10 most influential Gods of Mesopotamia

The deities of Mesopotamia civilization primarily had humanlike forms; they were either male god or female god and also reacted to stimuli of both emotions and reasons.

However, there were numerous features to distinguish them from humans. The deities were immortal, honoured in temples, had a massive structural body, and possessed a unique radiance or aura.

Apart from this, they were depicted in a majestic figure wearing an ambiguous substance mostly worn by the heroes or kings.

Almost every god was associated with specific power like God of Air, storm, heaven, or earth. Some gods were even related to astral phenomena such as the moon, the sun, and other planetary movements.

Major deities associated with the planets are the God Utu – Sun, Nanna-Moon, Nergal-Mars, Marduk-Jupiter, Inanna-Venus, Nabu-Mercury, and Ninurta-Saturn.

Also, some many myths and stories go by involving almost every gods of ancient Mesopotamia. Some gods are the father of all while some are the governors, but, they all have influenced the lives of people.

Here is the list of 10 most influential gods of Mesopotamia civilization with their details.

10. Enlil : God of Air

Enlil : God of Air
An undefined King (550 and 330 BC) wearing the crow that represent Enlil, God of Air.

Enlil, the god of Air, also known as Elil, was primarily the god of Sumerian. However, he was later worshipped by the Akkadian, Babylonian, Assyrian, and Hurrian.

He is one of the most powerful gods of ancient Mesopotamia and was worshipped from c.2900 BCE until 1750 BCE. 

The trend of worshipping Enlil started from Nippur, the ancient city of Sumerian and then was followed by many cities of Akkad, Babylon, and Assur.

There were numerous temples built in honour of god Enlil, but the whole city of Nippur was the central seat for his worship. The temple located at Nippur was known as the Mountain House.

Elil being the son of Anu, the supreme god governed heaven, earth, atmosphere, universe, and sky along with his father and brother Enki.

While he was governing these, no one was allowed to question him on his decisions and actions. Everyone was to respect his choices and to worship him as the King of Gods and God of Air.

Besides being the God of Air, Enlil was also associated with wind, storms, and earth as a whole. He could also control destiny, fates and humanity.

9. Nergal: God of death, war, and destruction

Nergal: God of death, war, and destruction
Nergal: God of death, war, and destruction

Nergal, the god of death, is also known as Irra and Erra. He is the major god of Babylonians and people of this region worship him as the god of agriculture.

He was the son of Enlil, the god of air and Ninlilc, goddess of destiny. 

Primarily, during c.2900 BCE, he represented high summer sun whose rays and heat scorched the earth and destroyed crop production.

This led to the conclusion that the power of the sun meant intense fury destructing every production, and he was then associated with war, destruction, and death.

Besides associations, Nergal can be identified by his unique depiction, which shows him as a man in motion wearing long robes and crushing a human figure on foot. He is also carrying a scimitar and a maze with a double lion’s head.

Also, Nergal’s powers and associations are similar to another god named Erra of Babylon. Before they were worshipped as two gods but having similar powers, however, they are taken as one god – Nergal, nowadays.

8. Adad : God of storm

Adad : God of storm

Adad, the god of the storm, is worshipped as giver and taker by the people of ancient Mesopotamia.

If his rules and decisions were respected and followed by the people, he would give them a pleasant climate and appropriate amount of rainfall which would result in high crop productivity. 

Otherwise, he would make it rain until the flood, hurricanes, darkness, and even deaths took place in the region he was worshipped.

He was given different names depending on the cities such as the Sumerians called him Ishkur, Akkadian as Rammanu, Babylonian and Assyrian as Adad and other cities as Addu, Hada, and Rimmon.

The depiction identifies the god Adad as a figure carrying a lightning fork to show his power over nature. 

7. Dagan: God of grain and fertility

Dagan: God of grain and fertility

Dagan, the god of grain and fertility, is famously known as Dagon. His name in the Hebrew language means grain.

People started worshipping him from 2500 BC until 1500 BC when his powers and associations were transferred to his son, Baal.

Dagan was popular in the mid-Euphrates as he was the inventor of the plough and controlled the weather just like god Adad. 

He was worshipped by the people of Elba, Ugarit, Assyria, and Amorites as the fertility god.

Apart from these regions, he was also worshipped with huge honour in Palestine and Ras Shamra. Thereshama is numerous temples built honouring him that are very famous.

6. Ninurta : God of War 

Ninurta : God of War

Ninurta, the God of War, was the Sumerian god, also known as Ningirsu. He was the son of Enlil, the god of air and Ninhursag, goddess of mountains.

The god of war is identified as a fierce god by nature and is depicted as a standing archer or a running one on the back of a monster, which has a body of a lion or tail of a scorpion.

Primarily he was worshipped by the Sumerians and was known as the healer of a deceased. Later was followed by Babylonians as well and was associated with hunting, healing, farming, kaw, and scribes apart from war.

A very famous and exciting myth goes by which includes him and his mother in it. His mother had attempted to murder him by throwing the rocks at him, but the rocks refused to kill him. So, the mother goddess turned those rocks into dead stones.

