III. THE COUNCIL OF THE GODS, AND ZIUSUDU'S PIETY
Sumerian, Name, Ziusudu, Version, Goddess, Gilgamesh
From the lower part of the Third Column, where its text is first preserved, it is clear that the gods had already decided to send a Deluge, for the goddess Nintu or Ninkharsagga, here referred to also as "the holy Innanna", wails aloud for the intended destruction of "her people". That this decision has been decreed by the gods in council is clear from a passage in the Fourth Column, where it is stated that the sending of a flood to destroy mankind was "the word of the assembly (of the gods)". The first lines preserved in the present column describe the effect of the decision on the various gods concerned and their action at the close of the council.
In the lines which described the Council of the Gods, broken references to "the people" and "a flood" are preserved, after which the text continues:
It is unfortunate that the ends of all the lines in this column are wanting, but enough remains to show a close correspondence of the first two lines quoted with a passage in the Gilgamesh Epic where Ishtar is described as lamenting the destruction of mankind.(1) This will be seen more clearly by printing the two couplets in parallel columns:
The expression Bêlit-ili, "the Lady of the Gods", is attested as a title borne both by the Semitic goddess Ishtar and by the Sumerian goddess Nintu or Ninkharsagga. In the passage in the Babylonian Version, "the Lady of the Gods" has always been treated as a synonym of Ishtar, the second half of the couplet being regarded as a restatement of the first, according to a recognized law of Babylonian poetry. We may probably assume that this interpretation is correct, and we may conclude by analogy that "the holy Innanna" in the second half of the Sumerian couplet is there merely employed as a synonym of Nintu.(1) When the Sumerian myth was recast in accordance with Semitic ideas, the rôle of creatress of mankind, which had been played by the old Sumerian goddess Ninkharsagga or Nintu, was naturally transferred to the Semitic Ishtar. And as Innanna was one of Ishtar's designations, it was possible to make the change by a simple transcription of the lines, the name Nintu being replaced by the synonymous title Bêlit-ili, which was also shared by Ishtar. Difficulties are at once introduced if we assume with Dr. Poebel that in each version two separate goddesses are represented as lamenting, Nintu or Bêlit-ili and Innanna or Ishtar. For Innanna as a separate goddess had no share in the Sumerian Creation, and the reference to "her people" is there only applicable to Nintu. Dr. Poebel has to assume that the Sumerian names should be reversed in order to restore them to their original order, which he suggests the Babylonian Version has preserved. But no such textual emendation is necessary. In the Semitic Version Ishtar definitely displaces Nintu as the mother of men, as is proved by a later passage in her speech where she refers to her own bearing of mankind.(2) The necessity for the substitution of her name in the later version is thus obvious, and we have already noted how simply this was effected.
Another feature in which the two versions differ is that in the Sumerian text the lamentation of the goddess precedes the sending of the Deluge, while in the Gilgamesh Epic it is occasioned by the actual advent of the storm. Since our text is not completely preserved, it is just possible that the couplet was repeated at the end of the Fourth Column after mankind's destruction had taken place. But a further apparent difference has been noted. While in the Sumerian Version the goddess at once deplores the divine decision, it is clear from Ishtar's words in the Gilgamesh Epic that in the assembly of the gods she had at any rate concurred in it.(1) On the other hand, in Bêlit-ili's later speech in the Epic, after Ut-napishtim's sacrifice upon the mountain, she appears to subscribe the decision to Enlil alone.(2) The passages in the Gilgamesh Epic are not really contradictory, for they can be interpreted as implying that, while Enlil forced his will upon the other gods against Bêlit-ili's protest, the goddess at first reproached herself with her concurrence, and later stigmatized Enlil as the real author of the catastrophe. The Semitic narrative thus does not appear, as has been suggested, to betray traces of two variant traditions which have been skilfully combined, though it may perhaps exhibit an expansion of the Sumerian story. On the other hand, most of the apparent discrepancies between the Sumerian and Babylonian Versions disappear, on the recognition that our text gives in many passages only an epitome of the original Sumerian Version.
The lament of the goddess is followed by a brief account of the action taken by the other chief figures in the drama. Enki holds counsel with his own heart, evidently devising the project, which he afterwards carried into effect, of preserving the seed of mankind from destruction. Since the verb in the following line is wanting, we do not know what action is there recorded of the four creating deities; but the fact that the gods of heaven and earth invoked the name of Anu and Enlil suggests that it was their will which had been forced upon the other gods. We shall see that throughout the text Anu and Enlil are the ultimate rulers of both gods and men.
The narrative then introduces the human hero of the Deluge story:
The name of the hero, Ziusudu, is the fuller Sumerian equivalent of Ut-napishtim (or Uta-napishtim), the abbreviated Semitic form which we find in the Gilgamesh Epic. For not only are the first two elements of the Sumerian name identical with those of the Semitic Ut-napishtim, but the names themselves are equated in a later Babylonian syllabary or explanatory list of words.(1) We there find "Ut-napishte" given as the equivalent of the Sumerian "Zisuda", evidently an abbreviated form of the name Ziusudu;(2) and it is significant that the names occur in the syllabary between those of Gilgamesh and Enkidu, evidently in consequence of the association of the Deluge story by the Babylonians with their national epic of Gilgamesh. The name Ziusudu may be rendered "He who lengthened the day of life" or "He who made life long of days",(3) which in the Semitic form is abbreviated by the omission of the verb. The reference is probably to the immortality bestowed upon Ziusudu at the close of the story, and not to the prolongation of mankind's existence in which he was instrumental. It is scarcely necessary to add that the name has no linguistic connexion with the Hebrew name Noah, to which it also presents no parallel in meaning.
