Legends Of Babylon And Egypt - In Relation To Hebrew Tradition
by Leonard W. King
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(2) Hommel, Proc. Soc. Bibl. Arch., Vol. XV (1893), p. 243.

(3) See further Appendix II.

But it is time I read you extracts from the earlier extant portions of the Sumerian Dynastic List, in order to illustrate the class of document with which we are dealing. From them it will be seen that the record is not a tabular list of names like the well-known King's Lists of the Neo-Babylonian period. It is cast in the form of an epitomized chronicle and gives under set formulae the length of each king's reign, and his father's name in cases of direct succession to father or brother. Short phrases are also sometimes added, or inserted in the sentence referring to a king, in order to indicate his humble origin or the achievement which made his name famous in tradition. The head of the First Column of the text is wanting, and the first royal name that is completely preserved is that of Galumum, the ninth or tenth ruler of the earliest "kingdom", or dynasty, of Kish. The text then runs on connectedly for several lines:

Galumum ruled for nine hundred years. Zugagib ruled for eight hundred and forty years. Arpi, son of a man of the people, ruled for seven hundred and twenty years. Etana, the shepherd who ascended to heaven, who subdued all lands, ruled for six hundred and thirty-five years.(1) Pili . . ., son of Etana, ruled for four hundred and ten years. Enmenunna ruled for six hundred and eleven years. Melamkish, son of Enmenunna, ruled for nine hundred years. Barsalnunna, son of Enmenunna, ruled for twelve hundred years. Mesza(. . .), son of Barsalnunna, ruled for (. . .) years. (. . .), son of Barsalnunna, ruled for (. . .) years.

(1) Possibly 625 years.

A small gap then occurs in the text, but we know that the last two representatives of this dynasty of twenty-three kings are related to have ruled for nine hundred years and six hundred and twenty-five years respectively. In the Second Column of the text the lines are also fortunately preserved which record the passing of the first hegemony of Kish to the "Kingdom of Eanna", the latter taking its name from the famous temple of Anu and Ishtar in the old city of Erech. The text continues:

The kingdom of Kish passed to Eanna.

In Eanna, Meskingasher, son of the Sun-god, ruled as high priest and king for three hundred and twenty-five years. Meskingasher entered into(1) (. . .) and ascended to (. . .).

Enmerkar, son of Meskingasher, the king of Erech who built (. . .) with the people of Erech,(2) ruled as king for four hundred and twenty years.

Lugalbanda, the shepherd, ruled for twelve hundred years.

Dumuzi,(3), the hunter(?), whose city was . . ., ruled for a hundred years.

Gishbilgames,(4) whose father was A,(5) the high priest of Kullab, ruled for one hundred and twenty-six(6) years.

(. . .)lugal, son of Gishbilgames, ruled for (. . .) years.

(1) The verb may also imply descent into.

(2) The phrase appears to have been imperfectly copied by the scribe. As it stands the subordinate sentence reads "the king of Erech who built with the people of Erech". Either the object governed by the verb has been omitted, in which case we might restore some such phrase as "the city"; or, perhaps, by a slight transposition, we should read "the king who built Erech with the people of Erech". In any case the first building of the city of Erech, as distinguished from its ancient cult-centre Eanna, appears to be recorded here in the tradition. This is the first reference to Erech in the text; and Enmerkar's father was high priest as well as king.

(3) i.e. Tammuz.

(4) i.e. Gilgamesh.

