Dumuzid[a] later known by the alternate form Tammuz,[b] was the
ancient Mesopotamian god of shepherds, who was also the primary
consort of the goddess
Inanna (later known as Ishtar). In Sumerian
mythology, Dumuzid's sister was Geshtinanna, the goddess of
vegetation. In the Sumerian King List,
Dumuzid is listed as an
antediluvian king of the city of
Bad-tibira and also an early king of
the city of Uruk. In the Sumerian poem
Inanna Prefers the Farmer,
Dumuzid competes against the farmer
Enkimdu for Inanna's hand in
marriage. In Inanna's Descent into the Underworld,
Dumuzid fails to
mourn Inanna's death and, when she returns from the Underworld, she
allows the galla demons to drag him down to the Underworld as her
Inanna later regrets this decision and decrees that
Dumuzid will spend half the year in the Underworld, but the other half
of the year with her, while his sister
Geshtinanna stays in the
Underworld in his place, thus resulting in the cycle of the seasons.
Gilgamesh references Tammuz in Tablet VI of the Epic of
one of Ishtar's past lovers, who was turned into an allalu bird with a
Dumuzid was associated with fertility and vegetation and
the hot, dry summers of
Mesopotamia were believed to be caused by
Dumuzid's yearly death. During the month in midsummer bearing his
name, people all across
Mesopotamia would engage in public, ritual
mourning for him. During the late twentieth century, scholars widely
thought that, during the Sumerian
Akitu festival, kings may have
established their legitimacy by taking on the role of
engaging in ritualized sexual intercourse with the high priestess of
Inanna as part of a sacred marriage ceremony. This notion is now
generally rejected by scholars as a misinterpretation of Sumerian
literary texts. The cult of
Dumuzid was later spread to the Levant and
to Greece, where he became known under the West Semitic name Adonis.
The cult of Ishtar and Tammuz continued to thrive until the eleventh
century AD and survived in parts of
Mesopotamia as late as the
eighteenth century. Tammuz is mentioned by name in the Book of Ezekiel
and possibly alluded to in other passages from the
Church of the Nativity
Church of the Nativity in
Bethlehem may have been
built over one of his shrines. Tammuz appears as one of Satan's demons
in John Milton's Paradise Lost. In late nineteenth and early twentieth
century scholarship of religion, Tammuz was widely seen as a prime
example of the archetypal dying-and-rising god, but the discovery of
the full Sumerian text of Inanna's Descent in the mid-twentieth
century disproved the previous scholarly assumption that the narrative
ended with Dumuzid's resurrection and instead revealed that it ended
with Dumuzid's death. The existence of the "dying-and-rising god"
archetype has been largely rejected by modern scholars.
2.1.1 Marriage to Inanna
22.214.171.124 Main narrative
126.96.36.199 Other versions
3 Later worship
3.1 In the Bible
3.2 Classical antiquity
3.3 Survival into the Christian Era
4 Dying-and-rising god archetype
5 Literary references
6 Family tree
7 See also
10 External links
Ancient Mesopotamian clay tablet dating to the Amorite Period (c.
2000-1600 BC), containing a lamentation over the death of Dumuzid,
currently held in the
Louvre Museum in Paris
The Assyriologists Jeremy Black and Anthony Green describe the early
history of Dumuzid's cult as "complex and bewildering". According
Sumerian King List
Sumerian King List (ETCSL 2.1.1),
Dumuzid was the fifth
antediluvian king of the city of Bad-tibira.
Dumuzid was also
listed as an early king of Uruk, where he was said to have come
from the nearby village of Kuara and to have been the consort of
the goddess Inanna. As
Dumuzid sipad ("
Dumuzid the Shepherd"),
Dumuzid was believed to be the provider of milk, which was a rare,
seasonal commodity in ancient
Sumer due to the fact that it could not
easily be stored without spoiling.
In addition to being the god of shepherds,
Dumuzid was also an
agricultural deity associated with the growth of plants. Ancient
Near Eastern peoples associated
Dumuzid with the springtime, when the
land was fertile and abundant, but, during the summer months,
when the land was dry and barren, it was thought that
"died". During the month of Dumuzid, which fell in the middle
of summer, people all across
Sumer would mourn over his death.
This seems to have been the primary aspect of his cult. In Lagash,
the month of
Dumuzid was the sixth month of the year. This month
and the holiday associated with it was later transmitted from the
Sumerians to Babylonians and other
East Semitic peoples, with its
name transcribed into those languages as Tammuz.
