- 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.
God Zu.—Obscurity of legend.—Translation.—Sin of Zu.—Anger of the gods.—Speeches of Anu to Rimmon.—Rimmon’s answer.—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.
MONG the legends of the gods, companion stories to the accounts of the Creation and Deluge, one of the most curious is the legend of the sin committed by the god Zu.
This legend stands quite alone, its incidents and its principal actor being otherwise almost unknown from cuneiform sources. Only one copy of the story has at present been detected, and this is in so mutilated a condition that it cannot be connected with any other of the legends. It belongs to the same cycle of myths as the myth of the exploits of Dibbara, which will be given in the next chapter.
The principal actor in the legend is a god named Zu, the name being found in all the three cases of116 an Assyrian noun Zu, Za, and Zi. Analogy would lead us to infer that the name had been borrowed by the Assyrians from the Accadians, as well as the story with which it is connected.
Mr. Smith compared the legend with that of the mutilation of Uranus by his son Kronus, and with the history of the outrage of Ham on his father Noah; but its real analogue is the myth of Prometheus, the benefactor of men, who stole the fire of heaven for their sake, and brought upon himself the anger and punishment of Zeus. It contains two difficult words, partsi and tereti. The first is ambiguous, meaning either “oracles” or “shrines,” but since it is coupled with dup-simi, “tablets of destiny,” it is probably to be rendered “oracles.” Tereti is very obscure. The sun-god is called “the lord of tereti” and the word occurs in the hymn to the Creator, Rev. 17 (p. 79), where also it is united with partsi, “command” or “oracle.” It may signify “lots.” The tablets of destiny, stolen by Zu, for the benefit, apparently, of mankind, formed the vault of the palace of the under-world. We may compare the books which are to be opened on the day of judgment in Dan. vii. 10, and Rev. xx. 12.
The tablet containing the account of the sin of Zu, K 3454, in the Museum collection, originally contained four columns of text, each column having about sixty lines of writing. The first and fourth columns are almost entirely lost, there not being enough anywhere to translate from. The mutilation117 of the text seriously adds to the difficulties of translation.
The single fragment preserved, belonging to the first column, mentions some being who was the seed or firstborn of Bel, with a number of titles, such as “warrior, soldier of the temple of Bel,” and the name of the god Zu occurs, but not so as to prove these titles to be his.
The following is a partial translation of the remains of this tablet:—
Column I. lost.
- 1. …. of the gods all of them he urged on.
- 2. …….. the image, Zu grew old (and)
- 3. Zu? like …. Bel seized his heel.
- 4. Three streams? of water in front also
- 5. the work of Bel in …….. he dreams of (or ponders) in himself.
- 6. The crown of his majesty, the clothing of his divinity,
- 7. the tablets of destiny, himself, Zu, he dreams of, and
- 8. he dreams that he is the father of the gods also, the protector of heaven and earth.
- 9. The desire to be Bel is taken in his heart,
- 10. Zu dreams that he is also the father of the gods, the protector of heaven and earth.
- 11. The desire to be Bel is taken in his heart:118
- 12. Let me too seize the tablets of destiny of the gods,
- 13. and the tereti of the gods all of them let me kindle,
- 14. may my throne also be established, let me lift up the oracles,
- 15. let me urge on the whole of all of them, even the angels.
- 16. So he lifted up his heart in opposition,
- 17. in the lower part of the forest where he was dreaming he kept his head away from the day.
- 18. When Bel pours out the bright waters,
- 19. spread out also on the throne his crown was placed,
- 20. the tablets of doom his hand took,
- 21. the attributes of Bel he seized, he laid hold of the oracles.
- 22. Zu fled away and a rugged mountain concealed (him).
- 23. He spread darkness, and made a commotion (?).
- 24. The father, their king, the ruler Bel
- 25. ….. outpoured the glory of the gods.
- 26. ………
- 27. Anu his mouth opened, he speaks
- 28. and says to the gods his sons:
- 29. Whoever will, let him slay Zu, and
- 30. among all men may his name be renowned.
- 31. (To Rimmon) the powerful firstborn the son of Anu119
- 32. his will also to him he declares:
- 33. To Rimmon the powerful firstborn the son of Anu
- 34. his will to him he declares.
- 35. (O mighty) Rimmon, companion, may thy power of fighting never fail.
- 36. (Slay) Zu with thy weapon.
- 37. (May thy name) be renowned in the assembly of the great gods,
- 38. …. a rival have thy brothers
- 39. may they supply and build of brick (thy) altars,
- 40. in the four regions may they establish thy stronghold.
- 41. May thy stronghold be exalted to become a shrine.
- 42. They shall cry (?) in the presence of the gods and blessed be thy name.
- 43. Rimmon answered the speech,
- 44. to his father Anu a word he speaks;
- 45. My father, to an impenetrable mountain do thou consign (him).
- 46. Let Zu never associate among the gods thy sons.
- 47. The tablets of destiny his hand took;
- 48. the attributes of Bel he seized, laying hold of the oracles,
- 49. Zu fled away and a rugged mountain concealed (him).
- 50. …. the opening of (his) mouth
- 51. …….. like mud120
- 52. …. the gods sweep away
- 53. …. I will not go he said.
(Sixteen lines lost here, part on this column, part on Column III.)
- 1. Zu fled away and a rugged mountain concealed (him).
- 2. …. the opening of his mouth … the protector of heaven and earth
- 3. …….. like mud
- 4. …. the gods sweep away
- 5. …. I will not go he said.
- 6. To Nebo the powerful …. the eldest son of Istar,
- 7. (Anu his will) to him also declares:
- 8. O mighty Nebo, companion, may thy power of fighting never fail!
- 9. (Slay) Zu with thy weapon.
- 10. May (thy name) be renowned in the assembly of the great gods,
- 11. ….. among the gods thy brothers a rival have (?)
- 12. May they supply and build (thy) altars;
- 13. in the four regions may they establish thy stronghold.121
- 14. May thy stronghold be exalted to become a shrine.
- 15. They shall cry (?) in the presence of the gods and blessed be thy name.
- 16. Nebo answered the speech,
- 17. to his father Anu a word he speaks:
- 18. My father, to a trackless mountain do thou consign him.
- 19. Let Zu never associate with the gods thy sons.
- 20. The tablets of destiny his hand took,
- 21. the attributes of Bel he seized, laying hold of the oracles.
- 22. Zu fled away and a rugged mountain concealed him.
- 23. …. the opening of his mouth … the protector of heaven and earth
The rest, including Column IV., is lost.
Such are the fragments of the story so far as they can be translated at present. The divine Zu here mentioned, whose sin is spoken of, is never counted among the gods, and there would be no clue to his nature were it not for a curious tablet printed in “Cuneiform Inscriptions,” vol. iv. p. 14, which throws light on his origin and character. This tablet gives the following curious relation:
- 1. The god Lugal-turda (the valiant king) [fled] to the mountains, a place remote;
- 2. in the mountains of Sabu [he dwelt].
- 3. No mother gave him life16 or (suckled him).122
- 4. No father gave him life or with him (associated).
- 5. No noble who knew him (helped him).
- 6. Of the resolution of his heart the resolution he (changed) not.
- 7. In his own heart the resolution (he kept).
