very tired. Dussaud, following Jeremiah n. 21, sees Mot as the spirit of the

withering vine when it has the aspect of dead wood, in this hyphenated form of the god's name.

Mot-and-Shur sits down, holding in his hand a sceptre of sterility, holding in his hand a sceptre of


This is the moment in the vineyard when the vine is pruned, the shoots are tied and the terraces

made ready. Among the sacrifices

for the occasion was that of cooking a kid in the milk of its mother, a Canaanite custom which

Mosaic law condemned and formally forbade.

To this fertility rite, a rite of procreation was added in which El, the supreme god, took direct part

in order to create the gods 'gracious and fair'.

El, the sun-god, advanced along the shore, on the banks of the abyss. The celebrants called upon

Mot lamenting. Then they called upon the 'Mother' - probably Asherat-of-the-Sea. El plunged into

the waves.

The hands of El reach out like the sea. And the hands of El reach out like the waves. El stretches

his hand like the sea. El stretches his hand like the waves.

With this the god obtained two objects which he put in his house. El placed the wave in the sky,

and when it fell again as rain upon the earth it bent Mot's sceptre and his hands began nervously

to tremble.

When El had made his wives fruitful, they accused themselves of Mot's misfortunes.

O Mot, Mot, it is we who made thy sceptre to bend, we who caused thy hand to tremble.

The narrative then says:

El leaned over their lips; then he raised his voice and said:' Behold, their lips are sweet as a bunch

of grapes.'

The continuation concerns the ritual of divine marriage. After having recounted that,

In the kiss and the conception, in the embrace... She.. . and she bore Sahar and Salem ('the Dawn'

and 'the Evening'),

the principal actor says:

Send to El this message: 'My wife, O El, has given birth.'

El asks:

'To whom has she given birth?' And the answer is:

'Sahar and Salem are born to me.'

Then follows the birth, under the same conditions, of five gracious gods, and finally of Sib'ani ('the

seventh') whose father is called Etrah, perhaps the same personage as the moon-god Terah who is

mentioned in the poem of Keret.

The myth thus takes on an historical interest. It takes us to the south of Palestine, to the Negeb, a

region which was in Palaeolithic times, as recent research has shown, already populated. It shows

the Phoenicians building one of the towns which would be among the most important in the land

of the Philistines, and contracting an alliance with the desert Bedouins in order to ensure safe

passage towards the Aelanitic gulf. The mother of Sib'ani lived in the desert for seven years, in

order to purify herself, and at the end of the seven years she returned and asked for food and


Set down in its present form in the thirteenth or fourteenth

century B.C., this poem was already evidence of a distant past. A fortunate discovery made in

1932 at Byblos gives us further evidence: the carved scabbard of a gold dagger corroborates

pictorially what is known by the texts of journeys to Ophir. The episodes depicted take place

before a king, mounted on a mule. One, in the desert, shows an attack from behind on a lion who

is busy seizing a gazelle. In the land of monkeys we see a servant leading a dog-faced baboon.

Finally, since to reach this far-off region it was necessary to cross the sea, the goldsmith has

suggested the idea of this journey by carving a fish.


In the first millennium B.C. every town in Phoenicia honoured its Ba'al - that is, its'Lord', its

'Master', who was the proprietor of the soil and supreme ruler of its inhabitants. Instead of a Ba'al

the deity honoured could be a Ba'alat, a 'Lady'. In certain regions there also existed Ba'alim: the

Ba'al Tsaphon, 'Lord of the North' whom we have met in the myths of Ras Shamrah; the Ba'al

Shamim, 'Lord of the Skies' of the Bible; the Ba'al Lebanon, 'Lord of Lebanon'.

The real name of the divinity is almost never known. As in Israel, one avoided pronouncing it,

though perhaps for different reasons. In Phoenicia the object was to prevent strangers from

discovering it lest, in their turn, they invoked the god, drew his benevolence upon themselves and

succeeded by diverting his interest in turning him from his own people.

From the earliest times Gubla had had a Ba'alat as its chief divinity. She was identified with the

Egyptian Hathor and for the Greeks she was a form of Astarte.

