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Babylonian and Akkadian Astronomy Myths
This unit will focus on studying some of the popular myths and archetypes of the ancient Middle East after the transition of power shifted away from Sumer (2400 BCE and later). The Babylonians and Akkadians lived upstream, asserting control over the waters that flowed south. These cultures struggled to attain order in their societies, and their literature reflects this desire. We gain a better understanding of similar outlooks and beliefs by contrasting their local metaphors with those from the first unit.
Unit 2 Introduction
Unit 2 Introduction
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University
The second unit will show you what happened to the Sumerian pantheon after the Sumerians were overtaken by the Babylonians sometime between 3000-2400 BCE. This unit provides a contrast to the feminine-based agricultural myths and will illustrate a dramatic political change in the Near East that ushered in the age of great kingdoms, armies, and propaganda. Whereas the Sumerians became dominant through their engineering expertise, the Babylonians (and related cultures, such as the Hittites, Akkadians, Assyrians, Phoenicians, and Ugarits) gained dominance through … well, dominance. As natural resources such as timber, fresh water, and farmland became scarce, some cultures were forced to raise military campaigns against their neighbors, making Mesopotamia a literal battleground for nearly everything. Led by powerful and ruthless leaders, Babylon dominated the rural Sumerians, who were no match; they ultimately succumbed and integrated with their northern rivals. The most profound action taken by the Babylonians, however, was their decision to keep all Sumerian temples, artifacts, and literature intact. Unlike today’s mentality of demolishing one’s enemies, the Babylonians recognized the deep connection between Sumerian wisdom and Sumerian survival. If you inherited a marsh, would you know how to live there? You would if you preserved the stories and records of their livelihoods. Eventually, over a thousand years, the pantheons of both cultures became integrated. Since these two cultures shared similar gods and goddesses, the most striking difference that you will recognize will be that the names are slightly different. So, the Sumerian water god Enki becomes integrated with the Babylonian god Ea. You will even see versions of stories that incorporate both names. An becomes Anu, Inanna becomes Ishtar, and Utu becomes Shamash. These changes are reflected in the character glossary. Remember that the Sumerian names are listed first since that was the way you were introduced to them. Even though the Sumerians had war gods, such as Namtar, the Babylonians had many more of them. In Sumer, gods of war often fought against mythological creatures, such as the Anzu bird, which represented the thunderstorm (or perhaps invaders from the mountains). In Babylon, however, the battles often occur amongst the gods themselves. You will witness a divine power struggle throughout the Unit 2 stories. A cosmic shift occurred as the two pantheons co-existed, but early on this appeared to be nothing more than a natural fusion of two cultural traditions. Over time, however, likely commissioned by the kings, a new crop of gods were created to represent the power and dominance of Babylon itself. Of course, the Sumerian gods would never be elevated to such a height, while the existing Babylonian gods were simply counterparts to those that already existed in Sumer. Therefore, gods such as Marduk were created to overthrow and supplant the remnants of the Sumerian pantheon. Stories such as The Epic of Creation were crafted by royal scribes to introduce Babylon’s new influence and to promote a nationalistic campaign that served as a warning to potential invaders. This is the real start of the “Western tradition.”
Unlike the Sumerians, the Babylonians were excellent astronomers, and they looked to the stars for wisdom and guidance. They followed the progressions of the sun, moon, and the five closest planets in the solar system, yielding the magic number 7 that would become incorporated in mythology worldwide. The Babylonians viewed these moving lights in the sky as gods, which appeared to be alive since they moved freely in the sky while the other stars and constellations remained fixed. Therefore, when one planet would pass through a constellation (as we have already seen with Inanna, a representation of Venus), the interaction between these two heavenly bodies would be recorded in story form since they had no star charts or paper to record these messages. Another new feature of this unit’s readings will be the creation and introduction of human beings. We did not really recognize any humans in Unit 1, as those myths were intended to instruct us of how nature operates, not so much our interaction with these forces directly. In Babylon, however, we are told many accounts of the creation of humans, whose sole purpose in all of these stories was relegated to either digging irrigation canals or serving as kings. We will see how the younger gods rebelled against the older ones who had enslaved them to a life of manual labor. Humans would be placed beneath the lesser gods to create a firm hierarchy amongst these various beings: the leader gods at the top, followed by the working gods, followed by the mortal humans, then the animals. This may appear natural to you, but please recognize the significance of this political shift: whereas the male and female forces were treated equally in Unit 1, the Babylonians imposed a strict hierarchy in the world, placing the masculine firmly over the feminine. Watch for male dominance throughout this unit’s readings. The arrival of humans in these stories adds levels of complexity and dispute to the narratives. You will see that mankind does not appear to be living happily. Their communities were ravaged by constant warfare, their resources were limited, their marketplaces were crowded with desperate customers, and the legal system seemed to exist in a state of chaos. On top of that, this unit’s stories will tell of great misfortune that had befallen mankind, much of which is doled out by Nature in the form of disease, drought, floods, plagues, and monsters. Apparently, the progress made by the Sumerian farmers 1500 years earlier resulted in a Middle East that was teeming with too many healthy people. Several myths from this unit will reveal attempts to control the human population, such as mortality, impotence, miscarriages, mutations, and even sudden infant death syndrome. In sum, the Babylonians were a city-centered people, not independent family farmers, so their reliance on strong leaders and community participation should become evident. Nature, the great provider of clean water and crops in unit 1, becomes the great tormentor in Unit 2. In the Age of Taurus, mankind relied on Nature to provide everything needed to thrive, but in the Age of Aries, Nature’s inconsistencies and indifference become public enemy number one. This culture gave us the majority of the flood narratives from this region, many of which are hauntingly similar, but all point in the same direction: that Nature cannot be trusted; instead, rely on your king to provide for you. The cultural axis mundi shifts from gardens to kingdoms, from Nature to Man, and from female to male.
Stars in the Sky, Gods in the heavens
Stars in the Sky, Gods in the Heavens
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University
The Sacred Number 7
The number 7 first gained sacred status in Sumer. The number represents the 7 lights in the sky that moved their positions relative to the more stable palette of stars. These moving lights became personified as gods, whose movements wrote the scripts of ancient mythology by moving closer to, away from, or across other planets and constellations. Many of these stories are explained in this section. Without paper, chalkboards, or computers, the ancient astronomers worldwide needed ways of recording the basic movements of the 7 wandering lights seen with the naked eye: the sun and moon, as well as the planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Although these planetary names are Latin monikers, they originated mostly because of Mesopotamian cosmology. The Sumerians began the identity of the modern zodiac, but it was the Babylonians who turned this science into great literature. Whereas the Sumerians told nature myths to help communicate good farming practices, the Babylonians looked skyward for understanding, divination, and control. You will notice this difference in the unit’s readings compared with the Sumerian tales of earth and water. The number 7 can be found in many places: the days of the week, the number of steps on their temples (ziggurats), and even the number of branches on their sacred trees in their artwork, representing life (and thus, the Tree of Life). In spite of this, the seventh day in Babylonia was not holy. Rather, it represented danger and darkness due to the dramatic transformation of the moon from night to night. Being superstitious peoples, the seventh day became a day of rest.
7 Days a Week
Although the 7-day week developed from the lunar calendar, there were no weeks in ancient Sumer. Holy days were typically celebrated on the first, seventh and fifteenth of each month, corresponding to the main stages of the moon: crescent, half, and full. Sargon I had conquered Akkadia, upstream from Sumer, but soon conquered the deteriorating city-states that comprised Sumer. In 2350 BCE, Sargon instituted the first weekly calendar ever recorded. The Mesopotamian day started at sunset (similar to the Hebrew tradition) and was twelve double hours long: six of daytime and six of nighttime. Because an “hour” was calculated as one-sixth of the available daylight, the length of each hour differed from day to day, due to the length of the daylight that each season provided. Because of their sexagesimal-based numbering system, the Sumerians’ hour contained 60 minutes and the minute contained 60 seconds. A measure of distance, called a “beru,” was calculated as the distance that a man could walk in a “double hour” (roughly five miles).
The Sumerian year was divided into twelve lunar months, each being 29 or 30 days long, and beginning at the first sighting of the new moon. To keep the lunar year (354 days) in step with the solar year, the king would periodically add an extra month at his decree. This resulted in some years having thirteen months instead of the normal twelve. All this was governed by the moving lights in the sky, so it was deemed. The word “planet” is derived from the Greek “planets,” meaning “wanderers.” The wanderings of the planets will inspire much of this unit’s literature, and you will see the names of the main characters immortalized in the 7 days of the week:
Sun Moon Mercury Venus Mars Jupiter Saturn
Sumerian Utu Nanna, Suen Ningishzida Inanna Gugalanna Enlil Ninurta French
Dimanche lundi mardi mercredi jeudi vendredi samedi
Babylonian Shamash Sin Nabu Ishtar Nergal Marduk Ninurta Spanish
Domingo lunes martes miércoles jueves viernes sábado
Greek Helios Selenê Hermes Aphrodite Ares Zeus Kronos Glyph
Roman Sol Luna Mercurius Venus Mars Jupiter Saturnus Element gold (Au) silver (Ag) iron (Fe) mercury (Hg) tin (Sn) copper (Cu) lead (Pb)
Domenica lunedì martedì mercoledì giovedì venerdì sabato
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
“Star” Sun Moon Mars Mercury Jupiter Venus Saturn
Nomenclature: Days of the Week
Our current names in English for the seven days of the week originate from two different sources: astronomical references and Norse mythology: Sunday = The Sun’s Day; Monday = The Moon’s Day; Saturday = Saturn’s Day. Here are the Norse/Germanic identities: Wednesday = Woden’s Day Friday = Freya’s/Frigg’s Day Tuesday = Tiw’s/Tyr’s Day Thursday = Thor’s Day Woden (or Odin) was the god of wisdom, war, battle, and death Freya was the goddess of love, sex, war, beauty, and fertility Tyr was the Norse god of combat and heroes Thor was the thunder god who used his hammer to create thunder
Stars in the Sky, Gods in the heavens
Sumer — An Babylonia — Anu Other Mesop. — Uru-Anna Egypt — Nut Greece — Uranus Rome — Uranus
The Mesopotamian sky was divided into three realms: the “way of Anu” was the vertical band rising from the eastern horizon, providing a pathway for the sun and the Milky Way to follow. Flanked to either side were two other realms: the “Way of Enlil” resided in the north, from where favorable winds from Enlil blew in the rain and perhaps were attributed to the motion of the seven moving lights. The “Way of Enki” fell to the south, where Enki presided over the “fixed stars,” or the constellations of the zodiac. The southern horizon also received the waters flowing in a southerly direction into the Persian Gulf. The land, the “sphere of elements,” was governed by Ki, an early form of the birth mother Ninhursag (also called Ninmah, Aruru, etc.). In Greek mythology, Uranus was considered to be the earliest god of the heavens, the son of Terra (or Gaea), the earth. Uranus married his mother and became the chief lord until his son Saturn (Kronos) deposed him (and was later deposed by his son Jupiter (Zeus).
Sumer — Utu Babylonia — Shamash Other Mesop. — Bishebi, Shash-aru Egypt — Ra Greece — Helios Rome — Sol
The sun represents power, justice, omniscience, and compassion in most mythologies. In Mesopotamia, Utu (Shamash) provides direct assistance to many literary characters, perhaps representations of the other planets. Shamash was said to create sunbeams with his saw that he used to cut his way through the Zagros Mountains to the east each sunrise, painting him as a character of great power and virility. The Egyptian sun god Ra would also acquire the personality of a strong and aggressive god, ruling the sky. In Greek mythology, the Titan Hyperion was the original sun god, but he was ultimately replaced by his son Helios (Sol), the “royal sun” who looked over his cattle in The Odyssey.
Sumer — Nanna, Suen Babylonia — Sin Other Mesop. — Aku Egypt — Khons, Thoth Greece — Selene/Artemis Rome — Luna/Diana
Nanna (also Suen or Sin) was called “the wise lord” or the “Lord of Wisdom” by the Babylonians, who perhaps acknowledged the art of calendar making by tracking the moon’s
changes each night. Technically, “Nanna” refers to the full moon, while Suen (Sin) refers to the new moon. Nanna was father to both Utu (the sun) and Ishtar (Venus), suggesting his importance to the Sumerian pantheon. The moon’s waxing and waning were often associated with female menstrual cycle and capricious behavior, but the earliest characterizations of the moon god were male. The crescent moon was associated with the horns of a bull, creating the most recognizable fertility symbol from the Age of Taurus. The moon’s mutability also caused it to be associated both with the dead, the underworld, and immortality. Monthly agricultural sacrifices were performed to encourage its resurrection on the third day of the new moon. In Greek mythology, the Titan Atlas and his consort Phoebe ruled the moon, ultimately replaced by the goddesses Selene (Luna), Artemis (Diana), and Hekate (Hecate).
Sumer — Ningishzida, Enki Babylonia — Nabu (Nebo) Other Mesop. — Nabul, Bibbu, Lubat-gud Egypt — Anubis, Thoth Greece — Hermes, Apollo Rome — Mercurius
The planet Mercury is the fastest in our solar system, so most mythologies equate the swift movements of Mercury with a messenger god or a wandering spirit. Some Sumerian cities assigned Ningishzida to the speedy planet, calling him the “Bull of Light” or “Shining Bull,” likely communicating Mercury’s proximity to both the sun and the constellation Taurus in the eastern sky in spring and autumn. Ningishzida’s descent into the underworld and ascent into the Way of Anu is the subject of several Sumerian myths. He earned the nicknames “The Buyer-God” and “The Messenger” (Mushtaddullu) due to his ability to transcend the realms of the underworld and the heavens, making him a powerful god. He is also associated with another god half-way around the world: the Aztec creator god Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent, who brought civilization to the Aztecs and returned to his heavenly home on a raft of snakes over the ocean (and will one day return). Other cult centers worshipped Enki (Ningishzida’s father) as Mercury, perhaps due to Enki’s shifty use of language. The Babylonians changed Mercury’s god to Nabu, called “The Herald” or “The Prophet,” and often depicted riding a mušhuššu dragon on the water (same as Marduk, Nabu’s father). He is told to have received prophecies by singing and chanting in foreign tongues. In one story, Nabu heroically traveled to the mountains and into the Underworld to rescue his father Marduk. He was the god of writing, record-keeping, and wisdom, developing a parallel to both Enki (his grandfather and the god of wisdom) and the Egyptian god Thoth (writing and wisdom), even though Thoth was also regarded as a moon god. No Sumerian stories of Nabu seem to exist. Nabu even makes his way into the Bible: “The Idols of Babylon, Bel [Marduk] and Nebo [Nabu], are being hauled away on ox carts! But look! The beasts are stumbling! The cart is turning over! The gods are falling out onto the ground! Is that the best they can do? If
Stars in the Sky, Gods in the heavens
they cannot even save themselves from such a fall, how can they save their worshippers from Cyrus?” (Isaiah 46:1-2) Greek mythology adapted the messenger symbolism with its parallel character Hermes (Latin Mercurius), the a son of Zeus (Jupiter). Hermes means “He of the Market” or “The Retailer”; likewise, Mercurius means “God of Merchandise.” Originally, the Titan Coeus and Titaness Metis ruled over Mercury.
Sumer — Inanna Babylonia — Ishtar Other Mesop. — Zib (Zig), Dil-bat Egypt — Hathor Greece — Aphrodite Rome — Venus
Venus bobs up and down in both the morning sky as well as the evening sky during different times of its 584-day cycle. After residing in the western evening horizon for nine months, Venus rises above the sun as it moves into the morning sky for the next nine months. After its initial appearance in the morning sky, it then pauses for a bit and slowly follows the sun with each passing day. It then passes behind the sun, disappears for several weeks, and then again moves into the evening sky. Venus climbs high into the evening sky as is follows the Sun to the horizon each night. After hanging above the sun for a while, Venus plunges back into the morning sky, and the cycle continues. Venus and the sun perform this dance about five times in eight years. About every 120 years, Venus passes in front of the sun (this is called a transit). This last occurred on 8 June 2004, when Venus emerged back into the morning sky after glowing as the evening star for the previous three seasons. The following table shows when Venus will occupy the eastern morning sky or the western evening sky in the coming years:
Date Jan 1 Feb 1 Mar 1 Apr 1 May 1 Jun 1 Jul 1 Aug 1 Sep 1 Oct 1 Nov 1 Dec 1
morning morning morning morning morning NV* NV* evening evening evening evening evening
evening evening evening evening morning morning morning morning morning morning morning morning
NV* NV* evening evening evening evening evening evening evening evening morning morning
morning morning morning morning morning morning morning NV* NV* evening evening evening
evening evening evening evening evening evening morning morning morning morning morning morning
morning morning NV* NV* NV* evening evening evening evening evening evening evening
NV — Venus is not visible (too close to the sun or the sky is too bright) evening — Venus is visible in the evening just after dusk morning — Venus is visible in the morning just before dawn
In Sumer, Venus was known as Inanna, and she was sometimes called Sinishat (“The Female”) or Dil-bat (“The Herald”) because she would remain as the brightest light in the eastern sky before sunrise, beckoning the Utu to rise from the dark Underworld. The earliest tablet known to chart star patterns came from the court of King Amisaduqa of Babylon, dating between 1646 and 1626 BCE, called The Venus Tablet of Amisaduqa. Here is a passage from that tablet regarding Venus: “In month XI, 15th day, Venus disappeared in the west. Three days it stayed away, then on the 18th day it became visible in the east. Springs will open and Adad will bring his rain and Ea his floods. Messages of reconciliation will be sent from King to King.” The Babylonians called her Ishtar; sometimes she was also referred to as Ilat Shimetan (“Goddess of the Evening Star”) or as “Qadishtu Ilani (“The Pretty Lady of the Gods”). Because Venus resides in both the eastern sky at sunrise and in the evening sky at sunset, she has acquired a dual identity in Mesopotamian literature. In the evening, she epitomized love, desire, beauty, compassion, and extreme femininity. At sunset she was called Ishtar of Uruk and “The Lady of the Gods” as she descended beyond the western horizon with many different characters of the zodiac. Because of her perpetual descent into the Underworld, she also acquired status as a goddess of mourning. After disappearing for three nights, she is reborn in the fiery eastern sky at sunrise. Here, she assumes more aggressive and masculine characteristics. Now promoting war and authority, Venus was sometimes called Ishtar of Agade or “Ishtar of the Stars.” Her two main symbols, the eight-petaled rosette and the lion, also reveal her dual nature. When associated in conjunction with Mercury, Venus often depicted bisexuality (the word “hermaphrodite” comes from combining the Greek gods Hermes [Mercury] and Aphrodite [Venus]). In Egypt, the goddess Hathor would parallel Inanna’s/Ishtar’s attributes of both love and war. In Greek mythology, Aphrodite was the goddess of love who appeared out of the sea, born from the severed genitals of her father Uranus. The name “Aphrodite” literally means “Born from Foam.” Originally, Venus was a representation of the Titan Oceanus and his wife Tethys.
Sumer — Gugalanna, Nergal Babylonia — Nergal, Marduk Other Mesop. — Zal-bad-anu, Mushtabarru Egypt — Horus Greece — Ares/Herakles Rome — Mars/Hercules
In Sumer, Mars was identified with two Underworld gods who were attributed to be the husbands of Ereshkigal, the Queen of the Underworld. One was Gugalanna, the first Husband of Ereshkigal, also known as the “Great Bull of Heaven.” Many stories depict the death of Gugalanna, including the Sumerian story The Descent of Inanna and the Akkadian Gilgamesh.
Stars in the Sky, Gods in the heavens
In Babylonia, Nergal became the predominant figure to represent the red planet. Nergal was the second husband of Ereshkigal, as depicted in the story Nergal and Ereshkigal. Also known as Erra (Ares), Nergal was a fierce god of war who was blamed for fevers, plagues, fires, and strife. One nickname of Nergal was “The Great Watcher,” while another was more ominous: Mushtabaru mutanu, which means “satiated by corpses.” Most names for Mars involve the consonants M and R, leading many scholars to suggest that Marduk had replaced Nergal in parts of Babylonia. Marduk was often depicted riding a musshushu dragon, one of the main symbols of this planet’s mythological identity. In Hebrew, “marah” means “bitterness” and “disobedience.” It is also possible that Marduk’s name was likewise associated with Mercury. The Babylonian creation story Enuma elish depicts Marduk as a character who collects all of the powers from the pantheon, potentially representing all seven moving lights in the sky in some cult centers — implying a flirtation with monotheism in Babylonia. Egypt did not utilize Mars directly in its literature, which is surprising. The god Set is the likely candidate for this depiction (Set was a chaos god who was described as the red desert sands as well as an angry god bent on warfare). Interestingly, Set appears to have contributed the two consonants used to begin the name Saturn instead. Some sources name Horus as the depiction of Mars due to his penchant to fight Set in senseless battles. In Greece, both Ares and Herakles were representatives of Mars. Greek nicknames for these characters include Pyroeis (“The Fiery”) and Thouros (“The Flamboyant”). Romans stoics often called Mars Airein (“To Kill”), equating the red color of this planet with human blood. Ares was the son of Zeus and Hera; Mars was the son of Jupiter and Juno. In more ancient times, the Titan Crius and the Titaness Dione ruled the red planet.
Sumer — Nibiru (Nibru, Neberu), Enlil Babylonia — Marduk, Ellil Other Mesop. — Merodach, Dapinu Egypt — Amon-Ra Greece — Zeus Rome — Jupiter
Since the planets Jupiter and Saturn are further away from the sun, their revolutions around the sun take much longer, giving these planets the appearance of relative stability in the night sky. Their slow, plodding progress across the heavens inspired their godly characteristics of stability and leadership. In Sumer, Jupiter was referred to as Nibiru, and sometimes Enlil. Called “The Transient” and “Planet of the Crossing” in astronomical texts, Nibiru came to represent the area in the sky where the Anunna (Anunnaki gods) resided before they descended to earth to govern it. The Anunnaki were the collection of older Sumerian gods, including Anu, Enki, Enlil, and Nanna, and the name means literally “Those Who From Heaven to Earth Came.” The Bible even refers to the “Anakim” and the “Nefilim” (literally, “Giants” – see Genesis 6). Although Nibiru did not translate into a personified character like his fellow Anunnaki gods, Jupiter’s stability earned Nibiru the names Umun-sig-ea and Molobarar, the “Chief Oracle Giver.”