Dumuzid was also identified with the god Ama-ušumgal-ana, who was
originally a local god worshipped in the city of Lagash. In some
texts, Ama-ušumgal-ana is described as a heroic warrior. As
Dumuzid is associated with the date palm and its
fruits. This aspect of Dumuzid's cult was always joyful in
character and had no associations with the darker stories involving
his death. To ancient Mesopotamian peoples, the date palm
represented stability, because it was one of the few crops that
could be harvested all year, even during the dry season. In some
Dumuzid is referred to as "my Damu", which means "my
son". This name is usually applied to him in his role as the
personification of the power that causes the sap to rise in trees and
plants. Damu is the name most closely associated with Dumuzid's
return in autumn after the dry season has ended. This aspect of
his cult emphasized the fear and exhaustion of the community after
surviving the devastating summer.
Dumuzid had virtually no power outside of his distinct realm of
responsibilities. Very few prayers addressed to him are extant
and, of those that are, almost all of them are simply requests for him
to provide more milk, more grain, more cattle, etc. The sole
exception to this rule is a single Assyrian inscription in which a man
requests Tammuz that, when he descends to the Underworld, he should
take with him a troublesome ghost who has been haunting him. The
cult of Tammuz was particularly associated with women, who were the
ones responsible for mourning his death. The custom of planting
miniature gardens with fast-growing plants such as lettuce and fennel,
which would then be placed out in the hot sun to sprout before
withering in the heat, was a well-attested custom in ancient Greece
associated with the festival of
Adonia in honor of Adonis, the Greek
version of Tammuz; some scholars have argued based on
references in the
Hebrew Bible that this custom may have been a
continuation of an earlier oriental practice. The same women who
mourned the death of Tammuz also prepared cakes for his consort
Ishtar, the Queen of Heaven. These cakes would be baked in
ashes and several clay cake molds discovered at
Mari, Syria reveal
that they were also at least sometimes shaped like naked women.
According to the early scholar Samuel Noah Kramer, towards the end of
the third millennium BC, kings of
Uruk may have established their
legitimacy by taking on the role of
Dumuzid as part of a "sacred
marriage" ceremony. This ritual lasted for one night on the tenth
day of the Akitu, the Sumerian new year festival, which
was celebrated annually at the spring equinox. As part of the
ritual, it was thought that the king would engage in ritualized sexual
intercourse with the high priestess of Inanna, who took on the role of
the goddess. In the late twentieth century, the historicity of
the sacred marriage ritual was treated by scholars as more-or-less an
established fact, but, in the early 2000s, largely due to the
writings of Pirjo Lapinkivi, many scholars began to reject the notion
of an actual sex ritual, instead seeing the concept of a "sacred
marriage" as the result of a misinterpretation of Sumerian literary
Marriage to Inanna
Original Sumerian tablet of the Courtship of
Inanna and Dumuzid
Inanna Prefers the Farmer (ETCSL 188.8.131.52.3) begins with a
rather playful conversation between
Inanna and her brother Utu, who
incrementally reveals to her that it is time for her to marry.
Dumuzid comes to court her, along with a farmer named Enkimdu. At
Inanna prefers the farmer, but
persuade her that
Dumuzid is the better choice for a husband, arguing
that, for every gift the farmer can give to her, the shepherd can give
her something even better. In the end,
Inanna marries Dumuzid.
The shepherd and the farmer reconcile their differences, offering each
Samuel Noah Kramer
Samuel Noah Kramer compares the myth to the Biblical
Cain and Abel
Cain and Abel because both myths center around a farmer and a
shepherd competing for divine favor and, in both stories, the deity in
question ultimately chooses the shepherd.
A vast number of erotic love poems celebrating the consummation of
Dumuzid have survived. Two excerpts from a
representative example are translated below:
Erotic terracotta votive plaque dating to the Old Babylonian Period
(c. 1830 BC — c. 1531). Representations of this type were once
interpreted as evidence for a "sacred marriage" ritual in which the
king would take on the role of
Dumuzid and engage in sexual
intercourse with the priestess of Inanna. This
interpretation is now generally seen as imaginative.
Transliterated Sumerian text (ETCSL 4.08.16)
English translation by
Samuel Noah Kramer
Samuel Noah Kramer and Diane Wolkstein
gal4-la jar-ra? ne-en GAG X [...]
si-gin7 jicmar gal-e /kece2 [...]
ma2 an-na ne-en ec2 la2 [...]
ud-sakar gibil-gin7 hi-li /gur3-[ru-ju10]
kislah ne-en edin-na cub?-[...]
a-cag4? uzmucen ne-en uzmucen dur2-[ra]-/ju10
a-cag4 an-na ne-en a ma-ra-ju10
ma-a gal4-la-ju10 du6 du8-du8-a a ma-«a»-ra
ki-sikil-jen a-ba-a ur11-ru-a-bi
gal4-la-ju10 ki duru5 a ma-ra
ga-ca-an-jen gud a-ba-a bi2-ib2-gub-be2
ga sig7-a-ma-ab mu-ud-na-ju10 ga sig7-/a-[ma-ab]
mu-ud-na-ju10 me-e ga de3-e-da-/na8-[na8]
am ddumu-zid ga sig7-a-ma-/ab
mu-ud-na-ju10 me-e ga de3-/e-da-[na8-na8]
ga ud5-da-ke4 amac [...]
nin car2-ra dugcakir kug-ja2 sug4-[...]
ddumu-zid ga am-si-har-ra-/an-[na ...]
