Mesopotamian mythology was composed of different regional mythologies: Sumerian, Akkadian, Assyrian, and Babylonian. Mesopotamia recorded more than a hundred gods and goddesses because of its people’s religiousness. The gods and goddesses are characterized by mostly being anthropomorphic.
The names of these deities differed among different Mesopotamian civilizations, despite their roles being the same. Below are some of the most heard names in the Mesopotamian pantheon.
Ashur – National God of Assyria
Ashur started as a local deity of the city Ashur or Assur. From about 1800 BC onwards, he was associated with the Sumerian Enlil (Akkadian: Bel) Ashur was also associated with Anshar, the father of An (Akkadian: Anu) during the rule of Sargon II.
Aside from serving as a personification of Assyria’s interests as a political entity, Ashur did not have much of a character of his own.
According to other sources, he was also the god of war and married to the goddess Ishtar. His symbols are a winged disc and a bow and arrow.
Nisaba/Nidaba – Goddess of Grain and Agriculture
Nisaba is also known as Nidaba, Nanibgal, and Nunbarsegunu. She was later on known as the goddess of writing, accounting, and scribal knowledge.
She was first depicted with four long, curled tresses of hair crowned with a horned headdress supporting ears of wheat and a crescent moon while holding a bunch of dates.
Later on, her description changed to her holding a gold stylus and a clay tablet carrying the image of the starry heaven.
Shamash(Utu) – God of the Sun and Divine Justice
Shamash is the Akkadian god of the sun and was most likely likened to his Sumerian counterpart Utu. Contrary to Utu being said to be the son of the moon god Sin, Shamash was known as the son of Enlil.
Some sources indicate that Inanna was his twin sister and that the two have a strong bond. He was married to the goddess of light, Sherida.
Shamash was said to be featured in the law code of Hammurabi. He was portrayed as a wise, old man with a long beard sitting on a royal throne, with rays of the sun behind him, a staff, and a ring in his hands signifying the role of being the governor of the universe.
Ishtar (Inanna) – Goddess of Beauty, Sex, and Desire
Ishtar is the goddess of love and procreation. In Sumeria, she’s known as Inanna. In the Northwest Semitic region, she was known as Astarte, and in Armenian, she’s the goddess Astghik.
She was portrayed differently by different sources and contrastingly, she’s also a symbol of war and combat. She was depicted with the eight-pointed star and a lion.
From a deity mostly associated with her sexuality in the early Sumerian tales, the Babylonian story Epic of Gilgamesh shed a different light on her character as a more assertive femme fatale. She was believed to be the daughter of Anu, the god of the sky.
Sin(Nanna) – the God of the Moon
Sin in Akkadian mythology is also known as Nanna in Sumerian mythology. It was said that he resided in the city of Ur.
He is one of the oldest of the Mesopotamian gods and is the father of Shamash and Ishtar. Ningal, “the great lady”, was Sin’s wife.
Sin was one of the major Mesopotamian gods in the early part of the Sumerian period. He was believed to be Enlil and Ninlil’s son when Enlil seduced Ninlil and impregnated her.
Tiamat – Goddess of Salt Sea
Tiamat was depicted as the primeval goddess of the salt sea and oceans. She had children with Abzu, the god of freshwater. She gave birth to the very first generation of gods. She was killed by Marduk. But before dying, she brought monsters into the Mesopotamian pantheon: the first dragons with bodies filled with venom.
She was one of the earliest Babylonian entities used for Chaoskampf – a myth portraying the battle between a hero and a chthonic monster. Her depiction as a dragon came from the 2nd part of the Chaoskampf. In Mythos, she was portrayed as a sacred goddess.
Enki (Ea) – the God of Water
Known as Ea in Akkadian and Babylonian mythology, Enki was one of the important Mesopotamian gods of the supreme triad, along with Enlil and Anu. Aside from being the god of freshwater, he’s known to be the god of creation and intelligence.
He was depicted as a half-fish, half-goat creature, which is where the now zodiac sign Capricon was seemingly derived from.
Enki was believed to have lived in the Abzu which pertained to the ocean beneath the earth, according to the Mesopotamian cosmic geography. Other Sumerian sources mention Enki as being the son of the primeval goddess Tiamat, the Goddess of Salt Sea, and the Mother of Several Deities.
He is also the father of Marduk. He also was associated with magic, incantations, and wisdom.
Enlil – the God of Air
Enlil is one of the Mesopotamian gods in the supreme triad. He’s the ancient god of air. People believed his temple of Ekur in Nippur to have been built by himself. He’s also known as the mooring rope between heaven and earth.
Originally, Enlil was thought to mean “Lord ghost” but was later on reinterpreted as “Lord of Air ”. He seduced Ninlil and impregnated her, giving birth to Nanna.
According to the Akkadian epic Atra-Hasis, Enlil, after feeling uncomfortable about humans that Enki, the god of earth, created, brought the great flood upon humanity. Enki interfered and warned a human sage named Atrahasis who built an ark for escape.
Ninkasi – the Goddess of Beer
Ninkasi is the ancient Sumerian goddess of beer and alcohol. She was the patron of brewers and the daughter of Uruk and Inanna. She was born out of fresh sparkling water and was believed to brew alcohol daily.
She was honored for brewing beer that was given to the women of ancient Mesopotamia. She symbolized the role of women in the brewing of beverages in ancient Mesopotamia.
The Hymn to Ninkasi is a 3900-year-old poem honoring the goddess’ contribution to Mesopotamia possessing the oldest recipe for brewing beer. Ninkasi was also one of the healers of Enki’s eight woods.
Marduk – King of Gods
Marduk was one of the major Mesopotamian gods who formed an important part of the Babylonian pantheon. He was portrayed as the King of Gods and had many titles. He was also considered the supreme god over all the gods, an expert in justice, healing, agriculture, and even magic.
He was portrayed as someone dressed in royal robes, and sometimes even depicted with his pet dragon. It was said that the ziggurat of Babylon was dedicated to Marduk.
Being probably the most important Babylonian god, his worship almost bordered on monotheism.