What kind of religions were practiced in Mesopotamia?
Though there were many different cultures and civilizations in Mesopotamia throughout its history, many of their religions shared the same gods and practices of worship. Mesopotamian religions were polytheistic, meaning that they centered around the worship of multiple gods. Furthermore, every Mesopotamian city had its own patron god or goddess.
Patron gods and goddesses were believed to protect the city’s people from harm and ensure a good harvest. Aside from their patron gods, Mesopotamians citizens prayed to the other gods daily.
Usually, the Mesopotamian people would pray at their local temple/ziggurat (a step-based structure like a pyramid, built and dedicated to worshipping the gods) but would also have shrines to individual gods in their homes. There are too many gods of Mesopotamia to ever really be counted, but they worshipped seven in particular.
Who were the main seven gods of Mesopotamia?
An: Sky god of Mesopotamia. God of kings and the king of the gods, An played a very small part in Mesopotamian mythology. Father of all demons and monsters.
Enlil: God of the wind, air, storms and the earth. Plays a key role in the “creation story” of Mesopotamia, as he separated heaven and earth to make the land habitable for humans.
Enki: God of water, knowledge, mischief, and crafts. Became known as Ea in later parts of the mythology. Patron god to the city of Eridu.
Ninhursag: Goddess of the mountains and earth. Goddess of fertility. “Mother goddess” of Sumeria, like Gaia from Greek Mythology.
Nanna: God of the moon, protector of shepherds, son of Enlil. Sometimes called “Sin.” In later mythology, Sin ascended to his role as head of the gods. Predicts the future at every full moon.
Utu: God of the sun, justice, morality, and truth. Twin brother of the goddess Inanna. Believed to ride through the heavens in his “sun chariot,” like the Egyptian god Ra, and could see all things in the world.
Inanna: Known as Ishtar in the beginning stages of Mesopotamian mythology. Appears in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Goddess of love, beauty, desire, fertility, war, and justice. Twin brother of Utu. Appeared in the most myths of any other gods and was a very mischievous figure.
In what other ways did the Mesopotamians express their religious beliefs?
Art and architecture were the two main ways that the Mesopotamians expressed their religious belief, aside from prayer. Structures like temples and ziggurats were built specifically to honor the gods. Special pieces of pottery and statuettes of divine figures were made for the same reason.
In particular, decorative urns were a common offering to the gods of Mesopotamia and usually depicted images of the gods at work/people at worship. Architecturally, buildings designated for religious worship were built as big as possible to show the peoples’ dedication to their gods.
Were there any monotheistic religions in Mesopotamia?
Yes. With the rise of the Persian Empire, a new religion began in Mesopotamia; the religion of Zoroastrianism was the dominant religion of the empire, which centered around the worship of one god named Ahura Mazda.
Unlike the other Mesopotamian faiths, which were based on the worship of nature and other natural forces, the religion of Zoroastrianism was based on the duality of good/evil. Zoroastrianism is still practiced in some parts of the world today.
The practitioners of Zoroastrianism believe that the most important thing in the world is to behave in a morally correct manner, and the religion focuses a lot on what is right/wrong. The religion is based on the teachings of the prophet Zoroaster, the first prophet of the religion.
Facts about Mesopotamian Religion:
- Though there were many different civilizations in Mesopotamia throughout its history, many of their religions shared the same gods and practices of worship.
- Mesopotamian religions were polytheistic – meaning that they worshipped multiple deities.
- Every Mesopotamian city had its own patron god or goddess.
- The Mesopotamian people would pray daily at their local temple/ziggurat.
- The Mesopotamians worshipped seven main gods, called their “planetary deities.”
- These planetary deities were: An, Enlil, Enki, Ninhursag, Nanna, Utu, Inanna.
- Art and architecture were the two main ways that the Mesopotamians expressed their religious belief, aside from through prayer. Examples of art include decorative urns, and examples of architecture include the Ziggurat of Ur that remains to this day.
- Though most Mesopotamian religions were polytheistic, there was one dominant monotheistic religion in the region that began during the Persian Empire. Its name was Zoroastrianism, and it’s still practiced today.
- The god of Zoroastrianism is called Ahura Mazda.
- Were most Mesopotamian religions monotheistic, or polytheistic?
- What was the alleged purpose of a city’s patron god?
– To protect the people, and to ensure a good harvest.
- How many planetary deities were there in most Mesopotamian faiths, and what were their names?
– Seven. An, Enlil, Enki, Ninhursag, Nanna, Utu, and Inanna.
- In what ways did the Mesopotamians express their religious faith?
– Prayer, art and architecture.
- What was the name of the most dominant monotheistic faith in Mesopotamia?
- Back to – Ancient Mesopotamia