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A Day in the Life of an Ancient Babylonian Business Mogul

A Day in the Life of an Ancient Babylonian Business Mogul



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Follow Beltani, a Babylonian priestess and businesswoman, as she investigates who is undermining her barley fields and tavern.

It's 1762 BCE. As dawn breaks in the Babylonian city of Sippar, Beltani— a priestess and businesswoman— receives an urgent visit from her brother. He makes a troubling accusation: her tavern keeper has been undermining the business Beltani relies on in her old age. Now she has just a few short hours to find out the truth. Soraya Field Fiorio details a day in the life of a Babylonian naditu.

Lesson by Soraya Field Fiorio, directed by Keegan Thornhill.

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A Day in the Life of an Ancient Babylonian Business Mogul - History

Ancient Mesopotamia

▶️ NEW • The rise and fall of history’s first empire from TED-Ed. Here is an excellent, concise introduction to the rise and fall of the Sumerian empire. – All

▶️ NEW • A day in the life of an ancient Babylonian business mogul from TED-Ed. It’s 1762 BCE. As dawn breaks in the Babylonian city of Sippar, Beltani— a priestess and businesswoman— receives an urgent visit from her brother. He makes a troubling accusation: her tavern keeper has been undermining the business Beltani relies on in her old age. – All

▶️ Who was the world’s first author? from TED-Ed. Travel back in time to ancient Mesopotamia and meet Enheduanna, a high priestess and the world’s first author. This fascinating TED-Ed lesson also gives a glimpse into Mesopotamian life during the time of Sargon. – Middle • High

▶️ The rise and fall of the Assyrian Empire from TED-Ed. “Before the sun never set on the British Empire before Genghis Khan swept the steppe before Rome extended its influence to encircle the Mediterranean Sea there was ancient Assyria. Considered by historians to be the first true empire, Assyria’s innovations laid the groundwork for every superpower that has followed.” – All

▶️ We're the Mesopotamians by They Might Be Giants. TMBG envision Mesopotamian notables Sargon, Hammurabi, Ashurbanipal, and Gilgamesh as musicians in a modern day band. Minimal educational value, but you'll have the song in your head for weeks. – All

▶️ Fertile Crescent Ancient History videos from Crash Course. In Agricultural Revolution, learn how people “gave up hunting and gathering to become agriculturalists, and how that change has influenced the world we live in today.” In Ancient Mesopotamia, learn about the civilizations that arose in the Fertile Crescent. – Middle • High


Understanding the Origins of Ancient Accounting

Jericho, a city located to the west of the Jordan River, is estimated to be at least 11,000 years old and is one of the world's oldest continuously inhabited cities.   It is believed that the ancient society that was situated there used a barter system until about 7,500 B.C. when simple tokens and clay balls (with various shapes) came to represent inventory figures for agricultural goods including wheat, sheep and cattle. The use of tokens eventually expanded, and tokens and envelopes helped to formulate an ancient version of what may have been a balance sheet. These tokens and envelopes helped to identify specific parties with a claim to specific inventory. Tokens also gradually came to represent completed trade transactions.  

Thousands of years later, in Sumerian cities, early bookkeepers accounted for currency, precious metals, and goods by marking clay tablets with the end of sticks. These tablets were dried and hardened in order to form records.  


Tablets redefine history

These tablets redefine our history books as the origins of calculus are generally traced back to the Middle Ages when people began using geometry to calculate velocity by plotting the position of an object against time.

"This is highly surprising. No-one expected to find something like this in antiquity," Dr Ossendrijver said.

"While ancient Greeks used geometrical figures to describe configurations in physical space, centuries earlier these Babylonian tablets used geometry in an abstract sense to define time and velocity."


The Mysterious Origins of the Sabbath

The Sabbath (Shabbat in Hebrew) is one of Judaism’s greatest gifts to humanity. People in the ancient Near East had nothing similar to the Jewish concept of a weekly sacred day of rest. Other cultures in the past knew of a seven-day week based on the phases of the moon, but the Israelite Sabbath is not connected to the movements of celestial bodies. It stands apart.

Where did the biblical Israelites get the idea of a weekly day of rest? The origin of the word “Shabbat” is obscure. Various scholarly theories have been advanced to resolve the puzzle, with none being totally satisfactory: Some say that it is simply ordained by God in the Bible (Ex. 20: 8). Others argue that it was adopted from other people in the past. In ancient Babylonia, the Akkadian word shab/pattum corresponded to the fifteenth day of the month as a day of quieting god’s heart. There are those who maintain that it comes from another Akkadian word, sebutum, meaning the seventh day. Some claim that Moses learned about the Sabbath from Jethro, his father-in-law.

The historian Josephus ridiculed the opinion of his antagonist, Apion, a Graeco-Egyptian grammarian living in Rome, who said that after the Exodus from Egypt, “when the Jews travelled a six days’ journey, they had buboes [i.e., an inflammation] in their groin and that on this account it was that they rested on the seventh day…for that malady of buboes in their groin was named Sabbatosia by the Egyptians.” (Against Apion, II/ 3, Whiston).

It is also not clear how the noun Shabbat was originally connected to the verb shavat, meaning “to rest,” or if one was actually derived from the other.

In priestly writings of the Bible, the Sabbath is viewed as “a holy day”( i.e., set aside for God) and the concluding phase of the world’s creation (Gen. 2: 1-3) as well as a perpetual memorial (ot, “sign”) of creation (cf. Ex. 31: 12, 17 Ezek. 20: 12, 20). Ex. 16, which deals with the double portion of the manna received from God in the wilderness after the Exodus, refers to the Sabbath as shabbaton: “Tomorrow is a day of rest, a holy Sabbath of the Lord” (Ex. 16: 23).

The institution of the Sabbath appears in the Torah as going back to the days of creation (Gen. 2: 1-3). In reality, we do not know how pervasive Sabbath observance was during early biblical times, and when exactly the observance of the Sabbath took hold among the ancient Israelites. It appears that it was not so popular among them, because a number of prophets express their frustration at their contemporaries’ lack of enthusiasm for the holy day of rest.

Outside of the book of Genesis, which is considered by biblical critics as being a relatively late book but containing material that went back in time, the earliest reliable historical reference to the Sabbath is found in the Book of Amos (8 th cent. BCE), which indicates that by his time, the Sabbath was observed by the Israelites. The prophet voices his disappointment by stating, in his usual irony, that people cannot wait for the Sabbath to be over in order to engage in regular business: “If only the new moon were over, so that we could sell grain, the Sabbath, so that we could offer wheat for sale” (Amos 8: 5). During the Exilic period in Babylonia (6 th cent. BCE), the prophet known as Second Isaiah urged his people to pay special attention to the Sabbath (58: 13-14). Upon their return from Babylonia, Nehemiah, the governor of Judea (5 th cent. BCE), berated the nobles of Judah, “What evil thing is this that you are doing, profaning the Sabbath day!” (Neh. 13: 17).

