Uruk

Uruk was one of the most important cities (at one time, the most important) in ancient Mesopotamia. According to the Sumerian King List, it was founded by King Enmerkar sometime around 4500 BCE.  Located in the southern region of Sumer (modern day Warka, Iraq), Uruk was known in the Aramaic language as Erech which, it is believed, gave rise to the modern name for the country of Iraq (though another likely derivation is Al-Iraq, the Arabic name for the region of Babylonia). The city of Uruk is most famous for its great king Gilgamesh and the epic tale of his quest for immortality but also for a number of `firsts’ in the development of civilization which occurred there. It is considered the first true city in the world, the origin of writing, the first example of architectural work in stone and the building of great stone structures, the origin of the ziggurat, and the first city to develop the cylinder seal which the ancient Mesopotamians used to designate personal property or as a signature on documents. Considering the importance the cylinder seal had for the people of the time, and that it stood for one’s personal identity and reputation, Uruk could also be credited as the city which first recognized the importance of the individual in the collective community. The city was continuously inhabited from its founding until c. 300 CE when, owing to both natural and man-made influences, people began to desert the area. It lay abandoned and buried until excavated in 1853 CE by William Loftus for the British Museum.

The Uruk Period

The Ubaid Period (c. 5000-4100 BCE) when the so-called Ubaid people first inhabited the region of Sumer is followed by the Uruk Period (4100-2900 BCE) during which time cities began to develop across Mesopotamia and Uruk became the most influential. The Uruk Period is divided into 8 phases from the oldest, through its prominence, and into its decline based upon the levels of the ruins excavated and the history which the artifacts found there reveal. The city was most influential between 4100-c.3000 BCE when Uruk was the largest urban center and the hub of trade and administration. In precisely what manner Uruk ruled the region, why and how it became the first city in the world, and in what manner it exercised its authority is not fully known. The historian Gwendolyn Leick writes, “The Uruk phenomenon is still much debated, as to what extent Uruk exercised political control over the large area covered by the Uruk artifacts, whether this relied on the use of force, and which institutions were in charge. Too little of the site has been excavated to provide any firm answers to these questions. However, it is clear that, at this time, the urbanization process was set in motion, concentrated at Uruk itself” (183-184). Since the city of Ur had a more advantageous placement for trade, further south toward the Persian Gulf, it would seem to make sense that city, rather than Uruk, would have wielded more influence but this is not the case.

The city was most influential between 4100-c.3000 BCE when Uruk was the largest urban center and the hub of trade and administration.

Artifacts from Uruk appear at virtually every excavated site throughout Mesopotamia. The historian Julian Reade notes, “Perhaps the most striking example of the wide spread of some features of the Uruk culture consists in the distribution of what must be one of the crudest forms ever made, the so-called beveled-rim bowl. This kind of bowl, mould-made and mass-produced, is found in large numbers throughout Mesopotamia and beyond” (30). This bowl was the means by which workers seem to have been paid: by a certain amount of grain ladled into a standard-sized bowl. The remains of these bowls, throughout all of Mesopotamia, suggest that they “were frequently discarded immediately after use, like the aluminum foil containing a modern take-away meal” (Reade, 30). So popular was the beveled-rim bowl that manufacturing centres sprang up throughout Mesopotamia extending as far away from Uruk as the city of Mari in the far north. Because of this, it is unclear if the bowl originated at Uruk or elsewhere (though Uruk is generally held as the bowl’s origin). If at Uruk, then the beveled-rim bowl must be counted among the many of the city’s accomplishments as it is the first known example of a mass-produced product.

The City Districts & Gods

The city was divided into two sections, the Eanna District and the older Anu District, named for, and dedicated to, the goddess Inanna and her grand-father-god Anu, respectively. The famous Mask of Warka (also known as `The Lady of Uruk’) a sculpted marble female face found at Uruk, is considered a likeness of Inanna and was most likely part of a larger work from one of the temples in her district. The Eanna District was walled off from the rest of the city but it is unclear if this was for ceremonial purposes or if, in building the newer Eanna District, the builders required a wall for some reason. The historian Samuel Noah Kramer suggests that Anu, the male god, presided over the early city until the rise in popularity of his daughter Inanna and, at this time, she was given a private dwelling, complete with a wall, in the Eanna District. Since temples were considered the literal dwelling place of deities on earth, and since Inanna is regularly depicted as a goddess who very much preferred things her own way, perhaps the walled district was simply to provide her with some privacy. Kramer also notes that, even though Inanna continued to be a popular deity throughout Mesopotamia (eventually merging into Ishtar) goddesses declined in power and prestige at the same time, and at the same rate, as women’s rights deteriorated. This being the case, perhaps the Eanna district was walled off to restrict access to a male priestly class. As with much concerning Uruk’s history, however, this theory remains largely speculation.


