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Religion in Ancient Mesopotamia

The people of Mesopotamia were polytheistic and believed that every aspect of their world was controlled by supernatural forces. The great gods dominated religion in ancient Mesopotamia and many gods maintained their importance throughout the region's history.

Cities and kingdoms were believed to be protected by individual gods and it was the duty of the ruler to act on the god's behalf, building temples and performing ceremonies to gain their blessings. Each person had his or her own personal gods (male and female) and smaller shrines have been discovered, for example at Ur, where ordinary people worshipped. Personal gods or major deities and could withdraw their support, which would lead to misfortune for the individual or even the entire kingdom. Prayers and offerings were made to prevent this happening and divination was practised to discover the will of the gods.

From the third millennium BC there is evidence for cult statues. Many gods rose in importance when their city became politically significant, for example, the god Marduk of Babylon became a major deity when the city became the capital of southern Mesopotamia (Babylonia) from around 1200 BC.

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