Humans invented gods
Religions and myths in earlier times - the invention of the gods
Questions about the meaning of existence, life after death or the workings of powers that are not accessible to the mind have always been inextricably linked with human existence. They are answered by religion and myth. The first evidence of religiosity and the formation of myths lead back to the Paleolithic.
However, there are only indirect and often ambiguous archaeological references to the spiritual world of the Paleolithic and Neolithic. That changes with the first written traditions that reveal the cults, gods and myths of the oldest high cultures of Mesopotamia and Egypt. They also influenced the development of the Greek religion and thus retained their charisma until the Hellenistic-Roman period, when mystery cults of Egyptian-Oriental origin once again flourished.
The religion and myths of the ancient Greeks with their impressive heavenly gods were based on a synthesis of Indo-European, Old Mediterranean and Near Eastern elements. The Romans adopted Greek mythology almost unchanged in many respects, for example their world of gods was practically identical to that of Greece. Nevertheless, the Roman religion had peculiarities that can be traced back to ancient Italian and Etruscan views.
While the ancient religions of the Mediterranean region, China and India have been researched quite well, little concrete information is available about the religious ideas in prehistoric Europe. What is known about the Celts, Teutons and Slavs is based on archaeological finds, written evidence from their neighbors or oral traditions that were only later recorded in writing. The situation is similar with the ancient American cultures, the legacy of which was largely destroyed by the European conquest.
Paleolithic religion: burial cults and belief in the afterlife
When did the first religious ideas develop?
That cannot be precisely dated. The people of the Paleolithic, endowed with imagination and intelligence, very likely developed a religious world of thought early on, the content of which remains hidden from us. So far there is no clear evidence for a religion of Homo erectus and Homo presapiens, but there are already increasing signs of this in the case of Neanderthals. Finds from the Middle Paleolithic date at the latest that suggest something like a religious worldview of humans, although the religious character of these finds is still strongly doubted by some scientists.
What was such an early "belief"?
The main thing was about ideas of how to live after death. The graves of this time show that there was probably an intensive preoccupation with this topic from an early age.
The custom of burying the dead, giving them additions in the form of tools and pieces of meat and occasionally painting the graves with reddish ocher (a symbol for blood and thus for life force) or adding pieces of ocher to make it clear that death is not something Definitive was grasped. This notion may have been reinforced by dreams in which deceased loved ones appeared. This framework also includes separate burials of skulls that came from humans or animals - mostly from cave bears. The interpretation of these procedures as an expression of a "cult" is, however, very controversial.
What role did hunting play in such rites?
A very big one. With the beginning of the Younger Paleolithic, our picture of the prehistoric cults becomes a little clearer, as there are considerably more finds from this time whose religious character is clearer. First and foremost, these are so-called victim finds. These are deliberate laying down mostly of the best pieces of game or whole animals that were sunk into water, weighted down with stones. The special arrangement of some of these animals on a base of red earth as well as the addition of stone tools and ivory pearls suggest a ritual burial of the animal.
A conceptual proximity to the "bear ceremony" of North Asian hunter peoples, through which the spirit of the killed animal is to be reconciled, cannot be completely ruled out. These, as well as other religious utterances, belong to the field of "hunting magic". Since the Paleolithic people were mainly dependent on hunting for their livelihood, they lived in close symbiosis with the animal world.
It is therefore not surprising that the numerous paintings in the caves also largely depict animals. The fact that all these paintings are located deep inside often widely ramified cave systems and thus far removed from living areas indicates their cultic content. It is believed that these images were used to hold hunting ceremonies to force the game before the guns of the hunters. But the connection with initiation rites, in which adolescents were accepted into adult society, does not seem to be excluded in this context.
Was there such a thing as a priest back then?
Yes. Even in this early period, the performance of religious ceremonies seems to have been at least partially reserved for "specialists". The depiction of shamans or magicians who are endowed with animal attributes (antlers or animal fur) suggest that the origins of shamanism lie in the prehistoric hunter cultures. These "mediators" between this world and the hereafter, between humans and supernatural powers, lead to the conclusion that creation myths already existed in the Paleolithic, which had the origin of humans, the world and the gods as their theme.
This context also includes sculptures of hybrid beings - half human, half animal - which make clear the flowing transition between human and animal in the Paleolithic worldview. From there it was only a small step to the appearance of the first Venus statuettes, where the aspect of fertility is expressed for the first time. The abundance of the feminine form symbolized abundance in children and food in a time when there was seldom abundance.
Did you know that …
the Stone Age was the longest epoch in human history? It began with the appearance of the first humans about two million years ago and ended around 7000 to 2000 BC.
the Stone Age is not only defined by the use of stone tools, but also learned to use fire in this epoch?
the Paleolithic (Paleolithic) was replaced 130,000 to 120,000 years ago by the Mesolithic (Mesolithic)? A decisive step forward was that the hand ax that had been used up until then was deformed asymmetrically into a kind of knife that was easier to handle.
How can early forms of belief be proven?
Just very difficult. In determining religious ideas of the Paleolithic, we rely exclusively on archeology. There are of course no written evidence. Finds with a clearly religious reference are rare and their interpretation often turns out to be very complex.
Mother and fertility deities: life-giving nature
When do fertility rites play a role in human history?
From the earliest times, reproduction and fertility have been central issues in human life. The concept of fertility already played a major role for the hunter and gatherer peoples of the Paleolithic. He mainly referred to the women living in the respective group, on whose fertility the survival of the tribe depended. This appreciation is already expressed in the depictions of particularly voluptuous women in the art of the younger Paleolithic. Unfortunately, it is unknown whether these were deities or whether these figures were linked to a kind of fertility rite.
With the transition of the human economy from hunting and gathering to agriculture and cattle breeding, the ideas of fertility necessary for survival were then transferred to plant cultivation and animal breeding. The associated symbolism became an important feature of Neolithic religions.
How was fertility portrayed?
First through female bodies. The visual representation of abstract concepts such as "fertility" is not easy, and so fertility was equated with the woman's body, which in this way was given a great deal of symbolism. Above all in the Neolithic cultures of Southeast Europe and the Mediterranean-Near East region, numerous clay sculptures of women with pronounced gender characteristics were created.
From there it was only a small step towards the "deification" of fertility. It manifests itself in the figure of the "Great Goddess" who is identified with "Mother Earth". From it sprout the plants that are of the utmost importance for the life of the human community.
Were there also male fertility symbols?
Yes. The male principle, which revolves around fertilization, was even more difficult to depict visually. In the area of the cultures mentioned above, Aries and Taurus - often only symbolically represented by the horns - symbolize the male principle.
