Mythology and the study of gods and goddesses allows us, the contemporary viewer, to view the ancient world and to understand the way these ancient cultures looked at the world around us. Many societies in antiquity ascribed deities with naturally occurring events, from major occurrences such as earthquakes and floods to smaller events, such as trees, different forms of entertainment etc. It is often the deities overlooked by their more famous counterparts that can offer us more insight into a culture.
We can gain insight into ancient Mesopotamian culture by looking at such deities as Gayomart. Gayomart was the primeval being of ancient Iranian mythology. One of the earliest versions of his creation myths states that Gayomart was the first man who was murdered by Ahriman. According to scholars, Gayomart existed as a spirit for 3,000 years as a spirit, until the second great epoch, he was made into a physical being by Geush Urvan. His corpse, together with that of the primeval bull, Geush Urvan, gave life to the world (Cotterell & Storm, p.280).
Ahriman had wanted to destroy the work of Ohrmazd, who was the creator of all. “But insofar as it lay beyond Ahriman’s power to destroy fully anything created by Ohrmazd, the murder of Gayomart and the ox did not put an end to life, for all plant and animal species emerged from the body of the latter, and all humans from that of Gayomart” (Lincoln, p.141).
From this we can see the concept of ‘all mankind as one’; the life that Gayomart gave to the world from his corpse cannot be properly separated from each other. It is believed that once Gayomart’s dismembered body is put together again that Ahriman would be defeated – mankind unites as one.
Not only did Gayomart give life to humans, but the social hierarchy came about from the order of their birth. The priestly class came from his head and mouth, who were endowed with thought and sacred speech and thus became the highest rank in the social classes; the warrior classes came next, born from his chest and arms, endowed with vigour and force of arms; lastly, from his loins and legs came the commoner class, endowed with generative power, the foundation which supports the other classes, but which is also lowliest of the three (Lincoln, p.142).
Gayomart is an essential deity in ancient Iranian mythology; we learn vital parts of ancient societies through their mythology, their religion and the roles it played during their everyday life.
Cotterell, Arthur & Storm, Rachel (1999) The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology, Hermes House, Anness Publishing House.
Lincoln, Bruce (1983) “The Earth Becomes Flat” – A Study of Apocalyptic Imagery, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Cambridge University Press.