If the prophecies and messianic expectations attendant on the New Age of the twenty-first century B.C.E. look familiar to us today, the battle cries of the subsequent centuries would not sound strange, either. If in the third millennium B.C.E. god fought god using armies of men, in the second millennium B.C.E. men fought men “in the name of god.”
It took just a few centuries after the start of Marduk’s New Age to show that the fulfillment of his prophecies of grandeur would not easily come. Significantly, the resistance came not so much from the dispersed Enlilite gods but from the people, the masses of their loyal worshippers!
More than a century had to pass from the time of the nuclear ordeal until Babylon (the city) emerged on the stage of history as Babylonia (the state) under its First Dynasty. During that interval southern Mesopotamia—the Sumer of old—was left to recover in the hands of temporary rulers headquartered in Isin and then in Larsa; their theophoric names—Lipit-Ishtar, Ur-Ninurta, Rim-Sin, Enlil-Bani—flaunted their Enlilite loyalties. Their crowning achievement was the restoration of Nippur’s temple exactly seventy-two years after the nuclear havoc—another indication of where their loyalties lay, and of an adherence to a zodiacal time count.
Those non-Babylonian rulers were scions of Semitic-speaking royals from a city-state called Mari. As one looks at a map showing the nation-states of the first half of the second millennium B.C.E. (Fig. 50), it becomes clear that the non-Mardukite states formed a formidable vise around Greater Babylon, starting with Elam and Gutium on the southeast and east; Assyria and Hatti in the north; and as a western anchor in the chain, Mari on the mid-Euphrates.
Of them, Mari was the most “Sumerian,” even having served once as Sumer’s capital, the tenth as that function rotated among Sumer’s major cities. An ancient port city on the Euphrates River, it was a major crossing point for people, goods, and culture between Mesopotamia in the east, the Mediterranean lands in the west, and Anatolia in the northwest. Its monuments bore the finest examples of Sumerian writing, and its huge central palace was decorated with murals, astounding in their artistry, honoring Ishtar (Fig. 51). (A chapter on Mari and my visit to its ruins can be read in The Earth Chronicles Expeditions.)
Its royal archive of thousands of clay tablets revealed how Mari’s wealth and international connections to many other city-states were first used and then betrayed by the emerging Babylon.
After at first attaining the restoration of southern Mesopotamia by the Mari royals, Babylon’s kings—feigning peace and unprovoked—treated Mari as an enemy. In 1760 B.C.E. the Babylonian king Hammurabi attacked, sacked, and destroyed Mari, its temples and its palaces. It was done, Hammurabi boasted in his annals, “through the mighty power of Marduk.”
After the fall of Mari, chieftains from the “Sealands”— Sumer’s marshy areas bordering the Lower Sea (Persian Gulf)—conducted raids northward, and took from time to time control of the sacred city of Nippur. But those were temporary gains, and Hammurabi was certain that his vanquishing of Mari completed Babylon’s political and religious domination of the old Sumer & Akkad. The dynasty to which he belonged, named by scholars the First Dynasty of Babylon, began a century before him and continued through his descendants for another two centuries. In those turbulent times, it was quite an achievement.
Historians and theologians agree that in 1760 B.C.E. Hammurabi, calling himself “King of the Four Quarters,” “put Babylon on the world map” and launched Marduk’s distinct Star Religion.
When Babylon’s political and military supremacy was thus established, it was time to assert and aggrandize its religious domination. In a city whose splendor was extolled in the Bible and whose gardens were deemed one of the ancient world’s wonders, the sacred precinct, with the Esagil ziggurat-temple at its center, was protected by its own walls and guarded gates; inside, processional ways were laid out to fit the religious ceremonies, and shrines were built for other gods (whom Marduk expected to be his unwilling guests). When archaeologists excavated Babylon, they found not only the city’s remains but also “architectural tablets” describing and mapping out the city; though many of the structures are remains from later times, this artist’s conception of the sacred precinct’s center (Fig. 52) gives a good idea of Marduk’s magnificent headquarters.
