Saturday, May 16, 2009


The Sun-God was a jealous god. It feared that we might worship the gods of the other cities; so it demanded from us sacrifice. First the Sun-God demanded that we sacrifice to it from our harvest; then from our livestock; then from our people. And the steps to its golden idol in Tell Mozan ran red with blood.

So the people grew afraid; and then the people grew wrathful. They rose up as one, and cast the Sun God down; his idols they melted into a great vat of gold. But when the deed was done, the people grew confused. "Now we are without a god!" they cried. "Whatever may we do now?"

So they sent emissaries out to all the other cities, crying out, "Lo, our God is dead! God of the foreign lands, come and rule over us!" But the foreign gods refused; for they were afraid that, should they come, they might suffer the same fate as the Sun-God. The emissaries returned in defeat.

Then did the people look to the heavens; burning great piles of incense and gopherwood, they cried out "O great God of Gods, whose name we dare not speak, come down and give us Your protection!" But the heavens were silent, and the people remained without a god.

And they looked to the vat which contained the remains of the idols of the Sun God; and they considered, "May we make our own god?" For it was said that some had done this of old, in the time before memory. But the wise cried out, saying, "No, no, do not do this thing! The making of a god is a terrible task, and should even the slightest error be made, we shall have a Demon instead; a Demon to rule over us! This is too terrible a thing to contemplate." And the people were afraid, and did not make a god for themselves.

"But what then shall we do?" asked the people; and from them arose a new voice. "Let us live without a god!" she said; "Let us live free, a nation united in fellowhood, not in fear!" And her name was Queen Ishtabar, and she was the first of that name; her children were Petha, Sammel, Barobas, Immen, and Sobar, and she lived for seven-score and nine years, ruling wisely and fairly for all that time.

But the other gods grew afraid; they cried out, "What if our own people should look to these insolent godless-men, and rise up against us, and cast our idols into a vat of gold?" And they incited their own peoples against the tribe of Ishtabar, and sent curses against that tribe. Kushush cried out, "Without their god to protect them, their wells shall run dry!" - and it was so. Kumarbi cried out, "Without their god to protect them, their harvests shall be thin and weedy!" - and it was so. Kaushka cried out, "Without their god to protect them, their pets and livestock will grow mad and feral, and turn against them!" - and it was so. Hebat cursed them, and Sharruma cursed them, and Yam cursed them; only wise Nergal held himself aloof.

The tribe of Ishtar grew afraid. "Look at these curses that have been cast upon us!" they cried. "Look at these indignities that we now suffer! Is this the fate of those who worship no god?" But Queen Ishtabar told them, "No!" And she was with them in the wells as they dug to a lower water table; and she was with them in the fields as they cleared them of weeds and filled them with a stronger crop; and she was with them in the streets as they put down those of their pets which had gone feral and mad; and she was with them in all these places. And she was an inspiration to her people, who cried out, "Look, look at what a mortal can do! How can we do any less than she?" And on the field of battle, her chariot shone gold, and scythed down Patha, King of Tell Brak, and Ivva, King of Tell Tuneinir, and Rashma, Emperor of Kenan Tepe; and her foes grew afraid, and fled in terror, and never again trespassed upon her lands. And they sent forth tribute to the tribe of Ishtar, heaped with gold and jewels and treasure; and all was well.

(Credit to Harry Turtledove, where due.)

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