Berytus also worshipped a 'Lady', a nymph whom the god Adonis wooed, but a marine Ba'al was

more fortunate than he.

The Ba'al of Tyre was a solar god in origin. Later, like the other divinities of Phoenician ports, he

added to his primitive characteristics the characteristics of a marine deity. He was known under

the title of Melkart, 'God of the City'. The Greeks identified him with Heracles.

Sidon venerated Eshmun, who became a god of health and was equated by the Greeks with

Asclepius. The same town also worshipped an Ashtart in honour of whom King Solomon built a

sanctuary in Jerusalem. Kings and queens were priests and priestesses of this lascivious goddess,

whose cult was practised in grottoes in the place which is to-day called Maghdusheh.

Of the Phoenician divinities of this epoch we know only the adventures of one, to whom the

Greeks gave the name Adonis. Details of the story were collected in the fifth century B.C. by the

poet Panyasis.

The Myth of Adonis. Adonis is the direct successor of Hay-Tau of Nega and he replaced the two

vegetation gods Aleyin and Mot of the Ugarit poems.

Born of a tree into which his mother had transformed herself, Adonis was of an extraordinary

beauty. At his birth Aphrodite put him a coffer which she confided to the goddess of the

underworld, Persephone. When later she came to reclaim the coffer she found that Persephone

had already opened it, beheld the great beauty of the child and refused to give him up. The

dispute between the two goddesses was brought before Zeus, who decided that Adonis should

spend half the year on earth and half in the underworld.

According to other legends, Aphrodite fell deeply in love with the young god. She feared that a

tragic fate would befall him and tried to discourage his passion for the chase. Adonis persisted in

hunting and was killed by a wild boar or by a bear.

Adonis was an agricultural divinity and a vegetation spirit who, like Aleyin, was manifest in the

seed of corn. His name, Adonis, is only known in Greek texts. It is a Hellenised form of the Semitic

word adoni, 'my Lord, my master', which was ceaselessly repeated by Phoenician women in their

lamentations during the god's festivals. In the Bible Ezekiel calls him Tammuz, the name of the

Mesopotamian vegetation and corn-god. His actual Phoenician character was revealed only in the

sixth century of our era by Damascius: Adonis is Eshmun.

The cult of Adonis was common to all Phoenicia, but it was in the territory of Byblos that it was

celebrated with the greatest pomp.

Halfway between Byblos and Baalbek, near the source of the Nahr Ibrahim which the Greeks

called the River Adonis, was the village of Aphaca, to-day called Afka. There, on a site which

modern travellers all praise for its extraordinary charm, rose a sanctuary to Ashtart which was

destroyed by the Emperor Constantine.

From the terrace of the sanctuary one sees the impressive circle of tall cliffs and the river,

springing from a grotto, as it splashes tumultuously from cascade to cascade between verdant and

wooded banks until at last it plunges into the depths of the gorge where the god perished.

At Ghineh one of the monuments erected in honour of Adonis still exists. Sculptured in the rock,

the god grasps a spear in his hand and is on the watch for the animal which is about to attack him.

The goddess, meanwhile, sits in an attitude of deep affliction.

It was believed that every year Adonis returned to such places.

there to be mortally wounded. The waters then would change to blood: a phenomenon due to the

particles of red haematite which become detached from the rocks during certain natural

conditions such as the season of high waters.

Festivals of Adonis. The Adonia. as the Greeks called the annual festivals which commemorated

the death of Adonis, were the most beautiful of Phoenician festivals and were celebrated

immediately after the harvest. Saglio described them in outline as follows:

'It seems that nothing was lacking which normally took place at funerals: neither the oiling and

toilet of the dead, nor the exhibition of the body, funeral offerings and communal repasts. Images

of Adonis in wax and terracotta were placed before the entrance or on the terraces of houses.

