(selection from Gilbert J.P. McEwan, Priest and Temple in Hellenistic Babylonia, pp. 160-174 (I include his footnotes 359-407, which numbers are given in brackets at the head of each note.))

A. Rites and Ceremonies


The akitu is attested in both Babylon and Uruk during the Hellenistic period. From the former we have texts containing parts of the 22nd and 23rd tablets of the ritual series concerned with this festival.(2) From Uruk we have tablets dealing with the akitu festivals of the months Tašrit and Nisan.(3) Two akitu temples, those of Anu and Ištar, are mentioned in texts concerned with the builder's allotment and the singer's prebend from Uruk.(4)


The bajatu which seems to have been a vigil held during the night in the temple is one of the ceremonies found in the list of rites given above. The vigil began immediately after the secondary evening meal, at which time the gates of the temple were locked, and it ended after the opening of the gates at dawn.(5) On certain occasions, as on the eve of the seventeenth day, special rites were held during the night vigil. These consisted of a special extra meal during the first night watch in cella of the ziqqurat of the Reš temple, followed by torchlight processions with the images of various deities, ending forty minutes after sunrise.(6)

dîk bîti

The "awakening of the temple" ceremony was held in the temple before dawn and before the gates of the temple were opened. The main element of the ceremony as far as we know was the recitation of hymns to the various gods. The kalû and the nâru were present to sing the hymns and songs for the ceremony, and in at least one instance the baker was present when the preparation of food was involved.(7)

dullu ša Seluku u mârêšu

The "ritual of Seleucus and his offspring" is found in one of the chronicle texts and is the only specific mention of the royal cult in Hellenistic texts. There the royal ancestral cult is found in the Esagila temple, where it seems to have had much the same status as the normal cultic activities performed for Bel and Beltia.(8)

Although this is the only specific mention of the royal ancestral cult, there is indirect evidence of its existence at Uruk, where offerings were presented at the table of the statues of the kings (paššûru ša alam šarrâni).(9) Although these statues are known to have existed in earlier periods of Mesopotamian history, it seems likely that the kings refered to are Selecus and his descendants rather than earlier kings.


The eššešu feasts are among those subsumed under the rubric paru, and the perquisites derived from these feasts formed a large part of the income of the various prebends of the Uruk temples. The composition of these perquisites is only rarely stated, but in one text we find (Akkadian transliteration in McEwan omitted here): "One half in one twelfth in the cooked or raw mutton which goes up to the table of Enlil and the Mistress of Reš on all the eššešu feasts."(10)

Similarly in another text (Akkadian transliteration omitted here): "His share, one seventh in one fourth in the ducks which go up to the table of Nana on all the eššešu feasts and his share..... in one half of the sheep which goes up to the table of the statues of the kings on all the eššešu feasts."

It would seem then, that these feasts were general ones in which all the gods of Uruk took part and that they took place at well-known intervals, since the actual dates are never given. Which days were set aside for these feasts in Uruk remains unknown. It seems unlikely that they were the same as those of the earlier eššešu feasts of Nabu, which were celebrated on the fourth, eighth and seventeenth days of the month, and we have no way of knowing whether they were the same as the earlier eššešu feasts at Uruk, since the dates of these are never given.


The isinnu festival is well attested from the Old Babylonian period on, but it was hitherto attested in Hellenistic texts only in the cultic calendar SBH VIII, which mentions an isinnu festival which took place on the eleventh day in the bît ikribi.(11)

We now have another reference to this festival in a text from Babylon dated to the year 218 SE, where we find the following passage in a list of temple expenditures (Akkadian transliteration of McEwan omitted here): "Two and one half shekels for the purchase of one offering sheep for the 25th of Siman, the isinnu feast of the Esabad temple expended by Marduk-šuma-iddin, son of Nabu-nair."(12) This isin bîti recalls a feast of the same name in Sippar during the Neo-Babylonian period.(13) In the earlier texts we find barley and flour being offered instead of sheep, but otherwise they seem to have been much the same.


The kinûnu ceremony was a ritual involving the use of the ceremonial brazier. In texts from the Hellenistic period it is mentioned only in the passage quoted above under the rubric paru. Since it follows the bajâtu in this list it is unlikely that it took place during the night vigils, as we know was the practice in earlier periods.