(5) The name of the father of Gilgamesh is rather strangely expressed by the single sign for the vowel a and must apparently be read as A. As there is a small break in the text at the end of this line, Dr. Poebel not unnaturally assumed that A was merely the first syllable of the name, of which the end was wanting. But it has now been shown that the complete name was A; see Foertsch, Orient. Lit.-Zeit., Vol. XVIII, No. 12 (Dec., 1915), col. 367 ff. The reading is deduced from the following entry in an Assyrian explanatory list of gods (Cun. Texts in the Brit. Mus., Pt. XXIV, pl. 25, ll. 29-31): "The god A, who is also equated to the god Dubbisaguri (i.e. 'Scribe of Ur'), is the priest of Kullab; his wife is the goddess Ninguesirka (i.e. 'Lady of the edge of the street')." A, the priest of Kullab and the husband of a goddess, is clearly to be identified with A, the priest of Kullab and father of Gilgamesh, for we know from the Gilgamesh Epic that the hero's mother was the goddess Ninsun. Whether Ninguesirka was a title of Ninsun, or represents a variant tradition with regard to the parentage of Gilgamesh on the mother's side, we have in any case confirmation of his descent from priest and goddess. It was natural that A should be subsequently deified. This was not the case at the time our text was inscribed, as the name is written without the divine determinative.

(6) Possibly 186 years.

This group of early kings of Erech is of exceptional interest. Apart from its inclusion of Gilgamesh and the gods Tammuz and Lugalbanda, its record of Meskingasher's reign possibly refers to one of the lost legends of Erech. Like him Melchizedek, who comes to us in a chapter of Genesis reflecting the troubled times of Babylon's First Dynasty,(1) was priest as well as king.(2) Tradition appears to have credited Meskingasher's son and successor, Enmerkar, with the building of Erech as a city around the first settlement Eanna, which had already given its name to the "kingdom". If so, Sumerian tradition confirms the assumption of modern research that the great cities of Babylonia arose around the still more ancient cult-centres of the land. We shall have occasion to revert to the traditions here recorded concerning the parentage of Meskingasher, the founder of this line of kings, and that of its most famous member, Gilgamesh. Meanwhile we may note that the closing rulers of the "Kingdom of Eanna" are wanting. When the text is again preserved, we read of the hegemony passing from Erech to Ur and thence to Awan:

The k(ingdom of Erech(3) passed to) Ur. In Ur Mesannipada became king and ruled for eighty years. Meskiagunna, son of Mesannipada, ruled for thirty years. Elu(. . .) ruled for twenty-five years. Balu(. . .) ruled for thirty-six years. Four kings (thus) ruled for a hundred and seventy-one years. The kingdom of Ur passed to Awan. In Awan . . .

(1) Cf. Hist. of Bab., p. 159 f.

(2) Gen. xiv. 18.

(3) The restoration of Erech here, in place of Eanna, is based on the absence of the latter name in the summary; after the building of Erech by Enmerkar, the kingdom was probably reckoned as that of Erech.

With the "Kingdom of Ur" we appear to be approaching a firmer historical tradition, for the reigns of its rulers are recorded in decades, not hundreds of years. But we find in the summary, which concludes the main copy of our Dynastic List, that the kingdom of Awan, though it consisted of but three rulers, is credited with a total duration of three hundred and fifty-six years, implying that we are not yet out of the legendary stratum. Since Awan is proved by newly published historical inscriptions from Nippur to have been an important deity of Elam at the time of the Dynasty of Akkad,(1) we gather that the "Kingdom of Awan" represented in Sumerian tradition the first occasion on which the country passed for a time under Elamite rule. At this point a great gap occurs in the text, and when the detailed dynastic succession in Babylonia is again assured, we have passed definitely from the realm of myth and legend into that of history.(2)

(1) Poebel, Hist. Inscr., p. 128.

(2) See further, Appendix II.

What new light, then, do these old Sumerian records throw on Hebrew traditions concerning the early ages of mankind? I think it will be admitted that there is something strangely familiar about some of those Sumerian extracts I read just now. We seem to hear in them the faint echo of another narrative, like them but not quite the same.

And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years; and he died.

And Seth lived an hundred and five years, and begat Enosh: and Seth lived after he begat Enosh eight hundred and seven years, and begat sons and daughters: and all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years: and he died.

. . . and all the days of Enosh were nine hundred and five years: and he died.

. . . and all the days of Kenan were nine hundred and ten years: and he died. . . . and all the days of Mahalalel were eight hundred ninety and five years: and he died.

. . . and all the days of Jared were nine hundred sixty and two years: and he died.

. . . and all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: and Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.

