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An/Anu (god)

Mesopotamian sky-god, one of the supreme deities; known as An in Sumerian and Anu in Akkadian.

A stele of the Assyrian king Šamši-Adad V (c.815 BCE), making obeisance to the symbols of five deities, including (top) the horned crown of Anu (BM 118892, photo (c) The British Museum).


An/Anu belongs to the oldest generation of Mesopotamian gods and was originally the supreme deity of the Babylonian pantheon. Consequently, his major roles are as an authority figure, decision-maker and progenitor. In heaven he allots functions to other gods, and can increase their status at will; in the Sumerian poem Inana and Ebih (ETCSL 1.3.2)Inana claims that "An has made me terrifying throughout heaven" (l.66). On earth he confers kingship, and his decisions are regarded as unalterable.
Later An/Anu came to share or cede these functions, as Enlil and subsequentlyMarduk rose to prominence, but retained his essential character and high status throughout Mesopotamian history. Indeed, when other gods are elevated to a position of leadership, they are said to receive the anûtu, the "Anu-power". For example, in Enūma eliš TT  the gods express Marduk's authority over them by declaring: "Your word is Anu!" (Tablet IV, lines 4-6).
An/Anu is sometimes credited with the creation of the universe itself, either alone or with Enlil and Ea. Of the three levels of heaven, he inhabited the highest, said to be made of the reddish luludānitu stone (Horowitz 2001: 8-11).

Inana and Ebiḫ

1-6. Goddess of the fearsome divine powers, clad in terror, riding on the great divine powers,Inana, made perfect by the holy a-an-kar weapon, drenched in blood, rushing around in great battles, with shield resting on the ground (?), covered in storm and flood, great lady Inana, knowing well how to plan conflicts, you destroy mighty lands with arrow and strength and overpower lands.

7-9. In heaven and on earth you roar like a lion and devastate the people. Like a huge wild bull you triumph over lands which are hostile. Like a fearsome lion you pacify the insubordinate and unsubmissive with your gall.

10-22. My lady, on your acquiring the stature of heaven, maiden Inana, on your becoming as magnificent as the earth, on your coming forth like Utu the king and stretching your arms wide, on your walking in heaven and wearing fearsome terror, on your wearing daylight and brilliance on earth, on your walking in the mountain ranges and bringing forth beaming rays, on your bathing the girin plants of the mountains (in light), on your giving birth to the bright mountain, the mountain, the holy place, on your ……, on your being strong with the mace like a joyful lord, like an enthusiastic (?) lord, on your exulting in such battle like a destructive weapon -- the black-headed people ring out in song and all the lands sing their song sweetly.

23-24. I shall praise the lady of battle, the great child of Suen, maiden Inana.

25-32. (Inana announced:) "When I, the goddess, was walking around in heaven, walking around on earth, when I, Inana, was walking around in heaven, walking around on earth, when I was walking around in Elam and Subir, when I was walking around in the Lulubi mountains, when I turned towards the centre of the mountains, as I, the goddess, approached the mountain it showed me no respect, as I, Inana, approached the mountain it showed me no respect, as I approached the mountain range of Ebiḫ it showed me no respect."

33-36. "Since they did not act appropriately on their own initiative, since they did not put their noses to the ground for me, since they did not rub their lips in the dust for me, I shall fill my hand with the soaring mountain range and let it learn fear of me."

37-40. "Against its magnificent sides I shall place magnificent battering-rams, against its small sides I shall place small battering-rams. I shall storm it and start the 'game' of holy Inana. In the mountain range I shall start battles and prepare conflicts."

41-44. "I shall prepare arrows in the quiver. I shall …… slingstones with the rope. I shall begin the polishing of my lance. I shall prepare the throw-stick and the shield."

45-48. "I shall set fire to its thick forests. I shall take an axe to its evil-doing. I shall make Gibil, the purifier, do his work at its watercourses. I shall spread this terror through the inaccessible mountain range Aratta."