In the cultures of the Near East and the Eastern Mediterranean, the bull has symbolized the male counterpart to the "Great Goddess" since the Neolithic. Its close relationship to the sky and the life-giving rain is also evident through its depiction as a symbol of the weather god. Occasionally male fertility deities were also represented by a phallic symbol (the linga in India) or, like the god Min in Egypt, with an erect penis. The rain fertilizes the earth, and this is the symbolic union of heaven (in the form of rain) with mother earth, which is understood as a kind of holy wedding. This idea was later reflected in the cults of the Near East, in which the king symbolically performed the holy wedding with a priestess in the temple.
On the basis of these observations, it is absurd to speak of a Neolithic matriarchy, as some researchers do, since in connection with fertility the masculine principle, even if it was represented figuratively even in ciphers, was at least as important as the feminine.
Was there already a cult of the dead in the early days?
Yes. Another aspect of fertility cults can be seen in the myths in which a deity dies but reappears on earth at periodic intervals after death. Here the growth, life and death of plants is brought into connection with the life and death of humans and at the same time the hope for rebirth is expressed.
Thus, a cyclical concept of time - birth, life, death, rebirth - is coined, in which superordinate cosmic processes (e.g. the course of the year) are brought into connection with human life.
Fertility rites and myths play a major role in all farming and planting peoples. In the advanced civilizations, too, there are numerous rites (sowing, plowing and harvesting), which were often performed by the king, in connection with old fertility cults, such as the holy wedding mentioned above.
Did you know that …
is the transition from the Middle Stone Age to the New Stone Age (Neolithic) about 40,000 years ago called the "Neolithic Revolution"? With the beginning of agriculture and animal husbandry, mankind took a decisive step forward.
Did sacrificial rites also belong to the fertility cult?
Indeed. Numerous myths from planter peoples told of the origin of cereal or tuber cultivation. After that, the plants were of divine origin and grew out of the body of a slain god or demigod for the first time. Other versions reported that the plant seeds were stolen from the divine sphere by a cultural hero.
The first case in particular was closely related to human sacrifice, which, although practiced by many peoples for the most varied of reasons, can also be a kind of reconstruction of this "primordial murder". The spilled blood of a person is a symbol of his life force, which falls like rain on the ground to ensure its fertility.
Shamans and medicine men: mediators between the worlds
Where are there shamans?
The area of origin of shamanism is North and Central Asia. However, the phenomenon of shamanism is not limited to these areas. Rather, it is also found in Southeast Asia, Australia, Oceania, and North and South America. The religions of the Teutons, Scythians, ancient Iran, India, China and Japan also show numerous phenomena that are at least closely related to shamanism. Although there are medicine men, healers and other people in Africa who act in trance states, opinions differ as to whether this is also real shamanism with the following properties.
What is shamanism?
Shamanism is not, as is often assumed, a "religion", but is part of diverse religious systems. Among other things, the shaman takes on the rank of healer, priest, fortune teller and soul companion of the dead. This sub-area of religions is particularly closely related to the religions of Siberia, Central Asia, Korea and Tibet.
The shaman can be male or female. Its most important characteristic is the ability to reach an ecstatic state, which it induces through singing, dancing and beating a drum and in some cases also through the use of drugs. In this trance-like state, the shaman's soul temporarily leaves the body and embarks on a mystical journey into heaven - the so-called flight into heaven - or into the underworld. On these trips she receives clues from ghosts and demons about the causes of illnesses or deaths in the tribe and receives information about the future. People who are capable of such ecstatic states are often highly sensitive.
How do you become a shaman?
The vocation to become a shaman is achieved in most cases through a vocation experience in which dreams and visions haunt the chosen one. This usually happens against the will of the person concerned, but he cannot defend himself against his determination. This is followed by training by an experienced shaman, who gives instructions for the correct handling of gods and spirits, introduces religious traditions and can teach the deliberately planned transfer to ecstasy.
The most important event is the initiation of the future shaman. Here he withdraws into absolute solitude for a longer period of time. This is a time of trials when the initiate is afflicted with physical ailments and illnesses. He is also plagued by visions in which he is chopped up, cooked and reassembled by terrible demons, which drastically illustrates the change in his life situation, his new birth. On these mystical journeys, the future shaman is usually supported by animal-shaped helper spirits who will accompany him throughout his life.
The shaman's clothes, which he will wear at his future séances, are full of symbolism and represent the events mentioned in symbolic form. These are animal feathers attached to clothing, antlers, embroidered skeletons, iron objects, the drum and much more that indicates the nature of the animal spirits and the supernatural powers of the shaman.
Where can I find medicine men?
Although the term medicine man is actually limited to the culture of the North American Indians, there are people in various other cultures around the world who carry out a similar activity. The profession of medicine man, which can also be practiced by women, is closely related to that of the shaman and it is often the same person. However, there are also medicine men who do not have shamanic skills, and not every sorcerer or magician can be called a shaman.
What are the tasks of a medicine man?
The skills of the medicine man are almost exclusively geared towards healing sick people. This is done through herbs, medicinal plants, incantations, mask dances and occasionally surgical interventions. In North America there were even real societies of medicine men in the Indian cultures, which were well organized and structured hierarchically. These associations sometimes had a great influence, which in some cases could even extend to the tribal leadership.
What is the function of the "trickster" figure?
In numerous myths around the world, a figure appears who is commonly referred to as a »trickster«. He often appears as a shrewd antagonist of great deities who drives all sorts of jokes. Through his actions, evil and imperfection enter the actually perfect world.In this way the relationships between gods and humans, which had run smoothly until then, are destroyed.
Did you know that …
the term "shaman" is probably derived from the Tungusic word "shaman"? Its meaning, however, is not exactly clarified. It may have something to do with the terms "knowledge" or "out of control". The Tungus language family is native to northern China, eastern Siberia and parts of Mongolia.
The religions of the megalithic cultures: cult places made of giant stones
Where did megalithic cultures develop?
In Europe, the distribution area reached from Malta over the Iberian Peninsula, western France and the British Isles to southern Sweden. The megalithic cultures are, as the name suggests, characterized by large stone buildings. These large stone buildings include single standing menhirs (Breton "long stone"), stone graves or - "tables" (Breton "dolmen") and groups of menhirs (Breton "cromlech"), such as those in Stonehenge or Carnac. The huge stone temples and underground tombs on Malta also belong to this cultural complex. The widespread and relatively uniform appearance of megaliths is closely intertwined with the Neolithic economy and the emerging Copper Age metal trade.
Was there a uniform "megalithic religion"?
