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History of Man: The Germans, the Hindus and the Sumerians

Posted by Fredsvenn on September 15, 2013

History of Man

The Germans

The term man (from Proto-Germanic *mannaz or *manwaz “man, person”) and words derived from it can designate any or even all of the human race regardless of their sex or age. The word developed into Old English man, mann meaning primarily “adult male human” but secondarily capable of designating a person of unspecified gender, “someone, one” or humanity at large (see also German Mann, Old Norse maðr, Gothic manna “man”). More restricted English terms for an adult male were wer (cognate: Latin vir; survives as the first element in “werewolf”) and guma (cognate: Latin homo; survives as the second element in “bridegroom”).

However, Man in traditional usage refers to the species, to humanity as a whole. Equating the term for the male with the whole species is commonly occurring in other languages (e.g. French l’Homme), particularly in traditional registers, but not uniformly even within language groups.

For example, the German equivalent of “Man” is “Mensch” which is male grammatically (itself a possible expression of the tradition as this is an exception to normal morphology which would have Mensch neuter) but refers to a general person not a male one. The usage persists in all registers of English although it has an old-fashioned tone.

In Old English the words wer and wīf (and wīfmann) were used to refer to “a man” and “a woman” respectively, while mann had the primary meaning of “adult male human” but could also be used for gender neutral purposes (as is the case with modern German man, corresponding to the pronoun in the English utterance “one does what one must”).

In the late twentieth century, the generic meaning of “man” declined (but is also continued in compounds “mankind”, “everyman”, “no-man”, etc.). The same thing has happened to the Latin word homo: in most of the Romance languages, homme, uomo, om, hombre, homem have come to refer mainly to males, with a residual generic meaning.

*Mannaz or *Manwaz is also the Proto-Germanic reconstructed name of the m-rune ᛗ. It is derived from a Proto-Indo-European root *man- (see Sanskrit/Avestan manu-, Slavic mǫž “man, male”). In Hindu mythology, Manu is a title accorded the progenitor of humankind. The Slavic forms (Russian muzh “man, male” etc.) are derived from a suffixed stem *man-gyo-. *Manus in Indo-European mythology was the first man, see Mannus, Manu (Hinduism).

Mannus is a Germanic mythological figure attested by the 1st century AD Roman historian Tacitus in his work Germania. According to Tacitus, Mannus is the son of Tuisto and the progenitor of the three Germanic tribes Ingaevones, Herminones and Istvaeones.

The names of the three sons of Mannus can be extrapolated as Ingui, Irmin, and Istaev aka Iscio. In the Eddas we find the name Yngvi applied to the god FreyR, while the same source lists Jormun (the Old Norse cognate of Irmin) as a byname of Odin’s. Widukind of Corvey further identifies the deity associated with the Saxon Irminsul as Hermin, that is, Hermes, but worshipped as Mars.

Tacitus (Germania, chapter 2): “In ancient lays, their only type of historical tradition, they celebrate Tuisto, a god brought forth from the earth. They attribute to him a son, Mannus, the source and founder of their people, and to Mannus three sons, from whose names those nearest the Ocean are called Ingvaeones, those in the middle Herminones, and the rest Isvaeones. Some people, inasmuch as antiquity gives free rein to speculation, maintain that there were more sons born from the god and hence more tribal designations—Marsi, Gambrivii, Suebi, and Vandilii—and that those names are genuine and ancient.”

The name of this deity or mythological ancestor means human or man (i.e. Homo sapiens). It is thought to stem from the same root as the name of the figure Manu in Hindu tradition, who is held to be the progenitor of humanity, first holy king to rule this earth who saves mankind, the Vedas and the priesthood from the universal flood.

In the Eddas, Mannus seems to most closely resemble Heimdall (World’s Brightness). In the opening passage of the Voluspa, men are referred to as being Heimdall’s kin, while in the poem Rigsthula he is shown uniting each of the hierarchal ranks in siblinghood. Furthermore, while Mannus is remembered as being the father of both Odin and Frey, Heimdall is remembered as being one of the Aesir, but also to have qualities directly linked to the Vanir and to exist in a close paternal relationship to Freyja.

In Eddaic Creation, Mannus occupies the same stead as Borr, ie. a god (Tuisto, Buri), begets a god (Mannus, Borr), begets a trio of brother gods (Ing-Irmin-Istaev, Odin-Vili-Ve).

