Apocrypha: The Sumerians and Akkadians

Zeus Steals the Tablets of Destiny


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Zeus Steals the Tablets of Destiny
It appears that Ensuhgirana wasn’t as complacent as he let on because another tale, Lugal-Banda in the Mountain Cave, also called Lugal-Banda and Mount Hurrum, begins with Enmerkar preparing an expedition against Aratta, “the mountain of the holy divine powers”, for rebelling against him. The troops wait for five days before they enter the mountains, on the sixth day they washed to purify themselves, and on the seventh day they entered the mountains. Half way there his eighth general, Lugal-Banda, got a sickness in the head that caused him to jerk around like a gazelle caught in a snare. He began to slow them down; they wanted to bring him back to Uruk, but didn’t know how they could, so they found a mountain cave and made a camp for him. They left him an axe and a dagger, plenty of food and beer and suspended some incense and other healing resins around his head, but Lugal-Banda soon become unresponsive. His brothers counseled each other, saying that if he rises again like Utu the sun god, then the food would help him walk again and maybe enable him to journey back to Uruk, but if Utu called their brother to the holy “valued” place, then it would be up to them to carry his body on their journey back. Then the men left.

Golden Battle-Axe, Sumerian, 2500 B.C.

For two days he sat and perspired heavily, then he began to cry, telling Utu that there was no one there to feel sorry for him and asking that he not die lost in the mountains like a weakling. Utu accepted his tears and sent down some divine encouragement. Inanna appeared before Lugal-Banda and the general began to cry as if before is own father. Inanna accepted his tears and enveloped him like a woolen garment, then disappeared back to Uruk. The moon then came out an illuminated the cave and Lugal-Banda cried out to the moon god’s sense of justice and hatred of evil. Suen (Nanna) accepted his tears as well and Lugal-Banda was able to walk. The next day he praised Utu and the moon god’s wife Ningal before leaving the cave. Thanks to a god who took council with Enlil (probably Utu or Ningal) life saving plants began to grow and life saving water started to flow from the hills’ rivers. Lugal-Banda then left the cave to hunt for food. While out he started a fire by striking two stones together. Then, without even knowing how to bake caves with an oven, he baked some dough and garnished it with syrup from some roots he stripped. He then caught a wild brown bull and two goats either by trap or ambush. Then, with the help of some beer and white linen sheet, he went to sleep:

The king lay down not to sleep, he lay down to dream -- not turning back at the door of the dream, not turning back at the door-pivot. To the liar it talks in lies, to the truthful it speaks truth. It can make one man happy, it can make another man sing, but it is the closed tablet-basket of the gods. It is the beautiful bedchamber of Ninlil, it is the counsellor of Inanna. The multiplier of mankind, the voice of one not alive -- Zangara, the god of dreams, himself like a bull, bellowed at Lugal-Banda.
Zangara told him in his dream to sacrifice the bull and goats and to pour out the blood so that the snakes could smell it, so when Lugal-Banda awoke he wrestled the bull to the ground and did just that. The best parts of the bull were burned so that An, Enlil, Enki and Ninhursag could feast on them.

At this point the text becomes more and more fragmented. Following this there is a description of some demons:

They are gazelles of Suen running in flight, they are the fine smooth cloths of Ninlil, they are the helpers of Ishkur; they pile up flax, they pile up barley; they are wild animals on the rampage, they descend like a storm on a rebel land hated by Suen, indeed they descend like a storm.

It is also said that these helpers of Ishkur sing out in the dead of night, sneak into homes to nestle at peoples’ bedsides, and tie door pivots together. The story then moves on to the elders of city, who seem to have been able to enter the presence of the Anunnaki to confirm the power of the foreign lands. Then there is mention of 14 torch-bearers standing in battle. They pursue like wildfire, flash together like lightning and roar loudly like a great flood rising up in the storm of battle. Seven of these men are favored by Inanna, who wears a crown under a clear sky, and they stand proudly in battle as the holy shining battle-mace of An reaches to the edge of heaven and earth. Utu, who is called “the just god who stands alongside men“, then walks out from his chamber. There is then some dialogue regarding evil gods with evil hearts who are the interpreters of spoken evil and spy on the righteous gods. Here the text of the first segment ends and it is unknown if the second undecipherable segment of the tablet belongs to the same composition or not, but the story is continued in another text.