In spite of this criticism, Sabbath observance remained constant among Jews for many centuries, from the biblical to the modern times, as an element of their personal and communal identity. It was Ahad Haam (Asher Ginsberg, 1856-1927), the Russian-Jewish thinker and author, who once reputedly said, “More than Jews kept the Sabbath, it was the Sabbath that preserved the people of Israel.”

Early Christians, who were Jews, celebrated Shabbat on Saturday, but when Christianity moved to Rome, it was switched to Sunday. Muslims, who were influenced by both Jews and Christians, chose to keep the day of rest on Friday, for reasons that are still being debated.

(Based on the author’s book, AND GOD SPOKE THESE WORDS: The Ten Commandments and Contemporary Ethics. Urj Press, 2014, 79-80)


Keep up to speed at a glance with the Top 10 daily stories

RUINS OF BABYLON, Iraq (Reuters) - The ancient city of Babylon, first referenced in a clay tablet from the 23rd century B.C., was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site on Friday, after a vote that followed decades of lobbying by Iraq.

The vote, at a UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting in Azerbaijan's capital Baku, made the ancient Mesopotamian city on the Euphrates River the sixth world heritage site within the borders of a country known as a cradle of civilization.

Iraqi President Barham Salih said the city, now an archaeological ruin, was returned to its "rightful place" in history after years of neglect by previous leaders.

Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi also welcomed the news.

"Mesopotamia is truly the pillar of humanity's memory and the cradle of civilization in recorded history," he said.

The government said it would allocate funds to maintain and boost conservation efforts.

Babylon, about 85 kilometres (55 miles) south of Baghdad, was once the centre of a sprawling empire, renowned for its towers and mudbrick temples. Its hanging gardens were one of the seven ancient wonders of the world, commissioned by King Nebuchadnezzar II.

Visitors can stroll through the remnants of the brick and clay structures which stretch across 10 square kilometres, and see the famed Lion of Babylon statue, as well as large portions of the original Ishtar Gate.

As the sun began to set on the crumbling ruins, activists and residents flocked to the replica Ishtar gate at the site's entrance to celebrate what they called a historic moment.

"This is very important, because Babylon will now be a protected site," said Marina al-Khafaji, a local who was hopeful the designation would boost tourism and the local economy.

It would allow for further exploration and research, said Makki Mohammad Farhoud, 53, a tour guide at the site for more than 25 years, noting that only 18% of it had been excavated.

"Babylon is the blood that runs through my veins, I love it more than I love my children," he said.

Excavations of what was once the largest city in the world, began in the early 19th century by European archaeologists, who removed many artefacts.

In the 1970s, under President Saddam Hussein's restoration project, the southern palace's walls and arches were shoddily rebuilt on top of the existing ruins, causing widespread damage.

This was exacerbated during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, when U.S. and Polish troops stationed nearby built their military base on top of the Babylonian ruins.

Many inscriptions written by soldiers can still be seen on the ancient bricks.

The site is in dire need of conservation, Farhoud said. Unlike three other World Heritage sites in Iraq, UNESCO did not designate Babylon as one in "in danger" after objections from the Iraqi delegation.

Iraq is replete with thousands of archaeological sites, many of which were heavily damaged or pillaged by Islamic State during its barbaric three-year-rule which ended in 2017.

The other five World Heritage Sites are the southern marshlands, Hatra, Samarra, Ashur and the citadel in Erbil, the capital of Iraq's Kurdistan Region.


SUNDAY

And here we come the end of a long, intensive week with a magic sun upon us!

As you’ve already guessed, Sunday is the sun day and the English word comes from “Sunnandæg” which was inspired in the Latin “dies solis”. In view of Norse mythology the sun is personified by the goddess named Sunna (or Sól).

The same way as Saturday, one can identify the religious element behind Sunday’s day name either in Spanish or French. Domingo and Dimanche are indeed linked to the Christian “ Day of God” when Constantine converted himself to Christianity. It is said that God sent him a vision of a cross of light bearing the inscription “in hoc signo vinces “ (“in this sign you will be victorious”). Hereupon, Sunday became a rest day where any kind of manual works were forbidden.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey across every single day lived from Monday to Sunday month after month year after year! Does the world make more sense now? Probably not :)


Contents

Prehistory Edit

Current understanding of the earliest development of the Egyptian calendar remains speculative. A tablet from the reign of the First Dynasty pharaoh Djer (c. 3000 BC) was once thought to indicate that the Egyptians had already established a link between the heliacal rising of Sirius (Ancient Egyptian: Spdt or Sopdet, "Triangle" Greek: Σῶθις , Sôthis) and the beginning of their year, but more recent analysis has questioned whether the tablet's picture refers to Sirius at all. [2] Similarly, based on the Palermo Stone, Alexander Scharff proposed that the Old Kingdom observed a 320-day year, but his theory has not been widely accepted. [3] Some evidence suggests the early civil calendar had 360 days, [4] although it might merely reflect the unusual status of the five epagomenal days as days "added on" to the proper year.

With its interior effectively rainless for thousands of years, [5] ancient Egypt was "a gift of the river" Nile, [6] whose annual flooding organized the natural year into three broad natural seasons known to the Egyptians as: [7] [8] [9]

    or Flood (Ancient Egyptian: Ꜣḫt, sometimes anglicized as Akhet): roughly from September to January. or Winter (Prt, sometimes anglicized as Peret): roughly from January to May. or Harvest or Summer (Šmw, sometimes anglicized as Shemu): roughly from May to September. [7]

As early as the reign of Djer (c. 3000 BC, Dynasty I), yearly records were being kept of the flood's high-water mark. [10] Otto E. Neugebauer noted that a 365-day year can be established by averaging a few decades of accurate observations of the Nile flood without any need for astronomical observations, [11] although the great irregularity of the flood from year to year [a] and the difficulty of maintaining a sufficiently accurate Nilometer and record in prehistoric Egypt has caused other scholars to doubt that it formed the basis for the Egyptian calendar. [1] [4] [13]
Note that the names of the three natural seasons were incorporated into the Civil calendar year (see below), but as this calendar year is a wandering year , the seasons of this calendar slowly rotate through the natural solar year, meaning that Civil season Akhet/Inundation only occasionally coincided with the Nile inundation.

