Does this story sound familiar?

The Epic of Atrahasis was written in Assyria during the 17th century BCE. Here’s a part of it:

Atrahasis made ready to speak, and said to his lord:
“Make me know the meaning of the dream. let me know, that I may look out for its consequence.”

Enki made ready to speak, and said to his servant: “You might say, ‘Am I to be looking out while in the bedroom? Do you pay attention to message that I speak for your‘Wall, listen to me! Reed wall, pay attention to all my words!

Flee the house, build a boat, forsake possessions, and save life...

The boat which you build… be equal …Roof her over like the Apsu so that the sun shall not see inside her. Let her be roofed over fore and aft. The gear should be very strong, the pitch should be firm, and so give the boat strength. I will shower down upon you later. . .a windfall of birds, a spate of fishes…
He opened the water clock and filled it, he told it of the coming of the seven-day deluge…

Atrahasis received the command. He assembled the Elders at his gate. Atrahasis made ready to speak, and said to the Elders: “My god does not agree with your god, Enki and Enlil are constantly angry with each other. They have expelled me from the land. Since I have always reverenced Enki, he told me this. I can not live in your city, nor can I set my feet on the earth of Enlil. I will dwell with my god in the depths. This he told me: …”

The carpenter carried his axe, the reedworker carried his stone, the rich man carried the pitch, the poor man brought the materials needed. . .Bringing …whatever he had …Pure animals he slaughtered, cattle …Fat animals he killed. Sheep …he choose and and brought on board. An abundance of birds flying in the heavens,the cattle and the … of the cattle god, the creatures of the steppe, … he brought on board…he invited his people… to a feast … his family was brought on board. While one was eating an another was drinking, he went in and out; he could not sit, could not kneel, for his heart was broken, he was retching gall. . .

He brought pitch to seal his door. By the time he had bolted his door, Adad was roaring in the clouds. The winds were furious as he set forth,… He cut the mooring rope and released the boat…Anzu rent the sky with his talons, …and broke its clamor like a pot. the flood came forth. Its power came upon the peoples like a battle, one person did not see another, they could not recognize each other in the catastrophe…The deluge belowed like a bull, the wind resounded like a screaming eagle. The darkness was dense, the sun was gone …,

[Epilogue: The gods find themselves hungry because there are no farmers left and sacrifices are no longer brought. When they discover that Atrahasis has survived, they make a plan to make sure that the noise (of overpopulation which was the reason for the flood) will remain within limits: they invent childbirth, infant mortality, and celibacy.]

Sound familiar? Some may say: “why, this sounds quite similar to a portion of the 13th century BCE Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh!” That’s true.

And, of course, there’s the 6th century BCE Yahwist story about a fellow named Noah. . .none of these stories come as a surprise to me, considering that the writers of the original epics lived in a fertile-crescent river valley and probably experienced a few floods from time to time. . . either that or it was just a coincidence. . .hmmm.

Author: Jonkesstagram

GenX, he/him, interfaith, left-of-center, geja auxlang fan; hoping for a world of compassion and justice

One thought on “Does this story sound familiar?”

  1. I am not familiar with Gilgamesh, but of course have exposure to the Noah guy. What gets me about these is the survival of a single family, and a wrath of gods for whatever reason, deciding to kill pretty much everyone else. Seldom do I see the moral of this taken as the idea that we are “all one family,” even though that is a common Christian tenet, rather as an emphasis on the wrath/plan o’god(s) and how you’d better behave Or Else.

    The commonality of tales from people living in catastrophe-specific areas of the Earth is an interesting thing. Given the time-spread, it’s also no doubt down to some borrowing and retrofitting of tales for the next religion. Living among people who were here for Katrina (I was watching and worrying from a distance), I can see how a major event such as a flood, from which, with no high ground to hand, is just inescapable, would work its way into long-term consciousness, tales, and ultimately religion.

    I know when it rains hard here and my street floods, I do wonder if this is “it,” along with any number of other people. It feels like a very personal threat. Imagine if there were no newscasters or radar to tell me it had an end! Imagine surviving a flood and being told that all those who were lost were lost through a god’s will. (Which, sadly, still happens.)

    To this: “… they make a plan to make sure that the noise (of overpopulation which was the reason for the flood) will remain within limits…” I raise my eyebrows and think, “Noise! Noise! If they were angry because of the noise of people, they couldn’t invent earmuffs!?” I am not sure if arguing with the gods is a tradition everywhere, but having some experience as a Jewess, I can tell you it has a large place even still in that faith, and is an aspect I’m never going to give up. The unfairness gets to me.

    (Sorry this is a multi-pronged ramble, I’m probably too sleepy to be responding, really.)


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