The resort to nuclear weapons at the end of the twenty-first century B.C.E. ushered—one could say, “with a bang”—the Era of Marduk. It was, in almost all respects, truly a New Age, even the way we understand the term nowadays. Its greatest paradox was that while it made Man look to the heavens, it brought the gods of the heavens down to Earth. The changes that New Age has wrought affect us to this day.
For Marduk the New Age was a wrong righted, an ambition attained, prophecies fulfilled. The price paid—the desolation of Sumer, the flight of its gods, the decimation of its people—was not his doing. If anything, those who suffered were punished for obstructing Destiny. The unforeseen nuclear storm, the Evil Wind, and its course that seemed selectively guided by an unseen hand only confirmed what the Heavens proclaimed: the Age of Marduk, the Age of the Ram, has arrived.
The change from the Age of the Bull to the Age of the Ram was especially celebrated and marked in Marduk’s homeland, Egypt. Astronomical depictions of the heavens (such as at the Denderah temple, see Fig. 20) showed the constellation of the Ram as the focal point of the zodiacal cycle. Lists of zodiacal constellations began not with the Bull as in Sumer, but with the Ram (Fig. 38). The most impressive manifestations were the rows of Ram-headed sphinxes that flanked the processional way to the great temples in Karnak (Fig. 39), whose construction, by Pharaohs of the newly established Middle Kingdom, began right after Ra/Marduk’s ascent to supremacy.
They were Pharaohs who bore theophoric names honoring Amon/Amen, so that both temples and kings were dedicated to Marduk/Ra as Amon, The Unseen, for Marduk, absenting himself from Egypt, selected Babylon in Mesopotamia to be his Eternal City.
Both Marduk and Nabu survived the nuclear maelstrom unharmed. Although Nabu was personally targeted by Nergal/Erra, he apparently hid on one of the Mediterranean islands and escaped harm. Subsequent texts indicate that he was given his own cult center in Mesopotamia called Borsippa, a new city situated near his father’s Babylon, but he continued to roam and be worshipped in his favorite Lands of the West. His veneration both there and in Mesopotamia is attested to by sacred places named in his honor—such as Mount Nebo near the Jordan River (where Moses later died)—and the theophoric royal names (such as Nabo-pol-assar, Nebo-chadnezzar, and many others) by which famous kings of Babylon were called. And his name, as we have noted, became synonymous with “prophet” and prophecy throughout the ancient Near East.
Marduk himself, it will be recalled, was asking “Until when?” from his command post in Harran when the fateful events took place. In his autobiographical text The Marduk Prophecy he envisioned the coming of a Messianic Time, when gods and men will recognize his supremacy, when peace shall replace war and abundance will banish suffering, when a king of his choice “will make Babylon the foremost” with the Esagil temple (as its name meant) raising its head to heaven:
A king in Babylon will arise;
In my city Babylon, in its midst,
my temple to heaven he will raise;
The mountainlike Esagil he will renew,
the ground plan of Heaven-Earth
for the mountainlike Esagil he will draw;
The Gate of Heaven will be opened.
In my city Babylon a king will arise;
In abundance he will reside;
My hand he will grasp,
He will lead me in processions…
To my city and my temple Esagil
for eternity I shall enter.
That new Tower of Babel, however, was not intended (as the first one was) as a launch tower. His supremacy, Marduk recognized, was now stemming not only from the possession of a physical space connection but from the Signs of Heaven—from the zodiacal Celestial Time, from the position and movement of the celestial bodies, the Kakkabu (stars/planets) of heaven.
Accordingly, he envisioned the future Esagil as the reigning astronomical observatory, making redundant Ninurta’s Eninnu and the varied stonehenges erected by Thoth. When the Esagil was eventually built, it was a ziggurat erected according to detailed and precise plans (Fig. 40): its height, the spacing of its seven stages, and its orientation were such that its head pointed directly to the star Iku—the lead star of the constellation of the Ram—circa 1960 B.C.E.
The nuclear apocalypse and its unintended consequences brought to an abrupt end the debate regarding whose zodiacal age it was; Celestial Time was now Marduk’s Time. But the gods’ planet, Nibiru, was still orbiting and clocking Divine Time—and Marduk’s attention shifted to that. As his Prophecy text made clear, he now envisioned astronomer-priests scanning the skies from the ziggurat’s stages for “The rightful planet of the Esagil”:
Omen-knowers, put to service,
shall then ascend its midst.
Left and right, on opposite sides,
they shall separately stand.