Lunar calendar Edit

The Egyptians appear to have used a purely lunar calendar prior to the establishment of the solar civil calendar [14] [15] in which each month began on the morning when the waning crescent moon could no longer be seen. [13] Until the closing of Egypt's polytheist temples under the Byzantines, the lunar calendar continued to be used as the liturgical year of various cults. [15] The lunar calendar divided the month into four weeks, reflecting each quarter of the lunar phases. [16] Because the exact time of morning considered to begin the Egyptian day remains uncertain [17] and there is no evidence that any method other than observation was used to determine the beginnings of the lunar months prior to the 4th century BCE, [18] there is no sure way to reconstruct exact dates in the lunar calendar from its known dates. [17] The difference between beginning the day at the first light of dawn or at sunrise accounts for an 11–14 year shift in dated observations of the lunar cycle. [19] It remains unknown how the Egyptians dealt with obscurement by clouds when they occurred and the best current algorithms have been shown to differ from actual observation of the waning crescent moon in about one-in-five cases. [17]

Parker and others have argued for its development into an observational and then calculated lunisolar calendar [20] which used a 30 day intercalary month every two to three years to accommodate the lunar year's loss of about 11 days a year relative to the solar year and to maintain the placement of the heliacal rising of Sirius within its twelfth month. [21] No evidence for such a month, however, exists in the present historical record. [22]

A second lunar calendar is attested by a demotic astronomical papyrus [24] dating to sometime after 144 CE which outlines a lunisolar calendar operating in accordance with the Egyptian civil calendar according to a 25 year cycle. [25] The calendar seems to show its month beginning with the first visibility of the waxing crescent moon, but Parker displayed an error in the cycle of about a day in 500 years, [26] using it to show the cycle was developed to correspond with the new moon around 357 BCE. [27] This date places it prior to the Ptolemaic period and within the native Egyptian Dynasty XXX. Egypt's 1st Persian occupation, however, seems likely to have been its inspiration. [28] This lunisolar calendar's calculations apparently continued to be used without correction into the Roman period, even when they no longer precisely matched the observable lunar phases. [29]

The days of the lunar month — known to the Egyptians as a "temple month" [23] — were individually named and celebrated as stages in the life of the moon god, variously Thoth in the Middle Kingdom or Khonsu in the Ptolemaic era: "He . is conceived . on Psḏntyw he is born on Ꜣbd he grows old after Smdt". [30]

Civil calendar Edit

The civil calendar was established at some early date in or before the Old Kingdom, with probable evidence of its use early in the reign of Shepseskaf (c. 2510 BC, Dynasty IV) and certain attestation during the reign of Neferirkare (mid-25th century BC, Dynasty V). [53] It was probably based upon astronomical observations of Sirius [13] whose reappearance in the sky closely corresponded to the average onset of the Nile flood through the 5th and 4th millennium BC. [12] [p] A recent development is the discovery that the 30-day month of the Mesopotamian calendar dates as late as the Jemdet Nasr Period (late 4th-millennium BC), [55] a time Egyptian culture was borrowing various objects and cultural features from the Fertile Crescent, leaving open the possibility that the main features of the calendar were borrowed in one direction or the other as well. [56]

The civil year comprised exactly 365 days, [q] divided into 12 months of 30 days each and an intercalary month of five days, [58] were celebrated as the birthdays of the gods Osiris, Horus, Set, Isis, and Nephthys. [59] The regular months were grouped into Egypt's three seasons, [58] which gave them their original names, [60] and divided into three 10-day periods known as decans or decades. In later sources, these were distinguished as "first", "middle", and "last". [61] It has been suggested that during the Nineteenth Dynasty and the Twentieth Dynasty the last two days of each decan were usually treated as a kind of weekend for the royal craftsmen, with royal artisans free from work. [62] Dates were typically expressed in a YMD format, with a pharaoh's regnal year followed by the month followed by the day of the month. [63] For example, the New Year occurred on I Akhet 1.

The importance of the calendar to Egyptian religion is reflected in the use of the title "Lord of Years" (Nb Rnpt) [64] for its various creator gods. [65] Time was also considered an integral aspect of Maat, [65] the cosmic order which opposed chaos, lies, and violence.

The civil calendar was apparently established in a year when Sirius rose on its New Year (I Akhet 1) but, because of its lack of leap years, it began to slowly cycle backwards through the solar year. Sirius itself, about 40° below the ecliptic, follows a Sothic year almost exactly matching that of the Sun, with its reappearance now occurring at the latitude of Cairo (ancient Heliopolis and Memphis) on 19 July (Julian), only two or three days later than its occurrence in early antiquity. [58] [66]

Following Censorinus [67] and Meyer, [68] the standard understanding was that, four years from the calendar's inception, Sirius would have no longer reappeared on the Egyptian New Year but on the next day (I Akhet 2) four years later, it would have reappeared on the day after that and so on through the entire calendar until its rise finally returned to I Akhet 1 1460 years after the calendar's inception, [67] [r] an event known as "apocatastasis". [69] Owing to the event's extreme regularity, Egyptian recordings of the calendrical date of the rise of Sirius have been used by Egyptologists to fix its calendar and other events dated to it, at least to the level of the four-Egyptian-year periods which share the same date for Sirius's return, known as "tetraëterides" or "quadrennia". [69] For example, an account that Sothis rose on III Peret 1 —the 181st day of the year—should show that somewhere 720, 721, 722, or 723 years have passed since the last apocatastasis. [67] Following such a scheme, the record of Sirius rising on II Shemu 1 in 239 BC implies apocatastases on 1319 and 2779 BC ±3 years. [19] [s] Censorinus's placement of an apocatastasis on 21 July AD 139 [t] permitted the calculation of its predecessors to 1322, 2782, and 4242 BC. [71] [ failed verification ] The last is sometimes described as "the first exactly dated year in history" [72] but, since the calendar is attested before Dynasty XVIII and the last date is now known to far predate early Egyptian civilization, it is typically credited to Dynasty II around the middle date. [73] [u]

Heliacal rising of Sirius at Heliopolis [v]
Year Date
Egyptian [76] Julian [77] Gregorian [78]
3500 BC III Peret 3 July 16 June 18
3000 BC III Shemu 8 July 16 June 22
2500 BC III Akhet 8 July 16 June 26
2000 BC III Peret 14 July 17 June 30
1500 BC III Shemu 19 July 17 July 4
1000 BC III Akhet 19 July 17 July 8
500 BC III Peret 25 July 18 July 13
AD 1 III Shemu 30 July 18 July 16
AD 500 IV Akhet 2 July 20 July 22

The classic understanding of the Sothic cycle relies, however, on several potentially erroneous assumptions. Following Scaliger, [79] Censorinus's date is usually emended to 20 July [w] but ancient authorities give a variety of 'fixed' dates for the rise of Sirius. [x] His use of the year 139 seems questionable, [82] as 136 seems to have been the start of the tetraëteris [83] and the later date chosen to flatter the birthday of Censorinus's patron. [84] Perfect observation of Sirius's actual behavior during the cycle—including its minor shift relative to the solar year—would produce a period of 1457 years observational difficulties produce a further margin of error of about two decades. [71] Although it is certain the Egyptian day began in the morning, another four years are shifted depending on whether the precise start occurred at the first light of dawn or at sunrise. [19] It has been noted that there is no recognition in surviving records that Sirius's minor irregularities sometimes produce a triëteris or penteteris (three- or five-year periods of agreement with an Egyptian date) rather than the usual four-year periods and, given that the expected discrepancy is no more than 8 years in 1460, the cycle may have been applied schematically [69] [85] according to the civil years by Egyptians and the Julian year by the Greeks and Romans. [67] The occurrence of the apocatastasis in the 2nd millennium BC so close to the great political and sun-based religious reforms of Amenhotep IV /Akhenaton also leaves open the possibility that the cycle's strict application was occasionally subject to political interference. [86] The record and celebration of Sirius's rising would also vary by several days (equating to decades of the cycle) in eras when the official site of observation was moved from near Cairo. [y] The return of Sirius to the night sky varies by about a day per degree of latitude, causing it to be seen 8–10 days earlier at Aswan than at Alexandria, [88] a difference which causes Rolf Krauss to propose dating much of Egyptian history decades later than the present consensus.

