3 and 745 Broadway.
THE CHALDEAN ACCOUNT
T is now five years since the present volume was first laid before the public by Mr. George Smith, just before setting out on his last ill-fated expedition to the East. It naturally awakened extreme interest and curiosity. The earlier chapters of Genesis no longer stood alone. Parallel accounts had been discovered by the author among the clay records of ancient Babylonia, which far exceeded in antiquity the venerable histories of the Bible.
All those who had a theory to support, or a tradition to overthrow, turned eagerly to the newly-discovered documents, which possessed an equal interest for the students of history, of religion, and of language.
The five years that have elapsed since the publication of “The Chaldean Account of Genesis” have been five years of active work and progress among Assyrian scholars. The impulse given to Assyrian research by Mr. Smith has survived his death; numberless new tablets and fragments of tablets have been brought to Europe from Assyria and Babylonia; fresh students of the inscriptions have risen up in this countryvi and on the continent, more especially in Germany; and the scientific spirit which has been introduced into the study of the Assyrian language has immeasurably increased our knowledge of it. Thanks to the labours of men like Oppert, Lenormant and Guyard in France, or of Schrader, Delitzsch, Haupt and Hommel in Germany, texts which were obscure and doubtful at the time of Mr. Smith’s death have now become almost as clear as a page of the more difficult portions of the Old Testament. The Assyrian student, moreover, has an advantage which the Hebrew student has not; he possesses dictionaries and vocabularies compiled by the Assyro-Babylonians themselves, and these frequently throw light on a word which otherwise would be a “hapax legomenon.”
The more backward condition of our knowledge of Assyrian, however, was not the only difficulty against which Mr. Smith had to contend. He was pressed for time when writing the present volume, which had to be finished before his departure for the East. The class of texts, also, which he had brought to light was a new class hitherto unknown, or almost unknown, to the Assyrian decipherer. He had to break fresh ground in dealing with them. Their style differed considerably from that of the texts previously studied; they had a vocabulary of their own, allusions of their own, and even, it may be added, a grammar of their own. If the texts had been complete the difficulty perhaps would not have been so great; but it was enormously increased byvii their mutilated condition. The skill and success with which Mr. Smith struggled against all these difficulties show more plainly than ever what a loss Assyrian research has sustained in him.
Nevertheless, even the genius of Mr. Smith could not do more than give a general idea of the contents of the fragments, and not always even this. A comparison of the translations contained in the present edition with those contained in the preceding ones will show to what an extent the details of translation have had to be modified and changed, sometimes with important consequences. Thus the corrected translation of the fragments relating to the Tower of Babel will remove the doubts raised by Mr. Smith’s translation as to his correctness in associating them with that event; thus, too, the corrected rendering of a passage in the Izdubar Epic will show that the practice of erecting a Bethel or sacred stone was familiar to the early Babylonians.
In some instances Mr. Smith has misconceived the true character of a whole text. What he believed to be a record of the Fall, for instance, is really, as M. Oppert first pointed out, a hymn to the Creator.
On the other hand, the fresh materials that have been acquired by the British Museum during the last five years, or a closer examination of the treasures it already possessed, have enabled us to add to the number of cuneiform texts which illustrate the earlier portions of Genesis.
Mr. Rassam, for example, has brought home a fragment of the Delugeviii tablet, which not only helps us to fill up some of the lacunæ= (MISSING PART) in the text, but is also important in another way. It is written, not in Assyrian, but in Babylonian cuneiform characters, and comes, not from an Assyrian, but from a Babylonian library. But it agrees exactly with the corresponding parts of the Assyrian editions of the story, and thus furnishes us with a proof of the trustworthiness of the Assyrian copies of the old Babylonian texts.
The text, again, which relates to the destruction of a country by a rain of fire, though long contained in the British Museum Collection, was first noticed by myself as being apparently the Babylonian version of the biblical account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Numerous alterations and insertions have had to be made in the text which accompanies the translations. The latter necessarily occupied the main part of Mr. Smith’s attention; he had neither time nor inclination to enter very elaborately into the questions raised by them, or the illustrations they might receive from elsewhere. In fact, any adequate treatment of the great Izdubar Epic, for instance, demanded a special acquaintance with the method and results of Comparative Philology, as well as a more intimate knowledge of its history and character than was possible at the time when Mr. Smith wrote.
A large proportion of the cuneiform texts from which the translations contained in the present volume are made has not yet been published. I have, howixever, gone carefully over them all with the exception of a small portion of the Izdubar Epic, and endeavoured to bring the translations up to the level of our present knowledge of the Assyrian language. I am indebted to the ready kindness and accurate eye of Mr. Pinches for copies of almost all the unpublished portions of the Izdubar legends. In these he has corrected several faulty readings, more especially that of the name of the pilot of Xisuthrus, which ought to be Nes-Hea, “the lion of Hea.” Mr. Pinches assures me that the name of the deity composing the second part of the name is invariably written with the numeral 40, the symbol of the god Hea, except once when the scribe has miswritten 50, the symbol of Bel, and he has pointed out to me a passage in a bilingual tablet where the name is explained in Assyrian by Nes-Hea. Unfortunately, the texts given in pp. 103-124 cannot be found, and here therefore I have been obliged to leave Mr. Smith’s translations unaltered.
The reader, however, must remember that no translations of these mutilated tablets can be more than approximately correct. Even if the meaning of all the words were well known, and they were divided from one another (which is not the case), the broken condition of so many of the inscriptions would make a good deal of the translation more or less conjectural. This must be doubly the case where the signification of the words is either unknown or only half known. I have always endeavoured tox indicate a doubtful word or passage by a query; but there must be instances in which the meaning that I believe ought to be assigned to particular words will be corrected by the further progress of discovery. This is even more true of what may be termed the commentary accompanying the translations. Surprises are constantly in store for the Assyrian decipherer, and a tiny fragment may suddenly throw a new light on a question he had supposed to be settled.
In fact, in Assyriology, as in all other branches of science, there is no finality; we cannot be more than approximately exact at any given time, and every month enables us to introduce fresh corrections and improvements into our work.
A fresh illustration of the fact has been afforded even while the present volume has been passing through the press. Mr. Pinches has come across two fragments (one marked S 669, the other unnumbered) which belong to two separate copies or editions of a very interesting work. This is nothing less than a list of the ancient epics and legends of Chaldea, along with the names of their reputed authors, many of whom, however, are probably as mythical as the famous Rishis of India. The list shows how numerous these early poems were, and how few of them, comparatively, we possess at present. Both fragments belong to the same part of the list, and we are therefore ignorant of many of the ancient compositions it must originally have contained. Some of the works mentioned receive theirxi names from the heroes celebrated in them, others are named from their opening lines. A distinction is drawn between those that belonged to the Accadian period, and were written by Accadian poets in the Accadian language, and those that were of Semitic Babylonian origin. The interest of the list is enhanced by the great antiquity of the poems it records, none of them being later than about 2000 b.c. Here is a translation of the text as restored from a comparison of the two fragments according to the copies I have made of them:—
- 1. Ca ….
- 2. This is the work (literally from the mouth) of .
- 3. “a khus ba a ri ….
- 4. the god …. tsu bu nu” …. [Accadian.]
- 5. This is the work of Nupatuv ….
- 6. “The mighty lady, the winged one, Nigirra,” or “Bel” .…
- 7. “He restored Til-enni,” or “Life.”
- 8. “May Merodach the great lord firmly defend.” [Semitic.]
- 9. This is the work of Basa-Gula, the scribe …
- 10. “The king of the sphere in their front,” or “the lord” …. [Acc.]
- 11. This is the work of En-me-duga ….
- 12. …. “head, thy lustre” …. [Acc.]
- 13. This is the work of Elum ….
- 14. …. ci bat ….
- 1. ….
- 2. (This is the work of ….) ragas, the scribe, the man (of a non-existent tablet).
- 3. ….. “the gods” [Acc.]. This is the work of ….
- 4. …. “the bull of Bit-Esir (the firmament),” or “The great fortress of the royal crown” ….[Acc.]
- 5. This is the work of Cus-dib the son of….
- 6. …. nun-na [Acc.]. This is the work of Elum-ban-cudur, the son of Khumetis, the scribe, the man of (a non-existent) tablet.
- 7. …. “the paggalti which over heaven are placed” [Sem.].
- 8. (This) is the work of Gimil-Gula, the son of Il-khigal the scribe, the man of a non-existent tablet.
- 9. “The day of calling, the long day at the dawning of light” (?) [Acc.]. This is the work of Ekur (Esiru), the son of Nunna-tur.
- 10. The hero Izdubar. This is the work of Sin-lici-unnini the scribe ….
- 11. The hero Etana. This is the work of Nis-Sin the scribe ….
- 12. The hero the Fox. This is the work of Kak-Merodach the son of Eri-Turnunna, the man of a non-existent tablet.
- 13. (The hero) ’Sidu. This is the work of ’Sidu-labiri the prince, the man of a non-existent tablet.
- 14. …. a tu gab [Acc.]. This is the work of Lig-Dimir the scribe, the man (of a non-existent tablet).
What is meant by the phrase “the man of a non-existent tablet,” I do not know. Possibly it signifies that the autograph of the author no longer existed at the time the list was drawn up. “The Bull of the firmament” was a legend which was probably connected with the second month of the year, originally, it would seem, the first, which like the zodiacal sign after which it was named, was called the month of “the directing bull.”
Future excavations will doubtless bring to light some of the poems mentioned in the list and not previously known. I have myself lately come across two fragments (S 802 and S 316) which belong to legends hitherto unknown, but they are too short to be worth translating. What curious revelations, however, we may yet expect from the cuneiform records may be judged from a small and xivwell preserved tablet recently brought to England, which contains a catalogue of the gardens belonging to Merodach-Baladan, the contemporary of Hezekiah, and grouped according to the districts in which they were situated. Merodach-Baladan must have been fond of horticulture, since the catalogue contains the names of no less than sixty-seven seed-gardens, besides six other pleasure-grounds. Many of them were named from the localities in whose neighbourhood they were, but others bore such significant titles as “the forest of reeds,” “the small enclosure,” or “the garden of the waters of the city.” As the tablet was copied by a scribe named Merodach-sum-iddin, probably in the time of Nebuchadnezzar or his successors, it is evident that some of the contents of the library of Babylon escaped the destruction brought upon that city by Sennacherib in b.c. 692.
I may add that since the greater part of this edition has been in type, I have found myself able to explain the name of the hero which in default of the true transcription has been provisionally read Izdubar. The name is composed of three ideographs, the first of which is the determinative prefix of wood, while the two latter are rendered saptu saplitu, “the lower lip,” in Semitic Assyrian. Now M. Lenormant has shown that Izdubar was originally the Accadian Fire-god, and Mr. Boscawen has pointed out that the fire-stick was once used in Babylonia; it is therefore evident that the three ideographs composing the name represent the lowerxv piece of wood, with a lip or groove in it, which formed the most important part of the primitive fire-machine. I believe the Accadian pronunciation of the name will turn out to be Kibirra.
A. H. Sayce.
May 21st, 1880.
Chapter I.—The Discovery of the Genesis Legends.
Cosmogony of Berosus.—Discovery of Cuneiform Inscriptions.—Historical Texts.—Babylonian origin of Assyrian literature.—Mythological tablets.—Discovery of Deluge texts.—Mutilated condition of tablets.—Lecture on Deluge tablets.—“Daily Telegraph” offer.—Expedition to Assyria.—Fragments of Creation tablets.—Solar Myth.—Second journey to Assyria.—Tower of Babel.—Clay records.—List of texts.—Legend of Oannes.—List of early legends and their authors
Chapter II.—Babylonian and Assyrian Literature.
Babylonian literature.—Kouyunjik library.—Fragmentary condition.—Arrangement of tablets.—Subjects.—Dates.—Babylonian source of literature.—Literary period.—Babylonian Chronology.—Accad.—Sumir.—Extinction of the Accadian language.—Izdubar legends.—Creation.—Syllabaries and bilingual tablets.—Assyrian copies.—Difficulties as to date.—Library of Senkereh.—Assyrian empire.—City of Assur.—Library at Calah.—Sargon of Assyria.—Sennacherib.—Removal of library to Nineveh.—Assur-bani-pal or Sardanapalus.—His additions to library.—Description of contents.—Later Babylonian libraries
Chapter III.—Chaldean Legends transmitted through Berosus and other Ancient Authors.
xviiiBerosus and his copyists.—Cory’s translation.—Alexander Polyhistor.—Babylonia.—Oannes, his teaching.—Creation.—Belus.—Chaldean kings.—Xisuthrus.—Deluge.—The Ark.—Return to Babylon.—Apollodorus.—Pantibiblon.—Larancha.—Abydenus.—Alorus, first king.—Ten kings.—Sisithrus.—Deluge.—Armenia.—Tower of Babel.—Kronos and Titan.—Dispersion from Hestiæus.—Babylonian colonies.—Tower of Babel.—The Sibyl.—Titan and Prometheus.—Damascius.—Tauthe.—Moymis.—Kissare and Assorus.—Triad.—Bel
Chapter IV.—Babylonian Mythology.
Greek accounts.—Mythology local in origin.—Antiquity.—Conquests.—Colonies.—Three great gods.—Twelve great gods.—Angels.—Spirits.—Anu.—Anatu.—Rimmon.—Istar.—Equivalent to Venus.—Hea.—Oannes.—Merodach.—Bel or Zeus.—Zirat-banit, Succoth Benoth.—Bel.—Sin the moon god.—Ninip.—Samas.—Nergal.—Annuit.—Table of gods
Chapter V.—Babylonian Legend of the Creation.
Mutilated condition of tablets.—List of subjects.—Description of chaos.—Tiamat.—Generation of gods.—Damascius.—Comparison with Genesis.—Three great gods.—Doubtful fragments.—Fifth tablet.—Stars.—Moon.—Sun.—Abyss or chaos.—Creation of moon.—Creation of animals.—Monotheism.—Hymn to Merodach.—The black-headed race or Adamites.—Garden of Eden.—The flaming sword.—The fall.—The Sabbath.—Sacred tree.—Hymn to the Creator
Chapter VI.—Other Babylonian Accounts of the Creation.
Cuneiform accounts originally traditions.—Variations.—Account of Berosus.—Tablet from Cutha.—Translation.—Composite animals.—Eagle-headed men.—Seven brothers.—Destruction of men.—Seven wicked spirits.—Mythical explanations of lunar eclipses.—Hymn to the God of Fire.—War in heaven.—Tiamat.—Merodach the great dragon.—Parallel Biblical account
Chapter VII.—The Sin of the God Zu.
God Zu.—Obscurity of legend.—Translation.—Sin of Zu.—Anger of the gods.—Speeches of Anu to Rimmon.—Rimmon’s xixanswer.—Speech of Anu to Nebo.—Answer of Nebo.—Lugal-turda. —Changes to a bird.—The Zu bird.—Bird of prey.—Lugal-turda lord of Amarda.—Prometheus
Chapter VIII.—The Exploits of Dibbara.
Dibbara.—God of Pestilence.—Itak.—The Plague.—Seven warrior gods.—Destruction of people.—Anu.—Goddess of Karrak.—Speech of Bel.—Sin and destruction of Babylonians.—Samas.—Sin and destruction of Erech.—Istar.—The great god and Duran.—Cutha.—Internal wars.—Itak goes to Syria.—Power and glory of Dibbara.—Song of Dibbara.—Blessings on his worship.—God Ner.—Prayer to arrest the Plague.—Antiquity of the legend.—Itak
Chapter IX.—Babylonian Fables.
Fables.—Common in the East.—Description.—Power of speech in animals.—Story of the eagle.—Serpent.—Samas.—The eagle caught.—Eats the serpent.—Anger of birds.—Etana.—Seven gods.—Third tablet.—Speech of eagle.—Story of the fox.—His cunning.—Judgment of Samas.—His show of sorrow.—His punishment.—Speech of fox.—Fable of the horse and ox.—They consort together.—Speech of the ox.—His good fortune.—Contrast with the horse.—Hunting the ox.—Speech of the horse.—Offers to recount story.—Story of Istar.—Further tablets
Chapter X.—Fragments of Miscellaneous Texts.
Atarpi.—Punishment of world.—Riddle of wise man.—Nature and universal presence of air.—Sinuri.—Divining by fracture of reed.—The foundling.—Tower of Babel.—Obscurity of legend.—Not noticed by Berosus.—Fragmentary tablet.—Destruction of Tower.—Dispersion.—Site of the Tower.—Meaning of Babel.—Chedor-laomer.—The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah
Chapter XI.—The Izdubar Legends.
Izdubar.—Meaning of the name.—A solar hero.—Prototype of Herakles.—Age of Legends.—Babylonian cylinders.—Notices of Izdubar.—Surippak.—Ark City.—Twelve tablets.—Extent of Legends.—Description.—Introduction.—Meeting of Hea-bani and xxIzdubar.—Destruction of tyrant Khumbaba.—Adventures of Istar. —Illness and wanderings of Izdubar.—Description of Deluge and conclusion.—First Tablet.—Kingdom of Nimrod.—Traditions.—Identifications.—Translation.—Elamite Conquest.—Dates
Chapter XII.—Meeting of Hea-bani and Izdubar.
Dream of Izdubar.—Hea-bani.—His wisdom.—His solitary life.—Izdubar’s petition.—Zaidu.—Kharimtu and Samkhat.—Tempt Hea-bani.—Might and fame of Izdubar.—Speech of Hea-bani.—His journey to Erech.—The midannu or tiger.—Festival at Erech.—Dream of Izdubar.—Friendship with Hea-bani
Chapter XIII.—Destruction of the Tyrant Khumbaba.
