Nanna / Suen / Sin

The Mesopotamian moon god Nanna (Nannar), also called Suen (later pronounced in Akkadian as Sin) and Nanna-Suen, was the son of the gods Enlil and Ninlil. According to Sumerian mythology, the moon god was conceived in some troubled circumstances: a Sumerian poem recounts how Enlil raped the young goddess, only to be exiled by the rest of the pantheon. Ninlil, however, accompanied him into exile, pregnant with Nanna-Suen. The goddess Ningal subsequently became the wife of the moon good. Amongst their children were the sun god Utu-Shamash and the goddess Inana-Ishtar.

Nanna’s most important cult centre and shrine was located in the Sumerian city of Ur at the temple of E.KIŠ.NU.GAL. Yet another moon cult centre that later rose to great importance was the temple of Sin in Harran in northern Syria-Mesopotamia where the moon god was worshipped alongside the god Nusku, recognised as his son. Particular favour was accorded this last sanctuary by the Neo-Babylonian ruler Nabonidus / Nabu-Na’id (556-539 BCE) whose mother was a priestess in the Harran temple – Nabonidus subsequently appointed his own daughter high priestess of Sin at the ancient cult centre of Ur.

Iconographically, the symbol of Nanna-Suen was the recumbent crescent moon, while his animal was either a bull or a composite lion-dragon. His name was often written simply as the cuneiform number for “30”, symbolising the number of days in a month.

Select Bibliography

Braun-Holzinger, E. A.

1993 “Die Ikonographie des Mondgottes in der Glyptik des III. Jahrtausends v. Chr.”, ZA 83 (1993), pp.119-135.

Cohen, M.E.

1996 “The Sun, the Moon, and the City of Ur”, in Berlin, A. (ed.), Religion and Politics in the Ancient Near East, Maryland, 1996, pp.7-20.

Colbow, G.

1997 “More Insights into Representations of the Moon God in the Third and Second Millennium B.C.”, in Finkel, I.J. & Geller, M.J. (eds), Sumerian Gods and their Representations, Groningen, 1997, pp.19-31.

Collon, D.

1992 “The Near Eastern Moon God”, in Meijer, D.J.W. (ed.), Natural Phenomena: Their Meaning, Depiction and Description in the Ancient Near East, Amsterdam, 1992, pp.19-37.

Hall, M.G.

1985 A Study of the Sumerian Moon-God, Nanna/Suen, unpublished PhD Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1985.

Klein, J.

2001 The Genealogy of Nanna-Suen and its Historical Background”, in Abusch, T. et alii (eds), Historiography in the Cuneiform World, [RAI 45], Bethesda, 2001, pp.279-301.

delO. Lete, G.

1991 “Yarhu y Nikkalu: La mitologia lunar sumeria en Ugarit”, Aula Orientalis 9 (1991) 67-75.

Sjöberg, A.W.

1960 Der Mondgott Nanna-Suen in der sumerischen Überlieferung, Stockholm, 1960.

Stol, M.

1992 “The Moon as Seen by the Babylonians”, in Meijer, D.J.W. (ed.), Natural Phenomena: Their Meaning, Depiction and Description in the Ancient Near East, Amsterdam, 1992, pp.245-276.

Theuer, G.

2000 Der Mondgott in den Religionen Syrien-Palästinas unter besonderer Berücksichtigung von KTU 1.24, [Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 173], Fribourg, 2000.


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