In later Babylonian times, Jupiter became the literary character Marduk, the chief of the gods who collected the Anunnaki’s powers, defeated Tiamat (the ocean dragon), and organized the cosmos in Enuma elish. As the primary god of kingship, wisdom, and judgment, Marduk acted like a shepherd to the other stars. Marduk earned 50 powerful names, including Amar-utu (“Bull Calf of the Sun”), but was most commonly known throughout the Semitic Near East as Ba’al (or Bel), which means “lord” or “master.” Riding his mushushu dragon in the heavens, Marduk/Bel was so powerful that his name had to be associated with evil by other cultures to explain why their gods were better (such as “Baalzebub,” meaning “Lord of the Flies,” an epithet of Satan). In Egypt, the worship of Amon grew in the city of Thebes to the point where the local god Amon was fused with the wider worship of the sun god Ra, creating the god Amon-Ra. His name means “hidden,” and he was often depicted as blue in color, the Egyptian symbol of invisibility. This practice parallels Hindu art, which likewise depicts its greatest gods with blue skin. The largest religious temple to honor Amon-Ra is located in Karnak, and AmonRa was later credited as the source of all life, even spawning the first pharaohs, who claimed Amon-Ra to be their mutual ancestor to solidify their authority. Amon-Ra was father to Khons, the moon god and the creator of humans. Ancient Greece also associated this planet with supreme authority. Zeus, the father of the gods, was the most powerful — and the most frisky, having made love with hundreds of goddesses, thus producing most of the Greco-Roman pantheon. Originally, the Titans Eurymedon and Themis ruled Jupiter. Connections to Marduk/Bel also become evident: the god Triton was often called “Baal-zephon,” meaning “Lord of the Black Northern Void,” and Meri-Baal, “Lord of the Rebellion.” Modern Greeks speak of Zeus Hypsistos, “The Most High God.” The Roman Jupiter was the sky god of thunder (who became Thor in Norse mythology, the thunder god who stuck his hammer in the clouds to create thunderclaps, immortalized in the English name for Thursday: Thor’s Day). Jupiter was the son of both Saturn (Kronos) and Ops (Rhea), and he was married to his patient and forgiving wife, his sister Juno (Hera).
Sumer — Ningursu, Nintura Babylonia — Nintura Other Mesop. — Lu-bad-sag-ush, Nirig Egypt — Ptah, Set Greece — Kronos Rome — Saturnus
Saturn owns the longest orbit of all the planets, needing about 30 years to complete one revolution. This extensive orbit makes Saturn appear to be stationary in the sky, with slow movements noticeable only to those who study the sky over a lifetime. Hence, Saturn has generated such epithets as Father Time and, sometimes, as the Grim Reaper (both carry a staff, perhaps representing the precessional axis of the earth). Nearly all Mesopotamian cultures were in agreement as to Saturn’s godly identity, calling him Nintura, a warrior god. The Sumerians often referred to the ringed planet as Ningirsu (a local version of Nintura, meaning “Chief God”), Sag-ush (Sumerian for “Head-Firm”) and
Stars in the Sky, Gods in the heavens
sometimes Lu-bad-sag-ush (“Planet Kaiawanu”). The Babylonians also called him Ninib (Semitic for “Steadfast” or “The Steady One”). Nintura was often depicted in art as an ox, an eagle, or a vulture. In Egypt, two different gods were associated with this planet. The oldest was the ancient god Ptah, husband to Sekhmet or Bast. Ptah, whose name means “The Sculptor” or “The Creator,” was an early creator god who placed everything in motion and governed over the Universal Law. He was often depicted in art as a balding, bearded old man wearing a tight headband. Other traditions identified Set, the red desert god of chaos, as being Saturn’s representative. This association may have developed in time of drought or weak Nile River inundations, causing the Egyptians to acknowledge a greater force in the universe that was maleficent. In Greece, the Titan Kronos was understood as the ancient nocturnal representative of Helios, sometimes called Kakkab Shamahi (“The Star of the Sun”). Kronos was later deposed by his son Zeus, who became the supreme leader of the classical pantheon, but Kronos (Cronus) still provides us with the etymology of our words for “time”: “chronology.” The Romanized Saturnus was the son of Uranus and Terra Mater (Gaea, earth), and was considered to be the god of agriculture. Saturnus means “Sower” or “Seedsman,” and he was sometimes called Assiduss, “The Constantly Plodding One.” The travels of these seven heavenly lights were immortalized in many of the stories that we will examine in Unit 2: The Age of Aries.
http://www.astrocelt.demon.co.uk/Astrology/meanings.htm http://www.timelessmyths.com/classical/stars.html http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~loxias/week.htm http://www.jameswbell.com/a005calendar.html http://www.hermetic.ch/cal_stud/hlwc/why_seven.htm http://www.radix.net/%7Edglenn/defs/daysymbols.html http://www.rastko.org.yu/civ2/sumer/tgpinches-religion.html http://www.dhushara.com/book/orsin/origsin.htm http://www.angelfire.com/tx/tintirbabylon/nam.html http://www.nickcampion.com/nc/history/mesopotamia.htm http://www.astro.wisc.edu/~dolan/Planets http://sumer.artideas.com./Why2012/Why2012.html http://www.pagannews.com/cgi-bin/gods1.pl http://www.ldolphin.org/Nimrod.html http://home.cogeco.ca/~hermes5/sumer/08sumer.html http://www.ldolphin.org/Nimrod.html http://www.nibiru-2012.com
Precession of the Equinoxes
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University Precession is the wobble of the earth on its axis, just like a gyroscope slowing down will wobble before it tips over. Because of this motion, as the earth spins around the sun, our relation to the stars appears to change very slowly over time. Precession is best measured against the signs of the zodiac in relation to the sun. The zodiac sign of a precessional “age” is that sign in which the sun rises heliacally (the last sign seen before sunrise on the vernal equinox, March 20-23). Over the course of the precessional cycle, the “wheel” of the signs appears to rotate backwards due to precession. Thus, over the course of a single year, the zodiac moves from Pisces to Aries to Taurus to Gemini, but in the course of a precessional “year,” the sun rises heliacally in Gemini, then to Taurus, to Aries, to Pisces, and now in Aquarius. The reality of this movement is very slow and not perceptible to the naked eye: One degree of precessional movement takes 72 years to complete. A movement from one “age” to the next — assuming each sign of the zodiac occupies 30 degrees in the sky — takes 2,160 years (72 x 30 = 2,160). That ancient astronomers recognized this is apparent, but also speaks to the inherent sacredness of Time, as such measurements would only have been possible over hundreds of generations of observations. One “greater” precessional age takes 25,920 years to complete, since there are 12 signs in the zodiac (12 x 30 = 360 degrees, and 360 x 72 = 25,920 years).
5 — 6 — 12 — 30 — 54 — 72 — 360 — 2,160 — 25,920
The Zodiac and the Ages of Time
The Zodiac and the Ages of Time
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University
Precession is the slow rotation (or wobble) of the earth as it spins on its axis. Because the poles don’t stay stationary while the earth is spinning, the stars in the sky appear to shift and rotate as the years go by. The entire process takes nearly 26,000 years to complete, so you would never notice the difference. If the rotation circle is measured in degrees (360 degrees being the total), then movement of only one degree would take 72 years, a normal human life span. Measured in larger figures, the precessional cycle can be charted by examining the shifting around of the zodiac, the 12 astronomical constellations that are relatively equidistant from each other. Each zodiac sign would therefore represent 30 degrees in the sky, so one sign replaces the other in the sky roughly every 2,100 years (in reverse order of the zodiacal calendar changes): after Taurus came Aries, then Pisces, then Aquarius. Therefore, each zodiac sign gets about 2,100 years of glory at sunrise before the next sign pushes it under. This is how I have divided the first two units: the Age of Taurus and the Age of Aries. We will examine how each age reflected opposing values: feminine, then masculine, respectively. The Egyptians and Mesopotamians used these numbers to calculate important dates, festivals, and calendars. Of the 360 degrees in a circle, one degree represents about one human life span (72 years, due to precession). The number 72 is a precessional number, and it is incorporated into the architecture of temples worldwide, including those in Egypt. If a human were to live for 30 degrees of precession (2160 years), he or she would move from one Zodiac age to the next. This idea is not “New Age” at all. It is actually some of the oldest wisdom on the planet. This idea is also quite different from modern astrology, which attempts to predict an individual fate or personality based on birth signs. The ancient Mesopotamian calculated the astrological calendar, and they understood that these changes in precession create climate change, and ultimately civilization change. Read more about these changes in the document entitled “The Ages of Man.” This following tables suggest an interesting theory that all 12 sign of the Zodiac (which were almost universally adopted across the Near East) projected their personalities onto the earth and its inhabitants. If these constellations were representations of gods, then their messages must be adhered to. Therefore, when the sun rose on the first day of spring in the constellation of Leo back in 11,000 BCE, the mentality of the lion was implied by the stories and outlooks of the civilizations at that time. Of course, they were not committed to writing until many generation later, which is why zodiac age origins are difficult to pin down in ancient texts. As these Ages of Time pass, each new eon (2,160 years, or 1/12th of the Zodiac cycle) portended different mentalities and behaviors of the people below. This is reflected in the literature of this unit consistently.
Each of the last four ages have brought forth a new awakening of human consciousness:
TAURUS: ARIES: PISCES: AQUARIUS:
Nature (Agriculture is the foundation) Self (Fear is the foundation) Mystery (Faith is the foundation) Knowledge (The foundation is in the future)
Capricorn Sagittarius Scorpio Libra Virgo Leo Cancer Gemini Taurus Aries Pisces Aquarius
The Mountain Goat The Archer The Scorpion The Scales The Virgin The Lion The Crab The Twins The Bull The Ram The Fish The Waterbearer
“I Do” “I See” “I Desire” “I Relate” “I Analyze” “I Will” “I Feel” “I Think” “I Have” “I Am” “I Believe” “I Know”
21810 BCE 19650 BCE 17490 BCE 15330 BCE 13170 BCE 11010 BCE 8850 BCE 6690 BCE 4530 BCE 2370 BCE 210 BCE st 21 cent. CE
In the period around 4000-2000 BCE, four major constellations along the ecliptic may have been identified with the cosmic cycle of time and the life of the universe:
• • • •
Vernal equinox: Taurus, the bull as major symbol of fertility. Summer solstice: Leo, the solar lion, the symbol of supreme power. Autumnal equinox: Scorpio, the night spider who wounds the sun causing his decline and eventual. Winter solstice: Aquarius, a symbol of water and death in the waters of chaos.
The Ages of Man
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University
Due to precession, the sun rises inside a different sign of the zodiac every 2,160 years. Whether through foresight or hindsight, each of these eras has seen dramatic changes in the rise of civilization. More importantly, each new age has forced (or allowed) people to view their environment differently, therefore changing their outlooks and philosophies over time.
THE AGE OF LEO
By at least 10,000 BCE, hunters arrive in North America. Plato attributes the legend of Atlantis, the island beyond the Atlas Mountains, to having gone beneath the sea some 9,000 years before his time. According to legend, the island sank because the people misused the power of the sun.
THE Ages of Man
THE AGE OF CANCER
By around 8,500 BCE village life had been born. It arose independently both in the Fertile Crescent region of Mesopotamia as well as in Central America. Vivid cave paintings found in Spain show that the people living around these western Mediterranean shores 10,000 years ago were still living by hunting and by gathering roots and fruits from the forest, just as they had done ever since they first arrived on the shores of the sea. When agriculture replaced hunting along the great river valleys of India, Mesopotamia and Egypt, women achieved a social and economic importance that they had previously lacked, and society wore the robes of matriarchy. The belief that a woman’s fertility or sterility influenced farming persisted almost universally in European folklore. Barren women were regarded as dangerous; however, a pregnant woman had a magical influence on grain because, similar to her, the grain “becomes pregnant.” Note the change in perspective: the pregnant figurines of the seventh and sixth millennia BCE are nude (from the ages of Cancer and Gemini), while the sculptures of pregnant ladies of the fifth and fourth millennia (Gemini) are exquisitely clothed, except for the abdomen, which is exposed, and on which lies a sacred snake.
THE AGE OF GEMINI
During this age, agriculture began to spread to less hospitable zones after 6,000 BCE, as humanity figured out ways to make it work. One of the earliest big towns to be discovered developed about 8,400 years ago (6,400 BCE) at Catal Huyuk in central Turkey. Typical seventh millennium sculptures from this region in central Anatolia take the form of a massively fat woman, either standing or seated, supported by leopards. She usually either holds her hands up to her large breasts or rests them on the heads of accompanying animals. During the sixth millennium the goddess became more vigorous and less obese, with her shoulders, upper arms, and breasts accentuated. A striking development in art at the inception of the agricultural era was its persistent representation of a number of conventionalized graphic designs symbolizing abstract ideas. The symbols fall into two basic categories: those related to water or rain (the snake and the bird), and those associated with the moon, or vegetal life cycle — the rotation of the seasons, and the birth and growth that is essential to the perpetuation of life. When the Old European civilization reached its cultural peak around 5,000 BCE, there emerged a sophisticated image of the bird and snake goddess. An overwhelming majority of all the figurines found in this settlement belonged to the standing or enthroned bird goddess. She seems to be the most important goddess of the Inca people as well, since her image dominates all known settlements. The presence of the bird and snake goddess is felt everywhere on Earth — in the skies and beyond the clouds, where primordial waters lie. Her abode lies beyond the upper waters (i.e., beyond meandrous labyrinths). She rules over the life giving force of water, and her image is consequently associated with water containers. The eyes of the bird or snake goddess even stare from the very center of the world sphere with a mythical water stream in the center.
THE AGE OF TAURUS
Taurus is solid in nature and is symbolic of the fertility of spring brought into fruition/conception (whereas Aries symbolizes the seed). Taurus symbolizes foundations — the neck is the foundation for the head, but it is also symbolic of holdings of property and objects which have permanence. In relation to the sign of Aries, which has to do with expression and awareness, Taurus is about the awareness of things outside the self for the first time, introducing the idea of object permanence, and, as a result, is a producer of wealth.
Hoe Culture Changed into Plow Culture
We have seen that agriculture greatly improved human conditions and made it possible for men to give up the hunting life and to live in villages surrounded by little grain fields. But those grain fields had been cultivated by hand with the hoe. This was a slow and laborious method of work, and it limited the amount of land which could be cultivated. Finally it occurred to some clever Egyptian that he might lengthen the handle of his hoe so that it could be fastened to a yoke resting on the foreheads of two oxen. Thus the old hoe handle became the beam of the plow, and the hoe blade became the plowshare. The oxen could then drag the plowshare through the soil. This invention of the first agricultural machinery marked a new epoch, for it enabled man to begin the use of animal power (that is, power other than the strength of man or woman). As this power was applied to the work of cultivating the fields, Egypt was able to farm the largest area that had ever been prepared for the raising of crops. Thus there arose in the Nile valley the first great agricultural nation. The annual income in grain was not only a source of increased wealth to the people and the government, but it was the first portable wealth. Because it could be carried about, loans could be made with it, taxes paid, and business debts settled. This was in an age before money, and it therefore made an enormous difference, aiding the Egyptians forward in their civilization. By 2,000 BCE, the Cretans had begun to establish colonies in other islands, which eventually enabled them to dominate the islands of the eastern Mediterranean. Upon their arrival, the palace at Knossos showed no signs of battlements nor other defenses. It was not a fortress, but a religious and economic center, and it was here that the bull was worshipped. Bull images appear over and over again through the building. Even earthquakes were attributed to the bull lying within the land, shaking himself. Tidal waves that accompany volcanic eruptions were also manifestations of his power. The god-king himself, whose name was Minos, was believed to have had a bull as an ancestor and was therefore half-bull himself and the incarnation of the bull spirit in human form. But the age of the bull, and all of its feminine and agricultural attributes, were no match for the mightier, more aggressive peoples that rose to prominence during the age of Aries.
THE AGE OF ARIES
Aries, as a fire sign, is a barren sign. To the people living at this time, it seemed that nature could be ravished and plundered as men wished. Its products were selfrenewing and inexhaustible. They saw no reason why men should not take what they wanted as often as they wanted it. For example, the states often gave legal title to undeveloped land to anyone who cleared a forest. As the human population grew, so more and more of the forests that had once girdled it with green were destroyed. Abraham promised that this children would number more than the stars of heaven (Exodus 32: 12-14). The sacrifice of his first-born son (and the Ram being caught by his horns in the bush) reflect the qualities of Aries. Recall that Moses was watching a flock of sheep when the flaming bush appeared to him (for Passover it is a sheep or goat which must be sacrificed). When the ram’s horn sounded a long blast, the followers were to go up the mountain to perform this sacrifice.
THE Ages of Man
Wood was virtually the only fuel used in the classical world, and the vast proportion of the timber felled was burned during this age and used for cooking and heating. Chariots, carts and ships were constructed from it. So, as the classical empires spread from east to west along the Mediterranean and north into Europe, the forests were demolished. Forests are key factors in maintaining the health of the land, and societies found their removal to be catastrophic. As civilization passed through the period when the vernal equinox rested in Aries, it matured to a point where rational being became more important then intuitive being. Enlightened masculinity became the dominant behavioral consequence. This response is in perfect correspondence with the astrological meaning of Aries. A close inspection of self-identity will reveal that much of our power to survive comes from our fear of losing our identity (i.e., ego), which can lead to arrogance.
Connections to the Judeo-Christian Tradition
Easter occurs after the first full moon in Aries. The waxing moon was associated with an increase in evil; the waning moon was a reprieve from evil, giving power back to the sun. This became symbolic of the Son of Man and the resurrection, and of the renewal of life after a long winter. Religion is derived from the Latin word religio, which means “to reattach the ligaments.” In other words, the self gains a cosmic identity. This cosmic identity is clearly stated in Exodus 3:14: And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. Emphasis is placed on the spirit name of Aries, for it is the essence which the Chosen People carried toward the valley of death. The key words “I am” (or “I am that I am”) was one of the most important biblical phrases in the Old Testament during the age of Aries.
THE AGE OF PISCES
In the cycle before Aquarius, which is one of unity and consensus and sharing of thoughts, comes the time to retire and integrate knowledge into feeling and faith. This is the domain of the hermit and the monk, who, after assimilating too much knowledge, became confused and troubled. This is symbolic of piscean inner turmoil, with the two sides of an argument, or the two fish set against each other. The effect is one of selfundoing, because each side takes positions that are inherently contradictory to each other. Pisces is a feminine zoidion ... opposed to itself because of being both in the south and in the north. Thoughts borne from this mindset are inconstant, of two minds, including those who change from bad to good, erotic, servile, licentious, prolific, popular, etc.
THE AGE OF AQUARIUS
Modern meanings for Aquarius suggest that it is a sign of brotherhood, fraternity, platonic love, togetherness and humanitarianism, but aloof, and enigmatical. Often there is the theme of “the needs of the many (Aquarius) outweighing the needs of the few (Leo).” This is the age that is often referred to as the “Last Days,” not just in Christianity, but in many other beliefs. The term is astrological, and it implies the final age before beginning a new cycle. Since the old cycle must be destroyed to allow the new cycle to emerge, many people equate the “Last Days” with doomsday, although other cultures look forward to the universe’s period of cleansing.
Connections to Egypt (Unit 3)
At first Osiris was a nature god and embodied the spirit of vegetation, which dies with the harvest to be reborn when the grain sprouts. Afterwards he was worshipped throughout Egypt as god of the dead, and in this capacity reached first rank in the Egyptian pantheon.
Osiris was handsome of countenance, dark-skinned and taller than all other men. When Ra, his father, retired to the heavens, Osiris succeeded him as king of Egypt and took Isis, his sister, as queen. The first care of the new sovereign was to abolish cannibalism and to teach his half-savage subjects the art of fashioning agricultural implements (age of Cancer). He taught them how to produce grain and grapes for man’s nourishment in the form of bread, wine, and beer. The cult of the gods did not yet exist, so Osiris instituted it. He built the first temples and sculptured the first divine images. He laid down the rules governing religious practice and even invented the two kinds of flutes which should accompany ceremonial song (age of Gemini). After this he built towns and gave his people just laws, he merited the name Onnophris (“the Good One”). Not satisfied with having civilized Egypt, he wished to spread the benefits of his rule throughout the world (age of Taurus). He left the regency to Isis to establish civilization in Asia, accompanied by Thoth, god of scribes. Osiris was the enemy of all violence, and it was by gentleness alone that he persuaded other nations, winning and disarming their inhabitants by songs and the playing various musical instruments. He returned to Egypt only after he had traveled the whole earth and spread civilization everywhere. However, strong leaders would assume the mantle of Aries and forcefully assert their interests into foreign lands, leading to the fall of Egypt.
http://www.mazzaroth.com/ChapterFour/TenSefirothAndGeometryOfHeaven.htm http://www.transactual.com/cac/symbolism.html http://home.earthlink.net/~thelink7/LINKA.HTML http://www.mujweb.cz/veda/senmut
Video Guide: Graham Hancock’s
Quest for the Lost Civilization
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University
1. List at least three things that these three cultures share: Egypt, Mexico, and Cambodia. 2. How did the Egyptians join the ground with the sky? 3. According to the Egyptians, the constellation of Orion was believed to be the image of which god? 4. Likewise, the star Sirius was considered to be the essence of which god? 5. Dr. Robert Bauval concluded that the pyramids were not tombs at all. What was his conclusion about the use of the pyramids? 6. In the “Churning of the Milky Ocean,” what are the gods and asuras accomplishing together? 7. Explain the astronomical concept of precession. 8. The evidence presented seems to place the construction of the Sphinx and the temples at Angkor in what year?
THE Rulers of Lagash
The Rulers of Lagash
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University
As kingdoms grew more powerful, so did the egos of the rulers. They often asserted (or confirmed) their own greatness by having their scribes write lofty hymns and praises in their honor, sometimes claiming that their rulers had direct lineage with the gods. Another method of ensuring rulers’ legacies was to commission historical registers that proved the king’s long relationship to great leaders, including early gods such as Nintura, Enlil, and Shamash. You will notice that many of the kings’ names incorporate the names of the gods. But is this listing closer to fact or fiction? Compare these rulers to the next document, “The Real Rulers of Lagash.” Interestingly, the quasi-historical document The Rulers of Lagash begins with a reference to the Great Flood, which we will discuss in the next few weeks. After the flood, the male gods An and Enlil “called the name of mankind.” In other words, they used words to anoint mortals with heavenly authority in the form of kingship. This is the original divine right of kings. If the king tells his people that the gods have ordained him, then the people likely would listen and believe. If they denied their king’s claims, then they would show disloyalty to either their king or their god, if not both. This would not be advantageous. According to this document, mankind apparently lived for 200 years, but due to their lack of industry they became weaker and their world turned to disarray. Now the people were totally dependent on Ezina (a grain goddess) providing their food. The mentality here reflects the value of work ethic: that people need to pull their weight and do their jobs. Don’t depend on the gods for everything! We can see again the feminine being replaced by the masculine: the feminine farmers depend on the whim of Nature, but the self-guided masculine shepherds, cattle ranchers, and warriors began to take control by force when Nature failed to provide. The list of kings that follows is interesting due to the exaggerated lengths of their reigns, often surpassing thousands of years. However, compare the years of the kings’ reigns with the real years in the next document, as determined by archeology. Notice that some of the names are omitted, but (for the most part) the years don’t compare between these two versions. Expanding the years of rule in an historical record to impossible proportions allows the scribe to convey the importance or status of the king. Humans are not immortal, but we can expand their years of rule to place them a little closer to gods. We see many other cultures use this tactic as well, since it is an excellent way to command authority to the law. In the Age of Aries, the Law (steady, standard, and ordained by the gods) is more important than Nature (fickle, mutable, and unpredictable). Laws are more consistent, and therefore attributed to the male.
