Essay: Flooding

Since the beginning of time, flooding has been and always will be a worldwide epidemic. Credited to mankind’s science and technological advances, the human race has acquired knowledge concerning flood occurrences; substantiating deluges are due to weather and climate changes. Excessive rainfall and winds, brought on by hurricanes or storms, can cause rivers, lakes, and the sea to overflow onto land. Despite the fact that floods are caused by natural disasters, great flood stories such as Noah’s Ark, The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Great Flood the story from the Quran, are a common archetype in many cultures. These great floods were brought to the earth, causing the destruction of mankind, teaching lessons in humanity.
There are many similarities regarding the great flood stories chronicled by the diverse cultures of ancient times: most share a common theme. Beginning with the creation of humans followed by mankind’s disturbances, loss of morality, or religion, which angers the god or gods. Due to mankind’s wrongdoings a warning ensues, either directly or indirectly to a righteous individual by a god. This chosen one by virtue ordinarily a male, is ordered to build a boat or vessel and carry aboard all species of plants and animals as well as his loved ones for his salvation. Inevitably, mankind continues their transgressions and flooding is unleashed, consequently resulting in their destruction. Human beings are essentially wiped out, ensuring only the righteous survive. The flood hero is bestowed with new beginnings, continuance of mortality or eternal life.
Commencing with the with the Babylonian version the Epic of Atrahisis, this Babylonian version is the oldest of texts, parallel with Epic of Gilgamesh, baring striking similarities. This rendition is told highlighting the discovery of childbearing, mortality and celibacy. The story begins with lesser gods digging canals. The work is arduous, and the lesser gods become tired. Mankind is created to bear their load; their population increases, disturbing the gods with intolerable noise. The supreme god decides to destroy all of mankind with a series of events, first with disease then famine after two failed attempts to control the population and noise levels, the god decides to destroy mankind with a great flood, but a god the creator of mankind Enki intervenes, indirectly warning a righteous man of the wrathful flood to be delivered.
The lesser gods endured the burden of continuous labor digging canals for 3,600 years, ultimately rebelling against the greater gods, burning their tools and surrounding the supreme god Enlil’s temple in protest. His Vizier Nusku awakens Enlil, warning him of the angry gods outside his temple. In fear, Enlil summons the upper-class gods, Anu advises Enlil to identify the leader of the rebellion, but they all come forward as one. The upper-class gods conclude that the work is indeed rigorous and decide to sacrifice one of the lesser gods for the sake of all. Enki instructs the gods on purification rituals for the first, seventh and fifteenth day of each month, then the gods select Geshtu-e a god with intelligence and slaughter him for the creation of mankind, described similar to the process of making bricks. They mixed his flesh and blood with clay and create mankind. ‘Belit-ili the womb-goddess is present, Let the womb-goddess create offspring, and let man bear the load of the gods!’ (Dalley 14-15) on the tenth month the birth goddess slips in a staff opening the womb. After the birth of the seven men and women, the birth goddess calls for celebration at birth, after nine days the husband and wife can resume conjugal relations.
The gods seem to have found resolution in creating mankind, 1200 years later the population increased, causing Enlil to loose sleep. ‘The country was as noisy as a bellowing bull The God grew restless at their racket; Enlil had to listen to their noise. He addressed the great gods, ‘The noise of mankind has become too much, I am losing sleep over their racket. Give the order that the surrupu-disease shall break out.’ (Dalley 18) The plague breaks out and the wise king of Shuruppak Atrahasis, pleas to the supreme god Enki for help. Enki instructs Atrahasis to have his people make offerings and pray to the plague god Namtar, this causes Namtar to feel shamed, wiping away the plague.
