From Gal to Galli
A Gallus (pl. Galli) was a eunuch priest of the Phrygian goddess Cybele and her consort Attis, whose worship was incorporated into the state religious practices of ancient Rome. Stephanus Byzantinus said that the name came from King Gallus. Ovid (43 BC – 17 AD) says that the name is derived from the Gallus river in Phrygia. The word “Gallus” is also the Latin word for rooster.
The name may be linked to the Gauls (Celtic tribes) of Galatia in Anatolia, who were known as Galli by the Romans. The name Gaul itself is not derived from Galli; it is, much rather, from Old French Gaule, a word used to translate Latin Gallia, but itself from an Old Frankish *Walholant, from the Germanic walha “a foreigner, a Celt, a Gallo-Roman”.
While these efforts at “folk” etymologies were widespread in classical times, it has been suggested that gallu comes from the Sumerian Gal meaning “great” and Lu meaning “man”, humans or sexually ambivalent demons that freed Inanna from the underworld. They originally seem to have been consecrated to the god Enki.
The first Galli arrived in Rome when the Senate officially adopted Cybele as a state goddess in 204 BC. Roman citizens were prohibited from becoming Galli, which meant that they were all orientals or slaves. Under Claudius, this ban was lifted. Eventually Domitian reaffirmed that Roman citizens were forbidden to practice eviratio (castration).
The Galli castrated themselves during an ecstatic celebration called the Dies sanguinis, or “Day of Blood”, which took place on March 24. At the same time they put on women’s costume, mostly yellow in colour, and a sort of turban, together with pendants and ear-rings.
They also wore their hair long, and bleached, and wore heavy make-up. They wandered around with followers, begging for charity, in return for which they were prepared to tell fortunes.
On the day of mourning for Attis they ran around wildly and dishevelled. They performed dances to the music of pipes and tambourines, and, in an ecstasy, flogged themselves until they bled.
Fundamental to understanding the meaning and the function of the myth and ritual related to Attis in Rome is his relationship with the Galli. The role of prototype of the mythical castration of Attis for the institution of the “priesthood” of the Galli has almost always been emphasised, even if to different degrees.
Scholars have attempted to draw a connection between the episode of the castration of Attis and the ritual mutilation of the Galli as a reflection in myth of a secondary ritual action or conversely, as the mythical foundation of a ritual action.
This kind of interpretation appears to be too simplistic as to some extent it fails to consider that this connection has served different purposes in different periods. The emasculation of Attis in the “Phrygian” version of the myth is the basis for an institution that is both political and religious, the institution of his priests in Pessinous, the “non-kings”, who don’t simply coincide with the Galli.
The earliest references to the Galli come from the Anthologia Palatina although they don’t explicitly mention emasculation. More interesting is the fragment attributed to Callimachus, in which the term Gallai denotes castration that has taken place.
The high priests are well-documented from archaeology. At Pessinus, the centre of the Cybele cult, there were two high priests during the Hellenistic period, one with the title of “Attis” and the other with the name of “Battakes”. Both were eunuchs.
The high priests had considerable political influence during this period, and letters exist from a high priest Attis to the kings of Pergamon, Eumenes II and Attalus II, inscribed on stone. Later, during the Flavian period, there was a college of ten priests, not castrated, and now Roman citizens, but still using the title “Attis”.
In Rome, the head of the galli was known as the archigallus, at least from the period of Claudius on. A number of archaeological finds depict the archigallus wearing luxurious and extravagant costumes. The archigallus was always a Roman citizen chosen by the quindecimviri sacris faciundis, whose term of service lasted for life.
Being a Roman citizen, as well as being employed by the Roman State, meant that the archigallus had to preserve the traditions of Cybele’s cult while not violating Roman prohibitions in religious behavior. Hence, the archigallus was never a eunuch, as all citizens of Rome were forbidden from emasculation. The signs of his office have been described as a type of crown, possibly a laurel wreath, as well as a golden bracelet known as the occabus.
Along with the institution of the archigallus came the Phrygianum sanctuary as well as the rite of the taurobolium as it pertains to the Magna Mater, two aspects of the Magna Mater’s cultus that the archigallus held dominion over.
In the Roman Empire of the 2nd to 4th centuries, taurobolium referred to practices involving the sacrifice of a bull, which after mid-2nd century became connected with the worship of the Great Mother of the Gods; though not previously limited to her cultus, after 159 CE all private taurobolia inscriptions mention Magna Mater.
