views updated May 29 2018


God of springtime verdure in ancient Sumer and Babylonia. He became very popular in Syria and Phoenicia as 'ădōnî (my lord) and in Hellenistic lands as Adonis. In Mesopotamian mythology he was the brotherconsort of Ishtar, the goddess of fertility (J. B. Pritchard Ancient Near Eastern Texts relating to the Old Testament 84). According to the myth, Tammuz was killed every year by a wild boar but was rescued from the nether world by Ishtar, who brought him back to life and assured a new springtime. The natural cycle was thus symbolized by the myth. In ancient Egypt a similar myth was told of isis and Osiris. The 4th month of the year counting from the vernal equinox (JuneJuly), when vegetation began to wither in the dry heat of summer, was called the month of Tammuz and was the occasion for a feast reenacting his descent to the nether regions. In pots filled with earth various herbs were planted and allowed to wither in the sun, symbolizing Tammuz's death. A wooden image of Tammuz, hidden in one of the pots, was then the object of a search by the women. When they found it, they buried it again or threw it, along with the pots, into a body of water amidst loud lamentation. Explicit reference to such a rite is found only once in the Bible (Ez 8.14), although the rite may be the background for the fastgrowing plants of Is 17.1011 that forebode an incurable blight.

Bibliography: Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, translated and adapted by l. hartman (New York, 1963) 239293. s. h. hooke, Babylonian and Assyrian Religion (New York 1953). a. moortgart, Tammuz: Der Unsterblichkeitsglaube in der altorientalischen Bildkunst (Berlin 1949). r. de vaux, "Sur quelques rapports entre Adonis et Osiris," Revue Biblique 42 (1933) 3156.

[h. mueller]


views updated May 21 2018


TAMMUZ (Heb. תַּמּוּז; from Sumerian Dumuzi, "Invigorator of the Child"), the Sumerian-Babylonian fertility god. He is the invigorating power in dates, grain, and milk, and hence his role as a shepherd in Sumerian literature (Th. Jacobsen).

In ancient Mesopotamia sacred marriage rites were conducted in the spring to ensure Tammuz' presence as manifest in the fertility of flocks and earth. The climax of the rites was the performance of the marriage act between the king or governor and the chief priestess. Depictions on seals from the Proto-Literate period (3500–3200 b.c.e.) indicate the great antiquity of this rite. Numerous sacred marriage texts revolving around fertility rites have survived from later periods.

The death of vegetation in the intense heat of the summer was interpreted as Tammuz' departure to the netherworld. It is described in the Sumerian myth "Inanna's Descent into the Netherworld," which is also extant in an Akkadian version.

During the Babylonian Exile the Jews named the fourth month of the Hebrew calendar (c. July) after Tammuz (see next entry). In pre-Exilic Judah, Isaiah (17:10–11) has been supposed (very questionably) to allude to the Tammuz rites, which included planting of anemone seeds. Ezekiel (8:14) in a vision of the Jerusalem Temple, which he had in his Babylonian exile, saw women, at the gate of the inner forecourt, weeping for Tammuz.

Tammuz' summer departure was also mourned by the Phoenicians, who called him Adon, i.e., "Lord." They passed the ritual on to the Greeks who Grecized the name into Adonis.


A. Moortgat, Tammuz, (1949); Th. Jacobsen, in: H. Frankfort et al. (eds.), Before Philosophy (1949), 213–6; idem, in: History of Religions, 1 (1962), 180–213; S.N. Kramer, in: Pritchard, Texts, 41–42, 52–57, 106–9; ibid (19693), 637–45; idem, The Sumerians (1963), 153–60; idem, in: Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 107 (1963), 485–527; idem, The Sacred Marriage Rite (1969); E.Y. Kutscher, Millim ve-Toledoteihen (1961), 59–61; O.R. Gurney, in: jss, 7 (1962), 147–60.

[Raphael Kutscher]


views updated May 14 2018


TAMMUZ (Heb. תַּמּוּז), the post-Exilic name of the fourth month of the Jewish year. The word, but not the month, occurs in Ezekiel 8:14 and is held to be identical with the Babylonian Dumuzi corresponding to Adonis of the Greeks. Tammuz as the name of the fourth month occurs frequently in rabbinic literature, as in *Megillat Ta'anit. Its zodiacal sign is Cancer. In the present fixed Jewish calendar it invariably consists of 29 days, the first of Tammuz never falling on Monday, Wednesday, or the Sabbath (see *Calendar). In the 20th century Tammuz in its earliest occurrence extended from June 10th to July 8th and in its latest from July 9th to August 6th. Traditionally historic days in Tammuz are: (1) the festive 14th of Tammuz, the anniversary of a Pharisaic victory over the Sadducees (Meg. Ta'an. 331); (2) the 17th of Tammuz, a fast commemorating five calamities which befell Israel (see *Tammuz, Fast of). With the 17th of Tammuz commences the three-week mourning period over the destruction of Jerusalem which ends with the Ninth of *Av.

[Ephraim Jehudah Wiesenberg]


views updated May 17 2018

Tammuz a Mesopotamian god, lover of Ishtar and similar in some respects to the Greek Adonis. He became the personification of the seasonal death and rebirth of crops.