Name: Nanna (Sumerian), Suen/Sin (Akkadian), Dilimbabbar/Ašimbabbar (Sumerian). The picture of the name “dilim” was used as the word “bowl” too which may be referring to the moon’s quarters, and “di” could be addressing “white”.
Geographical area: from the earliest stages in Mesopotamia, Nanna/Su’en became the patron and protective divinity of the city of Ur. Under the patronage of Ur-Nammu (c. 2047-2030 BCE) a great temple and a ziggurat were built up for Nanna, and its name was é-kiš-nu-gál, which was also used his temples in Babylonia and Nippur later on. From Akkadian period (c.2334-2154 BCE) from the Old Babylonian (c. 1830-1531 BCE) traditionally the daughter of the reigning king became the high-priestesses of the Moon in Ur. The most famous of them all is Enheduanna, apparently author of a number of literary works.
Some other worship places for Nanna/Sin were Ga’eš, close to Ur, or Urum, current Tell ‘Uqair northeast of Babylonia, were the god was known as Dilimbabbar. There were also temples in Harran, south actual Urfa, were a stele was found with an inscription praising Adda-guppi, mother of king Nabonidus, celebrating her reverence to the Moon god. Another Harran stele commemorates the ascension of Nabonidus to the throne, describing the act as the will of Su’en.
Timeline: the name of Nanna is registered since the first records of written culture. It was used as a name in Late Uruk period (3400-3000 BCE) and, in fact, some of the most famous examples are Naram-Sin (2254-2218 BCE) or Sennacherib, written in Akkadian Sin-ahhe-eruba (Neo-Assyrian period, 705-681 BCE). The highest number of registers happens at the time of the Third Ur Dynasty (c.2112-2004 BCE), both in building inscriptions and in literary sources, which states an increment in his cut. After all, Nanna was the patron divinity of Ur. In the year registrations he appears multiple times due to the incorporation of a high-priestess of the Moon and due to the great number of offerings. Nanna is also a great protagonist in literature; inside the royal hymns for king Šulgi, second governor of the Ur dynasty (c. 2094-2047 BCE) there are at least fifteen dedicated to Nanna.
The Moon god worship continued through the Old Babylonian period (c- 1830-1531 BCE) and we have registers of royal names, building inscriptions, dates and more offerings. Around 1500 BCE Nanna seemed to fell out of favour, but with the beginning of the first millennium he experienced a revival, becoming especially popular in Neo-Assyrian period, since he appears as the second divinity after Aššur to bless kings.
|Seal of Hashhamer where Nanna appears in the shape of crescent moon. Around 2100 BCE, Iraq. The British Museum|
History: Nanna/Sin was one of the most relevant divinities from the Mesopotamian pantheon, listed in the early days after the main four deities (An, Enlil, Inanna and Enki). Due to his association to the bull for the moon-crown, he became protector of the cattle and there is even a poem called The Herds of Nanna. As protector of the cattle, he was also connected with fertility and the menstrual cycle, similar to the timing of the moon’s transformations. The medicine-magic texts A Cow of Sin explains how Nanna eased the birth-pains of his favourite cow, Geme-Sin, and thus women should be protected in labour by him.
He was also the lord of knowledge and wisdom. The moon’s movements were observed in for omens of the future, and this way he became connected to divination. It is possible some of his supernatural powers derived from his ability to illuminate darkness, and sometimes he is praised alongside Utu/Šamaš, the sun god, associated with laws, verdicts, determination of destinies and announcement of omens. In the famous Stele of the Vultures, Nanna appears as “diviner of fates”, a role he would play often in Mesopotamian tradition.
According to the Sumerian myth Enlil and Ninlil, Nanna was the first son of this couple. Enlil raped Ninlil and was banished by the other gods, but she followed him already pregnant with Nanna. Being the first kid of Enlil gave him the importance and presence Ur also had in Ur III period, since he was its patron. He had three brothers: Nergal and Ninazu, both Underworld divinities, and Enbililu, an irrigation god. One of the physical features of Nanna was having a lapis lazuli beard.
Nanna’s wife was the goddess Ningal/Nikkal, and they had two children: the war and love goddess Inanna and Utu, the sun god. Another deity told to be descendants of Nanna is Nuska/Nusku, a minister of Enlil, but this idea was only rooted in Harran.
Nanna plays a major part in the Sumerian poem Lugalbanda, where he brings back from disease the youngster Lugalbanda so he could perform a higher divine task. In that occasion, Nanna was accompanied by Inanna and Utu, being the Luminaries a powerful entity in Mesopotamian mythology as well.
|BLACK, Jeremy and GREEN, Anthony: Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia. The British Museum Press, London, ed. 2004, p. 135.|
Iconography: despite Nanna’s popularity in the Mesopotamian pantheon and literature, he is not that commonly represented in iconography. In the Ur III period some anthropomorphic representations can be found, but from the second millennium on this is very rare. In Room 132 in the archaeological site of Mari there is a painting of the Moon god, and in the rock reliefs of Maltai, from Sennacherib’s patronage, there is another representation of Nanna, wearing the crescent moon crown and standing on a hybrid horned winged lion with the hindquarters of a bird. Unfortunately, these reliefs are highly damaged and is very difficult to spot the figures. The most common examples of Nanna’s image can be found in Mesopotamian cylinder seals.
He is normally represented using only the crescent moon (Sumerian u4-sakar, Akkadian u/ašqāru), known from Early Dynastic seals. This crescent moon was later on associated with the horns of the Bull of Heavens, linked to Nanna. Other symbols for him were the boat and a tripod which true meaning remains unknown. Now it is thought that many of the motifs for Nanna are shared with Utu/Šamaš, the Sun god, like rays, gates and figures rising from the mountains.
Similar deities in other cults: Sin was the name of the Arabian moon god worshipped Hadhramaut.
“Nanna” by Yigit Koruglu (2017)|
BLACK, Jeremy and GREEN, Anthony: Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia. The British Museum Press, London, ed. 2004.
Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses, online resource, University of Pennsylvania: http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/amgg/index.html
Archmap, Maltai Rock Reliefs (may 2014): http://archmap.org/archmap_2/Site/Collection?building_id=2689