The king will then approach;
The rightful Kakkabu of the Esagil
over the land [he will observe].
A Star-Religion was born. The god—Marduk—became a star; a star (we call it planet)—Nibiru—became “Marduk.” Religion became Astronomy, Astronomy became Astrology.
In conformity with the new Star Religion, the Epic of Creation, Enuma Elish, was revised in its Babylonian version so as to grant Marduk a celestial dimension: he did not just come from Nibiru—he was Nibiru. Written in “Babylonian,” a dialect of Akkadian (the Semitic mother language), it equated Marduk with Nibiru, the home planet of the Anunnaki, and gave the name “Marduk” to the Great Star/Planet that had come from deep space to avenge both the celestial Ea and the one on Earth (Fig. 41). It thus made “Marduk” the “Lord” in Heaven as on Earth. His Destiny—in the heavens, his orbit—was the greatest of all the celestial gods (the other planets) (see Fig. 1); paralleling that, he was destined to be the greatest of the Anunnaki gods on Earth.
The revised Epic of Creation was read publicly on the fourth night of the New Year festival. It credited Marduk with the defeat of the “monster” Tiamat in the Celestial Battle, the creation of the Earth (Fig. 42), and the reshaping of the Solar system (Fig. 43)—all the feats that in the original Sumerian version were attributed to the planet Nibiru as part of a sophisticated scientific cosmogony.
The new version then credited Marduk even with the “artful fashioning” of “Man,” with devising the calendar, and with the selection of Babylon to be the “Navel of the Earth.”
The New Year festival—the most important religious event of the year—began on the first day of the month Nissan, coinciding with the Spring Equinox. Calling it in Babylon the Akiti festival, it evolved there into a twelve-day-long celebration from the Sumerian ten-day A.KI.TI (“On Earth Bring Life”) festival. It was conducted according to elaborately defined ceremonies and prescribed rituals that reenacted (in Sumer) the tale of Nibiru and the coming of the Anunnaki to Earth, as well as (in Babylon) the life story of Marduk. It included episodes from the Pyramid Wars, when he was sentenced to die in a sealed tomb, and his “resurrection” when he was brought out of it alive; his exile to become the Unseen; and his final victorious Return. Processions, comings and goings, appearances and disappearances, and even passion plays with actors visually and vividly presented Marduk to the people as a suffering god—suffering on Earth but finally victorious by gaining supremacy through a heavenly counterpart. (The New Testament’s Jesus story was so similar that scholars and theologians in Europe debated a century ago whether Marduk was the “Prototype Jesus.”)
The ceremonies consisted of two parts. The first involved a solitary boat ride by Marduk upon and across the river, to a structure called Bit Akiti (“House of Akiti”); the other took place within the city itself. It is evident that the solitary part symbolized Marduk’s celestial travel from the home planet’s outer location in space to the inner solar system—a journey in a boat upon waters, in conformity with the concept that interplanetary space was a primeval “Watery Deep” to be traversed by “celestial boats” (spacecraft)—a concept represented graphically in Egyptian art, where the celestial gods were depicted as coursing in the skies in “celestial barques” (Fig. 44).
It was upon Marduk’s successful return from the outer and lonely Bit Akiti that the public festivities began. Those public and joyous ceremonies started with the greeting of Marduk at the wharf by other gods, and his accompaniment by the king and priests in a Sacred Procession, attended by ever-larger crowds. The descriptions of the procession and its route were so detailed that they guided the archaeologists who excavated ancient Babylon. From the texts inscribed on clay tablets and from the unearthed topography of the city, it emerged that there were seven stations at which the sacred procession made stops for prescribed rituals.
The stations bore both Sumerian and Akkadian names and symbolized (in Sumer) the travels of the Anunnaki within the solar system (from Pluto to Earth, the seventh planet), and (in Babylon) the “stations” in Marduk’s life story: his divine birth in the “Pure Place”; how his birthright, his entitlement to supremacy, was denied; how he was sentenced to death; how he was buried (alive, in the Great Pyramid); how he was rescued and resurrected; how he was banished and went into exile; and how in the end even the great gods, Anu and Enlil, bowed to destiny and proclaimed him supreme.
The original Sumerian Epic of Creation extended over six tablets (paralleled by the biblical six days of creation). In the Bible, God rested on the seventh day, using it to review His handiwork. The Babylonian revision of the Epic culminated with the addition of a seventh tablet that was entirely devoted to the glorification of Marduk by the granting to him of fifty names—an act that symbolized the assumption by him of the Rank of Fifty that was until then Enlil’s (and to which Ninurta had been in line).