Mythical geography.—Forest region.—Khumbaba.—Conversation.—Petition to Samas.—Journey to forest.—Dwelling of Khumbaba.—Entrance to forest.—Meeting with Khumbaba.—Death of Khumbaba.—Izdubar king
Chapter XIV.—The Adventures of Istar.
Triumph of Izdubar.—Istar’s love.—Her offer of marriage.—Her promises.—Izdubar’s answer.—Tammuz.—Amours of Istar.—His refusal.—Istar’s anger.—Ascends to Heaven.—The bull.—Slain by Izdubar.—Istar’s curse.—Izdubar’s triumph.—The feast.—Istar’s despair.—Her descent to Hades.—Description.—The seven gates.—The curses.—Atsu-sunamir the Sphinx.—Release of Istar.—The dog of the dawn.—Lament for Tammuz
Chapter XV.—Illness and Wanderings of Izdubar.
Hea-bani and the trees.—Illness of Izdubar.—Death of Hea-bani.—Journey of Izdubar.—His dream.—Scorpion men.—The Desert of Mas.—Siduri and Sabitu.—Nes-Hea the pilot.—Water of death.—Mua.—The conversation.—Xisuthrus
Chapter XVI.—The Story of the Flood and Conclusion.
Eleventh tablet.—The gods.—Sin of the world.—Command to build the ark.—Its contents.—The building.—The Flood.—Destruction of people.—Fear of the gods.—End of Deluge.—Nizir.—Resting of Ark.—The birds.—The descent from the ark.—The sacrifice, covenant and rainbow.—Speeches of gods.—Translation of xxiAdrakhasis.—Cure of Izdubar.—His return.—Lament over Hea-bani.—Resurrection of Hea-bani.—Burial of warrior.—Age and composition of the Deluge tablet.—Comparison with Genesis.—Syrian nation.—Connection of legends.—Points of contact.—Duration of deluge.—Mount of descent.—Ten generations.—Early cities
Notices of Genesis.—Correspondence of names.—Abram.—Ur of Chaldees.—Ishmael.—Sargon of Agané.—His birth.—Concealed in ark.—Creation.—Garden of Eden.—Oannes.—Berosus.—Izdubar legends.—Babylonian seals.—Egyptian names.—Assyrian sculptures
RONTISPIECE, Photograph. Izdubar (Nimrod) in conflict with a lion, from an early Babylonian cylinder.
|2.||Reverse of inscribed terra cotta tablet, containing the account of the Deluge, showing the various fragments of which it is composed, 9.|
|3.||Oannes and other Babylonian mythological figures, from cylinder, 33.|
|4.||Composite animals, from cylinder, 35.|
|5.||Fight between Merodach (Bel) and the dragon, to face p. 62.|
|6.||Sacred tree or grove, with attendant cherubim, from Assyrian cylinder, 85.|
|7.||Sacred tree, seated figure on each side and serpent in background, from an early Babylonian cylinder, 88.|
|8.||Merodach attacking the serpent, on an Assyrian cylinder, in the possession of Dr. S. Wells Williams, Newhaven, 90.|
|9.||Sacred tree, attendant figures and eagle-headed men, from the seal of a Syrian chief, ninth century b.c., 97.|
|10.||Merodach delivering the moon-god from the evil spirits; from a Babylonian cylinder; 101.|
|11.||Bel encountering the dragon, from Babylonian cylinder, 109.|
|12.||Merodach or Bel armed for the conflict with the dragon, from Assyrian cylinder, 112.|
|13.||Fight between Bel and the dragon, from Babylonian cylinder, 114.|
|14.||Eagle-headed men, from Nimroud sculpture, to face p. 102.xxiv|
|15, 16 and 17.||Men engaged in building, from Babylonian cylinders, 162.|
|18.||View of Birs Nimrud, the supposed site of the Tower of Babel, 167.|
|19.||View of the Babil mound at Babylon, the site of the temple of Bel, 168.|
|20.||Tower in stages, from an Assyrian bas-relief, 169.|
|21.||Izdubar strangling a lion, from Khorsabad sculpture, to face p. 175.|
|22.||Migration of Eastern tribe, from early Babylonian cylinder, 197.|
|23.||Bowareyeh Mound at Warka (Erech), site of the temple of Istar, 248.|
|24.||Izdubar and Hea-bani in conflict with the lion and bull, 249.|
|25.||Izdubar among the trees of the Gods (?), from a Babylonian cylinder found in Cyprus by Gen. di Cesnola, 263.|
|26.||Izdubar, composite figures, and Ur-Hea in the boat, from an early Babylonian cylinder, 270.|
|27.||Composite figures (scorpion men), from an Assyrian cylinder, 276.|
|28.||Xisuthrus, or Noah, and Izdubar, from an early Babylonian cylinder, 300.|
|29.||Mugheir, the site of Ur of the Chaldees, 317.|
|30.||Oannes, from Nimroud sculpture, to face p. 325.|
Cosmogony of Berosus.—Discovery of Cuneiform Inscriptions.—Historical texts.—Babylonian origin of Assyrian literature.—Mythological tablets.—Discovery of Deluge texts.—Mutilated condition of tablets.—Lecture on Deluge tablets.—“Daily Telegraph” offer.—Expedition to Assyria.—Fragments of Creation tablets.—Solar Myth.—Second journey to Assyria.—Tower of Babel.—Clay records.—List of texts.—Legend of Oannes.—List of early legends and their authors.
T has long been known from the fragments of the Chaldean historian, Berosus, preserved in the works of various later writers, that the Babylonians were acquainted with traditions referring to the Creation, the period before the Flood, the Deluge, and other matters of which we read in the book of Genesis.
Berosus, however, who recorded these events, is stated by Eusebius and Tatian to have been a contemporary of Alexander the Great, and to have lived into the reign of Antiochus Soter. His date lies, therefore, between b.c. 330 and 260. As this was2 three hundred years after the captivity of the Jews in Babylon, the great antiquity of these traditions could not be proved with certainty, much less their independence of the accounts which we have in Genesis.
On the discovery and decipherment of the cuneiform inscriptions, Oriental scholars hoped that copies of the Babylonian histories and traditions would one day be found, and that earlier and more satisfactory evidence as to these primitive histories than had previously been accessible, would thus be gained.
In the mound of Kouyunjik, opposite the town of Mosul, Mr. Layard discovered part of the Royal Assyrian library, and further collections, also forming part of this library, have been subsequently found by Mr. H. Rassam, Mr. Loftus, and Mr. George Smith. Sir Henry Rawlinson, who made the preliminary examination of Mr. Layard’s treasures, and was the first to recognize their value, estimated the number of fragments brought from this Library at over twenty thousand.
The attention of decipherers was in the first instance drawn to the later historical inscriptions, particularly to those of the Assyrian kings contemporary with the Hebrew monarchy; and in this department of research a very large number of texts of great importance rewarded the toil of Assyrian scholars. Inscriptions of Tiglath Pileser, Shalmaneser, Sargon, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon, Nebuchadnezzar, Nabonidus, and numerous other ancient sovereigns, bearing directly on the Bible, and throwing new light upon3 parts of ancient history previously obscure, for a long time occupied almost exclusively the attention of students, and overshadowed any work in other divisions of Assyrian literature.
Although it was known that Assyria borrowed its civilization and written characters from Babylonia, yet, as the Assyrian nation was throughout the greater part of its independent existence hostile to the southern and older kingdom, it could not be guessed beforehand that the peculiar national traditions of Babylonia would have been transported to Assyria.
Under these circumstances, for some years after the cuneiform inscriptions were first deciphered, nothing was looked for or discovered bearing upon the events described in Genesis; but, as new texts were brought into notice, it became evident that the Assyrians borrowed their literature largely from Babylonian sources, and it appeared likely that search among the fragments of Assyrian inscriptions would yield traces at least of some of these ancient Babylonian legends.
Attention was early drawn to this fact by Sir Henry Rawlinson, who pointed out several coincidences between the geography of Babylonia and the account of Eden in Genesis, and suggested the great probability that the accounts in Genesis had a Babylonian origin.
While preparing the fourth volume of Cuneiform Inscriptions for the trustees of the British Museum, Mr. George Smith noticed references to the Creation4 in a tablet numbered K 63 in the Museum collection, as well as allusions in other tablets to similar legends; he therefore searched through a series of tablets he had previously classed as “Mythological,” in order to find, if possible, some of these legends. This series of mythological tablets was one of six into which he had divided the Museum collection of cuneiform inscriptions for convenience of working. By placing all the tablets and fragments of the same class together, he had been able to complete several texts, to find easily any subject required, and to get, whenever it was needed, a general idea of the contents of the collection.
The mythological division contained all the tablets which related to Assyrian mythology, and all the legends in which the gods took a leading part, together with prayers and similar subjects.
A steady search among these fragments soon brought to light half of a curious tablet which had evidently contained originally six columns of text; two of these (the third and fourth) were still nearly perfect; two others (the second and fifth) were imperfect, about half being lost, while the remaining columns (the first and sixth) were entirely gone. A statement in the third column that “the ship” had rested on the mountain of Nizir, followed by an account of the sending forth of a dove, and its finding no resting-place and returning, convinced Mr. Smith that he had discovered a portion at least of the Chaldean account of the Deluge. He then proceeded to read through the document, and found it was in the form of a5 speech from the hero of the Deluge to a person whose name might be transcribed as Izdubar. The same name had already been read on the fragment of another tablet numbered K 231, which turned out to belong to the same series of tablets as the newly-found account of the Deluge. Mr. Smith was thus encouraged to make a search for other portions of the series.
The search was a long and heavy work, for there were thousands of fragments to be examined, and these were so small, and contained so little of the text, that it was extremely difficult to ascertain their meaning. The search, however, proved successful. A fragment of another copy of the Deluge was found containing a second account of the sending forth of the birds. Several other portions of the same tablet were gradually collected and fitted one after another into their places until the greater part of the second column was filled up. Portions of a third copy were next discovered, which, when joined together, completed a considerable part of the first and sixth columns. Mr. Smith now translated the text he had so laboriously pieced together, and published his discovery to the world at a meeting of the Society of Biblical Archæology, December 3rd, 1872. By this time he had made out that the series of Izdubar legends, as we may term them, contained twelve tablets or books. Of this series the tablet describing the Deluge was the eleventh and K 231 the sixth.
The interest excited by Mr. Smith’s discovery was naturally very great. Immediately after the meeting6 of the Society of Biblical Archæology, Mr. E. Arnold, in the name of the proprietors of the “Daily Telegraph,” asked the fortunate discoverer to reopen, at their cost, the excavations in Assyria in the hope of finding the missing portions of the story of the Deluge. The trustees of the British Museum granted Mr. Smith leave of absence for the purpose, and he accordingly started for the ruins of Nineveh, and there engaged in researches, the history of which is related in his work entitled “Assyrian Discoveries.” Hardly had he begun his excavations on the site of the palace of Assur-bani-pal at Kouyunjik, when he came across a new fragment of the Chaldean account of the Deluge belonging to the first column of the tablet, containing the command to build and fill the ark, and nearly filling up the most considerable blank in the story. Some other fragments, found afterwards, still further completed this tablet, which was already the most perfect one in the Izdubar series. The trench in which the fragment in question was discovered must have passed very near the part of the Library in which the Assyrians kept a series of inscriptions relating to the early history of the world. The same trench soon afterwards yielded a fragment of the sixth tablet, describing the destruction of the bull of Istar by Izdubar and Hea-bani, an incident often depicted on early Babylonian gems. The next discovery was a fragment which referred to the creation of the world; it formed the upper corner of a tablet, and gave a fragmentary account of the creation of animals. Two7 other portions of this legend were found further on in the trench, one of which contained a mutilated account of the war between the gods and evil spirits.
In the following year Mr. Smith was again in Assyria, in charge of an expedition sent out by the trustees of the British Museum, and succeeded in bringing home fresh fragments relating to the early traditions and legends of Babylonia. Among these is the fragment which seems to describe the building of the Tower of Babel. Then followed the disastrous expedition of 1875-6, in the course of which Mr. Smith fell a victim to over-fatigue and his zeal for Assyrian research. The subsequent explorations of Mr. Hormuzd Rassam, though rich in other results, have added very little to our knowledge of the old Babylonian legends; and it seems probable that the missing portions of the tablets which contained them have irretrievably perished. We must wait for further light upon the subject until the cities and libraries of Babylonia have been excavated. After all, the early Babylonian legends, of which copies were made for the Assyrian Library at Kouyunjik, were but a selected few; the Assyrians took little interest in that part of Babylonian literature which had no connection with their own history or beliefs, and we have reason to congratulate ourselves that among the traditions they borrowed from their older and more civilized neighbours were so many which bear upon the earlier chapters of Genesis.
The fragmentary condition of the legends we8 possess, however, is much to be lamented. The chief difficulties with which the Assyrian scholar has to contend, when dealing with them, are due to the mutilated state of the tablets. If the inscriptions were perfect, their translation would be a comparatively easy matter. As it is, so skilled a decipherer as Mr. Smith himself was deceived by the defective character of the text into imagining that a hymn addressed to the Creator was the Babylonian version of the Fall of Man.
The fragmentary and scattered character of these legends is explained by the nature of the material of which the tablets are composed, and the changes undergone by them since they were written. They consist of fine clay and were inscribed with cuneiform characters while in a soft state; they were then baked in a furnace until hard, and afterwards transferred to the library. The library seems to have been in an upper storey of the palace, and after the destruction of Nineveh, the fall of the building in which it was placed naturally caused the tablets contained in it to be broken to pieces. Many of them were cracked and scorched by the heat of the burning ruins. Subsequently the ruins were turned over in search of treasure, and the tablets still further broken; while, to complete their destruction, the rain, soaking through the ground every spring, saturates them with water containing chemicals, and these chemicals form crystals in every available crack. The growth of the crystals further splits9 the tablets, some of them being literally shivered to pieces.
Some idea of the mutilated condition of the Assyrian tablets, and of the work required by the restoration of a single text, will be gained from the engraving above, which exhibits the appearance of one of the Deluge tablets at the time Mr. Smith published his translation of it. In this tablet there are no less than sixteen fragments.
The clay records of the Assyrians are by these means so broken up, that a single text is in some cases divided into over one hundred fragments; and it is only by collecting and joining these together that the old texts can be restored. Many of the10 fragmentary tablets which have been more than twenty years in the British Museum have been added to considerably by the fragments recently brought to England by Mr. Smith and Mr. Rassam; and yet there probably remain from ten to twenty thousand fragments still buried in the ruins, without the recovery of which it is impossible to complete these valuable Assyrian inscriptions.
It is, nevertheless, out of these imperfect materials that we have at present to piece together our knowledge of the early legends of Babylonia and Assyria. Most, if not all, of them, are, it must be remembered, of Chaldean or Babylonian origin, the Assyrians having either slavishly copied Babylonian originals or simply put into a new form the story they had borrowed from their southern neighbours. Such as they are, however, they are presented to the reader as faithfully translated as our existing knowledge of the Assyrian language allows; it is for him to draw his inferences and make his comparisons. The greater number of them, as we shall see, mount back to a date earlier than the second millennium before the Christian era, and even where the actual text belongs to a later period, the legend which it embodies claims a similar antiquity. We may classify them in the following order:—
1. An account of the Creation of the world in six days, parallel to that in the first chapter of Genesis, and probably in its present form not older than the 7th century B.C.11
2. A second account of the Creation, derived from the Library of Cuthah, and belonging to the oldest period of Babylonian literature.
3. A history of the conflict between Merodach, the champion of the gods, and Tiamat, “the Deep,” the representative of chaos and evil. To this we may add the bilingual legend of the seven evil spirits and their fight against the moon.
4. The story of the descent of the goddess Istar or Venus into Hades, and her return.
5. The legend of the sin of the god Zu, punished by Bel, the father of the gods.
6. A collection of five tablets giving the exploits of Dibbara the god of the pestilence.
7. The story of the wise man who put forth a riddle to the gods.
8. The legend of the good man Atarpi, and the wickedness of the world.
9. The legend of the tower of Babel, and dispersion.
10. The story of the Eagle and Etana.
11. The story of the ox and the horse.
12. The story of the fox.
13. The legend of Sinuri.
14. The Izdubar legends: twelve tablets, with the history of Izdubar, and an account of the flood.
15. The story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Besides these there are fragments of other legends, which show that there was a considerable collection of such primitive stories still quite unknown to us. In fact we have little chance of12 becoming acquainted with them until the libraries of Babylonia are excavated. Thus for example we learn from Berosus that the Babylonians ascribed their civilization to certain wonderful creatures who ascended out of the Persian Gulf, and more especially to a being called Oannes. But of all this the library of Nineveh tells us nothing, although an Accadian Reading-book compiled for Assyrian students contains an excerpt which seems to be taken from the legend of Oannes. It is as follows:—
- 1. To the waters their god
- 2. had returned.
- 3. To the glistening house
- 4. he descended (as) an icicle.
- 5. (On) a seat of snow
- 6. he grew not old in wisdom.
- 7. The wise people
- 8. with his wisdom he filled.
Two fragments, belonging to two editions of the same text, have just been found, containing a list of the numerous legends and epics current among the ancient Babylonians, along with the names of their authors. Among them are found several of which translations are given further on in this volume; but there are also several of which we hear for the first time. The great Izdubar Epic, it may be noted, is ascribed to a certain Sin-lici-unnini (“O Moon-god, receive my cry!”). A fuller account of the fragments and their contents will be found in the Introduction.
