The Tale Of Adapa
If the Old Testament appears straight out of ancient texts of Babylon, no Sumerian myth tells of the fall of man as was told in the Bible. This time, the Hebrew writers have used another source that we do not get. However a cuneiform poem could well be the source of the story of Genesis.
The Tale of Adapa was found in two places in the ancient world: El-Amarna in Egypt in the archives of the Egyptian kings and in the encyclopedic library of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal. It is assumed that this distant time, this tale was known everywhere. Just as in the Epic of Gilgamesh, the subject of this story is the quest for divine immortality, as in Gilgamesh, the quest ended in failure. ll there is great similarities between the two stories, and despite some differences, one may wonder if it is not the same hero. While Gilgamesh is presented as the first king of men, Adapa is a perfect prototype of Homo sapiens, designed and built by Prince Enki in his Abzu. Remember Enki’s Abzu was a secrete estate he owned underneath – in the hollow earth.
“With great wisdom, Enki gave him wisdom, but not eternal life” this is the beginning of the tale. Enki’s wisdom was elementary caution to avoid possible rival. Anyhow Enki uses his smart prototype as a servant. He teaches him to make all kinds of services in the home and in the fields. On this reading, it is troubling that we have imitated this guilty casually inventing slavery. Moreover, we have not invented: it is gods’ example.
Adapa got no time to rest, and a plenty of jobs: hunting, gathering, fishing for his master, cooking and helping his Prince like Friday with his white god Robinson. One day he was fishing, Adapa suddenly saw “the South Wind that rose and flooded the boat.” In great danger of capsizing, Adapa lost his temper and “broke the wing of the South Wind.” How can the wing of a wind be broken? Everyone knows that the wind does not need wings to fly. Only birds have wings. Birds, insects, angels … and airplanes.
The Myth of Zu, another Sumerian poem confirms this track: Zu is struggling with the gods, who send him several weapons to beat him. One of these weapons, the South Wind, will wound Zu. In the myth, it is clear that the South Wind is a killer drone. Automatic hunting aircraft, patrolling along the border to destroy everything that presents. The Land of Gods was well kept. Especially the area of the spaceport, true umbilical cord linking Lebanon to the orbiting Gods’ mothership. Myths are written in a coded language that one has to decrypt. In light of the Myth of Zu, we will be able to read the Tale of Adapa otherwise.
“Meanwhile, in his heavenly abode, the chief god Anu is worried because the South Wind did not blow on the earth for seven days. His deputy investigates and informs Anu that a mere mortal has put off. Full of fury and contempt, Anu summons Adapa human in the mothership.” (source) R. A. Boulay, The Reptilian Past of Mankind
This is where we learn that Adapa the human – with near beast a status to the chief god Anu – got his own shumu. A shumu was a personal space shuttle he piloted perfectly. Gee! this Adapa is not a normal guy. Of course not, since he is a special prototype that Prince Enki has developed for service. Enki gave him all the tools to work, and the shuttle is included. Adapa also received weapons – otherwise how could he broke the wing of the South Wind?
Enki the rebel prince was the creator and defender of mankind. His Greek counterpart Zeus Prometheus brave in defense of his creatures, which will culminate in exile. But not in Russia, not “beyond the Scythian plains” as stated by the Greek poet Aeschylus. Enki was exiled to America with his son, and all his people. For now, the prince protects Adapa and briefs on how to behave in front of the mighty Anu.
“Up there, he said to his protege, no funny tricks. You better remember it every single second.”
Then prince Enki lavishes great advice. Thus, he hopes, Adapa should be able to overcome the trials that Anu, his dear uncle, is sure to hand him. “First tip: you won’t go to Sippar Baalbek spaceport in Dilmun Liban . Here the gods are strong together they buzz like bees – you will lose your means, if not your life. To go to the star city of Anu, you will take the shumu I made for you. Your shumu will easily take you to Olympus Hyperborea Avallon Nibiru – the radiant city of the gods in space. You can not miss: it shines above Borea as a nearby star.”
So that’s what Adapa did. He arrived at the all-powerful gods in his personal shumu, as if god himself, not a mere mortal created by his master geneticist Prince Enki. Then he landed his shumu next to the Superior Gods’. The Sumerian word shumu – which derived the Hebrew word shem – means name, or fame. But it has another meaning according to R.A. Boulay: rocket, or UFO, or Vimana in Sanskrit. His erudite and sensible demonstration convinced me.
Anu is impressed by the intelligence of Adapa. He wondered how this half-ape could acquire forbidden knowledge, which are reserved for gods and their semi-divine bastards. The god of gods is said that this is not a Adapa like other livestock. He asked angrily, “Why Prince Enki he disclosed to you in terms of earth and heaven to you, half-ape, human slave strain vile and worthless, period, without any force? what right have you insolent he built a shumu? “
Adapa kept silent and felt no fear, as his master told him. Suddenly calmed, the powerful king said blandly, “Drink this Water of Life, and live eternally Eat this bread, and your pineal gland will glow giving you divine powers that you miss. Stay here with the Snake Gods and you will know eternal bliss!” But to get it, he must renounce his human appearance, and agree to become reptilian like all the eternal gods. Enki warned Adapa to refuse any food, any drink if he wanted to come back to earth safe and sound.
The pineal gland is also called the gland of awakening. It can be concluded that the Water of Life of the gods was a magic potion that gives enlightenment, and his divine povoirs. And eternity and youth, for that matter. Sumerian priests are represented with “situla” or brandy bucket in one hand, while in the other they raise a pine cone at the height of their eyes. It’s not a fruit, or anything that may be eaten, as some scholars have imagined. This is the pineal gland. This gesture means enlightenment. see on top
Adapa hesitated eternal life, tempting gift. Enki has warned him to refuse! So he does refuse. Anu is furious at the affront. He feels a scheme hatched by his nephew, this cheeky Enki who respects nothing. “Why do you refuse eternity and happiness, you stupid monkey?”
The term apkallu has multiple uses, but usually refers to some form of wisdom translations of the term generally equate to English language uses of the terms "the wise", "sage" or "expert". 
As an epithet, prefix, or adjective it can mean "the wise" it has been used as an epithet for the gods Ea and Marduk, simply interpreted as "wise one amongst gods" or similar forms. It has also been applied to Enlil, Ninurta, and Adad. 
The term also refers to the "seven sages",  especially the sage Adapa,  and also to apotropaic figures, which are often figurines of the 'seven sages' themselves. 
A collation of the names and "titles" of theses seven sages in order can be given as: 
Uanna, "who finished the plans for heaven and earth",
Uannedugga, "who was endowed with comprehensive intelligence",
Enmedugga, "who was allotted a good fate",
Enmegalamma, "who was born in a house",
Enmebulugga, "who grew up on pasture land",
An-Enlilda, "the conjurer of the city of Eridu",
Utuabzu, "who ascended to heaven".
Additionally, the term is used when referring to human "priests" (also "exorcists", "diviners").  However, Mesopotamian human sages also used the term ummianu (ummânù).  
The term "apkallu" is Akkadian, it is thought to derive from the Sumerian abgal. 
Uanna (Oannes) or Adapa? Edit
The first of these legendary fish-man sages is known as Oan/Oannes (Sumerian) or Uanna/U-An (Akkadian) on a few cuneiform inscriptions this first sage has "adapa" appended to his name.   Borger notes, however, that it is difficult to believe that the half-man half-fish "Adapa" is the same as the fisherman of the Adapa myth, the son of the god Ea.   A potential solution was given by W. G. Lambert  —evidence that "adapa" was also used as an appellative meaning "wise". 
Kvanvig 2011 considers the case for Adapa being one of or a name of one of the Apkallu. They note that while some texts contain plays on words between the terms "adapa" and "uan" and posit that "adapa" may be an epithet, though in the Adapa myth itself it is likely a proper name. In terms of the name of the first Apkallu they consider that both terms "adapa" ("wise") and "ummanu" ("craftsman") together form the whole proper name. Additionally, they note closer similarities between the 7th Apkallu Utuabzu, who is said to have ascended to heaven (in the Bit Meseri), and the myth of Adapa who also visited heaven. Both Adapa and the Apkallu have legends that place them halfway between the world of men and gods but additionally just as Oannes in the Greek version passes all the knowledge of civilization to people, so Adapa is described as having been "[made] perfect with broad understanding to reveal the plans of the land." However, despite some clear parallels between Adapa stories and both the first and last Apkallu, Kvanvig finally notes that the name used for the first Apkallu is given in both Berossus, and in the Uruk King list—that is Uan. 
