MYTHS OF BABYLONIA AND ASSYRIA
Donald A. Mackenzie
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Preface Introduction I. The Races and Early Civilization of Babylonia II. The Land of Rivers and the God of the Deep III. Rival Pantheons and Representative Deities IV. Demons, Fairies, and Ghosts V. Myths of Tammuz and Ishtar VI. Wars of the City States of Sumer and Akkad VII. Creation Legend: Merodach the Dragon Slayer VIII. Deified Heroes: Etana and Gilgamesh IX. Deluge Legend, the Island of the Blessed, and Hades X. Buildings and Laws and Customs of Babylon XI. The Golden Age of Babylonia XII. Rise of the Hittites, Mitannians, Kassites, Hyksos, and Assyrians XIII. Astrology and Astronomy XIV. Ashur the National God of Assyria XV. Conflicts for Trade and Supremacy XVI. Race Movements that Shattered Empires XVII. The Hebrews in Assyrian History XVIII. The Age of Semiramis XIX. Assyria's Age of Splendour XX. The Last Days of Assyria and Babylonia
This volume deals with the myths and legends of Babylonia and Assyria, and as these reflect the civilization in which they developed, a historical narrative has been provided, beginning with the early Sumerian Age and concluding with the periods of the Persian and Grecian Empires. Over thirty centuries of human progress are thus passed under review.
During this vast interval of time the cultural influences emanating from the Tigro-Euphrates valley reached far-distant shores along the intersecting avenues of trade, and in consequence of the periodic and widespread migrations of peoples who had acquired directly or indirectly the leavening elements of Mesopotamian civilization. Even at the present day traces survive in Europe of the early cultural impress of the East; our "Signs of the Zodiac", for instance, as well as the system of measuring time and space by using 60 as a basic numeral for calculation, are inheritances from ancient Babylonia.
As in the Nile Valley, however, it is impossible to trace in Mesopotamia the initiatory stages of prehistoric culture based on the agricultural mode of life. What is generally called the "Dawn of History" is really the beginning of a later age of progress; it is necessary to account for the degree of civilization attained at the earliest period of which we have knowledge by postulating a remoter age of culture of much longer duration than that which separates the "Dawn" from the age in which we now live. Although Sumerian (early Babylonian) civilization presents distinctively local features which justify the application of the term "indigenous" in the broad sense, it is found, like that of Egypt, to be possessed of certain elements which suggest exceedingly remote influences and connections at present obscure. Of special interest in this regard is Professor Budge's mature and well-deliberated conclusion that "both the Sumerians and early Egyptians derived their primeval gods from some common but exceedingly ancient source". The prehistoric burial customs of these separate peoples are also remarkably similar and they resemble closely in turn those of the Neolithic Europeans. The cumulative effect of such evidence forces us to regard as not wholly satisfactory and conclusive the hypothesis of cultural influence. A remote racial connection is possible, and is certainly worthy of consideration when so high an authority as Professor Frazer, author of The Golden Bough, is found prepared to admit that the widespread "homogeneity of beliefs" may have been due to "homogeneity of race". It is shown (Chapter 1) that certain ethnologists have accumulated data which establish a racial kinship between the Neolithic Europeans, the proto-Egyptians, the Sumerians, the southern Persians, and the Aryo-Indians.
Throughout this volume comparative notes have been compiled in dealing with Mesopotamian beliefs with purpose to assist the reader towards the study of linking myths and legends. Interesting parallels have been gleaned from various religious literatures in Europe, Egypt, India, and elsewhere. It will be found that certain relics of Babylonian intellectual life, which have a distinctive geographical significance, were shared by peoples in other cultural areas where they were similarly overlaid with local colour. Modes of thought were the products of modes of life and were influenced in their development by human experiences. The influence of environment on the growth of culture has long been recognized, but consideration must also be given to the choice of environment by peoples who had adopted distinctive habits of life. Racial units migrated from cultural areas to districts suitable for colonization and carried with them a heritage of immemorial beliefs and customs which were regarded as being quite as indispensable for their welfare as their implements and domesticated animals.
When consideration is given in this connection to the conservative element in primitive religion, it is not surprising to find that the growth of religious myths was not so spontaneous in early civilizations of the highest order as has hitherto been assumed. It seems clear that in each great local mythology we have to deal, in the first place, not with symbolized ideas so much as symbolized folk beliefs of remote antiquity and, to a certain degree, of common inheritance. It may not be found possible to arrive at a conclusive solution of the most widespread, and therefore the most ancient folk myths, such as, for instance, the Dragon Myth, or the myth of the culture hero. Nor, perhaps, is it necessary that we should concern ourselves greatly regarding the origin of the idea of the dragon, which in one country symbolized fiery drought and in another overwhelming river floods.
The student will find footing on surer ground by following the process which exalts the dragon of the folk tale into the symbol of evil and primordial chaos. The Babylonian Creation Myth, for instance, can be shown to be a localized and glorified legend in which the hero and his tribe are displaced by the war god and his fellow deities whose welfare depends on his prowess. Merodach kills the dragon, Tiamat, as the heroes of Eur-Asian folk stories kill grisly hags, by casting his weapon down her throat.
He severed her inward parts, he pierced her heart, He overcame her and cut off her life; He cast down her body and stood upon it ... And with merciless club he smashed her skull. He cut through the channels of her blood, And he made the north wind to bear it away into secret places.
He divided the flesh of the Ku-pu and devised a cunning plan.
Mr. L.W. King, from whose scholarly Seven Tablets of Creation these lines are quoted, notes that "Ku-pu" is a word of uncertain meaning. Jensen suggests "trunk, body". Apparently Merodach obtained special knowledge after dividing, and perhaps eating, the "Ku-pu". His "cunning plan" is set forth in detail: he cut up the dragon's body:
He split her up like a flat fish into two halves.
He formed the heavens with one half and the earth with the other, and then set the universe in order. His power and wisdom as the Demiurge were derived from the fierce and powerful Great Mother, Tiamat.
In other dragon stories the heroes devise their plans after eating the dragon's heart. According to Philostratus, Apollonius of Tyana was worthy of being remembered for two things—his bravery in travelling among fierce robber tribes, not then subject to Rome, and his wisdom in learning the language of birds and other animals as the Arabs do. This accomplishment the Arabs acquired, Philostratus explains, by eating the hearts of dragons. The "animals" who utter magic words are, of course, the Fates. Siegfried of the Nibelungenlied, after slaying the Regin dragon, makes himself invulnerable by bathing in its blood. He obtains wisdom by eating the heart: as soon as he tastes it he can understand the language of birds, and the birds reveal to him that Mimer is waiting to slay him. Sigurd similarly makes his plans after eating the heart of the Fafner dragon. In Scottish legend Finn-mac-Coul obtains the power to divine secrets by partaking of a small portion of the seventh salmon associated with the "well dragon", and Michael Scott and other folk heroes become great physicians after tasting the juices of the middle part of the body of the white snake. The hero of an Egyptian folk tale slays a "deathless snake" by cutting it in two parts and putting sand between the parts. He then obtains from the box, of which it is the guardian, the book of spells; when he reads a page of the spells he knows what the birds of the sky, the fish of the deep, and the beasts of the hill say; the book gives him power to enchant "the heaven and the earth, the abyss, the mountains and the sea".
Magic and religion were never separated in Babylonia; not only the priests but also the gods performed magical ceremonies. Ea, Merodach's father, overcame Apsu, the husband of the dragon Tiamat, by means of spells: he was "the great magician of the gods". Merodach's division of the "Ku-pu" was evidently an act of contagious magic; by eating or otherwise disposing of the vital part of the fierce and wise mother dragon, he became endowed with her attributes, and was able to proceed with the work of creation. Primitive peoples in our own day, like the Abipones of Paraguay, eat the flesh of fierce and cunning animals so that their strength, courage, and wisdom may be increased.
The direct influence exercised by cultural contact, on the other hand, may be traced when myths with an alien geographical setting are found among peoples whose experiences could never have given them origin. In India, where the dragon symbolizes drought and the western river deities are female, the Manu fish and flood legend resembles closely the Babylonian, and seems to throw light upon it. Indeed, the Manu myth appears to have been derived from the lost flood story in which Ea figured prominently in fish form as the Preserver. The Babylonian Ea cult and the Indian Varuna cult had apparently much in common, as is shown.
Throughout this volume special attention has been paid to the various peoples who were in immediate contact with, and were influenced by, Mesopotamian civilization. The histories are traced in outline of the Kingdoms of Elam, Urartu (Ancient Armenia), Mitanni, and the Hittites, while the story of the rise and decline of the Hebrew civilization, as narrated in the Bible and referred to in Mesopotamian inscriptions, is related from the earliest times until the captivity in the Neo-Babylonian period and the restoration during the age of the Persian Empire. The struggles waged between the great Powers for the control of trade routes, and the periodic migrations of pastoral warrior folks who determined the fate of empires, are also dealt with, so that light may be thrown on the various processes and influences associated with the developments of local religions and mythologies. Special chapters, with comparative notes, are devoted to the Ishtar-Tammuz myths, the Semiramis legends, Ashur and his symbols, and the origin and growth of astrology and astronomy.
The ethnic disturbances which occurred at various well-defined periods in the Tigro-Euphrates valley were not always favourable to the advancement of knowledge and the growth of culture. The invaders who absorbed Sumerian civilization may have secured more settled conditions by welding together political units, but seem to have exercised a retrogressive influence on the growth of local culture. "Babylonian religion", writes Dr. Langdon, "appears to have reached its highest level in the Sumerian period, or at least not later than 2000 B.C. From that period onward to the first century B.C. popular religion maintained with great difficulty the sacred standards of the past." Although it has been customary to characterize Mesopotamian civilization as Semitic, modern research tends to show that the indigenous inhabitants, who were non-Semitic, were its originators. Like the proto-Egyptians, the early Cretans, and the Pelasgians in southern Europe and Asia Minor, they invariably achieved the intellectual conquest of their conquerors, as in the earliest times they had won victories over the antagonistic forces of nature. If the modern view is accepted that these ancient agriculturists of the goddess cult were of common racial origin, it is to the most representative communities of the widespread Mediterranean race that the credit belongs of laying the foundations of the brilliant civilizations of the ancient world in southern Europe, and Egypt, and the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates.