My vulva, the horn,
The Boat of Heaven,
Is full of eagerness like the young moon.
My untilled land lies fallow.
As for me, Inanna,
Who will plow my vulva?
Who will plow my high field?
Who will plow my wet ground?
As for me, the young woman,
Who will plow my vulva?
Who will station the ox there?
Who will plow my vulva?
Make your milk sweet and thick, my bridegroom.
My shepherd, I will drink your fresh milk.
Wild bull, Dumuzi, make your milk sweet and thick.
I will drink your fresh milk.
Let the milk of the goat flow in my sheepfold.
Fill my holy churn with honey cheese.
Lord Dumuzi, I will drink your fresh milk.
Ancient Sumerian cylinder seal impression showing
tortured in the Underworld by the galla demons
Towards the end of the epic poem Inanna's Descent into the Underworld
(ETCSL 1.4.1), Dumuzid's wife
Inanna escapes from the Underworld,
but is pursued by a horde of galla demons, who insist that someone
else must take her place in the Underworld. They first come upon
Ninshubur and attempt to take her, but Inanna
stops them, insisting that
Ninshubur is her loyal servant and that she
had rightfully mourned for her while she was in the
Underworld. They next come upon Shara, Inanna's beautician,
who is still in mourning. The demons attempt to take him, but
Inanna insists that they may not, because he had also mourned for
her. The third person they come upon is Lulal, who is also in
mourning. The demons try to take him, but
Inanna stops them
once again. Finally, they come upon Dumuzid, who is lavishly
clothed and resting beneath a tree, or sitting on Inanna's throne,
entertained by slave-girls. Inanna, displeased, decrees that the
demons shall take him, using language which echoes the speech
Ereshkigal gave while condemning her. The demons then drag Dumuzid
down to the Underworld.
The Sumerian poem The Dream of
Dumuzid (ETCSL 1.4.3) begins with
Geshtinanna about a frightening dream he has
experienced. Then the galla demons arrive to drag
Dumuzid down into
the Underworld as Inanna's replacement.
Dumuzid flees and hides. The
galla demons brutally torture
Geshtinanna in an attempt to force her
to tell them where
Dumuzid is hiding. Geshtinanna, however, refuses to
tell them where her brother has gone. The galla go to Dumuzid's
unnamed "friend," who betrays Dumuzid, telling the galla exactly where
Dumuzid is hiding. The galla capture Dumuzid, but Utu, the god of the
Sun, who is also Inanna's brother, rescues
Dumuzid by transforming him
into a gazelle. Eventually, the galla recapture
Dumuzid and drag him
down into the Underworld.
Terracotta plague dating to the Amorite Period (c. 2000-1600 BC)
showing a dead god (probably Dumuzid) resting in his coffin
In the Sumerian poem The Return of Dumuzid, which picks up where The
Geshtinanna laments continually for days and
nights over Dumuzid's death, joined by Inanna, who has apparently
experienced a change of heart, and Sirtur, Dumuzid's mother. The three
ladies mourn continually until a fly reveals to
Inanna the location of
her husband. Together,
Geshtinanna go to the place where
the fly has told them they will find Dumuzid. They find him there and
Inanna determines that, from that point onwards,
Dumuzid will spend
half of the year with her in
Heaven and the other half of the year
with her sister
Ereshkigal in the Underworld.
Other texts describe different and contradictory accounts of Dumuzid's
death. The text of the poem
Inanna and Bilulu (ETCSL 1.4.4),
discovered at Nippur, is badly mutilated and scholars have
interpreted it in a number of different ways. The beginning of the
poem is mostly destroyed, but seems to be a lament. The
intelligible part of the poem describes
Inanna pining after her
husband Dumuzid, who is in the steppe watching his flocks. Inanna
sets out to find him. After this, a large portion of the text is
missing. When the story resumes,
Inanna is being told that Dumuzid
has been murdered.
Inanna discovers that the old bandit woman
Bilulu and her son Girgire are responsible. She travels along the
road to Edenlila and stops at an inn, where she finds the two
Inanna stands on top of a stool and transforms
Bilulu into "the waterskin that men carry in the desert",
forcing her to pour the funerary libations for Dumuzid.
Geshtinanna begins with demons encouraging
conquer the Underworld. Instead, she hands
Dumuzid over to
them. They put Dumuzid's feet, hands, and neck in the stocks
and torture him using hot pokers. They strip him naked, do "evil"
to him, and cover his face with his own garment. Finally, Dumuzid
Utu for help.