The Hindus

Hinduism is the dominant religion of the Indian subcontinent, particularly of India and Nepal. It includes Shaivism, Vaishnavism, Smartism among numerous other traditions. Among other practices and philosophies, Hinduism includes a wide spectrum of laws and prescriptions of “daily morality” based on karma, dharma, and societal norms. Hinduism is a categorisation of distinct intellectual or philosophical points of view, rather than a rigid, common set of beliefs.

Hinduism consists of many diverse traditions and has no single founder. Among its direct roots is the historical Vedic religion of Iron Age India. As such, Hinduism is often called the “oldest living religion” or the “oldest living major religion” in the world. Since Vedic times, a process of Sanskritization has been taking place, in which “people from many strata of society throughout the subcontinent tended to adapt their religious and social life to Brahmanic norms”.

Hindu texts are classified into Śruti (“revealed”) and Smriti (“remembered”). These texts discuss theology, philosophy, mythology, Vedic yajna and agamic rituals and temple building, among other topics. Major scriptures include the Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas, Mahabharata, Ramayana, Manusmriti, Bhagavad Gita and Agamas.

The earliest evidence for prehistoric religion in India date back to the late Neolithic in the early Harappan period (5500–2600 BCE). The beliefs and practices of the pre-classical era (1500–500 BCE) are called the “historical Vedic religion”.

The Vedic religion is an off-shoot from the Proto-Indo-European religion. The oldest Veda is the Rigveda, dated to 1700 – 4000 BCE or older. The Vedas centre on the worship of deities such as Indra, Varuna and Agni, and on the Soma ritual. Fire-sacrifices, called yajña are performed by chanting Vedic mantras but no temples or idols are known.

Vishnu is a popular Hindu deity and is portrayed as Supreme Being in Vaishnavism and as Purushottama or Supreme Purusha in ancient sacred texts like the Bhagavad Gita. Vishnu is also known as Narayana and Hari.

The Vishnu Sahasranama declares Vishnu as Paramatman (supreme soul) and Parameshwara (supreme God). It describes Vishnu as the all-pervading essence of all beings, the master of—and beyond—the past, present and future, the creator and destroyer of all existences, one who supports, preserves, sustains and governs the universe and originates and develops all elements within.

Vishnu is also venerated as Mukunda, which means Supreme God who is the giver of mukti or moksha (liberation from the cycle of rebirths) to his devotees or the worthy ones who deserve salvation from the material world.

The Trimurti (three forms) is a concept in Hinduism “in which the cosmic functions of creation, maintenance, and destruction are personified by the forms of Brahma the creator, Vishnu the maintainer or preserver, and Shiva the destroyer or transformer.” These three deities have also been called “the Hindu triad” or the “Great Trinity”, all having the same meaning of three in One. Of the three members of the Trimurti, the Bhagavata Purana, which espouses the Vaishnavite viewpoint, claims that the greatest benefit can be had from worshipping Vishnu.

In some Hindu traditions, Manu is a title accorded to a progenitor of humanity. The current period is ruled by the 7th Manu called the Vaivasvata Manu, the son of Vivasvân and his wife Sanjnâ. Vaivasvata Manu, who ruled as King Manu, is considered the first king to rule this earth. His wife was Sraddha. Because Manu was believed to be absolutely honest, he was initially known as Satyavrata (“One with the oath of truth”).

According to tradition, Manava Grihyasutra, Manava Sulbasutra and Manava Dharmashastra (Manusmriti or rules of Manu) texts are ascribed to Svayambhuva Manu. Manusmriti is considered by some Hindus to be the law laid down for Hindus and is seen as the most important and earliest metrical work of the Dharmaśāstra textual tradition of Hinduism.

At the same time it is a Smriti, so whenever there is a conflict between what is mentioned in it and that mentioned in sruti (Vedas and Upanishads) the latter is considered to be correct as it holds higher spiritual authority.

In Theosophy, the “Vaivasvatu Manu” is one of the most important beings at the highest levels of Initiation of the Masters of the Ancient Wisdom, along with Sanat Kumara, Gautama Buddha, Maitreya, the Maha Chohan, and Djwal Khul. According to Theosophy, each root race has its own Manu which physically incarnates in an advanced body of an individual of the old root race and physically progenerates with a suitable female partner the first individuals of the new root race.