Ancient Babylonia has made stronger appeal to the imagination of Christendom than even Ancient Egypt, because of its association with the captivity of the Hebrews, whose sorrows are enshrined in the familiar psalm:
By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down; Yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows....
In sacred literature proud Babylon became the city of the anti-Christ, the symbol of wickedness and cruelty and human vanity. Early Christians who suffered persecution compared their worldly state to that of the oppressed and disconsolate Hebrews, and, like them, they sighed for Jerusalem—the new Jerusalem. When St. John the Divine had visions of the ultimate triumph of Christianity, he referred to its enemies—the unbelievers and persecutors—as the citizens of the earthly Babylon, the doom of which he pronounced in stately and memorable phrases:
Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, And is become the habitation of devils, And the hold of every foul spirit, And a cage of every unclean and hateful bird....
For her sins have reached unto heaven And God hath remembered her iniquities.... The merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her, For no man buyeth their merchandise any more.
"At the noise of the taking of Babylon", cried Jeremiah, referring to the original Babylon, "the earth is moved, and the cry is heard among the nations.... It shall be no more inhabited forever; neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation." The Christian Saint rendered more profound the brooding silence of the desolated city of his vision by voicing memories of its beauty and gaiety and bustling trade:
The voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers and trumpeters shall be heard no more at all in thee; And no craftsman, of whatsoever craft he be, shall be found any more in thee; And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee; And the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: For thy merchants were the great men of the earth; For by thy sorceries were all nations deceived. And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, And of all that were slain upon the earth.
So for nearly two thousand years has the haunting memory of the once-powerful city pervaded Christian literature, while its broken walls and ruined temples and palaces lay buried deep in desert sand. The history of the ancient land of which it was the capital survived in but meagre and fragmentary form, mingled with accumulated myths and legends. A slim volume contained all that could be derived from references in the Old Testament and the compilations of classical writers.
It is only within the past half-century that the wonderful story of early Eastern civilization has been gradually pieced together by excavators and linguists, who have thrust open the door of the past and probed the hidden secrets of long ages. We now know more about "the land of Babel" than did not only the Greeks and Romans, but even the Hebrew writers who foretold its destruction. Glimpses are being afforded us of its life and manners and customs for some thirty centuries before the captives of Judah uttered lamentations on the banks of its reedy canals. The sites of some of the ancient cities of Babylonia and Assyria were identified by European officials and travellers in the East early in the nineteenth century, and a few relics found their way to Europe. But before Sir A.H. Layard set to work as an excavator in the "forties", "a case scarcely three feet square", as he himself wrote, "enclosed all that remained not only of the great city of Nineveh, but of Babylon itself".
Layard, the distinguished pioneer Assyriologist, was an Englishman of Huguenot descent, who was born in Paris. Through his mother he inherited a strain of Spanish blood. During his early boyhood he resided in Italy, and his education, which began there, was continued in schools in France, Switzerland, and England. He was a man of scholarly habits and fearless and independent character, a charming writer, and an accomplished fine-art critic; withal he was a great traveller, a strenuous politician, and an able diplomatist. In 1845, while sojourning in the East, he undertook the exploration of ancient Assyrian cities. He first set to work at Kalkhi, the Biblical Calah. Three years previously M.P.C. Botta, the French consul at Mosul, had begun to investigate the Nineveh mounds; but these he abandoned for a mound near Khorsabad which proved to be the site of the city erected by "Sargon the Later", who is referred to by Isaiah. The relics discovered by Botta and his successor, Victor Place, are preserved in the Louvre.
At Kalkhi and Nineveh Layard uncovered the palaces of some of the most famous Assyrian Emperors, including the Biblical Shalmaneser and Esarhaddon, and obtained the colossi, bas reliefs, and other treasures of antiquity which formed the nucleus of the British Museum's unrivalled Assyrian collection. He also conducted diggings at Babylon and Niffer (Nippur). His work was continued by his assistant, Hormuzd Rassam, a native Christian of Mosul, near Nineveh. Rassam studied for a time at Oxford.
The discoveries made by Layard and Botta stimulated others to follow their example. In the "fifties" Mr. W.K. Loftus engaged in excavations at Larsa and Erech, where important discoveries were made of ancient buildings, ornaments, tablets, sarcophagus graves, and pot burials, while Mr. J.E. Taylor operated at Ur, the seat of the moon cult and the birthplace of Abraham, and at Eridu, which is generally regarded as the cradle of early Babylonian (Sumerian) civilization.
In 1854 Sir Henry Rawlinson superintended diggings at Birs Nimrud (Borsippa, near Babylon), and excavated relics of the Biblical Nebuchadrezzar. This notable archaeologist began his career in the East as an officer in the Bombay army. He distinguished himself as a political agent and diplomatist. While resident at Baghdad, he devoted his leisure time to cuneiform studies. One of his remarkable feats was the copying of the famous trilingual rock inscription of Darius the Great on a mountain cliff at Behistun, in Persian Kurdistan. This work was carried out at great personal risk, for the cliff is 1700 feet high and the sculptures and inscriptions are situated about 300 feet from the ground.
Darius was the first monarch of his line to make use of the Persian cuneiform script, which in this case he utilized in conjunction with the older and more complicated Assyro-Babylonian alphabetic and syllabic characters to record a portion of the history of his reign. Rawlinson's translation of the famous inscription was an important contribution towards the decipherment of the cuneiform writings of Assyria and Babylonia.
Twelve years of brilliant Mesopotamian discovery concluded in 1854, and further excavations had to be suspended until the "seventies" on account of the unsettled political conditions of the ancient land and the difficulties experienced in dealing with Turkish officials. During the interval, however, archaeologists and philologists were kept fully engaged studying the large amount of material which had been accumulated. Sir Henry Rawlinson began the issue of his monumental work The Cuneiform Inscriptions of Western Asia on behalf of the British Museum.
Goodspeed refers to the early archaeological work as the "Heroic Period" of research, and says that the "Modern Scientific Period" began with Mr. George Smith's expedition to Nineveh in 1873.
George Smith, like Henry Schliemann, the pioneer investigator of pre-Hellenic culture, was a self-educated man of humble origin. He was born at Chelsea in 1840. At fourteen he was apprenticed to an engraver. He was a youth of studious habits and great originality, and interested himself intensely in the discoveries which had been made by Layard and other explorers. At the British Museum, which he visited regularly to pore over the Assyrian inscriptions, he attracted the attention of Sir Henry Rawlinson. So greatly impressed was Sir Henry by the young man's enthusiasm and remarkable intelligence that he allowed him the use of his private room and provided casts and squeezes of inscriptions to assist him in his studies. Smith made rapid progress. His earliest discovery was the date of the payment of tribute by Jehu, King of Israel, to the Assyrian Emperor Shalmaneser. Sir Henry availed himself of the young investigator's assistance in producing the third volume of The Cuneiform Inscriptions.
In 1867 Smith received an appointment in the Assyriology Department of the British Museum, and a few years later became famous throughout Christendom as the translator of fragments of the Babylonian Deluge Legend from tablets sent to London by Rassam. Sir Edwin Arnold, the poet and Orientalist, was at the time editor of the Daily Telegraph, and performed a memorable service to modern scholarship by dispatching Smith, on behalf of his paper, to Nineveh to search for other fragments of the Ancient Babylonian epic. Rassam had obtained the tablets from the great library of the cultured Emperor Ashur-bani-pal, "the great and noble Asnapper" of the Bible, who took delight, as he himself recorded, in
The wisdom of Ea, the art of song, the treasures of science.
This royal patron of learning included in his library collection, copies and translations of tablets from Babylonia. Some of these were then over 2000 years old. The Babylonian literary relics were, indeed, of as great antiquity to Ashur-bani-pal as that monarch's relics are to us.
The Emperor invoked Nebo, god of wisdom and learning, to bless his "books", praying:
Forever, O Nebo, King of all heaven and earth, Look gladly upon this Library Of Ashur-bani-pal, his (thy) shepherd, reverencer of thy divinity.
Mr. George Smith's expedition to Nineveh in 1873 was exceedingly fruitful of results. More tablets were discovered and translated. In the following year he returned to the ancient Assyrian city on behalf of the British Museum, and added further by his scholarly achievements to his own reputation and the world's knowledge of antiquity. His last expedition was made early in 1876; on his homeward journey he was stricken down with fever, and on 19th August he died at Aleppo in his thirty-sixth year. So was a brilliant career brought to an untimely end.
Rassam was engaged to continue Smith's great work, and between 1877 and 1882 made many notable discoveries in Assyria and Babylonia, including the bronze doors of a Shalmaneser temple, the sun temple at Sippar; the palace of the Biblical Nebuchadrezzar, which was famous for its "hanging gardens"; a cylinder of Nabonidus, King of Babylon; and about fifty thousand tablets.
M. de Sarzec, the French consul at Bassorah, began in 1877 excavations at the ancient Sumerian city of Lagash (Shirpula), and continued them until 1900. He found thousands of tablets, many has reliefs, votive statuettes, which worshippers apparently pinned on sacred shrines, the famous silver vase of King Entemena, statues of King Gudea, and various other treasures which are now in the Louvre.
The pioneer work achieved by British and French excavators stimulated interest all over the world. An expedition was sent out from the United States by the University of Pennsylvania, and began to operate at Nippur in 1888. The Germans, who have displayed great activity in the domain of philological research, are at present represented by an exploring party which is conducting the systematic exploration of the ruins of Babylon. Even the Turkish Government has encouraged research work, and its excavators have accumulated a fine collection of antiquities at Constantinople. Among the archaeologists and linguists of various nationalities who are devoting themselves to the study of ancient Assyrian and Babylonian records and literature, and gradually unfolding the story of ancient Eastern civilization, those of our own country occupy a prominent position. One of the most interesting discoveries of recent years has been new fragments of the Creation Legend by L.W. King of the British Museum, whose scholarly work, The Seven Tablets of Creation, is the standard work on the subject.