Dumuzid into a creature that
is part eagle and part snake, allowing him to escape back to
Geshtinanna. In the text known as The Most Bitter Cry,
chased by the "seven evil deputies of the netherworld" and, as he
is running, he falls into a river. Near an apple tree on the other
bank, he is dragged into the Underworld, where everything
simultaneously "exists" and "does not exist", perhaps indicating that
they exist in insubstantial or immaterial forms.
Akkadian cylinder seal impression from
Girsu (c. 2340 - 2150 BC)
Dumuzid being taken to the Underworld
A collection of lamentations for
Dumuzid entitled In the Desert by the
Early Grass describes Damu, the "dead anointed one", being dragged
down to the Underworld by demons, who blindfold him, tie him up,
and forbid him from sleeping. Damu's mother tries to follow him
into the Underworld, but Damu is now a disembodied spirit, "lying
in" the winds, "in the lightnings and in tornadoes". Damu's mother
is also unable to eat the food or drink the water in the Underworld,
because it is "bad". Damu travels along the road of the Underworld
and encounters various spirits. He meets the ghost of a small
child, who tells him that it is lost; the ghost of a singer agrees
to accompany the child. Damu asks the spirits to send a message to
his mother, but they cannot because they are dead and the living
cannot hear the dead's voices. Damu, however, manages to tell his
mother to dig up his blood and chop it into pieces. Damu's mother
gives the congealed blood to Damu's sister Amashilama, who is a
leech. Amashilama mixes the congealed blood into a brew of beer,
which Damu must drink in order to be restored to life. Damu,
however, realizes that he is dead and declares that he is not in the
"grass which shall grow for his mother again", nor in the "waters
which will rise". Damu's mother blesses him and Amashilama
dies to join him in the Underworld. She tells him that "the day
that dawns for you will also dawn for me; the day you see, I shall
also see", referring to the fact that day in the world above is
night in the Underworld.
In the Akkadian Epic of Gilgamesh, Tammuz is described as a "colorful
allalu bird", possibly a European roller.
In the myth of Adapa,
Ningishzida are the two doorkeepers
of Anu, the god of the heavens, who speak out in favor of
Adapa, the priest of Ea, as he stands trial before Anu. In
Tablet VI of the standard Akkadian Epic of Gilgamesh, Ishtar (Inanna)
attempts to seduce the hero Gilgamesh, but he rebuffs her,
reminding her that she had struck Tammuz (Dumuzid), "the lover of
[her] youth", decreeing that he should "keep weeping year after
Gilgamesh describes Tammuz as a colorful allalu bird
(possibly a European or Indian roller), whose wing has been
broken and now spends all his time "in the woods crying 'My wing!'"
(Tablet VI, section ii, lines 11-15).
Gilgamesh may be referring
to an alternative account of Dumuzid's death, different from the ones
recorded in extant texts.
Anton Moortgat has interpreted
Dumuzid as the antithesis of
Gilgamesh refuses Ishtar's demand for him to become her
lover, seeks immortality, and fails to find it; Dumuzid, by
contrast, accepts Ishtar's offer and, as a result of her love, is able
to spend half the year in Heaven, even though he is condemned to the
Underworld for the other half. Mehmet-Ali Ataç further argues
that the "Tammuz model" of immortality was far more prevalent in the
ancient Near East than the "
Gilgamesh model". In a chart of
antediluvian generations in Babylonian and Biblical traditions,
William Wolfgang Hallo associates
Dumuzid with the composite half-man,
half-fish counselor or culture hero (Apkallu) An-Enlilda, and suggests
an equivalence between
Dumuzid and Enoch in the Sethite Genealogy
given in Genesis chapter 5.
In the Bible
Ezekiel 8:14, the prophet Ezekiel, shown here in this illustration
from 1866 by Gustave Doré, witnesses women mourning the death of
Tammuz outside the Second Temple.
The cult of Ishtar and Tammuz may have been introduced to the Kingdom
of Judah during the reign of King Manasseh and the Old Testament
contains numerous allusions to them.
Ezekiel 8:14 mentions Tammuz
by name: "Then he brought me to the door of the gate of
the Lord's house which was toward the north; and, behold, there sat
women weeping for Tammuz. Then said he unto to me, 'Hast thou seen
this, O son of man? turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater
abominations than these."
Ezekiel's testimony is the only direct mention of Tammuz in the Hebrew
Bible, but the cult of Tammuz may also be alluded to in Isaiah
"Because thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation, and hast not
been mindful of the rock of thy strength, therefore shalt thou plant
pleasant plants, and shalt set it with strange slips: In the day shalt
thou make thy plant to grow, and in the morning shalt thou make thy
seed to flourish: but the harvest shall be a heap in the day of grief
and of desperate sorrow."