Originating in Asia Minor, its earliest attested performance in Italy occurred in 134 CE, at Puteoli, in honor of Venus Caelestis, documented by an inscription.
The Korybantes were the armed and crested dancers who worshipped the Phrygian goddess Cybele with drumming and dancing. They are also called the Kurbantes in Phrygia and the Corybants in an older English transcription. The name Korybantes is of uncertain etymology. Edzard Johan Furnée and R. S. P. Beekes have suggested a Pre-Greek origin.
The Phrygian Korybantes were often confused by Greeks with other ecstatic male confraternities, such as the Idaean Dactyls, the archaic mythical race of small phallic male beings associated with the Great Mother, whether as Cybele or Rhea, or the Cretan Kouretes, spirit-youths (kouroi) who acted as guardians of the infant Zeus.
The numbers of Dactyls vary, but often they were ten spirit-men so like the three Curetes, the Cabiri or the Korybantes that they were often interchangeable. The Dactyls were both ancient smiths and healing magicians. In some myths, they are in Hephaestus’ employ, and they taught metalworking, mathematics, and the alphabet to humans.
When Rhea, the mother of the gods, knew her time of delivery was come, she went to the sacred cave on Mount Ida. As she squatted in labor she dug her fingers into the earth (Gaia), which brought forth these daktyloi Idaioi (“Idaean fingers”), thus often ten in number, or sometimes multiplied into a race of ten tens.
Three is just as often given as their number. They are sometimes instead numbered as thirty-three. When Greeks offered a most solemn oath, often they would press their hands against the earth as they uttered it.
The Kuretes or Kouretes were nine dancers who venerate Rhea, the Cretan counterpart of Cybele. These armored male dancers kept time to a drum and the rhythmic stamping of their feet. Dance, according to Greek thought, was one of the civilizing activities, like wine-making or music.
The dance in armor (the “Pyrrhic dance” or Pyrriche) was a male coming-of-age initiation ritual linked to a warrior victory celebration. Both Jane Ellen Harrison and the French classicist Henri Jeanmaire have shown that both the Kouretes and Cretan Zeus, who was called “the greatest kouros”, were intimately connected with the transition of boys into manhood in Cretan cities. The English “Pyrrhic Dance” is a corruption of the original Pyrríkhē or the Pyrríkhios Khorós (“Pyrrhichian Dance”).
In Hesiod’s telling of Zeus’s birth, when Great Gaia came to Crete and hid the child Zeus in a “steep cave”, beneath the secret places of the earth, on Mount Aigaion with its thick forests; there the Cretan Kouretes’ ritual clashing spears and shields were interpreted by Hellenes as intended to drown out the infant god’s cries, and prevent his discovery by his cannibal father Cronus. Emily Vermeule observed,
This myth is Greek interpretation of mystifying Minoan ritual in an attempt to reconcile their Father Zeus with the Divine Child of Crete; the ritual itself we may never recover with clarity, but it is not impossible that a connection exists between the Kouretes’ weapons at the cave and the dedicated weapons at Arkalochori”.
Among the offerings recovered from the cave, the most spectacular are decorated bronze shields with patterns that draw upon north Syrian originals and a bronze gong on which a god and his attendants are shown in a distinctly Near Eastern style.
Kouretes also presided over the infancy of Dionysus, another god who was born as a babe, and of Zagreus, a Cretan child of Zeus, or child-doublet of Zeus, identified with the god Dionysus.
The wild ecstasy of their cult can be compared to the female Maenads, the female followers of Dionysus (Bacchus in the Roman pantheon), and the most significant members of the thiasus (Greek thiasos), the ecstatic retinue of Dionysus, often pictured as inebriated revelers. Their name literally translates as “raving ones.”
Ovid, in Metamorphoses, says the Kouretes were born from rainwater (Ouranos fertilizing Gaia). This suggests a connexion with the Pelasgian Hyades, popularly “the rainy ones”, but probably from Greek hys, i.e. “swine”), a sisterhood of nymphs that bring rain.
The scholar Jane Ellen Harrison writes that besides being guardians, nurturers, and initiators of the infant Zeus, the Kouretes were primitive magicians and seers. She also writes that they were metal workers and that metallurgy was considered an almost magical art.
