Mesopotamia: The Fertile Crescent and more. Area in modern-day Syria, Turkey (Asia Minor), Iraq and some of Iran where the first evidence of civilization occured around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Over a period of thousands of years, various political entities held sway. Sumer, in the southern-most region; Akkad, more northwesterly; Babylonia, encompassing the whole of the region; Assyria, to the north in Asia Minor. Go here for a map outlining the complete area with the ancient city-states marked.
Sumer: Sumer is very likely the first civilization in the world. From its beginings as a collection of farming villages around 5000 BC, through its conquest by Sargon of Agade around 2370 BC and its final collapse under the Amorites around 2000 BC, the Sumerians developed a religion and a society which influenced both their neighbors and their conquerers. Sumerian cuneform, the earliest written language, was borrowed by the Babylonians, who also took many of their religious beliefs. In fact, traces and parallels of Sumerian myth can be found in Genesis. Want more? Try the Sumerian Mythology FAQ
Ebla: a great city recently found in archeology located in Syria a few miles south of Aleppo. A third-millenium well developed city, with temples, a palace, a new "language" dubbed Eblaite. They had trading and tribute ties to Mari (a city closer to Sumer) and other cities in and around the area.
Elam: a culture/area/people to the north-east of Sumer. Susa was the capitol./center. The Elamites had trading ties with Sumer and other cultures.
Akkad: separate political/cultural entity
that sprung up just northwest of Sumer between the Tigris and Euphrates.
Together later on, they were "Babylonia", ruled from Babylon in the Akkadian
area of land.
The God List: from a portion of The Sumerian Mythology FAQ by Christopher B. Siren
An: god of heaven, may have been the main god of the pantheon prior to 2500 BC., although his importance gradually waned. It seems likely that he and Ki/Ninhursag were the progenitors of most of the gods. His primary temple was in Erech. He and Enlil give various gods, goddesses, and kings their earthly regions of influence and their laws. (also Anu)
Enlil: An and Ki's union produced Enlil (Lord of 'lil'). Enlil was the air god and leader of the pantheon from at least 2500 BC. He assumed most of An's powers. He is glorified as "'the father of the gods,' 'the king of heaven and earth,' ' the king of all the lands'". Kramer portrays him as a patriarchal figure, who is both creator and disciplinarian. Enlil effectuates the dawn, the growth of plants, and bounty. He also invents agricultural tools such as the plow. He is also banished to the nether world (kur) for his rape of Ninlil, his intended bride, but returns with the first product of their union, the moon god Sin (also known as Nanna). Most often he is considered Ninlil's husband, with Ninhursag as his sister, but some traditions have Ninhursag as his spouse.
Ninursag: Ki is likely to be the original name of the earth goddess, whose name more often appears as Ninhursag (queen of the mountains), Ninmah (the exalted lady), or Nintu (the lady who gave birth). It seems likely that she and An were the progenitors of most of the gods. She is the mother goddess and assists in the creation of man. There she added constructive criticism to Enki as he shaped several versions of man from the heart of the clay over the Abzu. In Dilmun, she bore eight new trees from Enki. When he then ate her children, she cursed him with eight wounds. After being persuaded by Enlil to undo her curse, she bore Enki eight new children which undid the wounds of the first ones. Most often she is considered Enlil's sister, but in some traditions she is his spouse instead. (also Aruru)
Enki: Contrary to the translation of his name, Enki is not the lord of the earth, but of the abzu (the watery abyss and also semen) and of wisdom. This contradiction leads Kramer and Maier to postulate that he was once known as En-kur, lord of the underworld, which either contained or was contained in the Abzu. He did struggle with Kur as mentioned in the prelude to "Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Underworld", and presumably was victorious and thereby able to claim the title "Lord of Kur" (the realm). He is a god of water, creation, and fertility. He also holds dominion over the land. He is the keeper of the me, the divine laws. The me were assembled by Enlil in Ekur and given to Enki to guard and impart to the world, beginning with Eridu, his center of worship. From there, he guards the me and imparts them on the people. He directs the me towards Ur and Meluhha and Dilmun, organizing the world with his decrees. Later, Inanna comes to Enki and complains at having been given too little power from his decrees. In a different text, she gets Enki drunk and he grants her more powers, arts, crafts, and attributes - a total of ninety-four me. Inanna parts company with Enki to deliver the me to her cult center at Erech. Enki recovers his wits and tries to recover the me from her, but she arrives safely in Erech with them.
Sumerian Word list:
A-Mur-U: Storm God
Abzu: the watery void from which all things spring
Amurru: (literally) westerner; someone from the land to the west (of Sumer): Hittites
Arad: male slave
E: house of, temple of
Ensi: lord of the region, great priest,
Ki-aga: beloved, love
Lugal: great man, military authority, king
Mulu: Immortal man (And who's to say Immortals didn't exist in ancient Sumeria?)
Mulu-Izi: immortal man of fire
.mu: mine, my
Nigir: lightening flash
Nin-Tu: both Birth Giver and Death Bringer
Sa-Ge-Guru: heart's desire
Sha-Mu: my heart
Si-Muth: He who for Justice Kills (I do believe they knew Duncan....)
tell: literally, "hill", in Arabic
and Hebrew (in Persian: tepe or in Turkish: hüyuk)
mound or hill which can be completely grass-covered and quite tall... can
have many layers of civilization within it, up
to tens of thousands of years back. Each is in layers, with the succeeding civilization building upon the
ruins of the previous. Excavating for a particular time zone can be a lengthy process because of the subsequent towns having been built on the ruins or rubble of the one before.