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Category: Damascius

Babylonian Religion

” … Outside the inscriptions of Babylonia and Assyria, there is but little bearing upon the religion of those countries, the most important fragment being the extracts from Berosus and Damascius referred to above.

Among the Babylonian and Assyrian remains, however, we have an extensive and valuable mass of material, dating from the fourth or fifth millennium before Christ until the disappearance of the Babylonian system of writing about the beginning of the Christian era.

The earlier inscriptions are mostly of the nature of records, and give information about the deities and the religion of the people in the course of descriptions of the building and rebuilding of temples, the making of offerings, the performance of ceremonies, etc.

Purely religious inscriptions are found near the end of the third millennium before Christ, and occur in considerable numbers, either in the original Sumerian text, or in translations, or both, until about the third century before Christ.

Among the more recent inscriptions–those from the library of the Assyrian king Aššur-bani-âpli and the later Babylonian temple archives–there are many lists of deities, with numerous identifications with each other and with the heavenly bodies, and explanations of their natures.

It is needless to say that all this material is of enormous value for the study of the religion of the Babylonians and Assyrians, and enables us to reconstruct at first hand their mythological system, and note the changes which took place in the course of their long national existence.”

Theophilus G. Pinches, The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria, London, 1906, pp. 2-4.

The Cuneiform Puzzle of the Creation

” …  George Smith recovered the opening lines of the First Tablet, which describes the condition of things before Creation when the primeval water-gods, Apsû and Tiamat, personifying chaos, mingled their waters in confusion.

The text then briefly relates how to Apsû and Tiamat were born the oldest of the gods, the first pair, Lahmu and Lahamu, being followed after a long interval by Anshar and Kishar, and after a second interval by other deities, of whose names the text … only preserves that of Anu.

George Smith perceived that this theogony had been reproduced by Damascius in his summary of the beliefs of the Babylonians concerning the creation of the world. 1

Now, since Damascius mentions Ἴλλινος and Ἀός along with Ἀνός, it was clear that the text of the poem included a description of the birth of the elder Bel (i.e. Enlil or Illil) and of Ea in the passage in which Anu’s name occurs. But as the text … breaks off … the course of the story after this point has hitherto been purely a matter for conjecture.

It appeared probable that the lines which followed contained a full account of the origin of the younger gods, and from the fact that Damascius states that Βῆλος, the Creator of the world, was the son of (i.e. Ea) and Δαύκη (i.e. Damkina), it has been concluded that at any rate special prominence was given to the birth of Bel, i.e. Marduk, who figures so prominently in the story from the close of the Second Tablet onwards.

The new fragments of the First Tablet show that the account of the birth of the gods in the Creation Series is even shorter than that given by Damascius, for the poem contains no mention of the birth and parentage of Marduk.

After mentioning the birth of Nudimmud (i.e. Ea), 2 the text proceeds to describe his marvellous wisdom and strength, and states that he had no rival among the gods; the birth of no other god is recorded after that of Ea, and, when Marduk is introduced later on, his existence, like that of Mummu and of Gaga, appears to be tacitly assumed.

It would seem, therefore, that the reference made by Damascius to Marduk’s parentage was not derived from the text of the Creation Series, but was added by him to complete his summary of the Babylonian beliefs concerning the origin of the gods.”

Leonard William King, The Seven Tablets of Creation, London, 1902. pp. xxxiii-xxxvii.

I.P. Cory on Paganism

” … But the internal heresies of the Church were not the only ill effects which the misguided zeal of the fathers, in forcing upon Plato the doctrine of the Trinity, brought about.

Though it is possible, that by pointing out some crude similarity of doctrine, they might have obtajned some converts by rendering Christianity less unpalatable to the philosophical world of that day, yet the weapon was skilfully turned against them, and with unerring effect, when the Pagans took upon them to assert that nothing new had been revealed in Christianity; since, by the confessions of its very advocates, the system was previously contained in the writings of Plato.

In the third century, Ammonius Saccas, universally acknowledged to have been a man of consummate ability, taught that every sect, Christian, Heretic or Pagan, had received the truth, and retained it in their varied legends. He undertook, therefore, to unfold it from them all, and to reconcile every creed.

And from his exertions sprung the celebrated Eclectic school of the later Platonists. Plotinus, Amelius, Olympius, Porphyrius, Jamblichus, Syrianus, and Proclus, were among the celebrated professors who succeeded Ammonius in the Platonic chair, and revived and kept alive the spirit of Paganism, with a bitter enmity to the Gospel, for near three hundred years.

The Platonic schools were at length closed by the edict of Justinian; and seven wise men, the last lights of Platonism, Diogenes, Hermias, Eulalius, Priscianus, Damascius, Isidorus and Simplicius retired indignantly from the persecutions of Justinian, to realize the shadowy dreams of the republic of Plato, under the Persian despotism of Chosroes.16

From the writings of these philosophers is collected the bulk of the Oracles of Zoroaster. A few of them were first published by Ludovicus Tiletanus at Paris, with the commentaries of Pletho, to which were subsequently added those of Psellus. Chief part of them, however, were collected by Franciscus Patricius, and published with the Hermetic books at the end of his Nova Philosophia.

To the labours of Mr. Taylor we are indebted for the addition of about fifty more, and for the references to the works from whence all were extracted. I have arranged them according to the subjects, which are said to be occultly discussed in the Parmenides of Plato, viz.: Cause or God, the Ideal Intelligible or Intellectual world, Particular Souls, and the Material world.

And I have placed under a separate head the Magical and Philosophical precepts and directions. There can be no question but that many of these Oracles are spurious; all those, for instance, which relate to the Intelligible and Intellectual orders, which were confessedly obtained in answers given by dæmons, raised for that purpose by the Theurgists;17 who, as well as all the later Platonists, made pretensions to magic, not only in its refinements, which they were pleased to designate Theurgy, but also in that debased form which we should call common witchcraft.

Nevertheless, several of the Oracles seem to be derived from more authentic sources, and, like the spurious Hermetic books which have come down to us, probably contain much of the pure Sabiasm of Persia, and the doctrines of the Oriental philosophy.”

I.P. Cory, Ancient Fragments, 1832, Introduction.

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