FLOOD STORIES FROM MESOPOTAMIA

FLOOD STORIES FROM MESOPOTAMIA


Noah and the Great Flood

Ira Spar of the Metropolitan Museum of Art wrote: “Stories about a great flood are found in the folklore of many cultures. The earliest written sources are inscribed in Sumerian on clay tablets and date to the late third millennium B.C. Mesopotamian versions of the flood story may have had their beginnings in the annual spring flooding of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Alternatively, some scholars believe that a change in the ancient sea level in the Persian Gulf may have given rise to stories about a deluge. [Source: Ira Spar, Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, April 2009, metmuseum.org \^/]

“Two other ancient Near Eastern flood stories from beyond the borders of Mesopotamia are known, the most famous being the version found in the book of Genesis. Another short but very fragmentary version describing only Atra-hasis, the flood itself, and the conclusion that the hero gains immortality was found at ancient Ugarit and dates to the fourteenth century B.C.\^/

“A much later version of the flood story was written in Greek by Berossos, a Babylonian priest of the god Bel. This tale, part of a larger work on Babylonian history, is lost, but sections of the flood story are quoted by the later Greek writers Eusebius and Polyhistor. According to this version of the tale, the hero Xisuthros (Ziusudra) has a dream in which the god Kronos warns him about the onslaught of an impending flood. Xisuthros digs a hole and buries all the written material from his city. Then he builds a boat "five stades long and two stades wide" and boards his wife, children, and closest friends. After the flood subsides, Xisuthros lets loose birds who return to the ship empty-handed. A few days later, he again frees birds and they return with their feet covered in mud. When he releases birds for a third time, they fail to return. The boat having landed in the mountains of Armenia, Xisuthros disembarks, offers a sacrifice to the gods, and disappears to dwell with the gods together with his wife and daughter. When the rest of his party leaves the boat, they hear a voice from afar instructing them to return to worship the gods, dig up the writings buried in Sippar, and establish Babylon.” \^/

Flood Stories: 1) Gilgamesh Prologue This is similar to the Atrahasis story. This adds the story of a Noah-like figure, Utnaphishtim, who survived the flood and became immortal. This is a Neo-Assyrian version. 2) Girgamesh Epic, Tablet I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII; 3) Flood Account From Nineveh 7th Century B.C.; 4) The Flood Narrative From the Gilgamesh Epic 11th tablet; 5) Another Flood Narrative From the Gilgamesh Epic Version 3, 11th tablet extra Nineveh?; 6) Sumerian Flood Narrative From the Gilgamesh Epic Version 4, 11th tablet

Books: Foster, Benjamin R. Before the Muses: An Anthology of Akkadian Literature. 3d ed.. Bethesda, Md.: CDL Press, 2005. Foster, Benjamin R., trans. and ed. The Epic of Gilgamesh. New York: Norton, 2001. Frymer-Kensky, Tikva "The Atrahasis Epic and Its Significance for Our Understanding of Genesis 189." Biblical Archaeologist 40 (1977), pp. 147–54.. n/a: n/a, n/a. George, Andrew, trans. The Epic of Gilgamesh: The Babylonian Epic Poem and Other Texts in Akkadian and Sumerian. London: Allen Lane, 1999. Kilmer, Anne D. "The Mesopotamian Concept of Overpopulation and Its Solution as Reflected in the Mythology." Orientalia 41 (1972), pp. 160–77.. n/a: n/a, n/a. Lambert, W. G., and Alan R. Millard. Atra-Hasis: The Babylonian Story of the Flood. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969.

Websites and Resources on Mesopotamia: Ancient History Encyclopedia ancient.eu.com/Mesopotamia ; Mesopotamia University of Chicago site mesopotamia.lib.uchicago.edu; British Museum mesopotamia.co.uk ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Mesopotamia sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Louvre louvre.fr/llv/oeuvres/detail_periode.jsp ; Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org/toah ; University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology penn.museum/sites/iraq ; Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago uchicago.edu/museum/highlights/meso ; Iraq Museum Database oi.uchicago.edu/OI/IRAQ/dbfiles/Iraqdatabasehome ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; ABZU etana.org/abzubib; Oriental Institute Virtual Museum oi.uchicago.edu/virtualtour ; Treasures from the Royal Tombs of Ur oi.uchicago.edu/museum-exhibits ; Ancient Near Eastern Art Metropolitan Museum of Art www.metmuseum.org

Archaeology News and Resources: Anthropology.net anthropology.net : serves the online community interested in anthropology and archaeology; archaeologica.org archaeologica.org is good source for archaeological news and information. Archaeology in Europe archeurope.com features educational resources, original material on many archaeological subjects and has information on archaeological events, study tours, field trips and archaeological courses, links to web sites and articles; Archaeology magazine archaeology.org has archaeology news and articles and is a publication of the Archaeological Institute of America; Archaeology News Network archaeologynewsnetwork is a non-profit, online open access, pro- community news website on archaeology; British Archaeology magazine british-archaeology-magazine is an excellent source published by the Council for British Archaeology; Current Archaeology magazine archaeology.co.uk is produced by the UK’s leading archaeology magazine; HeritageDaily heritagedaily.com is an online heritage and archaeology magazine, highlighting the latest news and new discoveries; Livescience livescience.com/ : general science website with plenty of archaeological content and news. Past Horizons : online magazine site covering archaeology and heritage news as well as news on other science fields; The Archaeology Channel archaeologychannel.org explores archaeology and cultural heritage through streaming media; Ancient History Encyclopedia ancient.eu : is put out by a non-profit organization and includes articles on pre-history; Best of History Websites besthistorysites.net is a good source for links to other sites; Essential Humanities essential-humanities.net: provides information on History and Art History, including sections Prehistory

Mesopotamian Flood Story


deluge

Floods were a constant concern for people living along the Tigris and Euphrates in Mesopotamia. One of the most famous Sumerian tablets contained a story about a great flood that destroyed Sumer that is virtually the same story as the Noah story in the Old Testament. It describes a man named Utnapishtim who is warned by the water god Enki to build a boat to save himself, his family, animals and artisans from a great flood.