This passage may be describing the miniature gardens that women would
plant in honor of Tammuz during his festival. Isaiah 1:29-30,
Isaiah 65:3, and Isaiah 66:17 all denounce sacrifices made "in the
gardens", which may also be connected to the cult of Tammuz.
Another possible allusion to Tammuz occurs in Daniel
11:37: "Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers,
nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify
himself above all." The subject of this passage is Antiochus IV
Epiphanes and some scholars have interpreted the reference to the
"one desired by women" in this passage as an indication that Antiochus
may have persecuted the cult of Tammuz. There is no external
evidence to support this reading, however, and it is much more
probable that this epithet is merely a jibe at Antiochus's notorious
cruelty towards all the women who fell in love with him.
Hebrew Bible also contains references to Tammuz's consort
Inanna-Ishtar. Jeremiah 7:18 and Jeremiah 44:15-19 mention "the
Queen of Heaven", who is probably a syncretism of Inanna-Ishtar and
the West Semitic goddess Astarte. The Song of Songs
bears strong similarities to the Sumerian love poems involving Inanna
and Dumuzid, particularly in its usage of natural symbolism to
represent the lovers' physicality.
Song of Songs
Song of Songs 6:10 ("Who is she
that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun,
and terrible as an army with banners?") is almost certainly a
reference to Inanna-Ishtar.
Fragment of an Attic red-figure wedding vase (c. 430-420 BC), showing
women climbing ladders up to the roofs of their houses carrying
"gardens of Adonis"
The myth of
Dumuzid later became the basis for the Greek
Aphrodite and Adonis. The Greek name Ἄδωνις
(Adōnis, Greek pronunciation: [ádɔːnis]) is derived from the
Canaanite word ʼadōn, meaning "lord". The earliest known
Greek reference to
Adonis comes from a fragment of a poem by the
Lesbian poetess Sappho, dating to the seventh century BC, in which
a chorus of young girls asks
Aphrodite what they can do to mourn
Aphrodite replies that they must beat their
breasts and tear their tunics. Later rescensions of the Adonis
legend reveal that he was believed to have been slain by a wild boar
during a hunting trip. According to Lucian's De Dea Syria,
each year during the festival of Adonis, the
Adonis River in Lebanon
(now known as the Abraham River) ran red with blood.
In Greece, the myth of
Adonis was associated with the festival of the
Adonia, which was celebrated by Greek women every year in
midsummer. The festival, which was evidently already
Lesbos by Sappho's time, seems to have first become
popular in Athens in the mid-fifth century BC. At the start of the
festival, the women would plant a "garden of Adonis", a small
garden planted inside a small basket or a shallow piece of broken
pottery containing a variety of quick-growing plants, such as lettuce
and fennel, or even quick-sprouting grains such as wheat and
barley. The women would then climb ladders to the roofs of
their houses, where they would place the gardens out under the
heat of the summer sun. The plants would sprout in the
sunlight, but wither quickly in the heat. Then the women would
mourn and lament loudly over the death of Adonis, tearing their
clothes and beating their breasts in a public display of grief.
The third century BC poet
Euphorion of Chalcis
Euphorion of Chalcis remarked in his
Hyacinth that "Only
Cocytus washed the wounds of Adonis".
Survival into the Christian Era
According to the church father Jerome, the cave over which the Church
of the Nativity in
Bethlehem was built had once been a shrine to
Traditional Mesopotamian religion began to gradually decline between
the third and fifth centuries AD as ethnic Assyrians converted to
Christianity. Nonetheless, the cult of Ishtar and Tammuz managed
to survive in parts of Upper Mesopotamia. The Church Father Jerome
records in a letter dated to the year 395 AD that "Bethlehem...
belonging now to us... was overshadowed by a grove of Tammuz, that is
to say, Adonis, and in the cave where once the infant Christ cried,
the lover of Venus was lamented." This same cave later became the
site of the Church of the Nativity. The church historian Eusebius,
however, does not mention pagans having ever worshipped in the
cave, nor do any other early Christian writers. Peter Welten
has argued that the cave was never dedicated to Tammuz and that
Jerome misinterpreted Christian mourning over the Massacre of the
Innocents as a pagan ritual over Tammuz's death. Joan E. Taylor
has countered this argument by arguing that Jerome, as an educated
man, could not have been so naïve as to mistake Christian mourning
Massacre of the Innocents
Massacre of the Innocents as a pagan ritual for Tammuz.
During the sixth century AD, some early Christians in the Middle East
borrowed elements from poems of Ishtar mourning over the death of
Tammuz into their own retellings of the Virgin Mary mourning over the
death of her son Jesus. The Syrian writers
Jacob of Serugh and
Romanos the Melodist
Romanos the Melodist both wrote laments in which the Virgin Mary
describes her compassion for her son at the foot of the cross in
deeply personal terms closely resembling Ishtar's laments over the
death of Tammuz.
