Cookies Policy

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

I accept this policy

Find out more here

Religion, Nature, and Ambiguous Space in Ancient Mesopotamia: The Mountain Wilderness in Old Babylonian Religious Narratives

No metrics data to plot.
The attempt to load metrics for this article has failed.
The attempt to plot a graph for these metrics has failed.
The full text of this article is not currently available.

Brill’s MyBook program is exclusively available on BrillOnline Books and Journals. Students and scholars affiliated with an institution that has purchased a Brill E-Book on the BrillOnline platform automatically have access to the MyBook option for the title(s) acquired by the Library. Brill MyBook is a print-on-demand paperback copy which is sold at a favorably uniform low price.

Access this article

+ Tax (if applicable)
Add to Favorites
You must be logged in to use this functionality

image of Numen

This article discusses the nexus of religion and nature by means of an investigation of the mountain wilderness space in ancient Mesopotamia. Drawing inspiration from theories of social space and the field of religion and nature, it pays special attention to the mediality of the sources embedding the wilderness space by analyzing the literary-narrative form of a set of Old Babylonian, Sumerian religious narratives related to the deities Inana and Ninurta and the heroes Lugalbanda and Gilgamesh. Contrary to previous research, which has seen the mountain wilderness as a dangerous and inimical chaos region, this article argues that the mountain wilderness is also ascribed benign connotations and functions. It is a wild and dangerous region, but it is also naturally abundant, primeval, and harbors forms of agency and force. It is an arena for magical transformation, heroic acts, and for direct communication with the deities. It is thus a more ambiguous space than has previously been recognized, and it should be understood in the context of the social space of the scribal milieu. Finally, the article suggests that cosmology studies and the relationships between natural domains and deities, in the general history of religions, are reconsidered in light of theories of social space and in light of the mediality of the sources.

Affiliations: 1: University of Southern Denmark, Department of History, Section of the Study of Religions Campusvej 55, 5230 Odense M. Denmark


Full text loading...


Data & Media loading...

