Ninurta (Nin Ur: Lord of the Earth/Plough) in Sumerian and Akkadian mythology was the god of Lagash, identified with Ningirsu with whom he may always have been identical. In older transliteration the name is rendered Ninib and in early commentary he was sometimes portrayed as a solar deity.

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 deity Ninhursag.

Ninurta often appears holding a bow and arrow, a sickle sword, or a mace named Sharur: Sharur is capable of speech in the Sumerian legend "Deeds and Exploits of Ninurta" and can take the form of a winged lion and may represent an archetype for the later Shedu.

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 which Enlil requires to maintain his rule. 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 (Gypsum, Strong Copper, the Magilum boat [1]), and finally Anzû is killed by Ninurta who delivers the Tablet to his father, Enlil.

The consort of Ninurta was Ugallu in Nippur and Bau when he was called Ningirsu.

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 capital city of Calah (now Nimrud). In Assyria, Ninurta was worshipped along with 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 harvest-god Kronos, whom the Romans in turn identified with their fertility-god Saturn.

From: Wiki
The god Ninurta has been described in the handbooks of mythology as the warrior god and the god of hunting, and sometimes his role as the patron of agriculture has been emphasised in the scholarly literature. These are important aspects of Ninurta and the definitions are correct. The god Ninurta is a very complex figure and in the present paper I will deal with his aspect as scribe and the god of wisdom, a role which has not been much discussed so far. Ninurta is the city-god of Nippur, the city of letters, where more than 80% of all known Sumerian literary compositions have been found (Gibson 1993). It seems inevitable that scribal activity in the city must have been patronized by some god of the city. Ninurta is a suitable candidate for this role. There is some evidence which confirms that Ninurta is a god patronizing scribal activities. In later Babylonia, the god of scribal arts was Marduk's son Nabu. In my paper I will claim that the relationship between Marduk and Nabu was modelled on the relationship between Enlil and Ninurta and Nabu's role as the scribe among the gods was the inheritance of Ninurta.

A Sumerian myth Ninurta's journey to Eridu describes Ninurta's acquisition of powers in Abzu and he determines the fates together with An in assembly (see Reisman 1971). This myth is an etiological myth. Eridu housed the god of wisdom Ea and his abode Abzu was mythical source of the divine wisdom. According to my view this Ninurta's journey to Eridu was an etiology how Ninurta obtained his wisdom among the other powers for the benefit of the land. In Babylonia, Ninurta's successor Nabû lived in Borsippa, where his temple Ezida had a by-name bīt ţuppi "the tablet house". Ninurta's connection with the Tablet of Destinies is attested in the poorly preserved Sumerian myth "Ninurta and the Turtle".

Ninurta's wisdom and his passion for the scribal arts are attested in his epithets. In Lugale he is called "the very wise" (gal-zu, ln. 152) and "gifted with broad wisdom" (gíštu-dagal, ln. 153). When Ninurta blocked the powerful waters threatening the land by means of stones in the epic, he is described to have applied his great wisdom and cleverness on the situation (347ff.). The Standard Babylonian epic of Anzu describes how Ninurta took hold of the Tablet of Destinies in the battle against Anzu who had stolen it. The possession of the Tablet of Destinies was also an important characteristic of Babylonian Nabu in his capacity as the god of scribal arts. We know that the Anzu epic existed already in an Old Babylonian version which told the same story. So I feel confident to claim that as the holder of the Tablet of Destinies, Ninurta precedes Nabu.

In the Standard Babylonian version, after Ninurta's triumph over Anzu the great gods entrust to Ninurta a divine secret. By seeing the sign of Ninurta's victory, Dagan rejoices, summons all the gods and says to them: "The mighty one has outroared Anzu in his mountain ... Let him stand with the gods his brethren, that he may hear the secret lore, [let him hear] the secret lore of the gods" (III 26.30-31). The knowledge of the secret lore (pirištu) is an award which was not promised to Ninurta by the mother goddess before he went to the battle, but attested in the other sources. Ninurta was called šēmi pirišti "who has heard the secret" (Lugale 153, še-uraš), or bēl pirišti "the master of the secret lore" (see van Dijk 1983: 6). Among the mystical names which are given to Ninurta in the epilogue of the Anzu epic is E-Ibbi-Anu (III, 133) which is explained as 'Master of the Secret Lore' (bēl pirišti - en ad.hal).

There exists a remarkable inconsistency in the Anzu epic in regard to who is Ninurta's father: throughout in the epic it is Enlil who is called the father of Ninurta (I 208, II 19.22) until in II 101 it is surprisingly Ea (cf. SAA Anzu III 159)! Marduk or Enlil and Ea/ Enki also alternate as fathers of Nabû, the Babylonian god of scribal arts (Pomponio 1978: 161-6. Thus the Epic of Anzu offers enough evidence that Ninurta was a wise god who controls the tablet of destinies and this must be related to his role as the god of the scribal arts. The Babylonian god Nabû has taken over these roles to which Sumerian Ninurta of Nippur was the ancestor.

