Date: Tue, 13 Feb 2001 21:45:12 -0800 (PST)
From: Leroy Ellenberger <>
Subject: Gods & Planets in Assyria

Ever since I started to read Velikovsky's source for
myself, say back in '88 or so when Jan Sammer kindly
sent me a copy of Morris Jastrow's "famous" 1910 SUN
AND SATURN paper and later in 1993 when I attempted a
rebuttal to Cardona's SIN AND SHAMASH in SIS Workshop
and was confronted with the plethora of various
astrologico-religious "equations" among the planetary
and not-so-planetary gods of Mesopotamia found in
Jeremias and Jensen, I have had the nagging suspicion
that more was going on with these "equations" than the
naive and literal interpretations purveyed ignorantly
by Saturnists and other Velikovskian writers and that
these writers did not really know what they were
talking about when it came to interpreting ancient
Mesopotamian religion. Thorkild Jacobsen's 1976
Treasures of Darkness gives some insight into such
"equations", but not until reading One God or Many?:
Concepts of Divinity in the Ancient World recently
have I found a fully satisfying discussion of the
nature of the many "equations" found in Mesopotamian
religious and astrological sources.

Therefore, for the benefit (hopefully) of the many
cocksure, perplexed, and/or simply curious readers in
the audience, here is the sub-section "Gods and Ilus",
pp. 243-248, in the section "The Importance of One
God: Ninurta" in Barbara N. Porter's chapter "The
Anxiety of Multiplicity: Concepts of Divinity as One
and Many in Ancient Assyria", pp. 211-71, in the
subject book: One God or Many? (Trans. Casco Bay
Assyrio. Inst., 2000).

This transcription will show italicized words in caps
and suppress footnotes [with one exception]:


To begin with, the word 'god'--shaped in the minds of
English speakers both by the anthropomorphic images of
gods in Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology, which were
once familiar to every schoolchild, and also by the
often anthropomorphic images of Israel's God in the
Hebrew Bible--conjures up for most readers the image
of a divine 'person,' who, like human persons, is
clearly bounded and separate from all other
individuals. The Akkadian word ILU, in contrast,
conjured up for Mesopotamians (including the
Assyrians) images of the spectrum of different forms
and powers associated with each single divinity. The
multifaceted and somewhat fluid image of divinity
represented by the word ILU, different from the
primarily anthropomorphic image evoked by the word
'god,' is crucial for understanding the Ninurta hymn.
We must briefly explore it before examining the hymn

  Like 'gods,' ILUs are usually represented in
Mesopotamian texts in anthropomorphic form, as divine
persons who could eat, take trips, marry, and have
adventures (the ILU Ea as king, for example). In
addition, however, each ILU was also imagined as a
force of nature or a human power (the ILU Ea
represented fresh water, for example, and the ILU
Adad, storm), and by extension, as the power in such
phenomena (Ea was understood to be the power for life
in water, for example, and Adad, the violent and
destructive energy of storms). ILUs were further
identified with an array of objects and abstract
entities, including for most great gods a number, a
semi-precious stone, a mineral, an animal or emblem,
and a star, constellation, or other celestial
entity.^54  Istar, for example, was not only a

54. This identification with a spectrum of powers,
entities, and objects is true of most great gods, but
not usually of the minor gods who were characterized
simply as their servants. For further discussion of
the separate and multiple aspects of Mesopotamian
"gods" and an attempt to explain them as the result of
a complex historical development, see Jacobsen,
Treasures, pp. 128-29. See also Jacobsen, Image, p. 2,
and Bottero, La plus vielle religion, pp. 135ff. and
147ff. (gods as stars or constellations), pp. 138ff.
(gods as animals and other emblems), and p. 149f.
(gods as numbers); Bottero however also stresses the
central role of the anthropomorphic conception of
deity in Mesopotamia. On gods' numbers, see W.
Roellig, "Goetterzahlen," RLA, bd. 3, W. von Soden,
ed. (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1971), pp. 499-500.

divine person and the embodiment of love, war, and a
wide variety of other activities and forces, but was
also identified with the number fifteen, the         
 semi-precious stone lapis-lazuli, the mineral lead,
and, as we will see in a moment, the planet
Venus--equations made explicit in god-lists, but also
clearly reflected in hymns, royal inscriptions,
mystical commentaries, and other types of texts, as
well as in visual imagery (for an image representing
several aspects of Istar, see Fig. 2 [detail of
Assyrian seal from B.M. showing Istar
pictured as war, with soldier's kilt, bow, and
arrows; as an astral entity, whose crown, scepter,
sickle sword and arrow carry stars; as a date palm,
emblem of fertility and abundance; and as a lioness,
on which Istar as divine person stands]. The various
aspects of a single ILU, although clearly related,
could function independently of other aspects of that same
ILU.  This is illustrated, for example, in a royal
inscription of King Esarhaddon discussed above in
which the introductory lines list the various gods who
had called Esarhaddon to rule; in the third line, Enlil is
represented as a divine person, 'ILU Enlil, supremely
great lord, establisher of the fates of heaven and
earth, who firmly establishes the inhabited world...'
(Vs., l. 3, p. 79). Five lines later, in describing
the god Marduk, the writer uses the same term to evoke the
function--rule--that Enlil represents, describing
Marduk as, 'principal heir, ILU Enlil (i.e., ruler) of
the gods, in whose control lies (both) abandoning and
settling' (l. 8). Two lines later the word appears
once again, this time describing the ILU Nergal, as
'exceedingly powerful one, lord of...who overwhelms
enemies, ILU Enlil of the wide underworld' (l. 10).
All three divine persons, Enlil, Marduk, and Nergal,
can be called 'Enlils' in a single passage without
contradiction or overlap--and certainly without
implying their merger into the single divine person
Enlil--because the word functions as the proper name
of the ILU Enlil as a divine person in the first
instance, and as that ILU as a power or activity,
'rule' (the activity that characterizes Enlil in his
role as divine person), in the two passages that
follow. The references to the two latter gods as
'Enlils' are not assertions that they have TAKEN OVER
Enlil's role in the cosmos as a divine person and as a
collection of other entities; they refer instead to an
activity--rule--that the gods Marduk and Nergal share
with each other and with Enlil (of whom it is the
defining characteristic), and which all three of them
might share with other gods (in alternation or
simultaneously), as well.  An ILU conceived of as a
divine person is, like a human person, an exclusive,
bounded entity; that same ILU as a quality or function
can be identified with several divine persons
simultaneously without implying any equation of
those ILUs in their other aspects.