The Deluge

The Deluge Myth is a common theme in mythologies all over the Mediterranean, the Near East, and Pacific Asia, and India is no exception. The story is mentioned in early Hindu scriptures such as the Satapatha Brahmana, belonging to the latest part of the Brahmana period of Vedic Sanskrit (i.e. roughly the 8th to 6th centuries BC, Iron Age India, and it has often been compared with the popular traditions of a Great Deluge from other cultures around the world, particularly that of Noah’s Ark.

Vaivasvata Manu is considered the one saved humanity from the great flood – after being warned of it by the Matsya avatar of Vishnu, who had also advised him to build a giant boat. According to the Matsya Purana, a composite work dated to c. 250–500 CE., the Matsya Avatar of Vishnu is believed to have appeared initially as a Shaphari (a small carp), to King Manu, the then King of Kumari Kandam, while he washed his hands in a river. This river was supposed to have been flowing down the Malaya Mountains in his land of Dravida.

The little Fish approached him and swam into his hands. Its name was Matsya, and though Manu didn’t realize this, it was an avatar of Vishnu. The fish asks Manu to protect him from the larger fish that want to eat him, and promises to save his protector from a predicted flood. Out of compassion, Manu put it in a water jar, and once it’s large enough to survive on its own, he releases back into the ocean.

It kept growing bigger and bigger, until King Manu first put Him in a bigger pitcher, and then deposited Him in a well. When the well also proved insufficient for the ever-growing Fish, the King placed Him in a tank (reservoir), that was two yojanas (16 miles) in height above the surface and on land, as much in length, and a yojana (8 miles) in breadth. As it grew further King Manu had to put the fish in a river, and when even the river proved insufficient he placed it in the ocean, after which it nearly filled the vast expanse of the great ocean.

It was then that He (Lord Matsya), revealing Himself, informed the King of an all-destructive deluge which would be coming very soon. Manu built a huge boat which housed his family, 9 types of seeds, and animals to repopulate the earth, after the deluge would end and the oceans and seas would recede. At the time of deluge, Vishnu appeared as a horned fish and Shesha appeared as a rope, with which Manu fastened the boat to horn of the fish for protection against the rising waters and waves. The fish took Manu to a mountaintop, where he chilled out until the flood ended, when he strolled back down to earth to begin the task of repopulating humanity.

According to the Matsya Purana, his boat was perched after the deluge on the top of the Malaya Mountains This narrative is to an extent similar to other deluge stories, like those of Utnapishtim from ancient Sumerian Mythology, and the story of Noah’s ark from the Bible and the Qur’an.

The southern bank of river Gundar, 12 kms off Aruppukkottai, a town and a municipality in Virudhunagar district in the state of Tamil Nadu, India, hides history which dates back to the microlithic age, roughly 4,000 years ago. In the village Thiruchuli by the river bank there is a 7 century A.D Shiva temple. It is one among the 14 sanctified Shaiva temples in the Pandya country boasting of a garbhagriha, arthamandapam, mahamandapam and a sabha mandapam.

Thirumeninathaswamy alias Boominatha Swamy with his consort Thunai Malai Amman was enshrined in this well patronized temple of the past. According to a legend, a deluge occurred at the end of Dwapara Yuga. The king prayed to the Almighty to save his country. Answering his prayers, the God made a hole with his trident that sucked away the flood, hence the name Thiruchuli.

As a record, on the north of Thirumeninathar temple is another Shiva shrine known as Pralaya Vindangar. Vanamaiyan Kuthiraikarai Kattiya Thumbichi Nayak (1562-1573 AD) had constructed the shrine for Lord Pralaya Vindangar. A big tank named ‘Kavvai kadal’ is situated in front of the temple. It had the privilege of being mentioned by Sundaramoorthy Nayanar in his Thevaram hymns as ‘Oli punari.’

Namma Madurai: The birth place of a modern saint and a 7th century temple make Thiruchuli famous

The Sumerians

Mesopotamian religion was polytheistic, thereby accepting the existence of many different deities, both male and female, though it was also henotheistic, with certain gods being viewed as superior to others by their specific devotees. These devotees were often from a particular city or city-state that held that deity as its patron deity, for instance the god Enki was often associated with the city of Eridu, and the god Marduk was associated with Babylon.