Babylonian literature.—Kouyunjik library.—Fragmentary condition.—Arrangement of tablets.—Subjects.—Dates.—Babylonian source of literature.—Literary period.—Babylonian Chronology.—Accad.—Sumir.—Extinction of the Accadian language.—Izdubar legends.—Creation.—Syllabaries and bilingual tablets.—Assyrian copies.—Difficulties as to date.—Library of Senkereh.—Assyrian empire.—City of Assur.—Library at Calah.—Sargon of Assyria.—Sennacherib.—Removal of Library to Nineveh.—Assur-bani-pal or Sardanapalus.—His additions to library.—Description of contents.—Later Babylonian libraries.
N order to understand the position to which we must assign the legends of early Chaldea, it is necessary to give some account of the literature of the Ancient Babylonians and their copyists, the Assyrians. As has been already stated, the fragments of burnt brick on which these legends are inscribed were found in the débris which covers the palaces called the South West Palace and the North Palace at Kouyunjik; the former building being of the age of Sennacherib, the latter belonging to the time of Assur-bani-pal. The tablets, which are of all sizes,14 from one inch long to over a foot square, are generally in fragments, and in consequence of the changes which have taken place in the ruins the fragments of the same tablet are sometimes scattered widely apart. They were originally deposited, it would seem, in one of the upper chambers of the palace, from which they fell on the destruction of the building. In some of the lower chambers the whole floor has been found covered with them, in other cases they lay in groups or patches on the pavement, and there are occasional clusters of fragments at various heights in the earth which covers the ruins. Other fragments are scattered singly through all the upper earth which covers the floors and walls of the palace. Different fragments of the same tablet or cylinder are found in separate chambers which have no immediate connection with each other, showing that their present distribution has nothing to do with the original position of the tablets of which they formed part.
The inscriptions show that the tablets were arranged according to their subjects. Stories or subjects were continued on other tablets of the same size and form as those on which they were commenced, in some cases the number of tablets in a series and on a single subject amounting to over one hundred.
Each subject or series of tablets had a title, the title consisting of the first phrase or part of a phrase in it. Thus, the series of Astrological tablets,15 numbering over seventy tablets, bore the title “When the gods Anu (and) Bel,” this being the commencement of the first tablet. At the end of every tablet in each series was written its number in the work, thus: “the first tablet of When the gods Anu, Bel,” “the second tablet of When the gods Anu, Bel,” &c. &c.; and, further to preserve the proper position of each tablet, every one except the last in a series had at the end a catch phrase, consisting of the first line of the following tablet. There were besides, catalogues of these documents written like them on clay tablets, and other small oval tablets with titles upon them, apparently labels for the various series of works. All these arrangements show the care taken with respect to literary matters. There were regular libraries or chambers, probably on the upper floors of the palaces, appointed for the reception of the tablets, and custodians or librarians to take charge of them. These regulations were all of great antiquity, and like the tablets had a Babylonian origin.
Judging from the fragments discovered, it appears probable that there were in the Royal Library at Nineveh over 10,000 inscribed tablets, treating of almost every branch of knowledge existing at the time.
In considering a subject like the present one it is a point of the utmost importance to define as closely as possible the date of our present copies of the legends, and the most probable period at which the original copies may have been inscribed. By far the16 greatest number of the tablets brought from Nineveh belong to the age of Assur-bani-pal, who reigned over Assyria from b.c. 670, and every copy of what we will term the Genesis legends yet found was inscribed with one exception during his reign. The statements made on the tablets themselves are conclusive on this point, and have not been called in question, but it is equally stated and acknowledged on all hands that most of these tablets are not the originals, but are only copies from earlier texts. It is unfortunate that the date of the original copies is never preserved, and thus a wide door is thrown open for difference of opinion on the point. The Assyrians acknowledged that this class of literature was borrowed from Babylonian sources, and of course it is to Babylonia that we have to look to ascertain the approximate dates of the original documents. But here we are met by the following difficulty. It appears that at an early period in Babylonian history a great literary development took place, and numerous works were produced which embodied the prevailing myths, religion, and science of the day. Written many of them in a noble style of poetry, and appealing to the strongest feelings of the people on one side, or registering the highest efforts of their science on the other, these texts became the standards of Babylonian literature, and later generations were content to copy them instead of composing new works for themselves. Clay, the material on which they were written, was everywhere abundant, copies were17 multiplied, and the veneration in which the texts were held fixed and stereotyped their style. Even the language in which they were written remained the language of literature up to the period of the Persian conquest. Thus it happens that texts of Rim-agu, Sargon, and Khammuragas, who lived at least a thousand years before Nebuchadnezzar and Nabonidus, are composed in the same language as the texts of these later kings, there being no sensible difference in style to match the long interval between them.
We have, however, clear proof that, although the language of devotion and literature remained fixed, the speech of the bulk of the people was gradually modified; and in the time of Assur-bani-pal, when the texts of the Genesis legends which we possess were copied by Assyrian scribes, the common speech of the day was widely different from that of literature. The private letters and despatches of this age which have been discovered differ considerably in language from the contemporary public documents and religious writings, showing the change the language had undergone since the style of the latter had been fixed. So, too, in our own country the language of devotion and the style of the Bible differ in several respects from those of the English of to-day.
These considerations show the difficulty of fixing the age of a cuneiform document from its style, and the difficulty is further increased by the uncertainty which hangs over all Babylonian chronology—an18 uncertainty that can be cleared away only when the ruined cities of Babylonia are excavated.
Chronology is always a thorny subject, and dry and unsatisfactory to most persons besides; some notice must, however, be taken of it here, in order to fix something like an approximate date or epoch for the original composition of the Genesis legends.
The so-called Assyrian Canon affords us an exact chronology up to the year b.c. 909, and a series of contemporaneous monuments, together with one or two chronological allusions in later inscriptions, enables us to work back from this date to a period falling between b.c. 1450 and 1400 when Assyria was brought into close relation with the southern kingdom of Babylonia. Babylonia was at the time under the sway of a foreign dynasty of Kossæan princes from the mountains of Elam, which was overthrown, as we learn from the Assyrian records, about b.c. 1270. It had been in possession of the country for a considerable time, since a fragmentary list which gives the names of the first nine sovereigns composing it does not come down to the time when the first of the princes who came into close contact with Assyria was reigning. Indeed, a considerable interval must be allowed between the latter period and the last of the nine kings mentioned in the list, in which to insert the isolated names of more than one monarch of the dynasty incidentally mentioned on later monuments. Supposing that not more than fifteen kings preceded Cara-indas in b.c. 1450, and19 that the average length of their reigns was twenty years, we should have b.c. 1750 as the approximate date of the leader of the dynasty. He could not have been later than this, and there are many reasons which would lead us to suppose that he was earlier.
Khammuragas was the leader of the dynasty in question. He had conquered the rulers of the two kingdoms into which Babylonia was at this time divided. One of these was a queen, with whom ended a dynasty, famous in the annals of early Babylonia, whose seat was at Agané or Agadé, near Sepharvaim. She had been the successor of Naram-Sin, the son of Sargon, who, like his father, had extended his power far and wide, and had even penetrated as far as the shores of the Mediterranean. Sargon had been a great patron of learning as well as a conqueror; he had established a famous library at Agané, and had caused a work on astronomy and astrology to be compiled, which remained the standard authority on the subject up to the end of the Assyrian Empire. It was entitled, “The Illumination of Bel,” and was in seventy-two books. Berosus, the historian, seems to have translated it into Greek.
Like the Babylonians and Assyrians of a later day, Sargon and his subjects belonged to the Semitic stock, and were therefore related to the Hebrews and the Arabians. But they were really intruders in Chaldea. The primitive inhabitants of the country, the builders of its cities, the inventors of the cuneiform system of writing, and the founders of the20 culture and civilization which was afterwards borrowed by the Semites, were of a wholly different race. They spoke an agglutinative language of the same character as that of the modern Turks or Finns, and were originally divided into two sections—the inhabitants of Sumir or Shinar, the plain country, and the Accadians or “Highlanders,” who had descended from the mountains of Elam subsequently to the first settlement of their kinsfolk in Shinar. At some date between b.c. 3000 and 2000, the Semitic population which bordered upon Babylonia on the west, and had long been settled in some of its western cities, such as Ur (now Mugheir), conquered Shinar or Sumir. The Accadians, however, maintained their independence for a considerable time after this conquest, until, finally, Accad also was reduced under the sway of the Semitic kings. The old population of the country was gradually absorbed, and its language became extinct. The extinction of the Accadian or Sumerian language had already taken place—at all events among the educated classes—at the time that Sargon founded his library at Agané, and one of the chief reasons which led to the compilation of the great work on astronomy, was the necessity of preserving the astronomical and astrological observations recorded in a language which was beginning to be forgotten. At the same time Semitic translations of other portions of the old Accadian literature were made. The library at Agané, however, was not the only place where the work of trans21lation went on; many other libraries existed, and their scribes and readers had alike become Semites, who required works written in their own tongue. The Semitic translations of Accadian works which were made for the library of Erech, one of the earliest seats of Semitic power, must have been considerably older than those made for the library of Sargon.
The extinction of the Accadian language and the translation of Accadian works into Semitic Babylonian are important facts for settling the chronology of a document or inscription. Wherever we can show that a Babylonian or Assyrian text is translated from an Accadian original, or wherever we have a copy of that original itself, we may feel pretty sure that we are dealing with something older than the eighteenth century before the Christian era.
Mr. Smith believed that the “Exploits of the God Dibbara” was one of the oldest of the mythological texts which have come down to us, though he admitted that the mention of Assyria in it was in favour of a somewhat later date.
It notices a large number of peoples or states, the principal being the people of the coast, Subartu or Syria, Assyria, Elam, the Kassi, the Sutu, Goim, Lullubu, and Accad.
The Izdubar legends, containing the story of the Flood, and possibly also the history of Nimrod, were probably written in the south of the country, and at least as early as b.c. 2000. These legends were, however, traditions before they were committed to22 writing, and were common in some form to the whole of Chaldea.
The account of the Creation in days, though probably of late Assyrian origin in its present form, may nevertheless rest on older traditions. At present, however, it is not possible to assign to it any great antiquity.
It should, of course, be remembered, that the texts we possess at present are written in Semitic Babylonian or Assyrian—Babylonian and Assyrian being but slightly varying dialects of the same language. They are, however, mostly translations of earlier Accadian documents, and belong to the same period as that which witnessed the foundation of the library of Agané. We shall not be far wrong, therefore, in dating them in their present form about b.c. 2000. The translations then made were copied by successive generations of librarians and scribes, the latest copies of which we know being those that have been brought from the library of Kouyunjik.
To the same early period belonged various other literary compositions, among which we may particularize a long work on terrestrial omens, compiled for Sargon of Agané, as well as the syllabaries, grammars, phrase-books and vocabularies, and other bilingual tablets by means of which a knowledge of the old language of Accad was conveyed to the Babylonian or Assyrian scholar.
On the other hand, a series of tablets on evil spirits, which contained a totally different tradition23 of the Creation from that in days, goes back to the Accadian epoch; and there is a third account from the City of Cutha, closely agreeing in some respects with the account handed down by Berosus, which must be placed about the same date.
In spite of the indications as to peculiarities of worship, names of states and capitals, historical allusions and other evidence, it may seem hazardous to many persons to fix the dates of original documents so high, when our only copies in many cases are Assyrian transcripts made in the reign of Assur-bani-pal, in the seventh century b.c.; but one or two considerations may show that this is a perfectly reasonable view, and no other likely period can be found for the original composition of the documents unless we ascend to a greater antiquity. In the first place, it must be noticed that the Assyrians themselves state that the documents were copied from ancient Babylonian copies, and in some cases state that the old copies were partly illegible even in their day. Again, in more than one case there is actual proof of the antiquity of a text. We may refer, for example, to a text an Assyrian copy of part of which is published in “Cuneiform Inscriptions,” vol. ii. plate 54, Nos. 3 & 4. In a collection of tablets discovered by Mr. Loftus at Senkereh, belonging, according to the kings mentioned in it, to about b.c. 1600, is part of an ancient Babylonian copy of this very text, the Babylonian copy being about one thousand years older than the Assyrian one.
Similarly a fragment of a Babylonian transcript of the Deluge tablet has recently been brought from Babylonia, and serves not only to fill up some of the breaks in our Assyrian copies, but also to verify the text of the latter.
It is unfortunate that so many of the documents embodying the Genesis traditions are in such a sadly mutilated condition, but there can be no doubt that future explorations will reveal more perfect copies, and numerous companion and explanatory texts, which will one day clear up the difficulties which now meet us at every step of our examination of them.
So far as known contemporary inscriptions are concerned, we cannot consider our present researches and discoveries as anything like sufficient to give a fair view of the literature of Assyria and Babylonia; and however numerous and important the Genesis legends may be, they form but a small portion of the whole literature of the country.
It is generally considered that the earliest inscriptions of any importance which we now possess belong to the time of Lig-Bagas, king of Ur, who first united under his sway the petty kingdoms into which Chaldea was previously split up, and whose age is generally assigned to about three thousand years before the Christian era.
The principal inscriptions of this period consist of texts on bricks and on signet cylinders, and some of the latter may be of much greater antiquity. Passing25 down to a time when the country was again divided into the kingdoms of Karrak, Larsa, and Agané, we find a great accession of literary material, almost every class of writing being represented by contemporary specimens. Each of the principal cities had its library, and education seems to have been widely diffused. From Senkereh, the ancient Larsa, and its neighbourhood have come our oldest specimens of these literary tablets, the following being some of the contents of this earliest known library:—
1. Mythological tablets, including lists of the gods, and their manifestations and titles.
2. Grammatical works, lists of words, and explanations.
3. Mathematical works, calculations, tables of cube and square roots, and tables of measures.
4. Works on astronomy, astrology, and omens.
5. Legends and short historical inscriptions.
6. Historical cylinders, one of Kudur-mabuk, b.c. 1800 (?) (the earliest known cylinder), being in the British Museum.
7. Geographical tablets, and lists of towns and countries.
8. Tablets containing laws and law cases, records of sale and barter, wills and loans.
Such are the inscriptions a single library of Babylonia has produced, and beside these there are numerous texts, only known to us through later copies, but which certainly had their origin as early as this period.
Passing down from this period, for some centuries we find only detached inscriptions, accompanied by evidence of the gradual shifting of both political power and literary activity from Babylonia to Assyria.
In Assyria the first centre of literature and seat of a library was the city of Assur (Kileh Shergat), and the earliest known tablets date about b.c. 1500.
Beyond the scanty records of a few monarchs nothing of value remains of this library, and the literary works contained in it are only known from later copies.
A revival of the Assyrian empire began under Assur-natsir-pal, king of Assyria, who ascended the throne b.c. 885. He rebuilt the city of Calah (Nimroud), and this city became the seat of an Assyrian library. Tablets were procured from Babylonia by Shalmaneser, son of Assur-natsir-pal, b.c. 860, during the reign of Nabu-bal-idina, king of Babylon, and these were copied by the Assyrian scribes, and placed in the royal library. Rimmon-nirari, grandson of Shalmaneser, b.c. 812, added to the Calah library, and had tablets written at Nineveh. Assur-nirari, b.c. 755, continued the literary work, some mythological tablets being dated in his reign.
Tiglath Pileser, b.c. 745, enlarged the library, and placed in it various copies of historical inscriptions. It was, however, reserved for Sargon, who founded the last Assyrian dynasty, b.c. 721, to make the Assyrian royal library worthy of the empire. Early27 in his reign he appointed Nabu-zuqub-cinu principal librarian, and this officer set to work to make new copies of all the standard works of the day. During the whole of his term of office copies of the great literary works were produced, the majority of the texts preserved belonging to the early period previous to Khammuragas.
With the accession of Sargon came a revival of literature in Assyria; education became more general, ancient texts were brought from Babylonia to be copied, and the antiquarian study of early literature became fashionable.
Sennacherib, son of Sargon, b.c. 704, continued to add to his father’s library at Calah, but late in his reign he removed the collection from that city to Nineveh (Kouyunjik), where from this time forth the national library remained until the fall of the empire.
Esarhaddon, son of Sennacherib, b.c. 681, further increased the national collection, most of the works he added being of a religious character.
Assur-bani-pal, son of Esarhaddon, the Sardanapalus of the Greeks, b.c. 670, was the greatest of the Assyrian sovereigns, and he is far more memorable on account of his magnificent patronage of learning than on account of the greatness of his empire or the extent of his wars.
Assur-bani-pal added more to the Assyrian royal library than all the kings who had gone before him, and it is to tablets written in his reign that we owe28 almost all our knowledge of the Babylonian myths and early history, beside many other important matters.
The agents of Assur-bani-pal sought everywhere for inscribed tablets, brought them to Nineveh, and copied them there; thus the literary treasures of Babylon, Borsippa, Cutha, Agané, Ur, Erech, Larsa, Nipur, and various other cities were transferred to the Assyrian capital to enrich the great collection there.
The fragments brought over to Europe give us a good idea of this library and show the range of the subjects embraced by its collection of works. Among the different classes of texts, the Genesis stories and similar legends occupied a prominent place; these, as they will be further described in the present volume, need only be mentioned here. Accompanying them we have a series of mythological tablets of various sorts, varying from legends of the gods, psalms, songs, prayers, and hymns, down to mere allusions and lists of names. Many of these texts take the form of charms to be used in sickness and for the expulsion of evil spirits; some of them are of great antiquity, being older than the Izdubar legends. One fine series deals with remedies against witchcraft and the assaults of evil spirits. Izdubar is mentioned in one of these tablets as lord of the oaths or pledges of the world.