The lubuštu ceremonies, which consisted of the ritual clothing of the divine statues, are among the most frequently mentioned ceremonies of the Hellenistic period. From the ritual text for the Akitu festival of the month of Tašrit we know that the clothing ceremony during this ritual took place on the 7th of Tašrit after the dîk bîti ceremony. This passage mentions clothing ceremonies for Anu and Antu and for Ištar, which involved leading a bull between the curtains and singing by the nâru and kâlu.(14)

The reference to the bull may refer to the sacrificial slaughtering (hitpu) which we know from prebend texts took place during the clothing ceremonies. The perquisites from both of these formed part of the income of the êrib bît pirištûtu + kutimmûtu prebend.(15)

In a list of hymns to be sung for the dîk bîti ceremonies of various days we find the following reference to clothing ceremonies (Akkadian transliteration omitted here): "Day 20 (monthly). They recite 'The Sheepfold of the Lord' to Anu over the socle with the clothing ceremonies." In addition to those for Anu, Antu and Ištar we also know of clothing ceremonies for Enlil, Nana and the Mistress of Reš.(16) Thus it would seem that like the eššešu feasts they were not limited to any one god or group of gods and that they occurred at regular well-known intervals, since the dates are never mentioned in the prebend texts.

Exactly how many of these there were, however, remains unclear. It is unlikely that the 20th of the month mentioned for the clothing ceremony of Anu was the only date on which these occurred. In addition to monthly occurrences they seem to have taken place on other occasions, such as the one mentioned for the 7th of Tašrit during the Akitu festival.

mîs pî

The "washing of the mouth" was a ritual performed on the statues of the gods during various ceremonies. It was also performed by analogy on the bull whose hide was to be used to cover the lilissu drum(17) and even upon a torch used in the night vigil.(18) Four texts from the Hellenistic period have recently been published which deal with the conducting of the mîs pî ritual,(19) and these texts show a remarkable similarity to the earlier Assur version of the ritual.(20)

Offerings were associated with these rituals as in the earlier period, but we do not know if these offerings were used to provide perquisites for prebend income since the mîs pî is never specifically mentioned in prebend texts as a source of income.


The naptanu was the ritual meal offered to the various gods of the temples several times daily and it no doubt provided much of the perquisite income for the various prebends of Uruk. The normal schedule provided for four meals during the day, a main and a secondary meal in the morning and the same in the afternoon. In addition there were other meals on special occasions, such as the meal during the night vigil mentioned above(21) and in the afternoon meal on the fourth day of the Akitu festival in Babylon, after which enûma eliš was recited.(22)

pît bâbi

The "opening of the gate" ceremony took place at dawn in the temples. It is found among the rites and ceremonies subsumed under the rubric paru, and during the Hellenistic period came to form part of the micro-zodiacal system. In texts dealing with this system we find the various signs of the zodiac associated with the opening of the gate ceremonies of various gods.(23) There also seem to have been offerings associated with this ceremony, which formed part of the income of the êrib bîtûtu and butcher's prebend.(24)

Purification Rites.

There were several purification rites in practice in the temples of Babylonia during this period. The most frequentlyl mentioned is the hub bîti, which took place during or preliminary to the performance of various rituals.(25) Other purification rites were also performed in the temples, but we know very little about them. These were the têbibtu, which took place in association with the sacrificial meal in the cella of the ziqqurrat of Anu on the 16th of each month(26) and the takpertu, which is found in connexion with the laying of a new foundation for a temple and in a ritual in case of lunar eclipse.(27)

šalam bîti

This ceremony, which seemingly was concerned with insuring the continued well-being of the temple, is attested only once in the texts from the Hellenistic period, where it is performed during the nocturnal vigil in the temple.(28)

B. Offerings and Libations


The guqqû offerings were made monthly and with the offerings of the eššešu feasts formed one of the main sources of income for the prebends of the temples of Uruk. From one text we learn that the guqqû were offered after the clothing ceremonies, at least during the Akitu festival of the month of Tašrit.(29) The composition of these offerings is not stated, but we may perhaps assume that they did not differ essentially from those of the Neo-Babylonian period, which consisted of sheep and sometimes dates and wine.


The hitpu offerings were derived from the sacrificial slaughtering of sheep and goats. During the Hellenistic period they formed part of the prebend perquisites of the êrib bît pirištûtu + kutimmûtu prebend and are always found in connexion with the clothing ceremonies, where part of the prebend share is said to consist of a portion "in the sheep of the hitpu offerings of all the clothing ceremonies."(30)


The kâribu offering is mentioned only in the list of rites and offerings which came under the heading paru. In that list it is found beside the additional offering of the king. This agrees well with the evidence of the earlier periods, when the niqî šarri and niqî kâribi are often found together.(31) In the earlier periods this offering seems to have consisted of beef and mutton, and we have no reason to think that it was different in the Hellenistic period.


