Ištaran (god)

The male patron deity of Der, who is associated with justice.


Ištaran is a male deity associated with justice. This role can be inferred from his assertion of the borders of Umma and Lagaš, while Gudea (ca. 2144-2124 BCE), the ruler of Girsu, said of himself, "I justly decide the lawsuits of my city like Ištaran" (ETCSL 2.1.7, line 273). In the poems praising the Ur III king, Šulgi (2094-2047 BCE), his justice is "comparable to that of Ištaran" (ETCSL, line 264), and a song to Nergal praises the god thus: "Like Ištaran ... you reach correct judgments" (ETCSL 4.15.3: 41).

There is a suggestion of an ophidian nature of Ištaran. Depictions from the Akkadian period show a snake-like form, an element which may have later split off and become Nirah, Ištaran's messenger, whose logogram was dMUŠ, or dMUŠ.TUR, 'snake' and 'little snake' respectively (Wiggerman 1998-2001a). Further, a Kurigalzu dated brick from Der shows a snake above the inscription, which mentions Dagan (see below).

Divine Genealogy and Syncretisms

Ištaran is often equated with Anu rabû "Great Anu", and in the Babylonian Chronicles relating to Esarhaddon (680-669 BCE) the usual writing for his name is replaced with AN.GAL. Both these factors place Ištaran high in the pantheon. In the god list AN = Anum Ištaran is assigned a vizier Qudmu, a counsellor Rasu, a son Zizanu, and two 'standing gods' Turma and Itur-matiššu (Lambert 1976-80a). While the god-list AN = Anum does not attest a spouse, Šarrat-Deri, "Queen of Der", or Deritum, seems to be Ištaran's wife at the time of Esarhaddon (Reiner 1958: II 160). Ištaran also had a minister, Nirah, "Little snake", a minor male chthonic deity, who carried the title, "the radiant god, the son of the house of Der" (Wiggerman 1998-2001a).

Cult Place(s)

Ištaran was the chief deity of Der [~/images/Der.jpg] (Logogram: BAD3.ANki), Tell al-'Aqar, near modern Badra, which is on the ancient border between Mesopotamia and Elam. A stamped brick of the Kassite king Kurigalzu II (1332-1308 BCE), which was found near Badra, records the renewal of a temple of Ištaran, the é-dim-gal-kal-am-ma, "House, great bond of the land" (Clayden 1996: 112), and in the Sumerian text The Temple Hymns, Ištaran's temple is similarly said to be located in Der [~/images/Der.jpg] ETCSL 4.80.1 [http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/cgi-bin/etcsl.cgi?text=t.4.80.1#], lines 416-423). In the Early Dynastic period (2900-2350 BCE) there may have been a cultic installation on the border between Umma [~/images/Umma.jpg] and Lagaš [~/images/Lagash.jpg] because the border between these two regions was said to be fixed "in accordance with the command of Ištaran" (Sollberger 1959: 344).

Time Periods Attested

In Early Dynastic Lagaš and Umma Ištaran is invoked in personal names. This practice continues through the third millennium, e.g., Simat-Ištaran, "Symbol of Ištaran", the sister of the Ur III king Šu-Suen (2037-2029 BCE) (Zettler 2003: 16). Similar attestations are found until the end of the Kassite Dynasty (1374-1159 BCE) (Lambert 1976-80a). As mentioned earlier, Ištaran's cult in Der is attested in the Babylonian Chronicle's references to the time of Esarhaddon (Grayson 1975: 84), and the cult at Der may have continued into the Seleucid period (312-63 BCE) (Lambert 1976-80a).


There are references to this deity's beautiful face in Sumerian literature, "Ištaran of the bright visage" (ETCSL 1.7.3 [http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/cgi-bin/etcsl.cgi?text=t.1.7.3#], line 6), while other depictions reflect his snake-like nature (Wiggerman 1998-2001a).

Name and Spellings

The reading of the logographic writing dKA.DI is now well established as Ištaran, but it was previously misread Gusilim and Sat(a)ran. Ištaran has an Emesal variant Ez(z)eran, and an Akkadian variant Iltaran (Lambert 1976-80a).

Written forms:
Normalised forms:
Ištaran, Ištaran (incorrect, outdated readings: Gusilim, Sataran, Satran)

Ištaran in Online Corpora


Adam Stone

Adam Stone, 'Ištaran (god)', Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses, Oracc and the UK Higher Education Academy, 2019 [http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/amgg/listofdeities/itaran/]

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