It is reasonable to assume that the similar architectural legacies also conceal related religious ideas. The period in which the megalithic cultures spread spanned roughly the period from 5000 to 2000 BC. The religious ideas associated with the erection of these stone monuments were certainly similar in their basic features, but there will have been significant differences in local manifestations for this phenomenon, which lasted more than 3000 years. In addition, the dissemination of religious ideas took place through migrations of peoples and trade trips, so that it was probably inevitable that they were mixed with older local customs and cults.
What purpose did the large stone buildings serve?
The buildings made of huge stones are all related to the cult of the dead or the worship of supernatural powers. For the sedentary people of the Neolithic Age, sowing, growing and harvesting the grain were a visible expression of the cycle of life and death. The fertility cult of the "Great Mother", which can be observed especially in the Mediterranean region, was probably connected with this.
Man's existence was also felt as a cycle in which death was nothing final, but only a station on the way to another life. Therefore, as a sign of immortality, indestructible stone tombs were built, which represented fixed points in an uncertain world and a visible connection to the ancestors who continued to exist, so to speak, in the "neighborhood" of the living.
What do the tombs symbolize?
Many of the graves are cave-like and, like on Malta, have even been expanded into artificial underground cave systems. Behind this was the idea of bedding the dead like a grain of grain in the belly of "Mother Earth" so that - analogous to the growth of the grain - he would participate in a kind of rebirth in another world. Many of the spiral motifs depicted in the megalithic tombs seem to make this notion of eternity visible and point to a cyclical worldview with no beginning or end.
What was the function of the menhirs?
The individual standing menhirs are interpreted today on the one hand as a kind of world axis in which the connection between heaven and earth and thus the dependence of humans on cosmic processes becomes visible. The other interpretation refers to the ancestral cult, in which the menhir is seen as the new and indestructible seat of the soul of a deceased and thus the ephemeral human body is exchanged for a new, "everlasting" one. At the same time the relationship with the ancestors was established, who continued to participate as members of the community and took care of their protection.
What did the megalithic cultures know about cosmic cycles?
The observation of cosmic phenomena seems to have been an important part of the worldview of the megalithic cultures. In the megalithic grave of New Grange in Ireland, on the day of the winter solstice, the sun shines directly into the burial chamber shortly after sunrise through a precisely calculated opening. In this way, the beginning of a new annual cycle symbolized the rebirth of the deceased.
Did you know that …
of the large stone buildings of the megalithic cultures still exist across Europe?
the names of the gods as well as religious cults and myths of the Neolithic religions have unfortunately not come down to us? However, some findings could be derived from the investigation of the megaliths.
The Sumerian Religion: Gods and Myths on the Euphrates and Tigris
Was there a uniform Sumerian religion?
No, it had many regional characteristics, which can already be seen in the fact that every city in the ancient Orient was subordinate to a city god who was particularly venerated there, but could have a rather subordinate importance in the neighboring city. Also, especially in the early 2nd millennium BC. Myths written down in BC have different themes and ideas. Even if individual cultic themes and deities have been abandoned and others have been added, the Sumerian religion was essentially preserved until the post-Christian era and in some cases is still having an effect today.
What religious ideas existed?
When in the early 3rd millennium BC When the old local cults grew together into supraregional units, two large circles of gods emerged whose ideas of the origin and nature of the world differed greatly from one another: in the north, the circle of gods around the wind god Enlil of Nippur, who at that time was already the had ousted the actual father of gods An as head of the pantheon, and in the south the circle of gods around Enlil's brother Enki, the city god of Eridu. From the beginning, the cult of Enki, the good-natured god of wisdom, magic and handicrafts, seems to have recognized the supremacy of Enlil.
How did one explain the origin of the world in the north of the empire?
In Nippur the idea of an autogenesis of creation prevailed; the world is in an embryonic state in the beginning duku, the sacred hill. The male heaven and the female earth were united in a tremendous coitus and only after the violent separation of the two by Enlil did the space necessary for life arise. But there is always the copulation of heaven and earth: These secondary creations then arise every time demons who envy the gods their birthright and wage war against them.
What was the myth in the south?
In Eridu it was believed that the world as it was known to the ancients was established and created by Enki. This was often accompanied by comical incidents, which explained the existence of illness, suffering and disorder: In mythology, Enki's excessive drunkenness and enormous sexual urges are usually fatal. The incidents belonged to later events and could therefore be easily integrated into the creation story. They play an important role in the circle of gods around Enki me, unearthly forces, without which human civilization would be inconceivable and to which even the gods are subject.
Which deities played a role?
The mother and underworld goddesses are numerous in the Sumerian pantheon. The great mother goes by many names. It is often not clear whether the names refer to different deities or just individual aspects of the same deity. Ninchursanga, the mistress of the mountains, Ninmach, the exalted mistress, or Aruru and Mama are just a few names. They are the powerful, tall women whose curse even Enki has nothing to oppose. But they do not get angry for long and help repair the damage they have caused. Some of the power ascribed to them may be related to those areas of motherhood and childbirth inaccessible to men.
Who ruled in the underworld?
A large number of the various salvation deities that have been associated with the underworld are also female. The goddess Gula, Nintin'ugga ("mistress who gives life to the dead") and Ninkarrak should be mentioned here. The most important goddess of the ancient Orient is known in Sumerian under the name Inanna, in Akkadian as Ishtar. In contrast to the other goddesses, however, she was not a maternal goddess. Prostitution and sexual deviance were also part of their cult. It was associated with quarrels, conflicts and disorder, but also fertility.
How was the Sumerian religion transmitted?
We owe a large part of our knowledge of the religion of ancient Mesopotamia to the religious texts written in Sumerian, which were written long after Sumerian was no longer spoken. In addition, lists of gods, royal inscriptions and, last but not least, countless economic documents in cuneiform provide information about the religion of this cultural area about what was of secondary importance for the literary texts, namely the type and extent of sacrifices and the dates of the cultic festivals.
Did you know that …
the Turkish name of the month "Temmuz" for August reminds of the festival of the Sumerian god Dumuzi? During the entire ancient oriental period, Dumuzi's return from the underworld to earth was celebrated and his return to the hereafter was mourned.
Was the Sumerian language one of the first, if not the first, to have a script developed for?
Myths of ancient Mesopotamia: epics of gods and heroes
Which people shaped the Mesopotamian culture?
Many different peoples shaped this culture. Mesopotamia, the land between the two rivers Euphrates and Tigris, is an ancient cultivated land. His world of myths was shaped by traditions going back far into the Neolithic and at the same time by all the peoples who immigrated to this fertile land from different regions over the centuries and brought their own religious ideas with them.
Thus, in this melting pot of cultures, the pre-Sumerian traditions were superimposed by those of the Sumerians and Hurrians, then by the traditions of the Semitic Akkadians and Amurians, and finally by those of the Babylonians and Assyrians.
Why do we know so much about this culture?