. . . and all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred sixty and nine years: and he died.

. . . and all the days of Lamech were seven hundred seventy and seven years: and he died.

And Noah was five hundred years old: and Noah begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

Throughout these extracts from "the book of the generations of Adam",(1) Galumum's nine hundred years(2) seem to run almost like a refrain; and Methuselah's great age, the recognized symbol for longevity, is even exceeded by two of the Sumerian patriarchs. The names in the two lists are not the same,(3) but in both we are moving in the same atmosphere and along similar lines of thought. Though each list adheres to its own set formulae, it estimates the length of human life in the early ages of the world on much the same gigantic scale as the other. Our Sumerian records are not quite so formal in their structure as the Hebrew narrative, but the short notes which here and there relieve their stiff monotony may be paralleled in the Cainite genealogy of the preceding chapter in Genesis.(4) There Cain's city-building, for example, may pair with that of Enmerkar; and though our new records may afford no precise equivalents to Jabal's patronage of nomad life, or to the invention of music and metal-working ascribed to Jubal and Tubal-cain, these too are quite in the spirit of Sumerian and Babylonian tradition, in their attempt to picture the beginnings of civilization. Thus Enmeduranki, the prototype of the seventh Antediluvian patriarch of Berossus, was traditionally revered as the first exponent of divination.(5) It is in the chronological and general setting, rather than in the Hebrew names and details, that an echo seems here to reach us from Sumer through Babylon.

(1) Gen. v. 1 ff. (P).

(2) The same length of reign is credited to Melamkish and to one and perhaps two other rulers of that first Sumerian "kingdom".

(3) The possibility of the Babylonian origin of some of the Hebrew names in this geneaology and its Cainite parallel has long been canvassed; and considerable ingenuity has been expended in obtaining equations between Hebrew names and those of the Antediluvian kings of Berossus by tracing a common meaning for each suggested pair. It is unfortunate that our new identification of {'Ammenon} with the Sumerian Enmenunna should dispose of one of the best parallels obtained, viz. {'Ammenon} = Bab. ummanu, "workman" Cain, Kenan = "smith". Another satisfactory pair suggested is {'Amelon} = Bab. amelu, "man" Enosh = "man"; but the resemblance of the former to amelu may prove to be fortuitous, in view of the possibility of descent from a quite different Sumerian original. The alternative may perhaps have to be faced that the Hebrew parallels to Sumerian and Babylonian traditions are here confined to chronological structure and general contents, and do not extend to Hebrew renderings of Babylonian names. It may be added that such correspondence between personal names in different languages is not very significant by itself. The name of Zugagib of Kish, for example, is paralleled by the title borne by one of the earliest kings of the Ist Dynasty of Egypt, Narmer, whose carved slate palettes have been found at Kierakonpolis; he too was known as "the Scorpion."

(4) Gen. iv. 17 ff. (J).

(5) It may be noted that an account of the origin of divination is included in his description of the descendents of Noah by the writer of the Biblical Antiquities of Philo, a product of the same school as the Fourth Book of Esdras and the Apocalypse of Baruch; see James, The Biblical Antiquities of Philo, p. 86.

I may add that a parallel is provided by the new Sumerian records to the circumstances preceding the birth of the Nephilim at the beginning of the sixth chapter of Genesis.(1) For in them also great prowess or distinction is ascribed to the progeny of human and divine unions. We have already noted that, according to the traditions the records embody, the Sumerians looked back to a time when gods lived upon the earth with men, and we have seen such deities as Tammuz and Lugalbanda figuring as rulers of cities in the dynastic sequence. As in later periods, their names are there preceded by the determinative for divinity. But more significant still is the fact that we read of two Sumerian heroes, also rulers of cities, who were divine on the father's or mother's side but not on both. Meskingasher is entered in the list as "son of the Sun-god",(2) and no divine parentage is recorded on the mother's side. On the other hand, the human father of Gilgamesh is described as the high priest of Kullab, and we know from other sources that his mother was the goddess Ninsun.(3) That this is not a fanciful interpretation is proved by a passage in the Gilgamesh Epic itself,(4) in which its hero is described as two-thirds god and one-third man. We again find ourselves back in the same stratum of tradition with which the Hebrew narratives have made us so familiar.

