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Tag: Atra-hasis

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 gift from the gods.

Although the narrative is not without its lacunae and ambiguities, it seems that Ea chose to make Adapa omniscient and wise, but not immortal. As such, he is an heroic figure, but nothing more.

The Scheil dynastic tablet or "Kish Tablet" is an ancient Mesopotamian cuneiform text containing a variant form of the Sumerian King List. The Assyriologist Jean-Vincent Scheil purchased the Kish Tablet from a private collection in France in 1911. The tablet is dated to the early 2d millennium BCE.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scheil_dynastic_tablet

The Scheil dynastic tablet or “Kish Tablet” is an ancient Mesopotamian cuneiform text containing a variant form of the Sumerian King List.
The Assyriologist Jean-Vincent Scheil purchased the Kish Tablet from a private collection in France in 1911. The tablet is dated to the early 2d millennium BCE.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scheil_dynastic_tablet

However, another very different story is told of Uan by Berossus (Hodges 1876, p. 57). According to this one, Uan emerged from the sea with the body of a fish, although added to this were a human head and human feet.

At night, this amphibious creature returned to the sea to rest. All the apkallu took this form. As they were created and / or sent by Ea, who was closely associated with the fresh water of his great-great-grandfather Apsu, there is a certain logic in the apkallu having something in common with freshwater fish.

Iconographical evidence indicates the apkallu could also be portrayed with the heads of birds, or with wings, or both. The one thing they were certainly not, according to this version of the myth, is human beings who were made wise. They were supernatural creatures, not gods, but bearing gifts from the gods.

Bird Apkallū and Fish Apkallū, the so-called purādu-fish, side by side. Apkallū statuettes of this design were buried in appropriate places in the home of a Babylonian exorcist. They were believed to have prophylactic qualities, guarding the home from evil.

Bird Apkallū and Fish Apkallū, the so-called purādu-fish, side by side. Apkallū statuettes of this design were buried in appropriate places in the home of a Babylonian exorcist. They were believed to have prophylactic qualities, guarding the home from evil.

So far only Adapa / Uan has been mentioned by name. For the sake of completeness, something can be said about the other apkallu, although little can be said with any certainty. They are known by various names, and different lists are not entirely consistent with each other.

Berossus, writing in Greek in the third century BCE, calls them Annedotus, Euedocus, Eneugamus, Eneubolus, Anementus and Anodaphus (Hodges 1876, pp. 53-4), while a much older Sumerian king list calls them Uanduga, Enmeduga, Enmegalamma, Anenlilda, Enmebulugga and Utuabzu (Wilson 1977, p. 150).

Although the myth relating to Adapa might generously be described as sketchy, virtually nothing is known of the others at all apart from their names, the names of the kings they served as counsellors, and the city-states in which they discharged this function.

Collectively it is said that they angered the gods and were banished back to the waters whence they came (Dalley 2000, p. 182). And other sources relating to the myth suggest that it was not Ea who sent them but Marduk, or Nabu or Ishtar.

There is a further myth that bears on the subject of wisdom, and this one concerns the individual variously known as Atrahasis, Utnapishtim and Ziusudra. With him we perhaps begin to approach the ill-defined threshold that divides invented myth from mythologized fact.

