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The Age of Aries Babylonian and Akkadian Astronomy Myths

The Age of Aries Babylonian and Akkadian Astronomy Myths

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Published by Zavier Mainyu

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Published by: Zavier Mainyu on Oct 08, 2011
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Babylonian and Akkadian Astronomy Myths
 This unit will focus on studying some of the popular myths and archetypes of the ancient Middle East after the transition of power shifted away from Sumer(2400 BCE and later). The Babylonians and Akkadians lived upstream,asserting control over the waters that flowed south. These culturesstruggled to attain order in their societies, and their literature reflects thisdesire. We gain a better understanding of similar outlooks and beliefs bycontrasting their local metaphors with those from the first unit.
Unit 2 Introduction
Unit 2 Introduction
Prof. Stephen Hagin
Symbolic Connections in WL 
12th edition
Kennesaw State University
The second unit will show you what happened to the Sumerian pantheon after the Sumerianswere overtaken by the
sometime between 3000-2400 BCE. This unit provides a contrast to the feminine-based agricultural myths and will illustrate a dramatic politicalchange in the Near East that ushered in the age of great kingdoms, armies, and propaganda.Whereas the Sumerians became dominant through their engineering expertise, theBabylonians (and related cultures, such as the Hittites, Akkadians, Assyrians, Phoenicians, and Ugarits) gained dominance through … well, dominance. As natural resources such astimber, fresh water, and farmland became scarce, some cultures were forced to raise militarycampaigns against their neighbors, making Mesopotamia a literal battleground for nearlyeverything. Led by powerful and ruthless leaders, Babylon dominated the rural Sumerians,who were no match; they ultimately succumbed and integrated with their northern rivals.The most profound action taken by the Babylonians, however, was their decision to keep allSumerian temples, artifacts, and literature intact. Unlike today’s mentality of demolishing one’s enemies, the Babylonians recognized the deep connection between Sumerian wisdom and Sumerian survival. If you inherited a marsh, would you know how to live there? Youwould if you preserved the stories and records of their livelihoods. Eventually, over a thousand years, the pantheons of both cultures became integrated. Since these two culturesshared similar gods and goddesses, the most striking difference that you will recognize willbe that the names are slightly different. So, the Sumerian water god
becomesintegrated with the Babylonian god
. You will even see versions of stories thatincorporate both names.
, and
. These changes are reflected in the character glossary. Remember that theSumerian names are listed first since that was the way you were introduced to them.Even though the Sumerians had war gods, such as
, the Babylonians had many moreof them. In Sumer, gods of war often fought against mythological creatures, such as the
bird, which represented the thunderstorm (or perhaps invaders from the mountains).In Babylon, however, the battles often occur amongst the gods themselves. You willwitness a divine power struggle throughout the Unit 2 stories. A cosmic shift occurred asthe two pantheons co-existed, but early on this appeared to be nothing more than a naturalfusion of two cultural traditions. Over time, however, likely commissioned by the kings, a new crop of gods were created to represent the power and dominance of Babylon itself. Of course, the Sumerian gods would never be elevated to such a height, while the existing Babylonian gods were simply counterparts to those that already existed in Sumer.Therefore, gods such as
were created to overthrow and supplant the remnants of the Sumerian pantheon. Stories such as
The Epic of Creation
were crafted by royal scribes tointroduce Babylon’s new influence and to promote a nationalistic campaign that served as a warning to potential invaders. This is the real start of the “Western tradition.”
Unit 2
Unlike the Sumerians, the Babylonians were excellent
, and they looked to thestars for wisdom and guidance. They followed the progressions of the sun, moon, and thefive closest planets in the solar system, yielding the magic number 7 that would becomeincorporated in mythology worldwide. The Babylonians viewed these moving lights in thesky as gods, which appeared to be alive since they moved freely in the sky while the otherstars and constellations remained fixed. Therefore, when one planet would pass through a constellation (as we have already seen with Inanna, a representation of Venus), theinteraction between these two heavenly bodies would be recorded in story form since theyhad no star charts or paper to record these messages.Another new feature of this unit’s readings will be the creation and introduction of 
. We did not really recognize any humans in Unit 1, as those myths were intended toinstruct us of how nature operates, not so much our interaction with these forces directly.In Babylon, however, we are told many accounts of the creation of humans, whose solepurpose in all of these stories was relegated to either digging irrigation canals or serving askings. We will see how the younger gods rebelled against the older ones who had enslavedthem to a life of manual labor. Humans would be placed beneath the lesser gods to create a firm
amongst these various beings: the leader gods at the top, followed by theworking gods, followed by the mortal humans, then the animals. This may appear natural toyou, but please recognize the significance of this political shift: whereas the male and femaleforces were treated equally in Unit 1, the Babylonians imposed a strict hierarchy in theworld, placing the masculine firmly over the feminine. Watch for male dominancethroughout this unit’s readings.The arrival of humans in these stories adds levels of complexity and dispute to thenarratives. You will see that mankind does not appear to be living happily. Theircommunities were ravaged by constant warfare, their resources were limited, theirmarketplaces were crowded with desperate customers, and the legal system seemed to existin a state of chaos. On top of that, this unit’s stories will tell of great misfortune that hadbefallen mankind, much of which is doled out by Nature in the form of disease, drought,floods, plagues, and monsters. Apparently, the progress made by the Sumerian farmers 1500years earlier resulted in a Middle East that was teeming with too many healthy people.Several myths from this unit will reveal attempts to control the human population, such asmortality, impotence, miscarriages, mutations, and even sudden infant death syndrome.In sum, the Babylonians were a city-centered people, not independent family farmers, sotheir reliance on strong leaders and community participation should become evident. Nature,the great provider of clean water and crops in unit 1, becomes the great tormentor in Unit 2.In the Age of Taurus, mankind relied on Nature to provide everything needed to thrive, butin the Age of Aries, Nature’s inconsistencies and indifference become public enemy numberone. This culture gave us the majority of the flood narratives from this region, many of which are hauntingly similar, but all point in the same direction: that Nature cannot betrusted; instead, rely on your king to provide for you. The cultural
axis mundi 
shifts fromgardens to kingdoms, from Nature to Man, and from female to male.

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