It is an interesting fact that Ziusudu should be described simply as "the king", without any indication of the city or area he ruled; and in three of the five other passages in the text in which his name is mentioned it is followed by the same title without qualification. In most cases Berossus tells us the cities from which his Antediluvian rulers came; and if the end of the line had been preserved it might have been possible to determine definitely Ziusudu's city, and incidentally the scene of the Deluge in the Sumerian Version, by the name of the deity in whose service he acted as priest. We have already noted some grounds for believing that his city may have been Shuruppak, as in the Babylonian Version; and if that were so, the divine name reads as "the God of Shurrupak" should probably be restored at the end of the line.(1)
The employment of the royal title by itself accords with the tradition from Berossus that before the Deluge, as in later periods, the land was governed by a succession of supreme rulers, and that the hero of the Deluge was the last of them. In the Gilgamesh Epic, on the other hand, Ut-napishtim is given no royal nor any other title. He is merely referred to as a "man of Shuruppak, son of Ubar-Tutu", and he appears in the guise of an ancient hero or patriarch not invested with royal power. On this point Berossus evidently preserves the original Sumerian traditions, while the Hebrew Versions resemble the Semitic-Babylonian narrative. The Sumerian conception of a series of supreme Antediluvian rulers is of course merely a reflection from the historical period, when the hegemony in Babylonia was contested among the city-states. The growth of the tradition may have been encouraged by the early use of lugal, "king", which, though always a term of secular character, was not very sharply distinguished from that of patesi and other religious titles, until, in accordance with political development, it was required to connote a wider dominion. In Sumer, at the time of the composition of our text, Ziusudu was still only one in a long line of Babylonian rulers, mainly historical but gradually receding into the realms of legend and myth. At the time of the later Semites there had been more than one complete break in the tradition and the historical setting of the old story had become dim. The fact that Hebrew tradition should range itself in this matter with Babylon rather than with Sumer is important as a clue in tracing the literary history of our texts.
The rest of the column may be taken as descriptive of Ziusudu's activities. One line records his making of some very great object or the erection of a huge building;(1) and since the following lines are concerned solely with religious activities, the reference is possibly to a temple or some other structure of a sacred character. Its foundation may have been recorded as striking evidence of his devotion to his god; or, since the verb in this sentence depends on the words "at that time" in the preceding line, we may perhaps regard his action as directly connected with the revelation to be made to him. His personal piety is then described: daily he occupied himself in his god's service, prostrating himself in humility and constant in his attendance at the shrine. A dream (or possibly dreams), "such as had not been before", appears to him and he seems to be further described as conjuring "by the Name of Heaven and Earth"; but as the ends of all these lines are broken, the exact connexion of the phrases is not quite certain.
(1) The element gur-gur, "very large" or "huge", which occurs in the name of this great object or building, an- sag-gur-gur, is employed later in the term for the "huge boat", (gish)ma-gur-gur, in which Ziusudu rode out the storm. There was, of course, even at this early period a natural tendency to picture on a superhuman scale the lives and deeds of remote predecessors, a tendency which increased in later times and led, as we shall see, to the elaboration of extravagant detail.
It is difficult not to associate the reference to a dream, or possibly to dream-divination, with the warning in which Enki reveals the purpose of the gods. For the later versions prepare us for a reference to a dream. If we take the line as describing Ziusudu's practice of dream-divination in general, "such as had not been before", he may have been represented as the first diviner of dreams, as Enmeduranki was held to be the first practitioner of divination in general. But it seems to me more probable that the reference is to a particular dream, by means of which he obtained knowledge of the gods' intentions. On the rendering of this passage depends our interpretation of the whole of the Fourth Column, where the point will be further discussed. Meanwhile it may be noted that the conjuring "by the Name of Heaven and Earth", which we may assume is ascribed to Ziusudu, gains in significance if we may regard the setting of the myth as a magical incantation, an inference in support of which we shall note further evidence. For we are furnished at once with the grounds for its magical employment. If Ziusudu, through conjuring by the Name of Heaven and earth, could profit by the warning sent him and so escape the impending fate of mankind, the application of such a myth to the special needs of a Sumerian in peril or distress will be obvious. For should he, too, conjure by the Name of Heaven and Earth, he might look for a similar deliverance; and his recital of the myth itself would tend to clinch the magical effect of his own incantation.
The description of Ziusudu has also great interest in furnishing us with a close parallel to the piety of Noah in the Hebrew Versions. For in the Gilgamesh Epic and in Berossus this feature of the story is completely absent. We are there given no reason why Ut-napishtim was selected by Ea, nor Xisuthros by Kronos. For all that those versions tell us, the favour of each deity might have been conferred arbitrarily, and not in recognition of, or in response to, any particular quality or action on the part of its recipient. The Sumerian Version now restores the original setting of the story and incidentally proves that, in this particular, the Hebrew Versions have not embroidered a simpler narrative for the purpose of edification, but have faithfully reproduced an original strand of the tradition.
|Written By Leonard W. King|
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