The Assyro-Babylonian Mythology FAQ
The Assyro-Babylonian Mythology FAQ version
by Christopher B. Siren
cbsiren at alum dot mit dot edu
last revised (October, 2003)
changes since last revision:
October 2003: added the Biblical parallels section (in progress) and some more citations
August 1999: added clarifying remark to Bahamut answer.
October 1995: lengthened Bahamut answer; added a couple
external links; made changes for move to UNH.
The web version at home.comcast.net/~chris.s/assyrbabyl-faq.html is the most
up to date, however the last copy of this FAQ posted to Usenet should also be
available via anonymous ftp at:
rtfm.mit.edu at /pub/usenet/news.answers/assyrbabyl-faq
First, some definitions: Mesopotamia, in general, refers to the
area of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Assyria, was the northern
portion of Mesopotamia, who's capital was Ashur (until 883 BCE, when it
was moved to Calah/Nimrud) and whose reach included the major city of
Nineveh (Ninua). Sumer refers to the southern delta region, whose primary
cities included Ur, Uruk, and Eridu. Akkad was a region north of Sumer
which included the area around modern Baghdad as well as the ancient sites
of Babylon, Kish, and Nippur.
The political organization of the region was basically a
collection of city-states. Sargon of Agade (2371-16 BCE) united the
regions of Sumer and Akkad. His descendants eventually lost control
of the empire due to pressures from the Hurrians, the Hittites, and
other invaders, not to mention internal pressures. In the south Sumer
again gained ascendancy, dominated by the city-state Ur. Sumer then
collapsed under the Amorites around 2000 BCE. They established many sub-
kingdoms including Assyria and Babylon.
Assyria attained a brief period of dominance under Shamshi-Adad
(1813-1781 BCE) but was soon superseded by Babylon under Hammurapi
(Hammurabi) (1792-50 BCE) who established what
once were thought to be the first written law codes (more recent
discoveries include law codes from a couple centuries prior to Hammurapi).
The first Babylonian dynasty had begun in 1894 BCE, coinciding
with the Old Babyonian period of literature. It collapsed in 1595
BCE when the Hittites sacked its eponymous capital.
Assyria had been taken over by the Mitanni (a Hurrian
speaking kingdom) but established its independence in the mid 14th century
BCE. Under Tukulti-Ninurta I Assyria dominated the entire fertile
crescent in the late 13th century. By the time of Tiglath-Pileser I,
about a century later it had directed more of its attention westwards
towards the Levant in the West and lost control of Babylon and the
south. Slowly Assyria began to expand again, reaching its apex between
750 and 650 BCE under the rulers Tiglath-Pileser III, Sargon II,
Sennacherib, and Ashuribanipal (668-627 BCE). The empire collapsed from
invaders with Nineveh falling to Nabopalasar of Babylon in 612 BCE and the
empire dying in 605 BCE.
Meanwhile, Babylon had been reasserting itself. Nabopalasar had begun the
Chaldean dynasty during his rule begining in 625 BCE. This period is
also known as the Neo-Babylonian period although that term
also describes the language of that era. Under Nabopalasar's son
Nebuchadnezzar II, Babylon expanded westward, taking Jerusalem in 586 BCE.
Babylon fell in the mid-540's to Cyrus the Persian whose empire lasted
until the late 300's BCE when Alexander of Macedon established his empire
and renamed the area "Mesopotamia". (See also Shawn Bayern's
Well some of them were mostly like the Sumerian Deities, but as
you might expect, they have their own kinks and differences. In general
the following relationships apply:
Sumerian name Babylonian Name
Ki/Ninhursag Aruru, Mammi
Ninlil Mullitu, Mylitta
This is not a cut and dry relation. Sumerian and Babylonian names
appear in the same Babylonian document, sometimes referring to the same
entity. In addition, there are numerous local variations of these
deities names which, in the next section, such 'optional' names appear
in parentheses after the more prevalent name.
- "The Epic of Creation (Enuma Elish): Tablet I"
He is the underworld ocean, the begetter of the skies (Anshar) and the earth (Kishar)
and the father of Lahmu and Lahamu.
He could not quell the noise of them or of their children, so he colluded with
his vizier Mummu to silence the gods and allow his mate
Tiamat to rest, after Tiamat herself rejected the idea.
Ea found out about his plans, cast a sleeping spell on him
and killed him.
(Dalley pp. 232-235, 318)
- "The Epic of Creation (Enuma Elish): Tablets I-III"
She is primeval Chaos, bearer of the skies (Anshar)
and the earth (Kishar) and the mother of Lahmu, and Lahamu. Traditionally
conceived of as a serpent or dragon of some sort, this idea does not have
any basis in the Enuma Elish itself. Within that work her
physical description includes, a tail, a thigh, "lower parts" (which
shake together), a belly, an udder, ribs, a neck, a head, a skull, eyes,
nostrils, a mouth, and lips. She has insides, a heart, arteries, and blood.
The clamor of the younger gods disturbed her, but she continued to indulge
When her mate Apsu and his vizier Mummu suggested that they kill the younger gods, she
grew furious, then calmed down and rejected the plan. Her restless
subservient gods goaded her into action after Apsu is slain. They
prepared to wage war against the other gods. As Mother Hubur, (the
underworld river, who fashions all things), she bore giant snakes with
venom for blood, and cloaked dragons with a godlike radiance yet with a
terrible visage, for the war. She rallied a horned serpent, a
mushussu-dragon, a lahmu-hero, a ugallu-demon, a rabid
dog, a scorpion-man, umu-demons, a fish-man, a bull-man, and eleven
others underneath her champion and new lover, Qingu. She gave Qingu the Tablet of Destinies to
facilitate his command and attack.
