Ancient Sumerian Translation: The Creation of Man
July 4, 2012 in Uncategorized
Ancient Sumerian Translation: The Creation of Man
Sumerian Mythology, by Samuel Noah Kramer
Among the oldest known conceptions of the creation of man are those of the Hebrews and the Babylonians; the former is narrated in the book of Genesis, the latter forms part of the Babylonian ”Epic of Creation.” According to the Biblical story, or at least according to one of its versions, man was fashioned from clay for the purpose of ruling over all the animals. In the Babylonian myth, man was made of the blood of one of the more troublesome of the gods who was killed for that purpose; he was created primarily in order to serve the gods and free them from the need of working for their bread. According to our Sumerian poem, which antedates both the Hebrew and the Babylonian versions by more than a millennium, man was fashioned of clay as in the Biblical version. The purpose for which he was created, however, was to free the gods from laboring for their sustenance, as in the Babylonian version.
The poem begins with what may be a description of the difficulties of the gods in procuring their bread…
”O my son, rise from thy bed, from thy . . . work what is wise,
Fashion servants of the gods, may they produce their . . ,”
Enki gives the matter thought, leads forth ’the host of ”good and princely fashioners” and says to his mother, Nammu, the primeval sea:
O my mother, the creature whose name thou hoist uttered, it exists,
Bind upon it the . . . of the gods;
Mix the heart of the clay that is over the abyss,
The good and princely fashioners will thicken the clay,
Thou, do thou bring the limbs into existence;
Ninmah (the earth-mother goddess) will work above thee,
. . . (goddesses of birth) will stand by thee at thy fashioning;
O my mother, decree thou its (the new-born’s) fate,
Ninmah will bind upon it the . . . of the gods,
. . . as man . . .
After Ninmah had created the six types of man, Enki decides to do some creating of his own. The manner in which he goes about it is not clear, but whatever it is that he does, the resulting creature is a failure; it is weak and feeble in body and spirit. Enki is now anxious that Ninmah help this forlorn creature; he therefore addresses her as follows:
”Of him whom thy hand has fashioned, I have decreed the fate,
Have given him bread to eat;
Do thou decree the fate of him whom my hand has fashioned,
Do thou give him bread to eat.”
Ninmah tries to be good to the creature but to no avail. She talks to him but he fails to answer. She gives him bread to eat but he does not reach out for it. He can neither sit nor stand, nor bend the knees. A long conversation between Enki and Ninmah then follows, but the tablets are so badly broken at this point that it is impossible to make out the sense of the contents. Finally Ninmah seems to utter a curse against Enki because of the sick, lifeless creature which he produced, a curse which Enki seems to accept as his due.
In addition to the creation poem outlined above, a detailed description of the purpose for which mankind was created is given in the introduction to the myth ”Cattle and Grain”; it runs as follows. After the Anunnaki, the heaven-gods, had been born, but before the creation of Lahar, the cattle-god, and Ashnan, the grain-goddess, there existed neither cattle nor grain. The gods therefore ”knew not” the eating of bread nor the dressing of garments. The cattle-god Lahar and the grain-goddess Ashnan were then created in the creation chamber of heaven, but still the gods remained unsated. It was then that man ”was given breath,” for the sake of the welfare of the sheepfolds and ”good things” of the gods. This introduction reads as follows:
After on the mountain of heaven and earth,
An (the heaven-god) had caused the Anunnaki (his followers) to be born
Because the name Ashnan (the grain-goddess) had not been born, had not been fashioned,
Because Uttu (the goddess of plants) had not been fashioned,
Because to Uttu no temenos had been set up,
There was no ewe, no lamb was dropped,
There was no goat, no kid was dropped,
The ewe did not give birth to its two lambs,
The goat did not give birth to its three kids.
Because the name of Ashnan, the wise, and Lahar (the cattle-god),
The Anunnaki, the great gods, did not know,
The . . . grain of thirty days did not exist,
The . . . grain of forty days did not exist,
The small grains, the grain of the mountain, the grain of the pure living creatures did not exist.
Because Uttu had not been born, because the crown (of vegetation?) had not been raised,
Because the lord . . . had not been born,
Because Sumugan, the god of the plain, had not come forth,
Like mankind when first created,
They (the Anunnaki knew not the eating of bread,
Knew not the dressing of garments,
Ate plants with their mouth like sheep,
Drank water from the ditch.
In those days, in the creation chamber of the gods,
In their house Dulkug, Lahar and Ashnan were fashioned;
The produce of Lahar and Ashnan,
The Anunnaki of the Dulkug eat, but remain unsated;
In their pure sheepfolds milk, . . ., and good things,
The Anunnaki of the Dulkug drink, but remain unsated;
For the sake of the good things in their pure sheepfolds,
Man was given breath.
The creation of man concludes our study of Sumerian cosmogony, of the theories and concepts evolved by the Sumerians to explain the origin of the universe and the existence of gods and men. It cannot be sufficiently stressed that the Sumerian cosmogonic concepts, early as they are, are by no means primitive. They reflect the mature thought and reason of the thinking Sumerian as he contemplated the forces of nature and the character of his own existence. When these concepts are analyzed; when the theological cloak and polytheistic trappings are removed (although this is by no means always possible at present because of the limited character of our material as well as of our understanding and interpretation of its contents), the Sumerian creation concepts indicate a keenly observing mentality as well as an ability to draw and formulate pertinent conclusions from the data observed. Thus rationally expressed, the Sumerian cosmogonic concepts may be summarized as follows:
1. First was the primeval sea; it is not unlikely that it was conceived by the Sumerian as eternal and uncreated.
2. The primeval sea engendered a united heaven and earth.
3. Heaven and earth were conceived as solid elements. Between them, however, and from them, came the gaseous element air, whose main characteristic is that of expansion. Heaven and earth were thus separated by the expanding element air.
4. Air, being lighter and far less dense than either heaven or earth, succeeded in producing the moon, which may have been conceived by the Sumerians as made of the same stuff as air. The sun was conceived as born of the moon; that is, it emanated and developed from the moon just as the latter emanated and developed from air.
5. After heaven and earth had been separated, plant, animal, and human life became possible on earth; all life seems to have been conceived as resulting from a union of air, earth, and water; the sun, too, was probably involved. Unfortunately in this matter of production and reproduction of plant and animal life on earth, our extant material is very difficult to penetrate.
I just typed this up ’cause thought someone may find it interesting. This is translated from ancient Sumerian texts and I can’t vouch for it’s linguistic accuracy. If there’s typos and stuff…