One passage goes:
All the windstorms, exceedingly powerful attacked as one.
The deluge raged over the surface of the earth.
After, for seven days and seven nights.
The deluge had raged in the land.
And the huge boat had been tossed about on great waters.
Utu came forth, who sheds light on heaven and earth.
Ziusudra opened a window of the huge boat.
Ziusudra, the king.
Before Utu prostrated himself.

According to the Mesopotamia tale: "Swiftly it mounted up; the water reached the mountains." The Bible reads: "And the water prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and the all the high hills...were covered."

Smith made his discovery from a fragment of a tablet that contained details of the flood, a ship caught on a mountaintop and a bird sent out to search for dry land. It was the first conformation of a flood story in ancient Mesopotamia , complete with a Noah-like figure and an ark.

See Genesis Under the Jews and Christians Genesis for the Biblical Flood story.

Sumerian Flood Stories

Ira Spar of the Metropolitan Museum of Art wrote: “The Sumerian King List, a literary composition existing in several different versions, traces kingship from its origins to contemporary dynasties that ruled in southern Mesopotamia between the twenty-first and nineteenth centuries B.C. According to this composition, eight legendary rulers reigned for a combined total of 241,200 years, "then the flood swept over." Ubara-tutu, from the city of Shuruppak, noted as the last prediluvium monarch in the King List, is mentioned by other names in several later flood stories. [Source: Ira Spar, Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, April 2009, metmuseum.org \^/]

“In one of these tales, called the Sumerian Flood Story by modern scholars (the ancient name is not preserved) and dating to the Old Babylonian period but possibly composed in the third millennium B.C., the gods fashion the black-headed people (the Sumerians) and create animals which multiply all over the earth. Later, after they have chosen a human king, rites are performed and cities founded. When Ziudsudra ("Life of Distant Days") is king, he hears a message from a god saying that a flood will sweep over the land. The gods in their divine assembly have made an irrevocable order to destroy mankind. After a break in the text, the wind and gales blow and the flood sweeps over the land. The storm rages for seven days and seven nights while Ziusudra, "the seed of mankind," and animals ride it out in a sealed boat. Finally, the flood over, Ziusudra drills an opening in the boat and the sun enters. Once on firm ground, the animals disembark and the hero sacrifices oxen and sheep. The god Enlil then appears and treats Ziusudra kindly. He is given eternal life like a god and settles in the land of Dilmun, a place at the end of the earth where the sun rises.\^/

“Another Sumerian tale, "The Death of Bilgamesh" ("The Great Wild Bull Is Lying Down"), preserved in a copy dating to the Old Babylonian period, contains a section in which the gods review the life and career of the hero Bilgames (Gilgamesh in Akkadian). They describe how the hero fought the ogre Huwawa in the Cedar Forest and how he traveled to meet Ziusudra in his "abode" and learned about the deluge. The gods inform him that in spite of the fact that his mother was a goddess, he is mortal like all humans and will eventually take his place with the dead in the underworld. \^/


Galzu Enji warns Noah


Babylonian Flood Stories

Ira Spar of the Metropolitan Museum of Art wrote: “ [Source: Ira Spar, Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, April 2009, metmuseum.org \^/]

Students at the academies during the Old Babylonian period also recorded a Babylonian story about a hero named Atra-hasis that contains a flood narrative. The narrative begins with an account of the early history of humankind. When the gods create humans to ease their burden in forming the world, they mistakenly forget to limit men's and women's years on earth. Consequently, humans multiply to such an extent that the noise they create becomes overwhelming and the god Enlil, the head of the pantheon, cannot sleep. Enlil believes that the only way to control this surge in population is by a plague, but when the plague god is presented with offerings, he relents and the plague ends. Soon after, the human population begins to multiply anew. When Enlil's next attempt to limit humankind's growth by the introduction of famine fails, he orders a flood to destroy all peoples. Atra-hasis is warned by Enki, the god of wisdom, of the impending disaster. He is advised to build a boat and save both his kin and animals. The storm rages for seven days and nights. After it subsides, Atra-hasis emerges from the ark and prepares an offering for the gods. When Enlil becomes aware that his plan to destroy all living beings has failed, he asks, "How did man survive in the destruction?" Enki responds and accuses Enlil of overreacting to the population explosion: "Instead of bringing about a flood, lions and wolves should have appeared and diminished the people . . . Impose the penalty on the guilty. Impose the crime on the criminal. Henceforth let no flood be brought about, but let the people last forever." Enlil agrees and tells the flood hero that only he and his wife shall henceforth be granted eternal life. From now on, Enlil continues, human lifespan will be numbered and human population controlled though the creation of special classes of women who will bear no children. In addition, he decrees that some babies will be snatched from the laps of their mothers by pashittu-demons. \^/