Cuneiform tablet with the Atrahasis Epic. Babylonian, about 17th century BCE. From Sippar, southern Iraq. A version of the Flood story. The story outlines the structure of the universe according to Babylonian beliefs. Heaven is ruled by the god Anu, the earth by Enlil and the subterranean sweet water by Enki. The text then explains how the minor gods work in the fields but then rebel. As a result, humans are made from clay, saliva and divine blood to act as servants of the gods. This does not prove a perfect solution, as the humans reproduce and their noise disturbs Enlil's sleep. He decides to destroy them with plague, famine, drought and finally a flood.  However, each time Enki instructs one of the humans, Atrahasis, to survive the disasters. The god gives Atrahasis seven days warning of the flood, and he builds a boat, loads it with his possessions, animals and birds. He is subsequently saved while the rest of humankind is destroyed.  However, the gods are unhappy as they no longer receive the offerings they used to.  There is a gap in the text at this point but it does end with Atrahasis making an offering and Enlil accepting the existence and usefulness of humans. Copies of this story have survived from the seventeenth to the seventh century BCE showing that it was copied and re-copied over the centuries. This is the most complete version. There are clear similarities between this Flood story and others known in Mesopotamian literature, for example, the Epic of Gilgamesh. T.C. Mitchell, The Bible in the British Museum (London, The British Museum Press, 1988) S. Dalley, Myths from Mesopotamia (Oxford University Press, 1991) W.G. Lambert and A.R. Millard, Atra-hasis (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1969) http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/me/c/cuneiform_the_atrahasis_epic.aspx

Cuneiform tablet with the Atrahasis Epic.
Babylonian, about 17th century BCE.
From Sippar, southern Iraq.
A version of the Flood story.
The story outlines the structure of the universe according to Babylonian beliefs. Heaven is ruled by the god Anu, the earth by Enlil and the subterranean sweet water by Enki. The text then explains how the minor gods work in the fields but then rebel. As a result, humans are made from clay, saliva and divine blood to act as servants of the gods.
This does not prove a perfect solution, as the humans reproduce and their noise disturbs Enlil’s sleep. He decides to destroy them with plague, famine, drought and finally a flood.
However, each time Enki instructs one of the humans, Atrahasis, to survive the disasters. The god gives Atrahasis seven days warning of the flood, and he builds a boat, loads it with his possessions, animals and birds. He is subsequently saved while the rest of humankind is destroyed.
However, the gods are unhappy as they no longer receive the offerings they used to.
There is a gap in the text at this point but it does end with Atrahasis making an offering and Enlil accepting the existence and usefulness of humans.
Copies of this story have survived from the seventeenth to the seventh century BCE showing that it was copied and re-copied over the centuries. This is the most complete version. There are clear similarities between this Flood story and others known in Mesopotamian literature, for example, the Epic of Gilgamesh.
T.C. Mitchell, The Bible in the British Museum (London, The British Museum Press, 1988)
S. Dalley, Myths from Mesopotamia (Oxford University Press, 1991)
W.G. Lambert and A.R. Millard, Atra-hasis (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1969)
http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/me/c/cuneiform_the_atrahasis_epic.aspx

If the name of Atrahasis (meaning “extra-wise”) is unfamiliar, his story is less so. The surviving text (Dalley 2000, pp. 9-35), which includes its own creation myth, tells of the gods sending a great flood to destroy humanity, but thanks to a warning from Ea, Atrahasis builds a boat and so is saved.

It is this flood that ends the period when the apkallu walked upon the earth, and the distinction between the antediluvian and the postdiluvian seems to have remained firmly established in the Mesopotamian mindset. That parts of Mesopotamia suffered serious flooding from time to time is hardly implausible, but what, if any basis, the story of a great flood bears to real events remains a matter for speculation.”

Trevor Curnow, Wisdom in the Ancient World, Bloomsbury, 2010, pp. 40-1.

Kvanvig: The Apkallus had a Cosmic Function

“There is a clear difference between the group of seven and the subsequent group of four figures in Bīt Mēseri. The difference is not expressed in the same way as in the Uruk tablet in a general pattern of apkallus and succeeding ummanus. In Bīt Mēseri all the figures are apkallus with a curious exception of the last one, who is only two-thirds apkallu.

In Bīt Mēseri, there are thus two periods of transition, from the seven apkallus of divine descent to the four apkallus of human descent, and from the extraordinary apkallus to ordinary scholarship (we assume ummanus).

