Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Atra-Hasis

Atra-Hasis

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Atra-Hasis'
Start a new discussion about 'Atra-Hasis'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
The 18th century BCE Akkadian
Akkadian language
Akkadian is an extinct Semitic language that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia. The earliest attested Semitic language, it used the cuneiform writing system derived ultimately from ancient Sumerian, an unrelated language isolate...

 epic
Epic poetry
An epic is a lengthy narrative poem, ordinarily concerning a serious subject containing details of heroic deeds and events significant to a culture or nation. Oral poetry may qualify as an epic, and Albert Lord and Milman Parry have argued that classical epics were fundamentally an oral poetic form...

 of Atra-Hasis is named after its protagonist. An "Atra-Hasis" ("exceedingly wise") appears on one of the Sumerian king list
Sumerian king list
The Sumerian King List is an ancient manuscript originally recorded in the Sumerian language, listing kings of Sumer from Sumerian and neighboring dynasties, their supposed reign lengths, and the locations of "official" kingship...

s as king of Shuruppak
Shuruppak
Shuruppak or Shuruppag was an ancient Sumerian city situated about 35 miles south of Nippur on the banks of the Euphrates at the site of modern Tell Fara in Iraq's Al-Qādisiyyah Governorate....

 in the times before the flood. The Atra-Hasis tablets include both a creation myth and a flood account, which is one of three surviving Babylonian deluge stories. The oldest known copy of the epic tradition concerning Atrahasis can be dated by colophon
Colophon (publishing)
In publishing, a colophon is either:* A brief description of publication or production notes relevant to the edition, in modern books usually located at the reverse of the title page, but can also sometimes be located at the end of the book, or...

 (scribal identification) to the reign of Hammurabi
Hammurabi
Hammurabi Hammurabi Hammurabi (Akkadian from Amorite ʻAmmurāpi, "the kinsman is a healer", from ʻAmmu, "paternal kinsman", and Rāpi, "healer"; (died c...

’s great-grandson, Ammi-Saduqa
Ammi-Saduqa
Ammi-Saduqa was a king of the First Dynasty of Babylon. Some 21 year-names survive for his reign, including the first 17...

 (1646–1626 BCE), but various Old Babylonian
Old Babylonian
Old Babylonian may refer to:*the period of the First Babylonian Dynasty *the historical stage of the Akkadian language of that time...

 fragments exist; it continued to be copied into the first millennium BCE. The Atrahasis story also exists in a later fragmentary Assyrian version, having been first rediscovered in the library of Ashurbanipal
Library of Ashurbanipal
-External links:. In our time discussion programme. 45 minutes....

, but, because of the fragmentary condition of the tablets and ambiguous words, translations had been uncertain.
Its fragments were assembled and translated first by George Smith
George Smith (assyriologist)
George Smith , was a pioneering English Assyriologist who first discovered and translated the Epic of Gilgamesh, the oldest-known written work of literature.-Early life and early career:...

 as The Chaldean Account of Genesis; the name of its hero was corrected to Atra-Hasis by Heinrich Zimmern in 1899.

In 1965 W. G. Lambert and A. R. Millard
Alan Millard
Alan Ralph Millard is Rankin Professor Emeritus of Hebrew and Ancient Semitic Languages, and Honorary Senior Fellow , at the School of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology in the University of Liverpool....

 published many additional texts belonging to the epic, including an Old Babylonian copy (written around 1650 BCE) which is our most complete surviving recension of the tale. These new texts greatly increased knowledge of the epic and were the basis for Lambert and Millard’s first English translation of the Atrahasis epic in something approaching entirety. A further fragment has been recovered in Ugarit
Ugarit
Ugarit was an ancient port city in the eastern Mediterranean at the Ras Shamra headland near Latakia, Syria. It is located near Minet el-Beida in northern Syria. It is some seven miles north of Laodicea ad Mare and approximately fifty miles east of Cyprus...