After the flood had swept over and brought about the destruction of the countries; when mankind was made to endure, 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 Nintura 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. 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 Lagash was held back, there was famine in Girsu. Canals were not dug, the levees and ditches were not cleaned. The large arable tracts were not [cleared for planting]; there was no water to irrigate abundantly all the cultivated fields: the people relied on rain. Ezina did not make dappled
[Lugal-shag-engur], he dug the Mah canal, the […] canal, the Pirig-gin-gen canal, the […] canal, the Pirig canal at the mouth of the Lugal canal, the Gana-hili-ana canal, the […] canal, and the Nanshe-pada canal. To care, single-handedly, for the great arable lands, he dug irrigation ditches and […]; he acted for 2220 years. Ur-Nanshe, the son of […], who built the E-Sirara, her temple of happiness and Nigin, her beloved city, acted for 1080 years. Eannatum, the son of Ur-Nanshe, in whose […] place the gods stood, who […] the land register of great Enlil: his personal god was Cul-utul; he acted for 690 years. [Entemena], the son of Eannatum; he acted for 360 years. En-entarzi: his god was Mesh-an-du, of the seed of ancient days, who had grown together with the city; he acted for 990 years. [Lubalanda], the son of En-entarzi: he dug the canal Urmah-banda, and the canal Tabta-kuggal, his personal god was Mesh-an-du; his master Ningirsu 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 61 years. En-Mesh-an-du, the son of Puzur-Ninlil: his personal god was […]; he acted for 120 years. Dadu, the son of En-Mesh-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-nig-gena, the administrator of PuzurMama, who built the wall of Girsu, his […],
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 [clear] 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 Ezina who makes the seeds grow, they prostrated themselves and she made them grow. [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 Nigin-gish-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-Ningirsu-ki-ag, the son of En-akigalaguba: he acted for 1320 years. En-Enlile-ki-ag, the son of En-Ningirsu-ki-ag: he acted for 1800 years. Ur-Bau, the son of En-Enlile-ki-ag: 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. [14 lines unclear or missing]
THE Real RULERS OF LAGASH
and the Tirash palace in Lagash; he acted for 280 years. Hengal, the son of Lamku-nig-gena: his god was Pabilsag; he acted for 140 years. […], the son of Hengal; he acted for 144 years. Ur-Ninmarki, the scribe and scholar: […], his personal gods were Haya and Nisaba; he acted for 20 years.
Ur-Ningirsu, the son of Ur-Ninmarki; he acted for 60 years. Ur-Bau, the scribe of Ur-Ningirsu, who […] in the assembly; he acted for 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!
Question for The Rulers of Lagash
1. How do these names and lengths of reins compare with the next document, The Real Rulers of Lagash, which comes from cross-referenced historical documents, not from the commissioned scribes of the kings themselves?
The Real Rulers of Lagash
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University
The city-state of Lagash existed from 2570-2023 BCE. The following is an historical listing of the Lagash kings from this period. Notice that the reigns of the kings before the Gutian Dynasty are only approximations. Compare the real list of leaders to the previous document, The Rulers of Lagash, and look for inconsistencies and exaggerations.
Estimated Reign (BCE) Kings’ Names
2570-2500 2500-2490 2490-2465 2465-2455 2455-2425 2425-2400 2400-2380 2380-2370 2370-2360 2360-2355 2355-2350 2350-2230 En-hegal Lugal-shag-engur Ur-Nanshe Akurgal Eannatum Enannatum I Entemena Enannatum II En-entarzi Lubalanda Uru-inimgina Akkadian Dynasty reigned 2230-2200 2200-2155 2155-2142 2141-2122 2121-2118 2117-2115 2114 2113-2111 2110-2023 Lugal-ushumgal Gutium Dynasty reigned Ur-Baba Gudea Ur-Ningursu Irig-me Ur-gar Nam-mahazi Various governors reigned until Lagash achieved independence in 2023 BCE
Roux, Georges. Ancient Iraq. New York: Penguin, 1992.
The Sumerian King List
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University
This list records the lineages of Sumerian rulers, both historic and prehistoric, and is divided into the various kingdoms in Mesopotamia. Capital cities changed frequently in this region between the third and first millennia, most likely the result of invasions and legal annexations that tend to occur when kingdoms change hands. Notice the lengths of these kings’ reigns. Most of the years listed on this tablet are in dispute, many because they exceed any reasonable life span by a mortal human. The first king, for example, reigned for 28,800 years. Given the fact that most people don’t even live for 28,880 days, we must assume that the numbers have been exaggerated to promote the greatness of the ruler. Many of these impossible numbers are actually variations of precessional numbers (multiples or fractions of 72) or values deemed important to Sumerian numerology, such as 60 (the sacred number of Anu, the god with the highest value). Also notice that each dynasty tends to have its unique range of numbers to denote the length of the rulers’ reigns. Often, these numbers differ when compared to other tablets discovered in the region. You will see these alternate numbers in parentheses throughout the list. Often, these numbers reflect a more realistic length of reign. Look for patterns and changes as you read the kings from one section to the next. Make observations and draw some conclusions about the credibility of this information. The listing is interrupted twice to announce two major demarcations: the Great Flood and the destruction of Sumer. An “antediluvian” king is one who reigned before the Great Flood. All mythologies contain stories of destructive floods, but the ones in the Near East were hauntingly similar. The Mesopotamians believed that kingship was granted from the heavens, so the earliest kings were nearly equated with the gods themselves. One way to make sure that these early leaders received their due respect was to exaggerate their years in power. Notice the lengths of the reigns of the first three kings: 28,800, 36,000, and 43,200 years. Why are these years to impossibly large? Keep in mind that a person would have to live until about age 79 in order to live 28,800 DAYS, so we know their numbers are exaggerated. Even further, a person would have to reign for over 118 years if we were to convert 43,200 years into days. Some will claim that people really did live longer back then because there was no pollution or disease, yet there is proof to the contrary. We will soon read many stories about the ongoing suffering of the people, usually in the forms of fertility problems, disease, poverty, etc. They drank polluted water, never wore sunscreen, and drank lots of beer. Most children never saw adulthood, as evidenced by the high ratio of children’s bones found in excavated graves. When you read this list, look for the names of other characters or leaders that appear in the stories (and titles) throughout this coursepacket. Notice that Dumuzi is listed as the fifth king, reigning for 36,000 years. However, the kingdom crumbled (or “fell”) after his death, so now we know what happened to the city after he was taken to the underworld. You will see Etana listed, and we see evidence of his son and the many generations that followed, filling in the broken text at the end of the Etana story. Notice that these mortal kings only reigned for hundreds (or thousands) of years, not tens of thousands. Notice further that the lengths of rule become realistic after Gilgamesh, who was considered to be the greatest hero in this culture. We will read his story at the end of Unit 2.
The Sumerian king List
Keep an eye on the language used to recall the downfall of the dynasties: the demise of the kingdoms changes from “fell” to “defeated,” suggesting that armies and invasions were involved. By the next page the word “destroyed” is used instead, which sounds a lot worse. We also see the one and only female “king,” serving for 100 years even. I suspect that she really didn’t exist. Her son becomes king too, but only after a hundred years in between (the Akshak Dynasty, which takes on the word “abolished” for the first time in this document). I wonder if this dynasty fell out of political favor and perhaps was simply erased from the records, or maybe the female ruler (Kug-Bau) was inserted simply to legitimize the rules of the later serving sons. Another interesting twist involves the Agade and Gutium Dynasties. Agade is often another name for Akkad, the capital city of Akkadia. In an Akkadian myth, The Cursing of Agade, we are told that the city had been blessed by Inanna, but then she had inexplicably left. The real culprits responsible for the city’s devastation are the Gutians, a tribe from the Zagros Mountains in Iran, who occupied the Mesopotamian cities between 2193 and 2133 BCE. The Gutians had no agriculture of their own, and likely raided Akkadia for its food and wealth (Enlil chased them off the mountain). This may account for the association of the mountains and the underworld (kur), as evil forces often descended from the mountains of Iran. When Agade fell to these invaders, anarchy ensued. This lasted from collapse of the Akkadian Empire to the rise of the Ur III Dynasty. The fields and fisheries were left unattended, and lawlessness reigned on the streets. Notice that the length of the monarchs’ reigns dwindles to a scant few years each. What we learn from this document is that history is written by the winners, and the winners recall their own power and values when interpreting their versions of the facts. The same propagandizing occurs today in every government in the world.
Antediluvian Kings in Eridu
After the kingship descended from heaven, the kingship was in Eridu. In Eridu, Alulim became king; he ruled for 28,800 years. Alalgar ruled for 36,000 years.
Then Eridu fell and the kingship was taken to Bad-tibira.
2 kings; they ruled for 64,800 years.
Antediluvian Kings in Bad-tibira
In Bad-tibira, En-men-lu-ana ruled for 43,200 years. En-men-gal-ana ruled for 28,800 years. Dumuzi, the shepherd, ruled for 36,000 years.
Then Bad-tibira fell and the kingship was taken to Larag.
3 kings; they ruled for 108,000 years.
Antediluvian Kings in Larag
In Larag, En-sipad-zid-ana ruled for 28,800 years.
Then Larag fell and the kingship was taken to Zimbir.
1 king; he ruled for 28,800 years.
Antediluvian Kings in Zimbir
In Zimbir, En-men-dur-ana became king; he ruled for 21,000 years.
Then Zimbir fell and the kingship was taken to Shuruppag.
1 king; he ruled for 21,000 years.
Antediluvian Kings in Shuruppag
In Shuruppag, Ubara-Tutu became king; he ruled for 18,600 years.
1 king; he ruled for 18,600 years. In 5 cities 8 kings; they ruled for 241,200 years. Then the flood swept over.
After the flood had swept over, and the kingship had descended from heaven, the kingship was in Kish. In Kish, Gushur became king; he ruled for 1,200 years. Kullassina-bel ruled for 960 (or 900) years. Nangishlishma ruled for 670 years. En-tarah-ana ruled for 420 years, 3 months, and 3 1/2 days. Babum […] ruled for 300 years. Puannum ruled for 840 (or 240) years. Kalibum ruled for 960 (or 900) years. Kalumum ruled for 840 (or 900)years. Zuqaqip ruled for 900 (or 600 years. Atab (or A-ba) ruled for 600 years. Mashda, the son of Atab, ruled for 840 (or 720) years. Arwium, the son of Mashda, ruled for 720 years. Etana, the shepherd, who ascended to heaven and consolidated all the foreign countries, became king; he ruled for 1,500 (or 635) years. Balih, the son of Etana, ruled for 400 (or 410) years. En-me-nuna ruled for 660 (or 621) years. Melem-Kish, the son of En-me-nuna, ruled for 900 (or 1,560) years. Barsal-nuna, the son of En-me-nuna, ruled for 1,200 years. Zamug, the son of Barsal-nuna, ruled for 140 years. Tizqar, the son of Zamug, ruled for 305 (or 1,620) years. Ilku ruled for 900 years. Iltasadum ruled for 1,200 years. En-me-barage-si, who made the land of Elam submit, became king; he ruled for 900 years. Aga, the son of En-me-barage-si, ruled for 625 (or 1,525) years.
Then Kish was defeated and the kingship was taken to E-ana [Uruk].
23 kings; they ruled for 24,510 years, 3 months, and 3 1/2 days.
In E-ana, Mesh-ki-ag-gasher, the son of Utu, became lord and king; he ruled for 324 (or 325) years. Mesh-ki-ag-gasher entered the sea and disappeared. Enmerkar, the son of Mesh-ki-ag-gasher, the king of Uruk, who built Uruk, became king; he ruled for 420 (or 900, or 745, or 5) years.
The Sumerian king List
Lugalbanda, the shepherd, ruled for 1,200 years. Dumuzid, the fisherman, whose city was Kuara, ruled for 100 (or 110) years. He captured Enme-barage-si single-handed. Gilgamesh, whose father was a phantom, the lord of Kulaba, ruled for 126 years. Ur-Nungal, the son of Gilgamesh, ruled for 30 years. Udul-kalama, the son of Ur-Nunga, ruled for 15 years. La-ba’shum ruled for 9 years. En-nun-tarah-ana ruled for 8 years. Mesh-he, the smith, ruled for 36 years. Melem-ana (or Til-kug) ruled for 6 (or 900) years. Lugal-kitun ruled for 36 (or 420) years.
Then Uruk was defeated and the kingship was taken to Ur.
12 kings; they ruled for 2,310 (or 3,588) years.
In Ur, Mesh-Ane-pada became king; he ruled for 80 years. Mesh-ki-ag-Nanna (or Mesh-ki-ag-nuna), the son of Mesh-Ane-pada, became king; he ruled for 36 (or 30) years. Elulu ruled for 25 (or 36) years.
Then Ur was defeated and the kingship was taken to Awan.
4 kings; they ruled for 171 years.
In Awan, […] became king; he ruled for […] years. […] ruled for […] years. […] ruled for 36 years.
Then Awan was defeated and the kingship was taken to Kish.
3 kings; they ruled for 356 years.
Kish II Dynasty
In Kish, Susuda, the fuller, became king; he ruled for 201 years. Dadasig ruled for 81 years. Mamagal, the boatman, ruled for 360 (or 420) years. Kalbum, the son of Mamagal, ruled for 195 (or 132) years. Tuge ruled for 360 years. Men-nuna, the son of Tuge, ruled for 180 (or 290) years. Lugalgu ruled for 360 (or 420) years.
Then Kish was defeated and the kingship was taken to Hamazi.
8 kings; they ruled for 3,195 (or 3,792) years.
In Hamazi, Hadanish became king; he ruled for 360 years.
Then Hamazi was defeated and the kingship was returned a second time to Uruk.
1 king; he ruled for 360 years.
Uruk II Dynasty
In Uruk, En-shag-kush-ana became king; he ruled for 60 years. Lugal-ure (or Lugal-kinishe-dudu) ruled for 120 years. Argandea ruled for 7 years.
Then Uruk was destroyed and the kingship was taken to Ur.
3 kings; they ruled for 187 years.
Ur II Dynasty
In Ur, Nanni became king; he ruled for 120 (or 54) years. Mesh-ki-ag-Nanna, the son of Nanni, ruled for 48 years. […] the son of [Mesh-ki-ag-Nanna], ruled for 2 years.
Then Ur was destroyed and the kingship was taken to Adab.
3 kings; they ruled for 582 (or 578) years (or 2 kings; they ruled for 120+ years).
In Adab, Lugal-Ane-mundu became king; he ruled for 90 years.
Then Adab was destroyed and the kingship was taken to Mari.
1 king; he ruled for 90 years.
In Mari, Anbu became king; he ruled for 30 (or 90) years. Anba, the son of Anbu, ruled for 17 (or 7) years. Bazi, the leatherworker, ruled for 30 years. Zizi, the fuller, ruled for 20 years. Limer, the gudug priest, ruled for 30 years. Sharrum-iter ruled for 9 (or 7) years.
Then Mari was destroyed and the kingship was taken to Kish.
6 kings; they ruled for 136 (or 184) years.
Kish III Dynasty
In Kish, Kug-Bau, the woman tavern-keeper, who made firm the foundations of Kish, became king; she ruled for 100 years.
Then Kish was destroyed and the kingship was taken to Akshak.
1 king; she ruled for 100 years.
In Akshak, Unzi became king; he ruled for 30 years. Undalulu ruled for 6 (or 12) years. Urur ruled for 6 years. Puzur-Nirah ruled for 20 (or 24) years. Shu-Suen, the son of Ishu-Il, ruled for 7 (or 24) years.
Then the reign of Akshak was abolished and the kingship was taken to Kish.
6 kings; they ruled for 99 (or 116) years (or 5 kings; they ruled for 87 years).
The Sumerian king List
Kish IV Dynasty
In Kish, Puzur-Suen, the son of Kug-Bau, became king; he ruled for 25 years. Ur-Zababa, the son of Puzur-Suen, ruled for 400 (or 6, or 4) years. Zimudar ruled for 30 (or 30+) years. Usi-watar, the son of Zimudar, ruled for 7 (or 6) years. Eshtar-muti ruled for 11 (or 17) years. Ishme-Shamash ruled for 11 years. Shu-ilishu ruled for 15 years. Nanniya, the jeweller, ruled for 7 (or 3) years.
131 are the years of the dynasty of Kug-Bau.
Then the reign of Kish was abolished and the kingship was returned a third time to Uruk.
7 kings; they ruled for 491 (or 485) years (or 8 kings; they ruled for 586 years.
Uruk III Dynasty
In Uruk, Lugal-zage-si became king; he ruled for 25 (or 34) years.
Then Uruk was abolished and the kingship was taken to Agade.
1 king; he ruled for 25 (or 34 years).
In Agade, Sargon, whose father was a gardener, the cupbearer of Ur-Zababa, became king, the king of Agade, who built Agade; he ruled for 56 (or 55, or 54) years. Rimush, the son of Sargon, ruled for 9 (or 7 or 15 years). Man-ishtishu, the older brother of Rimush, the son of Sargon, ruled for 15 (or 7) years. Naram-Suen, the son of Man-ishtishu, ruled for 56 years. Shar-kali-sharri, the son of Naram-Suen, ruled for 25 (or 24) years. Irgigi was king, Imi was king, Nanum was king, Ilulu was king, and the 4 of them ruled for only 3 years. Dudu ruled for 21 years. Shu-Durul, the son of Dudu, ruled for 15 (or 18) years.
157 are the years of the dynasty of Sargon. Then who was the king? Who was not the king? Who indeed was the king?
Then the reign of Agade was abolished and the kingship was taken to Uruk.
11 kings; they ruled for 181 years (or 12 kings; they ruled for 197 years, or 9 kings; they ruled for 161 (or 177)) years.
Uruk IV Dynasty
In Uruk, Ur-nigin became king; he ruled for 7 (or 3, or 15, or 30) years. Ur-gigir, the son of Ur-nigin, ruled for 6 (or 7, or 15) years. Kuda ruled for 6 years. Puzur-ili ruled for 5 (or 20) years. Ur-Utu, the son of Ur-gigir, ruled for 6 (or 25) years. Lugal-melem, the son of Ur-gigir, ruled for 7 years.
Then the reign of Uruk was abolished and the kingship was taken to the army of Gutium.
5 kings; they ruled for 30 (or 43, or 26) years (or 3 kings; they ruled for 47 years).
In the army of Gutium, at first no king was famous; they were their own kings and ruled thus for 3 years (or they had no king; they ruled themselves for 5 years). Then Inkishush […] ruled for 6 (or 7) years. Zarlagab ruled for 6 years. Shulme (or Yarlagash) ruled for 6 years. Silulumesh (or Silulu) ruled for 6 (or 7) years. Inimabakesh ruled for 5 (or Duga ruled for 6) years. Igeshaush ruled for 6 (or Ilu-an ruled for 3) years. Yarlagab ruled for 15 (or 5) years. Ibate ruled for 3 years. Yarla (or Yarlangab) ruled for 3 years. Kurum ruled for 1 (or 3) years. Apilkin ruled for 3 years. La-erabum ruled for 2 years. Irarum ruled for 2 years. Ibranum ruled for 1 year. Hablum ruled for 2 years. Puzur-Suen, the son of Hablum, ruled for 7 years. Yarlaganda ruled for 7 years. […] ruled for 7 years. Tirigan ruled for 40 days.
Then the army of Gutium was destroyed and the kingship was taken to Uruk.
21 kings; they ruled for 124 years and 40 days (or 25 years).
Uruk V Dynasty
In Uruk, Utu-hegal became king; he ruled for 427 years, […] days (or 26 years, 2 months, and 15 days, or 7 years, 6 months, and 15 days, or 7 years, 6 months, and 5 days).
Then Uruk was defeated and the kingship was taken to Ur.
1 king; he ruled for 427 years, […] days (or 7 years, 6 months, and 15 days (or 7 years, 6 months, and 5 days).
Ur III Dynasty
In Ur, Ur-Namma became king; he ruled for 18 years. Shulgi, the son of Ur-Namma, ruled for 46 (or 48, or 58) years. Amar-Suena, the son of Shulgi, ruled for 9 (or 25) years. Shu-Suen, the son of Amar-Suena, ruled for 9 (or 7, or 20, or 16) years. Ibbi-Suen, the son of Su-Suen, ruled for 24 (or 25, or 15, or 23) years.
Then the reign of Ur was abolished.
4 kings; they ruled for 108 years (or 5 kings; they ruled for 117 (or 120, or 123) years). The very foundation of Sumer was torn out. The kingship was taken to Isin.
In Isin, Ishbi-Erra became king; he ruled for 33 (or 32) years. Shu-ilishu, the son of Ishbi-Erra, ruled for 20 (or 10, or 15) years.
The Sumerian king List
Iddin-Dagan, the son of Shu-ilishu, ruled for 21 (or 25) years. Ishme-Dagan, the son of Iddin-Dagan, ruled for 20 (or 18) years. Lipit-Eshtar, the son of Ishme-Dagan (or Iddin-Dagan), ruled for 11 years. Ur-Ninurta, the son of Ishkur — may he have years of abundance, a good reign, and a sweet life — ruled for 28 years. Bur-Suen, the son of Ur-Ninurta, ruled for 21 years. Lipit-Enlil, the son of Bur-Suen, ruled for 5 years. Erra-imitti ruled for 8 (or 7) years. […] ruled for […] 6 months. Enlil-bani ruled for 24 years. Zambiya ruled for 3 years. Iter-pisha ruled for 4 years. Ur-du-kuga ruled for 4 years. Suen-magir ruled for 11 years. Damiq-ilicu, the son of Suen-magir, ruled for 23 years.
14 kings; they ruled for 203 years (or 225 years and 6 months).
A total of 39 kings ruled for 14,409 years, 3 months, and 3 1/2 days, 4 times in Kish. A total of 22 kings ruled for 2,610 years, 6 months, and 15 days, 5 times in Uruk. A total of 12 kings ruled for 396 years, 3 times in Ur. A total of 3 kings ruled for 356 years, once in Awan. A total of 1 king ruled for 420 years, once in Hamazi. [16 lines missing] A total of 12 kings ruled for 197 years, once in Agade. A total of 21 (or 23) kings ruled for 125 years and 40 days (or 99 years), once in the army of Gutium. A total of 11 (or 16) kings ruled for 159 (or 226) years, once in Isin. There are 11 cities, cities in which the kingship was exercised. A total of 134 (or 139) kings, who altogether ruled for 28,876+ (or 3,443+) years.