This depiction of a fish-apkallū of the parādu-fish type guarded the entrance to the temple of Ninurta at Nimrud.  A fish's head can be seen on the Apkallu's head, and its skin hangs down over the back of his body.  It is important to recall that the so-called Seven Sages of Sumeria were apkallū of this type. Neo-Assyrian era, 865-860 BCE.  From the Temple of Ninurta, Nimrud (ancient Kalhu; Biblical Calah), northern Mesopotamia, Iraq. (The British Museum, London). Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP (Glasg) http://www.ancient.eu/image/2708/

This depiction of a fish-apkallū of the parādu-fish type guarded the entrance to the temple of Ninurta at Nimrud.
A fish’s head can be seen on the Apkallu’s head, and its skin hangs down over the back of his body.
It is important to recall that the so-called Seven Sages of Sumeria were apkallū of this type.
Neo-Assyrian era, 865-860 BCE.
From the Temple of Ninurta, Nimrud (ancient Kalhu; Biblical Calah), northern Mesopotamia, Iraq. (The British Museum, London).
Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP (Glasg)
http://www.ancient.eu/image/2708/

The last transition is exemplified with Lu-Nanna; he is a mixture of both apkallu and, we must assume, ummanu. The difference between the first two groups is expressed through their origin. At the end of the list of four it is stated: [seb]et apkallu ša Ea bēlum [u]zna rapašta ušaklilušunuti,” of human descent, whom the lord Ea has endowed with a broad understanding” (lines 30-31).

“Born in the river” means engendered in the abode of Ea, which shows divine descent, in opposition to the human descent of the four succeeding ones, who, nevertheless are given great wisdom.

The apkallus are given a cosmic function. This is repeated twice, first in connection with the first apkallu, then in connection with all seven apkallus at the end of the list in Bīt Mēseri.

In both cases their responsibility concerns usurāt šamê u erseti (lines 1 and 13). Akkadian usurtu means concretely, “drawing,” abstractly, “plan, regulation, destiny;” so the apkallus are in charge of the “plans of heaven and earth.”

We have met this concept in Atrahasis where the birth-goddess Nintu: usurāti ša niši ussar, “draws the drawings for the people,” (S, 14), i.e. creates the basic conditions and fixes the destinies.

(Text in Lambert and Millard, Atra-Hasis, 62-3).

There is, however, a difference in Bīt Mēseri, which is made clear by the two different verbs used. In the case of the first apkallu (line 1) the verb mušaklil, participle, of the verb šuklulu (Š stem), is used. The verb means both “complete” and “make perfectly.”

In this bas relief from Nimrud, human apkallū, the ummánū, kneel and tend to a sacred tree.  Both ummânū wear horned tiaras and display rosette bracelets on their wrists. Bracelets are also apparent on their upper arms.  In the lower register, bird-apkallū raise mulillu cones to sprinkle water in a gesture of exorcism and liberation of sin.  As is typical, the banduddu buckets are in their left hands.  Interestingly in this case, the bracelets of the bird-apkallū are atypical. No rosettes are apparent.

In this bas relief from Nimrud, human apkallū, the ummánū, kneel and tend to a sacred tree.
Both ummânū wear horned tiaras and display rosette bracelets on their wrists. Bracelets are also apparent on their upper arms.
In the lower register, bird-apkallū raise mulillu cones to sprinkle water in a gesture of exorcism and liberation of sin.
As is typical, the banduddu buckets are in their left hands.
Interestingly in this case, the bracelets of the bird-apkallū are atypical. No rosettes are apparent.

The first apkallu thus “completed” or “made perfectly the drawings of heaven and earth.”

In the summary about all the apkallus (line 13) the verb muštešer, participle, Št stem, of the verb ešēru is used, which has the meaning “keep in order.”

Thus there is a distinction between what the first apkallu initially did, and what all apkallus did together. The first apkallu completed the design of the world-order; the seven apkallus, as a group, maintained this world order.

