Atrahasis

The Mesopotamian myth about the great flood dat almost destroyed human life.

Long before humans populated the earth, the world was inhabited only by the gods. They were divided into two distinct groups: the greater gods, the Annunaki, and the lower gods, the Igigi. Although the world and heavens had already been created, the work of the gods was far from done. Since the Annunaki were ruling the Igigi, it is not too hard to imagine which gods had to do all the hard labor. The lower gods were forced to dig the Tigris and Euphrates, had to establish wells, and they were ordered to heap up the mountains. Apparently, the Igigi were not too happy with their working conditions. The lower gods complained and complained until they had finally had enough. They decided to rebel against their godly masters.

Revolution!

The Igigi decided that the great god Enlil, who oversaw their forced labor, was to be the first target of their attack. During the darkness of night, they crept closer and closer and surrounded his house. But the lower gods made too much noise and the Annunaki were alarmed before the attack was launched. Reluctant to start a battle, Enlil sent a messenger to the lower gods to hear the reason for their rebellion. The lower gods explained to this messenger that their forced labor was too hard and that they were more than willing to instigate war to escape slavery. When the greater gods heard their complaints, they called a meeting to find a solution for the misery of the Igigi-gods.

The creation of mankind

Surprisingly fast, the greater gods found a perfect solution. On the recommendation of Enki, they decided that humans should be created to do the hard work instead of the Igigi-gods. Ninhursag, the mother goddess, was tasked with giving birth to humankind. However, a particularly special ingredient was required: the flesh and blood of a god. In a notably selfless act, the god Aw-ilu volunteers to solve this resource problem.  He is killed, and his flesh and blood are mixed with clay and the spit of the other gods. From this godly mixture, Ninhursag creates humankind and the gods task them with landscaping the earth. The Igigi-gods were finally free.

The gods were happy with their creation and enjoyed their newly won free time. Besides hard work, the humans apparently had some spare time left for ‘other activities’ causing their population to increase rapidly. Because of this, the noise the humans made increased rapidly as well. In fact, they became so loud that they disturbed the gods.

After a while, Enlil was so annoyed by the constant noise that he decided to decimate the human population. He sends drought to the earth, then pestilence, and then famine. During each plague the humans consult Enki, the god of wisdom, to aid them in their suffering. Enki takes pity on them and tells them what to do to cope with the plagues. With Enki’s guidance, the humans survive Enlil’s wrath each time and the noise pollution is maintained. Finally, Enlil decides he had enough. He persuades all the gods, even Enki, not to interfere with his ultimate solution to destroy all human beings: a devastating flood.

Swimming against the stream

Despite his promise to Enlil, Enki warns one of his human servants. This human’s name is Atrahasis and Enki warns him by sending him a dream in which he commands Atrahasis to build an ark. In this ark, Atrahasis is to seal two of all animal species. Atrahasis does as Enki commands and starts to build. When the time had come, he invited his family on board for an epic feast. During this feast, the weather changed. The weather god Adad roared, and Anzu lit up the skies with lightning. As the rain fell, the waters started to rise and destroyed everything and everyone on earth. The gods oversaw this destruction and wept, wishing they had avoided the annihilation of mankind.

Since there were no farmers or sacrifices anymore, the gods found themselves hungry. It was at this time that Atrahasis emerged from his ark and brought a sacrifice to the gods. Enlil was enraged that Atrahasis and his family apparently survived his great flood. However, he and the other gods were hungry and assembled at the sacrifice to eat and drink. At this gathering of the gods, Enki proposes a solution to human overpopulation. He advises creating a new kind of human beings with birth limitations due to infertility, miscarriages, and celibacy. The other gods agree to this plan and Ninhursag creates the new type of human beings, saving the gods from human overpopulation and noise pollution. The story ends particularly well for Atrahasis. He is carried away to paradise to lead a lavish life apart from the new humankind.

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