Atheism Mythology

Atrahasis Part 3 – The Flood

Hello and welcome to the conclusion of the Akkadian epic of Atrahasis. In the first two posts we examined the first and second tablets that detail the creation of humankind and the gods attempt to control the population by torturing mankind with disease, starvation, and thirst. In this post we will look at the conclusion of these three tablets with the story of the flood. Unlike the first two stories, the third story is missing portions due to erosion of the clay tablets the story was recorded on. We begin the story after 36 missing lines of tablet.

The story of the flood begins with an angry Enlil ranting that his will and the will of the Annuna (the collective of higher gods) has been defied by the Igigi (lesser gods) and Enki. Within the missing lines of the text, it could be extrapolated that mankind was allowed some type of respite from the relentless oppression of the gods and allowed to flourish as long as Enki was able to keep them in check and “hold the balance” of mankind.

In his anger, Enlil tells Enki, that he helped create mankind and now he must destroy it. As Enki is the god of water, Enlil commands him to destroy his creation using his own power by creating a flood to destroy humanity. Enlil begins to insist that Enki take an oath to the gods that he will do follow through with this. In response Enki says,

‘Why should you make me swear an oath?
Why should I use my power against my people?
The flood that you mention to mt.~
What is it? I don’t even know!
Could I give birth to a flood?
That is Enlil’ s kind of work!

After a gap of 10 lines in the story we see Atrahasis for the first time in this tablet. Enki has allowed him to witness this scene through a dream and Atrahasis awakens to question Enki with the meaning of the dream in which he has just witnessed. Enki begins to instruct Atrahasis to dismantle his home and build a boat. After several lines of instruction on boat building and animal gathering, Atrahasis gathers the elders of his area and tells them that his god (Enki) has fallen out of favor with their god (Enlil) and he is not welcome there and must go to the Apsu (primordial waters) to be with his god.

10 lines of the tablet are missing.

This is followed by the elders and craftsman showing up to help Atrahasis complete the boat and fill it with animals. After the boat is completed, Atrahasis invites everyone to a celebratory feast and the storm begins. Adad (the weather god) begins the rain and Anzu tore at the sky. The sky blackened until no sun could shine through as the land flooded.

The gods, in realizing what they have done begin to suffer. They grow parched and famished and begin to weep for the death of humanity. The next several lines of the story are lamentation of the gods of allowing Enlil to give the order to for the flood and how they will regret it for all eternity.

58 lines of the story are missing.

The story picks back up after an offering has been placed. The starving gods gather together at the offering to partake and begin to bicker amongst each other regarding the death of all life from the flood. Then Enlil spots the boat and erupts in a fury.

The warrior Enlil spotted the boat
And was furious with the Igigi.
‘We, the great Anunna, all of us,
Agreed together on an oath!
No form of life should have escaped!
How did any man survive the catastrophe?’

Anu speaks up to say ‘who else would do this but Enki?’ to which Enki responds:

‘I did it, in defiance of you!
I made sure life was preserved

The epic then concludes with what seems to be an acceptance among the gods that man will exist and the gods continue to set forth rules they establish to control the population of mankind. These exact measures are unknown due to missing script in the tablets.

The Analysis

The story of the flood, while familiar, has some undeniably important changes. This flood story is among the oldest in record. It can be suggested that other versions of this myth that come from the same general region will be branches of this version of the story.

The stage is set with angry Enlil ordering Enki to destroy life on Earth and Enki is resistant. He has done so much to protect the lives that he helped to create. The other gods in this story do nothing to stop Enlil from destroying not only humans but animals as well. Enki then exposes this plot to destroy man and beast to Atrahasis. Enki gives specific instructions to Atrahasis to build a boat. Notice that I did not say, “build an ark” as that is a Judeo-Christian concept and not the way in which boats were constructed during this period in history along the Euphrates and Tigris River’s. For more information regarding the specifics on this mythology and the art of ancient boat building I have posted both a video and book by the epic rockstar, and god among men, Irving Finkel of the British Museum.

More important that the flood or ancient boat building techniques is a theme in which is used over and over throughout religion. As this story and culture predates many other ancient cultures and gods, it is by construct one of the first times which the son of the father god becomes the savior of humankind.

In the story of Atrahasis we see Enki help craft and create humans. He then protects them by repeatedly defying the will of Enlil to end the suffering he has ordered the gods to inflict upon the people and the land. Enki’s final act of defiance occurs when he saves both human’s and animals alike when he instructs Atrahasis to build a boat to survive the coming flood. Enki is the hero of the story. The son of the father god Anu has become the savior of mankind.

