Legends of Babylonia and Egypt

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Legends of Babylonia and Egypt

By Leonard W. King

Lecture II


In the first lecture we saw how, both in Babylonia and Egypt, recent
discoveries had thrown light upon periods regarded as prehistoric, and
how we had lately recovered traditions concerning very early rulers
both in the Nile Valley and along the lower Euphrates. On the strength
of the latter discovery we noted the possibility that future
excavation in Babylonia would lay bare stages of primitive culture
similar to those we have already recovered in Egyptian soil. Meanwhile
the documents from Nippur had shown us what the early Sumerians
themselves believed about their own origin, and we traced in their
tradition the gradual blending of history with legend and myth. We saw
that the new Dynastic List took us back in the legendary sequence at
least to the beginning of the Post-diluvian period. Now one of the
newly published literary texts fills in the gap beyond, for it gives
us a Sumerian account of the history of the world from the Creation to
the Deluge, at about which point, as we saw, the extant portions of
the Dynastic List take up the story. I propose to devote my lecture
to-day to this early version of the Flood and to the effect of its
discovery upon some current theories.

The Babylonian account of the Deluge, which was discovered by George
Smith in 1872 on tablets from the Royal Library at Nineveh, is, as you
know, embedded in a long epic of twelve Books recounting the
adventures of the Old Babylonian hero Gilgamesh. Towards the end of
this composite tale, Gilgamesh, desiring immortality, crosses the
Waters of Death in order to beg the secret from his ancestor
Ut-napishtim, who in the past had escaped the Deluge and had been
granted immortality by the gods. The Eleventh Tablet, or Book, of the
epic contains the account of the Deluge which Ut-napishtim related to
his kinsman Gilgamesh. The close correspondence of this Babylonian
story with that contained in Genesis is recognized by every one and
need not detain us. You will remember that in some passages the
accounts tally even in minute details, such, for example, as the
device of sending out birds to test the abatement of the waters. It is
true that in the Babylonian version a dove, a swallow, and a raven are
sent forth in that order, instead of a raven and the dove three times.
But such slight discrepancies only emphasize the general resemblance
of the narratives.

In any comparison it is usually admitted that two accounts have been
combined in the Hebrew narrative. I should like to point out that this
assumption may be made by any one, whatever his views may be with
regard to the textual problems of the Hebrew Bible and the traditional
authorship of the Pentateuch. And for our purpose at the moment it is
immaterial whether we identify the compiler of these Hebrew narratives
with Moses himself, or with some later Jewish historian whose name has
not come down to us. Whoever he was, he has scrupulously preserved his
two texts and, even when they differ, he has given each as he found
it. Thanks to this fact, any one by a careful examination of the
narrative can disentangle the two versions for himself. He will find
each gives a consistent story. One of them appears to be simpler and
more primitive than the other, and I will refer to them as the earlier
and the later Hebrew Versions.[1] The Babylonian text in the Epic of
Gilgamesh contains several peculiarities of each of the Hebrew
versions, though the points of resemblance are more detailed in the
earlier of the two.

[1] In the combined account in Gen. vi. 5-ix. 17, if the following
    passages be marked in the margin or underlined, and then read
    consecutively, it will be seen that they give a consistent and
    almost complete account of the Deluge: Gen. vi. 9-22; vii. 6, 11,
    13-16 (down to "as God commanded him"), 17 (to "upon the earth"),
    18-21, 24; viii. 1, 2 (to "were stopped"), 3 (from "and after")-5,
    13 (to "from off the earth"), 14-19; and ix. 1-17. The marked
    passages represent the "later Hebrew Version." If the remaining
    passages be then read consecutively, they will be seen to give a
    different version of the same events, though not so completely
    preserved as the other; these passages substantially represent the
    "earlier Hebrew Version". In commentaries on the Hebrew text they
    are, of course, usually referred to under the convenient symbols J
    and P, representing respectively the earlier and the later
    versions. For further details, see any of the modern commentaries
    on Genesis, e.g. Driver, /Book of Genesis/, pp. 85 ff.; Skinner,
    /Genesis/, pp. 147 ff.; Ryle, /Genesis/, p. 96 f.

Now the tablets from the Royal Library at Nineveh inscribed with the
Gilgamesh Epic do not date from an earlier period than the seventh
century B.C. But archaeological evidence has long shown that the
traditions themselves were current during all periods of Babylonian
history; for Gilgamesh and his half-human friend Enkidu were favourite
subjects for the seal-engraver, whether he lived in Sumerian times or
under the Achaemenian kings of Persia. We have also, for some years
now, possessed two early fragments of the Deluge narrative, proving
that the story was known to the Semitic inhabitants of the country at
the time of Hammurabi's dynasty.[1] Our newly discovered text from
Nippur was also written at about that period, probably before 2100
B.C. But the composition itself, apart from the tablet on which it is
inscribed, must go back very much earlier than that. For instead of
being composed in Semitic Babylonian, the text is in Sumerian, the
language of the earliest known inhabitants of Babylonia, whom the
Semites eventually displaced. This people, it is now recognized, were
the originators of the Babylonian civilization, and we saw in the
first lecture that, according to their own traditions, they had
occupied that country since the dawn of history.

[1] The earlier of the two fragments is dated in the eleventh year of
    Ammizaduga, the tenth king of Hammurabi's dynasty, i.e. in 1967
    B.C.; it was published by Scheil, /Recueil de travaux/, Vol. XX,
    pp. 55 ff. Here the Deluge story does not form part of the
    Gilgamesh Epic, but is recounted in the second tablet of a
    different work; its hero bears the name Atrakhasis, as in the
    variant version of the Deluge from the Nineveh library. The other
    and smaller fragment, which must be dated by its script, was
    published by Hilprecht (/Babylonian Expedition/, series D, Vol. V,
    Fasc. 1, pp. 33 ff.), who assigned it to about the same period;
    but it is probably of a considerably later date. The most
    convenient translations of the legends that were known before the
    publication of the Nippur texts are those given by Rogers,
    /Cuneiform Parallels to the Old Testament/ (Oxford, 1912), and
    Dhorme, /Choix de textes religieux Assyro-Babyloniens/ (Paris,

The Semites as a ruling race came later, though the occurrence of
Semitic names in the Sumerian Dynastic List suggests very early
infiltration from Arabia. After a long struggle the immigrants
succeeded in dominating the settled race; and in the process they in
turn became civilized. They learnt and adopted the cuneiform writing,
they took over the Sumerian literature. Towards the close of the third
millennium, when our tablet was written, the Sumerians as a race had
almost ceased to exist. They had been absorbed in the Semitic
population and their language was no longer the general language of
the country. But their ancient literature and sacred texts were
carefully preserved and continued to be studied by the Semitic priests
and scribes. So the fact that the tablet is written in the old
Sumerian tongue proves that the story it tells had come down from a
very much earlier period. This inference is not affected by certain
small differences in idiom which its language presents when compared
with that of Sumerian building-inscriptions. Such would naturally
occur in the course of transmission, especially in a text which, as we
shall see, had been employed for a practical purpose after being
subjected to a process of reduction to suit it to its new setting.