“An expanded version of the flood story is found in the 11th Tablet of the Babylonian Gilgamesh epic. Here, the legendary Uta-napishtim, son of Ubara-tutu, relates a tale about the great deluge. Warned by the god Ea (Sumerian: Enki) that the great gods have decided to send down a flood to destroy humankind, Ea instructs Uta-napishtim to demolish his house, abandon wealth, build a boat, and seek safety. He is to take on board the boat the seed of all living things. The boat is to be six decks high and shaped like a cube. Uta-napishtim obeys his god; he loads the boat with all of his gold and silver and takes on board the beasts of the field and the creatures of the wild together with artisans and all of his family and kin. Soon the storm begins; for six days and seven nights, the wind blows and the deluge flattens the land, but on the seventh day the ocean grows calm and the boat runs aground on a mountain. Seven days later, Uta-napishtim lets loose a dove to find land, but the dove returns. Next he dispatches a swallow, but it too comes back. Finally, a raven is set free and never returns. Disembarking from the boat, Uta-napishtim makes an offering to the gods, but when the god Enlil smells the smoke and sees the boat, he is seized with fury. However, reprimanded by Ea for his lack of foresight and reason, Enlil relents and declares that Uta-napishtim and his wife shall become immortal and dwell far away at the source of the rivers.” \^/


Noah deluge by Michelangelo


Babylonian Ark

“Make thee an ark,” the Lord told Noah in the Book of Genesis, and forever after the ark has been pictured as an animal-filled boat with a conventional prow and stern. Now a recently translated Babylonian tablet, related to the Epic of Gilgamesh, floats an intriguing alternative in which the archetypal ark was round and made of pitch-covered reeds, much like a coracle, a craft still used today on the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers. [Source: CathyNewman, National Geographic, August 8,2010]

“The ark wasn’t going anywhere,” explains Irving Finkel, assistant keeper of cuneiform at the British Museum, who did the translation. “It simply had to bob along the surface until the waters went down.” The author of the 4,000-year-old clay tablet might have glanced out his window at the vessels on the river and adapted the detail to his story.

Flood myths appear in many cultures, and this one had circulated for eons before it was incorporated into the Bible. Finkel thinks the Babylonian version may have been a precursor to the familiar Hebraic one. While the shape of the ark may vary according to the teller, a basic narrative thread holds: Man was flawed. Revision was required. Best to wipe the slate clean and start again.

Eridu Genesis

The Eridu Genesis is a Sumerian text that covers the creation of the world, invention of cities and the flood. After the universe was created out of the chaos of the sea, the gods evolved and they in turn created mankind to farm, herd and worship them. Cities and kingship was created but the gods decided to destroy mankind with a flood. Ziusudra (Upnapishtim) from Eridu was instructed by Enki (Ea) to build a boat to survive the flood blown up by Enlil. After the flood he worshipped (prostrated) himself before An (Anu) and Enlil (Bel) and was given immortality for his godly life [Source: "The Harps That Once...: Sumerian Poetry in Translation" by Thorkild Jacobsen. Yale University Press, 1987, piney.com].

Thorkild Jacobsen wrote in The Treasures of Darkness: “"The 'Eridu Genesis'...described the creation of man by the four great gods [the Anunnaki]: An ['Sky', the source of rain and most powerful of the gods], Enlil ['Lord Wind', the power in 'Growing Weather', creator of the hoe], Ninhursaga ['Lady of the Stony Ground', mother of wildlife], and Enki [rival of Ninhursaga]. After Nintur [Ninhursaga] had decided to turn man from his primitive nomadic camping grounds toward city life the period began when animals flourished on earth and kingship came down from heaven.

“The earliest cities were built, were named, had the measuring cups, emblems of a redistributional economic system, allotted to them, and were divided between the gods. Irrigation agriculture was developed and man thrived and multiplied. However, the noise made by man in his teeming settlements began to vex Enlil sorely, and, driven beyond endurance, he persuaded the other gods to wipe out man in an great flood. Enki, thinking quickly, found a way to warn his favorite, one Ziusudra. He told him to build a boat in which to survive the flood with his family and representatives of the animals." -


Eridu tablet


Eridu Genesis: Creation of Humankind

Eridu Genesis: Nintur was paying attention:
Let me bethink myself of my humankind,
all forgotten as they are;
and mindful of mine,
Nintur's creatures let me bring them back
let me lead the people back from their trails.
[Source: "The Harps That Once...: Sumerian Poetry in Translation" by Thorkild Jacobsen. Yale University Press, 1987, piney.com]

May they come and build cities and cult places,
that I may cool myself in their shade;
may they lay the bricks for the cult cities in pure spots
and may they found places for divination in pure spots!

She gave directions for purification and cries for clemency,
the things that cool divine wrath,
perfected the divine service and the august offices,
said to the surrounding regions: "Let me institute peace there!"
When An, Enlil, Enki and Ninhursaga
fashioned the dark-headed people
they had made the small animals that come up from out of the earth,
come from the earth in abundance
and had let there be, as it befits it, gazelles
wild donkeys, and four-footed beasts in the desert.

...and let me have him advise;
let me have him oversee their labor,
and let him teach the nation to follow along
unerringly like cattle!

Eridu Genesis: Creation of Cities

When the royal scepter was coming down from heaven,
the august crown and the royal throne being already
down from heaven,
he (the king) regularly performed to perfection
the august divine services and offices,
laid the bricks of those cities in pure spots.
They were named by name and allotted half-bushel baskets.
[Source: "The Harps That Once...: Sumerian Poetry in Translation" by Thorkild Jacobsen. Yale University Press, 1987, piney.com]

The firstling of those cities, Eridu,
she gave to the leader Nudimmud,
the second, Bad-Tibira, she gave to the prince and the sacred one,
the third, Larak, she gave to Pabilsag,
the fourth, Sippar, she gave to the gallant Utu.
The fifth, Shuruppak, she gave to Ansud.

These cities, which had been named by names,
and had been allotted half-bushel baskets,
dredged the canals, which were blocked with purplish
wind-borne clay, and they carried water.
Their cleaning of the smaller canals
established abundant growth.


