An / Anu

An was the Sumerian god of the sky, later known in Akkadian as Anu from the Babylonian Period onwards – the god’s name was coterminous with the Sumerian word for “sky” or “heaven”. An was the supreme motivation (the ‘first cause’) behind creation and acted as the remote leader of the gods within the traditional Mesopotamian pantheon. Within the early Mesopotamian conception of the structure of the cosmos, in which three heavens were superimposed on on another, it is the god An who occupies the topmost / outermost heaven. (The “way of Anu” was a vertical band representing the eastern horizon, situated between the ‘ways’ of Enlil and Ea – Enki which lay respectively to the north and south).

The wife and consort of An was the complimentary earth goddess Uraš, although one later Sumerian tradition has him married to Ki – reflecting well his assumption of the heavens after they were separated from the earth (KI). In his Babylonian form Anu, the sky god has a wife called Antu. An was commonly regarded as the descendant of the god Uraš (with whom he was later frequently equated); alternatively, as the son of the primordial deities Anšar and Kišar.

Although obviously one of the most important deities, An ‘s nature was rather vaguely understood within popular belief – probably deliberately so – and he is only very rarely represented in Mesopotamian religious art, making his specific iconography and attributes (symbol, beasts) – so well-defined for many other gods – quite obscure. Suggestions are made that An finds inclusion amongst the gods depicted on the Neo-Assyrian period rock reliefs at Maltai, but many scholars would dispute this. The symbol for An, in the Kassite and Neo-Assyrian periods at least, seems to have been a horned cap.


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