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Assyro-Babylonian religion

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Assyrian demon Pazuzu.

The religions of Babylonia and Assyria are the earliest attestation of Ancient Semitic religion[citation needed], in particular Mesopotamian mythology[citation needed]. As with other ancient cultures in Mesopotamia and elsewhere, the predominant religious model in the area was polytheism, a belief in many gods. Evolving out of earlier religions of the Ancient Near East, the religion of this area was centered on the cult of regional patron deities, such as Marduk at Babylon, Ishtar at Akkad, or Sin at Ur and Harran.

Contents

Pantheon

The following is a list of some Assyrian deities:

Neo-Assyrian Empire

The religion of the Neo-Assyrian Empire (sometimes called Ashurism by Modern Assyrians) centered around the god Assur, patron deity of the city of Assur, besides Ishtar patroness of Nineveh.The Assyrians adopted Christianity during the course of the 1st to the 3rd centuries AD,[1] the last recorded worship of Ashur dating to AD 256.[2][3] However, the Assyrian religion did exist in some form until the 10th century in Harran,[4] and into the 18th century in Mardin.[5]

Assyrian religion was an evolution of the ancient polytheistic Sumero-Akkadian religion into henotheism, a religion based on the worship of one supreme god, but recognising the existence of others. This was represented through the gradual takeover by Ashur of the roles of other gods, and this process runs parallel with the expansionist policies of the Assyrian Empire.[6] As the Assyrians extended their domain over other lands, they considered it important that the local peoples acknowledge the Assyrian king as the king of their lands as well. However, kingship at the time was linked very closely with the idea of divine mandate.[7] The Assyrian king, whilst not being a god himsef, was acknowledged as the chief servant of the chief god, Ashur. In this manner, the king's authority was seen as absolute so long as the high priest reassured the peoples that the gods, or in the case of the henotheistic Assyrians, the God, was pleased with the current ruler.[7] For the Assyrians who lived in Assur and the surrounding lands, this system was the norm. For the conquered peoples, however, it was novel, particularly to the people of smaller city-states. In time, Assur was promoted from being the local deity of Assur to the overlord of the vast Assyrian domain,[7] with worship being conducted in his name throughout the lands of the Assyrians. With the worship of Assur across much of the Fertile Crescent, the Assyrian king could command the loyalty of his fellow servants of Assur.

Ashur, the patron deity of the city of Assur from the Late Bronze Age, was in constant rivalry with the patron deity of Babylon, Marduk. In Assyria, Ashur eventually superseded Marduk even in his role as the husband of Ishtar.

The ancient Assyrians believed Ashur to be the "Sky Axle" or "he who makes the world turn", based on the ancient Sumerian deity referred to as Anshar of the same likeness. Gradually, his status was elevated to the leader of the gods by his worshippers. Some believe that the belief gradually formed the basis of monotheism and ultimately of the Abrahamic religions.[citation needed] (see also Urmonotheismus)

Influence on Abrahamic religions

Many of the stories of the Tanakh,[8] and the Qur'an are believed to have been based on, influenced by, or inspired by the legendary mythological past of the Near East. The Enuma Elish in particular has been compared to the Genesis creation story. The story of Esther in particular is traced to Babylonian roots.

See also

External links

References

  1. "Iraqi Assyrians: Barometer of Pluralism". Middle East Quarterly. http://www.meforum.org/article/558. Retrieved Summer 2003. "Modern Assyrians trace their heritage to the ancient Mesopotamians who converted from paganism to Christianity in the three centuries after Christ." 
  2. "Brief History of Assyrians". AINA Assyrian International News Agency. http://www.aina.org/aol/peter/brief.htm#Religion. 
  3. Parpola, Simo (1999). "Assyrians after Assyria" (in English) (HTML). Assyriologist. Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies, Vol. XIII No. 2,. http://www.nineveh.com/Assyrians%20after%20Assyria.html. "The gods Ashur, Sherua, Istar, Nanaya, Bel, Nabu and Nergal continued to be worshiped in Assur at least until the early third century AD; the local cultic calendar was that of the imperial period; the temple of Ashur was restored in the second century AD; and the stelae of the local rulers resemble those of Assyrian kings in the imperial period." 
  4. Parpola, Simo (1997). "State Archives of Assyria, Vol.9: Assyrian Prophecies" (in English). Assyriology. University of Helsinki. http://www.nineveh.com/Assyrians%20after%20Assyria.html. "In Harran, the cults of Sin, Nikkal, Bel, Nabu, Tammuz and other Assyrian gods persisted until the 10th century AD and are still referred to in Islamic sources. Typically Assyrian priests with their distinctive long conical hats and tunics are depicted on several Graeco-Roman monuments from Northern Syria and East Anatolia." 
  5. Parpola, Simo. "Assyrian Identity in Ancient Times and Today" (in English) (PDF). Assyriology. Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies. pp. 17. http://www.aina.org/articles/assyrianidentity.pdf. "From the third century AD on, the Assyrians embraced Christianity in increasing numbers, even though the Assyrian religion persisted in places like Harran at least until the tenth, in Mardin even until the 18th century AD." 
  6. Bertman, Stephen (2005). Handbook to Life in Ancient Mesopotamia. New York: Oxford UP. pp. p. 117. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Bertman, Stephen (2005). Handbook to Life in Ancient Mesopotamia. New York: Oxford UP. pp. p. 66. 
  8. "Assyria" (in English) (HTML). Jewish Encyclopedia. http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=2046&letter=A&search=Assyria. "." 

 

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