The kispu offering was a funerary offering for dead ancestors. It occurs only once in texts from our period, in a ritual in case of lunar eclipse, where it is given metaphorically for fallen walls and streams which no longer had water and for the Anunnaki.(32)


This is a general term for libation and it occurs in many rituals. In the ritual of the kalû, for example, it is mentioned along with fumigation and recitations among the ritual activities.(33) The most frequently offered material for these libations seems to have been wine, at least to judge from the lists of temple expenditures, where we find vats of wine purchased for libations for the Esabad temple and for the gates of the Esagila temple.(34)

It is highly unlikelyl that all the wine for libations in the temples was simply poured out before the gods. Probably only a small portion of it was so used while the rest formed part of the perquisites of the various prebends. This assumption is supported by the occurrence of wine among the objects making up the perquisites of the êrib bît pirištûtu kutimmûtu prebends.


The merdîtu was a type of offering, which in the ritual texts of the Hellenistic period consisted of beef and mutton. It was offered during the Akitu festival of the month of Tašrit.(35)


The nindabû was originally a bread or cereal offering, which in the course of time grew more elaborate. In a chronicle from the Hellenistic period, for example, we find the king making a nindabû offering to Bel and Beltia in Esagila consisting of a large number of cattle, sheep and geese.(36) We also find this offering mentioned several times in astronomical diaries, although the context of these occurrences is not clear.(37)


This is the common general term for offering. It consisted most often of sheep, as we can see from the lists of temple expenditures, where sheep for these offerings are listed among the items of expenditure.(38) Although sheep were the most common animal used in the nîqu offering, they were not the only one, for in a ritual text from this period we find a nîqu offering which is said to consist of cattle as well as sheep.(39)


The serqu was an offering which consisted of pouring out flour for the gods. In texts from the Hellenistic period it occurs only in the ritual of the kalû.(40)

tardît šarri

The "additional offering of the king" occurs only in the list of rites and offerings mentioned above under paru, and we have no idea of what it may have consisted. It may have been connected with the earlier niqî šarri, which we discussed in connexion with the kâribu offering.

C. Cultic Calendar

The following section is a short outline of the daily, monthly and yearly cultic routine of the temples of Babylonia during the Hellenistic period. In many areas the information is too meagre to permit more than a cursory exposition. This is true certainly for the annual calendar where there are large gaps in our data.

While the normal secular day may have begun at sunset as was the practice in earlier periods,(41) the cultic day seems to have begun during the last watch of the night with the dîk bîti ceremony. While this is said to take place at night (ina mûši) it is never attested earlier than the last watch of the night and was preliminary to the ending of the night vigil, which was the last cultic event of the preceding day.

The course of the cultic day in the temples can be seen from the following precis of the activities for the tenth day of Tašrit.

1 - "During the night umun šermal-ankia is recited for Anu and an elum umma for the Gods as the dîk bîti is in Ubšuukinaki.

2 - At dawn the Gate is opened. The night vigil is ended.

3 - Water for the hands is brought in and oil is taken.

4 - The main morning meal comes, the singers sing and the main meal is removed.

5 - The second meal comes. The second meal is removed.

6 - The main afternoon(42) comes, the singers sing and the main afternoon meal is removed.

7 - The second afternoon meal comes. The second afternoon meal is removed.

8 - The Gate is locked."(43)

This was the normal sequence when no night vigil was held. On days when there was a night vigil the sequence was altered slightly. The daily sequence for the 9th of Tašrit ends in the following manner.

- The second (afternoon meal) comes, the singers sing, they recite bîtu ušallim dimma malît (but the meal) is not cleared.

- The night vigil is held. The gate is locked.(44)

Thus the sequence of cultic events in the temple began with the "awakening of the temple" in the last watch of the night just before dawn and ended either with the locking of the gate or with the night vigil on days when the latter was held. An interesting variation in the beginning of the cultic day can be seen in the Aktiu ritual from Babylon, where the day began two hours before dawn on the first day of the festival and began progressively earlier on each succeeding day until it finally began four hours before dawn, i.e. at the beginning of the last night watch.

We know several of the regularly recurring monthly ceremonies in the temples by name, but we are ill informed as to the dates within the month when these took place. Of these the eššešu feasts are the most frequently mentioned. Moreover we know of the bajâtu and šalam bîti, which were also probably monthly feasts as were the clothing ceremonies with their attendant hitpu offerings.