Uruk List of Kings and Sages Edit
These Sages are found in the "Uruk List of Kings and Sages" (165 BC) discovered in 1959/60 in the Seleucid era temple of Anu in Bit Res The text consisted of list of seven kings and their associated sages, followed by a note on the 'Deluge' (see Gilgamesh flood myth), followed by eight more king/sage pairs.   
A tentative translation reads:
During the reign of Ayalu, the king, [Adapa]† was sage.
During the reign of Alalgar, the king, Uanduga was sage.
During the reign of Ameluana, the king, Enmeduga was sage.
During the reign of Amegalana, the king, Enmegalama was sage.
During the reign of Enmeusumgalana, the king, Enmebuluga was sage.
During the reign of Dumuzi, the shepherd, the king, Anenlilda was sage.
During the reign of Enmeduranki, the king, Utuabzu was sage.
After the flood, during the reign of Enmerkar, the king, Nungalpirigal was sage, whom Istar brought down from heaven to Eana. He made the bronze lyre [..] according to the technique of Ninagal. [..] The lyre was placed before Anu [..], the dwelling of (his) personal god.
During the reign of Gilgamesh, the king, Sin-leqi-unnini was scholar.
During the reign of Ibbi-Sin, the king, Kabti-ili-Marduk was scholar.
During the reign of Isbi-Erra, the king, Sidu, a.k.a. Enlil-ibni, was scholar.
During the reign of Abi-esuh, the king, Gimil-Gula and Taqis-Gula were the scholars.
During the reign of [. ], the king, Esagil-kin-apli was scholar.
During the reign of Adad-apla-iddina, the king, Esagil-kin-ubba was scholar.
During the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, the king, Esagil-kin-ubba was scholar.
During the reign of Esarhaddon, the king, Aba-Enlil-dari was scholar, whom the Arameans call Ahiqar.
† Note the root for this word is the same ( I u4- 4+ 60) as that for the following sage Uanduga ( I u4- 4+ 60-du10-ga) ie the translation to Adapa is interpretive, not literally 'phonetic'
Lenzi notes that the list is clearly intended to be taken in chronological order. It is an attempt to connect real (historic) kings directly to mythologic (divine) kingship and also does the same connecting those real king's sages (ummanu) with the demi-godly mythic seven sages (apkallu). 
Though the list is taken to be chronological, the texts do not portray the Sages (nor the kings) as genealogically related to each other or their kings. There is some similarity between the sages' and kings' names in the list, but not enough to draw any solid conclusions. 
Bit meseri Edit
A list (similar to the Uruk list) of the seven sages followed by four human sages is also given in an apotropaic incantation the tablet series Bit meseri.  The ritual involved hanging or placing statues of the sages on the walls of a house. A translation of the cuneiform was given by Borger:
Incantation. U-Anna, who accomplishes the plans of heaven and earth,
U-Anne-dugga, who is endowed with comprehensive understanding,
Enmedugga, for whom a good destiny has been decreed,
Enmegalamma, who was born in a house,
Enmebulugga, who grew up in pasture land,
An-Enlilda, the conjurer of the city of Eridu,
Utuabzu, who ascended to heaven,
the pure puradu-fishes, the puradu-fishes of the sea, the seven of them,
the seven sages, who have originated in the river, who control the plans of heaven and earth.
Nungalpiriggaldim, the wise (King) of Enmerkars, who had the goddess Innin/Ishtar descend from heaven into the sanctuary,
Piriggalnungal, who was born in Kish, who angered the god Ishkur/Adad in heaven, so that he allowed neither rain nor growth in the land for three years,
Piriggalabzu, who was born in Adab/Utab, who hung his seal on a "goat-fish"† and thereby angered the god Enki/Ea in the fresh water Sea, so that a fuller struck him dead with his own seal,
fourth Lu-Nanna, who was two-thirds a sage, who drove a dragon out of the temple E-Ninkiagnunna, the Innin/Ishtar Temple of (King) Schulgi,
(altogether) four Sages of human descent, whom Enki/Ea, the Lord, endowed with comprehensive understanding.
† Goatfish was the sacred animal of Enki/Ea
Translated to English in Hess & Tsumura 1994, pp. 230–231, original german translation Borger 1974, p. 186
Borger found the Uruk and bit meseri lists to be in agreement. 
The Twenty-One "Poultices" Edit
Nudimmud became angry and summoned the seven sages of Eridu in high tones,
"Bring the document of my Anuship that it may be read before me,
That I may decree the destiny for Mu'ait,
The son who makes me happy, and grant him his desire."
They brought and read the tablet of destinies of the great gods,
He decreed the destiny for him and gave him ..
Anenlildam the purification priest of Eridu,
Made twenty-one "poultices" and gave them to him
LKA 146 Obverse, Lines 5-12. (Lambert 1980, p. 79)
A text giving the story known as the Twenty-One "Poultices" (ref. no. LKA No.76) contains duplications of much of the Bit meseir text concerning the seven sages - it was analyzed by Reiner 1961. Another text from Uruk was later found that duplicated and further completed the coverage of Reiner's text. 
In the twenty-one poultices text the seven sages (of Eridu) are entrusted with the reading "tablets of destiny." Additionally the sage Anenlilda is the maker of the 'twenty-one poultices' -- these items are then given to Nudimmud to bring to the "upper world" to gain merit. 
The Poem of Erra Edit
I made those ummanus [apkallus] go down to the apsu
and I said they were not to come back up
Poem of Erra Tablet 1, line 147.(Kvanvig 2011, pp. 161–2)
The seven sages are also mentioned in the Epic of Erra (aka 'Song of Erra', or 'Erra and Ishum') here again they are referenced as paradu-Fish.   In this text is described how after the Flood, Marduk banished them back to Abzu.  Once the apkallu are banished, Marduk's phrasing becomes rhetorical (left):
Where are the seven apkallu of the apsu, the holy carp†,
who are perfect in lofty wisdom like Ea's their lord,
who can make my body holy?
† Usually translated as "pure puradu-fishes"
Poem of Erra Tablet 2, line 162 (Kvanvig 2011, p. 162)
Finally Erra persuades Marduk to leave his temple and fetch back the apkallu from their banishment, reassuring that he will keep order whilst Marduk is away. However, chaos breaks out though some of the text is missing it seems that the subsequent outcome was that instead, earthly ummanus are given the task of cleansing Marduk's shrine.  Kvanvig infers from this text that the mythological role of the apkallu was to aid the god (Marduk) in keeping creation stable by maintenance of Marduk's idol. 
According to Scott B. Noegel this epic also contains several clever etymological wordplays on the names of apkallu, both textual and phonetic. 
This text appears to have a completely different role for the apkallu from that given in the lists of sages and kings—essentially, Kvanvig proposes that the pre-deluge king-sage list was retroactively inserted onto a Sumerian king list, so to combine the historical record with the flood legend. In doing so it creates a pre-flood origin story for the Sumerian kings. 
Building stories Edit
The Seven Sages have enlarged it for you from the south to the uplands [north].
(Temple hymn) The house of Asarluhi at Kuar-Eridu line 193. 
A Sumerian temple hymn states the seven sages (here as abgal) enlarged a temple. 
The seven sages were also associated with the founding of the seven cities of Eridu, Ur, Nippur, Kullab, Kesh, Lagash, and Shuruppak and in the Epic of Gilgamesh (Gilg. I 9 XI 305) they are credited with laying the foundations of Uruk. 
Berossus' Babyloniaca Edit
Berossus wrote a history of Babylon in around 281 BC, during the Hellenistic period. According to his own account, he was a Chaldean priest of Bel (Marduk). His Babyloniaca was written in Greek, probably for the Seleucid court of Antiochus I.  His work gives a description of the wise men, their names, and their associated kings.   Berossus' original book is now lost,  but parts have survived via the abridgment and copying of historians including Alexander Polyhistor, Josephus, Abydenus, and Eusebius.   Mayer Burstein suggests that Berossus' work was partly metaphorical, intended to convey wisdoms concerning the development of man—a nuance lost or uncommented on by later copyists. 