There were several “tribes” of Korybantes, including the Cabeiri, the Korybantes Euboioi, the Korybantes Samothrakioi. Hoplodamos and his Gigantes, a race of great strength and aggression, though not necessarily of great size, known for the Gigantomachy (Gigantomachia), were counted among Korybantes, and the titan Anytos was considered a Kourete.
Homer referred to select young men as kouretes, when Agamemnon instructs Odysseus to pick out kouretes, the bravest among the Achaeans” to bear gifts to Achilles. The Greeks preserved a tradition down to Strabo’s day, that the Kuretes of Aetolia and Acarnania in mainland Greece had been imported from Crete.
A single early appearance of Zagreus is in a quoted line from the lost epic Alkmeonis, written in the sixth century BC if not earlier: “Mistress Earth and Zagreus who art above all other gods.” An invocation linking him with the earth goddess Gaia and placing him above all other gods, could not fit easily into the Olympian religion of Zeus.
In Greek a hunter who catches living animals is called zagreus, Karl Kerenyi notes, and the Ionian word zagre signifies a “pit for the capture of live animals” Kerenyi links the figure of Zagreus with archaic Dionysiac rites in which small animals were torn limb from limb and their flesh devoured raw, “not as an emanation of the Greek Dionysian religion, but rather as a migration or survival of a prehistoric rite.”
The maenads were the female followers of Dionysus (Bacchus in the Roman pantheon). Often the maenads were portrayed as inspired by Dionysus into a state of ecstatic frenzy, through a combination of dancing and intoxication. During these rites, the maenads would dress in fawn skins and carry a thyrsus, a long stick wrapped in ivy or vine leaves and tipped with a pinecone. They would weave ivy-wreaths around their heads or wear a bull helmet in honor of their god, and often handle or wear snakes.
The Hyades were daughters of Atlas (by either Pleione or Aethra, one of the Oceanides) and sisters of Hyas in most tellings, although one version gives their parents as Hyas and Boeotia. The Hyades are sisters to the Pleiades and the Hesperides.
The main myth concerning them is envisioned to account for their collective name and to provide an etiology for their weepy raininess: Hyas was killed in a hunting accident and the Hyades wept from their grief. They were changed into a cluster of stars, the Hyades, set in the head of Taurus.
The Giants or Gigantes were known for their battle with the Olympian gods. According to Hesiod, the Giants were the offspring of Gaia (Earth), born from the blood that fell when Uranus (Sky) was castrated by their Titan son Cronus.
Archaic and Classical representations show Gigantes as man-sized hoplites (heavily-armed ancient Greek foot soldiers) fully human in form. Later representations (after c. 380 BC) show Gigantes with snakes for legs.
In later traditions, the Giants were often confused with other opponents of the Olympians, particularly the Titans, an earlier generation of large and powerful children of Gaia and Uranus. The vanquished Giants were said to be buried under volcanos, and to be the cause of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.
A fragment from Strabo’s Book VII gives a sense of the roughly analogous character of these male confraternities, and the confusion rampant among those not initiated: Many assert that the gods worshipped in Samothrace as well as the Kurbantes and the Korybantes and in like manner the Kouretes and the Idaean Daktyls are the same as the Kabeiroi, but as to the Kabeiroi they are unable to tell who they are.
In Greek mythology, the Cabeiri (Cabiri, Kabeiroi, or Kabiri) were a group of enigmatic chthonic deities. They were worshiped in a mystery cult closely associated with that of Hephaestus, centered in the north Aegean islands of Lemnos and possibly Samothrace – at the Samothrace temple complex – and at Thebes.
They were most commonly depicted as two people: an old man, Axiocersus, and his son, Cadmilus. Due to the cult’s secrecy, however, their exact nature and relationship with other ancient Greek and Thracian religious figures remained mysterious.
As a result, the membership and roles of the Cabeiri changed significantly over time, with common variants including a female pair (Axierus and Axiocersa) and twin youths (frequently confused with Castor and Pollux) who were also worshiped as protectors of sailors.
In their distant origins the Cabeiri and the Samothracian gods may include pre-Greek elements, or other non-Greek elements, such as Hittite, Thracian, proto-Etruscan or Phrygian. The Lemnian cult was always local to Lemnos, but the Samothracian mystery cult spread rapidly throughout the Greek world during the Hellenistic period, eventually initiating Romans.