(Dalley pp. 231-249)
"The Epic of Creation (Enuma Elish): Tablets IV-V"
Marduk came with his host to attack her. Qingu's
strategy initially confused him, and Tiamat tried to enspell him, hurling
jibes at him. She was rebuffed and incited into single combat with
Marduk. She continued to cast her spell and Marduk netted her, and threw
a wind at her. She tried to swallow it and was undone - distended, shot,
sliced in two and cut in the heart. Her crushed skull heralded her
death, and half of her body was used to roof up the sky. Her eyes became the
sources of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
(Dalley pp. 249-257)
- Lahmu and Lahamu
- 'the hairy one' or 'muddy' they have three pairs
of curls, and are naked except for a triple sash. Dalley (p. 324)
"The Epic of Creation (Enuma Elish)>): Tablets I-III"
They were the first children of Tiamat and
Apsu. Kappa was sent to fetch
them by Anshar, to
help send off Marduk on his fight with Tiamat and be
rallied to his
side. They complied and helped find a princely shrine for Marduk.
(Dalley pp. 232, 244-249)
- - 'whole sky' He is the father of Anu and the child of
Tiamat and Apsu. He is often paired
with Kishara, and his qualities were
assimilated with Ashur. When Ea
learned of Tiamat's planned war, Anshar
tried to stir him into attacking her first, but was rebuffed. He turned
to Anu and sent him on a peace mission to Tiamat, but Anu returned
unsuccessful. An assembly was convened and Marduk came
forth at Ea's
urging, promising to deliver Tiamat's defeated body to Anshar's feet.
He required of the assembly a promise that he would be given the
leadership of the pantheon after he is victorious. He had
Kappa gather Lahmu, Lahamu, and the other gods together to send off Marduk
on his fight and rally them to his side. When they arrive they help find a
princely shrine for Marduk.
- - 'whole earth' , She is the mother of Anu and the
Tiamat and Apsu.
- - Sumerian for "heaven", a sky god, father and king of the gods.
He is the son of Anshar and Kishar.
He lives in the third heaven. The
Eanna in Uruk was dedicated both to him and consort. His first consort
was Antu. They produced the Anunnaki - the underworld gods, and the
utukki - the seven evil demons. His second consort was Innina (Ishtar).
He is a god of monarchs and is not friendly to the common people. He is
a "King of the Igigi". He is assigned the sky as his domain in
'Atrahasis'. His 'kishru's (shooting stars) have awesome strength. He
has the ability that anything he puts into words, becomes reality.
He is Niudimmud's (Ea's) father.
When Anzu stole the Tablet of Destinies from Ellil, he called for one
of the gods to slay Anzu and thereby greatly increase his reputation.
He gave Marduk the four winds to play with. He
made a whirlwind and a flood wave and stirred up Tiamat on purpose. When Tiamat's retaliation
for Apsu's death was discovered, Anshar sent him on a
peace mission to her, but he returned unsuccessfully. He helps form a
princely shrine for Marduk prior to his battle with Tiamat, and gives him
the Anu-power of decreeing fates, such that his word is law.
He calls Dumuzi and Gizzida speak on Adapa's behalf.
He and Earth father the Sebitti. He gives them
fearsome fates and
powers and puts them at Erra's command, to aid in
killing noisy, over-populous people and animals.
He agrees to send the Bull of Heaven after Gilgamesh on Ishtar's
behalf, if she has made sure that the people of Uruk are properly
provisioned for seven years. He decrees that either Gilgamesh or Enkidu must die for the slaying of Humbaba and the
Bull of Heaven. He sends Kakka to Kurnugi to tell Ereshkigal to send a messenger to receive
a gift from him.
(See also the Sumerian An
and the Hittite Anus)
Symbol: sacred shine surmounted by the divine horned cap.
Sacred number: 60
Astrological region: heavenly equator
Sacred animal: the heavenly Bull
- - Sumerian for "the earth", she is a colorless being who was
the first consort of Anu. They produced the Anunnaki
- the underworld gods, and the utukki - the seven evil demons. She was
replaced by Isthar (Inanna) who is sometimes her daughter.
- Aruru (Ninmah, Nintu, Ninhursaga, Belet-ili, Mami)
- -She is the mother goddess and was responsible for the creation of
man with the help of Enlil or Enki. She is also called the womb
goddess, and midwife of the gods. Acting on Ea's
advice and direction, she mixed clay with the blood of the god Geshtu-e, in order to shape and birth seven
men and seven women. These people would bear the workload of the Igigi.
She also added to the creation of Gilgamesh,
and, at Anu's command, made
Enkidu in Anu's image by pinching off a piece of
clay, throwing it into
the wilderness, and birthing him there. Ea called her to offer her
beloved Ninurta as the one who should hunt Anzu. She does so. (See also the Hittite
- - the maker or mother of fate.
- - one of "the pure goddesses", Ea's mother,
associated with fresh water.
- Ellil (Enlil) -
Sumerian for "wind/storm-god".
- Initially the leader
of the pantheon, he has since relinquished his spot to Anu.
Possible slayer of Enmesharra and avenger of his
father Anu. His role in this was upplanted by Marduk
by the Babylonians. He is a short-tempered god who was responsible for the
great flood. He is the creator of mankind. He is thought to favor and help
those in need. He guards the "tablets
of destiny", which allow him to determines the fate of all things
animate or inanimate. They was once stolen from him by a Zu, a storm-
bird (a bird with some human qualities). They were recovered and Zu
faced judgment by Ellil. His consort is Ninlil, his chief-minister is
Nusku. He was also god of the lands and of the earth. He is a "King of
the Anunnaki". He was their counselor warrior. He and his people
receive the earth in 'Atrahasis'. His temple is Duranki.
When the Igigi rebelled against him, and surrounded his house and
called for Anu. After man was created in response to the Igigi's
grievances, he grew weary of their noise and released several disasters
upon them, after each one, man recovered and then he released a new one.
The disasters included disease, flood, drought, and the great flood. He
appointed Humbaba to guard the cedar forest and terrify
mankind. He decreed that Enkidu must die for the
slaying of the Bull of Heaven and Humbaba. He does not answer Gilgamesh's plea to restore Enkidu to life. He
found a throne for Etana to rule from in Kish. He
appointed Anzu as the guardian of his bath chamber,
but while bathing, Anzu stole from him the Tablet of Destinies, and his
Ellil-power. Ninurta, with Ea's advise
and Belet-ili's urgings slew Anzu and recovered
the Tablet of Destinies. (See also the Hittite Ellil)
Symbol: Seven small circles representing the Pleiades.
