Mesopotamian mythology


Mesopotamians believed that gods, goddesses, monsters and demons ran their world.

They had hundreds of gods, responsible for everything in their world. Each city was looked over by it's own god or goddess and their family. A large temple, called a Ziggurat stood in the middle of the city. It was where the god or goddess lived with his or her family and where priests made offerings and performed rituals to honor them. There were also smaller temples scattered around the city and that was where the other people made their offerings.

A Ziggurat
A Ziggurat




Demons were created by the gods- they were good or bad spirits with human bodies and animal or bird heads. Monsters were a mix of animals and birds. Click here to know about some important ones.


The god Enki
The god Enki

Pazuzu, king of the demons of the wind
Pazuzu, king of the demons of the wind




Humbaba, the monster from 'The Epic of Gilgamesh'
Humbaba, the monster from 'The Epic of Gilgamesh'



In Mesopotamia, the lives of the people revolved around their gods. Their belief was that humans were created to help the gods ,and that if anything bad happened, it was the gods being unhappy, so they worshiped their gods faithfully, wether it was to thank or to request. Their relegions influenced today's relgions. Mesopotamia at first wasn't a single civilization. So when they did become one united nation, their religions influenced each other. When the civilization of Mesopotamia eventually died out, and got replaced by other civilizations, the religions they practiced were slightly altered and became a part of many others.So maybe, this ancient civilization isn't completely gone yet.

Here is a little info on some of the religions that were practiced in Mesopotamia.

Sumerian

Sumerian religions, surviving amidst other cultural groups, influenced Mesopotamian mythology in general. Mesopotamian religion technically began with the Sumerians, before it was altered by other groups.
The Sumerians (and really, Mesopotamians in general) believed in more than one diety. their myths were passed down through the generations orraly, until they discovered writing. Cuneiform was, at first, used to record their mythological beliefs, before it became used for incantations and other needs of the temple. Their temples were originally small structures, eventually building up and obtaining multiple rooms until at the end of the civilization, Ziggurats were the preffered structure. For a certain period of time, Sumer had a government led by their high priests, who lived in the temple.

Babylonian

Babylonian mythology served many purposes (social, ceremonial, etc.) and sometimes tried to explain natural occurances. It was largely influenced by its Sumerian counterparts. Even still, they have their own unique parts that seperate their mythology from the previous ones. For example, the Babylonian god Marduk replaced Enlil as hte head god, and the Enûma Eliš is a true Babylonian myth.
Akkadian (northern Babylon)
Akkadian religion is very similar to Sumerian. Most of their gods are the same, except with a few small changes (eg. Enki becoming Ea). That is why when a scribe makes lists of their gods, the names could change depending on wether he is Sumerian or Akkadian. Like the Sumerians, their gods were created as human versions of nature (water, sky, storm, etc.). They were responsible for everything in the world and ruled from their representatives on earth (ie. the king). So when Sargon of Akkad brought all of Mesopotamia under one ruler, he became their 'representative' and disobeying him meant disobeying the gods.




Monologue

My name is Aya- after the Akkadian goddess. Once, I asked my parents why they named me after Aya. After all, both of them were priests. Surely they had a reason for naming me so. They told me that they thought her name was an appropriate one as they believed I would be inspired by her story and become a great person one day. At first I thought they were referring to the fact that I would be a priestess when I grew up, but they shook their heads and smiled, saying that this was something deeper. Something that I would have to find out myself. I didn’t really understand what they were talking about, so I decided to do a bit of research on Aya. Here is what I found.

Aya is the wife of the sun god Shamash. She was developed from the goddess Šherida, the wife of Utu (Sumerian sun god). Šherida is one of the oldest gods. When the Sumerians made their pantheon, they made Utu the primary sun god and she was grouped up with other lower solar deities. She became Utu’s wife. So when us Akkadians settled in Mesopotamia, we made our own counterparts of the Sumerian gods. One of them was Aya- the counterpart of Šherida. Aya means ‘dawn’ in Akkadian and she is associated with the rising sun, love and youth. She was later absorbed by Ishtar, who is the most important goddess of Mesopotamia.

I think I now understand what my parents meant that day. They believed that I would become a great person, starting small. I won’t let them down. I will overcome anything that gets in my way to become what they want me to be. What I want to be. I am proud to be named after Aya and will be inspired by her story. Just like her, through many changes, I will become someone great. And I will start now.