The ziggurrat which Ur-Gur, an early king of Ur, built is the first of which we have definite knowledge. We know something of the pavement that Sargon I. and Narâm-Sin built, but of the character of the buildings that might have rested on this pavement we have no information. Ur-Gur leveled the ground and built a new platform, 8 feet high and 100 by 170 feet in area with a ziggurrat consisting of three stages. Some of the facings of his structure were made of burnt brick, bearing the inscription of Ur-Gur (see N. II, 124). The greatest temple Nippur ever had was built by an Assyrian king; viz., Ašurbânipal. The structure covered a larger surface than any before it. The walls, instead of being plain, were ornamented with square half columns. The lower terrace was faced with baked brick, stamped with an inscription in which the ziggurrat is dedicated to Bêl, the lord of the lands, by Ašurbânipal, the mighty king, the king of the four quarters of the earth, the builder of E-kur (see N. II, 126).

E-kur, the temple of Bêl at Nippur, as restored on the basis of the discoveries of the University of Pennsylvania Exploration Fund, consists of two courts, an outer and an inner court. Within 5the inner court stands the ziggurrat, rising to a tower of three or four stages which the most devout pilgrims might perhaps ascend. At the top is an enclosed shrine in which is a statue of Bêl. Here Bêl and his consort, Bêlit, for Babylonian gods maintain family relations like human beings, are supposed to dwell. In figurines Bêl appears as an old man, dressed in royal robes, generally carrying a thunder-bolt in his hand (see N. II, 128). By the side of the ziggurrat stands a temple for the use of the priests. We may assume on the whole, no doubt, that the assembly of pilgrims was confined chiefly to the outer court (see EBL. 470).

Bêl was at first a local deity, but as the circumference of the political territory of which Nippur was the religious centre was enlarged, so Bêl’s cult was extended. Other cities included in the same political domain with Nippur, recognized Bêl as lord. Bêl was a sort of war god. Kings rivaled one another in courting his favor. The victorious king attributed his success to Bêl and brought the spoil to Bêl. The king of the south, whether of Lagaš, Erech or Ur, and the king of the north, whether of Kîš or Agade, always went to Nippur to celebrate his victory. In this way Bêl’s lordship came to be recognized as extending over all Babylonia and finally over Assyria. Ḥammurabi, king at Babylon, 2300 B. C., recognized “Bêl as lord of heaven and earth, who determines the destiny of the land”,[16] and Tiglath-pileser I. (about 1100 B. C.), the first great Assyrian conqueror, called Bêl “the father of the gods and Bêl of the lands”,[17] and speaks of himself as “appointed to dominion over the country of Bêl”.[18]

The Semitic appropriation of En-lil involved some transformation in the conception of Bêl. Not to refer to Palestine, there were three Bêls; the Sumerian Bêl, the Semitic Bêl and the new Bêl or Marduk, who, however, was really a different god. The Babylonian Bêl, either in the mind of the Sumerian, of the Babylonian or of the Assyrian, always had his seat at Nippur.

Under Semitic influence Bêl became lord of the world. He was one in the hierarchy of three who ruled the universe; viz., Anu, the lord of the heavens, Bêl, the lord of the earth, and Ea, the lord of the deep. The Sumerian name, En-lil, made Bêl the “lord of fulness”. The Semitic name Bêl emphasized the fact of his lordship, and the name of his temple, E-kur, “house of the mountain”, marked out the scope of his lordship. The earth was conceived 6of as a mountain resting on the abyss, and the temple with its ziggurrat was built to rise up like a mountain out of the deep. The people could stand in the court of the temple at Nippur and say of the mountain-like structure:

“O great mountain of Bêl, O airy mountain,

Whose summit reaches heaven,

Whose foundation in the shining deep is firmly laid,

On the land like a mighty bull lying,

With gleaming horns like the rays of the rising sun,

Like the stars of heaven that are filled with lustre!”[19]

When Babylon became the chief city of all Babylonia, it was natural that its god should be regarded as supreme. It was at this point that political lordship seemed to pass from the old Bêl to the new, namely to Marduk. Ḥammurabi, one of the early kings at Babylon, speaks of Bêl as voluntarily transferring his power to Marduk. In the Assyrian legend of the Creation this transfer is dramatically enacted. The task of overcoming the monster Tiâmat naturally belonged to Bêl. But Marduk, the youthful god of Eridu, the son of Ea, was urged to attempt the feat. When he had slain the monster, there was joy among the gods. They vied with each other in bestowing honor on the victor. Finally Bêl steps forward and confers an honor also. He bestowed on Marduk his own title with these words: “Father Bêl calls Marduk the lord of the world.”[20] Marduk, therefore, is sometimes called the new Bêl in distinction from En-lil, the old Bêl.