Sacred number: 50
Astrological region: north of "the way of Anu" ie. 12 degrees
north of the equator.
- Ea (Enki, Nudimmud)
- - god of the waters. He is in charge of the
bolt which bars the sea. He knows everything. He is the "Lord of
Wisdom" and "Lord of Incantations". When he speaks, of a thing, it will
be made. He is the son of Anu, but sometimes he is
the son of Anshar.
Dumkina is his consort. He created Zaltu as a complement to Ishtar.
He discovered the plot of Apsu and Mummu, put Apsu under a sleeping
spell, and slew him and put Mummu into a daze, tied him up, and slew
him. He then named his quarters Apsu, the underworld ocean that
supports the world. He and Damkina produced Bel and
Marduk. (Bel is likely to be another name for
He learned that Tiamat was planning a war of
revenge against the gods. His father Anshar tries to spur him into making
the first attack against Tiamat, but Ea rebuffs him. When Anu's peace
mission fails, he urges Marduk into action.
He suggests the method of creating man, in response to the heavy
workload of the Igigi. As mankind's patron, he is the instructor of all
crafts, writing, building, farming, and magic. He advises mankind when
other gods would do them harm. He granted Adapa
understanding, to teach mankind. When Adapa used this knowledge to break
the wing of the South Wind, he cursed him and told him to complain of Dumuzi and Gizzida's
absence to Anu. While in Anu's court, he advises Adapa not to eat the
bread of eternal life (lest he forfeit his life on earth). He refuses
to flood mankind for Ellil. Eventually he accedes,
but only after advising Atrahasis to build a
boat in which to weather the flood.
He tells Nergal to allow Enkidu's spirit to visit with Gilgamesh. When Ea is informed of Ishtar's imprisonment in the Underworld, he creates
'His appearance is bright' to stand at Ereshkigal's gate and mellow her mood and have her
swear an oath by the great gods. He instructs Nergal on how to build the
gift throne for Ereshkigal, and hides him with spring water to hide him
from Namtar after he returned
from the underworld.
When Anu and the gods could not locate a volunteer to kill Anzu, he
told the Igiggi that he would pick one. He instructs Belet-ili/Mami to
send Ninurta to slay Anzu and, through Sharur advises Ninurta on how to
defeat the creature. (See also the Canaanite Heyan aka
Kothar-u-Khasis and the Hittite Ayas)
Symbol: Ram's head; goat-fish (a goat's head on a fish's body)
Sacred number: 40
Astrological region: 12 degrees south in the sky (includes Pisces
- - the craftsman god. He is attendant to Ea and Apsu's vizier.
He is very fond of Apsu and colludes with him to disperse the younger
gods when they disturb Tiamat, even after Tiamat rejects the plan. Ea
found out about his plan, enspelled him and tied him up.
- Qingu (older spelling - Kingu)
- - Tiamat's battle leader and second
husband/lover after Apsu. He is promoted and enhanced
to a leading position from among the ranks. Tiamat places the Tablet of
Destinies in his possession, giving him the Anu-power, such that his word is law and affects
reality. He gives his army fire-quenching breath and paralyzing
venom. His battle strategy initially confuses Marduk. He is defeated by Marduk and counted among
the dead gods. For his part in the war he was made by Marduk to provide
the blood for the creation of man - filling the role that Geshtu-e takes in other versions of the creation of
- Sin (Nannar)
- - moon god, son of Enlil. He has a beard of
Lapis Lazuli and rides a winged bull. His consort is Ningal. He is the father of Shamash. He does not answer Gilgamesh's plea to restore Enkidu to life.
Sacred number: 30
Sphere of influence: the moon, calendars, vegetation, cattle
- - the consort of Sin, the mother of Shamash
- Ishtar (Ishhara, Irnini, Inanna)
"The Epic of Gilgamesh"
|She is Anu's second
daughter of Anu and Antum,
(sometimes daughter of Sin), and sometimes
the sister of Ereshkigal. She is the goddess
of love, procreation, and war. She is armed with a quiver and bow. Her
temples have special
prostitutes of both genders. She is often accompanied by a lion, and
sometimes rides it. The Eanna in Uruk is dedicated both to her and Anu.
As Irnini, she has a parakku (throne-base) at the cedar mountain.|
"The Descent of Ishtar to the Underworld"
She determines to go to the Underworld. She threatened to smash
the gate and raise the dead so that they would eat and outnumber the
living unless the gatekeeper would open it for her. She holds the great
keppu-toy (a whipping top). She is allowed in by the gate keeper, who
takes her through seven gates to Ereshkigal's
realm. By Ereshkigal's rites, she is stripped of items of clothing as
she passes through each of the gates: first her crown, then her earrings,
then her necklace, then her tudditu (breast pins), then her belt of
birthstones, then her wrist and ankle bangles, and finally her
garment. While in the underworld, no creatures engaged in acts of
procreation. She was kept in Egalgina and brought forth by Namtar after being sprinkled with the water of life,
and after 'His appearance is bright' has been cursed. She is led back out
through the gates, given back her accouterments, and released in exchange
for Dumuzi (Tammuz).
(Image from the Oriental Institute at U. Chicago)|
loved Tammuz in her youth, although he spends half
the year in the nether world wailing. She loved a lion, a stallion, a
shepherd, all of whom she required great sacrifice from and abandoned.
She loved Ishullanu, a gardener who offered her fruit, but was taken
aback when she revealed herself to him, so she turned him into a frog.
After Gilgamesh cleans himself up, following
his defeat of Humbaba,
she asks him to be her lover and husband, and offers him many gifts and
the homage of earthly rulers and kingdoms. She is rejected, both
because of her godly nature, and as a fair-weather lover. Ishtar asks
Anu to send the Bull of Heaven to kill Gilgamesh, and he agrees.
(See also the Hittite Shaushka
and the Canaanite Astarte
Symbol: an eight or sixteen-pointed star
Sacred number: 15
Astrological region: Dibalt (Venus) and the Bowstar (Sirius)
Sacred animal: lion, (dragon)
- - the barmaid, a manifestation of Ishtar who
dwells at the lip of the sea, beyond which is the Land of Life, where Utnapishtim lives. She speaks with Gilgamesh. She wears a veil.