Ptolemaic calendar Edit

Following Alexander the Great's conquest of the Persian Empire, the Macedonian Ptolemaic Dynasty came to power in Egypt, continuing to use its native calendars with Hellenized names. In 238 BC, Ptolemy III's Canopus Decree ordered that every 4th year should incorporate a sixth day in its intercalary month, [89] honoring him and his wife as gods equivalent to the children of Nut. The reform was resisted by the Egyptian priests and people and was abandoned.

Coptic calendar Edit

Egyptian scholars were involved with the establishment of Julius Caesar's reform of the Roman calendar, although the Roman priests initially misapplied its formula and—by counting inclusively—added leap days every three years instead of every four. The mistake was corrected by Augustus through omitting leap years for a number of cycles until AD 4. As the personal ruler of Egypt, he also imposed a reform of its calendar in 26 or 25 BC, possibly to correspond with the beginning of a new Callipic cycle, with the first leap day occurring on 6 Epag. in the year 22 BC. This "Alexandrian calendar" corresponds almost exactly to the Julian, causing 1 Thoth to remain at 29 August except during the year before a Julian leap year, when it occurs on 30 August instead. The calendars then resume their correspondence after 4 Phamenoth / 29 February of the next year. [90]

For much of Egyptian history, the months were not referred to by individual names, but were rather numbered within the three seasons. [60] As early as the Middle Kingdom, however, each month had its own name. These finally evolved into the New Kingdom months, which in turn gave rise to the Hellenized names that were used for chronology by Ptolemy in his Almagest and by others. Copernicus constructed his tables for the motion of the planets based on the Egyptian year because of its mathematical regularity. A convention of modern Egyptologists is to number the months consecutively using Roman numerals.

A persistent problem of Egyptology has been that the festivals which give their names to the months occur in the next month. Alan Gardiner proposed that an original calendar governed by the priests of Ra was supplanted by an improvement developed by the partisans of Thoth. Parker connected the discrepancy to his theories concerning the lunar calendar. Sethe, Weill, and Clagett proposed that the names expressed the idea that each month culminated in the festival beginning the next. [91]

Months
Egyptological English [63] Egyptian Greek [92] Coptic
Seasonal [63] Middle Kingdom New Kingdom
I I Akhet
Thoth
1st Month of Flood
1 Ꜣḫt
Tḫy Ḏḥwtyt Θωθ Thōth Ⲑⲱⲟⲩⲧ Tôut
II II Akhet
Phaophi
2nd Month of Flood
2 Ꜣḫt
Mnht PꜢ n-ip.t Φαωφί [z] Phaōphí Ⲡⲁⲱⲡⲉ Baôba
III III Akhet
Athyr
3rd Month of Flood
3 Ꜣḫt
Ḥwt-ḥwr Ḥwt-ḥwr Ἀθύρ Athúr Ϩⲁⲑⲱⲣ Hatûr
IV IV Akhet
Choiak
4th Month of Flood
4 Ꜣḫt
KꜢ-ḥr-KꜢ KꜢ-ḥr-KꜢ Χοιάκ [aa] Khoiák Ⲕⲟⲓⲁⲕ
Ⲕⲓⲁϩⲕ
Koiak
Kiahk
V I Peret
Tybi
1st Month of Growth
1 Prt
Sf-Bdt TꜢ-ꜥb Τυβί [ab] Tubí Ⲧⲱⲃⲓ Tôbi
VI II Peret
Mechir
2nd Month of Growth
2 Prt
Rḫ Wr Mḫyr Μεχίρ [ac] Mekhír Ⲙⲉϣⲓⲣ Meshir
VII III Peret
Phamenoth
3rd Month of Growth
3 Prt
Rḫ Nds PꜢ n-imn-ḥtp.w Φαμενώθ Phamenṓth Ⲡⲁⲣⲉⲙϩⲁⲧ Baramhat
VIII IV Peret
Pharmuthi
4th Month of Growth
4 Prt
Rnwt PꜢ n-rnn.t Φαρμουθί [ad] Pharmouthí Ⲡⲁⲣⲙⲟⲩⲧⲉ Barmoda
IX I Shemu
Pachons
1st Month of Low Water
1 Šmw
Ḫnsw PꜢ n-ḫns.w Παχών Pakhṓn Ⲡⲁϣⲟⲛⲥ Bashons
X II Shemu
Payni
2nd Month of Low Water
2 Šmw
Hnt-htj PꜢ n-in.t Παϋνί [ae] Paüní Ⲡⲁⲱⲛⲓ Baôni
XI III Shemu
Epiphi
3rd Month of Low Water
3 Šmw
Ipt-hmt Ipip Ἐπιφί [af] Epiphí Ⲉⲡⲓⲡ Apip
XII IV Shemu
Mesore
4th Month of Low Water
4 Šmw
Opening of the Year
Wp Rnpt
Birth of the Sun
Mswt Rꜥ
Μεσορή Mesorḗ Ⲙⲉⲥⲱⲣⲓ Masôri
Intercalary Month
Epagomenal Days
Those upon the Year
Hryw Rnpt
ἐπαγόμεναι epagómenai Ⲡⲓⲕⲟⲩϫⲓ ⲛ̀ⲁⲃⲟⲧ Bikudji en abod

The reformed Egyptian calendar continues to be used in Egypt as the Coptic calendar of the Egyptian Church and by the Egyptian populace at large, particularly the fellah, to calculate the agricultural seasons. It differs only in its era, which is dated from the ascension of the Roman emperor Diocletian. Contemporary Egyptian farmers, like their ancient predecessors, divide the year into three seasons: winter, summer, and inundation. It is also associated with local festivals such as the annual Flooding of the Nile and the ancient Spring festival Sham el-Nessim.

The Ethiopian calendar is based on this reformed calendar but uses Amharic names for its months and uses a different era. The French Republican Calendar was similar, but began its year at the autumnal equinox. British orrery maker John Gleave represented the Egyptian calendar in a reconstruction of the Antikythera mechanism.


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In the fourth millennium BC, the first evidence for what is recognisably Mesopotamian religion can be seen with the invention in Mesopotamia of writing circa 3500 BC.

The people of Mesopotamia originally consisted of two groups, East Semitic Akkadian speakers (later divided into the Assyrians and Babylonians) and the people of Sumer, who spoke Sumerian, a language isolate. These peoples were members of various city-states and small kingdoms. The Sumerians left the first records, and are believed to have been the founders of the civilization of the Ubaid period (6500 BC to 3800 BC) in Upper Mesopotamia. By historical times they resided in southern Mesopotamia, which was known as Sumer (and much later, Babylonia), and had considerable influence on the Akkadian speakers and their culture. The Akkadian-speaking Semites are believed to have entered the region at some point between 3500 BC and 3000 BC, with Akkadian names first appearing in the regnal lists of these states c. 29th century BC.