As the story of Atrahasis was recorded around the 17th century BCE it is believed that the story is much older and was passed down through oral tradition. This tale is part of a foundational basis that comes from the ancient middle east. These are the stories that Christianity has altered and continued. They may have changed the details to fit the time and the narrative in which they project but it is important to remember that the Torah was written either during the end of or directly after the Babylonian captivity which saw the forced captivity of the Jewish people in Babylon. We will leave that story for another time…


Atheism Mythology

Atrahasis Part 2

Famine, Pestilence & Death

One of the most popular stories of the bible is that of the Ten plagues of Egypt. What if this tale is a combination of tales from both Akkadian and Egyptian mythology combined into one story? Enlil is replaced in the newer version of the myth by “Pharoah”. The similarities are too numerous to be coincidental yet the newer version of this story contains details that may have been lost forever in the lines missing from the face of the ancient tablets.

From the end of the creation story the second tale within the three tablet epic of Atrahasis begins after some time has passed and the population of people has expanded. The god Enlil tells the gods that there are too many people on earth and they are too loud; they disturb his peace. Enlil commands that the gods to cause disease to break out upon the earth. We next see Atrahasis implore the god Enki for help. Enki instructs Atrahasis to gather the elders and tell them to stop praying and offering items to their usual gods and instead build a temple to Namtara and offer him offering of bread. Atrahasis and the people do so and Namtara ends the plague of disease from the people.

Six hundred years pass and Enlil again tells the gods there are too many people, they are too loud and they disturb his sleep. Enlil orders the vegetation killed and that the god Adad withhold rain and cause a drought. As ordered, Adad withholds rain and a drought sweeps across the land. Atrahasis again implores the Enki for help. Enki gives the same advise as before. He tells them to withhold their offerings and prayers to the gods and instead build a temple to Adad and gift him offerings of bread. Atrahasis and the elders build a temple to Adad who finds their offerings pleasing and he allows it to rain saving the people from drought.

The story continues repeating this pattern. Time passes, Enlil is disturbed by the noise of the people and he sends drought again, he orders the land bleached and unable to support livestock. As the land is ordered baron from producing life so are the women and they are unable to have children. The earth is brought down to only a few weak starving families with scabbed faces.

While most notably the ten plagues of Egypt do not occur in the Torah until after the flood, this is the story within Akkadian mythology that occurs directly before the flood. Many scholars try to explain the ten plagues as natural occurrences that happened in a relatively short period of time from a volcanic eruption or some other natural disaster. The Egyptians were not without their own literature and recorded their history in writing. There is no evidence to suggest that the ten plagues of Egypt literally occurred within Egypt from their own Egyptian writings or Akkadian writings. Akkadian was used as language in which Egypt and Mesopotamia communicated with each other. It was the English of the time. The Egyptian court kept scribes fluent in Akkadian to communicate with the those across the fertile crescent. It is unlikely that within the thousands of communications that have been found between the Egyptian and Akkadian cultures there would exist zero accounts of these troubles in Egypt if they had actually occurred around 1800 BCE as biblical scholars suggest was the time in which Moses was in Egypt.

In continuing with the theme regarding the transformation of similar ancient mythological stories, In particular to the first plague listed within the Ten Plagues of Egypt is the river’s of blood. As scholars have tried to suggest this is a red algae bloom and it’s probable that something of that nature could have been but the Egyptians tell a story similar to what we have read in Atrahasis.

The period of time known as The Middle Kingdom in Egypt was a time in which Egypt produced amazing works of Art And Literature roughly 2040 BCE to 1750 BCE. In the Book of the Heavenly Cow written during that ancient time is the story similar to the theme of an angry authoritian unleashing his fury upon human kind.

In this story the Sun god Ra is angry that humans are ungrateful and evil and needs to be punished for their sins. Ra sends Hathor down to unleash fury and destruction upon humanity destroying everything in her path. Upon witnessing the absolute blood lust and destruction of humanity, Ra and the gods come up with a plan to stop Hathor (or rather Sekhmet as she is called during the destruction). Ra instructs the Egyptian Goddess of beer, Tenenet, to create a particularly strong brew of beer. They then dye the beer red with the juice of pomegranates and pour the red beer into the Nile River whereupon Sekhmet drinks the beer until she is becomes drunk and falls asleep. Sekhmet then awakens as Hathor and has nothing but love and guidance for humankind.

Funerary Stela of the Gatekeeper Maati, ca. 2051–2030 B.C. Egyptian, First Intermediate Period Limestone; H: 36.4 cm (14 5/16 in.), W: 60 cm (23 5/8 in.), D: 5.9 cm (2 5/16 in.) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1914 (14.2.7)

In closing, regardless of where the story has been recorded, many ancient cultures have created a narrative to explain the difficulties in which ancient cultures experienced such as plagues and droughts. Cultures created villain’s and saviors to reconcile man’s constant struggle to survive in nature. As I have written about 3 very similar and specific myths across 3 cultures that existed very close within time and proximity they do reflect that these myths persist across an expanding area. The names of the gods and the details of the stories change but the existence of humankind finding a way to explain the extreme difficulties of ancient survival is a universal theme. These stories are not reflection of any real history that occurred during ancient time and allegorically represent the same difficulties we face today.