- Shamash (Babbar, Utu)
- Shamash is the sun god, the son of Sin and Ningal. He rises from the mountains with rays out of
his shoulders. He enters and exits the underworld through a set of gates
in the mountain (exits from Mt. Mashu, "Gilgamesh IX ii") guarded by
scorpion-people. He travels both on foot and in a chariot, pulled by
fiery mules. He upholds truth, and justice. He is a lawgiver and
informs oracles. Nergal is a corrupt aspect of his
In Kish, the eagle and the serpent swore an oath to Shamash that they
would not overstep the limits of Shamash. The eagle broke the oath and
ate the eggs of the serpent. Shamash, 'whose net is as wide as earth',
told the serpent how to serve the eagle justice. The serpent lured the
eagle with a bull carcass and captured him. The eagle requested to be
spared and the serpent refused, saying that Shamash's punishment would
fall on him if he did not carry it out. He cut the eagle's wings and
left him to die in a pit. The eagle prayed to Shamash for mercy, and
Shamash refused to help personally, but sent Etana
to help the eagle. He agreed to help Etana's infertility problem if
Etana would help the eagle.
"Epic of Gilgamesh"
He loves Gilgamesh, hates evil and instigates
Gilgamesh's quest against Humbaba, guiding him and
receiving prayers from him along the way. He tries to intercede to Ellil on Enkidu's behalf, but is
unsuccessful. He rebukes Enkidu for cursing the Stalker and the temple
prostitute for bringing him out of the wild.
See also the Hittite Sun-god
and the Canaanite Shapshu.
Symbol: Solar disk with a four point star inside with rays
coming from between the points. A winged disk.
Sacred Number: 20
- - Shamash's consort
- Anshar and Anu's vizier, who is
sent to Kurnugi to deliver Ereshkigal the message
that Anu wishes to deliver a gift to her via one of her messengers. Anshar
sends him to round up Lahmu and Lahamu to send off Marduk for his
battle with Tiamat and rally them to his side.
- Ellil's consort.
(see also the Sumerian Ninlil.)
- the god of fire and Ellil's vizier.
- - the god of fire, Anunitu (Antu)'s son. He despairs
and will not attack Anzu after Anzu has stolen the Tablet
of Destinies from Ellil.
- Ishum (Hendursanga - 'lofty mace')
- - He is the god of fire, and is
adept at using weapons. He lights the way in front of Erra and the Sebitti. He advises Erra against attacking
Marduk or his people in Babylon. When Erra takes Marduk's seat, Ishum persuades him against destroying
Babylon, finally appeasing him by promising that the other gods would
acknowledge themselves as his servants.
- - Ellil's doorkeeper in Nippur.
- - Ea's lover, mother of Bel and
Marduk (note Bel is likely to be another title for
- Nash (Nanshe)
- - one of "the pure goddesses", Ea's daughter. Her cult
center is Sirara near Lagash.
- - "strife", goddess created by Ea to complement Ishtar.
- Ninurta (shares some characteristics with Ningrisu)
- Chamberlain of the Anunnaki, the war god, the champion of the land. He is
the child of Ellil and Mami. He was
born in Ekur, Ellil's temple in Ekur. He is responsible for some small scale
irrigation. He has a bow and arrow, sometimes they are poisoned. He also
carries the mace, Sharur, which can act as a messenger between Ninurta
and other beings (notably Ea). He can marshal the Seven
of Battle, who can generate whirlwinds.
He bound the Mountain of Stones in his fury, conquered the Anzu with his weapon and slew the bull-man inside the
Sea. (Dalley p. 204).
After the Tablet of Destinies was stolen, Belit-ili,
at Ea's advice, instructed him to kill Anzu. Initially his assault was futile,
but Sharur relayed advise from Ea to him, which, when it was carried out
allowed him to slay Anzu in a great onslaught. He recovered the Tablet of
Destinies for Ellil. Nissaba performs a purification
ceremony on him and he receives the following new names and shrines:
Duku - 'holy mound' in Sumerian,
Hurabtil - an Elamite god,
Shushinak - patron god of the Elamite city Susa,
Lord of the Secret,
Pabilsag - god of the antediluvian city Larak,
Nin-Azu - god of Eshunna,
Ishtaran - god of Der,
Zababa - warrior god of Kish,
Lugalbanda - Gilgamesh's father,
Lugal-Marada - patron god of Marad,
Warrior Tishpak - similar to Nin-Azu,
Warrior of Uruk,
Lord of the Boundary-Arrow,
Panigara - a warrior god, and
Papsukkal - vizier of the great gods.
- Known as 'the great wild cow' and the great queen, she is Gilgamesh's mother and Lugalbanda's mate. She is wise, 'knows everything'
and interprets Gilgamesh's dreams. She offers incense and drink to Shamash and questions his decision to send Gilgamesh
against Humbaba. When doing so, she wears a circlet
on her head and an ornament on her breast. She adopts Enkidu prior to the quest against Humbaba.
- - son of Ea and Dumkina. He
supplants the other Babylonian deities to become the central figure of their
pantheon. He is a "King of the Igigi" He often works with and asks questions
of his father. He has fifty names many of which are those of other deities
whose attributes he usurped. He was of proud form and piercing stare, born
mature, powerful, and perfect and superior. He has four eyes, four
ears, and emits fire from his mouth when he speaks. He is also gifted
Anu gave him the four winds to play with. When Anu's peace
mission to Tiamat fails, Ea urges him into action. He
goes before Anshar and the divine assembly and declares
that he will defeat Tiamat and lay her head at his feet, but that the assembly
must promise that he should be the one to fix fates and more or less assume
the role of the leader of the pantheon. Anshar, Lahamu, and Anu find him a shrine and Anu instills upon him
the Anu-power in which, his word decrees fate. He is proclaimed king and
invested with the scepter, throne, and staff-of-office. He is given an
unfaceable weapon, the flood-weapon. He takes a bow and arrow and mace. He
puts lightning in front of him, marshals his winds, makes a net to encircle
Tiamat, fills his body with flame. He rides his storm-chariot driven by
Slayer, Pitiless, Racer, and Flyer, poison-toothed, tireless steeds. He had a
spell on his lips and an anti-toxin in his hand. He led the gods to battle.