The cult of Tammuz was still thriving in the city of
Harran in the
tenth and eleventh centuries AD.
Tammuz is the month of July in
Iraqi Arabic and
Levantine Arabic (see
Arabic names of calendar months), as well as in the Assyrian calendar
and Jewish calendar, and references to Tammuz appear in Arabic
literature from the 9th to 11th centuries AD. In what purports to
be a translation of an ancient Nabataean (here meaning Aramaean) text
by Qūthāmā the Babylonian,
Ibn Wahshiyya (c. 9th-10th century AD),
adds information on his own efforts to ascertain the identity of
Tammuz, and his discovery of the full details of the legend of Tammuz
in another Nabataean book: "How he summoned the king to worship the
seven (planets) and the twelve (signs) and how the king put him to
death several times in a cruel manner Tammuz coming to life again
after each time, until at last he died; and behold! it was identical
to the legend of St. George."
Ibn Wahshiyya also adds that Tammuz
Babylonia before the coming of the Chaldeans and belonged to
an ancient Mesopotamian tribe called Ganbân. On rituals related
to Tammuz in his time, he adds that the
Babylonia still lamented the loss of Tammuz every July, but that the
origin of the worship had been lost.
In the tenth century AD, the Arab traveler Al-Nadim wrote in his Kitab
al-Fehrest that "All the
Sabaeans of our time, those of
well as those of Harran, lament and weep to this day over Tammuz at a
festival which they, more particularly the women, hold in the month of
the same name." Drawing from a work on Syriac calendar feast days,
Al-Nadim describes a Tâ'ûz festival that took place in the middle of
the month of Tammuz. Women bewailed the death of Tammuz at the
hands of his master who was said to have "ground his bones in a mill
and scattered them to the wind." Consequently, women would forgo
the eating of ground foods during the festival time. The same
festival is mentioned in the eleventh century by Ibn Athir, who
recounts that it still took place every year at the appointed time
along the banks of the
Tigris river. The cult of Ishtar and Tammuz
still existed in
Mardin as late as the eighteenth century. Tammuz
is still the name for the month of July in Iraqi Arabic.
Dying-and-rising god archetype
Photograph of Sir James George Frazer, the anthropologist who is most
directly responsible for promoting the concept of a "dying and rising
Main article: Dying-and-rising deity
The late nineteenth-century Scottish anthropologist Sir James George
Frazer wrote extensively about Tammuz in his monumental study of
The Golden Bough
The Golden Bough (the first edition of which was
published in 1890) as well as in later works. Frazer
claimed that Tammuz was just one example of the archetype of a
"dying-and-rising god" found throughout all cultures.
Frazer's main intention was to prove that all religions were
fundamentally the same and that all the essential features of
Christianity could be found in earlier religions. Frazer's
arguments were criticized as sloppy and amateurish from the
beginning, but his claims became widely influential in late
nineteenth and early twentieth century scholarship of
Tammuz's categorization as a "dying-and-rising god" was based on the
abbreviated Akkadian redaction of Inanna's Descent into the
Underworld, which was missing the ending. Since numerous
lamentations over the death of
Dumuzid had already been translated,
scholars filled in the missing ending by assuming that the reason for
Ishtar's descent was because she was going to resurrect
that the text could therefore be assumed to end with Tammuz's
resurrection. Then, in the middle of the twentieth century, the
complete, unabridged, original Sumerian text of Inanna's Descent was
finally translated, revealing that, instead of ending with
Dumuzid's resurrection as had long been assumed, the text actually
ended with Dumuzid's death. The discovery of the Return of
Dumuzid in 1963 briefly revived hopes that
Dumuzid might once again be
able to be categorized as a "dying-and-rising god", but the text
ultimately proved disappointing in this regard because it does not
describe a triumph over death (as would be necessary for a true
Frazerian "resurrection myth") and instead does precisely
the opposite and affirms the "inalterable power of the realm of the
dead" by the fact that
Dumuzid can only leave the Underworld when his
sister takes his place. Frazer and others also saw Tammuz's
Adonis as a "dying-and-rising god",
despite the fact that he is never described as rising from the dead in
any extant Graeco-Roman writings and the only possible allusions
to his supposed resurrection come from late, highly ambiguous
statements made by Christian authors.[c]
Around the same time that the notion of Tammuz as a "dying-and-rising
god" became discredited, scholars began to severely criticize the
designation of "dying-and-rising god" altogether. In
Jonathan Z. Smith
Jonathan Z. Smith concluded in Mircea Eliade's Encyclopedia of
Religion that "The category of dying and rising gods, once a major
topic of scholarly investigation, must now be understood to have been
largely a misnomer based on imaginative reconstructions and
exceedingly late or highly ambiguous texts." He further
argued that the deities previously referred to as "dying-and-rising"
would be better termed separately as "dying gods" and "disappearing
gods", asserting that before Christianity, the two
categories were distinct and gods who "died" did not return, and those
who returned never truly "died". By the end of the twentieth
century, most scholars had come to agree that the notion of a
"dying-and-rising god" was an invention and that the
term was not a useful scholarly designation.
