Iškur/Adad (god)

Mesopotamian storm god, associated with both life-giving and destructive properties of rain and flood.


This Assyrian stela from Arslan Tash in northern Syria (8th century BCE), now in the Louvre Museum, shows Adad in a characteristic pose: mounted on a bull, brandishing lightning bolts. © 2000 RMN/Franck Raux

Sumerian Iškur and his Akkadian counterpart Adad, syncretised TT  at an early stage, were storm gods, ambivalent figures whose intervention might either benefit or harm humankind. The destructive aspects of the storm god are often prominent in southern Mesopotamia, whereas in the north he was venerated to a greater extent as the beneficent bringer of rain. This probably reflects the differing importance of rainfall for agriculture in the respective regions (cf. Bienkowski and Millard 2000: 2; Schwemer 2007: 129-130). However, both sides of Iškur/Adad's character are explored in Sumerian and Akkadian literature (Schwemer 2001a: 182-3; 419-424; 2007: 134-5; see further below).

His ability to deploy the destructive forces of nature meant that Iškur/Adad was also conceptualised as a warlike figure. In one Sumerian hymn, Iškur 'destroys the rebellious land like the wind. He makes it barren like the ašagu plant' (Cohen 1981: 60). Similar themes appear in Akkadian texts, including omen apodoses TT  where Adad overwhelms the army or land of the enemy (Schwemer 2001a: 416-19, 687-69).

Adad was also associated with divination and justice. Paired with Šamaš, he is addressed as 'lord of prayers and divination', and invoked to preside over haruspicies TT  or as a witness in legal contexts (Schwemer 2001a: 221-6, 323-7, 683-7; Foster 2005: 754-6; Starr 1983: 30ff.).

Divine Genealogy and Syncretisms

According to what became the dominant genealogy, Iškur/Adad's father is the sky-god An/Anu. However, in Sumerian literature Iškur is sometimes the son of Enlil; the disparity probably reflects two local traditions (see further Schwemer 2001a: 166-8; 2007: 132-3). A mother of Iškur/Adad is mentioned only once, in an Old Babylonian prayer where Iškur is called the son of Uraš (Schwemer 2001a: 168).

Iškur's wife is the goddess Medimša; Adad's wife is Šala. The god list An = Anum attests five children for Iškur/Adad: two sons, and three daughters (Litke 1998: 143 ll. 246-252; Schwemer 2001a: 67-9).

The storm god was equated with other Near Eastern storm gods including north Babylonian/Assyrian Wer, Hurrian Teššub and Hittite-Luwian Tarhun(t) (see Schwemer 2001a for more detailed information).

Cult Place(s)s

Iškur/Adad was worshipped all over Mesopotamia and beyond. In Babylonia an early centre of his cult was the temple é-u4-gal-gal(-la), 'House of Great Storms,' at Karkar, where he was head of the local pantheon; in the first millennium this role was played by the northern city of Zabban. He had a temple at Babylon [~/images/Babylon.jpg] - 'House of Abundance' - and sanctuaries in other cities including Sippar [~/images/Sippar.jpg], Nippur [~/images/Nippur.jpg], Ur [~/images/Ur.jpg], and Uruk [~/images/Uruk.jpg] (Schwemer 2001a: 129-61, 304-84, 638-49).

The important temple of Adad at Assur [~/images/Assur.jpg], the 'House which Hears Prayers', was converted into a double temple of Adad and Anu by king Šamši-Adad I (ca. 1808-1776 BCE). Adad's main cult centre during the Neo-Assyrian period was at Kurbaʾil, but temples for him existed in Kalhu [~/images/Kalhu.jpg], Nineveh [~/images/Nineveh.jpg] and many other cities (Schwemer 2001a: 237ff, 577-81, 595-611). For additional temple names see George 1993, index s.v. 'Adad' and 'Iškur').

Time Periods Attested

Iškur is first directly attested in the mid-third millennium, when he is mentioned in god lists and was worshipped at Lagaš, Adab and Karkar (Schwemer 2001a: 129-31; 2007: 131). At around the same time, Semitic Hadda (Adad) was being worshipped as an important deity at Ebla and Mari. Probably during the Old Akkadian period the cult of Adad spread across Babylonia, and he was syncretised with Iškur (Schwemer 2001a: 196-7; 2007: 135-8).