Women crowded round them or carried them through the town, wailing and beating their breasts

with every sign of the deepest grief. They danced and chanted dirges to the strident sound of short

flutes - called giggros or giggras - which the Phoenicians use for their funeral ceremonies.' This

picture must be completed by Theocritus's description of the festival celebrated with oriental

pomp at Alexandria in the palace of Arsinoe, wife of Ptolemy Philadelphus. Under an arbour of

greenery in which cupids flutter, the beautiful adolescent Adonis lies on a silver bed, covered with

rich purple tissue. Venus is beside him. Around him are arranged vases full of perfumes, fruits,

honey, cakes, and finally silver baskets containing what were called 'gardens of Adonis'. It was the

custom to sow in vessels, normally not so valuable as the vases found in Arsinoe's palace, but in

earthenware pots, in bottoms of cups, sherds, sometimes in baskets, all kinds of plants which

germinate and grow rapidly, such as fennel, barley, wheat, and especially lettuce, which played a

part in the legend of Adonis. (It was said that Venus had laid the body of her lover on a bed of

lettuce.) These plants grew in a few days under the influence of the June sun, but, having no roots,

faded and withered immediately. They were thus a symbol of the ephemeral existence of Adonis.

These little artificial gardens were displayed with images of the god during the pomp and

ceremony of the Adonia', afterwards they were thrown into the sea or into,fountains.

Lucian mentions a joyful rite which was added to the ancient lamentations to celebrate the

resurrection and ascension of Adonis.

The Works of Philo. Towards the end of the first century of our era, Philo undertook to

demonstrate that Greek mythology was based on Phoenician mythology, which itself can be

explained by the history of the first generation of human beings. Philo's authority was a rather

mysterious Phoenician writer named Sanchuniathon. Among the fragments of Philo's works

which have survived we can distinguish a cosmogony, a primitive history and the history of the

Uranus group.

The Cosmogony of Philo is a combination of traditional elements over which 'troubled and windy

air or a breath of wind and dark chaos' presides as ruling principle. Thus it was for many

centuries; then, 'the breathing air became enamoured of its own principles and made a mingling

and this union was called Desire. This was the principle of creation of all things, but the breath

knew not its own creation and from embracing itself produced Mot. Some say that this was slime

and others a rotting of aquatic composition. From it came all the germs of all created things and it

was the origin of everything.'

This conception of spontaneous creation was accompanied by the idea of a cosmic egg, borrowed

from Egypt. Then, by means of evolution, beings were differentiated and those beings who were

to have intelligence finally became conscious of themselves.

Greek authors mention other Phoenician cosmogonies. One of these, attributed to the philosopher

Eudemus, has in the beginning Time - then Desire and Darkness. 'From the union of these two

first principles were born Aer (air) and Aura (breath). Aer represented pure intelligence and Aura

the first living creature proceeding therefrom by movement. This couple then produced the

cosmic Egg, in conformity with the intelligible spirit.'

According to Damascius, in the sixth century A.D., the first principle of the Phoenicians was

'cosmic Time which contained all things within it'. For Mochus, in the second century A.D., there

was in the beginning a double principle: Aether and Air. Then came the Wind and afterwards the

two winds Lips and Notes; later Oulomos (the Ages) and still later Chousor, the Opener, and the


'The air was illuminated', Philo continues, 'due to the flaming of the earth and sea; and winds were

formed and clouds. And there was a vast downpouring of waters and floods from the sky. And

when, after the sun's heat, all things were separated and left their

appointed place to meet in the air and there collide, thunder and lightning resulted. At the sound

of the thunder the intelligent animals awoke and took fright at the noise and wandered over the

earth and in the sea, as males and females.'

Philo's Primitive History is an account of the progress of civilization and religion.

The first generations deified the products of the earth, considered them to be gods and

worshipped them, 'for from the earth they drew their substance, they and those who followed

them and all those who had been before them; and they made libations and ritual aspersions'.

When a plant died there was lamentation, and also at the birth or death of an animal.

Progress was attributed to Aeon, who discovered edible fruits. From the race of Aeon and

Protogonos, both sons of Kolpia and his wife Baau, issued Genos and Genea, who were the first

inhabitants of Phoenicia. 'There was a drought and they lifted their hands to the sun in the sky.

For they considered the sun to be a god and the sole lord of the sky. They named him Beelsamin,

which to the Phoenicians means "Lord of the Sky", or to the Greeks "Zeus".' The invention of fire

was due to mortal offspring of the same race named Light, Fire and Flame. 'They found fire by

rubbing sticks of wood together and taught others to do likewise.'