The ancient sources disagree about whether the deities of Samothrace were Cabeiri or not; and the accounts of the two cults differ in detail. But the two islands are close to each other, at the northern end of the Aegean, and the cults are at least similar, and neither fits easily into the Olympic pantheon: the Cabeiri were given a mythic genealogy as sons of Hephaestus.
The accounts of the Samothracian gods, whose names were secret, differ in the number and sexes of the gods: usually between two and four, some of either sex. The number of Cabeiri also vary, with some accounts citing four (often a pair of males and a pair of females), and some even more, such as a tribe or whole race of Cabeiri, often presented as all male.
The Cabeiri were also worshipped at other sites in the vicinity, including Seuthopolis in Thrace and various sites in Asia Minor. The Cabeiri were possibly originally Phrygian deities and protectors of sailors, who were imported into Greek ritual. R. S. P. Beekes believes that their name is of non-Indo-European, pre-Greek origin.
In the past, the Semitic word kabir (“great”) has been seen as the origin since at least Joseph Justus Scaliger in the sixteenth century, but nothing else seemed to point to a Semitic origin, until the idea of “great” gods expressed by the Semitic root kbr was definitively attested for North Syria in the thirteenth century BCE, in texts from Emar published by D. Arnaud in 1985–87.
The name of the Cabeiri recalls Mount Kabeiros, a mountain in the region of Berekyntia in Asia Minor, closely associated with the Phrygian Mother Goddess. The name of Kadmilus, or Kasmilos, one of the Cabeiri who was usually depicted as a young boy, was linked even in antiquity to camillus, an old Latin word for a boy-attendant in a cult, which is probably a loan from the Etruscan language, which may be related to Lemnian. However, according to Beekes, the name Kadmilus may be of pre-Greek origin, as is the case with the name Cadmus.
Lugal is the Sumerian cuneiform sign for leader from the two signs, LÚ.GAL (“man, big”), and was one of several Sumerian titles that a ruler of a city-state could bear (alongside en and ensi, the exact difference being a subject of debate). The sign eventually became the predominant Sumerian term for a King in general. In the Sumerian language, lugal is used to mean an owner (e.g. of a boat or a field) or a head (of a unit such as a family).
The cuneiform sign LUGAL serves as a determinative in cuneiform texts (Sumerian, Akkadian and Hittite), indicating that the following word is the name of a king. In Akkadian orthography, it may also be a syllabogram šàr, acrophonically based on the Akkadian for “king”, šarrum.
The Apkallu (Akkadian) or Abgal, (Sumerian), from Sumerian AB.GAL.LU (Ab=water, Gal=Great Lu=Man), meaning sage, are seven Sumerian sages, demigods who are said to have been created by the god Enki to establish culture and give civilization to mankind. They served as priests of Enki and as advisors or sages to the earliest kings of Sumer before the flood. They are credited with giving mankind the Me (moral code), the crafts, and the arts. They were seen as fish-like men who emerged from the sweet water Abzu, and are commonly represented as having the lower torso of a fish, or dressed as a fish.
According to the myth, human beings were initially unaware of the benefits of culture and civilization. The god Enki sent from Dilmun, amphibious half-fish, half-human creatures who emerged from the oceans to live with the early human beings and teach them the arts and other aspects of civilization such as writing, law, temple and city building and agriculture. These creatures are known as the Apkallu. The Apkallu remained with human beings after teaching them the ways of civilization, and served as advisors to the kings.
The Apkallus are referred to in several Sumerian myths in cuneiform literature. They are first referred to in the Erra Epic by the character of Marduk who asks “Where are the Seven Sages of the Apsu, the pure puradu fish, who just as their lord Ea, have been endowed with sublime wisdom?” According to the Temple Hymn of Ku’ara, all seven sages are said to have originally belonged to the city of Eridu.
However, the names and order of appearance of these seven sages are varied in different sources. They are also referred to in the incantation series Bit Meseri’s third tablet. In non-cuneiform sources, they find references in the writings of Berossus, the 3rd century BC, Babylonian priest of Bel Marduk.
Berossus describes the appearance from the Persian Gulf of the first of these sages Oannes and describes him as a monster with two heads, the body of a fish and human feet. He then relates that more of these monsters followed. The seven sages are also referred to in an exorcistic text where they are described as bearing the likeness of carps.