When we turn to the text itself, it will be obvious that the story
also is very primitive. But before doing so we will inquire whether
this very early version is likely to cast any light on the origin of
Deluge stories such as are often met with in other parts of the world.
Our inquiry will have an interest apart from the question itself, as
it will illustrate the views of two divergent schools among students
of primitive literature and tradition. According to one of these
views, in its most extreme form, the tales which early or primitive
man tells about his gods and the origin of the world he sees around
him are never to be regarded as simple stories, but are to be
consistently interpreted as symbolizing natural phenomena. It is, of
course, quite certain that, both in Egypt and Babylonia, mythology in
later periods received a strong astrological colouring; and it is
equally clear that some legends derive their origin from nature myths.
But the theory in the hands of its more enthusiastic adherents goes
further than that. For them a complete absence of astrological
colouring is no deterrent from an astrological interpretation; and,
where such colouring does occur, the possibility of later
embellishment is discounted, and it is treated without further proof
as the base on which the original story rests. One such interpretation
of the Deluge narrative in Babylonia, particularly favoured by recent
German writers, would regard it as reflecting the passage of the Sun
through a portion of the ecliptic. It is assumed that the primitive
Babylonians were aware that in the course of ages the spring equinox
must traverse the southern or watery region of the zodiac. This, on
their system, signified a submergence of the whole universe in water,
and the Deluge myth would symbolize the safe passage of the vernal
Sun-god through that part of the ecliptic. But we need not spend time
over that view, as its underlying conception is undoubtedly quite a
late development of Babylonian astrology.

More attractive is the simpler astrological theory that the voyage of
any Deluge hero in his boat or ark represents the daily journey of the
Sun-god across the heavenly ocean, a conception which is so often
represented in Egyptian sculpture and painting. It used to be assumed
by holders of the theory that this idea of the Sun as "the god in the
boat" was common among primitive races, and that that would account
for the widespread occurrence of Deluge-stories among scattered races
of the world. But this view has recently undergone some modification
in accordance with the general trend of other lines of research. In
recent years there has been an increased readiness among
archaeologists to recognize evidence of contact between the great
civilizations of antiquity. This has been particularly the case in the
area of the Eastern Mediterranean; but the possibility has also been
mooted of the early use of land-routes running from the Near East to
Central and Southern Asia. The discovery in Chinese Turkestan, to the
east of the Caspian, of a prehistoric culture resembling that of Elam
has now been followed by the finding of similar remains by Sir Aurel
Stein in the course of the journey from which he has lately
returned.[1] They were discovered in an old basin of the Helmand River
in Persian Seistan, where they had been laid bare by wind-erosion. But
more interesting still, and an incentive to further exploration in
that region, is another of his discoveries last year, also made near
the Afghan border. At two sites in the Helmand Delta, well above the
level of inundation, he came across fragments of pottery inscribed in
early Aramaic characters,[2] though, for obvious reasons, he has left
them with all his other collections in India. This unexpected find, by
the way, suggests for our problem possibilities of wide transmission
in comparatively early times.

[1] See his "Expedition in Central Asia", in /The Geographical
    Journal/, Vol. XLVII (Jan.-June, 1916), pp. 358 ff.

[2] Op. cit., p. 363.

The synthetic tendency among archaeologists has been reflected in
anthropological research, which has begun to question the separate and
independent origin, not only of the more useful arts and crafts, but
also of many primitive customs and beliefs. It is suggested that too
much stress has been laid on environment; and, though it is readily
admitted that similar needs and experiences may in some cases have
given rise to similar expedients and explanations, it is urged that
man is an imitative animal and that inventive genius is far from
common.[1] Consequently the wide dispersion of many beliefs and
practices, which used generally to be explained as due to the similar
and independent working of the human mind under like conditions, is
now often provisionally registered as evidence of migratory movement
or of cultural drift. Much good work has recently been done in
tabulating the occurrence of many customs and beliefs, in order to
ascertain their lines of distribution. Workers are as yet in the
collecting stage, and it is hardly necessary to say that explanatory
theories are still to be regarded as purely tentative and provisional.
At the meetings of the British Association during the last few years,
the most breezy discussions in the Anthropological Section have
undoubtedly centred around this subject. There are several works in
the field, but the most comprehensive theory as yet put forward is one
that concerns us, as it has given a new lease of life to the old solar
interpretation of the Deluge story.

[1] See, e.g. Marett, /Anthropology/ (2nd ed., 1914), Chap. iv,
    "Environment," pp. 122 ff.; and for earlier tendencies,
    particularly in the sphere of mythological exegesis, see S.
    Reinach, /Cultes, Mythes et Religions/, t. IV (1912), pp. 1 ff.

In a land such as Egypt, where there is little rain and the sky is
always clear, the sun in its splendour tended from the earliest period
to dominate the national consciousness. As intercourse increased along
the Nile Valley, centres of Sun-worship ceased to be merely local, and
the political rise of a city determined the fortunes of its cult. From
the proto-dynastic period onward, the "King of the two Lands" had
borne the title of "Horus" as the lineal descendant of the great Sun-
god of Edfu, and the rise of Ra in the Vth Dynasty, through the
priesthood of Heliopolis, was confirmed in the solar theology of the
Middle Kingdom. Thus it was that other deities assumed a solar
character as forms of Ra. Amen, the local god of Thebes, becomes
Amen-Ra with the political rise of his city, and even the old
Crocodile-god, Sebek, soars into the sky as Sebek-Ra. The only other
movement in the religion of ancient Egypt, comparable in importance to
this solar development, was the popular cult of Osiris as God of the
Dead, and with it the official religion had to come to terms. Horus is
reborn as the posthumous son of Osiris, and Ra gladdens his abode
during his nightly journey through the Underworld. The theory with
which we are concerned suggests that this dominant trait in Egyptian
religion passed, with other elements of culture, beyond the bounds of
the Nile Valley and influenced the practice and beliefs of distant

This suggestion has been gradually elaborated by its author, Professor
Elliot Smith, who has devoted much attention to the anatomical study
of Egyptian mummification. Beginning with a scrutiny of megalithic
building and sun-worship,[1] he has subsequently deduced, from
evidence of common distribution, the existence of a culture-complex,
including in addition to these two elements the varied practices of
tattooing, circumcision, ear-piercing, that quaint custom known as
couvade, head-deformation, and the prevalence of serpent-cults, myths
of petrifaction and the Deluge, and finally of mummification. The last
ingredient was added after an examination of Papuan mummies had
disclosed their apparent resemblance in points of detail to Egyptian
mummies of the XXIst Dynasty. As a result he assumes the existence of
an early cultural movement, for which the descriptive title
"heliolithic" has been coined.[2] Starting with Egypt as its centre,
one of the principal lines of its advance is said to have lain through
Syria and Mesopotamia and thence along the coastlands of Asia to the
Far East. The method of distribution and the suggested part played by
the Phoenicians have been already criticized sufficiently. But in a
modified form the theory has found considerable support, especially
among ethnologists interested in Indonesia. I do not propose to
examine in detail the evidence for or against it. It will suffice to
note that the Deluge story and its alleged Egyptian origin in solar
worship form one of the prominent strands in its composition.

[1] Cf. Elliot Smith, /The Ancient Egyptians/, 1911.

[2] See in particular his monograph "On the significance of the
    Geographical Distribution of the Practice of Mummification" in the
    /Memoirs of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society/,

One weakness of this particular strand is that the Egyptians
themselves possessed no tradition of the Deluge. Indeed the annual
inundation of the Nile is not such as would give rise to a legend of
world-destruction; and in this respect it presents a striking contrast
to the Tigris and Euphrates. The ancient Egyptian's conception of his
own gentle river is reflected in the form he gave the Nile-god, for
Hapi is represented as no fierce warrior or monster. He is given a
woman's breasts as a sign of his fecundity. The nearest Egyptian
parallel to the Deluge story is the "Legend of the Destruction of
Mankind", which is engraved on the walls of a chamber in the tomb of
Seti I.[1] The late Sir Gaston Maspero indeed called it "a dry deluge
myth", but his paradox was intended to emphasize the difference as
much as the parallelism presented. It is true that in the Egyptian
myth the Sun-god causes mankind to be slain because of their impiety,
and he eventually pardons the survivors. The narrative thus betrays
undoubted parallelism to the Babylonian and Hebrew stories, so far as
concerns the attempted annihilation of mankind by the offended god,
but there the resemblance ends. For water has no part in man's
destruction, and the essential element of a Deluge story is thus
absent.[2] Our new Sumerian document, on the other hand, contains what
is by far the earliest example yet recovered of a genuine Deluge tale;
and we may thus use it incidentally to test this theory of Egyptian
influence, and also to ascertain whether it furnishes any positive
evidence on the origin of Deluge stories in general.

