Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Comparison of the Assyrian Mythology of Nabu and the DC Mythology of Nabu

As part of Dr. Fate’s history, I thought it would be interesting to compare and contrast the actual ancient Assyrian mythos of the deity Nabu, with the DC mythos the Lord of Order Nabu.  In the actual, historical mythos of the ancient deity, Nabu is a Babylonian god, the son of Marduk and his consort Sarpanitum, and grand-son of Ea. His power over human existence is immense, because He engraves the destiny of each person, as the Gods have decided, on the tablets of sacred record. Thus, He has the power to increase or diminish, at will, the length of human life. His symbols are the clay/stone tablet with the writing stylo, and his sacred animal is the winged dragon who is initially his father´s. He wears a horned cap, and stands with hands clasped, in the ancient gesture of priesthood

Originally, Nabu was a West Semitic deity, mentioned among the Ebla gods. By the beginning of the second millennium BCE, the Amorites had introduced him to Mesopotamia, probably at the same time as Marduk. The two gods continued to have close connections throughout their history (well into the Persian period and beyond). While Marduk became Babylon´s main deity, Nabu resided in nearby Borsippa in his temple E-zida. He was first called the "scribe and minister of Marduk", later assimilated as Marduk´s beloved son from Sarpanitum, Marduk´s consort. Nabu is accorded the office of patron of the scribes, taking over from the Sumerian goddess Nisaba. His consort is Tashmetum, whose name derives from the Akkadian "shamu", meaning something like "the granting of requests", thus being a merciful mediator, protector against evil and goddess of love and potency.

Nabu was also worshipped in Assyria: Shalmanesser I built the first Nabu sanctuary in Ashur ca. 1300 BCE, and others followed in Nineveh, Kalah and Khorsabad. Following the expansion of the Assyrian empire from Sargon II onwards, he became one of the great gods of the realm and was frequently invoked in royal inscriptions. His popularity among the Assyrians is also well documented by numerous private names, letters and prayers. Being the patron of the scribal arts, he also represented the cultural traditions of the South, which were greatly admired. After the downfall of Assyria, Nabu rose to a high rank in the Neo-Babylonian pantheon, first as Marduk´s son and then in his own right. His cult in fact endured well into the Parthian period. With his elevation to the ranks of the great gods, Nabu became a cosmic deity, entrusted with the Tablets of Destiny, 'pronouncing the Fate" of humankind. The texts equate him with Ninurta. He was also sometimes mentioned as the god of water and of the fertility of fields, maybe through his descent from Ea/Enki, with whom he also shares the epithet of god of wisdom.

According to the DC mythos, Nabu was born over 10 billion years ago after the formation of the univers and the birth of the elemental forces of Order and Chaos.  On the world called Cilia, the Lords of Order manifested themselves as the first sentient race in the universe, a race of energy beings. After millennia, circa 3500 BCE, one of the Lords of Order, descends to Earth from Cilia and became Nabu the Wise, an adviser to the pharaohs of ancient Egypt.
Nabu became the keeper of several powerful talismans. In the 26th century BCE, he created the Scarab of Kha-ef-re with the help of a time traveler from the 20th century. This was an attempt to overthrow Vandal Savage, who was at that time the pharaoh called Khafre. (Regardless, the Scarab was lost for 4,500 years before being rediscovered in the 20th century by archaeologist Dan Garrett, who became the first Blue Beetle).

Nabu's most powerful talisman, the Amulet of Anubis was created a few centuries later (c. 2025 BCE), but the circumstances are not certain. According to the devious creatures called Flaw & Child, Nabu commissioned the Amulet of Anubis from The Cutter, of the magical Gemworld. Another tale asserts that in the Egyptian city of Bubastis, the mad priest Khalis slayed his followers in the name of the god Anubis, who then granted Khalis the Amulet of Anubis as a reward for his service. Whatever its origin, this Amulet then became home to the Lords of Order.

During the reign of pharaoh Ramses (c. 1260 BCE), Nabu became a royal adviser and court magician. He was humbled in battle with the Spectre, who killed Ramses for his crimes against the Hebrews.

He was also on hand when a Thanagarian starship crashed. From it Nabu recovered a portion of the anti-gravity metal that powered the ship, called "Nth metal" by the dying Thanagarian pilot. Nabu and his ally, Teth-Adam used a portion of the Nth metal to forge a war gauntlet called the Claw of Horus, which they predicted would be instrumental in a battle thousands of years in the future.

Archaeologist Sven Nelson and his son, Kent, then a boy, were exploring an ancient temple in the Valley of Ur in Mesopotamia. Kent found the entombed body of the giant ancient wizard Nabu the Wise, who was in suspended animation. orm. In 1940, Nabu (kept in suspended animation) was wakened by the young Kent Nelson, the son of archaeologist Sven Nelson.  This led to the birth of the Golden Age, and modern, Dr. Fate.

Nabu was apparently killed by the Spectre Force.  His death ended the 9th age of magic and ushered in the 10th age of magic.  It’s interesting that, although adding much of their own story, DC kept some details of the original Nubu mythos.  For example, the original Nabu was able to decide the fate of human beings and his consort was thought to be a protector against evil, which one could think of Inza Kent in much the same way.  It’s always fun when our superheroes and history collide such as the JSA fighting evil during WWII. 

Information for this article was taken from, and


  1. Dude! I had no idea there was a real world god named Nabu! This was really fascinating reading! Sounds like Marty Pasko really did his research when he introduced the concept of Nabu to Doctor Fate in the 1st issue special.

    The Irredeemable Shag

  2. Yeah, with all the talk of gods and Lords of Order and Chaos and such I began to wonder if any of it was based on actual Egyptian mythology. I was pleasantly surprised that it was! BTW, I just added to my links.