(1) Gen. vi. 1-4 (J).

(2) The phrase recalls the familiar Egyptian royal designation "son of the Sun," and it is possible that we may connect with this same idea the Palermo Stele's inclusion of the mother's and omission of the father's name in its record of the early dynastic Pharaohs. This suggestion does not exclude the possibility of the prevalence of matrilineal (and perhaps originally also of matrilocal and matripotestal) conditions among the earliest inhabitants of Egypt. Indeed the early existence of some form of mother- right may have originated, and would certainly have encouraged, the growth of a tradition of solar parentage for the head of the state.

(3) Poebel, Hist. Inscr., p. 124 f.

(4) Tablet I, Col. ii, l. 1; and cf. Tablet IX, Col. ii. l. 16.

What light then does our new material throw upon traditional origins of civilization? We have seen that in Egypt a new fragment of the Palermo Stele has confirmed in a remarkable way the tradition of the predynastic period which was incorporated in his history by Manetho. It has long been recognized that in Babylonia the sources of Berossus must have been refracted by the political atmosphere of that country during the preceding nineteen hundred years. This inference our new material supports; but when due allowance has been made for a resulting disturbance of vision, the Sumerian origin of the remainder of his evidence is notably confirmed. Two of his ten Antediluvian kings rejoin their Sumerian prototypes, and we shall see that two of his three Antediluvian cities find their place among the five of primitive Sumerian belief. It is clear that in Babylonia, as in Egypt, the local traditions of the dawn of history, current in the Hellenistic period, were modelled on very early lines. Both countries were the seats of ancient civilizations, and it is natural that each should stage its picture of beginnings upon its own soil and embellish it with local colouring.

It is a tribute to the historical accuracy of Hebrew tradition to recognize that it never represented Palestine as the cradle of the human race. It looked to the East rather than to the South for evidence of man's earliest history and first progress in the arts of life. And it is in the East, in the soil of Babylonia, that we may legitimately seek material in which to verify the sources of that traditional belief.

The new parallels I have to-day attempted to trace between some of the Hebrew traditions, preserved in Gen. iv-vi, and those of the early Sumerians, as presented by their great Dynastic List, are essentially general in character and do not apply to details of narrative or to proper names. If they stood alone, we should still have to consider whether they are such as to suggest cultural influence or independent origin. But fortunately they do not exhaust the evidence we have lately recovered from the site of Nippur, and we will postpone formulating our conclusions with regard to them until the whole field has been surveyed. From the biblical standpoint by far the most valuable of our new documents is one that incorporates a Sumerian version of the Deluge story. We shall see that it presents a variant and more primitive picture of that great catastrophe than those of the Babylonian and Hebrew versions. And what is of even greater interest, it connects the narrative of the Flood with that of Creation, and supplies a brief but intermediate account of the Antediluvian period. How then are we to explain this striking literary resemblance to the structure of the narrative in Genesis, a resemblance that is completely wanting in the Babylonian versions? But that is a problem we must reserve for the next lecture.


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

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

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

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

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

(1) The earlier of the two fragments is dated in the eleventh year of Ammizaduga, the tenth king of Hammurabi's dynasty, i.e. in 1967 B.C.; it was published by Scheil, Recueil de travaux, Vol. XX, pp. 55 ff. Here the Deluge story does not form part of the Gilgamesh Epic, but is recounted in the second tablet of a different work; its hero bears the name Atrakhasis, as in the variant version of the Deluge from the Nineveh library. The other and smaller fragment, which must be dated by its script, was published by Hilprecht (Babylonian Expedition, series D, Vol. V, Fasc. 1, pp. 33 ff.), who assigned it to about the same period; but it is probably of a considerably later date. The most convenient translations of the legends that were known before the publication of the Nippur texts are those given by Rogers, Cuneiform Parallels to the Old Testament (Oxford, 1912), and Dhorme, Choix de textes religieux Assyro-Babyloniens (Paris, 1907).

