Religion in ancient Rome
Religion in Ancient Rome includes the ancestral ethnic religion of the city of Rome that the Romans used to define themselves as a people, as well as the religious practices of peoples brought under Roman rule, in so far as they became followed in Rome and Italy. The Romans thought of themselves as religious, attributed their success as a world power to their collective piety in maintaining good relations with the gods; the Romans are known for the great number of deities they honored, a capacity that earned the mockery of early Christian polemicists. The presence of Greeks on the Italian peninsula from the beginning of the historical period influenced Roman culture, introducing some religious practices that became as fundamental as the cult of Apollo; the Romans looked for common ground between their major gods and those of the Greeks, adapting Greek myths and iconography for Latin literature and Roman art, as the Etruscans had. Etruscan religion was a major influence on the practice of augury.
According to legends, most of Rome's religious institutions could be traced to its founders Numa Pompilius, the Sabine second king of Rome, who negotiated directly with the gods. This archaic religion was the foundation of the mos maiorum, "the way of the ancestors" or "tradition", viewed as central to Roman identity. Roman religion was practical and contractual, based on the principle of do ut des, "I give that you might give". Religion depended on knowledge and the correct practice of prayer and sacrifice, not on faith or dogma, although Latin literature preserves learned speculation on the nature of the divine and its relation to human affairs; the most skeptical among Rome's intellectual elite such as Cicero, an augur, saw religion as a source of social order. As the Roman Empire expanded, migrants to the capital brought their local cults, many of which became popular among Italians. Christianity was in the end the most successful of these, in 380 became the official state religion. For ordinary Romans, religion was a part of daily life.
Each home had a household shrine at which prayers and libations to the family's domestic deities were offered. Neighborhood shrines and sacred places such as springs and groves dotted the city; the Roman calendar was structured around religious observances. Women and children all participated in a range of religious activities; some public rituals could be conducted only by women, women formed what is Rome's most famous priesthood, the state-supported Vestals, who tended Rome's sacred hearth for centuries, until disbanded under Christian domination. The priesthoods of public religion were held by members of the elite classes. There was no principle analogous to separation of state in ancient Rome. During the Roman Republic, the same men who were elected public officials might serve as augurs and pontiffs. Priests married, raised families, led politically active lives. Julius Caesar became pontifex maximus; the augurs read the will of the gods and supervised the marking of boundaries as a reflection of universal order, thus sanctioning Roman expansionism as a matter of divine destiny.
The Roman triumph was at its core a religious procession in which the victorious general displayed his piety and his willingness to serve the public good by dedicating a portion of his spoils to the gods Jupiter, who embodied just rule. As a result of the Punic Wars, when Rome struggled to establish itself as a dominant power, many new temples were built by magistrates in fulfillment of a vow to a deity for assuring their military success; as the Romans extended their dominance throughout the Mediterranean world, their policy in general was to absorb the deities and cults of other peoples rather than try to eradicate them, since they believed that preserving tradition promoted social stability. One way that Rome incorporated diverse peoples was by supporting their religious heritage, building temples to local deities that framed their theology within the hierarchy of Roman religion. Inscriptions throughout the Empire record the side-by-side worship of local and Roman deities, including dedications made by Romans to local gods.
By the height of the Empire, numerous international deities were cultivated at Rome and had been carried to the most remote provinces, among them Cybele, Isis and gods of solar monism such as Mithras and Sol Invictus, found as far north as Roman Britain. Foreign religions attracted devotees among Romans, who had ancestry from elsewhere in the Empire. Imported mystery religions, which offered initiates salvation in the afterlife, were a matter of personal choice for an individual, practiced in addition to carrying on one's family rites and participating in public religion; the mysteries, involved exclusive oaths and secrecy, conditions that conservative Romans viewed with suspicion as characteristic of "magic", conspiratorial, or subversive activity. Sporadic and sometimes brutal attempts were made to suppress religionists who seemed to threaten traditional morality and unity, as with the senate's efforts to restrict the Bacchanals in 186 BC; because Romans had never been obligated to cultivate one god or one cult only, religious tolerance was not an issue in the sense that it is for competing monotheistic systems.