Because there are written records. The mythical ideas of the Sumerians and later the Babylonians and Assyrians are of particular importance for our current knowledge of Mesopotamia. These early high cultures already had a script and wrote down their myths. Written sources represent a much broader research base for modern science than if it is solely dependent on archaeological finds such as cult objects or ruins of cult sites.
As we know today, the originally Sumerian world of gods was later expanded and redesigned by a Semitic one. The old Sumerian gods were adjusted to the new Semitic ones and some were given different names. Since the written traditions of the Mesopotamian myths mostly date from the 2nd and 1st millennium BC. They are relatively young when measured against the age of the Mesopotamian civilizations. They do not distinguish between old Sumerian motifs and newer Semitic ones, but rather represent their respective valid ideas. For the earlier periods from the time of the predominance of Sumerian culture, however, only fragments are available.
Is there a Sumerian creation myth?
A uniform creation myth from Sumerian times has not been handed down. In order to get at least an approximate picture, one has to rely on hints in more recent texts, some of which contradict one another. At one point it is said that heaven and earth have united in a cosmic "holy wedding" and thus made the earth fertile. Elsewhere it says that the goddess Nammu gave birth to heaven and earth.
Another hymn praises the wisdom god Enki (Akkadian: Ea), who gives the world its order, gives the rivers the water, cares for the rain and brings the agricultural implements to the people.
The motif of the creation of man also appears as early as Sumerian times. According to one version, the gods complain that they have no one to work for them and provide them with food. Thereupon Enki creates people from mud together with the mother goddess Ninmach, also called Ninchursag. Elsewhere it is said that after the separation of heaven and earth, the father of gods Enlil dug a hole in the earth with the hoe he created, from which people would grow out.
Which myths have persisted?
Several Sumerian myths entered later religions. One of the most famous was the template for the later biblical story of paradise and the fall of man: the »myth of Dilmun«, also known as the paradise myth. It is about the happy land of Dilmun, which is completely spared from disease and predators. But there is no water. When Enki asks for it, the sun god Utu lets water gush out of the earth.
Dilmun thus becomes a fertile garden with rich vegetation, in which the goddess Ninchursag grows eight special plants. Despite her ban, Enki eats everyone. The angry goddess curses him, whereupon he suffers from eight different organs. When the other gods ask for Enki, Ninchursag creates eight healing gods for his healing.
How did the Sumerian creation myths develop?
A myth about death and resurrection. The originally Sumerian gods Inanna and Dumuzi were called Ishtar and Tammuz by the Semites. The goddess of love Inanna falls in love with the shepherd Dumuzi and marries him, whereby the common man suddenly becomes the ruler of Uruk. As a result, an ominous fate takes its course when Inanna decides to descend into the underworld in order to oust the goddess Ereschkigal there. On her way she passes through the Seven Gates and has to take off a piece of clothing and a piece of jewelry on each one, so that she finally appears completely naked - and that means: stripped of all her power - before the goddess Ereschkigal. This directs the "gaze of death" on her and Inanna dies.
Enlil, the king of the gods, then creates two messengers that he sends into the underworld with "the food and water of life". This really succeeds in bringing Inanna back to life. But when she is about to leave the underworld, the seven judges of the underworld block her way and demand that she provide a replacement for herself. Accompanied by the Galla demons, who have been commissioned to bring her back if this duty is not fulfilled, Inanna returns to earth.
After a few detours, she finally reaches Uruk and finds her husband Dumuzi there, who enjoys life to the full without his wife. Full of anger, Inanna instructs the demons to take Dumuzi with them to the underworld in their place, according to the instructions of the judges. But the goddess of the dead Ereschkigal allows him to spend half a year on earth.
What does the myth symbolize?
This myth of dying and resurrecting in a seasonal rhythm stands as a symbol for the cycle of sowing and harvest, in which life and death are mirrored. It represents a central theme of the ancient oriental and ancient Mediterranean religions; its roots go back to the Neolithic.
How was man created?
The creation of man is probably in the 17th century BC. depicted atramchasis myth. After that there were two kinds of gods, whereby the lower ones had to relieve the higher ones of all vital work. But one day the low gods were no longer ready, and so the clever god Ea, who was originally called Enki by the Sumerians, created man out of clay and divine blood.
People multiplied rapidly, and the noise they made disturbed the supreme god Enlil in his rest, so he decided to reduce the number of people. He sent disease, drought, and famine, but Ea protected his creatures with wise advice. Then Enlil wanted to destroy the people with a flood. Again Ea helped, so that Atramchasis managed to save himself and with it the human race. But from now on Ea limited people's lifetimes. In addition, through infant mortality and sterility, he also prevented them from multiplying indefinitely.
Who emerged victorious in the battle of the gods?
The god Marduk. In the 1200 BC The creation epic »Enuma Elisch« compiled in the 3rd century BC legitimized the supremacy of the Babylonian god Marduk: At the beginning of time nothing existed except for the female saltwater ocean Tiamat and the male freshwater ocean Apsû. When the two oceans unified, several gods emerged from them, including the creator god An / Anu and the god of wisdom Ea.
But there was a dispute between the gods and Apsû. Ea won and built the sanctuary in Eridu on Apsû, where his son Marduk was born. With that Ea was master of the fresh water.
In vengeance, Tiamat went on the attack and produced eleven huge monsters, at the head of which stood the god Kingu, who wore the "fate plates" on his chest. The gods backed away from the onslaught, but Marduk declared himself ready to fight if he was recognized as the ruler of the gods in the future. The gods agreed and Marduk took up the fight. He killed Tiamat with an arrow, overcame the monsters and Kingu and seized the fate tables. Then he split Tiamat's body in half: one formed the vault of heaven, the other formed the earth.
In the sky Marduk arranged the constellations and on earth he created plants and living beings. He also needed people so that they could serve the gods. So his father Ea set about creating man from the blood of the god Kingu. Subsequently, the temple of Marduk called Esagila was built in Babylon and the gods met to celebrate victory.
Did you know that …
in Mesopotamia as early as the 5th millennium BC. did a highly developed agricultural culture exist? People lived there for about 70,000 years.
as early as 4000 BC First written forms appeared in Mesopotamia, which later developed into the famous cuneiform script?
the imaginative Mesopotamian mythology has remained alive over the millennia? The stories of the creation of man from clay, of the Flood or of Paradise have flowed into the biblical tradition and are therefore common property of Western intellectual history to this day.
the epic of Gilgamesh is considered to be the oldest surviving literary document of mankind? The work describes the deeds of the eponymous king of Uruk, who lived around 2652–2602 BC. Should have lived.
How did the Mesopotamians imagine the earth?