Eridu, the garden of Mesopotamia


Eridu Genesis: Sadness Over the Loss of Humankind

[Source: lost account of the antediluvian rulers, and how human noise vexed the chief god Enlil so much that he persuaded the divine assembly to vote the destruction of man by the deluge] ...
That day Nintur wept over her creatures
and holy Inanna was full of grief over their people;
but Enki took counsel with his own heart.
An, Enlil, Enki, and Ninhursaga
had the gods of heaven and earth swear
by the names of An and Enlil.
[Source: "The Harps That Once...: Sumerian Poetry in Translation" by Thorkild Jacobsen. Yale University Press, 1987, piney.com]

At that time, Ziusudra was king
and lustration priest.
He fashioned, being a seer, the god of giddiness
and stood in awe beside it, wording his wishes humbly.
As he stood there regularly day after day
something that was not a dream was appearing:
conversation
a swearing of oaths by heaven and earth,
a touching of throats
and the gods bringing their thwarts up to Kiur.

And as Ziusudra stood there beside it, he went on hearing:
Step up to the wall to my left and listen!
Let me speak a word to you at the wall
and may you grasp what I say,
may you heed my advice!
By our hand a flood will sweep over
the cities of the half-bushel baskets, and the country;
the decision, that mankind is to be destroyed
has been made.
A verdict, a command of the assembly cannot be revoked,
an order of An and Enlil is not known
ever to have been countermanded,
their kingship, their term, has been uprooted
they must bethink themselves of that.
Now...
What I have to say to you...


Eridu Temple


Eridu Genesis: Escaping the Flood with Pairs of Animals

The account of Enki's advice to build a boat and load it with pairs of living things, and Ziusudra's compliance is lost. Thorkild Jacobsen wrote in “The Treasures of Darkness": Ziusudra wisely followed Enki's instructions and after the flood had abated Enki was able to persuade the other gods not only to spare Ziusudra but to give him eternal life as a reward for having saved all living things from destruction."

Enki "persuades, tricks, or evades to gain his ends. He is the cleverest of the gods, the one who can plan and organize and think of ways out when no one else can. He is the counselor and adviser, the expert and the trouble-shooter, or manipulator, of the ruler; not the ruler himself. He organizes and runs the world, but at the behest of An and Enlil, not for himself; he save mankind and the animals from extinction in the flood, but does not challenge Anlil's continued rule. His aim is a workable compromise, avoiding extremes."

"Tear down the house, build a ship!
Give up possessions, seek thou life!
Forswear belongings, keep soul alive!
Aboard ship take thou the seed of all living things.
That ship thou shalt build;
Her dimensions shall be to measure."
[Source: "The Harps That Once...: Sumerian Poetry in Translation" by Thorkild Jacobsen. Yale University Press, 1987, piney.com]

All the evil winds, all stormy winds gathered into one
and with them, then, the flood was sweeping over the cities of
the half-bushel baskets
for seven days and seven nights.
After the flood had swept over the country,
after the evil wind had tossed the big boat
about on the great waters,
the sun came out spreading light
over heaven and earth.

Eridu Genesis: Ziusundra After the Great Flood

Ziusudra then drilled an opening in the big boat.
And the gallant Utu sent his light
into the interior of the big boat.
Ziusudra, being king,
stepped up before Utu kissing the ground
before him.
The king was butchering oxen,
was being lavish with the sheep
Barley cakes, crescents together with...
...he was crumbling for him
juniper, the pure plant of the
mountains, he filled on the fire
and with a ...clasped to
the breast he...
[Source: "The Harps That Once...: Sumerian Poetry in Translation" by Thorkild Jacobsen. Yale University Press, 1987, piney.com] [Source: lost account of Enlil's wrath at finding survivor's and his mollification by Enki]

You here have sworn
by the life's breath of heaven
the life's breath of earth
that he verily is allied with yourself;
you there, An and Enlil,
have sworn by the life's breath of heaven,
the life's breath of earth.
that he is allied with all of you.
He will disembark the small animals
that come up from the earth!

Ziusudra, being king,
stepped up before An and Enlil
kissing the ground.
And An and Enlil after honoring him
were granting him life like a god's,
were making lasting breath of life, like a god's,
descend into him.
That day they made Ziusudra,
preserver, as king, of the name of the small
animals and the seed of mankind,
live toward the east over the mountains
in mount Dilmun.

Gilgamesh Flood Story


Gilgamesh

In his quest to avoid the death that consumed Enkidu, Gilgamesh seeks out Utnapishtim to find the secret of his immortality. At first glance, Ut-napishtim seems no different than Gilgamesh:
“Gilgamesh spoke to him, to Ut-napishtim the far-distant,
'I look at you, Ut-napishtim
And your limbs are no different-you are just like me.
Indeed, you are not at all different-you are just like me.
I feel the urge to prove myself against you, to pick a fight
... you lie on your back.
... how you came to stand in the gods' assembly and sought eternal life?' [Source: S. Dalley, “Myths from Mesopotamia” (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), pp. 109-16, Internet Archive, from Creighton]

“Ut-napishtim spoke to him, to Gilgamesh,
'Let me reveal to you a closely guarded matter, Gilgamesh,
And let me tell you the secret of the gods.
Shuruppak is a city that you yourself know,
Situated on the bank of the Euphrates.
That city was already old when the gods within it
Decided that the great gods should make a flood.