The idea of origins is apparently not very fully elaborated in Babylonian literature. For instance, the Babylonians did not come so near to the idea of creation ex nihilo as the Hebrews. Their cosmogony starts with chaos. The expanse of the heavens appears specked with stars, some of which move with regularity. The moon travels across the expanse according to a prescribed order. Then the Babylonian bilingual account of the Creation gives a short statement of the creation of the land and sea, of man and beast. Generally, however, the divinity that planned and perfected order seems to be far in the background. The bilingual account says:

“Marduk constructed an enclosure before the waters,

He made dust and heaped it up within the enclosure.


Mankind he created.

Animals of the field, creatures of the field he created.

The Tigris and the Euphrates he made and in place put (them)

By their names joyfully he called them”.[21]

Now Marduk, we know, took the place of Bêl and Bêl handed over his prerogatives to Marduk. In transferring his rights he must have given over also his power to create. If Marduk possessed the power to create in the time of his popularity, Bêl must have had the same power in the days of his glory, before he was succeeded by Marduk. Therefore we are led to the belief that the early Babylonians looked upon Bêl as the creator of animal and human life on earth.

The following hymn may be regarded as embodying a legendary view of Bêl as creator, while the idea of destruction is also incorporated in the hymn:

“Of Bêl, mighty hand,

Who lifts up glory and splendour, day of power.

Fearfulness he establishes.

Lord of DUN.PA.UD.DU.A, mighty hand.

Fearfulness he establishes.

Stormy one, father, mother, creator, mighty hand.

The catch-net he throws over the hostile land.

Lord, great warrior, mighty hand.

A firm house he raises up; the enemy he overthrows.

The shining one, lord of Nippur, mighty hand.

The lord, the life of the land, the massû of heaven and earth.”[22]

2. Sin

Next after Bêl, the moon-god is worthy of consideration, because of the age of his cult, and because of the greatness of its influence in Babylonia. The moon-god had two Sumerian names, 8two Assyrian names and two great temples. The Sumerian name most often applied to the moon-god is Šis-ki, the particular meaning of which in this case does not seem to be very patent. If the two syllables Šis and ki are taken as nouns, the one is the construct state and the other in the genitive relation, the name means “brother of the land”, that is, “protector of the land”, or “helper of the land”. The other Sumerian name is En-zu, lord of wisdom, the intellectual attribute of wisdom being closely related to the physical property of giving light. While therefore Šis-ki expresses the material relation of the moon to the earth, En-zu seems to state the intellectual relation of the moon-god to the affairs of the earth. The first Assyrian name of the moon-god to be considered is Nannar. The derivation of this name is still in doubt. It generally occurs in bilingual literature as the Assyrian equivalent of the Sumerian Šis-ki (see IV R. 9, 3-18). Jastrow thinks that the word Nannar is made by the reduplication of nar, “light”, and the assimilation of the first r, Nar + nar = Nannar (see RBA. p. 72). The other Assyrian name, connected with the moon-god more often at Harran than at Ur, is Sin, the sign being EŠ, used also for “thirty”, and is applied to the moon-god as the deity of the month of thirty days. As the cult of the moon-god traveled from Ur to Harran, so the name of Sin traveled even into the peninsula of Arabia and probably became a local name there in the wilderness. The Assyrian kings of the second empire seemed to prefer to call the moon-god by the name Sin, but the Semitic Babylonians called him Nannar.

Nannar had a temple at Ur, called E-gišširgal, and one at Harran, known as E-ḥulḥul. Ur was the oldest of the two temple cities. Its history may possibly reach back to 4000 B. C. Ur held a position in southern Babylonia similar to that held by Nippur in northern Babylonia, but was not so old as Nippur. Ur was the religious centre in the south with Nannar as the state god, as Nippur was the religious centre in the north with Bêl as the state god. When the states of the south and the north were united under Ḥammurabi, Babylon, becoming the religious capital of the south and the north combined, the state lustre of the god of Babylon naturally came to dim the glory of the god of Ur as well as that of Nippur. Harran, situated on the Euphrates in the northern part of Assyria, never figured in state power, and was prominent only because of the importance of the events that centered there, on the road between the east and the west.

