Mesopotamian mythology is the collective name given to Sumerian (ca. 5300 – 2334 BC), Akkadian (ca. 2334 – 2218 BC), Assyrian, and Babylonian mythologies from the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Iraq.
The Sumerians practiced a polytheistic religion, with anthropomorphic gods or goddesses representing forces or presences in the world, in much the same way as later Greek mythology. According to said mythology, the gods originally created humans as servants for themselves but freed them when they became too much to handle.
Many stories in Sumerian religion appear similar to stories in other Middle-Eastern religions. For example, the Biblical account of the creation of man as well as Noah's flood resemble the Sumerian tales very closely, though the Sumerian myths were written many centuries earlier than the Tanakh. Gods and Goddesses from Sumer have distinctly similar representations in the religions of the Akkadians, Caananites, and others. A number of stories and deities have Greek parallels as well; for example, it has been argued by some that Inanna's descent into the underworld strikingly recalls (and predates) the story of Persephone.
|Ziggurat at Ur
Each walled city of Mesopotamian civilization in early times was centred upon a temple complex, including the state granary. Archaeology has shown that these temples grew from modest shrines that were associated with the earliest unwalled levels of settlement about 4500 BC. Initially the shrines were basically an elevated yard surrounding a small building of wood and branches where people came to offer tributes to Namma, the mother goddess, or An, the sky lord. As the towns grew into City-states, the shrines were destroyed, the site flattened, and a larger temple was built upon it. This gradually raised the temples above the level of the surrounding buildings, so that eventually a temple platform (ziggurat or later zikkorath') was constructed, raising the temple towards the heavens - possibly the origin of the biblical story the Tower of Babel.
Excerpted and adapted from: Mesopotamian mythology