The archaeological work conducted in Persia, Asia Minor, Palestine, Cyprus, Crete, the Aegean, and Egypt has thrown, and is throwing, much light on the relations between the various civilizations of antiquity. In addition to the Hittite discoveries, with which the name of Professor Sayce will ever be associated as a pioneer, we now hear much of the hitherto unknown civilizations of Mitanni and Urartu (ancient Armenia), which contributed to the shaping of ancient history. The Biblical narratives of the rise and decline of the Hebrew kingdoms have also been greatly elucidated.
In this volume, which deals mainly with the intellectual life of the Mesopotamian peoples, a historical narrative has been provided as an appropriate setting for the myths and legends. In this connection the reader must be reminded that the chronology of the early period is still uncertain. The approximate dates which are given, however, are those now generally adopted by most European and American authorities. Early Babylonian history of the Sumerian period begins some time prior to 3000 B.C; Sargon of Akkad flourished about 2650 B.C., and Hammurabi not long before or after 2000 B.C. The inflated system of dating which places Mena of Egypt as far back as 5500 B.C. and Sargon at about 3800 B.C. has been abandoned by the majority of prominent archaeologists, the exceptions including Professor Flinders Petrie. Recent discoveries appear to support the new chronological system. "There is a growing conviction", writes Mr. Hawes, "that Cretan evidence, especially in the eastern part of the island, favours the minimum (Berlin) system of Egyptian chronology, according to which the Sixth (Egyptian) Dynasty began at c. 2540 B.C. and the Twelfth at c. 2000 B.C. Petrie dates the beginning of the Twelfth Dynasty at c. 3400 B.C.
To students of comparative folklore and mythology the myths and legends of Babylonia present many features of engrossing interest. They are of great antiquity, yet not a few seem curiously familiar. We must not conclude, however, that because a European legend may bear resemblances to one translated from a cuneiform tablet it is necessarily of Babylonian origin. Certain beliefs, and the myths which were based upon them, are older than even the civilization of the Tigro-Euphrates valley. They belong, it would appear, to a stock of common inheritance from an uncertain cultural centre of immense antiquity. The problem involved has been referred to by Professor Frazer in the Golden Bough. Commenting on the similarities presented by certain ancient festivals in various countries, he suggests that they may be due to "a remarkable homogeneity of civilization throughout Southern Europe and Western Asia in prehistoric times. How far", he adds, "such homogeneity of civilization may be taken as evidence of homogeneity of race is a question for the ethnologist."
In Chapter I the reader is introduced to the ethnological problem, and it is shown that the results of modern research tend to establish a remote racial connection between the Sumerians of Babylonia, the prehistoric Egyptians, and the Neolithic (Late Stone Age) inhabitants of Europe, as well as the southern Persians and the "Aryans" of India.
Comparative notes are provided in dealing with the customs, religious beliefs, and myths and legends of the Mesopotamian peoples to assist the student towards the elucidation and partial restoration of certain literary fragments from the cuneiform tablets. Of special interest in this connection are the resemblances between some of the Indian and Babylonian myths. The writer has drawn upon that "great storehouse" of ancient legends, the voluminous Indian epic, the Mahabharata, and it is shown that there are undoubted links between the Garuda eagle myths and those of the Sumerian Zu bird and the Etana eagle, while similar stories remain attached to the memories of "Sargon of Akkad" and the Indian hero Karna, and of Semiramis (who was Queen Sammu-ramat of Assyria) and Shakuntala. The Indian god Varuna and the Sumerian Ea are also found to have much in common, and it seems undoubted that the Manu fish and flood myth is a direct Babylonian inheritance, like the Yuga (Ages of the Universe) doctrine and the system of calculation associated with it. It is of interest to note, too, that a portion of the Gilgamesh epic survives in the Ramayana story of the monkey god Hanuman's search for the lost princess Sita; other relics of similar character suggest that both the Gilgamesh and Hanuman narratives are derived in part from a very ancient myth. Gilgamesh also figures in Indian mythology as Yama, the first man, who explored the way to the Paradise called "The Land of Ancestors", and over which he subsequently presided as a god. Other Babylonian myths link with those found in Egypt, Greece, Scandinavia, Iceland, and the British Isles and Ireland. The Sargon myth, for instance, resembles closely the myth of Scyld (Sceaf), the patriarch, in the Beowulf epic, and both appear to be variations of the Tammuz-Adonis story. Tammuz also resembles in one of his phases the Celtic hero Diarmid, who was slain by the "green boar" of the Earth Mother, as was Adonis by the boar form of Ares, the Greek war god.
In approaching the study of these linking myths it would be as rash to conclude that all resemblances are due to homogeneity of race as to assume that folklore and mythology are devoid of ethnological elements. Due consideration must be given to the widespread influence exercised by cultural contact. We must recognize also that the human mind has ever shown a tendency to arrive quite independently at similar conclusions, when confronted by similar problems, in various parts of the world.
But while many remarkable resemblances may be detected between the beliefs and myths and customs of widely separated peoples, it cannot be overlooked that pronounced and striking differences remain to be accounted for. Human experiences varied in localities because all sections of humanity were not confronted in ancient times by the same problems in their everyday lives. Some peoples, for instance, experienced no great difficulties regarding the food supply, which might be provided for them by nature in lavish abundance; others were compelled to wage a fierce and constant conflict against hostile forces in inhospitable environments with purpose to secure adequate sustenance and their meed of enjoyment. Various habits of life had to be adopted in various parts of the world, and these produced various habits of thought. Consequently, we find that behind all systems of primitive religion lies the formative background of natural phenomena. A mythology reflects the geography, the fauna and flora, and the climatic conditions of the area in which it took definite and permanent shape.
In Babylonia, as elsewhere, we expect, therefore, to find a mythology which has strictly local characteristics—one which mirrors river and valley scenery, the habits of life of the people, and also the various stages of progress in the civilization from its earliest beginnings. Traces of primitive thought—survivals from remotest antiquity—should also remain in evidence. As a matter of fact Babylonian mythology fulfils our expectations in this regard to the highest degree.
Herodotus said that Egypt was the gift of the Nile: similarly Babylonia may be regarded as the gift of the Tigris and Euphrates—those great shifting and flooding rivers which for long ages had been carrying down from the Armenian Highlands vast quantities of mud to thrust back the waters of the Persian Gulf and form a country capable of being utilized for human habitation. The most typical Babylonian deity was Ea, the god of the fertilizing and creative waters.
He was depicted clad in the skin of a fish, as gods in other geographical areas were depicted wearing the skins of animals which were regarded as ancestors, or hostile demons that had to be propitiated. Originally Ea appears to have been a fish—the incarnation of the spirit of, or life principle in, the Euphrates River. His centre of worship was at Eridu, an ancient seaport, where apparently the prehistoric Babylonians (the Sumerians) first began to utilize the dried-up beds of shifting streams to irrigate the soil. One of the several creation myths is reminiscent of those early experiences which produced early local beliefs:
O thou River, who didst create all things, When the great gods dug thee out, They set prosperity upon thy banks, Within thee Ea, the king of the Deep, created his dwelling.
The Sumerians observed that the land was brought into existence by means of the obstructing reeds, which caused mud to accumulate. When their minds began to be exercised regarding the origin of life, they conceived that the first human beings were created by a similar process:
Marduk (son of Ea) laid a reed upon the face of the waters, He formed dust and poured it out beside the reed ... He formed mankind.
Ea acquired in time, as the divine artisan, various attributes which reflected the gradual growth of civilization: he was reputed to have taught the people how to form canals, control the rivers, cultivate the fields, build their houses, and so on.
But although Ea became a beneficent deity, as a result of the growth of civilization, he had also a demoniac form, and had to be propitiated. The worshippers of the fish god retained ancient modes of thought and perpetuated ancient superstitious practices.
The earliest settlers in the Tigro-Euphrates valley were agriculturists, like their congeners, the proto-Egyptians and the Neolithic Europeans. Before they broke away from the parent stock in its area of characterization they had acquired the elements of culture, and adopted habits of thought which were based on the agricultural mode of life. Like other agricultural communities they were worshippers of the "World Mother", the Creatrix, who was the giver of all good things, the "Preserver" and also the "Destroyer"—the goddess whose moods were reflected by natural phenomena, and whose lovers were the spirits of the seasons.
In the alluvial valley which they rendered fit for habitation the Sumerians came into contact with peoples of different habits of life and different habits of thought. These were the nomadic pastoralists from the northern steppe lands, who had developed in isolation theories regarding the origin of the Universe which reflected their particular experiences and the natural phenomena of their area of characterization. The most representative people of this class were the "Hatti" of Asia Minor, who were of Alpine or Armenoid stock. In early times the nomads were broken up into small tribal units, like Abraham and his followers, and depended for their food supply on the prowess of the males. Their chief deity was the sky and mountain god, who was the "World Father", the creator, and the wielder of the thunder hammer, who waged war against the demons of storm or drought, and ensured the food supply of his worshippers.
The fusion in Babylonia of the peoples of the god and goddess cults was in progress before the dawn of history, as was the case in Egypt and also in southern Europe. In consequence independent Pantheons came into existence in the various city States in the Tigro-Euphrates valley. These were mainly a reflection of city politics: the deities of each influential section had to receive recognition. But among the great masses of the people ancient customs associated with agriculture continued in practice, and, as Babylonia depended for its prosperity on its harvests, the force of public opinion tended, it would appear, to perpetuate the religious beliefs of the earliest settlers, despite the efforts made by conquerors to exalt the deities they introduced.
Babylonian religion was of twofold character. It embraced temple worship and private worship. The religion of the temple was the religion of the ruling class, and especially of the king, who was the guardian of the people. Domestic religion was conducted in homes, in reed huts, or in public places, and conserved the crudest superstitions surviving from the earliest times. The great "burnings" and the human sacrifices in Babylonia, referred to in the Bible, were, no doubt, connected with agricultural religion of the private order, as was also the ceremony of baking and offering cakes to the Queen of Heaven, condemned by Jeremiah, which obtained in the streets of Jerusalem and other cities. Domestic religion required no temples. There were no temples in Crete: the world was the "house" of the deity, who had seasonal haunts on hilltops, in groves, in caves, &c. In Egypt Herodotus witnessed festivals and processions which are not referred to in official inscriptions, although they were evidently practised from the earliest times.
