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Lecture 2

Lecture 2 notes

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Classical Studies
P Ferguson

Lecture 2: Mesopotamian Creation Myths Sigla & Abbreviations OBV: Old Babylonian Version (early 2 million) MAV: Middle Assyrian Version (late 2 mill.) SBV: Standard Babylonian Version (early – mid 1 miil.) st LV: Late Version (later 1 mill.) (Catchline): phrase repeated from end of 1 tablet onto 2 nd (Colophon): length and number of tablet, title of work, condition, source, scribe, reason for writing, location of copy, often also date, reign of king Creation Myths Explain the origins of - Gods (hierarchy, variety, forms of worship), - the natural world (cosmos) – how it came to be?; natural phenomena - humanity – how did we get here? God-man relationship - human condition – why do humans suffer and die? Male and female origins/relationsips o why is childbirth painful? Reason for mortality? - cultural institutions – traditions, cultural hierarchies; Sumerian “me” SEVERAL creation myths in Mesopotamia Ea = Enki = Nudimmud Terms Theogony: an account of the genealogy of a group or system of gods Cosmogony: a theory regarding origin of the universe Cosmology: an account or theory of the nature of the universe Aetiology: investigation or attribution of the cause or reason for something, often in terms of historical or mythical explanations Mythopoeia: the making of a myth or myths Usually theogony  cosmogony  homogony Cosmology: Babylonian “Map of the World” Earth is flat Babylon = centre of the earth If you walk far enough, you will reach the sea In corners: fantastical lands - e.g. in the north: a place in eternal darkness; this may be based on deductive reasoning from astronomical observations Earth is the flat plane, covered by dome (sky) and below it, the netherworld; the whole model surrounded by primordial sea; constellations travel through sky and netherworld Constellations = Gods Not everyone saw the world the same way Ancient people were keen observers of the natural world Myths helped explain natural phenomena like marine fossils in deposits far from the sea (aetiology of fossils) Many monsters might be based on fossil finds of dinosaurs and giant mammals (The First Fossil Hunters by Mayor) Not until 19 century CE with the work of scientists like Wiliam Smith were fossils really understood (The Map that Changed the World by Winchester) Some Creation Myths Each city state had its own creation stories which differs even in essentials from others  there is no one Mesopotamian view of creation Incest taboo is almost universal but tends to occur in creation myths due to limited population Name of Myth Creators of the World Epic of Creation Fresh-water (Apsu) and Sea-water (Tiamat) Theogony of Dunnu Plough and Earth Another text with incantation against Anu who creates the sky which creates toothache Earth Theogony of Hesiod (composed in Sky and Earth Boeotia in 8 century BCE) Theogony of Dunnu Not the most common creation story but shows the existence of various traditions Probably dates to at least early 2 millennium when Dunnu was an important town Much of the myth is missing Type: theogonical succession Purpose: to explain how Dunnu and the world were created Themes: incest, patricide, matricide, succession, domestication of nature Monthly schedule of family violence leads up to change of habits at New Year – connected with recitation of Creation and New Year’s Festival? No proper analysis! Summary Plough (king) + Earth made Dunnu  Cattle God + Sea; Earth + Cattle God  Flocks (with Sea) + River  Herdsman God + Pasture-and-Poplar  Harhanum + Belet-Seri (mistress of open country / desert)  Hayyashum + Sister(?) Cattle God killed Plough; Flocks God killed Cattle God; Sea killed Earth; Herdsman killed Flocks; Harhanum killed Herdsman; Hayyashum ordered imprisonment of Harhanum Male vs. Female = females are elemental / fertile / passive / submissive; males are living / controlling / dependent / exploitative Males gaining control over nature  Domestication themes The Epic of Creation: When Skies Above Although it is named “epic,” it is not the same traditional epic (no struggle against fate, mortal heroes, no sense of suspense, only death of villains) as Gilgamesh Purpose: to introduce earliest generations of gods up to Marduk, show overcoming of forces of evil and chaos to establish present order of universe, i.e. religious centres, divisions of time, celestial bodies moving properly, creation of mankind to serve gods Gods behave in orderly fashion (assemble, discuss, agree, elect leaders) No goddess (except Tiamat) involved in creation of civilization Dates of Composition Canonical (little textual variation between versions) Tablets with written work to 1 millennium, epic continued into Seleucid period th th (first used by Berossus in Babyloniaca), known in 5 and 6 century AD (Damascius quoted from Berossus) Tradition must be earlier: date for hymnic-epic dialect cannot be found Version featuring Marduk is primary and Assur is secondary  