The monotheistic rigor of Judaism posed difficulties for Roman policy that led at times to compromise and the granting of special exemptions, but sometimes to intractable conflict. For example, religious disputes helped cause the First Jewish -- the Bar Kokhba revolt. In the wake of the Republic's collapse, state religion had adapted to support the new reg
A deity is a supernatural being considered divine or sacred. The Oxford Dictionary of English defines deity as "a god or goddess". C. Scott Littleton defines a deity as "a being with powers greater than those of ordinary humans, but who interacts with humans, positively or negatively, in ways that carry humans to new levels of consciousness, beyond the grounded preoccupations of ordinary life". In the English language, a male deity is referred to as a god, while a female deity is referred to as a goddess. Religions can be categorized by. Monotheistic religions accept only one deity, polytheistic religions accept multiple deities. Henotheistic religions accept one supreme deity without denying other deities, considering them as aspects of the same divine principle. Although most monotheistic religions traditionally envision their God as omnipotent, omniscient and eternal, none of these qualities are essential to the definition of a "deity" and various cultures conceptualized their deities differently.
Monotheistic religions refer to God in masculine terms, while other religions refer to their deities in a variety of ways – masculine, feminine and without gender. Many ancient cultures – including the ancient Mesopotamians, Greeks and Norsemen– personified natural phenomena, variously as either deliberate causes or effects; some Avestan and Vedic deities were viewed as ethical concepts. In Indian religions, deities were envisioned as manifesting within the temple of every living being's body, as sensory organs and mind. Deities were envisioned as a form of existence after rebirth, for human beings who gain merit through an ethical life, where they become guardian deities and live blissfully in heaven, but are subject to death when their merit is lost; the English language word "deity" derives from Old French deité, the Latin deitatem or "divine nature", coined by Augustine of Hippo from deus. Deus is related through a common Proto-Indo-European origin to *deiwos; this root yields the ancient Indian word Deva meaning "to gleam, a shining one", from *div- "to shine", as well as Greek dios "divine" and Zeus.
Deva is masculine, the related feminine equivalent is devi. Etymologically, the cognates of Devi are Greek thea. In Old Persian, daiva- means "demon, evil god", while in Sanskrit it means the opposite, referring to the "heavenly, terrestrial things of high excellence, shining ones"; the linked term "god" refers to "supreme being, deity", according to Douglas Harper, is derived from Proto-Germanic *guthan, from PIE *ghut-, which means "that, invoked". Guth in the Irish language means "voice"; the term *ghut- is the source of Old Church Slavonic zovo, Sanskrit huta-, from the root *gheu-,An alternate etymology for the term "god" comes from the Proto-Germanic Gaut, which traces it to the PIE root *ghu-to-, derived from the root *gheu-. The term *gheu- is the source of the Greek khein "to pour"; the German root was a neuter noun. The gender of the monotheistic God shifted to masculine under the influence of Christianity. In contrast, all ancient Indo-European cultures and mythologies recognized both masculine and feminine deities.
There is no universally accepted consensus on what a deity is, concepts of deities vary across cultures. Huw Owen states that the term "deity or god or its equivalent in other languages" has a bewildering range of meanings and significance, it has ranged from "infinite transcendent being who created and lords over the universe", to a "finite entity or experience, with special significance or which evokes a special feeling", to "a concept in religious or philosophical context that relates to nature or magnified beings or a supra-mundane realm", to "numerous other usages". A deity is conceptualized as a supernatural or divine concept, manifesting in ideas and knowledge, in a form that combines excellence in some or all aspects, wrestling with weakness and questions in other aspects, heroic in outlook and actions, yet tied up with emotions and desires. In other cases, the deity is a principle or reality such as the idea of "soul"; the Upanishads of Hinduism, for example, characterize Atman as deva, thereby asserting that the deva and eternal supreme principle is part of every living creature, that this soul is spiritual and divine, that to realize self-knowledge is to know the supreme.
