THE CONSTRUCTION AND REVENUES OF THE TEMPLES -- THE POPULAR GODS AND THE THEOLOGICAL TRIADS -- -- THE DEAD AND HADES
Chaldaean cities: the resemblance of their ruins to natural mounds caused by their exclusive use of brick as a building material -- Their city walls: the temples and local gods; reconstruction of their history by means of the stamped bricks of which they were built -- The two types of ziggurat: the arrangement of the temple of Nannar at Uru.
The tribes of the Chaldaean gods -- Genii hostile to men, their monstrous shapes; the south-west wind; friendly genii -- The Seven, and their attacks on the moon-god; Gibil, the fire-god, overcomes them and their snares -- The Sumerian gods; Ningirsu: the difficulty of defining them and of understanding the nature of them; they become merged in the Semitic deities.
Characteristics and dispositions of the Chaldaean gods -- the goddesses, like women of the harem, are practically nonentities; Mylitta and her meretricious rites -- The divine aristocracy and its principal representatives: their relations to the earth, oracles, speaking statues, household gods -- The gods of each city do not exclude those of neighbouring cities: their alliances and their borrowings from one another -- The sky-gods and the earth-gods, the sidereal gods: the moon and the sun.
The feudal gods: several among them unite to govern the world; the two triads of Eridu -- The supreme triad: Anu the heaven; Bel the earth and his fusion with the Babylonian Merodach; Ea, the god of the waters -- The second triad: Sin the moon and Shamash the sun; substitution of Bamman for Ishtar in this triad; the winds and the legend of Adapa, the attributes of Ramman -- The addition of goddesses to these two triads; the insignificant position which they occupy.
The assembly of the gods governs the world: the bird Zu steals the tablets of destiny -- Destinies are written in the heavens and determined by the movements of the stars; comets and their presiding deities, Nebo and Ishtai -- The numerical value of the gods -- The arrangement of the temples, the local priesthood, festivals, revenues of the gods and gifts made to them -- Sacrifices, the expiation of crimes -- Death and the future of the soul -- Tombs and the cremation of the dead; the royal sepulchres and funerary rites -- Hades and its sovereigns: Nergal, Allat, the descent of Ishtar into the infernal regions, and the possibility of a resurrection The invocation of the dead -- The ascension of Etana.
[Illustration: 124.jpg Chapter II]
The construction and revenues of the temples -- Popular gods and theological triads -- The dead and Hades.
The cities of the Euphrates attract no attention, like those of the Nile, by the magnificence of their ruins, which are witnesses, even after centuries of neglect, to the activity of a powerful and industrious people: on the contrary, they are merely heaps of rubbish in which no architectural outline can be distinguished -- mounds of stiff and greyish clay, cracked by the sun, washed into deep crevasses by the rain, and bearing no apparent traces of the handiwork of man.
[Illustration: 126.jpg PLAN OF THE RUINS OF WAKKA]
In the estimation of the Chaldaean architects, stone was a material of secondary consideration: as it was necessary to bring it from a great distance and at considerable expense, they used it very sparingly, and then merely for lintels, uprights, thresholds, for hinges on which to hang their doors, for dressings in some of their state apartments, in cornices or sculptured friezes on the external walls of their buildings; and even then its employment suggested rather that of a band of embroidery carefully disposed on some garment to relieve the plainness of the material. Crude brick, burnt brick, enamelled brick, but always and everywhere brick was the principal element in their construction. The soil of the marshes or of the plains, separated from the pebbles and foreign substances which it contained, mixed with grass or chopped straw, moistened with water, and assiduously trodden underfoot, furnished the ancient builders with materials of incredible tenacity. This was moulded into thin square bricks, eight inches to a foot across, and three to four inches thick, but rarely larger: they were stamped on the flat side, by means of an incised wooden block, with the name of the reigning sovereign, and were then dried in the sun.* A layer of fine mortar or of bitumen was sometimes spread between the courses, or handfuls of reeds would be strewn at intervals between the brickwork to increase the cohesion: more frequently the crude bricks were piled one upon another, and their natural softness and moisture brought about their rapid agglutination.** As the building proceeded, the weight of the courses served to increase still further the adherence of the layers: the walls soon became consolidated into a compact mass, in which the horizontal strata were distinguishable only by the varied tints of the clay used to make the different relays of bricks.
* The making of bricks for the Assyrian monuments of the time of the Sargonids has been minutely described by Place, Ninive et l'Assyrie, vol. i. pp.211-214. The methods of procedure were exactly the same as those used under the earliest king known, as has been proved by the examination of the bricks taken from the monuments of Uru and Lagash.
** This method of building was noticed by classical writers. The word |Bowarieh,| borne by several ancient mounds in Chaldoa, signifies, properly speaking, a mat of reeds; it is applied only to such buildings as are apparently constructed with alternate layers of brick and dried reeds. The proportion of these layers differs in certain localities: in the ruins of the ancient temple of Belos at Babylon, now called the |Mujelibeh,| the lines of straw and reeds run uninterruptedly between each course of bricks; in the ruins of Akkerkuf, they only occur at wider intervals -- according to Niebuhr and Ives, every seventh or eighth course; according to Raymond, every seventh course, or sometimes every fifth or sixth course, but in these cases the layer of reeds becomes 3 1/2 to 3 3/4 inches wide. H. Rawlin-son thinks, on the other hand, that all the monuments in which we find layers of straw and reeds between the brick courses belong to the Parthian period.
[Illustration: 128.jpg A CHALDAEAN STAMPED BRICK.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a brick preserved in the Louvre. The bricks bearing historical inscriptions, which are sometimes met with, appear to have been mostly ex-voto offerings placed somewhere prominently, and not building materials hidden in the masonry.
Monuments constructed of such a plastic material required constant attention and frequent repairs, to keep them in good condition: after a few years of neglect they became quite disfigured, the houses suffered a partial dissolution in every storm, the streets were covered with a coating of fine mud, and the general outline of the buildings and habitations grew blurred and defaced. Whilst in Egypt the main features of the towns are still traceable above ground, and are so well preserved in places that, while excavating them, we are carried away from the present into the world of the past, the Chaldaean cities, on the contrary, are so overthrown and seem to have returned so thoroughly to the dust from which their founders raised them, that the most patient research and the most enlightened imagination can only imperfectly reconstitute their arrangement.
The towns were not enclosed within those square or rectangular enclosures with which the engineers of the Pharaohs fortified their strongholds. The ground-plan of Uru was an oval, that of Larsam formed almost a circle upon the soil, while Uruk and Eridu resembled in shape a sort of irregular trapezium. The curtain of the citadel looked down on the plain from a great height, so that the defenders were almost out of reach of the arrows or slings of the besiegers: the remains of the ramparts at Uruk at the present day are still forty to fifty feet high, and twenty or more feet in thickness at the top. Narrow turrets projected at intervals of every fifty feet along the face of the wall: the excavations have not been sufficiently pursued to permit of our seeing what system of defence was applied to the entrances. The area described by these cities was often very large, but the population in them was distributed very unequally; the temples in the different quarters formed centres around which were clustered the dwellings of the inhabitants, sometimes densely packed, and elsewhere thinly scattered. The largest and richest of these temples was usually reserved for the principal deity, whose edifices were being continually decorated by the ruling princes, and the extent of whose ruins still attracts the traveller. The walls, constructed and repaired with bricks stamped with the names of lords of the locality, contain in themselves alone an almost complete history. Did Urbau, we may ask, found the ziggurat of Nannar in Uru? We meet with his bricks at the base of the most ancient portions of the building, and we moreover learn, from cylinders unearthed not far from it, that |for Nannar, the powerful bull of Anu, the son of Bel, his King, Urbau, the brave hero, King of Uru, had built E-Timila, his favourite temple.| The bricks of his son Dungi are found mixed with his own, while here and there other bricks belonging to subsequent kings, with cylinders, cones, and minor objects, strewn between the courses, mark restorations at various later periods. What is true of one Chaldaean city is equally true of all of them, and the dynasties of Uruk and of Lagash, like those of Uru, can be reconstructed from the revelations of their brickwork. The lords of heaven promised to the lords of the earth, as a reward of their piety, both glory and wealth in this life, and an eternal fame after death: they have, indeed, kept their word. The majority of the earliest Chaldaean heroes would be unknown to us, were it not for the witness of the ruined sanctuaries which they built, and that which they did in the service of their heavenly patrons has alone preserved their names from oblivion. Their most extravagant devotion, however, cost them less money and effort than that of the Pharaohs their contemporaries. While the latter had to bring from a distance, even from the remotest parts of the desert, the different kinds of stone which they considered worthy to form part of the decoration of the houses of their gods, the Chaldaean kings gathered up outside their very doors the principal material for their buildings: should they require any other accessories, they could obtain, at the worst, hard stone for their statues and thresholds in Magan and Milukhkha, and beams of cedar and cypress in the forests of the Amanus and the Upper Tigris. Under these conditions a temple was soon erected, and its construction did not demand centuries of continuous labour, like the great limestone and granite sanctuaries of Egypt: the same ruler who laid the first brick, almost always placed the final one, and succeeding generations had only to keep the building in ordinary repair, without altering its original plan. The work of construction was in almost every case carried out all at one time, designed and finished from the drawings of one architect, and bears traces but rarely of those deviations from the earlier plans which sometimes make the comprehension of the Theban temples so difficult a matter: if the state of decay of certain parts, or more often inadequate excavation, frequently prevent us from appreciating their details, we can at least reinstate their general outline with tolerable accuracy.
While the Egyptian temple was spread superficially over a large area, the Chalaean temple strove to attain as high an elevation as possible. The |ziggurats,| whose angular profile is a special characteristic of the landscapes of the Euphrates, were composed of several immense cubes, piled up on one another, and diminishing in size up to the small shrine by which they were crowned and wherein the god himself was supposed to dwell. There are two principal types of these ziggurats. In the first, for which the builders of Lower Chaldaea showed a marked preference, the vertical axis, common to all the superimposed stories, did not pass through the centre of the rectangle which served as the base of the whole building; it was carried back and placed near to one of the narrow ends of the base, so that the back elevation of the temple rose abruptly in steep narrow ledges above the plain, while the terraces of the front broadened out into wide platforms. The stories are composed of solid blocks of crude brick; up to the present, at least, no traces of internal chambers have been found.* The chapel on the summit could not contain more than one apartment: an altar stood before the door, and access to it was obtained by a straight external staircase, interrupted at each terrace by a more or less spacious landing.** The second type of temple frequently found in Northern Chaldaea was represented by a building on a square base with seven stories, all of equal height, connected by one or two lateral staircases, having on the summit, the pavilion of the god; this is the |terraced tower| which excited the admiration of the Greeks at Babylon, and of which the temple of Bel was the most remarkable example. The ruins of it still exist, but it has been so frequently and so completely restored in the course of ages, that it is impossible to say how much now remains of the original construction. We know of several examples, however, of the other type of ziggurat -- one at Uru, another at Bridu, a third at Uruk, without mentioning those which have not as yet been methodically explored. None of them rises directly from the surface of the ground, but they are all built on a raised platform, which consequently places the foundations of the temple nearly on a level with the roofs of the surrounding houses. The raised platform of the temple of Nannar at Uru still measures 20 feet in height, and its four angles are orientated exactly to the four cardinal points. Its facade was approached by an inclined plane, or by a flight of low steps, and the summit, which was surrounded by a low balustrade, was paved with enormous burnt bricks. On this terrace, processions at solemn festivals would have ample space to perform their evolutions. The lower story of the temple occupies a parallelogram of 198 feet in length by 173 feet in width, and rises about 27 feet in height.
* Perrot-Ohipiez admit that between the first and second story there was a sort of plinth seven feet in height which corresponded to the foundation platform below the first story. It appears to me, as it did to Loftus, that the slope which now separates the two vertical masses of brickwork |is accidental, and owes its existence to the destruction of the upper portion of the second story.| Taylor mentions only two stories, and evidently considers the slope in question to be a bank of rubbish.
** Perrot-Chipiez place the staircase leading from the ground-level to the terrace inside the building -- |an arrangement which would have the advantage of not
interfering with the outline of this immense platform, and would not detract from the strength and solidity of its appearance;| Reber proposes a different combination. At Uru, the whole staircase projects in front of the platform and |loads up to the edge of the basement of the second story,| then continues as an inclined plane from the edge of the first story to the terrace of the second, forming one single staircase, perhaps of the same width as this second story, leading from the base to the summit of the building.
[Illustration: 134.jpg THE TEMPLE OF NANNAR AT URU, APPROXIMATELY RESTORED.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin. The restoration differs from that proposed by Perrot-Chipiez. I have made it by working out the description taken down on the spot by Taylor.
The central mass of crude brick has preserved its casing of red tiles, cemented with bitumen, almost intact up to the top; it is strengthened by buttresses -- nine on the longer and six on the shorter sides -- projecting about a foot, which relieve its rather bare surface. The second story rises to the height of only 20 feet above, the first, and when intact could not have been more than 26 to 30 feet high.* Many bricks bearing the stamp of Dungi are found among the materials used in the latest restoration, which took place about the VIth century before our era; they have a smooth surface, are broken here and there by air-holes, and their very simplicity seems to bear witness to the fact that Nabonidos confined himself to the task of merely restoring things to the state in which the earlier kings of Uru had left them.**
[Illustration: 135.jpg THE TEMPLE OF URU IN ITS PRESENT STATE, ACCORDING TO TAYLOR]
Facsimile, by Faucher-Gudin, of the drawing published by Taylor.
* At the present time 14 feet high, plus 5 feet of rubbish, 119 feet long, 75 feet wide (Loftus, Travels and Researches in Olialdsea and Susiana, p.129).
** The cylinders of Nabonidos describing the restoration of the temple were found at the four angles of the second story by Taylor.
Till within the last century, traces of a third story to this temple might have been distinguished; unlike the lower ones, it was not of solid brickwork, but contained at least one chamber: this was the Holy of Holies, the sanctuary of Nannar. The external walls were covered with pale blue enamelled tiles, having a polished surface. The interior was panelled with cedar or cypress -- rare woods procured as articles of commerce from the peoples of the North and West; this woodwork was inlaid in parts with thin leaves of gold, alternating with panels of mosaics composed of small pieces of white marble, alabaster, onyx, and agate, cut and polished.
[Illustration: 136.jpg FURTHER VIEW OF THE TEMPLE OF URU]
In Its Present State, According To Loftus. Drawn by Bouchier, from Loftus.
Here stood the statue of Nannar, one of those stiff and conventionalized figures in the traditional pose handed down from generation to generation, and which lingered even in the Chaldaean statues of Greek times. The spirit of the god dwelt within it in the same way as the double resided in the Egyptian idols, and from thence he watched over the restless movements of the people below, the noise of whose turmoil scarcely reached him at that elevation. The gods of the Euphrates, like those of the Nile, constituted a countless multitude of visible and invisible beings, distributed into tribes and empires throughout all the regions of the universe. A particular function or occupation formed, so to speak, the principality of each one, in which he worked with an indefatigable zeal, under the orders of his respective prince or king; but, whereas in Egypt they were on the whole friendly to man, or at the best indifferent in regard to him, in Chaldaea they for the most part pursued him with an implacable hatred, and only seemed to exist in order to destroy him. These monsters of alarming aspect, armed with knives and lances, whom the theologians of Heliopolis and Thebes confined within the caverns of Hades in the depths of eternal darkness, were believed by the Chaldaeans to be let loose in broad daylight over the earth, -- such were the |gallu| and the |mas-kim,| the |alu| and the |utukku,| besides a score of other demoniacal tribes bearing curious and mysterious names.
[Illustration: 137.jpg Lion-headed genius.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a small terra-cotta figure of the Assyrian period, and now in the Louvre. It was one of the figures buried under the threshold of one of the gates of the town at Khorsabad, to keep off baleful influences.
Some floated in the air and presided over the unhealthy winds. The South-West Wind, the most cruel of them all, stalked over the solitudes of Arabia, whence he suddenly issued during the most oppressive months of the year: he collected round him as he passed the malarial vapours given off by the marshes under the heat of the sun, and he spread them over the country, striking down in his violence not only man and beast, but destroying harvests, pasturage, and even trees.
[Illustration: 138.jpg THE SOUTH-WEST WIND]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from the bronze original now in the Louvre. The latter museum and the British Museum possess several other figures of the same demon.