Ninurta's wisdom is probably connected with his swiftness. Ninurta's victory over his enemies was celebrated in the first millennium rituals by a cultic footrace. Swiftness celebrated in these rituals originates with the swiftness of attack by which Ninurta defeated the enemies, but it is also swiftness in understanding. Ninurta is like a victorious king on the military operation who realizes quickly the intentions of enemy and how to vanquish them. The swifter computer the better it is as we all know.

During the second millennium the role of scribe was taken over by Nabu from Ninurta in Babylonia. Ninurta's importance was revived in Assyria by the kings Tukulti-Ninurta the first and Assurnasirpal the second, but from the middle of the eight century Ninurta's role seems to have given to Nabu in Assyria. There are some epithets which attest Ninurta as the god of scribal arts. Like Nabu, Ninurta is sometimes called "sage of the gods" (apkal ilāni), for example in the royal inscription of Assurnasirpal II (Grayson 1991: 194, ln. 5 & parallel 229, ln. 9). In the hymn to Ninurta as the helper in misery, edited by Werner Mayer (1992), the god is in one section described in terms of a scribe: ummânu mudû ša kīma šāri ana mihilti iziqqa u kullat ţupšarrūtu kīma gurunne ina karšišu kamsu "the wise scholar, who like a wind blows (= yearns for?) towards cuneiform signs and (who) has all the craft of the scribe packed into his mind (= stomach) like beer" (section xix). Ninurta is further called the "scribe of Ešarra" (šāţir Ešarra) in a Babylonian ritual text edited by B. Pongratz-Leisten, ina šulmi īrub, text no. 17, ln.9.

Certain kinds of practical documents were associated with the god Ninurta. Piotr Steinkeller in Sale Documents of the Ur III Period published five Nippur sale documents (nos. 22, 27, 29, 59, 60) which use an oath invoking the god Ninurta and the king (mu dnin-urta mu lugal-bi ... pàd). A similar oath occurs already in a Sargonic tablet from Nippur" (ibid.: 73). Some formal similarities between these documents suggest that these may have been products of the same group of scribes, who resided in the same quarter of Nippur. A plausible explanation of this kind of unusual invocation is that at Nippur judicial matters were Ninurta's domain (Steinkeller 1989: 73, n. 209).


FOR THE REST OF THE ESSAY: here (Gateways to Babylon)
A hymn to Ninurta (Ninurta C)

1 line fragmentary ……. ……, lordly son of Enlil, ……. ……, hero who appears in glory, who ……. …… in Enlil's house ……. …… no one ……. …… of E-kur, the rebel lands ……. ……, lord ……. ……, captain, ……. …… king of Urim, ……. ……, king of Adab ……. ……, king of ……. …… E-kur …….
1 line fragmentary …… of Ninlil ……. …… to the …… of Enlil ……. …… heaven and earth, the mother who bore ……. …… Enlil ……. …… of the hero …….
1 line fragmentary …… Zababa ……. …… hero …….
20 lines missing

42-48. …… favourable before Ninurta, the great governor of Enlil, and Ninnibru, the beloved child of An.
4 lines missing
May …… the beloved spouse, Ninnibru, the great queen, be favourable towards you.

49-57. Ninurta, lord of the gods, glory of E-šu-me-ša, speaks most generously in praise: "My father Enlil!" Ninurta …… himself like a lion: "I am the hero belonging to Enlil, I am he who controls the affairs of Nibru. ……, and do not let the birds escape. I am a man after the heart of my father Enlil, and I am the hero beloved by my mother Ninlil. I was born in the mountains; I am strong in the mountains."

58-63. Ninurta, before whose roaring the mountains tremble, hurricane, south storm that flashes with lightning, you belong to Enlil! May it therefore ……, may Ninurta's city, the shrine Nibru -- therefore ……. He is indeed its beloved, is indeed its beloved; the lord is indeed the beloved of E-kur.

64-75. You desire everything in your heart, you wish for everything valuable in your heart. Hero, Enlil's right arm, youth without rival! Ninurta, Enlil's right arm, youth without rival, grandly heaping up …… with the fifty-headed ……, letting no enemies escape from the mountains! Wild raging lion, overpowering the enemy, Ninurta, wild raging lion, overpowering the enemy -- who like a foul moving storm …… the rebel lands and territories! Hero, first choice of his father, Lord Ninurta, first choice of his father! He is the hero, he is the hero, the hero who does not let the mountains escape! He (?) is the hero! He is Ninurta who does not let the mountains escape!