Theism is the belief in the existence of one or more deities. Polytheism is the belief in and worship of multiple deities, which are assembled into a pantheon of gods and goddesses, with accompanying rituals. In most polytheistic religions, the different gods and goddesses are representations of forces of nature or ancestral principles, can be viewed either as autonomous or as aspects or emanations of a creator God or transcendental absolute principle, which manifests immanently in nature. Henotheism accepts the existence of more than one deity, but considers all deities as equivalent representations or aspects of the same divine principle, the highest. Monolatry is the belief that many deities exist, but that only one of these deities may be validly worshipped. Monotheism is the belief. A monotheistic deity, known as "God", is u
Ancient Greek religion
Ancient Greek religion encompasses the collection of beliefs and mythology originating in ancient Greece in the form of both popular public religion and cult practices. These groups varied enough for it to be possible to speak of Greek religions or "cults" in the plural, though most of them shared similarities. Most ancient Greeks recognized the twelve major Olympian gods and goddesses:, although philosophies such as Stoicism and some forms of Platonism used language that seems to assume a single transcendent deity; the worship of these deities, several others, was found across the Greek world, though they have different epithets that distinguished aspects of the deity, reflect the absorption of other local deities into the pan-Hellenic scheme. The religious practices of the Greeks extended beyond mainland Greece, to the islands and coasts of Ionia in Asia Minor, to Magna Graecia, to scattered Greek colonies in the Western Mediterranean, such as Massalia. Early Italian religions such as the Etruscan were influenced by Greek religion in forming much of the ancient Roman religion.
While there were few concepts universal to all the Greek peoples, there were common beliefs shared by many. Ancient Greek theology was polytheistic, based on the assumption that there were many gods and goddesses, as well as a range of lesser supernatural beings of various types. There was a hierarchy of deities, with Zeus, the king of the gods, having a level of control over all the others, although he was not almighty; some deities had dominion over certain aspects of nature. For instance, Zeus was the sky-god, sending thunder and lightning, Poseidon ruled over the sea and earthquakes, Hades projected his remarkable power throughout the realms of death and the Underworld, Helios controlled the sun. Other deities ruled over abstract concepts. All significant deities were visualized as "human" in form, although able to transform themselves into animals or natural phenomena. While being immortal, the gods were not all-good or all-powerful, they had to obey fate, known to Greek mythology as the Moirai, which overrode any of their divine powers or wills.
For instance, in mythology, it was Odysseus' fate to return home to Ithaca after the Trojan War, the gods could only lengthen his journey and make it harder for him, but they could not stop him. The gods had human vices, they would interact with humans, sometimes spawning children with them. At times certain gods would be opposed to others, they would try to outdo each other. In the Iliad, Aphrodite and Apollo support the Trojan side in the Trojan War, while Hera and Poseidon support the Greeks; some gods were associated with a certain city. Athena was associated with the city of Athens, Apollo with Delphi and Delos, Zeus with Olympia and Aphrodite with Corinth, but other gods were worshipped in these cities. Other deities were associated with nations outside of Greece. Identity of names was not a guarantee of a similar cultus. Though the worship of the major deities spread from one locality to another, though most larger cities boasted temples to several major gods, the identification of different gods with different places remained strong to the end.
The Greeks believed in an underworld. One of the most widespread areas of this underworld was ruled over by Hades, a brother of Zeus, was known as Hades. Other well known realms are Tartarus, a place of torment for the damned, Elysium, a place of pleasures for the virtuous. In the early Mycenean religion all the dead went to Hades, but the rise of mystery cults in the Archaic age led to the development of places such as Tartarus and Elysium. A few Greeks, like Achilles, Amphiaraus Ganymede, Melicertes, Peleus, a great number of those who fought in the Trojan and Theban wars, were considered to have been physically immortalized and brought to live forever in either Elysium, the Islands of the Blessed, the ocean, or beneath the ground; such beliefs are found in the most ancient such as Homer and Hesiod. This belief remained strong into the Christian era. For most people at the moment of death there was, however, no hope of anything but continued existence as a disembodied soul; some Greeks, such as the philosophers Pythagoras and Plato embraced the idea of reincarnation, though this was only accepted by a few.
Epicurus taught that the soul was atoms which dissolved at death, so there was no existence after death. Greek religion had an extensive mythology, it consisted of stories of the gods and how they interacted with humans. Myths revolved around heroes and their actions, such as Heracles and his twelve labors and his voyage home and the quest for the Golden Fleece and Theseus and the Minotaur. Many species existed in Greek mythology. Chief among these were the gods and humans, though the Titans frequently appeared in Greek myths. Lesser species included the half-man-half-horse centaurs, the nature based nymphs and the half man, half goat satyrs; some creatures in Greek mythology were monstrous, such as the one-eyed giant Cyclop
Ancient Egyptian religion
Ancient Egyptian religion was a complex system of polytheistic beliefs and rituals that formed an integral part of ancient Egyptian society. It centered on the Egyptians' interaction with many deities believed to be present in, in control of, the world. Rituals such as prayer and offerings were provided to the gods to gain their favor. Formal religious practice centered on the pharaoh, the rulers of Egypt, believed to possess a divine power by virtue of their position, they acted as intermediaries between their people and the gods, were obligated to sustain the gods through rituals and offerings so that they could maintain maat, the order of the cosmos. The state dedicated enormous resources to the construction of the temples. Individuals could interact with the gods for their own purposes, appealing for help through prayer or compelling the gods to act through magic; these practices were distinct from, but linked with, the formal rituals and institutions. The popular religious tradition grew more prominent in the course of Egyptian history as the status of the pharaoh declined.