Some of the prayers were for use on special occasions, such as on starting on a campaign, on the occurrence of an eclipse, &c. Astronomy and astro29logy were represented by various detached inscriptions and reports, but principally by the great work of which mention has already been made, and many copies of which were in the Library of Assur-bani-pal.
Among the Astrological tablets is a fragment which professes to be copied from an original of the time of Izdubar.
Historical texts formed another section of the library, and these included numerous copies of inscriptions of early Babylonian kings; there were besides, chronological tablets with lists of kings and annual officers, inscriptions of various Assyrian monarchs, histories of the relations between Assyria and Babylonia, Elam, and Arabia, treaties, despatches, proclamations, and reports on the state of the empire and military affairs.
Natural history was represented by bilingual lists of mammals, birds, reptiles, fishes, insects, and plants, trees, grasses, reeds, and grains, earths, stones, &c. These lists are classified according to the supposed nature and affinities of the various species, and show considerable advance in the sciences. Mathematics had a place in the library, there being tables of problems, figures, and calculations; but this branch of learning was not studied so fully as in Babylonia.
Grammar and Lexicography were better represented, since there were many works on these subjects, including lists of the characters, the declension of the noun, the conjugation of the verb, examples of syntactical construction, reading-books, interlinear30 translations of Accadian texts, and the like. All these tablets were copied from Babylonian originals. In legal and civil literature the library was also rich, and the tablets serve to show that the same laws and customs prevailed in Assyria as in Babylonia. There are codes of laws, law cases, records of sale, barter, and loans, lists of property, lists of titles and trades, of tribute and taxes, &c.
In Geography the Assyrians were not very advanced; but there are lists of countries and their productions, of cities, rivers, mountains, and peoples.
Such are some of the principal contents of the great library from which we have obtained our copies of the Creation and Flood legends. Most of the tablets were copied from early Babylonian ones which have in most cases disappeared; but the copies are sufficient to show the wonderful progress in culture and civilization already made by the people of Chaldea long before the age of Moses or even Abraham. Babylonian literature, which had been the parent of Assyrian writing, revived after the fall of Nineveh, and Nebuchadnezzar and his successors made Babylon the seat of a library rivalling that of Assur-bani-pal at Nineveh. Of this later development of Babylonian literature we know very little, explorations being still required to bring to light its texts. A few fragments only, discovered by wandering Arabs or recovered by chance travellers, have as yet turned up, but there is in them evidence enough to promise a rich reward to future excavators.
Berosus and his copyists.—Cory’s translation.—Alexander Polyhistor.—Babylonia.—Oannes, his teaching.—Creation.—Belus.—Chaldean kings.—Xisuthrus.—Deluge.—The Ark.—Return to Babylon.—Apollodorus.—Pantibiblon.—Larancha.—Abydenus.—Alorus, first king.—Ten kings.—Sisithrus.—Deluge.—Armenia.—Tower of Babel.—Kronos and Titan.—Dispersion from Hestiæus.—Babylonian colonies.—Tower of Babel.—The Sibyl.—Titan and Prometheus.—Damascius.—Tauthe.—Moymis.—Kissare and Assorus.—Triad.—Bel.
Y way of introduction to the native versions of the early legends left us by the Babylonians, it is advisable to glance at the principal fragments bearing on them which are found in the classical writers of Greece and Rome. Several others might have been quoted, but their origin is doubtful, and they are of less importance for the subject in hand. Those who wish to consult them may turn to Cory’s “Ancient Fragments” (2nd edition, 1876), whose translations, as being fairly scholarlike and correct, are here given without alteration.
Berosus, from whom the principal extracts are copied, lived, as has already been stated, about b.c. 330 to 260, and, from his position as a Babylonian priest, had the best means of knowing the Babylonian traditions.
The others are later writers, who copied in the main from Berosus, most of whose notices may be taken as mere abridgments of his statements.
Extract I. from Alexander Polyhistor
(Cory, p. 56).
Berosus, in the first book of his history of Babylonia, informs us that he lived in the age of Alexander, the son of Philip. And he mentions that there were written accounts, preserved at Babylon with the greatest care, comprehending a period of above fifteen myriads of years; and that these writings contained histories of the heaven and of the sea; of the birth of mankind; and of the kings, and of the memorable actions which they had achieved.
And in the first place he describes Babylonia as a country situated between the Tigris and the Euphrates; that it abounded with wheat, and barley, and ocrus, and sesame; and that in the lakes were found the roots called gongæ, which are fit for food, and in respect to nutriment similar to barley. There were also palm-trees and apples, and a variety of fruits; fish also and birds, both those which are merely of flight, and those which frequent the water. Those parts of the country which bordered upon33 Arabia were without water, and barren; but that which lay on the other side was both hilly and fertile.
At Babylon there was (in these times) a great resort of people of various races, who inhabited Chaldea, and lived in a lawless manner like the beasts of the field.
In the first year there appeared, from that part of the Erythræan sea which borders upon Babylonia, an animal endowed with reason, by name Oannes, whose whole body (according to the account of Apollodorus) was that of a fish; under the fish’s head he had another head, with feet also below similar to those of a man, subjoined to the fish’s tail. His voice, too, and language were articulate and human; and a representation of him is preserved even to this day.
This being was accustomed to pass the day among men, but took no food at that season; and he gave them an insight into letters and sciences, and arts of every kind. He taught them to construct houses, to found temples, to compile laws, and explained to them the principles of geometrical knowledge. He34 made them distinguish the seeds of the earth, and showed them how to collect the fruits; in short, he instructed them in every thing which could tend to soften manners and humanize their lives. From that time, nothing material has been added by way of improvement to his instructions. And when the sun had set this being Oannes used to retire again into the sea, and pass the night in the deep, for he was amphibious. After this there appeared other animals like Oannes, of which Berosus proposes to give an account when he comes to the history of the kings. Moreover, Oannes wrote concerning the generation of mankind, of their different ways of life, and of their civil polity; and the following is the purport of what he said:—
“There was a time in which there existed nothing but darkness and an abyss of waters, wherein resided most hideous beings, which were produced of a two-fold principle. There appeared men, some of whom were furnished with two wings, others with four, and with two faces. They had one body, but two heads; the one that of a man, the other of a woman; they were likewise in their several organs both male and female. Other human figures were to be seen with the legs and horns of a goat; some had horses’ feet, while others united the hind quarters of a horse with the body of a man, resembling in shape the hippocentaurs. Bulls likewise were bred there with the heads of men; and dogs with fourfold bodies, terminated in their extremities with the tails35 of fishes; horses also with the heads of dogs; men, too, and other animals, with the heads and bodies of horses, and the tails of fishes. In short, there were creatures in which were combined the limbs of every species of animals. In addition to these, fishes, reptiles, serpents, with other monstrous animals, which assumed each other’s shape and countenance. Of all which were preserved delineations in the temple of Belus at Babylon.
“The person who was supposed to have presided over them was a woman named Omoroka, which in the Chaldean language is Thalatth; which in Greek is interpreted Thalassa, the sea; but according to the most true interpretation it is equivalent to Selene the moon. All things being in this situation, Belus came, and cut the woman asunder, and of one half of her he formed the earth, and of the other half the heavens, and at the same time destroyed the animals within her (or in the abyss).
“All this” (he says)36 “was an allegorical description of nature. For, the whole universe consisting of moisture, and animals being continually generated therein, the deity above-mentioned (Belus) cut off his own head; upon which the other gods mixed the blood, as it gushed out, with the earth, and from thence men were formed. On this account it is that they are rational, and partake of divine knowledge. This Belus, by whom they signify Hades (Pluto), divided the darkness, and separated the heavens from the earth, and reduced the universe to order. But the recently-created animals, not being able to bear the prevalence of light, died. Belus upon this, seeing a vast space unoccupied, though by nature fruitful, commanded one of the gods to take off his head, and to mix the blood with the earth, and from thence to form other men and animals, which should be capable of bearing the light. Belus formed also the stars, and the sun, and the moon, and the five planets.” (Such, according to Alexander Polyhistor, is the account which Berosus gives in his first book.)
(In the second book was contained the history of the ten kings of the Chaldeans, and the periods of the continuance of each reign, which consisted collectively of an hundred and twenty sari, or four hundred and thirty-two thousand years; reaching to the time of the Deluge. For Alexander, enumerating the kings from the writings of the Chaldeans, after the ninth, Ardates, proceeds to the tenth, who is called by them Xisuthrus, in this manner):—
“After the death of Ardates, his son Xisuthrus reigned eighteen sari. In his time happened the great37 deluge; the history of which is thus described. The deity Kronos appeared to him in a vision, and warned him that upon the fifteenth day of the month Dæsius there would be a flood, by which mankind would be destroyed. He therefore enjoined him to write a history of the beginning, progress, and conclusion of all things, down to the present term, and to bury it in Sippara, the city of the Sun; and to build a vessel, and take with him into it his friends and relations; and to convey on board every thing necessary to sustain life, together with all the different animals, both birds and quadrupeds, and trust himself fearlessly to the deep. Having asked the Deity whither he was to sail, he was answered, ‘To the Gods;’ upon which he offered up a prayer for the good of mankind. He then obeyed the divine admonition, and built a vessel five stadia in length, and two in breadth. Into this he put everything which he had prepared, and last of all conveyed into it his wife, his children, and his friends.
After the flood had been upon the earth, and was in time abated, Xisuthrus sent out birds from the vessel; which not finding any food, nor any place whereupon they might rest their feet, returned to him again. After an interval of some days, he sent them forth a second time; and they now returned with their feet tinged with mud. He made a trial a third time with these birds; but they returned to him no more: from whence he judged that the surface of the earth had appeared above the waters.38 He therefore made an opening in the vessel, and upon looking out found that it was stranded upon the side of some mountain; upon which he immediately quitted it with his wife, his daughter, and the pilot. Xisuthrus then paid his adoration to the earth: and, having constructed an altar, offered sacrifices to the gods, and, with those who had come out of the vessel with him, disappeared.
They who remained within, finding that their companions did not return, quitted the vessel with many lamentations, and called continually on the name of Xisuthrus. Him they saw no more; but they could distinguish his voice in the air, and could hear him admonish them to pay due regard to the gods; and he likewise informed them that it was upon account of his piety that he was translated to live with the gods, and that his wife and daughter and the pilot had obtained the same honour. To this he added that they should return to Babylonia, and, as it was ordained, search for the writings at Sippara, which they were to make known to all mankind; moreover, that the place wherein they then were was the land of Armenia. The rest having heard these words offered sacrifices to the gods, and, taking a circuit, journeyed towards Babylonia.
The vessel being thus stranded in Armenia, some part of it yet remains in the Gordyæan (or Kurdish) mountains in Armenia, and the people scrape off the bitumen with which it had been outwardly coated, and make use of it by way of an antidote and amulet.39 In this manner they returned to Babylon and when they had found the writings at Sippara they built cities and erected temples, and Babylon was thus inhabited again.”—Syncel. Chron. xxviii.; Euseb. Chron. v. 8.
Berosus, from Apollodorus (Cory, p. 51).
This is the history which Berosus has transmitted to us. He tells us that the first king was Alorus of Babylon, a Chaldean; he reigned ten sari (36,000 years); and afterwards Alaparus and Amelon, who came from Pantibiblon; then Ammenon the Chaldean, in whose time appeared the Musarus Oannes, the Annedotus from the Erythræan sea. (But Alexander Polyhistor, anticipating the event, has said that he appeared in the first year, but Apollodorus says that it was after forty sari; Abydenus, however, makes the second Annedotus appear after twenty-six sari.) Then succeeded Megalarus from the city of Pantibiblon, and he reigned eighteen sari; and after him Daonus, the shepherd from Pantibiblon, reigned ten sari; in his time (he says) appeared again from the Erythræan sea a fourth Annedotus, having the same form with those above, the shape of a fish blended with that of a man. Then reigned Euedorachus (or Euedoreschus) from Pantibiblon for the term of eighteen sari; in his days there appeared another personage from the Erythræan sea like the former, having the same complicated form between a fish and a man, whose name was40 Odakon. (All these, says Apollodorus, related particularly and circumstantially whatever Oannes had informed them of; concerning these Abydenus has made no mention.) Then reigned Amempsinus, a Chaldean from Larancha; and he being the eighth in order reigned ten sari. Then reigned Otiartes,1 a Chaldean, from Larancha; and he ruled eight sari. And, upon the death of Otiartes, his son Xisuthrus reigned eighteen sari; in his time happened the great Deluge. So that the sum of all the kings is ten; and the term which they collectively reigned an hundred and twenty sari.—Syncel. Chron. xxxix.; Euseb. Chron. v.
Berosus, from Abydenus (Cory, p. 53).
So much concerning the wisdom of the Chaldeans.
It is said that the first king of the country was Alorus, and that he gave out a report that God had appointed him to be the shepherd2 of the people; he reigned ten sari; now a sarus is esteemed to be three thousand six hundred years, a neros six hundred, and a sossus sixty.
After him Alaparus reigned three sari; to him succeeded Amillarus from the city of Pantibiblon, who reigned thirteen sari; in his time there came up from41 the sea a second Annedotus, a demigod very similar in form to Oannes; after Amillarus reigned Ammenon twelve sari; who was of the city of Pantibiblon; then Megalarus of the same place reigned eighteen sari; then Daos the shepherd governed for the space of ten sari, he was of Pantibiblon; in his time four double-shaped personages came up out of the sea to land, whose names were Euedokus, Eneugamus, Eneubulus, and Anementus; afterwards in the time of Euedoreschus appeared another, Anodaphus. After these reigned other kings, and last of all Sisithrus, so that in all the number amounted to ten kings, and the term of their reigns to an hundred and twenty sari. (And among other things not irrelative to the subject he continues thus concerning the Deluge): After Euedoreschus some others reigned, and then Sisithrus. To him the deity Kronos foretold that on the fifteenth day of the month Dæsius there would be a deluge of rain: and he commanded him to deposit all the writings whatever which were in his possession in Sippara the city of the sun. Sisithrus, when he had complied with these commands, sailed immediately to Armenia, and was presently inspired by God. Upon the third day after the cessation of the rain Sisithrus sent out birds by way of experiment, that he might judge whether the flood had subsided. But the birds, passing over an unbounded sea without finding any place of rest, returned again to Sisithrus. This he repeated with other birds. And when upon the third42 trial he succeeded, for the birds then returned with their feet stained with mud, the gods translated him from among men. With respect to the vessel, which yet remains in Armenia, it is a custom of the inhabitants to form bracelets and amulets of its wood.—Syncel. Chron. xxxviii.; Euseb. Præp. Evan. lib. ix.; Euseb. Chron. v. 8.
Of the Tower of Babel (Cory, p. 55).
They say that the first inhabitants of the earth, glorying in their own strength and size and despising the gods, undertook to build a tower whose top should reach the sky, in the place where Babylon now stands; but when it approached the heaven the winds assisted the gods, and overturned the work upon its contrivers, and its ruins are said to be still at Babylon; and the gods introduced a diversity of tongues among men, who till that time had all spoken the same language; and a war arose between Kronos and Titan. The place in which they built the tower is now called Babylon on account of the confusion of tongues, for confusion is by the Hebrews called Babel.—Euseb. Præp. Evan. lib. ix.; Syncel. Chron. xliv.; Euseb. Chron. xiii.
Of the Dispersion, from Hestiæus (Cory, p. 74).
The priests who escaped took with them the implements of the worship of the Enyalian Zeus, and came to Senaar in Babylonia. But they were again driven from thence by the introduction of a diversity of43 tongues; upon which they founded colonies in various parts, each settling in such situations as chance or the direction of God led them to occupy.—Jos. Ant. Jud. i. c. 4; Euseb. Præp. Evan. ix.
Of the Tower of Babel, from Alexander Polyhistor (Cory, p. 75).
The Sibyl says: That when all men formerly spoke the same language some among them undertook to erect a large and lofty tower, that they might climb up into heaven. But God sending forth a whirlwind confounded their design, and gave to each tribe a particular language of its own, which is the reason that the name of that city is Babylon. After the deluge lived Titan and Prometheus, when Titan undertook a war against Kronos.—Sync. xliv.; Jos. Ant. Jud. i. c. 4.; Euseb. Præp. Evan. ix.
The Theogonies, from Damascius (Cory, p. 92).
But the Babylonians, like the rest of the barbarians, pass over in silence the One principle of the universe, and they constitute two: Tauthe3 and Apason,4 making Apason the husband of Tauthe, and denominating her the mother of the gods. And from these proceeds an only-begotten son, Moymis,5 which I conceive is no other than the intelligible world proceeding from the two principles. From44 them also another progeny is derived, Dache and Dachus;6 and again a third, Kissare and Assorus, from which last three others proceed, Anus (Anu), and Illinus (Elum), and Aus (Hea). And of Aus and Dauke (Dav-cina, “lady of the earth,”) is born a son called Belus, who, they say, is the fabricator of the world, the Demiurgus.
Greek accounts.—Mythology local in origin.—Antiquity.—Conquests.—Colonies.—Three great gods.—Twelve great gods.—Angels.—Spirits.—Anu.—Anatu.—Rimmon.—Istar.—Equivalent to Venus.—Hea.—Oannes.—Merodach.—Bel or Zeus.—Zirat-banit, Succoth Benoth.—Bel.—Sin the moon god.—Ninip.—Samas.—Nergal.—Anunit.—Table of gods.
N their accounts of the Creation and of the early history of the human race the Babylonian divinities figure very prominently, but it is often difficult to identify the deities mentioned by the Greek authors, because the phonetic reading of many of the names of the Babylonian gods is still very obscure, and the classical writers frequently replace them by the deities of their own mythology, whom they imagined to correspond with the Babylonian names.