What remains of Berossos' account via Apollodorus begins with a description on Babylonia, followed by the appearance of a learned fish-man creature named Oannes.  Truncated account:
This is the history which Berossus has transmitted to us. He tells us that the first king was Alorus of Babylon, a Chaldaean he reigned ten sari: and afterwards Alaparus, and Amelon who came from Pantibiblon: then Ammenon the Chaldaean, in whose time appeared the Musarus Oannes the Annedotus from the Erythraean sea. (But Alexander Polyhistor anticipating the event, has said that he appeared in the first year but Apollodorus says that it was after forty sari Abydenus, however, makes the second Annedotus appear after twenty-six sari.) Then succeeded Megalarus from the city of Pantibiblon and he reigned eighteen sari: and after him Daonus the shepherd from Pantibiblon reigned ten sari in his time (he says) appeared again from the Erythraean sea a fourth Annedotus, having the same form with those above, the shape of a fish blended with that of a man. Then reigned Euedoreschus from Pantibiblon, for the term of eighteen sari in his days there appeared another personage from the Erythraean sea like the former, having the same complicated form between a fish and a man, whose name was Odacon. (All these, says Apollodorus, related particularly and circumstantially whatever Oannes had informed them of: concerning these Abydenus has made no mention.) Then reigned Amempsinus, a Chaldaean from Laranchae and he being the eighth in order reigned ten sari. Then reigned Otiartes, a Chaldaean, from Laranchae and he reigned eight sari. And upon the death of Otiartes, his son Xisuthrus reigned eighteen sari: in his time happened the great deluge. So that the sum of all the kings is ten and the term which they collectively reigned an hundred and twenty sari.
Berossus via Apollodorus recorded in Eusebius and Syncellus (translated from the Greek). 
Truncated account via Abydenus:
So much concerning the wisdom of the Chaldseans.
It is said that the first king of the country was Alorus, who gave out a report that he was appointed by God to be the Shepherd of the people: he reigned ten sari: now a sarus is esteemed to be three thousand six hundred years a neros six hundred and a sossus sixty.
After him Alaparus reigned three sari: to him succeeded Amillarus from the city of Pantibiblon, who reigned thirteen sari in his time a semidaemon called Annedotus, very like to Oannes, came up a second time from the sea: after him Ammenon reigned twelve sari, who was of the city of Pantibiblon: then Megalarus of the same place eighteen sari: then Daos, the shepherd, governed for the space of ten sari he was of Pantibiblon in his time four double-shaped personages came out of the sea to land, whose names were Euedocus, Eneugamus, Eneuboulus, and Anementus: after these things was Anodaphus, in the time of Euedoreschus. There were afterwards other kings, and last of all Sisithrus: so that in the whole, the number amounted to ten kings, and the term of their reigns to an hundred and twenty sari. [follows an account of a deluge]
[followed by an account essentially similar to that of Babel, followed by a war "between Chronus and Titan"]
Berossus via Abydenus recorded in Eusebius and Syncellus (translated from the Greek). 
Truncated account via Alexander Polyhistor:
[Background of Berossus, followed by an introduction to the accounts of Babylon, and a geographical description of it]
In the first year there made its appearance, from a part of the Erythraean sea which bordered upon Babylonia, an animal endowed with reason, who was called Oannes. (According to the account of Apollodo- rus) the whole body of the animal was like that of a fish and had under a fish's head another head, and also feet below, similar to those of a man, subjoined to the fish's tail. His voice too, and language, was articulate and human and a representation of him is preserved even to this day.
This Being in the day-time used to converse with men but took no food at that season and he gave them an insight into letters and sciences, and every kind of art. He taught them to construct houses, to found temples, to compile laws, and explained to them the principles of geometrical knowledge. He made them distinguish the seeds of the earth, and shewed them how to collect fruits in short, he instructed them in every thing which could tend to soften manners and humanize mankind. From that time, so universal were his instructions, nothing has been added material by way of improvement. When the sun set, it was the custom of this Being to plunge again into the sea, and abide all night in the deep for he was amphibious.
After this there appeared other animals like Oannes, of which Berossus promises to give an account when he comes to the history of the kings.
Moreover Oannes wrote concerning the generation of mankind of their different ways of life, and of their civil polity and the following is the purport of what he said:
[follows a truncated account of what is essentially the enuma elis]
In the second book was the history of the ten kings of the Chaldeans, and the periods of each reign, which consisted collectively of an hundred and twenty sari, or four hundred and thirty-two thousand years reaching to the time of the Deluge. For Alexander, as from the writings of the Chaldteans, enumerating the kings from the ninth Ardates to Xisuthrus,
[an account essentially the same as that of the Biblical Flood]
[Accounts then follow of Abraham, of Nabonasar, of the Destruction of the Jewish Temple, of Nebuchadnezzar, of the Chaldean Kings after Nebuchadnezzar, and of the Feast of Sacea]
Berossus from Alexander Polyhistor recorded in Eusebius and Syncellus (translated from the Greek). 
|via Apollodorus||via Abydenus||via Polyhistor|
|Alorus||Alorus||An account of Oannes, and a claim he was followed by others similar|
|Daonus the Shepherd||[4th fish-man]||Daos the Shepherd||Euedocus, Eneugamus, Eneuboulus, and Anementus|
|All accounts give ten kings, followed by a deluge|
In summary, Berossus' Babylonian history recounts ten kings before a deluge (followed by the reigns of later kings), with a record or myth of primitive man receiving civilized knowledge via the Oannes in also contains a paraphrasing of the myth the Enuma Elis, which was said to have been recounted by the Oannes.  Though Berossus' history contains obvious historical errors, parts of it have convincing matches with ancient cuneiform texts, suggest he was recreating accounts known from ancient Mesopotamian texts. Mayer Burstein considers that the text was not well written in a "Greek style", but was essentially a transliteration of Mesopotamian myths into Greek. Helpfully for future historians, Berossus does not seem to have altered the myths or narratives to suit a Greek audience. 
In terms of his relevance to the Apkallu: his lists match fairly well with the Uruk King/Apkallu list, though there are differences and variations.  Oannes is paired with the king Alorus, and by comparison can be considered equivalent to Adapa [Uanna].  Matches between Berossus and the kings and apkallu in the Uruk King List have been proposed. 
Other references Edit
Various other cuneiform texts have references to these seven sages. There are texts that associates a set of seven sages with the city Kuar-Eridu or Eridu, while in the Epic of Gilgamesh there is a reference to seven counselors as founders of Uruk. Another list of seven sages used in a ritual differs from the description and names give in the Bit meseri text. 
Several of named apkulla are listed on inscriptions as authors, notably Lu-Nanna is recorded as author of the Myth of Etana. 
Representations of 'apkallu' were used in apotropaic rituals in addition to fish-headed ones (similar to descriptions of the seven sages), other human-animal hybrids were used as 'apkallu' in this context (generally bird-headed humans). 
Apkallu reliefs appear prominently in Neo-Assyrian palaces, notably the constructions of Ashurnasirpal II of the 9th century BC. They appear in one of three forms, bird-headed, human-headed or dressed in fish-skin cloaks. They have also been found on reliefs from the reign of Sennacherib.  The form taken of a man covered with the 'pelt' of a fish is first seen the Kassite period, continuing is used to the period of Persian Babylonia – the form was popular during the Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian periods. 
A contemporary response to the Adapa story
Within the first two weeks, this video has been seen by 454,000 people on Facebook, with the largest audiences in Baghdad, Nineveh and Basrah. Overall, the videos created by Eye on Heritage have been viewed over 4.5 million times, mainly in Iraq and Syria.
In association with the Enheduanna Society and the Zipang Recordings Project.
The original Adapa story can be viewed on the Zipang Recordings page
English translation of video
Myths have always been used to reflect, define, and structure human thought, their relationships with other living beings, their views and observations on life. They have inspired poetry and literature and functioned as both religion and philosophy. All this and more you will explore with me, Shihab Al-Ali, through our show Asateer (Myths), where we shed light on myths in antiquity, going as far back as the 14th century BC.
Hello and welcome to the first episode of Asateer.
Humans could never fully conceptualise life after death. They dealt with this mystery through believing in an eternal part of the universe: they worshipped stones, animals and trees, giving to them a spiritual power. According to Antony Smith, nations which stem from the same origin may also share in their spiritual beliefs and rituals, whether religious or non-religious.
The myth we are covering today tells the story of Adapa, the wise man who lived in Eridu, the city of Ea, a.k.a. Enki. Through Ea’s mistake and Adapa’s blind obedience, humankind lost the immortality offered to Adapa by Anu, the god of Heaven.
According to the myth, Adapa came to rule the human race and he was the king of the city of Eridu. However, one day, while he was fishing, the sea became rough and his boat was capsized. Angry, Adapa “broke the wings of the south wind”, preventing it from blowing for seven days. This caused the anger of the god Anu and made him decide to kill Adapa. With the help of Ea, Adapa was able to enter the sanctuary of the god Anu, which prevented Anu from killing him. However, Ea advised Adapa not to eat or drink anything in Anu’s sanctuary in fear for his life. As a consequence, the obedient Adapa inadvertently refused the “food of life” and “water of life”, turning down immortality and bringing disease on humankind.
The myth of Adapa is the story of a man who lost the gift of immortality. It is one of the late Babylonian myths which have entered Syrian mythology. There are four copies of this myth, the longest of which was found among the fragmentary tablets from Tell el-Amarna in Egypt and dates back to the fourteenth century BC.