Nabonidus, the last Semitic Babylonian king (555-538 B. C.) was an enthusiastic devotee of the moon-god. He tells us what Ašurbânipal did to the temple of the moon-god at Mugheir. In speaking of that temple, he calls it the house of Sin which Ašurbânipal, 9king of Assyria, son of Esarhaddon, king of Assyria had built. Nabonidus himself rebuilt both the temples of the moon-god, the temple of E-gišširgal at Ur and the temple of E-ḥulḥul at Harran, and he gives us a description of the rebuilding of both. We also have two prayers of Nabonidus addressed to the moon-god, one addressed to him at E-gišširgal, the other addressed to him at E-ḥulḥul (see I R. 68, Col. I, 6 ff. and V R. 64, Col. I, 8 ff.).

The temple ruins of E-gišširgal have been well uncovered. The temple is of rectangular form, the four corners turned towards the four cardinal points of the compass. The platform of the base is at the level of the roofs of the houses, made of solid masonry of bricks and reached by steps at the end. On the platform are two stagings, also of solid masonry reached by steps at one end. On the second staging is a shrine of the moon-god. In sculpture he appears as an old man with long beard and dressed in royal robes. He wears a hat and in the scene there is always a thin crescent (see Clercq, Vol. I, Plates X-XV). Loftus and Taylor both give drawings of the temple of E-gišširgal (see TR. p. 127 and JRAS. XV, p. 260.) The ruins of the temple of the moon-god at Harran have not yet been uncovered to the extent that the plan of the temple can be laid before us.

Theologically, Nannar stood at the head of the second triad of gods. The hierarchy of the universe consisted of the god Anu, the god Bêl and the god Ea. The hierarchy of heaven consisted of the god Nannar, the god Šamaš and the god Ištar; that is, the moon-god, the sun-god and the star-god. The reason for placing Nannar above Šamaš was that Nannar was the god of the ruling city, while Šamaš was the city god of the dependent state, though the sun which Šamaš represents is stronger than the moon which Nannar represents, and we should expect Šamaš, therefore, to receive the first place. The god of the city of Larsa was Šamaš. The god of the city of Ur was Nannar. When Larsa became subject to Ur, the god of Larsa; viz., Šamaš, became the child of the god of Ur; that is, of Nannar. The relation of the night to the calendar also shows that the rank of Nannar was superior to that of Šamaš. The day began at evening; not with the morning. The sun too was the son of the night; that is, it issued forth from the night, in the morning. Kings, thinking of this fact, that the sun was born of the night, often addressed Šamaš as the offspring of the god Sin. The rising of the moon in the night to send forth its light into the darkness also impressed the Babylonian with the power of the moon. The waxing and waning of the moon left the same impression on the Babylonian mind. The regularity of the phases of the moon and its effect upon the tides as well showed 10the moon to be an agent in marking time. Finally, the place of the moon among the stars also gave him the appearance of having royal sway.

Nannar’s national influence was much like that of Bêl. Geographically, he represented southern Babylonia, while Bêl was the chief deity of northern Babylonia. When Marduk became the patron god of Babylon, Bêl and Nannar still held their positions as patron gods, but in subordination to Marduk. Besides, they did not lose their influence as supreme deities, each in his peculiar sphere, Bêl as the god of the earth and Nannar as the god of the moon. Bêl was ruler of the earth while Nannar was, by his light, a producer in the earth. Bêl was the providential director of life on earth, Nannar was the originator of life on earth, as he formed the child in the womb. Both were superhuman in power and wisdom. Thus Ḥammurabi: “My words are mighty. If a man pay no attention to my words, may Bêl, the lord who determines destinies, whose command cannot be altered, who has enlarged my dominion, drive him out from his dwelling. May Sin, the lord of heaven, my divine creator, whose scimetar shines among the gods, take away from him the crown and throne of sovereignty.”[23]

No god in the mind of the Babylonian had reached the position of combining in himself all the qualities of divinity. So it did not seem inconsistent to the Babylonian to worship two gods like Bêl and Nannar, or more gods. There was a tolerance of all gods; each was considered as acting in his own circle, and these circles did not necessarily exclude the one the other. One god might be more important than another, according to the importance of the circle in which his virtue was effective, or according to the importance of the political power the circle of whose sway was under the special tutelage of some particular god. Babylonian worship cannot be said to be polytheistic in the grosser form, nor had it reached the higher ideal that lies in monotheism. It may properly be considered a henotheistic worship in which there is a pantheon of gods whose local and universal claims did not cause the gods or their devotees to war the one on the other.