As a split hollow sphere. The worldview in ancient Mesopotamia was based on the idea that the entire cosmos consists of a sphere divided into two equal halves. The upper hemisphere formed the celestial vault with the stars, the lower represented the underworld.
A mountain range ran along the outer circular wall between the two hemispheres. The circular saltwater ocean Tiamat extended within this mountain ring, in the middle of which the earth rose like an island. The freshwater ocean Apsû lay directly below the ground. The center of the earth's disk was Mesopotamia, around which the other countries were grouped.
This ancient oriental view of the world was then adopted by the early Greeks, but later replaced by new ideas based not least on geographical discoveries and scientific observations.
Can individual myths be assigned to specific locations?
Yes. The city of Eridu, located near the Persian Gulf, for example, was considered the oldest city in the country, although it was politically rather insignificant, and was closely connected to the myths of the creation of the world.
It was said that after the creation of the world, long before the Flood, kingship came down from heaven here and was exercised for the first time. The city god Enki (Akkadian: Ea) was the god of wisdom and the arts and also lord of the freshwater ocean Apsû, on which the earth swam.
Did you know that …
the myth of the Flood already appears among the Sumerians? The gods decide - for what reasons is not known - to destroy the people with a flood. Only the pious ziusudra is warned. He built a boat and survived the flood that lasted seven days and seven nights. Then he makes a sacrifice to the sun god Utu and receives "a life as god", which he is allowed to spend in the land of the sunrise. This material was later included in the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh.
The Garden of Eden: A paradise with forbidden fruits
What Does the Bible Tell About the Garden of Eden?
According to the Bible, the Garden of Eden was the home of the first human couple, Adam and Eve. Here hardship and misery were unknown and humans and animals lived in complete harmony. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, both of which ate despite the divine prohibition. The knowledge that followed led to the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise.
Is there a historical model for paradise?
There is a model for the Garden of Eden, but there are many indications that this is in the realm of mythology. Some passages from the book of Genesis, which have the creation story as their theme, show a close connection to the creation myths of Mesopotamia. For example, there you can find the Sumerian myth of paradise, which is also called the "myth of the land of Dilmun".
The Sumerian Dilmun is a mythical land to the east that bears strong resemblance to the Eden of the Bible. It is a happy area where disease is neither rampant nor predatory animals. However, it must be distinguished from the Dilmun known from historical sources, which was located on the present-day island of Bahrain and served as the basis for trade with Southeast Arabia. In contrast to the mythical Dilmun, it was located south of Mesopotamia. Here the question arises whether, given the similarity of the biblical account with the myth of the Sumerians, a real place could not have been a model for this earthly paradise.
What is the difference between the Biblical and Sumerian myths?
While the version of the Bible answers the fundamental question of the origin of evil in the world, the myth in Mesopotamia is used to explain the creation of disease and healing. However, the similarities between the Sumerian myth and that of the Bible are evident. A paradise garden created by irrigation contains forbidden fruits that are eaten in spite of divine prohibition.
Initially, the Mesopotamian paradise lacks water until the sun god lets it gush out of springs, so that Dilmun can become a rich garden with lush vegetation. Here the goddess Ninchursag, the mother of all living beings, grows eight plants which, despite the prohibition to eat them, are eaten by the god Enki. The goddess curses Enki, who then falls ill with eight organs. Eventually the gods succeed in convincing Ninchursag to help Enki, whereupon these eight healing deities are created.
What does the idea of paradise stand for?
Behind this is probably an ancient dream of mankind, because it can only be speculated whether the Sumerians really came across a paradise-looking landscape during one of their trading ventures in the east, which could have served as a stimulus for the story of the Garden of Eden. Perhaps the paradise myth is also about mythically disguised, dark memories of the conditions of the end of the Paleolithic, when people were still hunters and gatherers and led a relatively free and unbound, although certainly not paradisiacal life - without the constraints of agriculture and have carried out other work activities since then.
It is more likely, however, that people have always dreamed of a place that completely corresponds to their ideas of peace and harmony, but which will not be found in this world. All of the great utopias of the modern age ultimately lead to the creation of a paradisiacal state.
Did you know that …
Besides the paradise myth, are there other borrowings from the much older creation myths of Mesopotamia in the Bible? For example, there is also the creation of man from clay and the story of the Flood with Utnapishtim, the "Babylonian Noah".
Why is paradise depicted as a lush garden?
The term paradise originated from the Greek word paradeisos and is itself a borrowing from Old Persian. The old Persian word paridaida means something like »pleasure garden« or »wildlife park«. The dryness of the Middle East is the reason why the most beautiful place on earth was imagined as a lush garden. The most important prerequisite for this was the availability of sufficient water, which was one of the most valuable and rarest goods in the early high cultures of Mesopotamia.
Flood and Noah's Ark: The Mysterious Catastrophe
Was there really a deluge?
You don't know. Hardly any other myth is as old as that of the primeval flood, which is described in detail in the Old Testament. According to this, the sinful conduct of mankind was an abomination to the Creator God. By flooding the planet, he caused all life to be destroyed - only Noah, his family and a limited number of animals survived. Not only does the Bible know about the Flood, there are also traditions of a great flood in other cultures around the world.
If one believes the information in Genesis 6.5–9.17, the flood lasted 40 days. The water swelled over the next 150 days and eventually covered all the high mountains. It was not until the 17th day of the seventh month that the ark built by Noah touched down in the mountains of Ararat.
Is this cruel event - like so many others in Scripture - to be understood only symbolically? Or does the Flood have a historical background? In the end, did an ark really get stranded on Mount Ararat? Researchers and adventurers have tried to solve the age-old mystery. But even the use of the most modern technology has not yet produced any clear evidence.
Where is the first report of the flood?
In an ancient oriental text. A sensational find proves that there is an epic from the ancient Orient with the same content, which is much older than the Holy Scriptures.
In 1872, a cuneiform script was translated onto clay tablets that had been found during excavations in the Assyrian capital, Nineveh. The documents date from around 650 BC. And tell the legend of the Sumerian hero Gilgamesh. This first great epic in world literature also mentions a man who survived a flood with his family. The material goes back to the 3rd millennium BC. BC and is therefore much older than the account of the Flood and Noah's Ark from the Old Testament.
How is the disaster supposed to have played out?
Among the numerous attempts to explain this, one of the possible scenarios is this: A few years ago, researchers discovered that there was once a small inland lake in the Black Sea area. After the last ice age, more than 100,000 years ago, an enormous glacier melt set in, which caused the sea level of the oceans to rise. A narrow dam on the Bosphorus protected the lake and its fertile surrounding area 150 meters below, but collapsed about 7,800 years ago. With a tremendous force, about 50 billion cubic meters of seawater broke into the gorge of the Bosphorus and flooded the area. Perhaps this natural spectacle formed the background for the origin of the legend of the Flood.