Agricultural religion in Egypt was concentrated in the cult of Osiris and Isis, and influenced all local theologies. In Babylonia these deities were represented by Tammuz and Ishtar. Ishtar, like Isis, absorbed many other local goddesses.
According to the beliefs of the ancient agriculturists the goddess was eternal and undecaying. She was the Great Mother of the Universe and the source of the food supply. Her son, the corn god, became, as the Egyptians put it, "Husband of his Mother". Each year he was born anew and rapidly attained to manhood; then he was slain by a fierce rival who symbolized the season of pestilence-bringing and parching sun heat, or the rainy season, or wild beasts of prey. Or it might be that he was slain by his son, as Cronos was by Zeus and Dyaus by Indra. The new year slew the old year.
The social customs of the people, which had a religious basis, were formed in accordance with the doings of the deities; they sorrowed or made glad in sympathy with the spirits of nature. Worshippers also suggested by their ceremonies how the deities should act at various seasons, and thus exercised, as they believed, a magical control over them.
In Babylonia the agricultural myth regarding the Mother goddess and the young god had many variations. In one form Tammuz, like Adonis, was loved by two goddesses—the twin phases of nature—the Queen of Heaven and the Queen of Hades. It was decreed that Tammuz should spend part of the year with one goddess and part of the year with the other. Tammuz was also a Patriarch, who reigned for a long period over the land and had human offspring. After death his spirit appeared at certain times and seasons as a planet, star, or constellation. He was the ghost of the elder god, and he was also the younger god who was born each year.
In the Gilgamesh epic we appear to have a form of the patriarch legend—the story of the "culture hero" and teacher who discovered the path which led to the land of ancestral spirits. The heroic Patriarch in Egypt was Apuatu, "the opener of the ways", the earliest form of Osiris; in India he was Yama, the first man, "who searched and found out the path for many".
The King as Patriarch was regarded during life as an incarnation of the culture god: after death he merged in the god. "Sargon of Akkad" posed as an incarnation of the ancient agricultural Patriarch: he professed to be a man of miraculous birth who was loved by the goddess Ishtar, and was supposed to have inaugurated a New Age of the Universe.
The myth regarding the father who was superseded by his son may account for the existence in Babylonian city pantheons of elder and younger gods who symbolized the passive and active forces of nature.
Considering the persistent and cumulative influence exercised by agricultural religion it is not surprising to find, as has been indicated, that most of the Babylonian gods had Tammuz traits, as most of the Egyptian gods had Osirian traits. Although local or imported deities were developed and conventionalized in rival Babylonian cities, they still retained traces of primitive conceptions. They existed in all their forms—as the younger god who displaced the elder god and became the elder god, and as the elder god who conciliated the younger god and made him his active agent; and as the god who was identified at various seasons with different heavenly bodies and natural phenomena. Merodach, the god of Babylon, who was exalted as chief of the National pantheon in the Hammurabi Age, was, like Tammuz, a son, and therefore a form of Ea, a demon slayer, a war god, a god of fertility, a corn spirit, a Patriarch, and world ruler and guardian, and, like Tammuz, he had solar, lunar, astral, and atmospheric attributes. The complex characters of Merodach and Tammuz were not due solely to the monotheistic tendency: the oldest deities were of mystical character, they represented the "Self Power" of Naturalism as well as the spirit groups of Animism.
The theorizing priests, who speculated regarding the mysteries of life and death and the origin of all things, had to address the people through the medium of popular beliefs. They utilized floating myths for this purpose. As there were in early times various centres of culture which had rival pantheons, the adapted myths varied greatly. In the different forms in which they survive to us they reflect, not only aspects of local beliefs, but also grades of culture at different periods. We must not expect, however, to find that the latest form of a myth was the highest and most profound. The history of Babylonian religion is divided into periods of growth and periods of decadence. The influence of domestic religion was invariably opposed to the new and high doctrines which emanated from the priesthood, and in times of political upheaval tended to submerge them in the debris of immemorial beliefs and customs. The retrogressive tendencies of the masses were invariably reinforced by the periodic invasions of aliens who had no respect for official deities and temple creeds.
We must avoid insisting too strongly on the application of the evolution theory to the religious phenomena of a country like Babylonia.
The epochs in the intellectual life of an ancient people are not comparable to geological epochs, for instance, because the forces at work were directed by human wills, whether in the interests of progress or otherwise. The battle of creeds has ever been a battle of minds. It should be recognized, therefore, that the human element bulks as prominently in the drama of Babylon's religious history as does the prince of Denmark in the play of Hamlet. We are not concerned with the plot alone. The characters must also receive attention. Their aspirations and triumphs, their prejudices and blunders, were the billowy forces which shaped the shoreland of the story and made history.
Various aspects of Babylonian life and culture are dealt with throughout this volume, and it is shown that the growth of science and art was stimulated by unwholesome and crude superstitions. Many rank weeds flourished beside the brightest blossoms of the human intellect that wooed the sun in that fertile valley of rivers. As in Egypt, civilization made progress when wealth was accumulated in sufficient abundance to permit of a leisured class devoting time to study and research. The endowed priests, who performed temple ceremonies, were the teachers of the people and the patrons of culture. We may think little of their religious beliefs, regarding which after all we have only a superficial knowledge, for we have yet discovered little more than the fragments of the shell which held the pearl, the faded petals that were once a rose, but we must recognize that they provided inspiration for the artists and sculptors whose achievements compel our wonder and admiration, moved statesmen to inaugurate and administer humanitarian laws, and exalted Right above Might.
These civilizations of the old world, among which the Mesopotamian and the Nilotic were the earliest, were built on no unsound foundations. They made possible "the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome", and it is only within recent years that we have begun to realize how incalculable is the debt which the modern world owes to them.
THE RACES AND EARLY CIVILIZATION OF BABYLONIA
Prehistoric Babylonia—The Confederacies of Sumer and Akkad—Sumerian Racial Affinities—Theories of Mongolian and Ural-Altaic Origins—Evidence of Russian Turkestan—Beginnings of Agriculture—Remarkable Proofs from Prehistoric Egyptian Graves—Sumerians and the Mediterranean Race—Present-day Types in Western Asia—The Evidence of Crania—Origin of the Akkadians—The Semitic Blend—Races in Ancient Palestine—Southward Drift of Armenoid Peoples—The Rephaims of the Bible—Akkadians attain Political Supremacy in Northern Babylonia—Influence of Sumerian Culture—Beginnings of Civilization—Progress in the Neolithic Age—Position of Women in Early Communities—Their Legal Status in Ancient Babylonia—Influence in Social and Religious Life—The "Woman's Language"—Goddess who inspired Poets.
Before the dawn of the historical period Ancient Babylonia was divided into a number of independent city states similar to those which existed in pre-Dynastic Egypt. Ultimately these were grouped into loose confederacies. The northern cities were embraced in the territory known as Akkad, and the southern in the land of Sumer, or Shumer. This division had a racial as well as a geographical significance. The Akkadians were "late comers" who had achieved political ascendency in the north when the area they occupied was called Uri, or Kiuri, and Sumer was known as Kengi. They were a people of Semitic speech with pronounced Semitic affinities. From the earliest times the sculptors depicted them with abundant locks, long full beards, and the prominent distinctive noses and full lips, which we usually associate with the characteristic Jewish type, and also attired in long, flounced robes, suspended from their left shoulders, and reaching down to their ankles. In contrast, the Sumerians had clean-shaven faces and scalps, and noses of Egyptian and Grecian rather than Semitic type, while they wore short, pleated kilts, and went about with the upper part of their bodies quite bare like the Egyptian noblemen of the Old Kingdom period. They spoke a non-Semitic language, and were the oldest inhabitants of Babylonia of whom we have any knowledge. Sumerian civilization was rooted in the agricultural mode of life, and appears to have been well developed before the Semites became numerous and influential in the land. Cities had been built chiefly of sun-dried and fire-baked bricks; distinctive pottery was manufactured with much skill; the people were governed by humanitarian laws, which formed the nucleus of the Hammurabi code, and had in use a system of cuneiform writing which was still in process of development from earlier pictorial characters. The distinctive feature of their agricultural methods was the engineering skill which was displayed in extending the cultivatable area by the construction of irrigating canals and ditches. There are also indications that they possessed some knowledge of navigation and traded on the Persian Gulf. According to one of their own traditions Eridu, originally a seaport, was their racial cradle. The Semitic Akkadians adopted the distinctive culture of these Sumerians after settlement, and exercised an influence on its subsequent growth.
Much controversy has been waged regarding the original home of the Sumerians and the particular racial type which they represented. One theory connects them with the lank-haired and beardless Mongolians, and it is asserted on the evidence afforded by early sculptural reliefs that they were similarly oblique-eyed. As they also spoke an agglutinative language, it is suggested that they were descended from the same parent stock as the Chinese in an ancient Parthian homeland. If, however, the oblique eye was not the result of faulty and primitive art, it is evident that the Mongolian type, which is invariably found to be remarkably persistent in racial blends, did not survive in the Tigris and Euphrates valleys, for in the finer and more exact sculpture work of the later Sumerian period the eyes of the ruling classes are found to be similar to those of the Ancient Egyptians and southern Europeans. Other facial characteristics suggest that a Mongolian racial connection is highly improbable; the prominent Sumerian nose, for instance, is quite unlike the Chinese, which is diminutive. Nor can far-reaching conclusions be drawn from the scanty linguistic evidence at our disposal. Although the languages of the Sumerians and long-headed Chinese are of the agglutinative variety, so are those also which are spoken by the broad-headed Turks and Magyars of Hungary, the broad-headed and long-headed, dark and fair Finns, and the brunet and short-statured Basques with pear-shaped faces, who are regarded as a variation of the Mediterranean race with distinctive characteristics developed in isolation. Languages afford no sure indication of racial origins or affinities.