- 8. Into the likeness of a bird was he transformed;
- 9. into the likeness of the divine storm bird (or Zu bird) was he transformed.
- 10. The face of his wife who has faced?
- 11. The wife of the Divine Zu bird, the son of the divine Zu bird,
- 12. in companionship he made sit.
- 13. The goddess Enna, the lady of Tigenna,
- 14. in the mountain he brought back.
- 15. A woman fashioned was her mother according to likeness made,
- 16. the goddess of perfumes a woman fashioned was her mother according to likeness made.
- 17. Her hair was white crystal;
- 18. Her navel was pure with silver and gold,
- 19. brightness was fixed in the womb;
- 20. in the womb dwelt perfection (?).
Many lines are lost here, and the story recommences on reverse.
- 1. …. a turban he placed on his head
- 2. (when) from the nest of the god Zu he came.
This Zu bird is plainly the same as the god Zu of123 the former legend, and his nature is shown by a passage in the annals of Assur-nazir-pal (“Cuneiform Inscriptions,” vol. i. p. 22, col. ii. l. 107), who says that his warriors “like the divine Zu bird upon them darted.” This bird is called the cloud or storm-bird, the flesh-eating bird, the lion or giant bird, the bird of prey, the bird with sharp beak; and it is not difficult to see what the deified bird really was. It was clearly the storm-cloud, which appears in Aryan folklore under the varying forms of the eagle, the woodpecker, and the robin redbreast, the bird of Thor; while in Chinese mythology the storm-bird is described as “a bird which, in flying, obscures the sun, and of whose quills are made water-tuns.” The roc of the “Arabian Nights,” with its wings of ten thousand fathoms in width, and its egg, which it was a sin in Aladdin to wish to take from the place where it hung, is but an echo of the Chinese storm-bird; and the identity of the Chaldean Zu with the latter is demonstrated by its Accadian name, which signifies “the bird of the divine storm-cloud.” Just as Prometheus brought the lightning from heaven to earth, and suffered the penalty of enchainment to a desert rock, so, too, the storm-bird of Accad stole the secrets of the gods, and was punished by exile from them, and transformation into a bird. When once the storm-cloud had been likened to a bird, it was easy enough to identify it with an actual bird of similar name which swooped upon its prey with sharp beak. That the lightning which darted from the bosom of the124 black tempest really formed the tablets of destiny was a ready conclusion to a people who read the future in the message sent through the lightning from heaven to earth. Even the Hebrews saw in the thunder “the voice of God.” Lugal-turda, it may be added, was the patron of the city of Amarda or Marad, and is said to have been the deity worshipped by Izdubar.
In the story of the offence of Zu there is another instance of the variations which constantly occur in the Assyrian inscriptions with respect to the relationship of the gods. Nebo is usually called son of Merodach, but in this inscription he is called son of Anu. The part that he plays in it is due to the fact that he was identified with the “meridian sun.”
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.
HE tablets recording this story are five in number, but a few fragments only of them have as yet been found. From the indications presented by these fragments the first four tablets seem each to have had four columns of writing, while the fifth tablet was a smaller one of two columns containing the remainder of the story.
The god whose exploits are principally recorded was the leader of the plague-demons, and bears the name of Dibbara. He has the title of “the darkening one,” which recalls the passage in Psalm xci. 6, “the pestilence that walketh in darkness.”
He has a companion deity named Itak who marches126 before him, and seven gods who follow him in his destructive course. The latter are the seven evil spirits in a new form.
The point of the story in these tablets appears to be, that the people of the world had offended Anu the god of heaven, and accordingly that deity ordered Dibbara to go forth and strike the people with the pest. It is evident here that exactly the same views prevailed in Babylonia as among the Jews, visitations from pestilence or famine being always supposed to be sent by the deity in punishment for some sin. In fact, the account of the pestilence inflicted upon the Israelites on account of David’s sin in numbering the people is a striking parallel to the Accadian legend which follows. The angel of the pestilence seen by David, with his sword drawn, may be compared with Dibbara, the Accadian personification of the pest.
The whole of this series of tablets may be described as a poetical picture of the destruction caused by a plague, sweeping over district after district, and destroying everything before it.
The fragment which appears to come first in the series is a very mutilated portion of a tablet, containing parts of three columns of writing. Only a fragment of the first column is perfect enough to translate, and the characters on this are so worn that the translation cannot be other than doubtful. It seems to read
- 1. Against the paling he struck and ….
- 2. the fifth time he smote (?) above and below seeking …..
- 3. seven ……
- 4. The words of the account of the seven gods all of them Anu had heard.
- 5. He …. them also to Dibbara the warrior of the gods: May thy hands go
- 5(sic.). whenever the people of the nations their shame [or alliance] have destroyed.
- 7. I have set thy heart also to make darkness.
- 8. The people of the black heads to ruin thou shalt strike with the desolation of the god Ner;
- 9. may thy weapons (overthrow) them, and may thy hands go.
- 10. As for them ….. their weapons.
- 11. He said to Dibbara: ……
The speech of Anu which follows is written in characters so broken and indistinct as to make any attempt at translation impossible.
The next fragment is of a different character, but appears from its style to belong to the same series.
- 1. …. he ….
- 2. .. spake to him and he explained (?) ….
- 3. .. spake to him and he learned (?) ….
- 4. Anu at the doing of Hea shouted for joy and ….
- 5. the gods of heaven and earth as many as exist whosoever thus answered;
- 6. his command which was like the command of Anu whosoever appointed
- 7. …. extending from the horizon of heaven to the top of heaven
- 8. …. he looked and his fear he saw
- 9. …. Anu who …. over him …. made
- 10. …. of Hea his calamity (?) made
- 11. …. a fierce lord to later days to ….
- 12. …. seed of mankind
- 13. …. triumphantly the net (?) .. he broke
- 14. …. to heaven he had ascended, she thus
- 15. …. 4,021 people he had placed
- 16. …. the illness which was on the body of the people he had placed
- 17. …. the illness the goddess of Karrak made to cease.
The next portion of the legend is a considerable part of one of the tablets, probably the fourth, all four columns of writing being represented. There are many curious points in this tablet, beside the special purpose of the legend, such as the peoples enumerated in the fourth column, the action of the gods of the various cities, &c.
- 1. Bel …. his yokes and
- 2. (in his) heart he says:
- 3. Dibbara is crouching at his gate, among the corpses of chiefs and slaves;
- 4. Dibbara is crouching at his gate; thou knowest his seat.
- 5. Babylon their foes besieged, and
- 6. their curse art thou.
- 7. To the floor thou didst trample them and thou didst make a passage,
- 8. O warrior Dibbara.
- 9. Thou didst leave the land, thou didst go forth against others;
- 10. the destruction of the nobles wast thou made, and thou didst descend into the palace.
- 11. The people also saw thee; their weapons were shattered.
- 12. The high priest the avenger of Babylon sets his heart,
- 13. when the ranks of the enemies to spoil he urges on his soldiers.
- 14. Before the face of the people they did evil.
- 15. To that city whither I shall send thee, thou a man
- 16. shalt not fear, shalt not respect a man.
- 17. Small and great as one man cast down and
- 18. of that evil race thou shalt not save any one.
