Volume 10 (2008): Astronomy and Cosmology in Folk Traditions and Cultural Heritage, pp. 52–56
In a letter to Aššur, the Assyrian king Esarhaddon informed his god about a campaign against the small state of Šubria located in the hills north of Assyria. When Assyrian troops besieged Uppume, the capital city of Šubria, in the dead of night “on the 21st day of Kislimu, the birthday of Asakku”, the defenders tried to burn the rampart constructed by the Assyrians; this was the only military success of the Šubrians who not long after were defeated by their enemies. The most interesting element of this story is the date of this event, which according to the letter’s author was not accidental and explicitly called uhulgalû (Akkad. “unfavourable day”). The term “birthday of Asakku” is not known from other sources, but its significance may be explained in terms of Assyrian hemerology, astromancy and astral symbolism. First, it was the 21st day of the month, the day of lunar third quarter and one of five most dangerous days in the month when appropriate rituals must have been performed in order to prevent the increased activity of demons. Second, the month of Kislimu was close to the winter solstice and attributed to Nergal, the god of the Underworld and great warrior. The link between this date and Asakku, a stony monster in Sumerian lore and a demon of the eastern mountains in Assyrian tradition, was well-grounded in contemporary speculative theology in which the combat of a warrior-god against Asakku had been connected with winter storms. The whole passage discussed seems to be a deliberate attempt to set the campaign against Šubria in a broader cosmological context which contemporary learned Assyrians would find easy to recognise, using the network of astronomical and calendrical symbols developed during the Neo-Assyrian period by priest-astromancers.
Volume 10 (2008): Astronomy and Cosmology in Folk Traditions and Cultural Heritage, pp. 45–51
There are a small number of similarities between Ishtar and Anahit, the Persian and Babylonian Venus-goddesses. These similarities may result from cultural diffusion between Persia and Mesopotamia, which was mainly eastwards. We present a comparison of the attributes belonging to both Ishtar and Anahita. This is mainly based on the Mesopotamian sources, since the Persian ones are very meagre. The relationships and influences between the two goddesses are visible in the symbolism of the planet Venus and the constellation Leo, and are associated with autumnal equinox festivals.