The corresponding Sumerian line 12 (the tablet is bilingual) has a text close to what we find in a Sumerian hymn. We quote the text in the German translation by van Dijk:

Die urformen von Himmel und Erde

in rechter Ordnung zu halten, in die Weite von Himmel und Erde

den grossen Entscheidungen den Weg zu bahnen, 

die Kultordnungen vollkommen zu machen.”

(Hymn to Nusku I, 14).

(J. van Dijk, Summarische Götterlieder, AHAW, PH, abh. I. Heidelberg 1960, 14; transliteration, 108; translation, 111.).

What is said here about the god Nusku is in Bīt Mēseri said about the apkallus. It covers the wide aspects of culture and civilization listed by Berossos about the first and seventh apkallu; it brings us, however, even one step further. The apkallus had a cosmic function; they were cosmic guardians.

They were both in charge of the me, and they were in charge of people’s destinies. In the last role, they are also described in a Babylonian myth where they are the custodians of the tablets of destinies.”

(W.G. Lambert, “The Twenty-One “poultices,”” AnSt 30 (1980): 77-83; B.R. Foster, “Wisdom and the Gods in Ancient Mesopotamia,” Orientalia (NS) 43 (1974): 344-54.).

Helge Kvanvig, Primeval History: Babylonian, Biblical, and Enochic: An Intertextual Reading, Brill, 2011, pp. 116-7.

In the End, Dwelling at the Mouth of the Rivers

[THE ABUBU (CYCLONE) AND ITS EFFECTS DESCRIBED.]

“97. As soon as something of dawn shone in the sky

98. A black cloud from the foundation of heaven came up.

99. Inside it the god Adad thundered,

100. The gods Nabû and Sharru (i.e., Marduk) went before,

101. Marching as messengers over high land and plain,

102. Irragal (Nergal) tore out the post of the ship,

103. En-urta went on, he made the storm to descend.

104. The Anunnaki brandished their torches,

105. With their glare they lighted up the land.

106. The whirlwind (or, cyclone) of Adad swept up to heaven.

107. Every gleam of light was turned into darkness.

108. . . . . . the land . . . . . as if had laid it waste.

109. A whole day long [the flood descended] . . .

110. Swiftly it mounted up . . . . . [the water] reached to the mountains

111. [The water] attacked the people like a battle.

112. Brother saw not brother.

113. Men could not be known (or, recognized) in heaven.

114. The gods were terrified at the cyclone.

115. They shrank back and went up into the heaven of Anu.

116. The gods crouched like a dog and cowered by the wall.

117. The goddess Ishtar cried out like a woman in travail.

118. The Lady of the Gods lamented with a sweet voice [saying]:

[ISHTAR’S LAMENT.]

119. May that former day be turned into mud,

120. Because I commanded evil among the company of the gods.

121. How could I command evil among the company of the gods,

122. Command battle for the destruction of my people?

123. Did I of myself bring forth my people

124. That they might fill the sea like little fishes?

[UTA-NAPISHTIM’S STORY CONTINUED.]

125. The gods, the Anunnaki wailed with her.

126. The gods bowed themselves, and sat down weeping.

127. Their lips were shut tight (in distress) . . .

128. For six days and nights

129. The wind, the storm raged, and the cyclone overwhelmed the land.

[THE ABATING OF THE STORM.]

130. When the seventh day came the cyclone ceased, the storm and battle

131. which had fought like an army.