Eridu, which in Sumerian mythology, is said to be one of the five cities built before the Deluge occurred, appears to be the earliest settlement in the region, founded ca. 5400 BC, close to the Persian Gulf near the mouth of the Euphrates River. Because of accumulation of silt at the shoreline over the millennia, the remains of Eridu are now some distance from the gulf at Abu Shahrain in Iraq.

Enki is a god in Sumerian mythology, later known as Ea in Akkadian and Babylonian mythology. He was originally patron god of the city of Eridu, but later the influence of his cult spread throughout Mesopotamia and to the Canaanites, Hittites and Hurrians. He was the deity of crafts (gašam); mischief; water, seawater, lakewater (a, aba, ab), intelligence (gestú, literally “ear”) and creation (Nudimmud: nu, likeness, dim mud, make beer).

It is, however, as the third figure in the triad (the two other members of which were Anu, a sky-god, the god of heaven, lord of constellations, king of gods, spirits and demons, and dwelt in the highest heavenly regions, and Enlil,the name of a chief deity listed and written about in Sumerian religion, and later in Akkadian (Assyrian and Babylonian), Hittite, Canaanite and other Mesopotamian clay and stone tablets ) that Enki acquires his permanent place in the pantheon. To him was assigned the control of the watery element, and in this capacity he becomes the shar apsi; i.e. king of the Apsu or “the deep”.

Enki and later Ea were apparently depicted, sometimes, like Adam, as a man covered with the skin of a fish, and this representation, as likewise the name of his main temple E-apsu, “house of the watery deep” (also E-en-gur-a, meaning “house of the subterranean waters””), a ziggurat temple surrounded by Euphratean marshlands near the ancient Persian Gulf coastline at Eridu, points decidedly to his original character as a god of the waters (see Oannes). Around the excavation of the 18 shrines found on the spot, thousands of carp bones were found, consumed possibly in feasts to the god.

Enki was the keeper of the divine powers called Me, the gifts of civilization. His image is a double-helix snake, or the Caduceus, very similar to the Rod of Asclepius used to symbolize medicine. He is often shown with the horned crown of divinity dressed in the skin of a carp. His symbols included a goat and a fish, which later combined into a single beast, the goat Capricorn, recognised as the Zodiacal constellation Capricornus. He was accompanied by an attendant Isimud. He was also associated with the planet Mercury in the Sumerian astrological system.

Considered the master shaper of the world, god of wisdom and of all magic, Enki was characterized as the lord of the Abzu (Apsu in Akkadian), the freshwater sea or groundwater located within the earth. In the later Babylonian epic Enûma Eliš, Abzu, the “begetter of the gods”, is inert and sleepy but finds his peace disturbed by the younger gods, so sets out to destroy them. His grandson Enki, chosen to represent the younger gods, puts a spell on Abzu “casting him into a deep sleep”, thereby confining him deep underground. Enki subsequently sets up his home “in the depths of the Abzu.” Enki thus takes on all of the functions of the Abzu, including his fertilising powers as lord of the waters and lord of semen.

Of his cult at Eridu, which goes back to the oldest period of Mesopotamian history, nothing definite is known except that his temple was also associated with Ninhursag’s temple which was called Esaggila, “the lofty head house” (E, house, sag, head, ila, high; or Akkadian goddess = Ila), a name shared with Marduk’s temple in Babylon, pointing to a staged tower or ziggurat (as with the temple of Enlil at Nippur, which was known as E-kur (kur, hill)), and that incantations, involving ceremonial rites in which water as a sacred element played a prominent part, formed a feature of his worship.

This seems also implicated in the epic of the hieros gamos or sacred marriage of Enki and Ninhursag, which seems an etiological myth of the fertilisation of the dry ground by the coming of irrigation water (from Sumerian a, ab, water or semen).

The pool of the Abzu at the front of his temple was adopted also at the temple to Nanna (Akkadian Sin) the Moon, at Ur, and spread from there throughout the Middle East. It is believed to remain today as the sacred pool at Mosques, or as the holy water font in Catholic or Eastern Orthodox churches.

A large number of myths about Enki have been collected from many sites, stretching from Southern Iraq to the Levantine coast. He figures in the earliest extant cuneiform inscriptions throughout the region and was prominent from the third millennium down to Hellenistic times.