Questions for The Sumerian King List
1. Throughout the middle of the list, what common trait do you see amongst of the last kings in their dynasties? 2. During the Kish III Dynasty, Kug-Bau is listed as the first and only female ruler, reigning for 100 years. Puzur-Suen, the son of Kug-Bau, continues his reign at Kish IV, but is interrupted by five Akshak rulers, spanning between 69-116 years. How can you account for this discrepancy? 3. In the last section (Isin Dynasty), the entry for Ur-Ninurta includes an interesting comment: “may he have years of abundance, a good reign, and a sweet life — ruled for 28 years.” Why would a forward-looking statement be included on a listing of a dead king?
Reading Guide: Etana
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University
Etana (Dalley, 189-202)
This story serves as a transition into the Age of Aries. It incorporates elements of both the Sumerian agriculture outlook as well as the Babylonian society focus. This title is more of a fable because it communicates a series of morals (albeit very obvious ones). The previous titles have not proposed any rules of conduct, mainly because the gods and goddesses played their known roles well. Etana, however, is a man and a king who has been unable to create an heir for his throne. He will use the plight of the eagle to solve his problem.
TABLET I (190-191)
Most of this tablet is missing, so we can’t learn much from this section. Just read it quickly!
TABLET II (191-196)
Much like in The Huluppu-Tree, Etana begins with a poplar tree (representing the Tree of Knowledge, the axis mundi) that houses an eagle at the top and a serpent at the bottom. Unlike the traditional Western interpretation of the serpent as “evil,” the serpent in this story is good, and actually becomes a helpless victim. The eagle is the bad guy in this tale, a brutal and selfish murderer of the serpent’s young. Here’s why. Recall that the original definition of the Greek word “demon” (“daemon”) means “an intermediary,” or a middleman, go-between, catalyst, etc. The daemon is the spirit/creature that either allows us to get closer to our spiritual or developmental goal (God, etc.) or it prevents us from easily attaining something of our desire (such as a dragon guarding the sacred treasure). Therefore, ANY intermediary plays a role in defining our fates. Jesus is an intermediary to God the Father (through Jesus we get close to God). Likewise, an angel is an intermediary, as are the creatures living in the huluppu-tree, the serpent in the Garden of Eden, a shaman in a tribe, or a minister in a church. All of these are “demons,” and they are necessary conduits and channels to the spiritual world. We will see in later readings that the characters who overstep their bounds are often considered “evil,” such as Tiamat and Gilgamesh (whom we will see in future stories). The eagle is that creature in Etana. Recall as well that birds are fantastic examples of intermediaries, as are any creatures that have wings that can allow them to leave the earth and reach the heavens. Earthbound serpents can burrow into the ground, thus entering the underworld. The serpents typically allow us to grow and develop in earthly ways, whereas birds help us to attain a closer relationship with the sky gods. Therefore, we can see that this fable will incorporate two different types of intermediaries -- one bound to the earth, but the other free to roam the heavens. The tale begins on page 191, where the serpent addresses the eagle, who has committed some “unforgivable deeds” (clarified in footnote #10 that the eagle had eaten from a sacrificial animal, perhaps swooping down and snatching it off the altar). The eagle and the serpent make a pact to assist each other with their food supply. Whatever the eagle kills will be shared with the serpent
and his young, while anything the serpent catches will be shared with the eagle and his young too. This is how society tends to operate — we must work together with others whom we dislike or fear. Since there is an air of mutual distrust, the serpent decides that they should swear their oath on Shamash, the sun god (Sumerian Utu), who can “see” all that occurs below. If any one of these creatures harms the other, then Shamash will judge him accordingly. Well, only a few lines pass before the eagle turns to his evil ways again. On page 192, he decides to kill the serpent’s young. No reason is given, such as the scarcity of food, so we must assume that this decision is simply a wicked one. The eagle acknowledges that his actions will hurt the serpent, so he knows that it is wrong. Interestingly, the eagle’s children protest their father’s decision, telling him that he “oversteps the limit” (193). This generated a little bit of discussion, since young children often recognize the wrongdoing in their parents’ behaviors through their innocence (or ignorance). Perhaps this is what is happening with the eagle — he is fearful that the serpent might strike first or fearful of starvation (we are never told directly), so he acts on his fears and impulses. A little kid doesn’t think twice about putting his hand inside the tiger’s cage, but an adult is fearful that the cage may not be strong enough to contain the beast. Ah, the bliss of innocence! The serpent returns to his nest, only to find that the eagle has killed his young. The serpent cries up to Shamash and begs him to enact justice on the evil bird. If nothing is done, the serpent knows that the “punishment due to you [the eagle] would revert to me” (195). In other words, someone must pay, and the serpent knows that it should not be him! Shamash instructs the serpent to hide himself inside the carcass of a bull. When the eagle enters to pick through the entrails, the serpent will be able to lurch out and attack his tormentor. Once again, the children of the eagle see through the trap, and they tell their dad to avoid the carcass, but you can guess what happens. The eagle is bitten by the serpent, and his wings are clipped, grounding him and removing his special features. Ironically, this is when the eagle pleads to Shamash himself for assistance. The eagle exclaims that he will “broadcast your [Shamash’s] fame for eternity” if allowed to recover. Is this some kind of selfish ploy to acquire Shamash’s mercy? Interestingly, Shamash offers the eagle help — not directly, but in the form of the king, Etana, who will travel from a distant land to meet and help the eagle. Do you think that Shamash fell for the flattery? Why does Shamash not simply kill the eagle? Simple — one cannot kill an intermediary. If we were to kill the eagle, then who would help us to be lifted up to heaven? The eagle will be given a second chance, as it must. As a symbol of divinity, the eagle cannot be grounded forever.
Questions for Etana (Tablet II)
1. Why does the serpent turn down the eagle’s friendship? 2. What pledge/oath do they agree to? 3. What evil plan does the eagle concoct? 4. What do the eagle’s children say about this plan? 5. What trap does Shamash help the serpent set against the eagle? 6. What does the eagle’s son say about this trap of Shamash?
7. When the serpent seizes the eagle (who pleads for his release), why does the serpent say, “If I were to free you […] The punishment due to you would revert to me […]”? 8. While stuck in the pit, what trick does the eagle use with Shamash? 9. For what does the king Etana pray to Shamash?
TABLET III (196-200)
Etana himself is on a quest to discover the “plant of birth,” since he has been unable to bear a child with his wife. He is told by Shamash that he can find this secret if he tends to the eagle. Once healed, the eagle flies around looking for the flower, but is unable to locate it. He then carries Etana upwards in the sky. After an ascent of three miles high, Etana becomes fearful, and he asks the eagle to bring him back down to earth. The eagle shrugs his shoulders, casting Etana down through the air. On several occasions, the eagle swoops under Etana, catching him before impact. What in the world is the eagle doing? Is he teasing Etana or trying to intimidate him? Or is he proving that he is indeed trustworthy, since he is constantly saving Etana’s life from the free fall? Both are valid, but ultimately, the eagle carries Etana to the sky, so we must assume that his intentions are at least somewhat favorable. Etana meets with the gods, and he is given his wish, bearing a son to assume his throne. Unfortunately, the text is broken, so we don’t know the content of their discussions. We do know, however, from The Sumerian King List, that the gods granted Etana a son, Balih.
Questions for Etana (Tablet III)
10. After nursing the eagle back to health, for what does Etana ask in return? 11. Why does the eagle take Etana upwards to the sky? 12. Why does the eagle tease Etana by shrugging him off, only to save him from death at the last moment? 13. Briefly describe Etana’s first dream. 14. Briefly describe Etana’s wife’s dream. 15. Briefly describe Etana’s second dream. 16. What does the eagle do with Etana at the end? Is this an appropriate ending? 17. What moral or lesson is learned from this fable?
Reading Guide: Adapa
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University
Adapa (Dalley, 182-188)
This four-page story is filled with philosophical wonder. Ea (Enki) created King Adapa in order to provide civilization with wisdom and spiritual guidance to his people. One day, while fishing, a fierce storm attacks his boat, which sinks. Battling the waves and the rain, Adapa “curses” the South Wind (the southerly winds were unfavorable in Mesopotamia, since they forced the salt water upstream). Suddenly, the wind (and therefore the storm) ceases. However, this makes Anu (Sumerian An) very upset (upon discovering the lack of wind a full week later), and he summons Adapa to heaven to answer for his actions. Ea had given Adapa the secret power to perform such an act, perhaps against the will of his superior, Anu. This will be an ongoing theme in Unit 2: Ea (Enki) will come to the rescue of mortals time and time again, much to the dismay of the other gods, especially Enlil (Ellil), god of the wind. As part of an act of deference to the heavens, Ea instructs Adapa to wear funeral clothes and to inform the gatekeepers of the sky god Anu that Adapa is mourning them. A strong connection to Genesis occurs in this story. Guarding the Gate of Anu are two characters: Dumuzi (also called Tammuz) and Gizzida (also known as Nin-Gishzida or Nin-Gišzida). We already know about Dumuzi, who was sent to the Underworld and rose again. We now see what has happened to him: he has become a guardian of heaven, a classic intermediary. Gizzida is a minor character, whose full name is Ningishzida, who was briefly referenced in another obscure reading as a character who also escaped from the jaws of the Underworld. Paired together, Gizzida was called the “Lord of the Tree of Truth,” and Dumuzi-Tammuz was “Lord of the Tree of Life,” a reference to trees that were stars planted in heaven. These trees correspond to the two fabled trees from the Garden of Eden. The Garden story in Genesis ends with the following line: “He [the LORD God] drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life” (3:24). These “cherubim” are the winged minions of God who may be based on the Mesopotamian myths: Dumuzi and Gizzida are associated with the cherubim, portrayed in Mesopotamian temples as two winged sphinxes, and were frequently portrayed with sacred trees in Canaanite and Phoenician art forms of the Iron Age (ca. 1200-587 BCE). The middle of this picture shows two serpents wrapped around a pole. This is a classic representation of the merging of
the dualities. The stake represents the masculine forces, while the serpents reflect the circular, flexible feminine ideals. When combined, the union of these dualities represents healing or life. The modern medical symbol (especially for paramedics) is based on this very symbolism. So, we can see that this story helps to connect many characters and stories from this region, adding to our understanding of the myths through their commonalties. Interestingly, one of the things that Ea advises Adapa not to do is to accept the food and water of “death” from Anu. When Adapa arrives in the heavens, however, he is offered the food and water of “life” from the sky god Anu. Just as Adapa was instructed, however, he refuses these gifts, and therefore loses his opportunity for eternal life (and, as a representative of all of us humans, he also refuses eternal life for all of us as well). Why is Adapa told to refuse a gift from heaven? One would think that a gift from heaven would be the ultimate blessing -- but herein lies the problem. Did Ea set Adapa up for an embarrassing failure? Did Ea counsel Adapa unwisely? If so, why? Many students conclude that man was not intended for eternal life, so it simply had to be this way. Others think that Adapa should have ignored the advice and accept the bread and water of eternal life. However, if Adapa strayed from the command of the gods, won’t that result in an even worse penalty? In other words, should Adapa listen to his father Ea, the sky god Anu, or his own conscience? Pick your poison. Each choice has setbacks. Ultimately, maybe Ea does tell Adapa to refuse the gifts for the good of humanity. As we will see in Atrahasis, overpopulation was a big problem to this culture, and the gods force several methods of birth control on the humans, such as sterility, to subdue this menace. If Adapa were granted eternal life, then might ALL people seek the same gift? If that were to have occurred, then we would have starved due to our overpopulation. Maybe, when Ea asked Adapa to wear his funeral cloak, he was really asking Adapa to dress for his own funeral. Nobody really knows the answer to this question, but it does resemble the Adam and Eve story, where the first humans were confronted with the prospect of the wisdom of life and death — but for a steep price. Perhaps all of these stories help us to see that we cannot be gods, and if we get too close to the other worlds, then we are crossing the wrong boundaries. Recall as well that someone who accepts a gift from the underworld also accepts death, since that person would have made a decision to leave earthly life in favor of the next. Well, if one accepts gifts from heaven, won’t that also imply a death? And, since the Mesopotamians did not believe in an afterlife, then ANY acceptance of gifts not of the earthly realm will jeopardize our very existence. Maybe we are darned if we do and darned if we don’t (or something similar). In the Sumerian language, dozens of puns occur in our readings, and one of them applies here. If you recall from chapter 4 of The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell explains that geography is the primary force that shapes a culture’s views of the universe. Campbell mentioned that desert-dwelling societies used imagery of the sky, because it was a dominant force acting upon them, whereas a jungle community does not incorporate horizons, stars, or suns and moons, since their reality is locked into a more limited perspective. However, Campbell neglected to mention another barrier that may be preventing you from “getting” these myths — language. Because we don’t speak Sumerian, we’re not getting the puns and the inside language jokes. For example, the Sumerian word for “heaven” also had a second meaning — “death.” Much like English words have multiple meanings (such as “right,” “like,” etc.), so do these early cultures. If “heaven”
and “death” mean the same thing, then we can start to see that Adapa cannot accept the gifts of heaven, since that would mean he has to die (which is apparently akin to immortality). Remember that the names of characters mean little to you, but the Mesopotamians saw these double meanings, and they had lots of fun with their language, just like we do. That’s why we don’t see the metaphors as clearly as they would have seen them 5,000 years ago (although we use many of them all the time, such as the “fly on the wall” metaphor that we saw in The Descent of Inanna). Finally, an interesting language connection occurs in this story. The character “Adapa” is known as “Adama” in other areas of the Middle East. In Hebrew, “Adapa” is called “Adam.” Now we see that the story of a man who blew our chance at eternal life was a popular theme in the Near East. Interestingly, the more goddess-oriented Mesopotamians blamed a man for their fates, while the masculine-oriented Hebrews blamed the woman (Eve). Unlike Utnapishtim, the Babylonian Noah from the Gilgamesh epic, who won eternal life for himself through his obedience to a god, in Adapa mankind was given the chance of eternal life, but lost it through obedience to a god. Scholars still debate the meaning of this myth; answering the questions below will help you to participate in the discussion.
Questions for Adapa
1. Why does Ea create Adapa? 2. What action by Adapa makes Anu upset? 3. Summarize Ea’s instructions to Adapa. 4. Why does Adapa tell Dumuzi and Gizzida that he is mourning for them? 5. What is Adapa’s reason for cursing the South Wind? 6. What do the “ways of heaven and earth” have to do with mankind receiving a “heavy heart”? 7. Anu offers Adapa the food and water of eternal life, but Adapa refuses these gifts. Had he chosen instead to accept the offerings, what would have happened to him? What’s the catch? 8. Stephanie Dalley asks three interesting questions in her introduction to the story (pages 182-183). How would you answer these? 8a. Did Ea deliberately trick Adapa out of immortality, or did he sincerely intend to help him (despite Adapa’s crime against him) and fail (despite Ea’s divine wisdom)? 8b. Did Adapa defy the unwritten laws of hospitality by refusing food and drink in heaven, and thus oblige Anu to punish him?
The Epic of Creation (Enuma elish)
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University
The Epic of Creation (Dalley, 228-277)
The duality of society/nature is a version of the male/female duality that we have been witnessing, and we see it delineated more clearly in The Epic of Creation. We will now add to this list another breakdown: order/chaos. We will see the more society-based Babylonians associate human societies with order and Nature as chaos, unlike the Sumerians who saw the natural world order as one of balance and harmony. The word “cosmos” is the ancient Greek word for “village,” which implies “order,” and this is opposite of “chaos” (“yawn,” or indifference to order). The ancient cultures struggled with the chaos of their lives, and they sought order in their societies as well as in nature. As the population of Mesopotamia increased due to better farming practices, it became overcrowded to the point where they needed strong leadership to lay down the law. A village with more people becomes a harder area to control, therefore demanding stronger laws and more solid leadership. These, plus dramatic climate change, facilitated the transition from the Nature goddess cultures to the societal law-oriented kingdoms — ones that prioritized the male over the female (in this case, the mentalities of the Babylonians and Akkadians over that of the Sumerians). If a king in 1800-1900 BCE wanted to assert his dominion over his subjects, one trick in his playbook would be to introduce a new creation story that shows a new god (Marduk) ascending over all the other gods in order to save the culture. By changing the roles and associations of the earlier Sumerian deities, the Babylonians were able to inject a pro-male agenda that shows power emanating from the males (who create from their mouths), not from the females (who create from their wombs).
Tablet I (233-238)
The opening lines of The Epic of Creation (or the Enuma elish) show a struggle between two powerful forces: the fresh groundwater (Apsu, well water) and the salt sea (Tiamat), which often encroached upstream during times when the ocean level increased or the currents were unfavorable (such as those caused by the southerly winds). Notice that Apsu (groundwater, male) is listed first, replacing the concept of the primordial ocean (female) that dominates the Nature mythology. The characters Anshar and Kishar are versions of An and Ninhursag, who was also called “Ki” in very early Sumerian mythology, but notice that they are ranked much lower on the hierarchy. In this culture, the younger generations were given greater power than the previous ones, suggesting that the younger citizens were acquiring more power and wealth than their fathers and grandfathers. The collection of the older nature gods were referred to as the Anunnaki (Apsu, Anu, Tiamat, etc.), while the generations of younger gods were collectively called the Igigi (Ea, Marduk, Inanna, etc.). In the first tablet, Apsu (fresh water) is annoyed by the noise created by their children, the various gods and goddesses of the region. His wife, Tiamat, becomes angered at Apsu for suggesting causing harm to their kids. Their vizier (the Arabic word for “advisor”), Mummu, sides with Apsu, and so the death of the children will soon begin. One of their children, Ea, overhears his forefather’s plan to exterminate the kids, so he takes action by killing Apsu himself, after conferring with the other younger gods. Remember that this story is a metaphor, and it is NOT about patricide.
The Epic of Creation (Enuma elish)
Many of these Babylonian myths show that the older generations were somehow “out of touch,” and had to be overtaken by the younger, more capable children. The Mesopotamians understood that their children would inherit more wisdom from their ancestors, and therefore would have had a better chance of survival and success. From the essence of these fresh waters, Ea and Damkina, his wife, give birth to a miraculous child, borne from the waters of Apsu (a virgin birth). His name is Marduk, and he is already a powerful newborn baby, being that he was created from the great creation fluids and the remnants of Apsu, not through the sexual relations of Ea and his wife. Notice that the sexual mingling of Apsu and Tiamat likewise did not promote creation. This kid grows up in the course of a few pages of text to become a mighty boy wonder, and he grows stronger by the minute. Ea offers his son the mighty winds to blow over the ocean (Tiamat) and churn her up, thus causing her grief for not stopping Apsu’s murderous plot. The four winds appear to be Marduk’s toys, if you will, suggesting that he is going to become a powerful god in the near future. The association with wind also allows the Babylonians to praise Enlil (Ellil), god of wind, more highly than Anu (An), now viewed as a more passive sky figure. Notice that Marduk is almost immediately referred to as “Lord.” Although he is a baby, he is being called a title that reflects his supreme power over the other gods, even though he has not yet accomplished anything. Marduk will become a creator god, and his name gives this away. This is the first time that we have seen a god referred to by this name, and it reflects the later Hebrew writings in Genesis. Tiamat immediately takes on a new husband/lover, Qingu — an obscure, powerless, and unqualified lesser god whom Tiamat plucked out of nowhere. She offers him control over the armies and hands him the “Tablet of Destinies,” which gives him control over life and death (a sort of printed version of the holy me, representing a closer association with law than Nature).
Questions for The Epic of Creation (Tablet I)
1. Briefly describe the earth, as described in the first few passages. 2. How do Apsu and Tiamat react differently to the clamor of the gods? 3. What is Ea’s plan? 4. Describe Marduk. 5. What does Mother Hubur create that assists Tiamat’s battle against the younger gods? 6. Which of the lesser gods does Tiamat promote in an effort to win the battle?
Tablet II (239-244)
In Tablet II, Ea goes to his oldest heavenly forefather, Anshar, for advice and help, but his great grandpa tells him that he is too old to do anything about Tiamat, and that Ea himself should challenge her to a battle. Ea, however, knows that he is not powerful enough to defeat Tiamat and Qingu, so he
bestows this challenge onto his new son, Marduk, who now appears as a nearly-grown adult. Ea asks Marduk to fight for their side after convincing him to appear at the council of the gods. On page 243, Marduk demands from the other gods supreme power if they want him to fight the nowevil Tiamat. The gods meet, have a few drinks, and decide to offer Marduk every power and weapon they own. Marduk is the savior figure in this story, and he seems born into this destiny. Qingu is not.
Questions for The Epic of Creation (Tablet II)
7. What emotion does Anshar display after he hears about Tiamat’s power struggle? 8. After informing his father about Tiamat’s plans, what advice does Anshar offer? 9. Why do the gods seek out Marduk to fight this battle? 10. On what condition does Marduk agree to fight against Tiamat?
Tablet III (244-249)
This section is very redundant. The happenings from the first two tablets are retold here twice, once by Anshar, and the second by Kakka, his advisor. If you have been confused thus far, then reading this section should clarify the plot.
Questions for The Epic of Creation (Tablet III)
11. Anshar devotes the first two pages of this section relaying the story to his advisor (vizier) Kakka, who then spends the following two pages relaying this information to Lahmu and Lahamu. Why does this story involve so much repetition? 12. After Kakka’s speech, the Igigi “groaned dreadfully,” since they “did not even know what Tiamat was doing.” How can the gods be unaware of the actions taking place in their own “back yards”? 13. Before sending Marduk to battle, the council of the gods imbibe heavily on alcohol. Why do you suppose that they did this? Won’t the alcohol make them less able to fight (or think rationally)?
Tablet IV (249-255)
This section provides the narrative of the great battle scenes between Marduk and Tiamat. This section is not as repetitive, and is action-packed. As you read, reflect on the symbolism of these characters and how they apply to a motif of creation. Marduk begins to test his powers in Tablet IV, making the stars and constellations appear and disappear at will. He is now trained and ready for combat. Page 251 lists his various weapons, such
The Epic of Creation (Enuma elish)
as bows and arrows, flame throwers, various winds, and the “flood-weapon.” Why would the wind or a flood-weapon be effective against Tiamat? Simple — the wind can control the ocean and floodwaters of a river will flush the salt waters back toward the sea, purifying and cleansing the rivers of the poison. Marduk enters the battlefield, fully armed, and easily defeats Tiamat by forcing the imhullu-wind down her throat. She expands like a balloon, and that’s when Marduk shoots an arrow into her belly. Let’s look more closely at this. Notice that Marduk uses an arrow (that looks like a phallus) that he shoots into Tiamat’s belly (womb). Here is the male defeating the female in the very essence of her womanhood, her womb. Kill the womb and you kill the concept of the woman. Another interpretation here suggests that Marduk is raping or assaulting Tiamat, which again illustrates the male aggressiveness and dominance that the kings wished to convey. The imaginary active male force (wind) overpowers the old tangible womb fluid (female). He ultimately slices her into two halves, one that is lifted up to form the firmament of the sky, and the other that creates the Underworld below. The henchmen run away in fear, leaving Qingu standing there shaking in his boots. Qingu looks to have been set up for failure here. Qingu is ensnared in the net, and Marduk goes home a champion.