The genii of fevers and madness crept in silently everywhere, insidious and traitorous as they were. The plague alternately slumbered or made furious onslaughts among crowded populations. Imps haunted the houses, goblins wandered about the water's edge, ghouls lay in wait for travellers in unfrequented places, and the dead quitting their tombs in the night stole stealthily among the living to satiate themselves with their blood. The material shapes attributed to these murderous beings were supposed to convey to the eye their perverse and ferocious characters. They were represented as composite creatures in whom the body of a man would be joined grotesquely to the limbs of animals in the most unexpected combinations. They worked in as best they could, birds' claws, fishes' scales, a bull's tail, several pairs of wings, the head of a lion, vulture, hyaena, or wolf; when they left the creature a human head, they made it as hideous and distorted as possible. The South-West Wind was distinguished from all the rest by the multiplicity of the incongruous elements of which his person was composed. His dog-like body was supported upon two legs terminating in eagle's claws; in addition to his arms, which were furnished with sharp talons, he had four outspread wings, two of which fell behind him, while the other two rose up and surrounded his head; he had a scorpion's tail, a human face with large goggle-eyes, bushy eyebrows, fleshless cheeks, and retreating lips, showing a formidable row of threatening teeth, while from his flattened skull protruded the horns of a goat: the entire combination was so hideous, that it even alarmed the god and put him to flight, when he was unexpectedly confronted with his own portrait. There was no lack of good genii to combat this deformed and vicious band. They too were represented as monsters, but monsters of a fine and noble bearing, -- griffins, winged lions, lion-headed men, and more especially those splendid human-headed bulls, those |lamassi| crowned with mitres, whose gigantic statues kept watch before the palace and temple gates. Between these two races hostility was constantly displayed: restrained at one point, it broke out afresh at another, and the evil genii, invariably beaten, as invariably refused to accept their defeat. Man, less securely armed against them than were the gods, was ever meeting with them. |Up there, they are howling, here they lie in wait, -- they are great worms let loose by heaven -- powerful ones whose clamour rises above the city -- who pour water in torrents from heaven, sons who have come out of the bosom of the earth. -- They twine around the high rafters, the great rafters, like a crown; -- they take their way from house to house, -- for the door cannot stop them, nor bar the way, nor repulse them, -- for they creep like a serpent under the door -- they insinuate themselves like the air between the folding doors, -- they separate the bride from the embraces of the bridegroom, -- they snatch the child from between the knees of the man, -- they entice the unwary from out of his fruitful house, -- they are the threatening voice which pursues him from behind.| Their malice extended even to animals: |They force the raven to fly away on the wing, -- and they make the swallow to escape from its nest; -- they cause the bull to flee, they cause the lamb to flee -- they, the bad demons who lay snares.|
The most audacious among them did not fear at times to attack the gods of light; on one occasion, in the infancy of the world, they had sought to dispossess them and reign in their stead. Without any warning they had climbed the heavens, and fallen upon Sin, the moon-god; they had repulsed Shamash, the Sun, and Eamman, both of whom had come to the rescue; they had driven Ishtar and Anu from their thrones: the whole firmament would have become a prey to them, had not Bel and Nusku, Ea and Merodach, intervened at the eleventh hour, and succeeded in hurling them down to the earth, after a terrible battle. They never completely recovered from this reverse, and the gods raised up as rivals to them a class of friendly genii -- the |Igigi,| who were governed by five heavenly Anunnas.
[Illustration: 141.jpg SIN DELIVERED BY MERODACH FROM THE ASSAULT OF THE SEVEN EVIL SPIRITS.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from an Assyrian intaglio published by Layard.
The earthly Anunnas, the Anunnaki, had as their chiefs seven sons of Bel, with bodies of lions, tigers, and serpents: |the sixth was a tempestuous wind which obeyed neither god nor king, -- the seventh, a whirlwind, a desolating storm which destroys everything,| -- |Seven, seven, -- in the depth of the abyss of waters they are seven, -- and destroyers of heaven they are seven. -- They have grown up in the depths of the abyss, in the palace; -- males they are not, females they are not, -- they are storms which pass quickly. -- They take no wife, they give birth to no child, -- they know neither compassion nor kindness, -- they listen to no prayer nor supplication. -- As wild horses they are born in the mountains, -- they are the enemies of Ba, -- they are the agents of the gods; -- they are evil, they are evil -- and they are seven, they are seven, they are twice seven.| Man, if reduced to his own resources, could have no chance of success in struggling against beings who had almost reduced the gods to submission. He invoked in his defence the help of the whole universe, the spirits of heaven and earth, the spirit of Bel and of Belit, that of Ninib and of Nebo, those of Sin, of Ishtar, and of Bamman; but Gibir or Gibil, the Lord of Fire, was the most powerful auxiliary in this incessant warfare. The offspring of night and of dark waters, the Anunnaki had no greater enemy than fire; whether kindled on the household hearth or upon the altars, its appearance put them to flight and dispelled their power.
[Illustration: 142.jpg STRUGGLE BETWEEN A GOOD AND AN EVIL GENIUS.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from Layard.
|Gibil, renowned hero in the land, -- valiant, son of the Abyss, exalted in the land, -- Gibil, thy clear flame, breaking forth, -- when it lightens up the darkness, -- assigns to all that bears a name its own destiny. -- The copper and tin, it is thou who dost mix them, -- gold and silver, it is thou who meltest them, -- thou art the companion of the goddess Ninkasi -- thou art he who exposes his breast to the nightly enemy! -- Cause then the limbs of man, son of his god, to shine, -- make him to be bright like the sky, -- may he shine like the earth, -- may he be bright like the interior of the heavens, -- may the evil word be kept far from him,| and with it the malignant spirits. The very insistence with which help is claimed against the Anunnaki shows how much their power was dreaded. The Chaldean felt them everywhere about him, and could not move without incurring the danger of coming into contact with them. He did not fear them so much during the day, as the presence of the luminary deities in the heavens reassured him; but the night belonged to them, and he was open to their attacks. If he lingered in the country at dusk, they were there, under the hedges, behind walls and trunks of trees, ready to rush out upon him at every turn. If he ventured after sundown into the streets of his village or town, he again met with them quarrelling with dogs over the offal on a rubbish heap, crouched in the shelter of a doorway, lying hidden in corners where the shadows were darkest. Even when barricaded within his house, under the immediate protection of his domestic idols, these genii still threatened him and left him not a moment's repose.* The number of them was so great that he was unable to protect himself adequately from all of them: when he had disarmed the greater portion of them, there were always several remaining against whom he had forgotten to take necessary precautions. What must have been the total of the subordinate genii, when, towards the IXth century before our era, the official census of the invisible beings stated the number of the great gods in heaven and earth to be sixty-five thousand!**
* The presence of the evil spirits everywhere is shown, among other magical formulas, by the incantation in Rawlinson, Cun, Ins. W. As., vol. ii. pi.18, where we find enumerated at length the places from which they are to be kept out. The magician closes the house to them, the hedge which surrounds the house, the yoke laid upon the oxen, the tomb, the prison, the well, the furnace, the shade, the vase for libation, the ravines, the valleys, the mountains, the door.
** Assurnazirpal, King of Assyria, speaks in one of his inscriptions of these sixty-five thousand great gods of heaven and earth.
We are often much puzzled to say what these various divinities, whose names we decipher on the monuments, could possibly have represented. The sovereigns of Lagash addressed their prayers to Ningirsu, the valiant champion of Inlil; to Ninursag, the lady of the terrestrial mountain: to Ninsia, the lord of fate; to the King Ninagal; to Inzu, of whose real name no one has an idea; to Inanna, the queen of battles; to Pasag, to Galalim, to Dunshagana, to Ninmar, to Ningishzida. Gudea raised temples to them in all the cities over which his authority extended, and he devoted to these pious foundations a yearly income out of his domain land or from the spoils of his wars. |Gudea, the 'vicegerent' of Lagash, after having built the temple Ininnu for Ningirsu, constructed a treasury; a house decorated with sculptures, such as no 'vicegerent' had ever before constructed for Ningirsu; he constructed it for him, he wrote his name in it, he made in it all that was needful, and he executed faithfully all the words from the mouth of Ningirsu.| The dedication of these edifices was accompanied with solemn festivals, in which the whole population took an active part. |During seven years no grain was ground, and the maidservant was the equal of her mistress, the slave walked beside his master, and in my town the weak rested by the side of the strong.| Henceforward Gudea watched scrupulously lest anything impure should enter and mar the sanctity of the place.
[Illustration: 145.jpg THE GOD NINGIBSU, PATRON OF LAGASH.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from Heuzey-Sarzec. The attribution of this figure to Ningirsu is very probable, but not wholly certain.
Those we have enumerated were the ancient Sumerian divinities, but the characteristics of most of them would have been lost to us, had we not learned, by means of other documents, to what gods the Semites assimilated them, gods who are better known and who are represented under a less barbarous aspect. Ningirsu, the lord of the division of Lagash which was called Girsu, was identified with Ninib; Inlil is Bel, Ninursag is Beltis, Inzu is Sin, Inanna is Ishtar, and so on with the rest. The cultus of each, too, was not a local cultus, confined to some obscure corner of the country; they all were rulers over the whole of Chaldaea, in the north as in the south, at Uruk, at Urn, at Larsam, at Nipur, even in Babylon itself. Inlil was the ruler of the earth and of Hades, Babbar was the sun, Inzu the moon, Inanna-Antmit the morning and evening star and the goddess or love, at a time when two distinct religious and two rival groups of gods existed side by side on the banks of the Euphrates. The Sumerian language is for us, at the present day, but a collection of strange names, of whose meaning and pronunciation we are often ignorant. We may well ask what beings and beliefs were originally hidden under these barbaric combinations of syllables which are constantly recurring in the inscriptions of the oldest dynasties, such as Pasag, Dunshagana, Dumuzi-. Zuaba, and a score of others. The priests of subsequent times claimed to define exactly the attributes of each of them, and probably their statements are, in the main, correct. But it is impossible for us to gauge the motives which determined the assimilation of some of these divinities, the fashion in which it was carried out, the mutual concessions which Semite and Sumerian must have made before they could arrive at an understanding, and before the primitive characteristics of each deity were softened down or entirely effaced in the process. Many of these divine personages, such as Ea, Merodach, Ishtar, are so completely transformed, that we may well ask to which of the two peoples they owed their origin. The Semites finally gained the ascendency over their rivals, and the Sumerian gods from thenceforward preserved an independent existence only in connection with magic, divination, and the science of foretelling events, and also in the formulas of exorcists and physicians, to which the harshness of their names lent a greater weight. Elsewhere it was Bel and Sin, Shamash and Eamman, who were universally worshipped, but a Bel, a Sin, a Shamash, who still betrayed traces of their former connection with the Sumerian Inlil and Inzu, with Babbar and Mermer. In whatever language, however, they were addressed, by whatever name they were called upon, they did not fail to hear and grant a favourable reply to the appeals of the faithful.
Whether Sumerian or Semitic, the gods, like those of Egypt, were not abstract personages, guiding in a metaphysical fashion the forces of nature. Each of them contained in himself one of the principal elements of which our universe is composed, -- earth, water, sky, sun, moon, and the stars which moved around the terrestrial mountain. The succession of natural phenomena with them was not the result of unalterable laws; it was due entirely to a series of voluntary acts, accomplished by beings of different grades of intelligence and power. Every part of the great whole is represented by a god, a god who is a man, a Chaldaean, who, although of a finer and more lasting nature than other Chaldaeans, possesses nevertheless the same instincts and is swayed by the same passions. He is, as a rule, wanting in that somewhat lithe grace of form, and in that rather easy-going good-nature, which were the primary characteristics of the Egyptian gods: the Chaldaean divinity has the broad shoulders, the thick-set figure and projecting muscles of the people over whom he rules; he has their hasty and violent temperament, their coarse sensuality, their cruel and warlike propensities, their boldness in conceiving undertakings, and their obstinate tenacity in carrying them out. Their goddesses are modelled on the tyra of the Chaldaen women, or, more properly speaking, on that of their queens. The majority of them do not quit the harem, and have no other ambition than to become speedily the mother of a numerous offspring. Those who openly reject the rigid constraints of such a life, and who seek to share the rank of the gods, seem to lose all self-restraint when they put off the veil: like Ishtar, they exchange a life of severe chastity for the lowest debauchery, and they subject their followers to the same irregular life which they themselves have led. |Every woman born in the country must enter once during her lifetime the enclosure of the temple of Aphrodite, must there sit down and unite herself to a stranger. Many who are wealthy are too proud to mix with the rest, and repair thither in closed chariots, followed by a considerable train of slaves. The greater number seat themselves on the sacred pavement, with a cord twisted about their heads, -- and there is always a great crowd there, coming and going; the women being divided by ropes into long lanes, down which strangers pass to make their choice. A woman who has once taken her place here cannot return home until a stranger has thrown into her lap a silver coin, and has led her away with him beyond the limits of the sacred enclosure. As he throws the money he pronounces these words: 'May the goddess Mylitta make thee happy! ' -- Now, among the Assyrians, Aphrodite is called Mylitta. The silver coin may be of any value, but none may refuse it, that is forbidden by the law, for, once thrown, it is sacred. The woman follows the first man who throws her the money, and repels no one. When once she has accompanied him, and has thus satisfied the goddess, she returns to her home, and from thenceforth, however large the sum offered to her, she will yield to no one. The women who are tall or beautiful soon return to their homes, but those who are ugly remain a long time before they are able to comply with the law; some of them are obliged to wait three or four years within the enclosure.|* This custom still existed in the Vth century before our era, and the Greeks who visited Babylon about that time found it still in full force.
* Herodotus, i.199: of. Stabo, xvi. p.1058, who probably has merely quoted this passage from Herodotus, or some writer who copied from Herodotus. We meet with a direct allusion to this same custom in the Bible, in the Book of Barueh; |The women also, with cords about them, sitting in the ways, burn bran for perfume; but if any of them, drawn by some that passeth by, lie with him, she reproacheth her fellow, that she was not thought as worthy as herself, nor her cord broken.|
The gods, who had begun by being the actual material of the element which was their attribute, became successively the spirit of it, then its ruler.* They continued at first to reside in it, but in the course of time they were separated from it, and each was allowed to enter the domain of another, dwell in it, and even command it, as they could have done in their own, till finally the greater number of them were identified with the firmament.
* Pk. Lbnoemant, La Magie chez les Chaldeens, p.144, et seq., where the author shows how Anu, after having at first been the Heaven itself, the starry vault stretched above the earth, became successively the Spirit of Heaven (Zi-ana), and finally the supreme ruler of the world: according to Lenormant, it was the Semites in particular who transformed the primitive spirit into an actual god-king.
Bel, the lord of the earth, and Ea, the ruler of the waters, passed info the heavens, which did not belong to them, and took their places beside Ami: the pathways were pointed out which they had made for themselves across the celestial vault, in order to inspect their kingdoms from the exalted heights to which they had been raised; that of Bel was in the Tropic of Cancer, that of Ea in the Tropic of Capricorn. They gathered around them all the divinities who could easily be abstracted from the function or object to which they were united, and they thus constituted a kind of divine aristocracy, comprising all the most powerful beings who guided the fortunes of the world. The number of them was considerable, for they reckoned seven supreme and magnificent gods, fifty great gods of heaven and earth, three hundred celestial spirits, and six hundred terrestrial spirits. Each of them deputed representatives here below, who received the homage of mankind for him, and signified to them his will. The god revealed himself in dreams to his seers and imparted to them the course of coming events,* or, in some cases, inspired them suddenly and spoke by their mouth: their utterances, taken down and commented on by their assistants, were regarded as infallible oracles. But the number of mortal men possessing adequate powers, and gifted with sufficiently acute senses to bear without danger the near presence of a god, was necessarily limited; communications were, therefore, more often established by means of various objects, whose grosser substance lessened for human intelligence and flesh and blood the dangers of direct contact with an immortal. The statues hidden in the recesses of the temples or erected on the summits of the |ziggurats| became imbued, by virtue of their consecration, with the actual body of the god whom they represented, and whose name was written either on the base or garment of the statue.** The sovereign who dedicated them, summoned them to speak in the days to come, and from thenceforth they spoke: when they were interrogated according to the rite instituted specially for each one, that part of the celestial soul, which by means of the prayers had been attracted to and held captive by the statue, could not refuse to reply.** Were there for this purpose special images, as in Egypt, which were cleverly contrived so as to emit sounds by the pulling of a string by the hidden prophet? Voices resounded at night in the darkness of the sanctuaries, and particularly when a king came there to prostrate himself for the purpose of learning the future: his rank alone, which raised him halfway to heaven, prepared him to receive the word from on high by the mouth of the image.
* A prophetic dream is mentioned upon, one of the statues of Telloh. In the records of Assurbanipal we find mention of several |seers| -- shabru -- one of whom predicts the general triumph of the king over his enemies, and of whom another announces in the name of Ishtar the victory over the Elamites and encourages the Assyrian army to cross a torrent swollen by rains, while a third sees in a dream the defeat and death of the King of Elam. These |seers| are mentioned in the texts of Gudea with the prophetesses |who tell the message| of the gods.
** In a formula drawn up against evil spirits, for the purpose of making talismanic figures for the protection of houses, it is said of Merodach that he |inhabits the image| -- ashibu salam -- which has been made of him by the magician.
** This is what Gudea says, when, describing his own statue which he had placed in the temple of Telloh, he adds that |he gave the order to the statue: 'To the statue of my king, speak!'| The statue of the king, inspired by that of the god, would thenceforth speak when interrogated according to the formularies. Cf. what is said of the divine or royal statues dedicated in the temples of Egypt, vol. i. pp.169, 170. A number of oracles regularly obtained in the time of Asarhaddon and Assurbanabal have been published by Knudtzon.
[Illustration: 152.jpg THE ADORATION OF THE MACE AND THE WHIP.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from the Chaldaean intaglio reproduced in Heuzey-Sarzec, Decouvertes en Chaldee, pl.30bis, No.13b.