Myths in which Ea figures prominently have been found in Assurbanipal’s library, and in the Hattusas archive in Hittite Anatolia. As Ea, Enki had a wide influence outside of Sumer, being equated with El (at Ugarit) and possibly Yah (at Ebla) in the Canaanite ‘ilhm pantheon, he is also found in Hurrian and Hittite mythology, as a god of contracts, and is particularly favourable to humankind.

The exact meaning of his name is uncertain: the common translation is “Lord of the Earth”: the Sumerian en is translated as a title equivalent to “lord”; it was originally a title given to the High Priest; ki means “earth”; but there are theories that ki in this name has another origin, possibly kig of unknown meaning, or kur meaning “mound”.

The name Ea is allegedly Hurrian in origin while others claim that his name ‘Ea’ is possibly of Semitic origin and may be a derivation from the West-Semitic root *hyy meaning “life” in this case used for “spring”, “running water.” In Sumerian E-A means “the house of water”, and it has been suggested that this was originally the name for the shrine to the god at Eridu.

Enki and later Ea were apparently depicted, sometimes, like Adam, as a man covered with the skin of a fish, and this representation, as likewise the name of his temple E-apsu, “house of the watery deep”, points decidedly to his original character as a god of the waters (see Oannes). Around the excavation of the 18 shrines found on the spot, thousands of carp bones were found, consumed possibly in feasts to the god.

In Sumerian mythology, a me (Sumerian, conventionally pronounced [mɛ]) or ñe [ŋɛ] or parşu (Akkadian, [parsˤu]) is one of the decrees of the gods foundational to those social institutions, religious practices, technologies, behaviors, mores, and human conditions that make civilization, as the Sumerians understood it, possible. They are fundamental to the Sumerian understanding of the relationship between humanity and the gods.

The mes were originally collected by Enlil and then handed over to the guardianship of Enki who was to broker them out to the various Sumerian centers beginning with his own city of Eridu and continuing with Ur, an important Sumerian city-state in ancient Mesopotamia, Meluhha, identified with the Harappan Civilization on the basis of the extensive evidence of trading contacts between Sumer and this region, and Dilmun, a Persian Gulf civilization which traded with Mesopotamian civilizations, the current scholarly consensus is that Dilmun encompassed Bahrain, Failaka, Kuwait and the adjacent eastern Arabia coast in the Persian Gulf. This is described in the poem, “Enki and the World Order” which also details how he parcels out responsibility for various crafts and natural phenomena to the lesser gods.

After six generations of Gods, in the Babylonian “Enuma Elish”, in the seventh generation, (Akkadian “shapattu” or sabath), the younger Igigi Gods, the sons and daughters of Enlil and Ninlil, go on strike and refuse their duties of keeping the creation working. Abzu God of fresh water, co-creator of the cosmos, threatens to destroy the world with his waters, and the Gods gather in terror.

Enki promises to help and puts Abzu to sleep, confining him in irrigation canals and places him in the Kur, beneath his city of Eridu. But then, with the universe still threatened, Tiamat, with the imprisonment of her husband and consort Abzu and at the prompting of her son and vizier Kingu, decides to take back the creation herself.

The Gods gather again in terror and turn to Enki for help, but Enki who harnessed Abzu, Tiamat’s consort, for irrigation refuses to get involved. The gods then seek help elsewhere, and the patriarchal Enlil, their father, God of Nippur, promises to solve the problem if they make him King of the Gods. In the Babylonian tale, Enlil’s role is taken by Marduk, Enki’s son, and in the Assyrian version it is Asshur.

After dispatching Tiamat with the “arrows of his winds” down her throat (similar in some respects to how Elohim moves his breath (ruach) over the “face of the deep” or “Tehom”, in Genesis 1:2) and reconstructing the heavens with the arch of her ribs (i.e. her “life”), Enlil places her tail in the sky as the Milky Way, and her crying eyes become the source of the Tigris and Euphrates.

But there is still the problem of “who will keep the cosmos working”. Enki, who might have otherwise come to their aid, is lying in a deep sleep and fails to hear their cries. His mother Nammu (creatrix also of Abzu and Tiamat) “brings the tears of the gods” before Enki and says: Oh my son, arise from thy bed, from thy (slumber), work what is wise, Fashion servants for the Gods, may they produce their (bread?).