[1] It was first published by Monsieur Naville, /Tranc. Soc. Bibl.
    Arch./, IV (1874), pp. 1 ff. The myth may be most conveniently
    studied in Dr. Budge's edition in /Egyptian Literature/, Vol. I,
    "Legends of the Gods" (1912), pp. 14 ff., where the hieroglyphic
    text and translation are printed on opposite pages; cf. the
    summary, op. cit., pp. xxiii ff., where the principal literature
    is also cited. See also his /Gods of the Egyptians/, Vol. I, chap.
    xii, pp. 388 ff.

[2] The undoubted points of resemblance, as well as the equally
    striking points of divergence, presented by the Egyptian myth when
    compared with the Babylonian and Hebrew stories of a Deluge may be
    briefly indicated. The impiety of men in complaining of the age of
    Ra finds a parallel in the wickedness of man upon the earth (J)
    and the corruption of all flesh (P) of the Hebrew Versions. The
    summoning by Ra of the great Heliopolitan cosmic gods in council,
    including his personified Eye, the primaeval pair Shu and Tefnut,
    Keb the god of the earth and his consort Nut the sky-goddess, and
    Nu the primaeval water-god and originally Nut's male counterpart,
    is paralleled by the /puhur ilani/, or "assembly of the gods", in
    the Babylonian Version (see Gilg. Epic. XI. l. 120 f., and cf. ll.
    10 ff.); and they meet in "the Great House", or Sun-temple at
    Heliopolis, as the Babylonian gods deliberate in Shuruppak.
    Egyptian, Babylonian, and Hebrew narratives all agree in the
    divine determination to destroy mankind and in man's ultimate
    survival. But the close of the Egyptian story diverges into
    another sphere. The slaughter of men by the Eye of Ra in the form
    of the goddess Hathor, who during the night wades in their blood,
    is suggestive of Africa; and so too is her drinking of men's blood
    mixed with the narcotic mandrake and with seven thousand vessels
    of beer, with the result that through drunkenness she ceased from
    slaughter. The latter part of the narrative is directly connected
    with the cult-ritual and beer-drinking at the Festivals of Hathor
    and Ra; but the destruction of men by slaughter in place of
    drowning appears to belong to the original myth. Indeed, the only
    suggestion of a Deluge story is suggested by the presence of Nu,
    the primaeval water-god, at Ra's council, and that is explicable
    on other grounds. In any case the points of resemblance presented
    by the earlier part of the Egyptian myth to Semitic Deluge stories
    are general, not detailed; and though they may possibly be due to
    reflection from Asia, they are not such as to suggest an Egyptian
    origin for Deluge myths.

The tablet on which our new version of the Deluge is inscribed was
excavated at Nippur during the third Babylonian expedition sent out by
the University of Pennsylvania; but it was not until the summer of
1912 that its contents were identified, when the several fragments of
which it was composed were assembled and put together. It is a large
document, containing six columns of writing, three on each side; but
unfortunately only the lower half has been recovered, so that
considerable gaps occur in the text.[1] The sharp edges of the broken
surface, however, suggest that it was damaged after removal from the
soil, and the possibility remains that some of the missing fragments
may yet be recovered either at Pennsylvania or in the Museum at
Constantinople. As it is not dated, its age must be determined mainly
by the character of its script. A close examination of the writing
suggests that it can hardly have been inscribed as late as the Kassite
Dynasty, since two or three signs exhibit more archaic forms than
occur on any tablets of that period;[2] and such linguistic
corruptions as have been noted in its text may well be accounted for
by the process of decay which must have already affected the Sumerian
language at the time of the later kings of Nisin. Moreover, the tablet
bears a close resemblance to one of the newly published copies of the
Sumerian Dynastic List from Nippur;[3] for both are of the same shape
and composed of the same reddish-brown clay, and both show the same
peculiarities of writing. The two tablets in fact appear to have been
written by the same hand, and as that copy of the Dynastic List was
probably drawn up before the latter half of the First Dynasty of
Babylon, we may assign the same approximate date for the writing of
our text. This of course only fixes a lower limit for the age of the
myth which it enshrines.

[1] The breadth of the tablet is 5 5/8 in., and it originally measured
    about 7 in. in length from top to bottom; but only about one-third
    of its inscribed surface is preserved.

[2] Cf. Poebel, /Hist. Texts/, pp. 66 ff.

[3] No. 5.

That the composition is in the form of a poem may be seen at a glance
from the external appearance of the tablet, the division of many of
the lines and the blank spaces frequently left between the sign-groups
being due to the rhythmical character of the text. The style of the
poetry may be simple and abrupt, but it exhibits a familiar feature of
both Semitic-Babylonian and Hebrew poetry, in its constant employment
of partial repetition or paraphrase in parallel lines. The story it
tells is very primitive and in many respects unlike the Babylonian
Versions of the Deluge which we already possess. Perhaps its most
striking peculiarity is the setting of the story, which opens with a
record of the creation of man and animals, goes on to tell how the
first cities were built, and ends with a version of the Deluge, which
is thus recounted in its relation to the Sumerian history of the
world. This literary connexion between the Creation and Deluge
narratives is of unusual interest, in view of the age of our text. In
the Babylonian Versions hitherto known they are included in separate
epics with quite different contexts. Here they are recounted together
in a single document, much as they probably were in the history of
Berossus and as we find them in the present form of the Book of
Genesis. This fact will open up some interesting problems when we
attempt to trace the literary descent of the tradition.

But one important point about the text should be emphasized at once,
since it will affect our understanding of some very obscure passages,
of which no satisfactory explanation has yet been given. The
assumption has hitherto been made that the text is an epic pure and
simple. It is quite true that the greater part of it is a myth,
recounted as a narrative in poetical form. but there appear to me to
be clear indications that the myth was really embedded in an
incantation. If this was so, the mythological portion was recited for
a magical purpose, with the object of invoking the aid of the chief
deities whose actions in the past are there described, and of
increasing by that means the potency of the spell.[1] In the third
lecture I propose to treat in more detail the employment and
significance of myth in magic, and we shall have occasion to refer to
other instances, Sumerian, Babylonian, and Egyptian, in which a myth
has reached us in a magical setting.

[1] It will be seen that the subject-matter of any myth treated in
    this way has a close connexion with the object for which the
    incantation was performed.

In the present case the inference of magical use is drawn from certain
passages in the text itself, which appear to be explicable only on
that hypothesis. In magical compositions of the later period intended
for recitation, the sign for "Incantation" is usually prefixed.
Unfortunately the beginning of our text is wanting; but its opening
words are given in the colophon, or title, which is engraved on the
left-hand edge of the tablet, and it is possible that the traces of
the first sign there are to be read as EN, "Incantation".[1] Should a
re-examination of the tablet establish this reading of the word, we
should have definite proof of the suggested magical setting of the
narrative. But even if we assume its absence, that would not
invalidate the arguments that can be adduced in favour of recognizing
the existence of a magical element, for they are based on internal
evidence and enable us to explain certain features which are
inexplicable on Dr. Poebel's hypothesis. Moreover, we shall later on
examine another of the newly published Sumerian compositions from
Nippur, which is not only semi-epical in character, but is of
precisely the same shape, script, and period as our text, and is very
probably a tablet of the same series. There also the opening signs of
the text are wanting, but far more of its contents are preserved and
they present unmistakable traces of magical use. Its evidence, as that
of a parallel text, may therefore be cited in support of the present
contention. It may be added that in Sumerian magical compositions of
this early period, of which we have not yet recovered many quite
obvious examples, it is possible that the prefix "Incantation" was not
so invariable as in the later magical literature.