“There was Anu their father,
Warrior Ellil their counsellor,
Ninurta was their chamberlain,
Ennugi their canal-controller.
Far-sighted Ea swore the oath of secrecy with them,
So he repeated their speech to a reed hut,
"Reed hut, reed hut, brick wall, brick wall,
Listen, reed hut, and pay attention, brick wall:
(This is the message:)

Gilgamesh Flood Story: Build a Boat

“Man of Shuruppak, son of Ubara-Tutu,
Dismantle your house, build a boat.
Leave possessions, search out living things.
Reject chattels and save lives!
Put aboard the seed of all living things, into the boat.
The boat that you are to build
Shall have her dimensions in proportion,
Her width and length shall be in harmony,
Roof her like the Apsu." [Source: S. Dalley, “Myths from Mesopotamia” (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), pp. 109-16, Internet Archive, from Creighton]


Noah's Ark

“I realized and spoke to my master Ea,
"I have paid attention to the words that you spoke in this way,
My master, and I shall act upon them.
But how can I explain myself to the city, the men and the elders?"
Ea made his voice heard and spoke,
He said to me, his servant,
"You shall speak to them thus:
'I think that Ellil has rejected me,
And so I cannot stay in your city,
And I cannot set foot on Ellil's land again.
I must go down to the Apsu and stay with my master Ea.
Then he will shower abundance upon you,
A wealth of fowl, a treasure of fish.
... prosperity, a harvest,
In the morning cakes/"darkness",
In the evening a rain of wheat/"heaviness" he will shower upon you.' "

“When the first light of dawn appeared
The country gathered about me.
The carpenter brought his axe,
The reed-worker brought his stone,
The young men ...
... oakum
Children carried the bitumen,
The poor fetched what was needed
On the fifth day I laid down her form.
One acre was her circumference, ten poles each the height of her walls,
Her top edge was likewise ten poles all round.
I laid down her structure, drew it out,
Gave her six decks,
Divided her into seven.
Her middle I divided into nine,
Drove the water pegs into her middle.
I saw to the paddles and put down what was needed:
Three sar of bitumen I poured into the kiln,
Three sar of pitch I poured into the inside.
Three sar of oil they fetched, the workmen who carried the baskets.
Not counting the sar of oil which the dust soaked up,
The boatman stowed away two more sar of oil.

“At the . . . I slaughtered oxen.
I sacrificed sheep every day.
I gave the workmen ale and beer to drink,
Oil and wine as if they were river water
They made a feast, like the New Year's Day festival.
When the sun rose I provided hand oil.
When the sun went down the boat was complete.
The launching was very difficult;
Launching rollers had to be fetched from above to below.
Two-thirds of it stood clear of the water line
Iloaded her with everything there was,
Loaded her with all the silver,
Loaded her with all the gold
Loaded her with all the seed of living things, all of them.
I put on board the boat all my kith and kin.
Put on board cattle from open country, wild beasts from open country, all kinds of craftsmen.

Gilgamesh Flood Story: The Great Storm


tablet with the Babylonian flood myth

“Shamash had fixed the hour:
"In the morning cakes/"darkness",
In the evening a rain of wheat/"heaviness"
I shall shower down:
Enter into the boat and shut your door!"
That hour arrived;
In the morning cakes/"darkness", in the evening a rain of wheat/"heaviness" showered down.
I saw the shape of the storm,
The storm was terrifying to see.
I went aboard the boat and closed the door.
To seal the boat I handed over the (floating) palace with her cargo to Puzur-Amurru the boatman. [Source: S. Dalley, “Myths from Mesopotamia” (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), pp. 109-16, Internet Archive, from Creighton]

“When the first light of dawn appeared,
A black cloud came up from the base of the sky.
Adad kept rumbling inside it.
Shullat and Hanish were marching ahead,
Marched as chamberlains over mountain and country.
Erakal pulled out the mooring poles,
Ninurta marched on and made the weir(s) overflow.
The Anunnaki had to carry torches,
They lit up the land with their brightness.
The calm before the Storm-god came over the sky,
Everything light turned to darkness.
. . . . . .

On the first day the tempest rose up,
Blew swiftly and brought the flood-weapon,
Like a battle force the destructive kashushu-weapon passed over the people
No man could see his fellow,
Nor could people be distinguished from the sky.
Even the gods were afraid of the flood-weapon.
They withdrew; they went up to the heaven of Anu.
The gods cowered, like dogs crouched by an outside wall.
Ishtar screamed like a woman giving birth;
The Mistress of the Gods, sweet of voice, was wailing,
"Has that time really returned to clay,

“Because I spoke evil in the gods' assembly?
How could I have spoken such evil in the gods' assembly?
I should have ordered a battle to destroy my people;
I myself gave birth to them, they are my own people,
Yet they fill the sea like fish spawn!"
The-gods of the Anunnaki were weeping with her.
The gods, humbled, sat there weeping.
Their lips were closed and covered with scab.
For six days and seven nights
The wind blew, flood and tempest overwhelmed the land;
When the seventh day arrived the tempest, flood and onslaught
Which had struggled like a woman in labour, blew themselves out.

Sea Became Calm


“The sea became calm, the imhullu-wind grew quiet, the flood held back.
Ilooked at the weather; silence reigned,
For all mankind had returned to clay.
The flood-plain was flat as a roof.
I opened a porthole and light fell on my cheeks.
I bent down, then sat. I wept.
My tears ran down my cheeks.
I looked for banks, for limits to the sea. [Source: S. Dalley, “Myths from Mesopotamia” (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), pp. 109-16, Internet Archive, from Creighton]


Flood Tablet of the Epic of Gilgamesh

“Areas of land were emerging everywhere
The boat had come to rest on Mount Nimush.
The mountain Nimush held the boat fast and did not let it budge.
The first and second day the mountain Nimush held the boat fast and did not let it budge.
The third and fourth day the mountain Nimush held the boat fast and did not let it budge.
The fifth and sixth day the mountain Nimush held the boat fast and did not let it budge.
When the seventh day arrived,
I put out and released a dove.
The dove went; it came back,
For no perching place was visible to it, and it turned round.
I put out and released a swallow.
The swallow went; it came back,
For no perching place was visible to it, and it turned round.
I put out and released a raven.