The myths of the Arabs and other nations were filled with a kind of optimism and hope. They were inextricably linked to the mountains, wells and trees, indicating that local paganism was limited to reverence for the things that the Arab Bedouin utilised. However, this spiritual system developed under the influence of neighbouring civilisations, borrowing and adapting much of the regional mythology. Here ends the first episode of the Asateer series. We hope to meet you again in our new episodes. Please, follow us on the Heritage of the Euphrates Facebook page. See you soon.
A review of comments and responses from our audience on Facebook
Is it important to talk about the past?
Some of the audience expressed their disinterest in the subject, claiming that the past and the present of the region are all ‘dark and deformed’. As Abdul Rahman, one of our viewers, put it, “Other nations arrived to the moon, stars and planets, while we are lamenting our history and crying on the ruins of this and that, and calling some figures/personalities great, and others magnificent and so on, while all of that is not true.”. Not everyone agreed with Abdul Rahman. One reply to his comment was “there is no harm in looking at the past and considering it. We cannot understand the present without relating it to the history of the region”.
Some commentators think that myths are not a credible source for analysing and studying the history or the civilization of the al-Jazeera region, and that myths deal with events that never took place they advise people go to the Islamic Turath and the Quran to learn more instead of reading and presenting myths. Yet, other viewers do believe in the importance of talking about myths because they help us learn about people’s customs and traditions, granting the readers simultaneously an opportunity to compare and contrast the present with the past and to study events in a diachronic fashion, learning about the development and growth of a nation within a historical timeframe.
Other comments questioned the importance of history and doubted its relevance when the present of a country is shameful and tragic. They claimed that history is not important to a nation engulfed in bloodshed and catastrophe. One comment referred to the U.S., saying that “The U.S has no history, but you can see the glory and the success it achieved now. History is a waste of time. We should focus on the present!”. In response, another viewer thought that the previous comment overlooked the imperialistic ambitions of the U.S. and how their excessive liberalism had affected the world negatively, especially when they threw two nuclear bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
Interestingly, the video opened a space for discussion among the followers who mostly not only liked the video, but tried to engage with it through comments, replies, and answering each other’s questions. Though some people were not happy with the content for different reasons (as we have mentioned), this did not prevent them from elaborating on why they disliked and disagreed with it, or even suggesting alternative ways to present the material and approach the subject. In other words, discontent did not equal disengagement.
History should not be overlooked
Many comments emphasized the importance of history and the past, and their utility in dealing with the present or understanding it. A reference was made by one comment to archeology in the West, where archeologists use small tools to learn about very minute details of the ruins in Iraq, Egypt and other countries. A commentator expressed his anger on how ISIS stole the real artefacts and ruins that preserve the country’s history, while destroying fake buildings and statues in order to hide and sell the originals. This comment, however, did not put the responsibility for this situation exclusively within the context of ISIS, rather, it underscored all the tyranny and ignorance that accompanied it : “the residues of 35 years of dictatorship, isolating people from the world and not allowing them to have any freedom.”
History not myths (title of the program)
Among the comments discussing the title of the program, some were in favour of keeping it and others preferred to change it. One commentator thinks the title of the video has to be “The Heritage of the Mesopotamians, the Tigris and the Euphrates”, so that it includes the heritage of the civilizations of Syria and Iraq together, since the video talks about the civilizations in Zi Qar, Nasiriyah, Babylon, and al-Ḥillah in Iraq.
Another commentator wonders why the program’s title uses the word “myth” at all, and he suggests the term “Ancient Civilizations” instead in his own words, “Myth is a story about a person who embarks on a fairy adventure recorded by ancient narrators”. The writer of this comment thinks that approaching history as a myth is one of the new ways in which atheists try to distort religion by linking myths with the stories of various religions and of the Quran. He suggests that the program should use more evidence showing how myths are part of the history of the region, but that these should be called something else, such as ‘facts’, rather than ‘myths’.
This comment is particularly interesting, as on one hand it attacks secularism and dismisses it as a valid framework for analyzing and studying history (in isolation from religion), yet on the other hand it calls for greater use of academic and scholastic approaches to the study of history.
The Fall: Mythology or History?
The book of Genesis records the fall of man—the event where humanity rebelled against God and thus exchanged an innocent nature for a sinful nature, immortality for mortality. Archaeology reveals that an Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) myth shares a similar story. Skeptics claim the similarities nullify the historicity of the biblical account, but the ANE literature actually strengthens the case for the biblical, historical fall of man.
According to Scripture, God created Adam (Hebrew for “man”) and Eve, granted them immortality, and commanded them to eat of every tree in the Garden of Eden except one. Satan (in the form of a serpent) deceived Eve to violate God’s command and to eat from the forbidden tree. Thus Adam and Eve disobeyed God and forfeited immortal life (Gen. 3:1–19).
In the Babylonian story of Adapa (c. 1300 BC), the god Ea created Adapa, whose name means “man.” Ea granted Adapa wisdom (not immortality). 1 One day, after Adapa committed a violation against the sky-god Anu, Anu called Adapa to appear before him. Ea counseled Adapa to show reverence to Anu’s gatekeepers, but not to eat or drink anything Anu offered him.
Adapa so pleased Anu’s gatekeepers that Anu decided not to punish Adapa but, rather, to reward him with the gift of immortality. To receive the gift, Adapa had to eat the “bread of life” and drink the “water of life.” But because of Ea’s deception, Adapa refused the gifts and Anu sent him back to Earth saying, “he had rejected immortality and brought ill upon mankind.” 2
Although this myth parallels the biblical account in its explanation of why man suffers death, the differences demonstrate that the biblical authors could not have recast their accounts from the myth. Yet the similarities argue for a common historical event.
Like Adam, Adapa was understood to be the first man and divine representative of the creator. Just as Adam was to care for the Garden, so Adapa was to care for Ea’s sanctuary. Just as God placed a “tree of life” in the Garden, so Anu offered Adapa the “bread of life” to gain immortality. Just as the serpent deceived Adam and Eve to disobey God, Ea deceived Adapa into rejecting Anu’s offer. Both were then exiled to experience death as mortals.
The striking similarities reveal that the historical event of the fall of man was passed down after the Noahic Flood (chaps. 6—9) and remained in the common culture. Years later, after the dispersion at Babel (11:1–9), different cultures adapted the event to fit local mythologies. So, contrary to the claims of skeptics, the Babylonian Adapa myth actually reinforces the truth of the historical, biblical account of the fall of man.
There are also stark differences between the accounts that betray any claim the biblical authors might have borrowed from mythology. For example, in the Adapa story, Adapa’s creator god Ea is deceitful and evil, lying to Adapa to keep him from obtaining immortality. The Creator God of Scripture loved Adam, granted him immortality, and desired for him to keep it and live an abundant life.
Both Jesus and the apostle Paul affirmed the Genesis account of the Fall as a literal, historical event. Paul said, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12 cf. Mt. 19:4 Mk. 10:6 Jn. 8:44 2 Cor. 11:3 1 Tim. 2:13). Praise God our hope of salvation rests on a firm foundation and on a God who loves us.
The Legend Of Adapa In Mesopotamian Mythology
In Mesopotamian mythology, Adapa is the first Sumerian King and wise Teacher from the Sumerian City of Eridu who was the son of Anunnaki God Enki or Ea.
The Adapa myth records how the Mesopotamian Anunnaki Gods gave him the gift of intelligence but did not give him immortality.
According to the legend of Adapa and The South Wind, one day when Adapa was out fishing, the South Wind blew with so much force Adapa was thrown from his boat and into the Sea by the force of the South Wind.
In his anger at the South Wind, Adapa smashed the wings of the South Wind which made it stop blowing.
Anunnaki God Enki Tells Adapa To Not Eat Or Drink The Waters Of Eternal Life
According to Sumerian Mythology, because Adapa had broken the Wings Of The South Wind, Anu, the Supreme Sky God made Adapa fly to the Heavens to explain his actions to the Anunnaki Gods.
Ancient Sumerian folklore further states that before Adapa left to meet the Council Of Anunnaki Gods in the Sky, Enki also known as Ea who was the Mesopotamian God who had taught Adapa on Earth, warned Adapa not to eat the bread or drink the water which would be given to him by the Sumerian Anunnaki Gods in the Heavens.
As a result, when Adapa arrived to meet Anu, the Supreme Anunnaki God, Adapa did not eat or drink the bread and water of life offered to him by Anu and the other Anunnaki Gods in the Heavens because Enki had told Adapa to refuse bread and water when it was offered to him by the Heavenly Anunnaki Dieties.
