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Kvanvig: Assurbanipal Studied Inscriptions on Stone from Before the Flood

“The first thing to notice is the strange expression salmīšunu, “their images.” The pronoun refers back to the primeval ummanus / apkallus. They had “images,” created by Ea on earth. A line from Bīt Mēseri sheds light on the issue. šiptu šipat Marduk āšipu salam Marduk “The incantation is the incantation of Marduk, the āšipu […]

On the Date of The Flood

“I now turn to Berossos’ account of the Flood as the central narrative of book 2. The extant fragments contain the following elements: – Kronos reveals the destruction of mankind in a dream – Xisouthros is told he must bury the tablets in Sippar – He must build a boat and embark together with family, […]

Flood Traditions

“Another point of connection with Mesopotamian traditions concerns the relationship between Genesis 6:1-4 and the flood story. Since Genesis 6:1-4 occurs immediately prior to the flood story, it is possible that the stories were more richly connected in other versions of these stories, whether oral or written. One such possibility would be a version of […]

Eco: Philosophers Against Monogeneticism

“Although in the eighteenth century a de Brosses or a Court de Gébelin might still persist in his glottogonic strivings, by the time of the Enlightenment, philosophers had already laid the basis for the definitive liquidation of the myth of the mother tongue and of the notion of a linguistic paradise existing before Babel. Rousseau, in […]

Eco: The Pre-Hebraic Language

“Alongside these philosophical discussions, other inspired glottogonists (for whom the defeat of the Hebraic hypothesis was a consummated fact) were breaking new theoretical ground. The explorers and missionaries of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries had discovered civilizations, older than the Hebrews, which had their own cultural and linguistic traditions. In 1699, John Webb (An Historical […]

Eco: Conventionalism, Epicureanism and Polygenesis, 2

“During these same years, thinkers also returned to reflect upon an older suggestion by Epicurus, who, in a letter to Herodotus, gave his opinion that the names of things were not  originally due to convention; human beings themselves had rather created them from their own natures. Those of differing tribes, “under the impulse of special […]

Eco: Conventionalism, Epicureanism and Polygenesis

“By now, however, time was running out for the theories of Kircher, Guichard and Duret. Already in the Renaissance, Hebrew’s status as the original and sacred language had begun to be questioned. By the seventeenth century, a new and complex set of arguments has evolved. We might, emblematically, place these arguments under the sign of […]

Eco: The Etymological Furor, 2

“The thousand or so pages of Guichard are really little more than an extensive raiding expedition in which languages, dead and living, are pillaged for their treasures. More or less by chance, Guichard sometimes manages to hit upon a real etymological connection; but there is little scientific method in his madness. Still, the early attempts […]

Eco: Postel’s Universalistic Utopia

“A special place in the story of the renewal of Hebrew studies belongs to the French utopian thinker and érudit, Guillaume Postel (1510-81). Councillor to the kings of France, close to the major religious, political and scientific personalities of his epoch, Postel returned from a series of diplomatic missions to the Orient, voyages which enabled […]

Eco: From Adam to Confusio Linguarum, 2

“Told in this way, however, the story is still incomplete. We have left out Genesis 10. Here, speaking of the diffusion of the sons of Noah after the Flood, the text states of the sons of Japheth that, “By these [sons] were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his […]

Eco: From Adam to Confusio Linguarum

  Genesis 2, 10, 11 Our story has an advantage over many others: it can begin at the Beginning. God spoke before all things, and said, “Let there be light.” In this way, he created both heaven and earth; for with the utterance of the divine word, “there was light” (Genesis 1:3-4). Thus Creation itself […]

Smoke Signals: Borges, Tzahi Weiss, Kabbalah

I am obsessed by the idea that we project reality through a mass delusion, shared consciousness, a form of hypnosis and active dreaming that generates everything in our multiverse.