Qingu's strategy confused him. Tiamat tried to
enspell him and wheedled at him. Marduk reproaches her and calls her out
for single combat. She looses her temper and they fight. He unleashes
his weapons at her, distended her body with winds, shot her in the belly
with an arrow, split her in two and slit her heart. He defeats the rest
of her forces and retrieves the Tablet of Destinies.
He smashed Tiamat's skull to herald her death and made half of her
body the roof of the sky. He leveled Apsu, measured it and established
numerous shrines for many of the gods. He set up stands for the gods,
constructed the heavens and regulated the year, giving Shamash some
dominion over the months and the year. He made the Tigris and Euphrates
rivers from Tiamat's eyes and made mountains from her udders. He
smashed the weapons of Tiamat's army and put images of them at the gates
to the underworld. He set up his temple at Esharra and his seat in
Babylon. The gods honored him as king. He put blood and bones together
as and made early man to bear the work of the gods, as in Atrahasis.
For Qingu's part in the war he was made to provide the blood for the
creation of man. He divided the Anunnaki and placed 300 to guard the
sky, and six hundred to dwell in heaven and earth. He had them create
Babylon building the Esagalia temple and a high ziggurat. Anshar gave
him many new names: 1. Asarluhi, 2. Marduk, 3. The Son, The Majesty of
the Gods, 4. Marukka, 5. Mershakushu, 6. Lugal-dimmer-ankia (King of
heaven and earth), 7. Bel, 8. Nari-lugal-dimmer-ankia, 9. Asarluhi, 10.
Namtila, 11. Namru, 12. 'Asare, 13. Asar-alim, 14. Asar-alim-nuna, 15.
Tutu, 16. Zi-ukkina, 17. Ziku, 18. Agaku, 19. Shazu, 20. Zisi, 21.
Suhrim, 22. Suhgurim, 23. Zahrim, 24. Zahgurim, 25. Enbilulu, 26.
Epadun, 27. Gugal, 28. Hegal, 29. Sirsir, 30. Malah, 31. Gil, 32.
Gilima, 33. Agilima, 34. Zulum, 35. Mummu, 36. Zulum-ummu, 37. Gizh-
numun-ab, 38. Lugal-ab-dubur, 39. Pagal-guena, 40. Lugal-Durmah, 41.
Aranuna, 42. Dumu-duku, 43. Lugal-duku, 44. Lugal-shuanna, 45. Iruga,
46. Irqingu, 47. Kinma, 48. Kinma, 49. E-sizkur, 50. Addu, 51. Asharu,
52. Neberu, 53. Enkukur. He becomes a firm lawgiver and judge who, when
angered is not stoppable.
Later he becomes somewhat negligent and Erra
challenges him by preparing to attack his people in Babylon. He
responds to the challenge by saying that he already killed most of the
people in the flood and would not do so again. He also states that no-
one would be in control of things if he got off of his throne to work up
a flood, to which Erra volunteers to run things from Marduk's throne.
- Bel (Canaanite Baal)
- Cleverest of the clever and sage of the gods, he is the child
of Ea and Dumkina. This name
(meaning 'lord') is most likely referring to Marduk.
- Ashur (A-sir, Arusar, A-shar, Assur)
- god of Assyria and war. He is a "King of the Igigi"
Symbol: winged disk enclosing upper body, while he shoots an
- - Shamash's servant.
- - vizier of the Great Gods, son of Sin. While Ishtar was in the Underworld, he became gloomy and
informed Sin and Ea of this plight.
- - the weather god's servant.
- Adad (the Canaanite Hadad, the Sumerian Ishkur, the Hurrian Teshub, the Canaanite/Egyptian Resheph,
- a storm god, Anu's son. He
holds a lightning bolt in his right hand and an axe in his left. He is
partially responsible for the flood. He despairs and will not attack
Anzu after Anzu has stolen the Tablet of Destinies
Sacred number: 6
Sacred animal: Bull
- - Anu and Ishtar's son. He
despairs and will not attack Anzu after Anzu has stolen
the Tablet of Destinies from Ellil.
- - the carpenter god. He carries the pure axe of the sun.
- - creator of god and man, goldsmith god.
- - 'lord strong-arm' patron god of smiths. He chews copper and
- Ereshkigal (Allatu)
- - the supreme goddess of the underworld.
Nergal is her consort. She is often considered Ishtar's sister. When
angered, her face grows livid and her lips grow black.
She doesn't know why Ishtar would visit her, but she allows her in,
according to the ancient rites. She instructs Namtar to
diseases upon Ishtar. When 'His appearance is bright' tries to get her
to swear an oath, she curses him. She has Namtar release Ishtar in
exchange for Dumuzi.
Anu sends Kakka to her with a message
and then sends Nergal to give
her a throne upon which she is to sit and give judgment. She offers
Nergal food, drink, a foot bath, and entices him with her body.
Eventually he succumbs and they sleep with each other for seven days.
She is enraged when he wishes to leave. She sends Namtar to heaven to
request that Anu, Ellil, and Ea send
Nergal to her as one of the few
favors she has ever had. If they do not, she will raise the dead and
they will eat and outnumber the living. Nergal is brought back. In some
versions of the myth, Nergal takes control of Namtar's attendant demons
and grabs Ereshkigal by the hair. In this position she proposes
marriage to him. In both versions they are married. (See also Sumerian Ereshkigal and the Hittite Lelwanis)
- tablet-scribe of the underworld. She kneels before
- - the Fate-Cutter, Ereshkigal's messenger and
herald of death. He commands sixty diseases, which are grouped by the
part of the body which they affect. Offerings to him may stave off
diseases. He takes Ishtar back out of the Underworld at
Ereshkigal's command. He acts as her messenger to Anu.
- - the cattle god, he resides in the underworld, in
- 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. (See also Sumerian
- - plague god, underling of Nergal
- - Underworld god
- - a dread female demon also known as 'she who erases'.