Facade of Inanna's Temple at Uruk

Inanna played a pivotal role in the mythological history of Uruk as it was she who stole the sacred meh from her father-god Enki at the sacred city of Eridu and brought them to Uruk. The meh were, in the words of Kramer (who first translated the cuneiform) “divine decrees which are the basis of the culture pattern of Sumerian civilization.” As Eridu was considered, by the Sumerians, the first city created by the gods and a place holy to them, the removal of the meh to Uruk signified a transference of power and prestige from one city to the other. In the tale of Inanna and The God of Wisdom, Enki god goes to great lengths, once he finds the meh are stolen, to have them brought back to Eridu – but in vain. Inanna has tricked her father and now Uruk, not Eridu, would be the seat of power. Eridu was associated with rural life and the primordial sea from which life sprang; Uruk was the embodiment of the new way of life – the city. The story would have provided an ancient Mesopotamian with the reason why Eridu declined in importance and Uruk rose to the heights it did: it was the work of the gods.

Uruk's Importance & Long Decline

During the Early Dynastic Period (2900-2334 BCE), which followed the Uruk Period, Uruk was still the seat of power in the region, though in a much diminished state, and the major dynasties of the time ruled from the city. The great wall of Uruk, which was said to have been built by King Gilgamesh himself, still rose around the city when King Eannutum forged his First Dynasty of Lagash in 2500 BCE and established the first empire in the region. The later king of that empire, Lugal-Zage (also known as Lugalzagesi), so admired the city that he chose Uruk as his capital and seat of power. When Sumer was brought under the rule of the Akkadian Empire in 2334 BCE, Sargon of Akkad continued to pay special reverence to Uruk and the sacred districts of Inanna and Anu continued in use and, in fact, were renovated and improved upon.


Pottery Dish from Uruk Period

Even though the city lost the position of pre-eminence it had enjoyed during the Uruk Period, it continued to play an important position down through the Ur III Period (2047-1750 BCE). The Third Dynasty of Ur governed in such a way as to give birth to a Sumerian Renaissance and Uruk benefited from this as much as the rest of the region. With the fall of the city of Ur in 1750 BCE and the invasion of Sumer by Elamites, along with the incursions of the Amorites, Uruk went into decline along with the rest of Sumer. The city continued to play a significant role, however, throughout the Seleucid and Parthian periods of Sumer’s late history. This is a substantial point to note in that many other Sumerian cities fared far less well at this same time. The sacred districts continued to be maintained, though to lesser degrees, into the 7th century CE; long past the time when many other Mesopotamian cities had been abandoned. The historian Bertman writes, “Uruk had a life-span of 5,000 years. Its oldest layers lie virtually unexplored, submerged deep in the mud of the alluvial plain from which its life once sprouted” (37. Perhaps buried in the ancient ruins is the answer to why the first city in the world rose as it did, where it did, and remained so important to the people of Mesopotamia for so long. Unlike other cities throughout the region, it was not abandoned until the Muslim Conquest of Mesopotamia in 630 CE.


Uruk

Uruk

Uruk

Uruk

Uruk
Mesopotamian Gods & Kings


Eanna District


Building E

Buildings F G & H


Building C

 

Inanna

The goddess Inanna was the patron and special god/goddess of the ancient Sumerian city of Erech (Uruk), the City of Gilgamesh. As Queen of heaven, she was associated with the Evening Star (the planet Venus), and sometimes with the Moon. She may also have been associated the brightest stars in the heavens, as she is sometimes symbolized by an eight-pointed star, a seven-pointed star, or a four pointed star. In the earliest traditions, Inanna was the daughter of An, the Sky, Ki, the Earth (both of Uruk and Warka). In later Sumerian traditions, she is the daughter of Nanna (Narrar), the Moon God and Ningal, the Moon Goddess (both of Ur).

 

Mask of Warka

The Mask of Warka, also known as the 'Lady of Uruk', from Uruk and dating from 3100 BC, is one of the earliest representations of the human face. The carved marble female face is probably a depiction of Inanna. It is approximately 20 cm (8 inches) tall, and was probably incorporated in a larger wood cult image, though it is only a presumption that a deity is represented. It is without parallels in the period.