[1] Cf. Poebel, /Hist. Texts/, p. 63, and /Hist. and Gram. Texts/, pl.
    i. In the photographic reproduction of the edges of the tablet
    given in the latter volume, pl. lxxxix, the traces of the sign
    suggest the reading EN (= Sem. /?iptu/, "incantation"). But the
    sign may very possibly be read AN. In the latter case we may read,
    in the traces of the two sign-groups at the beginning of the text,
    the names of both Anu and Enlil, who appear so frequently as the
    two presiding deities in the myth.

It has already been remarked that only the lower half of our tablet
has been recovered, and that consequently a number of gaps occur in
the text. On the obverse the upper portion of each of the first three
columns is missing, while of the remaining three columns, which are
inscribed upon the reverse, the upper portions only are preserved.
This difference in the relative positions of the textual fragments
recovered is due to the fact that Sumerian scribes, like their later
Babylonian and Assyrian imitators, when they had finished writing the
obverse of a tablet, turned it over from bottom to top--not, as we
should turn a sheet of paper, from right to left. But in spite of the
lacunae, the sequence of events related in the mythological narrative
may be followed without difficulty, since the main outline of the
story is already familiar enough from the versions of the Semitic-
Babylonian scribes and of Berossus. Some uncertainties naturally
remain as to what exactly was included in the missing portions of the
tablet; but the more important episodes are fortunately recounted in
the extant fragments, and these suffice for a definition of the
distinctive character of the Sumerian Version. In view of its literary
importance it may be advisable to attempt a somewhat detailed
discussion of its contents, column by column;[1] and the analysis may
be most conveniently divided into numbered sections, each of which
refers to one of the six columns of the tablet. The description of the
First Column will serve to establish the general character of the
text. Through the analysis of the tablet parallels and contrasts will
be noted with the Babylonian and Hebrew Versions. It will then be
possible to summarise, on a surer foundation, the literary history of
the traditions, and finally to estimate the effect of our new evidence
upon current theories as to the origin and wide dispersion of Deluge

[1] In the lecture as delivered the contents of each column were
    necessarily summarized rather briefly, and conclusions were given
    without discussion of the evidence.

The following headings, under which the six numbered sections may be
arranged, indicate the contents of each column and show at a glance
the main features of the Sumerian Version:

    I. Introduction to the Myth, and account of Creation.
   II. The Antediluvian Cities.
  III. The Council of the Gods, and Ziusudu's piety.
   IV. The Dream-Warning.
    V. The Deluge, the Escape of the Great Boat, and the Sacrifice to
       the Sun-god.
   VI. The Propitiation of the Angry Gods, and Ziusudu's Immortality.


The beginning of the text is wanting, and the earliest lines preserved
of the First Column open with the closing sentences of a speech,
probably by the chief of the four creating deities, who are later on
referred to by name. In it there is a reference to a future
destruction of mankind, but the context is broken; the lines in
question begin:

  "As for my human race, from (/or/ in) its destruction will I cause
    it to be [. . .],
  For Nintu my creatures [. . .] will I [. . .]."

From the reference to "my human race" it is clear that the speaker is
a creating deity; and since the expression is exactly parallel to the
term "my people" used by Ishtar, or Bzlit-ili, "the Lady of the gods",
in the Babylonian Version of the Deluge story when she bewails the
destruction of mankind, Dr. Poebel assigns the speech to Ninkharsagga,
or Nintu,[1] the goddess who later in the column is associated with
Anu, Enlil, and Enki in man's creation. But the mention of Nintu in
her own speech is hardly consistent with that supposition,[2] if we
assume with Dr. Poebel, as we are probably justified in doing, that
the title Nintu is employed here and elsewhere in the narrative merely
as a synonym of Ninkharsagga.[3] It appears to me far more probable
that one of the two supreme gods, Anu or Enlil, is the speaker,[4] and
additional grounds will be cited later in support of this view. It is
indeed possible, in spite of the verbs and suffixes in the singular,
that the speech is to be assigned to both Anu and Enlil, for in the
last column, as we shall see, we find verb in the singular following
references to both these deities. In any case one of the two chief
gods may be regarded as speaking and acting on behalf of both, though
it may be that the inclusion of the second name in the narrative was
not original but simply due to a combination of variant traditions.
Such a conflate use of Anu-Enlil would present a striking parallel to
the Hebrew combination Yahweh-Elohim, though of course in the case of
the former pair the subsequent stage of identification was never
attained. But the evidence furnished by the text is not conclusive,
and it is preferable here and elsewhere in the narrative to regard
either Anu or Enlil as speaking and acting both on his own behalf and
as the other's representative.

[1] Op. cit., p. 21 f.; and cf. Jastrow, /Hebrew and Babylonian
    Traditions/, p. 336.

[2] It necessitates the taking of (/dingir/) /Nin-tu-ra/ as a
    genitive, not a dative, and the very awkward rendering "my,
    Nintu's, creations".

[3] Another of the recently published Sumerian mythological
    compositions from Nippur includes a number of myths in which Enki
    is associated first with Ninella, referred to also as Nintu, "the
    Goddess of Birth", then with Ninshar, referred to also as
    Ninkurra, and finally with Ninkharsagga. This text exhibits the
    process by which separate traditions with regard to goddesses
    originally distinct were combined together, with the result that
    their heroines were subsequently often identified with one
    another. There the myths that have not been subjected to a very
    severe process of editing, and in consequence the welding is not
    so complete as in the Sumerian Version of the Deluge.

[4] If Enlil's name should prove to be the first word of the
    composition, we should naturally regard him as the speaker here
    and as the protagonist of the gods throughout the text, a /role/
    he also plays in the Semitic-Babylonian Version.

This reference to the Deluge, which occurs so early in the text,
suggests the probability that the account of the Creation and of the
founding of Antediluvian cities, included in the first two columns, is
to be taken merely as summarizing the events that led up to the
Deluge. And an almost certain proof of this may be seen in the opening
words of the composition, which are preserved in its colophon or title
on the left-hand edge of the tablet. We have already noted that the
first two words are there to be read, either as the prefix
"Incantation" followed by the name "Enlil", or as the two divine names
"Anu (and) Enlil". Now the signs which follow the traces of Enlil's
name are quite certain; they represent "Ziusudu", which, as we shall
see in the Third Column, is the name of the Deluge hero in our
Sumerian Version. He is thus mentioned in the opening words of the
text, in some relation to one or both of the two chief gods of the
subsequent narrative. But the natural place for his first introduction
into the story is in the Third Column, where it is related that "at
that time Ziusudu, the king" did so-and-so. The prominence given him
at the beginning of the text, at nearly a column's interval before the
lines which record the creation of man, is sufficient proof that the
Deluge story is the writer's main interest, and that preceding
episodes are merely introductory to it.

What subject then may we conjecture was treated in the missing lines
of this column, which precede the account of Creation and close with
the speech of the chief creating deity? Now the Deluge narrative
practically ends with the last lines of the tablet that are preserved,
and the lower half of the Sixth Column is entirely wanting. We shall
see reason to believe that the missing end of the tablet was not left
blank and uninscribed, but contained an incantation, the magical
efficacy of which was ensured by the preceding recitation of the
Deluge myth. If that were so, it would be natural enough that the text
should open with its main subject. The cause of the catastrophe and
the reason for man's rescue from it might well be referred to by one
of the creating deities in virtue of the analogy these aspects of the
myth would present to the circumstances for which the incantation was
designed. A brief account of the Creation and of Antediluvian history
would then form a natural transition to the narrative of the Deluge
itself. And even if the text contained no incantation, the narrative
may well have been introduced in the manner suggested, since this
explanation in any case fits in with what is still preserved of the
First Column. For after his reference to the destruction of mankind,
the deity proceeds to fix the chief duty of man, either as a
preliminary to his creation, or as a reassertion of that duty after
his rescue from destruction by the Flood. It is noteworthy that this
duty consists in the building of temples to the gods "in a clean
spot", that is to say "in hallowed places". The passage may be given
in full, including the two opening lines already discussed:

  "As for my human race, from (/or/ in) its destruction will I cause
    it to be [. . .],
  For Nintu my creatures [. . .] will I [. . .].
  The people will I cause to . . . in their settlements,
  Cities . . . shall (man) build, in there protection will I cause him
    to rest,
  That he may lay the brick of our houses in a clean spot,
  That in a clean spot he may establish our . . . !"