Another 1200 years pass and once again the earth is overpopulated and filled with noise. To reduce the population Enlil decides to cast a drought and asks the thunder-rain god Adad to hold back rain. Atrahasis pleas to Enki again, he advices Atrahasis to worship Adad, also embarrassed he releases the rain. After another 1200 years the population increases and the noise becomes unbearable. Enlil commands the infertility of humans and declares ‘a general embargo of all natures’ gifts. Anu and Adad were to guard heaven, Enlil the earth, and Enki the waters, to see that no means of nourishment reach the human race’ (Jacobsen 119) ‘When the second year arrived they had depleted the storehouse. When the third year arrived the people’s looks were changed by starvation. When the fourth year arrived their upstanding bearing bowed, their well-set shoulders slouched, and the people went out in public hunched over. When the fifth year arrived, a daughter would eye her mother coming in; a mother would not even open her door to her daughter. When the sixth year arrived they served up a daughter for a meal, Served up a son for food.’ (Dalley 25-26) The god Enki foils Enlil’s plan of starvation by allowing large quantities of fish feeding the people. Enlil is furious and decides to end mankind with a great flood, and forces all of the gods to swear they will not interfere by taking an oath. Enki resists and warns Artahasis of the imminent flood by speaking to his walls. ‘Wall, listen constantly to me! Reed hut, make sure you attend to all my words! Dismantle the house; build a boat, Roof it like the Apsu so the sun cannot see inside it! Make upper decks and lower decks, the tackle must be very strong, the bitumen [a kind of tar] strong’ (Dalley 29-30) Enki commands Atrahasis to go to the water’s edge, build a boat and bring his family and every type of animal aboard. Adad brings forth the rains flooding the land; dead humans float in the rivers. The great mother goddess complains bitterly about Enlil and Anu’s shortcomings as decision-makers, and she weeps for the dead humans who “clog the river like dragonflies.” Also, “she longed for beer (in vain).” Now it is the gods’ turn to go hungry: “like sheep, they could only fill their windpipes with bleating. / Thirsty as they were, their lips / Discharged only the rime of famine” (Dalley 33).
After seven days and nights of rain the flooding subsides and Atrahasis disembarks the boat making an offering to the gods. The gods smell the aroma and gather like flies to his offering. The goddess swears by her necklace to always remember the flooding. Enlil sees the boat and becomes furious; knowing that this was enki’s doing approaches. Enki admits that he indeed warned Atrahasis and persuades Enlil to implement a humane way of dealing with the overgrowth of the population. Enki and the womb-goddess Nintu decide that one-third of the women will not give birth successfully and create temple women who are not allowed to conceive: ‘a pasittu demon will “snatch the baby from its mother’s lap.” (Dalley 35)
Succeeding with The Epic of Gilgamesh, while comparable to the great flood from the book of Genesis’ account Noah’s Ark, told in the form of a ballad, the sequence of events are particularly unique. Emphasizing on the importance of dignity, meaning of friendship, and the inexorability of man’s demise. The hero is depicted not as a noble man but as a semi-divine selfish king, who forms a friendship, then suffers the loss of his friend becoming fearful of death. Previously the gods created mankind, multiplying and becoming noisy, causing disturbance to the gods’ slumber. The gods agree to exterminate man. Opportunely a righteous individual is warned indirectly of their impending destruction, with the survivor of the flood Utnapishtim, granted eternal life. Gilgamesh Journeys back to the time of Utnapishtim seeking immortality, only to find immortality through his personal gains among his people.
The story begins with the creation of Gilgamesh. The gods create a semi-divine being partially man and god named Gilgamesh, gifted with supremacy and beauty over mankind. He was a wise, powerful, arrogant, ambitious, and lustful king who selfishly abducted any woman he pleased terrifying his people. Fearing their king, the people prayed to the goddess Aruru to create a being who could overcome Gilgamesh, she creates the mighty Enkidu. Gilgamesh hears of Enkidu and sends a harlot enticing him to live with her. He loses his innocence, causing his animal companions to shun him, leaving him with no choice but to return to the city of Uruk with the woman.