 

Nanna - Inana - Diana - Nanna

D Nanna - D Inana - Di Ana - Diana - Danica

(DINGIR) ili D za bogove ili druga božanstva (stara verzija: ; kasnija zajednička verzija: )

Inanna, Nanna (Norse deity)


Anu District


Anu Ziggurat

 

Anu Ziggurat - White Temple

The Anu Ziggurat began with a massive mound topped by a cella during the Uruk period c 4000 BC and was expanded through 14 phases of construction, labeled L to A3 (L is sometimes called X). Interestingly, the earliest phase, used typology similar to PPNA cultures in Anatolia; a single chamber cella with a terazzo floor beneath which, bucrania were found. In phase E, corresponding to Uruk III period c 3000 BC, the White Temple was built.

 

Anu

In Sumerian mythology and later for Assyrians and Babylonians, Anu was a sky-god, the god of heaven, lord of constellations, king of gods, spirits and demons, and dwelt in the highest heavenly regions. It was believed that he had the power to judge those who had committed crimes, and that he had created the stars as soldiers to destroy the wicked. In art he was sometimes depicted as a jackal (linked with Mesoamerican gods). His attribute was the royal tiara, most times decorated with two pairs of bull horns.

By virtue of being the first figure in a triad consisting of Anu, Bel and Ea, Anu came to be regarded as the father and king of the gods. Anu is so prominently associated with the city of Erech in southern Babylonia that there are good reasons for believing this place to have been the original seat of the Anu cult. If this be correct, then the goddess Nana (or Ishtar) of Erech was presumably regarded as his consort.

The name of the god signifies the "high one" and he was probably a god of the atmospheric region above the earth--perhaps a storm god like Adad. However this may be, already in the old-Babylonian period, i.e. before Khammurabi, Anu was regarded as the god of the heavens and his name became in fact synonymous with the heavens, so that in some cases it is doubtful whether, under the term, the god or the heavens is meant.

It would seem from this that the grouping of the divine powers recognized in the universe into a triad symbolizing the three divisions, heavens, earth and the watery-deep, was a process of thought which had taken place before the third millennium.

To Anu was assigned the control of the heavens, to Bel the earth, and to Ea the waters.

The doctrine once established remained an inherent part of the Babylonian-Assyrian religion and led to the more or less complete disassociation of the three gods constituting the triad from their original local limitations.

An intermediate step between Anu viewed as the local deity of Erech (or some other centre), Bel as the god of Nippur, and Ea as the god of Eridu is represented by the prominence which each one of the centers associated with the three deities in question must have acquired, and which led to each one absorbing the qualities of other gods so as to give them a controlling position in an organized pantheon.

For Nippur we have the direct evidence that its chief deity, En-lil or Bel, was once regarded as the head of an extensive pantheon. The sanctity and, therefore, the importance of Eridu remained a fixed tradition in the minds of the people to the latest days, and analogy therefore justifies the conclusion that Anu was likewise worshipped in a centre which had acquired great prominence.

The summing-up of divine powers manifested in the universe in a threefold division represents an outcome of speculation in the schools attached to the temples of Babylonia, but the selection of Anu, Bel and Ea for the three representatives of the three spheres recognized, is due to the importance which, for one reason or the other, the centers in which Anu, Bel and Ea were worshipped had acquired in the popular mind.

Each of the three must have been regarded in his centre as the most important member in a larger or smaller group, so that their union in a triad marks also the combination of the three distinctive pantheons into a harmonious whole. In the astral theology of Babylonia and Assyria, Anu, Bel and Ea became the three zones of the ecliptic, the northern, middle and southern zone respectively.

The purely theoretical character of Anu is thus still further emphasized, and in the annals and votive inscriptions as well as in the incantations and hymns, he is rarely introduced as an active force to whom a personal appeal can be made. His name becomes little more than a synonym for the heavens in general and even his title as king or father of the gods has little of the personal element in it.

In Hurrian mythology, Anu was the progenitor of all gods. His son Kumarbi bit off his genitals and spat out three deities, one of whom, Teshub, later deposed Kumarbi. He bit off the genitals of Anu and spat out three new gods. One of those, the storm god Teshub, later deposed Kumarbi. Scholars have pointed to the remarkable similarities between this Hurrian creation myth and the story of Ouranos, Kronos, and Zeus from Greek mythology.

Anu as the god of Uruk, Enlil as the god of Nippur, and Ea as the god of Eridu.

 

Iškur/Adad (god)

Mesopotamian storm god, associated with both life-giving and destructive properties of rain and flood.

