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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]

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