Friday, February 24, 2012


Nergal is an ancient Sumero-Babylonian deity and the god of the netherworld, where he rules with his consort Ereshkigal. He is an evil god who brings war, pestilence, fever and devastation. He is sometimes regarded as representing the sinister aspect of the sun god Shamash. He is the subject of an Akkadian poem which describes his translation from heaven to the underworld. The foremost center of his cult was the city Kuthu. His attributes are the club and the sickle.

From: Here

Nergal (Erragal, Erra, Engidudu - 'lord who prowls by night') -, the Unsparing, god of the underworld, husband of Ereshkigal, lover of Mami. As Erra he is a hunter god, a god of war and plague. He is submissive to Ea. He can open the doorposts to the underworld to allow the passage of a soul.

He achieved his post by refusing to stand before an address of Namtar. When Ereshkigal called him to be punished, he dragged her off of her throne by the hair, and threatened to decapitate her. She offered him the position as her consort and he accepted.

He is an evil aspect of Shamash. He allows Enkidu's spirit to visit Gilgamesh at the behest of Ea. He is sometimes the son of Ea. Prior to his first journey to the underworld, he builds a chair of fine wood under Ea's instruction to give to Ereshkigal as a gift from Anu. He is advised not to take part of the food, drink and entertainment offered there. He is tempted by Ereshkigal and eventually succumbs, sleeping with her for seven days. He then takes his leave, angering her. The gatekeeper lets him out and he climbs the stairway to heaven. He hides from Namtar in heaven, but is discovered and returns to the underworld to marry Ereshkigal. In some versions, on the way back to the Underworld, he seizes control of Namtar's attendant demons and grabs Ereshkigal by the hair. In this position she offers marriage.

He commands the Sebitti, seven warriors who are also the Pleadies, they aid in his killing of noisy, over-populous people and animals. He rallies them when he feels the urge for war, and calls Ishum to light the way. They prefer to be used in war instead of waiting while Erra kills by disease.

He regards Marduk as having become negligent and prepares to attack his people in Babylon. He challenges Marduk in Esagila in Shuanna/Babylon. Marduk responds that he already killed most of the people in the flood and would not do so again. He also states that he could not run the flood without getting off of his throne and letting control slip. Erra volunteers to take his seat and control things. Marduk takes his vacation and Erra sets about trying to destroy Babylon. Ishum intervenes on Babylon's behalf and persuades Erra to stop, but not before he promises that the other gods will acknowledge themselves as Erra's servants.

From: Here


Nergal represents a very particular aspect of death, one that is often and rightly interpreted as inflicted death, for Nergal is also the god of plague and pestilence as well as being closely associated with warfare. Nergal's warlike qualities identify him to a considerable extent with warrior gods such as Ninurta and Zababa (Van deer Toorn et al 1999: 622). In his aspect of a war god, Nergal accompanies the king into battle, delivering death to the enemy. Death brought on by Nergal also had a supernatural dimension, disease often being attributed to demonic agency in Mesopotamia. Indeed, Nergal controls a variety of demons and evil forces, most notoriously the ilū sebettu, the "Seven Gods" who are particularly prominent in the myth of Erra as ag ents of death and destruction (Foster 2005: 880-911). Nergal's association with demons and disease further enhances the apotropaic qualities attributed to him and his circle, although such qualities are often attributed to chthonic deities as a class. The Late Babylonian apotropaic figrines representing Nergal (Ellis 196 or the use of the Erra epic as house amulets (Reiner 1960) can be seen as a manifestation of this.

Genealogy and Syncretisms

Nergal's earliest incarnation is in the Early Dynastic Period as Meslamtaea, the god of the underworld whose main cult centre was in the city of Kutha (Lambert 1973: 356). From the Old Babylonian Period onwards, Nergal was syncretised with Erra, a Semitic death god (Wiggermann 1998-2000d: 217). Son of Enlil and Ninlil or Bēlet ilī (Black and Green 1992: 136), Nergal had several spouses: Laṣ, a little-known goddess of possibly non-Sumerian origin; Mamma/Mammi/Mammitum (Lambert 1973: 356), likewise a relatively minor deity; Ninšubur, attendant of Inanna/Ištar; Admu, a West Semitic goddess (Wiggermann 1998-2000d: 219-20); and finally Ereškigal, to whom his marriage is a relatively late development. In the myth of Nergal and Ereškigal (Foster 2005: 506-24), Ereškigal reigns as queen of the underworld into which Nergal is sent to apologize for having offended Namtar, Ereškigal's vizier. There, Nergal is seduced by Ereškigal but manages to trick his way out of the netherworld, otherwise known as "the land of no return". Ereškigal is beside herself with grief at the loss of her lover and finally has him brought back to her. From this point onwards, they rule the underworld jointly (Gurney 1960). Nergal seems to have been 'forced' into this union in more ways than one, for the myth probably reflects a deliberate attempt in the Old Babylonian Period to reconcile northern and southern Mesopotamian traditions which ascribed rule of the netherworld to Ereškigal and Nergal respectively (Dalley 2000: 164).


