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The god Aššur

Abstract

Considerable mystery surrounds the state god of Assyria, Aššur. Though this country was a little removed from the centres of Sumero-Babylonian culture and had distinctive traits of its own, compared with Syria and Elam it was definitely within the cultural milieu of Mesopotamia. This applies to religion also, where Adad and Ištar, for example, as worshipped in Assyria, are clearly the counterparts of the Adad and Ištar known from southern Mesopotamia. But the state god Aššur is different. He was peculiarly an Assyrian god without other cult centres, except when Assyrians established them, and he is not fully a deus persona. One seeks in vain for his identity. First, he lacks the family connections which are characteristic of all the major gods and goddesses of the Babylonians and Sumerians, uniting them in one big clan. Who was his wife? He sometimes is named with Ištar as though they were husband and wife, but this is not expressly stated, and one may wonder if the pre-eminence of Ištar in Nineveh does not explain this. They were the chief deities of the two main Assyrian cities. After a while Ninlil begins to appear as his wife, but this merely reflects his identification with the old Sumerian chief god—he is called “Assyrian Enlil”—and this use of Enlil's wife Ninlil merely underlines the lack of any native Assyrian wife of his. The same applies to the rare mentions of Ninurta and Zababa as his sons: they were long before sons of the Sumero-Babylonian Enlil. The only relative not clearly borrowed from southern Mesopotamia is Šeru'a, who, despite a little confusion, is not the same as Eru'a, a title of Zarpānītum, Marduk's wife. Yet even in Neo-Assyrian theological texts it is openly disputed whether she is Aššur's wife or daughter!

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IRAQ
  • ISSN: 0021-0889
  • EISSN: 2053-4744
  • URL: /core/journals/iraq
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