- - god of writing and wisdom
- - the guardian of the first gate of the underworld. (Dalley p. 175,
"Nergal and Ereshkigal"). Also known as Neti to the Sumerians.
- - a guardian of the gate of heaven; a god of the
- Tammuz (Dumuzi, Adonis)
- the brother and spouse to Ishtar, or the
lover of her youth. He is a vegetation god. He went into the
underworld and was recovered through the intervention of Ishtar. He is
sometimes the guardian of heaven's gates and sometimes a god of the
underworld. He is friends with Ningizzia. He
is exchanged for Ishtar
in the Underworld. He guards the Gate of Anu with Gizzida.
- Belili (Geshtinanna)
- - Tammuz/Dumuzi's sister, 'the one
who always weeps', the wife of Ningishzida.
- Gizzida (Gishzida)
- - son of Ninazu, consort of Belili, doorkeeper of Anu.
- Nissaba (Nisaba)
- - cereal grain harvest goddess. Her breast nourishes the fields.
Her womb gives birth to the vegetation and grain. She has abundant locks
of hair. She is also a goddess of writing and learned knowledge. She
performs the purification ceremony on Ninurta
after he has slain Anzu and is given his additional
names and shrines.
- Dagan (Ugaritic for 'grain')
- - chthonic god of fertility and of the
Underworld. He is paired with Anu as one who
acknowledges directives and courses of action put forth in front of the
assembly of the gods.
(See also the Canaanite Dagon)
- - (means 'pimple') an underworld god. Ellil
used him as a messenger to Ninurta
- - god of submission
- - boatman to Utnapishtim
- - canal-controller of the Anunnaki.
- - 'ear', god whose blood and intelligence are used by Mami
to create man.
- Adapa (Uan)
- - the first of the seven antediluvian sages who were
sent by Ea to deliver the arts of civilization to mankind.
He was from Eridu. He offered food an water to the gods in Eridu. He went
out to catch fish for the temple of Ea and was caught in a storm. He broke
the South Wind's wing and was called to be punished. Ea advised him to say
that he behaved that way on account of Dumuzi's and Gizzida's absence from the country. Those gods, who
tended Anu's gate, spoke in his favor to Anu. He was
offered the bread and water of eternal life, but Ea advised against his
taking it, lest he end his life on earth.
- Atrahasis and Ut-napishtim,
- Like the Sumerian Ziusudra
Xisuthros of Berossus) or Noah from the Pentateuch, were the long-lived
survivors of the great flood which wiped out the rest of humanity. In
Atrahasis' case, Ellil had grown tired of the noise that
the mass of humanity was making, and after a series of disasters failed to
eliminate the problem, he had Enki release the floodgates to
drown them out. Since Enki had a hand in creating man, he wanted to preserve
his creation, warned Atrahasis, and had him build a boat, with which he
weathered the flood. He also had kept his ear open to Enki during the
previous disasters and had been able to listen to Enki's advice on how
to avoid their full effects by making the appropriate offerings to the
appropriate deities. He lived hundreds of years prior to the flood,
while Utnapishtim lives forever after the flood.
Utnapishtim of Shuruppak was the son of Ubaratutu.
His flood has no reason behind it save the stirrings of the hearts of the Gods.
As with Atrahasis, Utnapishtim is warned to build an ark by Ea. He is also told to abandon riches and possessions and seek
life and to tell the city elders that he is hated by Enlil
and would go to the watery Abyss to live with Ea via the ark. He loads gold,
silver, and the seed of all living creatures into the ark and all of his
craftsmen's children as well. After Ea advises Enlil on better means to
control the human population, (predators, famine, and plague), Enlil makes
Utnapishtim and his wife immortal, like the gods.
- - the human taken to the sky by an eagle. He was the king
of Kish. Ishtar and the Igigi searched for a king
for Kish. Ellil found a throne for Etana and they
declared him the king. He was pious an continued to pray to Shamash, yet he had no son. Shamash told him to
where to find the eagle with the cut wings, who would find for him the
plant of birth. He found the eagle, fed it, and taught it to fly again.
Not being able to find the plant, the eagle had Etana mount on his back
and they journeyed to Ishtar, mistress of birth. On flying up to
heaven, Etana grew scared at the height and went down. Then after some
encouraging dreams tried to ascend to heaven on the eagle again. They
succeeded. Etana had a son, Balih.
- - a warrior-king and, with Ninsun, the progenitor of
Gilgamesh. He is worshipped, being Gilgamesh's
ancestor, by Gilgamesh as a god.
- Gilgamesh (possibly Bilgamesh) and Enkidu
- "Epic of Gilgamesh: Tablet I"
The son of the warrior-king Lugalbanda
and the wise goddess Ninsun, Gilgamesh built the
walls of the city Uruk, and the Eanna (house of An) temple complex there, dedicated to Ishtar. He is two-thirds divine and one-third
human. He is tall and a peerless warrior. He is the king and shepherd
of the people of Uruk, but he was very wild, which upset his people, so
they called out to Anu. Anu told Aruru to make a peer for Gilgamesh, so that they could
fight and be kept occupied, so she created the wild-man Enkidu. Enkidu
terrorizes the countryside, and a Stalker, advised by his father, informs
Gilgamesh. They bring a love-priestess to bait Enkidu. She sleeps with
him, and educates him about civilization, Gilgamesh and the
city. Gilgamesh dreams about Enkidu and is anxious to meet him. Enkidu
comes into the city Gilgamesh is on his way to deflower the brides in the
city's "bride-house" and the two fight. They are evenly matched and
"Epic of Gilgamesh: Tablets II - V"
Gilgamesh decides to strengthen his reputation by taking on Humbaba, Enlil's guardian of the
forest. Enkidu accompanies Gilgamesh and they spend much time in
preparation. Eventually they find the monster and defeat him.