These seven were each advisers for seven different kings and therefore result in two different lists, one of kings and one of Apkallu. Neither the sages nor the kings in these lists were genealogically related however.
Apkallu and human beings were presumably capable of conjugal relationships since after the flood, the myth states that four Apkallu appeared. These were part human and part Apkallu, and included Nungalpirriggaldim, Pirriggalnungal, Pirriggalabsu, and Lu-nana who was only two-thirds Apkallu.
Abgal (cognate with the sumerian ab.gal, related to the akkadian apkallu, “ferryman”) is a pre-Islamic north Arabian god, known from the Palmyrian desert regions as a god of Bedouins and camel drivers.
These Apkallus are said to have committed various transgressions which angered the gods. These seeming negative deeds of the later Apkallu, and their roles as wise councilors, have led some scholars to equate them with the nephilim of Genesis 6:4. J. C. Greenfield mentions that “it has been proposed that the tale of the Nephilim, alluded to in Genesis 6 is based on some of the negative aspects of the apkallu tradition”.
The Nephilim were offspring of the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men” before the Deluge according to Genesis 6:4; the name is also used in reference to giants who inhabited Canaan at the time of the Israelite conquest of Canaan according to Numbers 13:33. A similar biblical Hebrew word with different vowel-sounds is used in Ezekiel 32:27 to refer to dead Philistine warriors.
The Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon gives the meaning of Nephilim as “giants.” The majority of ancient biblical versions, including the Septuagint, Theodotion, Latin Vulgate, Samaritan Targum, Targum Onkelos and Targum Neofiti, interpret the word to mean “giants.”
Symmachus translates it as “the violent ones” and Aquila’s translation has been interpreted to mean either “the fallen ones” or “the ones falling [upon their enemies].”
Many suggested interpretations are based on the assumption that the word is a derivative of Hebrew verbal root n-ph-l “fall.” Robert Baker Girdlestone argued the word comes from the Hiphil causative stem, implying that the Nephilim are to be perceived as “those that cause others to fall down.”
Adam Clarke took it as a perfect participle, “fallen,” “apostates.” Ronald Hendel states that it is a passive form “ones who have fallen,” equivalent grammatically to paqid “one who is appointed” (i.e., overseer), asir, “one who is bound,” (i.e., prisoner) etc.
According to the Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon, the basic etymology of the word Nephilim is “dub[ious],” and various suggested interpretations are “all very precarious.”
After these four post-diluvian Apkallus came the first completely human advisers, who were called ummanu. Gilgamesh, the mythical king of Uruk, is said to be the first king to have had an entirely human adviser. In recent times, scholars have also suggested the Apkallu are the model for Enoch, the ancestor of Noah.
Apkallu reliefs also appear in Assyrian palaces as guardians against evil spirits. They are one of the more prominent supernatural creatures that appear in the art of Ashurnasirpal II of the 9th century BC. They appear in one of three forms, bird-headed, human-headed or dressed in fish-skin cloaks.
Enkidu (EN.KI.DU3 “Enki’s creation”), earlier transliterated as Enkimdu, Eabani or Enkita, is a central figure in the Ancient Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh. In the story the gods created a man (1/3 man and 2/3 animal) and named him Enkidu, who was created by the gods as the rival to the mighty Gilgamesh. He was formed from clay and saliva by the goddess Aruru, the goddess of creation, to rid Gilgamesh of his arrogance.
God made Adam from clay from the soil too. Both were made to do the will of the god(s), nothing more. They were both made from the same material, in the same way, for the same basic purpose. The difference is that Adam was made by a god, while Enkidu was made by a goddess. So, in the 1500 years separating these two books, women went from being respected while working as prostitutes in the temple to being the first sinner.
Enkidu had beauty and strength only matched by the king, Gilgamesh. He is a wild man, raised by animals and ignorant of human society. Gilgamesh sends out a Temple Prostitute to seduce him, Shamhat, who plays the integral role of taming the wild man Enkidu, because if she had sex with him, the other animals wouldn’t accept him, and he could be civilized.
The goddess who made Enkidu decides that the best way to make Gilgamesh follow their will is to create an equal and teach him humility. But, when the Jews create their God, his solution to the problem of humanity sinning is to “banish him from the Garden of Eden” and “he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life”.
Gilgamesh sleeps with every virgin before her husband can, and they make an equal man to teach him. Adam and Eve eat one apple and they get kicked out and God puts a guy with a freaking flaming sword there to keep them out.