This important step in civilization was followed by the appearance of giants. Their names -

Cassios, Lebanon, Antilebanon and Brathy - were given to the mountains over which they ruled. It

seems that these giants must be considered the inventors of burning incense; for all these

mountains were renowned for their fragrant woods.

In the meanwhile men's morals had become so licentious that 'children took the name of their

mothers; for women in these days would give themselves to the firstcomer'. One of these children

of an unknown father was Hapsouranios, who was said to live in Tyre. He was the inventor of

huts built of rushes and papyrus. His brother Ousoos was the first to make garments from animal

skins. 'The rains came and with them violent winds so that the trees which grew at Tyre brushed

together and caught fire, and the forest was consumed. Ousoos took a tree, stripped it of its

branches and was the first who dared to venture out to sea. He consecrated two stelae, one to Fire

and one to Wind, and worshipped them and sprinkled them with libations of the blood of beasts

which he had killed in the chase.'

Hypsouranios and Ousoos were deified after death. Their stelae were worshipped: every year

festivals were held in their honour.

Two of their descendants invented hunting and fishing. Later two brothers invented iron and the

manner of working it. 'One of them, Kusor, practised the arts of magic formulas, incantation and

divination.. .he invented the fish-hook and bait, the fishing-line and fishing-boat, and he was the

first man who learned to navigate.' This Kusor, whom we have already met in the myth of the

temple of Ba'al at Ugarit, was identified by Philo and by Herodotus with the Greek god


He, whom the people of Byblos called the greatest of gods, discovered how to 'add to houses

courtyards, porches and cellars' and thus to turn them into luxurious dwellings. The same period

saw the beginning of hunting with hounds. A little later pastoral life developed: Amynos and

Magos taught the people how to live in villages and tend flocks.

Then came the discovery of salt by Misor and Sydyk. A descendant of Misor's, Taautos, whom the

Egyptians called Thoth, invented the first written characters. The Cabeiri, descendants of Sydyk,

perfected navigation.

Finally 'others discovered the use of herbs and simples and a remedy for the bite of poisonous


In this primitive history the actors follow one another and the various inventions are made, so to

speak, without particular sequence or connection. Philo's History of the Uranides has a more

logical sequence. In it Philo treats the gods as ordinary mortals who take part in a series of

adventures from which result the creation of royalty, the foundation of the first town, the

invention of the plough and the cultivation of wheat, the institution of votive sacrifices and of

human sacrifices, the construction of temples, the transition from free love to polygamy and

finally monogamy.

Uranus, the Sky, had a sister Ge (or Gaea), the Earth. Their father Hypsistos (Elioun, the All

Highest) 'having ended his life in a struggle against ferocious beasts, was deified, and his children

offered sacrifices and libations to him'.

When Uranus had succeeded to his father's authority, he took his sister Ge in marriage and they

had four children. Uranus had numerous other children by other wives. Ge was distressed by his

infidelity and tormented with jealousy, so that they finally separated. When, however, the fancy

took him, Uranus would approach his wife with violence and many times he attempted to destroy

the children she had borne him. Ge defended herself as best she could. When Cronus (El), one of

her sons, had become a man he declared war upon his father in order to avenge his mother.

Hermes Trisme-gistus, secretary and adviser to Cronus, harangued his master's allies with magic

words and the struggle ended in the overthrow of Uranus, whose authority passed to Cronus.

During the battle Uranus' favourite concubine, who was pregnant to him, fell into the hands of

Cronus, who gave her as a wife to Dagon. Uranus' son whom she bore received the name

Demarus. He was to become the father of Melkart, the god of Tyre.

Cronus surrounded his house with a wall and founded Byblos, the first city. Fearing the schemes

of his brother Atlas, he buried him, on the advice of Hermes, in the depths of the earth. He killed

his own son, against whom he harboured suspicions, and cut off the head of his own daughter 'so

that all the gods stood stupefied before the decrees of Cronus'.

In those days the descendants of the Cabeiri had perfected ships. They disembarked on the coast

near Mount Cassios and there consecrated a temple.

