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Tag: Odakon

Kvanvig: Human Knowledge is Dangerous to the Cosmic Order

“We now turn to Uan, the first apkallu. In Bīt Mēseri he is described in the following way: uanna mušaklil usurāt šamê u erseti, “Uanna, who completed the plans of heaven and earth” (line 1).

We have already examined the content of this clause. The wisdom described here is all-encompassing; the first apkallu is included in the divine knowledge about both the structure of the cosmos and the fate of humans.

Finally compare this representation. Wings are missing. The horned headdress has two levels of horns, and is again surmounted with what appears to be a fleur-de-lis.  Like other examples, this figure holds what appear to be poppy bulbs, and raises his right hand in the greeting gesture.  Bracelets with rosettes are present, as are armlets on the upper arms.  The sacred tree before the figure varies from other depictions, as well.  It is not certain that this figure depicts an ummânū at all. It could portray a king. The lack of wings is clearly deliberate.  Bas-relief, Louvre, AO 19869

Finally compare this representation. Wings are missing. The horned headdress has two levels of horns, and is again surmounted with what appears to be a fleur-de-lis.
Like other examples, this figure holds what appear to be poppy bulbs, and raises his right hand in the greeting gesture.
Bracelets with rosettes are present, as are armlets on the upper arms.
The sacred tree before the figure varies from other depictions, as well.
It is not certain that this figure depicts an ummânū at all. It could portray a king. The lack of wings is clearly deliberate.
Bas-relief, Louvre, AO 19869

To some extent this concerns all the seven apkallus, but there is a difference; the seven apkallus together kept the plans of heaven and earth in order (lines 12-13). They were not as a group involved in creating them. We have an analogy here to the relationship between the first apkallu, Oannes, and the seventh apkallu, Odakon, in Berossos. Oannes revealed to humankind everything necessary to know; Odakon explained detail what Oannes had revealed (sic).

This all-encompassing knowledge is interesting compared to the knowledge of Adapa in the myth. According to the beginning of the myth in fragment A, Adapa’s knowledge is described in the following way: uzna rapašta ušāklilšu usurāt māti kullumu, “he made him perfect with broad understanding to reveal the plans of the land” (Nineveh fragment A obv. i. 3).

Both in Bīt Mēseri and in the myth the verb šuklulu and the noun usurtu are used. There is a difference between ersetu in Bīt Mēseri and mātu in the myth, “earth” and “land,” but this is not very significant here. What is significant is that knowledge about šamû, “heaven,” is lacking in Adapa’s initial wisdom.

He is broad in understanding, but his wisdom does not include the divine realm. This seems to be in opposition to what is said about Ea in fragment B: ea ša šamê īde, “Ea who knows heaven” (Amarna fragment B. obi. 14).

This exemplar of an Ummânū raises his right hand in the greeting gesture and holds what appear to be poppy bulbs in his left hand.  Rosette bracelets are apparent on his wrists, and he wears the horned tiara indicative of divinity.

This exemplar of an Ummânū raises his right hand in the greeting gesture and holds what appear to be poppy bulbs in his left hand.
Rosette bracelets are apparent on his wrists, and he wears the horned tiara indicative of divinity.

When Adapa arrives before Anu in heaven, Anu presupposes that Ea has revealed everything to Adapa, since Adapa had the power to paralyze the South Wind simply through his speech: ammīni d ea amīlūta lā banīta ša šamê u erseti ukillinši libra sabra iškunšu, “Why did Ea expose to a human what is bad in heaven and earth? Why did he establish a “fat heart” (in) him?”

(Fragment B rev. 57-58).

The expression, lā banīta ša šamê u erseti, “what is bad in heaven and earth,” clearly refers to Adapa’s wisdom.

Anu thinks that Ea has revealed to Adapa the same extensive wisdom about heaven and earth that Ea himself has, and Anu considers this bad, because it is dangerous for the cosmic order when humans possess it, which Adapa clearly has demonstrated.”

Helge Kvanvig, Primeval History: Babylonian, Biblical, and Enochic: An Intertextual Reading, Brill, 2011, p. 126.

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 content given in this survey. The Sumerian version is close to to the Akkadian Amarna tablet and the Nineveh tablets already known (we return to this issue below).