The Sumerians were advanced: as well as inventing writing, early forms of mathematics, early wheeled vehicles/chariots, astronomy, astrology, written code of law, organised medicine, advanced agriculture and architecture, and the calendar. They created the first city-states such as Uruk, Ur, Lagash, Isin, Kish, Umma, Eridu, Adab, Akshak, Sippar, Nippur and Larsa, each of them ruled by an ensí. The Sumerians remained largely dominant in this synthesised culture, however, until the rise of the Akkadian Empire under Sargon of Akkad circa 2335 BC, which united all of Mesopotamia under one ruler. [2]

There was increasing syncretism between the Sumerian and Akkadian cultures and deities, with the Akkadians typically preferring to worship fewer deities but elevating them to greater positions of power. Circa 2335 BC, Sargon of Akkad conquered all of Mesopotamia, uniting its inhabitants into the world's first empire and spreading its domination into ancient Iran, the Levant, Anatolia, Canaan and the Arabian Peninsula. The Akkadian Empire endured for two centuries before collapsing due to economic decline, internal strife and attacks from the north east by the Gutian people.

Following a brief Sumerian revival with the Third Dynasty of Ur or Neo-Sumerian Empire, Mesopotamia broke up into a number of Akkadian states. Assyria had evolved during the 25th century BC, and asserted itself in the north circa 2100 BC in the Old Assyrian Empire and southern Mesopotamia fragmented into a number of kingdoms, the largest being Isin, Larsa and Eshnunna.

In 1894 BC the initially minor city-state of Babylon was founded in the south by invading West Semitic-speaking Amorites. It was rarely ruled by native dynasties throughout its history.

Some time after this period, the Sumerians disappeared, becoming wholly absorbed into the Akkadian-speaking population.

Assyrian kings are attested from the late 25th century BC and dominated northern Mesopotamia and parts of eastern Anatolia and northeast Syria.

Circa 1750 BC, the Amorite ruler of Babylon, King Hammurabi, conquered much of Mesopotamia, but this empire collapsed after his death, and Babylonia was reduced to the small state it had been upon its founding. The Amorite dynasty was deposed in 1595 BC after attacks from mountain-dwelling people known as the Kassites from the Zagros Mountains, who went on to rule Babylon for over 500 years.

Assyria, having been the dominant power in the region with the Old Assyrian Empire between the 20th and 18th centuries BC before the rise of Hammurabi, once more became a major power with the Middle Assyrian Empire (1391–1050 BC). Assyria defeated the Hittites and Mitanni, and its growing power forced the New Kingdom of Egypt to withdraw from the Near East. The Middle Assyrian Empire at its height stretched from the Caucasus to modern Bahrain and from Cyprus to western Iran.

The Neo-Assyrian Empire (911–605 BC) was the most dominant power on earth and the largest empire the world had yet seen between the 10th century BC and the late 7th century BC, with an empire stretching from Cyprus in the west to central Iran in the east, and from the Caucasus in the north to Nubia, Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula in the south, facilitating the spread of Mesopotamian culture and religion far and wide under emperors such as Ashurbanipal, Tukulti-Ninurta II, Tiglath-Pileser III, Shalmaneser IV, Sargon II, Sennacherib and Esarhaddon. During the Neo-Assyrian Empire, Mesopotamian Aramaic became the lingua franca of the empire, and also Mesopotamia proper. The last written records in Akkadian were astrological texts dating from 78 CE discovered in Assyria.

The empire fell between 612 BC and 599 BC after a period of severe internal civil war in Assyria which soon spread to Babylonia, leaving Mesopotamia in a state of chaos. A weakened Assyria was then subject to combined attacks by a coalition of hitherto vassals, in the form of the Babylonians, Chaldeans, Medes, Scythians, Persians, Sagartians and Cimmerians beginning in 616 BC. These were led by Nabopolassar of Babylon and Cyaxares of Media and Persia. Nineveh was sacked in 612 BC, Harran fell in 608 BC, Carchemish in 605 BC, and final traces of Assyrian imperial administration disappeared from Dūr-Katlimmu by 599 BC.

Babylon had a brief late flowering of power and influence, initially under the Chaldean dynasty, which took over much of the empire formerly held by their northern kinsmen. However, the last king of Babylonia, Nabonidus, an Assyrian, paid little attention to politics, preferring to worship the lunar deity Sin, leaving day-to-day rule to his son Belshazzar. This and the fact that the Persians and Medes to the east were growing in power now that the might of Assyria that had held them in vassalage for centuries was gone, spelt the death knell for native Mesopotamian power. The Achaemenid Empire conquered the Neo-Babylonian Empire in 539 BC, after which the Chaldeans disappeared from history, although Mesopotamian people, culture and religion continued to endure after this.

Effect of Assyrian religious beliefs on its political structure Edit

Like many nations in Mesopotamian history, Assyria was originally, to a great extent, an oligarchy rather than a monarchy. Authority was considered to lie with "the city", and the polity had three main centres of power—an assembly of elders, a hereditary ruler, and an eponym. The ruler presided over the assembly and carried out its decisions. He was not referred to with the usual Akkadian term for "king", šarrum that was instead reserved for the city's patron deity Ashur, of whom the ruler was the high priest. The ruler himself was only designated as "steward of Assur" (iššiak Assur), where the term for steward is a borrowing from Sumerian ensí. The third centre of power was the eponym (limmum), who gave the year his name, similarly to the eponymous archon and Roman consuls of classical antiquity. He was annually elected by lot and was responsible for the economic administration of the city, which included the power to detain people and confiscate property. The institution of the eponym as well as the formula iššiak Assur lingered on as ceremonial vestiges of this early system throughout the history of the Assyrian monarchy. [3]

Religion in the Neo-Assyrian Empire Edit

The religion of the Neo-Assyrian Empire centered around 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. [4] The Assyrian king, while 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. [4] 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, Ashur was promoted from being the local deity of Assur to the overlord of the vast Assyrian domain, which spread from the Caucasus and Armenia in the north to Egypt, Nubia and the Arabian Peninsula in the south, and from Cyprus and the eastern Mediterranean Sea in the west to central Iran in the east. [4] Assur, the patron deity of the city of Assur from the late Bronze Age, was in constant rivalry with the patron deity of Babylon, Marduk. Worship was conducted in his name throughout the lands dominated by 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.

Later Mesopotamian history Edit

In 539 BC, Mesopotamia was conquered by the Achaemenid Empire (539–332 BC), then ruled by Cyrus the Great. This brought to an end over 3,000 years of Semitic Mesopotamian dominance of the Near East. The Persians maintained and did not interfere in the native culture and religion and Assyria and Babylon continued to exist as entities (although Chaldea and the Chaldeans disappeared), and Assyria was strong enough to launch major rebellions against Persia in 522 and 482 BC. During this period the Syriac language and Syriac script evolved in Assyria, and were centuries later to be the vehicle for the spread of Syriac Christianity throughout the near east.