Egyptian belief in the afterlife and funerary practices is evident in great efforts made to ensure the survival of their souls after death, providing tombs, grave goods, offerings to preserve the bodies and spirits of the deceased. The religion lasted for more than 3,000 years; the details of religious belief changed over time as the importance of particular gods rose and declined, their intricate relationships shifted. At various times, certain gods became preeminent over the others, including the sun god Ra, the creator god Amun, the mother goddess Isis. For a brief period, in the theology promulgated by the Pharaoh Akhenaten, a single god, the Aten, replaced the traditional pantheon. Ancient Egyptian religion and mythology left behind many writings and monuments, along with significant influences on ancient and modern cultures; the beliefs and rituals now referred to as "ancient Egyptian religion" were integral within every aspect of Egyptian culture. The Egyptian language possessed no single term corresponding to the modern European concept of religion.
Ancient Egyptian religion consisted of a vast and varying set of beliefs and practices, linked by their common focus on the interaction between the world of humans and the world of the divine. The characteristics of the gods who populated the divine realm were inextricably linked to the Egyptians' understanding of the properties of the world in which they lived; the Egyptians believed that the phenomena of nature were divine forces of themselves. These deified forces included animal characteristics, or abstract forces; the Egyptians believed in a pantheon of gods, which were involved in all aspects of nature and human society. Their religious practices were efforts to sustain and placate these phenomena and turn them to human advantage; this polytheistic system was complex, as some deities were believed to exist in many different manifestations, some had multiple mythological roles. Conversely, many natural forces, such as the sun, were associated with multiple deities; the diverse pantheon ranged from gods with vital roles in the universe to minor deities or "demons" with limited or localized functions.
It could include gods adopted from foreign cultures, sometimes humans: deceased pharaohs were believed to be divine, distinguished commoners such as Imhotep became deified. The depictions of the gods in art were not meant as literal representations of how the gods might appear if they were visible, as the gods' true natures were believed to be mysterious. Instead, these depictions gave recognizable forms to the abstract deities by using symbolic imagery to indicate each god's role in nature; this iconography was not fixed, many of the gods could be depicted in more than one form. Many gods were associated with particular regions in Egypt. However, these associations changed over time, they did not mean that the god associated with a place had originated there. For instance, the god Montu was the original patron of the city of Thebes. Over the course of the Middle Kingdom, however, he was displaced in that role by Amun, who may have arisen elsewhere; the national popularity and importance of individual gods fluctuated in a similar way.
Deities had complex interrelationships, which reflected the interaction of the forces they represented. The Egyptians grouped gods together to reflect these relationships. One of the more common combinations was a family triad consisting of a father and child, who were worshipped together; some groups had wide-ranging importance. One such group, the Ennead, assembled nine deities into a theological system, involved in the mythological areas of creation and the afterlife; the relationships between deities could be expressed in the process of syncretism, in which two or more different gods were linked to form a composite deity. This process was a recognition of the presence of one god "in" another when the second god took on a role belonging to the first; these links between deities were fluid, did not represent the permanent merging of two gods into one. Sometimes, syncretism combined deities with similar characteristics. At other times it joined gods with different natures, as when Amun, the god of hidden power, was linked with Ra, the god of the sun.