(section of McEwan omitted here)

Occasionally some of these monthly feasts are mentioned specifically by date. In a schedule of the daily meals for the temple of Anu, for example, we find an entry concerning the number of sheep for Anu and Antu for a monthly festival which is said to follow the pattern of the festival for the 16th of ebe.(45)

One of the most interesting texts for this question is a schedule of hymns to be sung with various offerings and with the dîk bîti ceremony for various days. The text(46) is divided into two sections, the contents of which may be outlined thus (this section augments McEwan's in giving the names of the balags recited, from Cohen CL p. 27):

Every 1: ABZU PELAM "The Defiled Absu;" for Anu;

Every 2: URU AMIRABI "That City which has been Pillaged;" for Istar;

Every 7: URU AŠERA "The City in Sighing;" for Anu;

IMMAL GUDEDE "The Lowing Cow;" for Istar of Uruk;

AŠERGIN ETA "Come Out like the Night!" (not extant) for Nanaya;

Every 15: E TURGIN NIGINAM "The House is Encircled like a Cattle-Pen;" for Anu;

Every 20: AME AMAŠANA "The Bull is in His Fold;" with clothing ceremonies for Anu;

ABZU PELAM "The Defiled Absu;" for Anu;

URU AŠERA MENA KUŠU "The City in Sighing...." for Belit-Uruk.

Nisannu 1: ELUM GUSUN "Honored One, Wild Ox" for Anu;

Nisannu 2: AABBA HULUHA "The Raging Sea" for Anu (only Enlil's extant);

Nisannu 15: AABBA HULUHA "The Raging Sea" for Anu (only Enlil's extant).

The following lamentations were recited during a religious ceremony in Uruk called dîk bîti "The Arousing of the Temple," which was performed by the singers and the gala-priests.This ceremony occurred during the first watch of the night, before dawn:

Every 1: UTUGIN ETA "Come Out like the Sun!" for Anu;

ELUM DIDARA "The Honored One who Wanders About;" for the Gods (of the Night);(47)

Every 7: UDAM KI AMUS "It Touches the Earth like a Storm;" for Anu;

ENEMANI ILU ILU "His Word is a Wail, a Wail;" for the Gods (of the Night);

Every 15: AME AMASANA "The Bull is in His Fold;" for Anu;

ANA ELUME "The Honored One of Heaven;" for the Gods (of the Night);

Arahšamnu 14: ABGIN GUDEDE "Lowing like a Cow" for the Mistress of Uruk;

URUHULAKE "She of the Ruined City" for Nanaya;

Arahšamnu 18: AABBA HULUHA "The Raging Sea" for Anu (only Enlil's extant).

(End of Cohen's section; resuming McEwan):

This text then, contains the hymns for certain days of the month, i.e. the 1st, 7th, 15th and 20th.(48) Moreover, several other days are added parenthetically. These additions are of two kinds. The first set are the monthly feasts of Ištar (and Nana) when these differed from those of Anu. Thus the second day of each month rather than the first was dedicated to Ištar in first list, while the fourteenth rather than the fifteenth is dedicated to her in the second.

The second set of parenthetical additions gives the additional yearly dates on which hymns of these kinds are to be sung, viz. the 1st, 2nd, and 15th of Nisan in the first list and the 18th of Arahšamna in the second.

The differences between the dates and hymns to Anu and those to Ištar and Nana may well reflect the different cultic patterns in the Reš and Irigal temples in Uruk, the former being dedicated to the cult of Anu (and Antu) and the latter to Ištar and Nana. Schematically the cultic month of the two temple complexes might have looked like this:

Reš Temple Irigal Temple

Offering Hymns Day 1 Day 2

Day 7 Day 7

Day 15 Day 15

Day 20 Day 20

dîk bîti Hymns Day 1 Day 1

Day 7 Day 7

Day 15 Day 14(49)

(Day 20) (Day 20)

The question remains, with what are we to identify these four recurring monthly festivals. In view of the fact that we have an explicit reference in line 14 to the clothing festivals it would seem that these and their attendant hitpu offerings are likely candidates. This supposition is supported by the fact that the hitpu offerings in the earlier periods are known to have occurred four times monthly at weekly intervals. In addition to this monthly schedule of hymns we also have a text from the Hellenistic period which gives us a schedule of astrologically connected incantations.(50) In this text two days of the month were given as days set aside for these incantations, namely the 10th and 20th (sometimes 24th) of each month.(51)

(End of McEwan excerpt)

1. (359) For a survey of the akitu festivals of various Babylonian centres in all periods see A. FALKENSTEIN, Festschrift Friedrich 147-182.