More frequently a priest, accustomed from childhood to the office, possessed the privilege of asking the desired questions and of interpreting to the faithful the various signs by means of which the divine will was made known. The spirit of the god inspired, moreover, whatever seemed good to him, and frequently entered into objects where we should least have expected to find it. It animated stones, particularly such as fell from heaven; also trees, as, for example, the tree of Eridu which pronounced oracles; and, besides the battle-mace, with a granite head fixed on a wooden handle, the axe of Ramman, lances made on the model of Gilgames' fairy javelin, which came and went at its master's orders, without needing to be touched. Such objects, when it was once ascertained that they were imbued with the divine spirit, were placed upon the altar and worshipped with as much veneration as were the statues themselves.
[Illustration: 153.jpg A protecting amulet.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from the terra-cotta figurine of Assyrian date now in the Louvre.
Animals never became objects of habitual worship as in Egypt: some of them, however, such as the bull and lion, were closely allied to the gods, and birds unconsciously betrayed by their flight or cries the secrets of futurity.* In addition to all these, each family possessed its household gods, to whom its members recited prayers and poured libations night and morning, and whose statues set up over the domestic hearth defended it from the snares of the evil ones.** The State religion, which all the inhabitants of the same city, from the king down to the lowest slave, were solemnly bound to observe, really represented to the Chaldaeans but a tithe of their religious life: it included some dozen gods, no doubt the most important, but it more or less left out of account all the others, whose anger, if aroused by neglect, might become dangerous. The private devotion of individuals supplemented the State religion by furnishing worshippers for most of the neglected divinities, and thus compensated for what was lacking in the official public worship of the community.
* Animal forms are almost always restricted either to the genii, the constellations, or the secondary forms of the greater divinities: Ea, however, is represented by a man with a fish's tail, or as a man clothed with a fish-skin, which would appear to indicate that at the outset he was considered to be an actual fish.
** The images of these gods acted as amulets, and the fact of their presence alone repelled the evil spirits. At Khorsabad they were found buried under the threshold of the city gates. A bilingual tablet in the British Museum has preserved for us the formula of consecration which was supposed to invest these protecting statuettes with divine powers.
If the idea of uniting all these divine beings into a single supreme one, who would combine within himself all their elements and the whole of their powers, ever for a moment crossed the mind of some Chaldaean theologian, it never spread to the people as a whole. Among all the thousands of tablets or inscribed stones on which we find recorded prayers and magical formulas, we have as yet discovered no document treating of the existence of a supreme god, or even containing the faintest allusion to a divine unity. We meet indeed with many passages in which this or that divinity boasts of his power, eloquently depreciating that of his rivals, and ending his discourse with the injunction to worship him alone: |Man who shall come after, trust in Nebo, trust in no other god!| The very expressions which are used, commanding future races to abandon the rest of the immortals in favour of Nebo, prove that even those who prided themselves on being worshippers of one god realized how far they were from believing in the unity of God. They strenuously asserted that the idol of their choice was far superior to many others, but it never occurred to them to proclaim that he had absorbed them all into himself, and that he remained alone in his glory, contemplating the world, his creature. Side by side with those who expressed this belief in Nebo, an inhabitant of Babylon would say as much and more of Merodach, the patron of his birthplace, without, however, ceasing to believe in the actual independence and royalty of Nebo. |When thy power manifests itself, who can withdraw himself from it? -- Thy word is a powerful net which thou spreadest in heaven and over the earth: -- it falls upon the sea, and the sea retires, -- it falls upon the plain, and the fields make great mourning, -- it falls upon the upper waters of the Euphrates, and the word of Merodach stirs up the flood in them. -- O Lord, thou art sovereign, who can resist thee? -- Merodach, among the gods who bear a name, thou art sovereign.| Merodach is for his worshippers the king of the gods, he is not the sole god. Each of the chief divinities received in a similar manner the assurance of his omnipotence, but, for all that, his most zealous followers never regarded them as the only God, beside whom there was none other, and whose existence and rule precluded those of any other. The simultaneous elevation of certain divinities to the supreme rank had a reactionary influence on the ideas held with regard to the nature of each. Anu, Bel, and Ea, not to mention others, had enjoyed at the outset but a limited and incomplete personality, confined to a single concept, and were regarded as possessing only such attributes as were indispensable to the exercise of their power within a prescribed sphere, whether in heaven, or on the earth, or in the waters; as each in his turn gained the ascendency over his rivals, he became invested with the qualities which were exercised by the others in their own domain. His personality became enlarged, and instead of remaining merely a god of heaven or earth or of the waters, he became god of all three simultaneously. Anu reigned in the province of Bel or of Ea as he ruled in his own; Bel joined to his own authority that of Anu and Ea; Ea treated Anu and Bel with the same absence of ceremony which they had shown to him, and added their supremacy to his own. The personality of each god was thenceforward composed of many divers elements: each preserved a nucleus of his original being, but superadded to this were the peculiar characteristics of all the gods above whom he had been successively raised. Anu took to himself somewhat of the temperaments of Bel and of Ea, and the latter in exchange borrowed from him many personal traits. The same work of levelling which altered the characteristics of the Egyptian divinities, and transformed them little by little into local variants of Osiris and the Sun, went on as vigorously among the Chaldaean gods: those who were incarnations of the earth, the waters, the stars, or the heavens, became thenceforth so nearly allied to each other that we are tempted to consider them as being doubles of a single god, worshipped under different names in different localities. Their primitive forms can only be clearly distinguished when they are stripped of the uniform in which they are all clothed.
The sky-gods and the earth-gods had been more numerous at the outset than they were subsequently. We recognize as such Anu, the immovable firmament, and the ancient Bel, the lord of men and of the soil on which they live, and into whose bosom they return after, death; but there were others, who in historic times had partially or entirely lost their primitive character, -- such as Nergal, Ninib, Dumuzi; or, among the goddesses, Damkina, Esharra, and even Ishtar herself, who, at the beginning of their existence, had represented only the earth, or one of its most striking aspects. For instance, Nergal and Ninib were the patrons of agriculture and protectors of the soil, Dumuzi was the ground in spring whose garment withered at the first approach of summer, Damkina was the leafy mould in union with fertilizing moisture, Esharra was the field whence sprang the crops, Ishtar was the clod which again grew green after the heat of the dog days and the winter frosts. All these beings had been forced to submit in a greater or less degree to the fate which among most primitive races awaits those older earth-gods, whose manifestations are usually too vague and shadowy to admit of their being grasped or represented by any precise imagery without limiting and curtailing their spheres. New deities had arisen of a more definite and tangible kind, and hence more easily understood, and having a real or supposed province which could be more easily realized, such as the sun, the moon, and the fixed or wandering stars. The moon is the measure of time; it determines the months, leads the course of the years, and the entire life of mankind and of great cities depends upon the regularity of its movements: the Chaldaeans, therefore, made it, or rather the spirit which animated it, the father and king of the gods; but its suzerainty was everywhere a conventional rather than an actual superiority, and the sun, which in theory was its vassal, attracted more worshippers than the pale and frigid luminary. Some adored the sun under its ordinary title of Shamash, corresponding to the Egyptian Ra; others designated it as Merodach, Ninib, Nergal, Dumuzi, not to mention other less usual appellations. Nergal in the beginning had nothing in common with Ninib, and Merodach differed alike from Shamash, Ninib, Nergal, and Dumuzi; but the same movement which instigated the fusion of so many Egyptian divinities of diverse nature, led the gods of the Chaldaeans to divest themselves little by little of their individuality and to lose themselves in the sun. Each one at first became a complete sun, and united in himself all the innate virtues of the sun -- its brilliancy and its dominion over the world, its gentle and beneficent heat, its fertilizing warmth, its goodness and justice, its emblematic character of truth and peace; besides the incontestable vices which darken certain phases of its being -- the fierceness of its rays at midday and in summer, the inexorable strength of its will, its combative temperament, its irresistible harshness and cruelty. By degrees they lost this uniform character, and distributed the various attributes among themselves. If Shamash continued to be the sun in general, Ninib restricted himself, after the example of the Egyptian Harmakhis, to being merely the rising and setting sun, the sun on the two horizons. Nergal became the feverish and destructive summer sun.* Merodach was transformed into the youthful sun of spring and early morning;** Dumuzi, like Merodach, became the sun before the summer. Their moral qualities naturally were affected by the process of restriction which had been applied to their physical being, and the external aspect now assigned to each in accordance with their several functions differed considerably from that formerly attributed to the unique type from which they had sprung. Ninib was represented as valiant, bold, and combative; he was a soldier who dreamed but of battle and great feats of arms. Nergal united a crafty fierceness to his bravery: not content with being lord of battles, he became the pestilence which breaks out unexpectedly in a country, the death which comes like a thief, and carries off his prey before there is time to take up arms against him. Merodach united wisdom with courage and strength: he attacked the wicked, protected the good, and used his power in the cause of order and justice. A very ancient legend, which was subsequently fully developed among the Canaanites, related the story of the unhappy passion of Ishtar for Dumuzi. The goddess broke out yearly into a fresh frenzy, but the tragic death of the hero finally moderated the ardour of her devotion. She wept distractedly for him, went to beg the lords of the infernal regions for his return, and brought him back triumphantly to the earth: every year there was a repetition of the same passionate infatuation, suddenly interrupted by the same mourning. The earth was united to the young sun with every recurring spring, and under the influence of his caresses became covered with verdure; then followed autumn and winter, and the sun, grown old, sank into the tomb, from whence his mistress had to call him up, in order to plunge afresh with him by a common impulse into the joys and sorrows of another year.
* The solar character of Nergal, at least in later times, is admitted, but with restrictions, by all Assyriologists. The evident connection between him and Ninib, of which we have proofs, was the ground of Delitzsch's theory that he was likewise the burning and destructive sun, and also of Jensen's analogous concept of a midday and summer sun.
** Pr. Lenormant seems to have been the first to distinguish in Merodach, besides the god of the planet Jupiter, a solar personage. This notion, which has been generally admitted by most Assyriologists, has been defined with greater
exactitude by Jensen, who is inclined to see in Merodach both the morning sun and the spring sun; and this is the opinion held at present.
The differences between the gods were all the more accentuated, for the reason that many who had a common origin were often separated from one another by, relatively speaking, considerable distances. Having divided the earth's surface between them, they formed, as in Egypt, a complete feudal system, whose chiefs severally took up their residence in a particular city. Anu was worshipped in Uruk, Enlil-Bel reigned in Nipur, Eridu belonged to Ea, the lord of the waters. The moon-god, Sin, alone governed two large fiefs, Uru in the extreme south, and Harran towards the extreme north-west; Shamash had Larsam and one of the Sipparas for his dominion, and the other sun-gods were not less well provided for, Nergal possessing Kutha, Zamama having Kish, Ninib side by side with Bel reigning in Nipur, while Merodach ruled at Babylon. Each was absolute master in his own territory, and it is quite exceptional to find two of them co-regnant in one locality, as were Ninib and Bel at Nipur, or Ea and Ishtar in Uruk; not that they raised any opposition on principle to the presence of a stranger divinity in their dominions, but they welcomed them only under the titles of allies or subjects. Each, moreover, had fair play, and Nebo or Shamash, after having filled the role of sovereign at Borsippa or at Larsam, did not consider it derogatory to his dignity to accept a lower rank in Babylon or at Uru. Hence all the feudal gods played a double part, and had, as it were, a double civil portion -- that of suzerain in one or two localities, and that of vassals everywhere else -- and this dual condition was the surest guarantee not only of their prosperity, but of their existence. Sin would have run great risk of sinking into oblivion if his resources had been confined to the subventions from his domain temples of Harran and Uru. Their impoverishment would in such case have brought about his complete failure: after having enjoyed an existence amid riches and splendour in the beginning of history, he would have ended his life in a condition of misery and obscurity. But the sanctuaries erected to him in the majority of the other cities, the honours which these bestowed upon him, and the offerings which they made to him, compensated him for the poverty and neglect which he experienced in his own domains; and he was thus able to maintain his divine dignity on a suitable footing. All the gods were, therefore, worshipped by the Chaldeans, and the only difference among them in this respect arose from the fact that some exalted one special deity above the others. The gods of the richest and most ancient principalities naturally enjoyed the greatest popularity. The greatness of Uru had been the source of Sin's prestige, and Merodach owed his prosperity to the supremacy which Babylon had acquired over the districts of the north. Merodach was regarded as the son of Ba, as the star which had risen from the abyss to illuminate the world, and to confer upon mankind the decrees of eternal wisdom. He was proclaimed as lord -- |bilu| -- par excellence, in comparison with whom all other lords sank into insignificance, and this title soon procured for him a second, which was no less widely recognized than the first: he was spoken of everywhere as the Bel of Babylon, Bel-Merodach -- before whom Bel of Nipur was gradually thrown into the shade. The relations between these feudal deities were not always pacific: jealousies arose among them like those which disturbed the cities over which they ruled; they conspired against each other, and on occasions broke out into open warfare. Instead of forming a coalition against the evil genii who threatened their rule, and as a consequence tended to bring everything into jeopardy, they sometimes made alliances with these malign powers and mutually betrayed each other. Their history, if we could recover it in its entirety, would be marked by as violent deeds as those which distinguished the princes and kings who worshipped them. Attempts were made, however, and that too from an early date, to establish among them a hierarchy like that which existed among the great ones of the earth. The faithful, who, instead of praying to each one separately, preferred to address them all, invoked them always in the same order: they began with Anu, the heaven, and followed with Bel, Ea, Sin, Shamash, and Bamman. They divided these six into two groups of three, one trio consisting of Anu, Bel, and Ea, the other of Sin, Shamash, and Bamman. All these deities were associated with Southern Chaldoa, and the system which grouped them must have taken its rise in this region, probably at Uruk, whose patron Anu V occupied the first rank among them. The theologians who classified them in this manner seem never to have dreamt of explaining, like the authors of the Heliopolitan Ennead, the successive steps in their creation: these triads were not, moreover, copies of the human family, consisting of a father and mother whose marriage brings into the world a new being. Others had already given an account of the origin of things, and of Merodach's struggles with chaos; these theologians accepted the universe as it was, already made, and contented themselves with summing up its elements by enumerating the gods which actuated them.* They assigned the first place to those elements which make the most forcible impression upon man -- beginning with Anu, for the heaven was the god of their city; following with Bel of Nipur, the earth which from all antiquity has been associated with the heaven; and concluding with Ea of Eridu, the terrestrial waters and primordial Ocean whence Anu and Bel, together with all living creatures, had sprung -- Ea being a god whom, had they not been guided by local vanity, they would have made sovereign lord of all. Anu owed his supremacy to an historical accident rather than a religious conception: he held his high position, not by his own merits, but because the prevailing theology of an early period had been the work of his priesthood.
* I know of Sayce only who has endeavoured to explain the historical formation of the triads. They are considered by him as of Accadian origin, and probably began in an astronomical triad, composed of the moon-god, the sun-god, and the evening star, Sin, Shamash, and Ishtar; alongside this elementary trinity, |the only authentic one to be found in the religious faith of primitive Chaldaea,| the Semites may have placed the cosmogonical trinity of Anu, Bel, and Ea, formed by the reunion of the gods of Uruk, Nipur, and Eridu.
The characters of the three personages who formed the supreme triad can be readily deduced from the nature of the elements which they represent. Anu is the heaven itself -- |ana| -- the immense vault which spreads itself above our heads, clear during the day when glorified by the sun, obscure and strewn with innumerable star clusters during the night. Afterwards it becomes the spirit which animates the firmament, or the god which rules it: he resides in the north towards the pole, and the ordinary route chosen by him when inspecting his domain is that marked out by our ecliptic. He occupies the high regions of the universe, sheltered from winds and tempests, in an atmosphere always serene, and a light always brilliant. The terrestrial gods and those of middle-space take refuge in this |heaven of Anu,| when they are threatened by any great danger, but they dare not penetrate its depths, and stop, shortly after passing its boundary, on the ledge which supports the vault, where they loll and howl like dogs. It is but rarely that it may be entered, and then only by the highly privileged -- kings whose destiny marked them out for admittance, and heroes who have fallen valiantly on the field of battle. In his remote position on unapproachable summits Anu seems to participate in the calm and immobility of his dwelling. If he is quick in forming an opinion and coming to a conclusion, he himself never puts into execution the plans which he has matured or the judgments which he has pronounced: he relieves himself of the trouble of acting, by assigning the duty to Bel-Merodach, Ea, or Eamman, and he often employs inferior genii to execute his will. |They are seven, the messengers of Anu their king; it is they who from town to town raise the stormy wind; they are the south wind which drives mightily in the heavens; they are the destroying clouds which overturn the heavens; they are the rapid tempests which bring darkness in the midst of clear day, they roam here and there with the wicked wind and the ill-omened hurricane.| Anu sends forth all the gods as he pleases, recalls them again, and then, to make them his pliant instruments, enfeebles their personality, reducing it to nothing by absorbing it into his own. He blends himself with them, and their designations seem to be nothing more than doublets of his own: he is Anu the Lakhmu who appeared on the first days of creation; Ahu Urash or Ninib is the sun-warrior of Nipur; and Anu is also the eagle Alala whom Ishtar enfeebled by her caresses. Anu regarded in this light ceases to be the god par excellence: he becomes the only chief god, and the idea of authority is so closely attached to his name that the latter alone is sufficient in common speech to render the idea of God. Bel would have been entirely thrown into the shade by him, as the earth-gods generally are by the sky-gods, if it had not been that he was confounded with his namesake Bel-Merodach of Babylon: to this alliance he owed to the end the safety of his life, in presence of Anu. Ea was the most active and energetic member of the triad.* As he represented the bottomless abyss, the dark waters which had filled the universe until the day of the creation, there had been attributed to him a complete knowledge of the past, present, and future, whose germs had lain within him, as in a womb. The attribute of supreme wisdom was revered in Ea, the lord of spells and charms, to which gods and men were alike subject: no strength could prevail against his strength, no voice against his voice: when once he opened his mouth to give a decision, his will became law, and no one might gainsay it. If a peril should arise against which the other gods found themselves impotent, they resorted to him immediately for help, which was never refused. He had saved Shamashnapishtirn from the Deluge; every day he freed his votaries from sickness and the thousand demons which were the causes of it. He was a potter, and had modelled men out of the clay of the plains. From him smiths and workers in gold obtained the art of rendering malleable and of fashioning the metals. Weavers and stone-cutters, gardeners, husbandmen, and sailors hailed him as their teacher and patron. From his incomparable knowledge the scribes derived theirs, and physicians and wizards invoked spirits in his name alone by the virtue of prayers which he had condescended to teach them.