In Ancient Mesopotamian folklore, Adapa’s refusal to eat the bread and drink the water of life is the reason mankind is mortal.
Today, the legend of Adapa can be found preserved amongst the Cuneiform Tablets discovered at Ashurbanipal’s library at Nineveh.
Ancient Astronaut Theorist, Zechariah Sitchin has also added his own contribution to the Adapa Legend in his work, The Lost Book Of Enki.
The Legend Of Adapa In The Ancient Astronaut Theory
According to Sitchin, a Race of Alien Astronauts from the Planet Nibiru found in Ancient Sumerian Records taught human beings the knowledge used to create Religion, Culture and Civilization.
In The Lost Book Of Enki, Sitchin suggests that Adapa was the Son of the Extraterrestrial Anunnaki God Enki, and an Earthling Female.
After Adapa’s birth, Enki reportedly kept Adapa’s birth a secret, and raised Adapa who was highly intelligent to become the first Civilized Man.
When Enki eventually introduced Adapa to the other Anunnaki Alien Gods on Earth, the Anunnaki were amazed by Adapa’s intelligence and accomplishments.
Adapa impressed all the Ancient Astronauts on Earth so much Enki was ordered by the other Alien Beings to send Adapa to the Anunnaki Home Planet Nibiru to meet the Anunnaki King Anu on the first space journey ever undertaken by an Earthling to the Anunnaki Home Planet Nibiru.
Before he left for Nibiru however, Enki told Adapa not to accept the Gift of Food that will be offered to him by the Alien Gods on Nibiru.
When Adapa arrives on Nibiru, he shares a meal with the Supreme Alien God Anu who offers him the food and drink of life which he refuses as instructed by Enki, leader of the Ancient Astronauts on Earth.
Adapa is also offered garments and oil, which Adapa accepts and Adapa anoints himself as instructed by Enki.
Whilst Adapa is amongst the Extraterrestrial Gods on Nibiru, Anu asks Adapa why he did not accept the food and water he was offered by the Anunnaki Aliens on Nibiru.
Adapa replies that the Ancient Astronauts on Earth led by Enki told him to refuse food and water if it was offered to him by the Anunnaki Astronauts on Nibiru.
Anu laughs at Enki’s ironic instructions understanding all along that Enki did not want Mankind to obtain the “Immortality” or more accurately, long life of an Extraterrestrial Species like the Anunnaki.
Instead, Enki only wanted Mankind to inherit the Knowledge that an Alien Race like the Anunnaki had acquired throughout its existence.
According to Sitchin’s Ancient Astronaut Hypothesis, the Ancient Mesopotamian understanding of the Adapa Legend is that Adapa in refusing the Food of the Gods, Adapa refused the Eternal or long Life of the Ancient Astronauts known to the Sumerians as the Anunnaki Gods.
Adapa could therefore only serve the Anunnaki Gods as an Anointed Servant through the Priesthood or institution of Kingship.
Thus the tale of Adapa appears to emphasize the difference between Men and the Ancient Astronauts who ruled as the Anunnaki Gods of Ancient Mesopotamia.
The Alien Gods from Nibiru could possess Immortal life, whilst their Human subjects or simple ‘Mortals’ could not.
The same question would also be dealt with in the later Epic Of Gilgamesh which also re-affirms the futility of Man’s quest for the same Eternal Life as that of the Extraterrestrial Gods.
Myth and Politics in Ancient Near Eastern Historiography. Edited and Introduced by Zainab Bahrani and Marc Van De Mieroop
In his Archaic Roman Religion, Georges Dumézil emphasized the idea that the foundation stories of the Roman state and society, such as those found in the account of Livy, were mythical rather than truly historical, and that such sagas were “early examples of the historicization of myths, of the transposition of fables to events this process was frequently used by the annalists or their predecessors…” 1 Dumézil hence drew attention to the thought that what the Romans did was, in a way, express myth as if it were history, or in a “historical” guise. In accounting for this Roman ethos in comparison to India, Dumézil suggested that the “Romans think historically, while the Indians think fabulously… The Romans think practically and the Indians think philosophically… The Romans think politically, the Indians morally.” 2 Our focus here is not Rome, but the ancient Near East and not Livy, but Mario Liverani, Professor of History of the Ancient Near East at the University of Rome “La Sapienza.” Dumézil’s observations on archaic Roman “history” do resonate, however, with aspects of what Liverani has to say in a number of essays, originally published in Italian from the early 1970s until the 1980s, all with the unifying theme of “historiography,” presented for the first time in English for a wider audience, translated by Liverani himself, under the title Myth and Politics in Ancient Near Eastern Historiography. Liverani’s translations are edited and introduced by Zainab Bahrani and Marc Van De Mieroop, who signal in their Introduction that the texts under scrutiny “are always historical reconstructions in themselves and that they do not have a ‘pure historical aim.’ Instead, their aim is political, moral, theological, and so on.” Most of the texts examined by Liverani do in fact take their cues from actual historical figures and situations, but all of them also do something more with them in terms of casting the events or situations described in patterns of myths or fairy tales. Liverani analyzes these texts almost geometrically, at times with charts and graphs, in terms of diction, structure, and semantics, “a deconstructive approach in order to read against the grain of the narrative as it is constructed in the texts,” according to the editors. The editors also note some of the intellectual trends with which these essays are in dialogue, such as structuralist anthropology, post-structuralism, psychoanalysis, and gender theory. Overall, Liverani’s essays are important not only regarding the implicit “semiotic” of ancient texts, but also regarding the “international” dimensions of this phenomenon.
The book is organized in four main parts, each dealing with a different cultural or geographic area within the greater Near East, “Mesopotamia,” “Hittite Anatolia,” “Syria,” and “Hebrew Bible.” These four parts further comprise chapters, each of which is a separate and rather dense essay. Each essay is also preceded by a helpful brief introduction by the editors of the volume, summarizing the specific story dealt with, at times commenting on Liverani’s take on the matters at hand, with information on other relevant scholarly literature as well. Despite the overarching methodological unity, the book is no easy read, as with each chapter the reader is required to embark on a new “wavelength” and a new concentrated problem-solving process. “Hittite Anatolia” comprises two, “Syria” three, and “Hebrew Bible” again two essays, with “Mesopotamia” as the shortest part, consisting of only one essay, which is the opening chapter of the book, “Adapa, guest of the gods.”
Of all the essays contained in the book, the one on Adapa is probably the only one which is distinctively mythological, and in this respect, one wonders if it truly qualifies as “historiography,” unless of course one also visualizes a mythical “history” or “proto-history.” Be that as it may, the chapter is methodologically quite at home among the rest of the essays, and in fact, with a theme based on a perennial paradox, constitutes an apt opening to this book of complexities. Its focus is the Babylonian myth of Adapa, an antediluvian sage, and son of the god of wisdom and cunning, Ea. In the myth, while Adapa is fishing in the open sea, he is caught in a storm generated by the South Wind. In anger, he curses the wind, breaking its wings, and hence committing a crime that “disturbs the natural order.” He is summoned to the presence of the supreme god Anu. In order to protect Adapa from imminent punishment, Ea advises him to appear at Anu’s gate in clothes of mourning, so that he would seem to be mourning over the disappearance from the earth of Tammuz and Gizzida, gods connected with the cycle of vegetation, and not to partake of the “food of death” and “water of death” to be offered to him, but to accept the clothing and the oil for anointing. Adapa is admitted to Anu’s presence on account of his ostensible reverence toward Tammuz and Gizzida, now guardians at the gate of heaven. Anu, who interrogates him, impressed by his wisdom, decides to offer him the “food and water of life” instead. Adapa, certain that the offerings are the victuals of death, refuses them, and loses his chance to gain eternal life. In his analysis of the myth, Liverani takes issue with the common notion that the myth is one that explains human mortality. Cautioning against analyzing the myth “as if it were a realistic novel,” Liverani advocates an analysis that is attuned to the “rules of mythical narratives.”