In Genesis a man (Adam) is alone in a natural setting (the garden of Eden) until a woman (Eve) comes to him and does something (eats the forbidden apple) and gets them expelled. The similarities and differences in the stories show similarities and differences in beliefs over time.
She uses her attractiveness to tempt Enkidu from the wild, and his ‘wildness’, civilizing him through continued sexual intercourse. Unfortunately for Enkidu, after he enjoys Shamhat for “six days and seven nights”, his former companions, the wild animals, turn away from him in fright, at the watering hole where they congregated.
According to Adam and Eve, the first two people NEVER had sex while they were perfect. They didn’t have any kids while in the garden. It was only after they discovered sin that they discovered sex. Sex is considered evil in the bible.
The Sumerians were amazed at the power of sex to make another human. Sex was such an incredible thing to them that they even had prostitutes working in the temple to share its wonders with other people. In the story of Gilgamesh, Shamhat, the temple prostitute, is considered trustworthy enough to be entrusted with the task of teaching Enkidu how to be a civilized human.
Shamhat persuades him to follow her and join the civilized world in the city of Uruk, where Gilgamesh is king, rejecting his former life in the wild with the wild animals of the hills. Henceforth, Gilgamesh and Enkidu become the best of friends and undergo many adventures.
Enkidu embodies the wild or natural world, and though equal to Gilgamesh in strength and bearing, acts in some ways as an antithesis to the cultured, urban-bred warrior-king.
Enkidu then becomes the king’s constant companion and deeply beloved friend, accompanying him on adventures until he is stricken ill. The deep, tragic loss of Enkidu profoundly inspires in Gilgamesh a quest to escape death by obtaining godly immortality.
Enki was the deity of crafts (gašam); mischief; water, seawater, lakewater (a, aba, ab), intelligence (gestú, literally “ear”) and creation (Nudimmud: nu, likeness, dim mud, make beer).
His image is a double-helix snake, or the Caduceus, sometimes confused with the Rod of Asclepius used to symbolize medicine. His symbols included a goat and a fish, which later combined into a single beast, the goat Capricorn, recognised as the Zodiacal constellation Capricornus. He is often shown with the horned crown of divinity dressed in the skin of a carp.
He was accompanied by an attendant Isimud, a minor god, the messenger of the god Enki in Sumerian mythology. He is readily identifiable by the fact that he possesses two faces looking in opposite directions.
He was associated with the southern band of constellations called stars of Ea, but also with the constellation AŠ-IKU, the Field (Square of Pegasus). Beginning around the second millennium BCE, he was sometimes referred to in writing by the numeric ideogram for “40,” occasionally referred to as his “sacred number.” He was identified with the planet Mercury.
The exact meaning of his name is uncertain: the common translation is “Lord of the Earth”: the Sumerian en is translated as a title equivalent to “lord”; it was originally a title given to the High Priest; ki means “earth”; but there are theories that ki in this name has another origin, possibly kig of unknown meaning, or kur meaning “mound”.
Early royal inscriptions from the third millennium BCE mention “the reeds of Enki”. Reeds were an important local building material, used for baskets and containers, and collected outside the city walls, where the dead or sick were often carried. This links Enki to the Kur or underworld of Sumerian mythology.
In Sumerian E-A means “the house of water”, and it has been suggested that this was originally the name for the shrine to the god at Eridu. Considered the master shaper of the world, god of wisdom and of all magic, Enki was characterized as the lord of the Abzu (Apsu in Akkadian), the freshwater sea or groundwater located within the earth.
Ninti, the title of Ninhursag, also means “the mother of all living”, and was a title given to the later Hurrian goddess Kheba, later known as Cybele. This is also the title given in the Bible to Eve, the Hebrew and Aramaic Ḥawwah (חוה), who was made from the rib of Adam, in a strange reflection of the Sumerian myth, in which Adam — not Enki — walks in the Garden of Paradise.
. In the later Babylonian epic Enûma Eliš, Abzu, the “begetter of the gods”, is inert and sleepy but finds his peace disturbed by the younger gods, so sets out to destroy them. His grandson Enki, chosen to represent the younger gods, puts a spell on Abzu “casting him into a deep sleep”, thereby confining him deep underground. Enki subsequently sets up his home “in the depths of the Abzu.” Enki thus takes on all of the functions of the Abzu, including his fertilising powers as lord of the waters and lord of semen.
