The Moon Watching over Sun and Venus: Revisiting the Attributes and Functions of Nanna/Sîn in Mesopotamia

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The importance of family for the Mesopotamians as a form of identity, of legitimation and protection is well known. Since genealogical ties were the core of human society, it is of no surprise that the divine world was organized similarly, with parents watching over and legitimating their offspring. However, the role played by Nanna/Sîn’s children in literary compositions seems far more important and active than his own. Justice, divination and luminosity are features immediately associated with Utu/Šamaš; whereas governance, prosperity and prophecy are attributes easily connected with Inanna/Ištar. Surprisingly or not, these were also features of Nanna/Sîn, although in a much less evident way.
Considering the above, one must reflect on the nature of the relationship between father and progeny: did Nanna/Sîn transfer his power to the younger deities, thus legitimating their actions, like a family legacy? Was his silent performance in myths indicative of a logic that regarded him as a patriarch, evoking a role similar to the one played by An/Anu? And what about his functions as a temporal regulator, a leader of the ‘black-headed’ flock and a theophoric element constantly present in Mesopotamian onomastics? What do these aspects tell us about his personality? When one looks beyond literature, what is the true significance of the ‘divine 30’? With this communication, we intend to reevaluate the impact Nanna/Sîn had in the Mesopotamian religious system, focusing on the presence and continuity of his numinous features in those of Inanna/Ištar and Utu/Šamaš. We aim to explore the bond shared by this triad, emphasizing how family ties were envisioned as a legitimator of divine power. Through an intertwined analysis of iconographic and textual sources we propose to revisit the divine moon’s role throughout time and space in Ancient Mesopotamia, thus contributing to the discussion about the patron god of Ur.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventRencontre Assyriologique Internationale - University of Pennsylvania, United States
Duration: 11 Jun 201615 Jun 2016
Conference number: 62


ConferenceRencontre Assyriologique Internationale
Abbreviated titleRAI
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address


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