- 19. The collection of the goods of Babylon thou spoilest;
- 20. the people of the king (which) is gathered together, and entered into the city,
- 21. shaking the bow, planting the sword (?)
- 22. of the soldiers the help, the transgression (transgressors) against Anu and Dagon,
- 23. their weapons thou plantest,
- 24. their corpses like the pouring down of rain thou dost cast down in the streets of the city,
- 25. and their treasures (?) thou openest, and dost sweep into the river.
- 26. The spell Merodach saw and angrily (?) spoke,
- 27. his heart was taken,
- 28. an unsparing curse in his mouth was formed,
- 29. …. the river he did not ….
Many lines lost.
- 1. …. that city which the lord of the earth …
- 2. a whirlwind he did not (make) ….
- 3. without Samas his tower thou crossest, the land thou givest (?)
- 4. of Erech the seat of Anu and Istar,
- 5. the city of (the handmaids) Samkhati and Kharimati, the choirs of
- 6. Istar. Death they fear (and) they are delivered into thy hands (?).
- 7. The Suti (Arab nomads) with the Suti are placed in ….
- 8. they are slain; the temple of Anu the priests, the festival makers,
- 9. who, to make the people of Istar worship, their manhood devoted,
- 10. carrying swords, carrying razors, dupe, and knives,
- 11. who to rejoice the glory of Istar trusted,
- 12. O fierce high priest, the bowing-down of the face over them thou hast made.
- 13. Their foundations also, their shrines ….
- 14. Istar cried out and was troubled over the city of Erech,
- 15. the enemy she strikes and like corn on the face of the waters she scatters.
- 16. Dwelling in his …. Bit-Parra ….
- 17. … she rests not from the war.
- 18. The enemy whom thou hast stricken obeys not ….
- 19. The great god answered the speech:
- 20. The city of Duran to streams of blood ….
- 21. the people who dwell in the midst of it like reeds (are trembling);
- 22. …. before the waters their alliance ….
- 23. and … thou dost not ….
- 24. to the Suti ……..
- 25. I in my city Duran judge uprightly
- 26. I do not ……..
- 27. evil (?) I do not give and ….
- 28. the upright people I leave ….
- Five other broken lines.
Many lines lost.
- 1. …. the house he had built ….
- 2. this he did, and I ….
- 3. the day he brought me my fate I ….
- 4. him, his camp (?) also he caused to destroy ..
- 5. Afterwards may they destroy, and to another
- 6. O warrior Dibbara, the established also in Gutium,
- 7. the unestablished also in Gutium,
- 8. who sin against thee also in Gutium,
- 9. who do not sin against thee also in Gutium,
- 10. …. the destroyer (?) of the clothes of the god of Gutium,
- 11. …. the mover of the head of the king.
- Two other mutilated lines.
- 1. May the planet Mercury cause his splendour to wane;
- 2. to his resolutions (?) is he bound:
- 3. he rejoices not the mouth of his (worshippers)
- 4. who the structure …….
- 5. to the seat of the king of the gods may he urge and ….
- 6. The warrior Dibbara heard it also,
- 7. the word (which) the god Itak spake to him ..
- 8. and thus spake the warrior Dibbara:
- 9. Sea against sea, Subartu (Syria) against Subartu, Assyria against Assyria,
- 10. Elam against Elam,
- 11. Kossæan against Kossæan,
- 12. Sutu against Sutu,
- 13. Gutium against Gutium,
- 14. Lullubu against Lullubu,
- 15. country against country, house against house, man against man,
- 16. brother against brother also, may they destroy each other,
- 17. and afterwards may Accad come and
- 18. the whole of them destroy, and fight against them.
- 19. The warrior Dibbara to Itak who goes before him a word speaks:
- 20. Go also Itak, in the word thou hast spoken do according to all thy heart.
- 21. Itak against the land of Khikhi (Phœnicia) set his face,
- 22. and the seven warrior gods unequalled
- 23. marched after him.
- 24. To the country of Khikhi to the mountains the warrior went,
- 25. his hand he also lifted and destroyed the land,
- 26. the land of Khikhi he counted as his own country.
The next fragments of the story are on a mutilated copy of the last tablet, K. 1282. This tablet, as has been before stated, is only a smaller supplemental one to include the end of the story, which could not be written on the fourth tablet.
- 1. From Dibbara ….
- 2. the gods all of them ….
- 3. the angels and spirits all ….
- 4. Dibbara his mouth opened and ….
- 5. a voice also the whole of you ….
- 6. I also in the first sin ….
- 7. in heart I cried out and ….
- 8. like a flock of sheep may ….
- 9. without the planting of boundaries against …
- 10. like the spoiling of the country steadfast and ..
- 11. in the mouth of the high noble ….
- 12. and the place ….
- Fifteen lines much broken here.
- 28. …. the land of Accad its strength ….
- 29. May one slay seven like ….
- 30. his cities to ruins and mounds thou dost reduce ….
- 31. his great spoil thou dost spoil, to the midst of ….
- 32. the gods of the country …. thou removest afar off ….
- 33. the god Ner and the God Serakh thou directedst ….
- 34. the countries their productions, the sea thou ..
- 35. its interior they destroyed ….
- Four mutilated lines here.
- 1. For years untold the glory of the great lord the god ….
- 2. When Dibbara had cried out and to sweep the countries ….
- 3. had set his face
- 4. Itak his adviser had quieted him and stayed …
- 5. gathering together his forces to the glorious one of the gods, Merodach the son of (Hea).
- 6. In the hour of night he sent him, and when in the year ….
- 7. Not any one ….
- 8. …. and sent not down against ….
- 9. his …. also Dibbara received before ….
- 10. …. Itak who goes before him, the illustrious god ….
- 11. are all of them laid with him.
- 12. Any one who speaks of the warrior Dibbara
- 13. and that song shall glorify, in his place thou wilt keep (his) canals,
- 14. …. never may he fall (?) ….
- 15. the heavens have caused the borders of (his) regions to increase.
- 16. Whoever the glory of my heroism shall recount,
- 17. an adversary never may he have.
- 18. The musician who shall sing, shall not die by the chastisement;
- 19. higher than king and prince may that man ascend.
- 20. The tablet writer who studies it (and) flees from the hostile, shall be great in the land.
- 21. If in the places of the people, the established place, my name they proclaim,
- 22. their ears I open.
- 23. In the house, the place where their goods are placed, if I Dibbara am angry
- 24. may the seven gods turn him aside,
- 25. may the chastising sword not touch him whose face thou establishest.
- 26. That song for ever may they establish and may they fix the part ….
- 27. may all the world hear, and glorify my heroism;
- 28. may the men of all nations see, and exalt my name.
- Fifth tablet of the exploits of the god (Dibbara).
Here we see a picture of Oriental feeling with reference to natural phenomenon or disaster to mankind. It is supposed that some deity or angel stands with a sword over the devoted people and sweeps them into eternity.
The first fragment shows the anger of Anu at the sin of some doomed race, and his command to Dibbara to take his weapon, slay the people, and desolate the land like the god Ner. This god Ner was one of the mythical kings of Babylon who reigned after the flood, and is mentioned as having a terrible name and being with Etana a dweller in Hades. The allusion to him in this passage seems to imply that he was believed to have once rescued Babylon from a hostile attack.