In another even older tradition, Nammu, the goddess of the primeval creative matter and the mother-goddess portrayed as having “given birth to the great gods,” was the mother of Enki, and as the watery creative force, was said to preexist Ea-Enki.
Benito states “With Enki it is an interesting change of gender symbolism, the fertilising agent is also water, Sumerian “a” or “Ab” which also means “semen”. In one evocative passage in a Sumerian hymn, Enki stands at the empty riverbeds and fills them with his ‘water'”. This may be a reference to Enki’s hieros gamos or sacred marriage with Ki/Ninhursag (the Earth).
The apkallu were seven legendary culture heroes from before the Flood, of human descent, but possessing extraordinary wisdom from the gods, and one of the seven apkallu, Adapa, either the first or the last of the Mesopotamian seven sages, was therefore called “son of EA”, despite his human origin.
Adapa was a mythical figure who unknowingly refused the gift of immortality. The story is first attested in the Kassite period (14th century BCE), in fragmentary tablets from Tell el-Amarna, and from Assur, of the late second millennium BCE.
Mesopotamian myth tells of seven antediluvian sages, who were sent by Ea, the wise god of Eridu, to bring the arts of civilisation to humankind. The first of these, Adapa, also known as Uan, the name given as Oannes by Berossus, introduced the practice of the correct rites of religious observance as priest of the E’Apsu temple, at Eridu.
Adapa was a mortal man from a godly lineage, a son of Ea (Enki in Sumerian), the god of wisdom and of the ancient city of Eridu, who brought the arts of civilization to that city (from Dilmun, according to some versions). He is often identified as advisor to the mythical first (antediluvian) king of Eridu, Alulim. In addition to his advisory duties, he served as a priest and exorcist, and upon his death took his place among the Seven Sages or Apkallū.
Adapa broke the wings of Ninlil the South Wind, who had overturned his fishing boat, and was called to account before Anu. Ea, his patron god, warned him to apologize humbly for his actions, but not to partake of food or drink while he was in heaven, as it would be the food of death. Anu, impressed by Adapa’s sincerity, offered instead the food of immortality, but Adapa heeded Ea’s advice, refused, and thus missed the chance for immortality that would have been his.
Vague parallels can be drawn to the story of Genesis, where Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden of Eden by Yahweh, after they ate from the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thus gaining death. Parallels are also apparent (to an even greater degree) with the story of Persephone visiting Hades, who was warned to take nothing from that kingdom.
Stephanie Galley writes “From Erra and Ishum we know that all the sages were banished … because they angered the gods, and went back to the Apsu, where Ea lived, and … the story … ended with Adapa’s banishment” p. 182.
The sages are described in Mesopotamian literature as ‘pure parādu-fish, probably carp, whose bones are found associated with the earliest shrine, and still kept as a holy duty in the precincts of Near Eastern mosques and monasteries.
Adapa as a fisherman was iconographically portrayed as a fish-man composite. The word Abgallu, sage (Ab = water, Gal = great, Lu = man, Sumerian) survived into Nabatean times, around the 1st century, as apkallum, used to describe the profession of a certain kind of priest.
Oannes was the name given by the Babylonian writer Berossus in the 3rd century BCE to a mythical being who taught mankind wisdom. Berossus describes Oannes as having the body of a fish but underneath the figure of a man. He is described as dwelling in the Persian Gulf, and rising out of the waters in the daytime and furnishing mankind instruction in writing, the arts and the various sciences.
The name “Oannes” was once conjectured to be derived from that of the ancient Babylonian god Ea, but it is now known that the name is the Greek form of the Babylonian Uanna (or Uan) a name used for Adapa in texts from the Library of Ashurbanipal. The Assyrian texts attempt to connect the word to the Akkadian for a craftsman ummanu but this is merely a pun.
In Sumerian and Akkadian (Babylonian and Assyrian) mythology, the Gallus (also called gallu demons or gallas (Akkadian: gallû) were great demons/devils of the underworld. They hauled unfortunate victims off to the underworld. They were one of seven devils (or “the offspring of hell”) of Babylonian theology that could be appeased by the sacrifice of a lamb at their altars. The word gallu may also refer to a human adversary, one that is dangerous and implacable.