Lugal-Banda and the Anzu bird, alternatively known as Lugal-Banda and Enmerkar, opens with Lugal-Banda still lost deep within the Zabu mountains. He gets an idea to go an talk to the Anzu bird and to treat him and his wife respectfully. He figures that An will fetch Ninkasi, the beer goddess, who will help him get the Anzu bird drunk so that it can help him find his brothers, the troops of Uruk.

There are references to the Anzu bird in the other two stories of Enmerkar, but this is the first one that goes into detail about it. It is described as having sharks teeth and eagle’s claws and is so huge it hunts bulls. Its cry is said to shake the mountains and most likely represents thunder. This is most likely the origin of the mythical roc of Persian and Arabian lore. In the Sumerian language, Anzu was spelled Imdugud; it was only later found that it’s name was pronounced Anzu, or Zu. In Babylonia and Assyria they were believed to be wind demons called Pazuzu (one of which who made an silhouette appearance in The Exorcist).

While the Anzu bird is away hunting, Lugal-Banda sneaks into it’s nest and carefully makes celestial cakes for it’s chicks. He then paints their eyes and puts crowns on their heads. When the chicks’ parents come home, they at first think that someone stole the chicks and cry out so loudly that the noise reaches up to the gods and below to the abzu. But when they see how the chicks have been exulted, he cries out:

“I am the prince who decides the destiny of rolling rivers. I keep on the straight and narrow path the righteous who follow Enlil's counsel. My father Enlil brought me here. He let me bar the entrance to the mountains as if with a great door. If I fix a fate, who shall alter it? If I but say the word, who shall change it? Whoever has done this to my nest, if you are a god, I will speak with you, indeed I will befriend you. If you are a man, I will fix your fate. I shall not let you have any opponents in the mountains. You shall be 'Hero-fortified-by-Anzu'.”

Lugal-Banda makes his appearance and “partly from fright, partly from delight” begins flattering the giant bird. He starts telling them that they’re eyes are sparkling and how their wingspan is like a bird net stretched across the sky. He says that yesterday he escaped safely because of the Anzu bird and so leaves his destiny in their hands, naming the Anzu bird father and the bird’s wife mother. Anzu then tries to get out of the promise he gave and offers several bargains in exchange: a boatload of precious metals and food, the power to shoot arrows that never miss, the Lion of Battle helmet (which gave courage to it’s wearer) and finally the Milk of Dumuzi. To each of these offers the author replies: “Lugal-Banda who loves the seed will not accept this.” Apparently, being ’Hero-fortified-by-Anzu’ is not a power to be trifled with because the Anzu bird is worried about living up to his word and giving it to Lugal-Banda, saying that an ass should be kept on the straight path.
Lugal-Banda the pure answers him: "Let the power of running be in my thighs, let me never grow tired! Let there be strength in my arms, let me stretch my arms wide, let my arms never become weak! Moving like the sunlight, like Inanna, like the seven storms, those of Ishkur, let me leap like a flame, blaze like lightning! Let me go wherever I look to, set foot wherever I cast my glance, reach wherever my heart desires and let me loosen my shoes in whatever place my heart has named to me! When Utu lets me reach Kulaba [Uruk] my city, let him who curses me have no joy thereof; let him who wishes to strive with me never say "Just let him come!" I shall have the woodcarvers fashion statues of you, and you will be breathtaking to look upon. Your name will be made famous thereby in Sumer and will redound to the credit of the temples of the great gods."

