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Ningishzida, with snakes emanating from his shoulders, on a relief of Gudea.jpg
Ningishzida, with snakes emanating from his shoulders, on a relief of Gudea, circa 2000 BCE

Ningishzida (sum: 𒀭𒊩𒌆𒄑𒍣𒁕, dnin-g̃iš-zid-da) is a Mesopotamian deity of vegetation and the underworld. Thorkild Jacobsen translates Ningishzida as Sumerian for "lord of the good tree".[1]


In Sumerian mythology, he appears in Adapa's myth as one of the two guardians of Anu's celestial palace, alongside Dumuzi. He was sometimes depicted as a serpent with a human head.

Lagash had a temple dedicated to Ningishzida, and Gudea, patesi of Lagash in the 21st century BC (short chronology), was one of his devotees. In the Louvre, there is a famous green steatite vase carved for King Gudea of Lagash, dedicated by its inscription: "To the god Ningiszida, his god, Gudea, Ensi (governor) of Lagash, for the prolongation of his life, has dedicated this".

Ningishzida is sometimes the son of Ninazu and Ningiridda, even though the myth Ningishzida's journey to the netherworld suggests he is the son of Ereshkigal.[2] Following an inscription found at Lagash, he was the son of Anu, the heavens.[3]

His wife is Azimua[4] and also Geshtinanna,[5] while his sister is Amashilama. In some texts Ningishzida is said to be female,[6] which means "Nin" would then refer to Lady, which is mostly how the word is used by the Sumerians. He or she was one of the ancestors of Gilgamesh.

The Adapa myth mentions Ningishzida.[7]

The death of vegetation is associated with the travel to the underworld of Ningishzida.[7]

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Q&A#20 (Ningishzida)
  2. ^ Ningishzidda's journey to the netherworld on ETCSL
  3. ^ Ira Maurice Price, Notes on the Pantheon of the Gudean Cylinders, The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, Vol. 17, No. 1 (Oct., 1900), pp. 47-53 JSTOR 528092
  4. ^ Sumerian Mythology: Chapter II. Myths of Origins
  5. ^ Stephen Bertman, 'Handbook to Life in Ancient Mesopotamia'. p. 123.
  6. ^ Princeton University professors Arthur Frothingham and Allan Marquand, 'American journal of archaeology'. p. 189.
  7. ^ a b Stone, Adam (2016). "Ningišzida (god)". Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses, Oracc and the UK Higher Education Academy.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]