How many Great Gods did the Sumerians have?

Was it twelve, as counted on Wikipedia, or it's just a coincidence? Does the number of Great Gods have any meaning?

For example in this article it's suggested:

Department of Oriental Antiquities at the British Museum - describes a pantheon of 'twelve great gods' who despite having been given somewhat different names

See The Sumerian Pantheon (the family tree) below:

The Sumerian Pantheon below

Does it indicate that the twelve was some special number? Similar to Greek pantheon (The Pantheon of Twelve)?

This source: “Assembly of the Gods” – 12 Members reads:

There are 6 male deities and 6 female deities among the ruling twelve positions in the “Assembly of the Gods“.

  • 1
    Doesn't look to me like there is any significance to the number. The article doesn't claim they are some official group of cheif gods like the Dodekatheon, or anything like that. Just the ones the some Wikipedia editors though were important (as opposed to other wikipedia editors, who made different choices in the sidebar when separating "Other Major Gods" from "Minor Gods")
    – femtoRgon
    Apr 29, 2015 at 22:07
  • @femtoRgon What about this article: Guide to the Mesopotamian Pantheon of Gods?
    – kenorb
    Apr 29, 2015 at 22:22
  • Hey, got a citation for it, that's something to go on.
    – femtoRgon
    Apr 29, 2015 at 23:09

1 Answer 1


The source of the claim of twelve great gods comes from a book titled "The Chaldean Account of Genesis" by George Smith, written in 1876. You can see the list in Chapter 4, here:


I'm not really sure whether I buy the "twelve great gods" claim entirely, but nevermind that. I'll call it plausible.

In some remote age there appear to have been three great cities in the country, Erech, Eridu, and Nipur, and their divinities Anu, Hea, and Bel were considered the "great gods" of the country. Subsequent changes led to the decline of these cities, but their deities still retained their position at the head of the Babylonian system.

Smith claims that gods became "great" as a function of the growth of their cities, so the list of great gods would grow naturally as cities rise and fall. Which leads, once again, to the number twelve is likely coincidental.

More recent resources have claimed a pantheon of 7 "gods who decree" and 50 "great gods" (from "The Sumerians. Their History, Culture and Character", by Samuel Noah Kramer, 1963)

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