Anzu gives in and bestows his powers on Lugal-Banda, at least satisfied that Lugal-Banda will have wooden idols of him carved out for the Sumerians. The Anzu bird then helped Lugal-Banda find his troops but told him not to say anything about him or the fate he fixed on him. When Lugal-Banda gets back to his brothers, we learn that he was abandoned as killed in battle. They ask how he was able to survive and cross the rivers and Lugal-Banda just replies that he walked over them or drank them. His companions then embrace and kiss him and give him food and drink. The troops then moved on, following the river until they finally reached their target: Aratta.

The army put the city under siege for an entire year. Enmerkar, the leader of the troops is well worried about it and can’t find anyone who wants to go back to Uruk because they’re all afraid they’ll get lost, but then Lugal-Banda volunteers. Enmerkar makes him swear by heaven and earth that he will go along and not drop any of their great emblems. Enmerkar then summons an assembly and begins to question himself and the goddess Inanna in front of them:

“My troops are bound to me as a cow is bound to its calf; but like a son who, hating his mother, leaves his city, my princely sister Inanna the pure has run away from me back to brick-built Kulaba [Uruk]. If she loves her city and hates me, why does she bind the city to me? If she hates the city and yet loves me, why does she bind me to the city? If the mistress removes herself from me to her holy chamber, and abandons me like an Anzu chick, then may she at least bring me home to brick-built Kulaba: on that day my spear shall be laid aside. On that day she may shatter my shield. Speak thus to my princely sister, Inanna the pure."
Lugal-Banda’s brothers ask to join him on his journey but he refuses despite great insistence. Lugal-Banda crossed the seven mountains and at midnight entered the temple of Inanna and prostrated himself before her offering table. Inanna asked why he had come all alone form Aratta. Lugal-Banda recites Enmerkar’s depressing soliloquy and Inanna tells him that if Enmerkar catches the tamarisk, a type of freshwater fish, and sacrifices it, the a-an-kara weapon, Inanna's battle-strength, will be given to his army and that will put an end to the subterranean waters that gives strength to Aratta. Inanna finishes saying, "If he carries off from the city its worked metal and smiths, if he carries off its worked stones and its stonemasons, if he renews the city and settles it, all the moulds of Aratta will be his." With the solution found, the text ends with a praise for Lugal-Banda. The open-ended finish to the story seems to indicate that there is a third text that concludes the epic. It has been said that Lugal-Banda is supposed to kill the Anzu bird but this may be an assumption since Lugal-Banda’s name is inherited by a god who also meets up with an Anzu.

An Anzu bird (?) picking fruit from the Tree of Life

The Anzu bird takes on a much more negative role in Akkadian Myth of Anzu. The text begins with praises for Ninurta, already revealing that he defeated Anzu and also saying that he defeated the bull-man inside the sea and raised a dais for the lesser Igiggi. Enlil and Enki watch the Anzu bird, whose wings bring the South Wind, and whose body was like 11 coats of mail. Enki concluded that it had been conceived from the holy abzu and born out of the broad earth and suggested that it serve Enlil. Enlil made the Anzu an extra fate and appointed him the guardian of his chambers. This included guarding over the Tablets of Destiny, which gave Enlil the power to decree fate. These tablets identify Enlil as the current head of the pantheon instead of the heaven god. The air god seems to have replaced An, or Anu (His Akkadian name), sometime around 2500 B.C. Although earlier stories tell of the Tablets of Destiny giving Anu-power, the tablets here are said to confer Enlil-power.

Every day the Tablets of Destiny tempted the storm bird, so one day while Enlil was bathing in the holy waters, Anzu stole the tablets and flew off. Enlil’s chamber was stripped of it’s radiance and silence reigned. Enlil summoned his son Adad, or Hadad, the Akkadian name for Ishkur. But the “controller of the canals” only told his father that the Anzu was now undefeatable and that the gods would have to tremble at his utterance from now on. The gods next proposed Gerra, god of fire and the son of Anu, and then Shara, the son of Ishtar (Inanna), but both of them repeated Adad’s refusal. Enki suggested that they let him pick the Anzu’s conqueror and the Igiggi kissed his feet for taking up the cause. He called Mami (Ninmah) and just like in the Akkadian Creation story asked that her name be changed to Mistress of all the Gods. Enki asked the birth goddess if she would allow her most beloved son, Ninurta, to do the task. She agreed and the gods rejoiced at her decision.