. Walter Burkert
Walter Burkert
Walter Burkert is a German scholar of Greek mythology and cult.An emeritus professor of classics at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, he also has taught in the United Kingdom and the United States...

 traces the model drawn from Atrahasis to a corresponding passage, the division by lots of the air, underworld and sea among Zeus, Hades and Poseidon in the Iliad
Iliad
The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles...

, in which “a resetting through which the foreign framework still shows”.

In its most complete surviving version, the Atrahasis epic is written on three tablets in Akkadian, the language of ancient Babylon.

Synopsis


Tablet I contains a creation myth about the Sumerian gods Anu
Anu
In Sumerian mythology, Anu was a sky-god, the god of heaven, lord of constellations, king of gods, Consort of Antu, spirits and demons, and dwelt in the highest heavenly regions. It was believed that he had the power to judge those who had committed crimes, and that he had created the stars as...

, Enlil
Enlil
Elizabeth Barrett Browning was one of the most prominent poets of the Victorian era. Her poetry was widely popular in both England and the United States during her lifetime. A collection of her last poems was published by her husband, Robert Browning, shortly after her death.-Early life:Members...

, and Enki
Enki
Enki is a god in Sumerian mythology, later known as Ea in Akkadian and Babylonian mythology. He was originally patron god of the city of Eridu, but later the influence of his cult spread throughout Mesopotamia and to the Canaanites, Hittites and Hurrians...

, gods of sky, wind, and water, “when gods were in the ways of men” according to its incipit
Incipit
Incipit is a Latin word meaning "it begins". The incipit of a text, such as a poem, song, or book, is the first few words of its opening line. In music, it can also refer to the opening notes of a composition. Before the development of titles, texts were often referred to by their incipits...

. Following the Cleromancy
Cleromancy
Cleromancy is a form of divination using sortition, casting of lots, or casting bones or stones, in which an outcome is determined by means that normally would be considered random, such as the rolling of dice, but are sometimes believed to reveal the will of God, or other supernatural entities.-In...

 (casting of lots), sky is ruled by Anu, earth by Enlil, and the freshwater sea by Enki. Enlil assigned junior divines to do farm labor and maintain the rivers and canals, but after forty years the lesser gods or dingirs rebelled and refused to do strenuous labor. Instead of punishing the rebels, Enki, who is also the kind, wise counselor of the gods, suggested that humans be created to do the work. The mother goddess Mami
Mami
Mami may refer to:*Mami , a goddess in the Babylonian epic Atra-Hasis*Mami , a Japanese feminine given name* Mami, alias of the Algerian raï singer Cheb Mami*Mami, a type of noodle soup found in the Philippines...

 is assigned the task of creating humans by shaping clay figurines mixed with the flesh and blood of the slain god Geshtu-E
Geshtu-E
Geshtu- is, in Sumerian and Akkadian mythology, a minor god of intelligence. Legend says that he was sacrificed by the great gods and his blood was used in the creation of mankind....

, “a god who had intelligence” (his name means “ear” or “wisdom”). All the gods in turn spit upon the clay. After ten months, a specially made womb breaks open and humans are born. Tablet I continues with legends about overpopulation and plagues. Atrahasis is mentioned at the end of Tablet I.

Tablet II begins with more overpopulation of humans and the god Enlil sending first famine and drought at formulaic intervals of 1200 years to reduce the population. In this epic Enlil is depicted as a nasty capricious god while Enki is depicted as a kind helpful god, perhaps because priests of Enki were writing and copying the story. Tablet II is mostly damaged, but ends with Enlil's decision to destroy humankind with a flood and Enki bound by an oath to keep the plan secret.

Tablet III of the Atrahasis Epic contains the flood story. This is the part that was adapted in the Epic of Gilgamesh
Epic of Gilgamesh
Epic of Gilgamesh is an epic poem from Mesopotamia and is among the earliest known works of literature. Scholars believe that it originated as a series of Sumerian legends and poems about the protagonist of the story, Gilgamesh king of Uruk, which were fashioned into a longer Akkadian epic much...