1. Alster Bendt Tzvi Abusch John Huehnergard , Steinkeller Piotr "“Lugalbanda and the Early Epic Tradition in Mesopotamia”" Lingering over Words: Studies in Ancient Near Eastern Literature in Honor of W. L. Moran 1990 Atlanta Scholars Press 59 72
2. Auffarth Christoph Betz Hans Dieter , Browning Don , Janowski Bernd , Jüngel Eberhard "“Kosmologie”" Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart 2001 Tübingen Mohr Siebeck 1706 1707
3. Bal Mieke Narratology: Introduction to the Theory of Narrative 1997 Toronto University of Toronto Press
4. Berquist Jon L. , Camp Claudia V. Constructions of Space ii: The Biblical City and Other Imagined Spaces 2008 London T&T Clark
5. Black Jeremy A. , Cunningham Graham , Ebeling Jarle , Flückiger-Hawker Esther , Robson Eleanor , Taylor Jon , Zólyomi Gábor The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature 1998–2006 accessed 10 October 2012 url:
6. Black Jeremy A. Reading Sumerian Poetry 1998 New York Cornell University Press
7. Black Jeremy A. Abusch Tzvi "“The Sumerians in Their Landscape”" Riches Hidden in Secret Places: Ancient Near Eastern Studies in Memory of Thorkild Jacobsen 2002 Winona Lake, Ind. Eisenbrauns 41 62
8. Bruschweiler Françoise Inanna: La déesse triomphante et vaincue dans la cosmologie sumérienne 1987 Leuven Peeters
9. Camp Claudia Gunn David M. , McNutt Paula "“Storied Space or Ben Sira Tells a Temple”" “Imagining” Biblical Worlds: Studies in Spatial, Social and Historical Constructs in Honour of James W. Flanagan 2002 New York Sheffield Academic Press 64 80
10. Carr David "“Torah on the Heart: Literary Jewish Textuality within Its Ancient Near Eastern Context”" Oral Tradition 2010 Vol 25 1 17 40
11. Civil Miguel Sallaberger Walther , Volk Konrad , Zgoll Annette "“Reading Gilgameš ii: Gilgameš and Huwawa”" Literatur, Politik und Recht in Mesopotamien: Festschrift für Claus Wilcke 2003 Wiesbaden Harrasowitz 77 87
12. Cronon William Uncommon Ground: Toward Reinventing Nature 1995 New York and London W. W. Norton
13. Deane-Drummond Celia Eco-Theology 2008 London Darton, Longman and Todd
14. Delnero Paul Frame Grant , Leichty Erle , Sonik Karen , Tigay Jeffrey , Tinney Steve "“ ‘Inana and Ebiḫ’ and the Scribal Tradition”" A Common Cultural Heritage: Studies on Mesopotamia and the Biblical World in Honor of Barry L. Eichler 2011 Bethesda, Md. CDL Press 123 149
15. Delnero Paul The Textual Criticism of Sumerian Literature 2012 Boston American Schools of Oriental Research
16. Detienne Marcel , Vernant Jean-Pierre Lloyd Janet Cunning Intelligence in Greek Culture and Society 1991 [1974] Chicago University of Chicago Press
17. Eaton Heather Introducing Ecofeminist Theologies 2005 London and New York T&T Clark
18. Ebeling Erich Keilschrifttexte aus Assur Religiösen Inhalts 1920 Leipzig Deutschen Orientgesellschaft
19. Feld Steven , Basso Keith H. Senses of Place 1997 Santa Fe School of American Research Press
20. Feldt Laura Eksell Kerstin , Feldt Laura "“Reading the Monstrous: An Example of Sumerian Heroic Literature”" Readings in Eastern Mediterranean Literatures 2006 Würzburg Ergon Verlag 83 127
21. Feldt Laura Ebeling Jarle "“On Divine-referent Bull Metaphors in the etcsl Corpus”" Reading Literary Sumerian: Corpus-based Approaches 2007 London Equinox Publishing 184 214
22. Feldt Laura Hagen Fredrik , Johnston John , Monkhouse Wendy , Piquette Kathryn , Tait John , Worthington Martin "“Monstrous Identities: Narrative Strategies in Lugale and Some Reflections on Sumerian Religious Narrative”" Narratives of Egypt and the Ancient Near East: Literary and Linguistic Approaches 2011 Leuven Peeters 123 164
23. Feldt Laura The Fantastic in Religious Narrative from Exodus to Elisha 2012a London Routledge
24. Feldt Laura Feldt Laura "“Wilderness in Mythology and Religion”" Wilderness in Mythology and Religion: Approaching Religious Spatialities, Cosmologies, and Ideas of Wild Nature 2012b Berlin Walter de Gruyter 1 23
25. Feldt Laura "“Myths and Narratology: Narrative Form, Meaning and Function in the Standard Babylonian Epic of Anzû”" Bulletin for the Study of Religion 2013 Vol 42 4 22 29