Another theory connects the Sumerians with the broad-headed peoples of the Western Asian plains and plateaus, who are vaguely grouped as Ural-Altaic stock and are represented by the present-day Turks and the dark variety of Finns. It is assumed that they migrated southward in remote times in consequence of tribal pressure caused by changing climatic conditions, and abandoned a purely pastoral for an agricultural life. The late Sumerian sculpture work again presents difficulties in this connection, for the faces and bulging occiputs suggest rather a long-headed than a broad-headed type, and the theory no longer obtains that new habits of life alter skull forms which are usually associated with other distinctive traits in the structure of skeletons. These broad-headed nomadic peoples of the Steppes are allied to Tatar stock, and distinguished from the pure Mongols by their abundance of wavy hair and beard. The fact that the Sumerians shaved their scalps and faces is highly suggestive in this connection. From the earliest times it has been the habit of most peoples to emphasize their racial characteristics so as to be able, one may suggest, to distinguish readily a friend from a foeman. At any rate this fact is generally recognized by ethnologists. The Basques, for instance, shave their pointed chins and sometimes grow short side whiskers to increase the distinctive pear-shape which is given to their faces by their prominent temples. In contrast, their neighbours, the Andalusians, grow chin whiskers to broaden their already rounded chins, and to distinguish them markedly from the Basques. Another example of similar character is afforded in Asia Minor, where the skulls of the children of long-headed Kurds are narrowed, and those of the children of broad-headed Armenians made flatter behind as a result of systematic pressure applied by using cradle boards. In this way these rival peoples accentuate their contrasting head forms, which at times may, no doubt, show a tendency towards variation as a result of the crossment of types. When it is found, therefore, that the Sumerians, like the Ancient Egyptians, were in the habit of shaving, their ethnic affinities should be looked for among a naturally glabrous rather than a heavily-bearded people.
A Central Asiatic source for Sumerian culture has also been urged of late with much circumstantial detail. It breaks quite fresh and interesting ground. Recent scientific expeditions in Russian and Chinese Turkestan have accumulated important archaeological data which clearly establish that vast areas of desert country were at a remote period most verdurous and fruitful, and thickly populated by organized and apparently progressive communities. From these ancient centres of civilization wholesale migrations must have been impelled from time to time in consequence of the gradual encroachment of wind-distributed sand and the increasing shortage of water. At Anau in Russian Turkestan, where excavations were conducted by the Pumpelly expedition, abundant traces were found of an archaic and forgotten civilization reaching back to the Late Stone Age. The pottery is decorated with geometric designs, and resembles somewhat other Neolithic specimens found as far apart as Susa, the capital of ancient Elam, on the borders of Babylonia, Boghaz Koei in Asia Minor, the seat of Hittite administration, round the Black Sea to the north, and at points in the southern regions of the Balkan Peninsula. It is suggested that these various finds are scattered evidences of early racial drifts from the Central Asian areas which were gradually being rendered uninhabitable. Among the Copper Age artifacts at Anau are clay votive statuettes resembling those which were used in Sumeria for religious purposes. These, however, cannot be held to prove a racial connection, but they are important in so far as they afford evidence of early trade relations in a hitherto unsuspected direction, and the long distances over which cultural influence extended before the dawn of history. Further we cannot go. No inscriptions have yet been discovered to render articulate this mysterious Central Asian civilization, or to suggest the original source of early Sumerian picture writing. Nor is it possible to confirm Mr. Pumpelly's view that from the Anau district the Sumerians and Egyptians first obtained barley and wheat, and some of their domesticated animals. If, as Professor Elliot Smith believes, copper was first used by the Ancient Egyptians, it may be, on the other hand, that a knowledge of this metal reached Anau through Sumeria, and that the elements of the earlier culture were derived from the same quarter by an indirect route. The evidence obtainable in Egypt is of interest in this connection. Large quantities of food have been taken from the stomachs and intestines of sun-dried bodies which have lain in their pre-Dynastic graves for over sixty centuries. This material has been carefully examined, and has yielded, among other things, husks of barley and millet, and fragments of mammalian bones, including those, no doubt, of the domesticated sheep and goats and cattle painted on the pottery. It is therefore apparent that at an extremely remote period a knowledge of agriculture extended throughout Egypt, and we have no reason for supposing that it was not shared by the contemporary inhabitants of Sumer.
The various theories which have been propounded regarding the outside source of Sumerian culture are based on the assumption that it commenced abruptly and full grown. Its rude beginnings cannot be traced on the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates, but although no specimens of the earliest form of picture writing have been recovered from the ruins of Sumerian and Akkadian cities, neither have any been found elsewhere. The possibility remains, therefore, that early Babylonian culture was indigenous. "A great deal of ingenuity has been displayed by many scholars", says Professor Elliot Smith, "with the object of bringing these Sumerians from somewhere else as immigrants into Sumer; but no reasons have been advanced to show that they had not been settled at the head of the Persian Gulf for long generations before they first appeared on the stage of history. The argument that no early remains have been found is futile, not only because such a country as Sumer is no more favourable to the preservation of such evidence than is the Delta of the Nile, but also upon the more general grounds that negative statements of this sort cannot be assigned a positive evidence for an immigration." This distinguished ethnologist is frankly of opinion that the Sumerians were the congeners of the pre-Dynastic Egyptians of the Mediterranean or Brown race, the eastern branch of which reaches to India and the western to the British Isles and Ireland. In the same ancient family are included the Arabs, whose physical characteristics distinguish them from the Semites of Jewish type.
Some light may be thrown on the Sumerian problem by giving consideration to the present-day racial complexion of Western Asia. The importance of evidence of this character has been emphasized elsewhere. In Egypt, for instance, Dr. C.S. Myers has ascertained that the modern peasants have skull forms which are identical with those of their pre-Dynastic ancestors. Mr. Hawes has also demonstrated that the ancient inhabitants of Crete are still represented on that famous island. But even more remarkable is the fact that the distinctive racial type which occupied the Palaeolithic caves of the Dordogne valley in France continues to survive in their vicinity after an interval of over twenty thousand years. It is noteworthy, therefore, to find that in south-western Asia at the present day one particular racial type predominates over all others. Professor Ripley, who summarizes a considerable mass of data in this connection, refers to it as the "Iranian", and says: "It includes the Persians and Kurds, possibly the Ossetes in the Caucasus, and farther to the east a large number of Asiatic tribes, from the Afghans to the Hindus. These peoples are all primarily long-headed and dark brunets. They incline to slenderness of habit, although varying in stature according to circumstances. In them we recognize at once undoubted congeners of our Mediterranean race in Europe. The area of their extension runs off into Africa, through the Egyptians, who are clearly of the same race. Not only the modern peoples, but the Ancient Egyptians and the Phoenicians also have been traced to the same source. By far the largest portion of this part of Western Asia is inhabited by this eastern branch of the Mediterranean race." The broad-headed type "occurs sporadically among a few ethnic remnants in Syria and Mesopotamia". The exhaustive study of thousands of ancient crania in London and Cambridge collections has shown that Mediterranean peoples, having alien traits, the result of early admixture, were distributed between Egypt and the Punjab. Where blending took place, the early type, apparently, continued to predominate; and it appears to be reasserting itself in our own time in Western Asia, as elsewhere. It seems doubtful, therefore, that the ancient Sumerians differed racially from the pre-Dynastic inhabitants of Egypt and the Pelasgians and Iberians of Europe. Indeed, the statuettes from Tello, the site of the Sumerian city of Lagash, display distinctively Mediterranean skull forms and faces. Some of the plump figures of the later period suggest, however, "the particular alien strain" which in Egypt and elsewhere "is always associated with a tendency to the development of fat", in contrast to "the lean and sinewy appearance of most representatives of the Brown race". This change may be accounted for by the presence of the Semites in northern Babylonia.
Whence, then, came these invading Semitic Akkadians of Jewish type? It is generally agreed that they were closely associated with one of the early outpourings of nomadic peoples from Arabia, a country which is favourable for the production of a larger population than it is able to maintain permanently, especially when its natural resources are restricted by a succession of abnormally dry years. In tracing the Akkadians from Arabia, however, we are confronted at the outset with the difficulty that its prehistoric, and many of its present-day, inhabitants are not of the characteristic Semitic type. On the Ancient Egyptian pottery and monuments the Arabs are depicted as men who closely resembled the representatives of the Mediterranean race in the Nile valley and elsewhere. They shaved neither scalps nor faces as did the historic Sumerians and Egyptians, but grew the slight moustache and chin-tuft beard like the Libyans on the north and the majority of the men whose bodies have been preserved in pre-Dynastic graves in the Nile valley. "If", writes Professor Elliot Smith, "the generally accepted view is true, that Arabia was the original home of the Semites, the Arab must have undergone a profound change in his physical characters after he left his homeland and before he reached Babylonia." This authority is of opinion that the Arabians first migrated into Palestine and northern Syria, where they mingled with the southward-migrating Armenoid peoples from Asia Minor. "This blend of Arabs, kinsmen of the proto-Egyptians and Armenoids, would then form the big-nosed, long-bearded Semites, so familiar not only on the ancient Babylonian and Egyptian monuments, but also in the modern Jews." Such a view is in accord with Dr. Hugo Winckler's contention that the flow of Arabian migrations was northwards towards Syria ere it swept through Mesopotamia. It can scarcely be supposed that these invasions of settled districts did not result in the fusion and crossment of racial types and the production of a sub-variety with medium skull form and marked facial characteristics.