Ninurta kills a demon, Asag
The second tablet opens with a long soliloquy about poisoning arrows and slitting the throat of Anzu. Ninurta marshaled the “Seven of Battle”, which are said to be the seven evil winds. He and Anzu met on a mountainside and the storm bird bared it’s teeth and insolently shouted, “ I have taken away every single rite, and I am in charge of all the gods’ orders! Who are you, to come to do battle against me? Give your reasons!” Ninurta replied that he was the avenger of Enlil, who established the temple of Duranki (“Bond of Heaven and Earth”) in Nippur. The Anzu caused darkness to fall on the mountain and Ninurta began shooting arrows at him, but using the Tablets of Destiny, it caused the arrows to turn back into a reed, or the feathers back into birds, or the bowstring string back into a ram’s gut. Using his magical mace Shurur, Ninurta contacts Enki, who relays a plan to him. Enki then promises that once he defeated the Anzu his worship would be established over the four quarters. When Ninurta hears this, he brought out the “Seven of Battle”, the seven evil winds, and the gales went silent.

The first three lines of the third tablet are fragmentary but the story returns with both combatants bathed in the sweat of battle. The Anzu grew tired as Enki predicted and Ninurta follows his instructions precisely. When the Anzu’s wings slump down in fatigue, Ninurta cuts them off. Just as the Anzu wishes for his wings to grow back, Ninurta lets loose an arrow at it’s heart. The feathers on the arrow grow and pierce it’s heart and lungs, killing it. Ninurta got back the Tablets of Destiny and the wind carried the great bird‘s feathers as a sign of good news. Ninurta returns the Tablets of Destiny and for slaying the mountain is given complete dominion and every single rite. Among the 15 titles that are bestowed upon him are: Duku (“Holy mound” in Sumerian), Hurabtil (an Elamite god), Shushinak (patron god of the Elamite city Susa), Zababa of Kish, the warrior Tishpak, and also Lugal-Banda. The text ends going through a long list of aliases Ninurta is known by throughout the lands.

This legend seems to be designed as a response to the belief that Enlil had been replaced as king of the gods. The account is paralleled in the creation story of the Greeks. Though there are something like six accounts of how the Greek gods were born, probably the most popular account is from Theogony, written by the Greek poet Hesiod, who lived sometime around the 600 or 700s B.C.:

In the beginning there was only Chaos, the oldest of the gods, a shapeless mass of darkness and meaninglessness, said to be formed out of mist. Out of the Chaos came Nyx (Night; a great black bird), Erebus (Primeval abyss) and Tartarus. Nyx and Erebus joined

and Nyx laid an egg that hatched into Eros (Cupid; Love). From Eros came Light and Day. Once there was Light and Day, Mother Earth, or Gaea, appeared. The Greeks pronounced her name Ge; easily comparable to Ki, the Sumerian earth mother. The Romans called her Terra, from which we get the words terran and terrain.

Uranus, the god of heaven, was born of Gaea as she slept. He became her husband, and together they had many children. Their first-born children were hecatonchires, monsters with 50 heads and 100 hands, and the cyclopses, giants with one eye. The second born children were the titans. Uranus feared that his powerful sons might topple him from his position as Lord of the Universe so he cast the titans and hecatonchires into Tartarus, an underworld as far from Earth as Heaven was. Gaea was upset that Uranus had imprisoned them so she turned for help to her youngest, Chronos (“Chronology”), god of time and the upper sky. Chronos hated his father’s evil deeds as much as his mother so he ambushed his father while he was making love to the earth, castrated him with a jagged sickle, and threw his genitalia into the sea. This mixed with the sea water to create Aphrodite (Inanna), who is attended by Eros and Desire as well as some other goddesses as she enters the assembly of the gods. In other myths Aphrodite was the mother of Eros. The blood from the wound created the Erinyes (Furies), Giants, and Melian nymphs. After this more violent separation of Heaven and Earth, Chronos takes his place as Lord of the Universe.