In this chapter it is proposed to give a general account only of certain parts of the Babylonian mythology, in order to show the relationship between the deities and their titles and work.
Babylonian mythology was local in origin; each of the gods had a particular city which was the special seat of his worship, and it is probable that the idea of weaving the gods into a system, in which each should have his part to play, did not arise until after the Semitic occupation of the country. The antiquity of this systematized mythology may, however, be seen from the fact, that two thousand years before the Christian era it was already completed, and its deities definitely connected into a system which remained with little change down to the close of the kingdom.
In early times the gods were worshipped only at their original cities or seats, the various cities or settlements being independent of each other; but it was natural as wars arose, and some cities gained conquests over others, and kings gradually united the country into monarchies, that the conquerors should impose their gods upon the conquered. Thus arose the system of different ranks or grades among the gods. Colonies, again, were sent out at times, and the colonies, as they considered themselves sons of the cities they started from, also considered their gods to be sons of the gods of the mother cities. Political changes in early times led to the rise and fall of various towns and consequently of their deities, and gave rise to numerous myths relating to the different personages in the mythology. In some remote age there appear to have been three great cities in the country, Erech, Eridu, and Nipur, and their divi47nities Anu, Hea, and Bel were considered the “great gods” of the country. Subsequent changes led to the decline of these states, but their deities still retained their position to the end of the Babylonian system.
These three leading deities formed members of a circle of twelve gods, also called “great.” These gods and their titles are given as:
1. Anu, meaning “the sky” in Accadian, king of angels and spirits, lord of the city of Erech.
2. Bel, Elum or Mul in Accadian, lord of the lower world, father of the gods, creator, lord of the city of Nipur.
3. Hea, “god of the house of water,” maker of fate, lord of the deep, god of wisdom and knowledge, lord of the city of Eridu.
4. Sin, the Moon-god, Acu or Agu in Accadian, lord of crowns, maker of brightness, lord of the city of Ur.
5. Merodach, “the glory of the Sun,” just prince of the gods, lord of birth, lord of the city of Babylon.
6. Rimmon, the Air-god, Mirmir in Accadian, the strong god, lord of canals and atmosphere, lord of the city of Muru.
7. Samas, the Sun-god, Utuci in Accadian, judge of heaven and earth, director of all, lord of the cities of Larsa and Sippara.
8. Ninip, warrior of the gods, destroyer of the wicked, lord of the city of Nipur.
9. Nergal, “illuminator of the great city” (Hades), giant king of war, lord of the city of Cutha.
10. Nusku, holder of the golden sceptre, the lofty god.
11. Belat, wife of Bel, mother of the great gods, lady of the city of Nipur.
12. Istar, Gingir in Accadian, eldest of heaven and earth, raising the face of warriors.
Below these deities there was a large body of gods forming the bulk of the pantheon, and below these were arranged the Igigi, or 300 angels of heaven, and the Anunnaki, or 600 angels of earth. Below these again came various classes of spirits or genii called Sedu, Vadukku, Ekimu, Gallu, and others; some of these were evil, some good.
The relationship of the various principal gods and their names, titles and offices will appear from the following remarks.
At the head of the Babylonian mythology stands a deity who was sometimes identified with the heavens, sometimes considered as the ruler and god of heaven. This deity is named Anu, his sign is the simple star, the symbol of divinity, and at other times the Maltese cross. In the philosophic theology of a later age, Anu represents abstract divinity, and he appears as an original principle, perhaps as the original principle of nature. He represents the universe as the upper and lower regions, and when these were divided the upper region or heaven was called Anu, while the lower region or earth was called Anatu; Anatu being the female principle or wife of Anu. Anu is termed the old god, and the god of the whole of heaven and earth; one of the manifestations of49 Anu was under the two forms Lakhmu and Lakhamu, which probably correspond to the Greek forms Dache and Dachus, see p. 44.7 These forms are said to have sprung out of the original chaos, and they are followed by the two forms Sar and Kisar (the Kissare and Assorus of the Greeks). Sar means the upper hosts or expanse, Kisar the lower hosts or expanse; these are also forms or manifestations of Anu and his wife. Anu is further called lord of the old city, and bears the name of Alalu. His titles generally indicate height, antiquity, purity, divinity, and he may be taken as the general type of divinity. Anu was originally worshipped at the city of Erech, which was called the city of Anu and Anatu, and the great temple there was called the “house of Anu,” or the “house of heaven.”
Anatu, the wife or consort of Anu, is generally only a female form of Anu, but is sometimes contrasted with him; thus, when Anu represents height and heaven, Anatu represents depth and earth; she is also the lady of darkness, the mother of the god Hea, the mother of heaven and earth, the female fish-god, and is often identified with Istar or Venus. Anatu, however, had no existence in Accadian mythology. She is the product of the imagination of the Semites, whose grammar drew a distinction between the masculine and feminine genders.
Anu and Anatu had a numerous family; among their sons are numbered Lugal-edin, “the king of the desert,” Latarak, Ab-gula, Kusu, and the air-god, whose name was Ramman or Rimmon, in Accadian Mirmir. Rimmon is god of the region of the atmosphere, or space between the heaven and earth, he is the god of rain, of storms and whirlwind, of thunder and lightning, of floods and watercourses. He was in high esteem in Syria and Arabia, where he bore the name of Dadda; in Armenia he was called Teiseba. Rimmon is always considered an active deity, and was extensively worshipped.
Another important god, a son of Anu, was the god of fire, whose name was Gibil in Accadian. The fire-god takes an active part in the numerous mythological tablets and legends, and is considered to be the most potent deity in relation to witchcraft and spells generally.
The most important of the daughters of Anu was named Istar; she was in some respects the equivalent of the classical Venus. Her worship was at first subordinate to that of Anu, and as she was goddess of love, while Anu was god of heaven, it is probable that the first intention in the mythology was only to represent love as heaven-born; but in time a more sensual view prevailed, and the worship of Istar became one of the darkest features in Babylonian mythology. As the worship of this goddess increased in favour, it gradually superseded that of Anu, until in time his temple, the house of heaven, came to be regarded as the temple of Venus.
The planet Venus, as the evening star, was identified with Istar of Erech, while the morning star was Anunit, goddess of Agané.
Istar, however, was worshipped under a great variety of forms. Each city, each state, had its own special Istar and its own special worship of her. In the syncretic age of Babylonian theology, these various forms and modes of worship were amalgamated together, and epithets of the goddess which were originally peculiar to particular localities, were applied to the single goddess of the state religion. Thus, according to the legends of one part of Babylonia, Istar was the daughter of the Moon-god, according to those of another part of the country she was the daughter of Anu. Hence in the mythology of a later period she appears sometimes as the daughter of the one deity, sometimes as the daughter of the other.
A companion deity with Anu is Hea, who is god, of the sea and of Hades, in fact of all the lower regions. In some of his attributes he answers to the Kronos of the Greeks, in others to their Poseidon. Hea is called god of the lower region, he is lord of the sea or abyss; he is also lord of generation and of all human beings and bears the titles: lord of wisdom, of mines and treasures; of gifts, of music, of fishermen and sailors, and of Hades or hell. It has been supposed that the serpent was one of his emblems, and that he was the Oannes of Berosus; but these conjectures have not yet been proved.52 The wife of Hea was Davkina, the Davke of Damascius, who is the goddess of the lower regions, the consort of the deep; and their principal son was Maruduk or Merodach, the Bel of later times.
Merodach, god of Babylon, appears in all the earlier inscriptions as the agent of his father Hea; he goes about the world collecting information, and receives commissions from his father to set right all that appears wrong. He is called the redeemer of mankind, the restorer to life, and the raiser from the dead. He is an active agent in creation, but is always subordinate to his father Hea. In later times, after Babylon had been made the capital, Merodach, who was god of that city, was raised to the head of the Pantheon. Merodach afterwards came to be identified with the classical Jupiter, but the name Bel, “the lord,” was only given to him in times subsequent to the rise of Babylon, when the worship of the older Bel, the Accadian Elum, was falling into decay. The wife of Merodach was Zirat-panit, perhaps the Succoth Benoth of the Bible. Besides Merodach, Hea had a numerous progeny, his sons being principally river-gods.
Nebo, the god of knowledge and literature, who was worshipped at the neighbouring city of Borsippa, was a favourite deity in later times, as was also his consort Tasmit “the Hearer.” Nebo, whose name signifies “the prophet,” was called Timkhir in Accadian, and had his temple in the island of Dilvun,53 called “the island of the gods” by the Accadians, now Bahrein. Here he was worshipped under the name of Enzak.
A third great god was united with Anu and Hea, named Enu, Mul, and Elum in Accadian, and Bel in Semitic Babylonian; he was the original Bel of the Babylonian mythology, and was lord of the surface of the earth and the affairs of men. Elum was lord of the city of Nipur, and in the Semitic period had a consort named Belat or Beltis. He was held to be the most active of the gods in the general affairs of mankind, and was so generally worshipped in early times that he came to be regarded as the national divinity, and his temple at the city of Nipur was regarded as the type of all others. The extensive worship of Bel, and the high honour in which he was held, seem to point to a time when his city, Nipur, was the metropolis of the country.
Belat, or Beltis, the wife of Bel, is a famous deity celebrated in all ages, but as the title Belat only signified “lady,” or “goddess,” it was a common one for many goddesses, and the notices of Beltis probably refer to several different personages.
Bel had, like the other gods, a numerous family; his eldest son was the moon-god, called Agu or Acu in Accadian, in later times generally termed Sin. Sin was presiding deity of the city of Ur, and early assumed an important place in the mythology. The moon-god figures prominently in some early legends, and during the time when the city of Ur was capital54 of the country his worship became very widely-spread and popular throughout the country.
Ninip, god of hunting and war, was another celebrated son of Bel; he was worshipped with his father at Nipur. Ninip was also much worshipped in Assyria as well as Babylonia, his character as presiding genius of war and the chase making him a favourite deity with the warlike kings of Assyria. Originally he was a form of the sun-god.
Sin the moon-god had a son Samas, the sun-god. Samas is an active deity in some of the Izdubar legends and fables, but he is generally subordinate to Sin. In the Babylonian system the moon takes precedence of the sun, as befitted a nation of astronomers, and the Samas of Larsa was probably considered a different deity from Samas of Sippara.
Among the other deities of the Babylonians may be counted Nergal, god of Cutha, who like Ninip, presided over hunting and war, and Anunit, the goddess of one of the quarters of Sippara, and of the city of Agané.
The following table will exhibit the relationship of the principal deities as it had been drawn up by the native writers on the cosmogony; but it must be noted that it belongs to a late age of syncretic philosophy, when the scholars of Assur-bani-pal’s court were endeavouring to resolve the old deities of Accad into mere abstractions, and so explain the myths which described the creation of the world.
|Tamtu or Tiamtu
|Anatu||Elum, or Bel.
|Hea (Saturn).||Davkina (Davke).|
Mutilated condition of tablets.—List of subjects.—Description of chaos.—Tiamat.—Generation of Gods.—Damascius.—Comparison with Genesis.—Three great gods.—Doubtful fragments.—Fifth tablet.—Stars.—Moon.—Sun.—Abyss or chaos.—Creation of moon.—Creation of animals.—Monotheism.—Hymn to Merodach.—The black-headed race or Adamites.—Garden of Eden.—The flaming sword.—The fall.—The Sabbath.—Sacred tree.—Hymn to the Creator.
T is extremely unfortunate that the legend of the Creation in days has reached us in so fragmentary a condition. It is evident, however, that in its present form it is of Assyrian, not of Babylonian, origin, and was probably composed in the time of Assur-bani-pal. It breathes throughout the spirit of a later age, its language and style show no traces of an Accadian original, and the colophon at the end implies by its silence that it was not a copy of an older document. No doubt the story itself was an ancient one; the number seven was a sacred number among the Accadians, who invented the week of seven days, and kept a seventh57day Sabbath, and excavations in Babylonia may yet bring to light the early Chaldean form of the legend. But this we do not at present possess.
So far as the fragments can be arranged, they seem to observe the following order:—
- 1. Part of the first tablet, giving an account of the Chaos and the generation of the gods.
- 2. Fragment of subsequent tablet, perhaps the second on the foundation of the deep.
- 3. Fragment of tablet placed here with great doubt, possibly referring to the creation of land.
- 4. Part of the fifth tablet, recording the creation of the heavenly bodies.
- 5. Fragment of the seventh? tablet, recording the creation of land animals.
These fragments indicate that the series included at least seven tablets, the writing on each tablet being in one column on the front and back, and probably including over one hundred lines of text.
The first fragment in the story is the upper part of the first tablet, giving the description of the void or chaos, and part of the generation of the gods. The translation is as follows:
- 1. At that time above, the heaven was unnamed:
- 2. below the earth by name was unrecorded;
- 3. the boundless deep also (was) their generator.
- 4. The chaos of the sea was she who bore the whole of them.
- 5. Their waters were collected together in one place, and58
- 6. the flowering reed was not gathered, the marsh-plant was not grown.
- 7. At that time the gods had not been produced, any one of them;
- 8. By name they had not been called, destiny was not fixed.
- 9. Were made also the (great) gods,
- 10. the gods Lakhmu and Lakhamu were produced (the first), and
- 11. to growth they ……..
- 12. the gods Sar and Kisar were made next.
- 13. The days were long; a long (time passed), (and)
- 14. the gods Anu (Bel and Hea were born of)
- 15. the gods Sar and (Kisar)…….
On the reverse of this tablet there are only fragments of the eight lines of colophon, but the restoration of the passage is easy; it reads:—
- 1. First tablet of “At that time above” (name of Creation series).
- 2. Palace of Assur-bani-pal king of nations, king of Assyria,
- 3. to whom Nebo and Tasmit gave broad ears
- 4. (his) seeing eyes regarded the engraved characters of the tablets;
- 5. this writing which among the kings who went before me
- 6. none of them regarded,
- 7. the secrets of Nebo, the literature of the library as much as is suitable,59
- 8. on tablets I wrote, I engraved, I explained, and
- 9. for the inspection of my people within my palace I placed.
This colophon will serve to show the value attached to the documents, and the date of the present copies.
The fragment of the obverse, broken as it is, is precious as giving the description of the chaos or desolate void before the Creation of the world, and the first movement of creation. This corresponds with the first two verses of the first chapter of Genesis.
1. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
2. And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”
On comparing the fragment of the first tablet of the Creation with the extract from Damascius, we do not find any statement as to there being two principles at first called Tauthe and Apason, and these producing Moymis, but in the Creation tablet the first existence is called Mummu Tiamatu, a name meaning “the chaos of the deep.” The compound Mummu Tiamatu, in fact, combines the two names Moymis and Tauthe of Damascius. Tiamatu must also be the same as the Thalatth of Berosus, which we are expressly told was the sea. It should, therefore, be corrected to Thavatth, as M. Lenormant proposed some years ago. It is evident that, according60 to the notion of the Babylonians, the sea was the origin of all things, and this also agrees with the statement of Genesis i. 2. where the chaotic waters are called tĕhôm, “the deep,” the same word as the Tiamat of the Creation text and the Tauthe of Damascius.
The Assyrian word Mummu is probably connected with the Hebrew mĕhûmâh, confusion, its Accadian equivalent being Umun. Besides the name of the chaotic deep called tĕhôm in Genesis, which is, as has been said, evidently the Tiamat of the Creation text, we have in Genesis the word tohû, waste, desolate, or formless, applied to this chaos. The correspondence between the inscription and Genesis is complete, since both state that a watery chaos preceded the creation, and formed, in fact, the origin and groundwork of the universe. We have here not only an agreement in sense, but, what is rarer, the same word used in both narratives as the name of this chaos, and given also in the account of Damascius.
Next we have in the inscription the creation of the gods Lakhmu and Lakhamu; these are male and female personifications of motion and production, and correspond to the Dache and Dachus of Damascius, and the moving rûakh, the wind, or spirit of Genesis. The next stage in the creation was the production of Sar and Kisar, representing the upper expanse and the lower expanse, and corresponding with the Assorus and Kissare of Damascius. The resemblance in these names is probably even closer than is here represented, since61 Sar is generally read Assur as a deity in later times, being an ordinary symbol for the supreme god of the Assyrians.
So far as can be made out from the mutilated text, the next step in the creation of the universe was (as in Damascius) the generation of the three great gods, Anu, Elum, and Hea, the Anus, Illinus, and Aus of that writer. Anu here symbolizes the heaven, Elum the earth, and Hea the sea.
It is probable that the inscription went on to relate the generation of the other gods, and then passed to the successive acts of creation by which the world was fashioned.
The successive forms Lakhmu and Lakhamu, Sar and Kisar, are represented in some of the lists of the gods as names or manifestations of Anu and Anatu. These lists were compiled at a time when a school of monotheists had risen in Chaldea, and an attempt was made on the part of its adherents to resolve the various deities of the popular creed into forms of “the one god” Anu. In each case there appears to be a male and female principle, which principles combine in the formation of the universe.
As has been already remarked, the conception of a male and female principle was due to the Semites. Hence it is clear that the system of cosmology embodied in these Creation tablets was of Semitic and not Accadian origin.
The resemblance between the extract from Damascius and the account in the Creation tablet as to62 the successive stages or forms of the Creation, is striking, and leaves no doubt about the source of the quotation from the Greek writer.
The three next tablets in the Creation series are absent, there being only two doubtful fragments of this part of the story. Judging from the analogy of the Book of Genesis, we may conjecture that this part of the narrative contained the description of the creation of light, of the atmosphere or firmament, of the dry land, and of plants. One fragment which probably belonged to this space is a small portion of the top of a tablet referring to the fixing of the dry land; but it may belong to a later part of the story, since it is part of a speech to one of the gods. This fragment is—
- 1. At that time the foundations of the caverns of rock [thou didst make];
- 2. the foundations of the caverns thou didst call [them] (?)