Upon meeting Gilgamesh Enkidu challenges Gilgamesh, engaging in a scuffle to which Enkidu loses. Gilgamesh befriends Enkidu establishing an enduring friendship, and embarking on adventures together. However their friendship and triumphs are short-lived, after the ambush and slaying of Humbaba guardian of the forest, Gilgamesh gifts the head of Humbaba to Enlil. Ishtar the goddess of hell lays eyes upon Gilgamesh’s beauty, and asks him to become her bridegroom. Gilgamesh rejects Ishtar, exacting revenge she sends down the Bull of Heaven to destroy Gilgamesh. Together Gilgamesh and Enkidu slay the bull; Ishtar becomes enraged cursing Enkidu with death. Within 12 days Enkidu succumbs to sickness, Gilgamesh is grief stricken. ‘Hear me, great ones of Uruk, I weep for Enkidu, my friend, Bitterly moaning like a woman mourning; I weep for my brother.'(N. Sanders 94). Gilgamesh becomes fearful of death questioning his mortality, no longer ambitious for fame, instead concerned with finding immortality, sets out in pursuit of the secret for eternal life seeking Utnapishtim, survivor of the flood who was granted eternal life by the gods.
Prior to the flooding man had not been created yet, so the greater gods utilized the minor gods in difficult labor. They were given the task of digging ditches and canals to provide sustenance to the land, creating riverbeds. After 3,600 years of hard labor, the gods finally grew rebellious, burning their tools and crowding around their chief god Enlil’s temple in protest. Enlil is awakened and alerted of the angry mob of gods awaiting him, and is advised to summon the rest of the greater gods by Nuku. The god ANU arrives and suggests Enlil determines who is leading the mob. Nuku is sent forth to ask them who was their leader, to which they replied, ‘Every single one of us gods has declared war!'(Dalley 12)
The gods take one of the minor gods and sacrifice him to create mankind and appease the lesser gods, relieving them from the burden of hard labor. Man had since multiplied, causing disturbances to the gods. Enlil is filled with fury as mankind’s noises become intolerable. In his fury Enlil convinces the other gods to destroy mankind, to which all gods were in agreement except for Ea, who although had taken the oath, warns Unapishtim in a dream.
After many ordeals, Gilgamesh finally reaches Utnapishtim. Expecting to find a hero primed for battle is yet surprised to find his appearance does not differ from his own. He tells Utnapishtim of his desire for eternal life and asks him to reveal the secret of immortality. Utnapishtim confides in him, ‘I will reveal you a mystery; I will tell a secret of the gods’ (Sanders 107). “You know the city Shurrupak, it stands on the banks of the Euphrates. That city grew old and the gods that were in it were old. There was Anu, lord of the firmament {earth}, their father, and warrior Enlil their counselor, Ninurta the helper, and Ennugi, watcher over canals; and with them also was Ea. In those days the world teemed, the people multiplied, the world bellowed like a wild bull, and the great god was aroused by the clamor. Enlil heard the clamor and he said to the gods in council, ‘The uproar of mankind is intolerable and sleep is no longer possible by reason of the babel {everyone talking at once}.’ So the gods agreed to exterminate mankind. Enlil did this, but Ea warned me in a dream.'(Sanders 108-113)
‘He whispered their words to my house of reeds, ‘Reed-house, reed-house! Wall, O wall, hearken reed-house, wall reflect; O man of Shurrupak, son of Ubara-Tutu; tear down your house and build a boat, abandon possessions and look for life, despise worldly goods and save your soul alive. Tear down your house, I say, and build a boat. These are the measurements of the barque {boat} as you shall build her: let her beam equal her length, let her deck be roofed like the vault that covers the abyss; then take up into the boat the seed of all living creatures.” (Sanders, 108)
Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh of the great flood that destroyed mankind. The downpour befell the earth, lasted six days and six nights finally subsiding on the seventh day, he looked for land to no avail, the boat grounded on a mountain where he waited another seven days. He released a dove in search of land, finding no resting place it returns, and then releases a swallow finding no land also returns, lastly releases a raven finding land. Utnapishtim flung open the doors of the vessel and made a sacrifice; the gods smelled the aroma and gathered like flies. Ishtar arrived, lifted her necklace and said “O you gods here present, by the lapis lazuli round my neck I shall remember these days as I remember the jewels of my throat; these last days I shall not forget. Let all the gods gather round the sacrifice, except Enlil. He shall not approach this offering, for without reflection he brought the flood; he consigned my people to destruction.” (Sanders 108, 113)