The era that Cronus ruled was called as the Golden Age, but that was not because the gods were peaceful and just. The Titans (“Strainers”) were so named because Uranus believed that they wrongfully inflected terror and would one day pay for it. (Outside of Theogony, it has also been said that Ti-ta-an can be read “Those who live in Heaven” in Sumerian.) Nyx then gives birth to hateful Doom, black Fate, Death, and she bore Sleep and the tribe of Dreams. And though she lay with no one, Nyx give birth to Blame, Woe, the Hesperide nymphs, the Destinies, and the three ruthless Fates: Clotho the Spinner, who spins the thread of man's life; Lachesis, Disposer of Lots, who assigns each man his destiny; and Atropos, who cuts the threads of life. The three Fates gave men at their birth both good and evil to choose from. Nyx also gave birth to Nemesis (Indignation), Deceit and Friendship, hateful Age, and hard-hearted Strife. Strife bore Toil, Forgetfulness, Famine, Sorrow, Fighting, Battles, Murders, Manslaughters, Quarrels, Lying Words, Disputes, Lawlessness, Ruin and the worst of all Oath, who troubles those who swear falsely. Thegony then goes into a long list of gods, heroes, and monsters with paternities and short biographies.

Gaea was sorely disappointed to discover that Chronos had no intention of releasing his 100-handed brothers from their dark prison. Chronos married the titan Rhea and together they had Demeter, Hestia, Hera, Poseidon, and the pitiless Hades. Uranus and Gaea prophesied his own son would dethrone him so each time Rhea gave birth Chronos swallowed the newborn god. Determined to protect her sixth child from his father, Rhea gave birth in secret. She named the infant Zeus and sent him to the island of Crete, to be raised by nymphs. Then, pretending to obey her husband's command, Rhea wrapped a stone in a blanket and carried it to Chronos, who swallowed it without any notice. When Rhea thought Zeus was strong enough to challenge Chronos, she told him about his five brothers and sisters trapped inside his father's body and how he narrowly escaped the same fate. With the help of Gaea, Zeus forced his father to regurgitate his five brothers and sisters, as well as the stone (which was taken to Delphi). His children, who were led by their youngest brother, Zeus, waged war against him. However, Chronos was backed by most of his brothers and sisters, the titans. The war between the Olympians and the Titans was so terrible that it nearly destroyed the universe. When the titan Prometheus ("Forethought") could see that Zeus and his siblings were destined to win this war against Chronos, he abandoned his brothers and sisters and joined Zeus. He secretly advised the storm god to release Gaea's first-born children, the hecatonchires, informing him that they wielded thunder, lightning, and earthquakes as weapons. Once released, the monsters fought against Chronos and defeated the titans. Like Enlil, Chronos was then banished deep within the bowels of the earth. The other titans were imprisoned in the netherworld, called Tartarus, as well, although Chronos was able to take rule over the Elysian Fields, where the nicer parts of Tartarus was. Zeus, impressed by the effectiveness of the monsters' weapons, appropriated the thunder and lightning for his own use. The Olympians then chose the cloud-draped summit of Mt. Olympus to be their home.

But Mother Earth then gave Zeus another problem to contend with:
Now after Zeus had driven the Titans out of heaven, gigantic Gaea, in love with Tartarus, by means of golden Aphrodite, bore the youngest of her children, Typhoeus; the hands and arms of him are mighty, and have work in them, and the feet of the powerful god were tireless, and up from his shoulders there grew a hundred snake heads, those of a dreaded dragon, and the heads licked with dark tongues, and from the eyes on the inhuman heads fire glittered from under the eyelids: from all his heads fire flared from his eyes' glancing; and inside each one of these horrible heads there were voices that threw out every sort of horrible sound, for sometimes it was speech such as the gods could understand, but at other times, the sound of a bellowing bull, proud-eyed and furious beyond holding, or again like a lion shameless in cruelty, or again it was like the barking of dogs, a wonder to listen to, or again he would whistle so the tall mountains re-echoed to it.