There is a truly great bilingual hymn addressed to Nannar. According to the colophon it was transcribed by the chief penman of Ašurbânipal from an old copy. My impression is that it is an 11enlargement of the hymn to Nannar of which this Thesis gives a transliteration, translation and commentary. For this reason I herewith append the following translation:

“O lord, highest of the gods, alone in heaven and earth exalted!

O father Nannar, lord of Anšar, highest of the gods!

O father Nannar, lord Anu the great, highest of the gods!

O father Nannar, lord Sin, highest of the gods!

O father Nannar, lord of Ur, highest of the gods!

O father Nannar, lord of E-gišširgal, highest of the gods!

O father Nannar, lord of the shining crown, highest of the gods!

O father Nannar, of most perfect royalty, highest of the gods!

O father Nannar, in royal robes marching, highest of the gods!

O strong young bullock, with great horns, of perfect physical strength, with hazel-colored pointed beard of luxurious growth and perfect fulness!

O fruit, whose stalk growing of itself reacheth a tall form, beautiful to look upon, whose perfection never satiateth!

O mother, the producer of life, thou who settest up for the creatures of life a lofty dwelling!

O merciful and gracious father, thou who holdest in hand the life of all the land!

O lord, thy divinity, like the distant heavens and the broad sea, inspireth reverence!

O creator of the lands, founding the temple and giving it a name!

O namer of royalty, determiner of the future for distant days!

O mighty prince, whose distant thought no god can declare!

O thou whose knee bendeth not, opener of the road for the gods thy brothers!

O thou who goest forth from the foundation of heaven to the height of heaven, opening the door of heaven, creating light for all men!

O father, begetter of all, who lookest upon the creatures of life, who thinkest of them!

O lord, who fixest the destiny of heaven and earth, whose command no one changeth!

O thou who holdest the fire and the water, who turnest the life of creation, what god reacheth thy fulness!

Who in heaven is high? Thou alone art high.

Who on earth is high? Thou alone art high.

As for thee, when thy word is spoken in heaven, the Igigi bow down the face.

As for thee, when thy word is spoken on earth, the Anunaki kiss the ground.

As for thee, when thy word like the wind resoundeth on high, food and drink abound.


As for thee, when thy word is established in the land, it causeth vegetation to grow.

As for thee, thy word maketh fat the herd and flock and increaseth the creatures of life.

As for thee, thy word secureth truth and righteousness and causeth men to speak righteousness.

As for thee, thy word extendeth to heaven, it covereth the earth, no one can comprehend it.

As for thee, thy word, who can understand it, who can approach it!

O lord, in heaven supreme, on earth the leader, among the gods thy brothers without a rival.

O king of kings, the lofty one, whose command no one approacheth, whose divinity no god can liken.

Where thy eye looketh thou showest favor, where thy hand toucheth thou securest salvation.

O lord, the shining one, who directeth truth and righteousness in heaven and earth and causeth them to go forth.

Look graciously on thy temple, look graciously on thy city.

Look graciously on Ur, look graciously on E-gišširgal,

Thy beloved consort, the gracious mother, calleth to thee: O lord give rest!

The hero Šamaš calleth to thee: O lord give rest!

The Igigi call to thee: O lord give rest!

The Anunaki call to thee: O lord give rest!

..... calleth to thee: O lord give rest!

Ningal calleth to thee: O lord give rest!

May the bar of Ur, the enclosure of E-gišširgal and the building of Ezida be established!

The gods of heaven and earth call to thee: O lord give rest!

The lifting up of the hand. 48 lines on the tablet to Nannar.

Mighty one. Lord of strength.

Like its original, copied and revised.

Tablet of Ištar-šuma-ereš, the chief scribe.

Of Ašurbânipal, king of legions, king of Assyria,

Son of Nabu-zer-lištešir, chief penman.”