Enki then advises that they create a servant of the Gods, humankind, out of clay and blood. Against Enki’s wish the Gods decide to slay Kingu, and Enki finally consents to use Kingu’s blood to make the first human, with whom Enki always later has a close relationship, the first of the seven sages, seven wise men or “Abgallu” (Ab = water, Gal = great, Lu = Man), also known as Adapa. Enki assembles a team of divinities to help him, creating a host of “good and princely fashioners”.

Adapa, the first man fashioned, later goes and acts as the advisor to the King of Eridu, when in the Sumerian Kinglist, the “Me” of “kingship descends on Eridu”.

Adapa, the first of the Mesopotamian seven sages, was a mythical figure who unknowingly refused the gift of immortality. The story is first attested in the Kassite period (14th century BC), in fragmentary tablets from Tell el-Amarna, and from Assur, of the late second millennium BC.

Mesopotamian myth tells of seven antediluvian sages, who were sent by Ea, the wise god of Eridu, to bring the arts of civilisation to humankind. The first of these, Adapa, also known as Uan, the name given as Oannes by Berossus, introduced the practice of the correct rites of religious observance as priest of the E’Apsu temple, at Eridu.

The sages are described in Mesopotamian literature as ‘pure parādu-fish, probably carp, whose bones are found associated with the earliest shrine, and still kept as a holy duty in the precincts of Near Eastern mosques and monasteries.

The word Abgallu, sage (Ab = water, Gal = great, Lu = man, Sumerian) survived into Nabatean times, around the time of Christ, as apkallum, used to describe the profession of a certain kind of priest.

Adapa as a fisherman was iconographically portrayed as a fish-man composite. He was a mortal man from a godly lineage, a son of Ea (Enki in Sumerian), the god of wisdom and of the ancient city of Eridu, who brought the arts of civilization to that city (from Dilmun, according to some versions).

Adapa broke the wings of Ninlil the South Wind, who had overturned his fishing boat, and was called to account before Anu. Ea, his patron god, warned him to apologize humbly for his actions, but not to partake of food or drink while he was in heaven, as it would be the food of death. Anu, impressed by Adapa’s sincerity, offered instead the food of immortality, but Adapa heeded Ea’s advice, refused, and thus missed the chance for immortality that would have been his.

Vague parallels can be drawn to the story of Genesis, where Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden of Eden by Yahweh, after they ate from the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thus gaining death. Parallels are also apparent (to an even greater degree) with the story of Persephone visiting Hades, who was warned to take nothing from that kingdom. Stephanie Galley writes “From Erra and Ishum” we know that all the sages were banished … because they angered the gods, and went back to the Apsu, where Ea lived, and … the story … ended with Adapa’s banishment” p. 182.

Adapa is often identified as advisor to the mythical first (antediluvian) king of Eridu, Alulim. In addition to his advisory duties, he served as a priest and exorcist, and upon his death took his place among the Seven Sages or Apkallū. (Apkallu, “sage”, comes from Sumerian AB.GAL.LU (Ab=water, Gal=Great Lu=Man) a reference to Adapa, the first sage’s association with water.)

Oannes was the name given by the Babylonian writer Berossus in the 3rd century BCE to a mythical being who taught mankind wisdom. Berossus describes Oannes as having the body of a fish but underneath the figure of a man. He is described as dwelling in the Persian Gulf, and rising out of the waters in the daytime and furnishing mankind instruction in writing, the arts and the various sciences.

The name “Oannes” was once conjectured to be derived from that of the ancient Babylonian god Ea, but it is now known that the name is the Greek form of the Babylonian Uanna (or Uan) a name used for Adapa in texts from the Library of Ashurbanipal. The Assyrian texts attempt to connect the word to the Akkadian for a craftsman ummanu but this is merely a pun.

Iosif Shklovsky and Carl Sagan cited tales of Oannes as deserving closer scrutiny as a possible instance of paleocontact due to its consistency and detail.

The Deluge

According to Sumerian mythology, Enki also assisted humanity to survive the Deluge designed to kill them. In the later Legend of Atrahasis, Enlil, the king of the gods, sets out to eliminate humanity, whose noise is disturbing his rest. He successively sends drought, famine and plague to eliminate humanity, but Enki thwarts his half-brother’s plans by teaching Atrahasis how to counter these threats. Each time, Atrahasis asks the population to abandon worship of all gods, except the one responsible for the calamity, and this seems to shame them into relenting.