“The raven went, and saw the waters receding.
And it ate, preened , lifted its tail and did not turn round.
Then I put everything out to the four winds, and I made a sacrifice,
Set out a surqinnu-offering upon the mountain peak,
Arranged the jars seven and seven;
Into the bottom of them I poured essences of reeds, pine, and myrtle.
The gods smelt the fragrance,
The gods smelt the pleasant fragrance,
The gods like flies gathered over the sacrifice.

Ut-napishtim Becomes a God

As soon as the Mistress of the Gods arrived
She raised the great flies which Anu had made to please her:
"Behold, O gods, I shall never forget the significance of my lapis lazuli necklace,
I shall remember these times, and I shall never forget.
Let other gods come to the surqinnu-offering
But let Ellil not come to the surqinnu-offering,
Because he did not consult before imposing the flood,
And consigned my people to destruction!" [Source: S. Dalley, “Myths from Mesopotamia” (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), pp. 109-16, Internet Archive, from Creighton]

“As soon as Ellil arrived
He saw the boat. Ellil was furious,
Filled with anger at the Igigi gods.
"What sort of life survived? No man should have
lived through the destruction!"
Ninurta made his voice heard and spoke,
He said to the warrior Ellil,
"Who other than Ea would have done such a thing?
For Ea can do everything!"
Ea made his voice heard and spoke,
He said to the warrior Ellil,
"You are the sage of the gods, warrior,
So how, O how, could you fail to consult, and impose the flood?

“Punish the sinner for his sin, punish the criminal for his crime,
But ease off, let work not cease; be patient, let not . . .
Instead of your imposing a flood, let a lion come up and diminish the people.
Instead of your imposing a flood, let a wolf come up and diminish the people.
Instead of your imposing a flood, let famine be imposed and lessen the land.
Instead of your imposing a flood, let Erra rise up and savage the people.
I did not disclose the secret of the great gods,
I just showed Atrahasis a dream, and thus he heard the secret of the gods."
Now the advice that prevailed was his advice.
Ellil came up into the boat,
And seized my hand and led me up.
He led up my woman and made her kneel down at my side.
He touched our foreheads, stood between us, blessed us:
"Until now Ut-napishtim was mortal,
But henceforth Ut-napishtim and his woman shall be as we gods are.
Ut-napishtim shall dwell far off at the mouth of the rivers."
They took me and made me dwell far off, at the mouth of the rivers.
So now, who can gather the gods on your behalf, Gilgamesh,
That you too may find eternal life which you seek?

Flood Account From Nineveh 7th Century B.C.


Flood Tablet of the Epic of Gilgamesh

Flood Account From Nineveh 7th Century B.C. is similar to the Gilgamesh flood story:
The great gods in their holy dwelling Drank;
they were not satisfied;
For the proper feeding of their holy flock
Kingship in security they established. [Source: George A. Barton, “Archaeology and the Bible”,” 7th Edition revised, (Philadelphia: American Sunday School, 1937), pg. 327-331, [Source: piney.com]

Gilgamesh said to him, to Utnapishtim, the far-away:
"I look upon thee, O Utnapishtim,
Thy appearance is unchanged; thou are like me;
Thou are not at all different, thou art like me;
Thy courage is unbroken, to make combat,
On thy side thou liest down 00 on thy back.
[Tell me] how didst thou thou advance and in the assembly of the gods find life?"
Utnapishtim spoke to him, to Gilgamesh:
I will reveal to thee, O Gilgamesh, the secret story,
And the decision of the gods to thee will I relate.

Shurippak, a city which thou knowest,
Is situated on the bank of the Euphrates.
That city was old and the gods in it--
Their hearts prompted them--the great gods--to make a deluge.
[There are near] their father An,
Their counsillor, the warrior Ellil,
Their herald, Enmashtu,
Their hero, Ennugi.
The lord of wisdom, Ea, counseled with them;
Their words he repeated to the reed-hut:
"O reed-hut, reed-hut, O wall, wall,
O reed-hut, hearken; O wall, give heed!
O man of Shurippak, son of Ubarattutu,

Nineveh Flood Account: Build a Ship

Pull down thy house, build a ship,
Leave thy possessions, take thought for thy life,
Leave thy gods, thy life save!
Embark seed of life and all kinds on a ship!
The ship which thou shalt build,
Measure well its dimensions,
Make to correspond its breath and its length;
Upon the ocean thou shalt launch it."
I understood and spoke to Ea, my lord:
"[I understand], my lord; what thou hast thus commanded
I will honor and will do.
[But] what shall I say to the city, the people, and the elders?"

Ea opened his mouth and spake,
He said unto me, his servant;
"Thus shalt thou say unto them:
Know that me -- Ellil hates me.
I may not dwell in your city,
On Ellil's soil I may not lift my face,
I must go down to the ocean with Ea, my lord, to dwell.
Upon you will he (Ellil) then rain abundance--
[A catch] of birds, a catch of fishes,
..........a rich harvest.
[A time Shamash (the sun) appointed, at evening] the senders of rain
[Shall rain upon] you a mighty rainstorm.
When the grey of dawn brightens, [eight broken lines]

The strong....brought what was needed.
On the fifth day I raised its frame.
According to its plan its walls were 120 cubits high;
120 cubits correspondingly was the extent of its roof.
I laid down its hull; I enclosed it.
I constructed it in storys, up to six;
I divided it [without ] into seven parts.
Its interior I divided into nine parts.
.....I fastened in its midst.
I looked out a rudder, and prepared what was necessary.
6 sars of bitumen I poured over its outside ;
3 sars of bitumen I poured over its interior.
3 sars of oil the people who carry jars brought.
Besides a sar of oil which was used as a libation,
2 sars of oil the ship's captain stowed away.