As befits a “Vatican,” the sacred precinct was also filled with an impressive array of priests whose religious, ceremonial, administrative, political, and menial tasks can be gleaned from their varied groupings, classifications, and designations.
At the bottom of the hierarchy were the service personnel, the Abalu—”Porters”—who clean-swept the temple and adjoining buildings, provided the tools and utensils that the other priests required, and acted as general supply and warehousing personnel—except for woolen yarns, which were entrusted only to the Shu’uru priests. Special priests, like the Mushshipu and Mulillu, performed ritual purification services, except that it required a Mushlahhu to handle snake infestations.
The Umannu, Master Craftsmen, worked in workshops where artful religious objects were fashioned; the Zabbu were a group of female priestesses, chefs, and cooks who prepared the meals. Other priestesses acted as professional bewailers in funerals; the Bakate knew how to shed bitter tears. And then there were the Shangu—simply “the priests”—who oversaw the overall functioning of the temple, the smooth performance of its rituals, and the receiving and handling of the offerings, or who were responsible for the gods’ clothes; and so on and on.
The provision of personal “butlering” services to the resident gods was handled by a small, specially selected elite group of priests. There were the Ramaqu who handled the purification-by-water rituals (honored with bathing the god), and the Nisaku who poured out the used water. The anointing of the god with “Sacred Oil”—a delicate mixture of specific aromatic oils—was placed in specialized hands, starting with the Abaraku who mixed the ointments, and included the Pashishu who performed the anointing (in the case of a goddess the priests were all eunuchs). Then there were altogether other priests and priestesses, including the Sacred Choir—the Naru who sang, the Lallaru who were singers and musicians, and the Munabu whose specialty was lamentations. In each group there was the Rabu—the Chief, the one in charge.
As envisaged by Marduk, once his Esagil ziggurat-temple was raised heavenward, its main function was to constantly observe the heavens; and indeed, the most important segment of temple priests were those whose task it was to observe the heavens, track the movement of stars and planets, record special phenomena (such as a planetary conjunction or an eclipse), and consider whether the heavens bespoke omens; and if so, to interpret what they did portend.
The astronomer-priests, generally called Mashmashu, included diverse specialties; a Kalu priest, for example, specialized in watching the Constellation of the Bull. It was the duty of the Lagaru to keep a detailed daily record of the celestial observations, and to convey the information to a cadre of interpreter-priests. These—making up the top priestly hierarchy—included the Ashippu, Omen specialists, the Mahhu “who could read the signs,” and the Baru— “Truth-tellers”—who “understood mysteries and divine signs.” A special priest, the Zaqiqu, was charged with conveying the divine words to the king. Then at the head of those astronomer-astrologer priests was the Urigallu, the Great Priest, who was a holy man, a magician, and a physician, whose white vestments were elaborately color-trimmed at the hems.
The discovery of some seventy tablets that formed a continuous series of observations and their meaning, named after the opening words Enuma Anu Enlil, revealed both the transition from Sumerian astronomy and the existence of oracular formulas that dictated what a phenomenon meant. In time a host of diviners, dream interpreters, fortune-tellers, and the like joined the hierarchy, but they were in the king’s rather than the gods’ service. In time the celestial observations degraded to astrological omens for king and country—predicting war, tranquility, overthrows, long life or death, abundance or pestilences, divine blessings or godly wrath. But in the beginning the celestial observations were purely astronomical and were of prime interest to the god— Marduk—and only derivatively to king and people.
It was not by chance that a Kalu priest specialized in watching Enlil’s Constellation of the Bull for any untoward phenomena, for the main purpose of the Esagil-as-observatory was to track the heavens zodiacally and keep an eye on Celestial Time. The fact that significant events prior to the nuclear blast happened in seventy-two-year intervals, and continued to do so afterward (see above and earlier chapters), suggests that the zodiacal clock, in which it took seventy-two years for a Precessional shift of one degree, continued to be observed and adhered to.
