(ORDO NEWS) — The ancient city of Nippur is one of the most interesting sacred cities in the Middle East.
Now Nippur is known only as a dilapidated prehistoric city, and once it was recognized as the most important religious capital of Mesopotamian culture.
Located in southern Iraq between the cities of Baghdad and Basra, Nippur had a very long life compared to the surrounding cities, surviving from almost 5000 BC to 800 AD.
During its heyday, Nippur was not known as a political capital. In fact, during its existence, it was rarely involved in politics at all.
Instead, Nippur was known as a holy city, as the home of Enlil, an ancient Mesopotamian god known for his power over air, wind, earth, and storms.
Since Nippur was considered a sacred place, it is believed that this contributed to its longevity – even in times of war, respect for the holy places and fear of the wrath of the gods was maintained by both sides, which protected the city from serious destruction.
Although Nippur was not specifically a political capital, it still played an important role in Mesopotamian politics due to its status as a sacred city and the home of Enlil and other gods.
The kings of local cities often sought the recognition of Enlil’s temple, called Ekur, in exchange for granting land, gems, and other goods to the people of Nippur.
They also provided men for the construction and restoration of temples and other important buildings throughout the city for the good of the gods.
Even after the wars, the king’s first step was often to offer the goods obtained in the war as a sacrifice to Enlil and other gods in gratitude for protection.
These generous donations contributed significantly to Nippur’s wealth and success over time.
The culture of Mesopotamia, the history of Enlil and the final fall of Nippur are all important parts of the fascinating history of this ancient holy city.
By analyzing the past, we can better understand what steps we should take in the future to respect and preserve this precious place.
Nippur was one of the homes of the ancient Sumerians, a people located in southern Mesopotamia.
The southern region of Mesopotamia was called Sumer and consisted of several city-states such as Nippur, each with its own king.
The name Sumer actually translates to “land of civilized kings” as politics was an important part of Sumerian culture.
The Sumerians were known for their innovation and ability to design and create new items or concepts.
In particular, they are known for giving meaning to days, hours, and minutes by dividing day and night into 12 hours, an hour into 60 minutes, and a minute into 60 seconds.
They also designed some of the first school and government buildings in history, some of their incredible architecture still standing today.
In addition to their innovations, the original biblical flood story came from this region. Sumer was a highly developed civilization, and Nippur was an integral part of it.
Religion was a central aspect of the entire Sumerian and Mesopotamian civilization. Religion influenced political decisions, government leaders, school programs and the entire social structure.
The Sumerians believed that the gods turned chaos into order by creating the Earth, and that in order for life to continue on Earth, they must work alongside the gods to maintain that order.
Although much emphasis was placed on individual talents and skills that could be used to help the gods, the Sumerians had a strong sense of community, coming together as a community to serve the gods in exchange for their existence.
Enlil is the main deity of the Sumerians, who was primarily worshiped in the city of Nippur. Enlil is known for its connection to the air, wind, earth and storms, as well as a place of worship in the center of Nippur.
Those who wanted to worship Enlil visited the temple of Ekur, which translates as “house on the mountain.”
This temple was known as the assembly of the gods in Nippur and was the most sacred and revered building in all of ancient Sumer.
It was believed that Enlil built this temple for himself as a link between Heaven and Earth.
Ancient Sumerian myths say that Enlil was so holy that even the other gods could not look directly at him. The Sumerians, who worshiped Enlil, also considered him responsible for the development of the Earth.
The first god, Nammu, created Heaven (An) and Earth (Ki), which mated with each other to create Enlil. Enlil divided his creators, An and Ki (Heaven and Earth), so that humans could survive there.
Humans were created as a result of the mating of Enlil and Ki (Earth, his mother), like all other life forms on Earth.
In other mythologies, Enlil is the alleged father of many other gods on Earth. It is believed that the god of the moon Nanna, the god of death Nergal, the god of warriors Ninazu and the god of rivers Enbilulu are his descendants.
In one version of the Sumerian flood story, the god Enki helps the man Ziusudra survive, and he becomes the sole survivor of the flood.
Enlil, impressed by this, granted Ziusudra immortality as a gift for his intelligence and strength.