The resulting god, Amun-Ra, thus united the power that lay behind all things with the greatest and most visible force in nature. Many deities could be given epithets that seem to indicate that they were greater than any other god, suggesting some kind of u
Isis was a major goddess in ancient Egyptian religion whose worship spread throughout the Greco-Roman world. Isis was first mentioned in the Old Kingdom as one of the main characters of the Osiris myth, in which she resurrects her slain husband, the divine king Osiris, produces and protects his heir, Horus, she was believed to help the dead enter the afterlife as she had helped Osiris, she was considered the divine mother of the pharaoh, likened to Horus. Her maternal aid was invoked in healing spells to benefit ordinary people, she played a limited role in royal rituals and temple rites, although she was more prominent in funerary practices and magical texts. She was portrayed in art as a human woman wearing a throne-like hieroglyph on her head. During the New Kingdom, as she took on traits that belonged to Hathor, the preeminent goddess of earlier times, Isis came to be portrayed wearing Hathor's headdress: a sun disk between the horns of a cow. In the first millennium BCE, Osiris and Isis became the most worshipped of Egyptian deities, Isis absorbed traits from many other goddesses.
Rulers in Egypt and its neighbor to the south, began to build temples dedicated to Isis, her temple at Philae was a religious center for Egyptians and Nubians alike. Isis's reputed magical power was greater than that of all other gods, she was said to protect the kingdom from its enemies, govern the skies and the natural world, have power over fate itself. In the Hellenistic period, when Egypt was ruled and settled by Greeks, Isis came to be worshipped by Greeks and Egyptians, along with a new god, Serapis, their worship diffused into the wider Mediterranean world. Isis's Greek devotees ascribed to her traits taken from Greek deities, such as the invention of marriage and the protection of ships at sea, she retained strong links with Egypt and other Egyptian deities who were popular in the Hellenistic world, such as Osiris and Harpocrates; as Hellenistic culture was absorbed by Rome in the first century BCE, the cult of Isis became a part of Roman religion. Her devotees were a small proportion of the Roman Empire's population but were found all across its territory.
Her following developed distinctive festivals such as the Navigium Isidis, as well as initiation ceremonies resembling those of other Greco-Roman mystery cults. Some of her devotees said; the worship of Isis was ended by the rise of Christianity in the fourth and fifth centuries CE. Her worship may have influenced Christian beliefs and practices such as the veneration of Mary, but the evidence for this influence is ambiguous and controversial. Isis continues to appear in Western culture in esotericism and modern paganism as a personification of nature or the feminine aspect of divinity. Whereas some Egyptian deities appeared in the late Predynastic Period, neither Isis nor her husband Osiris were mentioned before the Fifth Dynasty. An inscription that may refer to Isis dates to the reign of Nyuserre Ini during that period, she appears prominently in the Pyramid Texts, which began to be written down at the end of the dynasty and whose content may have developed much earlier. Several passages in the Pyramid Texts link Isis with the region of the Nile Delta near Behbeit el-Hagar and Sebennytos, her cult may have originated there.
Many scholars have focused on Isis's name in trying to determine her origins. Her Egyptian name was ꜣst, which became ⲎⲤⲈ in the Coptic form of Egyptian, Wusa in the Meroitic language of Nubia, Ἶσις, on which her modern name is based, in Greek; the hieroglyphic writing of her name incorporates the sign for a throne, which Isis wears on her head as a sign of her identity. The symbol serves as a phonogram, spelling the st sounds in her name, but it may have represented a link with actual thrones; the Egyptian term for a throne was st and may have shared a common etymology with Isis's name. Therefore, the Egyptologist Kurt Sethe suggested she was a personification of thrones. Henri Frankfort agreed, believing that the throne was considered the king's mother, thus a goddess, because of its power to make a man into a king. Other scholars, such as Jürgen Osing and Klaus P. Kuhlmann, have disputed this interpretation, because of dissimilarities between Isis's name and the word for a throne or a lack of evidence that the throne was deified.
The cycle of myth surrounding Osiris's death and resurrection was first recorded in the Pyramid Texts and grew into the most elaborate and influential of all Egyptian myths. Isis plays a more active role in this myth than the other protagonists, so as it developed in literature from the New Kingdom to the Ptolemaic Period, she became the most complex literary character of all Egyptian deities. At the same time, she absorbed characteristics from many other goddesses, broadening her significance well beyond the Osiris myth. Isis is part of the Ennead of Heliopolis, a family of nine gods descended from the creator god, Atum or Ra, she and her siblings—Osiris and Nephthys—are the last generation of the Ennead, born to Geb, god of the earth, Nut, goddess of the sky. The creator god, the world's original ruler, passes down his authority through the male generations of the Ennead, so that Osiris becomes king. Isis, Osiris's wife as well as his sister, is his queen. Set kills Osiris and, in several versions of the story, dismembers his corpse.