It is clear from all the astronomical (and astrological) texts from Babylon that its astronomer-priests retained the Sumerian division of the heavens into three Ways or paths, each occupying sixty degrees of the celestial arc: the Way of Enlil for the northern skies, the Way of Ea for the southern skies, and the Way of Anu as the central band (Fig. 53). It was in the latter that the zodiacal constellations were located, and it was there that “Earth met Heaven”—at the horizon.
Perhaps because Marduk attained supremacy in accordance with Celestial Time, the zodiacal clock, his astronomer-priests continuously scanned the skies at the horizon, the Sumerian AN.UR, “Heaven’s Base.” There was no point in looking up to the Sumerian AN.PA, “Heaven’s Top,” the zenith, for Marduk as a “star,” Nibiru, was by then gone and unseen.
But as an orbiting planet, though unseen now, it was bound to return. Expressing its equivalent of the Marduk-is-Nibiru theme, the Egyptian version of Marduk’s Star-Religion openly promised its faithful that a time will come when this god-star or star-god would reappear as the ATEN.
It was this aspect of Marduk’s Star Religion—the eventual Return—that directly challenged Babylon’s Enlilite adversaries, and shifted the conflict’s focus to renewed messianic expectations.
Of the post-Sumer actors on the stage of the Old World, four that grew to imperial status left the deepest imprint on history: Egypt and Babylonia, Assyria and Hatti (the land of the Hittites); and each one had its “national god.”
The first two belonged to the Enki-Marduk-Nabu camp; the other two were beholden to Enlil, Ninurta, and Adad. Their national gods were called Ra-Amon and Bel/Marduk, Ashur and Teshub, and it was in the name of those gods that constant, prolonged, and cruel wars were fought. The wars, historians may explain, were caused by the usual reasons for war: resources, territory, need, or greed; but the royal annals that detailed the wars and military expeditions presented them as religious wars in which one’s god was glorified and the opposite deity humiliated. However, the looming expectations of the Return turned those wars to territorial campaigns that had specific sites as their targets.
The wars, according to the royal annals of all those lands, were launched by the king “on the command of my god” so-and-so; the campaign was carried out “in accordance with an oracle” from this or that god; and as often as not, victory was attained with the help of unopposable weapons or other direct help provided by the god. An Egyptian king wrote in his war records that it was “Ra who loves me, Amon who favors me,” who instructed him to march “against these enemies whom Ra abominates.” An Assyrian king, recording the defeat of an enemy king, boasted that he replaced in the city’s temple the images of the city’s gods “with the images of my gods, and declared them to be henceforth the gods of the country.”
A clear example of the religious aspect of those wars—and the deliberate choice of targets—can be found in the Hebrew Bible, in 2 Kings Chapters 18–19, in which the siege of Jerusalem by the army of the Assyrian king Sennacherib is described. Having surrounded and cut off the city, the Assyrian commander engaged in psychological warfare in order to get the city’s defenders to surrender. Speaking in Hebrew so that all on the city’s walls could understand, he shouted to them the words of the king of Assyria: Don’t be deceived by your leaders that your god Yahweh will protect you: “Has any of the gods of the nations ever rescued their lands from the hand of the king of Ashur? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena and Avva? Where are the gods of the land of Samaria? Which of the gods of all these lands ever rescued his land from my hand? Will then Yahweh rescue Jerusalem from my hand?” (Yahweh, the historical records show, did.)
What were those religious wars about? The wars, and the national gods in whose name they were fought, don’t make sense except when one realizes that at the core of the conflicts was what the Sumerian had called DUR.AN.KI—the “Bond Heaven-Earth.” Repeatedly, the ancient texts spoke of the catastrophe “when Earth was separated from Heaven”— when the spaceport connecting them was destroyed. The overwhelming question in the aftermath of the nuclear calamity was this: Who—which god and his nation—could claim to be the one on Earth who now possessed the link to the Heavens?