Of special interest in this connection is the evidence afforded by Palestine and Egypt. The former country has ever been subject to periodic ethnic disturbances and changes. Its racial history has a remote beginning in the Pleistocene Age. Palaeolithic flints of Chellean and other primitive types have been found in large numbers, and a valuable collection of these is being preserved in a French museum at Jerusalem. In a northern cave fragments of rude pottery, belonging to an early period in the Late Stone Age, have been discovered in association with the bones of the woolly rhinoceros. To a later period belong the series of Gezer cave dwellings, which, according to Professor Macalister, the well-known Palestinian authority, "were occupied by a non-Semitic people of low stature, with thick skulls and showing evidence of the great muscular strength that is essential to savage life". These people are generally supposed to be representatives of the Mediterranean race, which Sergi has found to have been widely distributed throughout Syria and a part of Asia Minor. An interesting problem, however, is raised by the fact that, in one of the caves, there are evidences that the dead were cremated. This was not a Mediterranean custom, nor does it appear to have prevailed outside the Gezer area. If, however, it does not indicate that the kinsmen of the Ancient Egyptians came into contact with the remnants of an earlier people, it may be that the dead of a later people were burned there. The possibility that unidentified types may have contributed to the Semitic blend, however, remains. The Mediterraneans mingled in Northern Syria and Asia Minor with the broad-headed Armenoid peoples who are represented in Europe by the Alpine race. With them they ultimately formed the great Hittite confederacy. These Armenoids were moving southwards at the very dawn of Egyptian history, and nothing is known of their conquests and settlements. Their pioneers, who were probably traders, appear to have begun to enter the Delta region before the close of the Late Stone Age. The earliest outpourings of migrating Arabians may have been in progress about the same time. This early southward drift of Armenoids might account for the presence in southern Palestine, early in the Copper Age, of the tall race referred to in the Bible as the Rephaim or Anakim, "whose power was broken only by the Hebrew invaders". Joshua drove them out of Hebron, in the neighbourhood of which Abraham had purchased a burial cave from Ephron, the Hittite. Apparently a system of land laws prevailed in Palestine at this early period. It is of special interest for us to note that in Abraham's day and afterwards, the landed proprietors in the country of the Rephaim were identified with the aliens from Asia Minor—the tall variety in the Hittite confederacy.
Little doubt need remain that the Arabians during their sojourn in Palestine and Syria met with distinctive types, and if not with pure Armenoids, at any rate with peoples having Armenoid traits. The consequent multiplication of tribes, and the gradual pressure exercised by the constant stream of immigrants from Arabia and Asia Minor, must have kept this part of Western Asia in a constant state of unrest. Fresh migrations of the surplus stock were evidently propelled towards Egypt in one direction, and the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates in another. The Semites of Akkad were probably the conquerors of the more highly civilized Sumerians, who must have previously occupied that area. It is possible that they owed their success to the possession of superior weapons. Professor Elliot Smith suggests in this connection that the Arabians had become familiar with the use of copper as a result of contact with the Egyptians in Sinai. There is no evidence, however, that the Sumerians were attacked before they had begun to make metal weapons. It is more probable that the invading nomads had superior military organization and considerable experience in waging war against detached tribal units. They may have also found some of the northern Sumerian city states at war with one another and taken advantage of their unpreparedness to resist a common enemy. The rough Dorians who overran Greece and the fierce Goths who shattered the power of Rome were similarly in a lower state of civilization than the peoples whom they subdued.
The Sumerians, however, ultimately achieved an intellectual conquest of their conquerors. Although the leaders of invasion may have formed military aristocracies in the cities which they occupied, it was necessary for the great majority of the nomads to engage their activities in new directions after settlement. The Semitic Akkadians, therefore, adopted Sumerian habits of life which were best suited for the needs of the country, and they consequently came under the spell of Sumerian modes of thought. This is shown by the fact that the native speech of ancient Sumer continued long after the dawn of history to be the language of Babylonian religion and culture, like Latin in Europe during the Middle Ages. For centuries the mingling peoples must have been bilingual, as are many of the inhabitants of Ireland, Wales, and the Scottish Highlands in the present age, but ultimately the language of the Semites became the prevailing speech in Sumer and Akkad. This change was the direct result of the conquests and the political supremacy achieved by the northern people. A considerable period elapsed, however, ere this consummation was reached and Ancient Babylonia became completely Semitized. No doubt its brilliant historical civilization owed much of its vigour and stability to the organizing genius of the Semites, but the basis on which it was established had been laid by the ingenious and imaginative Sumerians who first made the desert to blossom like the rose.
The culture of Sumer was a product of the Late Stone Age, which should not be regarded as necessarily an age of barbarism. During its vast periods there were great discoveries and great inventions in various parts of Asia, Africa, and Europe. The Neoliths made pottery and bricks; we know that they invented the art of spinning, for spindle-whorls are found even in the Gezer caves to which we have referred, while in Egypt the pre-Dynastic dead were sometimes wrapped in finely woven linen: their deftly chipped flint implements are eloquent of artistic and mechanical skill, and undoubted mathematical ability must be credited to the makers of smoothly polished stone hammers which are so perfectly balanced that they revolve on a centre of gravity. In Egypt and Babylonia the soil was tilled and its fertility increased by irrigation. Wherever man waged a struggle with Nature he made rapid progress, and consequently we find that the earliest great civilizations were rooted in the little fields of the Neolithic farmers. Their mode of life necessitated a knowledge of Nature's laws; they had to take note of the seasons and measure time. So Egypt gave us the Calendar, and Babylonia the system of dividing the week into seven days, and the day into twelve double hours.
The agricultural life permitted large communities to live in river valleys, and these had to be governed by codes of laws; settled communities required peace and order for their progress and prosperity. All great civilizations have evolved from the habits and experiences of settled communities. Law and religion were closely associated, and the evidence afforded by the remains of stone circles and temples suggests that in the organization and division of labour the influence of religious teachers was pre-eminent. Early rulers, indeed, were priest-kings—incarnations of the deity who owned the land and measured out the span of human life.
We need not assume that Neolithic man led an idyllic existence; his triumphs were achieved by slow and gradual steps; his legal codes were, no doubt, written in blood and his institutions welded in the fires of adversity. But, disciplined by laws, which fostered humanitarian ideals, Neolithic man, especially of the Mediterranean race, had reached a comparatively high state of civilization long ages before the earliest traces of his activities can be obtained. When this type of mankind is portrayed in Ancient Sumeria, Ancient Egypt, and Ancient Crete we find that the faces are refined and intellectual and often quite modern in aspect. The skulls show that in the Late Stone Age the human brain was fully developed and that the racial types were fixed. In every country in Europe we still find the direct descendants of the ancient Mediterranean race, as well as the descendants of the less highly cultured conquerors who swept westward out of Asia at the dawn of the Bronze Age; and everywhere there are evidences of crossment of types in varying degrees. Even the influence of Neolithic intellectual life still remains. The comparative study of mythology and folk beliefs reveals that we have inherited certain modes of thought from our remote ancestors, who were the congeners of the Ancient Sumerians and the Ancient Egyptians. In this connection it is of interest, therefore, to refer to the social ideals of the early peoples who met and mingled on the southern plains of the Tigris and Euphrates, and especially the position occupied by women, which is engaging so much attention at the present day.
It would appear that among the Semites and other nomadic peoples woman was regarded as the helpmate rather than the companion and equal of man. The birth of a son was hailed with joy; it was "miserable to have a daughter", as a Hindu sage reflected; in various countries it was the custom to expose female children after birth and leave them to die. A wife had no rights other than those accorded to her by her husband, who exercised over her the power of life and death. Sons inherited family possessions; the daughters had no share allotted to them, and could be sold by fathers and brothers. Among the peoples who observed "male right", social life was reflected in the conception of controlling male deities, accompanied by shadowy goddesses who were often little else than figures of speech.
The Ancient Sumerians, on the other hand, like the Mediterranean peoples of Egypt and Crete, reverenced and exalted motherhood in social and religious life. Women were accorded a legal status and marriage laws were promulgated by the State. Wives could possess private property in their own right, as did the Babylonian Sarah, wife of Abraham, who owned the Egyptian slave Hagar. A woman received from her parents a marriage dowry, and in the event of separation from her husband she could claim its full value. Some spinsters, or wives, were accustomed to enter into business partnerships with men or members of their own sex, and could sue and be sued in courts of law. Brothers and sisters were joint heirs of the family estate. Daughters might possess property over which their fathers exercised no control: they could also enter into legal agreements with their parents in business matters, when they had attained to years of discretion. Young women who took vows of celibacy and lived in religious institutions could yet make business investments, as surviving records show. There is only one instance of a Sumerian woman ascending the throne, like Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt. Women, therefore, were not rigidly excluded from official life. Dungi II, an early Sumerian king, appointed two of his daughters as rulers of conquered cities in Syria and Elam. Similarly Shishak, the Egyptian Pharaoh, handed over the city of Gezer, which he had subdued, to his daughter, Solomon's wife. In the religious life of ancient Sumeria the female population exercised an undoubted influence, and in certain temples there were priestesses. The oldest hymns give indication of the respect shown to women by making reference to mixed assemblies as "females and males", just as present-day orators address themselves to "ladies and gentlemen". In the later Semitic adaptations of these productions, it is significant to note, this conventional reference was altered to "male and female". If influences, however, were at work to restrict the position of women they did not meet with much success, because when Hammurabi codified existing laws, the ancient rights of women received marked recognition.
There were two dialects in ancient Sumeria, and the invocatory hymns were composed in what was known as "the women's language". It must not be inferred, however, that the ladies of Sumeria had established a speech which differed from that used by men. The reference would appear to be to a softer and homelier dialect, perhaps the oldest of the two, in which poetic emotion found fullest and most beautiful expression. In these ancient days, as in our own, the ideal of womanhood was the poet's chief source of inspiration, and among the hymns the highest reach of poetic art was attained in the invocation of Ishtar, the Babylonian Venus. The following hymn is addressed to that deity in her Valkyrie-like character as a goddess of war, but her more feminine traits are not obscured:—
HYMN TO ISHTAR
To thee I cry, O lady of the gods, Lady of ladies, goddess without peer, Ishtar who shapes the lives of all mankind, Thou stately world queen, sovran of the sky, And lady ruler of the host of heaven— Illustrious is thy name... O light divine, Gleaming in lofty splendour o'er the earth— Heroic daughter of the moon, oh! hear; Thou dost control our weapons and award In battles fierce the victory at will— crown'd majestic Fate. Ishtar most high, Who art exalted over all the gods, Thou bringest lamentation; thou dost urge With hostile hearts our brethren to the fray; The gift of strength is thine for thou art strong; Thy will is urgent, brooking no delay; Thy hand is violent, thou queen of war Girded with battle and enrobed with fear... Thou sovran wielder of the wand of Doom, The heavens and earth are under thy control.
Adored art thou in every sacred place, In temples, holy dwellings, and in shrines, Where is thy name not lauded? where thy will Unheeded, and thine images not made? Where are thy temples not upreared? O, where Art thou not mighty, peerless, and supreme?