2. (360) R(ituels) Acc(adiens) 127-154.

3. (361) R(ituels) Acc(adiens) 86-99 and 99-108.

4. (362) See A. FALKENSTEIN, ADFU 3, 43f.

5. (363) R(ituels) Acc(adiens) 92 rev. 11.

6. (364) R(ituels) Acc(adiens) 119ff.

7. (365) R(ituels) Acc(adiens) 89, 7.

8. (366) TCS V 283, 3-9

9. (367) VS XV 16, 7f.; BRM II 36,4f.; R(ituels) Acc(adiens) 38,14; BM 93004, 19.

10. Ash(molean) 1923.739

11. (368) SBH VIII obv. ii'7.

12. (369) AB 248; see G.J.P. McEWAN, Iraq 43 (1981).

13. (370) Nbn 767,2; Camb 236, 3.8.

14. (370) R(ituels) Acc(adiens) 98, 11ff.

15. (371) See above (i.e. McEwan, Priest and Temple) p. 83f.

16. (372) Ash(molean) 1923.739,7.

17. (373) R(ituels) Acc(adiens) 12,8; 16,23.

18. (374) R(ituels) Acc(adiens) 119,29.

19. (375) BagM Beiheft 2 Nos. 1-4. The first three have been edited by W.R. MAYER, OrNs 47 (1978) 443-458.

20. (376) W.R. MAYER, op. cit. 444.

21. (377) See above (i.e. McEwan, Priest and Temple) p. 161 (the bajatu).

22. (378) R(ituels) Acc(adiens) 136, 280ff.

23. (379) GDBT 24f.

24. (380) BM 93004, 12f. Cf. p. 78 (i.e. McEwan, Priest and Temple) above.

25. (381) R(ituels) Acc(adiens) 89,13; 140, 345; 141, 366; BRM 1V 19,30.

26. (382) R(ituels) Acc(adiens) 79,34.

27. (383) R(ituels) Acc(adiens) 44,13; BRM 1V 6,32.37.

28. (384) R(ituels) Acc(adiens) 120,16.

29. (385) R(ituels) Acc(adiens) 89,13.

30. (386) See above (i.e. McEwan, Priest and Temple) p. 83 and note 231.

31. (387) E.g. RA 16, 125 ii 2 and VS I 36 ii 9.

32. (388) BRM IV 6,19f.

33. (389) R(ituels) Acc(adiens) 42,28.

34. (390) CT XLIX 150,32; AB 244, 26; 248,11.

35. (391) R(ituels) Acc(adiens) 90,30; 91,21.

36. (392) TCSV 283,5ff.

37. (393) LBAT 350,14'; 708,4'; 801 r. 3'; 835,11'.

38. (394) CT XLIX 150,29; 151,5f.; AB 248,6.

39. (395) R(ituels) Acc(adiens) 119,11; 121,30ff.

40. (396) R(ituels) Acc(adiens) 10,10; 42,18.28; BagM Beih. 2,5,11. For the last of these cf. G.J.P. McEWAN, BiOr 38 5/6.

41. (397) Cf. S. SMITH, Iraq 31 (1969) 74.

42. (398) The lilâtu was considered the last part of the day rather than the first part of the night, hence the translation "afternoon" rather than "evening" or "night" as in the lexica. Cf. ... EN.NUN li-lá-[a-ti]ma-a-rat k[al ûmi], CAD M1 338a.

43. (399) R(ituels) Acc(adiens) 92f., 10-14.

44. (400) R(ituels) Acc(adiens) 92,8f.

45. (401) R(ituels) Acc(adiens) 79,32ff.

46. (402) TU 48, cf. S. LANGDON, AJSL 42 (1925/6) 120ff.

47. (403; McEwan's note) This seems more likely than Langdon's reading iššakkan (MI-GAR) (loc. cit. 121 note 10). For the "gods of the night" see A.L. OPPENHEIM, AnBi 12 (1959) 282ff. and E. REINER, AS 16, 247-256.

48. (404) The copy is explicitly said to be incomplete (si-it-ti NU SAR), and it seems quite likely that the original contained an entry concerning the dîk bîti hymns for the 20th of each month.

49. (405) It is nowhere stated in the text that the hymn to the Mistress of Uruk (Ištar) on the 14th on the month was a dîk bîti hymn as is assumed here. This absence of explicit designation, however is probably to be attributed to the generally laconic nature of the text.

50. (406) BRM IV 19/20

51. (407) See A. UNGNAD, AfO 14 (1941/4) 274-282.