26. Forsyth Neil The Old Enemy: Satan and the Combat Myth 1987 Princeton Princeton University Press
27. Garrard Greg Ecocriticism 2004 London Routledge
28. Geertz Armin W. "“Definition as Analytical Strategy in the Study of Religion”" Historical Reflections/ Réflexions Historiques 1999 Vol 25 3 445 475
29. George A. R. The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic: Introduction, Critical Edition and Cuneiform Texts 2003 Oxford Oxford University Press
30. George Mark K. Israel’s Tabernacle as Social Space 2009 Atlanta Society of Biblical Literature Press
31. Gilhus Ingvild S. Ellen Kraft Siv , Natvig Richard J. "“Metodisk mangefold: utforskningen av en religiøs tekst”" Metode i religionsvitenskap 2006 Oslo Pax 72 88
32. Harrison Robert Pogue Forests: The Shadow of Civilization 1992 Chicago Chicago University Press
33. Heise Ursula K. Sense of Place and Sense of Planet: The Environmental Imagination of the Global 2009 Oxford Oxford University Press
34. Hendel Ronald Remembering Abraham: Culture, Memory, and History in the Hebrew Bible 2005 Oxford Oxford University Press
35. Hirsch Eric , O’Hanlon Michael The Anthropology of Landscape: Perspectives on Place and Space 1995 Oxford Clarendon Press
36. Ingold Tim The Perception of the Environment: Essays on Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill 2000 London Routledge
37. Jasanoff Sheila "“A New Climate for Society”" Theory, Culture & Society 2010 Vol 27 2–3 233 253
38. Jasper Daniel The Sacred Desert: Religion, Literature, Art, and Culture 2004 Malden, Mass. Blackwell
39. Jenkins Willis "“Religion and Ecology: A Review Essay on the Field”" Journal of the American Academy of Religion 2009 Vol 77 1 187 197
40. Jensen H. J. L. Den fortærende ild: Strukturelle analyser af narrative og rituelle tekster i Det Gamle Testamente 2000 Aarhus Aarhus University Press
41. Jensen Jeppe Sinding The Study of Religion in a New Key: Theoretical and Philosophical Soundings in the Comparative and General Study of Religion 2003 Aarhus Aarhus University Press
42. Karahashi Fumi "“Fighting the Mountain: Some Observations on the Sumerian Myths of Inanna and Ninurta”" Journal of Near Eastern Studies 2004 Vol 63 2 111 118
43. Katz Dina The Image of the Netherworld in the Sumerian Sources 2003 Bethesda, Md. CDL Press
44. Kirby Peter Wynn Boundless Worlds: An Anthropological Approach to Movement 2009 New York Berghahn Books
45. Knott Kim The Location of Religion: A Spatial Analysis 2005 London Equinox Publishing
46. Lang Bernhard The Hebrew God: Portrait of an Ancient Deity 2002 New Haven Yale University Press
47. Leach Edmund Alter Robert , Kermode Frank "“Fishing for Men”" The Literary Guide to the Bible 1987 Cambridge, Mass. Harvard University Press 579 599
48. Lefebvre Henri The Production of Space 1991 [1974] Oxford Basil Blackwell
49. Lincoln Bruce Theorizing Myth: Narrative, Ideology, and Scholarship 1999 Chicago Chicago University Press
50. Maul Stefan M. Zenger Erich "“Der Sieg über die Mächte des Bösen: Götterkampf, Triumphrituale und Torarchitektur in Assyrien”" Ritual und Poesie: Formen und Orte religiöser Dichtung im Alten Orient, im Judentum und im Christentum 2003 Freiburg Herder 47 71
51. Meyer Birgit "“Religious Sensations: Why Media, Aesthetics and Power Matter in the Study of Contemporary Religion”" 2006 accessed 3 October 2012 Inaugural Lecture as Professor of Cultural Anthropology at vu University Amsterdam on 6 October 2006. url:
52. Meyer Birgit "“Mediation and Immediacy: Sensational Forms, Semiotic Ideologies and the Question of the Medium”" Social Anthropology 2011 Vol 19 1 23 39
53. Michalowski Piotr Dorleijn Gillis J. , Vanstiphout Herman L. J. "“The Libraries of Babel: Text, Authority, and Tradition in Ancient Mesopotamia”" Cultural Repertoires: Structure, Function and Dynamics 2003 Leuven Peeters 105 130
54. Michalowski Piotr Raaflaub Kurt A. , Talbert Richard J. A. "“Masters of the Four Corners of the Heavens: Views of the Universe in Early Mesopotamian Writings”" Geography and Ethnography: Perceptions of the World in Pre-Modern Societies 2010 London Blackwell 147 168
