Temples and offerings to the gods

Every Mesopotamian cities counted several temples. Some where huge precincts, others small shrines.
Mesopotamian gods and goddesses “lived” in a city. Indeed, there is no word for “temple” in Babylonian: what we call “temple” is literally the “house” of a god: Esagil is thus the “house” of Marduk in Babylon. In all cities, the main temple was the “house” of the protective deity of the city.

Gods often abandoned their
cities in the past…
this must be a nightmare.

One of the god’s duties was to protect his city, while the duties of the city’s inhabitants, and, above all – the king, were to take care of the god and keep him content so that he would not turn away from, or even worse, abandon his city.

They were therefore constantly repairing and embellishing his “house”, offering him magnificent clothes and jewels, and feeding him regular sumptuous meals. In Seleucid times, some gods had four meals a day with two different courses!

The Uruk Vase (ca 3000 BC) Scene of offerings to the goddess Inanna

Because of the gods’ demanding needs, some temples, like the Esagil, were huge precincts. Access to the inner rooms, i.e. the innermost dwelling place of the god, was limited to priests and cultic officials. But the main city temple also included kitchens, workshops, storerooms etc.

Bringing offerings to the god was, therefore, an essential aspect of Mesopotamian religious life.The great majority of offerings came from the king or high-ranking officials, and not only consisted of food or drink, but also statues or precious objects.

But private individuals could also bring offerings – either to obtain the blessing of the god for the future or to thank him for his protection in the past. Private offerings could also be food as well as more or less precious objects.

 

 

Beside the main temple, all cities counted numerous smaller ones, and chapel like sanctuaries: Babylon counted no less than 43 of them. These were a sort of secondary dwellings for other divinities, sometimes the members of the main god’s family. For instance, the god Nabû, son of Marduk according to the late Babylonian tradition, had a temple in Babylon, where he would live when visiting his father during the New Year ceremonies.

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