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Mythology in ancient Mesopotamia

Mesopotamian culture has always been shrouded in mystery and enigma. Despite being considered the cradle of all civilisations, we know little about their beliefs, their religion or their mythology. Who were their gods and what were they like, what was their symbolism or how did they worship these deities in the land between two rivers?

First of all, it should be noted that the elemental forces of nature, both beneficent and destructive, were personified and elevated to the status of gods. In fact, the Sumerians knew of hundreds of gods in the third millennium. At the head of this system was Anum, who was the founder of the divine dynasty and the father of the gods. Together with him, Enlil, the wind god, and Enki (called Ea in Akkadian), the god of fresh underground waters, constituted the triad of the supreme gods. The group of the seven great gods of Mesopotamia was completed by Shamash, the sun god; Sin, the moon god (of whom more later); Ishtar, the goddess of love and war; and Ninhursag, the mother goddess.

Regarding the relationship of the inhabitants of Mesopotamia with their gods, it must be said that they adopted an attitude of submission, respect and even fear, since, knowing the power of these deities, they humbled themselves and trembled before them. For this reason, they never expected closeness to the deities, but rather the opposite: men, including rulers and kings, did not love the gods, but feared them.

As we have said before, the gods in Mesopotamia: they had unlimited power and aroused enormous fear among men, who had been created solely to serve them. A widespread feature among the Mesopotamian gods is that of their anthropomorphisation, i.e. they had the appearance, qualities and defects of men, but with one important difference, they enjoyed immortality.

Sin, god of the Moon

In this post we are going to focus on the figure of the moon god. In Mesopotamian mythology, Nanna (in Akkadian Sin or Suen), was one of the best known deities of Mesopotamia, which is why she has a prominent place in Akkadian, Sumerian and Babylonian mythology. Sin or Nannar was the son of Enlil, god of the wind and sky, and his wife Ninlil, goddess of the air. With his wife Ningal, goddess of reeds, he gave birth to Utu (in Akkadian Shamash), the sun god, to whom was attributed the remarkably social function of god of justice, derived from his early astral function as sun god.

This powerful lunar deity was known as the protector of shepherds, the watchful god of the night and the god of wisdom. He was in charge of maintaining the order of the lunar cycle and the processes linked to it, such as the passing of the months, the tides and the menstrual cycle. The earliest expressions of the study of astronomy are based on this deity.


Sin and his wife were considered the patron gods of the city of Ur, where their main temple, called E-kishnugal, was located. Sin is usually depicted as an old man with a lapis lazuli beard, riding a winged bull and sporting horns on his head. His symbols are the bull, the crescent moon or lunar crescent and his number was 30 (approximate number of days in an ideal lunar month).

The divinatory role of Sin, which was related to the moon god’s ability to illuminate the darkness, is also noteworthy. Both the moon god and the sun god are associated with issuing laws and verdicts, determining destinies and announcing omens.

While the moon god is commonly attested in Mesopotamian literature and texts, he is not as commonly reflected in visual iconography. By far the most common images of this deity appear on cylindrical seals. One of these rare examples of objects for the veneration of Sin is a model of a terracotta throne decorated with some of the elements that characterise the lunar god and belonging to the Palaeo-Babylonian period (2000 BC).

Above the seat, three steps lead up to a closed door decorated with bands and stars. It is surrounded by two bearded heroes, their hair in four curls, holding long rods ending in lateral rings. The scene also shows two bulls under three crescent moons and a star above the door. The three steps leading up to the gate seem to indicate that it is the entrance to a temple. The two heroes holding the posts are found in glyptychs from the end of the 3rd millennium BC. The fact that three crescent moons and bulls are depicted suggests that this ceremonial object is associated with the lunar god Sin.

One of the symbols that appear on this ceremonial chair are bulls. From earliest times, the bull was lunar in Mesopotamia, its horns representing the crescent moon. The winged androcephalous bulls and lions, monumental representations of guardian genii of palaces and cities, became a symbol of Neo-Assyrian prestige and power.

Trono de terracota dedicado al dios Sin

The other element present on this terracotta throne is the temple, one of the poles of power in Mesopotamia along with the palaces. The temple was the house of the god and had three elements which were indispensable in any building dedicated to worship: the location of the god’s throne, the place where offerings were presented, and finally the area where food was prepared or animals sacrificed.

Hay dos ejemplos de modelos similares de estas sillas ceremoniales en el British Museum aunque en There are two examples of similar models of these ceremonial chairs in the British Museum, although in these cases they are in a much poorer state of preservation, with large chunks missing. According to British studies, these objects belong to Diqdiqqah, a district of the city of Ur, where numerous sites were found with votive terracotta sculptures, amulets and terracotta recreations of different types of furniture, including thrones and beds.

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