* The name of this god was read |Nisrok| by Oppert, |Nouah| by Hincks and Lenormant. The true reading is Ia, Ea, usually translated |house,| |water-house|; this is a popular interpretation which appears to have occurred to the Chaldaeans from the values of the signs entering into the name of the god. From the outset H. Rawlinson recognized in Ea, which he read Hea, Hoa, the divinity presiding over the abyss of waters; he compared him with the serpent of Holy Scripture, in its relation to the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life, and deduced therefrom his character of lord of wisdom. His position as lord of the primordial waters, from which all things proceeded, clearly denned by Lenormant, is now fully recognized. His name was transcribed Aos by Damascius, a form which is not easily explained; the most probable hypothesis is that of Hommel who considers Aos as a shortened form of Iaos = Ia, Ea.
Subordinate to these limitless and vague beings, the theologians placed their second triad, made up of gods of restricted power and invariable form. They recognized in the unswerving regularity with which the moon waxed and waned, or with which the sun rose and set every day, a proof of their subjection to the control of a superior will, and they signalized this dependence by making them sons of one or other of the three great gods. Sin was the offspring of Bel, Shamash of Sin, Kamman of Anu. Sin was indebted for this primacy among the subordinate divinities to the preponderating influence which Uru exercised over Southern Chaldaea. Mar, where Ramman was the chief deity, never emerged from its obscurity, and Larsam acquired supremacy only many centuries after its neighbour, and did not succeed in maintaining it for any length of time. The god of the suzerain city necessarily took precedence of those of the vassal towns, and when once his superiority was admitted by the people, he was able to maintain his place in spite of all political revolutions. Sin was called in Uru, |Uruki,| or |Nannar the glorious,| and his priests sometimes succeeded in identifying him with Anu. |Lord, prince of the gods, who alone in heaven and earth is exalted, -- father Nannar, lord of the hosts of heaven, prince of the gods, -- father Nannar, lord, great Anu, prince of the gods, -- father Nannar, lord, moon-god, prince of the gods, -- father Nannar, lord of Uni, prince of the gods.... -- Lord, thy deity fills the far-off heavens, like the vast sea, with reverential fear! Master of the earth, thou who fixest there the boundaries [of the towns] and assignest to them their names, -- father, begetter of gods and men, who establishest for them dwellings and institutest for them that which is good, who proclaimest royalty and bestowest the exalted sceptre on those whose destiny was determined from distant times, -- chief, mighty, whose heart is great, god whom no one can name, whose limbs are steadfast, whose knees never bend, who preparest the paths of thy brothers the gods.... -- In heaven, who is supreme? As for thee, it is thou alone who art supreme! As for thee, thy decree is made known in heaven, and the Igigi bow their faces! -- As for thee, thy decree is made known upon earth, and the spirits of the abyss kiss the dust! -- As for thee, thy decree blows above like the wind, and stall and pasture become fertile! -- As for thee, thy decree is accomplished upon earth below, and the grass and green things grow! -- As for thee, thy degree is seen in the cattle-folds and in the lairs of the wild beasts, and it multiplies living things! -- As for thee, thy decree has called into being equity and justice, and the peoples have promulgated thy law! -- As for thee, thy decree, neither in the far-off heaven, nor in the hidden depths of the earth, can any one recognize it! -- As for thee, thy decree, who can learn it, who can try conclusions with it? -- O Lord, mighty in heaven, sovereign upon earth, among the gods thy brothers, thou hast no rival.| Outside Uru and Harran, Sin did not obtain this rank of creator and ruler of things; he was simply the moon-god, and was represented in human form, usually accompanied by a thin crescent, upon which he sometimes stands upright, sometimes appears with the bust only rising out of it, in royal costume and pose.
[Illustration: 169.jpg THE GOD SUN RECEIVES THE HOMAGE OF TWO WORSHIPPERS.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a heliogravure by Menant.
His mitre is so closely associated with him that it takes his place on the astrological tablets; the name he bears -- |agu| -- often indicates the moon regarded simply as a celestial body and without connotation of deity. Babbar-Shamash, |the light of the gods, his fathers,| |the illustrious scion of Sin,| passed the night in the depths of the north, behind the polished metal walls which shut in the part of the firmament visible to human eyes.
[Illustration: 170.jpg SHAMASH SETS OUT, IN THE MORNING, FROM THE INTERIOR OF THE HEAVEN BY THE EASTERN GATE.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a Chaldaean intaglio of green jasper in the Louvre. The original measures about 1 3/10 inch in height.
As soon as the dawn had opened the gates for him, he rose in the east all aflame, his club in his hand, and he set forth on his headlong course over the chain of mountains which surrounds the world;* six hours later he had attained the limit of his journey towards the south, he then continued his journey to the west, gradually lessening his heat, and at length re-entered his accustomed resting-place by the western gate, there to remain until the succeeding morning. He accomplished his journey round the earth in a chariot conducted by two charioteers, and drawn by two vigorous onagers, |whose legs never grew weary;| the flaming disk which was seen from earth was one of the wheels of his chariot.**
* His course along the embankment which runs round the celestial vault was the origin of the title, Line of Union between Heaven and Earth; he moved, in fact, where the heavens and the earth come into contact, and appeared to weld them into one by the circle of fire which he described. Another expression of this idea occurs in the preamble of Nergal and Ninib, who were called |the separators|; the course of the sun might, in fact, be regarded as separating, as well as uniting, the two parts of the universe.
** The disk has sometimes four, sometimes eight rays inscribed on it, indicating wheels with four or eight spokes respectively. Rawlinson supposed |that these two figures indicate a distinction between the male and female power of the deity, the disk with four rays symbolizing Shamash, the orb with eight rays being the emblem of Ai, Gula, or Anunit.|
[Illustration: 171.jpg SHAMASH IN HIS SHRINE, HIS EMBLEM BEFORE HIM ON THE ALTAR.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a photograph by Rassam. The busts of the two deities on the front of the roof of the shrine are the two charioteers of the sun; they uphold and guide the rayed disk upon the altar. Cf. in the Assyrian period the winged disk led with cords by two genii.
As soon as he appeared he was hailed with the chanting of hymns: |O Sun, thou appearest on the foundation of the heavens, -- thou drawest back the bolts which bar the scintillating heavens, thou openest the gate of the heavens! O Sun, thou raisest thy head above the earth, -- Sun, thou extendest over the earth the brilliant vaults of the heavens.| The powers of darkness fly at his approach or take refuge in their mysterious caverns, for |he destroys the wicked, he scatters them, the omens and gloomy portents, dreams, and wicked ghouls -- he converts evil to good, and he drives to their destruction the countries and men -- who devote themselves to black magic.| In addition to natural light, he sheds upon the earth truth and justice abundantly; he is the |high judge| before whom everything makes obeisance, his laws never waver, his decrees are never set at naught. |O Sun, when thou goest to rest in the middle of the heavens -- may the bars of the bright heaven salute thee in peace, and may the gate of heaven bless thee! -- May Misharu, thy well-beloved servant, guide aright thy progress, so that on Rbarra, the seat of thy rule, thy greatness may rise, and that A, thy cherished spouse, may receive thee joyfully! May thy glad heart find in her thy rest! -- May the food of thy divinity be brought to thee by her, -- warrior, hero, sun, and may she increase thy vigour; -- lord of Ebarra, when thou ap-proachest, mayest thou direct thy course aright! -- -0 Sun, urge rightly thy way along the fixed road determined for thee, -- O Sun, thou who art the judge of the land, and the arbiter of its laws!|
It would appear that the triad had begun by having in the third place a goddess, Ishtar of Dilbat. Ishtar is the evening star which precedes the appearance of the moon, and the morning star which heralds the approach of the sun: the brilliance of its light justifies the choice which made it an associate of the greater heavenly bodies. |In the days of the past.... Ea charged Sin, Shamash, and Ishtar with the ruling of the firmament of heaven; he distributed among them, with Anu, the command of the army of heaven, and among these three gods, his children, he apportioned the day and the night, and compelled them to work ceaselessly.|
[Illustration: 173.jpg ISHTAR HOLDING HER STAR BEFORE SIN.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from an intaglio at Rome.
Ishtar was separated from her two companions, when the group of the planets was definitely organized and claimed the adoration of the devout; the theologians then put in her place an individual of a less original aspect, Ramman. Ramman embraced within him the elements of many very ancient genii, all of whom had been set over the atmosphere, and the phenomena which are daily displayed in it -- wind, rain, and thunder. These genii occupied an important place in the popular religion which had been cleverly formulated by the theologians of Uruk, and there have come down to us many legends in which their incarnations play a part. They are usually represented as enormous birds flocking on their swift wings from below the horizon, and breathing flame or torrents of water upon the countries over which they hovered. The most terrible of them was Zu, who presided over tempests: he gathered the clouds together, causing them to burst in torrents of rain or hail; he let loose the winds and lightnings, and nothing remained standing where he had passed. He had a numerous family: among them cross-breeds of extraordinary species which would puzzle a modern naturalist, but were matters of course to the ancient priests. His mother Siris, lady of the rain and clouds, was a bird like himself; but Zu had as son a vigorous bull, which, pasturing in the meadows, scattered abundance and fertility around him. The caprices of these strange beings, their malice, and their crafty attacks, often brought upon them vexatious misfortunes. Shutu, the south wind, one day beheld Adapa, one of the numerous offspring of Ea, fishing in order to provide food for his family. In spite of his exalted origin, Adapa was no god; he did not possess the gift of immortality, and he was not at liberty to appear in the presence of Anu in heaven. He enjoyed, nevertheless, certain privileges, thanks to his familiar intercourse with his father Ea, and owing to his birth he was strong enough to repel the assaults of more than one deity. When, therefore, Shutu, falling upon him unexpectedly, had overthrown him, his anger knew no bounds: |'Shutu, thou hast overwhelmed me with thy hatred, great as it is, -- I will break thy wings! 'Having thus spoken with his mouth unto Shutu, Adapa broke his wings. For seven days, -- Shutu breathed no longer upon the earth.| Anu, being disturbed at this quiet, which seemed to him not very consonant with the meddling temperament of the wind, made inquiries as to its cause through his messenger Ilabrat. |His messenger Ilabrat answered him: 'My master, -- Adapa, the son of Ea, has broken Shutu's wings.' -- Anu, when he heard these words, cried out: 'Help!'| and he sent to Ea Barku, the genius of the lightning, with an order to bring the guilty one before him. Adapa was not quite at his ease, although he had right on his side; but Ea, the cleverest of the immortals, prescribed a line of conduct for him. He was to put on at once a garment of mourning, and to show himself along with the messenger at the gates of heaven. Having arrived there, he would not fail to meet the two divinities who guarded them, -- Dumuzi and Gishzida: |'In whose honour this garb, in whose honour, Adapa, this garment of mourning?' 'On our earth two gods have disappeared -- it is on this account I am as I am.' Dumuzi and Gishzida will look at each other,* they will begin to lament, they will say a friendly word -- to the god Anu for thee, they will render clear the countenance of Anu, -- in thy favour. When thou shalt appear before the face of Anu, the food of death, it shall be offered to thee, do not eat it. The drink of death, it shall be offered to thee, drink it not. A garment, it shall be offered to the, put it on. Oil, it shall be offered to thee, anoint thyself with it. The command I have given thee observe it well.'|
* Dumuzi and Gishzida are the two gods whom Adapa indicates without naming them; insinuating that he has put on mourning on their account, Adapa is secure of gaining their sympathy, and of obtaining their intervention with the god Anu in his favour. As to Dumuzi, see pp.158, 159 of the present work; the part played by Gishzida, as well as the event noted in the text regarding him, is unknown.
Everything takes place as Ea had foreseen. Dumuzi and Gishzida welcome the poor wretch, speak in his favour, and present him: |as he approached, Anu perceived him, and said to him: 'Come, Adapa, why didst thou break the wings of Shutu?' Adapa answered Anu: 'My lord, -- for the household of my lord Ea, in the middle of the sea, -- -I was fishing, and the sea was all smooth. -- Shutu breathed, he, he overthrew me, and I plunged into the abode of fish. Hence the anger of my heart, -- that he might not begin again his acts of ill will, -- I broke his wings.'| Whilst he pleaded his cause the furious heart of Anu became calm. The presence of a mortal in the halls of heaven was a kind of sacrilege, to be severely punished unless the god should determine its expiation by giving the philtre of immortality to the intruder. Anu decided on the latter course, and addressed Adapa: |'Why, then, did Ea allow an unclean mortal to see -- the interior of heaven and earth?' He handed him a cup, he himself reassured him. -- 'We, what shall we give him? The food of life -- take some to him that he may eat.' The food of life, some was taken to him, but he did not eat of it. The water of life, some was taken to him, but he drank not of it. A garment, it was taken to him, and he put it on. Oil, some was taken to him, and he anointed himself with it.| Anu looked upon him; he lamented over him: |'Well, Adapa, why hast thou not eaten -- why hast thou not drunk? Thou shalt not now have eternal life.' Ea, my lord, has commanded me: thou shalt not eat, thou shalt not drink.| Adapa thus lost, by remembering too well the commands of his father, the opportunity which was offered to him of rising to the rank of the immortals; Anu sent him back to his home just as he had come, and Shutu had to put up with his broken wings.
Bamman absorbed one after the other all these genii of tempest and contention, and out of their combined characters his own personality of a hundred diverse aspects was built up.
[Illustration: 177.jpg THE BIRDS OF THE TEMPEST]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a Chaldaean cylinder in the Museum of New York. Lenormant, in a long article, which he published under the pseudonym of Mansell, fancied he recognized here the encounter between Sabitum and Gilgames on the shores of the Ocean.
He was endowed with the capricious and changing disposition of the element incarnate in him, and passed from tears to laughter, from anger to calm, with a promptitude which made him one of the most disconcerting deities. The tempest was his favourite role. Sometimes he would burst suddenly on the heavens at the head of a troop of savage subordinates, whose chiefs were known as Matu, the squall, and Barku, the lightning; sometimes these were only the various manifestations of his own nature, and it was he himself who was called Matu and Barku. He collected the clouds, sent forth the thunder-bolt, shook the mountains, and |before his rage and violence, his bellowings, his thunder, the gods of heaven arose to the firmament -- the gods of the earth sank into the earth| in their terror. The monuments represent him as armed for battle with club, axe, or the two-bladed flaming sword which was usually employed to signify the thunderbolt. As he destroyed everything in his blind rage, the kings of Chaldaea were accustomed to invoke him against their enemies, and to implore him to |hurl the hurricane upon the rebel peoples and the insubordinate nations.| When his wrath was appeased, and he had returned to more gentle ways, his kindness knew no limits. From having been the waterspout which overthrew the forests, he became the gentle breeze which caresses and refreshes them: with his warm showers he fertilizes the fields: he lightens the air and tempers the summer heat.
[Illustration: 178.jpg RAMMAN ARMED WITH AN AXE.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a sketch by Loftus. The original, a small stele of terra-cotta, is in the British Museum. The date of this representation is uncertain. Ramman stands upon the mountain which supports the heaven.
He causes the rivers to swell and overflow their banks; he pours out the waters over the fields, he makes channels for them, he directs them to every place where the need of water is felt.
But his fiery temperament is stirred up by the slightest provocation, and then |his flaming sword scatters pestilence over the land: he destroys the harvest, brings the ingathering to nothing, tears up trees, and beats down and roots up the corn.|
[Illustration: 179.jpg RAMMAN, THE GOD OF TEMPESTS AND THUNDER.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from Layard. Properly speaking, this is a Susian deity brought by the soldiers of Assurbanipal into Assyria, but it carries the usual insignia of Ramman.