For the people I slaughtered bullocks.
I slaughtered lambs daily.
Must, beer, oil, and wine,
I gave the people to drink like river-water.
I made a feast, like a new year's festival.
I opened [a box of ointment]; I put ointment in my hand.
[By the setting] of great Shamash, the ship was finished.
[To move it from the stocks] was difficult
The men cleared the ship's ways above and below.
...........two thirds of it.
With all that I had I laded it (the ship).
With all the silver I had I laded it.
With all the gold I had I laded it.
With all the living things I had I laded it.

Nineveh Flood Account: the Great Storm


George Smith, discoverer of the Babylonian Flood Story tablet

I embarked on the ship all my family and kindred
Cattle of the fields, beasts of the field, craftsmen, all, I embarked.
A fixed time Shamash had appointed, [saying]:
"When the senders of rain shall rain upon you a mighty rainstorm at evening,
Embark upon the ship and close the door."
The appointed time approached,
The senders of rain sent at evening a heavy rainstorm.
I observed the appearance of the day,
The day was terrible to look upon.

I embarked upon the ship, I closed my door.
To the master of the ship, to Puzur-Amurru, the sailor,
I entrusted the structure together with its contents.
When dew-dawn began to brighten,
There arose from the horizon a black cloud;
The god Adad thundered in its midst,
While Nebo and Sharru marched before;
They went as heralds over the mountain and country.
Nergal tore away the anchor,
Enmashtu advanced, the floods he poured down;
The Anunnaki raised their torches,
At their brightness the land trembled.
The raging of Adad reached to heaven;
All light was turned to darkness
......the land like....

One day [raged the storm )?)]
Swiftly it raged [and the waters covered[ the mountains,
Like a battle array over the people it swept.
No one could see his fellow/
No more were people recognized in heaven;
The gods were frightened at the deluge,
They fled, they climbed to the highest heaven;
The gods crouched like dogs, they lay down by the walls.
Ishtar cried like a woman in travail,
Wailed the queen of the gods with her beautiful voice:
"Those creatures are turned to clay,

Since I commanded evil in the assembly of the gods;
Because I commanded evil in the assembly of the gods,
For the destruction of my people I commanded battle.
I alone bore my people;
like spawn of flies they fill the sea."
The gods along with the Annunaki wept with her,
The gods bowed, sat as they wept;
Closed were their lips; [silent their] assembly.
Six days and seven nights
Blew the wind, the deluge the flood overpowered.

Nineveh Flood Account: the Sea Calmed

When the seventh day approached, the deluge was prolonging the battle
Which, like an army, it had waged.
The sea calmed, the destruction abated, the flood ceased.
I looked upon the sea, the roaring was stilled
And all mankind was turned to clay;
Like logs all were floating about.
I opened the window, the light fell on my cheek;
I was overcome, I sat down, I wept;
Over my cheek streamed the tears.
I looked in all directions--a fearful sea!

After twelve days an island appeared;
Toward mount Nizir the ship stood off;
Mount Nizir held it fast, that it moved not.
One day, two days, Mount Nizier held it that it moved not,
Three days, four days, mount Nizir held it that it moved not,
Five days, six days, mount Nizir held it that it moved not,
When the seventh day approached,
I brought out a dove and let her go;
The dove went out and returned;
There was no resting-place and she came back.
I brought out a swallow and let it go;

The swallow went out and returned.
There was o resting place and it came back.
I brought out a raven and let it go;
The raven went out, the diminution of the waters it saw;
It alighted, it waded about, it croaked, it did not come back.
I disembarked [all]; to the four winds I poured a libation.
I appointed a sacrifice on top of the mountain peak'
Seven by seven I arranged the sacrificial vessels;
Beneath them I piled reeds, cedar wood, and myrtle.

Nineveh Flood Account: Gods Debate the Deluge

The gods smelled the savor,
The gods smelled the sweet savor.
The gods above the sacrificer collected like flies.
When at length the queen of the gods drew near,
She raised the great bows(") which An at her wish had made.
"O ye gods, as I shall not forget the jewel of my neck
These days I shall not forget--to eternity I shall remember!
Let the gods come to the sacrifice,

But let Ellil not come to the sacrifice,
For he was not wise; he sent the deluge,
And numbered my people for destruction."
When at last Ellil drew near,
He saw the ship, Ellil was angry,
His heart was filled against the gods and the Igigi (spirits of heaven)
"Who then has come out alive?
No man must escape from destruction."

Then Enmashtu opened his mouth and spake,
He said to the warrior Ellil;
"Who but Ea accomplished the thing?
Even Ea knows every undertaking."
Ea opened his mouth and spake,
He said to the warrior Ellil:
"O thou, aleader of the gods, warrior,
How, how couldst thou without thought send a deluge?
On the sinner let his sin rest,
On the wrongdoer rest his misdeed.

Forbear, let it not be done, have mercy, [That men perish not].
Instead of thy sending a deluge
Had the lion come and diminished the people!
Instead of thy sending a deluge
Had a wolf come and diminished the people!
Instead of sending a deluge
Had a famine come and the land [depopulated!]
Instead of sending a deluge
Had a pestilence come and the land [depopulated!}
I have not divulged the decisions of the great gods.
I caused Adrakhasis to see a dream and the decisions of the gods be heard.
Now take counsel concerning him."

Then went Ea on board the ship,
He took my hand and brought me forth,
He brought forth my wife and made her kneel at my side;
He turned us toward each other and stood between us; he blessed us:
"In former times Utnapishtim was a man;
Now let Utnapishtim and his wife be like gods-- even like us;
Let Utnapishtim dwell afar off at the mouth of the rivers!"
He took me and caused me to dwell afar off at the mouth of the rivers.