Uranus had long since fled, but he still planned to avenge himself on his son. He sent three of his

daughters - Ashtart, Rhea and Dione - to kill Cronus by treachery. Cronus seduced them and

made them his wives 'although they were sisters'. Uranus did not admit defeat. He sent against his

son Hour and Destiny together with other allies. These, too, Cronus seduced and kept at his side.

By Ashtart, Cronus had seven daughters and two sons, Pothos and Eros. Rhea presented him with

seven children, the youngest of whom was recognised as a god from the moment of his birth.

Sydyk married one of Ashtart's daughters, who bore Asclepius. Demarus begat Melkart, identified

with Heracles, and to Pontus was born Poseidon and Sidon. She was endowed with a wondrous

voice and invented the chanting of hymns. In these days Dagon made the first plough and began

the cultivation of grain.

Because of Uranus the war continued. Pontus, the father of Sidon, put Demarus to flight. Demarus

was the first to make a vow to offer sacrifice to the gods if they helped him to escape from the

critical situation in which he found himself. In the thirty-second year of his reign Cronus caught

his father in an ambush and cut off his sexual organs. The spirit of Uranus was dispersed: the

blood of his severed genitals flowed in the water of springs and rivers.

In the following period we meet the divinities of the Phoenician towns. Cronus - that is to say the

Phoenicians themselves - undertakes long voyages.

Cronus decided that Ashtart, Demarus and Adod should rule over the country. 'Ashtart placed on

her head a bull's head as a royal insignia. While travelling the world she found an aerolith which

she brought back to Tyre to consecrate on the holy island.

'.. . Cronus also made a tour of the world. He made his daughter Athene sovereign of Attica. There

was famine and plague and Cronus offered his own son in sacrifice to his father Uranus. He

circumcised himself and forced his allies to do likewise. Shortly afterwards he deified another

child whom Rhea had borne him and who had died. He was named Mouth, and the Phoenicians

called him Death and Pluto.

'Cronus gave the city of Byblos to the goddess Baltis, who is Dione. He gave Berytus to Poseidon

and to the Cabeiri, who were either hunters or fishermen, and deified the remains of Pontus there.

Previously the god Taaut (the Egyptian Thoth), who had taken on the outward appearance of

Cronus, Dagon and all the other gods combined, had drawn the sacred characters of writing.

'Taaut also designed the insignia of royalty for Cronus: four eyes, two in front and two behind,

two opened and two closed; on his shoulders four wings, two spread in flight, two hanging limp.

The eyes were a symbol to show that Cronus slept while he watched and watched while he slept.

The wings on his shoulders meant that he flew while at rest and rested in flight. The other gods

each had two wings on their shoulders to indicate that they flew with Cronus. The god El also had

two wings on his head, one for pure intelligence, the other for feeling.

'Cronus, having arrived in the land of the South, gave all Egypt to the god Taaut to be his



In the trading posts and colonies which the Phoenicians founded on the coasts of Africa and on

the islands of the Mediterranean the gods were those of Phoenicia.

At Carthage, their chief foundation, Ba'al-Hammon was worshipped. He was a dignified old man

with a beard, and his head was embellished with ram's horns. He sat on a high-backed throne and

rested his hands on the heads of two rams which formed the arms of the seat. Ba'al-Hammon was

a sky-god and a god of fertility; the Romans confused him with the African god Jupiter Ammon.

Carthage also honoured, with Eshmun and Adonis, the god Bes, who was a frightening dwarf

with bow-legs and prominent belly. Bes was also known in Egypt and western Asia, where images

of him were widely spread.

The great goddess of Carthage, normally associated with Ba'al-Hammon in inscriptions, was

called Tanit. She was described as the 'face of Ba'al'. On numerous little stelae, designed to

commemorate sacrifices, Tanit is represented by a symbol the meaning of which has not yet been

determined. Some think it is a degenerated human figure in outline, others a primitive

representation of an altar. This 'symbol of Tanit', of which one example is known in Phoenicia, is

in the form of a truncated cone surmounted by a disk. Sometimes between the disk and the

truncated cone is inscribed a horizontal line the two ends of which turn up at right angles.

Another symbol, equally common on Carthaginian stelae, is the open hand - a gesture of