49-52. "Like a city which An has cursed, may it never be restored. Like a city at which Enlil has frowned, may it never again lift its neck up. May the mountain observe (?) my conduct. MayEbiḫ give me honour and praise me."

53-58. Inana, the child of Suen, put on the garment of royalty and girded herself in joy. She bedecked her forehead with terror and fearsome radiance. She arranged cornelian rosettes around her holy throat. She brandished the seven-headed šita weapon vigorously to her right and placed straps of lapis lazuli on her feet.

59-61. At dusk she came forth regally and stood in the street at the Gate of Wonder. She made an offering to An and addressed a prayer to him.

62-64. An, in delight at Inana, stepped forward and took his place. He filled the seat of honour of heaven.

65-69. (Inana announced:) "An, my father, I greet you! Lend your ear to my words. An has made me terrifying throughout heaven. Owing to you my word has no rival in heaven or on earth. At the limits of heaven are the silig weapon, the antibal and mansium emblems."

70-79. "To set the socle in position and make the throne and foundation firm, to carry the might of the šita weapon which bends like a mubum tree, to hold the ground with the sixfold yoke, to extend the thighs with the fourfold yoke, to pursue murderous raids and widespread miltary campaigns, to appear to those kings in the …… of heaven like moonlight, to shoot the arrow from the arm and fall on fields, orchards and forests like the tooth of the locust, to take the harrow to rebel lands, to remove the locks from their city gates so the doors stand open -- King An, you have indeed given me all this, and ……."
80-82. "You have placed me at the right hand of the king in order to destroy rebel lands: may he, with my aid, smash heads like a falcon in the foothills of the mountain, King An, and may I …… your name throughout the land like a thread."

83-88. "May he destroy the lands as a snake in a crevice. May he make them slither around like a saĝkal snake coming down from a mountain. May he establish control over the mountain, examine it and know its length. May he go out on the holy campaign of An and know its depth. I want to surpass the other deities, since the Anuna deities have ……."

89-95. "How can it be that the mountain did not fear me in heaven and on earth, that the mountain did not fear me, Inana, in heaven and on earth, that the mountain range of Ebiḫ, the mountain, did not fear me in heaven and on earth? Because it did not act appropriately on its own initiative, because it did not put its nose to the ground, because it did not rub its lips in the dust, may I fill my hand with the soaring mountain range and make it learn fear of me."

96-99. "Against its magnificent sides let me place magnificent battering rams, against its small sides let me place small battering rams. Let me storm it and start the 'game' of holy Inana. In the mountain range let me set up battle and prepare conflicts."

100-103. "Let me prepare arrows in the quiver. Let me …… slingstones with the rope. Let me begin the polishing of my lance. Let me prepare the throw-stick and the shield."

104-107. "Let me set fire to its thick forests. Let me take an axe to its evil-doing. Let me makeGibil, the purifier, do his work at its watercourses. Let me spread this terror through the inaccessible mountain range Aratta."

108-111. "Like a city which An has cursed, may it never be restored. Like a city at which Enlilhas frowned, may it never again lift its neck up. May the mountain observe (?) my conduct. May Ebiḫ give me honour and praise me."

112-115. An, the king of the deities, answered her: "My little one demands the destruction of this mountain -- what is she taking on? Inana demands the destruction of this mountain -- what is she taking on? She demands the destruction of this mountain -- what is she taking on?"

116-120. "It has poured fearsome terror on the abodes of the gods. It has spread fear among the holy dwellings of the Anuna deities. Its fearsomeness is terrible and weighs upon the Land. The mountain range's radiance is terrible and weighs upon all the lands. Its arrogance extends grandly to the centre of heaven."

121-126. "Fruit hangs in its flourishing gardens and luxuriance spreads forth. Its magnificent trees, a crown in the heavens, …… stand as a wonder to behold. In Ebiḫ …… lions are abundant under the canopy of trees and bright branches. It makes wild rams and stags freely abundant. It stands wild bulls in flourishing grass. Deer couple among the cypress trees of the mountain range."

