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Mesopotamian God Enki: Mythology & Symbols

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
In this lesson, you're going to meet one of the most important and powerful gods of ancient Mesopotamia. His name was Enki. You'll learn more about the mythology and symbolism of this god.

Enki & Abzu

Did you know there is a large underground freshwater ocean called abzu (apsu)? Probably not. But people in ancient Mesopotamia thought there was and they believed Babylon was built on top of it. Well, at least those that followed such religious beliefs back in the day thought so.

This subterranean ocean had its own god, a god named Enki. You're going to learn a lot more about Enki in this lesson.

Name & Family Tree

Enki (full name Enkig) is the Sumerian equivalent of the Akkadian Ea. Other names that have been used for Enki include Nudimmud, Ninsiku and the 'stag of the abzu'. Do not get this Enki confused with Enlil's ancestor Enki (the 'Lord Earth').

Enki was a son of the god An (Anu) or goddess Nammu. He had a twin brother, a god called Iskur (Adad). His wife was Damgalnuna (Damkina) and his children included Marduk, Asarluhi, Enbilulu, Adapa, and Nanse.

As you learned in the intro, Enki was the god of abzu. He was one of the three most powerful gods in ancient Mesopotamia, the third most powerful to be precise once he replaced a goddess called Ninkhursaga in the most powerful trio of the pantheon alongside the gods Anu and Enlil.

Mythology

Enki's name means 'productive manager of the soil'. As such, he was seen as the god who provided fresh water for irrigation. He was also named the 'image fashioner'. This is probably because that same water would moisten clay so that it could be made into numerous shapes like via pottery. Thus, he was the god of artists and craftsmen as well.

Enki was the source of all the world's secret magical knowledge and wisdom. In fact, he was quite the brainy god. If he ever got into a fight with another god, he didn't try to muscle his way into a win, he used his brain to come out on top.

Enki was also a god that could purify and cleanse mortal men and women from one evil or another.

As importantly, Enki was seen as a benefactor of mankind. In other words, he was a god that stood up for people in the face of another god's wrath at mankind. For instance, in the famous epic of Gilgamesh, Enki took the role to help people build an ark so they could escape the flood that was sent by the other gods.

Symbolism

Enki is often seen as a seated god with a long beard, a cap with many horns and long, pleated robes. Long streams of water from the abzu, sometimes with fish in the streams, flow from his arms to the ground around him.

Note the symbology in this figure of Enki.
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