In a word, the second triad formed a more homogeneous whole when Ishtar still belonged to it, and it is entirely owing to the presence of this goddess in it that we are able to understand its plan and purpose; it was essentially astrological, and it was intended that none should be enrolled in it but the manifest leaders of the constellations. Ramman, on the contrary, had nothing to commend him for a position alongside the moon and sun; he was not a celestial body, he had no definitely shaped form, but resembled an aggregation of gods rather than a single deity. By the addition of Ramman to the triad, the void occasioned by the removal of Ishtar was filled up in a blundering way. We must, however, admit that the theologians must have found it difficult to find any one better fitted for the purpose: when Venus was once set along with the rest of the planets, there was nothing left in the heavens which was sufficiently brilliant to replace her worthily. The priests were compelled to take the most powerful deity they knew after the other five -- the lord of the atmosphere and the thunder.*
* Their embarrassment is shown in the way in which they have classed this god. In the original triad, Ishtar, being the smallest of the three heavenly bodies, naturally took the third place. Ramman, on the contrary, had natural affinities with the elemental group, and belonged to Anu, Bel, Ea, rather than to Sin and Shamash. So we find him sometimes in the third place, sometimes in the first of the second triad, and this post of eminence is so natural to him, that Assyriologists have preserved it from the beginning, and describe the triad as composed, not of Sin, Shamash, and Ramman, but of Ramman, Sin, and Shamash, or even of Sin, Ramman, and Shamash.
The gods of the triads were married, but their goddesses for the most part had neither the liberty nor the important functions of the Egyptian goddesses.* They were content, in their modesty, to be eclipsed behind the personages of their husbands, and to spend their lives in the shade, as the women of Asiatic countries still do. It would appear, moreover, that there was no trouble taken about them until it was too late -- when it was desired, for instance, to explain the affiliation of the immortals. Anu and Bel were bachelors to start with. When it was determined to assign to them female companions, recourse was had to the procedure adopted by the Egyptians in a similar case: there was added to their names the distinctive suffix of the feminine gender, and in this manner two grammatical goddesses were formed, Anat and Belit, whose dispositions give some indications of this accidental birth. There was always a vague uncertainty about the parts they had to play, and their existence itself was hardly more than a seeming one. Anat sometimes represented a feminine heaven, and differed from Anu only in her sex. At times she was regarded as the antithesis of Anu, i.e. as the earth in contradistinction to the heaven. Belit, as far as we can distinguish her from other persons to whom the title |lady| was attributed, shared with Bel the rule over the earth and the regions of darkness where the dead were confined. The wife of Ea was distinguished by a name which was not derived from that of her husband, but she was not animated by a more intense vitality than Anat or Belit: she was called Damkina, the lady of the soil, and she personified in an almost passive manner the earth united to the water which fertilized it. The goddesses of the second triad were perhaps rather less artificial in their functions. Ningal, doubtless, who ruled along with Sin at Uru, was little more than an incarnate epithet. Her name means |the great lady,| |the queen,| and her person is the double of that of her husband; as he is the man-moon, she is the woman-moon, his beloved, and the mother of his children Shamash and Ishtar. But A or Sirrida enjoyed an indisputable authority alongside Shamash: she never lost sight of the fact that she had been a sun like Shamash, a disk-god before she was transformed into a goddess. Shamash, moreover, was surrounded by an actual harem, of which Sirrida was the acknowledged queen, as he himself was its king, and among its members Gula, the great, and Anunit, the daughter of Sin, the morning star, found a place. Shala, the compassionate, was also included among them; she was subsequently bestowed upon Ramman. They were all goddesses of ancient lineage, and each had been previously worshipped on her own account when the Sumerian people held sway in Chaldaea: as soon as the Semites gained the upper hand, the powers of these female deities became enfeebled, and they were distributed among the gods. There was but one of them, Nana, the doublet of Ishtar, who had succeeded in preserving her liberty: when her companions had been reduced to comparative insignificance, she was still acknowledged as queen and mistress in her city of Eridu. The others, notwithstanding the enervating influence to which they were usually subject in the harem, experienced at times inclinations to break into rebellion, and more than one of them, shaking off the yoke of her lord, had proclaimed her independence: Anunit, for instance, tearing herself away from the arms of Shamash, had vindicated, as his sister and his equal, her claim to the half of his dominion. Sippara was a double city, or rather there were two neighbouring Sipparas, one distinguished as the city of the Sun, |Sippara sha Shamash,| while the other gave lustre to Anunit in assuming the designation of |Sippara sha Anunitum.| Rightly interpreted, these family arrangements of the gods had but one reason for their existence -- the necessity of explaining without coarseness those parental connections which the theological classification found it needful to establish between the deities constituting the two triads. In Chaldaea as in Egypt there was no inclination to represent the divine families as propagating their species otherwise than by the procedure observed in human families: the union of the goddesses with the gods thus legitimated their offspring.
* The passive and almost impersonal character of the majority of the Babylonian and Assyrian goddesses is well known. The majority must have been independent at the outset, in the Sumerian period, and were married later on, under the influence of Semitic ideas.
The triads were, therefore, nothing more than theological fictions. Each of them was really composed of six members, and it was thus really a council of twelve divinities which the priests of Uruk had instituted to attend to the affairs of the universe; with this qualification, that the feminine half of the assembly rarely asserted itself, and contributed but an insignificant part to the common work. When once the great divisions had been arranged, and the principal functionaries designated, it was still necessary to work out the details, and to select v agents to preserve an order among them. Nothing happens by chance in this world, and the most insignificant events are determined by previsional arrangements, and decisions arrived at a long time previously. The gods assembled every morning in a hall, situated near the gates of the sun in the east, and there deliberated on the events of the day. The sagacious Ea submitted to them the fates which are about to be fulfilled, and caused a record of them to be made in the chamber of destiny on tablets which Shamash or Merodach carried with them to scatter everywhere on his way; but he who should be lucky enough to snatch these tablets from him would make himself master of the world for that day. This misfortune had arisen only once, at the beginning of the ages. Zu, the storm-bird, who lives with his wife and children on Mount Sabu under the protection of Bel, and who from this elevation pounces down upon the country to ravage it, once took it into his head to make himself equal to the supreme gods. He forced his way at an early hour into the chamber of destiny before the sun had risen: he perceived within it the royal insignia of Bel, |the mitre of his power, the garment of his divinity, -- the fatal tablets of his divinity, Zu perceived them. He perceived the father of the gods, the god who is the tie between heaven and earth, -- and the desire of ruling took possession of his heart; -- yea, Zu perceived the father of the gods, the god who is the tie between heaven and earth, -- and the desire of ruling took possession of his heart, -- 'I will take the fatal tablets of the gods, I myself, -- and the oracles of all the gods, it is I who will give them forth; -- I will install myself on the throne, I will send forth decrees, -- I will manage the whole of the Igigi.' -- And his heart plotted warfare; -- lying in wait on the threshold of the hall, he watched for the dawn. -- When Bel had poured out the shining waters, -- had installed himself on the throne, and donned the crown, Zu took away the fatal tablets from his hand, -- he seized power, and the authority to give forth decrees, -- the god Zu, he flew away and concealed himself in the mountains.| Bel immediately cried out, he was inflamed with anger, and ravaged the world with the fire of his wrath. |Anu opened his mouth, he spake, -- he said to the gods his offspring: -- 'Who will conquer the god Zu? -- He will make his name great in every land.' -- Bamman, the supreme, the son of Anu, was called, and Anu himself gave to him his orders; -- yea, Bamman, the supreme, the son of Anu, was called, and Anu himself gave to him his orders. -- 'Go, my son Kamman, the valiant, since nothing resists thy attack; -- conquer Zu by thine arm, and thy name shall be great among the great gods, -- among the gods, thy brothers, thou shalt have no equal: sanctuaries shall be built to thee, and if thou buildest for thyself thy cities in the |four houses of the world,|* -- thy cities shall extend over all the terrestrial mountain! 'Be valiant, then, in the sight of the gods, and may thy name be strong.' Bamman answers, he addresses this bpeech to Anu his father: -- 'Father, who will go to the inaccessible mountains? Who is the equal of Zu among the gods, thy offspring? He has carried off in his hand the fatal tablets, -- he has seized power and authority to give forth decrees, -- Zu thereupon flew away and hid himself in his mountain. -- Now, the word of his mouth is like that of the god who unites heaven and earth; -- -my power is no more than clay, -- and all the gods must bow before him.'| Anu sent for the god Bara, the son of Ishtar, to help him, and exhorted him in the same language he had addressed to Ramman: Bara refused to attempt the enterprise. Shamash, called in his turn, at length consented to set out for Mount Sabu: he triumphed over the storm-bird, tore the fatal tablets from him, and brought him before Ea as a prisoner.
* Literally, |Construct thy cities in the four regions of the world (cf. pp.12, 13 of the present work), and thy cities will extend to the mountain of the earth.| Anu would appear to have promised to Ramman a monopoly; if he wished to build cities which would recognize him as their patron, these cities will cover the entire earth.
[Illustration: 186.jpg SHAMASH FIGHTS WITH ZU AND THE STORM BIRDS.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from Layard.
[Illustration: 186a.jpg The Plenisphere taken from the Temple of Tentyra]
[Illustration: 186b.jpg Text of The Plenisphere]
The sun of the complete day, the sun in the full possession of his strength, could alone win back the attributes of power which the morning sun had allowed himself to be despoiled of. From that time forth the privilege of delivering immortal decrees to mortals was never taken out of the hands of the gods of light.
Destinies once fixed on the earth became a law -- |mamit| -- a good or bad fate, from which no one could escape, but of which any one might learn the disposition beforehand if he were capable of interpreting the formulas of it inscribed on the book of the sky. The stars, even those which were most distant from the earth, were not unconcerned in the events which took place upon it. They were so many living beings endowed with various characteristics, and their rays as they passed across the celestial spaces exercised from above an active control on everything they touched. Their influences became modified, increased or weakened according to the intensity with which they shed them, according to the respective places they occupied in the firmament, and according to the hour of the night and the month of the year in which they rose or set. Each division of time, each portion of space, each category of existences -- and in each category each individual -- was placed under their rule and was subject to their implacable tyranny. The infant was born their slave, and continued in this condition of slavery until his life's end: the star which was in the ascendent at the instant of his birth became his star, and ruled his destiny. The Chaldaeans, like the Egyptians, fancied they discerned in the points of light which illuminate the nightly sky, the outline of a great number of various figures -- men, animals, monsters, real and imaginary objects, a lance, a bow, a fish, a scorpion, ears of wheat, a bull, and a lion. The majority of these were spread out above their heads on the surface of the celestial vault; but twelve of these figures, distinguishable by their brilliancy, were arranged along the celestial horizon in the pathway of the sun, and watched over his daily course along the walls of the world. These divided this part of the sky into as many domains or |houses,| in which they exercised absolute authority, and across which the god could not go without having previously obtained their consent, or having brought them into subjection beforehand. This arrangement is a reminiscence of the wars by which Bel-Merodach, the divine bull, the god of Babylon, had succeeded in bringing order out of chaos: he had not only killed Tiamat, but he had overthrown and subjugated the monsters which led the armies of darkness. He meets afresh, every year and every day, on the confines of heaven and earth, the scorpion-men of his ancient enemy, the fish with heads of men or goats, and many more. The twelve constellations were combined into a zodiac, whose twelve signs, transmitted to the Greeks and modified by them, may still be read on our astronomical charts. The constellations, immovable, or actuated by a slow motion, in longitude only, contain the problems of the future, but they are not sufficient of themselves alone to furnish man with the solution of these problems. The heavenly bodies capable of explaining them, the real interpreters of destiny, were at first the two divinities who rule the empires of night and day -- the moon and the sun; afterwards there took part in this work of explanation the five planets which we call Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, Mars, and Mercury, or rather the five gods who actuate them, and who have controlled their course from the moment of creation -- Merodach, Ishtar, Ninib, Nergal, and Nebo. The planets seemed to traverse the heavens in every direction, to cross their own and each other's paths, and to approach the fixed stars or recede from them; and the species of rhythmical dance in which they are carried unceasingly across the celestial spaces revealed to men, if they examined it attentively, the irresistible march of their own destinies, as surely as if they had made themselves master of the fatal tablets of Shamash, and could spell them out line by line.
The Chaldaens were disposed to regard the planets as perverse sheep who had escaped from the fold of the stars to wander wilfully in search of pasture.* At first they were considered to be so many sovereign deities, without other function than that of running through the heavens and furnishing there predictions of the future; afterwards two of them descended to the earth, and received upon it the homage of men* -- Ishtar from the inhabitants of the city of Dilbat, and Nebo* from those of Borsippa. Nebo assumed the role of a soothsayer and a prophet. He knew and foresaw everything, and was ready to give his advice upon any subject: he was the inventor of the method of making clay tablets, and of writing upon them. Ishtar was a combination of contradictory characteristics.****
* Their generic name, read as |lubat,| in Sumero-Accadian, |bibbu| in Semitic speech (Fr. Lenormant, Essai de Commentaire de Berose, pp.370, 371), denoted a quadruped, the species of which Lenormant was not able to define; Jensen (Die Kosmologie, pp.95-99) identified it with the sheep and the ram. At the end of the account of the creation, Merodach-Jupiter is compared with a shepherd who feeds the flock of the gods on the pastures of heaven (cf. p.15 of the present work).
** The site of Dilbat is unknown: it has been sought in the neighbourhood of Kishu and Babylon (Delitzsch, Wo lag das Paradies? p.219); it is probable that it was in the suburbs of Sippara. The name given to the goddess was transcribed AeXckit (Hesychius, sub voce), and signifies the herald, the messenger of the day.
*** The role of Nebo was determined by the early
Assyriologists (Rawlin-son, On the Religion of the Babylonians and Assyrians, pp.523-52G; Oppeet, Expedition en Mesopotamie, vol. ii. p.257; Lenormant, Essai de Commentaire de Berose, pp.114-116). He owed his functions partly to his alliance with other gods (Sayce, Religion of the Ancient Babylonians, pp.118, 119).
**** See the chapter devoted by Sayce to the consideration of Ishtar in his Religion of the Ancient Babylonians (IV. Tammuz and Ishtar, p.221, et seq.), and the observations made by Jeremias on the subject in the sequel of his Izdubar-Nimrod (Ishtar-Astarte im Izdubar-Epos), pp.56-66.
[Illustration: 190.jpg ISHTAR AS A WARRIOR-GODDESS]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a heliogravure in Menant's Recherches sur la Glyptique orientale.
In Southern Chaldaea she was worshipped under the name of Nana, the supreme mistress.* The identity of this lady of the gods, |Belit-ilanit,| the Evening Star, with Anunit, the Morning Star, was at first ignored, and hence two distinct goddesses were formed from the twofold manifestation of a single deity: having at length discovered their error, the Chaldaeans merged these two beings in one, and their names became merely two different designations for the same star under a twofold aspect. The double character, however, which had been attributed to them continued to be attached to the single personality.
* With regard to Nana, consult, with reserve, Fk. Lenormant, Essai de Commentaire de Berose, pp.100-103, 378, 379, where the identity of Ishtar and Nana is still unrecognized.
[Illustration: 191.jpg NEBO]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from an Assyrian statue in alabaster in the British Museum.
The Evening Star had symbolized the goddess of love, who attracted the sexes towards one another, and bound them together by the chain of desire; the Morning Star, on the other hand, was regarded as the cold-blooded and cruel warrior who despised the pleasures of love and rejoiced in warfare: Ishtar thus combined in her person chastity and lasciviousness, kindness and ferocity, and a peaceful and warlike disposition, but this incongruity in her characteristics did not seem to disconcert the devotion of her worshippers. The three other planets would have had a wretched part to play in comparison with Nebo and Ishtar, if they had not been placed under new patronage. The secondary solar gods, Merodach, Ninib, and Nergal, led, if we examine their role carefully, but an incomplete existence: they were merely portions of the sun, while Shamash represented the entire orb. What became of them apart from the moment in the day and year in which they were actively engaged in their career? Where did they spend their nights, the hours during which Shamash had retired into the firmament, and lay hidden behind the mountains of the north? As in Egypt the Horuses identified at first with the sun became at length the rulers of the planets, so in Chaldaea the three suns of Ninib, Merodach, and Nergal became respectively assimilated to Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars;* and this identification was all the more easy in the case of Saturn, as he had been considered from the beginning as a bull belonging to Shamash. Henceforward, therefore, there was a group of five powerful gods -- distributed among the stars of heaven, and having abodes also in the cities of the earth -- whose function it was to announce the destinies of the universe. Some, deceived by the size and brilliancy of Jupiter, gave the chief command to Merodach, and this opinion naturally found a welcome reception at Babylon, of which he was the feudal deity. Others, taking into account only the preponderating influence exercised by the planets over the fortunes of men, accorded the primacy to Ninib, placing Merodach next, followed respectively by Ishtar, Nergal, and Nebo. The five planets, like the six triads, were not long before they took to themselves consorts, if indeed they had not already been married before they were brought together in a collective whole. Ninib chose for wife, in the first place, Bau, the daughter of Anu, the mistress of Uru, highly venerated from the most remote times; afterwards Gula, the queen of physicians, whose wisdom alleviated the ills of humanity, and who was one of the goddesses sometimes placed in the harem of Shamash himself. Merodach associated with him Zirbanit, the fruitful, who secures from generation to generation the permanence and increase of living beings. Nergal distributed his favours sometimes to Laz, and sometimes to Esharra, who was, like himself, warlike and always victorious in battle. Nebo provided himself with a mate in Tashmit, the great bride, or even in Ishtar herself. But Ishtar could not be content with a single husband: after she had lost Dumuzi-Tammuz, the spouse of her youth, she gave herself freely to the impulses of her passions, distributing her favours to men as well as gods, and was sometimes subject to be repelled with contempt by the heroes upon whom she was inclined to bestow her love. The five planets came thus to be actually ten, and advantage was taken of these alliances to weave fresh schemes of affiliation: Nebo was proclaimed to be the son of Merodach and Zirbanit, Merodach the son of Ba, and Ninib the offspring of Bel and Esharra.
