Kvanvig: At the Brink of Legendary Time and Historical Time

by Esteban

“In Bīt Mēseri and Berossos, where there are narratives connected to the names, it is clear that the apkallus were those who brought humankind the basic wisdom needed to establish civilization. This is written out in a full story in Berossos; the same is referred to in Bīt Mēseri in the phrase “plans of heaven and earth.”

In both places the first apkallu Uan/Oannes is most prominent in this matter. They both concur with the D fragment of the Adapa Myth, where Adapa is given insight into the secrets of both heaven and earth, the whole of Anu’s domain.

We observe in the lists, however, that there is not only a division between the first group of seven apkallus and the subsequent sages / scholars; there is also continuity. This seems to be the whole idea of extending the list of seven with subsequent scholars. The subsequent scholars belong to a tradition going back to the antediluvian apkallus.

There are variations in how this is expressed. The system is most clear in the Uruk tablet, which changes the designation from apkallu, mostly reserved for sages before the flood, to ummanu, the self-designation of the scholars preserving their wisdom after the flood.

But there is a very interesting hint in Bīt Mēseri as well. Lu-Nanna, the last apkallu in the list after the flood, is two-thirds apkallu. Here there is clearly a second point of transition–we must presume this time from apkallus to scholars.

A stone bust of the King Šulgi (2094 BCE - 2047 BCE), possibly recovered from the ruins of Tello, ancient Girsu.  Third dynasty of Ur 2120 BCE.  Colecciones Burzaco © Jose Latova.  http://press.lacaixa.es/socialprojects/photo.html?noticia=17853&imagen=14

A stone bust of the King Šulgi (2094 BCE – 2047 BCE), possibly recovered from the ruins of Tello, ancient Girsu.
Third dynasty of Ur 2120 BCE.
Colecciones Burzaco © Jose Latova.
http://press.lacaixa.es/socialprojects/photo.html?noticia=17853&imagen=14

This is confirmed in another short notice about Lu-Nanna in Bīt Mēseri: he lived during the time of Šulgi. Here, when the power of the apkallus fades, we are for the first and only time in Bīt Mēseri placed in real history. Šulgi is attested as a historical king; he reigned during the third dynasty of Ur (2094-2047 BCE).

Thus, at the brink between legendary time and historical time comes the transition from the mythical and legendary apkallus to the historical ummanus.

This clear tendency in the lists is confirmed by several witnesses from Late Assyrian kings stretching down to the last Babylonian king Nabonidus. The witnesses both attest that there was a special quality connected to wisdom from before the flood, and that this was the wisdom brought to humankind through the apkallus.

The king needed access to this kind of “higher” wisdom, which included insight into the divine secrets, in order to reign. Those responsible for providing the king with this kind of wisdom were the ummanus attached to the royal court. The wisdom one brought to humankind by the apkallus accordingly had a political dimension.

The ummanus provided the king with the wisdom necessary to rule the empire. The myth about the transmission of divine wisdom became part of an imperial ideology.

Text:  "IN ERIDU: ALULIM RULED AS KING 28,800 YEARS. ELALGAR RULED 43,200 YEARS. ERIDU WAS ABANDONED. KINGSHIP WAS TAKEN TO BAD-TIBIRA. AMMILU'ANNA THE KING RULED 36,000 YEARS. ENMEGALANNA RULED 28,800 YEARS. DUMUZI RULED 28,800 YEARS. BAD-TIBIRA WAS ABANDONED. KINGSHIP WAS TAKEN TO LARAK. EN-SIPA-ZI-ANNA RULED 13,800 YEARS. LARAK WAS ABANDONED. KINGSHIP WAS TAKEN TO SIPPAR. MEDURANKI RULED 7,200 YEARS. SIPPAR WAS ABANDONED. KINGSHIP WAS TAKEN TO SHURUPPAK. UBUR-TUTU RULED 36,000 YEARS. TOTAL: 8 KINGS, THEIR YEARS: 222,600" MS in Sumerian on clay, probably Larsa Babylonia, 2000-1800 BC, 1 tablet, 8,1x6,5x2,7 cm, single column, 26 lines in cuneiform script. 5 other copies of the Antediluvian king list are known only: MS 3175, 2 in Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, one is similar to this list, containing 10 kings and 6 cities, the other is a big clay cylinder of the Sumerian King List, on which the kings before the flood form the first section, and has the same 8 kings in the same 5 cities as the present.  A 4th copy is in Berkeley: Museum of the University of California, and is a school tablet. A 5th tablet, a small fragment, is in Istanbul. The list provides the beginnings of Sumerian and the world’s history as the Sumerians knew it. The cities listed were all very old sites, and the names of the kings are names of old types within Sumerian name-giving. Thus it is possible that correct traditions are contained, though the sequence given need not be correct. The city dynasties may have overlapped. It is generally held that the Antediluvian king list is reflected in Genesis 5, which lists the 10 patriarchs from Adam to Noah, all living from 365 years (Enoch) to 969 years (Methuselah), altogether 8,575 years.  It is possible that the 222,600 years of the king list reflects a more realistic understanding of the huge span of time from Creation to the Flood, and the lengths of the dynasties involved.  The first of the 5 cities mentioned , Eridu, is Uruk, in the area where the myths place the Garden of Eden, while the last city, Shuruppak, is the city of Ziusudra, the Sumerian Noah. Jöran Friberg: A remarkable Collection of Babylonian Mathematical Texts. Springer 2007.  Sources and Studies in the History of Mathematics and Physical Sciences.  Manuscripts in the Schøyen Collection, vol. 6, Cuneiform Texts I. pp. 237-241. Andrew George, ed.: Cuneiform Royal Inscriptions and Related Texts in the Schøyen Collection, Cornell University Studies in Assyriology and Sumerology, vol. 17,  Manuscripts in the Schøyen Collection, Cuneiform texts VI. CDL Press, Bethesda, MD, 2011, text 96, pp. 199-200, pls. LXXVIII-LXXIX. Andrew E. Hill & John H. Walton: A survey of the Old Testament, 3rd ed., Grand Rapids, Mi., Zondervan Publ. House, 2009, p. 206.  Zondervan Illustrated Bible, Backgrounds, Commentary. John H. Walton, gen. ed. Grand Rapids, Mich., Zondervan, 2009, vol 1, p. 482, vol. 5, p. 398. Babylonia 2000 - 1800 BC