Questions for The Epic of Creation (Tablet IV)
14. The gods give Marduk supreme power “over all of the whole universe.” Why do they bestow their authority onto Marduk before he has entered the battle against Tiamat? 15. How does Marduk test his newly acquired powers? 16. What types of weapons will Marduk use in the battle? Why does he need these if his voice alone can command the universe to move? 17. What items does Marduk bring into the battle to protect him against Tiamat? 18. Why has Tiamat “feigned goodwill” toward Marduk? 19. Describe how Marduk vanquishes Tiamat. 20. Why does Marduk allow Tiamat’s henchmen to live, merely destroying their weapons and confining them to prison? 21. Marduk slices Tiamat’s body into two pieces. What does he do with these halves?
Tablet V (255-260)
This section shows Marduk using the aftermath of the war to rearrange the earth and its cycles. In essence, Marduk is casting aside the “old world order,” rife with chaos, and has used its remnants to devise a new set of laws and relationships on earth. This section depicts the actual “creation” process, although Marduk does not create “something from nothing,” as is evident in many creation narratives from this culture. In Tablet V, the new hero Marduk has just killed the chaotic ocean waters, and now sets his designs on the stars and constellations. On pages 255-256, Marduk creates the Zodiac. Notice the reference to the quarterly moon phases, with each new phase occurring every seven days. This is the origin of our seven-day week, and it also was shared by the Egyptians. Since the Babylonians were more advanced astronomers, they applied their astronomical knowledge into their literature all the time. No longer does divinity come from the ground — it now descends from the sky. After Marduk further orders the universe, he is praised and given royal garments to wear (there’s nothing like wearing wool robes in the summer!). Shrines are built in his honor and accolades are showered on his ego. Marduk instructs his fellow gods to build temples for the gods before he creates the first people. Marduk wishes to relieve the gods by placing the yoke of the gods’ labor onto the shoulders of the men and women (another common theme in this culture). Marduk then establishes the community of Babylon, giving these people a story about their city’s origin too. Of course, he orders the other gods to dig their own dirt and to build their own temples so that the people (who are yet to be created) can have a place to worship these nature gods.
Questions for The Epic of Creation (Tablet V)
22. How does Marduk begin to establish the earthly order with Tiamat’s body parts? Generate a list of body parts and corresponding features of the earth. 23. For what purposes does Marduk establish the city of Babylon?
Tablet VI (260-267)
In Tablet VI, Marduk finally takes action against Qingu. Marduk asked the other gods who had started the war in the first place, and everyone says, “Qingu!” Of course, this is not true, but Qingu is the last remaining figure that must be brought to justice. Marduk uses the blood of Qingu to form the first human beings. Marduk says that he will “change the ways of the gods miraculously, / So they are gathered as one yet divided in two” (Dalley 261). In other words, men and women (a common duality) will be created by the blood of one god, Qingu. Notice that Marduk himself was created from the Apsu, the fresh groundwater, and he was born from the force of Apsu in a new form, Marduk. Men and woman are therefore thought of as offspring of other godly materials, although technically we appear to be the descendants of scapegoats, perhaps setting humans up for further tribulations. But people in this story (and several others) were created solely to take over the labors and duties of the gods, who now believe that they deserve a bit of a rest. So now we know our purpose in life — to do the work of gods!
The Epic of Creation (Enuma elish)
Questions for The Epic of Creation (Tablet VI)
24. What is symbolic about Marduk’s use of Qingu’s blood to create the first people? 25. For what purposes are the first people created? 26. Marduk is praised with “fifty names.” Why does he have (or need) so many names? What do they represent (as a collection, not as individual monikers)? List a few of them.
Tablet VII (267-273)
The last tablet continues with the listing of the fifty epithets in honor of the new lord Marduk. This section is mostly a long list of names and praises of the god, and it does not advance the plot very far. Look at this last section as being more reverential in nature. Contemplate how far Marduk has come in a very short time. Marduk receives 50 holy identities to reinforce that he is the new king of the gods and will rule over the people in a fairer manner than the earlier deities had done. The new has replaced the old, much like the Babylonians had replaced the Sumerians in history. The Sumerians eventually disappeared under the dominance of the Babylonians, but their influences were borne into the next interpretation of the society, hence Marduk rising from the Apsu. If you are wondering why Marduk was granted 50 new names, think back to the on the Sumerian King List and the numerology embedded in the years of reign. If you recall, Marduk was assigned the value of 10. The lead god, the sky god Anu, was given the highest value: 60. If Marduk has now become the leader of the gods, then his numeric value must also be increased. Add 50 new names to his current value of 10 and you reach the sum total of 60, the highest value for the gods:
Before Marduk’s Conquest
Anu Enlil Ea Sin Shamash Nergal Marduk Adad 60 50 40 30 20 12 10 6
After Marduk’s Conquest
Marduk Anu Enlil Ea Sin Shamash Nergal Adad 60 60 50 40 30 20 12 6
As an historical connection, you will notice that one of Marduk’s names is Bel (sometimes spelled Ba’al). Although he is a savior figure to the Mesopotamians, many neighboring cultures did not view him this way. The ancient Hebrews, for example, considered the “devil” to be called Bel (or Ba’al, where we get the name Beelzebub, or Baalzebub — the “Lord of the Flies” or Prince of the Devils). Why would one culture consider another culture’s great god to be a devil? Well, one culture’s heroes are another’s enemies, and the difference between gods and demons is often indistinguishable (recall the “Earth Diver” creation story where the two black geese cannot be distinguished from each other). Your own culture will make you feel good about your country while simultaneously demonizing the others. This idea is incorporated in an old Babylonian story, The Cursing of Agade, where the Gutian invaders were called “monkeys” and “dogs” by Babylonian authors.
Question for The Epic of Creation (Tablet VII)
27. List several important duties that Marduk has been given by the other gods. In other words, what duties or tasks does Marduk control or oversee? Are these more “masculine” or “feminine” qualities?
Reading Guide: Atrahasis
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University
Atrahasis (Dalley, 1-38)
In the Dalley text, on page 2 of the introduction, we learn that the name Atrahasis has parallels in the surrounding cultures. In Babylon, the survivor of the flood story is a man named Utnapishtim, whom we will see in the story of Gilgamesh. In Hebrew, we would pronounce this name “Noah.” Stephanie Dalley, your translator for these readings, further suggests that the name Odysseus (“the wanderer,” the hero of The Odyssey) derives his name as well from the abbreviation of Utnapishtim, Udzi (Odyssey). Every literate culture tells a story about a great flood. Although doubtful that all of them are writing about a single flood event, extreme weather, both frequent and memorable, left powerful impressions on the people who suffered the wrath of Nature. Since most cultures lived beside a river, and since all rivers flood, we can say with reasonable assurance that hundreds of devastating floods inspired the hundreds of worldwide flood narratives. All of these stories, and dozens that are similar, seem to suggest that flood narratives were popular and pervasive in this place in the world, and most of it undoubtedly survived in oral form rather than written. Since merchants and other travelers shared these tales far and wide, there is little doubt that the creation tales and flood narratives from the Near East bear resemblance to each other. NOTE: The god Enki is also called Ea (his Babylonian name). Both names are used in this story (because it is pieced together with fragments from both the Sumerian and Babylonian cultures).
Tablet I (9-20)
Tablet I of Atrahasis begins with the Anunnaki (the eldest creator gods) pawning off their labor to the lesser gods (the Igigi), who complain about their work being too difficult, digging endless canals and trenches. This rebellion of the younger generation is a theme that we have seen before in The Epic of Creation. This argument will encourage the gods to create mankind so that we may do this work
(“bear the yoke of the gods,” much like a work animal), while giving these gods a rest. On page 10 the Igigi set their wooden farming tools on fire, and on page 11 they knock on Ellil’s door, demanding an explanation. Ellil (the god of wind, known as Enlil in Sumer) is frightened by the demands of his own children, commanding his vizier (advisor) Nusku to bar the door, brandish his weapons, and stand in front of Ellil to protect him. He calls together his fellow gods Anu and Enki to settle the disputes. By page 12 we find that the Igigi have “declared war” on the Anunnaki. On page 13, Ellil decides that mankind should be created to ease the burden of the gods’ work, but in order for this to occur, one of the gods must sacrifice his body. This god will be Ilawela (NOTE: some versions of this text list the name as Geshtu-e), a god of intelligence, whose blood will be mixed with fertile clay from the riverbanks. The Mother Goddess will combine the clay and blood to form mankind, a beautiful melding of the male/female forces. Be aware that the Mother Goddess goes by several different names, including Ninhursag, Mami, Nintu, etc. They refer to the same character, but these names reflect different duties that she performs. Nintu, for instance, means “birth lady,” and this name will be used when we see Ninhursag create. She will be referred to as Mami when she plays the role of comforter and decision-maker, and this may indeed be the place where people began saying the word “Mommy.” Notice, however, that Mami needs Enki’s permission before creating human beings. By pages 16-17, Mami (Ninhursag, Nintu, Belet-ili) is mixing the clay and the blood, ultimately creating seven male and female humans simultaneously. Several references are made to the rituals of childbirth, especially those involving a newly stamped brick. Apparently the bricks used at the time used to puff out in the middle when they cured (dried) on the rooftops, ultimately resembling a pregnant woman’s belly. Interestingly, Mami dictates on page 17 that mothers should cut their own umbilical cords, perhaps to suggest that a mother, not the midwife, should determine for herself when she is ready to “let go” of her child into the world. This shows that men, for all their changes to the perspectives from Unit 1, still could not dictate a woman’s own birthing process. You should also notice that Mami creates seven pairs of humans, allowing us once again to see the number 7 used symbolically in mythology, best illustrated in the 7-day week. The moon changes its phase every seven days, and further moon cycles were used during Enki’s purification ritual before the creation of mankind began. Once they are created, the humans assume the labors of the gods. However, this causes them to make a lot of noise (due to the banging and pounding of their labors), which makes Ellil very frustrated and annoyed. After 600 years have passed since the creation of human beings, Ellil decides to send the šuruppu-disease to Earth (a water-borne illness), causing the people to become sick and die. Interestingly enough, different versions of these stories suggest different explanations for the “noise” that the first humans generated. In this story, the noise seems to refer to the general chaos of overpopulated villages, abuzz with activity. In other stories, the gods destroy the humans because they are sinful (Genesis) or because they blaspheme the gods (from an Egyptian story called “The Destruction of Mankind,” which we will read later). Still other versions suggest that the “noise” made by the people is the din of carousing and partying people, irresponsible and disrespectful. No matter what the reasons, these early cultures were aware of the fleeting nature of life — here today, gone tomorrow. Since mankind inherited the labors of the gods, I would tend to believe that their noise is created out of their work (digging canals with their tools clanging on rocks, etc.). Atrahasis will become a hero to his people. Because he had communicated intimately with Enki for many years, Atrahasis can ask special favors of the great god. Bear in mind that the Sumerians believed in “personal” gods who could assist individuals (sort of like guardian angels in Christianity). Each person would have a patron god: a warrior might pray to Ellil, a new mother to Ninhursag, etc. Atrahasis prays to Enki (Ea in other parts of the story) on pages 18-19, asking Enki what he can do
to relieve the people of their terrible diseases. On page 19, Enki advises Atrahasis to pray (and offer sacrifices to) Namtara, the “decider of fate,” and gatekeeper to the Underworld (you may refer to this character, loosely, as “the devil” of “The Grim Reaper”). We saw this character in Nergal and Ereshkigal and Enlil and Ninlil, but he was called Namtar). After building a great temple to Namtara and offering sacrifices, Namtara is shamed by the outpouring of love and removes his “hand” — that is, he removes the violence that was caused by his own hands (or the hands of the Anunnaki collectively). By praying and sacrificing to the gods who are harming you, you can shame them into better behavior — killing them with kindness, which is what later religious figures such as Buddha and Jesus would later teach his followers to do. Therefore, if the devil has been bothering you, then treat him kindly!
Questions for Atrahasis (Tablet I)
1. What complaints do the Igigi bring to Ellil? 2. What is Ea’s solution to the problems claimed by the Igigi? 3. Which god was sacrificed in order to assist in the creation of the first people? Why? 4. What was “bestowed” onto mankind? 5. How many men and women were first created? Why? 6. List a few of Mami’s rules for pregnancy and childbirth. 7. After the world becomes populated, what does Ellil complain about? solution? 8. Why is Atrahasis allowed to speak directly to Enki? 9. What is Enki’s advice to Atrahasis? What is his
Tablet II (20-29)
In Tablet II, 600 more years have passed, but Ellil is still angry at the “noise” of the humans’ labor. He decides to send down five additional curses on humanity, beginning with a drought on page 20. By removing the water, the crops dry up and the people begin to suffer and die. This may have succeeded in killing all of humanity, except that Enki advises Atrahasis to rebel against the gods and offering more sacrifices to Adad, the god of the storms. Sure enough, Adad becomes touched by the generosity of the people, and he eventually brings the rain once again. This, of course, infuriates Ellil so much that he tries again to kill mankind through starvation (page 22). This time, the effects are even worse than before, causing death and illness across Mesopotamia. Ellil does not stop there, however, since he also curses mankind a fourth time (with more disease, on page 23). By the time we arrive on page 24, Ellil further punishes the people with additional drought and starvation, and by page 25 we see a six-year drought that has so harmed the people that they begin resorting to slavery and cannibalism (“They served up a daughter for a meal,” page 26). Clearly, this depicts a desperate society that is struggling for survival in a very harsh and
unpredictable environment. Remember that the forces of Nature are out of our control, symbolized by the gods. By page 27, Ellil is furious that his droughts and diseases have not reduced the number of human beings (and therefore the noise too!). His advisors suggest reversing his strategy — bring down a flood rather than a drought! However, which god is in charge of supplying the flood waters? Enki, amongst others, since Enki is the god of the sweet waters. The problem is that Enki does not want to destroy the people that he helped to make. Enki and Ellil get into a great verbal fight over this, ending with Enki agreeing to bring the flood waters (although he will find a way to help the people too!). Enki makes a vow not to inform the people of their doom (directly), but Enki has a crafty plan to penetrate the cracks, much like water does. Why does Enki go along with the plan and assume a vow of secrecy about the flood? Well, imagine the Anunnaki as a version of our Supreme Court. Typically, the court renders divided opinions (split decisions). Many issues are decided on 5-4 margins, where five justices in the majority overrule the other four dissenters. The judges in the minority opinion, however, must abide by the new law, even though they voted against it. After all, the law is the law. Enki and Nintu would be considered in the minority, since most of the gods favored the idea of killing the people, so these few must go along with the plan against their will.
Questions for Atrahasis (Tablet II)
10. What is Ellil’s second curse upon people? 11. What does Enki/Ea suggest that the people do this time to defy the angry gods? 12. What is the third heavenly curse levied against the people? 13. What is the fourth curse? Does it get cured? 14. After these curses fail to deplete the human population, what is Ellil’s fifth curse? 15. After six years of this curse, what do the people begin to eat? How many households remain? 16. What is the sixth curse planned by Ellil to destroy mankind? 17. Why does Ellil become furious with Enki/Ea?
Tablet III (29-35)
At the start of Tablet III, on the bottom of page 29, Enki speaks to the “wall” of Atrahasis’ “reed hut,” which will be heard by Atrahasis in a dream. This indirect method of relaying the information allows Enki to retain his pact with his brother deities, but also allows humans one last fighting chance against their heavenly tormentors. Enki tells the wall to demolish the reed hut and to build a boat, to collect samples of the living beings, and to sail away to safety. Although no dimensions are mentioned nor specific types of animals recalled, this story is the precursor to the more familiar story of Noah in Genesis 6-9. Unlike the Bible story, however,
Atrahasis involves his whole family and community, so there could have been dozens or hundreds of human occupants aboard the boat. The members of the community, even the children, help him build his ship of multiple levels (see page 30). See the coursepacket document that compares the three main near eastern flood stories. By page 31, the storm arrives, rages for seven days, and then subsides. By page 32, however, Mami (Ninhursag) is furious with Ellil for destroying their creations. The “gap of about 58 lines” can be filled in by references other versions of the story: Atrahasis’ boat lands in an unspecified location, at which point he exits his boat and offers a sacrifice to the gods who “smelt the fragrance” and gathered “like flies over the offering.” This suggests that these gods must be worshipped and brought food and water sacrifices, for they are parched and famished after living for an entire week without any worship from the humans. The Anunnaki are desperately hungry and thirsty by the seventh day because they depend on these sacrifices in order to survive. (This makes Ellil’s decision to destroy mankind quite puzzling.) Believe it or not, Ellil is one of these gods enjoying the wafts of the sacrifice, which makes Mami angry with him. She scolds him for wishing to destroy the humans while he is eager to receive their offerings! After some arguing amongst each other, Ellil figures out that Enki must be to “blame” for relaying the plan to the people below, and he makes his feelings known to the sweet waters god, who replies that he did what he did “in defiance of you [Ellil],” suggesting that the older gods have lost touch with their creations, forcing the newer gods to take aggressive action to replace the old fashioned ideals of their elders. In the end, the gods agree that total destruction of mankind is not in their best interests, but neither is limitless birthing of children. A compromise is reached where one-third of the parents are allowed full childbearing privileges, one-third will struggle with their conceptions, and one-third will remain barren, thus slowing the pace of human regeneration. Interestingly, scientists have concluded that, even 21st century America, one out of four couples will not be physically able to conceive or birth children successfully. Modern science has reduced these percentages for those who can afford fertility procedures, but the natural rate is that roughly 1 in 4 couples will struggle to conceive. This shows me that the Mesopotamians were excellent observers of their societies, and that these stories help us to arrive at explanations as to why certain things occur in our lives while others do not. Thus, we see the value of the myth to a culture.
Questions for Atrahasis (Tablet III)
18. Why does Enki/Ea talk to the wall of Atrahasis’ reed hut while he sleeps inside? 19. What instructions does Enki/Ea give the “wall”? 20. What is the goddess Mami’s (Nintu’s) reaction to the devastation of the great flood? 21. Why are the gods starving and thirsty during the seven-day storm? 22. What does Nintu scold the gods about? 23. What does Enki/Ea say is his reason for defying his oath to the other gods? 24. Rather than destroy mankind in the future, what curse do they impose upon women in order to control the growth of the human population?
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University
Gilgamesh, the Story
Gilgamesh, the story of the great Sumerian king of the same name, is considered the oldest surviving epic on Earth. The real-life King Gilgamesh is believed to have reigned in Sumer around 2700 to 2500 BCE. Legends state that Gilgamesh ruled for 126 “years,” although a “year” may have been measured by seasons or moon phases, or perhaps embellished to make his legacy larger than life. Gilgamesh is 2/3 god and 1/3 man, being the son of the goddess Ninsun and Priest Kullab. There are many authors of Gilgamesh, a story written on 12 clay tablets, found in the library of the Assyrian king Assurbanipal. Ancients described this story as The Gilgamesh Cycle, a poem of 12 songs (cantos), 300 lines each. Today, the tablets are worn and chipped, so parts of dozens of lines have been lost forever. Still, the wisdom of this story remains for us to enjoy today. Gilgamesh begins: Sha nagba imuru (“he who saw everything”). Originally, the epic would have been recited and accompanied by musical instruments such as lyres, harps, reed pipes, and drums.
The Fertile Crescent
Civilizations, as we know them, began in the flat, fertile land between the Tigris and Euphrates River valley (modern Iraq). Although this area has been home to hundreds of different cultures over the ages, the sudden development of educated, governed cultures in this area around 3000-2800 BCE became known as Mesopotamia. The Mesopotamians divided their history into two parts: before and after the Great Flood. Before the flood, the priests and sages ruled the land, receiving their instruction from their god Ea, the god of waters and wisdom. After the flood, kings like Gilgamesh ruled the land. The Sumerians became the first literate culture in Mesopotamia, and the first to develop schools. They developed a number system based on 60. Today, our 60-second minute and our 60-minute hour originate with the ancient Sumerians (as does our 360 degree circle). The Sumerians were also the first culture to create great cities that acted like independent nations, even though they were within each other’s view. These cities were built around tall ziggurats, six- or seven-story stepped temples that served as staircases used by the gods when they descended from the heavens. One of the greatest Sumerian cities was Uruk, founded by Gilgamesh’s semi-divine father, Lugulbanda, who was supposed to have reigned
for thousands of years. Gilgamesh became an even greater leader by acquiring lumber and building a great protective wall around the city. Between 2500 and 500 BCE, Mesopotamia was filled with ongoing wars between the everpopulating cultures. In 2300 BCE, the Babylonians defeated the Sumerians and adopted their culture. The Babylonians were the first culture to record the Sumerian epic in its present form: they added the flood story and the prologue (a thousand years before the Hebrew Old Testament was composed). Here are a few characters that play important roles in the story:
Enkidu This character is created by Aruru (Ninhursag) in response to the demands of the people of Uruk who have been suffering under Gilgamesh’s insatiable appetites. Created to be a “match” for Gilgamesh, Enkidu is born as a bestial, primitive counterpart to Gilgamesh’s strength and beauty. These “regular rivals” will be paired together, with Enkidu often referred to as Gilgamesh’s “wife” so that Uruk can be “allowed peace.” Shamhat This character is the temple priestess, whose role was to conduct sexual rituals inside the sacred temples. For example, a boy king would be sent to the temple to “become a man,” and this is the role that she plays in the forest when she lures Enkidu who takes in “her attractions.” After six days and seven nights of copulation, Enkidu becomes transformed into “profound Enkidu,” a civilized and educated man. Humbaba The keeper of the forest, Humbaba is described as a fierce, relentless dark force that executes any intruders to his land. His name means “battering ram,” and he is further described as having a “shout” that is a “flood-weapon” and “whose utterance is fire.” A symbol for the evils of Nature, Humbaba becomes the “terror of people,” although we never see him do any harm to anyone other than those who attack him. Gilgamesh and Enkidu embark on a journey to slay Humbaba, a feat never before accomplished. Ut-napishtim His name means “the far-distant” or “he who knows all,” and he will be sought after by Gilgamesh on his quest to find the flower of immortality. A parallel to Atrahasis and Noah, Ut-napishtim survives the Great Flood and is compensated for his troubles by being granted eternal life … but he must live on the other side of the world.
http://www.historywiz.com/galleries/gilgameshscene.htm http://www.duduplanet.com/Past%20Articles/Past%20Articles%20Images/May%202003/ARTICLE/g ilgamesh.jpg
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University Epics share similar qualities, regardless of their age or origin. Here is a list of common epic conventions that appear in most epics, such as Gilgamesh, The Odyssey, The Iliad, and The Ramayana. Notice that the epics help to promote the status of heroes, mostly men. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. The epic is a long narrative poem about the great deeds of a hero (who is a human, not a god). The epic recounts past events of the nation, making the story an important part of the country’s heritage. The language of an epic is elevated, formal, lofty, and serious in tone. The setting of the epic is often vast in time and bleak in outlook (therefore, the culture requires the services of the epic hero). The author invokes a muse before the he tells the story. This invocation allows the author to more accurately recall the tale. The central character of the epic is a character of national or international importance that assumes the great virtues or positive qualities of the people. The hero’s actions in the epic often dictate the fate of the entire race (or nation). The hero displays superhuman qualities that are not evident in normal humans; therefore, he is the only man capable enough to battle the evil antagonists. Although the antagonists are intimidating and challenging, they have a key weakness, often exploited by the hero.