In the reason here given for man's creation, or for his rescue from
the Flood, we have an interesting parallel to the Sixth Tablet of the
Semitic-Babylonian Creation Series. At the opening of that tablet
Marduk, in response to "the word of the gods", is urged by his heart
to devise a cunning plan which he imparts to Ea, namely the creation
of man from his own divine blood and from bone which he will fashion.
And the reason he gives for his proposal is precisely that which, as
we have seen, prompted the Sumerian deity to create or preserve the
human race. For Marduk continues:

  "I will create man who shall inhabit [. . .],
  That the service of the gods may be established and that their
    shrines may be built."[1]

[1] See /The Seven Tablets of Creation/, Vol. I, pp. 86 ff.

We shall see later, from the remainder of Marduk's speech, that the
Semitic Version has been elaborated at this point in order to
reconcile it with other ingredients in its narrative, which were
entirely absent from the simpler Sumerian tradition. It will suffice
here to note that, in both, the reason given for man's existence is
the same, namely, that the gods themselves may have worshippers.[1]
The conception is in full agreement with early Sumerian thought, and
reflects the theocratic constitution of the earliest Sumerian
communities. The idea was naturally not repugnant to the Semites, and
it need not surprise us to find the very words of the principal
Sumerian Creator put into the mouth of Marduk, the city-god of

[1] It may be added that this is also the reason given for man's
    creation in the introduction to a text which celebrates the
    founding or rebuilding of a temple.

The deity's speech perhaps comes to an end with the declaration of his
purpose in creating mankind or in sanctioning their survival of the
Deluge; and the following three lines appear to relate his
establishment of the divine laws in accordance with which his
intention was carried out. The passage includes a refrain, which is
repeated in the Second Column:

  The sublime decrees he made perfect for it.

It may probably be assumed that the refrain is employed in relation to
the same deity in both passages. In the Second Column it precedes the
foundation of the Babylonian kingdom and the building of the
Antediluvian cities. In that passage there can be little doubt that
the subject of the verb is the chief Sumerian deity, and we are
therefore the more inclined to assign to him also the opening speech
of the First Column, rather than to regard it as spoken by the
Sumerian goddess whose share in the creation would justify her in
claiming mankind as her own. In the last four lines of the column we
have a brief record of the Creation itself. It was carried out by the
three greatest gods of the Sumerian pantheon, Anu, Enlil and Enki,
with the help of the goddess Ninkharsagga; the passage reads:

  When Anu, Enlil, Enki and Ninkharsagga
  Created the blackheaded (i.e. mankind),
  The /niggil(ma)/ of the earth they caused the earth to produce(?),
  The animals, the four-legged creatures of the field, they artfully
    called into existence.

The interpretation of the third line is obscure, but there is no doubt
that it records the creation of something which is represented as
having taken place between the creation of mankind and that of
animals. This object, which is written as /nig-gil/ or /nig-gil-ma/,
is referred to again in the Sixth Column, where the Sumerian hero of
the Deluge assigns to it the honorific title, "Preserver of the Seed
of Mankind". It must therefore have played an important part in man's
preservation from the Flood; and the subsequent bestowal of the title
may be paralleled in the early Semitic Deluge fragment from Nippur,
where the boat in which Ut-napishtim escapes is assigned the very
similar title "Preserver of Life".[1] But /niggilma/ is not the word
used in the Sumerian Version of Ziusudu's boat, and I am inclined to
suggest a meaning for it in connexion with the magical element in the
text, of the existence of which there is other evidence. On that
assumption, the prominence given to its creation may be paralleled in
the introduction to a later magical text, which described, probably in
connexion with an incantation, the creation of two small creatures,
one white and one black, by Nin-igi-azag, "The Lord of Clear Vision",
one of the titles borne by Enki or Ea. The time of their creation is
indicated as after that of "cattle, beasts of the field and creatures
of the city", and the composition opens in a way which is very like
the opening of the present passage in our text.[2] In neither text is
there any idea of giving a complete account of the creation of the
world, only so much of the original myth being included in each case
as suffices for the writer's purpose. Here we may assume that the
creation of mankind and of animals is recorded because they were to be
saved from the Flood, and that of the /niggilma/ because of the part
it played in ensuring their survival.

[1] See Hilprecht, /Babylonian Expedition/, Series D, Vol. V, Fasc. 1,
    plate, Rev., l. 8; the photographic reproduction clearly shows, as
    Dr. Poebel suggests (/Hist. Texts/, p. 61 n 3), that the line
    should read: /[(isu)elippu] ?i-i lu (isu)ma-gur-gur-ma ?um-?a lu
    na-si-rat na-pi?-tim/, "That ship shall be a /magurgurru/ (giant
    boat), and its name shall be 'Preserver of Life' (lit. 'She that
    preserves life')."

[2] See /Seven Tablets of Creation/, Vol. I, pp. 122 ff. The text
    opens with the words "When the gods in their assembly had made
    [the world], and had created the heavens, and had formed the
    earth, and had brought living creatures into being . . .", the
    lines forming an introduction to the special act of creation with
    which the composition was concerned.

The discussion of the meaning of /niggilma/ may best be postponed till
the Sixth Column, where we find other references to the word.
Meanwhile it may be noted that in the present passage the creation of
man precedes that of animals, as it did in the earlier Hebrew Version
of Creation, and probably also in the Babylonian version, though not
in the later Hebrew Version. It may be added that in another Sumerian
account of the Creation[1] the same order, of man before animals, is

[1] Cf. /Sev. Tabl./, Vol. I, p. 134 f.; but the text has been
    subjected to editing, and some of its episodes are obviously

                     II. THE ANTEDILUVIAN CITIES

As we saw was the case with the First Column of the text, the earliest
part preserved of the Second Column contains the close of a speech by
a deity, in which he proclaims an act he is about to perform. Here we
may assume with some confidence that the speaker is Anu or Enlil,
preferably the latter, since it would be natural to ascribe the
political constitution of Babylonia, the foundation of which is
foreshadowed, to the head of the Sumerian pantheon. It would appear
that a beginning had already been made in the establishment of "the
kingdom", and, before proceeding to his further work of founding the
Antediluvian cities, he follows the example of the speaker in the
First Column of the text and lays down the divine enactments by which
his purpose was accomplished. The same refrain is repeated:

  The sub[lime decrees] he made perfect for it.

The text then relates the founding by the god of five cities, probably
"in clean places", that is to say on hallowed ground. He calls each by
its name and assigns it to its own divine patron or city-god:

  [In clean place]s he founded [five] cit[ies].
  And after he had called their names and they had been allotted to
    divine rulers(?),--
  The . . . of these cities, Eridu, he gave to the leader, Nu-dimmud,
  Secondly, to Nugira(?) he gave Bad-. . .,[1]
  Thirdly, Larak he gave to Pabilkharsag,
  Fourthly, Sippar he gave to the hero, the Sun-god,
  Fifthly, Shuruppak he gave to "the God of Shuruppak",--
  After he had called the names of these cities, and they had been
    allotted to divine rulers(?),

[1] In Semitic-Babylonian the first component of this city-name would
    read "Dur".