127-130. "Its fearsomenness is terrible -- you cannot pass through. The mountain range's radiance is terrible -- maiden Inana, you cannot oppose it." Thus he spoke.

131-137. The mistress, in her rage and anger, opened the arsenal and pushed on the lapis lazuli gate ( She brought out magnificent battle and called up a great storm. Holy Inana reached for the quiver. She raised a towering flood with evil silt. She stirred up an evil raging wind with potsherds.

138-143. My lady confronted the mountain range. She advanced step by step. She sharpened both edges of her dagger. She grabbed Ebiḫ's neck as if ripping up esparto grass. She pressed the dagger's teeth into its interior. She roared like thunder.

144-151. The rocks forming the body of Ebiḫ clattered down its flanks. From its sides and crevices great serpents spat venom. She damned its forests and cursed its trees. She killed its oak trees with drought. She poured fire on its flanks and made its smoke dense.The goddess established authority over the mountain. Holy Inana did as she wished.

152-159. She went to the mountain range of Ebiḫ and addressed it: "Mountain range, because of your elevation, because of your height, because of your attractiveness, because of your beauty, because of your wearing a holy garment, because of your reaching up to heaven, because you did not put your nose to the ground, because you did not rub your lips in the dust, I have killed you and brought you low."

160-165. "As with an elephant I have seized your tusks. As with a great wild bull I have brought you to the ground by your thick horns. As with a bull I have forced your great strength to the ground and pursued you savagely. I have made tears the norm in your eyes. I have placed laments in your heart. Birds of sorrow are building nests on these flanks."

166-170. For a second time, rejoicing in fearsome terror, she spoke out righteously: "My father Enlil has poured my great terror over the centre of the mountains. On my right side he has placed a weapon. On my left side a …… is placed. My anger, a harrow with great teeth, has torn the mountain apart."

171-175. "I have built a palace and done much more. I have put a throne in place and made its foundation firm. I have given the kurĝara cult performers a dagger and prod. I have given the gala cult performers ub and lilis drums. I have transformed the pilipili cult performers."

176-181. "In my victory I rushed towards the mountain. In my victory I rushed towards Ebiḫ, the mountain range. I went forward like a surging flood, and like rising water I overflowed the dam. I imposed my victory on the mountain. I imposed my victory on Ebiḫ."

182-183. For destroying Ebiḫ, great child of Suen, maiden Inana, be praised.

184. Nisaba be praised.

Divine Genealogy and Syncretisms

The earliest texts make no reference to An's origins. Later he is regarded as the son of Anšar and Kišar, as in the first millennium creation epic Enūma eliš (Tablet I, 11-14). In Sumerian texts of the third millennium the goddess Uraš is his consort; later this position was taken by Ki, the personification of earth, and in Akkadian texts by Antu, whose name is probably derived from his own.
An/Anu frequently receives the epithet "father of the gods," and many deities are described as his children in one context or another. Inscriptions from third-millennium Lagaš name An as the father of Gatumdug, Baba and Ningirsu. In later literary texts,AdadEnki/EaEnlilGirraNanna/SinNergal and Šara also appear as his sons, while goddesses referred to as his daughters include Inana/IštarNanayaNidaba,Ninisinna, Ninkarrak, Ninmug, Ninnibru, Ninsumun, Nungal and Nusku. An/Anu is also the head of the Annunaki, and created the demons Lamaštu, Asag and the Sebettu. In the epic Erra and Išum, Anu gives the Sebettu to Erra as weapons with which to massacre humans when their noise becomes irritating to him (Tablet I, 38ff).
When Enlil rose to equal or surpass An in authority, the functions of the two deities came to some extent to overlap. An was also sometimes equated with Amurru, and, in Seleucid Uruk, with Enmešara and Dumuzi.