Sumerian Iškur and his Akkadian counterpart Adad, syncretised TT  at an early stage, were storm gods, ambivalent figures whose intervention might either benefit or harm humankind. The destructive aspects of the storm god are often prominent in southern Mesopotamia, whereas in the north he was venerated to a greater extent as the beneficent bringer of rain. This probably reflects the differing importance of rainfall for agriculture in the respective regions (cf. Bienkowski and Millard 2000: 2; Schwemer 2007: 129-130). However, both sides of Iškur/Adad's character are explored in Sumerian and Akkadian literature (Schwemer 2001a: 182-3; 419-424; 2007: 134-5).

His ability to deploy the destructive forces of nature meant that Iškur/Adad was also conceptualised as a warlike figure. In one Sumerian hymn, Iškur 'destroys the rebellious land like the wind. He makes it barren like the ašagu plant' (Cohen 1981: 60). Similar themes appear in Akkadian texts, including omen apodoses TT  where Adad overwhelms the army or land of the enemy (Schwemer 2001a: 416-19, 687-69).

Adad was also associated with divination and justice. Paired with Šamaš, he is addressed as 'lord of prayers and divination', and invoked to preside over haruspicies TT  or as a witness in legal contexts (Schwemer 2001a: 221-6, 323-7, 683-7; Foster 2005: 754-6; Starr 1983: 30ff.).

Divine Genealogy and Syncretisms

According to what became the dominant genealogy, Iškur/Adad's father is the sky-god An/Anu. However, in Sumerian literature Iškur is sometimes the son of Enlil; the disparity probably reflects two local traditions (see further Schwemer 2001a: 166-8; 2007: 132-3). A mother of Iškur/Adad is mentioned only once, in an Old Babylonian prayer where Iškur is called the son of Uraš (Schwemer 2001a: 168).

Iškur's wife is the goddess Medimša; Adad's wife is Šala. The god list An = Anum attests five children for Iškur/Adad: two sons, and three daughters (Litke 1998: 143 ll. 246-252; Schwemer 2001a: 67-9).

The storm god was equated with other Near Eastern storm gods including north Babylonian/Assyrian Wer, Hurrian Teššub and Hittite-Luwian Tarhun.

   
Adad

Cult Places

Iškur/Adad was worshipped all over Mesopotamia and beyond. In Babylonia an early centre of his cult was the temple é-u4-gal-gal(-la), 'House of Great Storms,' at Karkar, where he was head of the local pantheon; in the first millennium this role was played by the northern city of Zabban. He had a temple at Babylon - 'House of Abundance' - and sanctuaries in other cities including Sippar, Nippur, Ur, and Uruk (Schwemer 2001a: 129-61, 304-84, 638-49).

The important temple of Adad at Assur, the 'House which Hears Prayers', was converted into a double temple of Adad and Anu by king Šamši-Adad I (ca. 1808-1776 BCE). Adad's main cult centre during the Neo-Assyrian period was at Kurbaʾil, but temples for him existed in Kalhu, Nineveh and many other cities (Schwemer 2001a: 237ff, 577-81, 595-611).

 

Adad/Anu - Adana - Dan

During the Middle Assyrian Empire, from the reign of Tiglath-Pileser I (1115–1077 BCE), Adad had a double sanctuary in Assur which he shared with Anu. Anu is often associated with Adad in invocations. The name Adad and various alternate forms and bynames (Dadu, Bir, Dadda) are often found in the names of the Assyrian kings. In Assyria, Adad was developed along with his warrior aspect.

Adad Anu - Ad ana - Adana - Dan

D Anu - D An - D An - Dan


Lament for Sumer and Ur

The lament for Sumer and Urim or the lament for Sumer and Ur is a poem and one of five known Mesopotamian "city laments"-dirges for ruined cities in the voice of the city's tutelary goddess.

The other city laments are:

During the last year of King Ibbi-Sin's reign, Ur fell to an army from the east. The Sumerians decided that such a catastrophic event could only be explained through divine intervention and wrote in the lament that the gods, "An, Enlil, Enki and Ninmah decided [Ur's] fate"

The literary works of the Sumerians were widely translated (e.g. by the Hittites, Hurrians and Canaanites) and the world-renowned expert in Sumerian history, Samuel Noah Kramer, wrote that later Greek as well as Hebrew texts "were profoundly influenced by them." Contemporary scholars have drawn parallels between the lement and passages from the bible (e.g. "the Lord departed from his temple and stood on the mountain east of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 10:18-19)." - Lament for Sumer and Ur