As Gilgamesh Press was created to help promote the work and arts of the Assyrians, we’d like to take the time to share some information about the origins of the Assyrian people and their beliefs.
In the spirit of this goal, Gilgamesh Press will run a weekly series called, ‘God of the Week’.
Assyria was a kingdom that rose within the land of Mesopotamia, a Greek term used to describe the area located between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, often called the ‘Fertile Crescent’.
Mesopotamia was not ruled by a single cultural group, but a series of cultures. Mesopotamia was settled by the Neolithic period (starting 7200 BCE) and continued through – with various cultural groups – to the modern day.
Located in Mesopotamia on the Upper Tigris (in modern Iraq), Assyria was named after its capital city, Assur. The Assyrians rose to power in the Middle Bronze Age and we find them in dominating form once again in the Iron Age as the Neo-Assyrian Empire.
The Assyrian religion (like all those found in Mesopotamia) was polytheistic. They worshipped a pantheon of gods, which may have included up to two thousand deities. Some gods were considered more important than others, but each had a role within the world and its cosmic order. In each city state of Mesopotamia and Assyria, there were different ‘head gods’; at Eridu, EnKi was the most revered, whereas at Assur, Ashur was the more important deity.
The God of this Week is Ashur.
Ashur, as we now know, was the head of the Assyrian pantheon at Assur. Originally a god without a family, he eventually became linked with Enlil, who was considered as the chief god. As such, Ashur eventually gained Enlil’s wife and sons and took the place of other significant gods (such as Marduk), in religious epics and rituals.
Many kings were named after Ashur, such as Ashurnasirpal, Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal, and as he was linked with the Assyrian Empire, enjoyed extreme popularity during the times when the kingdom was at its greatest.
(Image is from Wikipedia).