76-86. He is great in his anger (?)! He (?) alone is a hero! No superior god raises himself against him! King who is great in heaven, great on earth, lordly in the east! Ninurta who is great in heaven, great on earth, lordly in the east! Mighty hero Ninurta! Praise be to Father Enlil! Praise be to the …… of intelligence, the lord who decides destinies, to Father Enki! …… Anuna gods ……, favourable before Ninurta, the great governor of Enlil, and Ninnibru, the beloved child of An.

From: here
The Sumero-Babylonian god of rain, fertility, war, thunderstorms, wells, canals, floods, the plough and the South Wind. His name means "lord of the earth" and mankind owed to him the fertile fields and the healthy live-stock. He is a son of Enlil, and his wife is Gula. When the Tablets of Destiny were stolen by the storm-bird Zu he managed to retrieve them. As the 'great hunter' is related to Nimrod, as mentioned in Genesis 10: 8-12. The city of Nippur (ca. 100 km. south of Babylon) was the center of his cult. Ninurta is often confused with Ningirsu, the god of the city of Girsu, and who is probably the earlier form of Ninurta. According to one poem he once dammed up the bitter waters of the underworld and conquered various monsters.

From: here
Ninurta is the Sumerian and Akkadian Lord of the Earth (Ringgren 1973). His father is Enlil, the storm god and the ruling god. Ninurta is a young god and has to prove his worth to the pantheon of gods (Burkert 1986). Ninurta is also responsible for the fertility of the fields by aiding in the irrigation of Sumer by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (Penglase 1994; Ringgren 1973).

Ninurta is the great warrior of the Sumerian gods. He defends them against the monsters Anzu and Asag who live in the mountains. Anzu is depicted “having the head, the body, and forepaws of a lion and the feathers, wings, tail feathers and hind talons of an eagle” (Penglase 1994).

Ninurta, much like Herakles, spends his life performing labors to prove himself to the pantheon of gods (Penglase 1994). According to Akkadian texts dating from 2140 BC, Ninurta performs 12 labors to rid the world of 12 monsters. These monsters include a wild bull/bison, a stag, the Anzu-bird, a lion, and a “seven-headed serpent.” These are referred to as “The Trophies of Ninurta.” Ninurta is also depicted on Mesopotamian seals as toting a club and a bow, and wearing an animal’s skin (Burkert 1986). Some of Ninurta’s deeds were later associated with other gods: Marduk of Babylon, Nabu (son of Marduk), and Nergal, Lord of the Netherworld (Penglase 1994). Herakles was also associated with Nergal, who is shown with a club and bow (Burkert 1986).

Ninurta was later worshipped by the Assyrian kings, who invoked his protection in battle during the first millennium BC. The Assyrians constructed a temple in Ninurta’s honor next to a ziggurat which was probably also dedicated to him in their new capital Nimrud (Penglase 1994).

Cults were also dedicated to Ninurta. These cults focused on his valiant deeds that helped rid the world of monsters. Like Herakles, Ninurta is a force for civilization and order in a chaotic world. Healing was attributed to Ninurta through his consort Gula who was the goddess of healing (Ringgren 1973).

Ninurta differs from Herakles partly because he is the embodiment of all divine powers (Ringgren 1973) and in many other ways. Nevertheless, the association between Ninurta and Herakles is deeper than mere surface characteristics. The “get and bring” idea of their labors are the same. Their function is to make the surroundings hospitable for humans and gods. They turn nature into culture (Burkert 1986). (MAC)

From: here
Ninurta, lord plough, Mesopotamian (Babylonian-Akkadian) [Iraq], is god of thunderstorms and the plough. He was worshipped from around 3500 BC to 200 BC and probably synonymous with Ningirsu having cult centers at Nippur and Girsu, where he was adored in later form. Ninurta was the Sumerian god of the farmers and identified with the plough. Also being the god of thunder and a hero in the Sumerian pantheon he was closely linked with confrontation battles between good and evil which comprise much of Mesopotamian literature. He is one of the several challengers of the malignant dragon or serpent Kur said to inhabit the empty space between the earth's crust and the primeval sea beneath.

This deity is the son on Enlil and Ninhursaga, alternatively Ninlil, and the consort of Gula, the goddess of healing. Ninurta is attributed with the creation of the mountains which he is said to have forged against the demon Asag.

He wears a horned helmet and tiered skirt and carries a weapon, Sarur, which became personified in texts as having its own intelligence and becoming the chief adversary, in the hands of Ninurta, when battling Kur. He carries the double-edged scimitar-maze embellished with lions' heads and, according to some authors, is depicted as a nonhuman form as the thunderbird Imdugud (sling stone), which bears the head of a lion and may represent the hailstones of God. His sanctuary is the E-paduntila.

Ninurta is perceived as a youthful warrior and probably equates with the Babylonian hero god Marduk. His cult involved a journey to Eridu from both Nippur and Girsu. He may be compared to Iskur, who was worshipped mainly by herdsmen as a storm god. A.G.H.

From: here
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