What is of interest in our context here is that in the Sumerian version of the Adapa Myth proper is preceded by an introduction of about 100 lines. In this fragmentary introduction there is a reference to the flood, and the central concern is the feeding of the gods and the organization of humankind from the end of Atrahasis; the Royal Chronicle of Lagash describes the reorganization of humankind after the flood.

Since the fragmentary beginning of the manuscript is not published, we can, however, not be certain at what stage the feeding of the gods and the organization of humankind took place.

We have seen in the Eridu Genesis that there seems to be a pairing of the situation of humankind at the very beginning when they lived without proper culture with their situation after the flood when they had to start from the beginning again.

Anyway, the Sumerian version of the Adapa Myth demonstrates that Berossos was not the first to include the myth about the great primeval apkallu, Adapa, in the primeval history. This was already done in the Old Babylonian period.

The god Ea at far left, wearing the horned headdress indicative of divinity, with water coursing from his shoulders. 

A fish-apkallū is in the iconic posture with right hand raised in blessing or exorcism, with the banduddu bucket in his left hand. 

The next apkallū wields an indistinct and as yet undefined angular object in his right hand, with the typical banduddu bucket in his left. 

The entity at far right, which appears to be wearing a horned tiara indicative of divinty, remains unidentified and undefined.

The god Ea at far left, wearing the horned headdress indicative of divinity, with water coursing from his shoulders. 

A fish-apkallū is in the iconic posture with right hand raised in blessing or exorcism, with the banduddu bucket in his left hand. 

The next apkallū wields an indistinct and as yet undefined angular object in his right hand, with the typical banduddu bucket in his left. 

The entity at far right, which appears to be wearing a horned tiara indicative of divinty, remains unidentified and undefined.

Berossos had nothing specific to say about the other five monsters / sages, except that their appearances were like Oannes. About the seventh sage, he has a special report:

“During his reign (Enmeduranki’s) there also appeared from the Red Sea (Persian Gulf) another man-fish being whose name was Odakon. Berossos says that this monster explained in detail what Oannes originally had said in summary fashion.”

(Eusebius, (Arm.) Chronicles p. 4, 8-6, 8 and Syncellus 71, 3).

This information is a bit confusing, because Oannes had already taught everything necessary to know. In some strange way, Odakon seems to be a double twin of Oannes.

Antediluvian apkallū portrayed as fish-men, such mixed-species creatures were the teachers of men, with Oannes and Odakon from Berossos the exemplars. These specific statuettes were buried in the foundations of the home of an exorcist, where they were positioned beneath doorways and against particular walls to exert a prophylactic effect, warding off evil.  The antediluvian type of apkallū, the so-called paradu fish, are often grouped in sevens.

Antediluvian apkallū portrayed as fish-men, such mixed-species creatures were the teachers of men, with Oannes and Odakon from Berossos the exemplars.
These specific statuettes were buried in the foundations of the home of an exorcist, where they were positioned beneath doorways and against particular walls to exert a prophylactic effect, warding off evil.
The antediluvian type of apkallū, the so-called paradu fish, are often grouped in sevens.

Berossos does not record sages or scholars after the flood, but there is one exception that is attested both by Josephus in Jewish Antiquities I, 158 and Eusebius in Praeperatio Evangelica 9.16.2. We quote from Josephus:

“Berossos records our father Abraham. He does not mention him by name but reports the following. After the flood, in the tenth generation, among the Chaldeans there was a man, great, just, and all-knowing about the heavens.”

Now, if we had not known the Uruk tablet, we would have deemed Josephus’ information as an unhistorical theological speculation. Of course, it would have been nice to find the father of Israel whose origin according to Genesis 11-12 is Chaldean, listed among the great sages of the past in a Babylonian document.

The Uruk tablet draws, however, on a tradition very similar to the one we can recognize in Berossos: listing kings and sages together, the sages in the same order, and seven before the flood.

Then the Uruk tablet lists ten new sages / scholars after the flood and makes the surprising remark that the tenth of these was known by the Arameans, in Aramaic language, in the West, as Ahiqar.

We are in the fortunate position to verify this; both a novel about and proverbs by Ahiqar were circulating in the West both prior to the Uruk tablet and prior to Berossos. We must assume that Berossos knew what the author of the Uruk tablet knew: there existed in the West traditions about this great, righteous, and knowledgable man.