For the gods, the destruction of the spaceport in the Sinai peninsula was a material loss of a facility that required replacement. But can one imagine the impact—the spiritual and religious impact—on Mankind? All of a sudden, the worshipped gods of Heaven and Earth were cut off from Heaven…
With the spaceport in the Sinai now obliterated, only three space-related sites remained in the Old World: the Landing Place in the cedar mountains; the post-Diluvial Mission Control Center that replaced Nippur; and the Great Pyramids in Egypt that anchored the Landing Corridor. With the destruction of the spaceport, did those other sites still have a useful celestial function—and thus also a religious significance?
We know the answer, to some extent, because all three sites still stand on Earth, challenging mankind by their mysteries and the gods by facing upward to the heavens.
The most familiar of the three is the Great Pyramid and its companions in Giza (Fig. 54); its size, geometric precision, inner complexity, celestial alignments, and other amazing aspects have long cast doubt on the attribution of its construction to a Pharaoh named Cheops—an attribution supported solely by a discovery of a hieroglyph of his name inside the pyramid. In The Stairway to Heaven I offered proof that those markings were a modern forgery, and in that book and others voluminous textual and pictorial evidence was provided to explain how and why the Anunnaki designed and built those pyramids. Having been stripped of its radiating guidance equipment during the wars of the gods, the Great Pyramid and its companions continued to serve as physical beacons for the Landing Corridor. With the spaceport gone, they just remained silent witnesses to a vanished Past; there has been no indication that they ever became sacred religious objects.
The Landing Place in the cedar forest has a different record. Gilgamesh, who went to it almost a millennium before the nuclear calamity, witnessed there the launching of a rocket ship; and the Phoenicians of the nearby city of Byblos on the Mediterranean coast depicted on a coin (Fig. 55) a rocket ship emplaced on a special base within an enclosure at the very same place—almost a thousand years after the nuclear event. So, with and then without the spaceport, the Landing Place continued to be operative.
The place, Ba’albek (“The valley-cleft of Ba’al”), in Lebanon, consisted in antiquity of a vast (about five million square feet) platform of paved stones at the northwestern corner of which an enormous stone structure rose heavenward. Built with perfectly shaped massive stone blocks weighing 600 to 900 tons each, its western wall was especially fortified with the heaviest stone blocks on Earth, including three that weigh an incredible 1,100 tons each and are known as the Trilithon (Fig. 56). The amazing fact about those colossal stone blocks is that they were quarried about two miles away in the valley, where one such block, whose quarrying was not completed, still sticks out from the ground (Fig. 57).
The Greeks venerated the place since Alexander’s time as Heliopolis (City of the Sun god); the Romans built there the greatest temple to Zeus. The Byzantines converted it to a great church; the Moslems after them built there a mosque; and present-day Maronite Christians revere the place as a relic from the Time of the Giants. (A visit to the place and its ruins, and how it functioned as a launch tower, are described in The Earth Chronicles Expeditions.)
Most sacred and hallowed to this day has been the site that served as Mission Control Center—Ur-Shalem (“City of the Comprehensive God”), Jerusalem. There, too, as in Baalbek but on a reduced scale, a large stone platform rests on a rock and cut-stones foundation, including a massive western wall with three colossal stone blocks that weigh about six hundred tons each (Fig. 58). It was upon that preexisting platform that the Temple to Yahweh was built by King Solomon, its Holy of Holies with the Ark of the Covenant resting upon a sacred rock above a subterranean chamber. The Romans, who built the greatest temple ever to Jupiter in Baalbek, also planned to build one to Jupiter in Jerusalem instead of the one to Yahweh. The Temple Mount is nowadays dominated by the Moslem-built Dome of the Rock (Fig. 59); its gilded dome originally surmounted the Moslem shrine at Baalbek—evidence that the link between the two space-related sites has seldom been missed.
In the trying times after the nuclear calamity, could Marduk’s Bab-Ili, his “Gateway of the gods,” substitute for the olden Bond Heaven-Earth sites? Could Marduk’s new Star Religion offer an answer to the perplexed masses?
