From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The religions of Babylon and Assyria are early attestations of Ancient Semitic religion in the region of Mesopotamia. The Assyrians and Babylonians practiced polytheism, a belief in many gods, before largely converting to Christianity from the 1st to 4th centuries AD. Borrowing from earlier religions of the Ancient Near East, predominantly those of the Sumerians and their Akkadian ancestors, religious practice was centered on cults of regional patron deities. Examples of this relationship include Marduk in Babylon, Ishtar in Akkad, or Sin in Ur and Harran.
The following is a list of some Assyrian deities:
- Ashur/Assur (Template:Lang-arc) / Anshar, patron of Assur
- Ishtar, (Astarte/Eshtar), the goddess of love and war, patroness of Nineveh (Template:Lang-arc)
- Nergal - God of the Underworld
- Tiamat - Sea Goddess
- Ea, Sumerian Enki
- Sin / Suen, sumerian Nanna - Moon God
- Shamash - Sun God
The following is a list of some Assyro-Babylonian Demons and Heroes:
Old Babylonian period
The religion of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, 911 BC-608 BC, sometimes called Ashurism by Assyrians today, centered around the god Assur, patron deity of the city of Assur, besides Ishtar patroness of Nineveh. The Assyrians adopted Eastern Rite Christianity during the course of the 1st to the 4th centuries AD (which they still retain} and the religion died out, although there is some evidence to suggest that it survived in isolated pockets well into the late Middle Ages in northern Mesopotamia/Assyria, particularly around Harran.
Assyrian religion was an evolution of the ancient polytheistic Sumerian and Akkadian religions into henotheism, a religion based on the worship of one supreme god, but recognizing the existence of others. This was represented through the gradual takeover by Ashur of the roles of other gods, and this process runs parallel with the expansionist policies of the Assyrian Empire. As the Assyrians extended their domain over other lands, they considered it important that the local peoples acknowledge the Assyrian king as the king of their lands as well. However, kingship at the time was linked very closely with the idea of divine mandate. The Assyrian king, whilst not being a god himself, was acknowledged as the chief servant of the chief god, Ashur. In this manner, the king's authority was seen as absolute so long as the high priest reassured the peoples that the gods, or in the case of the henotheistic Assyrians, the God, was pleased with the current ruler. For the Assyrians who lived in Assur and the surrounding lands, this system was the norm. For the conquered peoples, however, it was novel, particularly to the people of smaller city-states. In time, Assur was promoted from being the local deity of Assur to the overlord of the vast Assyrian domain, with worship being conducted in his name throughout the lands of the Assyrians. With the worship of Assur across much of the Fertile Crescent, the Assyrian king could command the loyalty of his fellow servants of Assur.
Ashur, the patron deity of the city of Assur from the Late Bronze Age, was in constant rivalry with the patron deity of Babylon, Marduk. In Assyria, Ashur eventually superseded Marduk even in his role as the husband of Ishtar.
Influence on Abrahamic religions
Many of the stories of the Tanakh, and the Qur'an are believed to have been based on, influenced by, or inspired by the legendary mythological past of the Near East. The Enuma Elish in particular has been compared to the Genesis creation myth. The story of Esther in particular is traced to Babylonian roots. Others include The Great Flood and Noah which was influenced by the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Tower of Babel.
- Religions of the Ancient Near East
- Ancient Semitic religion
- Babylonian mythology
- Babylonian astrology
- Middle Eastern mythology
- Assyrian People
- Canaanite religion
- É (temple)