An, Anu

Provenance: Mesopotamia/Anatolia (Sumerian, Akkadian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Hurrian)
Gender: Male
Divine Attributes: Heaven, Sky
Name’s Meaning: Heaven
Titles, Epithets, and other Descriptors: Supreme Lord of the sky, Ancestor of the gods, Father of the Anunnaki, The Divine King of Uruk, King of the Lands
Iconography: Six-Horned Crown, Tamarisk Tree, Bull
Astrological Affiliations: Uranus, Aries Constellation
Descended From: Hurrian Tradition; Alalu and Belili
Descended From: In later traditions; Anšar and Kišar
Siblings: Ki/Antu
Siblings: Other Traditions; Ki, Enlil, Enki, Beltis
Consort/s: Uraš, Ki/Antu, Nammu, Ereshkigal
Progeny: Enki (w/ Namma), Bau, Nungal (w/ Ereshkigal), Enlil, Aruru, Inanna, Nisaba, and Ninsun (w/ Uraš), Enlil, Ninlil, Inanna, Ereshkigal, Lamashtu, Tiranna, Ishtaran, Urash, Ishkur, Amurru (w/ Ki)
Patron City and/or Shrine: Uruk (Kullaba District)
Attested in Literature: Enuma Elish, The Atrahasis Epic, The Seven Evil Spirits, The Seven Conquered Enlils, Eridu Genesis, Debate between cattle and grain, Gilgamesh and the Willow Tree, The Murder of Anshar, Enki and the world order, Inana and Ebiḫ, Ninurta’s exploits, Gilgameš and the bull of heaven, Inana and Enki, The exaltation of Inana, The temple hymns, An=Anum, Tell Abu Salabikh Tablets
Regional/Cultural Identity: An (Sumerian), Anu (Akkadian/Babylonian), Hamurnu/Anu (Hurrian), Ouranos (Greek), Epigeius (Greco-Phoenician), Shu (Egyptian), Agathodaemon (Gnosticism)


An, Anu
An was referred to as the forefather or father of the Gods. In some traditions, mainly early Sumerian and Seleucid, he was regarded as the supreme god of the Anunnaki. He was preceded by Alalu, and succeeded by Enlil, or by Kumarbi in the Hurrian tradition.

An 𒀭 in Sumerian means sky or heaven. His Akkadian counterpart is Anum, or more commonly referred to as Anu. The Sumerian dingir symbol is an eight pointed star. When placed before a name it refers to divinity, but when alone it refers to the god An (not Anu). In Sumerian, An is recorded with a single dingir symbol, while in Akkadian, Anu is recorded with two 𒀭𒀭 dingir symbols indicating divinity. Some scholars have proposed An and Anu to be different deities, as one was viewed as divine, and the other was not.

Titles and Epithets
The word An/Anu itself is a title which refers to the power of heaven, or anutu/anuti, also known as Anuship. This title was held by numerous deities including Ea, An, Marduk, Nannar, and more. As a title which many consider to be an individual’s name, it causes confusion in regards to the genealogy of the gods. In some cases, such as with Lugaldukuga, he is identified as d.nunu, which is pronounced Anunnu.

In the Early Dynastic Period of Sumer, in some sources of literature An is referred to as “King of the Lands” and also “The Divine King of Uruk” (or of Kulaba). In the Babylonian Seven Evil Spirits myth, as well as the Myth of Adapa, Anu is referred to as just “The King.” In processional texts from the Babylonian period, he is called “The Great Anu” or “The Great Lord.”

Divine Portfolio
As an astral deity, An was associated with the heavens, Uranus, and the Aries constellation. In the Gilgamesh and the Willow Tree text, Anu was thought to be the personification of the sky, while his counterpart Ki, was the personification of Earth and was withheld from him by Enlil. The earth held out of sky’s reach is a tradition that echoes in Egyptian mythology, as Nut and Geb are held apart by Shu.

It is confirmed that Anu obtained Enlilship, since he is referenced in two separate god lists described as a defeated or conquered Enlil. In the early Sumerian tradition, An was responsible for both divine and human kingship. According to some texts, he determines fates that cannot be altered, which is a rite exclusive to the holder of Enlilship.

In a Kassite Babylonian text translated by Stephen Langdon, he was associated with the tamarisk tree. Neo Babylonian astrological texts connect him with the month of April, the Bull, and the Aries Constellation. His symbol is the horned crown, which appears similar to Enlil’s. Some reliefs appear to show 6 horns, some show 5. This perhaps reflects each deity’s royal number, as An’s was 60, and Enlil’s was 50.

Attested Chronological Range
An was first recorded in a Sumerian text during the Early Dynastic Period. He is mentioned in the oldest known god lists, one of which was found at Tell Abu Salabikh, dated to ca 2600 BCE. In early Sumerian texts he appears as the head of the pantheon, but would later be replaced as the supreme god by the god Enlil. Regardless of his decline in power, he was still featured in many Akkadian, Babylonian, and Assyrian texts. Also recorded and elevated by Seleucid scribes, he was perhaps absorbed into the Hellenistic belief system as an aspect of, or partial influence of the sky god Ouranos.

