History of Mesopotamian Religion Term Paper

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History Of Mesopotamian Religion

It is true that not much is known about early religion, and about early religious influences. However, one may be tempted to believe that the ancient cave paintings done on cave walls must have had something to do with religion, and religious beliefs of ancient man. For example, ancient man painted animals. By painting an animal being speared to death, he may have been praying for success during his next hunt. There is proof that ancient man did believe in the after life; this was why, experts say, that these people buried their dead with one or more precious objects with them, in the hope, perhaps, that these objects would prove to be useful to hem during their after life. It was at about this time, too, that mankind was starting to bond together, and perhaps this was why they had started to build lovely structures that would be dedicated to their Gods, in much the same way as an average human being does today, when he builds temples for his Gods. Mesopotamia was one of the earliest known cities, and it is believed that in Mesopotamia, the basic facts of nature were all attributed to the workings of a divine being, perhaps a God. (Ancient Mesopotamia, early religion)

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It is a well-known fact that these ancient people believed that there were many gods and goddesses, including the four important creator gods who had supposedly been created by the forces of Taimat and Abzu, who had emerged from a primordial chaos of water, according to an ancient Greek tale. The most superior and the highest and more powerful of the four Gods was the Sky God 'An', also referred to as the 'over-arching bowl of heaven'. (Ancient Mesopotamia, early religion) the next important God was Enlil, who was capable of either produce raging storms or acting to help man. The third one was the Earth Goddess, also known popularly as Nin-khursag. The fourth God of the Mesopotamians was Enki, who was the Water God and Patron of wisdom. These four would not be able to act alone, and they all consulted with an assembly of fifty, the Annunaki. Apart from these Gods, the Mesopotamians also believed in a large number of spirits and demons. (Ancient Mesopotamia, early religion)

TOPIC: Term Paper on History of Mesopotamian Religion Assignment

It is important to note that although the Mesopotamians were ancient people, who believed in their own Gods, Gods that were closely linked to nature and the benefits that they derived from nature, they believed in creating beautiful structures or temples within which they would house their Gods, in much the same way as Christians did, by building Churches to house their God, Jesus Christ. As a matter of fact, experts felt hat there seems to be a remarkable similarity in the religious architectural forms of the fourth century BC, and the earlier Churches of the so called 'pre-Islamic era'. However, apparently, all Mesopotamians believed in housing their Gods first within their own houses, and this cannot be taken in the narrow sense that one would try to do today. Rather, as IJ Gelb put it, "...it was a full socio-economic unit, largely self-contained and autarchic, which includes residential buildings, shelters for the labor force, storage buildings, and animal pens, fields, orchards and gardens, and pastures, as well as the owners (or managers) labor personnel, and domestic animals...the full economic unit needed to support the manifold activities of the temple." (Potts, 200)

It must be remembered that from the seventh millennium onwards, while Assyria had several small agricultural villages, Babylonia had several semi-nomadic villages located on river banks and other water courses. This was where the Mesopotamian civilization started to develop, and soon enough, because of the excellent water sources available, the civilization became renowned in those parts. It was between the years 1792-1750 that Hammurabi of Babylon flourished, and one must recount the fact that Hammurabi was known for his unique 'Code of Law', which included rules such as: "if any one ensnare another, putting a ban upon him, but he can not prove it, then he that ensnared him shall be put to death," and, "if any one bring an accusation against a man, and the accused go to the river and leap into the river, if he sink in the river his accuser shall take possession of his house. But if the river proves that the accused is not guilty, and he escapes unhurt, then he who had brought the accusation shall be put to death, while he who leaped into the river shall take possession of the house that had belonged to his accuser." (Lecture 3, ancient Mesopotamia) This is a mere sample of the two hundred and eighty two codes of law, written in the daily language of Babylonia, Akkadian, that people believed in and lived by during the Mesopotamian times. These ancient people even believed that Hammurabi, the sixth King of Babylonia, had been handed down this code by the Sun God, Shamash. (Lecture 3, ancient Mesopotamia)

Thorkild Jacobsen puts forth the belief that the beliefs of the ancient Mesopotamians were shaped for the most part by the environment in which they lived, and this was why they would experience life to its fullest. This was also why they considered nature as part of the group of Gods that controlled them: a thunderstorm was depicted by a warrior, while the bolts of lightning that struck the sky were the warrior's spear, and the thunder was the sound that his chariot would make when he was traveling across the sky. In other words, the Mesopotamians personified nature, gave nature a real form, and made nature their God. This can be explained by the fact that 'Anu' referred to Heaven, or it could mean 'Hursag', or Foothills. Some times a 'en'or 'nin' would be added to the name, as in 'Enli'l, meaning 'Master of storm' or 'Ninana', meaning 'mistress of date clusters'. (Lecture 3, ancient Mesopotamia) Deities could also be anthropomorphic, that is, endowed with a human form. This was the reason why Inanna, who was earlier known as 'Ninana' was depicted as either the gateposts to a storehouse, in a psysiomorphical form, or as the glorious morning star, or even anthropomorphically, with a human form. Thereby, Hursag or Foothills could just as easily become Ninhursag, or in other words, the 'Mistress of the foothills'. (Lecture 3, ancient Mesopotamia)

There were more than a hundred Gods, as far as the ancient Mesopotamians were concerned, and it was these Gods who controlled everything in the world, and this included controlling the flooding of the river, the rising and the setting of the sun, the onslaught of a thunderstorm, which included bolts of lightning and thunder, and also making bread rise, vegetables to grow, and so on and so forth. Each city in the civilization would be protected by its own Gods and Goddesses, and enormous temples were built by the people of the villages, so that the gods, Goddesses and their families could live within the temple, undisturbed. Priests were appointed in order to take care of the Temple and the Gods within, and these priests were also entrusted with the rituals that would make up their prayer sessions. Several smaller temples were also built through the entire city and village, so that whenever people felt the need to visit the temple and their favorite Gods, they would be able to reach the premises, and give their offerings to the Gods. It is important to note that the Mesopotamians also created demons, which were in essence Gods, but with human bodies, and animal or bird heads. (Gods, Goddesses, Demons and Monsters)

This then was the basic principle upon which Mesopotamian religion was based, and it would help to take a look at the names of the various Gods and Goddesses, in order of their importance to these simple people of ancient times. Take Tiamat, for example. This was the primordial Goddess of Creative Chaos, while Ishtar was a Sky Goddess of sex, love and fertility. This Goddess was also known popularly as the 'Evening Star with eight points'. Marduk was probably the top deity, a God who could have been a real force to be reckoned with. He was also the God of Fertility, and was the Chief of all the other Gods. Apsu was the God of sweet waters, who was an optimistic and positive deity. Apsu lived and gave forth the heavenly fresh waters of Wisdom to his people, and filled the earth with his positive goodness. Adrammelech was the Supreme God of the Sun, and he had even been mentioned in the Old Testament 2 Kings 17:31. Adrammelech had a consort, who was probably almost as important as he was, and she was known as Anamelech. This was in fact the Moon. Enki was the Creator God, who apparently discovered sex for the first time when he was in his bath. He tried out the act immediately with his wife, Ninhursaga, and… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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