- 3. the heaven was named ……
- 4. to the face of the heaven ……
- 5. thou didst give ……
- 6. a man ……
There is a second more doubtful fragment which also may come in here, and, like the last, relate to the creation of the dry land. It is, however, given under reserve—
- 1. The god Khir … si ….
- 2. At that time to the god ….
- 3. So be it, I concealed thee ….63
- 4. from the day that thou ….
- 5. angry thou didst speak ….
- 6. The god Assur his mouth opened and spake, to the god ….
- 7. Above the deep, the seat of ….
- 8. in front of Bit-Sarra which I have made …
- 9. below the place I strengthen ….
- 10. Let there be made also Bit-Lusu, the seat ..
- 11. Within it his stronghold may he build and ..
- 12. At that time from the deep he raised ….
- 13. the place …. lifted up I made ….
- 14. above …. heaven ….
- 15. the place …. lifted up thou didst make.
- 16. …. the city of Assur the temples of the great gods ….
- 17. …. his father Anu ….
- 18. the god …. thee and over all which thy hand has made
- 19. …. thee, having, over the earth which thy hand has made
- 20. …. having, Assur which thou hast called its name.
This fragment is both mutilated and obscure, and it is more than doubtful whether it has anything to do with the Creation tablets. It seems rather to be a local legend relating to Assur, the old capital of Assyria, and possibly recording the legend of its foundation. Bit-Sarra or E-Sarra, “the temple of the legions,” was dedicated to Ninip, and forms part of the name of Tiglath-Pileser (Tuculti-pal-esara64 “Servant of the son of Bit-Sarra,” i.e. Ninip). It seems to have denoted the firmament, the “legions” or “hosts” referring to the multitudinous spirits of heaven. The Biblical expression “the Lord of hosts” may be compared.
The next recognizable portion of the Creation legends is the upper part of the fifth tablet, which gives the creation of the heavenly bodies, and runs parallel to the account of the fourth day of creation in Genesis.
This tablet opens as follows:—
Fifth Tablet of Creation Legend.
- 1. (Anu) made suitable the mansions of the (seven) great gods.
- 2. The stars he placed in them, the lumasi8 he fixed.
- 3. He arranged the year according to the bounds (or signs of the Zodiac, Heb. mazzaroth) that he defined.
- 4. For each of the twelve months three stars he fixed.
- 5. From the day when the year issues forth unto the close,
- 6. he established the mansion of the god Nibiru, that they might know their laws (or bonds).65
- 7. That they might not err or deflect at all,
- 8. the mansion of Bel and Hea he established along with himself.
- 9. He opened also the great gates in the sides of the world;
- 10. the bolts he strengthened on the left hand and on the right.
- 11. In its centre also he made a staircase.
- 12. The moon-god he caused to beautify the thick night.
- 13. He appointed him also to hinder (or balance) the night, that the day may be known,
- 14. (saying): Every month, without break, observe thy circle:
- 15. at the beginning of the month also, when the night is at its height.
- 16. (with) the horns thou announcest that the heaven may be known.
- 17. On the seventh day (thy) circle (begins to) fill,
- 18. but open in darkness will remain the half on the right (?).9
- 19. At that time the sun (will be) on the horizon of heaven at thy (rising).
- 20. (Thy form) determine and make a (circle?).
- 21. (From hence) return (and) approach the path of the sun.
- 22. (Then) will the darkness return; the sun will change.66
- 23. ……. seek its road.
- 24. (Rise and) set, and judge judgment.
All that is left of the reverse is the latter half of the last line of the narrative, and the colophon, which runs thus:—
….. the gods on his hearing.
Fifth tablet of (the series beginning) At that time above.
Property of Assur-bani-pal king of nations king of Assyria.
This fine fragment is a typical specimen of the style of the whole series, and shows a marked stage in the Creation, the appointment of the heavenly orbs. It parallels the fourth day of Creation in the first chapter of Genesis, where we read: “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:
“15. And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.
“16. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; he made the stars also.
“17. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,
“18. And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.
“19. And the evening and morning were the fourth day.”
The fragment of the first tablet of the Creation series was introductory, and dealt with the generation of the gods rather than the creation of the universe, and when we remember that the fifth tablet contains the Creation given in Genesis under the fourth day, while a subsequent tablet, probably the seventh, gives the creation of the animals which, according to Genesis, took place on the sixth day, it would seem that the events of each of the days of Genesis were recorded on a separate tablet, and that the numbers of the tablets generally followed in the same order as the days of Creation in Genesis, thus:
Genesis, Chap. I.
- V. 1 & 2 agree with Tablet 1.
- V. 3 to 5 1st day probably with tablet 2.
- V. 6 to 8 2nd day probably with tablet 3.
- V. 9 to 13 3rd day probably with tablet 4.
- V. 14 to 19 4th day agree with tablet 5.
- V. 20 to 23 5th day probably with tablet 6.
- V. 24 & 25 6th day probably with tablet 7.
- V. 26 and following, 6th and 7th day, probably with tablet 8.
The assertion with which the fifth tablet begins may be compared with the oft-repeated statement of Genesis, after each act of creative power, that “God saw that it was good.” In fact, the difference between the expressions used by the Hebrew and Assyrian writers seems greater than it really is, since68 the word rendered “to make suitable” comes from a root which signifies “pleasant” or “agreeable.” It may be noted that the word yuaddi “he arranged” or “appointed” in the third line has the same root as the Hebrew môădhim, which is used in the same connection Gen. i. 14 in the sense of “seasons.”
We next come to the creation of the heavenly orbs, and just as the book of Genesis says they were set for signs and seasons, for days and years, so the inscription describes that the stars were set in courses to define the year. The twelve constellations or signs of the zodiac, and two other bands of constellations are referred to, corresponding with the two sets of twelve stars, one to the north and the other to the south of the zodiac, which according to Diodorus Siculus played a prominent part in Babylonian astronomy.
The god Nibiru appears in the astronomical tablets as one of the stars. Here, however, in the account of the Creation, he seems to be the deity who specially presided over the signs of the zodiac and the course of the year, and in a hymn to the Creator, which will be translated further on, he takes the place of the classical Fate, and determines the laws of the universe generally, and of the stars in particular. It is evident, from the opening of the inscription on the first tablet of the great Chaldean work on astrology and astronomy, that the functions of the stars were according to the Babylonians to act not only as regulators of the seasons and the year,69 but to be also used as signs, as in Genesis i. 14, for in those ages it was generally believed that the heavenly bodies gave, by their appearance and positions, signs of events which were coming on the earth.
The passage given in the eighth line of the inscription, to the effect that the God who created the stars fixed places or habitations for Bel and Hea with himself in the heavens, points to the fact that Anu, god of the heavens, was considered to be the creator of the heavenly hosts; for it is he who shares with Bel and Hea the divisions of the face of the sky, which was divided into three zones. Summer was the season of Bel, autumn of Anu, and winter of Hea, the season of spring not being recognized by the Babylonians. The new moon also was called Anu for the first five days, Hea for the next five, and Bel for the third.
The ninth line of the tablet gives us an insight into the philosophical beliefs of the early Babylonians. They evidently considered that the world was drawn together out of the waters, and rested or reposed upon a vast abyss of chaotic ocean which filled the space below the world. This dark infernal lake was shut in by gigantic gates and strong fastenings, which prevented the floods from overwhelming the world. In the centre was a staircase which led from the abyss below to the region of light above.
The account then goes on to describe the creation of the moon for the purpose of beautifying the night70 and regulating the calendar. The phases of the moon are recorded: its commencing as a thin crescent at evening on the first day of the month, and its gradually increasing and travelling further into the night. It will be noticed that it is regarded as appointed, in the language of the Bible, “to divide the day from the night,” and to be for a sign and a season. The expression “judge judgment” may be compared with the expression of Genesis (i. 18.) that the sun and moon were set “to rule over the day and over the night.” An account of the creation of the sun probably followed upon that of the creation of the moon.
The creation of the moon, however, is placed first in accordance with the general views of the Babylonians, who, as was natural in a people of astronomers, honoured the moon above the sun, even making the sun-god the son of the moon-god.
The details of the creation of the planets and stars, which would have been very important to us, are unfortunately lost, no further fragment of this tablet having been recovered.
The colophon at the close of the tablet gives us, however, part of the first line of the sixth tablet, but not enough to determine its subject. It is probable that this dealt with the creation of creatures of the water and fowls of the air, and that these were the creation of Bel, the companion deity to Anu.
The next tablet, the seventh in the series, is probably represented by a curious fragment, which was71 found by Mr. Smith in one of the trenches at Kouyunjik.
This fragment is like some of the others, the upper portion of a tablet much broken, and only valuable from its generally clear meaning. The translation is as follows:
- 1. At that time the gods in their assembly created …..
- 2. They made suitable the strong monsters …..
- 3. They caused to come living creatures …..
- 4. cattle of the field, beasts of the field, and creeping things of the field …..
- 5. They fixed for the living creatures …..
- 6. ….. cattle and creeping things of the city they fixed …..
- 7. ….. the assembly of the creeping things, the whole which were created …..
- 8. ….. which in the assembly of my family …
- 9. ….. and the god Nin-si-ku (the lord of noble face) joined the two together …..
- 10. ….. to the assembly of the creeping things I gave life …..
- 11. ….. the seed of Lakhamu I destroyed …..
This tablet corresponds with the sixth day of Creation in Genesis (i. 24-25): “And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.
“And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and everything that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.”
The Assyrian tablet commences with a statement of the satisfaction a former creation, apparently that of the monsters or whales, had given; here referring to Genesis i. 23. It then goes on to relate the creation of living animals on land, three kinds being distinguished, exactly agreeing with the Genesis account, and then we have in the ninth line a curious reference to the god Nin-si-ku (one of the names of Hea). One of Hea’s titles was “the lord of mankind,” and Sir Henry Rawlinson has endeavoured to show that Eridu, the city of Hea, was identical with the Biblical Garden of Eden. We may here notice a tablet which refers to the creation of man. In this tablet, K 63, the creation of the human race is given to Hea, and all the references in other inscriptions make this his work. As in Genesis, so in these cuneiform tablets the Creator is made to speak and to address the objects which he calls into existence.
The next fragment was supposed by Mr. Smith to relate to the fall of man and to contain the speech of the deity to the newly-created pair. This, however, is extremely doubtful, as will appear from the revised translation below. The fragment is in so broken a condition that almost anything may be made out of it. It is possible that nothing more is intended by it than instructions as to the construction of an image of a household god or spirit and the correct mode of worshipping it.
K 3364 obverse.
(Many lines lost.)
- 1. The whole day thy god thou shalt approach (or invoke),
- 2. sacrifice, the prayer of the mouth, the image ……
- 3. to thy god a heart engraved ….. thou hast.
- 4. How long to the image of the divinity,
- 5. supplication, humility, and bowing of the face,
- 6. fire (?) dost thou give to him, and bringest tribute,
- 7. and in reverence also with me thou goest straight?
- 8. In thy knowledge (?) also behold; in the tablets (writing)
- 9. worship and blessing thou exaltest.
- 10. Sacrifice and the preservation …
- 11. and prayer for sin ….
- 12. the fear of the gods deserts thee (?) not ….
- 13. the fear of the Anunnaci thou completest ….
- 14. With friend and comrade speech thou makest ….
- 15. In the under-world speech thou makest to the propitious genii.
- 16. When thou speakest also he will give ….
- 17. When thou trustest also thou ….
- 18. … a comrade also ….
- 19. …. thou trustest a friend ….
- 20. (In) thy knowledge (?) also
(Many lines lost.)
- 1. in the presence of beauty …. thou didst speak
- 2. thy beauty ….
- 3. beauty also …. the female spirit (?)
- 4. An age thou revolvest .. his enemies?
- 5. his rising (?) he seeks …. the man ….
- 6. with the lord of thy beauty thou makest fat (?)
- 7. to do evil thou shalt not approach him,
- 8. at thy illness …. to him
- 9. at thy distress ….
The next fragment is a small one; it is the lower corner of a tablet with the ends of a few lines. Mr. Smith connected it with the legend of the fall of man, but the mention of the god Sar-tuli-elli, “the king of the illustrious mound,” would rather indicate that it has to do with the story of the Tower of Babel. As, however, the fragment is too small and mutilated to decide the question, it has been allowed to remain in the place assigned to it by Mr. Smith, and not transferred to a later chapter.
According to Sir H. Rawlinson, “the holy mound” is now represented by the ruins of Amrán. At any rate, it stood on the site of the Tower of Babel and was dedicated to the god Anu. Along with the adjoining buildings, among which are to be numbered the royal palace and the famous hanging gardens, it formed a particular quarter of Babylon, enclosed within its own wall and known under the name of75 Su-Anna, the “Valley of Anu,” which Sir H. Rawlinson proposes to read Khalannê, and identify with the Calneh of the Old Testament. In support of his reading he refers to the statement of the Septuagint in Isaiah x. 9.: “Have not I taken the region above Babylon and Khalannê, where the tower was built?”
- 1. …. seat her (?)
- 2. …. all the lords
- 3. …. his might
- 4. …. the gods, lord of the mighty hour (?)
- 5. …. lord of the kingdom magnified.
- 6. …. mightily supreme.
- 1. …. Hea called10 to his men
- 2. …. the path of his greatness
- 3. …. any god
- 4. …. Sar-tuli-elli (the king of the illustrious mound) his knowledge (?)
- 5. …. his illustrious ……
- 6. …. his fear (?) Sar-tuli-elli
- 7. …. his might
- 8. …. to them, in the midst of the sea
- 9. …. thy father battle
We may conclude this chapter with a fragment of some length, which Mr. Smith erroneously supposed to refer to the Fall. His mistake arose from the im76perfect state in which the text of it has been preserved, and the consequent obscurity of its reference and meaning. Dr. Oppert has shown that it really contains a hymn to the Creator Hea. Before the commencement of lines 1, 5, 11, 19, 27, and 29 on the obverse, there are glosses stating that the divine titles commencing these lines all apply to the same deity. These explanatory glosses show that even in the Assyrian time the allusions in the original text were not all intelligible without the help of a commentary.
- 1. The god of (propitious) Life ….. (secondly)
- 2. who established light …..
- 3. their precepts …..
- 4. Never may they forsake (their) boundaries …
- 5. The god of illustrious Life, thirdly, he was called, the director of the bright (firmament),
- 6. the god of good winds, the lord of hearing and obedience,
- 7. the creator of lean (?) and fat, the establisher of fertility,
- 8. who has brought to increase them that were small at the outset.
- 9. In the mighty thickets we have smelt his good wind.
- 10. May he command, may he glorify, may he hearken to his worshippers.
- 11. The god of the illustrious Crown, fourthly, may he quicken the dust!77
- 12. Lord of the illustrious charm, who gives life to the dead,
- 13. who to the hostile gods has granted return,
- 14. the homage they rendered he has caused the gods his foes to submit to.
- 15. That they might obey (?) he has created mankind,
- 16. the merciful one with whom is life.
- 17. May he establish, and never may his word be forgotten
- 18. in the mouth of the black-headed race whom his hands created.
- 19. The god of the illustrious incantation, fifthly, may his foes (?) be overthrown (or answered) with hostile curse (?)
- 20. He who with his illustrious incantation has removed the curse of the enemy.
- 21. The God the Heart-knower, who knows the hearts of the gods, who fly from the fear of him:
- 22. the doing of evil they caused not to come forth against him.
- 23. He who establishes the assembly of the gods, (who knows) their hearts,
- 24. who subdues the disobedient …..
- 25. who directs justice …..
- 26. who (defends?) sovereignty …..
- 27. The god of prosperous life, (sixthly) …..
- 28. he who cuts off darkness (?) …..
- 29. The god Sukhkhab (?), thirdly, the flock (?) …
- 30. he who adds unto them …..
- 1. ….. the star …..
- 2. may he seize that which has the head in the tail (? a comet)
- 3. since that in the midst of the sea he passed over …..
- 4. His name accordingly (is) Nibiru (the passer over), the possessor …..
- 5. may he (confirm) the precepts (or laws) of the stars of heaven.
- 6. Like sheep may he feed the gods all of them;
- 7. may he exorcise the sea, its treasures may he hedge in and summon
- 8. among men hereafter through length of days.
- 9. May he also remove mischief; may he overcome it for the future.
- 10. Because (all) places he made, he pierced, he strengthened.
- 11. Lord of the world is his name called, (even) father Bel.
- 12. The names of the angels he gave to them.
- 13. Hea also heard, and his liver (i. e. anger) was lulled,
- 14. (saying)79 “Since that his men he has quickened by his name,
- 15. he like myself has the name of Hea.
- 16. The bond of my command may he bring to them all, and
- 17. all my tereti (lots?) may he answer [or throw down]
- 18. by the fifty names of the great gods.”
- 19. His fifty names they pronounced; they restored his precepts.
- 20. May they be observed and, as formerly, may he speak.
- 21. Unsearchable, wise, triumphantly may he rule.
- 22. May father to son repeat and exalt (them).
- 23. May he open the ears of shepherd and flocks.
- 24. May (the shepherd) obey Merodach, Bel among the gods.
- 25. May his land be green, may he himself be at peace.
- 26. Established (is) his word, unyielding his command;
- 27. the utterance of his mouth no god has ever despised.
- 28. He was called by name and withdraws not his neck.
- 29. In the abundance of his strength there is no god, that receives for him his crown.
- 30. Far-reaching (is) his heart, an abyss (is) his stomach:
- 31. Sin and cursing before him disappear.