  This partial separation of the various aspects of a
single ILU is particularly evident in the functioning
of ILUs as stars, constellations, and celestial
bodies. Just as in cases where an ILU denoted a
particular power, activity or natural phenomenon, an
ILU in the form of a star or planet was understood to
be linked to the divine person of the same name, but
its behavior and situation as a star or planet did not
necessarily affect that divine person's behavior or
situation.  The ILU Istar, for example, was identified
with the evening and morning star (our planet Venus);
as this planet or 'star,' she was named in
astrological reports,  astronomical commentary texts,
and royal inscriptions interchangeably by the general
name, 'ILU Istar,' and by names that emphasized her
astral form: 'star (MUL) Istar,' 'star (MUL) Dilbat,'
'ILU Dilbat,' and 'Istar of the stars' (ISTAR
KAKKABANU). The independent but related functioning of
Istar as a divine person and as the planet Venus is
illustrated in the set of royal inscriptions that
describe the events leading to the accession of King
Esarhaddon after a violent civil war. The first text
describes celestial omens predicting that
Esarhaddon's accession would bring favorable
conditions to Assyria; it reports that Istar (here
'Dilbat'), 'brightest of stars, in the west, [in the
'wa]y of Ea,' shone brightly and (as an omen) of
making the land firm and reconciling its gods, reached the hypsoma
(in Akkadian, NISIRTU--a planet's highest point above the
celestial horizon) and disappeared.' Although Istar
disappears as a planet, she remains active as a divine
person and as the spirit of battle; a second
inscription of Esaarhaddon, referring to the same
period, reports that Istar of Nineveh and Istar of
Arbela (two local forms of Istar, represented here as
divine persons) joined Assyria's other great gods in
'raising his head,' that is, selecting Esarhaddon to
rule (Nineveh A, I, ll. 59-60). The same text reports
that shortly thereafter as Esarhaddon battled his
brothers for the throne, 'ILU Istar, lady of combat
and battle, she who loves my priesthood, stood at my
side and shattered their bows...' (Nineveh A, I, ll.
74-75)--a vigorous intervention that makes it clear
that the ILU Istar as the spirit of battle is still
very active indeed.  Only the movement of the ILU
Istar as a planet are involved in her disappearance; other
aspects of the ILU Istar continue to function
energetically and without interruption.

  An Assyrian ILU, in short, was not a 'god' in our
sense, but a set of related but not completely
congruent phenomena and qualities, only one of which
was imagined as a divine person. Including in itself
this array of aspects, a Mesopotamian ILU (and its
Assyrian counterpart) thus had greater fluidity of
manifestation and greater potential for identification
with other ILUs who shared similar qualities or powers
than the more strongly personified--and thus bounded--
God of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, or than the
anthropomorphically conceived gods of Greek mythology.
In their potential for temporary mergers and partial
overlays, Assyrian ILUs in fact bear a much closer
resemblance to the fluid and shifting 'gods' of Egypt
as John Baines describes them here, than to the more
familiar God of the Hebrew Bible. As with partial
overlays of Egyptian gods, the equation of two
Mesopotamian ILUs in one aspect did not necessarily
imply an equation of those two ILUs as a whole; it was
characteristic of ILUs that their parts functioned to
some extent independently of the whole.

ILUS AND NINURTA... [end quote]

If the word "ILU" has ever been mentioned in the
Velikovsky and/or neo-Velikovsky literature, I have
missed it; but fer sure the concept has not played any
significant role in helping the self-described
"planetary catastrophists" understand the sources they
mine for every bit of "evidence", every seeming
"equation" that supposedly supports their misbegotten
and profane interpretation of the worlds's sacred
literature.  Hopefully, this excerpt will begin to
show the sentient reader that these self-taught
proselytizers of recent planetary mayhem really do not
know what they are talking about.

Leroy Ellenberger, "Vivere est vincere"


The content and opinions expressed on this Web page do not necessarily reflect the views of nor are they endorsed by the University of

The content and opinions expressed on this Web page do not necessarily reflect the views of nor are they endorsed by the University of Georgia or the University System of Georgia.