What did the ark look like?
To date there is no information on this, but no ship has so much inspired the imagination of mankind as that »box« (Latin: arca) that made Noah and his family survive. According to the Bible, God personally provided the blueprint. As wood should gopher are used, a botanically indeterminable tree species that is interpreted as cypress, boxwood, cedar or fir. The length of the ship was stipulated at 300 cubits, about 150 meters, the width at 50 cubits, about 25 meters and the height at 30 cubits, about 15 meters. Inside, the division into three floors and many chambers was planned, probably to stabilize the ship and to accommodate the animals appropriately.
Where is the ark's landing site presumed?
Although specifically mentioned in the Bible, the landing site of the ark in the snow-covered expanse of Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey has not been found to this day. Nevertheless, many archaeologists and mountaineers have claimed to have discovered outlines, shadows or other traces of the ark in the ground or under glacial ice.
How could the Flood have been triggered?
The Viennese geology professor Alexander Tollmann blames the impact of a huge celestial body for the flood. According to his astonishingly precise calculations, on September 23, 9545 before our time calculation around 3:00 a.m. Central European time, a huge comet raced towards the earth and struck the sea. The consequences, according to Tollmann, were torrential rains and so-called impact quakes, the intensity of which exceeds ordinary earthquakes many times over.
Did you know that …
the Bible's account of the great flood is not an isolated occurrence? Similar stories of the floods found their way into Oceania and the American continent.
Pieces of wood with traces of tar from the area of Ararat as alleged remains of the ark are traded as valuable relics?
The Babylonian Tower: True Story or Legend?
What came to light during the excavation of Babylon?
During the excavations carried out in Mesopotamia in the second half of the 19th century, which also extended to ancient Babylon since 1899, numerous archives with cuneiform tablets were discovered in addition to temples and palaces in Mesopotamia. The deciphering of these tablets unearthed astonishing things for the time. Among other things, myths and stories were listed here that were previously only known from the Bible, such as those of Job or Noah.
What is the "Babel-Bible Controversy" about?
The dispute revolved around the question of where to look for the origin of these myths. For many theologians and scientists, it was incompatible with their view of the world that the "evil" Babylon could come up with stories that were actually reserved for "divine revelation". However, it soon became clear that the better arguments were on the part of those who suspected the origin of the myths in Mesopotamia and who could prove that the biblical tradition had, at least in part, resorted to older Babylonian sources.
How did the Israelites know the myths?
During the Babylonian captivity, which followed the conquest of Jerusalem by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II in 597 BC. The Israelites are likely to have become acquainted with the myths. There - and perhaps long before that - the Israelites came into contact with the traditions of the Near East, to which they ultimately also belonged. The newcomers from the "provinces" were particularly impressed by the dimensions of the cosmopolitan city of Babylon and the numerous people of various origins who lived in it.
How did ancient Babylon affect the Israelites?
The architecture of Babylon must have been an overwhelming sight at the time. The center of the city was formed by the 90-meter-high temple tower (ziggurat) of the city god Marduk, who with its extensive storerooms and priests' houses formed a city within the city. This multi-level temple tower formed the model for the "Tower of Babel". Such temple towers already had a long tradition in Mesopotamia. Its beginnings can be traced back to the 5th millennium BC. In the Sumerian city of Ur is a from the end of the 3rd millennium BC. A restored specimen from the 3rd century BC can still be admired today.
In the biblical account, the Tower of Babel is a prime example of human presumption and its consequences. This Bible story is likely to be the reaction to the cosmopolitan city of Babylon and its inhabitants from all over the world, which the Israelites probably both fascinated and alienated at the same time.
What did the historic tower in Babylon look like?
The tower in ancient Babylon, which surpassed all other ziggurats in size, was built during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar II .Chr. we are relatively well informed about the appearance of the temple tower. The seven-step tower, built of adobe bricks, rose on a base area of around 90x90 meters. On the last step was the temple of the city god Marduk, who was worshiped here alongside other gods. The Babylonians called the tower Etemenanki, which means "house of the foundation stone of heaven and earth" and illustrates the importance of the structure.
In contrast to other temples of antiquity, nothing of this marvel is left because of the perishable building material. In Babylon, the place where the tower once stood can still be seen, but this mighty structure could not defy time.
How did Herodotus describe the tower?
The Greek historian Herodotus (around 485 to around 425 BC) wrote in the »Histories« (vol. 1) about the tower:
“There's a tower built in the middle of the sanctuary, with no interior… and another tower was put on top of that tower, and then another tower on top of it until there are eight. The ascent is led around all the towers on the outside ... But on the last tower there is a large house of God ... «
Did you know that …
the tower of Babylon, together with the hanging gardens of Semiramis and the city walls of Babylon, formed one of the seven wonders of the world?
Giuseppe Verdi with his opera "Nabucco" (= Nebuchadnezzar) from 1841 set a monument to the Jewish people's striving for freedom in captivity?
Sodom and Gomorrah: Cruel Punishment
What do we associate with Sodom and Gomorrah today?
Primarily sinful sexual practices. In everyday language, the names of the two cities symbolize viciousness, arrogance or debauchery. Sodom and Gomorrah were two pre-Christian places whose inhabitants were subjected to divine judgment due to a wrong way of life. According to the extent of the sin, the heavenly judgment was for the complete destruction of the two cities at sunrise, wrought by fire and brimstone. This is said to have been around 1900 BC. To have happened.
Where is the disaster supposed to have happened?
The exact location of the two biblical cities is not clear. The Old Testament gives references to the geographical location of Sodom and Gomorrah in several places, but despite all the references, the researchers have so far not been able to locate the two cities exactly, to find remains or even to explain the events scientifically. According to tradition, the two places of sin were at the southern end of the Dead Sea.
Even the name Sodom is fraught with question marks. The name is said to have been mentioned in the Ebla texts (cuneiform tablets found near the city of Ebla in Syria); it may be of Arabic origin and allows the derivation of "city" or "fortification". A "hill called Sodom" extends at the southwest end of the Dead Sea.
The riddles of Sodom and Gomorrah already occupied various historians of Roman times, over the centuries a wide variety of "real" doom scenarios developed. The scene of the divine judgment wandered around the Dead Sea, grazed Masada or the Jordan in the north. Most attempts to fix the myth of Sodom and Gomorrah in a specific place, however, resulted in a south-west or south-east location on the most salty body of water in the world.
How could Sodom and Gomorrah perish?
Various science-based theories attempt to explain the fall of Sodom and Gomorrah. The destruction procedure could, for example, have run according to the geyser principle: Bitumen (asphalt) stored underground is pressed to the surface of the earth by a strong earthquake with great pressure, then ignites and then falls like a huge rain of fire on people and houses.