The next fragment exhibits the goddess of Karrak as healing the illness of some of the people, 4,102 being mentioned as struck with disease.
In the next and largest fragment the story becomes a little more connected; it commences with a description of preparation for battle, and goes on through137 speeches and actions to describe the course of Dibbara and his plague that he inflicts upon Babylon, and its besiegers where he spares neither chief nor slave, and enters even the palace. It would seem that the sin of the Babylonians arose from the chief priest or governor of the city arming the troops and sending them out to plunder the enemy. For this the plague is sent, and its progress is graphically described. Merodach the special protector of Babylon at last interferes, and the god of pestilence is checked in his course. The next city visited belongs to Samas, being either Larsa, or Sippara, and then the plague reaches Erech. The character of this city is described, the worship of Venus, with her handmaids Samkhati and Kharimati, or “Joy” and “Seduction,” the priests and ceremonies, and the progress of the plague over the place. Then the great god the deity of Duran comes forward and pleads for his city, calling to mind its uprightness and justice, and praying for its exemption from the plague.
In the third column mention is made of Gutium, under which name the Accadians designated the whole tract of country which extended from the Tigris to the eastern borders of Media, including the district afterwards known as Assyria. The land of Nizir, in which rose the mountain of Elwend, on the top of which the Accadians supposed the ark to have rested, also formed part of this vast tract. Sir Henry Rawlinson long ago pointed out that Gutium must be the Goyim of the 14th chapter of Genesis, ruled by138 Tidal, or rather, according to the reading of the Septuagint, Tur-gal “the great Son.”
The fourth column next describes a prophecy of Dibbara that there should be internal war among the peoples of the Persian Gulf, of Syria, Assyria, Elam, Gutium, Lullubu and the Kossæans, from all which troubles benefit should come to the Accadians or northern Babylonians. The Kossæans or Cassi inhabited the northern part of Elam, and under Khammuragas conquered Babylonia and founded there a dynasty which lasted a long time. Lullubu lay northward of Mesopotamia and Nizir.
Then according to his wish Dibbara sends the god Itak his servant, with the seven warrior gods, to devastate, and Itak sweeps over the country and destroys it.17
The last tablet deals in generalities pointing out the action of Dibbara when his praise was neglected, and telling all the glories and good that should come to those who should celebrate this deity in song. On the spread of a plague it is evident that the Babylonians had no better means of arresting it than to pray and praise the supposed terrible deity of the scourge, that he might sheathe his sword of anger.
The antiquity of the legend is evident from the139 geographical names which occur in it. A geographical list which seems based on an Accadian original is the only other document which speaks of Phœnicia, or rather a part of Phœnicia, under the name of Khikhi; and the fact that no reference is made to the Hittites shows that the poem is earlier than the sixteenth century b.c., when the Hittites first rose into power in western Asia. Subartu is derived from the Accadian subar “high,” applied by the Accadians to the highlands of Aram or Syria.
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.
OMBINED with these stories of the gods, traditions of the early history of man, and accounts of the Creation, are fragments of a series in which various animals speak and act. As these resemble the beast-fables of other races, more especially the African, they may be conveniently classed under the general heading of “Fables.” The idea that animals can speak, or have spoken in some former age of the world, even occurs in Genesis, where we have a speaking serpent; in Numbers, where Balaam’s ass reproves his master; and in the stories of Jotham and Joash, where the trees are made to talk; as also in the Izdubar legends, where the trees answer Hea-bani.
Four fables have been preserved among the fragmentary records of Assur-bani-pal’s library.
The first contained at least four tablets each having four columns of writing. Two of the acting animals in it are the eagle and the serpent.
The second is similar in character, the leading animal being the fox or jackal, but there are only four fragments of it; it may belong to the same series as the fable of the eagle.
The third is a single tablet with two columns of writing, and contains a discussion between the horse and ox.
The fourth is a single fragment in which a calf speaks, but there is nothing to show the nature of the story.
I. The Story of the Eagle.
This story appears to be the longest and most curious of the fables, but the very mutilated condition of the various fragments gives as usual considerable difficulty in attempting a translation of it. One of the actors in the story is an ancient monarch named Etana, who, like Ner, ruled over Babylon in the mythical period that followed the Deluge, and whose phantom was believed to sit, crowned, on a throne in Hades along with the shades of the other heroes of old time. The story of Etana was supposed to have been written by an early poet named Nis-Sin.
It is impossible to determine the proper order of142 the fragments of the story owing to their mutilated condition; they must therefore be translated as they come.
Many lines lost at the commencement.
- 1. The serpent in …
- 2. I gave a command (?) …..
- 3. to the eagle …..
- 4. Again the nest …..
- 5. my nest I have left in …..
- 6. the assembly? of my people …..
- 7. I went down and entered:
- 8. the sentence which Samas has pronounced on me …..
- 9. the ear of corn (?) which Samas thy field the earth ….
- 10. this thy fruit ….
- 11. in thy field let me not ….
- 12. the doing of evil the goddess Bahu (Gula) ….
- 13. The sorrow of the serpent [Samas saw and]
- 14. Samas opened his mouth and a word he spoke:
- 15. Go, along the way pass ….
- 16. he covered thee ….
- 17. open also his heart ….
- 18. …. he placed (?) ….
- 19. …. birds of heaven ….
- 1. The eagle with them ….
- 2. the god? had known ….
- 3. he descended, the flesh he ….
- 4. to cover the ….
- 5. to the midst at his entering ….
- 6. the cutting off of the feathers of his wings ….
- 7. his claws? and his pinions to ….
- 8. death by hunger and thirst ….
- 9. for the work of Samas the warrior, the serpent ….
- 10. he took also the serpent ….
- 11. he opened also his heart ….
- 12. seat he placed ….
- 13. peace the birds of heaven ….
- 14. May the eagle ….
- 15. with the young of the birds ….
- 16. The eagle opened his mouth ….
- Five other mutilated lines.
On another fragment are the following few words:—
- 1. …. fierce to him also ….
- 2. …. the god (?) my father ….
- 3. like Etana thy death ….
- 4. like thee ….
- 5. the god Etana the king ….
- 6. they stripped him in ….
- 1. Within the gate of Anu, Bel (and Hea)
- 2. they are established ….
- 3. within the gate of Sin, Samas, Rimmon, and ….
- 4. …. I opened ….
- 5. its … I devastated ….
- 6. …. in the midst ….
- 7. the king ….
- 8. the god also ….
- 9. I overshadowed the throne ….
- 10. I took (?) also ….
- 11. to the great one also I have explained (?) ….
- 12. The eagle to him also even to Etana ….
- 13. his …. the mouth ….
- 14. may thy city submit ….
The next fragment, K 2606, is curious, as containing an account of some early legendary story in Babylonian history. This tablet formed the third in the series, and from it we gain part of the title of the tablets.
- 1. ……. the god had placed ….
- 2. of the city he had fixed its brickwork ….
- 3. he had shepherded them ….
- 4. Etana gave them ….
- 5. …. corn ….
- 6. the seven spirits of earth ….
- 7. …. they took their counsel ….
- 8. …. the world ….
- 9. …. all of them the angels ….
