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Nabû
God of literacy, the rational arts, scribes and wisdom
Colossal statue of the god Nabu, 8th century BCE, from Nimrud, Iraq Museum.jpg
Colossal statue of the god Nabu, 8th century BC, from Nimrud, on display in the National Museum of Iraq
Abode Borsippa
Planet Mercury
Symbol Clay tablet and stylus
Consort Tashmet
Parents Marduk and Sarpanitum
Equivalents
Greek equivalent Hermes
Roman equivalent Mercury
Egyptian equivalent Thoth
Image from page 39 of "Ancient seals of the Near East" (1940)
Late Assyrian seal. Worshipper between Nabu and Marduk, standing on their servant dragon Mušḫuššu. 8th century BCE.

Nabu is the ancient Mesopotamian patron god of literacy, the rational arts, scribes and wisdom.

Etymology and meaning

The Akkadian "nabû" means "to announce, prophesize".

History

Nabu was worshiped by the Babylonians and the Assyrians. Nabu was known as Nisaba in the Sumerian pantheon and gained prominence among the Babylonians in the 1st millennium BC when he was identified as the son of the god Marduk.

Nabu was worshipped in Babylon's sister city Borsippa, from where his statue was taken to Babylon each New Year so that he could pay his respects to his father. Nabu's symbols included a stylus resting on a tablet as well as a simple wedge shape; King Nabonidus, whose name references Nabu, had a royal sceptre topped with Nabu's wedge. Clay tablets with especial calligraphic skill were used as offerings at Nabu's temple. His wife was the Akkadian goddess Tashmet.

Nabu was the patron god of scribes, literacy, and wisdom. He was also the inventor of writing, a divine scribe, the patron god of the rational arts, and a god of vegetation. As the god of writing, Nabu inscribed the fates assigned to men and he was associated with the scribe god Ninurta. As an oracle he was associated with the Mesopotamian moon god Sin.

Nabu wore a horned cap, and stood with his hands clasped in the ancient gesture of priesthood. He rode on a winged dragon known as Sirrush that originally belonged to his father Marduk. In Babylonian astrology, Nabu was identified with the planet Mercury.

Nabu was continuously worshipped until the 2nd century, when cuneiform became a lost art.

Outside Mesopotamia

Nabu's cult spread to ancient Egypt. Nabu was one of five non-Egyptian deities worshipped in Elephantine.

In the Bible, Nabu is mentioned as Nebo in Isaiah 46:1 and Jeremiah 48:1.

In Hellenistic times, Nabu was sometimes identified with the Greek Apollo as a giver of prophesies. As the god of wisdom and a divine messenger associated with the planet Mercury, Nabu was linked with the Greek Hermes, the Roman Mercury, and the Egyptian Thoth.

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