132. The sea became quiet, the grievous wind went down, the cyclone ceased.

133. I looked on the day and voices were stilled,

134. And all mankind were turned into mud,

135. The land had been laid flat like a terrace.

136. I opened the air-hole and the light fell upon my cheek,

137. I bowed myself, I sat down, I cried,

138. My tears poured down over my cheeks.

139. I looked over the quarters of the world, (to] the limits of ocean.

140. At twelve points islands appeared.

141. The ship grounded on the mountain of Nisir.

142. The mountain of Nisir held the ship, it let it not move.

143. The first day, the second day, the mountain of Nisir held the ship and let it not move.

144. The third day, the fourth day, the mountain of Nisir held the ship and let it not move.

145. The fifth day, the sixth day, the mountain of Nisir held the ship and let it not move.

146. When the seventh day had come

147. I brought out a dove and let her go free.

148. The dove flew away and [then] came back;

149. Because she had no place to alight on she came back.

150. I brought out a swallow and let her go free.

151. The swallow flew away and [then] came back;

152. Because she had no place to alight on she came back.

153. 1 brought out a raven and let her go free.

154. The raven flew away, she saw the sinking waters.

155. She ate, she waded (?), she rose (?), she came not back.

[UTA-NAPISHTIM LEAVES THE SHIP.]

156. Then I brought out [everything] to the four winds and made a sacrifice;

157. I set out an offering on the peak of the mountain.

158. Seven by seven I set out the vessels,

159. Under them I piled reeds, cedarwood and myrtle (?).

160. The gods smelt the savour,

161. The gods smelt the sweet savour.

162. The gods gathered together like flies over him that sacrificed.

[SPEECH OF ISHTAR, LADY OF THE GODS.]

163 Now when the Lady of the Gods came nigh,

164. She lifted up the priceless jewels which Anu had made according to her desire, [saying]

165. O ye gods here present, as I shall never forget the sapphire jewels of my neck

166. So shall I ever think about these days, and shall forget them nevermore!

167. Let the gods come to the offering,

168. But let not Enlil come to the offering,

16q. Because he took not thought and made the cyclone,

170. And delivered my people over to destruction.”

[THE ANGER OF ENLIL.]

171. Now when Enlil came nigh

172. He saw the ship; then was Enlil wroth

173. And he was filled with anger against the gods, the Igigi [saying]:

174. Hath any being escaped with his life?

175. He shall not remain alive, a man among the destruction

[SPEECH OF EN-URTA.]

176. Then En-urta opened his mouth and spake

177. And said unto the warrior Enlil:

178. Who besides the god Ea can make a plan?

179. The god Ea knoweth everything that is done.

18o. The god Ea opened his mouth and spake

181. And said unto the warrior Enlil,

182. O Prince among the gods, thou warrior,

183. How, how couldst thou, not taking thought, make a cyclone?

184. He who is sinful, on him lay his sin,

185. He who transgresseth, on him lay his transgression.

186. But be merciful that [everything] be not destroyed be long-suffering that [man be not blotted out].

187. Instead of thy making a cyclone,

188. Would that the lion had come and diminished mankind.

189. Instead of thy making a cyclone

190. Would that the wolf had come and diminished mankind.

191. Instead of thy making a cyclone

192. Would that a famine had arisen and [laid waste] the land.

193. Instead of thy making a cyclone

194. Would that Irra (the Plague god) had risen up and [laid waste] the land.

195. As for me I have not revealed the secret of the great gods.

196. I made Atra-hasis to see a vision, and thus he heard the secret of the gods.

197. Now therefore take counsel concerning him.

[ENLIL DEIFIES UTA-NAPISHTIM AND HIS WIFE.]

198. Then the god Enlil went up into the ship,

199. He seized me by the hand and brought me forth.

200. He brought forth my wife and made her to kneel by my side.

201. He touched our brows, he stood between us, he blessed us [saving],

202. Formerly Uta-Napishtim was a man merely,

203. But now let Uta-Napishtim and his wife be like unto us gods.

204. Uta-Napishtim shall dwell afar off, at the mouth of the rivers.

[UTA-NAPISHTIM ENDS HIS STORY OF THE DELUGE.]

205. And they took me away to a place afar off, and made me to dwell at the mouth of the rivers.”

E.A. Wallis Budge, The Babylonian Story of the Deluge and the Epic of Gilgamish1929, pp. 35-40.

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