In early Sumerian texts, An is the eldest ruling god. No allusion to an older generation of gods have yet been found. In Akkadian and Hurrian sources, Alala and Belili are mentioned as his parents. Although this appears to be due to an adoption of sorts, as we understand Enki to have assassinated Anshar. In later traditions, for example the Babylonian Enuma Elish, more generations of earlier gods are acknowledged. In Babylonian and Assyrian texts, Anu is the son of Anshar and Kishar, grandson of Lahmu and Lahamu, and great grandson to Apsu and Tiamat. In some texts, Anu’s siblings are Ki, Bel, and Beltis, but the more popular traditions imply just Ki or Antu as his sister.

An as a title, and being part of multiple traditions with numerous consorts, creates an extremely difficult genealogy to follow. When considering this to be a title held by at least a handful of other deities, it is reasonable to assume that some of these genealogies belong to separate characters. An and Namma fathering Enki for example seems to refer to Lugaldukuga, who is Anunu, and Damlgalnuna, begetting Marduk. This is further confirmed by acknowledging that Marduk had attained the title of Enki in the Enuma Elish.

Some genealogies create more questions than offer answers, such as that of Anu of Ereškigala. In a Hymn to Nungal, Anu and Ereshkigal have a daughter named Nungal. Some consider the term father of the gods to have corrupted many divine genealogies, however it is not impossible for it to be true. In some texts, Anu is Ereshkigal’s great grandfather, grandfather, or father. Another lesser known genealogy is that of Bau’s as the daughter of the Sumerian An, which implies instead she is the daughter of Lugaldukuga, or the Semitic Ea.

Anu’s more popular or widespread genealogies are with Uraš and Ki, who some propose to be the same goddess. His children with Uraš were Amurru, Nisaba, Ninsun, and Ninisina. His children with Ki were Enlil, Aruru, Inanna, Ereshkigal, Ishtaran, Ishkur, Urash, and perhaps Lamashtu. Some scholars propose the source of the term “Anunnaki” to be derived from the combination of Anu and Ki’s names. Others disagree, pointing out Lugaldukuga’s logogram d.nunu (Anunu) paired with Damgaluna or Damkina to be a more appropriate origin of the term.

Regional Counterparts
When considering An’s divine portfolio, along with his multiple genealogies, there are too many similarities with other deities to ignore. Mentioned by his Mesopotamian title in Hurrian tradition, he was widely known throughout the ancient world. In Egypt, the Shabaka stone mentions the generations of the Ennead. Ptah fathers the sky god Shu who has a son associated with Earth, Geb. This reflects the Babylonian tradition from the Enuma Elish. Anshar’s son is the sky god Anu, who has a son of his own, Enki, Lord of the Earth. It also reflects Greek tradition, in which Aether begets the sky god Uranus, who has a son of his own, Cronos, the ruler of Earth in the Golden Age. Lastly, recorded by Manetho in the Old Egyptian Chronicle, Shu and Uranus are both equated to Agathodaemon, and are listed as the father of Cronus/ Geb.

The sky god Anu, and his similar counterparts throughout Ancient Near Eastern mythology represent multiple deities with differing genealogies. Since the earliest gods existed during a period in which writing had yet been developed, these stories were only orally transmitted. Later, when these stories were finally recorded, it seems as though some of those who held similar titles or positions, such as the power of Anu, were conflated into a single identity.

Anunu was another name for Lugaldukuga, who was Ea. Based on the literature and due to the nearly identical name, Ea is the most appropriate candidate for the early Sumerian tradition god An. While Anu in the Babylonian tradition appears to be based on Lahmu’s grandson. According to some sources, over 10 generations would pass before a Sumerian man by the name of Ziugiddu would further influence the identity of the sky god. Also known as Atrahasis, Utnapishtim, or the more popular Abrahamic Noah, he and his family seemingly overwrote the previous group of gods referred to by most as the Anunnaki. Be that as it may, it is also reasonable to assume that aspects of the Anunnaki were absorbed by Noah’s family. When reviewing Berossus, Eupolemus, and the Sibylline Oracles, it is undeniable that Noah influenced Uranus, Ham influenced Cronus, and Mizraim influenced Zeus. Likewise, Noah influenced Shu, Ham influenced Geb(an Khnum), while Mizraim influenced Set and Cush influenced Osiris. Berossus also acknowledges Cronus to be Enki, whether he attained the title or the conclusion was erroneously drawn is up for debate. This is all further confirmed in the chronicles of Eusebius, in which he describes the Theogony of the Phoenicians according to Sanchoniothon.

Attested in Literature
As head of the pantheon we can expect An to be mentioned in many texts, but after Enlil’s ascension, An plays a passive and mostly supportive role. As a result, he is featured as the protagonist (or antagonist) in only a handful of epics. He is mentioned in the many versions of the Enuma Elish, The Atrahasis Epic, The Seven Evil Spirits, The Eridu Genesis, The Debate between cattle and grain, Gilgamesh and the Willow Tree, The Murder of Anshar, Enki and the world order, Inana and Ebiḫ, Ninurta’s exploits, Gilgameš and the bull of heaven, Inana and Enki, The exaltation of Inana, The temple hymns, An=Anum, the Tell Abu Salabikh Tablets, and many many more.