The ancient search for an answer, it seems, has continued to our very own time.
The most unremitting adversary of Babylon was the Assyrians. Their province, in the upper region of the Tigris River, was called Subartu in Sumerian times and was the northernmost extension of Sumer & Akkad. In language and racial origins they appear to have had a kinship to Sargon of Akkad, so much so that when Assyria became a kingdom and imperial power, some of its most famous kings took the name Sharru-kin—Sargon—as their royal name.
All that, gleaned from archaeological finds in the past two centuries, corroborates the succinct statements in the Bible (Genesis, Chapter 10) that listed the Assyrians among the descendants of Shem, and Assyria’s capital Nineveh and other principal cities as “coming out of “—an outgrowth, an extension of—Shine’ar (Sumer). Their pantheon was the Sumerian pantheon—their gods were the Anunnaki of Sumer & Akkad; and the theophoric names of Assyrian kings and high officials indicated reverence to the gods Ashur, Enlil, Ninurta, Sin, Adad, and Shamash. There were temples to them, as well as to the goddess Inanna/Ishtar, who was also extensively worshipped; one of her best-known depictions, as a helmeted pilot (Fig. 60), was found in her temple in Ashur (the city).
Historical documents from the time indicate that it was the Assyrians from the north who were the first to challenge Marduk’s Babylon militarily. The very first recorded Assyrian king, Ilushuma, led circa 1900 B.C.E. a successful military expedition down the Tigris River all the way south to the border of Elam. His inscriptions state that his aim was to “set the freedom of Ur and Nippur”; and he did remove, for a while, those cities from Marduk’s grip.
That was only the first fight between Assyria and Babylonia in a conflict that continued for more than a thousand years and lasted to the end of both. It was a conflict in which the Assyrian kings were usually the aggressors. Neighboring each other, speaking the same Akkadian language, and both inheriting the Sumerian foundation, the Assyrians and Babylonians were distinguishable by just one key difference: their national god.
Assyria called itself the “Land of the god Ashur” or simply ASHUR, after the name of its national god, for its kings and people considered this religious aspect to be all that mattered. Its first capital was also called “City of Ashur,” or simply Ashur. The name meant “The One Who Sees” or “The One Who Is Seen.” Yet with all the countless hymns, prayers, and other references to the god Ashur, it remains unclear who exactly, in the Sumerian-Akkadian pantheon, he was. In god lists he was the equivalent of Enlil; other references sometimes suggest that he was Ninurta, Enlil’s son and heir; but since whenever the spouse was listed or mentioned she was always called Ninlil, the conclusion tends to be that the Assyrian “Ashur” was Enlil.
The historical record of Assyria is one of conquest and aggression against many other nations and their gods. Their countless military campaigns ranged far and wide, and were carried on, of course, “in the name of god”—their god, Ashur: “On the command of my god Ashur, the great lord” was the usual opening statement in the Assyrian kings’ record of a military campaign. But when it came to the warfare with Babylon, the amazing aspect of Assyria’s attacks was its central aim: not just the rollback of Babylon’s influence— but the actual, physical removal of Marduk himself from his temple in Babylon!
The feat of capturing Babylon and taking Marduk into captivity was first achieved, however, not by the Assyrians but by their neighbors to the north—the Hittites.
Circa 1900 B.C.E. the Hittites began to spread out from their strongholds in north-central Anatolia (today’s Turkey), became a major military power, and joined the chain of Enlilite nation-states opposed to Marduk’s Babylon. In a relatively short time, they attained imperial status and their domains extended southward to include most of the biblical Canaan.