This monster was so great that Olympus shook when he walked and even the imprisoned Titans were shaken up as the giant walked on top of the earth. But Zeus attacked the monster with his thunderbolts and set the dragon heads on fire.

According to the Greek poet Apollodorus, Zeus chased the monster with a sickle made of Adamant (Diamond). Typhoeus ran to Mount Casius (near Antioch in Syria), where Zeus fell on him, thinking he was badly wounded. Typhoeus then entwined the god with his serpent like tail, took the adamant scythe, and cut out the muscle tendons from Zeus’ hands and feet. He then deposited the defeated god and his sinews in a cave and set the drakaina Delphyne (a girl who was half animal) as a guard. But the Greek gods Hermes and Aigipan stole the sinews back and replanted them in Zeus, who then got in his chariot and resumed the attack. Typhoeus continued to flee in other lands, while throwing mountains at Zeus. Zeus destroyed these with his thunderbolts and finally defeated the monster, by throwing Mount Aitna on top of him, which still erupted fire from the thunderbolts Zeus used.

Returning to Theogony, when Typhoeus fell, the earth groaned under the great impact. The flame ran out along the darkening and steep forests of the mountains as he was struck and a great part of the earth burned in the wind of his heat. Earth melted in the blazing fire and Zeus threw the great monster into Tartarus.

Zeus’ Battle with Typhoeus
From these comparisons it can be presumed that most of the important Greek gods originate from Sumerian, Akkadian and Elamite religion. From these ancient Sumerian texts, we can see Zeus’s humble beginnings as an Anzu bird, or Zu bird, before Greek poets and philosophers fashioned him into the licentious storm god recognized today. The name of Zeus forms two important roots in the Greek language: Theo and Dio. Theo is not only the root of Theogony, but also the modern words theology and theory, while dio is the root behind deity and the names of other gods such as his son Dionysus.

Like Enlil, Chronos lost his kingship to an usurper. In the Sumerian myth, Enlil's storm-god son Ninurta kills the storm-bird and gets the Tablets of Destiny back, restoring kingship to his father, but in all subsequent myths, it's the storm god who defeats his father and becomes king of the gods. The Greeks and Romans portray Chronos as evil and scheming, and his loss of kingship is permanent. Zeus replaces his father just as Chronos did to his own father Uranus. The Romans gave Chronos the name Saturn, which also gives us the name Saturday, the same day as the Hebrew Sabbath. The ancient festival Saturnalia is also the origin of the Christmas holiday.

Pazuzu statuette, Assyria

The Anzu bird is described as being part lion and part eagle, which is believed to symbolize the mastery of heaven and earth. These bird-lion features may have been lost to the later concept of Zeus but they became associated with the Biblical cherubim (“Near ones” i.e. bodyguards), the Egyptian sphinx, the Babylonian and Assyrian lamassu, and the Greek griffons, which incidentally are called the “The Hounds of Zeus”. All are considered to be the guardians and a symbol of rulership. In the Middle Ages, the griffon came to be a symbol of Christ’s resurrection.

Hesiod’s descending sovereignty outline is based on a Hurrian text, or a derivative of it, which begins with a king prior to Anu. The Hurrians were a people of North Syria who rivaled the Hittites and were subsequently conquered by them. The Hittites, who lived south of the Black Sea in Turkey, absorbed as many legends as they could, including the Hurrians’, calling themselves the ‘country of a thousand gods’. The text Kingship in Heaven was discovered in the Hittite capital of Hattussas and was dated the 13th century BC, shortly before the capital was destroyed by the Philistines.

