Good and bad polytheists (introduction and part 1): Ur-Nammu and Sargon

As devout polytheists, we often view the ancient times of our ancestors as perfect and beyond any reproach. Nor is it untrue that such days of old shine too much in their original beauty, especially in comparison with the world as it stands today. However, it is not only our duty to praise our ancestors and emulate them, but also to learn of their faults where they occurred and avoid them. By this means, we can become wise and successful in our current and future endeavors, as well as distinguish ourselves from the Abrahamic and atheistical fanaticism which calls for the total adoration of all their founders and leaders. In my attempt to achieve this end, I will strive as much as possible to form a fair view that concurs with the principles of traditionalism that I have already set forth to the best of my ability. I don’t always expect agreement with my views, but I hope it will offer some important consideration for the reader, if not discussion. In some imitation of the ancient biographer Plutarch, I will present a good and a bad polytheist, in a sort of parallel, with an explanation of their most important actions, justifying such a distinction between them. In doing so, I will also aim at representing as many traditions of polytheism in the world as possible, and these will be put in chronological order beginning with the most ancient.

 

UR-NAMMU

Khashkhamer_seal_moon_worship

This Sumerian king of the ancient city of Ur reigned in the 21st century BCE, at a time of a short-lived but glorious restoration of Sumerian cities, after many centuries of forced subjection under the Akkadian Empire. The city of Ur in particular was celebrated for its antiquity and monuments, and its very early contribution to civilization and urban life was long discovered from archaeology. What is much less known, however, is its contribution to laws; whereas the Babylonian king Hammurabi is often regarded as the founder of a continuous tradition of legal codes, the due credit should go to the Sumerian Ur-Nammu who lived 300 years before. Although only parts of the code have survived time, less than that of Hammurabi, the remarkable value of the laws can be clearly seen. To set fixed procedures on laws was a matter of great importance to good administration in any city-state, especially when it is considered that there were not only different traditions (arising originally from different tribes that inhabited the city), but also regional migrants who sought employment.

The Sumerians indeed differed from the Akkadians and Babylonians in two important respects: First, they were native to the land, unlike the others who were Semitic migrants from the Levant, and secondly, they were inventors of civilization, where the others were imitators. The Sumerians are said to have invented directly or indirectly cities, the wheel, agriculture, urban buildings, roads, the ancestor of the Egyptian pyramid (ziggurat), and perhaps even written language. The only thing the Akkadians invented was empire, and a horrible precedent it was in the history of civilization.

 

SARGON

220px-Sargon_of_Akkad

This is the infamous king of the city-state of Akkad in Mesopotamia, who flourished in the 23rd century BCE. His people were Semitic, originally from the Levant, and distinct from the Sumerians in language and custom, but they always sought to imitate them. Nevertheless, Sargon brought in a new age in civilization, by breaking an established, but unwritten custom that had always been respected and maintained by the Sumerians, namely, the independence of the city-states. Where wars broke out, usually because of commercial rivalry or for the sake honor, the Sumerian city-states fought in the open field and victory settled the dispute on one side or the other. Continual wars did not exist, and even if the conflict was brought near urban walls, the sanctity of a city was revered and not violated, because a third of its space always belonged to the temple. Besides, the armies of city-states were too small to attempt such an attack, being composed only of citizens and perhaps some others serving as mercenary or auxiliary forces. It was Sargon who broke this custom by besieging and capturing cities, and he even went so far as to destroy a few as an example to others.

The Roman historian Justin, who wrote a universal history, begins his book by attributing the earliest wars and attacks on independence in the world to an Assyrian king by the name of Nonnus. Now, because the Assyrians flourished after the Akkadians and Babylonians, it might be presumed that Justin’s records were corrupt from his lack of inquiry or the imperfection of records, considering he lived in the 2nd century CE. However, his testimony, though false, bears a shadow of the original truth: It was a Mesopotamian king, in this case Sargon rather than Nonnus, who first established the dangerous and unjust precedent of empire in the world, a condition which has ever since persisted and grown. This is a brief view of the continual chain of empires from the Akkadian to the present. There should be a forking after the Macedonian for an Asian branch of empires (Indian and Chinese, beginning with the Maurya and Qin respectively) but I will omit it to avoid complication and length.

Akkadian—Babylonian—Assyrian—Persian—Macedonian–Roman—Catholic and Byzantine—Frankish and Abbasid—Holy Roman and Mongolian—Turkish and Persian—French and Russian—British—American and Soviet—American—Uncertain?

An empire is formed by the conquest of foreign peoples and their subjection, and its consequences upon society in general are terrible. First, it causes huge inequality, based not only on wealth but also race, and this is further supported by slavery. Secondly, it perpetuates and multiplies conflict, because of inner inequality and outer ambition. In many cases, the easiest way to unite a divided populace is to wage war against another populace. In time, this leads to the existence of several empires, for the purpose of protection and expansion. Thirdly, it corrupts native religions and distinct traditions by laying the foundation for henotheism, syncretism and monotheism, as well as elevating imperial cults. All the corruption in the Mediterranean occurring after the Macedonian hegemony (Hellenistic period) as well as during the Roman empire is too much proof to add here. To offer a simple example, just as Abraham and Zoroaster appeared after Sargon, so did Jesus, Mithras and Mani appear after Caesar. Now the empire of America promotes atheism and modernism, corrupting not only religions but also causing native customs to vanish. The true enemy of polytheism today is this condition of empire and globalism. Can anything but a great war end it?

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