The cult of Ninib can be traced back to the oldest period of Babylonian history. In the inscriptions found at Shirgulla (or Shirpurla, also known as Lagash), he appears as Nin-girsu, that is, "the lord of Girsu," which appears to have been a quarter of Shirgulla. He is closely associated with Bel (or En-lil) of Nippur, as whose son he is commonly designated. The combination points to the amalgamation of the district in which Ninib was worshipped with the one in which Bel was the chief deity. This district may have been Shirgulla and surrounding places, which fell at one time under the control of the rulers of Nippur.
Ninib appears in a double capacity in the epithets bestowed on him, and in the hymns and incantations addressed to him. On the one hand he is the healing god who releases from sickness and the ban of the demons in general, and on the other he is the god of war and of the chase, armed with terrible weapons. It is not easy to reconcile these two phases, except on the assumption that he has absorbed in his person various minor solar deities, representing different phases of the sun, just as subsequently Shamash absorbed the attributes of practically all the minor sun-deities.
In the systematized pantheon, Ninib survives the tendency towards centralizing all sun cults in Shamash by being made the symbol of a certain phase of the sun. Whether this phase is that of the morning sun or of the springtime with which beneficent qualities are associated, or that of the noonday sun or of the summer solstice, bringing suffering and destruction in its wake, is still a matter of dispute, with the evidence on the whole in favour of the former proposition. At the same time, the possibility of a confusion between Ninib and Nergal must be admitted, and perhaps we are to see the solution of the problem in the recognition of two diverse schools of theological speculation, the one assigning to Ninib the role of the spring-tide solar deity, the other identifying him with the sun of the summer solstice.
In the astral-theological system Ninib becomes the planet Saturn. The swine seems to have been the animal sacred to him, or to have been one of the symbols under which he is represented. The consort of Ninib was Gula.
This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.