Legends of Babylon and and Egypt in Relation to Hebrew Tradition

[1] In Semitic-Babylonian the first component of this city-name would
read “Dûr”.

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 Bismâya, the site of Adab. Like Adab, Lagash, Shuruppak, and other
early Sumerian cities, it was probably destroyed and deserted at a
very early period, though it was reoccupied under its old name in Neo-
Babylonian or Persian times. Its early disappearance from Babylonian
history perhaps in part accounts for our own unfamiliarity with
Pabilkharsag, its city-god, unless we may regard the name as a variant
from of Pabilsag; but it is hardly likely that the two should be

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

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

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

The last of the five Antediluvian cities in our list is Shuruppak, in
which dwelt Ut-napishtim, the hero of the Babylonian version of the
Deluge. Its site has been identified with the mounds of Fâra, in the
neighbourhood of the Shatt el-Kâr, 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


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

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

The expression Bêlit-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 /rôle/ 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 Bêlit-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 Bêlit-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 Bêlit-
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 Bêlit-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

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