Epic of Gilgamesh: The Flood (c. 2000 BC)

Gilgamesh has made a long and difficult journey to learn how Utnapishtim acquired eternal life. In answer to his questions, Utnapishtim tells the following story. Once upon a time, the gods destroyed the ancient city of Shuruppah in a great flood. But Utnapishtim, forewarned by Ea, managed to survive by building a great ship. His immortality was a gift bestowed by the repentant gods in recognition of his ingenuity and his faithfulness in reinstituting the sacrifice.

Shurippak -a city which thou knowest,

(And) which on Euphrates' banks is set-

That city was ancient, (as were) the gods within it,

When their heart led the great gods to produce the flood.

There were Anu, their father,

Valiant Enlil, their counselor,

Ninurta, their herald,

Ennuge, their irrigator.

Ninigiku-Ea was also present with them;

Their words he repeats to the reed-hut (Utnapishtim's house). . .

"Tear down (this) house, build a ship!

Give up possessions, seek thou life.

Despise property and keep the soul alive.

Aboard the ship take thou the seed of all living things.

The ship that thou shalt build,

Her dimensions shall be to measure.

Equal shall be her width and her length.

Like the Apsu thou shalt ceil her."

I understood, and I said to Ea, my lord:

"Behold, my lord, what thou hast thus ordered,

I shall be honoured to carry out." . . .

The little ones carried bitumen,

While the grown ones brought all else that was needful.

On the fifth day I laid her framework.

One (whole) acre was her floor space,

Ten dozen cubits the height of each of her walls,

Ten dozen cubits each edge of the square deck.

I laid out the shape of her sides and joined her together.

I provided her with six decks,

Dividing her (thus) into seven parts.

Her floor plan I divided into nine parts.

I hammered water-plugs into her.

saw to the punting-poles and laid in supplies. . . .

On the seventh day the ship was completed.

The launching was very difficult,

So that they had to shift the floor planks above and below,

Until two-thirds of the structure had gone into the water.

Whatever I had I laded upon her.

Whatever I had of silver I laded upon her,

Whatever I had of gold I laded upon her,

Whatever I had of all the living beings I laded upon her.

All my family and kin I made go aboard the ship.

The beasts of the field, the wild creatures of the field,

All the craftsmen I made go aboard.

Shamash had set for me a stated time:

"When he who orders unease at night

Will shower down a rain of blight,

Board thou the ship and batten up the gate!"

That stated time had arrived:

"He who orders unease at night showers down a rain of blight."

I watched the appearance of the weather.

The weather was awesome to behold.

I boarded the ship and battened up the gate.

To batten up the (whole) ship, to Puzar-Amurri, the boatman,

I handed over the structure together with its contents.

With the first glow of dawn,

A black cloud rose up from the horizon.

Inside it Adad (the storm god) thunders,

While Shallat and Hanish (heralds of Adad) go in front,

Moving as heralds over hill and plain.

Erragal (god of the underworld) tears out the posts; 9

Forth comes Ninurta and causes the dikes to follow.

The Anunnaki lift up the torches,

Setting the land ablaze with their glare.

Consternation over Adad reaches to the heavens,

Turning to blackness all that had been light.

The wide land was shattered like a pot!

For one day the south-storm blew,

Gathering speed as it blew, submerging the mountains,

Overtaking the people like a battle.

No one can see his fellow,

Nor can the people be recognized from heaven.

The gods were frightened by the deluge,

And, shrinking back, they ascended to the heaven of Anu.

The gods cowered like dogs

Crouched against the outer wall.

Ishtar cried out like a woman in travail. . . .

The gods, all humbled, sit and weep,

Their lips drawn tight. . . . one and all.

Six days and six nights

Blows the flood wind, as the south-storm sweeps the land.

When the seventh day arrived,

The flood (-carrying) south-storm subsided in the battle,

Which it had fought like an army.

The sea grew quiet, the tempest was still, the flood ceased.

I looked at the weather. stillness had set in,

And all of mankind had returned to clay.

The landscape was as level as a flat roof.

I opened a hatch, and light fell on my face. . . .

On Mount Nisir the ship came to a halt.

Mount Nisir held the ship fast,

Allowing -no motion.

[For six days the ship is held fast by Mount Nisir.]

When the seventh day arrived,

I sent forth and set free a dove.

The dove went forth, but came back;

There was no resting-place for it and she turned round.

Then I sent forth and set free a swallow.

The swallow went forth, but came back,

There was no resting-place for it and she turned round.

Then I sent forth and set free a raven.

The raven went forth and, seeing that the waters had diminished,

He eats, circles, caws, and turns not round.

Then I let out (all) to the four winds. . . .

As soon as Enlil arrived,

And saw the ship, Enlil was wroth,

He was filled with wrath against the Igigi gods (gods of heaven):

"Has some living soul escaped?

No man was to survive the destruction!"

Ninurta opened his mouth to speak,

Saying to valiant Enlil:

"Who other than Ea can devise plans?

It is Ea alone who knows every matter."

Ea opened his mouth to speak,

Saying to valiant Enlil:

"Thou wisest of the gods, thou hero,

How couldst thou, unreasoning, bring on the deluge?

On the sinner impose his sin,

On the transgressor impose his transgression!" . . .

Thereupon Enlil went aboard the ship.

Holding me by the hand, he took me aboard.

He took my wife aboard and made (her) kneel by my side.

Standing between us, he touched our foreheads to bless us:

"Hitherto Utnapishtim has been but human.

Henceforth Utnapishtim and his wife shall be like unto us gods.

Utnapishtim shall reside far away, at the mouth of the rivers!"

Thus they took me and made me reside far away,

At the mouth of the rivers.



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