A second variant of the doom scenario says that tectonic plates drifting apart made the Dead Sea region unstable. The inevitable earthquake ignited underground gas deposits on the day of the day. Their enormous destructive power then transformed the ground into a drifting sand-like mass. The landslide that followed these events caused Sodom and Gomorrah to sink into the Dead Sea.
Another theory suggests that an earthquake alone was enough to trigger the end. The unstable, silt-like subsoil collapsed due to the movement of the earth, Sodom and Gomorrah sank into the depths of the Dead Sea.
Whichever explanatory pattern appears plausible, one thing must not be forgotten in the assessment. The ultimate proof has yet to be found, because experimental investigations only opened up possibilities and gave incentives for further considerations.
What theological conclusions does history suggest?
That Christianity knows a punishing God. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah resulted directly from the intention of the inhabitants of Sodom to sexually abuse the messengers of God, as the First Book of Moses reports in the Old Testament. Only Lot, Abraham's nephew, had followed the principles of morality and hospitality and was saved.
Aside from the question of where and how the catastrophe scenario may have taken place in reality, at least the symbolic aspect of the depiction allows only one explanation: the fall of the corrupt cities of Sodom and Gomorrah was about showing guilt and offense, a "fall into man", also required the appropriate punishment in accordance with the human sense of justice. This connection between misconduct, impunity and punishment was also underlined by the location of the event and the course of action. Desert landscapes were considered regions of human guilt, sulfur and salt were seen as divine signs of the curse.
The Bible is full of surprises and twists and turns, is provided with surreal facts that repeatedly challenge the modern urge for scientific knowledge.
What Does the Bible Say About Sodom and Gomorrah?
No details are given. It only says: “Lot went as far as Sodom with his tents. But the people of Sodom were wicked and sinned badly against the Lord ”(Genesis 13; 11-13). The judgment is announced by messengers: “And the men said to Lot:… For we shall destroy this place, because the cry about it is great before the Lord ... Then the Lord let sulfur and fire rain down from heaven on Sodom and Gomorrah and destroyed the cities and the whole region and all the inhabitants of the cities and all that had grown in the country ... But Abraham rose early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord, and turned his face against Sodom and Gomorrah and all the land of this region and looked, and, behold, smoke came up from the land like smoke from an oven. "(Genesis 19; 12-2)
Did you know that …
the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, according to some theories, already existed in the early Bronze Age? It is possible that they have become very prosperous by trading in bitumen mined on the Dead Sea coast. This wealth could have led to a decadent and sinful image of the cities among the poorer neighbors.
The religion of the Hittites: gods and heroes
What kind of people were the Hittites?
The Hittites were of Indo-European origin and built in the 2nd millennium BC. A large empire in today's Anatolia (Eastern Turkey). From around 1500 BC The Hittites were the great adversaries of the mighty Egyptian empire. The battle of Kadesh (in 1299 BC), in which the Hittites made the Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II difficult to create, became famous.
Although the Hittites had Indo-European roots, the Indo-European element played only a subordinate role in their religion. The Hittite religion was rather a conglomerate of religious ideas of the Anatolian indigenous population (Hattier), northern Mesopotamian-Syrian influences (Hurrites) and, last but not least, Sumerian-Akkadian beliefs. The god Anu came from the Akkadian region, while the god Kumarbi was of Hurrian origin and the goddess Inara came from the mythology of the Hattier. In their appearance, the Hittite gods therefore resembled the Sumerian-Akkadian and Syrian deities.
Which deity was particularly important?
The mother goddess - as was often the case in Asia Minor - assumed a particularly important position. As "Queen of the Land" or "Queen of Earth and Heaven" she was the main goddess of the Hittite heaven of gods and possibly even stood above her husband Teschup, the king of heaven. While the Hattier called them Wurushemu, the Hurrians called them Hepat. As the sun goddess of Arinna, she was the patroness of the Hittite Empire.
What about the myth of the vanished god?
The hattic vegetation god Telipinu was also called the "god who disappears". He was the son of Hepat and Teschup. One of the most famous stories in Hittite mythology, the Telipinu myth, is entwined around him.
With all records of the beginning of the myth lost, it is not known why the god chose to disappear. But we know what happened next: after the god had disappeared, all the fires were extinguished, all springs dried up, the whole land was desolate and the people and animals lost their will to live. Since the gods themselves were in danger of perishing due to this extensive paralysis of public life, the sun god sent an eagle out to look for Telipinu - but in vain, it was not found.
Finally, against the will of her resigned husband, the Great Mother Goddess sent a bee that flew around the world. With success! The bee found him sleeping and woke him up by stabbing his hands and feet.
But when Telipinu awoke, he became so angry that he began to kill all life in the world. The gods got scared and could only free him from his frenzy with magic spells. When his anger subsided, he mounted the back of an eagle and returned to the gods. So the world was all right again and life could go on.
Why was there so much fighting among the gods?
It was about power. As in Greek mythology, Hittite deities often fought with one another. For example, the consort of the mother goddess, the Hurrian weather god Teschup, whom the Hattier called Taru. Teschup disempowered his father Kumarbi, and after he had ousted him from the throne again with the help of the stone being Ullikumi, he finally gained power with the support of the Akkadian god Ea and became the fourth king of the gods. Before this, the Hurrian Alalu, the Akkadian Anu and the aforementioned Hurrian Kumarbi ruled, each of whom had ousted their predecessors from the throne.
Who else got involved in these battles?
Often mortals also took part. A son of Hepat and Teschup was the Hurrian mountain god Sharruma, whom the Hittite king Tutchalijash chose to be the patron god. His sister, in turn, was the hattic goddess Inara, who helped her father defeat the serpent demon Illujanka. Since she asked for help from the mortal hero Hupashiah, she had to sleep with him and marry him. The hero was later killed by her for disregarding her instructions.
Did you know that …
the practice of black magic was forbidden in the Hittite religion? The practice of white magic, on the other hand, was permitted because it served as a means of keeping evil away from people and the community.
the stories of gods fighting with one another may have their origin in the disputes between various groups of priests or princes for political and religious supremacy? Such power struggles were the order of the day in the ancient cultures of Asia Minor.
How were Hittite gods incorporated into the state?
In many ways. As in Mesopotamia, each city had its own city deity who lived in its respective temple and was dressed, fed and entertained by the priests and cult personnel. A misfortune was explained by the fact that the deity in question was out of the house and was traveling.
The Hittite kings also had a very close relationship with their gods. In contrast to the everyday rites of the population, we are very well aware of the role of kings in the practice of cult through inscriptions and cuneiform texts. They viewed their rule as a gift from the gods, and as high priests they were the gods' representatives on earth. In contrast to other cultures, however, they did not derive their descent from the gods, but were only elevated to gods when they died.