Hittite invasion of the Hurrian homeland of Syria
The text begins saying that in the olden days Alulu was king in heaven for nine years and then his cup bearer Anu vanquished him and Alulu escaped into the dark earth. But it was only another nine years until Anu’s own cup bearer betrayed him. Kumarbi is said to have rushed him and bit off his “knees”. Kumarbi swallowed Anu’s manhood and laughed, but then Anu gave him a dire premonition:
"Rejoice not over thine inside! In thine inside I have planted a heavy burden. Firstly I have impregnated thee with the noble Storm-god. Secondly I have impregnated thee with the river Tigris, not to be endured. Thirdly I have impregnated thee with the noble Tasmisus [The Storm-god‘s servant]. Three dreadful gods have I planted in thy belly as seed. Thou shalt go and end by striking the rocks of thine own mountain with thy head!"

Anu then went and hid himself in heaven. The text is fragmented here but it seems that Kumarbi tries to spit it back out and some of the semen hits Mt. Kanzuras and creates a god inside the mountain. Then filled with fury, Kumarbi goes back to his city Nippur and starts counting the months of his pregnancy. Anu somehow advises the storm god where to exit Kumarbi’s body and Teshub (the Storm-god) responds that the earth will give him strength, the sky would give valor, Anu would give him manliness and Kumarbi would give him wisdom. He is warned once again what will happen if he comes out of Kumarbi’s “tarnassas”. As Kumarbi is walking he falls down, and like Chronos tells his wife Ayas that he wants to devour his son. Ayas probably gives him a rock in this version too since whatever he ate hurts his mouth and he begins to moan. People were brought in to work magic on him and to keep bringing sacrificed meals to him. It is said that Teshub is born out of the “good place” and when the birth is reported to Anu, he plots to use him to defeat Kumarbi. Teshub prepares for the battle although the outcome is not preserved.

The inheritance of godly powers is a common motif amongst tales of the gods. The fact that Teshub is born from both Anu and Kumarbi is probably to show that Teshub was born from the best qualities of both them. Kingship in Heaven is found along with the Song of Ullikummi, which acts as a sequel to Kingship but may have been written by a different author. One perplexity about this story is that one would assume up to this point that as king of the gods, Kumarbi could easily be identified with Enlil, especially since his chief city is Nippur. But in this legend Ellil (Enlil) makes his own appearance and seems to denounce Kumarbi. This may have been an attempt of another author to disassociate Enlil with the villianous role Kumarbi takes. On the other hand, his actions do seem to parallel Kumarbi’s, so it may just be a misunderstanding. The text is in particularly poor condition, especially at the end.

The story begins with Kumarbi nursing an evil plot. He takes his staff and shoes and goes to his city of Urkis (Kish?) and sleeps with a great rock ten times. The mountain gives birth to Ullikummi, whose name may mean something like “Destroyer of Kummiya”. The Good-women and Mother-goddesses bring the newborn to Kumarbi and place him on his knees. Kumarbi embraces his son and has him dance up and down on top of his lap and says to his soul:

“What name [shall I give] him? The child which the Good-women and the Mother-goddesses presented me, [for the reason that he] shot forth from her body as a shaft, let him go and [his] name be Ullikummi! Let him ascend to heaven for kingship! Let him vanquish Kummiya, the beautiful city! Let him attack Storm-god and tear [him] to pieces like a mortal! Let him tread him under foot like an ant! Let him crush Tasmisus like a reed in the brake! Let him shot down all the gods from the sky like birds and let him break them to pieces like empty pots!”

Kummiya is unidentified but believed to be between the Tigris and Lake Van. Kumarbi then gave the boy over to the Isirra deities (handmaidens of the Fate Goddess Isirra). The Isirra deities take Ullikummi away and nurse him similar to how Zeus was raised by the Nymphs. The Isirra then places the child on Ellil’s knees and Ellil says:

“Who is that child whom the Good-women and the Mother-goddesses reared? No one among the great gods will see mightier battles. No one's vileness equals Kumarbi's. Just as Kumarbi raised Teshub, he has [now raised] this awesome diorite man as his rival.”