"Epic of Gilgamesh: Tablets VI - VIII"
Ishtar offers to become Gilgamesh's lover, but Gilgamesh insults
her, saying that she has had many lovers and has not been faithful to
them. Ishtar asks Anu to send the Bull of Heaven to
punish Gilgamesh, and he does. Gilgamesh and Enkidu defeat the creature,
but Enkidu falls ill and dies, presumably because the gods are unhappy
that he helped kill Humbaba and the Bull of Heaven.
"Epic of Gilgamesh: Tablets IX - XI"
Gilgamesh mourns Enkidu and decides to visit Utnapishtim, the only human who does not die. He
goes to the mountains of Mashu and passes by the guardian scorpion-demons
into the darkness. It becomes light as he enters the Garden of the Gods
and he finds Siduri the Barmaid, to whom
he relates his quest. She sends him to cross the waters of death and he
confronts the boatman, Urshanabi. They cross and Gilgamesh speaks with
Utnapishtim. Utnapishtim recounts the tale of the flood and challenges
Gilgamesh to remain awake for six days and seven nights. He fails, but
Utnapishtim's wife urges him to reveal to Gilgamesh a rejuvinative
plant. Gilgamesh takes it, but looses it to a serpent before returning
"Epic of Gilgamesh: Tablet XII"
Another tablet of the Babylonian Gilgamesh story exists, which is
similar to the Sumerian version of
the tale. Enkidu volunteers to enter the underworld to recover
Gilgamesh's pukku and mikku (drum and throwing stick). Gilgamesh warns
him of the proper etiquette for the underworld, lest Enkidu be kept
there. Enkidu prepares to enter the underworld, and is dressed, scented
and bade good-bye. The Earth seizes him and Gilgamesh weeps. He pleads
for Enkidu's sake to Enlil, Sin, and finally to Ea. Ea tells Nergal to let Enkidu's
ghost escape the underworld and tell Gilgamesh about it. He tells
Gilgamesh of the dead which he has seen there, of those who are cared for
and those who aren't, indicating the sort of judgment and ritual
associated with the afterlife and death.
- Humbaba (Huwawa)
- - this monster was appointed by Ellil to guard
the cedar forest, which is in fact one large tree, the home of the gods,
and terrify mankind. 'His shout is the storm-flood, his mouth, fire,
his breath is death.' (Gardner & Maier p. 105) He has seven cloaks with
which to arm himself. There is a gate and a path in the cedar mountain
for Humbaba to walk on. Gilgamesh and Enkidu attack.
Humbaba pleads for mercy, Enkidu argues against mercy, and Enkidu and Gilgamesh
decapitate him. See also the Sumerian Huwawa.
- The Bull of Heaven
- - this creature was created by Anu to kill
Gilgamesh at Ishtar's
behest. At its snorting, a hole opened up and 200
men fell into it. When it fights Enkidu and Gilgamesh, it throws
spittle and excrement at them. It is killed and set as an offering to
- - a demonic being with lion paws and face and eagle talons
and wings. It was born on the mountain Hehe. Its beak is like a saw,
its hide as eleven coats of mail. It was very powerful. Ellil
appointed him to guard his bath chamber. He envied the Ellil-power
inherent in Ellil's Tablet of Destinies and stole it while Ellil was
bathing. With the Tablet of Destinies, anything he puts into words
becomes reality. He takes advandtage of this by causing Ninurta's
arrows to never reach their target. However, once Ea's advice reached
Ninurta, Anzu was slain by the hero's onslaught.
- aqrabuamelu (girtablilu)
- - scorpion-man, the guardians of the
gates of the underworld. Their "terror is awesome" and their "glance is
death". They guard the passage of Shamash. They
appraise Gilgamesh and
speak with him.
For a more general discussion of this, take a look at the
sections in the Sumerian FAQ,
for the particulars, see below.
- - gods (mostly of the earth). The sky Anunnaki set the
Igigi to digging out the rivers
- - gods (mostly of the heavens) They are given the task of
digging riverbeds by the Anunnaki. They rebelled against Ellil.
- - the seven warrior gods led by Erra; in the sky they are
the Pleadies. They were children of Anu and the Earth-mother. Anu gave
them fearsome and lethal destinies and put them under Erra's command.
They prefer to exercise there skills instead of letting Erra stay in the
cities with his diseases.
- Utukki - demons
- Muttabriqu - Flashes of Lightning
Sarabda - Bailiff
Rabishu - Croucher
Tirid - Expulsion
Idiptu - Wind
Bennu - Fits
Sidana - Staggers
Miqit - Stroke
Bel Uri - Lord of the Roof
Umma - Feverhot
Libu - Scab
gallu-demons - can frequently alter their form.
umu-demons - fiercely bare their teeth.
The Igigi and the Anunnaki met
in heaven in Ubshu-ukkinakku, the divine assembly hall. The Gilgamesh epic has the gods dwelling in the cedar mountain.
They had their parakku, throne-bases, there. It was an enormous tree at the
cedar forest and was guarded by Humbaba. There is a
stairway up to heaven from the underworld.
As for the underworld Kurnugi (Sumerian for 'land of no return').
It is presided over by Ereshkigal and Nergal. Within the house of
Irkalla (Nergal), the house of darkness, the house of Ashes, no one ever
exits. "They live on dust, their food is mud; their clothes are like
birds' clothes, a garment of wings, and they see no light, living in
blackness." It is full of dust and mighty kings serve others food. In
Ereshkigal's court, heroes and priests reside, as well as Sumuqan and Belit-tseri. The
scorpion-people guard the gates in the mountain to the underworld which Shamash uses to enter and exit. There are seven gates,
through which one must pass. At each gate, an adornment or article of
clothing must be removed. The gates (gatekeepers?) are named:
Endashurimma, (E)nuralla, Endukuga/Nerubanda, Endushuba/Eundukuga, and
Ennugigi. Beyond the gates are twelve double doors, wherein it is dark.
Siduri waits there by the waters of death, beyond which,
is the Land of the Living, where Utnapishtim and his
wife dwell. Shamash and Utnapishtim's boatman, Urshanbi, can cross the waters.