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Nergal actually seems to be in part a solar deity, sometimes identified with Shamash, but only a representative of a certain phase of the sun. Portrayed in hymns and myths as a god of war and pestilence, Nergal seems to represent the sun of noontime and of the summer solstice that brings destruction, high summer being the dead season in the Mesopotamian annual cycle.

Nergal was also the deity who presides over the netherworld, and who stands at the head of the special pantheon assigned to the government of the dead (supposed to be gathered in a large subterranean cave known as Aralu or Irkalla). In this capacity he has associated with him a goddess Allatu or Ereshkigal, though at one time Allatu may have functioned as the sole mistress of Aralu, ruling in her own person. In some texts the god Ninazu is the son of Nergal and Allatu/Ereshkigal.

Ordinarily Nergal pairs with his consort Laz. Standard iconography pictured Nergal as a lion, and boundary-stone monuments symbolise him with a mace surmounted by the head of a lion.

Nergal's fiery aspect appears in names or epithets such as Lugalgira, Sharrapu ("the burner," a reference to his manner of dealing with outdated teachings), Erra, Gibil (though this name more properly belongs to Nusku), and Sibitti. A certain confusion exists in cuneiform literature between Ninurta and Nergal. Nergal has epithets such as the "raging king," the "furious one," and the like. A play upon his name—separated into three elements as Ne-uru-gal (lord of the great dwelling) -- expresses his position at the head of the nether-world pantheon.

In the late Babylonian astral-theological system Nergal is related to the planet Mars. As a fiery god of destruction and war, Nergal doubtless seemed an appropriate choice for the red planet, and he was equated by the Greeks either to the combative demigod Heracles (Latin Hercules) or to the war-god Ares (Latin Mars) -- hence the current name of the planet. In Babylonian ecclesiastical art the great lion-headed colossi serving as guardians to the temples and palaces seem to symbolise Nergal, just as the bull-headed colossi probably typify Ninurta.

Nergal's chief temple at Cuthah bore the name Meslam, from which the god receives the designation of Meslamtaeda or Meslamtaea, "the one that rises up from Meslam". The name Meslamtaeda/Meslamtaea indeed is found as early as the list of gods from Fara while the name Nergal only begins to appear in the Akkadian period. Amongst the Hurrians and later Hittites Nergal was known as Aplu, a name derived from the Akkadian Apal Enlil, (Apal being the construct state of Aplu) meaning "the son of Enlil". As God of the plague, he was invoked during the "plague years" during the reign of Suppiluliuma, when this disease spread from Egypt.

The cult of Nergal does not appear to have spread as widely as that of Ninurta, but in the late Babylonian and early Persian period, syncretism seems to have fused the two divinities, which were invoked together as if they were identical. Hymns and votive and other inscriptions of Babylonian and Assyrian rulers frequently invoke him, but we do not learn of many temples to him outside of Cuthah. Sennacherib speaks of one at Tarbisu to the north of Nineveh, but significantly, although Nebuchadnezzar II (606 BC - 586 BC), the great temple-builder of the neo-Babylonian monarchy, alludes to his operations at Meslam in Cuthah, he makes no mention of a sanctuary to Nergal in Babylon. Local associations with his original seat—Kutha—and the conception formed of him as a god of the dead acted in making him feared rather than actively worshipped. Nergal was also called Ni-Marad in Akkadian[citation needed]. Like Lugal Marad in Sumerian, the name means "king of Marad," a city, whose name means "Rebellion" in Akkadian, as yet unidentified. The name Ni-Marad, in Akkadian means "Lord of Marad". The chief deity of this place, therefore, seems to have been Nergal, of whom, therefore, Lugal-Marad or Ni-Marad is another name. Thus, some scholars have drawn the connection of Ni-Marad being yet another deified name for Nimrod, the rebel king of Babylon and Assyria mentioned in Genesis 10: 8-11.

From: Wiki 

Nergal, Mesopotamian (Sumerian and Babylonian-Akkadian) [Iraq}, was a chthonic underworld god, worshipped from c. 3500 BC to 200 BC. His centers of worship were Kuthu and Tarbisu. He was the son of Enlil and Ninlil and the consort of the underworld goddess Ereskigal. He is depicted as the god of war and sudden death as well as the Emeslam. He is usually shown as a bearded figure emerging from the ground carrying a double-edged mace-scimitar typically embellished with lion heads. By the Hellenic period he is identified with the god Hercules. A.G.H.

From: here


Also see:
JSTOR (free) PDF:
Hymn to Nergal
The Marriage of Nergal and Ereshkigal -- the text
4.15.2 A hymn to Nergal (Nergal B): transliteration | translation
4.15.3 A tigi to Nergal (Nergal C): transliteration | translation
Gateways to Babylon: Nergal
Gateways to Babylon: NERGAL AND ERESHKIGAL : How the God of War conceded defeat to the Queen of the Great Below

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