Isis and Nephthys, along with other deities such as Anubis, search for the pieces of their brother's body and reassemble it. Their efforts are the mythic prototype for mummification and other anc
The Ptolemaic dynasty, sometimes known as the Lagids or Lagidae, was a Macedonian Greek royal family, which ruled the Ptolemaic Kingdom in Egypt during the Hellenistic period. Their rule lasted for 275 years, from 305 to 30 BC, they were the last dynasty of ancient Egypt. Ptolemy, one of the seven somatophylakes who served as Alexander the Great's generals and deputies, was appointed satrap of Egypt after Alexander's death in 323 BC. In 305 BC, he declared himself Ptolemy I known as Sōter "Saviour"; the Egyptians soon accepted the Ptolemies as the successors to the pharaohs of independent Egypt. Ptolemy's family ruled Egypt until the Roman conquest of 30 BC. All the male rulers of the dynasty took the name Ptolemy. Ptolemaic queens regnant, some of whom were married to their brothers, were called Cleopatra, Arsinoe or Berenice; the most famous member of the line was the last queen, Cleopatra VII, known for her role in the Roman political battles between Julius Caesar and Pompey, between Octavian and Mark Antony.
Her apparent suicide at the conquest by Rome marked the end of Ptolemaic rule in Egypt. Dates in brackets represent the regnal dates of the Ptolemaic pharaohs, they ruled jointly with their wives, who were also their sisters. Several queens exercised regal authority. Of these, one of the last and most famous was Cleopatra, with her two brothers and her son serving as successive nominal co-rulers. Several systems exist for numbering the rulers. Ptolemy I Soter married first Thaïs Artakama Eurydice, Berenice I Ptolemy II Philadelphus married Arsinoe I Arsinoe II. Cleopatra II Philometora Soteira, in opposition to Ptolemy VIII Physcon Cleopatra III Philometor Soteira Dikaiosyne Nikephoros ruled jointly with Ptolemy IX Lathyros and Ptolemy X Alexander I Ptolemy IX Lathyros married Cleopatra IV Cleopatra Selene. Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos married Cleopatra V Tryphaena Cleopatra V Tryphaena ruled jointly with Berenice IV Epiphaneia and Cleopatra VI Tryphaena Cleopatra ruled jointly with Ptolemy XIII Theos Philopator, Ptolemy XIV and Ptolemy XV Caesarion.
Arsinoe IV, in opposition to Cleopatra Ptolemy Keraunos - eldest son of Ptolemy I Soter. Became king of Macedonia. Ptolemy Apion - son of Ptolemy VIII Physcon. Made king of Cyrenaica. Bequeathed Cyrenaica to Rome. Ptolemy Philadelphus - son of Mark Antony and Cleopatra VII. Ptolemy of Mauretania - son of King Juba II of Numidia and Mauretania and Cleopatra Selene II, daughter of Cleopatra VII and Mark Antony. King of Mauretania. Contemporaries describe a number of the Ptolemaic dynasty members as obese, whilst sculptures and coins reveal prominent eyes and swollen necks. Familial Graves' disease could explain the swollen necks and eye prominence, although this is unlikely to occur in the presence of morbid obesity; this is all due to inbreeding within the Ptolemaic dynasty. In view of the familial nature of these findings, members of this dynasty suffered from a multi-organ fibrotic condition such as Erdheim–Chester disease or a familial multifocal fibrosclerosis where thyroiditis and ocular proptosis may have all occurred concurrently.
List of Seleucid rulers Hellenistic period History of ancient Egypt Donations of Alexandria Ptolemaic Decrees List of Ptolemaic pharaohs On Weights and Measures - contains a chronology of the Ptolemies Susan Stephens, Seeing Double. Intercultural Poetics in Ptolemaic Alexandria. A. Lampela and the Ptolemies of Egypt; the development of their political relations 273-80 B. C.. J. G. Manning, The Last Pharaohs: Egypt Under the Ptolemies, 305-30 BC. Livius.org: Ptolemies — by Jona Lendering
Mesopotamian mythology refers to the myths, religious texts, other literature that comes from the region of ancient Mesopotamia in modern-day West Asia. In particular the societies of Sumer and Assyria, all of which existed shortly after 3000 BCE and were gone by 400 CE; these works were preserved on stone or clay tablets and were written in cuneiform by scribes. Several lengthy pieces have survived, some of which are considered the oldest stories in the world, have given historians insight into Mesopotamian ideology and cosmology. There are many different accounts of the creation of the earth from the Mesopotamian region; this is because of the many different cultures in the area and the shifts in narratives that are common in ancient cultures due to their reliance on word of mouth to transmit stories. These myths can share related themes, but the chronology of events vary based on when or where the story was written down. See main article: Atra-Hasis Atra-Hasis refers both to one of the Mesopotamian myths focusing on the earth’s creation, the main character of that myth.