The completion of the sentence, in the last two lines of the column,
cannot be rendered with any certainty, but the passage appears to have
related the creation of small rivers and pools. It will be noted that
the lines which contain the names of the five cities and their patron
gods[1] form a long explanatory parenthesis, the preceding line being
repeated after their enumeration.

[1] The precise meaning of the sign-group here provisionally rendered
    "divine ruler" is not yet ascertained.

As the first of the series of five cities of Eridu, the seat of
Nudimmud or Enki, who was the third of the creating deities, it has
been urged that the upper part of the Second Column must have included
an account of the founding of Erech, the city of Anu, and of Nippur,
Enlil's city.[1] But the numbered sequence of the cities would be
difficult to reconcile with the earlier creation of other cities in
the text, and the mention of Eridu as the first city to be created
would be quite in accord with its great age and peculiarly sacred
character as a cult-centre. Moreover the evidence of the Sumerian
Dynastic List is definitely against any claim of Erech to Antediluvian
existence. For when the hegemony passed from the first Post-diluvian
"kingdom" to the second, it went not to Erech but to the shrine Eanna,
which gave its name to the second "kingdom"; and the city itself was
apparently not founded before the reign of Enmerkar, the second
occupant of the throne, who is the first to be given the title "King
of Erech". This conclusion with regard to Erech incidentally disposes
of the arguments for Nippur's Antediluvian rank in primitive Sumerian
tradition, which have been founded on the order of the cities
mentioned at the beginning of the later Sumerian myth of Creation.[2]
The evidence we thus obtain that the early Sumerians themselves
regarded Eridu as the first city in the world to be created, increases
the hope that future excavation at Abu Shahrain may reveal Sumerian
remains of periods which, from an archaeological standpoint, must
still be regarded as prehistoric.

[1] Cf. Poebel, op. cit., p. 41.

[2] The city of Nippur does not occur among the first four "kingdoms"
    of the Sumerian Dynastic List; but we may probably assume that it
    was the seat of at least one early "kingdom", in consequence of
    which Enlil, its city-god, attained his later pre-eminent rank in
    the Sumerian pantheon.

It is noteworthy that no human rulers are mentioned in connexion with
Eridu and the other four Antediluvian cities; and Ziusudu, the hero of
the story, is apparently the only mortal whose name occurred in our
text. But its author's principal subject is the Deluge, and the
preceding history of the world is clearly not given in detail, but is
merely summarized. In view of the obviously abbreviated form of the
narrative, of which we have already noted striking evidence in its
account of the Creation, we may conclude that in the fuller form of
the tradition the cities were also assigned human rulers, each one the
representative of his city-god. These would correspond to the
Antediluvian dynasty of Berossus, the last member of which was
Xisuthros, the later counterpart of Ziusudu.

In support of the exclusion of Nippur and Erech from the myth, it will
be noted that the second city in the list is not Adab,[1] which was
probably the principal seat of the goddess Ninkharsagga, the fourth of
the creating deities. The names of both deity and city in that line
are strange to us. Larak, the third city in the series, is of greater
interest, for it is clearly Larankha, which according to Berossus was
the seat of the eighth and ninth of his Antediluvian kings. In
commercial documents of the Persian period, which have been found
during the excavations at Nippur, Larak is described as lying "on the
bank of the old Tigris", a phrase which must be taken as referring to
the Shatt el-Hai, in view of the situation of Lagash and other early
cities upon it or in its immediate neighbourhood. The site of the city
should perhaps be sought on the upper course of the stream, where it
tends to approach Nippur. It would thus have lain in the neighbourhood
of Bismaya, the site of Adab. Like Adab, Lagash, Shuruppak, and other
early Sumerian cities, it was probably destroyed and deserted at a
very early period, though it was reoccupied under its old name in Neo-
Babylonian or Persian times. Its early disappearance from Babylonian
history perhaps in part accounts for our own unfamiliarity with
Pabilkharsag, its city-god, unless we may regard the name as a variant
from of Pabilsag; but it is hardly likely that the two should be

[1] The site of Adab, now marked by the mounds of Bismaya, was
    partially excavated by an expedition sent out in 1903 by the
    University of Chicago, and has provided valuable material for the
    study of the earliest Sumerian period; see /Reports of the
    Expedition of the Oriental Exploration Fund/ (Babylonian Section
    of the University of Chicago), and Banks, /Bismya/ (1912). On
    grounds of antiquity alone we might perhaps have expected its
    inclusion in the myth.

In Sibbar, the fourth of the Antediluvian cities in our series, we
again have a parallel to Berossus. it has long been recognized that
Pantibiblon, or Pantibiblia, from which the third, fourth, fifth,
sixth, and seventh of his Antediluvian kings all came, was the city of
Sippar in Northern Babylonia. For the seventh of these rulers,
{Euedorakhos}, is clearly Enmeduranki, the mythical king of Sippar,
who in Babylonian tradition was regarded as the founder of divination.
In a fragmentary composition that has come down to us he is described,
not only as king of Sippar, but as "beloved of Anu, Enlil, and Enki",
the three creating gods of our text; and it is there recounted how the
patron deities of divination, Shamash and Adad, themselves taught him
to practise their art.[1] Moreover, Berossus directly implies the
existence of Sippar before the Deluge, for in the summary of his
version that has been preserved Xisuthros, under divine instruction,
buries the sacred writings concerning the origin of the world in
"Sispara", the city of the Sun-god, so that after the Deluge they
might be dug up and transmitted to mankind. Ebabbar, the great
Sun-temple, was at Sippar, and it is to the Sun-god that the city is
naturally allotted in the new Sumerian Version.

[1] Cf. Zimmern, /Beiträge zur Kenntniss der Bab. Relig./, pp. 116 ff.

The last of the five Antediluvian cities in our list is Shuruppak, in
which dwelt Ut-napishtim, the hero of the Babylonian version of the
Deluge. Its site has been identified with the mounds of Fara, in the
neighbourhood of the Shatt el-Kar, the former bed of the Euphrates;
and the excavations that were conducted there in 1902 have been most
productive of remains dating from the prehistoric period of Sumerian
culture.[1] Since our text is concerned mainly with the Deluge, it is
natural to assume that the foundation of the city from which the
Deluge-hero came would be recorded last, in order to lead up to the
central episode of the text. The city of Ziusudu, the hero of the
Sumerian story, is unfortunately not given in the Third Column, but,
in view of Shuruppak's place in the list of Antediluvian cities, it is
not improbable that on this point the Sumerian and Babylonian Versions
agreed. In the Gilgamesh Epic Shuruppak is the only Antediluvian city
referred to, while in the Hebrew accounts no city at all is mentioned
in connexion with Noah. The city of Xisuthros, too, is not recorded,
but as his father came from Larankha or Larak, we may regard that city
as his in the Greek Version. Besides Larankha, the only Antediluvian
cities according to Berossus were Babylon and Sippar, and the
influence of Babylonian theology, of which we here have evidence,
would be sufficient to account for a disturbance of the original
traditions. At the same time it is not excluded that Larak was also
the scene of the Deluge in our text, though, as we have noted, the
position of Shuruppak at the close of the Sumerian list points to it
as the more probable of the two. It may be added that we cannot yet
read the name of the deity to whom Shuruppak was allotted, but as it
is expressed by the city's name preceded by the divine determinative,
the rendering "the God of Shuruppak" will meanwhile serve.

[1] See /Hist. of Sum. and Akk./, pp. 24 ff.