It seems thus likely that Berossos placed this man in the tenth generation, as Josephus claims. That Berossos had Abraham in mind is of course not correct. However it could be that the author of the priestly document to Genesis in his computation of ten generations from the flood to Abraham had Babylonian traditions in mind. This needs further reflections to which we will return.”

Helge Kvanvig, Primeval History: Babylonian, Biblical, and Enochic: An Intertextual Reading, Brill, 2011, pp. 114-6.

Editorial Note on the Apkallu and the Roadmap Ahead

I am breaking the narrative stream to speak directly to the process emerging from our reading on the apkallū, the antediluvian and postdiluvian sages of ancient Mesopotamia.

If you are reading along over my shoulder, you noticed that we digressed from Martin Lang, “Mesopotamian Early History and the Flood Story,” in a post titled On the Date of the Flood.

Martin Lang wrote:

“Berossos’ own knowledge of primordial kings probably goes back to sources that were available in Hellenistic times. The Sumerian King List itself was still known in the Seleucid era, or rather versions of king lists that echo, structurally and stylistically, their ancient forerunners from the early second millennium.

In matching up the primordial kings with the seven sages, the apkallū, Berossos once again works in the vein of contemporary scholars, who demonstrably constructed lists with kings and apkallū in order to advertise their own importance, and the primordial roots of their knowledge, as Alan Lenzi has recently shown.”

I updated that post to include a link to Alan Lenzi, “The Uruk List of Kings and Sages and Late Mesopotamian Scholarship,” JANER 8.2, 2008, which is serialized and linked in posts below.

I also changed the link to the Sumerian King List to point to the beautiful 1939 edition by Thorkild Jacobsen generously published by the University of Chicago Press, available for free download off the web.

We then dipped into Anne Draffkorn Kilmer, “The Mesopotamian Counterparts of the Biblical Nephilim,” in Francis I. Andersen, et al, eds., Perspectives on Language and Text: Essays and Poems in Honor of Francis I. Andersen’s Sixtieth Birthday, 1985, in a post titled On the Apkallū.

This is where I drilled in hard on the apkallū, incorporating bas reliefs and figurines held at the Louvre and the British Museum. Out of numerous posts addressing the apkallū, this one is well-illustrated, and lushly hyperlinked.

Moreover, Anne Kilmer synthesized the supporting research on the apkallū at the time of writing very effectively, so if you are overwhelmed by the other articles, just read this one. It goes without saying that you should not be intimidated by this academic literature. I have made it as readable and accessible as I can.

Yes, there is a lot of it. As I excavate the academic literature on the apkallū the hard way, mining references from footnote after footnote, I get a sense of what it might be like, to be an academic Assyriologist rather than an autodidact.

I do not include everything that I find. I assess and include just those pieces which accrue gravitas in that greater academic community. If you see glaring omissions, please let me know. This note is shaping up to be an academic survey of the literature on the apkallū, and it may save others treading these same paths some time.

Fair warning: our continuing digression into the apkallu will be deep.

As I complete serialization of source texts, I will include links to the posts beneath their citation below. These sources are sorted by date, so we can track the evolution of academic thinking on the apkallū. Our digression includes excerpts from:

After we complete our deep dive into the apkallu, we will return to the Sumerian King List, then resume with Berossos. This is the roadmap ahead.

Editorial note: In some cases citations above which are not followed by links in the bulleted list are internet dry holes, no digital versions are available. In other cases, links are to Google Books editions, which often limit visible pages. Google’s intent is to sell electronic versions of the texts that they scan.

Under these circumstances, I end up rekeying entire articles, at ruinous waste of time. If you have a moment, please send a sweet nastygram to Google asking them to post free and complete eBooks as they continue their vast project to digitize the entirety of human knowledge.

In other cases, I simply have not yet reviewed the articles and posted them. If you are following this project, you see that I post updates nearly every day. Stay tuned.

My purpose in publishing Samizdat is to highlight excerpts from the great books, mining synchronicities from legends and myths. As I point out in the About page, the Deluge was an historical event for the ancient Sumerians.

I now need to update that page, incorporating the research that we have already completed on the Sumerian King List, setting up a future digression into the concept of the Great Year, which Berossos associated with traditions of a Conflagration and the Deluge.

If you wondered where we were going, I wrote this for you.

 Updated 20 November 2015, 23:39 hrs.

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