The archaeological discovery of the Hittites, their cities, records, language, and history, is an astounding and exciting tale of bringing to life and corroborating the existence of people and places hitherto known only from the Hebrew Bible. Hittites are repeatedly mentioned in the Bible, but without the disdain or scorn reserved for worshippers of pagan gods. It refers to their presence throughout the lands where the story and history of the Hebrew Patriarchs unfolded. They were Abraham’s neighbors in Harran, and it was from Hittite landowners in Hebron, south of Jerusalem, that he bought the Machpelah burial cave. Bathsheba, whom King David coveted in Jerusalem, was the wife of a Hittite captain in his army; and it was from Hittite farmers (who used the site for wheat thrashing) that David bought the platform for the Temple on Mount Moriah. King Solomon bought chariot horses from Hittite princes, and it was one of their daughters whom he married.
The Bible considered the Hittites to belong, genealogically and historically, to the peoples of Western Asia; modern scholars believe that they were migrants to Asia Minor from elsewhere—probably from beyond the Caucasus mountains. Because their language, once deciphered, was found to belong to the Indo-European group (as do Greek on the one hand and Sanskrit on the other hand), they are considered to have been non-Semitic “Indo-Europeans.” Yet, once settled, they added the Sumerian cuneiform script to their own distinct script, included Sumerian “loan words” in their terminology, studied and copied Sumerian “myths” and epic tales, and adopted the Sumerian pantheon—including the count of twelve “Olympians.” In fact, some of the earliest tales of the gods on Nibiru and coming from Nibiru were discovered only in their Hittite versions. The Hittite gods were undoubtedly the Sumerian gods, and monuments and royal seals invariably showed them accompanied by the ubiquitous symbol of the Winged Disc (see Fig. 46), the symbol for Nibiru. These gods were sometimes called in the Hittite texts by their Sumerian or Akkadian names—we find Anu, Enlil, Ea, Ninurta, Inanna/Ishtar, and Utu/Shamash repeatedly mentioned. In other instances the gods were called by Hittite names; leading them was the Hittite national god, Teshub—”the Windblower” or “God of storms.” He was none other than Enlil’s youngest son ISHKUR/Adad. His depictions showed him holding the lightning bolt as his weapon, usually standing upon a bull—the symbol of his father’s celestial constellation (Fig. 61).
The biblical references to the extended reach and military prowess of the Hittites were confirmed by archaeological discoveries both at Hittite sites and in the records of other nations. Significantly, the Hittite southward reach embraced the two space-related sites of the Landing Place (today’s Baalbek) and the post-Diluvial Mission Control Center (Jerusalem); it also brought the Enlilite Hittites to within striking distance of Egypt, the land of Ra/Marduk. The two sides thus had all it took to engage in armed conflict. In fact, the wars between the two included some of the ancient world’s most famous battles fought “in the name of god.”
But rather than attack Egypt, the Hittites sprung a surprise. The first, perhaps, to introduce horse-driven chariots in military campaigns, the Hittite army, totally unexpectedly, in 1595 B.C.E., swept down the Euphrates River, captured Babylon, and took Marduk into captivity.
Though one wishes that more detailed records from that time and event would have been discovered, what is known indicates that the Hittite attackers did not intend to take over and rule Babylon: they retreated soon after they had breached the city’s defenses and entered its sacred precinct, taking Marduk with them, leaving him unharmed, but apparently under guard, in a city called Hana—a place (yet to be excavated) in the district of Terka, along the Euphrates River.
The humiliating absence of Marduk from Babylon lasted twenty-four years—exactly the same time that Marduk had been in exile in Harran five centuries earlier. After several years of confusion and disorder, kings belonging to a dynasty called the Kassite Dynasty took control of Babylon, restored Marduk’s shrine, “took the hand of Marduk,” and returned him to Babylon. Still, the Hittite sack of Babylon is considered by historians to have marked the end both of the glorious First Dynasty of Babylon and of the Old Babylonian Period.
The sudden Hittite thrust to Babylon and the temporary removal of Marduk remain an unresolved historical, political, and religious mystery. Was the intention of the raid just to embarrass and diminish Marduk—deflate his ego, confuse his followers—or was there a more far-reaching purpose— or cause—behind it?
Was it possible that Marduk fell victim to the proverbial “hoist by his own petard”?