55. Oelschlaeger Max The Idea of Wilderness: From Prehistory to the Age of Ecology 1991 New Haven Yale University Press
56. Oelschlaeger Max "“Wilderness Religion”" Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature 2005 London Continuum 1745 1748
57. Potts D. T. Leick Gwendolyn "“Babylonian Sources of Exotic Raw Materials”" The Babylonian World 2007 London Routledge 124 140
58. Raudvere Catharina "“The Part or the Whole: Cosmology as an Empirical and Analytical Concept”" Temenos 2009 Vol 45 7 33
59. Reiner Erica , Roth Martha T. "“šadû”" The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago 1973–2011 Vol vol. 15 Chicago University of Chicago Press 49 59
60. Rochberg Francesca "“Fate and Divination in ancient Mesopotamia”" Archiv für Orientforschung Beiheft 1982 Vol 19 363 371
61. Rubio Gonzalo "“Reading Sumerian Names, ii: Gilgameš”" Journal of Cuneiform Studies 2012 Vol 64 3 16
62. Seminara Stefano La versione accadica del Lugale: La tecnica babilonese della traduzione dal sumerico e le sue ‘regole.’ 2001 Rome Università degli Studi di Roma “La Sapienza” Dipartimento di Studi Orientali
63. Soja Edward W. Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory 1989 New York Verso
64. Stausberg Michael "“The Study of Religion(s) in Western Europe iii: Further Developments after World War ii”" Religion 2009 Vol 39 3 261 282
65. Stausberg Michael "“Distinctions, Differentiations, Ontology and Non-Humans in Theories of Religion”" Method & Theory in the Study of Religion 2010 Vol 22 4 354 374
66. Steinkeller Piotr Roth Martha T. , Farber Walter , Stolper Matthew W. , von Bechtolsheim Paula "“On Sand Dunes, Mountain Ranges and Mountain Peaks”" Studies Presented to Robert D. Biggs 2007 Chicago Oriental Institute 219 232
67. Taylor Bron "“Introduction”" Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature 2005 Vol vol. 1 London and New York Continuum, vii–xxi
68. Thomsen Mads Rosendahl Kanoniske konstellationer: Om litteraturhistorie, kanonstudier og 1920ernes litteratur 2003 Odense University Press of Southern Denmark
69. van Dijk Jan Lugal ud me-lám-bi nir-g̃ál: le récit épique et didactique des travaux de Ninurta, du Déluge et de la Nouvelle Création 1983 Leiden Brill 2 vols.
70. Vanstiphout Herman L. J. Epics of Sumerian Kings: The Matter of Aratta 2003 Brill Leiden
71. Veldhuis Niek Finkelberg Margalit , Stroumsa Guy G. "“Mesopotamian Canons”" Homer, the Bible, and Beyond: Literary and Religious Canons in the Ancient World 2003 Leiden Brill 9 28
72. Walker Christopher , Dick Michael B. The Induction of the Cult Image in Ancient Mesopotamia: The Mesopotamian mīs pî Ritual 2001 Helsinki University of Helsinki Press
73. Wiggermann F. A. M. Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts 1992 Groningen Styx Publications
74. Wiggermann F. A. M. "“Mischwesen A”" Realleksikon der Assyriologie 1993 Vol vol. 8 Berlin de Gruyter 222 245
75. Wiggermann F. A. M. Vogelzang Marianna E. , Vanstiphout Herman L. J. "“Scenes from the Shadow Side”" Mesopotamian Poetic Language: Sumerian and Akkadian 1996 Groningen Styx Publications 207 230
76. Woods Christopher Sanders Seth L. "“Bilingualism, Scribal Learning, and the Death of Sumerian”" Margins of Writing, Origins of Cultures 2006 Chicago Oriental Institute 95 124
77. Woods Christopher "“At the Edge of the World: Cosmological Conceptions of the Eastern Horizon in Mesopotamia”" Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions 2009 Vol 9 2 183 239

Article metrics loading...



Can't access your account?
  • Tools

  • Add to Favorites
  • Printable version
  • Email this page
  • Subscribe to ToC alert
  • Get permissions
  • Recommend to your library

    You must fill out fields marked with: *

    Librarian details
    Your details
    Why are you recommending this title?
    Select reason:
    Numen — Recommend this title to your library
  • Export citations
  • Key

  • Full access
  • Open Access
  • Partial/No accessInformation