By the Old Babylonian period Iškur/Adad was one of the 'great gods' of the Babylonian pantheon with sanctuaries in many cities (Schwemer 2001a: 304-84). In literary texts he features as both creator and destroyer (see further Schwemer 2001a: 175-96, 419-24). He is 'the bringer of plenty' in Enki and the World Order (ETCSL 1.1.3 [http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/cgi-bin/etcsl.cgi?text=t.1.1.3#], line 316), and in Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta he causes a storm that makes wheat grow on the barren mountainside (ETCSL [http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/cgi-bin/etcsl.cgi?text=t.], lines 542-555). Elsewhere his violence is emphasized. In a praise poem for Šulgi, the king proudly declares that he was unafraid when 'thundering storms made the earth quake and Iškur roared in the broad heavens' (ETCSL [http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/cgi-bin/etcsl.cgi?text=t.], lines 65-66), while in the Old Babylonian (and Standard Babylonian) version of the poem Atrahasis, Adad causes first drought and famine, and then the flood which is to wipe out mankind (Foster 2005: 227ff).

Adad also occupied a high position in the Assyrian pantheon, and his temple at Assur is already attested early in the second millennium. The double temple which replaced it remained a prominent place of worship, and was restored by many later rulers, including Tiglath-Pileser I (1114-1076 BCE), who states 'I made its walls suitably radiant, like the rising of the stars' (Grayson 1991: A.0.87.1, col. vii, lines 99-100).

First-millennium literary texts show Iškur/Adad in his customary roles. He is invoked to protect crops from storms (Schwemer 2001a: 678-83), but also to bring fertility and prosperity, as in a prayer from Sargon's capital Dur-Šarrukin: 'bring the rains from heaven and the floods from underground in good season ... make his subjects lie down in safe pastures amidst plenty and abundance' (Foster 2005: 784). A continued link with haruspicy TT  is clear from Adad's appearance in diviners' prayers (Schwemer 2001a: 683-6), as well as his title 'lord of divination' in the incantation series Šurpu (SpTU 3, 71, r.i.5').

Iškur/Adad was worshipped throughout Mesopotamia during the first half of the first millennium, although he was accorded greater importance in Assyria, where inscriptions attest to his perennial popularity with the royal family - to take just one example, Ashurnasirpal II (883-859 BCE) calls himself 'beloved of Adad, (who is) almighty among the gods' (Grayson 1991: A.0.101.26, lines 40-41).

In Babylonia he was no longer one of the highest-ranking deities, although he received cult at most major centres, continuing into the Hellenistic period in Uruk and Babylon (Schwemer 2001a: 637-49; Beaulieu 2003: 325-6; Linssen 2004, esp. 64-9). At Uruk, he and Šala are invoked in curses designed to protect what were to be some of the last surviving texts of cuneiform culture: 'Whoever takes it (the tablet) away, may Adad and Šala take him away!' (e.g. AfO 14, Taf. VI; TCL 6, 10).


Iškur/Adad is typically represented brandishing lightning bolts and standing on or beside a bull or lion-dragon (see image). The lion-dragon is the symbolic animal of the storm god in third-millennium art, supplanted though not entirely replaced by the bull from the Ur III period onwards (Schwemer 2008: 31-6).

Name and Spellings

Although the use of the sign for Sumerian IM, 'wind' to write his name is transparent, the etymology of Sumerian Iškur is unknown; it may be an otherwise obsolete Sumerian word, or borrowed from a language that was neither Sumerian nor Semitic (Schwemer 2001a: 31, 131; 2007: 130-1). Akkadian Adad (also Addu) is derived from the Semitic root *hdd, 'to thunder' - in West Semitic the storm god is called Hadda, Haddu or Hadad, and the Akkadian word addu means 'thunderstorm' (Schwemer 2007: 125, 135-6).

Written forms:
diškur (IM), d10, da-da-ad, dad-da-a, d'à-da
Normalized forms:
Iškur, Adad, Addu, Haddu

Iškur in Online Corpora

Adad in Online Corpora

Further Reading

Kathryn Stevens

Kathryn Stevens, 'Iškur/Adad (god)', Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses, Oracc and the UK Higher Education Academy, 2016 [http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/amgg/listofdeities/ikur/]

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