* Ishtar, Nebo, Sin, and Shamash being heavenly bodies, to begin with, and the other great gods, Anu, Bel, Ea, and Ramman having their stars in the heavens, the Chaldaeans were led by analogy to ascribe to the gods which represented the phases of the sun, Merodach, Ninib, and Nergal, three stars befitting their importance, i.e. three planets.
There were two councils, one consisting of twelve members, the other of ten; the former was composed of the most popular gods of Southern Chaldaea, representing the essential elements of the world, while the latter consisted of the great deities of Northern Chaldaea, whose function it was to regulate or make known the destinies of men. The authors of this system, who belonged to Southern Chaldaea, naturally gave the position to their patron gods, and placed the twelve above the ten. It is well known that Orientals display a great respect for numbers, and attribute to them an almost irresistible power; we can thus understand how it was that the Chaldaeans applied them to designate their divine masters, and we may calculate from these numbers the estimation in which each of these masters was held. The goddesses had no value assigned to them in this celestial arithmetic, Ishtar excepted, who was not a mere duplication, more or less ingenious, of a previously existing deity, but possessed from the beginning an independent life, and could thus claim to be called goddess in her own right. The members of the two triads were arranged on a descending scale, Anu taking the highest place: the scale was considered to consist of a soss of sixty units in length, and each of the deities who followed Anu was placed ten of these units below his predecessor, Bel at 50 units, Ea at 40, Sin at 30, Shamash at 20, Ramman at 10 or 6. The gods of the planets were not arranged in a regular series like those of the triads, but the numbers attached to them expressed their proportionate influence on terrestrial affairs: to Ninib was assigned the same number as had been given to Bel, 50, to Merodach perhaps 25, to Ishtar 15, to Nergal 12, and to Nebo 10. The various spirits were also fractionally estimated, but this as a class, and not as individuals: the priests would not have known how to have solved the problem if they had been obliged to ascribe values to the infinity of existences.* As the Heliopolitans were obliged to eliminate from the Ennead many feudal divinities, so the Chaldaeans had left out of account many of their sovereign deities, especially goddesses, Bau of Uru, Nana of Uruk, and Allat; or if they did introduce them into their calculations, it was by a subterfuge, by identifying them with other goddesses, to whom places had been already assigned; Bau being thus coupled with Ohila, Nana with Ishtar, and Allat with Ninhl-Beltis. If figures had been assigned to the latter proportionate to the importance of the parts they played, and the number of their votaries, how comes it that they were excluded from the cycle of the great gods? They were actually placed alongside rather than below the two councils, and without insistence upon the rank which they enjoyed in the hierarchy. But the confusion which soon arose among divinities of identical or analogous nature opened the way for inserting all the neglected personalities in the framework already prepared for them. A sky-god, like Dagan, would mingle naturally with Anu, and enjoy like honours with him. The gods of all ranks associated with the sun or fire, Nusku, Gibil, and Dumuzi, who had not been at first received among the privileged group, obtained a place there by virtue of their assimilation to Shamash, and his secondary forms, Bel-Merodach, Ninib, and Nergal. Ishtar absorbed all her companions, and her name put in the plural, Ishtarati, |the Ishtars,| embraced all goddesses in general, just as the name Hani took in all the gods. Thanks to this compromise, the system flourished, and was widely accepted: local vanity was always able to find a means for placing in a prominent place within it the feudal deity, and for reconciling his pretensions to the highest rank with the order of precedence laid down by the theologians of Uruk. The local god was always the king of the gods, the father of the gods, he who was worshipped above the others in everyday life, and whose public cult constituted the religion of the State or city.
* As far as we can at present determine, the most ancient series established was that of the planetary gods, whose values, following each other irregularly, are not calculated on a scheme of mathematical progression, but according to the empirical importance, which a study of predictions had ascribed to each planet. The regular series, that of the great gods, bears in its regularity the stamp of its later introduction: it was instituted after the example of the former, but with corrections of what seemed capricious, and fixing the interval between the gods always at the same figure.
The temples were miniature reproductions of the arrangement of the universe. The |ziggurat| represented in its form the mountain of the world, and the halls ranged at its feet resembled approximately the accessory parts of the world: the temple of Merodach at Babylon comprised them all up to the chambers of fate, where the sun received every morning the tablets of destiny. The name often indicated the nature of the patron deity or one of his attributes: the temple of Shamash at Larsam, for instance was called E-Babbara, |the house of the sun,| and that of Nebo at Borsippa, E-Zida, |the eternal house.| No matter where the sanctuary of a specific god might be placed, it always bore the same name; Shamash, for example, dwelt at Sippara as at Larsam in an E-Babbara. In Chaldaea, as in Egypt, the king or chief of the State was the priest par excellence, and the title of |vicegerent,| so frequent in the early period, shows that the chief was regarded as representing the divinity among his own people; but a priestly body, partly hereditary, partly selected, fulfilled for him his daily sacerdotal functions, and secured the regularity of the services. A chief priest -- |ishshakku| -- was at their head, and his principal duty was the pouring out of the libation. Each temple had its |ishshakku,| but he who presided over the worship of the feudal deity took precedence of all the others in the city, as in the case of the chief priests of Bel-Merodach at Babylon, of Sin at Uru, and of Shamash at Larsam or Sippara. He presided over various categories of priests and priestesses whose titles and positions in the hierarchy are not well known. The |sangutu| appear to have occupied after him the most important place, as chamberlains attached to the house of the god, and as his liegemen. To some of these was entrusted the management of the harem of the god, while others were overseers of the remaining departments of his palace. The |kipu| and the |shatammu| were especially charged with the management of his financial interests, while the |pashishu| anointed with holy and perfumed oil his statues of stone, metal, or wood, the votive stelae set up in the chapels, and the objects used in worship and sacrifice, such as the great basins, the |seas| of copper which contained the water employed in the ritual ablutions, and the victims led to the altar. After these came a host of officials, butchers and their assistants, soothsayers, augurs, prophets, -- in fact, all the attendants that the complicated rites, as numerous in Chaldaea as in Egypt, required, not to speak of the bands of women and men who honoured the god in meretricious rites. Occupation for this motley crowd was never lacking. Every day and almost every hour a fresh ceremony required the services of one or other member of the staff, from the monarch himself, or his deputy in the temple, down to the lowest sacristan. The 12th of the month Blul was set apart at Babylon for the worship of Bel and Beltis: the sovereign made a donation to them according as he was disposed, and then celebrated before them the customary sacrifices, and if he raised his hand to plead for any favour, he obtained it without fail. The 13th was dedicated to the moon, the supreme god; the 14th to Beltis and Nergal; the 15th to Shamash; the 16th was a fast in honour of Merodach and Zirbanit; the 17th was the annual festival of Nebo and Tashmit; the 18th was devoted to the laudation of Sin and Shamash; while the 19th was a |white day| for the great goddess Gula. The whole year was taken up in a way similar to this casual specimen from the calendar. The kings, in founding a temple, not only bestowed upon it the objects and furniture required for present exigencies, such as lambs and oxen, birds, fish, bread, liquors, incense, and odoriferous essences; they assigned to it an annual income from the treasury, slaves, and cultivated lands; and their royal successors were accustomed to renew these gifts or increase them on every opportunity. Every victorious campaign brought him his share in the spoils and captives; every fortunate or unfortunate event which occurred in connection with the State or royal family meant an increase in the gifts to the god, as an act of thanksgiving on the one hand for the divine favour, or as an offering on the other to appease the wrath of the god. Gold, silver, copper, lapis-lazuli, gems and precious woods, accumulated in the sacred treasury; fields were added to fields, flocks to flocks, slaves to slaves; and the result of such increase would in a few generations have made the possessions of the god equal to those of the reigning sovereign, if the attacks of neighbouring peoples had not from time to time issued in the loss of a part of it, or if the king himself had not, under financial pressure, replenished his treasury at the expense of the priests. To prevent such usurpations as far as possible, maledictions were hurled at every one who should dare to lay a sacrilegious hand on the least object belonging to the divine domain; it was predicted of such |that he would be killed like an ox in the midst of his prosperity, and slaughtered like a wild urus in the fulness of his strength!... May his name be effaced from his stelae in the temple of his god! May his god see pitilessly the disaster of his country, may the god ravage his land with the waters of heaven, ravage it with the waters of the earth. May he be pursued as a nameless wretch, and his seed fall under servitude! May this man, like every one who acts adversely to his master, find nowhere a refuge, afar off, under the vault of the skies or in any abode of man whatsoever.| These threats, terrible as they were, did not succeed in deterring the daring, and the mighty men of the time were willing to brave them, when their interests promoted them. Gulkishar, Lord of the |land of the sea,| had vowed a wheat-field to Nina, his lady, near the town of Deri, on the Tigris. Seven hundred years later, in the reign of Belnadinabal, Ekarrakais, governor of Bitsinmagir, took possession of it, and added it to the provincial possessions, contrary to all equity. The priest of the goddess appealed to the king, and prostrating himself before the throne with many prayers and mystic formulas, begged for the restitution of the alienated land. Belnadinabal acceded to the request, and renewed the imprecations which had been inserted on the original deed of gift: |If ever, in the course of days, the man of law, or the governor of a suzerain who will superintend the town of Bitsinmagir, fears the vengeance of the god Zikum or the goddess Nina, may then Zikum and Nina, the mistress of the goddesses, come to him with the benediction of the prince of the gods; may they grant to him the destiny of a happy life, and may they accord to him days of old age, and years of uprightness! But as for thee, who hast a mind to change this, step not across its limits, do not covet the land: hate evil and love justice.| If all sovereigns were not so accommodating in their benevolence as Belnadinabal, the piety of private individuals, stimulated by fear, would be enough to repair the loss, and frequent legacies would soon make up for the detriment caused to the temple possessions by the enemy's sword or the rapacity of an unscrupulous lord. The residue, after the vicissitudes of revolutions, was increased and diminished from time to time, to form at length in the city an indestructible fief whose administration was a function of the chief priest for life, and whose revenue furnished means in abundance for the personal exigencies of the gods as well as the support of his ministers.
This was nothing more than justice would prescribe. A loyal and universal faith would not only acknowledge the whole world to be the creation of the gods, but also their inalienable domain. It belonged to them at the beginning; every one in the State of which the god was the sovereign lord, all those, whether nobles or serfs, vicegerents or kings, who claimed to have any possession in it, were but ephemeral lease-holders of portions of which they fancied themselves the owners. Donations to the temples were, therefore, nothing more than voluntary restitutions, which the gods consented to accept graciously, deigning to be well pleased with the givers, when, after all-, they might have considered the gifts as merely displays of strict honesty, which merited neither recognition nor thanks. They allowed, however, the best part of their patrimony to remain in the hands of strangers, and they contented themselves with what the pretended generosity of the faithful might see fit to assign to them. Of their lands, some were directly cultivated by the priests themselves; others were leased to lay people of every rank, who took off the shoulders of the priesthood all the burden of managing them, while rendering at the same time the profit that accrued from them; others were let at a fixed rent according to contract. The tribute of dates, corn, and fruit, which was rendered to the temples to celebrate certain commemorative ceremonies in the honour of this or that deity, were fixed charges upon certain lands, which at length usually fell entirely into the hands of the priesthood as mortmain possessions. These were the sources of the fixed revenues of the gods, by means of which they and their people were able to live, if not luxuriously, at least in a manner befitting their dignity. The offerings and sacrifices were a kind of windfall, of which the quantity varied strangely with the seasons; at certain times few were received, while at other times there was a superabundance. The greatest portion of them was consumed on the spot by the officials of the sanctuary; the part which could be preserved without injury was added to the produce of the domain, and constituted a kind of reserve for a rainy day, or was used to produce more of its kind. The priests made great profit out of corn and metals, and the skill with which they conducted commercial operations in silver was so notorious that no private person hesitated to entrust them with the management of his capital: they were the intermediaries between lenders and borrowers, and the commissions which they obtained in these transactions was not the smallest or the least certain of their profits. They maintained troops of slaves, labourers, gardeners, workmen, and even women-singers and sacred courtesans of which mention has been made above, all of whom either worked directly for them in their several trades, or were let out to those who needed their services. The god was not only the greatest cultivator in the State after the king, sometimes even excelling him in this respect, but he was also the most active manufacturer, and many of the utensils in daily use, as well as articles of luxury, proceeded from his workshops. His possessions secured for him a paramount authority in the city, and also an influence in the councils of the king: the priests who represented him on earth thus became mixed up in State affairs, and exercised authority on his behalf in the same measure as the officers of the crown.
[Illustration: 203.jpg A VOTARY LED TO THE GOD TO RECEIVE THE REWARD OF THE SACRIFICE]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a Chaldaean intaglio in the Berlin Museum.
He, had, indeed, as much need of riches and renown as the least of his clients. As he was subject to all human failings, and experienced all the appetites of mankind, he had to be nourished, clothed, and amused, and this could be done only at great expense. The stone or wooden statues erected to him in the sanctuaries furnished him with bodies, which he animated with his breath, and accredited to his clients as the receivers of all things needful to him in his mysterious kingdom. The images of the gods were clothed in vestments, they were anointed with odoriferous oils, covered with jewels, served with food and drink; and during these operations the divinities themselves, above in the heaven, or down in the abyss, or in the bosom of the earth, were arrayed in garments, their bodies were perfumed with unguents, and their appetites fully satisfied: all that was further required for this purpose was the offering of sacrifices together with prayers and prescribed rites. The priest began by solemnly inviting the gods to the feast: as soon as they sniffed from afar the smell of the good cheer that awaited them, they ran |like a swarm of flies| and prepared themselves to partake of it.
[Illustration: 204.jpg THE SACRIFICE: A GOAT PRESENTED TO ISHTAR.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from an Assyrian intaglio
illustrated in A. Rich, Narrative of a Journey to the Site of Babylon in 1811. The sacrifice of the goat, or rather its presentation to the god, is not infrequently represented on the Assyrian bas-reliefs.
The supplications having been heard, water was brought to the gods for the necessary ablutions before a repast. |Wash thy hands, cleanse thy hands, -- may the gods thy brothers wash their hands! -- From a clean dish eat a pure repast, -- from a clean cup drink pure water.| The statue, from the rigidity of the material out of which it was carved, was at a loss how to profit by the exquisite things which had been lavished upon it: the difficulty was removed by the opening of its mouth at the moment of consecration, thus enabling it to partake of the good fare to its satisfaction.* The banquet lasted a long time, and consisted of every delicacy which the culinary skill of the time could prepare: the courses consisted of dates, wheaten flour, honey, butter, various kinds of wines, and fruits, together with roast and boiled meats.
* This operation, which was also resorted to in Egypt in the case of the statues of the gods and deceased persons, is clearly indicated in a text of the second Chaldaean empire published in W. A. Insc, vol. iv. pi.25. The priest who consecrates an image makes clear in the first place that |its mouth not being open it can partake of no refreshment: it neither eats food nor drinks water.| Thereupon he performs certain rites, which he declares were celebrated, if not at that moment, at least for the first time by Ea himself: |Ea has brought thee to thy glorious place, -- to thy glorious place he has brought thee, -- brought thee with his splendid hand, -- brought also butter and honey; -- he has poured consecrated water into thy mouth -- and by magic has opened thy mouth.| Henceforward the statue can eat and drink like an ordinary living being the meat and beverages offered to it during the sacrifice.
[Illustration: 205.jpg THE GOD SHAMASH SEIZES WITH HIS LEFT HAND THE SMOKE OF THE SACRIFICE.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a Chaldaean intaglio pointed out by Heuzey-Sarzcc; the original is in the Louvre. The scene depicted behind Shamash deals with a legend still unknown. A goddess, pursued by a genius with a double face, has taken refuge under a tree, which bows down to protect her; while the monster endeavours to break down the obstacle branch by branch, a god rises from the stem and hands to the goddess a stone-headed mace to protect her against her enemy.
In the most ancient times it would appear that even human sacrifices were offered, but this custom was obsolete except on rare occasions, and lambs, oxen, sometimes swine's flesh, formed the usual elements of the sacrifice. The gods seized as it arose from the altar the unctuous smoke, and fed on it with delight. When they had finished their repast, the supplication of a favour was adroitly added, to which they gave a favourable hearing. Services were frequent in the temples: there was one in the morning and another in the evening on ordinary days, in addition to those which private individuals might require at any hour of the day. The festivals assigned to the local god and his colleagues, together with the acts of praise in which the whole nation joined, such as that of the New Year, required an abundance of extravagant sacrifices, in which the blood of the victims flowed like water. Days of sorrow and mourning alternated with these days of joy, during which the people and the magnates gave themselves up to severe fasting and acts of penitence. The Chaldeans had a lively sense of human frailty, and of the risks entailed upon the sinner by disobedience to the gods. The dread of sinning haunted them during their whole life; they continually subjected the motives of their actions to a strict scrutiny, and once self-examination had revealed to them the shadow of an evil intent, they were accustomed to implore pardon for it in a humble manner. |Lord, my sins are many, great are my misdeeds! -- O my god, my sins are many, great my misdeeds! -- O my goddess, my sins are many, great my misdeeds! -- I have committed faults and I knew them not; I have committed sin and I knew it not; I have fed upon misdeeds and I knew them not; I have walked in omissions and I knew them not. -- The lord, in the anger of his heart, he has stricken me, -- the god, in the wrath of his heart, has abandoned me, -- Ishtar is enraged against me, and has treated me harshly! -- I make an effort, and no one offers me a hand, -- I weep, and no one comes to me, -- I cry aloud, and no one hears me: -- I sink under affliction, I am overwhelmed, I can no longer raise up my head, -- I turn to my merciful god to call upon him, and I groan!... Lord reject not thy servant, -- and if he is hurled into the roaring waters, stretch to him thy hand; -- the sins I have committed, have mercy upon them, -- the misdeeds I have committed, scatter them to the winds -- and my numerous faults, tear them to pieces like a garment.| Sin in the eyes of the Chaldaean was not, as with us, an infirmity of the soul; it assaulted the body like an actual virus, and the fear of physical suffering or death engendered by it, inspired these complaints with a note of sincerity which cannot be mistaken.