Anu and Bel and Ea have thee raised To rank supreme, in majesty and pow'r, They have established thee above the gods And all the host of heaven... O stately queen, At thought of thee the world is filled with fear, The gods in heaven quake, and on the earth All spirits pause, and all mankind bow down With reverence for thy name... O Lady Judge,
Thy ways are just and holy; thou dost gaze On sinners with compassion, and each morn Leadest the wayward to the rightful path.
Now linger not, but come! O goddess fair, O shepherdess of all, thou drawest nigh With feet unwearied... Thou dost break the bonds Of these thy handmaids... When thou stoopest o'er The dying with compassion, lo! they live; And when the sick behold thee they are healed.
Hear me, thy servant! hearken to my pray'r, For I am full of sorrow and I sigh In sore distress; weeping, on thee I wait. Be merciful, my lady, pity take And answer, "'Tis enough and be appeased".
How long must my heart sorrow and make moan And restless be? How long must my dark home Be filled with mourning and my soul with grief? O lioness of heaven, bring me peace And rest and comfort. Hearken to my pray'r! Is anger pity? May thine eyes look down With tenderness and blessings, and behold Thy servant. Oh! have mercy; hear my cry And unbewitch me from the evil spells, That I may see thy glory... Oh! how long Shall these my foes pursue me, working ill, And robbing me of joy?... Oh! how long Shall demons compass me about and cause Affliction without end?... I thee adore— The gift of strength is thine and thou art strong— The weakly are made strong, yet I am weak... O hear me! I am glutted with my grief— This flood of grief by evil winds distressed; My heart hath fled me like a bird on wings, And like the dove I moan. Tears from mine eyes Are falling as the rain from heaven falls, And I am destitute and full of woe.
* * * * *
What have I done that thou hast turned from me? Have I neglected homage to my god And thee my goddess? O deliver me And all my sins forgive, that I may share Thy love and be watched over in thy fold; And may thy fold be wide, thy pen secure.
* * * * *
How long wilt thou be angry? Hear my cry, And turn again to prosper all my ways— O may thy wrath be crumbled and withdrawn As by a crumbling stream. Then smite my foes, And take away their power to work me ill, That I may crush them. Hearken to my pray'r! And bless me so that all who me behold May laud thee and may magnify thy name, While I exalt thy power over all— Ishtar is highest! Ishtar is the queen! Ishtar the peerless daughter of the moon!
THE LAND OF RIVERS AND THE GOD OF THE DEEP
Fertility of Ancient Babylonia—Rivers, Canals, Seasons, and Climate—Early Trade and Foreign Influences—Local Religious Cults—Ea, God of the Deep, identical with Oannes of Berosus—Origin as a Sacred Fish—Compared with Brahma and Vishnu—Flood Legends in Babylonia and India—Fish Deities in Babylonia and Egypt—Fish God as a Corn God—The River as Creator—Ea an Artisan God, and links with Egypt and India—Ea as the Hebrew Jah—Ea and Varuna are Water and Sky Gods—The Babylonian Dagan and Dagon of the Philistines—Deities of Water and Harvest in Phoenicia, Greece, Rome, Scotland, Scandinavia, Ireland, and Egypt—Ea's Spouse Damkina—Demons of Ocean in Babylonia and India—Anu, God of the Sky—Enlil, Storm and War God of Nippur, like Adad, Odin, &c.—Early Gods of Babylonia and Egypt of common origin—Ea's City as Cradle of Sumerian Civilization.
Ancient Babylonia was for over four thousand years the garden of Western Asia. In the days of Hezekiah and Isaiah, when it had come under the sway of the younger civilization of Assyria on the north, it was "a land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of oil olive and of honey". Herodotus found it still flourishing and extremely fertile. "This territory", he wrote, "is of all that we know the best by far for producing grain; it is so good that it returns as much as two hundredfold for the average, and, when it bears at its best, it produces three hundredfold. The blades of the wheat and barley there grow to be full four fingers broad; and from millet and sesame seed, how large a tree grows, I know myself, but shall not record, being well aware that even what has already been said relating to the crops produced has been enough to cause disbelief in those who have not visited Babylonia." To-day great tracts of undulating moorland, which aforetime yielded two and three crops a year, are in summer partly barren wastes and partly jungle and reedy swamp. Bedouins camp beside sandy heaps which were once populous and thriving cities, and here and there the shrunken remnants of a people once great and influential eke out precarious livings under the oppression of Turkish tax-gatherers who are scarcely less considerate than the plundering nomads of the desert.
This historic country is bounded on the east by Persia and on the west by the Arabian desert. In shape somewhat resembling a fish, it lies between the two great rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, 100 miles wide at its broadest part, and narrowing to 35 miles towards the "tail" in the latitude of Baghdad; the "head" converges to a point above Basra, where the rivers meet and form the Shatt-el-Arab, which pours into the Persian Gulf after meeting the Karun and drawing away the main volume of that double-mouthed river. The distance from Baghdad to Basra is about 300 miles, and the area traversed by the Shatt-el-Arab is slowly extending at the rate of a mile every thirty years or so, as a result of the steady accumulation of silt and mud carried down by the Tigris and Euphrates. When Sumeria was beginning to flourish, these two rivers had separate outlets, and Eridu, the seat of the cult of the sea god Ea, which now lies 125 miles inland, was a seaport at the head of the Persian Gulf. A day's journey separated the river mouths when Alexander the Great broke the power of the Persian Empire.
In the days of Babylonia's prosperity the Euphrates was hailed as "the soul of the land" and the Tigris as "the bestower of blessings". Skilful engineers had solved the problem of water distribution by irrigating sun-parched areas and preventing the excessive flooding of those districts which are now rendered impassable swamps when the rivers overflow. A network of canals was constructed throughout the country, which restricted the destructive tendencies of the Tigris and Euphrates and developed to a high degree their potentialities as fertilizing agencies. The greatest of these canals appear to have been anciently river beds. One, which is called Shatt en Nil to the north, and Shatt el Kar to the south, curved eastward from Babylon, and sweeping past Nippur, flowed like the letter S towards Larsa and then rejoined the river. It is believed to mark the course followed in the early Sumerian period by the Euphrates river, which has moved steadily westward many miles beyond the sites of ancient cities that were erected on its banks. Another important canal, the Shatt el Hai, crossed the plain from the Tigris to its sister river, which lies lower at this point, and does not run so fast. Where the artificial canals were constructed on higher levels than the streams which fed them, the water was raised by contrivances known as "shaddufs"; the buckets or skin bags were roped to a weighted beam, with the aid of which they were swung up by workmen and emptied into the canals. It is possible that this toilsome mode of irrigation was substituted in favourable parts by the primitive water wheels which are used in our own day by the inhabitants of the country who cultivate strips of land along the river banks.
In Babylonia there are two seasons—the rainy and the dry. Rain falls from November till March, and the plain is carpeted in spring by patches of vivid green verdure and brilliant wild flowers. Then the period of drought ensues; the sun rapidly burns up all vegetation, and everywhere the eye is wearied by long stretches of brown and yellow desert. Occasional sandstorms darken the heavens, sweeping over sterile wastes and piling up the shapeless mounds which mark the sites of ancient cities. Meanwhile the rivers are increasing in volume, being fed by the melting snows at their mountain sources far to the north. The swift Tigris, which is 1146 miles long, begins to rise early in March and reaches its highest level in May; before the end of June it again subsides. More sluggish in movement, the Euphrates, which is 1780 miles long, shows signs of rising a fortnight later than the Tigris, and is in flood for a more extended period; it does not shrink to its lowest level until early in September. By controlling the flow of these mighty rivers, preventing disastrous floods, and storing and distributing surplus water, the ancient Babylonians developed to the full the natural resources of their country, and made it—what it may once again become—one of the fairest and most habitable areas in the world. Nature conferred upon them bountiful rewards for their labour; trade and industries flourished, and the cities increased in splendour and strength. Then as now the heat was great during the long summer, but remarkably dry and unvarying, while the air was ever wonderfully transparent under cloudless skies of vivid blue. The nights were cool and of great beauty, whether in brilliant moonlight or when ponds and canals were jewelled by the lustrous displays of clear and numerous stars which glorified that homeland of the earliest astronomers.
Babylonia is a treeless country, and timber had to be imported from the earliest times. The date palm was probably introduced by man, as were certainly the vine and the fig tree, which were widely cultivated, especially in the north. Stone, suitable for building, was very scarce, and limestone, alabaster, marble, and basalt had to be taken from northern Mesopotamia, where the mountains also yield copper and lead and iron. Except Eridu, where ancient workers quarried sandstone from its sea-shaped ridge, all the cities were built of brick, an excellent clay being found in abundance. When brick walls were cemented with bitumen they were given great stability. This resinous substance is found in the north and south. It bubbles up through crevices of rocks on river banks and forms small ponds. Two famous springs at modern Hit, on the Euphrates, have been drawn upon from time immemorial. "From one", writes a traveller, "flows hot water black with bitumen, while the other discharges intermittently bitumen, or, after a rainstorm, bitumen and cold water.... Where rocks crop out in the plain above Hit, they are full of seams of bitumen." Present-day Arabs call it "kiyara", and export it for coating boats and roofs; they also use it as an antiseptic, and apply it to cure the skin diseases from which camels suffer.
Sumeria had many surplus products, including corn and figs, pottery, fine wool and woven garments, to offer in exchange for what it most required from other countries. It must, therefore, have had a brisk and flourishing foreign trade at an exceedingly remote period. No doubt numerous alien merchants were attracted to its cities, and it may be that they induced or encouraged Semitic and other raiders to overthrow governments and form military aristocracies, so that they themselves might obtain necessary concessions and achieve a degree of political ascendancy. It does not follow, however, that the peasant class was greatly affected by periodic revolutions of this kind, which brought little more to them than a change of rulers. The needs of the country necessitated the continuance of agricultural methods and the rigid observance of existing land laws; indeed, these constituted the basis of Sumerian prosperity. Conquerors have ever sought reward not merely in spoil, but also the services of the conquered. In northern Babylonia the invaders apparently found it necessary to conciliate and secure the continued allegiance of the tillers of the soil. Law and religion being closely associated, they had to adapt their gods to suit the requirements of existing social and political organizations. A deity of pastoral nomads had to receive attributes which would give him an agricultural significance; one of rural character had to be changed to respond to the various calls of city life. Besides, local gods could not be ignored on account of their popularity. As a result, imported beliefs and religious customs must have been fused and absorbed according to their bearing on modes of life in various localities. It is probable that the complex character of certain deities was due to the process of adjustment to which they were subjected in new environments.