- 10. …. they ….
- 11. In those days also ….
- 12. and a sceptre of crystal ….
- 13. the bowing down of the world ….
- 14. the seven gods over the people raised ….
- 15. over the men they raised ….
- 16. the city of the angels Surippak
- 17. Istar the streets ….
- 18. and the king flew ….
- 19. the god Inninna the streets ….
- 20. and the king flew ….
- 21. Bel encircled (?) the sanctuary of the god ….
- 22. he worshipped also ….
- 23. in the wide country ….
- 24. the kingdom ….
- 25. he brought and ….
- 26. the gods of the country ….
Many lines lost.
- 1. from of old he caused him to wait ….
- 2. Third tablet of “The city he left (?) ….”
- 3. The eagle his mouth opened and to Samas his lord he spake.
The next fragment is a small portion probably of the fourth tablet.
- 1. The eagle his mouth (opened) ….
- 2. ……….
- 3. the people of the birds ….
- 4. ……….
- 5. peace he speaks ….
- 6. peace I speak ….
- 7. in the mouth of Samas the warrior ….
- 8. the people of the birds ….
- 9. The eagle his mouth opened and ….
- 10. Why do I go ….
- 11. the god Etana his mouth opened and ….
Such are the principal fragments of this curious legend. According to the fragment K 2527, the serpent had committed some sin for which it was condemned by the god Samas to be eaten by the eagle; but the eagle declined the repast.
After this, some one, whose name is lost, baits a trap for the eagle, and the bird going to get the meat, falls into the trap and is caught. Now the eagle is left, until dying for want of food it is glad to eat the serpent, which it takes and tears open. The other birds then interfere, but the tablet is too mutilated to allow us to discover for what purpose.
The other fragments concern the building of some city, Etana being king, and in these relations the eagle again appears; there are seven spirits or angels principal actors in the matter, but the whole story is obscure at present, and a connected plot cannot be made out.
This fable has evidently some direct connection with the mythical history of Babylonia, for Etana is mentioned as an ancient Babylonian monarch in the Izdubar legends. He seems to be the Titan of the Greek writers, who lived after the Deluge and made war against Kronos or Hea shortly after the confusion of tongues. The city built by Etana may be the city147 mentioned in Gen. xi. 4 as built at the same time as the Tower of Babel. If the Sibyl can be trusted Titan was a contemporary of Prometheus, in whom we may perhaps see the Inninna of the cuneiform inscription. That Etana was closely associated with the story of the Deluge appears plain from the fact that he ruled at Surippak, the home and kingdom of the Chaldean Noah. The legend of Etana seems in the fable to be put into the mouth of the eagle.
II. Story of the Fox.
The next fable, that of the fox, was ascribed to an author called Lal-Merodach, the son of Eri-Turnunna, but the fragments are so disconnected that they must be given without any attempt at arrangement.
- 1. he had raised life ….
- 2. thou in that day also didst establish ….
- 3. thou knowest plots (and) the making of snares ….
- 4. of …. chains, his command he ….
- 5. from the time the fox approaches he urged me; let not ….
- 6. in treading down …. he had established on my feet,
- 7. again by command is the fecundity of life.
- 8. Samas by thy judgment is ruler; never may he go forth;
- 9. if need be, with the making of snares let them put to death the fox.
- 10. The fox on hearing this, raised his head in the presence of Samas and weeps.
- 11. To the presence of the splendour of Samas his tears went:
- 12. by this judgment O Samas thou dost not make me fecund.
(Columns II. and III. lost.)
- 1. I went to my forest, I turned not back after him
- 2. and in peace I came not forth, and the sun sees not.
- 3. As for thee, never may man imprison (thee),
- 4. since in the pride of my heart and the strength of my face thou goest straight before (me).
- 5. May I confine thee and not send (thee) away.
- 6. May I take hold of thee and thou lacerate not ….
- 7. May I seize thee and not tear (thee) to pieces.
- 8. May I tear thy limbs to pieces and (not) ….
- 9. The fox weeps ….
- 10. he bowed his face ….
- 11. I went and ….
- Five other mutilated lines.
The next fragment has lost the commencements and ends of all the lines.
- 1. …. he carries (?) in the mouth ….
- 2. …. the face of his ….
- 3. …. thou knowest wisdom all ….
- 4. …. in the pathway the fox they are ….
- 5. …. in the field the fox a combatant ….
- 6. …. was decided under the ruler ….
- 7. …. all (?), the lying down of his feet at dawn ….
- 8. …. a sign he set up and he fled ….
- 9. …. no one ….
- 10. …. may it become old to thee …. and take ….
- 11. …. in those days also the fox carried ….
- 12. …. to the people he spoke. Why ….
- 13. …. the dog is removed and ….
The following fragment is in a similar condition.
- 1. …. The limbs I did not ….
- 2. …. I did not weave and against the unclothed (?) I did not ….
- 3. …. a stranger I cover ….
- 4. …. I caught and I surrounded (?) ….
- 5. …. from of old also the dog was my brother ….
- 6. …. he begot me, a firm place ….
- 7. …. of the city of Nisin; I of Bel ….
- 8. …. limbs and the bodies did not stand …
- 9. …. life I did not end (?) ….
The fourth fragment contains only five legible lines.
- 1. …. was placed also right (and left) ….
- 2. …. their shepherd was prostrate ….
- 3. …. let it not be ….
- 4. …. they guarded and did not throw down his spoil …
- 5. …… the fox in the trap (?) ….
The last fragment is a small scrap, at the end of which the fox petitions Samas to spare him.
The incidental allusions in these fragments show that the fox was even then considered cunning, and the animal in the story was evidently a watery specimen, as he brings tears to his assistance whenever anything is to be gained by it. He had offended Samas by some means and the god sentenced him to death, a sentence which he escaped through powerful pleading on his own behalf.
III. Fable of the Horse and Ox.
The next fable, that of the horse and the ox, is a single tablet with only two columns of text. The date of the tablet is in the reign of Assur-bani-pal, and there is no statement that it is copied from an earlier text. There are altogether four portions of the text, but only one is perfect enough to be worth translating. This largest fragment, K 3456, contains about one-third of the story.
(Several lines are lost at the commencement.)
- 1. ….. the river ….
- 2. of food (?) …. rest ….
- 3. full flood …. the Tigris ….
- 4. they restrained …. they had the face …
- 5. the water-lily …. not in the neighbourhood
- 6. the high place …. appearance
- 7. the valley …. the mountain (was perishing),
- 8. at the appearance …. the timid fled (not),
- 9. a boundless place …. he turned
- 10. in the side ….
- 11. of the waste …. earth was free within it;
- 12. the tribes of cattle rejoiced in companionship and friendship,
- 13. the ox and the horse made friendship,
- 14. their maw rejoiced when to friendship
- 15. it inclined, and their heart was glad; they made agreement together.
- 16. The ox opened his mouth, and speaks; he says to the horse glorious in war:
- 17. I am pondering now upon the good fortune at my hand.
- 18. At the beginning of the year and the end of the year I dream (or ponder) of fodder.