Starting with his traditional name MAR.DUK, “son of the Pure Place,” the names—alternating between Sumerian and Akkadian—granted him epithets that ranged from “Creator of All” to “Lord who fashioned Heaven and Earth” and other titles relating to the celestial battle with Tiamat and the creation of the Earth and the Moon: “Foremost of all the gods,” “Allotter of tasks to the Igigi and the Anunnaki” and their Commander, “The god who maintains life… the god who revives the dead,” “Lord of all the lands,” the god whose decisions and benevolence sustain Mankind, the people he had fashioned, “Bestower of cultivation,” who causes rains to enrich the crops, allocates fields, and “heaps abundance” for gods and people alike.
Finally, he was granted the name NIBIRU, “He who shall hold the Crossing of Heaven and Earth”:
The Kakkabu which in the skies is brilliant…
He who the Watery Deep ceaselessly courses—
Let “Crossing” be his name!
May he uphold the courses of the stars in heaven,
May he shepherd the heavenly gods as sheep.
“With the title ‘Fifty’ the great gods proclaimed him; He whose name is ‘Fifty’ the gods made supreme,” the long text states in conclusion.
When the nightlong reading of the seven tablets was completed—it probably was dawn by then—the priests who conducted the ritual service made the following prescribed pronouncements:
Let the Fifty Names be kept in mind…
Let the wise and knowing discuss them.
Let the father recite them to his son,
Let the ears of shepherds and herdsmen be opened.
Let them rejoice in Marduk, the “Enlil” of the gods,
whose order is firm, whose command is unalterable;
The utterance of his mouth no god can change.
When Marduk appeared in sight of the people, he was dressed in magnificent vestments that put to shame the simple wool garments of the olden gods of Sumer & Akkad (Fig. 45).
Although Marduk was an unseen god in Egypt, his veneration and acceptance there took hold rather quickly. A Hymn to Ra-Amon that glorified the god by a variety of names in emulation of the Akkadian Fifty Names called him, “Lord of the gods, who behold him in the midst of the horizon”—a celestial god—”who made the entire Earth,” as well as a god on Earth “who created mankind and made the beasts, who created the fruit tree, made herbage and gave life to cattle”— a god “for whom the sixth day is celebrated.” The snippets of similarities to the Mesopotamian and the biblical creation tales are clear.
According to these expressions of faith, on Earth, in Egypt, Ra/Marduk was an unseen god because his main abode was elsewhere—one long hymn actually referred to Babylon as the place where the gods are in jubilation for his victory (scholars, though, assume the reference is not to the Mesopotamian Babylon, but to a town by that name in Egypt). In the heavens he was unseen, because “he is far away in heaven,” because he went “to the rear of the horizons… to the height of heaven.” Egypt’s reigning symbol—a Winged Disc usually flanked by serpents—is commonly explained as a Sun disc “because Ra was the Sun”; but, in fact, it was the ancient world’s ubiquitous symbol of Nibiru (Fig. 46), and it was Nibiru that has become a distant unseen “star.”
Because Ra/Marduk was physically absent from Egypt, it was in Egypt that his Star Religion was expressed in its clearest form. There, Aten, the “Star of Millions of Years” representing Ra/Marduk in his celestial aspect, became The Unseen because it was “far away in heaven,” because it had gone “to the rear of the horizon.”
The transition to Marduk’s New Age and new religion was not so smooth in the Enlilite lands. First, southern Mesopotamia and the western lands that were in the path of the poisonous wind had to recover from its impact.
The calamity that befell Sumer, it will be recalled, was not the nuclear explosion per se but the ensuing radioactive wind. The cities were emptied of their residents and livestock, but were physically undamaged. The waters were poisoned, but the flowing two great rivers soon corrected that.
The soil absorbed the radioactive poison, and that took longer to recover; but that, too, improved with time. And so it was possible for people to slowly repopulate and reinhabit the desolated land.
The first recorded administrative ruler in the devastated south was an ex-governor of Mari, a city way northwest on the Euphrates River. We learn that “he was not of Sumerian seed”; his name, Ishbi-Erra, was in fact a Semitic name. He established his headquarters in the city of Isin, and from there he oversaw the efforts to resurrect the other major cities, but the process was slow, difficult, and at times chaotic. His efforts at rehabilitation were continued by several successors, also bearing Semitic names, the so-called “Dynasty of Isin.” All together, it took them close to a century to revive Ur, Sumer’s economic center, and ultimately Nippur, the land’s traditional religious heart; but by then that city-at-a-time process ran into challenges from other local city rulers, and the erstwhile Sumer remained fragmented and a broken land.