The author’s first proposed key to the specific problem in the Adapa myth is a consideration of the clothing and oil as parameters in the codification of the narrative just as important as the food and water. Demonstrating with examples how oil and clothing, along with food and water, constituted a formulaic set in a rhetoric of livelihood in the ancient Near East, Liverani argues that Adapa’s accepting the oil and clothing, “external gifts,” goes together with his admission to the presence of Anu, a success and his declining the food and water, “internal gifts,” goes together with his expulsion from the company of the gods, a failure. Liverani’s second proposed key to the meaning system of the myth is an anthropological understanding of “hospitality” by which the guest is assimilated to the host environment. From this standpoint, Adapa’s rejecting a portion of the gifts presented to him is understood as a violation of rules of mutual hospitality, resulting in the loss of a chance of full assimilation to the divine. The author’s treatment of both of these lines of analysis is remarkably strong and logical, and yet the crux of the problem remains. In particular, the emphasis on “hospitality” does not fully loosen the knot, since, in a way, such myths are predestined to result negatively. In other words, had Adapa, in full harmony with decorum and hospitality, accepted the food and water, the latter would have automatically or magically turned into the food and water of death. What truly does help explain a great deal, however, is Liverani’s emphasis on how Adapa’s lost opportunity, like that of Gilgamesh, is not one of general immortality, but one that pertains to a specific condition, which Liverani understands as that of “priesthood,” and not of humankind in general. The author sees the admissibility of Adapa to the presence of Anu as analogous to the restricted access of ancient priests to gods’ houses. One wonders, nevertheless, if rather than an aetiology for the clergy in general, this specific condition instead refers to a more fundamental state of “initiation,” a concept which Liverani does take up later on in the book. As if to consolidate the questionable “historiographic” dimension of this essay, Liverani concludes: “This development took place ‘a long time ago,’ and the audience should not be surprised to find from the beginning of the story a description of the prototypical priest, who has already reached the final stage.”
It is after the “initiation” provided by the Adapa myth that Liverani’s essays start meeting more closely the title’s promise of “politics” and “historiography.” In the first of the two essays belonging to “Hittite Anatolia,” “Telipinu, or: on solidarity,” the author’s focus is a Hittite edict known as the Telipinu Edict, which, up to the time Liverani’s essay was published (1977), had been taken as a reliable document to understand the little-known Hittite “Old Kingdom” history. The introduction of this document surveys the history of the Hittite state from a king called Labarna, an archetypal founder king, to the time of Telipinu, the sponsor of the edict. Giving examples from how modern historians took this survey at face value in reconstructing “Old Kingdom” Hittite history, Liverani proposes an alternative reading at the “deep level,” and draws attention to a formulaic pattern in the text, one “often found in political addresses of an apologetic or propagandistic nature,” that starts with an optimal or ideal phase, represented in the edict by Labarna’s reign, followed by a disturbance of that state of perfection, and culminating in a “reform” that results in a restoration of goodness. In the edict, the phase of disturbance is depicted as a complicated sequence of murders for royal succession, to which Telipinu puts an end, seemingly initiating a new “norm,” but in fact simply legitimizing his own offensive accession to the throne, since he had murdered his brother-in-law Huzziya, his predecessor, to this end. The new “norm” in essence allows the husband of the first royal princess to be king in case there are no male princes, which, if truly valid, would have been “suicidal” for the safety of Telipinu’s own royal tenure. Liverani thus points out that the reform is more “fictional” than real, making Telipinu appear “not as the last in a negative sequence, but as the first in a new, positive, one.” The author further stresses how in this way “Telipinu as a king acted in order to save Telipinu as a person under accusation.” What is not clear in Liverani’s analysis is just how issuing an edict could save Telipinu if he was seriously in trouble, were this the main purpose of the text. Would the accusers, no less than a delegation of public representatives, have been so naïve as to be lulled by this stratagem? Liverani’s observation of and emphasis on the presence in this edict of the fundamental pattern that consists of concord followed by disintegration followed by renewed concord remain a more powerful aspect of this essay than his attempt to explicate what the text achieved in practical terms.
From the “solidarity” Telipinu tried to implement in his court by means of his new edict, we move on to the second essay of “Hittite Anatolia,” “Shunashura, or: on reciprocity.” In this essay as well, Liverani traces the political manipulation of a formulaic textual type, a parity treaty, in outlining the change in the relationship between the Hittites and a southeastern Anatolian state, Kizzuwatna, from one of equality or parity to one characterized by the submission of the king of Kizzuwatna, Shunashura, to the Hittites. The author lays out how even though the text on the surface seems to conform to the rhetoric of parity treaties, in which both sides are depicted as fully equal, it in fact introduces subtle modifications that clearly would have asserted to Kizzuwatna the new relation between the two states based on the superiority of the Hittites. Liverani analyzes how the usual symmetry of a parity treaty is disturbed especially by the inclusion of a third parameter, the Hurri, the great rival of the Hittites in the second half of the second millennium, presented as a negative foil for the Hittites, in legitimizing Kizzuwatna’s loyalty to the Hittites as opposed to the Hurri. The text states how the Hurri would have treated Kizzuwatna as servants, whereas the Hittites will treat them as their “peer.” The symmetry is further manipulated by the involvement of a fourth party, Ishuwa, equal in rank with Kizzuwatna as a vassal state, and subordinate to both the Hittites and the Hurri as the opposing peers of the new political structure. Liverani shows, with charts, how the text pretends to maintain the formulaic symmetry by creating an equal pair out of the Hittites and the Hurri on the one hand, and one out of Kizzuwatna and Ishuwa on the other, with the latter pair inferior to the former. In addition to this constructed symmetry, the text also utilizes chiasmos by indicating how at first Kizzuwatna was a vassal of the Hittites, and Ishuwa one of the Hurri, and how in a second stage Kizzuwatna shifted to the Hurri and Ishuwa to the Hittites, and how now in the final “restoration” “the oxen [Kizzuwatna] recognised their stable,” and returned to the Hittites. Liverani in the meantime also draws attention to the same fundamental tri-partite structure that presents the first phase of a “historical” development as “the original and therefore perfect condition of the world,” which by nature contained “the situation that is to be proved right.” This the text further achieves by omitting “as irrelevant an entire phase of autonomy, the period when the Kizzuwatna kings used the title ‘Great King,'” and were hence truly the peers of the Hittite kings. Liverani concludes by suggesting that the message system of this text may also have been directed to the Hurri in formalizing “a change in the political situation that was to the detriment of Hurri.” Overall, as Liverani demonstrates, the geometry of this text is so powerful that one wonders if it may have greater autonomy as a “subtext,” a word never used by Liverani throughout the book, in addition to its subservience to Hittite political ambitions.
The third part of the book, “Syria,” comprises three essays. The first, “Leaving by chariot for the desert,” is focused on the inscription of Idrimi, ruler of Alalah, which “provides a justification for Idrimi’s rule over a city with which he had no previous connections, and was manufactured in order to make the king look especially qualified for the task.” According to the text, Idrimi, chased out of Aleppo with his family, crosses the desert, reaches Emar on the Euphrates where he joins bands of warriors, ultimately conquering the city of Alalah whose king he becomes. Liverani recognizes in the structure of this text certain patterns and narrative modes similar to those found in fairy tales, in which the protagonist leaves behind what is familiar to him, his home and family makes an excursion to the hostile environment outside, depicted as the desert in the Near Eastern setting, which, Liverani suggests, “is the equivalent of the ‘forest’ into which the hero ventures in European fairy tales” encounters on his way helpers or tools of a supernatural nature and ultimately attains a favorable status. It is in the structure of this text that Liverani explicitly sees features of “initiation” which entails a detachment from what is familiar, a challenge to be overcome, and the fulfillment of a final telos. The author argues that it is again on account of the irregular way in which Idrimi ascended the throne that he resorted to such a “story of his life along these lines of a fairy tale,” since he had to appease a public that was troubled by this situation. In conclusion, Liverani observes how “most protagonists of ‘fairy tale’ stories in the ancient Near East are usurpers: Idrimi, Sargon of Akkad, Hattushili III, David, Darius, and so on.” Even though the connection with usurpation is clear, one wonders if accounting for this narrative structure solely in terms of facing the opinion of a troubled public does full justice to the intrinsic quality of the fairy tale mode so potently pinpointed by Liverani. Why, for instance, may it not have been the case that a usurper also provided a scribal milieu with good raw material for the kind of “initiatic” subtext that the fairy tale mode was able to convey?
