Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

The stone gigant

Posted by Fredsvenn on July 29, 2015

Ullikummi

Atlas

In Hurrian mythology, Ullikummi is a giant stone monster, son of Kumarbi and the sea god’s daughter. Ullikummi’s older brother, Hedammu, is a sea monster and appropriately the son of the sea god’s daughter, Sertapsuruhi.

The narrative of Ullikummi is one episode, the best preserved and most complete, in an epic cycle of related “songs” about the god Kumarbi, who aimed to replace the weather god Teshub and destroy the city of Kummiya.

To this end Kumarbi fathered upon a rock cliff a genderless, deaf, blind, yet sentient pillar of volcanic rock, Ullikummi, which he hid in the netherworld and placed on the shoulder of Upelluri.

Upelluri, absorbed in his meditations, did not feel Ullikummi on his shoulder. Upelluri stands in the netherworld, holding the earth and sky on his shoulder like the Greek Atlas; a mere giant such as Ullikummi is barely noticeable, although Upelluri does feel a bit of pain in his shoulder once Ullikummi has grown up.

Ullikummi grew quickly until he reached the heavens. Ullikummi’s brother Teshub thundered and rained on Ullikummi, but it did not harm him. Teshub fled and abdicated the throne. The weather god and his vizier and brother, Tasmisu, are defeated in their first battle with Ullikummi, as Tasmisu relates to Teshub’s wife, Hebat; as a result Teshub is banished to a “little place,” probably meaning a grave.

Teshub asked Ea (Enki), who lives in the Apsu, underground source of earth’s waters, for help. Ea obtains the toothed cutting tool with which heaven and earth were cut apart shortly after creation; this tool will disable Ullikummi.

Ea visited Upelluri and cut off the feet of Ullikummi, toppling him. Ea cuts Ullikummi loose from Upelluri’s shoulder and then urges the weather god to fight again. The end of the story is broken away and scholars simply assume Ullikummi is finally defeated.

The Hittite counterpart was Ubelluris, a mountain god who carried the western edge of the sky on his shoulders.

The “song of Ullikummi” was recognized from its first rediscovery as a predecessor of Greek myths in Hesiod. Parallels to the Greek myth of Typhoeus, the ancient antagonist of the thunder-god Zeus, have been elucidated by Walter Burkert, Oriental and Greek Mythology, pp. 19–24, and Caucasian parallels in his “Von Ullikummi zum Kaukasus: Die Felsgeburt des Unholds”, Würzburger Jahrbücher N. F., 5 (1979) pp. 253–61.

In Arabian mythology Bahamut or Bahamoot is a vast fish acting as one of the layers that supports the earth. In some sources, Bahamut is described as having a head resembling a hippopotamus or elephant. Bahamut is described as so immense that a human cannot bear its sight; “[all] the seas of the world, placed in one of the fish’s nostrils, would be like a mustard seed laid in the desert.”

In Jorge Luis Borges’ Book of Imaginary Beings, Bahamut is “altered and magnified” from Behemoth, a beast mentioned in Job 40:15–24. Suggested identities range from a mythological creature to an elephant, hippopotamus, rhinoceros or buffalo.

In Greek mythology, Atlas was the primordial Titan who held up the sky. He is also the titan of astronomy and navigation. Although associated with various places, he became commonly identified with the Atlas Mountains in northwest Africa (Modern-day Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia). The first part of the term Atlantic Ocean refers to “Sea of Atlas”, the term Atlantis refers to “island of Atlas”.

Atlas, and his brothers Menoetius, Prometheus and Epimetheus, were the sons of the Titan Iapetus and the Oceanid Asia or Clymene. In contexts where a Titan and a Titaness are assigned each of the seven planetary powers, Atlas is paired with Phoebe and governs the moon. Hyginus emphasises the primordial nature of Atlas by making him the son of Aether and Gaia.

Sources describe Atlas as the father, by different goddesses, of numerous children, mostly daughters. Some of these are assigned conflicting or overlapping identities or parentage in different sources.

Atlas and his brother Menoetius sided with the Titans in their war against the Olympians, the Titanomachy. When the Titans were defeated, many of them (including Menoetius) were confined to Tartarus, but Zeus condemned Atlas to stand at the western edge of Gaia (the Earth) and hold up The Heavens on his shoulders, to prevent the two from resuming their primordial embrace.

Thus, he was Atlas Telamon, “enduring Atlas,” and became a doublet of Coeus, the embodiment of the celestial axis around which the heavens revolve. According to the ancient poet Hesiod Atlas stood at the ends of the earth towards the west.

A common misconception today is that Atlas was forced to hold the Earth on his shoulders, but Classical art shows Atlas holding the celestial spheres, not a globe; the solidity of the marble globe born by the renowned Farnese Atlas may have aided the conflation, reinforced in the 16th century by the developing usage of atlas to describe a corpus of terrestrial maps.

Menoetius, who was killed by Zeus with a flash of lightning, means “doomed might”, deriving from the Ancient Greek words menos (“might, power”) and oitos (“doom, pain”). Hesiod described Menoetius as hubristic, meaning exceedingly prideful and impetuous to the very end. From what his name suggests along with Hesiod’s account, Menoetius was perhaps the Titan god of violent anger and rash action.

The etymology of the name Atlas is uncertain. Virgil took pleasure in translating etymologies of Greek names by combining them with adjectives that explained them: for Atlas his adjective is durus, “hard, enduring”, which suggested to George Doig that Virgil was aware of the Greek τλῆναι “to endure”.

Doig offers the further possibility that Virgil was aware of Strabo’s remark that the native North African name for this mountain was Douris. Since the Atlas mountains rise in the region inhabited by Berbers, it has been suggested that the name might be taken from one of the Berber, specifically ádrār ‘mountain’.

Traditionally historical linguists etymologize the Ancient Greek word Ἄτλας (genitive: Ἄτλαντος) as comprised from copulative α- and the Proto-Indo-European root *telh₂- ‘to uphold, support’ (whence also τλῆναι), and which was later reshaped to an nt-stem.

However, Robert Beekes argues that it cannot be expected that this ancient Titan carries an Indo-European name, and that we’re rather dealing with the word of Pre-Greek origin which often end in -ant.

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