- 19. The abundant floods had been dried up, the waters of the canals were reduced,
- 20. the water-lily had drooped, it was suffering the summer-heat,
- 21. the valleys were stony, my mountain was perishing,
- 22. the high places had perished, the zambatu languished,
- 23. at the sight of my horn the timid fled not.
- 24. A boundless place is portioned for his ….
- 25. the man …. who knew ceased ….
- 26. he smote the ropes (?) and waited ….
- 27. and the horse ….
- 28. cut off thyself thy ….
- 29. he ascends also ….
Here the ox describes the state of the country during the drought of summer, and makes a league with the horse, apparently for the purpose of sharing with him the same pastures. Most of the speeches, however, made by the two animals are lost or only present in small fragments, and the story recommences on the reverse with the end of a speech from the horse.
- 1. fate ….
- 2. strong brass? ….
- 3. as with a cloak I am clothed ….
- 4. over me a child not suited ….
- 5. king, high priest, lord and prince do not seek the plain ….
- 6. The ox opened his mouth and spake and says to the horse glorious (in war):
- 7. Thee they strike and thou alliest ….
- 8. in thy fighting why ….
- 9. the lord of the chariot ….
- 10. in my body firmness ….
- 11. in my inside firmness ….
- 12. the warrior draws out the quiver ….
- 13. strength carries a curse ….
- 14. the weapon (?) of thy masters over ….
- 15. he causes to see servitude like ….
- 16. shudder and in thee is not ….
- 17. he causes to go on the path over (the marsh) ..
- 18. The horse opened his mouth and spake (and said to the ox) ….
- 19. In my hearing ….
- 20. the weapon (?) ….
- 21. the swords ….
- 22. ……
- 23. strength? of the heart which ….
- 24. in crossing that river ….
- 25. in the path of thy mountains ….
- 26. I reveal? and the ox the story ….
- 27. in thy appearance, it is not ….
- 28. thy offspring is subdued? ….
- 29. when thou runnest, O horse ….
- 30. The ox opened his mouth and spake and says to (the horse glorious in war) ….154
- 31. In addition to the stories which thou hast told
- 32. open first (that of) “Behold Istar the noble ….” (Colophon)
- Palace of Assur-bani-pal, king of nations, king (of Assyria).
It appears from these fragments that the story described a time when the animals associated together, and the ox and horse fell into a friendly conversation. The ox, commencing the discussion, praised himself; the answer of the horse is lost, but where the story recommences it appears that the ox objects to the horse drawing the chariot from which he himself is hunted, and the horse ultimately offers to tell the ox a story, the ox choosing the story called “Behold Istar,” probably some story of the same character as that of Istar’s descent into Hades.
It is uncertain if any other tablet followed this; it is, however, probable that there was one containing the story told by the horse. Although there is no indication to show the date of this fable, the fact that it is not stated to have been copied from an older document seems to show that it is not earlier than the time of Assur-bani-pal. The loss of the tablet containing the story of Istar, told by the horse to the ox, is unfortunate. The last fable is a mere fragment similar to the others, containing a story in which the calf speaks. There is not enough of it to make it worth translation.
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.
NUMBER of stories of a similar character to those of Genesis, though not directly connected with the latter, have been included in this chapter, together with two fragments which probably relate, the one to the Tower of Babel, the other to the destruction of the cities of the Plain. The first and principal text is the story of Atarpi, or Atarpi nisu, “Atarpi the man.” This story is on a tablet in six columns, and there is only one copy of it. It is terribly mutilated, very little being preserved except Column III., but there are numerous repetitions throughout the text. The inscription has originally been a long one, probably extending to about 400 lines of writing, and the text156 differs from the generality of these inscriptions, being very obscure and difficult. In consequence of this and other reasons, only an outline of most of the story is given here.
We are first told of a quarrel between a mother named Zibanit and her daughter, and that the mother shuts the door of the house, and turns her daughter adrift, the words of the original being “the mother to the daughter opens not her door.” The doings of a man named Zamu have some connection with the affair, his “descending into the street on getting” something being mentioned immediately before the expulsion of the daughter; and at the close we are told of Atarpi, sometimes called Atarpi-nisu, or Atarpi the “man” who had his couch beside the river of the north, and was pious to the gods, but took no notice of these things. When the story next opens, we find the god Bel calling together an assembly of the gods his sons, and relating to them that he is angry at the sin of the world, stating also that he will bring down upon it disease, tempest, distress, madness, burning and sickness. This is followed by the statement that these things came to pass, and Atarpi then invoked his god Hea to remove these evils. For a whole year, it would seem, he interceded for the people, and at last Hea answered, and announced his resolve to destroy the people. After this the story reads:
- 1. (Hea called) his assembly (by the river) of the north; he said to the gods his sons:
- 2. …… I made them157
- 3. …. shall not stretch until before he turns.
- 4. Their famine I observe,
- 5. their shame the woman takes not;
- 6. I will look to judge the people?
- 7. in their stomach let famine dwell,
- 8. above let Rimmon drink up his rain,
- 9. let him drink up below, let not the flood be carried in the canals,
- 10. let it remove from the field its inundations,
- 11. let the corn-god give over increase, let blackness overspread the corn,
- 12. let the plowed fields bring forth thorns,
- 13. let the growth of their fruit perish, let food not come forth from it, let bread not be produced,
- 14. let distress also be spread over the people,
- 15. may favour be shut up, and good not be given.
- 16. He looked also to judge the people,
- 17. in their stomach dwelt famine,
- 18. above Rimmon drank up his rain,
- 19. he drank it up below, the flood was not carried in the canals,
- 20. it removed from the field its inundations,
- 21. the corn-god gave over increase, blackness spread over the corn,
- 22. the plowed fields brought forth thorns, the growth of their fruit perished,
- 23. food came not forth from it, bread was not produced,
- 24. distress was spread over the people,
- 25. favour was shut up, good was not given.
This will serve to show the style of the tablet. The instrument of punishment was apparently famine from want of rain.
Here the story is again lost, and where it recommences Hea is making a speech, directing another person to cut something into portions, and place seven on each side, and then to build brickwork round them. After this comes a single fragment, the connection of which with the former part is obscure.
- 1. Seated was the goddess ….
- 2. to her face also he gave ….
- 3. Anu opened his mouth and speaks; he said to (Nusku);
- 4. Nusku open thy gate; thy weapons (take)
- 5. in the assembly of the great gods when ….
- 6. their speech? ….
- 7. Anu sent m ….
- 8. your king sent ….
At present no satisfactory story can be made out of the detached fragments of this tablet, but it evidently belongs to the mythical portion of Babylonian history, and it is impossible not to compare the unsuccessful intercession of the righteous man Atarpi with the pleadings of Abraham on behalf of the cities of the plain.
The next text is a single fragment, K 2407, be159longing to a curious story of a wise man who puts a riddle to the gods.
(Many lines lost.)
- 1. The clothing of the god ….
- 2. What in the house is (fixed) ….
- 3. What in the secret place is ….
- 4. what is in the foundation of the house ….
- 5. what on the floor of the house is fixed, what …
- 6. what the lower part ….
- 7. what by the sides of the house goes down ….
- 8. what in the ditch of the house broad nigitstsi ….
- 9. what roars like a bull, what brays like an ass,
- 10. what flutters like a sail, what bleats like a sheep,
- 11. what barks like a dog,
- 12. what growls like a bear,
- 13. what into the fundament of a man enters, what into the fundament of a woman enters.