Cult Places

Temples and shrines to An/Anu existed in various cities throughout Mesopotamian history. From the third millennium onwards he was worshipped, with some interruptions, together with Inana/Ištar at the é-an-na temple in Uruk, and in the Achaemenid and Seleucid periods at the new Reš temple with Antu.
Another important centre for his cult was Der, which, like Uruk, held the title "city of Anu". In Lagaš a temple to An was established by Gudea (ca. 2144-2124 BCE), while Ur-Namma (ca. 2112-2095 BCE) built a garden and shrine for him at Ur. An also had a "seat" in the main temple of Babylon, Esagil, and received offerings at NippurSippar and Kish. At Assur a double temple for Anu and Adad, é-me-lám-an-na, was built during the Middle Assyrian period (ca. 1350-1050 BCE) and restored by subsequent rulers including Tiglath-Pileser I.

Time Periods Attested

The earliest appearances of An as a specific deity are difficult to identify precisely, due to the multiple readings possible for the sign AN. However, by the mid-third millennium he is definitely attested in the Fara god-list, and in the name of the 27th-century king of Ur, Mesanepada ("Young man, chosen by An"), who also dedicated a bead "to the god An, his lord" (Frayne 2008: E1.13.5.1). In the following centuries cultic activity for An/Anu is attested at Uruk and Nippur, and he begins to occur in royal titles: Lugalzagesi (ca. 2375-50 BCE) and Sargon I (ca. 2334-2279 BCE) both call themselves his priests.
From the second millennium onwards An/Anu is mentioned regularly in literary texts, inscriptions and personal names, although rarely as the central figure - he seems to have always been regarded as rather remote from human affairs. From the Old Babylonian period (ca. 2000-1595 BCE) a Sumerian prayer to An asks him to protect the kingship of Rim-Sin, king of Ur (ETCSL and several royal hymns to An survive (ETCSL, an unfortunately fragmentary adab to An for Šu-SuenETCSL, an adab to An for Lipit-IštarETCSL, an adab to An for Ur-Ninurta).
At around the same time, Anu features for the first time in Assyrian royal inscriptions; Šamši-Adad I (ca. 1813-1781 BCE) boasts that Anu and Enlil called him to greatness (Grayson 1987: A.0.39.1. The god Aššur always retained his pre-eminent position in the Assyrian pantheon, but later kings also sometimes invoked Anu as a source of support or legitimacy.
Sumerian and Akkadian mythological texts portray An/Anu as king and father of the gods. The Old Babylonian composition Gilgameš, Enkidu and the Netherworld (ETCSL refers to the primeval division of the universe in which An received the heavens (lines 11-12), and we see him ruling from here in the flood poem AtrahasisInana/Ištar, set upon killing Gilgameš, forcefully persuades her father to hand over the bull of heaven in the Old Babylonian poem Gilgameš and the Bull of Heaven (ETCSL, as well as in the first-millennium Epic of Gilgameš (Tablet VI, lines 92ff). In Enūma eliš Anu turns back in fear from Tiamat (Tablet II, lines 105-6), paving the way for Marduk's triumph and elevation above him which characterises Babylonian literature and religious practice in the late second and early first millennium. However, during the fifth century BCE Anu's cult enjoyed a revival at Uruk, and ritual texts describing the involvement of his statue in the local akitu festival survive from the Seleucid period (e.g., TCL 6, 39TCL 6, 40BRM 4, 07).


There are no certain anthropomorphic representations of An/Anu. His symbol is a horned crown, sometimes shown resting on a throne (see below). His animal is the bull.

Name and Spellings

Sumerian an means "heaven, sky", and An can therefore be seen as the personified heavens. The cuneiform sign AN also has the value DINGIR, 'god' (Akkadian ilu(m)), and is used as the determinative for deities, yet in Sumerian An's name is never written with the divine determinative. In Akkadian he is Anu, written logographically as dAN, or spelled syllabically, e.g. da-nu(m). The logogramd60 is also a learned writing for Anu.

Written forms:
Sumerian: an; Akkadian: da-nu, da-num, an-nu, d60
Normalised forms:
An, Anu(m)

Source Cited: