Lugalirra and Meslamtaea (a pair of gods)

Underworld deities that often occur together, also called the 'Divine Twins'. They are associated with the underworld god Nergal. Later traditions imagine them as guardians to the entrance of the underworld.


Since these twin deities often occur together they are treated here in one entry. Both deities are associated with death and the underworld. In the Neo-Assyrian period there is evidence that little figurines of these deities were buried at doors to function as guardians (Lambert 1987-90: 145). In the first millennium incantations series Maqlû TT  they are described as "guard-gods who tear out the heart and compress the kidneys" (Lambert 1987-90: 145). According to the same text, Lugalirra is associated with the right side, whereas Meslamtaea is associated with the left.

Divine Genealogy and Syncretisms

According to von Weiher (1971: 7), Meslamtaea was syncretised with Nergal by the time of the Ur III period, and by the Old Babylonian period, Lugalirra and Meslamtaea became known as the 'twin deities.'

The Old Babylonian god list (the "de Genouillac list", TCL 15, 10, lines 410-413) possibly indicates that Lugalirra was married to a deity named Ku'annesi, and Meslamtaea to Ninšubur, otherwise known as the goddess Inana's or An's minister (Lambert 1987-90: 144), though whether these deities were listed as couples in this list has to remain uncertain.

Cult Place(s)

It appears that originally both deities were patrons of the city Kisiga (Lambert 1987-90: 144), and later, during the Old Babylonian period, they were associated with the city of Durum (near Uruk [~/images/Uruk.jpg]). The latter is indicated by a literary letter written in the name of Ninšatapada, daughter of Sin-kašid, king of Uruk [~/images/Uruk.jpg]. In the letter she refers to herself as the high-priestess of Meslamtaea (see Brisch 2007: 246-61 with further literature).

However, Meslamtaea's cult is also attested for the city of Kutha [~/images/Kutha.jpg], probably due to the syncretism with Nergal (von Weiher 1971: 7).

Time Periods Attested

Meslamtaea is already attested in the Early Dynastic IIIa period under the name Lugalmeslama "King of the Meslam(-temple)" (Edzard 1965: 99; von Weiher 1971: 7). Lugalirra, though, is thus far not attested before the Old Babylonian period. Thus, the connection between these two deities can only be traced back to the Old Babylonian period, not earlier (von Weiher 1971: 8). Both deities continued to be of minor importance throughout the Old Babylonian period. They are attested well into the Seleucid period, where they appear in magical and scholarly works.


Thus far, no information on Lugalirra's and Meslamtaea's iconography is available.

Name and Spellings

The spelling and interpretation of Lugalirra's name is ambiguous and several normalised spellings are used. Lambert (1987-90: 143) has translated the name as "Mighty lord". Meslamtaea's name is less ambiguous and probably means "he who comes forth from the Meslam(-temple)".

Written forms:
Lugalirra: dlugal-ir9-ra, dlugal-ír-ra, lu-ga(-al)/kal-li(-ir)-ra, dlugal-GÍR-ra, Emesal TT : dumun-ìr-ra
Meslamtaea: dmes-lam-ta-è-a, dmes-lam-ta-è, dmes-lam-ti-è, mi-ša-la-te-e (Lambert 1987-90: 143).
Normalised forms:
Lugalirra, Lugalira, Lugalgirra, Lugalerra
Meslamtae, Meslamtaea, Mešlamtae

Lugalirra in Online Corpora

Meslamtaea in Online Corpora

Further Reading

Nicole Brisch

Nicole Brisch, 'Lugalirra and Meslamtaea (a pair of gods)', Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses, Oracc and the UK Higher Education Academy, 2019 []

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