10. The gods always take an interest in the actions of the hero, either supporting or thwarting him. 11. The epic hero often appeals to the gods for divine intervention or advice. 12. Great battles allow the hero to prove his heroism against great odds. 13. Epic characters deliver lofty speeches or monologues that demonstrate their high status. 14. A long journey or quest is required of the hero, usually to a setting far removed from the hero’s birthplace. 15. A treasure, inheritance, or high position awaits the hero after he accomplishes his goals. 16. The author uses epic similes, stock epithets, and artistic phrases throughout the epic to describe the characters better (through comparisons to their environment).
By Alexander Pope (1688–1744)
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University
The following poem comes from an important writer in the Enlightenment of Europe, Alexander Pope. The poem opens the Second Epistle of his Essay, and it perfectly represents the choices that humans are forced to make while living in a world of dualities.
From Essay on Man
Essay on Man
Epistle II — Of the Nature and State of Man with Respect to Himself, as an Individual
KNOW then thyself, presume not God to scan, The proper study of mankind is man. Plac’d on this isthmus of a middle state, A being darkly wise, and rudely great: With too much knowledge for the sceptic side, With too much weakness for the Stoic’s pride, He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest; In doubt to deem himself a God, or beast; In doubt his mind or body to prefer; Born but to die, and reas’ning but to err; Alike in ignorance, his reason such, Whether he thinks too little or too much: Chaos of thought and passion, all confus’d; Still by himself abus’d or disabus’d; Created half to rise, and half to fall; Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all; Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl’d: The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!
An isthmus is a narrow strip of land that is bound on two sides by water. It symbolically connects one side of a duality to another. Imagine standing in the middle of the isthmus trying to decide which direction to take.
Notice that the isthmus implies a choice of identity for the person standing in between the two realms. Living life on only one side is considered to be an imbalanced life. Characters that embark on a spiritual quest will always leave their home and seek out knowledge from the other side, returning home transformed and wiser. Gilgamesh is one such character who needs to learn how to appreciate the “other side of life.” As an alpha male, he must learn to accept the feminine as his equal. He also must learn to accept that his death will be part of his life. By crossing the isthmus, he will seek knowledge that is opposite of his current understanding, making the isthmus a type of intermediary.
The Epic of Gilgamesh
Reading Guide: The Epic of Gilgamesh
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University
Gilgamesh (Dalley, 39-125)
If a person were to be placed on Pope’s isthmus, he/she would be torn between the two possible directions, limited to a choice between dualities. Is a human more like God or more like a beast? Should we value our minds or bodies more? Is society more important than Nature? Pope mentions that mankind is a great “riddle of the world” because we cannot make up our minds about our own natures. One duality is God/beast. Well, are we gods? Well, we can build things, we can fly in airplanes, and we can talk in virtual reality. However, we also have animalistic desires, we act for ourselves rather than our societies, and we ultimately face the fate of everything in Nature — death. So, we are not completely gods nor beasts, but we share the qualities of each. Pope’s thesis is that we are stuck in the middle because we share the natures of both sides of the duality. Once we lean in one direction, we begin to deny ourselves of the necessity to experience the other side as well. In Gilgamesh, we see the main character, King Gilgamesh, as a pure representation of the masculine side (the side that represents strength, society, God). Now that we have read literature from both the feminine and the masculine perspective, the next question to ask is, ‘Where is our proper place?” This answer will be revealed in this great myth.
Tablet I: The Creation of Enkidu (50-59)
Gilgamesh is a man who acts mostly like a god (he is described as being 2/3 god and 1/3 man, which is technically impossible on a family tree). Gilgamesh is so masculine that he becomes overbearing. His people recognize him as a great and powerful leader, but his appetites and actions are brutal and selfish. He takes every woman to bed and demands much attention of his subjects. Gilgamesh is a character who is out of balance. He is the typical alpha male, using his strength and appetites to rule his life. He is described like a bull — powerful, male, virile, and unstoppable. He stays up all night, knocks down walls, makes love to everyone’s daughters, and is mostly out of control. As the king of the city of Uruk, his subjects know that they can’t live with him ... and they can’t live without him. The city leaders ask the priests to pray for help from the gods, hoping that the gods can create a woman for Gilgamesh who will be his equal — someone whom he can marry.
Relief comes in the form of a newly created entity: Enkidu. He was created much like Adam (or sometimes Eve) in the Genesis story — from the clay of the earth (plus water and a Divine Will by Aruru, a creator goddess whom we have seen before as the goddess Ninhursag). At first Enkidu is an unpolished person, an incomplete, undeveloped character. He is described as an animal (hairy and wild), and he protects these animals from humans. Since this doesn’t serve the people well, Enkidu is viewed as a force of destruction and chaos (much like the serpent in Eden). Once Enkidu is created, he protects the animals. One day, a hunter (trapper) examines his traps, only to find that someone has been releasing the animals that he had caught. As the days pass by, the hunter grows more frustrated, and he asks the elders of Uruk and the gods for some relief. The culprit is Enkidu, our nature boy, who has been protecting the animals in every way possible. In fact, he is called “murderous” on page 55, although no references are made to Enkidu killing anything. Now think back to this isthmus motif. Imagine, from left to right, looking at two bodies of land connected in the middle by a narrow strand. Identify one side with the masculine features and the other with the feminine. Enkidu is created to give Gilgamesh some balance, and so we can place Gilgamesh and Enkidu on opposite sides of the isthmus: Gilgamesh in the male (that reflects society) and Enkidu on the feminine side (that reflects nature). The intention of creating a mirror image of Gilgamesh is to help Gilgamesh wander further over to the feminine side, with the best case scenario being a meeting in the middle between both characters.
MASCULINE “God” “to act” “mind” Society Gilgamesh
FEMININE “beast” “to rest” “body” Nature Enkidu
The elders of Uruk send a special intermediary, a priestess, who is known as a “divine harlot.” Her name is Shamhat, and she is the sacred prostitute that will change Enkidu into a man. Much like Adam and Eve, Enkidu learns what nakedness means, and he willingly throws himself on Shamhat. For the next 7 days, Enkidu becomes “cultured” by this woman, whose special spiritual powers from Ishtar allow her to reform Enkidu into a more refined human being.
MASCULINE Society Gilgamesh Shamhat
FEMININE Nature Enkidu
Once the week of rebirth is over, however, all the animals of the forest run and hide from Enkidu. Although he physically looks the same, nature knows that his inner nature has changed. He has changed teams, so to speak, and Enkidu now casts his lot with society rather than nature. Do not be disturbed by the character Shamhat in the story. The ancient cultures often had sacred priestesses who advised the kings and queens about spiritual matters. If a young man displayed too much ignorance, or if the need arose where boys needed to quickly become men (such as in times of war), the king would often offer his sacred harlot to “culture” these young men.
The Epic of Gilgamesh
Being a woman, the priestess would have an understanding of the sacred knowledge of life, since woman is more closely connected to the earth and the wisdom of the feminine forces of nature. When the young man would conjugate his relationship with this priestess, he would be said to have “known” her, gaining wisdom of manhood in the process. This is where the word “know” originated (“know” is the Biblical word for “sex”). The ancients saw a connection between wisdom and woman, and woman with growth and development. Gaining knowledge, however, always comes with a price. Once Enkidu has transformed himself into a man from beast, he is rejected by nature (the animals) and must leave that Eden behind him by joining with other people (Gilgamesh). Enkidu, however, is considered to have “diminished” (or, from the the N. K. Sandars version prose version, “grown weak, for wisdom was within him”). Whereas most of us have been taught that the attainment of wisdom makes us stronger, Enkidu sees this differently. Enkidu realizes his weaknesses once he accepts his invitation into the world of dualities. Gaining knowledge, then experience, we can attain wisdom, which is the combination of these two qualities. We become different people, and, in this scene, Enkidu becomes “twice born.” We become more responsible ... and more afraid. However, we will see soon that Enkidu is summoned to the masculine side after his conversion into “[profound] Enkidu” by Shamhat, but Gilgamesh will not be affected at all. He will remain in the camp of the masculine, and this will be the main problem that he must overcome throughout the story – understanding the other side (nature, death, femininity, etc.). The arrival of Enkidu is portended in two dreams that Gilgamesh has. One shows a falling star that lands in Uruk, but Gilgamesh cannot lift it. His mother Ninsun (Gilgamesh’s divine mother, the goddess of wisdom, in the form of a sacred cow) interprets his dream to mean that a companion will soon arrive to become Gilgamesh’s shadow and mirror image. Gilgamesh has another dream where a copper axe falls into his lap. Again, Ninsun explains that the axe is Enkidu. Since an axe is a tool used to cut down trees, Gilgamesh understands that he will be able to cut down pine trees with the help of Enkidu so that he can build a large wooden fortress around his city.
Questions for The Epic of Gilgamesh (Tablet I)
1. How is Gilgamesh’s city of Uruk divided? 2. What are some of Gilgamesh’s legendary feats of strength? 3. How can Gilgamesh be two-thirds god and one-third mortal? 4. Why is Gilgamesh constantly referred to as a bull? 5. What complaints do the people of Uruk have about their king? 6. What do the people ask the creation goddess Aruru to do that will bring peace? 7. Describe the physique of the “primitive man,” Enkidu. 8. How does the hunter react when he first encounters Enkidu?
9. Why does Gilgamesh suggest sending a sacred temple prostitute, Shamhat, to meet Enkidu? 10. Shamhat, the sacred prostitute, is sent to “lie with” Enkidu and to “teach him.” For “six days and seven nights,” what does Enkidu learn? 11. How do the animals treat the newly transformed Enkidu? 12. Why does Shamhat tell Enkidu that he has become “like a god”? 13. What does Enkidu want to do to Gilgamesh before Shamhat convinces him otherwise? 14. What do Gilgamesh’s two dreams signify? 15. Why does Ninsun tell Gilgamesh that he will love Enkidu “as a wife”? 16. Why is Ninsun an appropriate character to interpret Gilgamesh’s dreams?
Tablet II: The Challenge (59-63)
If you have read this story before, you may have read it in the popular prose version by translator N. K. Sandars. This prose version uses some different tablets than the Dalley version, which is far more authentic and updated (although harder to read). In Dalley’s version, Ishhara, goddess of marriage and childbirth, is being prepared to marry Gilgamesh to provide a balance in his life. In the Sandars version, the people of Uruk attempt to marry him to the Goddess of Love (Ishtar). Enkidu arrives in Uruk to compete with Gilgamesh. At the moment when Gilgamesh is about to enter the house of his bride’s father, Enkidu arrives and blocks Gilgamesh from entering the door. They wrestle, but in the process they discover that each man complements the other, thus making them “whole.” Do not look at this too literally. Metaphorically, each of their characteristics helps to place the other’s traits into a better and healthier balance. Notice that Gilgamesh and Enkidu form a complete person by unifying their dual natures — Enkidu represents nature (feminine force) while Gilgamesh represents civilization (male force). Enkidu becomes the yin to Gilgamesh’s yang. Interestingly, after the fight is over, Enkidu breaks down crying. He begins talking about a creature named Humbaba, the keeper of the Pine Forest of Lebanon.
The Epic of Gilgamesh
Rumor tells the people of Uruk that this beast is the “terror of people” whose “breath is death.” Again, what you don’t understand might seem to be scary. Certainly, no one has been able to defeat Humbaba, and no one has challenged this creature and lived to tell about it. Although this inspires Gilgamesh to give it a try, Enkidu’s reaction is to cry. Why? Besides suffering with emotion for failing to defeat Gilgamesh, Enkidu is now viewing the world through a very different filter than he did before. Earlier, as a fully vetted member of Nature, Enkidu cohabited with all the creatures of the wild, including the scary ones, such as lions, bulls, etc. Suddenly, now that he has shifted his bias toward society and away from Nature, he is starting to confront the same fears as the people of Uruk do — the fear of the unknown, or the fear of that which is different from the self. Now that Enkidu is a “man,” he has learned to fear Nature, since Nature is more powerful than himself. Gilgamesh, however, gets this great idea to leave a legacy, and he will do so by building a wall around Uruk. Since there is no hardwood in the Tigris River valley, due to deforestation and competition for resources, our two heroes must travel on a dangerous journey to Lebanon to acquire the wood from the pine forest (the Sandars translation refers to the “cedar” forest, but Dalley explains in a footnote that new discoveries reveal that the wood from many archaeological digs is pine, not cedar). The problem exists in the character of Humbaba, the keeper of the forest, and a monster with the giant tusk, described by Gilgamesh as “evil.” NOTE: When you reach the bottom of page 60, flip to page 141 and read an alternate description of the wrestling match between Gilgamesh and Enkidu. This text comes from an Old Babylonian version of the epic, and it supplies additional scenes that embellish the plot.
Questions for The Epic of Gilgamesh (Tablet II)
17. How do the townspeople of Uruk react when they first see Enkidu in the streets? 18. How does Enkidu challenge Gilgamesh? 19. What prompts Enkidu to suddenly collapse and cry? 20. Why is Humbaba protected by Ellil? 21. Describe Humbaba. 22. What does Gilgamesh declare as his new quest? 23. What is Enkidu’s advice to the elders about Gilgamesh’s new mission?
Tablet III: Follow the Leader (63-66)
Although everyone counsels Gilgamesh against this journey, he rationalizes it as a “win/win” situation — if he successfully returns with the lumber, then he is a hero; if he dies while fighting, then he still becomes a hero and leaves a memorable legacy as a brave warrior. On page 141 of The Power of Myth, Campbell informs us that some people need a war to feel truly alive. In fact, many of us press our limits and participate in risky behaviors because these things make us feel alive, while
ironically placing us close to the hands of death. Those of us who like driving too fast, jumping out of airplanes, or riding roller coasters are acting a lot like Gilgamesh did. Enkidu is adopted by Ninsun, Gilgamesh’s mother, who asks Enkidu to look out for her son. Now that these characters are “brothers,” they should help each other to stay out of trouble. Enkidu, however, instructs the elders to dissuade Gilgamesh from taking this trip on page 63, calling it a journey “not to be undertaken.” Gilgamesh, however, asks his mom, Ninsun, for advice, and she laments to Shamash (the sun god) that her son has a restless heart. Ninsun, Shamash, and the city elders instruct Enkidu to be the leader on the journey, to guide Gilgamesh into the forest, and to bring him back alive. After all, Enkidu knows the paths and the dangers of the forest, so he should lead Gilgamesh. NOTE: When you reach the bottom of page 66, flip to pages 146-147 to read an additional scene showing the elders of Uruk blessing the travelers before they depart and instructing them on how to win the “impossible challenge.”
Questions for The Epic of Gilgamesh (Tablet III)
24. Why do the elders in Uruk instruct Enkidu to lead the way into the Pine Forest? 25. Why does Gilgamesh run his idea for adventure past his mother, Ninsun? 26. What character trait in Gilgamesh does Ninsun lament about to Shamash? 27. What is Shamash’s decision? How does he justify it?
Tablet IV: The Journey to Lebanon (67-71)
Tablet IV begins with a description of the travelers riding upstream to Lebanon. The trip takes from “the new moon to the full moon,” implying a 14-15-day journey, plus 3 additional days (for a total of 1718 travel days). The changes in the moon are symbolic. The full moon would have signified the height of danger and evil, since the moon represents the dark side of life. A new moon (invisible to the eye) would have indicated the most auspicious interpretations. Therefore, as the two warriors travel upstream, the moon grows bigger and bigger, representing that bad days are approaching quickly. Gilgamesh has several dreams in this story, but three important dreams occur on these three extra days following the full moon, each translated by Enkidu. The first dream shows a mountain toppling onto the plains at Gilgamesh’s feet, and Enkidu says that this represents the fall of Humbaba and victory in battle. The second dream is not attainable from the broken text, but other translations discuss Gilgamesh battling with a bull. Enkidu interprets this to mean that Shamash, the sun god (symbolized as a bull), will protect Gilgamesh on the trip. It also may represent the slaying of Humbaba as well, and it likely foreshadows their battle with the Great Bull of Heaven after they return from Lebanon. Gilgamesh’s third dream, however, is a nightmare, and Gilgamesh is afraid of it. He dreams of death and destruction, and his world burning down to ashes. This interpretation makes Enkidu become “paralyzed” with fear.
The Epic of Gilgamesh
Enkidu sees these events as bad omens, and begins to find a way out of the war with Humbaba. But Gilgamesh takes Enkidu by the hand and assumes the lead (which goes against the advice of the elders and priests of Uruk who instructed that Enkidu lead the way).
Questions for The Epic of Gilgamesh (Tablet IV)
28. How many days did the journey last from Uruk to Lebanon? 29. What is Gilgamesh’s first dream, and how does Enkidu interpret it? 30. What is Gilgamesh’s second dream, and how does Enkidu interpret it? 31. What is Gilgamesh’s third dream, and how does Enkidu interpret it? 32. How does this last dream affect Enkidu? 33. Gilgamesh says to Enkidu, “Hold my hand, my friend, let us set off!” Is this a good or bad decision?
Tablet V: The Battle with Humbaba (71-77)
Remember that Enkidu was created to provide balance to Gilgamesh. Much like Joseph Campbell said in chapter 1 of The Power of Myth, a true marriage involves sacrifice of the individual to acquiesce in the duality of the couple. In other words, Enkidu will become more masculine when befriending Gilgamesh, and Gilgamesh will understand his feminine side better after hanging out with Enkidu. After Shamhat transformed Enkidu into “[profound] Enkidu,” making him more of a God than a beast, Enkidu was rejected by Nature, thus moving him closer to Society. Recall that the first set of terms below represent three dualities addressed in the Alexander Pope poem:
MASCULINE “God” “mind” “to act” Society Gilgamesh
FEMININE “beast” “body” “to rest” Nature <-- Enkidu
Who Is Humbaba? Was Humbaba really evil? Humbaba is mischaracterized in this story by Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the people of Uruk. Although he is considered to be “evil,” we don’t ever see him doing anything evil to anyone. That’s because the word “humbaba” would have been used to describe the ritual sacrifices that went wrong. When an animal was offered up to the gods at the temple altar, the priests would have had the duty to pick through the guts to determine the omen (the message) from the gods. An animal whose guts were in order would be considered a good omen. However, if the intestines were riddled with cancer or other deformities, then the priest would have concluded that the gods had rejected the ritual sacrifice. The tainted intestines would have been called “humbaba.” This process of examining the guts, by the way, is called “extispacy.”
Humbaba’s face is depicted in Mesopotamian art as an ugly, contorted mass of intestines, with fissures, nooks, and crannies pock-marking his large head. This resembles the malformed intestines of sacrificial animals. He is supposed to be reprehensible to look at, especially since he represents the dark sides of Nature.
He certainly had a reputation, but, metaphorically, he really just represents Nature itself. Specifically, Humbaba represents the ugly, fearful side of nature. Have you ever seen a dead animal splattered across the road? That’s Humbaba. Ever been chased by an angry dog? Ever have a wasp nest in your garage? Hurricanes? Hail storms? Floods? Earthquakes? Humbaba is symbolic of all these dark and deadly aspects of Nature, the ugliest and most frightening aspects of Nature, the things that we wished that we could do without, such as death. I placed Humbaba on the feminine side of the isthmus because he is a protector of nature and a representation of the dark side of it:
MASCULINE Society Gilgamesh and Enkidu
FEMININE Nature Humbaba
At the start of Tablet V, Humbaba is quickly approaching, and Enkidu becomes scared. The actions of both characters now will be made through fear, which is always leads to dangerous consequences. Humbaba towers over the two warriors, and he threatens to break their necks and eat them for a snack (and he even wonders if their puny bodies can satisfy his stomach!). Gilgamesh reassures Enkidu that they have the protection of Shamash, the sun god, who conjures up the 13 winds that restrain Humbaba because they blow at him from different directions. Enkidu regains some of his confidence, and perhaps follows Gilgamesh’s lead too much. He becomes more “masculine,” much like Gilgamesh, and eventually suggests that the two of them should slay the giant. They have to act fast because Humbaba’s henchmen have started to emerge from the deep woods with weapons. Gilgamesh is confused and wonders where to begin. Enkidu uses his new skills of reason (mind) to suggest that they should kill Humbaba. He offers two reasons: 1) Ellil (who both created and supports Humbaba) will soon return, causing their job to become harder an more dangerous; and 2) he reasons that, by killing the mother hen (Humbaba), the chicks (Humbaba’s army) will scatter in fear after losing their commander (the mother hen, so to speak). In alternate versions of this story, Gilgamesh brings two sisters to become potential wives of Humbaba. Many of you have studied how two kingdoms married their sons and daughters to each other for political alliance. An attack on the other country would then place your own flesh and blood at risk, thereby reducing the likelihood of warfare. By offering his own sisters to Humbaba (called Huwawa in older Sumerian tales), Gilgamesh’s first intention is to establish a peace treaty between the two. This episode is not included in the Dalley text versions. Once bound by the 13 winds, Humbaba starts to bargain with Gilgamesh and Enkidu. He offers them lumber of any variety, and says that he will personally deliver the very best that the forest can offer. Held by the 13 winds, Humbaba becomes a sitting duck, and is quickly slain by our two heroes
The Epic of Gilgamesh
performing a very physical deed. Before he dies, however, Humbaba curses both men: “Neither one of them shall outlive / His friend. Gilgamesh and Enkidu shall never become old men” (page 76). NOTE: When you reach the middle of page 76, flip to page 148 and read it. This page contains additional excerpts from an Old Babylonian translation of the tale. It will fill in some of the textual gaps in the main translation.