Gane: Review of the Literature on Monsters, Demons and gods

“When a monster is associated with an anthropomorphic deity, it operates in the same field of action or part of nature as that of the deity. Whereas the deity functions in the entire domain of his or her rule, the monster’s activity is limited to only part of the god’s realm. Thus, a monster that […]

Selz: The Dream of Gudea

“Whereas the giants sent Mahway to Enoch for an interpretation of their dreams, in earliest parallels from Mesopotamia the deities undertake this task: (“Thereupon] all the giants [and monsters! grew afraid 15 and called Mahway to them and the giants pleaded with him and sent him to Enoch 16 [the noted scribe]” (Q II:). Translation taken from the Book […]

Selz: Tracking Gilgamesh Throughout History and Literature

“The biblical patriarchs and the kings before the flood according to Genesis 5 and 4, Berossos and the Sumerian King List. The most important information we can draw from this table is: Berossos’ account of the primeval history of Mesopotamian is clearly based on an emic tradition reaching back almost two millennia. The Mesopotamian tradition […]

Selz: No Connection Between the Biblical Patriarchs and the Babylonian Antediluvian Kings

“After an increasing wealth of Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets was excavated and translated in the middle of the nineteenth century, critical evaluation of the biblical traditions gained great momentum. In 1872 George Smith delivered a paper to the Society of Biblical Archaeology in London, announcing the discovery of a Babylonian version of the biblical flood story, hereby […]

Selz: An Excerpt from the Book of Giants

“The following excerpts of the reconstructed Book of Giants are taken from the edition of The Gnostic Society Library ([14 March 2010]) (MSS: 4Q203, 1Q23, 2Q26, 4Q530–532, 6Q8). This excerpt is from footnote 20 of Selz, “Of Heroes and Sages,” synopsized as Selz: On Giants. The wicked angels, bringing both knowledge and havoc. 2 […] they knew […]

Selz: On Giants

“Dating back to the late nineteenth century and the so-called Babel-Bible dispute, the relation of the biblical traditions, especially those concerning the paradise narrative, the flood-story, and the (antediluvian) patriarchs, to the Mesopotamian world received much interest (see below). (For an overview over this politically remarkable dispute and the involvement of the German emperor Wilhelm […]

Selz: Enoch Derives from 3d Millennium BCE Mesopotamia

” … [He who saw the deep, the] foundation of the country, who knew [the secrets], was wise in everything! … he saw the secret and uncovered the hidden, he brought back a message from the antediluvian age.” From the introduction to the Gilgamesh Epic, A.R. George, The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic: Introduction, Critical Edition and […]

Melvin: Divine Knowledge is Transcendent

“Wellhausen understands “good and evil” as a comprehensive term indicating that it is knowledge without bounds. Thus, “knowledge of good and evil” refers to knowledge in general, and the secret knowledge of the workings of nature, the possession of which leads to the development of civilization, in particular. “Knowledge” in Genesis 3:1–7 would correspond roughly […]

Melvin: On the Tower of Babel

“The story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1–9 provides further evidence for the human origin of civilization in the form of city-building. As Theodore Hiebert notes, the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1–9 is not chiefly concerned with the construction of a tower, but rather with the founding of the […]

Melvin: On the Role of Divine Counsel

“Elements of civilization are also attributed to the semi-divine hero, Gilgamesh. The opening lines of the Epic of Gilgamesh celebrate his great wisdom: “He who saw the Deep, the country’s foundation, [who] knew…, was wise in all matters! [Gilgamesh, who] saw the Deep, the country’s foundation, [who] knew…, was wise in all matters! [He …] […]

Kvanvig: Dates the apkallu to the Beginning of the 1st Millennium BCE

“Most of the sources we have to these imaginations developed around the apkallus are Assyrian. This does not, however, mean that the imaginations only belonged to Assyrian mythology. Of the three lists of the apkallus known, two are Babylonian, and Bīt Mēseri was known in Babylonia. The most extensive description of their role we find […]

Kvanvig: At the Brink of Legendary Time and Historical Time

“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 […]

Kvanvig: On the Correspondences Between Antediluvian Myths

Is Anu never portrayed in Mesopotamian art?