Tammuz appears as one of Satan's demons in Book I of John Milton's
Paradise Lost, shown here in this engraving from 1866 by Gustave
The references to the cult of Tammuz preserved in the Bible and in
Greco-Roman literature brought the story to the attention of western
European writers. The story was popular in Early Modern England
and appeared in a variety of works, including Sir Walter Raleigh's
History of the World (1614), George Sandys's Dictionarium Relation of
a Journey(1615), and Charles Stephanus's Dictionarium Historicam
(1553). These have all been suggested as sources for Tammuz's
most famous appearance in English literature as a demon in Book I of
John Milton's Paradise Lost, lines 446-457:
THAMMUZ came next behind,
Whose annual wound in LEBANON allur'd
The SYRIAN Damsels to lament his fate
In amorous dittyes all a Summers day,
While smooth ADONIS from his native Rock
Ran purple to the Sea, suppos'd with blood
Of THAMMUZ yearly wounded: the Love-tale
Infected SION'S daughters with like heat,
Whose wanton passions in the sacred Porch
EZEKIEL saw, when by the Vision led
His eye survey'd the dark Idolatries
Of alienated JUDAH.
Oscar Wilde, "Charmides"
And then each pigeon spread its milky van,
The bright car soared into the dawning sky
And like a cloud the aerial caravan
Passed over the Ægean silently,
Till the faint air was troubled with the song
From the wan mouths that call on bleeding Thammuz all night long
born to Namma
born to Namma
born to Uraš
maybe daughter of Enlil
maybe son of Enki
maybe born to Ninḫursaĝ
born to Uraš
possibly also the daughter of
Enki or the daughter of An
maybe son of Enki
Ancient Near East portal
History of Sumer
^ cuneiform:𒌉𒍣𒉺𒇻; Sumerian:
Dumuzid sipad, derived from
the Sumerian words meaning "faithful son".
^ Syriac: ܬܡܘܙ; Hebrew: תַּמּוּז, Transliterated
Hebrew: Tammuz, Tiberian Hebrew: Tammûz; Arabic: تمّوز
Tammūz; Akkadian: Duʾzu, Dūzu
Origen discusses Adonis, (whom he associates with Tammuz), in his
Selecta in Ezechielem ( “Comments on Ezekiel”), noting that "they
say that for a long time certain rites of initiation are conducted:
first, that they weep for him, since he has died; second, that they
rejoice for him because he has risen from the dead (apo nekrôn
anastanti)" (cf. J.-P. Migne, Patrologiae Cursus Completus: Series
^ Lung 2014.
^ "The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature".
etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk. Retrieved 2017-08-29.
^ Mitchell 2005, p. 169.
^ a b c d e f g Black & Green 1992, p. 72.
^ a b c d e Jacobsen 2008, p. 74.
^ Jacobsen 2008, p. 84.
^ a b c d Ackerman 2006, p. 116.
^ Jacobsen 2008, pp. 87–88.
^ Jacobsen 2008, pp. 83–84.
^ Jacobsen 2008, pp. 83–87.
^ a b c d e f g Black & Green 1992, p. 73.
^ Jacobsen 2008, pp. 74–84.
^ Black & Green 1992, pp. 72–73.
^ Jacobsen 2008, pp. 73–74.
^ Black & Green 1992, pp. 57, 73.
^ Jacobsen 2008, pp. 73, 89.
^ Jacobsen 2008, p. 73.
^ a b Jacobsen 2008, p. 89.
^ Jacobsen 2008, pp. 74–76.
^ a b Jacobsen 2008, pp. 75–76.
^ Jacobsen 2008, p. 76.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k Cyrino 2010, p. 97.
^ a b Detienne 1977.
^ a b c d e f g h i van der Toorn, Becking & Willem 1999,
^ a b c Ackerman 2006, pp. 115–117.
^ a b c d e Kramer 1970.
^ a b c d Nemet-Nejat 1998, p. 196.
^ a b c Pryke 2017, p. 128.
^ a b c d Kramer 1961, p. 101.
^ Wolkstein & Kramer 1983, pp. 30–49.
^ a b Kramer 1961, pp. 102–103.
^ Kramer 1961, pp. 101–103.
^ Wolkstein & Kramer 1983, pp. 150–155.
^ Leick 2013, pp. 64–79, 90–96.
^ Black & Green 1992, pp. 157–158.
^ Pryke 2017, pp. 127–128.
^ Wolkstein & Kramer 1983, p. 37.
^ Wolkstein & Kramer 1983, p. 39.
^ a b Kramer 1961, pp. 94–95.
