Anu

Anu the divine personification of the sky, supreme god, and ancestor of all the gods in Mesopotamian religion.

Parents: Apsu and Nammu (Sumerian religion); Anshar and Kishar (East Semitic); Alalu (Hittite religion)
Consort: Uraš (early Sumerian); Ki (later Sumerian); Antu (East Semitic); Nammu (Neo-Sumerian)
Children: Adad, Enki, Enlil, Girra, Nanna-Suen, Nergal, Šara, Inanna-Ishtar, Nanaya, Nidaba, Ninisinna, Ninkarrak, Ninmug, Ninnibru, Ninsumun, Nungal and Nusku
Greek Equivalent: Uranus/Zeus
Roman Equivalent: Caelus/Jupiter

Ur III Sumerian cuneiform for An.

Anu was believed to be the supreme source of all authority, for the other gods and for all mortal rulers. Along with his sons Enlil and Enki, Anu constitutes the highest divine triad personifying the three bands of constellations of the vault of the sky.

By the time of the earliest written records, Anu was rarely worshipped, and veneration was instead devoted to his son Enlil. But, throughout Mesopotamian history, the highest deity in the pantheon was always said to possess the anûtu, meaning “Heavenly power”.

Anu’s primary role in myths is as the ancestor of the Anunnaki, the major deities of Sumerian religion. His primary cult center was the Eanna temple in the city of Uruk, but, by the Akkadian Period (c. 2334–2154 BC), his authority in Uruk had largely been ceded to the goddess Inanna.

Part of the front of a Babylonian temple to Inanna in Uruk, built c. 1415 BC. The original Eanna temple in Uruk was first dedicated to Anu, but later dedicated to Inanna. (c) Marcus Cyron

Sumerian Creation Myth

The main source of information about the Sumerian creation myth is the prologue to the epic poem Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Netherworld, which briefly describes the process of creation: at first, there is only Nammu, the primeval sea. Then, Nammu gives birth to Anu, the sky, and Ki, the earth. Anu and Ki mate with each other, causing Ki to give birth to Enlil, the god of the wind. Enlil separates Anu from Ki and carries off the earth as his domain, while Anu carries off the sky.

Epic of Gilgamesh

In a scene from the Epic of Gilgamesh, Anu’s daughter Ishtar, the East Semitic equivalent to Inanna, attempts to seduce the hero Gilgamesh. When he spurns her advances, Ishtar angrily goes to heaven and tells Anu that Gilgamesh has insulted her. Anu asks her why she is complaining to him instead of confronting him herself. Ishtar demands that Anu give her the Bull of Heaven and swears that if he does not give it to her, she will break down the gates of the Underworld and raise the dead to eat the living. Anu gives her the Bull of Heaven, and Ishtar sends it to attack Gilgamesh and his friend Enkidu.

Mesopotamian terracotta relief showing Gilgamesh slaying the Bull of Heaven.