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Ancient Mesopotamia
Assyria Nineveh
Arslan Tash Til Barsip
Iran Palace of Darius
Phoenicia Arabia Palmyra
Syrian coast
Ougarit Byblos

Cylinder of Gudea
MNB 1511
Richelieu room 2 showcase 5
The Bible and New Year Festivals
These two clay cylinders store the history
of the construction of the Temple of Ningirsu.
Cylinder B informs us that this god
will from now on live in his temple with
his wife, with whom, on the occasion of
each New Year,
during the ceremony of the Sacred Marriage,
he will ensure the renewal of life to the world and set the sun on a new annual course.

 Cylinder of Gudea and New Year Festivals

The date when the New Year begins varies over time and according to country, however there are always close and surprising analogies to be seen in the customs associated with this celebration.
New Year Ritual in Babylon     MNB 1848     Not on show
The tablet describes a majority of the ceremonies that took place at the start of each year. It is the oldest reference to a New Year’s festival in our possession.
In Babylon, the year started around the time of the spring equinox in March. The festival of the New Year, Akîtu, the most important and most solemn of the Babylonian calendar, came about as a result of the convergence of two currents of religious thinking: fertility worship which was linked to the ‘sacred marriage’ ritual, and a cosmogonic concept which involved calling world order into question on an annual basis.
The 11 days of festival were centred on the cult of Marduk. All of the country’s major gods, by means of their cult statue, came to pay homage to him. A139
The ceremonies included rituals of a magical or exorcistic nature to banish the "demons of chaos". Among the events taking place during the festival were the recital and staging of the Babylonian poem of the creation
An allusion to the procession of Akîtu is made in Isaiah 46:1: “Bel has bent down, Ne´bo is stooping over; their idols have come to be for the wild beasts and for the domestic animals.”
These gods were no longer to be carried with honour but dragged along like common luggage.
The eighth day marked the official start of the year. The kings were then enthroned while they took the hand of the golden statue of Marduk. A140
This celebration of the New Year is found in Egypt then in Rome. A137
Hapy E 4874       Room 3 Showcase 4

Shown with a wide chest and large abdomen, this genius of the Nile flood is wearing a head dress depicting three papyri emerging from
the water. This image is the origin of the zodiacal sign of Aquarius. "   A141
The New Year's Day, that every Egyptian respected was that of the temples and the countryside where Hapi, the Flood, began
to spread on the land. It coincided with
the warmest moments of the year.

Rulers and priests carried the statue
of worship on the terrace of the temple to celebrate the renewal of the annual cycle.  A142
Relatives and friends exchanged gifts, including vases filled with the holy water of the Nile.
Janus Head     Br 551
Sully 1st floor room 32 showcase E1
This head was probably mounted
on a wooden staff.
Janus, one of the most ancient Roman gods, was represented with two faces looking
in opposite directions, one forwards and
the other backwards.

The Romans dedicated this day to Janus, the god of gates and beginnings.
In 46 BCE, Julius Caesar decided that 1st January would be New Year's Day. 

The month of January owes its name to him.

In 487 BCE, the Christian Church sanctified
the New Year. A143


Carte Chronologie Déluge et GilgameshFigurines Plaquettes ou teraphimAntiquités EgyptiennesAntiquités Romaines Haut de page