The petty kingdoms of Sumeria appear to have been tribal in origin. Each city was presided over by a deity who was the nominal owner of the surrounding arable land, farms were rented or purchased from the priesthood, and pasture was held in common. As in Egypt, where we find, for instance, the artisan god Ptah supreme at Memphis, the sun god Ra at Heliopolis, and the cat goddess Bast at Bubastis, the various local Sumerian and Akkadian deities had distinctive characteristics, and similarly showed a tendency to absorb the attributes of their rivals. The chief deity of a state was the central figure in a pantheon, which had its political aspect and influenced the growth of local theology. Cities, however, did not, as a rule, bear the names of deities, which suggests that several were founded when Sumerian religion was in its early animistic stages, and gods and goddesses were not sharply defined from the various spirit groups.
A distinctive and characteristic Sumerian god was Ea, who was supreme at the ancient sea-deserted port of Eridu. He is identified with the Oannes of Berosus, who referred to the deity as "a creature endowed with reason, with a body like that of a fish, with feet below like those of a man, with a fish's tail". This description recalls the familiar figures of Egyptian gods and priests attired in the skins of the sacred animals from whom their powers were derived, and the fairy lore about swan maids and men, and the seals and other animals who could divest themselves of their "skin coverings" and appear in human shape. Originally Ea may have been a sacred fish. The Indian creative gods Brahma and Vishnu had fish forms. In Sanskrit literature Manu, the eponymous "first man", is instructed by the fish to build a ship in which to save himself when the world would be purged by the rising waters. Ea befriended in similar manner the Babylonian Noah, called Pir-napishtim, advising him to build a vessel so as to be prepared for the approaching Deluge. Indeed the Indian legend appears to throw light on the original Sumerian conception of Ea. It relates that when the fish was small and in danger of being swallowed by other fish in a stream it appealed to Manu for protection. The sage at once lifted up the fish and placed it in a jar of water. It gradually increased in bulk, and he transferred it next to a tank and then to the river Ganges. In time the fish complained to Manu that the river was too small for it, so he carried it to the sea. For these services the god in fish form instructed Manu regarding the approaching flood, and afterwards piloted his ship through the weltering waters until it rested on a mountain top.
If this Indian myth is of Babylonian origin, as appears probable, it may be that the spirit of the river Euphrates, "the soul of the land", was identified with a migrating fish. The growth of the fish suggests the growth of the river rising in flood. In Celtic folk tales high tides and valley floods are accounted for by the presence of a "great beast" in sea, loch, or river. In a class of legends, "specially connected with the worship of Atargatis", wrote Professor Robertson Smith, "the divine life of the waters resides in the sacred fish that inhabit them. Atargatis and her son, according to a legend common to Hierapolis and Ascalon, plunged into the waters—in the first case the Euphrates, in the second the sacred pool at the temple near the town—and were changed into fishes". The idea is that "where a god dies, that is, ceases to exist in human form, his life passes into the waters where he is buried; and this again is merely a theory to bring the divine water or the divine fish into harmony with anthropomorphic ideas. The same thing was sometimes effected in another way by saying that the anthropomorphic deity was born from the water, as Aphrodite sprang from sea foam, or as Atargatis, in another form of the Euphrates legend, ... was born of an egg which the sacred fishes found in the Euphrates and pushed ashore."
As "Shar Apsi", Ea was the "King of the Watery Deep". The reference, however, according to Jastrow, "is not to the salt ocean, but the sweet waters flowing under the earth which feed the streams, and through streams and canals irrigate the fields". As Babylonia was fertilized by its rivers, Ea, the fish god, was a fertilizing deity. In Egypt the "Mother of Mendes" is depicted carrying a fish upon her head; she links with Isis and Hathor; her husband is Ba-neb-Tettu, a form of Ptah, Osiris, and Ra, and as a god of fertility he is symbolized by the ram. Another Egyptian fish deity was the god Rem, whose name signifies "to weep"; he wept fertilizing tears, and corn was sown and reaped amidst lamentations. He may be identical with Remi, who was a phase of Sebek, the crocodile god, a developed attribute of Nu, the vague primitive Egyptian deity who symbolized the primordial deep. The connection between a fish god and a corn god is not necessarily remote when we consider that in Babylonia and Egypt the harvest was the gift of the rivers.
The Euphrates, indeed, was hailed as a creator of all that grew on its banks.
O thou River who didst create all things, When the great gods dug thee out, They set prosperity upon thy banks, Within thee Ea, the King of the Deep, created his dwelling... Thou judgest the cause of mankind! O River, thou art mighty! O River, thou art supreme! O River, thou art righteous!
In serving Ea, the embodiment or the water spirit, by leading him, as the Indian Manu led the Creator and "Preserver" in fish form, from river to water pot, water pot to pond or canal, and then again to river and ocean, the Babylonians became expert engineers and experienced agriculturists, the makers of bricks, the builders of cities, the framers of laws. Indeed, their civilization was a growth of Ea worship. Ea was their instructor. Berosus states that, as Oannes, he lived in the Persian Gulf, and every day came ashore to instruct the inhabitants of Eridu how to make canals, to grow crops, to work metals, to make pottery and bricks, and to build temples; he was the artisan god—Nun-ura, "god of the potter"; Kuski-banda, "god of goldsmiths", &c.—the divine patron of the arts and crafts. "Ea knoweth everything", chanted the hymn maker. He taught the people how to form and use alphabetic signs and instructed them in mathematics: he gave them their code of laws. Like the Egyptian artisan god Ptah, and the linking deity Khnumu, Ea was the "potter or moulder of gods and man". Ptah moulded the first man on his potter's wheel: he also moulded the sun and moon; he shaped the universe and hammered out the copper sky. Ea built the world "as an architect builds a house". Similarly the Vedic Indra, who wielded a hammer like Ptah, fashioned the universe after the simple manner in which the Aryans made their wooden dwellings.
Like Ptah, Ea also developed from an artisan god into a sublime Creator in the highest sense, not merely as a producer of crops. His word became the creative force; he named those things he desired to be, and they came into existence. "Who but Ea creates things", exclaimed a priestly poet. This change from artisan god to creator (Nudimmud) may have been due to the tendency of early religious cults to attach to their chief god the attributes of rivals exalted at other centres.
Ea, whose name is also rendered Aa, was identified with Ya, Ya'u, or Au, the Jah of the Hebrews. "In Ya-Daganu, 'Jah is Dagon'", writes Professor Pinches, "we have the elements reversed, showing a wish to identify Jah with Dagon, rather than Dagon with Jah; whilst another interesting name, Au-Aa, shows an identification of Jah with Aa, two names which have every appearance of being etymologically connected." Jah's name "is one of the words for 'god' in the Assyro-Babylonian language".
Ea was "Enki", "lord of the world", or "lord of what is beneath"; Amma-ana-ki, "lord of heaven and earth"; Sa-kalama, "ruler of the land", as well as Engur, "god of the abyss", Naqbu, "the deep", and Lugal-ida, "king of the river". As rain fell from "the waters above the firmament", the god of waters was also a sky and earth god.
The Indian Varuna was similarly a sky as well as an ocean god before the theorizing and systematizing Brahmanic teachers relegated him to a permanent abode at the bottom of the sea. It may be that Ea-Oannes and Varuna were of common origin.
Another Babylonian deity, named Dagan, is believed to be identical with Ea. His worship was certainly of great antiquity. "Hammurabi", writes Professor Pinches, "seems to speak of the Euphrates as being 'the boundary of Dagan', whom he calls his creator. In later inscriptions the form Daguna, which approaches nearer to the West Semitic form (Dagon of the Philistines), is found in a few personal names.
It is possible that the Philistine deity Dagon was a specialized form of ancient Ea, who was either imported from Babylonia or was a sea god of more than one branch of the Mediterranean race. The authorities are at variance regarding the form and attributes of Dagan. Our knowledge regarding him is derived mainly from the Bible. He was a national rather than a city god. There are references to a Beth-dagon, "house or city of Dagon"; he had also a temple at Gaza, and Samson destroyed it by pulling down the two middle pillars which were its main support. A third temple was situated in Ashdod. When the captured ark of the Israelites was placed in it the image of Dagon "fell on his face", with the result that "the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off upon the threshold; only the stump of Dagon was left". A further reference to "the threshold of Dagon" suggests that the god had feet like Ea-Oannes. Those who hold that Dagon had a fish form derive his name from the Semitic "dag = a fish", and suggest that after the idol fell only the fishy part (dago) was left. On the other hand, it was argued that Dagon was a corn god, and that the resemblance between the words Dagan and Dagon are accidental. Professor Sayce makes reference in this connection to a crystal seal from Phoenicia in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, bearing an inscription which he reads as Baal-dagon. Near the name is an ear of corn, and other symbols, such as the winged solar disc, a gazelle, and several stars, but there is no fish. It may be, of course, that Baal-dagon represents a fusion of deities. As we have seen in the case of Ea-Oannes and the deities of Mendes, a fish god may also be a corn god, a land animal god and a god of ocean and the sky. The offering of golden mice representing "your mice that mar the land", made by the Philistines, suggests that Dagon was the fertilizing harvest god, among other things, whose usefulness had been impaired, as they believed, by the mistake committed of placing the ark of Israel in the temple at Ashdod. The Philistines came from Crete, and if their Dagon was imported from that island, he may have had some connection with Poseidon, whose worship extended throughout Greece. This god of the sea, who is somewhat like the Roman Neptune, carried a lightning trident and caused earthquakes. He was a brother of Zeus, the sky and atmosphere deity, and had bull and horse forms. As a horse he pursued Demeter, the earth and corn goddess, and, like Ea, he instructed mankind, but especially in the art of training horses. In his train were the Tritons, half men, half fishes, and the water fairies, the Nereids. Bulls, boars, and rams were offered to this sea god of fertility. Amphitrite was his spouse.