, tablet XI. Tablet III of Atrahasis tells how the god Enki warns the hero Atrahasis (“Extremely Wise”) of Shuruppak
Shuruppak
Shuruppak or Shuruppag was an ancient Sumerian city situated about 35 miles south of Nippur on the banks of the Euphrates at the site of modern Tell Fara in Iraq's Al-Qādisiyyah Governorate....

, speaking through a reed wall (suggestive of an oracle) to dismantle his house (perhaps to provide a construction site) and build a boat to escape the flood planned by the god Enlil to destroy humankind. The boat is to have a roof “like Apsu” (a subterranean, fresh water realm presided over by the god Enki), upper and lower decks, and to be sealed with bitumen. Atrahasis boards the boat with his family and animals and seals the door. The storm and flood begin. Even the gods are afraid. After seven days the flood ends and Atrahasis offers sacrifices to the gods. Enlil is furious with Enki for violating his oath. But Enki denies violating his oath and argues: “I made sure life was preserved.” Enki and Enlil agree on other means for controlling the human population.

Atrahasis in History


A few general histories can be attributed to the Mesopotamian Atrahasis by ancient sources. Until recently, these were considered mytological but evidence mounts to the contrary , including new genetic studies.The Epic of Gilgamesh
Epic of Gilgamesh
Epic of Gilgamesh is an epic poem from Mesopotamia and is among the earliest known works of literature. Scholars believe that it originated as a series of Sumerian legends and poems about the protagonist of the story, Gilgamesh king of Uruk, which were fashioned into a longer Akkadian epic much...

 labels Atrahasis as the son of Ubara-Tutu
Ubara-Tutu
Ubara-tutu of Shuruppak was the last antediluvian king of Sumer. He is recorded as the son of Enmunderana whom most believe to be the inspiration for the biblical Enoch...

, king of Shuruppak
Shuruppak
Shuruppak or Shuruppag was an ancient Sumerian city situated about 35 miles south of Nippur on the banks of the Euphrates at the site of modern Tell Fara in Iraq's Al-Qādisiyyah Governorate....

, on tablet XI, ‘Gilgamesh spoke to Utnapishtim (Atrahasis), the Faraway… O man of Shuruppak, son of Ubara-Tutu’. The Instructions of Shuruppak
Instructions of Shuruppak
Instructions of Šuruppak is a significant piece of Sumerian wisdom literature. Wisdom literature, intended to teach proper piety, inculcate virtue, and preserve community standards, was common throughout the ancient Near East...

 instead label Atrahasis (under the name Ziusudra
Ziusudra
Ziusudra of Shuruppak is listed in the WB-62 Sumerian king list recension as the last king of Sumer prior to the deluge. He is subsequently recorded as the hero of the Sumerian flood epic...

) as the son of the eponymous Shuruppak, who himself is labelled as the son of Ubara-Tutu. At this point we are left with two possible fathers: Ubara-Tutu or Shuruppak. Many available tablets comprising The Sumerian King Lists
Sumerian king list
The Sumerian King List is an ancient manuscript originally recorded in the Sumerian language, listing kings of Sumer from Sumerian and neighboring dynasties, their supposed reign lengths, and the locations of "official" kingship...

 support The Epic of Gilgamesh by omitting Shuruppak as a ruler of Shuruppak. These lists imply an immediate flood after or during the rule of Ubara-Tutu. These lists also make no mention of Atrahasis under any name. However WB-62 lists a different and rather interesting chronology – here Atrahasis is listed as a ruler of Shuruppak and gudug priest, preceded by his father Shuruppak who is in turn preceded by his father Ubara-Tutu. WB-62 would therefore lend support to The Instructions of Shuruppak and is peculiar in that it mentions both Shuruppak and Atrahasis. In any event it seems that Atrahasis was of royal blood; whether he himself ruled and in what way this would affect the chronology is debatable.