Egalginga, the everlasting palace, is a place where Ishtar
I have yet to find any secondary (or for that matter primary) source
which lists Kutu as a Mesopotamian deity, or for that matter lists any
name resembling Cthulhu at all. However, having been given a pointer by
DanNorder@aol.com, I have confirmed that Kutha or Cutch was the cult
city of Nergal, the Akkadian god of plagues and the underworld (see
above) and that 'lu' is the Sumerian word for man. So, Kuthalu
would mean Kutha-man which could conceivably refer to Nergal. As far
as I can tell it could mean Joe the Butcher or any of his neighbors
who happen to live in Kutha just as easily. Nergal, of course bears
little resemblance to Lovecraft's Cthulhu beyond the fact that both
can be considered underworld powers. Those interested in further
discussion about this might wish to contact
Dan at the above address and they may wish to read
alt.horror.cthulhu as well.
VI. So, in AD&D, Tiamat is this
five-headed evil dragon, but they got her
from the Enuma Elish, right? What about her counterpart,
Bahamut, according to Edgerton Sykes' Who's Who of Non-Classical
Mythology, is "The enormous fish on which stands Kujara, the giant
bull, whose back supports a rock of ruby, on the top of which stands an
angel on whose shoulders rests the earth, according to Islamic myth.
Our word Behemoth is of the same origin." (Sykes, p. 28)
[Note: Sykes's use of the phrase "Islamic myth" is misleading as this bit
of cosmology is not considered Islamic doctrine. Bahamut is pre-Islamic,
most likely Arabic. I don't have a second source for Kujara.]
Behemoth then, is usually the male counterpart to Leviathan,
and is a great beast that roams on land. He is sometimes equated with a
hippopotamus, and is alternately listed in the Old Testament as a creature
on the side of
God and as one over whom God has or will triumph over.
Genesis: Creation of the universe
Ps:74:12-17 - YHWH vs. Leviathan; Marduk vs Tiamat.
In the Enuma Elish, tablet IV, Marduk defeats the ocean goddess, Tiamat
who is often depicted as a multi-headed dragon. He splits
her apart, as YHWH splits apart the sea in Ps 74:13. He
crushes her skull as YHWH crushes the skulls of the monster
Leviathan in Ps 74:13-14. In tablet V, Marduk causes the crescent moon
to appear, creates the seasons, the night and day, and creates
springs from Tiamat's eyes, to form the Tigris and Euphrates
rivers, as YHWH does in Ps 74:15-17 (Hooke p.106, Dalley pp.253-257)
Creation of humans.
Fall of man.
Adapa was the first "apkallu" (sage/priest), not the first man or first
patriarch. He was given wisdom (knowledge of good and evil?) but not
immortality. When in heaven (sent there for having broken the South
Wind's wing), he is offered bread and water of eternal life. He refuses it,
however having been tricked by Ea (in serpent role?) stating that he
would be offered the bread and water of death instead. (Dalley pp. 182-188)
In other references to the seven apkallu, he is the counsellor paired with
the first anteluvian king on the Sumerian king lists (Dalley p. 328),
Alulim - not Alulim himself, who was Adam's analog in patriarchal order.
Tower of Babel
As with the Sumerians, the most striking Biblical parallel within
Akkadian myth is in the story of the flood. For the Babylonian account,
see the entries on Atrahasis and Utnapishtim above.
Exodus - According to legend, Sargon was left in a basket in the Euphrates
as an infant and "rose 'from an ark of bulrushes'" (Oppenheim, Ancient
Mesopotamia p. 101). His adoptive father was a "laborer in a palm garden
who spotted the basket containing the remarkable child" (Crawford
p. 42) Sargon was originally the cupbearer to a king (Ur-Zababa) before
achieving leadership on his own. (Crawford p. 25)
Weeping for Tammuz and the month of Tammuz.
See also Biblical
Parallels in Sumerian Mythology
Well this FAQ is primarily derived from the following works:
In addition the following books have occasionally proven helpful:
- Barraclough, Geoffrey (ed.) The Times Consise Atlas of World
Hammond Inc., Maplewood, New Jersey, 1982.
- Dalley, Stephanie Myths from Mesopotamia, Oxford University
York, 1991. This inexpensive volume served as the bible for much of
this FAQ. It contains translations of the major Akkadian language
myths with footnotes, brief introductions, and a glossary.
- Gardner, John & Maier, John Gilgamesh: Translated from the
Sin-Leqi-Unninni Version, Vintage Books, Random House, New York, 1984.
A column by column translation with notes and commentary following each
column, by the late author of Grendel.
- Hooke, S. H., Babylonian and Assyrian Religion, University of
Press, Norman Oklahoma, 1963.
- Kinnier Wilson, J. V., The Rebel Lands : an Investigation Into the
Origins of Early Mesopotamian Mythology, Cambridge, Cambridge
University Press, 1979.
- McCall, Henrietta, Mesopotamian Myths University of Texas
Austin, 1990. A summary account of Dalley's book with nice pictures
more cultural context.
- Oppenheim, A. Leo, Ancient Mesopotamia: Portrait of a Dead
Civilization, Chicato, The University of Chicago Press, 1977. This is
the source for the history and culture of the Babylonians and Assyrians
for the interested lay-person.
- The New American Bible, Catholic Book Publishing Co., New York,
While our server set up prevents a direct counter for this page, there were
been over 308,214 hits during it's stay at UNH after its move from MIT in
1995 and its last assessment on December 1st, 2000. Copyright 1994, 1995,
1999. It has also received an award.
- Carlyon, Richard, A Guide to the Gods, Quill, William Morrow,
New York, 1981.
- Hooke, S. H. Middle Eastern Mythology, Penguin Books, New York,
This work covers Sumerian, Babylonian, Canaanite/Ugaritic, Hittite,
and Hebrew mythologic material in brief and with comparisons.
- Jacobsen, Thorkild, The Treasures of Darkness, Yale University
Press, New Haven, 1976. A good alternative to Kramer, Jacobsen explores
Mesopotamian religious development from early Sumerian times through
the Babylonian Enuma Elish. Most of the book winds up being
on the Sumerians.
- Pritchard, James B., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old
Testament, with Suppliment, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1969.
- Sykes, Edgerton, Who's Who in Non-Classical Mythology,
Oxford University Press, New York, 1993.
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