Kassite Gods

Welcome to the Proto-Indo-European Religion domain at piereligion.org.
Proto-Indo-European Religion
Indo-European Languages
Kassite Gods
Proto-Indo-European Goddesses
Proto-Indo-European Myths
Proto-Indo-European Rituals
Festivals, Food and Farming

Early English Text Society Publications
Book References

This section is included under Indo-European languages rather than being linked with the Proto-Indo-European deities because the names of the Kassite Gods and Goddesses constitute most of the information we have about the Kassite language. The names of Kassite deities are gathered here because there seemed to be no central source for the information either in print or on the internet.

Kassite History
The Kassites appear sporadically in early Babylonian texts as migrants from some eastern mountains. Finally in about 1500 BCE they conquered a number of major cities in Mesopotamia, at that time under Babylonian control. Ancient cities where they ruled or where there is some linguistic evidence related to them include Ashur, Babylon, Ur, Erech, Nippur and the specifically Kassite city of Dur-Kurigalzu, which has a very fine spiral ziggurat, near the modern city of Al-Ramadi in Iraq. The Kassite kings continued to rule until 1155 BCE, when they were destroyed by the Elamites. From this time they seem to have withdrawn to the Zagros mountains and they appear in history as a contingent in the Persian armies.

The Kassites are known to history by many different variations of their name. The ancient Greeks referred to them as Kissians, for example in the Histories of Herodotus where they appear in the army of Xerxes, Book 7:62. Another old form is Kashhus, and the form Kossaeans appears in Ptolemaic texts. All of the names that appear with an initial k- are also sometimes spelled with a c-. Their name for themselves was Galzu which appears in Akkadian (Babylonian) texts.

Kassite Gods
Many Kassite Gods have names in the Indo-European languages. Some names can be closely identified with the names of Gods in Sanskrit, notably Kassite Suriash (Sanskrit Surya); Maruttash (Sanskrit, the Maruts); and possibly Shimalia (the Himalaya Mountains in India). The Kassite storm god Buriash (Uburiash, or Burariash) has been identified with the Greek God Boreas, the God of the North Wind. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica there are some 30 names of Gods known, but so far, I have been able to find only about 24 of them from various sources. Most of these words occur in Mesopotamian texts of the 14th and 13th centuries BCE.

Bugash, possibly the name of a god, it is also used as a title.
Buriash, Ubriash, or Burariash, a storm god, (= Greek Boreas)
Duniash, a deity
Gidar, corresponding to Babylonian Adar
Hala, a Goddess, wife of Adar/Nusku, see Shala
Harbe, lord of the pantheon, symbolized by a bird, corresponding to Bel, Enlil or Anu
Hardash, possibly the name of a god
Hudha, corresponding to a Babylonian “Air-God”
Indash, possibly corresponding to Sanskrit Indra
Kamulla, corresponding to Babylonian Ea
Kashshu, (Kassu) a god, eponymous ancestor of the Kassite kings
Maruttash, or Muruttash, (possibly corresponding to the Vedic Maruts, a plural form)
Miriash, a Goddess (of the earth?), probably the same as the next one
Mirizir, a Goddess, corresponding to Belet, the Babylonian Goddess Beltis, i.e. Ishtar = the planet Venus; symbolized with the 8 pointed star
Nanai, or Nanna, possibly a Babylonian name, the Goddess Ishtar (Venus star) as a huntress, appearing on kudurrus as a female on a throne.
Shah, a sun god, corresponding to Babylonian Shamash, and possibly to Sanskrit Sahi.
Shala, a Goddess, symbolized by a barley stalk, also called Hala
Shihu, one of the names of Marduk
Shimalia, Goddess of the mountains, a form of the name Himalaya, Semele, see Shumalia
Shipak, a moon God
Shugab, God of the underworld, corresponding to Babylonian Nêrgal
Shugurra, corresponding to Babylonian Marduk
Shumalia, Goddess symbolized by a bird on perch, one of two deities associated with the investiture of kings
Shuqamuna, a God symbolized by a bird on a perch, one of two associated with the investiture of kings
Shuriash, corresponding to Babylonian Shamash, and possibly to Vedic Surya, also a sun god, but this might be the star Sirius, which has an arrow as a symbol
Turgu, a deity

Ilya Gershevitch in the Cambridge History of Iran has argued that the ending -(i)ash in many of the names means ‘earth,’ however it looks like a very common nominative singular ending seen in many Indo-European languages: PIE -os > Sanskrit -ah, Avestan -a, Greek -os, Latin -us, Germanic -s, Slavic -ŭ, Baltic -as. This is usually understood as a masculine ending, however it occurs in the names of the Latin Goddesses Venus and Pax, among others. Furthermore, it seems very unlikely that a word meaning ‘earth’ would be a component of the names of Buriash, a Storm God, or of Shuriash, a Sun God. The current argument is that the actual language of the Kassites was not an Indo-European language, however based on the names of their Gods, this is somewhat implausible.

Sources of Information
Almost all the information available about the Kassites is embedded in original sources and scholarship that are connected to Akkadian, Assyrian and other Semitic languages and the Sumerian language. During the time of the Kassite kings, the main part of the population continued to speak a Semitic language (Babylonian), and except for proper names, this is the language of the inscriptions of the Kassites. The inscriptions are written in cuneiform.

The Kassites introduced the use of kudurrus or boundary marker stones, which contain legal inscriptions such as land grants, peace treaties and proclamations by kings. Other sources including practice lists of student scribes. Students learned their craft by writing lists of names, often dual language lists on small “lentil-shaped” (round) clay tablets which they could hold in the palm of the hand. Fortunately for linguists, some of the practice texts include pronunciations. The first list that they began with was usually a list of the names of gods. A list of Kassite Gods was equated to Babylonian Gods in a sort of “interpretatio Semitica.” For example, the Kassite sun god Shah is identified with the Babylonian sun god Shamash (Shamesh), according to some single element which the respective Gods have in common. Names of Gods also appear in the names of Kassite kings (“theophoric king names”), as is very typical among Indo-European-speaking people. Very occasionally Kassite Gods are referred to in ritual as when the investiture of kings is said to take place in a shrine devoted to the Gods Shumalia and Shuqamuna. From all sources, only about 300 words are known in the Kassite language.

Comparative Indo-European Linguistics, Robert S. P. Beekes, John Benjamins Publishing Company, Philadelphia, 1995.
Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans: A Reconstruction and Historical Analysis of a Proto-Language and a Proto-Culture by Thomas V. Gamkrelidze and Vjaceslav V. Ivanov, (Trends in Linguistics: Studies and Monographs 80, 2 Vol. Set), with Werner Winter, ed., and Johanna Nichols, translator (original title Indoevropeiskii iazyk i indoevropeistsy), M. De Gruyter, Berlin & NY, 1995.
Mesopotamia, the Invention of the City, by Gwendolyn Leick, Penguin Books, London, 2001
Indo-European Deities and the Rig-Veda, by Nicholas Kazanas, JIES Vol. 29 (2001), No. 3-4
Encyclopedia Britannica, Complete Home Library CD, 2004
The Looting of the Iraq Museum, Baghdad, ed. by Milbry Polk and Angela Schuster, Harry Abrams Inc. Publ., NY, 2005.
The Amarna Letters, transl. by William L. Moran, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1992
Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia, by Jeremy Black and Anthony Green, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1992.

There is a website at http://www.heritageinstitute.com/zoroastrianism/ranghaya/kassites.htm. I don’t agree with some of their points of view, but the site gives a great deal of detail.

© 2007, last updated 02/01/2012, at piereligion.org/kassite.html