Kvanvig: Divine Origin of Antediluvian Texts

“Enuma Elish was written to promote Marduk as the head of the pantheon, reflecting the position of Babylon at the end of the second millennium. This was a new invention in Mesopotamian theology. To promote this new theology the author added a postscript in which he claims a divine origin for his work: “This is […]

Kvanvig: Initiation is a Restriction of Marduk

“We think van der Toorn is right in taking this as a comment to the tendency present in the Catalogue. This is still no absolute chronology, since apkallus are listed as authors in III, 7; IV, 11; and VI, 11. Nevertheless, the commentary seems to underscore three stages in the transmission of highly recognized written […]

Kvanvig: Antediluvian Scribes of the gods

“We find an indication that Uanadapa was regarded as a recipient of revelations, we find it in the Verse Account of Nabonidus, where the king compares himself with Adapa. He boasts of his “wisdom;” he has “seen what is hidden” and “secret things:” “He would stand in the assembly (and) exalt him[self] (as follows): “I […]

Kvanvig: Transmission of Antediluvian Revelation

“The apkallus provided the human race with the fundamental wisdom necessary to develop human civilization. They did so through their teaching, and according to Mesopotamian tradition, developed in the first millennium, they did so also through their writing activity. The apkallus are listed several places as authors of literary works in the Catalogue of Texts […]

Kvanvig: The Sacred Tree

“Parpola discusses the role of these experts in relation to the king. Did the experts form a clique that was in the position to manipulate the king according to its own agenda? Parpola denies this possibility; on the one hand the “inner circle” was not permanently present at the court; on the other hand there was clearly […]

Kvanvig: The mīs pî and pīt pî Rituals of Mouth Washing and Mouth Opening

“The āšipū did not only expel demons; they had one more important duty that they performed together with other specialists, the bārû, “haruspex / diviner” and the kalû, “lamentation chanter.” They had the primary responsibility for consecration of the divine statue. In this duty they performed ina šipir apkalli, according to the “task” or “office” […]

Curnow: Atrahasis is More Historical than Noah

“Atrahasis is an interesting figure. By surviving the flood he and his wife became the living links between the antediluvian and postdiluvian ages. They also seem to have been the only human beings to have been made immortal (Leick 2001, p. 83). More than once the narrative presents Atrahasis talking to Ea, the god of […]

Curnow: Ziusudra Divides Invented Myth from Mythologized Fact

“After this, the story begins to become more confused. According to the legend preserved in a surviving fragmentary text (Dalley 2000, pp. 184-7), Adapa was the priest of Ea in his temple at Eridu. Eridu was regarded as one of the most ancient cities of Mesopotamia and the place where kingship first appeared as a […]

Curnow: Boundaries of Legend and History

“In this chapter I shall be concerned with wise characters from myth and legend. I would not wish to pretend that the dividing line between myth, legend and history can be established with any certainty, and it may be that some of the characters who appear here have been unfairly removed from the historical record. […]

Dalley: Apkallu-6, IDD 2011

Iconography of Deities and Demons (IDD). Apkallu (continued).  Type 3 Bird-of-Prey-Headed Apkallu, Problematic Identifications.  “The three types are identified from ritual texts and labels on figurines, but because the evidence is uncommon and sometimes ambiguous there are uncertainties. Change over time may also account for some difficulties. Some overlap in the iconography with Tiamat’s composite […]

Dalley: Apkallu-2, IDD 2011

Iconography of Deities and Demons (IDD). Apkallu (continued). “The deities Ea, Damkina, Gula, Enlil, Adad, Marduk, Nabu, and Gerra were all called “sage of the gods” in texts on particular occasions; the link with Ea is apparent for type 2 from 40, 47–48, and with Marduk and Nabu from 63. A link between type 2 […]

Dalley: Apkallu, IDD 2011

Iconography of Deities and Demons (IDD). Apkallu. “Mesopotamian semi-divine figure. A Babylonian tradition related by Berossos in the 3rd cent. (BURSTEIN 1978: 13f) describes a creature called Oannes that rose up out of the Red Sea in the first year of man’s history. His entire body was that of a fish, but he had another […]

Kvanvig: Introducing the Apkallu Odakon

“In the first survey of the Sumerian tablets found in Tell Haddad, ancient Meturan, from 1993, A. Cavigneaux and F. Al-Rawi call attention to two pieces containing the Adapa Myth in Sumerian. They are dated to the Old Babylonian period. Since the manuscripts are not yet published, we have to rely on the description of […]

Kvanvig: Berossos and Primeval History

“Berossos does not only list the sages in succession. He is especially interesting because of the information he gives about the first sage, Oannes, who parallels Uan in the two other lists. Berossos’ account is here so noteworthy that we quote it as a whole: “In Babylonia there was a large number of people of […]

