The Asag

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The Asag is an underworld demon from Sumerian legend that is known to cause disease and plague.  In Sumerian stories, The Asag is the enemy of Ninurta, the god of war. In battle, an army of rock demon offspring accompanied the Asag. They were born of his union with the mountains themselves. After battling for days Ninurta was eventually able to defeat the Asag with a strike to the monster’s liver. As a demon of plague, the Asag was known to dwell in the human body and cover the person like clothing. The monster was especially known for causing head fevers. In the end, the Asag would end up paralyzing the person he had infected. In this way, the Asag is a physical representation of foreignness. He invades and pollutes unsuspecting victims. Also, the Asag is directly related to the theme of race. The monster is commonly described as being hideous enough to make fish boil in the rivers.  More specifically, the monster is characterized as being “Large, round, three-legged, three-armed creature with no neck and several eyes covering their entire bulk. Has dark, hardened skin that feels like rock when touched. Almost indestructible” (Wakeman 94). Also, the myth of Ninurta defeating the Asag represents how uneasy the Mesopotamian plain inhabitants felt about the people living in the Zagros Mountains. During ancient times, people such as the Kassites, Guti, Assyrians, Elamites, and Mitanni inhabited the Zargos Mountains. They were known for invading the Sumerian cities of Mesopotamia. These people were thought to be barbaric and were regarded as outsiders. The Asag, the dark and hideous monster of the mountains, is representative of the outsiders who lived in the Zagros Mountains.


Black, Jeremy A., Anthony Green, and Tessa Rickards. Gods, Demons, and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia: An Illustrated Dictionary. Austin: University of Texas, 1992. Print.

Cohn, Norman. Cosmos, Chaos, and the World to Come: The Ancient Roots of Apocalyptic Faith. New Haven: Yale UP, 1993. Print.

Kramer, Samuel Noah. The Sumerians: Their History, Culture, and Character. [Chicago]: University of Chicago, 1963. Print.

“The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature.” The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2013

Wakeman, Mary K. God’s Battle with the Monster. A Study in Biblical Imagery. Leiden: Brill, 1973. Print.


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