Then, two centuries later in 330 BC the Macedonian Greek emperor Alexander the Great overthrew the Persians and took control of Mesopotamia itself. After Alexander's death increased Hellenistic influence was brought to the region by the Seleucid Empire. [5] Assyria and Babylonia later became provinces under the Parthian Empire (Athura and province of Babylonia), Rome (province of Assyria) and Sassanid Empire (province of Asuristan). Babylonia was dissolved as an entity during the Parthian Empire, though Assyria endured as a geo-political entity until the 7th century AD Arab Islamic conquest.

During the Parthian Empire there was a major revival in Assyria (known as Athura and Assuristan) between the 2nd century BC and 4th century CE, [6] with temples once more being dedicated to gods such as Ashur, Sin, Shamash, Hadad and Ishtar in independent Neo-Assyrian states such as Assur, Adiabene, Osroene, Beth Garmai, Hatra and Beth Nuhadra. [7] [8]

With the Christianization of Mesopotamia beginning in the 1st century CE the independent Assyrian states of Adiabene, Osroene, Assur, Hatra, Beth Nuhadra and Beth Garmai were largely ruled by converts to home grown forms of still extant Eastern Rite Christianity in the form of the Church of the East and Syriac Orthodox Church, as well as Judaism. Gnostic sects such as Sabianism and the still extant Mandeanism also became popular, though native religions still coexisted alongside these new monotheistic religions among the native populace gods such as Ashur and Sin were still worshiped until the 4th century CE in Assyria. In the 3rd century CE another native Mesopotamian religion flourished, Manicheanism, which incorporated elements of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Zoroastrianism, as well as local Mesopotamian elements. [9]

There are no specific written records explaining Mesopotamian religious cosmology that survive today. Nonetheless, modern scholars have examined various accounts, and created what is believed to be an at least partially accurate depiction of Mesopotamian cosmology. [10] In the Epic of Creation, dated to 1200 BC, it explains that the god Marduk killed the mother goddess Tiamat and used half her body to create the earth, and the other half to create both the paradise of šamû and the netherworld of irṣitu. [11] A document from a similar period stated that the universe was a spheroid, with three levels of šamû, where the gods dwelt, and where the stars existed, above the three levels of earth below it. [12]

Deities Edit

Mesopotamian religion was polytheistic, thereby accepting the existence of many different deities, both male and female, though it was also henotheistic, [14] with certain gods being viewed as superior to others by their specific devotees. These devotees were often from a particular city or city-state that held that deity as its patron deity, for instance the god Enki was often associated with the city of Eridu in Sumer, the god Ashur with Assur and Assyria, Enlil with the Sumerian city of Nippur, Ishtar with the Assyrian city of Arbela, and the god Marduk was associated with Babylon. [15] Though the full number of gods and goddesses found in Mesopotamia is not known, K. Tallqvist, in his Akkadische Götterepitheta (1938) counted around 2,400 that scholars know, most of which had Sumerian names. In the Sumerian language, the gods were referred to as dingir, while in the Akkadian language they were known as ilu and it seems that there was syncreticism between the gods worshipped by the two groups, adopting one another's deities. [16]

The Mesopotamian gods bore many similarities with humans, and were anthropomorphic, thereby having humanoid form. Similarly, they often acted like humans, requiring food and drink, as well as drinking alcohol and subsequently suffering the effects of drunkenness, [17] but were thought to have a higher degree of perfection than common men. They were thought to be more powerful, all-seeing and all-knowing, unfathomable, and, above all, immortal. One of their prominent features was a terrifying brightness (melammu) which surrounded them, producing an immediate reaction of awe and reverence among men. [18] In many cases, the various deities were family relations of one another, a trait found in many other polytheistic religions. [19] The historian J. Bottéro was of the opinion that the gods were not viewed mystically, but were instead seen as high-up masters who had to be obeyed and feared, as opposed to loved and adored. [20] Nonetheless, many Mesopotamians, of all classes, often had names that were devoted to a certain deity this practice appeared to have begun in the third millennium BC among the Sumerians, but also was later adopted by the Akkadians, Assyrians and Babylonians as well. [21]

Initially, the pantheon was not ordered, but later Mesopotamian theologians came up with the concept of ranking the deities in order of importance. A Sumerian list of around 560 deities that did this was uncovered at Farm and Tell Abû Ṣalābīkh and dated to circa 2600 BC, ranking five primary deities as being of particular importance. [22]

One of the most important of these early Mesopotamian deities was the god Enlil, who was originally a Sumerian divinity viewed as a king of the gods and a controller of the world, who was later adopted by the Akkadians. Another was the Sumerian god An, who served a similar role to Enlil and became known as Anu among the Akkadians. The Sumerian god Enki was later also adopted by the Akkadians, initially under his original name, and later as Éa. Similarly the Sumerian moon god Nanna became the Akkadian Sîn while the Sumerian sun god Utu became the Akkadian Shamash. One of the most notable goddesses was the Sumerian sex and war deity Inanna. With the later rise to power of the Babylonians in the 18th century BC, the king, Hammurabi, declared Marduk, a deity who before then had not been of significant importance, to a position of supremacy alongside Anu and Enlil in southern Mesopotamia. [23]

Perhaps the most significant legend to survive from Mesopotamian religion is the Epic of Gilgamesh, which tells the story of the heroic king Gilgamesh and his wild friend Enkidu, and the former's search for immortality which is entwined with all the gods and their approval. It also contains the earliest reference to The Great Flood.

Recent discoveries Edit

In March 2020, archaeologists announced the discovery of a 5,000-year-old cultic area filled with more than 300 broken ceremonial ceramic cups, bowls, jars, animal bones and ritual processions dedicated to Ningirsu at the site of Girsu. One of the remains was a duck-shaped bronze figurine with eyes made from bark which is thought to be dedicated to Nanshe. [24] [25]

A prayer to the god Enlil. [26]

Public devotions Edit

Each Mesopotamian city was home to a deity, and each of the prominent deities was the patron of a city, and all known temples were located in cities, though there may have been shrines in the suburbs. [27] The temple itself was constructed of mud brick in the form of a ziggurat, which rose to the sky in a series of stairstep stages. Its significance and symbolism have been the subject of much discussion, but most regard the tower as a kind of staircase or ladder for the god to descend from and ascend to the heavens, though there are signs which point towards an actual cult having been practiced in the upper temple, so the entire temple may have been regarded as a giant altar. Other theories treat the tower as an image of the cosmic mountain where a dying and rising god "lay buried." Some temples, such as the temple of Enki in Eridu contained a holy tree (kiskanu) in a holy grove, which was the central point of various rites performed by the king, who functioned as a "master gardener." [28]

Mesopotamian temples were originally built to serve as dwelling places for the god, who was thought to reside and hold court on earth for the good of the city and kingdom. [29] His presence was symbolized by an image of the god in a separate room. The god's presence within the image seems to have been thought of in a very concrete way, as instruments for the presence of the deity." [30] This is evident from the poem How Erra Wrecked the World, in which Erra deceived the god Marduk into leaving his cult statue. [31] Once constructed, idols were consecrated through special nocturnal rituals where they were given "life", and their mouth "was opened" (pet pî) and washed (mes pî) so they could see and eat. [28] If the deity approved, it would accept the image and agree to "inhabit" it. These images were also entertained, and sometime escorted on hunting expeditions. In order to service the gods, the temple was equipped with a household with kitchens and kitchenware, sleeping rooms with beds and side rooms for the deity's family, as well as a courtyard with a basin and water for cleansing visitors, as well as a stable for the god's chariot and draft animals. [32]