Even Babylon itself, though outside the Evil Wind’s direct path, needed a revived and repopulated country if it was to rise to imperial size and status, and it did not attain the grandeur of Marduk’s prophecies for quite some time. More than a century had to pass until a formal dynasty, called by scholars the First Dynasty of Babylon, was installed on its throne (circa 1900 B.C.E.). Yet another century had to pass until a king who lived up to the prophesied greatness sat on Babylon’s throne; his name was Hammurabi. He is mostly known for the code of laws proclaimed by him—laws recorded on a stone stela that archaeologists have discovered (and that is now in the Louvre in Paris).
It still took some two centuries before Marduk’s prophetic vision regarding Babylon could come true. The meager evidence from the post-calamity time—some scholars refer to the period following the demise of Ur as a Dark Age in Mesopotamian history—suggests that Marduk let the other gods—even his adversaries—take care of the recovery and repopulation of their own olden cult centers, but it is doubtful that they took up his invitation. The recovery and rebuilding that were started by Ishbi-Erra began at Ur, but there is no mention of Nannar/Sin and Ningal returning to Ur. There is mention of Ninurta’s occasional presence in Sumer, especially in regard to its garrisoning by troops from Elam and Gutium, but there is no record that he or his spouse Bau ever returned to their beloved Lagash. The efforts by Ishbi-Erra and his successors to restore the cult centers and their temples culminated—after the passage of seventy-two years—at Nippur, but there is no mention that Enlil and Ninlil resumed residence there.
Where had they gone? One avenue of exploring that intriguing subject was to ascertain what Marduk himself—now supreme and claiming to be the giver of commands to all the Anunnaki—had planned for them.
The textual and other evidence from that time show that Marduk’s rise to supremacy did not end polytheism—the religious beliefs in many gods. On the contrary, his supremacy required continued polytheism, for to be supreme over other gods, the existence of other gods was necessary. He was satisfied to let them be, as long as their prerogatives were subject to his control. A Babylonian tablet recorded (in its undamaged portion) the following list of divine attributes that were henceforth vested in Marduk:
Marduk of the attack
Marduk of the combat
Marduk of lordship and counsel
Marduk the illuminator of the night
Marduk of justice
Marduk of rains
The other gods remained, their attributes remained—but they now held attributes of Marduk that he granted to them. He let their worship be continued; the very name of the interim ruler/administrator in the south, Ishbi-Erra (“Priest of Erra,” i.e., of Nergal) confirms this tolerant policy. But what Marduk expected was that they come and stay with him in his envisaged Babylon—prisoners in golden cages, one may say.
In his autobiographical Prophecies Marduk clearly indicated his intentions in regard to the other gods, including his adversaries: they were to come and reside next to him, in Babylon’s sacred precinct. Sanctuaries or pavilions for Sin and Ningal, where they would reside—”together with their treasures and possessions”!—are specifically mentioned. Texts describing Babylon, and archaeological excavations there, show that in accordance with Marduk’s wishes, Babylon’s sacred precinct also included residence-shrines dedicated to Ninmah, Adad, Shamas, and even Ninurta.
When Babylon finally rose to imperial power—under Hammurabi—its ziggurat-temple indeed reached skyward; the prophesied great king in time did sit on its throne; but to its priest-filled sacred precinct, the other gods did not flock. That manifestation of the New Religion did not come about.
Looking at the Hammurabi stela recording his law code (Fig. 47), we see him receiving the laws from none other than Utu/Shamash—the very one, according to the above-quoted list, whose prerogatives as God of Justice now belonged to Marduk; and the preamble inscribed on the stela invoked Anu and Enlil—the one whose “Lordship and Counsel” were presumably taken over by Marduk—as the gods to whom Marduk was beholden for his status:
Lord of the gods who from heaven to Earth came,
and Enlil, Lord of Heaven and Earth
who determines the Land’s destinies,
Determined for Marduk, the firstborn of Enki,
the Enlil-functions over all mankind.
These acknowledgments of the continued empowerment of Enlilite gods, two centuries after the Age of Marduk began, reflect the actual state of affairs: They did not come to retire in Marduk’s sacred precinct. Dispersed away from Sumer, some accompanied their followers to far lands in the four corners of the Earth; others remained nearby, rallying their followers, old and new, to a renewed challenge to Marduk.