Humans, however, proliferate a fourth time. Enraged, Enlil convenes a Council of Deities and gets them to promise not to tell humankind that he plans their total annihilation. Enki does not tell Atrahasis directly, but speaks to him in secret via a reed wall. He instructs Atrahasis to build a boat in order to rescue his family and other living creatures from the coming deluge.

After the seven-day Deluge, the flood hero frees a swallow, a raven and a dove in an effort to find if the flood waters have receded. Upon landing, a sacrifice is made to the gods. Enlil is angry his will has been thwarted yet again, and Enki is named as the culprit. Enki explains that Enlil is unfair to punish the guiltless, and the gods institute measures to ensure that humanity does not become too populous in the future. This is one of the oldest of the surviving Middle Eastern Deluge myths.

The earliest record of the Sumerian creation and flood is found on a single fragmentary tablet excavated in Nippur, sometimes called the Eridu Genesis. It is written in the Sumerian language and dated to around 1600 BC during the first Babylonian dynasty, where the language of writing and administration was still Sumerian. Other Sumerian creation myths from around this date are called the Barton Cylinder, the Debate between sheep and grain and the Debate between Winter and Summer, also found at Nippur.

The Epic of Gilgamesh, an epic poem from Mesopotamia, is amongst the earliest surviving works of literature. The literary history of Gilgamesh begins with five independent Sumerian poems about ‘Bilgamesh’ (Sumerian for Gilgamesh), king of Uruk. Four of these were used as source material for a combined epic in Akkadian. This first combined epic, known as the “Old Babylonian” version, dates to the 18th century BC and is titled after its incipit, Shūtur eli sharrī (“Surpassing All Other Kings”).

Atra-Hasis (“exceedingly wise”) is the protagonist of an 18th century BC Akkadian epic recorded in various versions on clay tablets. The Atra-Hasis tablets include both a creation myth and a flood account, which is one of three surviving Babylonian deluge stories. The name “Atra-Hasis” also appears on one of the Sumerian king lists as king of Shuruppak in the times before a flood.

Two flood myths with many similarities to the Sumerian story are the Utnapishtim episode in the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Genesis flood narrative found in the Bible. The ancient Greeks have two very similar floods legends they are the Deucalion and The great Flood in Metamorphoses by the Roman poet Ovid.

In the WB-62 Sumerian king list recension, Ziusudra, or Zin-Suddu of Shuruppak is recorded as having reigned as both king and gudug priest for 10 sars, or periods of 3,600. In this version, Ziusudra inherited rulership from his father Šuruppak (written SU.KUR.LAM) who ruled for 10 sars. The line following Ziusudra in WB-62 reads: Then the flood swept over. The next line reads: After the flood swept over, kingship descended from heaven; the kingship was in Kish.

The city of Kish flourished in the Early Dynastic period soon after an archaeologically attested river flood in Shuruppak (modern Tell Fara, Iraq) and various other Sumerian cities. This flood has been radiocarbon dated to ca. 2900 BCE. Polychrome pottery from the Jemdet Nasr period (ca. 3000–2900 BCE) was discovered immediately below the Shuruppak flood stratum, and the Jemdet Nasr period immediately preceded the Early Dynastic I period.

The significance of Ziusudra’s name appearing on the WB-62 king list is that it links the flood mentioned in the three surviving Babylonian deluge epics of Ziusudra (Eridu Genesis), Utnapishtim (Epic of Gilgamesh), and Atrahasis (Epic of Atrahasis) to river flood sediments in Shuruppak, Uruk, Kish et al. that have been radiocarbon dated to ca. 2900 BC. This has led some scholars to conclude that the flood hero was king of Shuruppak at the end of the Jemdet Nasr period (ca. 3000–2900) which ended with the river flood of 2900 BC.

Ziusudra being a king from Shuruppak is supported by the Gilgamesh XI tablet (see below) making reference to Utnapishtim (Akkadian translation of the Sumerian name Ziusudra) with the epithet “man of Shuruppak” at line 23.

