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What Is The Love Story Behind Nergal and Ereshkigal?

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Mesopotamian myths are full of dark and disturbing tales.

Cruel gods, terrifying monsters, and other such sinister figures inhabit these stories.

However, there is also a lighter side to these myths which often revolves around love.

There are many stories in which the great gods of Mesopotamia have fallen in love with other gods.

Fortunately for us, some of these stories were recorded by ancient scribes and scholars.

One such myth deals with the unusual love affair between Nergal (the god of war) and Ereshkigal (the goddess of the underworld).

Surprisingly, this is one of the few love stories about these two gods which doesn’t end in tragedy...

Who Is Nergal?

Nergal was a Mesopotamian god who was closely associated with war, disease, the planet Mars, and the desert.

On the other hand, in some aspects, he is an aspect of the sun god.

For this reason, he is often equated with Shamash.

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He represents the disasters that the sun at noon and the summer solstice brings to mankind.

It was believed so.

Because for the Mesopotamians, the height of summer was the season of death.

Nergal's parents can be summarized as follows:

  • Father: Enlil, god of air, storms and order
  • Mother: Ninlil, goddess of grain

When Enlil raped Ninlil, Ninlil was pregnant with Sin, the moon goddess.

Despite the fact that Enlil was the supreme deity,

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It is not allowed to rape young virgins.

He broke the law of the gods and was banished to the underworld.

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Wait a minute, I have a moon god in my womb. If I don't do something, she will be taken to the underworld...

Then, Ninril chased Enlil to the underworld.

Enlil then tricked Ninlil twice to conceive three gods.

One of them was Nergal.

To learn more about such a pushy father Enlil,

Please read this article.

Who Is Ereshkigal?

Ereshkigal was the goddess of the underworld who was closely associated with death and disease.

Ereshkigal was the elder sister of Inanna (the goddess of love, fertility, and war) and was also believed to be her rival.

She is also the wife of Nergal (the god of war and agriculture).

As mentioned above, Ereshkigal ruled the underworld and was believed to be responsible for judging the dead and assigning them a place in the underworld.

She was also believed to be responsible for the diseases which killed humans.

Interestingly, the diseases which were believed to have been caused by Ereshkigal were often incurable by the standards of the Mesopotamians.

If you want to know more about Ereshkigal,

Please read this article.

Worst first meeting ever?

Initially, it was the beginning that caused trouble with Ereshkigal, but after a great love affair, he took her as his wife and Nergal became King of the Underworld.

One day, when the gods were preparing for a banquet.

Ereshkigal sent her vizier Namtar to the heavenly realm.

Of all the gods who greeted Namtar, only Nergal showed him no respect.

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How rude of him, this man Nergal...!

Ereshkigal was furious at his attitude.

She ordered Nergal to bring her to the underworld and tried to kill him.

However, the two fall in love.

How did they fall in love?

There are many theories as to how they fell in love.

  1. Nergal saw Ereshkigal bathing and succumbed to her charms.
  2. Ereshkigal fell in love with Nergal.
  3. Nergal brought Ereshkigal to her knees by violence.

This is how it is said.

On the morning of the seventh day of Nergal's visit to the underworld, he returned to earth.

Ereshkigal, grieving over this, said:

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If you don't return Nergal to me, I will let the dead come up to earth and eat the living and make the dead outnumber the living...!

Thus threatening the gods, she finally made them keep Nergal in the underworld.