- 14. Then Lugal-girra (Nergal) heard the wise word the son of the people
- 15. asked, and all the gods he urged (to solve it):
- 16. Let your solution be produced, that I may bring back your answer.
After this there is a mutilated passage containing the names, titles, and actions of the gods who consider the riddle. It is evident that it is air or wind160 which the wise man means in his riddle, for this is everywhere, and in its sounds imitates the cries of animals.
Next we have another single fragment about a person named Sinuri, who uses a divining rod to ascertain the meaning of a dream.
- 1. Sinuri with the cut reed pondered ….
- 2. with his right hand he broke it, and Sinuri speaks and thus says:
- 3. Now the plant of Nusku, the shrub? of Samas art thou.
- 4. Judge, thou judgest (or divinest), divine concerning this dream,
- 5. which in the evening, at midnight, or in the morning,
- 6. has come, which thou knowest, but I do not know.
- 7. If it be good may its good not be lost to me,
- 8. if it be evil may its evil not happen to me.
There are some more obscure and broken lines, but no indication as to the story to which it belongs.
A specimen of early Babylonian folklore may fitly be added here. It is a bilingual fragment which treats of a foundling who was picked up in the streets and finally became a great scholar. Unfortunately both the beginning and the end of the story are wanting.
- 1. He who father and mother had not,
- 2. who his father (and) his mother knew not,
- 3. in the gutter (was) his going, in the street (his) entering.
- 4. From the mouth of the dogs one took him,
- 5. from the mouth of the ravens one put him away.
- 6. In the presence of the soothsayer the …. of his mouth one took.
- 7. The sole of his feet with the seal the soothsayer has marked.
- 8. To a nurse he gave him.
- 9. To his nurse for three years, corn, a cradle (?)
- 10. (and) clothing he guaranteed.
- 11. Then and ever he hid from him how he was taken (from the streets).
- 12. His rearer he rooted out (?).
- 13. The ….. of the milk of mankind he gave him, and
- 14. as his own son he made him.
- 15. As his own son he inscribed him.
- 16. A knowledge of writing he made him possess.
- 17. For his education (he cared).
One of the most obscure incidents in the Book of Genesis is undoubtedly the building of the Tower of Babel. So far as we can judge from the fragments of his copyists, there was no reference to it in the work of Berosus, and early writers had to quote from writers of more than doubtful authority in order to confirm it.
There is also no representation on any of the Babylonian gems which can with any certainty be described as belonging to this story. Mr. Smith, however, picked out three from a series of these carvings162 which he thought might be distorted representations of the event. In these and some others of the same character, figures have their hands on tall piles, as if erecting them; and there is a god always represented near in much the same attitude. There is no proper163 proportion between the supposed structure and the men, and no stress can consequently be laid on the representations. The Babylonian origin of the story is, however, self-evident. According to Genesis, mankind after the flood travelled from the east, that is from Kharsak-kurra, “the mountain of the East,” now Elwend, where the Accadians believed the ark to have rested, to the plain of Shinar or Sumir. Both Alexander Polyhistor and Abydenus state that the building of the Tower of Babel was known to Babylonian history, Babel, in fact, being the native form of the name which the Greeks changed into Babylon. The legend of Etana given in the last chapter seems to imply that the Tower was supposed to have been built under the superintendence of this mythical hero. However that may be, a fragment of the native story of its construction was discovered by Mr. Smith, and though shockingly mutilated, is sufficient to show what the Babylonians themselves believed on the matter.
It is evident from the wording of the fragment that it was preceded by at least one tablet, describing the sin of the people in building the tower. The fragment preserved belongs to a tablet containing from four to six columns of writing, of which portions of four remain. The principal part is the beginning of Column I.
- 1. …. them the father ….
- 2. the thought of his heart was evil,
- 3. …. he the father of all the gods had repudiated;
- 4. the thought of his heart was evil,
- 5. …. of Babylon he hastens to the submission (?),
- 6. [small] and great he confounded (on) the mound.
- 7. …. of Babylon he hastens to the submission,
- 8. [small] and great he confounded (on) the mound.
- 9. Their walls all the day he founded;
- 10. for their destruction (punishment) in the night
- 11. …. he did not leave a remainder.
- 12. In his anger also (his) secret counsel he pours out:
- 13. [to] confound (their) speeches he set his face.
- 14. He gave the command, he made strange their counsel
- 15. …. the going he inspected it.
- 16. …. he took (selected) a shrine.
There is a small fragment of Column II., but the connection with Column I. is not apparent.
- 1. Sar-tuli-elli (the king of the illustrious mound, i.e. Anu) destroys (or punishes).
- 2. In front had Anu lifted up ….
- 3. to Bel-esir his father ….
- 4. Since his heart also ….
- 5. who carried the command ….
- 6. In those days also ….
- 7. he lifted him up ….
- 8. The goddess Dav-kina ….
- 9. My son I rise and ….
- 10. his number(?) ….
- 11. he did not ….
There is a third portion on the same tablet belonging to a column on the other side, either the third or the fifth.
Reverse Column III. or V.
- 1. In ….
- 2. they blew and ….
- 3. for future times ….
- 4. The god of no government went ….
- 5. He said, like heaven and earth ….
- 6. his path they went ….
- 7. fiercely they fronted his presence ….
- 8. He saw them and the earth ….
- 9. Since a stop they did not (make) ….
- 10. of the gods ….
- 11. the gods they revolted against ….
- 12. offspring ….
- 13. They weep hot tears for Babylon;
- 14. bitterly they wept (for Babylon);
- 15. their heart also ….
These fragments are so remarkable that it is most unfortunate we have not the remainder of the tablet.
In the first part we have the anger of Bel, the father of the gods, at the sin of those who were building the walls of Babylon and the mound of tower or palace. This mound is termed “the illustrious,” and the god Anu who destroyed the builders is accordingly called Sar-tuli-elli, “the king of the illustrious mound.” Since the Accadian name of the month Tisri, our October, was “the month of the illustrious mound,” it would appear that the construction of it was believed to have taken place at the time of the autumnal equinox. The builders were punished by the deity, and the walls that had been set up in the day were destroyed at night. Prof. Delitzsch has drawn attention to a possible reference to this legend in an Accadian hymn in which the poet says to Merodach, “found during the day, destroy during the night.” It is plain from the first lines that the whole attempt was directed against the gods; in fact, that like the giants and Titans in Greek mythology, whose assault on Zeus is probably but an echo of the old Babylonian tale, conveyed to Greece through the hands of the Phœnicians, the builders of the Tower of Babylon intended to scale the sky. They were, however, confounded on the mound, as well as their speech (tammasle). It is interesting to find the very same word signifying “to confound” used in the Babylonian as in the Hebrew account, namely bâlal, or rather bâlâh. We may also notice that the Hebrew writer once (Gen. xi. 7.) adopts the polytheistic language of the Accadian scribe; the167 Lord being made to say “Let us go down, and there confound their language.”