A Sumerian document known as The Instructions of Shuruppak dated by Kramer to about 2500 BC, refers in a later version to Ziusudra. Kramer concluded that “Ziusudra had become a venerable figure in literary tradition by the middle of the third millennium BC.”

The Deluge – In Greece

Greek mythology describes three floods, the flood of Ogyges, the flood of Deucalion, and the flood of Dardanus. Two of the Greek Ages of Man concluded with a flood: The Ogygian Deluge ended the Silver Age, and the flood of Deucalion ended the First Bronze Age (Heroic age). In addition to these floods, Greek mythology says the world was also periodically destroyed by fire.

In Greek mythology, Deucalion was a son of Prometheus; ancient sources name his mother as Clymene, Hesione, or Pronoia. The Deucalion legend as told by the Bibliotheca has some similarity to other deluge myths such as the Epic of Gilgamesh and the story of Noah’s Ark.

According to the Theogony of the Bibliotheca, Prometheus moulded men out of water and earth and gave them fire which, unknown to Zeus, he had hidden in a stalk of fennel. When Zeus learned of it, he ordered Hephaestus to nail Prometheus to Mount Caucasus, a Scythian mountain.

Prometheus was nailed to the mountain and kept bound for many years. Every day an eagle swooped on him and devoured the lobes of his liver, which grew by night. That was the penalty that Prometheus paid for the theft of fire until Hercules afterwards released him.

Prometheus had a son Deucalion. He, reigning in the regions about Phthia, married Pyrrha, the daughter of Epimetheus and Pandora, the first woman fashioned by the gods.

The anger of Zeus was ignited by the hubris of the Pelasgians, so he decided to put an end to the Bronze Age. Lycaon, the king of Arcadia, had sacrificed a boy to Zeus, who was appalled by this savage offering. Zeus unleashed a deluge, so that the rivers ran in torrents and the sea flooded the coastal plain, engulfed the foothills with spray, and washed everything clean.

Deucalion, with the aid of his father, the titan Prometheus, who advised his son Deucalion to build a chest, was saved from this deluge by building a chest (that is, a “box”). Like the Biblical Noah and the Mesopotamian counterpart Utnapishtim, he uses his device to survive the deluge with his wife, Pyrrha. Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha, after floating in the chest for nine days and nights, landed on Parnassus.

All other men perished except for a few who escaped to high mountains. The mountains in Thessaly were parted, and all the world beyond the Isthmus and Peloponnese was overwhelmed. An older version of the story told by Hellanicus has Deucalion’s “ark” landing on Mount Othrys in Thessaly. Another account has him landing on a peak, probably Phouka, in Argolis, later called Nemea.

When the rains ceased, he sacrificed to Zeus. Then, at the bidding of Zeus, he threw stones behind him, and they became men, and the stones Pyrrha threw became women.

The Bibliotheca gives this as an etymology for Greek Laos “people” as derived from laas “stone”. The Megarians told that Megarus, son of Zeus and a Sithnid nymph, escaped Deucalion’s flood by swimming to the top of Mount Gerania, guided by the cries of cranes.

For some time during the Middle Ages, many European Christian scholars continued to accept Greek mythical history at face value, thus asserting that Deucalion’s flood was a regional flood, that occurred a few centuries later than the global one survived by Noah’s family.

On the basis of the archaeological stele known as the Parian Chronicle, Deucalion’s Flood was usually fixed as occurring sometime around c. 1528 BC. Deucalion’s flood may be dated in the chronology of Saint Jerome to c. 1460 BC. According to Augustine of Hippo (City of God XVIII,8,10,&11), Deucalion and his father Prometheus were contemporaries of Moses. According to Clement of Alexandria in his Stromata, “…in the time of Crotopus occurred the burning of Phaethon, and the deluges of Deucalion.”

The flood of Dardanus has the same basic story line. According to Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Dardanus left Pheneus in Arcadia to colonize a land in the North-East Aegean Sea. When the Dardanus’ deluge occurred, the land was flooded and the mountain where he and his family survived formed the island of Samothrace.

Dardanus left Samothrace on an inflated skin to the opposite shores of Asia Minor and settled on Mount Ida. Due to the fear of another flood, they refrained from building a city and lived in the open for fifty years. His grandson Tros eventually moved from the highlands down to a large plain, on a hill that had many rivers flowing down from Ida above. There he built a city, which was named Troy after him.

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