With these words the handmaidens place the diorite man on top of the right shoulder of Ubelluris, an Atlas-like giant who is carrying the world on his shoulders. The strong waters makes the diorite man grow and in a month he is an acre in height. After 15 days he grows up out of the sea until the sea reaches his loincloth. Here, the text becomes so fragmented that it is hard to distinguish the order of events. It seems that the Sun-god sees the diorite man and informs Teshub. Teshub and his sister Ishtar (Inanna) climbs to the top of Mount Hazzi (Mount Cassius) to see it for themselves. Teshub weeps bitterly, asking who could ever defeat such a monster, but Ishtar is not convinced. Teshub orders his servant Tasmisu to fetch his bulls and thunderstorms and goes to do battle with the diorite man. The gods fight him but Ullikummi is impervious to their attacks and makes his way to Teshub’s city of Kummiya, where the storm god is forced to admit defeat. Tasmisu informs Teshub’s Queen Heba of the city‘s loss and that her husband must remain in a ‘lowly place’ for now and the queen almost faints off the roof but is caught by her attendants. Teshub descends to the ‘city’ Abzuwa (abzu) and tries to gain the help of Ea (Enki). Ea informs Ellil and then goes to talk to the Atlas-giant Upelluri. Upelluri tells Ea that he hadn’t noticed when heaven and earth had been built on him, hadn’t even noticed when heaven and earth were separated with the great saw, but now the diorite man was causing his shoulder to hurt. When Ea heard this he got an idea. He had the ancient storehouses opened and brought back the saw that had freed heaven and earth. With this he cut the diorite man’s feet from under him and then urged the gods to renew the battle. The end of the story is lost but there’s little doubt what happens next.

By comparing the Sumerian Texts to Kingship in Heaven and Theogony, we can see the evolution of the story as it goes from the Sumerians to the Hurrians to the Greeks. For instance, neither Sumerian, Akkadian nor Babylonian texts ever portray any antagonism or sense of replacement between An and Enlil, although Enlil-Kumarbi’s role in the Hurrian/Hittite epic is that of a tyrant, which is then inherited by Greek version.

In both the Hurrian/Hittite and Greek legends, the fight takes place at Mt. Cassius (Hazzi), where the storm god loses his first battle with the monster. The Sumerian version also places the fight on a mountain. This verification of the battle site is probably a figurative representation of a historic battle. A passage in Milton’s Paradise Lost reads: “A gulf profound as that Serbonian bog, betwixt Damiata and Mount Cassius old, where armies whole have sunk.”

The story of Ninurta fighting the Anzu bird is a source of inspiration for the later creation story of the Babylonians, who have their own storm god Marduk fighting the multi-headed dragon Tiamat (Nammu) in order save the Anunnaki and man kind. Ninurta himself is considered a storm god because of his ability to control the winds. Many scholars believe the text is meant to explain the replacement of the totem animal deity- the bird representing the thick storm clouds- with a more modern anthropomorphic warrior storm god.6 The association Tiamat has with serpents is matched by the Greek Typhoeus, who has a snake’s tail and dragon heads growing from his shoulders. The image of a god with dragon heads growing from the shoulders can also be found on Dumuzi’s companion Ningishzida. Typhaeous himself is often represented as having a hundred dragon heads, as well as his children: the Hydra, the Chimera, and the hell-hound Cerberus. Dumuzi’s ancestry to the Mother Dragon Nammu mentioned often in Sumerian texts. The slaying of the dragon may have represented the triumph of the warrior-like storm god over the fleeing shepherd/fisherman god as the dominant deity over the seasons. Although the storm god took many different personal names throughout different cultures, some of them reflecting different identities amongst the original Sumerian pantheon, the vast majority of Mesopotamia knew these rain-bringing cloud-riders as Ba’als.

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