The myth has Assyrian roots, as a fragmented version may have been found in the library of Ashusbanipal, though translations remain unsure. Its most complete surviving version was recorded in Akkadian; the myth begins with humans being created by the mother goddess Mami to lighten the gods' workload. She made them out of a mixture of clay and blood from a slain god. In the story though, the god Enlil attempts to control overpopulation of humans through various methods, including famine, a great flood. Humankind is saved by Atrahasis, warned of the flood by the god Enki and built a boat to escape the waters placating the gods with sacrifices. See main article: Sumerian Creation Myth Eridu Gensis has a similar plot to that of the Akkadian myth, Atra-Hasis, though it is harder to tell what happens in Eridu Gensis because the tablet upon which it was recorded is badly damaged; the two stories share the flood as the major event however, although the hero who survives in Eridu Gensis is called Zi-ud-sura instead of Artahasis.
Eridu Gensis was recorded around the same time as Atra-Hasis, however the fragmented tablet that held it was found in Nippur, located in modern-day east Iraq, while the version of Atra-hasis that came from the same time was found in the library of Ashurbanipal, in modern-day north Iraq. See main article: Enuma Elis Enuma Elis is a Babylonian creation myth with an unclear composition, though it dates back to the Bronze Age; this piece was thought to be recited in a ritual celebration of the Babylonian new year. It chronicles the birth of the gods, the world, man, whose purpose was to serve the gods and lighten their work load; the focus of the narrative is on praising Marduk, the patron god of Babylon, who creates the world, the calendar, humanity. These stories tended to focus on a great hero, following their journey through trials or important events in their life. Stories like these can be found in many different cultures around the world, give insight into the values of those societies. For example, in a culture that celebrated a hero, devout to the gods or respecting their father, it can be inferred that the society valued those traits.
The Epic of Gilgamesh is one of the most well known Mesopotamian myths, is regarded as the oldest known piece of literature in the world. It was a number of individual short stories, was not combined into one cohesive epic until the 18th century; the story follows the Sumerian king Gilgamesh regarded as a historical figure, his good friend, Enkidu through various adventures and quests that lead to Enkidu's death. The second half of the epic deal with Gilgamesh, distressed about the death of his friend and his own impending mortality, as he searches for immortality. In the end he fails, but he comes to terms with the fact that he is going to die and returns to his city of Uruk a wiser king; the earliest record of myth of Adapa is from the 14th century. Adapa was a Sumerian citizen, blessed by the god Enki with immeasurable intelligence. However, one day Adapa was knocked into the sea by the south wind, in a rage he broke the south wind’s wings so that it could no longer blow. Adapa was summoned to be judged by An, before he left Enki warned him not to eat or drink anything offered to him.
However, An had a change of heart when he realized just how smart Adapa was, offered him the food of immortality, which Adapa, dutiful to Enki, turned down. This story is used as an explanation for humankind’s mortality, it is associated with the fall of man narrative, present in Christianity. Immortality is a constant goal of the characters in Mesopotamian epics. No matter the version of the story, the man who survives the flood, whether Atrahasis, Zi-ud-sura, or Utnapishtim, is granted immortality by the gods; this character makes a reappearance in the Epic of Gilgamesh, when Gilgamesh is searching for immortality after coming to fear death and the underworld after hearing stories from his friend, about what awaits humanity after death. Enkidu says:On entering the House of Dust,everywhere I looked there were royal crowns gathered in heaps,everywhere I listened, it was the bearers of crowns,who, in the past, had ruled the land,but who now served Anu and Enlil cooked meats,served confections, poured cool water from waterskins.
Upon hearing that his position in life did not matter in the underworld, Gilgamesh is terrified and seeks out Utnapishtim, who has achieved immortality after surviving the flood sent by the gods to wipe out humanity. Immortality is touched on in the myth of Adapa. Adapa