Questions for The Epic of Gilgamesh (Tablet V)
34. Why is the Pine Forest so admirable? 35. What insults does Humbaba throw at Gilgamesh and Enkidu upon their first encounter? 36. What assurances does Shamash give to Gilgamesh? 37. What metaphors does Enkidu use to encourage Gilgamesh during the battle? 38. How does Shamash intervene, weakening Humbaba? 39. How does Humbaba plead to Gilgamesh and Enkidu after Shamash’s participation? 40. Why is Enkidu in such a rush to kill Humbaba? 41. What curse does Humbaba place upon both Gilgamesh and Enkidu? 42. What metaphor does Enkidu use that convinces Gilgamesh that they should kill Humbaba? (NOTE: This question refers to a text sample on Dalley 148.)
Tablet VI: The Great Bull of Heaven (77-83)
After Gilgamesh and Enkidu kill Humbaba, clean themselves up, cut down the remaining trees, and float the timber downstream to supply the materials for the protective wall around Uruk, the goddess of love and war, Ishtar (Inanna), decides to make Gilgamesh her consort. However, he flatly turns her down, mostly due to her reputation. Ishtar had destroyed the lives of many men, including Dumuzi, and has reduced them to nothingness (by the way, this is the interpretation of Society, not Nature). The section describes six total husbands of Ishtar who have all met grim fates, including the bird whose wing was broken, the lion cast into the lion pit, and the shepherd who was changed into a wolf, amongst others. Nature would consider these transformations as an aspect of rebirth, not death … but Society does not handle change so willingly. Although we can understand Gilgamesh’s decision to reject Ishtar, notice that he once again fights against the feminine forces (first Nature, now the Nature Goddess). Also, by rejecting Ishtar’s treatment of Dumuzi, Gilgamesh once again proves that he is NOT viewing the world in balance, since he ignores the female metaphors (through a man’s eye, Dumuzi was killed by Inanna, but a feminine perspective recognizes and admires the changes that he has gone through).
UNIT 2 MASCULINE Society Gilgamesh and Enkidu Shamash FEMININE Nature Pine Forest Humbaba Ishtar
After Gilgamesh’s refusal, Ishtar complains to her father, Anu, and seeks his help to destroy Gilgamesh. Anu grants his daughter the Great Bull of Heaven to corrupt the land as a punishment for Gilgamesh’s and Enkidu’s actions. She is allowed to send down to earth the Bull of Heaven, which symbolizes a seven-year drought (rather than life or fertility). Originally a symbol of fertility in the Age of Taurus, the bull now has been reassigned a new identity: drought, the opposite of fertility. The bull and cow were common fertility symbols, and they usually represent life, not death. However, remember that this bull belongs to “heaven.” Recall from the Adapa story that the Sumerians used the same word to mean both “heaven” and “death,” meaning that this particular bull will represent heaven/death. In other words, he represents drought. Imagine a bull standing in the desert sands, snorting and kicking up dust clouds (drought). Similar shifts in this metaphor occurred with the serpent, who was universally understood to be a messenger of life in the Age of Taurus, only to be converted into a symbol of “evil” in the male-dominated Middle East around 2500-3000 BCE, the dawn of the Age of Aries. The Hebrew tradition tapped into this shift toward toe male, thus creating the evil identity of the serpent in the Garden of Eden. The Bull of Heaven is sent earthward, and it creates instant drought, causing huge fissures in the land to open up and swallow hundreds of citizens with each snort. Enkidu too falls into a large crack in the land, only to crawl out of the hole and face the bull eye-to-eye. However, Gilgamesh and Enkidu each defeat this beast, with Gilgamesh acting as a matador, thus sending the other gods into confusion. Enkidu becomes more brash, yelling insults toward Ishtar. At one point, Enkidu rips off one of the legs of the Bull and tosses it up into the heavens as an insult to Ishtar. This part of the story explains to the children of Mesopotamia why the constellation Taurus (the Bull) has no legs descending from his head and upper body that is outlined by the stars. At this point, we should notice that Nature (woman) has been defeated at every turn — Enkidu has been transformed from nature to civilized, Humbaba was executed, trees were cut down, Ishtar was rebuffed, and the Great Bull of Heaven was slaughtered in front of the gods. Therefore, a good question to ask here is, “What has Gilgamesh learned?” If he was supposed to warm up to the side of Nature after the coming of Enkidu, it obviously didn’t work, since Gilgamesh is more steadfast in his masculinity than ever before.
MASCULINE (all are victorious) Society Gilgamesh and Enkidu Shamash lumber law (Aries)
FEMININE (all are defeated or killed) Nature Ishtar Humbaba Pine Forest Great Bull (Taurus)
The Epic of Gilgamesh
Remember that this epic was written as six independent stories before being assimilated together as one cohesive narrative. This means that parts were written in the Age of Aries in Babylon while other parts had been carried over from the earlier Sumerian times in the Age of Taurus. The next series of events reflect the re-emergence of the female voice, and the rest of the epic reflects a return to the importance of balance and harmony as it was expressed in Unit 1.
Questions for The Epic of Gilgamesh (Tablet VI)
43. Why does Gilgamesh refuse the advances of Ishtar? 44. Ishtar asks her father for the Bull of Heaven to punish Gilgamesh. What does this bull represent? 45. What is the one condition upon which Anu allows Ishtar to use the Bull? 46. What damage is caused by the bull’s initial three snorts? 47. As Enkidu grabs hold of the bull, what realization comes to his mind? 48. Which character actually kills the bull? 49. What do Gilgamesh and Enkidu do with the carcass of the dead bull? 50. Why does Enkidu toss a leg from the bull into the heavens? Is this action appropriate? 51. What does Gilgamesh do with its massive horns?
Tablet VII: The Fall of Enkidu (83-90)
Enkidu must die, and his death will inspire Gilgamesh to embark on a more important journey, seeking eternal life on a more profound quest ... a spiritual quest to help another, not a physical quest to help himself. The Anunnaki gods communicate this news to Enkidu by means of two frightening dreams. Enkidu’s first dream shows the great gods discussing what they should do about Enkidu. They decide that either he or Gilgamesh must die for exploiting and abusing nature for mankind’s selfish gain. Someone will have to die, and that character will be ... Enkidu, who has acquired the personality of the Aries (the Ram), the zodiac sign that has defeated Taurus (the Bull) for prominence in the sky on the first day of Spring. Enkidu may also have been chosen because he had deviated from his nature (plus, a living Gilgamesh will continue to glorify the gods by building temples, etc.). When Enkidu tells Gilgamesh his dream, Gilgamesh becomes emotional and denies Enkidu’s own interpretations (which all have been accurate thus far). Enkidu reacts very poorly and immaturely. He begins to insult those characters who helped him to attain his lofty presence. He first curses the hunter, since the hunter was the one who brought Shamhat to the woods. Next he blames this sacred prostitute herself for culturing him and converting him into “[profound] Enkidu,” the society man. He curses their futures, praying for destruction and pain in the lives of these people.
Shamash, the sun god, then intervenes and tells Enkidu to grow up and accept his fate. After all, because of the hunter and the harlot, Enkidu was able to experience things that he never would have been able to do before, such as wear royal clothes, eat excellently prepared food, seek human companionship with Gilgamesh, attain the status of a hero for successfully bringing the pine lumber to Uruk, etc. Really, Enkidu has lived a good and meaningful life (albeit a short one), but now is his time to die. We are all given the gift of life from the gods — without asking for it — so we have nothing to complain about. Enkidu’s second dream takes him into the Underworld, where he describes the dusty dim nature of the time spent beyond life on earth. Tablet XII at the end of the epic explores this idea further, although no real action takes place for us to discuss. We have already seen the Underworld, so we can overlook the twelfth tablet in our discussion of Gilgamesh. Enkidu becomes ill, and slowly he grows weaker and wastes away until he cannot rise from his own bed. Gilgamesh, although two-thirds god, cannot do anything to prevent his friend’s fate. Enkidu’s death will inspire Gilgamesh to embark on a more important journey, seeking eternal life on a more profound quest ... a spiritual quest to help another, not a physical quest to help himself. After realizing this terrible turn of events, Gilgamesh will now devote his life to his more proper journey — the search for the power to bring his friend back from the dead. He will embark on a journey for immortality, found in the form of the Flower of Immortality (the same one that Etana had sought in an earlier story). The Enkidu experiment has failed: instead of balancing out Gilgamesh, the exact opposite has occurred: Gilgamesh has become stronger, and all the feminine forces have grown weaker. When Enkidu was transformed into a civilized man by Shamhat, he rejected his Nature side, crossing the isthmus into the opposite realm. This is why he is out of balance, and why he is the gods’ logical choice to die over Gilgamesh. If something had not been done soon to stop his reign of terror, Gilgamesh might have extinguished all the feminine forces in the world. By killing Humbaba, Enkidu has effectively killed his own essence and heritage. In the process, he has assumed more of Gilgamesh’s mannerisms and outlooks on life. Originally, Enkidu was created help balance Gilgamesh, but by the middle of the story, both Gilgamesh and Enkidu are firmly on the side of society. Maybe we learn that we can never run away from our God-given attributes, lest we violate the beauty of our intended place on the spectrum. Maybe this episode of Enkidu’s death explains a universal truth: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Mess with Nature ... and she’ll mess with you too! A world of time, motion, and duality demands that both YANG and YIN operate in balance, and the gods realize this. Recall what the world was like before Enki arrived in the Enki and Ninhursag myth — pure and lifeless without any cycles or motion. The total eradication of the female forces would mean stillness, nothingness, and death. If the gods wish to survive, they must preserve duality.
Questions for The Epic of Gilgamesh (Tablet VII)
52. Explain the prophesy of Enkidu’s first dream. Which is the only god to support Enkidu? 53. Why does Enkidu destroy the great pine door that he had made? 54. What is Gilgamesh’s plan to change the gods’ minds? 55. What curses does Enkidu heap upon the “hunter” and the “harlot”?
The Epic of Gilgamesh
56. How does Shamash scold Enkidu, and what does he make Enkidu realize about his life? 57. Describe some of the visions that Enkidu sees in his second dream, when he visits the Underworld. 58. For how many days does Enkidu fall ill?
Tablet VIII: The Death of Enkidu (91-95)
The tablet begins with Enkidu having just expired. Gilgamesh recalls their glorious deeds together, as well as all of the people and things associated with the life of Enkidu. Although Gilgamesh speaks to himself, within the privacy of his home, his speech acts as a fitting eulogy for his fallen friend. Gilgamesh erects a statue in Enkidu’s honor and provides several offerings to Shamash. Gilgamesh also sheds his royal garments for primitive rags. Unfortunately, the last two pages of this tablet are broken, so we cannot know the details of Gilgamesh’s funeral rituals. When Enkidu finally dies, Gilgamesh sees himself lying on Enkidu’s death bed. He mourns for a week. He bolts the door, trashes his home, pulls out his hair, and grieves over the decaying body of his friend. The next series of events reflect the reemergence of the female voice, and the rest of the epic reflects a return to the importance of balance and harmony as it was expressed in Unit 1. Gilgamesh has realized that killing Humbaba has its consequences, and that Enkidu’s death is a direct result of Gilgamesh’s arrogance and ambitions. Had they not bothered Humbaba, Enkidu might still be alive. Gilgamesh must set forth on the journey that he should have been on all along — the quest for eternal life — the ultimate spiritual journey. He now embarks on a more dangerous adventure to the other side of the world to talk with the only man who was granted eternal life — Ut-napishtim, the Far-Distant (“He who saw everything,” also known to us as Atrahasis or Noah). This journey is really his most important one since he must learn the lessons of life that have not yet sunken in.
Questions for The Epic of Gilgamesh (Tablet VIII)
59. Who/What does Gilgamesh blame for the death of Enkidu? 60. Why does Gilgamesh react so violently after he speaks Enkidu’s eulogy? 61. Describe and explain why Gilgamesh changes his physical appearance: “Clad only in lionskin, I will roam the open country.”
Tablet IX: The Quest to the land of the faraway (95-99)
Having undergone the loss of his companion, Gilgamesh is clearly distraught. Afraid of his own mortality, Gilgamesh embarks on a quest to find the elixir of immortality. Wearing ragged clothes, Gilgamesh searches for a man named “The Faraway” or “The Far-Distant,” Ut-napishtim, who had survived the Great Flood. He now constantly cries due to his grief — something he was unable to do before the arrival of Enkidu. Gilgamesh had never lost anything before, and now he feels deep pain for the first time. Finally, Gilgamesh is becoming in touch with his feminine side because is able to feel the pain of someone else — Enkidu.
To begin his journey, he suits up his armor and heads eastward, since the East represents life and birth (the West represents death, given that the sun “dies” each day by thrusting itself into the Western grave). When he reaches the tunnel at the foot of the eastern mountain, he takes a brief nap to energize himself for the rest of the trip. When he awakens, he sees two lions playing nearby. Perhaps out of jealousy (or even pure masculine aggression), Gilgamesh slaughters these animals (ironically, the symbol of Ishtar is also the lion, suggesting that Gilgamesh is also displaying his rejection of feminine qualities here too). Gilgamesh seems angry at Nature for allowing death to be a part of life. His grief is deep, and he is not thinking rationally. Since Enkidu’s death, Gilgamesh is once again out of balance, allowing his angry masculine side dominate his character. Sometimes, it seems to be easier to bring everyone else down with you when you’re having a bad day than it is to lift yourself up. In order to travel to the other side of the world, Gilgamesh must trek through a tunnel through Mount Mashu, guarded by the fearsome Scorpion-Men. Now wearing lion skins, Gilgamesh then approaches the mouth of the tunnel, but it is guarded by two Scorpion-Men (solar guardians, or intermediaries, who protect the entrance to heaven’s realm, much like we saw in the picture of Dumuzi and Gizzida). These characters are also universal, used in Egyptian lore, amongst others. They are the solar guardians of the East, preventing people from traveling into the world of eternal light (the east, the sun, etc.). Gilgamesh, however, convinces these dark forces that he should be allowed to embark on this once-in-a-lifetime quest, and he enters the mouth of the cave. His status as a man who is 2/3 god perhaps gives him this privilege. By traveling through the mountain tunnel, Gilgamesh, now a nomad, learns another essential truth that the Sumerian farmers knew all too well: that from darkness comes the light. Much like traveling through a birth canal, Gilgamesh exits through the other side where he comes to the land east of Eden (the great garden), a landscape laden with bejeweled fruit and spiky plants made from gemstones. He has arrived at the other side of the world, an alternate universe, where nobody lives except Ut-napishtim and several assistants.
Questions for The Epic of Gilgamesh (Tablet IX)
62. Afraid of the lions, why does Gilgamesh pray to the god Sîn? 63. When Gilgamesh awakens from his dream, he slays the pride of lions playing nearby. Why? 64. Why does the Scorpion-Man tell Gilgamesh that his journey is “impossible”? 65. Why do you suppose that the gatekeeper allows Gilgamesh to go through the mountain? 66. How long is Gilgamesh’s journey through Mount Mashu? 67. Describe the world at the other end of the tunnel. What does this setting symbolize?
The Epic of Gilgamesh
Tablet X: Ut-napishtim, the far-distant (99-109)
When Gilgamesh meets the people in this strange, crystalline land, he will be their first-ever visitor, yet they all tell Gilgamesh the same message that he had heard from the elders in Uruk, Shamash the sun god, as well as the Scorpion-Men. If you were to flip to pages 149-151 in the Dalley text (to another version of this story), you will see that Gilgamesh has been told this many times: “You will not find the eternal life you seek.” He will continue to hear the same mantra from Urshanabi (the ferryman) and Ut-napishtim (the immortal flood survivor) as well. After exiting the mouth of the cave, the first person that Gilgamesh encounters is Siduri, the divine wine maker (and a version of Ishtar). She hides in her house and locks her doors when she sees this dirty, tattered, frazzled man emerge from the mountain. He approaches her door, tells his heroic stories, and asks her where he can find “The Far-Away,” Ut-napishtim, the survivor of the Great Flood. Siduri’s status as a maker of wine evokes the imagery of blood and water, both essential liquids of human life. Perhaps Gilgamesh has come to the right place. However, Siduri tells Gilgamesh to go back home and live each day to the fullest. However, Gilgamesh is too stubborn to listen, as we have seen him do many times before. She sends Gilgamesh down the shoreline to meet a ferryman, Urshanabi, who has a magic boat that may be able to transport Gilgamesh to the Land of the Far-Away. He hikes his way to Urshanabi to explain his situation and to ask the ferryman for a ride to the land of Ut-napishtim. However, upon his arrival, Gilgamesh unexpectedly breaks Urshanabi’s boat and its accompanying “things of stone.” He also knocks Urshanabi upside the head in the scrum. Is he simply frustrated? Is he delusional? When Urshanabi awakens, Gilgamesh wastes no time demanding that he sail him across the Water of Death to seek Ut-napishtim’s counsel. The stunned ferryman gladly agrees to transport Gilgamesh to the distant land, but first tells our hero that he has a lot of work to do building another boat. Although the boat can be rebuilt, the “things of stone” cannot be repaired (Dalley 102). These stones were magic charms that propelled the boat over the “lethal water,” or the still Water of Death that surrounds the dry land, peaked by the mountain, in the Babylonian diagram of the universe. Urshanabi instructs Gilgamesh to cut down 300 pine poles and to add “knobs” to them. The two figures begin their water journey, which will include passing over poison waters (Tiamat) that will instantly kill anyone who touches them. This journey now has become more difficult without the use of the magic stones, which cannot be replaced. Since the lethal waters cannot be touched, Gilgamesh won’t be able to use oars, since the water would splash upward with each stoke. Since the waters circle the mountain of the Underworld, they represent the opposite of life, which is often symbolized by “wind” (also referred to as “spirit” or “life”). With no wind over the waters, they cannot use a sail either. This journey will be a treacherous one, filled with both internal and external conflicts. Without the “things of stone,” Gilgamesh will be forced to propel the boat across the gloomy waters for an entire month by pushing off the bottom of the waters using his 30-meter-long pine poles, being careful to discard them into the deadly waters after each stroke. He needs to continue propelling the boat in this fashion, being careful to avoid exhausting his supply of poles. When he runs out of poles at the edge of the sea of death, he must get creative if he wishes to make it to the other side. Standing at the prow of the boat, arms extended, he removes his lion skins and uses them as a makeshift sail. With the faintest of winds now moving, it somehow works, and he arrives in the land of the Far-Away after a month’s journey over the treacherous sea. When Utnapishtim looks out of his window, he can’t believe his eyes that he is seeing a visitor to his home — no one had ever visited the Land of the Far-Away before! When Gilgamesh finally arrives at the land of the “Far Away” (Ut-napishtim), he will once again again learn the same message — that gods live forever, but people don’t. Several characters repeat the
same message to Gilgamesh: “There is no permanence,” and “that which you seek you shall not find.” The holy counselors of Uruk told him this, as did the Scorpion-Men, Shamash the Sun God, Siduri (the Divine Wine Maker), Urshanabi (the ferryman), and Ut-napishtim (the wisest man). Therefore, it must be true. They explain to Gilgamesh that the gods, upon inventing eternal life, only granted that lot to themselves. We people were granted the “gift” of death. The days of life are numbered, but the days of death are not. Perhaps this forces us to recognize each day as a treasure. Each day should be filled to the fullest, with singing, dancing, and feasting (as Siduri said). Dwell more on life than on death; otherwise, your life will become death as well. When Gilgamesh arrives at Ut-napishtim’s land, he becomes the first visitor to this location. Utnapishtim’s wife looks out her window, sees a strange and haggard man approaching, and tells her husband that they have company! Once again, Gilgamesh tells his heroic tales and explains his mission. Ut-napishtim cuts him off at one point and asks Gilgamesh why he continues to grieve, especially knowing that each day spent in sadness is one fewer happy day left in his life. He essentially tells Gilgamesh to stop using his living days to dwell on his eventual death. This is when Ut-napishtim tells Gilgamesh his story of surviving the Great Flood by heeding Ea’s commands spoken through his reed hut wall in a dream (see the Atrahasis story).
Questions for The Epic of Gilgamesh (Tablet X)
68. When Siduri first sees Gilgamesh, what does she mistake him as? 69. After Gilgamesh identifies himself, why does Siduri not believe him? 70. Why do Shamash and Siduri both tell Gilgamesh, “You will not find the eternal life that you seek”? (NOTE: this question pertains to the additional text, located on pages 149-151). 71. According to Siduri, who is the only one who has ever crossed the sea to Ut-napishtim? 72. When he first meets Urshanabi, why does Gilgamesh hit the ferryman on the head and smash the “things of stone”? 73. How does Gilgamesh repay Urshanabi? 74. What instructions does Urshanabi give to Gilgamesh to propel the magillu-boat across the lethal waters? 75. What does Gilgamesh do to propel the boat once all the poles are used? 76. After arriving in the land of the Far-Away, Gilgamesh tells Ut-napishtim his story. What is Ut-napishtim’s response to Gilgamesh and his quest?
The Epic of Gilgamesh
Tablet XI: The Flower of immortality (109-120)
Gilgamesh insists, so he is put to the test — he attempts to stay awake for a week. If Gilgamesh really thinks that he deserves eternal life, then he surely can stay awake for a measly week! However, he cannot even stay awake for a minute longer, since he is so worn out. Instead, he SLEEPS for a week straight, even falling asleep in the middle of his conversation! Ut-napishtim’s wife encourages her immortal husband to wake the sleeping man, but Ut-napishtim knows that “Man behaves badly” (116). He suggests instead that they allow Gilgamesh to sleep, while Ut-napishtim’s wife bakes a loaf of bread each day and places it around Gilgamesh’s head. When Gilgamesh first awakens, he doesn’t believe that he had slept a wink, picking up his conversation right where he had left off. Ut-napishtim stops Gil’s ramblings and forces him to look at the evidence that surrounds his head — seven loaves of bread, each in a different state of decay. Like the bread, Gilgamesh is mortal. He now resigns himself to his fate, cleans himself up a bit, and boards the boat once again for the long journey back homeward. However, just then, Ut-napishtim’s wife scolds her husband for being a bad host, telling him that he has failed to give his guest a parting gift. Unable to figure out what to give this desperate king, Utnapishtim offers the only gift that he has to offer — wisdom. He instructs Gilgamesh how to find the Flower of Immortality at the bottom of the ocean. One can become young again by drinking the nectar of this magic flower. Excited at the prospects, Gilgamesh ties two stones to his feet, sinks to the ocean floor (the Apsu). Immediately, he finds the flower! He pulls it by the stem (which pricks his hands), cuts the stones free, and ascends to the surface. Gilgamesh has found what he had been looking for — the magic flower of immortality! He jumps for joy in his victory! He explains that he will offer this potion to his subjects in Uruk, starting with the oldest citizens. Perhaps he can bring Enkidu back to life after all! However, even though he finds this flower, he will not retain it in his possession for very long. After sailing to an island to fetch some water and to clean themselves up, Gilgamesh places this special flower on the sandy beach, but it is soon snatched away by a serpent. The snake appears quietly, grabs the flower, sloughs off its skin, and slithers back into the ocean, taking the flower away forever, since mankind has not been allotted eternal life ... and never will. Notice that these three symbols are all representative of the feminine forces — the flower, the serpent, and the water. Ultimately, Gilgamesh has to learn to accept the feminine forces so that he can live his limited life in greater balance. In fact, this is why the serpent steals the flower — because death is a necessary side of the life/death duality. Without death, life is impossible to define. Both are understood only in the contexts of each other. This is our curse ... as well as our blessing. Just as we had witnessed in Unit 1, the serpent here is not evil. The snake embodies the perfect balance of these symbols of life (male and female). The serpent keeps Gilgamesh in balance by ensuring his death. Frustrated, tired, and dejected, Gilgamesh resigns himself to a failed journey, and he asks Urshanabi to take him home. When Gilgamesh arrives back home in Uruk, we see him become a different man with a more appreciative attitude. He now seems to be proud of his accomplishments on earth, and is no longer arrogant about them. He realizes that his life has been filled with greatness, and that he will always be remembered. Perhaps this is our form of immortality. Humans do not get to live eternally, so we must perform great deeds that will be remembered for years to come. This is called our legacy.