^ a b Kramer 1961, p. 95.
^ a b Wolkstein & Kramer 1983, pp. 68–69.
^ Kramer 1961, pp. 95–96.
^ Wolkstein & Kramer 1983, pp. 69–70.
^ a b c Kramer 1961, p. 96.
^ Wolkstein & Kramer 1983, pp. 70.
^ a b Wolkstein & Kramer 1983, pp. 70–71.
^ a b c Wolkstein & Kramer 1983, p. 71.
^ Wolkstein & Kramer 1983, pp. 74–84.
^ Wolkstein & Kramer 1983, pp. 85–89.
^ a b Shushan 2009, pp. 77–78.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Leick 1998, p. 89.
^ a b Pryke 2017, p. 166.
^ Black & Green 1992, p. 109.
^ a b Shushan 2009, p. 77.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Shushan 2009, p. 78.
^ Shushan 2009, pp. 78–79.
^ a b c d e f g h i Shushan 2009, p. 79.
^ Dalley 1989, p. 78.
^ a b c d Dalley 1989, pp. 129, n. 56.
^ a b Sandars 1972, p. 86.
^ a b McCall 1990, p. 66.
^ a b Dalley 1989, p. 187.
^ a b c Pryke 2017, p. 146.
^ Dalley 1989, pp. 78–79.
^ a b c d Ataç 2018, p. 10.
^ Hallo, William W. and William Kelly Simpson, The Ancient Near East:
A History, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., New York, 1971, p. 32
^ a b c Pryke 2017, p. 195.
^ a b c d e Warner 2016, p. 211.
^ a b Middlemas 2005, pp. 114–115.
^ a b c Pryke 2017, p. 193.
^ Pryke 2017, pp. 193–195.
^ a b c d Smith 2002, p. 182.
^ a b c Middlemas 2005, p. 115.
^ Breitenberger 2007, p. 10.
^ Ackerman 2006, pp. 116–117.
^ a b Pryke 2017, p. 194.
^ a b Baring & Cashford 1991.
^ West 1997, p. 57.
^ Kerényi 1951, p. 67.
^ Burkert 1985, pp. 176–177.
^ a b c West 1997, pp. 530–531.
^ a b Kerényi 1951, p. 76.
^ Cyrino 2010, p. 96.
^ Kerényi 1951, p. 279.
^ W. Atallah,
Adonis dans la littérature et l'art grecs, Paris, 1966.
^ Cyrino 2010, pp. 97–98.
^ a b Cyrino 2010, p. 98.
^ Remarked upon in passing by Photius, Biblioteca 190 (on-line
^ a b c d e f g Taylor 1993, p. 96.
^ a b c Parpola 2004, p. 17.
^ Taylor 1993, pp. 96–97.
^ Warner 2016, pp. 210–212.
^ Warner 2016, p. 212.
^ a b c d e f g h Fuller, 1864, pp. 200-201.
^ Cragg 1991, p. 260.
^ de Azevedo and Stoddart, 2005, pp. 308-309.
^ a b c d e Ehrman 2012, pp. 222–223.
^ a b c d e Barstad 1984, p. 149.
^ a b c d Eddy & Boyd 2007, pp. 142–143.
^ Mettinger 2004, p. 375.
^ a b Barstad 1984, pp. 149–150.
^ a b Eddy & Boyd 2007, pp. 140–142.
^ Ehrman 2012, p. 222.
^ Barstad 1984, p. 150.
^ a b c d e f g Eddy & Boyd 2007, pp. 144.
^ a b c Mettinger 2004, p. 379.
^ a b c d e f Smith 1987, pp. 521–527.
^ a b c Eddy & Boyd 2007, p. 143.
^ a b c Mettinger 2004, p. 374.
^ a b Ehrman 2012, p. 223.
^ a b Mettinger 2004, pp. 374–375.
^ a b Milton & Kastan 2005, pp. 25–26.
^ a b Milton & Kastan 2005, p. 25.
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ETCSL: Texts and translations of
Dumuzid myths (alternate site)
5th King of Sumer
before c. 2900 BC or legendary
En-sipad-zid-ana of Larsa
Sumerian King List
Dumuzid the Shepherd
Dumuzid the Shepherd 36,000
Aga of Kish
Aga of Kish 625
Awan dynasty 356 (3 kings)
Notable rulers of Sumer
Dumuzid the Shepherd
1st Dynasty of Kish
1st Dynasty of Uruk
Dumuzid, the Fisherman
1st Dynasty of Ur
2nd Dynasty of Uruk
1st Dynasty of Lagash
Dynasty of Adab
3rd Dynasty of Kish
3rd Dynasty of Uruk
Dynasty of Akkad
2nd Dynasty of Lagash
5th Dynasty of Uruk
3rd dynasty of Ur
Other major deities
Dumuzid the Shepherd
Demons, spirits, and monsters