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Title: Enlil  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Enki, Sumerian religion, Ancient Mesopotamian religion, Anu, Debate between bird and fish
Collection: Fertile Crescent, God, Mesopotamian Gods, Wind Deities
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Enlil with his wife, Ninlil
Part of a series on
Ancient Mesopotamian religion
Chaos Monster and Sun God
Ancient Mesopotamian religion
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Enlil (nlin), 𒂗𒇸 (EN = Lord + LÍL = Wind, "Lord (of the) Storm")[1] is the God of breath, wind, loft and breadth (height and distance).[2] It was the name of a chief deity listed and written about in Sumerian religion, and later in Akkadian (Assyrian and Babylonian), Hittite, Canaanite and other Mesopotamian clay and stone tablets. The name is perhaps pronounced and sometimes rendered in translations as "Ellil" in later Akkadian, Hittite, and Canaanite literature. In later Akkadian, Enlil is the son of Anshar and Kishar.


  • Origins 1
  • Cosmological role 2
  • Cultural histories 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


The myth of Enlil and Ninlil discusses when Enlil was a young god, he was banished from Ekur in Nippur, home of the gods, to Kur, the underworld for seducing a goddess named Ninlil. Ninlil followed him to the underworld where she bore his first child, the moon god Sin (Sumerian Nanna/Suen). After fathering three more underworld-deities (substitutes for Sin), Enlil was allowed to return to the Ekur.[3][4]

Enlil was known as the inventor of the mattock (a key agricultural pick, hoe, ax or digging tool of the Sumerians) and helped plants to grow.[5]

Cosmological role

Enlil, along with Anu/An, Enki and Ninhursag were gods of the Sumerians.[6]

By his wife Ninlil or Sud, Enlil was father of the moon god Nanna/Suen (in Akkadian, Sin) and of Ninurta (also called Ningirsu). Enlil is the father of Nisaba the goddess of grain, of Pabilsag who is sometimes equated with Ninurta, and sometimes of Enbilulu. By Ereshkigal Enlil was father of Namtar.

In one myth, Enlil gives advice to his son, the god Ninurta, advising him on a strategy to slay the demon Asag. This advice is relayed to Ninurta by way of Sharur, his enchanted talking mace, which had been sent by Ninurta to the realm of the gods to seek counsel from Enlil directly.

Cultural histories

Enlil is associated with the ancient city of Nippur, sometimes referred to as the cult city of Enlil.[7] His temple was named Ekur, "House of the Mountain."[8] Such was the sanctity acquired by this edifice that Babylonian and Assyrian rulers, down to the latest days, vied with one another to embellish and restore Enlil's seat of worship. Eventually, the name Ekur became the designation of a temple in general.

Grouped around the main sanctuary, there arose temples and chapels to the gods and goddesses who formed his court, so that Ekur became the name for an entire sacred precinct in the city of Nippur. The name "mountain house" suggests a lofty structure and was perhaps the designation originally of the staged tower at Nippur, built in imitation of a mountain, with the sacred shrine of the god on the top.

Enlil was also known as the god of weather. According to the Sumerians, Enlil helped create the humans, but then got tired of their noise and tried to kill them by sending a flood. A mortal known as Utnapishtim survived the flood through the help of another god, Ea, and he was made immortal by Enlil after Enlil's initial fury had subsided.

As Enlil was the only god who could reach An, the god of heaven, he held sway over the other gods who were assigned tasks by his agent and would travel to Nippur to draw in his power. He is thus seen as the model for kingship.[9] Enlil was assimilated to the north "Pole of the Ecliptic".[10] His sacred number name was 50.[11]

At a very early period prior to 3000 BC, Nippur had become the centre of a political district of considerable extent. Inscriptions found at Nippur, where extensive excavations were carried on during 1888–1900 by John P. Peters and John Henry Haynes, under the auspices of the University of Pennsylvania, show that Enlil was the head of an extensive pantheon. Among the titles accorded to him are "king of lands", "king of heaven and earth", and "father of the gods".

See also


  1. ^ Halloran, John A.; "Sumerian Lexicon: Version 3.0"; December 10th, 2006 at
  2. ^ Clay Tablets from Sumer, Babylon and Assyria, Neo-Sumerian inscriptions clay, Babylonia, 1900–1700 BC, image with translations on display.
  3. ^ "Enlil and Ninlil: translation".  
  4. ^  
  5. ^  
  6. ^ Kramer, Samuel Noah, "The Sumerian Deluge Myth: Reviewed and Revised", Anatolian Studies, Vol. 33, (1983), pp. 115-121. JSTOR 3642699
  7. ^ William W. Hallo, "Review: Enki and the Theology of Eridu", Journal of the American Oriental Society, 116:2 (Apr.–Jun. 1996), p. 231–234
  8. ^ Reallexikon der Assyriologie II, p. 385.
  9. ^ Kingship in the Mediterranean world, p. 5162a Grottanelli and Mander, Encyclopaedia of Religion, second edition 2005. Thomson Gale.
  10. ^ Jeremias, Alfred 1913. Handbuch der altorientalischen Geisteskultur. Leipzig. p. 74.
  11. ^ Reallexikon der Assyriologie III. Götterzahlen. p. 500.

External links

  • Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses: Enlil/Ellil (god)
  • ETCSL "Enlil and Ninlil" and "Enlil and Sud": Unicode and ASCII.
  • Gateway to Babylon: "Enlil and Ninlil", trans. Thorkild Jacobsen.
  • ETCSL "Enlil in the Ekur": Unicode and ASCII.
  • Houghton-Mifflin: A Hymn to the Sky-God Enlil.
  • "The Song of the Hoe" in ETCSL—Songs, elegies and related compositions: Unicode and ASCII.
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