This version of the story was recorded on an ancient Sumerian tablet, but the story is not complete and the cause of the flood is unclear due to the tablet being damaged over time.
Another myth about the Great Flood is that Enlil himself caused it. It is believed that Enlil was tired of the noise of the people disturbing his sleep, so he decided to destroy the people as they were overpopulated.
In this story, the family of a man named Utnapishtim is warned of an impending flood and is told by the god Ea to build a boat to survive.
When Enlil learns that Utnapishtim and his family survived the flood, he becomes furious.
However, his son Ninurta saves his family by convincing Enlil to keep them alive until the Earth becomes overpopulated again.
Enlil compromises by creating predators, hunger, and disease to keep the populace in line, and grants Utnapishtim immortality for his loyalty.
The Sumerians dedicated their entire existence to worshiping the gods and making the gods happy with their work.
As part of this worship, they often created statues of Enlil, as well as other gods, as they believed that the statue of the god becomes his physical embodiment.
These statues then became a regular part of worship rituals, between which the Sumerians constantly tended to the statues, providing them with cleaning, food, and other human care.
Enlil was often described as a caring, fatherly deity who cares for his people. The kings in neighboring city-states used Enlil as a personal influence and sought to rule in the same way that Enlil ruled mankind.
In fact, Enlil was considered so highly regarded that Nippur was the only city-state in Sumer that never had a palace built.
They believed that the palace would draw attention away from Enlil and wanted his temple to be considered the most important building in the city.
Even after the capture of Sumer by the Babylonians under the rule of Hammurabi in the 17th century BC. Enlil’s temple was still in use.
Although it fell out of favor over the years, it has garnered attention from time to time, such as in the 7th century BC when the ancient Babylonians began to believe that Enlil empowered their own god, Marduk.
This worship continued until about the 1st century BC, when civilization greatly declined and the worship of both Enlil and Marduk ceased.
Nippur has experienced many seasons of both decline and rebirth. At times, when all hope seemed lost for Nippur, a neighboring king might send workers to rebuild part of the temple or an addition to it.
This is evidenced by the surviving artifacts and architecture of the region, as symbols of various reigns are visible on some of the surviving bricks.
The Ur dynasty, under the rule of Ur-Nammu, in particular, helped rebuild Nippur by rebuilding the city walls, shrines, and even canals.
During the reign of Hammurabi, the Temple of Enlil remained largely abandoned. The Babylonians made Babylon the new religious center of the region and attributed the history of Enlil to Marduk.
Around the 7th century BC. Ekur was given more attention when some Babylonians began worshiping Enlil again and decided to turn Ekur into a fortress.
Giant walls were built around the temple to protect it, and it was well preserved until about 250 AD. During this time, the region was taken over by the Sassanids and left to fall into disrepair.
Nippur remained inhabited for the next few hundred years. Early Muslim geographers noted the region, although their references to Nippur declined after about 800 CE, indicating that the city was probably becoming less inhabited during this time.
Although it was still sometimes used for religious purposes, the city was completely abandoned by the 13th century AD.
Even after its destruction, many local cities still recognized the ruins as a sacred place that was once filled with splendor.
Although Nippur is now an ancient ruin, it is still interesting to see some of the remaining buildings. In particular, Enlil’s temple, Ekur, still stands and can be seen by those who visit.
Since the mid-1900s, archaeologists have excavated more than 19 times at this site, as a result of which many interesting discoveries have been made.
As of February 2017, Nippur has been included in the “tentative” list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the “cultural” category.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a United Nations agency that seeks to protect important historical sites from destruction in the categories of cultural, historical, scientific, natural or mixed.
They also strive to educate people about these sites so that others can see the significance of these places in our history and in our world.
If Nippur becomes a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it could be given resources to help preserve the city’s remaining walls and buildings.
It will also prevent further damage to the facility by restricting access to animals, people, and government lab coats.
This could be a great opportunity to protect Nippur from further destruction and reduce the decay of these ancient buildings.
At the moment, further excavations are already planned at Nippur to learn more about the Mesopotamian culture, especially in the field of medicine and technology.
In addition, many archaeologists are working on the reconstruction of some of the existing buildings in Nippur to prevent destruction even before receiving permission from UNESCO. With a little effort, Nippur may see another restoration in the future.
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