In a second copy which presents several variations lines 14 to 19 are omitted.
It is evident that this hymn to the Creator emanated from what Sir Henry Rawlinson has termed80 the monotheistic party among the ancient Babylonians, and that the speech of Hea in lines 14 to 19 has been inserted by a poet who did not belong to it. The various deities of the popular faith are all resolved into the one supreme God, the maker of the world and man, who was worshipped at Babylon under the names of Bel, “the Lord,” and Merodach the sun-god, at Eridu under that of Hea and at Nipur under that of Anu. The gods of the multitude are said to be only the fifty names of the Creator. To him is ascribed the regulation of the stars, the naming of the angels, and the subjection of the subordinate demi-gods, and marginal notes expressly state that the several titles under which the Creator is addressed on the obverse of the tablets, all belong to one and the same divinity.
In the popular mythology the part of the Creator was usually assigned to Merodach. Thus we find the latter deity addressed as follows in a mutilated bilingual hymn (K 2962 Obv.):—
- 1. [King] of the land, lord of the world,
- 2. … protector of heaven and earth,
- 3. firstborn of the god Hea,
- 4. the restorer of heaven and earth,
- 5. … mighty lord of mankind, king of the world.
- 6. … the god of gods,
- 7. (lord) of heaven and earth, who hast no equal,
- 8. companion of Anu and Bel,
- 9. the merciful one among the gods,81
- 10. the merciful who raisest the dead to life,
- 11. Merodach, the king of heaven and earth,
- 12. the king of Babylon, the lord of Bit-Saggil,
- 13. the king of Bit-Zida, the lord of the mighty temple of life,
- 14. heaven and earth are thine,
- 15. the circuit of heaven and earth is thine,
- 16. the charm (to produce) life is thine,
- 17. the philtre of life is thine,
- 18. the Illustrious King, the mouth of the Abyss, is thine;
- 19. mankind, (even) the men with the black heads,
- 20. living creatures, as many as are called by a name, as exist in the land,
- 21. the four quarters of the world, as many as there are,
- 22. the angels of the hosts of heaven and earth, as many as there are, (are thine).
In these references to the names of the living creatures made by the Creator at the beginning of the world, we are irresistibly reminded of the passage in Genesis ii. 19., where we read that “out of the ground God formed every beast of the field and every fowl of the air; and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.”
One of the most curious statements made in these hymns is that the race of men created by the deity was black-headed. The same race of men is men82tioned elsewhere in the ancient literature of the Accadians. Thus in a hymn to the goddess Gula, the goddess is described as “the mother who bore the men of the black heads,” and in another hymn the sun-god is declared to “direct the men of the black heads.” Sargon of Agané is further described as ruling over “all the men of the black heads,” and in imitation of this mode of expression Sennacherib in later days speaks of having overcome “all the black-headed race.” The black-headed race of Sennacherib, however, was the Turanian population of Elam and the adjoining districts on the east of Babylonia, whereas it is plain that the Accadian hymns mean by the black-headed race the Accadian people itself. It was over them that Sargon of Agané, the Semite, boasts of having extended his sway, though according to an old geographical list it was Sumer or Shinar rather than Accad, which was inhabited by the people of “the black-face.” But after all there is no contradiction between the statements of Sennacherib and of the hymns. The Accadians belonged to the same race as the Turanian inhabitants of Elam, and spoke a similar language to theirs.
Now we shall find in the account of the exploits of Dibbara, which will be translated in a subsequent chapter, that the black race, which is identified with the Accadians, is contrasted with the people of Syria, while in the bilingual tablets, the black race is similarly contrasted with the white race. Hence it is clear that the white race was the same as the Syrians,83 and since the Syrians were Semites, the white race must have been synonymous in the language of the Accadians with Semitic. As a matter of fact, the Semites belong to the white-skinned division of mankind, and were accordingly painted yellow by the Egyptians. The Accadian population, on the other hand, belonged to the dark-skinned division, though it is not necessary to suppose them to have been as black as the negro or the “blameless Ethiopian.” In the bilingual tablets, the black race is rendered in Assyrian by the word Adamatu or “red-skins.”
A popular etymology connected this word Adamatu with the word Adamu or admu, “man,” partly on account of the similarity of sound, partly because in the age of Accadian supremacy and literature, the men par excellence, the special human beings made by the Creator, were the dark-skinned race of Accad. The Accadian Adam or “man” was dark; it was only when the culture of the Accadians had been handed on to their Semitic successors that he became fair.
The discovery that the Biblical Adam is identical with the Assyrian Adamu or “man,” and that the Assyrian Adamu goes back to the first-created man of Accadian tradition who belonged to the black, that is, to the Accadian race, is due to Sir Henry Rawlinson. He has also suggested that the contrast between the black and the white races, between the Accadian and the Semite, is indicated in the sixth chapter of Genesis, where a contrast is drawn between the daughters of men, or Adamu, and the sons of God. It was84 owing to the intermarriage of the sons of God with the Adamites that the evils were spread which brought down upon the world the punishment of the Deluge.
It was Sir Henry Rawlinson who further pointed out that the Biblical Gân Eden, or “Garden of Eden,” is Gan-Duniyas (also called Gun-duni), a name under which Babylonia is frequently known in the Assyrian inscriptions. Gan-Duniyas signifies “the enclosure” or “fortress of the god Duniyas,” a deity whose nature and attributes are still obscure, and who may have been merely a deified monarch of the country. Two of the four rivers of Paradise are the two great rivers that enclose the fruitful plain of Babylonia, the Tigris, and the Euphrates. The Euphrates was called Purrat, or “the curving water” in Accadian from its shape; the Tigris was known under the name of Masgugar, “the current,” Tiggar, and Idikna or Idikla, from the latter of which comes the Hiddekhel of Genesis, with prefixed Accadian hid, “river.” Gihon is identified with the Arakhtu or Araxes, “the river of Babylon,” which flowed westward into the desert of Arabia or Cush, though Sir H. Rawlinson suggests its identity with the modern Jukhá, which runs past the site of Eridu, while Sargon calls Elam the country of “the four rivers.”11
The tree of life was well known to the Accadians85 and the Assyrians after them, and the bas-reliefs of Nineveh frequently present us with a representation of it, guarded on either side by a winged cherub who has the head sometimes of a man, sometimes of an eagle. The tree always assumes a conventional form, and since it generally bears fir-cones we may infer that the Accadians brought the tradition of it with them from their original seat in the colder mountainous land of Media, where the fir was plentiful, and identified it with the palm-tree only after their settlement in Chaldea. An old name of Babylon, or of a part of Babylon, was Din-Tir, “the life of the forest,” which may possibly have some connection with the tree of life. The special spot, however, in which the site of the tree of life was localized was close to the city of Eridu, now represented by Dhib according to Sir H. Rawlinson, where the solar hero Tammuz was supposed to have received the death-blow which obliged him to spend one half the year in the lower world.
A fragmentary bilingual hymn speaks thus of the sacred spot, and of the tree of life that grew therein:—
- 1. In Eridu a dark pine grew, in an illustrious place it was planted.86
- 2. Its (root) was of white crystal which spread towards the deep.
- 3. The (shrine?) of Hea (was) its pasturage in Eridu, a canal full of (water).
- 4. Its seat (was) the (central) place of this earth.
- 5. Its shrine (was) the couch of mother Zicum, (the mother of gods and men).
- 6. The (roof) of its illustrious temple like a forest spread its shade; there (was) none who within entered.
- 7. (It was the seat) of the mighty mother (Zicum), the begetter of Anu.
Eridu was the special seat of the worship of Hea, and was often known as “the good city.”
The flaming sword, which according to Genesis guarded the approach to the tree of life is paralleled by the flaming sword of Merodach, which is explained to be the lightning. It was with this sword which is represented on the monuments as having the form of a sickle like the sword of the Greek hero Perseus, that Merodach overthrew the dragon and the powers of darkness. A hymn put into the mouth of Merodach, thus speaks of it:—
- The sun of fifty faces, the lofty weapon of my divinity, I bear.
- The hero that striketh the mountains, the propitious sun of the morning, that is mine, I bear.
- My mighty weapon, which like an orb smites in a circle the corpses of the fighters, I bear.
- The striker of mountains, my murderous weapon of Anu, I bear.87
- The striker of mountains, the fish with seven tails, that is mine, I bear.
- The terror of battle, the destroyer of rebel lands, that is mine, I bear.
- The defender of conquests, the great sword, the falchion of my divinity, I bear.
- That from whose hand the mountain escapes not, the hand of the hero of battle, which is mine, I bear.
- The delight (?) of heroes, my spear of battle, (I bear).
- My crown which strikes against men, the bow of the lightning, (I bear).
- The crusher of the temples of rebel lands, my club and buckler of battle, (I bear).
- The lightning of battle, my weapon of fifty heads, (I bear).
- The feathered monster of seven heads, like the huge serpent of seven heads, (I bear).
- Like the serpent that beats the sea, (which attacks) the foe in the face,
- the devastator of forceful battle, lord over heaven and earth, the weapon of (seven) heads, (I bear).
- That which maketh the light come forth like day, god of the East, my burning power, (I bear).
- The establisher of heaven and earth, the fire-god, who has not his rival, (I bear).
Allusion is made in this hymn, it will be noticed, to a fabulous serpent with seven heads, which beats the sea into waves. This serpent was originally identical with the dragon of the deep, combated by Merodach, as we shall learn from a fragment to be88 translated hereafter, that is to say with the principle of chaos and darkness, called Mummu Tiamtu, “the chaos of the deep,” in the account of the creation. It is also described as “the serpent of night,” “the serpent of darkness,” “the wicked serpent,” and “the mightily strong serpent,” epithets which show that it was on the one hand the embodiment of moral evil, and on the other was primitively nothing more than the darkness destroyed by the sun, the bright power of day. It is difficult not to compare the serpent of Genesis with this serpent of Babylonian mythology. No Chaldean legend of the Fall has as yet been found, but when we remember how few Chaldean legends have been discovered, and that even for these we are dependent on the selection and copies of Assyrian scribes, we need not be surprised that such should be the case. The Babylonian colouring of the history in Genesis, the fact that the rivers of Paradise are Babylonian rivers, and that the tree of life was familiar to Babylonian art and tradition, make it probable that we shall yet discover the Chaldean version of the Fall of Man as soon as the libraries of Babylonia89 have been explored. Indeed, this is made almost certain by the existence of an early Babylonian seal, now in the British Museum, on which a tree is represented with a human figure seated on either side of it, with the hands stretched out towards the fruit, and a serpent standing erect behind one of them. We know that the devices on these early seals were taken from the popular legends and myths. It must be admitted, however, that the two figures seem both to be males.
But if references to the Fall are few and obscure, there can be no doubt that the Sabbath was an Accadian institution, intimately connected with the worship of the seven planets. The astronomical tablets have shown that the seven-day week was of Accadian origin, each day of it being dedicated to the sun, moon, and five planets, and the word Sabbath itself, under the form of Sabattu, was known to the Assyrians, and explained by them as “a day of rest for the heart.” A calendar of Saint’s days for the month of the intercalary Elul makes the 7th, 14th, 19th, 21st, and 28th days of the lunar month Sabbaths on which no work was allowed to be done. The Accadian words by which the idea of Sabbath is denoted, literally mean, “a day on which work is unlawful,” and are interpreted in the bilingual tablets as signifying “a day of peace” or “completion of labours.” The calendar lays down the following injunctions to the king for each of these sabbaths:—
A Sabbath: the prince of many nations the flesh of animals and cooked food may not eat.
The garments of his body he may not change. White robes he may not put on.
Sacrifice he may not offer. The king may not ride in his chariot.
In royal fashion he may not legislate. A review of the army the general may not hold.
Medicine for his sickness of body he may not apply.
The antiquity of this text is evident not only from the fact that it has been translated from an Accadian original, but also from the word rendered “prince,” which literally means “a shepherd,” and takes us back to the early times when the Accadian monarchs still remembered that their predecessors had been only shepherd-chieftains.
Before concluding this chapter, it must be noted that the word translated “the sea,” in lines three and seven of the reverse of the hymn to the Creator, is Tiamtu, which, as we have seen, was the name applied to the deep, upon which the Babylonians believed that the earth rested, and out of which it had been brought into existence.
Cuneiform accounts originally traditions.—Variations.—Account of Berosus.—Tablet from Cutha.—Translation.—Composite animals.—Eagle-headed men.—Seven brothers.—Destruction of men.—Seven wicked spirits.—Mythical explanation of lunar eclipses.—Hymn to the God of Fire.—War in heaven.—Tiamat-Merodach.—The great dragon.—Parallel Biblical account.
HE traditions embodied by Accadians and Assyrians in the literature of which specimens have been given in the preceding chapter, had been handed down by word of mouth through many generations, and committed to writing only at a comparatively late period. When such is the case, traditions are naturally liable to vary, sometimes very widely, according to the period and condition of the country. Thus many different versions of a story arise, and there can be no doubt that this was actually the case with the Creation legends. The account of the Creation in six days was not the only account of the Creation current among92 the inhabitants of Assyria and Babylonia. It was but one out of many which had slowly grown up among the people, and been finally thrown into a literary form. The story of the Creation transmitted through Berosus (see chapter iii. pp. 34-36), for example, supplies us with an account which differs entirely from the cuneiform account in the last chapter as well as from the Genesis account, and some fragments of tablets from Kouyunjik belonging to the library of Assur-bani-pal give a copy, mutilated as usual, of a third version which has, however, points of agreement with the account of Berosus. This legend, of which the following is a translation, is stated to be copied from a tablet at Cutha.
Legend of Creation from Cutha tablet.
(Many lines lost at commencement.)
- 1. …. his lord, the crown of the gods ….
- 2. the spearmen of his host, the spearmen of (his) host ….
- 3. lord of those above and those below, lord of the angels ….
- 4. who drank turbid waters and pure waters did not drink ….
- 5. who with his flame, as a weapon, that host enclosed,
- 6. has taken, has devoured.
- 7. On a memorial-stone he wrote not, he disclosed not, and bodies and produce93
- 8. in the earth he caused not to come forth, and I approached him not.
- 9. Warriors with the bodies of birds of the desert, men
- 10. with the faces of ravens,
- 11. these the great gods created,
- 12. in the earth the gods created their city.
- 13. Tiamtu gave them suck,
- 14. their life (?) the mistress of the gods created.
- 15. In the midst of the earth they grew up and became strong, and
- 16. increased (?) in number,
- 17. Seven kings, brethren, were made to come as begetters;
- 18. six thousand in number were their armies.
- 19. The god Banini their father was king, their mother
- 20. the queen was Melili,
- 21. their eldest brother who went before them, Memangab was his name,
- 22. their second brother Medudu was his name,
- 23. their third brother …. pakh was his name,
- 24. their fourth brother …. dada was his name,
- 25. their fifth brother …. takh was his name,
- 27. their sixth brother …. ruru was his name,
- 28. their seventh brother …. (rara) was his name.
(Many lines lost.)
- 1. ….. the evil curse ….94
- 2. The man his will turned ….
- 3. on a …. I arranged.
- 4. On a (tablet) the evil curse (which) in blood he raised
- 5. (I wrote and the children of) the generals I urged on.
- 6. Seven (against seven in) breadth I arranged them.
- 7. (I established) the illustrious (ordinances?)
- 8. I prayed to the great gods
- 9. Istar, …., Zamama, Anunit,
- 10. Nebo …. and Samas the warrior,
- 11. the son of (the moon-god), the gods that go (before me).
- 12. …. he did not give and
- 13. thus I said in my heart,
- 14. that, Here am I and
- 15. may I not go …. (beneath) the ground.
- 16. may I not go …… may the prayer
- 17. go when …. my heart,
- 18. may I renew, the iron in my hand may I take.
- 19. The first year in the course of it
- 20. one hundred and twenty thousand soldiers I sent out, and among them
- 21. not one returned.
- 22. The second year in the course of it, ninety thousand I sent out, and not one returned.
- 23. The third year in the course of it, sixty thousand seven hundred I sent out, and not one returned.95
- 24. They were rooted out, they were smitten with sickness; I ate,
- 25. I rejoiced, I rested.
- 26. Thus I said to my heart that, Here am I and
- 27. for my reign what is left (to rule over)?
- 28. I the king, am not the replenisher of his country,
- 1. and (I), the shepherd, am not the replenisher of his people,
- 2. since I established corpses, and a desert is left.
- 3. The whole of the country (and) men with night, death (and) plague I cursed it.
- 4. (I afflicted them) as many as exist.
- 5. …… there descended
- 6. …… a whirlwind.
- 7. …… its whirlwind.
- 8. ……….. all.
- 9. The foundations (of the earth were shaken?)
- 10. The gods …….
- 11. Thou didst bind and …..
- 12. and they were bound (?) ….
- 13. Thou protectedst …..
- 14. A memorial of ……..
- 15. in supplication to Hea ….
- 16. Illustrious memorial sacrifices ….
- 17. Illustrious tereti ……
- 18. I collected; the children of the generals (I urged on).
- 19. Seven against seven in breadth I arranged.96
- 20. I established the illustrious ordinances (?)
- 21. I prayed to (the great) gods,
- 22. Istar …. (Zamama, Anunit,)
- 23. Nebo … (and the Sun-god, the warrior,)
- 24. the son (of the Moon-god, the gods who go before me).
(Several lines lost at commencement.)
- 1. Thou O king, viceroy, shepherd, or any one else,
- 2. whom God shall call to rule the kingdom,
- 3. this tablet I made for thee, this record-stone I wrote for thee,
- 4. in the city of Cutha, in the temple of Gallam,
- 5. in the sanctuary of Nergal, I leave for thee;
- 6. this record-stone see, and,
- 7. to the words of this record-stone listen, and
- 8. do not rebel, do not fail,
- 9. do not fear, and do not curse.