Religion in ancient Egypt: cult of the dead and godlike pharaoh
What was the hallmark of the Egyptian religion?
Especially the cult of the dead. As the example of the most famous buildings in Egypt, the pyramids, shows, it was very important in religious life. Therefore, great care was taken in the construction of tombs and temples. Since they were intended to last forever, they were built from stone - in contrast to the living quarters of the living. Almost all of our knowledge of the Egyptian religion comes from the reliefs, hieroglyphic texts and wall paintings of the tombs and temples.
How should one imagine the cult of the dead?
The ideas associated with the cult of the dead and the Egyptian doctrine of the soul often appear to us to be quite contradictory. The realm of the dead lies in the west, but is also relocated to the underworld, which the sun god crosses at night with his boat and thus illuminates. This night ride of the sun explains why it's dark at night.
The integrity of the human body was important for survival in the hereafter. Careful mummification and, last but not least, the elaborate design of the tombs, such as the pyramids and rock tombs, served this goal. The conception of the essence of the human being, which includes not only the physical form, but also various psychological aspects such as the Ka (life force) and the Ba (appearance), which is associated with the mummified body, also belongs in this context guaranteed in the hereafter.
Which deities did the Egyptians know?
An enormous number. Many of Egypt's gods were only of regional importance as patrons of a particular city. Opposite them were the deities worshiped all over the country. Since the Old Kingdom, the falcon-headed god Horus, whose eyes were considered the sun and moon, had a special position as god of the sky. The sun god Re, who merged with Horus to Re-Harachte ("Horus in the horizon"), was closely related to him. The main place of cult of the Re was Heliopolis and in the Old Kingdom the sun worship gained a high value; numerous solar sanctuaries were built.
A decidedly enigmatic god is Seth, who was represented in the form of an indefinable, perhaps donkey-like, animal. He was a god of the desert, of the storm and the thunderstorm and the adversary and brother of Horus. He plays a central role in the myth of the death and rebirth of Osiris. This was the god of the realm of the dead and the vegetation. His mythical murder by Seth and the subsequent resurrection (see next double page) were a central theme of the Egyptian religion and symbolized the cycle of nature and the rebirth of the dead in the afterlife. There every dead person (provided the right preparations have been made) is reborn and thus of the same essence as Osiris.
Another god with a strong relationship with the realm of the dead was the jackal-headed Anubis, lord of the city of the dead. The god Thoth, worshiped in Hermopolis, also had a connection to the afterlife, namely to the judgment of the dead, with the shape of an ibis or a baboon. He was considered a wise God, a bringer of science and writing and their protector.
Isis, wife of Osiris and mother of Horus, stands out among the female deities. She was both the sky goddess and the patroness of the funeral ceremony. In addition, she was considered a protector of marriage and children and beyond that as a magician. She was the (divine) mother of every pharaoh, as they were considered to be the embodiment of Horus. Almost on an equal footing with her was Hathor, the "celestial cow," who was depicted in the form of a cow or with cow horns. She protected the king and queen, but also all female activities. Music and dance played a major role in their cult.
Why were there animal-like gods in Egypt?
Because ancient people often admired divine qualities in animals. Since the religion of Egypt was deeply rooted in prehistory, many of its features refer to that tradition. The falcon was the symbol of the sky and the sun, the wilderness was reflected in the lion and the cow symbolized the mother goddess who gave birth. Later, gods took on the characteristics of certain animals in addition to other properties.
What role did the pharaoh play?
He was the chief priest and had godlike status. Since the Old Kingdom the Pharaoh was identified with Horus, from the 4th Dynasty he was also considered the son of Re, later Amun-Re. In this divine position he ruled over the country and was the guarantor of the cosmic order (Ma'at). Thus he was also the religious head of the country and ensured that the rites and sacrifices owed to the gods were observed. The entire symbolism of the Egyptian world order is reflected in the architectural structure of the temples intended for this purpose. The ceiling painted with stars symbolizes the vault of the sky and the large columned halls - for example in Abydos - the vegetation associated with Osiris, the papyrus thicket. The artificial pond created outside the temple represents the primordial ocean.
How did Egypt's cults have an impact in history?
The religious ideas of the Egyptians had a great influence on the Greek and Roman world, which is particularly clear in the ideas of the afterlife of the Greek Orphics and the spread of the Isis cult over the entire Roman Empire.
The ancient Egyptian iconography even survived into Christianity: in the early Coptic depictions of the Virgin Mary with the child, art historians recognize many features of the depiction of Isis with the Horus boy.
Did you know that …
do you divide early Egyptian history into three phases? The Old Kingdom (2755 to 2255 BC) was followed by the Middle Kingdom (2134 to 1784 BC) and this was followed by the New Kingdom (1570-1070 BC).
a particularly combative deity was female? The lion-headed goddess Sachmet ("the mighty") was wild and dangerous and supported the Pharaoh in the fight against his enemies. Her more peaceful counterpart is the cat goddess Bastet.
The myths of the Egyptians: Atum, Ptah, Osiris
What characterizes the Egyptian creation myth?
It is available in different versions. The ancient Egyptian creation myth is known in three main versions, each associated with a specific city - Heliopolis, Memphis and Hermopolis / Thebes - and the deity ruling there.
The original god of Heliopolis was Atum or Chepre; both were also equated with the sun god Re. The origin of the world was explained in Heliopolis as follows: From the primordial ocean, which was called Nun, rose the first land, the primeval hill. This primeval hill was regarded either as identical with the primordial god Atum, who came into being of himself, or as the place where he first appeared. In any case, Atum in Heliopolis created the god Shu, the air, and the goddess Tefnut, the moisture, through masturbation or spitting out. They in turn begat further gods through their union, namely the male Geb, which stood for the earth, and the female groove, which symbolized the sky. Initially united, earth and heaven were separated by Shu. This process was often depicted in pictures, with Schu standing on Geb and using both hands to support the groove that bends over it. Geb and Nut in turn fathered four children, the gods Osiris and Isis as well as Seth and Nephthys. With that the so-called unity of the gods of Heliopolis was complete.
How did the other creation myths differ?
In Memphis, the god Ptah was placed at the center of the action. He created the god Atum who had to carry out his will. As the god of creation, Ptah also brought culture to people; he was considered the patron of artists.
The conceptual concept of the course of the creation process was completely new in Memphite theology. The idea of creation arose according to this idea in the heart of the god Ptah, and creation manifested itself only through the utterance of this thought. Thus the creation of the cosmos was accomplished solely through the creative power of words and thoughts of one God.
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