In the mythology of ancient Mesopotamia*, Enlil ("lord of the wind") was the storm god and the god of earth and air. He was one of a trio of major gods that included Anu and Ea, the gods of heaven and water. Enlil played an important role in creation, separating heaven from earth, causing seeds to grow on the land, and bringing order and harmony to the universe.
A complex deity who destroyed as well as created, Enlil appeared in many Mesopotamian myths. In one story he was sent to the underworld as punishment for raping the goddess Ninlil. She followed him there and gave birth to their son, the moon god Nanna. Because Nanna would die in the underworld, Enlil devised a scheme that allowed his son to escape and return to the heavens so that he could light up the night sky.
Another well-known myth revealed Enlil's destructive nature. According to this tale, the other gods rebelled against Enlil because he made them work too hard. As a solution, the gods decided to create humans to labor for them. This seemed fine for a while, but as the human population increased, their noise kept Enlil awake at night. Angered by this disruption, Enlil sent disease, drought, and a great flood to reduce the number of people on the earth.
deity god or goddess
underworld land of the dead
Enlil also appeared in stories in the role of preserver and creator. As the source of rain, he nourished fields and crops. He also introduced humans to the pickax and taught them how to use it to build cities. In some myths, Enlil was associated with agriculture, fertility, and the seasons.
* See Names and Places at the end of this volume for further information.