Text:
“IN ERIDU: ALULIM RULED AS KING 28,800 YEARS. ELALGAR RULED 43,200 YEARS. ERIDU WAS ABANDONED. KINGSHIP WAS TAKEN TO BAD-TIBIRA. AMMILU’ANNA THE KING RULED 36,000 YEARS. ENMEGALANNA RULED 28,800 YEARS. DUMUZI RULED 28,800 YEARS. BAD-TIBIRA WAS ABANDONED. KINGSHIP WAS TAKEN TO LARAK. EN-SIPA-ZI-ANNA RULED 13,800 YEARS. LARAK WAS ABANDONED. KINGSHIP WAS TAKEN TO SIPPAR. MEDURANKI RULED 7,200 YEARS. SIPPAR WAS ABANDONED. KINGSHIP WAS TAKEN TO SHURUPPAK. UBUR-TUTU RULED 36,000 YEARS. TOTAL: 8 KINGS, THEIR YEARS: 222,600”
MS in Sumerian on clay, probably Larsa Babylonia, 2000-1800 BC, 1 tablet, 8,1×6,5×2,7 cm, single column, 26 lines in cuneiform script.
5 other copies of the Antediluvian king list are known only: MS 3175, 2 in Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, one is similar to this list, containing 10 kings and 6 cities, the other is a big clay cylinder of the Sumerian King List, on which the kings before the flood form the first section, and has the same 8 kings in the same 5 cities as the present.
A 4th copy is in Berkeley: Museum of the University of California, and is a school tablet. A 5th tablet, a small fragment, is in Istanbul.
The list provides the beginnings of Sumerian and the world’s history as the Sumerians knew it. The cities listed were all very old sites, and the names of the kings are names of old types within Sumerian name-giving. Thus it is possible that correct traditions are contained, though the sequence given need not be correct. The city dynasties may have overlapped.
It is generally held that the Antediluvian king list is reflected in Genesis 5, which lists the 10 patriarchs from Adam to Noah, all living from 365 years (Enoch) to 969 years (Methuselah), altogether 8,575 years.
It is possible that the 222,600 years of the king list reflects a more realistic understanding of the huge span of time from Creation to the Flood, and the lengths of the dynasties involved.
The first of the 5 cities mentioned, Eridu, is Uruk, in the area where the myths place the Garden of Eden, while the last city, Shuruppak, is the city of Ziusudra, the Sumerian Noah.
Jöran Friberg: A Remarkable Collection of Babylonian Mathematical Texts. Springer 2007.
Sources and Studies in the History of Mathematics and Physical Sciences.
Manuscripts in the Schøyen Collection, vol. 6, Cuneiform Texts I. pp. 237-241. Andrew George, ed.: Cuneiform Royal Inscriptions and Related Texts in the Schøyen Collection, Cornell University Studies in Assyriology and Sumerology, vol. 17,
Manuscripts in the Schøyen Collection, Cuneiform texts VI. CDL Press, Bethesda, MD, 2011, text 96, pp. 199-200, pls. LXXVIII-LXXIX.
Andrew E. Hill & John H. Walton: A Survey of the Old Testament, 3rd ed., Grand Rapids, MI., Zondervan Publishing House, 2009, p. 206.
Zondervan Illustrated Bible, Backgrounds, Commentary. John H. Walton, gen. ed. Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan, 2009, vol 1, p. 482, vol. 5, p. 398.

This wisdom became in the course of the first millennium not only oral, but written. There are numerous examples of how especially compositions belonging to the secret lore of the ummanus were ascribed to the apkallus, above all to the first of them, Uanadapa.

Here we can observe the same chain of transmission as in the lists. There is a general tendency to ascribe compositions of high authority to Ea and to Adapa, or other apkallus, as the second link in the chain.

Moreover, there is a tendency to use a language of revelation in the transmission from Ea to Adapa. In a manner like Kabti-ilāni-Marduk the god “showed” the heavenly wisdom to Adapa, who wrote it down on tablets. Or, as in the case of Nabonidus, he was even wiser than Adapa, because the god had revealed to him the divine secrets.

This notion is in line with a broader tendency from the end of the second millennium, to date compositions back to the mythical primeval time, the time before the flood.”

Helge Kvanvig, Primeval History: Babylonian, Biblical, and Enochic: An Intertextual Reading, Brill, 2011, pp. 154-5.