The story of Adapa

How we missed out on becoming immortal…

The story of Adapa explains why mankind is destined to live a mortal life.

How Adapa came to be

Once upon a time, the god Enki decides to create a human being unlike any other. He calls this man Adapa and assigns him the task to take care of the city Eridu. Adapa is rumored to not only have been created by Enki but that he is his son as well. Being the son of the god of creation and wisdom, Adapa has unprecedented wisdom for a human being. 

Adapa does not let us down in being awesome. He quickly becomes the King of Eridu and uses his wisdom for the good of his followers. He lays the foundation for the first civilizations and invents the first human language. Adapa is not just royalty. He is also a priest for the Enki who acts as a channel between Enki and his subjects. But even though Adapa has a divine father, he is still only a mortal being, as Enki does not grant him eternal life.

Adapa messes up the wind

One day, he embarks on a fishing trip to be able to feed his people. While floating around on the Persian Gulf, he suddenly notices that wind starts blowing from the south. The wind gets stronger and stronger and, after a while, his boat is capsized. Adapa nearly drowns and manages to swim to the shoreline. 

As he is a man with extraordinary knowledge, Adapa knows that there is only one possible explanation: the South Wind did it on purpose! He is determined to teach the South Wind a lesson, curses him, and breaks one of the wind’s wings. This strategy proves effective, as the South Wind is unable to blow Wind for seven days. 

Summoned for dinner at Anu’s

Anu, the supreme god, is informed of Adapa’s actions by his vizier. He decides to summon the mortal to his halls. When Enki hears about this, he rushes towards Adapa to give him instructions on what to do and how to act during his visit. 

He tells Adapa to dress in mourning clothes and explains that he will be greeted by two gods at the gates, Dumuzid and Gizzida. He is to tell them that he is mourning that Dumuzi and Gizzida have parted from the Earth so that they will put in a good word for him. Next, Enki explains that Adapa will be guided to Anu, who will offer him bread, water, oil, and garments. Enki tells him to anoint himself with the oil and dress in the garments, as a show of respect. Fearing for Anu’s retribution for breaking the South Wind’s wing, he warns Adapa to not eat the bread, nor drink the water, as both are definitely poisoned and will lead to his early demise. 

Following dad’s advise

Adapa goes to the gates of Heaven, meets with Dumuzid and Gizzida, and acts as he is told by his father. Dumuzi and Gizzida smile when Adapa tells them he mourns them, and they guide him to Anu. The supreme god asks him why he has broken the wing of the South Wind, and Adapa explains he did because he nearly drowned at sea. Dumuzid and Gizzida put in a good word for him and Anu, whose heart has calmed hearing Adapa’s explanation, takes stock of the mortal standing before him. He then asks his subjects to bring Adapa bread, water, garments, and oil. The bread and water that has been sent for are the Bread and Water of Life, granting immortality when consumed. 

However, Adapa remembers his father’s instructions and refuses to eat the bread and drink the water, fearing that both are poisoned. He then dresses in the garments and anoints himself with the oil. Anu laughs and asks him why he did not consume the bread of life and the water of life. Does Adapa not wish to be immortal and live among the gods? Surprised, Adapa explains that his father had warned him against consuming the poisoned food. Anu laughs some more and sends him back to the realms of men, where he is forced to live out his days as a mortal. 

So why are we still mortal?

So why did Enki warn his son not to consume the Bread and Water of Life? Did he truly fear for Adapa’s life? Or did he simply not wish him to gain immortality? After all, he could have granted his son immortality when he created him. One explanation can be found in the long-lasting tradition of godly sons being violent, and often deadly, rivals to their fathers. A godlike son could be seen as a threat, and should therefore be avoided at all cost. 

Whatever the reason, this story explains why mankind still deals with mortality down to this day.