Later, the stones which went against the mother goddess and saved Ninurta were turned into precious gems by him as a reward.

5. Nabu : God of writing and wisdom

Nabu : God of writing and wisdom

Nabu, the god of writing and wisdom, was the son of Marduk and grandson of Enki. He was primarily worshipped in Babylon and later in Borsippa as well. Borsippa was an archaeological site in Babylon. 

Since the first millennium, people began to worship him, and a massive festival was held in the Babylon city, which was known as Akitu. 

This festival honoured many other deities; however, he played a vital role. Also, his statue was moved from Borsippa to Babylon every year.

The god of wisdom is depicted holding a stylus while riding on or standing beside the dragon named Mushhushshu. It is portrayed so as he rode on a winged dragon which belonged to his father, Marduk.

4.  Enki : God of wisdom and freshwater

Enki, the god of wisdom and freshwater, was also known by different names depending on the cities he was worshipped. 

Sumerian called him as Enki, Akkadian as Ea, and Babylonian as Nudimmud. The name Enki means lord of the Earth.

He was primarily the Sumerian god and later considered as one of the important gods of Akkadians. 

Being the son of An, the sky god he also governed the heaven, atmosphere, and Earth along with his father and brother, Enlil.

Enki is associated with numerous other powers including intelligence, trickery, crafts, mischief, magic, healing, art, exorcism, and fertility apart from wisdom and freshwater.

Many famous myths and writings have stories about god Enki namely Enuma Elish, The Atrahasis, and Enki & the World Order. 

He is depicted as a bearded man who is shown wearing a horned cap and long robes. Also, streams flowing from his shoulders are portrayed which symbolizes two famous rivers of ancient Mesopotamia, Tigris and Euphrates.

3. Utu (Shamash): God of the sun and divine justice

Utu (Shamash): God of the sun and divine justice

Utu, the god of the sun and divine justice, is also known as Shamash, Samas, and Babbar. He was the son of Nanna and Ningal and a twin brother of Inanna.

Besides divine justice, he is associated with humanity, kindness, and generosity. Also, he was the one to provide humankind with a law to King Hammurabi.

There are a few famous temples to honour him, and all these temples are known as E-Babbar, which means shining or white house. These temples are located mostly in Eridu, Larsa, and Sippar.

God Utu is depicted as an older man with a long beard and rays of light passing through his shoulders looking like wings. With the rays coming from the shoulders, he could see everything that was going on on Earth and acted accordingly.

2. Anu ( An ) : Sky God

Anu ( An ) : Sky God

Anu, the sky god, is also known as An. He is the ancestor and the respected father of all gods.

Primarily he was called as An, meaning sky,  by the Sumerian and was their original god but later was adopted by the Akkadians and renamed as Anu, meaning heaven.

Enlil, Enki, Nidaba, Baba, and Nikikurga were his children while he was the son of Anshar and Kishar.

The famous king, Sargon of Akkad had massive respect for him and believed him to have helped him during his conquests. Apart from him, other gods, including Enlil, Marduk, and Assur, also believed to have been blessed by him.

God Anu is depicted in a simple yet very honoured way with a crown or a crown on a throne. 

Although numerous gods came into existence after him, he remained as the god of heaven and maintained all aspects of existence until later. 

He was the significant god as he was responsible for decision making, creating and controlling heaven.

1. Nanna-Suen: God of moon and wisdom

Nanna-Suen: God of moon and wisdom

Nanna-Suen, the god of the Moon is also known as Nanna, Sin, Inbu, Namrasit, and Asimbabbar depending upon the places he was worshipped.

He is one of the oldest gods of ancient Mesopotamia pantheon and is worshipped before c.3500 BCE. 

Numerous temples are built honouring him, and the most famous one is located in Ur which was looked after by a famous priestess Enheduanna. 

He is the son of Enlil and Ninlil, married to Ningal and had children Utu, Inanna, Ishkur, and Ereshkigal. 

Like many other gods, he is also mentioned in many myths, and the myths go along by saying the Moon was more important than the Sun during the ancient Mesopotamia as hunter-gatherers travelled during the night and also could tell the time of the month.

Also, the Moon was the father of the Sun ( Nanna – Moon father of Utu – Sun ), and the importance of the Sun was felt after the people started with agriculture.

He is depicted as a seated man having a long beard of lapis lazuli and a crescent moon above him. Also, hee is sometimes represented by number 30, meaning the days in a lunar month.

Related : Ancient Mesopotamia Timeline

Conclusion:

Every god had their powers and was associated with more than one speciality. People honoured every single deity whether by calling the same name or by changing the title based on their cities.

Some of the gods are still worshipped or honoured by people, though not like before. All the gods mentioned above were highly influential to ordinary people, nobility and also to some gods depending on the powers they had.

Other significant gods besides the ones mentioned above include Gibil, Gilgamesh, Dumuzid, and Ninazu.

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Cite this article as: Richard Marrison, "10 most influential Gods of Mesopotamia," in HistoryTen, November 10, 2020, https://historyten.com/mesopotamia/most-influential-mesopotamian-gods/.
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