Mythology of the Middle East
1.The heart of the ancient Middle East was the Mesopotamia, where the popular religion was animistic. This means that the world was thought to be full of mysterious and unpredictable forces.
2.Most myths originated in scribal centres attached to the temples. They are found on the clay tablets discovered in the archives of such cities as Ur, Babylon, and Nineveh. The text inscribed on these tablets is still disputed.
3.Sumer and Babylon
The true significance of the Sumerian civilization's religion and mythology has only recently (last century) became appreciated.
The cuneiform texts which contain the Sumerian myths were written during the age of the Third Dynasty of Ur, or in the following period.
In these texts scribes and thinkers of the Third Dynasty of Ur produced a cosmological and theological system which became the fundamental creed and dogma of the whole of the Middle East.
Dumuzi and Enkimdu
Babylonian myths reflect an unpredictable universe, which poses crucial questions for humanity.
oHow can mankind deal with the unpredictable activities of the gods?
oWhy does mankind not enjoy immortality?
These two concerns are the subject of the tale of Adapa.
The Judgment of Zu
Gilgamesh is described as "two-thirds god one-thirds man".
He oppressed his subjects in Erech.
Enkidu was created to control Gilamesh.
Enkidu fights Gilamesh and then the two become good friends and embark on heroic journeys.
5.Ishtar and Tammuz
Ishtar is the supreme goddess of sexual love and fertility, and also goddess of war, "the lady of battles".
For no apparent reason she descended into the underworld.
She confronted the goddess Ereshkigal, ruler of the underworld, and her own sister, and tries to seize her throne, but she is condemned to death and hung up on a wall.
Tammuz has more than one aspect. He was not considered one of the great gods, but he was held in high regard in popular religion and his cult was widespread.
Under one aspect was the embodiment of vegetation.
But most significantly, he was the archetypal dying god.
6.Myths of Creation
The ultimate origin of all things was the primeval sea, personified as the goddess Nammu.
She gave birth to the male sky god An
She gave birth to the female earth goddess Ki.
Their union produced the "Great gods"
Enlil - Source of order in the universe.
Enki - God of Wisdon.
The myth of the unpredictable inundation of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
Mankind exists to serve the gods, but mankind begins to reproduce to quickly, eventually disturbing the gods.
Enhlil seeks to reduce the numbers of mankind through plagues and disasters.
Enki protects mankind and reveals Enlil's intensions to the Atrahasis, pious king of Shurupak.
Enlil is enraged but accepts the continuance of mankind. However, he proposes a method to control population growth.
Priestesses are debarred from having children are infant mortality in introduced.