The Significance of Utu, the Mesopotamian Sun God

Shamash (Utu)-like image

For centuries, the Mesopotamian sun god Utu has been a source of fascination for historians and archaeologists.

Believed to have originated in Sumerian mythology, Utu is a powerful deity associated with justice, truth, and justice.

He is also associated with the sun and its role in providing light and warmth to the world.

As a result, Utu has been both revered and feared throughout the ancient world, particularly in Mesopotamia.

From the Sumerian kings to the Babylonians, Utu was a figure of importance and inspired countless myths and stories over the ages.

Utu’s influence has been felt throughout the Middle East and beyond, and his significance in the ancient world cannot be understated.

An easy-to-understand introduction to Utu!

Who is Utu?

Utu was an important god in Mesopotamian religion and was the ancient Mesopotamian sun god.

He was responsible for justice and protection of travelers.

He was believed to

People image

travel through the sky each day, seeing everything that happened on Earth.

He was married to Aya, the dawn goddess, and their children were

  • Kittum
  • Mamu
  • Ishum

By the way, Utu helped other gods, like Dumuzi and Gilgamesh, in their adventures.

Utu's name

In Mesopotamia, there were two main names for the sun god:

  • Utu
  • Shamash

Amna was also used.

  • Utu was seen as a masculine deity.
  • Shamash was sometimes seen as a female deity.

There were many other names and variations of these.

Shape of Utu

The sun god Utu or Shamash was known from many ancient sites.

He was usually shown with a saw and rays of light coming from his shoulders.

The saw might have been a sign of judgment or a tool used to break through the mountains.

Utu was a god in ancient times who was usually shown on seals.

He was often shown climbing over two mountains or in a boat.

He was also often shown fighting with another god, sometimes with Inanna watching or helping.

People used his symbol, a sun disc, to represent him.

He is known from many sites, and his image was used in art.

Object of worship

The sun god Utu was worshipped in two main cult centers, Larsa and Sippar.

People gave him mace heads and statues as offerings and celebrated him on certain days of the month.


The Ebabbar in Sippar was a temple dedicated to the god Shamash.

Over many years, many different rulers visited the temple and gave it gifts.

The temple also had a special group of women called nadītu who were devoted to Shamash.

There was also a special ceremony to honor Shamash at the Ebabbar that was celebrated for many years.


The Ebabbar in Larsa was a temple that was first mentioned during the reign of King Eannatum.

It was rebuilt and changed by many different rulers.

The sun god was worshipped in Larsa and Uruk, and Uruk got more power over Larsa at some point.

In the Neo-Babylonian period, people from Uruk looked after the Ebabbar and its gods.

In the Hellenistic period, the people living in Larsa were mostly Greek.

Other cities

Utu was an ancient god worshiped in the area of Lagash thousands of years ago.

People built temples for him and gave their children names like

  • Shubur-Utu
  • Utu-amu

Each of the two cities below had a temple.

  • Babylon: Edikukalamma
  • Assur: Ehulhuldirdirra

People also worshiped him in Susa and Mari.

Utu was also worshiped in Hatra during the Parthian period.

Gilgamesh myths

In the Epic of Gilgamesh, a Sumerian myth, Gilgamesh and Enkidu go on a journey to Humbaba's dwelling.

Fight with Humbaba

They asked Utu, the sun god, for permission and he gave them seven constellations to guide them on their way.

Later, when Humbaba was about to die, he prayed to Utu, but his prayer was not answered...

Enkidu also had to go to the underworld and Gilgamesh asked Enki for help.

If you want to know more about the story of the battle between these two heroes and the legendary giant Humbaba,

Please read this article.

He wants to save Enkidu

Gilgamesh asked for help from the gods so he could save his friend Enkidu from the underworld.

The goddess Inanna asked Gilgamesh,

Inanna image

Help me get rid of some creatures.

But the god Utu refused to help.

Then Enki told Utu.

Enki image

Bring Enkidu's shade with him when he rose.

Utu brings Enkidu's shade back so Gilgamesh and Enkidu see each other again.

About Shamash

In the Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh meets a sun god called Shamash who helps him on his journey and gives him advice.

He also warns him about looking for eternal life.

In addition, the sun god Shamash helps people by announcing the start of a big flood.

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