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

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

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

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

(2) Op. cit., p. 363.

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

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

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

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

(1) Cf. Elliot Smith, The Ancient Egyptians, 1911.

(2) See in particular his monograph "On the significance of the Geographical Distribution of the Practice of Mummification" in the Memoirs of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, 1915.

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

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

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

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

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

(2) Cf. Poebel, Hist. Texts, pp. 66 ff.

(3) No. 5.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I. Introduction to the Myth, and account of Creation.

II. The Antediluvian Cities.

III. The Council of the Gods, and Ziusudu's piety.

IV. The Dream-Warning.

V. The Deluge, the Escape of the Great Boat, and the Sacrifice to the Sun-god.

VI. The Propitiation of the Angry Gods, and Ziusudu's Immortality.


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

"As for my human race, from (or in) its destruction will I cause it to be (. . .),

For Nintu my creatures (. . .) will I (. . .)."

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

(1) Op. cit., p. 21 f.; and cf. Jastrow, Hebrew and Babylonian Traditions, p. 336.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The people will I cause to . . . in their settlements,

Cities . . . shall (man) build, in there protection will I cause him to rest,

That he may lay the brick of our houses in a clean spot,

That in a clean spot he may establish our . . . !"

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

"I will create man who shall inhabit (. . .),

That the service of the gods may be established and that their shrines may be built."(1)

(1) See The Seven Tablets of Creation, Vol. I, pp. 86 ff.

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

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

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

The sublime decrees he made perfect for it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

The sub(lime decrees) he made perfect for it.

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

(In clean place)s he founded (five) cit(ies).

And after he had called their names and they had been allotted to divine rulers(?),—

The . . . of these cities, Eridu, he gave to the leader, Nu- dimmud,

Secondly, to Nugira(?) he gave Bad-. . .,(1)

Thirdly, Larak he gave to Pabilkharsag,

Fourthly, Sippar he gave to the hero, the Sun-god,

Fifthly, Shuruppak he gave to "the God of Shuruppak",—

After he had called the names of these cities, and they had been allotted to divine rulers(?),

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

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

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

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

(1) Cf. Poebel, op. cit., p. 41.

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

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

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

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

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

(1) Cf. Zimmern, Beitraege zur Kenntniss der Bab. Relig., pp. 116 ff.

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

(1) See Hist. of Sum. and Akk., pp. 24 ff.

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


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

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

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

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


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

(1) Gilg. Epic, XI, l. 117 f.

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

(1) Cf. also Jastrow, Hebr. and Bab. Trad., p. 336.

(2) Gilg. Epic, XI, l. 123.

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

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

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

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

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

At that time Ziusudu, the king, . . . priest of the god (. . .),

Made a very great . . ., (. . .).

In humility he prostrates himself, in reverence (. . .),

Daily he stands in attendance (. . .).

A dream,(1) such as had not been before, comes forth(2) . . . (. . .),

By the Name of Heaven and Earth he conjures (. . .).

(1) The word may also be rendered "dreams".

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The top of the Fourth Column of the text follows immediately on the close of the Third Column, so that at this one point we have no great gap between the columns. But unfortunately the ends of all the lines in both columns are wanting, and the exact content of some phrases preserved and their relation to each other are consequently doubtful. This materially affects the interpretation of the passage as a whole, but the main thread of the narrative may be readily followed. Ziusudu is here warned that a flood is to be sent "to destroy the seed of mankind"; the doubt that exists concerns the manner in which the warning is conveyed. In the first line of the column, after a reference to "the gods", a building seems to be mentioned, and Ziusudu, standing beside it, apparently hears a voice, which bids him take his stand beside a wall and then conveys to him the warning of the coming flood. The destruction of mankind had been decreed in "the assembly (of the gods)" and would be carried out by the commands of Anu and Enlil. Before the text breaks off we again have a reference to the "kingdom" and "its rule", a further trace of the close association of the Deluge with the dynastic succession in the early traditions of Sumer.

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