The second essay of the part “Syria,” “Rib-Adda, righteous sufferer,” focuses on a number of letters written by the king of Byblos, Rib-Adda, to the Egyptian pharaohs of the early fourteenth century, who then controlled the Syro-Palestinian area. The letters constitute “by far the most extensive corpus of Amarna letters,” with the common theme of complaint on the part of Rib-Adda about the world’s hostility, his isolation, and the absence of a remedy or a “savior,” which he visualizes as the very “coming out” of the pharaoh to save him in person. The essay is at times rather repetitious, and Liverani’s point is clear in that rather than a “historical” situation, the letters again reveal a fundamental pattern familiar from ancient Near Eastern wisdom literature, in which a “golden age” or a “paradisiacal state,” now lost, is lamented and longed for. In fact, Liverani goes so far as referring to Rib-Adda’s aspirations to convince the pharaoh to come in person and save him from the hostilities surrounding him as “eschatological” and “messianic.” Liverani does juxtapose, however, the nature of these letters with that of proper wisdom literature, in that the former lack a “true conclusion,” “a resolution of the kind usually found in wisdom literature,” in which the “righteous one … through suffering becomes wiser, more conscious, and better to acknowledge the inscrutability of god.” According to Liverani, even though the affinity of Rib-Adda’s letters to Mesopotamian wisdom literature in Akkadian is clear, this affinity is more on account of the shared “psychological” and “existential” conditions between Rib-Adda and the Akkadian scribal milieu rather than direct influence. It is somewhat puzzling that the author, after laying out so effectively the fundamental pattern that permeates these letters and transcends their historical content, resorts to an explanation focused on “psychosis” and “existentialism” for their common threads rather than a greater emphasis on the likelihood that the letters themselves were also the product of a scribal milieu, though of a different kind from formal wisdom literature, and perhaps not the direct personal output of Rib-Adda. Liverani’s conclusion stresses an almost spectral element in this unrequited correspondence: “sometimes we get the impression that the king of Byblos was writing more to vent his frustrations than to obtain an answer, just for the sake of writing rather than in order to be read.”
The final essay of “Syria,” “Aziru, servant of two masters,” strikes a similar chord with the previous one in terms of both the genre of the letter and attempts toward “psychoanalysis.” This time, the situation found in the previous essay is somewhat reversed, and the protagonist, Aziru, leader of the Amurru, the very bane of Rib-Adda, crafts letters that are meant to avoid an overdue visit to the pharaoh, who is concerned as to the loyalty and reliability of his vassal, whom he constantly summons to explain himself, within the milieu of the political rivalry between Egypt and the Hittites. Liverani’s main argument is that Aziru’s letters indefatigably postpone such a visit on the grounds that the Hittites might anytime take action and invade Amurru from the North, with the implicit message that if this indeed happens, rather than resisting, the Amurru will change sides and become a Hittite vassal. Analyzing the verbs of “motion” or “stasis” in the letters of Aziru, Liverani suggests that the letters may already have been encoded with the information, if not the message, that the Amurru might anytime change position and “move” to the other side. What again seems to undermine the strength of Liverani’s analysis is a tendency to see an unconscious element in this codified diction of “motion,” perhaps betraying the author’s own uncertainty as to its presence: “The worries and the unstated goals of Aziru come to light in his speech, in the form of almost obsessive insistences — notably in the ‘code of movement’ — and of lexical usages that are ideologically reversed. Unwillingly, Aziru lets us perceive just what he would have liked to conceal completely, and gives us the ‘signals’ of his bad conscience. Since we know the end of the story, we easily notice these ‘signals’ of Aziru’s hidden purposes. Did Pharaoh also notice them?” All in all, the essay also differs from the rest of the “historical” texts analyzed by Liverani in its lack of a “mythical” or “fairy tale” element, but the author’s by now distinctive mode of textual analysis easily blends it into the overall fabric of the book.
The first chapter of the part “Hebrew Bible,” “The story of Joash,” comes back to the theme of a marginalized hero’s ascent to the throne from a fresh angle. The focus of the essay is 2 Kings 11 and 12: “King Ahaz had died as the result of the wounds he suffered in battle, while his son, Joash, was an infant. Athaliah, the mother of Ahaz, became regent and massacred the rest of the royal family, but Joash was saved by an aunt, who hid him in the temple of Yahweh. Seven years later the high priest, Jehoiada, recognised Joash as the true king, installed him on the throne, and killed Athaliah.” Liverani this time draws attention to how such narratives are characterized by “a first usurpation in which the protagonist is the victim, and a second one through which the protagonist attains power.” The author also touches on the themes of disguise and recognition that are also typical elements of such stories, found in the Odyssey as well. The gist of Liverani’s argument is again that such a mise-en-scène has the purpose of persuading a doubtful public of the questionable legitimacy of a political leader, and hence one of “propaganda.” In the case of the story of Joash, Liverani especially emphasizes how the “common people,” the “lowest level,” also needed to be convinced. As already indicated in relation to Idrimi, it is somewhat unclear in Liverani’s treatment of these texts to what extent the archetypal story per se takes the upper hand and becomes autonomous and to what extent it remains subservient to a distinct political aim. For instance, the story of Joash perfectly parallels that of Moses, and how would one then comment on the Moses story along these lines? What are our criteria that help tell the “prototype” from the “derivative?” If, on the other hand, legitimation was a veneer for the fundamental story, the intellectual agencies in charge of the production of such texts were certainly as tireless and insistent as Rib-Adda’s letters to Pharaoh in telling and re-telling the same old story.
The final essay of the part “Hebrew Bible,” and of the book, “Messages, women, and hospitality: inter-tribal communication in Judges 19-21,” deals with two stories at the end of the biblical book of Judges. The first is the harrowing account of how men belonging to the tribe of Benjamin want to have sexual intercourse with a passer-by Levite from Ephraim, who is on his way home with his recently recovered concubine, and how, to avoid the disgrace, the Levite offers these men as substitute his concubine, who is ravished the whole night and is dead by morning. “The Levite takes her home and cuts the body up into twelve pieces, sending one to each of the tribes of Israel to summon them.” A war ensues between Benjamin and the rest of the tribes, resulting in a massacre of Benjaminite men and an oath on the part of the rest of the tribes never to give brides to the remaining Benjaminites. The second story is concerned with the problem of survival of Benjamin without women, and the solution is for the Benjaminite men to abduct “girls at the annual festival of Shiloh and thus obtain brides.” As if to second the analogy to archaic Roman “history,” mentioned at the beginning of this review, these stories are illogically reminiscent of the Rape of Lucretia and that of the Sabines. This essay is the most dense and convoluted by far of all Liverani’s chapters, and the extent of analytical dissection exercised by the author is not only challenging, but at times tiring. The editors of the volume remark in their brief introduction that the chapter “was originally published in 1979, long before a feminist approach became fashionable in biblical studies.” In the essay, Liverani devotes a great deal to the “communicative” dimension of the female protagonist of the first story, the concubine, drawing attention to how her passivity, speechlessness throughout the narrative, use as substitute, and ultimate victimization are parts of a semiotic that refers to the male-dominated sociocultural milieu of the period in question. The author’s analysis of these stories has an anthropological emphasis, again addressing concepts of hospitality, “conventions of marriage,” the “male dialectics between giving and receiving,” kinship, and “inter-tribal relations.” This is perhaps the only essay in the book in which Liverani’s commitment to avoid reading texts as if they were realistic novels somewhat falters. The formulaic dimensions of substitution, victimization, dismemberment, wars caused by violation or abduction of women, and even the twelve tribes receive much less attention than the socio-cultural and socio-economic. Liverani, however, does address the difficulty of understanding the stories from a “historical” and “chronological” standpoint, inevitably drawing attention to their “foundational” nature: “This repertoire by its very nature cannot be ‘dated’ it cannot be pinned down too closely in time. It has a fluidity that must be taken into account. Above all, it has no necessary relationship — either chronological or factual — with the specific cases to which it is applied. It does not ‘date’ and it is not ‘dated’… we have to acknowledge that it is the reconstruction of a dream, a short dream playing a precise political function at the moment when the Davidic state was constructed.” This note in a way also brings the book full circle, since unlike the Adapa myth, this story is clearly difficult to treat as both pure myth and as “dated” history, sharing perhaps more with the ambiguity of Livy’s early “history” than with the post-Adapa texts examined in Liverani’s book.
Each of Liverani’s essays begins almost with suspense, but one cannot help feeling that some also end with an anti-climax. It is as if in most of the essays a further or final step, especially one toward the main promise of the title, “myth,” were not taken and that there were something more the author could say, an absence with which he almost tantalizes the reader. In this regard, Liverani’s essays are like flashes of lightning in the dark. Despite their “agedness,” these essays ironically reveal a lingering gap in the field of ancient Near Eastern studies, in that we need more of such perspectives, not just in historical and literary studies, but also in the history of ancient Near Eastern art. The availability of these essays now in English is a truly invaluable service to the wider scholarly audience of the ancient Near East.
1. Georges Dumézil, Archaic Roman Religion, Philip Krapp trans., vol. 1, (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1966/70), 75.
Sophia, Wisdom the Word of God is Feminine
There are indications that the Gnostic texts, discovered in Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in 1945, sympathized with this version of the story. The Gnostics were an early Christian sect that was declared heretical by the Roman establishment. The church burned their scriptures and made sure none of them, except for perhaps, the Gospel of John, made it into the New Testament. But with the discovery of books that had been hidden away and kept from destruction, we now know that to the Gnostics, wisdom, or Sophia, represented a feminine energy that refused to be kept buried. She was the Logos, or Word of God.