The creation of small rivers and pools, which seems to have followed
the foundation of the five sacred cities, is best explained on the
assumption that they were intended for the supply of water to the
cities and to the temples of their five patron gods. The creation of
the Euphrates and the Tigris, if recorded in our text at all, or in
its logical order, must have occurred in the upper portion of the
column. The fact that in the later Sumerian account their creation is
related between that of mankind and the building of Nippur and Erech
cannot be cited in support of this suggestion, in view of the absence
of those cities from our text and of the process of editing to which
the later version has been subjected, with a consequent disarrangement
of its episodes.


From the lower part of the Third Column, where its text is first
preserved, it is clear that the gods had already decided to send a
Deluge, for the goddess Nintu or Ninkharsagga, here referred to also
as "the holy Innanna", wails aloud for the intended destruction of
"her people". That this decision has been decreed by the gods in
council is clear from a passage in the Fourth Column, where it is
stated that the sending of a flood to destroy mankind was "the word of
the assembly [of the gods]". The first lines preserved in the present
column describe the effect of the decision on the various gods
concerned and their action at the close of the council.

In the lines which described the Council of the Gods, broken
references to "the people" and "a flood" are preserved, after which
the text continues:

  At that time Nintu [. . .] like a [. . .],
  The holy Innanna lament[ed] on account of her people.
  Enki in his own heart [held] counsel;
  Anu, Enlil, Enki and Ninkharsagga [. . .].
  The gods of heaven and earth in[voked] the name of Anu and Enlil.

It is unfortunate that the ends of all the lines in this column are
wanting, but enough remains to show a close correspondence of the
first two lines quoted with a passage in the Gilgamesh Epic where
Ishtar is described as lamenting the destruction of mankind.[1] This
will be seen more clearly by printing the two couplets in parallel

        SUMERIAN VERSION                    SEMITIC VERSION

  At that time Nintu [. . .] like     Ishtar cried aloud like a woman
    a [. . .],                          in travail,
  The holy Innanna lament[ed] on      Bzlit-ili lamented with a loud
    account of her people.              voice.

[1] Gilg. Epic, XI, l. 117 f.

The expression Bzlit-ili, "the Lady of the Gods", is attested as a
title borne both by the Semitic goddess Ishtar and by the Sumerian
goddess Nintu or Ninkharsagga. In the passage in the Babylonian
Version, "the Lady of the Gods" has always been treated as a synonym
of Ishtar, the second half of the couplet being regarded as a
restatement of the first, according to a recognized law of Babylonian
poetry. We may probably assume that this interpretation is correct,
and we may conclude by analogy that "the holy Innanna" in the second
half of the Sumerian couplet is there merely employed as a synonym of
Nintu.[1] When the Sumerian myth was recast in accordance with Semitic
ideas, the /role/ of creatress of mankind, which had been played by
the old Sumerian goddess Ninkharsagga or Nintu, was naturally
transferred to the Semitic Ishtar. And as Innanna was one of Ishtar's
designations, it was possible to make the change by a simple
transcription of the lines, the name Nintu being replaced by the
synonymous title Bzlit-ili, which was also shared by Ishtar.
Difficulties are at once introduced if we assume with Dr. Poebel that
in each version two separate goddesses are represented as lamenting,
Nintu or Bzlit-ili and Innanna or Ishtar. For Innanna as a separate
goddess had no share in the Sumerian Creation, and the reference to
"her people" is there only applicable to Nintu. Dr. Poebel has to
assume that the Sumerian names should be reversed in order to restore
them to their original order, which he suggests the Babylonian Version
has preserved. But no such textual emendation is necessary. In the
Semitic Version Ishtar definitely displaces Nintu as the mother of
men, as is proved by a later passage in her speech where she refers to
her own bearing of mankind.[2] The necessity for the substitution of
her name in the later version is thus obvious, and we have already
noted how simply this was effected.

[1] Cf. also Jastrow, /Hebr. and Bab. Trad./, p. 336.

[2] Gilg. Epic, XI, l. 123.

Another feature in which the two versions differ is that in the
Sumerian text the lamentation of the goddess precedes the sending of
the Deluge, while in the Gilgamesh Epic it is occasioned by the actual
advent of the storm. Since our text is not completely preserved, it is
just possible that the couplet was repeated at the end of the Fourth
Column after mankind's destruction had taken place. But a further
apparent difference has been noted. While in the Sumerian Version the
goddess at once deplores the divine decision, it is clear from
Ishtar's words in the Gilgamesh Epic that in the assembly of the gods
she had at any rate concurred in it.[1] On the other hand, in Bzlit-
ili's later speech in the Epic, after Ut-napishtim's sacrifice upon
the mountain, she appears to subscribe the decision to Enlil alone.[2]
The passages in the Gilgamesh Epic are not really contradictory, for
they can be interpreted as implying that, while Enlil forced his will
upon the other gods against Bzlit-ili's protest, the goddess at first
reproached herself with her concurrence, and later stigmatized Enlil
as the real author of the catastrophe. The Semitic narrative thus does
not appear, as has been suggested, to betray traces of two variant
traditions which have been skilfully combined, though it may perhaps
exhibit an expansion of the Sumerian story. On the other hand, most of
the apparent discrepancies between the Sumerian and Babylonian
Versions disappear, on the recognition that our text gives in many
passages only an epitome of the original Sumerian Version.

[1] Cf. l. 121 f., "Since I commanded evil in the assembly of the
    gods, (and) commanded battle for the destruction of my people".

[2] Cf. ll. 165 ff., "Ye gods that are here! So long as I forget not
    the (jewels of) lapis lazuli upon my neck, I will keep these days
    in my memory, never will I forget them! Let the gods come to the
    offering, but let not Enlil come to the offering, since he took
    not counsel but sent the deluge and surrendered my people to

The lament of the goddess is followed by a brief account of the action
taken by the other chief figures in the drama. Enki holds counsel with
his own heart, evidently devising the project, which he afterwards
carried into effect, of preserving the seed of mankind from
destruction. Since the verb in the following line is wanting, we do
not know what action is there recorded of the four creating deities;
but the fact that the gods of heaven and earth invoked the name of Anu
and Enlil suggests that it was their will which had been forced upon
the other gods. We shall see that throughout the text Anu and Enlil
are the ultimate rulers of both gods and men.

The narrative then introduces the human hero of the Deluge story:

  At that time Ziusudu, the king, . . . priest of the god [. . .],
  Made a very great . . ., [. . .].
  In humility he prostrates himself, in reverence [. . .],
  Daily he stands in attendance [. . .].
  A dream,[1] such as had not been before, comes forth[2] . . . [. . .],
  By the Name of Heaven and Earth he conjures [. . .].

[1] The word may also be rendered "dreams".

[2] For this rendering of the verb /e-de/, for which Dr. Poebel does
    not hazard a translation, see Rawlinson, /W.A.I./, IV, pl. 26, l.
    24 f.(a), /nu-e-de/ = Sem. /la us-su-u/ (Pres.); and cf. Brünnow,
    /Classified List/, p. 327. An alternative rendering "is created"
    is also possible, and would give equally good sense; cf. /nu-e-de/
    = Sem. /la ?u-pu-u/, /W.A.I./, IV, pl. 2, l. 5 (a), and Brünnow,
    op. cit., p. 328.

The name of the hero, Ziusudu, is the fuller Sumerian equivalent of
Ut-napishtim (or Uta-napishtim), the abbreviated Semitic form which we
find in the Gilgamesh Epic. For not only are the first two elements of
the Sumerian name identical with those of the Semitic Ut-napishtim,
but the names themselves are equated in a later Babylonian syllabary
or explanatory list of words.[1] We there find "Ut-napishte" given as
the equivalent of the Sumerian "Zisuda", evidently an abbreviated form
of the name Ziusudu;[2] and it is significant that the names occur in
the syllabary between those of Gilgamesh and Enkidu, evidently in
consequence of the association of the Deluge story by the Babylonians
with their national epic of Gilgamesh. The name Ziusudu may be
rendered "He who lengthened the day of life" or "He who made life long
of days",[3] which in the Semitic form is abbreviated by the omission
of the verb. The reference is probably to the immortality bestowed
upon Ziusudu at the close of the story, and not to the prolongation of
mankind's existence in which he was instrumental. It is scarcely
necessary to add that the name has no linguistic connexion with the
Hebrew name Noah, to which it also presents no parallel in meaning.

