Religions of the Ancient Near East: Sumero-Akkadian Religious Texts and Ugaritic Epics

Religions of the Ancient Near East: Sumero-Akkadian Religious Texts and Ugaritic Epics

Religions of the Ancient Near East: Sumero-Akkadian Religious Texts and Ugaritic Epics

Religions of the Ancient Near East: Sumero-Akkadian Religious Texts and Ugaritic Epics

Excerpt

When the curtain of history rose in Babylonia, about 2800 B.C., the country was inhabited by two distinct groups of people. In the south, the dominant group consisted of Sumerians and the land was called Sumer; in the north, the dominant group consisted of Semites and the land was called Akkad. Both parts were united into one state by the Semitic king Hammurabi of Babylon (1728-1686 B.C.). It would seem that the original settlers of southern Babylonia, who entered the country at the beginning of the fourth millennium B.C., were immigrants from southwestern Iran. A little later, Semitic-speaking people infiltrated from the north. The last group to arrive were the Sumerians, a non-Semitic- and nonIndo-European-speaking people whose original home was most probably Transcaucasia or Transcaspia. Consequently, the Sumero-Akkadian (also called Babylonian or Mesopotamian) civilization was of a composite character, the result of the cross-fertilization of those three ethnic groups. Politically, Babylonia in the third millennium was organized, with few exceptions, into city-states. Each city-state had its own king (or priest-king), its own local deities and temples. This fact is important for an understanding of the later Sumero-Akkadian religion, since its pantheon, as organized by the priests at about the beginning of the second millennium, reflected the former political division of the country when the various divinities were independent city-gods. Economically, Babylonian life was based on a highly developed irrigation-culture and sheepherding. The rich alluvial soil produced an overabundance of agricultural products. The surplus was exchanged for raw ma-

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