Marduk, Babylonia, Assyrian, Rulers, Gods, AshurFrom the time that the Assyrian rulers claimed a greater or small measure of control over the affairs of Babylonia, that is, therefore, from about the twelfth century, they were anxious to make good their claim by including in their pantheon the chief god of Babylonia. The Assyrian inscriptions prove that, as early as the twelfth century, the theoretical absorption on the part of Marduk, of the rôle taken by the old god Bel of Nippur, which was enlarged upon in a preceding chapter, had already taken place. Marduk is not only frequently known as Bel, but what is more, Babylonia is the country of Bel, or simply Bel, and the Babylonians are referred to as 'the subjects of Bel,' or the 'humanity of Bel.' There can be no doubt that in all these cases Bel-Marduk is meant and not the older Bel. In the days of Ashurrishishi we already come across the title 'governor of Bel,' that to the latest days remains the official designation for political control over the southern empire. So general is this use of Bel for Marduk that the latter name does not occur until we reach Shalmaneser II., i.e., the ninth century. There seems to be no reason to question, therefore, that even when Tiglathpileser I. applies to Bel titles that certainly belong to the older Bel, such as 'father of the gods,' 'king of all the Anunnaki,' 'who fixes the decrees of heaven and earth,' he means Marduk, a proof for which may be seen in the epithet bêl matâti, 'lord of lands,' which follows upon these designations and which, as we saw, is a factor in the evolution of Marduk into Bel-Marduk. The importance that Tiglathpileser I., and therefore also his successors, attached to their control over the old southern district, is shown by his according to Bel the second place in the pantheon, invoking him at the beginning of his inscriptions immediately after Ashur. The control over Babylonia was an achievement that stirred the pride of the Assyrian rulers to the highest degree. Its age and its past inspired respect. Besides being the source of the culture that Assyria possessed, Babylonia had sacred associations for the Assyrians, as the original dwelling-places of most of the gods worshipped by them. The old sacred centers like Ur, Nippur, Uruk, Sippar, with their great temples, their elaborate cults, their great storehouses of religious literature, and their great body of influential priests and theologians and astrologers were as dear to the people of the north as to those of the south; and in proportion as these old cities lost their political importance, their rank as sacred centers to which pilgrimages were made on the occasion of the festivals of the gods was correspondingly raised. Hence the value that the Assyrian rulers attached to the possession of Babylonia. They do not like to be reminded that they rule the south by force of arms. They prefer, as Tiglathpileser I. declares, to consider themselves 'nominated by the gods to rule over the land of Bel.' They want to be regarded as the favorites of Bel, and they ascribe to him the greatness of their rule. It is he who fulfills the wishes of the kings; and when the kings enter upon a campaign against Babylonia, as they frequently did to quell the uprisings that were constantly occurring in the one or the other of the southern districts, they emphasize, as Shalmaneser II. does, that he enters upon this course at the command of Marduk. They set themselves up as Marduk's defenders, and it must be said for the Assyrian rulers that they were mild and sparing in their treatment of their southern subjects. They do not practise those cruelties—burning of cities, pillage, and promiscuous slaughter—that form the main feature in their campaigns against the nations to the northeast and northwest, and against Elam. They accord to the Babylonians as much of the old independence as was consistent with an imperial policy. The internal affairs continue for a long time to be regulated by rulers who are natives of Babylonia, and it is not until a comparatively late day—the time of Sennacherib—that in consequence of the endless trouble that these native rulers gave the Assyrians through their constant attempt to make themselves independent, it became customary for the Assyrian kings to appoint a member of the royal house—a son or brother—to the lieutenancy over Babylonia. As for the cult, the Assyrian kings were at great pains to leave it undisturbed, or where it had been interrupted to restore it, and thus secure the favor of the southern gods. So Shalmaneser II. upon the completion of his campaign enters Marduk's great temple at Babylon, E-sagila, and offers prayers and sacrifices to Bel and Belit, i.e., Marduk and Sarpanitum. From E-sagila he crosses over to Borsippa, and pays homage to Nabu and to Nabu's consort, whom he calls Nanâ. The kings are fond, especially when speaking of the Babylonian campaigns, of slipping in the name of Marduk after that of Ashur. With the help of Ashur and Marduk their troops are victorious. Marduk shares Ashur's terrible majesty. At times Shamash, or Shamash and Ramman, are added to form a little pantheon whose assistance is invoked in the Babylonian wars. From being used in restricted application to Babylonian affairs, Ashur and Marduk came to be invoked in a general way. Esarhaddon expressly sets up the claim of being the savior of Marduk's honor, as a kind of apology for proceeding against Babylonia with his armies. Sargon, to emphasize his legitimate control over Babylonia as well as Assyria, says that he has been called to the throne by Ashur and Marduk, but Ashurbanabal goes further even than his predecessors. He proceeds to Babylon on the occasion of the formal installation of his brother Shamash-shumukin as viceroy of the district, enters the temple of Marduk, whom he does not hesitate to call 'the lord of lords,' performs the customary rites, and closes the ceremonies by a fervent prayer to Marduk for his continued good will and blessing. The great gods Nergal, Nabu, and Shamash come from their respective shrines to do homage to Marduk. Ashurbanabal's brother Shamash-shumukin, when he attempts as governor of Babylon to make himself independent of his brother, endeavors by means of sacrifices and other devices to secure the favor of Marduk, well aware that in this way he will also gain the support of the Babylonians. On another occasion, incidental to a northern campaign, Ashurbanabal mentions that the day on which he broke up camp at Damascus was the festival of Marduk,—an indication that the Babylonian god was in his thoughts, even when he himself was far away from Babylonia. Esarhaddon and Ashurbanabal, when approaching the sun-god to obtain an oracle, make mention of Marduk by the side of Shamash. There are, however, a number of passages in the Assyrian inscriptions in which when Bel is spoken of, not Marduk but the old god Bel is meant.
Written By Morris Jastrow