Mythos 63 – Apam Napat and Anunna

 

Given the clear similarities within the various Indo-European pantheons, and yet the marked differences between the Asura/Ahura and the Deva/Daeva of the Hindu and Zoroastrian religions, it does lead to the natural question of which version of the religion is the oldest. The words Deva and Daeva are both derived from the Proto-Indo-European word Deiwos, which translates as Celestial. The words Asura and Ahura were derived from the Proto-Indo-European word H’n̥suró which translates as Powerful. Similar words are found in many European languages meaning god, such as the Germanic Tiwaz and Æsir, Baltic Dievas, Latin Deus, and Greek Dias (Δίας). In the earliest part of the Ṛigveda, the Devas and Asuras were interchangeable, however as the Ṛigveda continued the two groups became separate and opposing. In the Avesta the Daeva and Ahura were antagonists from the onset, which has led to the belief that the Avesta was written during the early period of the Ṛigveda before the Asura became the evil beings of the Hindu religions.

The Avesta and Ṛigveda also have in common Apām Napāt / Apąm Napāt, which translates in both languages as the “Son of the Water.” Apąm Napāt was a celestial, that according to Yasht 19 of the Avesta, created humanity. According to the Ṛigveda common Apām Napāt created all existential beings.(1)Ṛigveda 2.35.2 This is very similar to the seemingly unrelated Sumerian aquatic-creatures from the sky that created humanity, the Anunna. If the Sumerian story of the Anunna is either indigenous to Iraq and the Persian gulf, or from the ancient Dravidian civilization in the Indus, there doesn’t seem to be any clear way it could have been learnt from the Aryans, who didn’t migrate into the Indus or Mesopotamia until well after the Sumerian civilization had been usurped by Akkadians. Some scholars have also noted the phonetic and iconographic similarities between Apām Napāt and the Etruscan Nethuns, Celtic Nechtan, and Roman Neptune, all of which were primordial water-gods. In the case of the Celtic and Roman gods, the similarity could be based on the fact that the ancient Aryans, Celts, and Latins were all Indo-Europeans, however the Etruscans were not Indo-Europeans, and there is no evidence that their culture was conquered by the Aryans in ancient times.

Ancient Roman Mosaic of a Mythical Creature at the Temple of Neptune in Ostia Antica

Ancient Roman Mosaic of a Mythical Creature at the Temple of Neptune in Ostia Antica

The word Aryan in modern European languages is derived from the Greek word Ariana (Αριανή), which was the Greek name for the Indo-Iranian civilizations of Central Asia. The ancient Sanskrit word was Ārya (आर्य)(2)Benjamin W. Fortson IV (2011) Indo-European Language and Culture: An Introduction, Page 209 meaning ‘Noble,’ while the ancient Avestan word was Airya meaning ‘Venerable.'(3)J. P. Mallory and Douglas Q. Adams (1997) Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture, Page 304 Within both the Ṛigveda and the Avesta the term Aryan was used as a national name to designate those who worshiped the Vedic or Avestan deities. Between 4,200 and 1,500 years ago the Aryans appeared across the Eurasian continent from the Middle East to China conquering and ruling kingdoms and empires. In many places they do not appear to have been warriors, but rather the nobility and religious cast of a mainly non-Aryan populace. This in clearly evident in the Mitanni, Kassite, and Hyksos invasions of Assyria, Babylonia, and Egypt respectively. The Mitanni and Kassite nobility had Aryan names, and concluded treaties by swearing in the names of Vedic gods, while the bulk of the population seems to have been another people, likely related to the modern Caucasian peopled of Georgia, Abkazia, and southern Russia. The subsequent invasion of Egypt by the Hyksos shows a predominantly Semitic population from Canaan, Assyria, and Babylonia, with a Mitanni nobility, and an Aryan priesthood. Throughout South Asian history, almost all nobility has claimed to have been Aryan, regardless of the local culture, including the Dravidian cultures of Southern India. This could explain why finding the cultural hearth of the Aryans has proven so difficult, the Aryans themselves may have simply been a nobility and religious caste that ruled a vast number of other tribes across much of Eurasia in late prehistoric and early historic times. This does seem to correlate with the ideas found in the Avesta, of what the Aryans did when they left the Vara.

References   [ + ]

1. Ṛigveda 2.35.2
2. Benjamin W. Fortson IV (2011) Indo-European Language and Culture: An Introduction, Page 209
3. J. P. Mallory and Douglas Q. Adams (1997) Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture, Page 304