Generally, the god's well-being was maintained through service, or work (dullu). The image was dressed and served banquets twice a day. It is not known how the god was thought to consume the food, but a curtain was drawn before the table while he or she "ate", just as the king himself was not allowed to be seen by the masses while he ate. Occasionally, the king shared in these meals, and the priests may have had some share in the offerings as well. Incense was also burned before the image, because it was thought that the gods enjoyed the smell. Sacrificial meals were also set out regularly, with a sacrificial animal seen as a replacement (pūhu) or substitute (dinānu) for a man, and it was considered that the anger of the gods or demons was then directed towards the sacrificial animal. Additionally, certain days required extra sacrifices and ceremonies for certain gods, and every day was sacred to a particular god. [33]

The king was thought, in theory, to be the religious leader (enu or šangū) of the cult and exercised a large number of duties within the temple, with a large number of specialists whose task was to mediate between men and gods: [34] a supervising or "watchman" priest (šešgallu), priests for individual purification against demons and magicians (āšipu), priests for the purification of the temple (mašmašu), priests to appease the wrath of the gods with song and music (kalū), as well as female singers (nāru), male singers (zammeru), craftsmen (mārē ummāni), swordbearers (nāš paṭri), masters of divination (bārû), penitents (šā'ilu), and others. [35]

Private devotions Edit

Besides the worship of the gods at public rituals, individuals also paid homage to a personal deity. As with other deities, the personal gods changed over time and little is known about early practice as they are rarely named or described. In the mid-third millennium BC, some rulers regarded a particular god or gods as being their personal protector. In the second millennium BC, personal gods began to function more on behalf of the common man, [36] with whom he had a close, personal relationship, maintained through prayer and maintenance of his god's statue. [37] A number of written prayers have survived from ancient Mesopotamia, each of which typically exalt the god that they are describing above all others. [38] The historian J. Bottéro stated that these poems display "extreme reverence, profound devotion, [and] the unarguable emotion that the supernatural evoked in the hearts of those ancient believers" but that they showed a people who were scared of their gods rather than openly celebrating them. [20] They were thought to offer good luck, success, and protection from disease and demons, [36] and one's place and success in society was thought to depend on his personal deity, including the development of his certain talents and even his personality. This was even taken to the point that everything he experienced was considered a reflection of what was happening to his personal god. [37] When a man neglected his god, it was assumed that the demons were free to inflict him, and when he revered his god, that god was like a shepherd who seeks food for him. [39]

There was a strong belief in demons in Mesopotamia, and private individuals, like the temple priests, also participated in incantations (šiptu) to ward them off. [40] Although there was no collective term for these beings either in Sumerian or Akkadian, they were merely described as harmful or dangerous beings or forces, and they were used as a logical way to explain the existence of evil in the world. [41] They were thought to be countless in number, and were thought to even attack the gods as well. Besides demons, there were also spirits of the dead, (etimmu) who could also cause mischief. Amulets were occasionally used, and sometimes a special priest or exorcist (āšipu or mašmašu) was required. Incantations and ceremonies were also used to cure diseases which were also thought to be associated with demonic activity, sometimes making use of sympathetic magic. [42] Sometimes an attempt was made to capture a demon by making an image of it, placing it above the head of a sick person, then destroying the image, which the demon was somehow likely to inhabit. Images of protecting spirits were also made and placed at gates to ward off disaster. [43]

Divination was also employed by private individuals, with the assumption that the gods have already determined the destinies of men and these destinies could be ascertained through observing omens and through rituals (e.g., casting lots). [43] It was believed that the gods expressed their will through "words" (amatu) and "commandments" (qibitu) which were not necessarily spoken, but were thought to manifest in the unfolding routine of events and things. [44] There were countless ways to divine the future, such as observing oil dropped into a cup of water (lecanomancy), observing the entrails of sacrificial animals (extispicy), observation of the behavior of birds (augury) and observing celestial and meteorological phenomena (astrology), as well as through interpretation of dreams. Often interpretation of these phenomena required the need for two classes of priests: askers (sa'ilu) and observer (baru), and also sometimes a lower class of ecstatic seer (mahhu) that was also associated with witchcraft. [45]

Incantation from the Šurpu series. [46]

Although ancient paganism tended to focus more on duty and ritual than morality, a number of general moral virtues can be gleaned from surviving prayers and myths. It was believed that man originated as a divine act of creation, and the gods were believed to be the source of life, and held power over sickness and health, as well as the destinies of men. Personal names show that each child was considered a gift from divinity. [47] Man was believed to have been created to serve the gods, or perhaps wait on them: the god is lord (belu) and man is servant or slave (ardu), and was to fear (puluhtu) the gods and have the appropriate attitude towards them. Duties seem to have been primarily of a cultic and ritual nature, [48] although some prayers express a positive psychological relationship, or a sort of conversion experience in regard to a god. [49] Generally the reward to mankind is described as success and long life. [47]

Every man also had duties to his fellow man which had some religious character, particularly the king's duties to his subjects. It was thought that one of the reasons the gods gave power to the king was to exercise justice and righteousness, [50] described as mēšaru and kettu, literally "straightness, rightness, firmness, truth". [51] Examples of this include not alienating and causing dissension between friends and relatives, setting innocent prisoners free, being truthful, being honest in trade, respecting boundary lines and property rights, and not putting on airs with subordinates. Some of these guidelines are found in the second tablet of the Šurpu incantation series. [46]

Sin, on the other hand, was expressed by the words hitu (mistake, false step), annu or arnu (rebellion), and qillatu (sin or curse), [46] with strong emphasis on the idea of rebellion, sometimes with the idea that sin is man's wishing to "live on his own terms" (ina ramanisu). Sin also was described as anything which incited the wrath of the gods. Punishment came through sickness or misfortune, [49] which inevitably lead to the common reference to unknown sins, or the idea that one can transgress a divine prohibition without knowing it—psalms of lamentation rarely mention concrete sins. This idea of retribution was also applied to the nation and history as a whole. A number of examples of Mesopotamian literature show how war and natural disasters were treated as punishment from the gods, and how kings were used as a tool for deliverance. [52]

Sumerian myths suggest a prohibition against premarital sex. [53] Marriages were often arranged by the parents of the bride and groom engagements were usually completed through the approval of contracts recorded on clay tablets. These marriages became legal as soon as the groom delivered a bridal gift to his bride's father. Nonetheless, evidence suggests that premarital sex was a common, but surreptitious, occurrence. [54] : 78 The worship of Inanna/Ishtar, which was prevalent in Mesopotamia could involve wild, frenzied dancing and bloody ritual celebrations of social and physical abnormality. It was believed that "nothing is prohibited to Inanna", and that by depicting transgressions of normal human social and physical limitations, including traditional gender definition, one could cross over from the "conscious everyday world into the trance world of spiritual ecstasy." [55]