Literary inheritance


The Epic of Atrahasis provides additional information on the flood and flood hero that is omitted in Gilgamesh XI and other versions of the Ancient Near East flood story. According to Atrahasis III ii.40–47 the flood hero was at a banquet when the storm and flood began: “He invited his people…to a banquet… He sent his family on board. They ate and they drank. But he (Atrahasis) was in and out. He could not sit, could not crouch, for his heart was broken and he was vomiting gall.”

According to one scholar, the lines of Atrahasis tablet III iv.6–9 clearly identify the flood as a local river flood: “Like dragonflies they [dead bodies] have filled the river. Like a raft they have moved in to the edge [of the boat]. Like a raft they have moved in to the riverbank.” It should be noted, however, that most authorities interpret the Atrahasis flood as universal. A. R. George, and Lambert and Millard make it clear that the gods' intention in Atrahasis is to “wipe out mankind”. The flood destroys “all of the earth”. In the context of the larger story, it is difficult to see how a local river flood could accomplish these purposes. The use of a comparable metaphor in the Gilgamesh epic suggests that the reference to “dragonflies [filling] the river” is simply an evocative image of death rather than a literal description of the flood.

The flood story in the standard edition of the Epic of Gilgamesh
Epic of Gilgamesh
Epic of Gilgamesh is an epic poem from Mesopotamia and is among the earliest known works of literature. Scholars believe that it originated as a series of Sumerian legends and poems about the protagonist of the story, Gilgamesh king of Uruk, which were fashioned into a longer Akkadian epic much...

, Chapter XI may have been paraphrased or copied verbatim from a non-extant, intermediate version the Epic of Atrahasis. But editorial changes were made, some of which had long-term consequences. The sentence quoted above from Atrahasis III iv, lines 6–7: “Like dragonflies they have filled the river.” was changed in Gilgamesh XI line 123 to: “Like the spawn of fishes, they fill the sea.” However, see comments above.

Other editorial changes were made to the Atrahasis text. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, anthropomorphic descriptions of the gods are weakened. For example, Atrahasis OB III, 30–31 “The Anunnaki
Anunnaki
The Anunnaki are a group of Sumerian, Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian deities...

 (the senior gods) [were sitt]ing in thirst and hunger.” was changed in Gilgamesh XI, 113 to “The gods feared the deluge.” Sentences in Atrahasis III iv were omitted in Gilgamesh, e.g. “She was surfeited with grief and thirsted for beer” and “From hunger they were suffering cramp.”

See also


  • Alan Millard
    Alan Millard
    Alan Ralph Millard is Rankin Professor Emeritus of Hebrew and Ancient Semitic Languages, and Honorary Senior Fellow , at the School of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology in the University of Liverpool....

  • Babylonian and Assyrian religion
  • Flood (mythology)
    Flood (mythology)
    A flood myth or deluge myth is a mythical or religious story of a great flood sent by a deity or deities to destroy civilization as an act of divine retribution...

  • Gilgamesh flood myth
    Gilgamesh flood myth
    The Gilgamesh flood myth is a deluge story in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Many scholars believe that the flood myth was added to Tablet XI in the "standard version" of the Gilgamesh Epic by an editor who utilized the flood story from the Epic of Atrahasis...

  • Noah's Ark
    Noah's Ark
    Noah's Ark is a vessel appearing in the Book of Genesis and the Quran . These narratives describe the construction of the ark by Noah at God's command to save himself, his family, and the world's animals from the worldwide deluge of the Great Flood.In the narrative of the ark, God sees the...

  • Sumerian creation myth
    Sumerian creation myth
    The earliest record of the Sumerian creation myth and flood myth is found on a single fragmentary tablet excavated in Nippur, sometimes called the Eridu Genesis. It is written in the Sumerian language and datable by its script to 2150 BC, during the first Babylonian dynasty, where the language of...



External links