no traces of Assyrian dialect Tablets 1-V: appear to be original; war between Marduk and Tiamat; supremacy of Marduk; foundation of Babylon Tablets V-V1: creation of human kind; 50 names of Marduk; probably Kassite origin If version with Marduk is original then epic composed during reign of either… - At earliest during reign of Amorite ruler Sumula-el (1936 – 1901 BCE) o “under whom Babylon first achieved eminence” o Marduk as patron god of Babylon - Kassite ruler Agum Kakrime (16 century BCE) o Bought back cult statue of Marduk from years in captivity and reinstated in Babylon  occasion  compositions and artwork o Perhaps when monsters of Tiamat’s army were inscribed on temple doors? However, monsters aren’t exactly the same and there are questions about its authenticity. - Nebuchadnezzar I (1125 – 1104 BCE) o Also bought back cult statue of Marduk from years in captivity o Probably not the date for composition sice the An-Anum list of gods of Babylonian pantheon with their secondary names, incl Anum’s, found in Hittite capital Anatolia from before time of Nebuchadnezzar Myth may have Amorite (West Semitic) origins because of storm god Addu (included in Marduk’s name) and the triumph over the sea - This theme also found in a myth from Ugarit and alluded to in the Old Testament - Sumerian temple hymns, poems refer to heroic exploits of gods but never to this theme because the Sea is not as important in Sumerian pantheon - Possible that basic story is Amorite (with an original Amorite god) and last two tablets were added during Kassite period Ritual Connection Ritual tablet with instructions for New Year Festival in Babylon in the month of Nisan (April) says specifically to recite (or enact) this epic on fourth day Ritualistic stories also identified with opening sentence “When…” At New Year Festival, kings swore fealty to Marduk and citizens swore fealty to king  explains its style, i.e. myth vaguely phrased (as compared to, for example Gilgamesh)  designed to impress rather than entertain - Impresses upon subjects how an orderly universe and its kingship should be organized - Ideal state of affaris used for propoganda purpose, i.e. when the king’s subject kiss his feet, they are doing no less than great gods did for Marduk - No question of rivalry; loyalty is absolute Naming something gives it great importance Most of the names of Marduk are Sumerian, making them magical Sumerian language was already old (antiquarian), authoritative, and only spoken by certain people (secret knowledge) Ancient Mesopotamians believed that studying words / names increases understanding but also gives essence of the thing they are naming Origin began with two primordial elements – not worshipped Summary Apsu (fresh water; underground) + Tiamat (salt water; female; chaos)  Lahmu and Lahamu (hairy primeval heroes? Are they silt where the rivers enter the sea, i.e. mud?)  Anshar (sky) and Kishar (earth) Anu (son of Ashar and Kishar) (sky god)  Nudimmud (Ea/Enki) (creator God of fresh water) + Damkina  Marduk Younger gods make noise, disturbing Tiamat and Apsu Apsu wants to kill them (his children) and goes with Mummu (Vizier) to tell Tiamat Tiamat refuses to help them so they decide to act on their own; gods in Tiamat’s belly hear the plan Ea puts Apsu to sleep, takes crown and symbols of office, slays Apsu, sets dwelling in Apsu where he lives with his lover Damkina and gives birth to Marduk Marduk plays with the 4 winds given to him by Anu  stirs up Tiamat  disturbs gods in Tiamat The gods in Tiamat incite her to avenge Apsu’s and Mummu’s deaths and she decides to go to war - Mother Hubur (river in the underworld) makes serpents, mashussu dragon, horned serpent, lamhu-hero, ugallu demon, rabid dog, scorpion-man, umu- demons, fish man, bull man; made 7 more = 22 - Tiamat names Qingu her lover and general of her army Ea informs Anshar, who tells him to quell Tiamat but Ea is unsuccessful Anshar sends 3 people to destroy Tiamat - Anu: defeated - Nudimmud: panicked and returned - Marduk: volunteers himself Marduk gets power and slays Tiamat, disperses and cages her army Marduk defiles Timat’s body, cuts her to make the sky and sea of the world Also forms rivers (head), mountains (from udder), constellations, shrines (homes) for the gods Gives tablet of destiny to Anu, establishes Babylon as centre (Ziggurat, E-sagilia ~ Temple of Marduk) Man made from Qingu’s (leader’s) blood to do work for the gods by Ea List of 50/55 names of Marduk Atrahasis: When the God’s instead of man Atrahasis the wise man who built an ark and saved mankind from destruction - Figure of immense prestige and antiquity - Various literary and religious traditions were attached to him - In Mesopotamia, he was survivor of the Flood and with his wife was granted immortality by the gods - May have been son of Ubara-tutu (named in Gilgamesh), King of Shurrupak (modern Tel Fafah) according to one version of the Sumerian King List - May have been son of Shurrupak, King of Shurrupak who precedes Ziusudra
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