The ancient Mesopotamians believed in an afterlife that was a land below our world. It was this land, known alternately as Arallû, Ganzer or Irkallu, the latter of which meant "Great Below", that it was believed everyone went to after death, irrespective of social status or the actions performed during life. [56] Unlike Christian Hell, the Mesopotamians considered the underworld neither a punishment nor a reward. [57] Nevertheless, the condition of the dead was hardly considered the same as the life previously enjoyed on earth: they were considered merely weak and powerless ghosts. The myth of Ishtar's descent into the underworld relates that "dust is their food and clay their nourishment, they see no light, where they dwell in darkness." Stories such as the Adapa myth resignedly relate that, due to a blunder, all men must die and that true everlasting life is the sole property of the gods. [18]

There are no known Mesopotamian tales about the end of the world, although it has been speculated that they believed that this would eventually occur. This is largely because Berossus wrote that the Mesopotamians believed the world to last "twelve times twelve sars" with a sar being 3,600 years, this would indicate that at least some of the Mesopotamians believed that the Earth would only last 518,400 years. Berossus does not report what was thought to follow this event, however. [58]

Challenges Edit

The modern study of Mesopotamia (Assyriology) is still a fairly young science, beginning only in the middle of the Nineteenth century, [59] and the study of Mesopotamian religion can be a complex and difficult subject because, by nature, their religion was governed only by usage, not by any official decision, [60] and by nature it was neither dogmatic nor systematic. Deities, characters, and their actions within myths changed in character and importance over time, and occasionally depicted different, sometimes even contrasting images or concepts. This is further complicated by the fact that scholars are not entirely certain what role religious texts played in the Mesopotamian world. [61]

For many decades, some scholars of the ancient Near East argued that it was impossible to define there as being a singular Mesopotamian religion, with Leo Oppenheim (1964) stating that "a systematic presentation of Mesopotamian religion cannot and should not be written. " [62] Others, like Jean Bottéro, the author of Religion in Ancient Mesopotamia, disagreed, believing that it would be too complicated to divide the religion into many smaller groups, stating that:

Should we dwell on a certain social or cultural category: the "official religion, " the "private religion, " the religion of the "educated". Should we emphasise a certain city or province: Ebla, Mari, Assyria? Should we concentrate on a certain period in time: the Seleucid, the Achaemenid, the Chaldean, the Neo-Assyrian, the Kassite, the Old Babylonian, the Neo-Sumerian, or the Old Akkadian period? Since, contrary to what some would imprudently lead us to believe, there were no distinct religions but only successive states of the same religious system. – such an approach would be excessive, even pointless. [63]

Panbabylonism Edit

According to Panbabylonism, a school of thought founded by Hugo Winckler and held in the early 20th century among primarily German Assyriologists, there was a common cultural system extending over the ancient Near East which was overwhelmingly influenced by the Babylonians. According to this theory the religions of the Near East were rooted in Babylonian astral science- including the Hebrew Bible and Judaism. This theory of a Babylonian-derived Bible originated from the discovery of a stele in the acropolis of Susa bearing a Babylonian flood myth with many similarities to the flood of Genesis, the Epic of Gilgamesh. However, flood myths appear in almost every culture around the world, including cultures that never had contact with Mesopotamia. The fundamental tenets of Panbabylonism were eventually dismissed as pseudoscientific, [64] however Assyriologists and biblical scholars recognize the influence of Babylonian mythology on Jewish mythology and other Near Eastern mythologies, albeit indirect. Indeed, similarities between both religious traditions may draw from even older sources. [65]

Biblical eschatology Edit

In the New Testament Book of Revelation, Babylonian religion is associated with religious apostasy of the lowest order, the archetype of a political/religious system heavily tied to global commerce, and it is depicted as a system which, according to the author, continued to hold sway in the first century CE, eventually to be utterly annihilated. According to some interpretations, this is believed to refer to the Roman Empire, [66] but according to other interpretations, this system remains extant in the world until the Second Coming. [67] [68] [69]

  • Revelation 17:5: "And upon her forehead was a name written, mystery, Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth,"
  • Revelation 18:9: "The kings of the earth who committed fornication and lived luxuriously with her will weep and lament for her, when they see the smoke of her burning, standing at a distance for fear of her torment, saying, 'Alas, alas that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come.' And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her for no man buyeth their merchandise any more. "

Popular culture Edit

Mesopotamian religion, culture, history and mythology has influenced some forms of music. As well as traditional Syriac folk music, many heavy metal bands have named themselves after Mesopotamian gods and historical figures, including the partly Assyrian band Melechesh.

New religious movements Edit

Various new religious movements in the 20th and 21st centuries have been founded that venerate some of the deities found in ancient Mesopotamian religion, including various strains of neopaganism that have adopted the worship of the historical Mesopotamian gods.

As with most dead religions, many aspects of the common practices and intricacies of the doctrine have been lost and forgotten over time. However, much of the information and knowledge has survived, and great work has been done by historians and scientists, with the help of religious scholars and translators, to re-construct a working knowledge of the religious history, customs, and the role these beliefs played in everyday life in Sumer, Akkad, Assyria, Babylonia, Ebla and Chaldea during this time. Mesopotamian religion is thought to have been an influence on subsequent religions throughout the world, including Canaanite, Aramean, and ancient Greek.

Mesopotamian religion was polytheistic, worshipping over 2,100 different deities, [16] many of which were associated with a specific state within Mesopotamia, such as Sumer, Akkad, Assyria or Babylonia, or a specific Mesopotamian city, such as (Ashur), Nineveh, Ur, Nippur, Arbela, Harran, Uruk, Ebla, Kish, Eridu, Isin, Larsa, Sippar, Gasur, Ekallatum, Til Barsip, Mari, Adab, Eshnunna and Babylon.

Mesopotamian religion has historically the oldest body of recorded literature of any religious tradition. What is known about Mesopotamian religion comes from archaeological evidence uncovered in the region, particularly numerous literary sources, which are usually written in Sumerian, Akkadian (Assyro-Babylonian) or Aramaic using cuneiform script on clay tablets and which describe both mythology and cultic practices. Other artifacts can also be useful when reconstructing Mesopotamian religion. As is common with most ancient civilizations, the objects made of the most durable and precious materials, and thus more likely to survive, were associated with religious beliefs and practices. This has prompted one scholar to make the claim that the Mesopotamian's "entire existence was infused by their religiosity, just about everything they have passed on to us can be used as a source of knowledge about their religion." [70] While Mesopotamian religion had almost completely died out by approximately 400–500 CE after its indigenous adherents had largely become Assyrian Christians, it has still had an influence on the modern world, predominantly because many biblical stories that are today found in Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Mandaeism were possibly based upon earlier Mesopotamian myths, in particular that of the creation myth, the Garden of Eden, the flood myth, the Tower of Babel, figures such as Nimrod and Lilith and the Book of Esther. It has also inspired various contemporary neo-pagan groups.


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