Every individual is placed, from the moment of his birth, under the protection of a god and goddess, of whom he is the servant, or rather the son, and whom he never addresses otherwise than as his god and his goddess. These deities accompany him night and day, not so much to protect him from visible dangers, as to guard him from the invisible beings which ceaselessly hover round him, and attack him on every side. If he is devout, piously disposed towards his divine patrons and the deities of his country, if he observes the prescribed rites, recites the prayers, performs the sacrifices -- in a word, if he acts rightly -- their aid is never lacking; they bestow upon him a numerous posterity, a happy old age, prolonged to the term fixed by fate, when he must resign himself to close his eyes for ever to the light of day. If, on the contrary, he is wicked, violent, one whose word cannot be trusted, |his god cuts him down like a reed,| extirpates his race, shortens his days, delivers him over to demons who possess themselves of his body and afflict it with sicknesses before finally despatching him. Penitence is of avail against the evil of sin, and serves to re-establish a right course of life, but its efficacy is not permanent, and the moment at last arrives in which death, getting the upper hand, carries its victim away. The Chaldaeans had not such clear ideas as to what awaited them in the other world as the Egyptians possessed: whilst the tomb, the mummy, the perpetuity of the funeral revenues, and the safety of the double, were the engrossing subjects in Egypt, the Chaldaean texts are almost entirely silent as to the condition of the soul, and the living seem to have had no further concern about the dead than to get rid of them as quickly and as completely as possible. They did not believe that everything was over at the last breath, but they did not on that account think that the fate of that which survived was indissolubly associated with the perishable part, and that the disembodied soul was either annihilated or survived, according as the flesh in which it was sustained was annihilated or survived in the tomb. The soul was doubtless not utterly unconcerned about the fate of the larva it had quitted: its pains were intensified on being despoiled of its earthly case if the latter were mutilated, or left without sepulture, a prey to the fowls, of the air. This feeling, however, was not sufficiently developed to create a desire for escape from corruption entirely, and to cause a resort to the mummifying process of the Egyptians.
[Illustration: 208.jpg DECORATED WRAPPINGS FROM A MUMMY (Color)]
The Chaldaeans did not subject the body, therefore, to those injections, to those prolonged baths in preserving fluids, to that laborious swaddling which rendered it indestructible; whilst the family wept and lamented, old women who exercised the sad function of mourners washed the dead body, perfumed it, clad it in its best apparel, painted its cheeks, blackened its eyelids, placed a collar on its neck, rings on its fingers, arranged its arms upon its breast, and stretched it on a bed, setting up at its head a little altar for the customary offerings of water, incense, and cakes.
[Illustration: 209.jpg Chaldaean coffin in the form of a jar]
[Illustration: 209a.jpg A VAULTED TOMB IN URU]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a sketch by Taylor.
[Illustration: 210.jpg CHALDAEAN TOMB WITH DOMED ROOF.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a sketch by Taylor.
Evil spirits, prowled incessantly around the dead bodies of the Chaldaeans, either to feed upon them, or to use them in their sorcery: should they succeed in slipping into a corpse, from that moment it could be metamorphosed into a vampire, and return to the world to suck the blood of the living. The Chaldaeans were, therefore, accustomed to invite by prayers beneficent genii and gods to watch over the dead. Two of these would take their invisible places at the head and foot of the bed, and wave their hands in the act of blessing: these were the vassals of Ea, and, like their master, were usually clad in fish-skins. Others placed themselves in the sepulchral chamber, and stood ready to strike any one who dared to enter: these had human figures, or lions' heads joined to the bodies of men. Others, moreover, hovered over the house in order to drive off the spectres who might endeavour to enter through the roof. During the last hours in which the dead body remained among its kindred, it reposed under the protection of a legion of gods.
We must not expect to find on the plains of the Euphrates the rock-cut tombs, the mastabas or pyramids, of Egypt. No mountain chain ran on either side of the river, formed of rock soft enough to be cut and hollowed easily into chambers or sepulchral halls, and at the same time sufficiently hard to prevent the tunnels once cut from falling in.
[Illustration: 111.jpg CHALDEAN TOMB WITH FLAT ROOF.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a sketch by Taylor.
The alluvial soil upon which the Chaldaean cities were built, far from, preserving the dead body, rapidly decomposed it under the influence of heat and moisture: vaults constructed in it would soon be invaded by water in spite of masonry; paintings and sculpture would soon be eaten away by nitre, and the funereal furniture and the coffin quickly destroyed. The dwelling-house of the Chaldaean dead could not, therefore, properly be called, as those of Egypt, an |eternal house.| It was constructed of dried or burnt brick, and its form varied much from the most ancient times. Sometimes it was a great vaulted chamber, the courses forming the roof being arranged corbel-wise, and contained the remains of one or two bodies walled up within it.* At other times it consisted merely of an earthen jar, in which the corpse had been inserted in a bent-up posture, or was composed of two enormous cylindrical jars, which, when united and cemented with bitumen, formed a kind of barrel around the body. Other tombs are represented by wretched structures, sometimes oval and sometimes round in shape, placed upon a brick base and covered by a flat or domed roof. The interior was not of large dimensions, and to enter it was necessary to stoop to a creeping posture. The occupant of the smallest chambers was content to have with him his linen, his ornaments, some bronze arrowheads, and metal or clay vessels. Others contained furniture which, though not as complete as that found in Egyptian sepulchres, must have ministered to all the needs of the spirit. The body was stretched, fully clothed, upon a mat impregnated with bitumen, the head supported by a cushion or flat brick,** the arms laid across the breast, and the shroud adjusted by bands to the loins and legs. Sometimes the corpse was placed on its left side, with the legs slightly bent, and the right hand, extending over the left shoulder, was inserted into a vase, as if to convey the contents to the mouth.
* Vaulted chambers are confined chiefly to the ancient cemeteries of Uru at Mugheir; they are rather over six to seven feet long, with a breadth of five and a half feet. The walls are not quite perpendicular, but are somewhat splayed up to two-thirds of their height, where they begin to narrow into the vaulted roof.
** The object placed under the head of the skeleton is the dried brick mentioned in the text; the vessel to which the hand is stretched out was of copper; the other vessels were of earthenware, and contained water, or dates, of which the stones were found. The small cylinders on the side were of stone; the two large cylinders, between the copper vessel and those of earthenware, were pieces of bamboo, of whose use we are ignorant.
[Illustration: 213.jpg THE INTERIOR OF THE TOMB]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a sketch by Taylor
Clay jars and dishes, arranged around the body, contained the food and drink required for the dead man's daily fare -- his favourite wine, dates, fish, fowl, game, occasionally also a boar's head -- and even stone representations of provisions, which, like those of Egypt, were lasting substitutes for the reality. The dead man required weapons also to enable him to protect his food-store, and his lance, javelins and baton of office were placed alongside him, together with a cylinder bearing his name, which he had employed as his seal in his lifetime. Beside the body of a woman or young girl was arranged an abundance of spare ornaments, flowers, scent-bottles, combs, cosmetic pencils, and cakes of the black paste with which they were accustomed to paint the eyebrows and the edges of the eyelids.
Cremation seems in many cases to have been preferred to burial in a tomb. The funeral pile was constructed at some distance from the town, on a specially reserved area in the middle of the marshes. The body, wrapped up in coarse matting, was placed upon a heap of reeds and rushes saturated with bitumen: a brick wall, coated with moist clay, was built around this to circumscribe the action of the flames, and, the customary prayers having been recited, the pile was set on fire, masses of fresh material, together with the funerary furniture and usual viaticum, being added to the pyre. When the work of cremation was considered to be complete, the fire was extinguished, and an examination made of the residue. It frequently happened that only the most accessible and most easily destroyed parts of the body had been attacked by the flames, and that there remained a black and disfigured mass which the fire had not consumed. The previously prepared coating of mud was then made to furnish a clay covering for the body, so as to conceal the sickening spectacle from the view of the relatives and spectators. Sometimes, however, the furnace accomplished its work satisfactorily, and there was nothing to be seen at the end but greasy ashes and scraps of calcined bones. The remains were frequently left where they were, and the funeral pile became their tomb. They were, however, often collected and disposed of in a manner which varied with their more or less complete combustion. Bodies insufficiently burnt were interred in graves, or in public chapels; while the ashes of those fully cremated, together with the scraps of bones and the debris of the offerings, were placed in long urns. The heat had contorted the weapons and half melted the vessels of copper; and the deceased was thus obliged to be content with the fragments only of the things provided for him. These were, however, sufficient for the purpose, and his possessions, once put to the test of the flames, now accompanied him whither he went: water alone was lacking, but provision was made for this by the construction on the spot of cisterns to collect it. For this purpose several cylinders of pottery, some twenty inches broad, were inserted in the ground one above the other from a depth of from ten to twelve feet, and the last cylinder, reaching the level of the ground, was provided with a narrow neck, through which the rainwater or infiltrations from the river flowed into this novel cistern. Many examples of these are found in one and the same chamber,* thus giving the soul an opportunity of finding water in one or other of them. The tombs at Uruk, arranged closely together with coterminous walls, and gradually covered by the sand or by the accumulation and debris of new tombs, came at length to form an actual mound. In cities where space was less valuable, and where they were free to extend, the tombs quickly disappeared without leaving any vestiges above the surface, and it would now be necessary to turn up a great deal of rubbish before discovering their remains. The Chaldaea of to-day presents the singular aspect of a country almost without cemeteries, and one would be inclined to think that its ancient inhabitants had taken pains to hide them.** The sepulture of royal personages alone furnishes us with monuments of which we can determine the site. At Babylon these were found in the ancient palaces in which the living were no longer inclined to dwell: that of Shargina, for instance, furnished a burying-place for kings more than two thousand years after the death of its founder. The chronicles devoutly indicate the spot where each monarch, when his earthly reign was over, found a last resting-place; and where, as the subject of a ceremonial worship similar to that of Egypt, his memory was preserved from the oblivion which had overtaken most of his illustrious subjects.
* The German expedition of 1886-87 found four of these reservoirs in a single chamber, and nine distributed in the chambers of a house entirely devoted to the burial of the dead.
** Various explanations have been offered to account for this absence of tombs, Without mentioning the desperate attempt to get rid of the difficulty by the assumption that the dead bodies were cast into the river, Loftus thinks that the Chaldaeans and Assyrians were accustomed to send them to some sanctuary in Southern Chaldaea, especially to Uru and Uruk, whose vast cemeteries, he contends, would have absorbed during the centuries the greater part of the Euphratean population; his opinion has been adopted by some historians, and, as far only as the later period is concerned, by Hommel.
The dead man, or rather that part of him which survived -- his |ekimmu| -- dwelt in the tomb, and it was for his comfort that there were provided, at the time of sepulture or cremation, the provisions and clothing, the ornaments and weapons, of which he was considered to stand in need. Furnished with these necessities by his children and heirs, he preserved for the donors the same affection which he had felt for them in his lifetime, and gave evidence of it in every way he could, watching over their welfare, and protecting them from malign influences. If they abandoned or forgot him, he avenged himself for their neglect by returning to torment them in their homes, by letting sickness attack them, and by ruining them with his imprecations: he became thus no less hurtful than the |luminous ghost| of the Egyptians, and if he were accidentally deprived of sepulture, he would not be merely a plague to his relations, but a danger to the entire city. The dead, who were unable to earn an honest living, showed little pity to those who were in the same position as themselves: when a new-comer arrived among them without prayers, libations, or offerings, they declined to receive him, and would not give him so much as a piece of bread out of their meagre store. The spirit of the unburied dead man, having neither place of repose nor means of subsistence, wandered through the town and country, occupied with no other thought than that of attacking and robbing the living. He it was who, gliding into the house during the night, revealed himself to its inhabitants with such a frightful visage as to drive them distracted with terror. Always on the watch, no sooner does he surprise one of his victims than he falls upon him, |his head against his victim's head, his hand against his hand, his foot against his foot.| He who has been thus attacked, whether man or beast, would undoubtedly perish if magic were not able to furnish its all-powerful defence against this deadly embrace.* This human survival, who is so forcibly represented both in his good and evil aspects, was nevertheless nothing more than a sort of vague and fluid existence -- a double, in fact, analogous in appearance to that of the Egyptians.
* The majority of the spells employed against sickness contain references to the spirits against which they contend -- |the wicked ekimmu who oppresses men during the night,| or simply |the wicked ekimmu,| the ghost.
With the faculty of roaming at will through space, and of going forth from and returning to his abode, it was impossible to regard him as condemned always to dwell in the case of terra-cotta in which his body lay mouldering: he was transferred, therefore, or rather he transferred himself, into the dark land -- the Aralu -- situated very far away -- according to some, beneath the surface of the earth; according to others, in the eastern or northern extremities of the universe. A river which opens into this region and separates it from the sunlit earth, finds its source in the primordial waters into whose bosom this world of ours is plunged. This dark country is surrounded by seven high walls, and is approached through seven gates, each of which is guarded by a pitiless warder. Two deities rule within it -- Nergal, |the lord of the great city,| and Beltis-Allat, |the lady of the great land,| whither everything which has breathed in this world descends after death. A legend relates that Allat, called in Sumerian Erishkigal, reigned alone in Hades, and was invited by the gods to a feast which they had prepared in heaven. Owing to her hatred of the light, she sent a refusal by her messenger Narntar, who acquitted himself on this mission with such a bad grace, that Ann and Ea were incensed against his mistress, and commissioned Nergal to descend and chastise her; he went, and finding the gates of hell open, dragged the queen by her hair from the throne, and was about to decapitate her, but she mollified him by her prayers, and saved her life by becoming his wife. The nature of Nergal fitted him well to play the part of a prince of the departed: for he was the destroying sun of summer, and the genius of pestilence and battle. His functions, however, in heaven and earth took up so much of his time that he had little leisure to visit his nether kingdom, and he was consequently obliged to content himself with the role of providing subjects for it by despatching thither the thousands of recruits which he gathered daily from the abodes of men or from the field of battle. Allat was the actual sovereign of the country. She was represented with the body of a woman, ill-formed and shaggy, the grinning muzzle of a lion, and the claws of a bird of prey. She brandished in each hand a large serpent -- a real animated javelin, whose poisonous bite inflicted a fatal wound upon the enemy. Her children were two lions, which she is represented as suckling, and she passed through her empire, not seated in the saddle, but standing upright or kneeling on the back of a horse, which seems oppressed by her weight. Sometimes she set out on an expedition upon the river which communicates with the countries of light, in order to meet the procession of newly arrived souls ceaselessly despatched to her: she embarked in this case upon an enchanted vessel, which made its way without sail or oars, its prow projecting like the beak of a bird, and its stern terminating in the head of an ox. She overcomes all resistance, and nothing can escape from her: the gods themselves can pass into her empire only on the condition of submitting to death like mortals, and of humbly avowing themselves her slaves.
[Illustration: 220.jpg THE GODDESS ALLAT PASSES THROUGH THE NETHER REGIONS IN HER BARK.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a bronze plaque of which an engraving was published by Clermont-Ganneau. The original, which belonged to M. Peretie, is now in the collection of M. de Clercq
[Illustration: 221.jpg NERGAL, THE GOD OF HADES; BACK VIEW.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin. This is the back of the bronze plate represented on the preceding page; the animal-head of the god appears in relief at the top of the illustration.