The last column shows that the winds finally destroyed the impious work of the Babylonians. This fully accords with the legend reported by Alexander Polyhistor. For a time Babylon was given over to the god of lawlessness; but at last the gods repented of the evil they had done, and order was once more restored. The shrine mentioned in the sixteenth line of the first column may receive some light from the fact that the Accadian name of Nisan or March was “the month of the upright altar,” or “of the altar of Bel,” and that Nisan corresponded with the vernal equinox just as Tisri did with the autumnal equinox.
The etymology of the name of Babel from balbel, “to confound,” suggested in Genesis is one of those “popular etymologies” or plays on words of which168 the Old Testament writers are so fond. Thus, for instance, the name of Joseph is connected first with ’âsaph “to take away,” and then with yâsaph “to add” (Gen. xxx. 23, 24.), and the name of the Moabite city Dibon is changed into Dimon by Isaiah (xv. 9) to indicate that its “waters shall be full of blood,” Hebrew dâm. Babel is the Assyrian Bab-ili “the gate of God” (or, as it is occasionally written in the plural, Bab-ili “Gate of the gods”), which was the Semitic translation of the old Accadian name of the town Ca-dimirra with the same meaning. This is not the only instance in which the original Accadian names of Babylonian cities were literally translated into Semitic Babylonian after the Semitic conquest of the country. It is possible that the name had some reference to the building of the Tower. Babylon was first made a capital by Khammuragas, the leader of the Cossæan dynasty, a169 position which it never afterwards lost; but the first antediluvian king of Chaldea, Alorus, according to Barosus, was a native of the place.
The actual site of the Tower of Babel, beyond the mere fact that it was somewhere in Babylon, has not yet been settled. It is generally considered to be represented by the great pile of Birs Nimrud, which stood in Borsippa, the suburb of Babylon, and was dedicated to Nebo and called “the Temple of the Seven Lights” or planets. This ruin has been examined by Sir Henry Rawlinson; details of his170 operations here are given in the “Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society,” vol. xviii., and Rawlinson’s “Ancient Monarchies,” p. 544. Sir Henry discovered by excavation that the tower consisted of seven stages of brickwork on an earthen platform, each stage being of a different colour. This is explained by the fact that it was devoted to the seven planets. The height of the earthen platform was not ascertained, but the first stage, which was an exact square, was 272 feet each way, and 26 feet high, the bricks being blackened with bitumen; this stage is supposed to have been dedicated to the planet Saturn. The second stage was a square of 230 feet, 26 feet high, faced with orange-coloured bricks; supposed to have been dedicated to Jupiter. The third stage, 188 feet square, and 26 feet high, faced with red bricks, was probably dedicated to Mars. The fourth stage, 146 feet square, and 15 feet high, was probably dedicated to the Sun, and is thought by Sir H. Rawlinson to have been originally plated with gold. The fifth stage is supposed to have been 104, the sixth 62, and the seventh 20 feet square, but the top was too ruinous to decide these measurements. These stages were probably dedicated to Venus, Mercury, and the Moon. Each stage of the building was not set in the centre of the stage on which it rested, but was placed 30 feet from the front, and 12 feet from the back. The ruin at present rises 154 feet above the level of the plain, and is the most imposing pile in the whole country. According171 to Nebuchadnezzar it had been built to the height of 42 cubits by “a former king,” who however had not completed its summit, and it had long been in a ruinous condition when Nebuchadnezzar undertook to restore and finish it. Prof. Schrader imagines that the long period during which it had remained an unfinished ruin caused the growth of the legend which saw in it a monument of the overthrow of human presumption, the diversity of languages in Babylonia being sufficient to account for the localization of the confusion of tongues in the country.
Sir Henry Rawlinson now proposes to place the Tower or tul ellu at the ruins now called Amrán, within the city of Babylon itself. Here he thinks were the temple of Anu, on the site of the ruined Tower, a chapel dedicated to Nebo, an altar of Merodach, the royal palace (now represented by the mound of the Kasr), and the hanging gardens, all enclosed by a common wall. The quarter of Babylon thus enclosed he would identify with the Calneh of the Bible, principally on the ground that the Septuagint rendering of Isaiah x. 9 is, “Have I not taken the region above Babylon and Chalanne where the tower was built?”
A third site has been claimed for the Tower on the Babil or Mujellibeh mound on the north side of Babylon. This represents the famous temple of Belus or Bel, whose great festival marked the beginning of the year and the vernal equinox. But there is no evidence to support this third opinion.
In the Babylonian and Assyrian sculptures there172 are occasionally representations of towers similar in style to the supposed Tower of Babel; one of these is given on the stone of Merodach Baladan I., opposite p. 236 of Mr. Smith’s “Assyrian Discoveries;” another occurs on the sculptures at Nineveh, representing the city of Babylon; this tower, however, cannot represent the Borsippa pile, since it consists of only five stages.
Besides the Tower of Babel, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by fire from heaven may also have been known to the Accadians. We learn from Genesis xiv. that the cities of the plain were among the conquests of Chedor-laomer and his allies, and there is some reason for thinking that the history of Chedor-laomer’s campaign may have been derived from the Babylonian state archives. At all events Amraphel or Amarpel, the king of Sumir, is mentioned first, although Chedor-laomer was the paramount sovereign and the leader of the expedition. The expedition must have taken place during the period when, as we learn from the inscriptions, Babylonia was subject to the monarchs of Elam, though subordinate princes were ruling over the states into which it was divided at the time. Though the name of Chedor-laomer has not been found, Laomer or Lagamar appears as an Elamite god, and several of the Elamite kings bore names compounded with Kudur “a servant,” as Kudur-Nankhunte, “the servant of the god Nankhunte,” Kudur-Mabug, “the servant of Mabug,” and the like. Arioch, king of Ellasar, which probably173 stands for al Larsa, “the city of Larsa,” has the same name as Eri-Acu (“the servant of the moon-god”), the son of the Elamite monarch Kudur-Mabug, who reigned over Larsa during his father’s lifetime, and was eventually overthrown by the Cossæan conqueror Khammuragas.
The text which perhaps relates to the destruction of the guilty cities is a bilingual one, much mutilated, and runs as follows:—
- 1. An overthrow came from the midst of the deep (the waters above the firmament).
- 2. The fated punishment from the midst of heaven descended.
- 3. A storm like a plummet the earth (overwhelmed).
- 4. Towards the four winds the destroying flood like fire burnt.
- 5. The inhabitants of the city it had caused to be tormented; their bodies it consumed.
- 6. In city and country it spread death, and the flames as they rose overthrew.
- 7. Freeman and slave were equal, and the high places it filled.
- 8. In heaven and earth like a thunderstorm it had rained; a prey it made.
- 9. To a place of refuge the gods hastened, and in a throng collected.
- 10. Its mighty (onset) they fled from, and like a garment it concealed (the guilty).
- 11. They (feared), and death (overtook them).
- 12. (Their) feet and hands (it embraced).
- 13. ……….
- 14. Their body it consumed.
- 15. ….. as for the city, its foundations it defiled.
- 16. …. with (glory?) and breadth his mouth he filled.
- 17. This man the voice (of the thunder) called; the thunderbolt descended;
- 18. during the day it flashed; grievously (it fell).
Here the fragment breaks off. It is possible that the person referred to in line 17 was the pious man who like Lot escaped the destruction that befell his neighbours.