- 10. Thy foundation may he establish!
- 11. As for thee, in thy works may he make splendour.
- 12. Thy forts shall be strong,
- 13. thy canals shall be full of water,
- 14. thy papyri, thy corn, thy silver,
- 15. thy furniture, thy goods,
- 16. and thy instruments, shall be multiplied.
- (A few more mutilated lines.)
This is a very obscure inscription, the first column, however, forms part of a relation similar to that of Berosus in his history of the Creation; the beings who were killed by the light, and those with men’s heads and bird’s bodies, and bird’s heads and men’s bodies, agree with the composite monsters of Berosus, while the goddess of chaos, Tiamtu, who is over them, is the same as the Thalatth of the Greek writer. It may be remarked that the doctrine of the Greek philosopher, Anaximander, that man has developed out of creatures of various shape, and once like the fish was an inhabitant of the water, is but a reminiscence of the old Babylonian legend.
The relation in the third column of the inscription is difficult, and does not correspond with any known incident. The fourth column contains an address to any future king who should read the98 inscription which was deposited in the temple of Nergal at Cutha.
It is possible that this legend was supposed to be the work of one of the mythical kings of Chaldea, who describes the condition and history of the world before his time.
The war carried on against the monstrous creations of Tiamtu, described in this myth, was but one version of the war waged against Tiamtu, or Chaos, herself by the sun-god Merodach. The most famous form taken by the story of this war was that which described the attack of the seven wicked spirits, or storm-demons, against the moon, and their final discomfiture by the bright power of day. This attack was a primitive attempt to account for lunar eclipses, dressed up in poetry, and may be compared with the Chinese belief that when the moon is eclipsed it has been devoured by the dragon of night. Similarly the Egyptians told how Set or Typhon pursued the moon, the eye of Horus, how it waned week by week as he struck it, and finally passed into eclipse when he blinded it altogether. According to Hindu legend, the immortal head of the serpent-demon Râhu, cut off by Vishnu who had been informed by the sun and moon of his theft of the drink of immortality, incessantly pursues the two informers in order to devour them, and a Scandinavian myth makes the sun and moon to be always pursued by two wolves, Sköll and Hati, the latter of whom, also called Mânagarmr or dog of the moon,99 will at the end of the times swallow up the chief luminary of night.
Tablet with the story of the Seven Wicked Spirits.
- 1. The recurring days12 are the wicked gods.
- 2. The rebellious spirits, who in the lower part of heaven
- 3. had been created,
- 4. wrought their evil work
- 5. devising with wicked heads (at) sunset;
- 6. (like) a sea-monster to the river (they marched).
- 7. Among the seven of them the first was a scorpion (or fiery sting) of rain.
- 8. The second was a thunderbolt which no man could face.
- 9. The third was a leopard ….
- 10. The fourth was a serpent ….
- 11. The fifth was a watch-dog which (rages) against (his foes).
- 12. The sixth was a raging tempest which to god and king submits not.
- 13. The seventh was the messenger of the evil wind which (Anu) made.
- 14. The seven of them (are) messengers of the god Anu their king.100
- 15. In city after city they set their returning feet.
- 16. The raging wind which (is) in heaven, fiercely hath been bound to them.
- 17. The fleecy rain-clouds (are they) which in heaven establish cloudy darkness.
- 18. The lightning of the tempest, the raging tempests which in the bright day
- 19. establish gloom, are they.
- 20. With evil tempest, baleful wind, they began:
- 21. the storm of Rimmon, that was their might,
- 22. at the right hand of Rimmon did they march;
- 23. from the foundations of heaven like lightning (they darted),
- 24. (like) a sea-monster to the river in front they marched.
- 25. In the wide heavens the seat of Anu the king
- 26. with evil purpose did they abide, and a rival they had not.
- 27. Then Bel of this matter heard and
- 28. the word sank into his heart.
- 29. With Hea the supreme adviser of the gods he took counsel, and
- 30. Sin (the moon), Samas (the sun), and Istar (Venus) in the lower part of heaven to direct it he had appointed.
- 31. With Anu the lordship of the hosts of heaven he made them share.
- 32. The three of them, those gods his children,
- 33. night and day he had established; that they break not apart,101
- 34. he urged them.
- 35. Then those seven, the evil gods,
- 36. in the lower part of heaven commencing,
- 37. before the light of Sin fiercely they came,
- 38. the hero Samas and Rimmon (the god of the atmosphere) the warrior to their quarters returned and
- 39. Istar with Anu the king a noble seat
- 40. chooses and in the government of heaven is glorious.
The second column, which is much mutilated at the beginning, goes on to describe “the trouble” of the moon-god, how “night and day in eclipse, in the seat of his dominion he sat not.” But
- 1. The wicked gods the messengers of Anu their king
- 2. devising with wicked heads assisted one another.
- 3. Evil they plotted together.
- 4. From the midst of heaven like the wind on mankind they swooped.102
- 5. Bel the eclipse of the hero Sin
- 6. in heaven saw and
- 7. the god to his messenger the god Nusku (Nebo) said:
- 8. “My messenger, Nebo, my word to the deep carry:
- 9. the news of my son Sin who in heaven is grievously eclipsed
- 10. to the god Hea in the deep repeat.” Then
- 11. Nebo the word of his lord obeyed, and
- 12. to Hea in the deep descended and went.
- 13. To the prince, the supreme councillor, the lord, the lord of mankind,
- 14. Nebo the message of his lord in that quarter at once repeated.
- 15. Hea in the deep that message heard, and
- 28. his lips he bit, and with outcry his mouth he filled.
- 29. Hea his son the god Merodach called, and the word he spake:
- 30. “Go, my son Merodach!
- 31. the light of the sky, my son Sin, whom heaven is grievously eclipsed,
- 32. (in) his eclipse from heaven is departing.
- 33. Those seven wicked gods, serpents13 of death, having no fear,103
- 34. those seven wicked gods, who like a whirlwind
- 35. (destroy) the life of mankind,
- 36. against the earth like a storm they come down.
- 37. In front of the bright one Sin fiercely they came,
- 38. the hero Samas and Rimmon the warrior, to their quarters (returned),
- 39. (Istar, with Anu the king, an illustrious seat chooses, and in the dominion of heaven is glorious).
Most of the remainder of the legend, consisting of some forty lines, is unfortunately lost, owing to a fracture of the tablet. What is left, however, shows that Merodach, “the brilliance of the sun,” for such is the meaning of his name, who always appears in the Accadian hymns as a kind of Babylonian Prometheus and universal benefactor, comes to the help of the “labouring” moon, and “awe” goes before him. Dressed in “glistening armour of unsoiled cloths and broad garments,” he enters “the gate of the palace,” “a king, the son of his god, who, like the bright one, the moon-god, sustains the life of the land,” and there with a helmet of “light like the fire” upon his head, successfully overthrows the seven powers of darkness. The poem concludes with a prayer that they may never descend into the land, and traverse its borders.
In this story, which differs again from all the others, Bel is supposed to place in the heaven the Moon, Sun, and Venus, the representative of the stars. The details have no analogy with the other stories, and this can only be considered a poetical myth of the Creation.
This legend is part of the sixteenth tablet of the series on evil spirits; but the tablet contains other matters as well, the legend apparently being only quoted in it. There is another remarkable legend of the same sort in praise of the fire-god, on another tablet of this series published in “Cuneiform Inscriptions,” vol. iv. p. 15. The whole of this series concerns the wanderings of the god Merodach, who goes about the world seeking to remove curses and spells, and in every difficulty applying to his father Hea to learn how to combat the influence of the evil spirits, to whom all misfortunes were attributed.
The seven evil spirits illustrate well the way in which a moral signification may come to be attached to what was originally a purely physical myth. They are frequently mentioned in the literature of ancient Accad. Thus the twenty-third book, on eclipses of the moon, of the great work on astronomy compiled for Sargon of Agané, states that: “When the moon shall describe a section (in) the upper circle (of its revolution), the gods of heaven and earth bring about dearth of men (and) their overthrow; and (there is) eclipse, inundation, sickness, (and) death; the seven great spirits before the moon are broken.” Elsewhere, an Accadian hymn, which has an interlinear Assyrian translation attached to it, speaks as follows of these dreaded spirits:—
- 1. Seven (they) are, seven they (are).
- 2. In the abyss of the deep seven they (are).
- 3. The splendours of heaven (are) those seven.105
- 4. In the abyss of the deep, (in) a palace, (was) their growth.
- 5. Male they (are) not, female they (are) not. [The Accadian text, in accordance with the respect paid to women in Accad, reverses this order.]
- 6. As for them, the deep (is) their binder.
- 7. Wife they have not, son is not born to them.
- 8. Reverence (and) kindness know they not.
- 9. Prayer and supplication hear they not.
- 10. (Among) the thorns (?) on the mountain (was) their growth.
- 11. To Hea are they foes.
- 12. The throne-bearers of the gods (are) they.
- 13. Destroying the roads on the paths are they set.
- 14. Wicked (are) they, wicked (are) they;
- 15. seven (are) they, seven (are) they, seven twice again (are) they.
Another Accadian poet, who lived at Eridu, the supposed site of Paradise, at the junction of the Tigris and Euphrates, has left another account of the Seven wicked spirits in the hymn to the fire-god mentioned above. He says of them:—
- 1. O god of fire, those seven how were they begotten, how grew they up?
- 2. Those seven in the mountain of the sunset were born;
- 3. those seven in the mountain of the sunrise grew up.
- 4. In the deep places of the earth have they their dwelling.106
- 5. In the high places of the earth have they their name.
- 6. As for them, in heaven and earth wide is their habitation.
- 7. Among the gods their couch they have not.
- 8. Their name in heaven (and) earth exists not.
- 9. Seven they (are); in the mountain of the sunset do they rise.
- 10. Seven they (are); in the mountain of the sunrise did they set.
- 11. In the deep places of the earth did they rest their feet.
- 12. On the high places of the earth do they lift up their head.
- 13. As for them, goods they know not, in heaven (and) earth are they not learned.
Merodach is then ordered to fetch “the laurel, the baleful tree that breaks in pieces the incubi, the name whereof Hea remembers in his heart, in the mighty enclosure, the girdle of Eridu,” in order that the seven evil spirits may be driven away. Can this laurel-tree be the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? It must be remembered that Hea was “the lord of wisdom,” and under the form of a fish as Oannes or Hea Khan was supposed to have ascended from the Persian Gulf, and taught the primitive Babylonians the elements of culture and civilization.
At the head of the seven evil spirits stood Tiamtu, the representative of chaos and darkness. One of the most remarkable Babylonian legends yet discovered is107 one which tells of the primæval struggle between Tiamtu and Merodach, between light and darkness or good and evil, and which does but embody in a new shape the conception which found expression in the myth of the war against the moon. The tablets which contain this legend are unfortunately in a very fragmentary condition.
The first of these is K 4832, too mutilated to translate; it contains speeches of the gods before the war.
The second fragment, K 3473, contains also speeches, and shows the gods preparing for battle. It is so terribly broken that translation is impossible, and all that can be made out is a line here and there.
The third fragment, K 3938, is on the same subject; some lines of this give the following general meaning:—
- 1. winged thunderbolts ….
- 2. fear he made to carry ….
- 3. their sight very great (?) ….
- 4. their bodies may he destroy and ….
- 5. he raised; it was suitable, the strong serpent ….
- 6. Udgallum, Urbat14 and the god ….
- 7. days arranged, five (?) ….
- 8. carrying weapons unyielding ….
- 9. her breast, her back ….108
- 10. flowing (?) and first ….
- 11. among the gods collected ….
- 12. the god Kingu subdued ….
- 13. marching in front before ….
- 14. carrying weapons thou …
- 15. upon war ….
- 16. his hand appointed ….
There are many more similar broken lines, and on the other side fragments of a speech by some being who desires Tiamtu to make war.
All these fragments are not sufficiently complete to allow us to translate them with certainty, or even to ascertain their order.
The fourth fragment, K 3449, relates to the making of weapons to arm the god who should meet in war the dragon.
This reads with some doubt on account of its mutilation:
- 1. The scimitar he had made the gods saw
- 2. and they saw also the bow how it had been stored up.
- 3. The work he had wrought (on his shoulder)
- 4. he raised and Anu in the assembly of the gods
- 5. kissed the bow; it (he addressed),
- 6. and he spake of the bow thus (and said)
- 7. The illustrious wood I have drawn out once and twice,
- 8. thrice also, her punishment the star of the bow in heaven (shall effect)
- 9. and I have made (it) the protection (of mankind).109
- 10. From the choice of ….
- 11. and place his throne ….
The next fragment or collection of fragments gives the final struggle between Tiamtu and Bel Merodach. The saparu, or sickle-shaped sword, is always represented both in the sculptures and inscriptions as a weapon of Bel Merodach in this war.
- 1. …. he fixed it ….
- 2. the weapon with his right hand he took
- 3. …. and the quiver from his hand he hung,
- 4. and he hurled the lightning before him,
- 5. heat filled his body.
- 6. He made also the scimitar (to produce) calm in the midst of the sea (Tiamtu).
- 7. The four winds he imprisoned that they might come forth from its calm,
- 8. the South, the North, the East, and the West winds.
- 9. His hand caused the scimitar to approach the bow of his father Anu.110
- 10. He created the evil wind, the hostile wind, the tempest, the storm,
- 11. the four winds, the seven winds, the whirlwind, the unceasing wind.
- 12. He sent forth also the winds he had created, seven of them;
- 13. into the midst of the sea (Tiamtu) they were launched to disturb, they came after him.
- 14. He lifted up the weapon, the thunderbolt, his mighty weapon;
- 15. in a chariot that sweeps away all in front, which gives rest, he rode.
- 16. He fixed it and four yoke-thongs on its pole he hung,
- 17. …. the unyielding, the overwhelming, he that pursues her.
- 18. …. with their sting bringing poison
- 19. …. sweeping away knowledge (?)
- 20. …. destruction and fighting.
(Several other fragmentary lines.)
- 1. Unprevailing (is) thy troop; may thy arms strike their bodies!
- 2. I also stand firm, and with thee make battle.
- 3. Tiamtu (the sea) on hearing this
- 4. as before used spells, she changed her resolution.
- 5. Tiamtu also raised herself; warily she ascended.
- 6. At the roots fully she grounded (her) foundations.111
- 7. She told over the spell; she determined return (to chaos),
- 8. and the gods for the war asked for themselves their weapons.
- 9. Then Tiamtu attacked the prince of the gods, Merodach,
- 10. who had made charms as for combat for the conflict in battle.
- 11. Then Bel made sharp his scimitar; he smote her.
- 12. The evil wind that seizes behind from before him fled.
- 13. And Tiamtu opened her mouth to swallow him.
- 14. The evil wind he made to descend so that she could not close her lips;
- 15. the force of the wind her stomach filled, and
- 16. she was sickened in heart, and her mouth it distorted.
- 17. She bit the shaft (of the sword); her stomach failed;15
- 18. her inside it cut asunder, it conquered the heart;
- 19. it consumed her, and her life it ended.
- 20. Her death he completed, over her he fixes (it).
- 21. When Tiamat their leader he had conquered,
- 22. her ranks he broke, her assembly was scattered;
- 23. and the gods her helpers who went beside her
- 24. returned in fear, they fled back behind them.
- 25. They fled and feared for their life.112
- 26. They are companions in flight, powerless.
- 27. He trampled on them and their weapons he broke.
- 28. Like a scimitar are they laid, and as in darkness they sat.
- 29. (They seek) their quarters, they are full of grief;
- 30. what was left they take away, they pull back like a rope,
- 31. and elevenfold offspring from fear they produce
- 32. (Through) the flood the demons go (all of them?).
- 33. He laid the hostility, his hand ….
- 34. part of their opposition under him ….
- 35. and the god Kingu again ….
Again the main difficulty arises from the fragmentary state of the documents, it being impossible even to decide the order of the fragments. It appears, however, that the gods have fashioned for them a scimitar and a bow to fight the dragon Tiamtu, and113 Anu proclaims great honour (fourth fragment, lines 7 to 11) to any of the gods who will engage in battle with her. Bel or Merodach volunteers, and goes forth armed with these weapons to fight the dragon. Tiamtu is encouraged by one of the gods who has become her husband, and meets Merodach in battle. The description of the fight and the subsequent triumph of the god are very fine, and remarkably curious in their details, but the connection between the fragments is so uncertain at present that it is better to reserve comment upon them until the text is more complete. The scimitar with which Merodach is armed is shown by the cylinders and bas-reliefs to have been of the shape of a sickle, and is therefore the same as the harpê or khereb with which the Greek hero Perseus was armed when he went forth to fight against the dragon of the sea at Joppa. The dragon itself, according to the representations of the monuments, was a composite monster, with the tail, horns, claws, and wings of the mediæval devil. The whole war between the powers of good and evil, chaos and order, finds its parallel in the war between Michael and the dragon in Revelation xii. 7 to 9, where the dragon is called “the great dragon, that old serpent, called the devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world.” This description is strikingly like the impression gathered from the fragments of the cuneiform story; the dragon Tiamtu who fought against the gods, and whose fate it was to be conquered in a celestial war, closely corresponds114 in all essential points with the dragon conquered by Michael. That the dragon originally symbolized the sea is one proof out of many that the Accadians were a seafaring people, well acquainted with the terrors of the deep, when the waves conspire with the storm-clouds, those seven evil spirits, to throw all nature once more into its primeval anarchy.