The Sumerian and Egyptian cultures developed a rich and detailed mythology overthe thousands of years of their existence. Each culture developed its owncomplex, polytheistic system of deities and worship.
There are many aspects ofboth of these two culture’s gods that are similar, but for one to trulyunderstand the relationship between these two cultures one must delve deeper andlook at the differences. The Sumerians had four leading deities known ascreating gods. These gods were An, the god of heaven; Ki (Kiki), the goddess ofearth; Enlil, the god of air; and Enki (who later became Ea), the god of water.Like these “creator gods”, most Sumerian gods are the personificationof local elements and natural forces. (Kramer) The Sumerian gods were groupedinto three levels indicating their importance and power.
The highest level wasthat of the primary deities or creator gods who were created for creating alllife on earth life. The next level of gods were known as “The Seven WhoDecreed Fate”. This group not only consisted of the four primary deitiesbut also included Nanna, his son Utu, the sun god and a god of justice, andNanna’s daughter, Inanna, goddess of love and war.
Most of the gods were in thenext level that was known as the fifty “great gods” or the Anunna. Thebottom level consisted of lower gods, demigods, and in some cases heros.Sumerians believed humans were created as labor saving devises for the gods.
Each family and town had a patron god that might interven in troubled times tohelp the people. Most towns also had a ziggurat in which they worshiped thatcity’s god. The ziggurat also served as the home of the high priest. The highpriest was considered divine and it was his job to tell the people the othergods’ will.
This was usually done by reading sheep or goat entrails.(Siren) Onemyth known as the “creation myth” sums up a lot about how the Egyptiangods were created. In this myth, it tells of a time when there was nothing but apowerful being called Nun. Nun was so powerful that a shining egg arose fromher, which was Ra. Ra was thought to have been so mighty that he willed hischildren into being. The first was Shu, who was considered the god of the spaceand light between the sky and the earth.
Next Ra created Tefnut, who was thepersonification of the moisture of the sky. Then the god of the earth, Geb wascreated. Next Nut was created. Nut was the goddess of the daytime sky, but waslater the goddess of the sky in general. The final god to be made was Hapi, theancient Egyptian god of the Nile.
After all of the gods where created, Racreated men and went down to earth in human form to rule as the first pharaoh ofEgypt. (Egypt Mythology)Unlike the Sumerian belief in a group of gods creatingeverything, Egyptians believed Ra created the earth and living things. AlsoEgyptians, like the Sumerians, believed that their religious leaders wereactually gods themselves. Egyptians did not believe that there was a patron godfor each city although each god had a city that was considered their center ofworship.
Also, unlike the Sumerians, the Egyptians did not have a complex systemof levels for their deities, although some deities defiantly stand out as beingthe prominent gods. This is probably because those gods were thought to haveaffected the everyday life of the Egyptians. Egyptian gods were worshiped inhuge temples that were scattered throughout Egypt. In many of these templeshieroglyphic writings about many Egyptian gods, because of this we now know anenormous amount of information about this cultures’ gods. (Ions) The same can besaid for the Sumerians who left cuneiform tablets that told us much about thisancient civilization.
There are many aspects of both of these two culture’s godsthat are similar, but for one to truly understand the relationship between thesetwo cultures one must delve deeper and look at the differences. Both theEgyptians and the Sumerians worshiped many gods that are the personifications oflocal elements and natural forces. Each culture hade a special god for the majorlife sustaining elements such as water, air, and light (sun). On the other hand,each culture developed individual myths and ways to worship their gods.
Inconclusion, the religions of these two ancient civilizations has left apermanent mark in history and has set the standards for future religions.BibliographyEgypt Mythology. Emory University and Memorial Art Gallery. Oct 7.
1996. (29 Apr. 1999) Ions, Veronica. Egyptian Mythology.
New York: Peter BedrickBooks. 1982. Kramer, Samuel Noah. Sumerian Mythology. Harper & Brothers. NewYork, 1961 Siren, Christopher. Sumerian Mythology FAQ (version1.
1 . (Oct.3, 1999)Mythology