The sense that Sumer as a homeland was no more is clearly expressed in the divine instructions to Abram of Nippur—on the eve of the nuclear upheavaling—to “Semitize” his name to Abraham (and that of his wife Sarai to Sarah), and to make his permanent home in Canaan. Abraham and his wife were not the only Sumerians in need of a new refuge. The nuclear calamity triggered migrational movements on a scale unknown before. The first wave of people was away from the affected lands; its most significant aspect, and one with the most lasting effects, was the dispersal of Sumer’s remnants away from Sumer. The next wave of migrants was into that abandoned land, coming in waves from all directions.
Whichever direction those migration waves took, the fruits of two thousand years of Sumerian civilization were adopted by the other peoples that followed them in the next two millennia. Indeed, though Sumer as a physical entity was crushed, the attainments of its civilization are still with us to this day—just look up your twelve-month calendar, check the time on your watch that retained the Sumerian sexagesimal (“base sixty”) system, or drive in your contraption on wheels (a car).
The evidence for a widespread Sumerian diaspora with its language, writing, symbols, customs, celestial knowledge, beliefs, and gods comes in many forms. Beside the generalities—a religion based on a pantheon of gods who have come from the heavens, a divine hierarchy, god epithet-names that mean the same in the different languages, astronomical knowledge that included a home planet of the gods, a zodiac with its twelve houses, virtually identical creation tales, and memories of gods and demigods that scholars treat as “myths”—there are a host of astounding specific similarities that cannot be explained other than by an actual presence of Sumerians. It was expressed in the spread in Europe of Ninurta’s Double-Eagle symbol (Fig. 48); the fact that three European languages—Hungarian, Finnish, and Basque—are akin only to Sumerian; and the widespread depiction throughout the world—even in South America—of Gilgamesh fighting off with bare hands two ferocious lions (Fig. 49).
In the Far East, there is the clear similarity between the Sumerian cuneiform writing and the scripts of China, Korea, and Japan. The similarity is not only in the script: many similar glyphs are identically pronounced and also have the same meanings. In Japan, civilization has been attributed to an enigmatic forefather-tribe called AINU. The emperor’s family has been deemed to be a line of demigods descended from the Sun-god, and the investiture ceremonies of a new king include a secret solitary nightly stay with the Sun goddess—a ritual ceremony that uncannily emulates the Sacred Marriage rites in ancient Sumer, when the new king spent a night with Inanna/Ishtar.
In the erstwhile Four Regions, the migratory waves of diverse peoples triggered by the nuclear calamity and Marduk’s New Age, much like flowing and overflowing rivers and rivulets after stormy rains, filled the pages of the ensuing centuries with the rise and fall of nations, states, and city-states. Into the Sumerian void, newcomers came in from near and far; their arena, their central stage, remained what can rightly be called the Lands of the Bible. Indeed, until the advent of modern archaeology, little or nothing was known about most of them except for their mention in the Hebrew Bible; it provided not only a record of those various peoples, but also of their “national gods”—and of the wars fought in the name of those gods.
But then nations such as the Hittites, states such as Mitanni, or royal capitals such as Mari, Carchemish, or Susa, which were doubt-filled puzzles, were literally dug up by archaeology; in their ruins there were found not only telltale artifacts but also thousands of inscribed clay tablets that brought to light both their existence as well as the extent of their debt to the Sumerian legacy. Virtually everywhere, Sumerian “firsts” in sciences and technology, literature and art, kingship and priesthood were the foundation on which subsequent cultures were developed. In astronomy, Sumerian terminology, orbital formulas, planetary lists, and zodiacal concepts were retained. The Sumerian cuneiform script was kept in use for another thousand years, and then more. The Sumerian language was studied, Sumerian lexicons were compiled, and Sumerian epic tales of gods and heroes were copied and translated. And once those nations’ diverse languages were deciphered, it turned out that their gods were, after all, members of the old Anunnaki pantheon.
Did the Enlilite gods themselves accompany their followers when such replanting of Sumerian knowledge and beliefs took place in faraway lands? The data are inconclusive. But what is historically certain is that within two or three centuries of the New Age, in lands bordering Babylonia, those who were supposed to become Marduk’s retired guests embarked on an even newer kind of religious affiliations: National State Religions.
Marduk may have garnered the Fifty divine names; but it did not prevent, from then on, nation fighting nation and men killing men “in the name of God”—their god.