Ancient Stories Of The Flood Essay, Research Paper
Stories of a primeval flood exist in all parts of the world, virtually every branch of the human race has traditions of a Great Flood that destroyed all of mankind, except one family.
The closest parallel to the Biblical story of the flood occurs in the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, our fullest version of which is furnished by an Akkadian recension prepared, in the seventh century B.C. for the great library of King Ashurbanipal at Nineveh. The story itself is far older. We have fragments of versions dating as much as a thousand years earlier, and we possess also portions of a Summerian archetype.
In the Mesopotamian version: the gods apparently displeased with the evils of mankind decided to destroy it by means of a great flood. Ea, the god of wisdom and subtlety, was privy to their council and warned Utnapishtim, the Babylonian Noah, of the coming disaster. Utnapishtim was told to build a ship thirty cubits long and thirty cubits wide. Provision it and put in it specimens of every living thing. Then to board it with his family and possessions and launch it on the waters.
For six days and nights the wind and flood raged. On the seventh day the flood abated. Everything, including mankind, had turned to mud and clay.
Utnapishtim sent out a dove on the seventh day but it came back. He then sent out a swallow, but it came back. Finally he sent out a raven. The raven, however, saw that the waters had receded; it found food, and started to caw and wallow in the mud; it never came back. Eventually the ship grounded on Mount Nisir. Utnapishtim, seeing that the flood had receded, disembarked and set out an offering for the gods.
Enil, Lord of the underworld, was very angry when he saw that Utnapishtim had been spared. He was soon calmed by the other gods and gave his blessing to Utnapishtim and his wife by granting them the gift of immortality and transferring them to a remote island.
Older versions, of which only fragments survive, tell virtually the same story, though the hero is sometimes called Atrahasis, or Superwise, rather than Utnapishtim. In Western Asia the legend of the flood is of Summerian origin, and is now known from the excavations at Kish and Ur to have been based upon an historical catastrophe. In the Summerian version the hero is named Ziusudra, the long lived. He too was warned by a god of the coming flood, and ordered to build an ark, which grounds on a mountain after seven days and seven nights. Like Utnapishtim, Ziusudra offered sacrifices to the gods and was rendered immortal and sent to the remote island of Dilmun.
The Egyptian story of the flood is preserved in the so called book of the Dead. The God Atum announces his intention of flooding wicked mankind with the waters of a primeval ocean (Nun). The flood starts at Henensu, or Herakleopolis, in upper Egypt, and submerges the entire country. The only survivors are certain people who have been rescued in the boat of millions of years, i.e. The baroque of the sun-god, and Temu himself.
Legend of a great flood meet us also in the writings of ancient Greece. Deucalion, warned that the gods were going to bring a flood upon the earth, for its wickedness, built an ark which rested on Mount Parnassus. A dove was sent out twice.
In England the Druids had a legend that the world had been re-peopled from a righteous patriarch who had been saved in a strong ship from a flood sent to destroy man for his wickedness.
A Welsh legend of the flood runs thus. Once upon a time the lake of Llion burst and flooded all lands, so that the whole human race was drowned, all except Dwyfan and Dwyfach, who escaped in a mastless ship and re-peopled the land of Prydain (Britain). The ship also carried a male and female of every sort of living creature, so that after the flood the animals were able to reproduce their various kinds and restock the world.
In all the flood stories the hero is rescued by reaching high ground. The mountain of deliverance is usually identified by some prominent local hill or elevation.
These traditions of the flood, though mixed with polytheism and some evident myth, show that the flood had become a fixed fact in the memory of the inhabitants of Babylonia. And now an Actual layer of Mud, evidently deposited by the flood, has been found in three separate places: Ur which was twelve miles from the traditional site of the Garden of Eden; at Fara, the traditional home of Noah, sixty miles further up the river; and at Kish, a suburb of Babylon, one hundred miles still further up the river; and possibly, at a fourth place, Nineveh, three hundred miles still further up the river.