The History and Significance of the God Alalu

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The mythology of Mesopotamia and the surrounding regions are reflections on how these ancient societies viewed their world; like the ancient Egyptians, they feared the floods of the rivers but relied on them to provide the necessary waters in order to bring fertility to the lands. On top of this, the lands were constantly under threat from neighbouring countries, so the mythology of this region usually featured the constant fight against the forces of chaos.

We can see this with the god Alalu. Alalu was, according to Hittite mythology, the first king of heaven. Alalu, Anu and Kumarbi each reigned in heaven for nine years and each was always the servant of the preceding one (Hopkins, p.112). Anu dethroned Alalu, Kumarbi dethroned Anu and Kumarbi’s son, Teshub, in turn deposed his father. Scholars have pointed out that this myth holds striking similarities with the ancient Greek pantheon’s struggle for supremacy.

The Hittite version of the text reads, “Formerly, in [fo]rmer years, Alalu was king in heaven. Alalu is sitting on the throne, and the mighty Anu, the first of the gods, is standing in front of him. He bows down to his feet and puts the cups for drinking into his hand. Nine full years Alalu was king in heaven. In the ninth year, Anu fought against Alalu: he overcame Alalu, (so that) he fled from him and went down to the dark earth. He went down o he to the dark earth, (while Anu) sat on his throne. Anu is sitting on the throne, and the mighty Kumarbi is giving him to drink. He bows down to his feet and puts the cups for drinking into his hands” (, p.124).

According to mythology, Alalu fled to the underworld. In archaeology, he is linked with a series of work-songs called ‘alalu’. According to one scholar, he writes “it still remains difficult to understand how a god who, ac-cording to both Sumerian and Hurrian mythology, had languished in the nether world since primeval times, long before the creation of man, could be con-nected with the merry work-cry of the farmer”(Landsberger & Jacobson, p.21).

When studying the significance of this deity, we can clearly see Babylonian elements; Alalu and Anu are Babylonian names, not Hittite.

Bibliography:

Cotterell, Arthur & Storm, Rachel (1999) The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology, Hermes House, Anness Publishing House.

Guterbock, Hans Gustav (1948) The Hittite Version of the Hurrian Kumarbi Myths: Oriental Forerunners of Hesiod, American Journal of Archaeology, Archaeological Institute of Archaeology.

Hopkins, David C. (2000) Across the Anatolian Plateau: Readings in the Archaeology of Ancient Turkey, The Annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research, The American Schools of Oriental Research.

Landsberger, Bennon & Jacobson, Thorkild (1955) An Old Babylonian Charm Against Merhu, Journal of Near Easter Studies, The University of Chicago Press.

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