[1] Cf. /Cun. Texts in the Brit. Mus./, Pt. XVIII, pl. 30, l. 9 (a).

[2] The name in the Sumerian Version is read by Dr. Poebel as
    Ziugiddu, but there is much in favour of Prof. Zimmern's
    suggestion, based on the form Zisuda, that the third syllable of
    the name should be read as /su/. On a fragment of another Nippur
    text, No. 4611, Dr. Langdon reads the name as /Zi-u-sud-du/ (cf.
    Univ. of Penns. Mus. Publ., Bab. Sec., Vol. X, No. 1, p. 90, pl.
    iv a); the presence of the phonetic complement /du/ may be cited
    in favour of this reading, but it does not appear to be supported
    by the photographic reproductions of the name in the Sumerian
    Deluge Version given by Dr. Poebel (/Hist. and Gramm. Texts/, pl.
    lxxxviii f.). It may be added that, on either alternative, the
    meaning of the name is the same.

[3] The meaning of the Sumerian element /u/ in the name, rendered as
    /utu/ in the Semitic form, is rather obscure, and Dr. Poebel left
    it unexplained. It is very probable, as suggested by Dr. Langdon
    (cf. /Proc. Soc. Bibl. Arch./, XXXVI, 1914, p. 190), that we
    should connect it with the Semitic /uddu/; in that case, in place
    of "breath", the rending he suggests, I should be inclined to
    render it here as "day", for /uddu/ as the meaning "dawn" and the
    sign UD is employed both for /urru/, "day-light", and /umu/,

It is an interesting fact that Ziusudu should be described simply as
"the king", without any indication of the city or area he ruled; and
in three of the five other passages in the text in which his name is
mentioned it is followed by the same title without qualification. In
most cases Berossus tells us the cities from which his Antediluvian
rulers came; and if the end of the line had been preserved it might
have been possible to determine definitely Ziusudu's city, and
incidentally the scene of the Deluge in the Sumerian Version, by the
name of the deity in whose service he acted as priest. We have already
noted some grounds for believing that his city may have been
Shuruppak, as in the Babylonian Version; and if that were so, the
divine name reads as "the God of Shurrupak" should probably be
restored at the end of the line.[1]

[1] The remains that are preserved of the determinative, which is not
    combined with the sign EN, proves that Enki's name is not to be
    restored. Hence Ziusudu was not priest of Enki, and his city was
    probably not Eridu, the seat of his divine friend and counsellor,
    and the first of the Antediluvian cities. Sufficient reason for
    Enki's intervention on Ziusudu's behalf is furnished by the fact
    that, as God of the Deep, he was concerned in the proposed method
    of man's destruction. His rivalry of Enlil, the God of the Earth,
    is implied in the Babylonian Version (cf. Gilg. Epic. XI, ll. 39-
    42), and in the Sumerian Version this would naturally extend to
    Anu, the God of Heaven.

The employment of the royal title by itself accords with the tradition
from Berossus that before the Deluge, as in later periods, the land
was governed by a succession of supreme rulers, and that the hero of
the Deluge was the last of them. In the Gilgamesh Epic, on the other
hand, Ut-napishtim is given no royal nor any other title. He is merely
referred to as a "man of Shuruppak, son of Ubar-Tutu", and he appears
in the guise of an ancient hero or patriarch not invested with royal
power. On this point Berossus evidently preserves the original
Sumerian traditions, while the Hebrew Versions resemble the Semitic-
Babylonian narrative. The Sumerian conception of a series of supreme
Antediluvian rulers is of course merely a reflection from the
historical period, when the hegemony in Babylonia was contested among
the city-states. The growth of the tradition may have been encouraged
by the early use of /lugal/, "king", which, though always a term of
secular character, was not very sharply distinguished from that of
/patesi/ and other religious titles, until, in accordance with
political development, it was required to connote a wider dominion. In
Sumer, at the time of the composition of our text, Ziusudu was still
only one in a long line of Babylonian rulers, mainly historical but
gradually receding into the realms of legend and myth. At the time of
the later Semites there had been more than one complete break in the
tradition and the historical setting of the old story had become dim.
The fact that Hebrew tradition should range itself in this matter with
Babylon rather than with Sumer is important as a clue in tracing the
literary history of our texts.

The rest of the column may be taken as descriptive of Ziusudu's
activities. One line records his making of some very great object or
the erection of a huge building;[1] and since the following lines are
concerned solely with religious activities, the reference is possibly
to a temple or some other structure of a sacred character. Its
foundation may have been recorded as striking evidence of his devotion
to his god; or, since the verb in this sentence depends on the words
"at that time" in the preceding line, we may perhaps regard his action
as directly connected with the revelation to be made to him. His
personal piety is then described: daily he occupied himself in his
god's service, prostrating himself in humility and constant in his
attendance at the shrine. A dream (or possibly dreams), "such as had
not been before", appears to him and he seems to be further described
as conjuring "by the Name of Heaven and Earth"; but as the ends of all
these lines are broken, the exact connexion of the phrases is not
quite certain.

[1] The element /gur-gur/, "very large" or "huge", which occurs in the
    name of this great object or building, /an-sag-gur-gur/, is
    employed later in the term for the "huge boat", /(gish)ma-gur-
    gur/, in which Ziusudu rode out the storm. There was, of course,
    even at this early period a natural tendency to picture on a
    superhuman scale the lives and deeds of remote predecessors, a
    tendency which increased in later times and led, as we shall see,
    to the elaboration of extravagant detail.

It is difficult not to associate the reference to a dream, or possibly
to dream-divination, with the warning in which Enki reveals the
purpose of the gods. For the later versions prepare us for a reference
to a dream. If we take the line as describing Ziusudu's practice of
dream-divination in general, "such as had not been before", he may
have been represented as the first diviner of dreams, as Enmeduranki
was held to be the first practitioner of divination in general. But it
seems to me more probable that the reference is to a particular dream,
by means of which he obtained knowledge of the gods' intentions. On
the rendering of this passage depends our interpretation of the whole
of the Fourth Column, where the point will be further discussed.
Meanwhile it may be noted that the conjuring "by the Name of Heaven
and Earth", which we may assume is ascribed to Ziusudu, gains in
significance if we may regard the setting of the myth as a magical
incantation, an inference in support of which we shall note further
evidence. For we are furnished at once with the grounds for its
magical employment. If Ziusudu, through conjuring by the Name of
Heaven and earth, could profit by the warning sent him and so escape
the impending fate of mankind, the application of such a myth to the
special needs of a Sumerian in peril or distress will be obvious. For
should he, too, conjure by the Name of Heaven and Earth, he might look
for a similar deliverance; and his recital of the myth itself would
tend to clinch the magical effect of his own incantation.

The description of Ziusudu has also great interest in furnishing us
with a close parallel to the piety of Noah in the Hebrew Versions. For
in the Gilgamesh Epic and in Berossus this feature of the story is
completely absent. We are there given no reason why Ut-napishtim was
selected by Ea, nor Xisuthros by Kronos. For all that those versions
tell us, the favour of each deity might have been conferred
arbitrarily, and not in recognition of, or in response to, any
particular quality or action on the part of its recipient. The
Sumerian Version now restores the original setting of the story and
incidentally proves that, in this particular, the Hebrew Versions have
not embroidered a simpler narrative for the purpose of edification,
but have faithfully reproduced an original strand of the tradition.



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