Inanna (or Ishtar) was freed by gallu demons sent by Enki while she was on a journey to the underworld. These beings may be the origin of the Greco-Roman Galli, androgynous beings of the third sex, similar to the American Indian berdache, who played an important part in early religious ritual.
The myth Enki and Inanna seem to indicate events of an early period when political authority passed from Enki’s city of Eridu to Inanna’s city of Uruk. The story tells of the young goddess of the É-anna temple of Uruk, who visits the senior god of Eridu, and is entertained by him in a feast. The seductive god plies her with beer, and the young goddess maintains her virtue, whilst Enki proceeds to get drunk. In generosity he gives her all the gifts of his Me, the gifts of civilized life.
Next morning, with a hangover, he asks his servant Isimud for his Me, only to be informed that he has given them to Inanna. Upset at his actions, he sends Galla demons to recover them. Inanna escapes her pursuers and arrives safely back at the quay at Uruk. Enki realises that he has been tricked in his hubris and accepts a peace treaty forever with Uruk.
In the myth of Inanna’s descent, Inanna, in order to console her grieving sister Ereshkigal, who is mourning the death of her husband Gugalana (gu, bull, gal, big, ana, sky/heaven), slain by Gilgamesh and Enkidu, sets out to visit her sister. She tells her servant Ninshubur (Lady Evening), a reference to Inanna’s role as the evening star, that if she does not return in three days, to get help from her father Anu, Enlil, king of the gods, or Enki.
When she does not return, Ninshubur approaches Anu only to be told that he understands that his daughter is strong and can take care of herself. Enlil tells Ninshubur he is much too busy running the cosmos. Enki immediately expresses concern and dispatches his Galla demons, Galaturra or Kurgarra, sexless beings created from the dirt from beneath the god’s finger-nails, to recover the young goddess.
In the story Inanna and Shukaletuda, Shukaletuda, the gardener, set by Enki to care for the date palm he had created, finds Inanna sleeping under the palm tree and rapes the goddess in her sleep. Awaking, she discovers that she has been violated and seeks to punish the miscreant. Shukaletuda seeks protection from Enki, whom Bottero believes to be his father.
In classic Enkian fashion, the father advises Shukaletuda to hide in the city where Inanna will not be able to find him. Enki, as the protector of whoever comes to seek his help, and as the empowerer of Inanna, here challenges the young impetuous goddess to control her anger so as to be better able to function as a great judge.
Eventually, after cooling her anger, she too seeks the help of Enki, as spokesperson of the “assembly of the gods”, the Igigi and the Anunnaki. After she presents her case, Enki sees that justice needs to be done and promises help, delivering knowledge of where the miscreant is hiding.
Ninurta (Nin Ur: God of War) in Sumerian and the Akkadian mythology of Assyria and Babylonia, was the god of Lagash, identified with Ningirsu with whom he may always have been identified. Ninurta often appears holding a bow and arrow, a sickle sword, or a mace named Sharur.
In older transliteration the name is rendered Ninib and Ninip, and in early commentary he was sometimes portrayed as a solar deity. A number of scholars have suggested that either the god Ninurta or the Assyrian king bearing his name (Tukulti-Ninurta I) was the inspiration for the Biblical character Nimrod.
In Nippur, Ninurta was worshiped as part of a triad of deities including his father, Enlil and his mother, Ninlil. In variant mythology, his mother is said to be the harvest goddess Ninhursag. The consort of Ninurta was Ugallu in Nippur and Bau when he was called Ningirsu.
In another legend, Ninurta battles a birdlike monster called Imdugud (Akkadian: Anzû); a Babylonian version relates how the monster Anzû steals the Tablets of Destiny from Enlil. The Tablets of Destiny were believed to contain the details of fate and the future.
Ninurta slays each of the monsters later known as the “Slain Heroes” (the Warrior Dragon, the Palm Tree King, Lord Saman-ana, the Bison-beast, the Mermaid, the Seven-headed Snake, the Six-headed Wild Ram), and despoils them of valuable items such as Gypsum, Strong Copper, and the Magilum boat). Eventually, Anzû is killed by Ninurta who delivers the Tablet of Destiny to his father, Enlil.
The cult of Ninurta can be traced back to the oldest period of Sumerian history. In the inscriptions found at Lagash he appears under his name Ningirsu, “the lord of Girsu”, Girsu being the name of a city where he was considered the patron deity.