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 OrNS 30 6).
P i r i g in these names is explained in a commentary to the diagnostic omens as nūru (P i r i g – g a l – a b z u = nūru rabû ša apsî, RA 73 153:2, OrNS 30 3:18′) and also Berossos’ account of the activities of the first sage, Oannes (S. Mayer Burstein SANE 1/5 13f.), indicates that the common denominator of ūmu and p i r i g is “light” rather than a monstruous appearance; that personified ūmu denotes the personified day or weather, sometimes visualized as a lion (or leonine monster), in other contexts as well will be explained below (VII.4a).
For this reason we have translated ūmu in the names of the ūmu-apkallū as “day”. The ūmu-apkallū were either antediluvian or postdiluvian sages; without definite proof, we prefer the former possibility on the following grounds:
- Names of postdiluvian sages are known from a number of sources (JSC 16 64ff., UVB 18 44:8ff., text III B 8, Reiner OrNS 30 10) but no canonical list of seven has been formed.
- If our ritual needed postdiluvian sages, it could have chosen from the known names; it would not have needed to invent names.
- Postdiluvian sages are probably not prestigious enough to function as mythological foundation of exorcism.
- The cities of the ūmu-apkallū (Ur, Nippur, Eridu, Kullab, Keš, Lagaš, Šuruppak) can be considered to complement the cities of the fish-apkallū (Eridu, Bad-tibira, Larak, Sippar) as antediluvian centres.
The reason for the invention of a second group of antediluvian apkallū, attested only in ritual I/II and its close relatives (III.B. and III.C), may have lain in the necessity of mythologically underpinning the existence of a traditional Assyrian apotropaic figure without appropriate credentials.
Support for this view can be found in the combative character which they share with the bird-apkallū, but not with the fish-apkallū; the bird-apkallū are a similar group of Assyrian apotropaic figures, similarly underpinned, the fish-apkallū are genuinely Babylonian.
The iconographic history of the ūmu-apkallū is in view of his human appearance difficult to trace; forerunners perhaps are the figures briefly discussed by Rittig Kleinplastik 28, and specimens from MAss times may possibly be found on the seals Iraq 17 Pl. X/3, Iraq 39 Pl. XXViI/2A, XXIX/27, ZA 47 55:5, 56:9.
The name of the last apkallū before the flood, ūmu ša ana šagši balāta inamdinu, “day that gives life to the slain”, could conceivably be a learned interpretation of the name of the last king of Šuruppak before the flood z i – u d – s ù – r a; using Babylonian methods (cf. J. Bottéro Finkelstein Memorial Volume 5ff.), u d gives ūmu, š e ES of z i (for še) or r a (for s a g – g i š – r a) gives šagšu, r a gives ana, z i gives balātu, and s ù (for s u m) gives nadānu. That this possible derivation actually applies, however, cannot be proved.”
F.A.M. Wiggermann, Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts, STYX&PP Publications, Groningen, 1992, p. 74-5.