Questions for The Epic of Gilgamesh (Tablet XI)
77. Why does Gilgamesh want to “pick a fight” against Ut-napishtim? 78. List three similarities and at least three differences between Ut-napishtim’s account of the flood and the story Atrahasis. 79. What do the gods give to Ut-napishtim and his wife as recompense for their tribulations? 80. What challenge does Ut-napishtim propose to Gilgamesh to test his immortality? 81. What instruction does Ut-napishtim give his wife to prove to Gilgamesh the results of the challenge? 82. What does Ut-napishtim ask Urshanabi to do to Gilgamesh to revitalize him? 83. Why does Ut-napishtim tell Gilgamesh the secret of the Flower of Immortality? 84. What does Gilgamesh use as anchors when he dives into the sea to locate the flower? 85. What is significant about the flower spiking Gilgamesh’s hands when he plucks it? 86. What is Gilgamesh’s plan to use the flower? 87. Why does the snake grab the flower, shed its skin, and slither away forever? 88. Why does Gilgamesh finally accept his fate? 89. Why does Gilgamesh give Urshanabi a tour of Uruk when they arrive back home? What is Gilgamesh’s legacy?
Tablet XII: Coda (120-125)
The story officially ends after Tablet XI; however, this additional tablet has been added at the end of the Dalley translation. You may read it if you’d like, but it will not be discussed. It is out of sequence, and is more closely related to another story in your Dalley text called Nergal and Ereshkigal (pages 163-176). The story in Tablet XII shows the living Enkidu visiting the Underworld. Enkidu is instructed to avoid accepting any gifts, since this action would cause Enkidu to remain in the Underworld forever. Likewise, Nergal is given similar instructions, but accepts the sexual advances of Ereshkigal, Queen of the Underworld. This episode also evokes the scene in Adapa, when Anu offers Adapa the food and drink of eternal life, but Adapa refuses.
GENESIS 5-9: NOAH AND THE FLOOD
Genesis 5-9: Noah and the Flood
King James Version
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University
1 This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; 2 Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created. 3 And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth: 4 And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters: 5 And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died. 6 And Seth lived an hundred and five years, and begat Enos: 7 And Seth lived after he begat Enos eight hundred and seven years, and begat sons and daughters: 8 And all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years: and he died. 9 And Enos lived ninety years, and begat Cainan: 10 And Enos lived after he begat Cainan eight hundred and fifteen years, and begat sons and daughters: 11 And all the days of Enos were nine hundred and five years: and he died. 12 And Cainan lived seventy years, and begat Mahalaleel: 13 And Cainan lived after he begat Mahalaleel eight hundred and forty years, and begat sons and daughters: 14 And all the days of Cainan were nine hundred and ten years: and he died. 15 And Mahalaleel lived sixty and five years, and begat Jared: 16 And Mahalaleel lived after he begat Jared eight hundred and thirty years, and begat sons and daughters: 17 And all the days of Mahalaleel were eight hundred ninety and five years: and he died. 18 And Jared lived an hundred sixty and two years, and he begat Enoch: 19 And Jared lived after he begat Enoch eight hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: 20 And all the days of Jared were nine hundred sixty and two years: and he died. 21 And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah: 22 And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: 23 And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: 24 And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him. 25 And Methuselah lived an hundred eighty and seven years, and begat Lamech: 26 And Methuselah lived after he begat Lamech seven hundred eighty and two years, and begat sons and daughters: 27 And all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred sixty and nine years: and he died. 28 And Lamech lived an hundred eighty and two years, and begat a son: 29 And he called his name Noah, saying, This name shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the LORD hath cursed.
31 And all the days of Lamech were seven hundred seventy and seven years: and he died. 32 And Noah was five hundred years old: and Noah begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
30 And Lamech lived after he begat Noah five hundred ninety and five years, and begat sons and daughters:
1 And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, 2 That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. 3 And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. 4 There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. 5 And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. 7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. 8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. 9 These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God. 10 And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. 11 The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. 13 And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. 14 Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. 15 And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. 16 A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it. 17 And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die. 18 But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee. 19 And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female. 20 Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive. 21 And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them. 22 Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.
GENESIS 5-9: NOAH AND THE FLOOD
1 And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation. 2 Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female. 3 Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth. 4 For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth. 5 And Noah did according unto all that the LORD commanded him. 6 And Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters was upon the earth. 7 And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood. 8 Of clean beasts, and of beasts that are not clean, and of fowls, and of every thing that creepeth upon the earth, 9 There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah. 10 And it came to pass after seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth. 11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. 12 And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights. 13 In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah’s wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark; 14 They, and every beast after his kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind, and every fowl after his kind, every bird of every sort. 15 And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life. 16 And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the LORD shut him in. 17 And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lift up above the earth. 18 And the waters prevailed, and were increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark went upon the face of the waters. 19 And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered. 20 Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered. 21 And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man: 22 All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died. 23 And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark. 24 And the waters prevailed upon the earth an hundred and fifty days.
1 And God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle that was with him in the ark: and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters asswaged;
13 And it came to pass in the six hundredth and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth: and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and, behold, the face of the ground was dry. 14 And in the second month, on the seven and twentieth day of the month, was the earth dried. 15 And God spake unto Noah, saying, 16 Go forth of the ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons’ wives with thee. 17 Bring forth with thee every living thing that is with thee, of all flesh, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth; that they may breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth. 18 And Noah went forth, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him: 19 Every beast, every creeping thing, and every fowl, and whatsoever creepeth upon the earth, after their kinds, went forth out of the ark. 20 And Noah builded an altar unto the LORD; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done. 22 While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.
2 The fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained; 3 And the waters returned from off the earth continually: and after the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters were abated. 4 And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat. 5 And the waters decreased continually until the tenth month: in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, were the tops of the mountains seen. 6 And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made: 7 And he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth. 8 Also he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground; 9 But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth: then he put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled her in unto him into the ark. 10 And he stayed yet other seven days; and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark; 11 And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth. 12 And he stayed yet other seven days; and sent forth the dove; which returned not again unto him any more.
1 And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. 2 And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered. 3 Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.
GENESIS 5-9: NOAH AND THE FLOOD
4 But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat. 5 And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man. 6 Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man. 7 And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein. 8 And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, 9 And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; 10 And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth. 11 And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth. 12 And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: 13 I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. 14 And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: 15 And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.
16 And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. 17 And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth. 18 And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan. 19 These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth overspread. 20 And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: 21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent. 22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. 23 And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness. 24 And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. 25 And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. 26 And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. 27 God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. 28 And Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years. 29 And all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years: and he died.
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Comparing the Flood Narratives: Genesis, Atrahasis, and Gilgamesh
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University Stories of the Great Flood are found in every mythological culture. Most myths depict relentless rain as the source of the flooding water, while others recall raging rivers, welling groundwater, or oceans engulfing the cities. In the Near East, flood narratives abound, and dozens of versions exist in single cities alone, perhaps suggesting that this collection of stories relates to different floods. Because there are alternative versions of both Atrahasis and Gilgamesh, the details of these particular flood narratives differ from version to version. Illustrating the similarities and differences in these three stories, however, reveal some remarkable associations.
The citations reflect chapter and verse numbers in Genesis
The citations reflect page numbers in Dalley’s Myths from Mesopotamia
The citations reflect page numbers in Dalley’s Myths from Mesopotamia
1. Which deities generate the flood?
Yahweh: “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them” (6:7); also, “The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth” (6:13) Ellil, the god of wind, commands the flood as the sixth curse against the people. He is supported by the Anunna (the Anunnaki gods, the judges of the Underworld). Adad, the god of storms, actually makes the floodwaters descend from the sky: “Adad made his rain pour down” (28). We are first told that the city of Shuruppak “was already old when the gods within it / Decided that the great gods should make a flood” (109). Anu, Ellil, Nintura, Ennugi, and Ea are specifically named as swearing an oath to send the flood (109-110).
2. What motivates the deities to send the flood waters down?
“God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (6:5), and that “the earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence” (6:11); also, “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (8:21) Ellil finally decides on a great flood only after five previous curses had failed to kill off the humans. Ellil had grown frustrated by the people, who were created to relieve the Igigi gods of their manual labor. Ellil “grew restless at their racket” and was “losing sleep” because of the people who were “noisy as a bellowing bull.” Apparently the country “became too wide” and the “people too numerous” (18). The source of Ellil’s anger is not directly stated. At the end of the story, Ea chides Ellil for sending the flood down without consultation with the Anunnaki, suggesting the following alternatives for killing humans: lions, wolves, famines, amd war (114).
Comparing the Flood Narratives
3. What are the deities’ attitudes toward the flood?
Yahweh was saddened “that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart” (6:6) Ellil was the mastermind of the flood, so he fully supported this plan. The other Anunnaki gods seem to passively comply with Ellil’s plan, but soon they become uncomfortable with the level of destruction. The first to protest is Enki/Ea, who informs the people how to defeat the plagues, warns Atrahasis to build a boat, and later openly argues with Ellil (18-19, 2830, 34). Later, Anu “went berserk,” and Nintu’s (Mami’s) lips began to scab over as she openly regrets her acceptance of this “wicked order” (32). Ellil commanded it but “did not consult before imposing the flood” (114-115). Ea had vowed to keep the news of the flood secret, but he “repeated their speech to a reed hut,” telling Ut-napishtim to “Dismantle your house, build a boat” and to “search out living things” (110). Once the flooding begins, the gods “were afraid” and they “withdrew” to the Way of Anu, the upper sky, where they “cowered, like dogs crouched by an outside wall” (113). Ishtar screamed “like a woman giving birth” and contemplating how she could have contributed to this disaster (113). The Anunnaki likewise “were weeping,” and sat “humbled” by the devastation (113).
4. Which people are allowed to live?
Noah, his wife, and their three sons (Shem, Ham, and Japeth) and their wives: “thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee” (6:10, 18) Most of the population had died off before the flood was sent: “Only one or two households were left” (27). Upon completion of the boat, he “invited his people […] to a feast” (31). Presumably, all would have been saved from the flood if they were asked to contribute labor. Directly, however, we are told only that Atrahasis “put his family on board” (31). Utnapishtim, his family, his shipbuilders and craftsmen, including Puzur-Amurru, his boatman, and Urshanabi, his ferryman (112). Generally speaking, “all my kith and kin” were on board the vessel (112). Ut-napishtim employed “all kinds of craftsmen” (112) and “gave the workmen ale and beer to drink” to “made a feast” similar to the “New Year’s Day festival” (111). Were these people allowed in the boat?
5. Why are these people chosen to survive above all others on earth?
Noah “was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God” (6:9) and was “righteous” (7:1) Atrahasis had been loyal to his personal god, Enki. Atrahasis refers to Enki as “master” and prayed to Enki frequently: “Atrahasis made his voice heard” (29). In turn, Enki calls Atrahasis his “servant” (29). Ut-napishtim “sacrificed sheep every day” to earn the favor of the gods (111).
6. How do the deities communicate with Noah/Atrahasis/Utnapishtim?
Yahweh directly commands Noah, who “walked with God” (6:9) Enki communicates to Atrahasis indirectly. Enki speaks to the wall of Atrahasis’ reed hut: “Wall, listen constantly to me!” (29). Atrahasis will absorb Enki’s message through his dreams, allowing Enki to defend himself when charged with breaking his oath and warning the people directly (30, 34). Ea communicates to Ut-napishtim indirectly, via the walls of his reed hut: “Listen, reed hut, and pay attention, brick wall” (110). He is quick to clarify that he did not tell Utnapishtim the secret of the gods directly: “I did not disclose the secret of the great gods, / I just showed Atrahasis [sic] a dream” (115). Later, Ut-napishtim speaks directly with “master Ea,” asking “how can I explain myself to the city, the men and the elders?” (110). Ea tells Utnapishtim to blame it on Ellil.
7. Who builds the arks?
All that we are told is that Noah was obedient to Yahweh: “Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did” (6:22) and “Noah did according to all that the LORD commanded him” (7:5). Atrahasis dismantles his house (31), then enlists his “elders” (30) to help him build the boat, including the “carpenter,” “reed worker,” a “child” and “the poor” (30). First Ea tells Ut-napishtim to “Dismantle your house, build a boat” (110). Then, apparently, the “entire country gathered” to help Utnapishtim, including the “carpenter” with his “axe,” the “reed-worker” with his “stone,” various “young men,” children who “carried the bitumen,” and the poor, who “fetched what was needed” (110-111).
8. Of what materials are the boats constructed?
8. Of what materials are the boats constructed? Noah was instructed to “make thee Atrahasis is directed by Enki to an ark of gopher wood” and to “pitch demolish his reed house and to use it within and without with pitch” those materials to construct the (6:14). The New International boat: “Dismantle the house, build a Version indicates “cyprus” wood boat” (29). He is told to use strong instead. “bitumen,” or pitch, to bind the boards together tightly (30) and to seal the door when the skies begin to rain (31). Ea tells Ut-napishtim to “Dismantle your house, build a boat” (110), meaning that the three materials named are reeds (110), bitumen (111), and oil (111).
9. What kinds of possessions are brought on the arks?
Only living things are specified. Since Yahweh found the earth to be “corrupt before God” (6:11), Noah likely took few possessions with him except for food: “And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten” (6:21) Besides being asked by Ea to dismantle his boat (29), Atrahasis is also instructed to “Reject possessions” (30). Ut-napishtim is also told to “leave possessions” (110), but later “loaded her with everything there was,” including “silver,” “gold,” “all the seed of living things,” and all my kith and kin” (111-112).
Comparing the Flood Narratives
10. What kinds of animals are brought on the arks?
“And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female. Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive (6:19-20); also “Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female. Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth” (7:2-3) No quantity is mentioned, but several references remain from the broken lines that illustrates the variety of creatures included on board: “pure ones” and “fat ones” (31), “[The birds] that fly in the sky” (31), the “Cattle [of Shak]kan” (31), and the “Wild animals […] of open country” (31). Besides “cattle from open country, wild beasts from open country [and] all kinds of craftsmen,” Ut-napishtim also stowed “all the seed of living things” (112).
11. What are the dimensions of the arks?
“The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits” (6:15) We are not told the dimensions, but the boat have been the same size of Atrahasis’ reed hut, which was razed for materials. (29). Ea commands that “her dimensions” shall be “in proportion, / Her width and length shall be in harmony” (110). Later Ut-napishtim specifies: “One acre was her circumference, ten poles each the height of her walls” (111).
12. How many levels do the boats have?
“A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it” (6:16) Enki tells Atrahasis to “Make upper decks and lower decks” (30). Ut-napishtim recalls that he “Gave her six decks, / Divided her into seven. / Her middle I divided into nine” (111).
13. What kinds of roofs are built atop these arks?
Yahweh demands a lookout window: “A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above” (6:16) The roof is supposed to be “like the Apsu / So that the Sun cannot see inside it!” (30). Ea says to “Roof her like the Apsu” (110). Ut-napishtim adds that “Her top edge was likewise ten poles all round” (111).
14. How do the deities make the skies rain so much?
“The windows of heaven were opened” by Yahweh, “and the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights” (7:11-12) from the “fountains of the deep” (8:2) Adad “bellowed from the clouds” and “Anzu was tearing at the sky with his talons” (31). Depicted as a “kašušu-weapon,” the flood “went against the people like an army,” roaring “like a bull” and like “a wild ass screaming” (31). Adad “kept rumbling inside” a “black cloud,” “Erakal pulled out the mooring poles,” Nintura “marched on and made the weir[s] overflow,” while the Anunnaki “had to carry torches” (112). A fierce storm raged on the first day of the disaster, described as “flood-weapon” and a “kašušu-weapon” that attacked like a “battle force” so brutally that even the gods “were afraid” (112-3).
15. For how many days does the rain pour down?
Yahweh sent rains that lasted “forty days and forty nights” (7:12) until “God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters assuaged” (8:1) and “the rain from heaven was restrained” (8:2) Adad will blow in a storm for 7 days: “For seven days and seven nights / The torrent, storm, and flood came on” (33). Earlier, Enki had told Atrahasis that he had “opened the sand clock and filled it,” and that the “sand [needed] for the Flood was Seven nights’ worth” (30). “For six days and [seven (?)] nights / The wind blew, flood and tempest overwhelmed the land” (113). The storm ceased on the seventh day when it “struggled like a woman in labour” before subsiding (113).
16. How deep does the water get?
“And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered. Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered” (7:19-20) We are not told this detail, but we can assume that it covered the mountains. We are not told this detail, but the water apparently covered the tops of the highest mountains: “The floodplain was flat as a roof” (113).
17. How much time passes before the waters start to recede?
“And the waters prevailed upon the earth an hundred and fifty days” (7:24 and 8:3); also ”And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month” [210227 days] (8:4); also “And the waters decreased continually until the tenth month: in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, were the tops of the mountains seen” [about 300 days] (8:5) We are not told this detail. Immediately. Although we are not told directly, only two lines after Utnapishtim weeps from viewing the horizon filled with water, “Areas of land were emerging everywhere” (114).
Comparing the Flood Narratives
18. On which mountain does the boat run aground?
The ark finally rested “upon the mountains of Ararat” (8:4), about 150 days after the rains began to fall. We are not told this detail. The boat “had come to rest on Mount Nimush” (114).
19. What is the order of birds sent to discover dry land?
Noah “sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth” (8:7); also “he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated” (8:8), “But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth” (8:9); “And he stayed yet other seven days; and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark” (8:10), but “the dove came in to him in the evening” with “an olive leaf” in her mouth, “so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth” (8:11). “And he stayed yet other seven days; and sent forth the dove; which returned not again unto him any more” (8:12) There are no birds released. Ut-napishtim “put out and released a dove” on the seventh day of running aground on the mountain (114). After the dove returned, he released a swallow, who also returned, and then finally a raven who did not return (114).
20. How long do the boats remain grounded before the people emerge?
For about 225 days: “And it came to pass in the six hundredth and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth: and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and, behold, the face of the ground was dry. And in the second month, on the seven and twentieth day of the month, was the earth dried” (8:13-14) We are not told this detail. The boat was aground for seven days before the birds were released (114). After the third bird, the raven, failed to return, Ut-napishtim left the boat and made a “surquinnu-offering” that he sacrificed “upon the mountain peak” (114). No timeline is given for the explorations of the three birds nor their time between flights. The best answer might be 7-10 days.
21. How do the survivors thank their deities for their safety and survival?
Noah “builded an altar unto the LORD; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar” (8:20) The text is missing, but similar flood narratives end with the main survivor offering a sacrifice to the gods in appreciation for their lives. This offering is indirectly referred to on page 33, and it occurs in the “gap of about 58 lines.” Ut-napishtim sacrificed a “surquinnuoffering” that was spiced up by adding the oils of “reeds, pine, and myrtle” (114).
22. How do the deities respond to the sacrifice?
Yahweh “smelled a sweet savour” and offered His covenant (8:21) The gods became very “thirsty” and they “longed for beer” to quench their parched mouths (33). Once Atrahasis offers the sacrifice, the Anunnaki gods “smelt the fragrance” and “Gathered like flies” before eating the offering (33). The gods “smelt the pleasant fragrance” and “like flies gathered over the sacrifice” (114). Mami then allows all the gods to attend the sacrifice, except for Ellil, who “did not consult before imposing the flood” (114-115). He came anyway.
23. How do we know that the gods won’t destroy mankind in the future?
Yahweh makes a promise: “the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake … neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done” (8:21); He also offers a covenant: “I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you … neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth” (9:9, 11); the covenant is sealed in the form of a rainbow: “This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you … I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth … and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh” (9:12-13, 15) Knowing that Enki, Anu, and Nintu/Mami speak out loudly against Ellil’s “wicked order,” there likely won’t be any future destructive floods again (32). Nintu “got up and blamed them all,” especially scolding Ellil for his destructive tendencies and for his gall to accept the “smoke offering” from the man that he had tried to kill (33). She further sympathizes with Atrahasis, stating, “His grief is mine!” (34). However, the gods place fertility restrictions on the people at the end of the myth (34-35), so mankind will, in a way, still be destroyed. Ellil reached out and offered personal blessings on Ut-napishtim and his wife: “Ellil came up to the boat, / And seized my hand and led me up” (115). Ellil then “touched our foreheads, stood between us, blessed us” (116). Although Ellil offers Ut-napishtim eternal life, he makes no promise regarding the destruction of other humans.
24. What special compensation are the survivors given?
Yahweh blesses the survivors: “And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered. Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things” (9:1-3) Enki and Nintu decide that human fertility should be restricted to prevent overpopulation in the future: some women will have stillborn babies, others will lose their infants to mysterious diseases, and some women will be designated for holy orders so that their celibacy can help control the population (3435). Ellil blessed them: “But henceforth Ut-napishtim and his woman shall be as we gods are,” granting them eternal life (116). There is a catch, however: “Ut-napishtim shall dwell far off at the mouth of the rivers” (116).
Comparing the Flood Narratives
25. What is the next action taken by the surviving humans?
Noah “drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent” (9:21); then “Ham, the father of Canaan,saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren” (9:22); then Shem and Japheth, walking backward, “covered the nakedness of their father,” but “saw not their father’s nakedness” (9:23), but “Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. And Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years. And all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years: and he died” (9:24-29) We are not told this detail. All we know is that Ut-napishtim and his wife now reside in the Land of the far-Away, and that Urshanabi and Siduri have accompanied him beyond the mountains.