Ideology > Ninurta

Ninurta

Background

Ninurta, sometimes rendered as Ninib or Ninip was a major Sumerian and Akkadian god of war and hunting. He was worshiped primarily in Babylonia, Assyria along with the city of Lagash where he is comparable to the god Ningirsu. He is commonly depicted holding a bow and arrow, a sickle sword or mystical mace called Sharur that is capable of speech according to an ancient Sumerian legend called Deeds and Exploits of Ninurta.

He is also commonly depicted as a winged lion or a solar deity and may have provided the inspiration for the concept of Shedu. Some historians believe that Ninurta or the Assyrian ruler that was named after him known as Tukulti-Ninurta I was the inspiration for the Biblical character of Nimrod.

Legends

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.[2] Eventually, Anzû is killed by Ninurta who delivers the Tablet of Destiny to his father, Enlil. There are a lot of parallels with both and the story of Marduk (son of Enki) who slew Abzu (or Apsu), and delivered the Tablets of Destiny from Kingu to his father, Enki.

Cults of Ninurta

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. Ninurta appears in a double capacity in the epithets bestowed on him, and in the hymns and incantations addressed to him. On the one hand he is a farmer and a healing god who releases humans from sickness and the power of demons; on the other he is the god of the South Wind as the son of Enlil, displacing his mother Ninlil who was earlier held to be the goddess of the South Wind. Enlil's brother, Enki, was portrayed as Ninurta's mentor from whom Ninurta was entrusted several powerful Mes, including the Deluge. He remained popular under the Assyrians: two kings of Assyria bore the name Tukulti-Ninurta. Ashurnasirpal II (883—859 BCE) built him a temple in the then capital city of Kalhu (the Biblical Calah, now Nimrud). In Assyria, Ninurta was worshipped alongside the gods Aššur and Mulissu. In the late neo-Babylonian and early Persian period, syncretism seems to have fused Ninurta's character with that of Nergal. The two gods were often invoked together, and spoken of as if they were one divinity. In the astral-theological system Ninurta was associated with the planet Saturn, or perhaps as offspring or an aspect of Saturn. In his capacity as a farmer-god, there are similarities between Ninurta and the Greek Titan Kronos, whom the Romans in turn identified with their Titan Saturn.

Sources

Primary Sources

Secondary Sources

Oxford Guide To The Bible p.557. Oxford University Press 1993. ISBN 978-0-19-534095-2