Kvanvig: Introducing Ahiqar

“The figures in the next list of ten are generally designated ummanu, which is the common designation for a scholar of high reputation. There are one or perhaps two exceptions. The first figure of the second list, Nungalpiriggal, is designated apkallu. This might be a reflection of a tradition, since this figure is also designated […]

Kvanvig: Discrepancies Between the Lists

“The Sumerian concept of me, “cosmic ordinances,” has a wide range of meanings connected to culture and human conditions. The myth Inanna and Enki has a list which gives good illustration of what is regarded as me: human relations, cultural relations, political relations, occupations, sciences, crafts, arts, deeds, etc. —in short, all the human characteristics […]

Kvanvig: The Apkallu List from Bīt Mēseri

“Reiner numbers the lines 1’-31’, which covers the lines 9-31 in Weiher’s edition. Borger knew Weiher’s work on the Uruk recension of Bīt Mēseri when he translated the text, even though Weiher’s final edition was published afterwards. We will return to the different aspects of the text later. 1-2: Incantation: Uanna, who completed the plans […]

Timeline: Sumer

Timeline: Sumer 5400 BCE: The City of Eridu is founded. 5000 BCE: Godin Tepe settled. 5000 BCE – 1750 BCE: Sumerian civilization in the Tigris-Euphrates valley. 5000 BCE: Sumer inhabited by Ubaid people. 5000 BCE – 4100 BCE: The Ubaid Period in Sumer. 5000 BCE: Evidence of burial in Sumer. 4500 BCE: The Sumerians built their first temple. 4500 BCE: The City of Uruk founded. […]

Lenzi: More on the Exaltation of the Anu Cult

“Beaulieu believes this development also provides an explanation for the great number of scholarly texts that have turned up in Seleucid-level excavations at Uruk, both traditional kinds known from elsewhere as well as those with an explicitly Urukean bias. (See François Thureau-Dangin, Tablettes d’Uruk à l’usage des Prêtres du Temple d’Anu au Temps des Séleucides, […]

Lenzi: The ummânū Were The Scribal Heirs of the Antediluvian Sages

“Finally, although not giving specific proof of a genealogical relationship, the content of the well-known “Catalog of Texts and Authors” edited by Lambert attests once again the close connection between Ea, the mythological apkallū, and the ummânū as in the “mythology of scribal succession.” In this text Ea is credited with the authorship of several […]

Lenzi: The Antediluvian Medical Tablet from Ashurbanipal’s Library (K.4023)

“As is well-known, antediluvian knowledge had special significance in Mesopotamia. (For other examples of antediluvian knowledge (though sometimes in a broken context), see the examples gathered by Lambert, “Catalogue of Texts and Authors,” 72 at the note on VI 15.) The most important example of this fact for the purposes of this study comes from […]

Lenzi: The Mythology of Scribal Succession

“The text of the ULKS is as follows: “During the reign of Ayalu, the king, Adapa was sage. During the reign of Alalgar, the king, Uanduga was sage. During the reign of Ameluana, the king, Enmeduga was sage. During the reign of Amegalana, the king, Enmegalama was sage. During the reign of Enmeušumgalana, the king, […]

Nakamura: The Common Terrain Shared by Myth and Iconography

“After this “enlivening,” the āšipu then molds this clay into various figures of power and protection, in effect reenacting the divine creation of humans from the clay of the apsû, the primordial underground freshwater ocean. (Similar narratives of the creation of humankind reiterate a trope of the divine formation of being from clay. In the […]

Why No Canonical Literature Regarding the Apkallu?

“In adducing the motif of the “wise vizier”, I have only meant to show that the “wise men” of a tradition are not necessarily kings, and furthermore, to show the complexity of a problem that, if I do not pretend to solve, I neither am inclined to embezzle. In my opinion, the myth of the […]

On the Names of the Umu-Apkallu

“History. The name-like designations of the ūmu-apkallū are artificial and systematic; they do not even pretend to be historical realities. The names all start with ūmu / UD and may have been grafted on the u4- and p i r i g – names of other apkallū (Güterbook ZA 42103, Hallo JAOS 83 175, Reiner […]