After the Flood: Rulers of Lagash

The Lagash story describes mythical rulers of Mesopotamia after the Great Flood. It goes: “After the flood had swept over and brought about the destruction of the countries; when mankind was made to endure, and the seed of mankind was preserved and the black-headed people all rose; when An and Enlil called the name of mankind and established rulership, but kingship and the crown of the city had not yet come out from heaven, and Nin-jirsu had not yet established for the multitude of well-guarded people the pickaxe, the spade, the earth basket and the plough, which mean life for the Land -- in those days, the carefree youth of man lasted for 100 years and, following his upbringing, he lasted for another 100 years. [Source: J.A. Black, G. Cunningham, E. Robson, and G. Zlyomi 1998, 1999, 2000, Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature, Oxford University, piney.com]

“However, he did not do any work. He became smaller and smaller, ......; his sheep died in the sheepfold. In those days, because the water of Lagac was held back, there was famine in Jirsu . Canals were not dug, the levees and ditches were not cleaned. The large arable tracts were not ......, there was no water to irrigate abundantly all the cultivated fields: the people relied on rain; Acnan did not make dappled barley grow, furrows were not yet opened, they bore no yield; the high plain was not tilled, it bore no yield.

“None of the countries with numerous people libated emmer beer, liquor, ......, sweet liquor or ...... for the gods. They did not till large fields for them with the plough. [10 lines missing] In order to dig canals, to clean the levees and ditches, to ...... the large arable tracts, to ...... all the cultivated fields, he established for the people the pickaxe, the spade, the earth basket, and the plough, which mean life for the Land. Then he turned his attention to making barley sprout. He made the people stand before the maiden, and they raised their heads day and night, at the appointed times. Before Acnan who makes the seeds grow, they prostrated themselves and she made them grow . Before Acnan who makes the dappled barley grow, they ...... [33 lines missing or uncertain] ...... acted for ...... years. ...... dug the canal ......, he acted for 2760 years.

En-akigalaguba : his personal god was ......, he dug the canal Nijin-jic-tukuam , he acted for 1200 years. In those days there was no writing, ......, canals were not dug, earth baskets were not carried. In those days, ......, the people ...... offerings of refined gold [2 lines uncertain] a good shepherd rose over the Land; he gave them ...... as a gift. En- Ninjirsu -ki-aj , the son of En-akigalaguba : he acted for 1320 years. En- Enlile -ki-aj , the son of En- Ninjirsu -ki-aj : he acted for 1800 years. Ur- Bau the son of En- Enlile -ki-aj : he acted for 900 years. A-gal : his personal god was Ig-alim , he acted for 660 years. Kue , the son of A-gal : he acted for 1200 years. Ama-alim , son of Kue : ......, he acted for 600 years. [12 lines unclear or missing the lines list further rulers with unrecoverable names and length of rule, 2 lines missing]

“he dug the Mah canal, the ...... canal, the Pirijgin-jen canal, the ...... canal, the Pirij canal at the mouth of the Lugal canal, the Gana-hili-ana canal, the ...... canal, and the Nance -pada canal. To care, single-handedly, for the great arable lands, he dug irrigation ditches and ......, he acted for 2220 years. Ur- Nance , the son of ......, who built the E-Sirara , her temple of happiness and Nijin , her beloved city, acted for 1080 years. Ane -tum , the son of Ur- Nance , in whose ...... place the gods stood, who ...... the land register of great Enlil : his personal god was Cul-utul , he acted for 690 years. ......, the son of Ane -tum : he acted for X+360 years.

En-entar-zid : his god was Mes-an-du , of the seed of ancient days, who had grown together with the city, he acted for 990 years. ......, the son of En-entar-zid : he dug the canal Urmah-banda , and the canal Tabta-kug-jal , his personal god was Mes-an-du ; his master Nin-jirsu commanded him to build his temple; he acted for 960 years. En- Enlile -su : he acted for 600 years. ......, the son of En- Enlile -su : his personal god was Ninazu ; he acted for 660 years....: he acted for 1110 years.

Puzur- Ninlil : he acted for X x 60 + 1 years. En- Mes-an-du , the son of Puzur- Ninlil : his personal god was ......, he acted for 120 years. Dadu , the son of En- Mes-an-du : he acted for 160 years. Tuggur , the son of Dadu : he acted for 160 years.... he acted for 120 years. Puzur- Mama , the scribe of Ninki : his personal god was Zazaru ; he acted for ...... years. Lamku-nijgena , the administrator of Puzur- Mama , who built the wall of Jirsu , his ......, and the Tirac palace in Lagac : he acted for 280 years. Henjal , the son of Lamku-nijgena : his god was Pabilsaj , he acted for 140 years. ......, the son of Henjal : he acted for 144 years. Ur- Ninmarki , the scribe and scholar: ......, his personal gods were Haya and Nisaba , he acted for X + 20 years. Ur- Ninjirsu , the son of Ur- Ninmarki : he acted for X x 60 years. Ur- Bau , the scribe of Ur- Ninjirsu , who ...... in the assembly: he acted for X + 30 years. Gudea , the younger brother of Ur- Bau , ......, who was not the son of his mother nor the son of his father: he acted for ...... years. Written in the school. Nisaba be praised!”

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Mesopotamia sourcebooks.fordham.edu , National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, especially Merle Severy, National Geographic, May 1991 and Marion Steinmann, Smithsonian, December 1988, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, BBC, Encyclopædia Britannica, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, World Religions edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); History of Warfare by John Keegan (Vintage Books); History of Art by H.W. Janson Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018


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