The warders at the gates despoiled the new-comers of everything which they had brought with them, and conducted them in a naked condition before Allat, who pronounced sentence upon them, and assigned to each his place in the nether world. The good or evil committed on earth by such souls was of little moment in determining the sentence: to secure the favour of the judge, it was of far greater importance to have exhibited devotion to the gods and to Allat herself, to have lavished sacrifices and offerings upon them and to have enriched their temples. The souls which could not justify themselves were subjected to horrible punishment: leprosy consumed them to the end of time, and the most painful maladies attacked them, to torture them ceaselessly without any hope of release. Those who were fortunate enough to be spared from her rage, dragged out a miserable and joyless existence. They were continually suffering from the pangs of thirst and hunger, and found nothing to satisfy their appetites but clay and dust. They shivered with cold, and they obtained no other garment to protect them than mantles of feathers -- the great silent wings of the night-birds, invested with which they fluttered about and filled the air with their screams. This gloomy and cruel conception of ordinary life in this strange kingdom was still worse than the idea formed of the existence in the tomb to which it succeeded. In the cemetery the soul was, at least, alone with the dead body; in the house of Allat, on the contrary, it was lost as it were among spirits as much afflicted as itself, and among the genii born of darkness. None of these genii had a simple form, or approached the human figure in shape; each individual was a hideous medley of human and animal parts, in which the most repellent features were artistically combined. Lions' heads stood out from the bodies of scorpion-tailed jackals, whose feet were armed with eagles' claws: and among such monsters the genii of pestilence, fever, and the south-west wind took the chief place. When once the dead had become naturalized among this terrible population, they could not escape from their condition, unless by the exceptional mandate of the gods above. They possessed no recollection of what they had done upon earth. Domestic affection, friendships, and the memory of good offices rendered to one another, -- all were effaced from their minds: nothing remained there but an inexpressible regret at having been exiled from the world of light, and an excruciating desire to reach it once more. The threshold of Allat's palace stood upon a spring which had the property of restoring to life all who bathed in it or drank of its waters: they gushed forth as soon as the stone was raised, but the earth-spirits guarded it with a jealous care, and kept at a distance all who attempted to appropriate a drop of it. They permitted access to it only by order of Ea himself, or one of the supreme gods, and even then with a rebellious heart at seeing their prey escape them. Ancient legends related how the shepherd Dumuzi, son of Ea and Damkina, having excited the love of Ishtar while he was pasturing his flocks under the mysterious tree of Eridu, which covers the earth with its shade, was chosen by the goddess from among all others to be the spouse of her youth, and how, being mortally wounded by a wild boar, he was cast into the kingdom of Allat. One means remained by which he might be restored to the light of day: his wounds must be washed in the waters of the wonderful spring, and Ishtar resolved to go in quest of this marvellous liquid. The undertaking was fraught with danger, for no one might travel to the infernal regions without having previously gone through the extreme terrors of death, and even the gods themselves could not transgress this fatal law. |To the land without return, to the land which thou knowest -- Ishtar, the daughter of Sin, turned her thoughts: she, the daughter of Sin, turned her thoughts -- to the house of darkness, the abode of Irkalla -- to the house from which he who enters can never emerge -- to the path upon which he who goes shall never come back -- to the house into which he who enters bids farewell to the light -- the place where dust is nourishment and clay is food; the light is not seen, darkness is the dwelling, where the garments are the wings of birds -- where dust accumulates on door and bolt.| Ishtar arrives at the porch, she knocks at it, she addresses the guardian in an imperious voice: |'Guardian of the waters, open thy gate -- open thy gate that I may enter, even I. -- If thou openest not the door that I may enter, even I, -- I will burst open the door, I will break the bars, I will break the threshold, I will burst in the panels, I will excite the dead that they may eat the living, -- and the dead shall be more numerous than the living.' -- The guardian opened his mouth and spake, he announced to the mighty Ishtar: 'Stop, O lady, and do not overturn the door until I go and apprise the Queen Allat of thy name.' Allat hesitates, and then gives him permission to receive the goddess: 'Go, guardian, open the gate to her -- but treat her according to the ancient laws. Mortals enter naked into the world, and naked must they leave it: and since Ishtar has decided to accept their lot, she too must be prepared to divest herself of her garments.'| The guardian went, he opened his mouth: 'Enter, my lady, and may Kutha rejoice -- may the palace and the land without return exult in thy presence! 'He causes her to pass through the first gate, divests her, removes the great crown from her head: -- 'Why, guardian, dost thou remove the great crown from my head?' -- 'Enter, my lady, such is the law of Allat.' The second gate, he causes her to pass through it, he divests her -- removes the rings from her ears: -- 'Why, guardian, dost thou remove the rings from my ears?' -- 'Enter, my lady, such is the law of Allat.'| And from gate to gate he removes some ornament from the distressed lady -- now her necklace with its attached amulets, now the tunic which covers her bosom, now her enamelled girdle, her bracelets, and the rings on her ankles: and at length, at the seventh gate, takes from her her last covering. When she at length arrives in the presence of Allat, she throws herself upon her in order to wrest from her in a terrible struggle the life of Dumuzi; but Allat sends for Namtar, her messenger of misfortune, to punish, the rebellious Ishtar. |Strike her eyes with the affliction of the eyes -- strike her loins with the affliction of the loins -- strike her feet with the affliction of the feet -- strike her heart with the affliction of the heart -- strike her head with the affliction of the head -- strike violently at her, at her whole body!| While Ishtar was suffering the torments of the infernal regions, the world of the living was wearing mourning on account of her death. In the absence of the goddess of love, the rites of love could no longer be performed. The passions of animals and men were suspended. If she did not return quickly to the daylight, the races of men and animals would become extinct, the earth would become a desert, and the gods would have neither votaries nor offerings.
[Illustration: 226.jpg ISHTAR DESPOILED OF HER GARMENTS IN HADES]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a Chaldaean intaglio in the Hague Museum. Salomon Reinach has demonstrated that the naked figure is not the goddess herself, but a statue of the goddess which was adored in one of the temples.
|Papsukal, the servant of the great gods, tore his face before Shamash -- clothed in mourning, filled with sorrow. Shamash went -- he wept in the presence of Sin, his father, -- and his tears flowed in the presence of Ea, the king: -- 'Ishtar has gone down into the earth, and she has not come up again! -- And ever since Ishtar has descended into the land without return... [the passions of men and beasts have been suspended]... the master goes to sleep while giving his command, the servant goes to sleep on his duty.'| The resurrection of the goddess is the only remedy for such ills, but this is dependent upon the resurrection of Damuzi: Ishtar will never consent to reappear in the world, if she cannot bring back her husband with her. Ea, the supreme god, the infallible executor of the divine will -- he who alone can modify the laws imposed upon creation -- at length decides to accord to her what she desires. |Ea, in the wisdom of his heart, formed a male being, -- formed Uddushunamir, the servant of the gods: -- 'Go then, Uddushunamir, turn thy face towards the gate of the land without return; -- the seven gates of the land without return -- may they become open at thy presence -- may Allat behold thee, and rejoice in thy presence! When her heart shall be calm, and her wrath appeased, charm her in the name of the great gods -- turn thy thoughts to the spring' -- 'May the spring, my lady, give me of its waters that I may drink of them.'| Allat broke out into a terrible rage, when she saw herself obliged to yield to her rival; |she beat her sides, she gnawed her fingers,| she broke out into curses against the messenger of misfortune. |'Thou hast expressed to me a wish which should not be made! -- Fly, Uddushunamir, or I will shut thee up in the great prison -- the mud of the drains of the city shall be thy food -- the gutters of the town shall be thy drink -- the shadow of the walls shall be thy abode -- the thresholds shall be thy habitation -- confinement and isolation shall weaken thy strength.'|* She is obliged to obey, notwithstanding; she calls her messenger Namtar and commands him to make all the preparations for resuscitating the goddess. It was necessary to break the threshold of the palace in order to get at the spring, and its waters would have their full effect only in presence of the Anunnas. |Namtar went, he rent open the eternal palace, -- he twisted the uprights so that the stones of the threshold trembled; -- he made the Anunnaki come forth, and seated them on thrones of gold, -- he poured upon Ishtar the waters of life, and brought her away.| She received again at each gate the articles of apparel she had abandoned in her passage across the seven circles of hell: as soon as she saw the daylight once more, it was revealed to her that the fate of her husband was henceforward in her own hands. Every year she must bathe him in pure water, and anoint him with the most precious perfumes, clothe him in a robe of mourning, and play to him sad airs upon a crystal flute, whilst her priestesses intoned their doleful chants, and tore their breasts in sorrow: his heart would then take fresh life, and his youth flourish once more, from springtime to springtime, as long as she should celebrate on his behalf the ceremonies already prescribed by the deities of the infernal world.
* It follows from this passage that Ishtar could be delivered only at the cost of another life: it was for this reason, doubtless, that Ea, instead of sending the ordinary messenger of the gods, created a special messenger. Allat, furious at the insignificance of the victim sent to her, contents herself with threatening Uddushanamir with an ignominious treatment if he does not escape as quickly as possible.
Dumuzi was a god, the lover, moreover, of a goddess, and the deity succeeded where mortals failed.* Ea, Nebo, Gula, Ishtar, and their fellows possessed, no doubt, the faculty of recalling the dead to life, but they rarely made use of it on behalf of their creatures, and their most pious votaries pleaded in vain from temple to temple for the resurrection of their dead friends; they could never obtain the favour which had been granted by Allat to Dumuzi.
* Merodach is called |the merciful one who takes pleasure in raising the dead to life,| and |the lord of the pure libation,| the |merciful one who has power to give life.| In Jeremias may be found the list of the gods who up to the present are known to have had the power to resuscitate the dead; it is probable that this power belonged to all the gods and goddesses of the first rank.
[Illustration: 229.jpg DUMUZI REJUVENATED ON THE KNEES OF ISHTAR.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a Chaldaean intaglio.
When the dead body was once placed in the tomb, it rose up no more, it could no more be reinstated in the place in the household it had lost, it never could begin once more a new earthly existence. The necromancers, indeed, might snatch away death's prey for a few moments. The earth gaped at the words of their invocations, the soul burst forth like a puff of wind and answered gloomily the questions proposed to it; but when the charm was once broken, it had to retrace its steps to the country without return, to be plunged once more in darkness. This prospect of a dreary and joyless eternity was not so terrifying to the Chaldaeans as it was to the Egyptians. The few years of their earthly existence were of far more concern to them than the endless ages which were to begin their monotonous course on the morrow of their funeral. The sum of good and evil fortune assigned to them by destiny they preferred to spend continuously in the light of day on the fair plains of the Euphrates and Tigris: if they were to economize during this period with the view of laying up a posthumous treasure of felicity, their store would have no current value beyond the tomb, and would thus become so much waste. The gods, therefore, whom they served faithfully would recoup them, here in their native city, with present prosperity, with health, riches, power, glory, and a numerous offspring, for the offerings of their devotion; while, if they irritated the deities by their shortcomings, they had nothing to expect but overwhelming calamities and sufferings. The gods would |cut them down like a reed,| and their |names would be annihilated, their seed destroyed; -- they would end their days in affliction and hunger, -- their dead bodies would be at the mercy of chance, and would receive no sepulture.| They were content to resign themselves, therefore, to the dreary lot of eternal misery which awaited them after death, provided they enjoyed in this world a long and prosperous existence. Some of them felt and rebelled against the injustice of the idea, which assigned one and the same fate, without discrimination, to the coward and the hero killed on the battle-field, to the tyrant and the mild ruler of his people, to the wicked and the righteous. These therefore supposed that the gods would make distinctions, that they would separate such heroes from the common herd, welcome them in a fertile, sunlit island, separated from the abode of men by the waters of death -- the impassable river which leads to the house of Allat. The tree of life flourished there, the spring of life poured forth there its revivifying waters; thither Ea transferred Xisuthros after the Deluge; Gilgames saw the shores of this island and returned from it, strong and healthy as in the days of his youth. The site of this region of delights was at first placed in the centre of the marshes of the Euphrates, where this river flows into the sea; afterwards when the country became better known, it was transferred beyond the ocean. In proportion as the limits of the Chaldaean horizon were thrust further and further away by mercantile or warlike expeditions, this mysterious island was placed more and more to the east, afterwards to the north, and at length at a distance so great that it tended to vanish altogether. As a final resource, the gods of heaven themselves became the hosts, and welcomed into their own kingdom the purified souls of the heroes.
These souls were not so securely isolated from humanity that the inhabitants of the world were not at times tempted to rejoin them before their last hour had come. Just as Gilgames had dared of old the dangers of the desert and the ocean in order to discover the island of Khasisadra, so Etana darted through the air in order to ascend to the sky of Anu, to become incorporated while still living in the choir of the blessed. The legend gives an account of his friendship with the eagle of Shamash, and of the many favours he had obtained from and rendered to the bird. It happened at last, that his wife could not bring forth the son which lay in her womb; the hero, addressing himself to the eagle, asked from her the plant which alleviates the birth-pangs of women and facilitates their delivery. This was only to be found, however, in the heaven of Anu, and how could any one run the risk of mounting so high, without being destroyed on the way by the anger of the gods? The eagle takes pity upon the sorrow of his comrade, and resolves to attempt the enterprise with him. |'Friend,' she says, 'banish the cloud from thy face! Come, and I will carry thee to the heaven of the god Anu. Place thy breast against my breast -- place thy two hands upon the pinions of my wings -- place thy side against my side.' He places his breast against the breast of the eagle, he places his two hands upon the pinions of the wings, he places his side against her side; -- he adjusts himself firmly, and his weight was great.| The Chaldaean artists have more than once represented the departure of the hero. They exhibit him closely attached to the body of his ally, and holding her in a strong embrace. A first flight has already lifted them above the earth, and the shepherds scattered over the country are stupefied at the unaccustomed sight: one announces the prodigy to another, while their dogs seated at their feet extend their muzzles as if in the act of howling with terror. |For the space of a double hour the eagle bore him -- then the eagle spake to him, to him Etana: 'Behold, my friend, the earth what it is; regard the sea which the ocean contains! See, the earth is no more than a mountain, and the sea is no more than a lake.' The space of a second double hour she bore him, then the eagle spake to him, to him Etana: 'Behold, my friend, the earth what it is; the sea appears as the girdle of the earth! 'The space of a third double hour she bore him, then the eagle spake to him, to him Etana: 'See, my friend, the earth, what it is: -- the sea is no more than the rivulet made by a gardener.'|
[Illustration: 233.jpg ETANA CARRIED TO HEAVEN BY AN EAGLE.]
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a Chaldaean intaglio.
|They at length arrive at the heaven of Anu, and rest there for a moment. Etana sees around him nothing but empty space -- no living thing within it -- not even a bird: he is struck with terror, but the eagle reassures him, and tells him to proceed on his way to the heaven of Ishtar. |'Come, my friend, let me bear thee to Ishtar, -- and I will place thee near Ishtar, the lady, -- and at the feet of Ishtar, the lady, thou shalt throw thyself. -- Place thy side against my side, place thy hands on the pinions of my wings.' The space of a double hour she bore him: 'Friend, behold the earth what it is. -- The face of the earth stretches out quite flat -- and the sea is no greater than a mere.' The space of a second double hour she bore him: 'Friend, behold the earth what it is, -- the earth is no more than a square plot in a garden, and the great sea is not greater than a puddle of water.'| At the third hour Etana lost courage, and cried, |Stop!| and the eagle immediately descended again; but, Etana's strength being exhausted, he let go his hold, and was dashed to pieces on the ground.
The eagle escaped unhurt this time, but she soon suffered a more painful death than that of Etana. She was at war with the serpent, though the records which we as yet possess do not vouchsafe the reason, when she discovered in the roots of a tree the nest in which her enemy concealed its brood. She immediately proposed to her young ones to pounce down upon the growing snakes; one of her eaglets, wiser than the rest, reminded her that they were under the protection of Shamash, the great righter of wrongs, and cautioned her against any transgression of the divine laws. The old eagle felt herself wiser than her son, and rebuked him after the manner of wise mothers: she carried away the serpent's young, and gave them as food to her own brood. The hissing serpent crawled as far as Shamash, crying for vengeance: |The evil she has done me, Shamash -- behold it! Come to my help, Shamash! thy net is as wide as the earth -- thy snares reach to the distant mountain -- who can escape thy net? -- The criminal Zu, Zu who was the first to act wickedly, did he escape it?| Shamash refused to interfere personally, but he pointed out to the serpent an artifice by which he might satisfy his vengeance as securely as if Shamash himself had accomplished it. |Set out upon the way, ascend the mountain, -- and conceal thyself in a dead bull; -- make an incision in his inside -- tear open his belly, -- take up thy abode -- establish thyself in his belly. All the birds of the air will pounce upon it.... -- and the eagle herself will come with them, ignorant that thou art within it; -- she will wish to possess herself of the flesh, she will come swiftly -- she will think of nothing but the entrails within. As soon as she begins to attack the inside, seize her by her wings, beat down her wings, the pinions of her wings and her claws, tear her and throw her into a ravine of the mountain, that she may die there a death of hunger and thirst.|
The serpent did as Shamash advised, and the birds of the air began to flock round the carcase in which she was hidden. The eagle came with the rest, and at first kept aloof, looking for what should happen. When she saw that the birds flew away unharmed all fear left her. In vain did the wise eaglet warn her of the danger that was lurking within the prey; she mocked at him and his predictions, dug her beak into the carrion, and the serpent leaping out seized her by the wing. Then |the eagle her mouth opened, and spake unto the snake, 'Have mercy upon me, and according to thy pleasure a gift I will lavish upon thee!' The snake opened her mouth and spake unto the eagle, 'Did I release thee, Shamash would take part against me; and the doom would fall upon me, which now I fulfil upon thee.' She tore out her wings, her feathers, her pinions; she tore her to pieces, she threw her into a cleft, and there she died a death of hunger and of thirst.|
The gods allowed no living being to penetrate with impunity into their empire: he who was desirous of ascending thither, however brave he might be, could do so only by death. The mass of humanity had no pretensions to mount so high. Their religion gave them the choice between a perpetual abode in the tomb, or confinement in the prison of Allat; if at times they strove to escape from these alternatives, and to picture otherwise their condition in the world beyond, their ideas as to the other life continued to remain vague, and never approached the minute precision of the Egyptian conception. The cares of the present life were too absorbing to allow them leisure to speculate upon the conditions of a future existence.
[Illustration: 230.jpg Endplate]