The Gnostics believed there was a bigger game being played out, by forces outside of planet Earth. The universe is bigger than we realize, they declared. As a matter of fact, the universe is simply one cell in the immense body (Multiverse) that is God. Here on earth the battle between good and evil, between the feminine and the masculine, between Enki and Enlil, is raging. But good will eventually triumph.
This religious system of belief says we have an ‘angel’ on one shoulder and a ‘devil’ on the other. Their names are Enki and Enlil. The earth may be the domain of the Demiurge, but that domain itself is called ‘Mother Earth’, the world of Sophia, the goddess of wisdom, the divine spark that Enlil, the devil, strives to put out. The Demiurge may dominate our day to day reality, but Eden still awaits if we can only persevere. And we are not alone in the battle.
This is a completely different reading than the biblical account many of us grew up with, and whether we read it allegorically or historically, it causes us to pause and think about what we have been taught in our impressionistic youth—to contemplate the idea that we are involved in something a lot bigger than we thought.
This article is an edited excerpt from the Jim Willis’ new book, Lost Civilizations: The Secret Histories and Suppressed Technologies of the Ancients, published by Visible Ink Press available from October 2019.
Jim Willisis author of several books on religion and spirituality, he has been an ordained minister for over forty years while working part-time as a carpenter, the host of his own drive-time radio show, an arts council director and adjunct college professor in the fields of World Religions and Instrumental Music. He is author ofSupernatural Gods: Spiritual Mysteries, Psychic Experiences, and Scientific Truths andAncient Gods: Lost Histories, Hidden Truths, and the Conspiracy of Silence
Top Image: Sumerian Artifact with the Tree of Life. (swisshippo / Adobe Stock)
By Jim Willis
What Does ‘Nephilim’ Mean?
The traditional definition of Nephilim is giant. Some dictionaries describe the nephilim as being giants who also possess super human strength. The Greek Septuagint, an ancient translation of the Hebrew Bible , refers to them as gigantes, which actually means "earth -born," a concept we will be coming back to as we continue.
It is believed that the word Nephilim comes from the root word "Naphal" which means to fall. In biblical circles this definition has quickly put the Nephilim into the role of the children of the fallen angels . The word Naphal, however, is never directly associated with the concept of fallen angels. Its meaning in context is more closely associated with the idea of lying prostrate or of prostrating oneself. There are also ties in this word to the concept of failure, falling short, or being cast down.
‘The Fall of the Rebel Angels’ (1685) by Charles Le Brun. ( Public Domain )
The Invisible Queen
To the ancient Mesopotamians, light and darkness, life and death, were two halves of a whole. Inanna, the goddess of heaven, ruled the living world, and her sister Ereshkigal, or darkness, was queen of the dead. Neither sister could exist without the other — together they made existence complete. But while Inanna lived in the world that could be seen by humans, Ereshkigal was invisible. Mesopotamian artists never portrayed Ereshkigal directly, but they did create images of the monsters and demons that Ereshkigal sent to trouble the living.
Baal appears in a set of Ugaritic myths called the Baal cycle. These stories describe Baal's rise to power and the challenges he faced from other deities and powerful forces. An underlying theme of the Baal cycle is the tension between the old god El and the young and vigorous Baal. Although El remained supreme, Baal became a king among the gods. He defeated Yam, also called Leviathan, who represented the destructive force of nature and was associated with the sea or with floods. Baal also had to make peace with his sister Anat, a goddess of fertility, who conducted a bloody sacrifice of warriors. Finally, Baal and Anat went to the underworld to confront Mot, the god of death. El presided over the battle between Baal and Mot. Neither god won.
Other Ugaritic myths deal with legendary kings. Although these tales may have some basis in historical fact, the details are lost. One legend told the story of King Keret, who longed for a son. In a dream, El told Keret to take the princess of a neighboring kingdom as his wife. Promising to honor Anat and Ashera, the king did so, and his new wife bore seven sons and a daughter. However, Keret became ill and neglected the worship of the goddesses. Only a special ceremony to Baal could restore the king's health and the health of the kingdom. This myth illustrates the Semitic belief that the gods sent good or ill fortune to the people through the king.
Jewish Mythology. The ancient Israelites were a Semitic people who settled in Canaan. In time, they established the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, where the modern nation of Israel is today. In 722 B.C, the Assyrians gained control of the kingdom of Israel. The Babylonians conquered Judah in 586 B.C, destroying the city of Jerusalem and removing its inhabitants to Babylon for some years. Eventually the people of Judah came to be known as Jews.
Over the years the Jews produced sacred books, some of which form the Tanach, a set of documents known to Christians as the Old Testament of the Bible. These books include myths and legends about the history of the early Israelites as well as information about their religious beliefs. Traditional Jewish stories were influenced by ancient Semitic mythology. Connections are clearly seen in such stories as the fight between Cain and Abel and the great flood survived by Noah in his ark. In the same way, the story of creation in the book of Genesis in the Old Testament contains parallels to Mesopotamian myths about how Marduk organized the universe. One major difference between Jewish tradition and earlier Semitic mythology, however, is that Judaism was and is monotheistic. Instead of a pantheon of deities, it referred to a single, all-powerful God, sometimes called Yahweh.
As Judaism developed over the centuries, new stories, sacred books, and commentary emerged to expand on the ancient texts. The term midrash refers to this large body of Jewish sacred literature, including a vast number of myths, legends, fables, and stories that date from the medieval era or earlier. These narratives are called the Haggadah, or "telling," and they are cherished as both instruction and entertainment.
monotheistic believing in only one god
medieval relating to the Middle Ages in Europe, a period from about a.d. 500 to 1500
Sometimes the Haggadah fills in the gaps that exist in older narratives. For example, Genesis contains an account of how Cain
|Other entries relating to Semitic mythology include|
|Adam and Eve||Cain and Abel||Ishtar||Noah|
|Ariel||Eden, Garden of||Jonah||Sheba, Queen of|
|Ark of the Covenant||El||Leviathan||Sheol|
|Armageddon||Enkidu||Lilith||Sodom and Gomorrah|
|Babel, Tower of||Gilgamesh||Nabu||Utnapishtim|
murdered Abel. The Haggadah adds the information that no one knew what to do with Abel's body, for his was the first death that humans had witnessed. Adam, the father of Cain and Abel, saw a raven dig a hole in the ground and bury a dead bird, and he decided to bury Abel in the same way.
Jewish tradition influenced Christianity, a monotheistic faith that began as an offshoot of Judaism. The two religions share many sacred stories and texts. The Tanach, especially the books of Genesis and Exodus, contains stories that are part of Christianity — God's creation of the earth, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, Noah and the flood, and Moses and the Exodus. However, the New Testament of the Bible, which deals with the life and works of Jesus, is unique to Christianity.
Islamic Mythology. Like Christianity, Islam is a monotheistic Semitic faith that developed from Jewish traditions. Islam dates from a.d. 622, when an Arab named Muhammad declared himself to be the prophet of God, or Allah. Islamic tradition recognizes Abraham, Noah, Moses, and other ancient patriarchs of Judaism as earlier prophets. Muslims, followers of Islam, also believe that Jesus was a prophet.
The word of Allah as made known to Muhammad is contained in the Islamic sacred text, the Qur'an or Koran. As time passed, Muslim scholars and teachers all over the Islamic world added more information about Muhammad and his followers as well as interpretations of Islamic law and the sayings of the prophet. They incorporated elements of Semitic, Persian, and Greek mythology or stories about Muhammad, his family, and other key figures in Islamic history.
prophet one who claims to have received divine messages or insights
patriarch man who is the founder or oldest member of a group
Although such storytelling was not officially part of Islam — and was sometimes vigorously discouraged by Islamic authorities — it appealed to many Muslims. As Islam spread to new areas, local traditions and legends became mingled with the basic Islamic beliefs. In Pakistan, for example, old folk tales about girls dying of love came to be seen as symbols of souls longing to be united with Allah.
Many of the legends surrounding Muhammad credit him with miraculous events. Some tales say that Muhammad cast no shadow or that when he was about to eat poisoned meat, the food itself warned him not to taste it. According to legend, the angel Gabriel guided Muhammad, who rode a winged horse called Buraq or Borak, on a mystical journey through heaven, where he met the other prophets.
Similarly, historical figures who founded mystical Islamic brotherhoods came to be associated with stories of miracles, such as riding on lions and curing the sick. In some cases, these legends have elements of traditional myths about pre-Islamic deities or heroes. Romantic tales about Alexander the Great may have colored some of the tales about Khir, an Islamic mythical figure and the patron of travelers, who is said to have been a companion of Moses.
See also Devils and Demons Floods Persian Mythology Satan Scapegoat.