‘When Enlil had come, when he saw the boat, he was wroth and swelled with anger at the gods, the host of heaven, “Has any of these mortals escaped? Not one was to have survived the destruction.” Then the god of the wells and canals Ninurta opened his mouth and said to the warrior Enlil, “Who is there of the gods that can devise without Ea? It is Ea alone who knows all things.” Then Ea opened his mouth and spoke to warrior Enlil, “Wisest of gods, hero Enlil, how could you so senselessly bring down the flood’?Lay upon the sinner his sin, Lay upon the transgressor his transgression.’ ‘It was not I that revealed the secret of the gods; the wise man learned it in a dream. Now take your counsel what shall be done with him.” (Sanders 108, 113)
‘Then Enlil went up to the boat, he took me by the hand and my wife and made us enter the boat and kneel down on either side, he standing between us. He touched our foreheads to bless us saying: ‘In time past, Utnapishtim was a moral man; henceforth he and his wife shall live in the distance at the mouth of the rivers.’ Thus it was that the gods took me and placed me here to live in the distance, at the mouth of the rivers.’ (Sanders 108, 113) This was how Utnapishtim received eternal life, and to Gilgamesh’s dismay death was inevitable, eternal life was not his destiny. His destiny was to die in his city of Uruk a great king and live on in stories of his heroism and supremacy over his people, thus achieving immortality through his great deeds.
In The Book of Genesis’ the story of Noah’s Ark is told in religious philosophy, emphasizing on the importance of morals and values within mankind, the hero is not granted eternal life, but vitality. There is only one god, with the hero being a righteous man. God creates mankind and multiply, daughters of men bore children to the sons of God. Three generations later mankind’s wickedness also grew; the earth became corrupt and filled with violence, causing God to lament, feeling regretful for creating man. Saddened by the evil of which man was capable of, God decides to destroy mankind, but before doing so, warns the righteous man directly of his decision to annihilate mankind.
[6-7] ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the ground, man and beast and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.’ (Old Testament page 18) Noah was not of wickedness, and found favor in God. Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. God warns Noah of his plan to destroy mankind, [6-13] God said to Noah ‘I see that the end of all mortals has come; for the earth is full of lawlessness because of them. So I am doing to destroy them with the earth.'(Old Testament page 18) Offering the opportunity of salvation for Noah and his family, God orders him to build a vessel. [6:14] Make yourself an ark of gopherwood, equip the ark with various compartments, and cover it inside and out with pitch.
[6:15] This is how you shall build it: the length of the ark will be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits.’ (Old Testament page 18-19) God orders Noah to fill the ark with every living creature in pairs, male and female. [8:16] “Go out of the ark, together with your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives.’ (Old Testament page 20) Noah did as God commanded, [7:4] For seven days from now I will bring rain down on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and so I will wipe out from the face of the earth every being that I have made.” (Old Testament page 19)
For Forty days and forty nights it rained, covering the land in water, destroying mankind. After the flood, God grants Noah and his three sons with the continuance of mortality, allowing them to multiply [9:1] God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, “Be fertile and multiply, and fill the earth. (Old Testament page 20-210)
The Greco-Roman version of The Great Flood, told in the form of a myth, is comparative with the Epic of Atrahasis and Noah’s Ark, this flood story was not very popular in Greece or Rome, nonetheless documented in Greek literature in the works of Epicharmus. Unlike other cultures, Greeks did not fear flooding, for they depended on rainfall to sustain their agriculture. This story begins with human sin, which angers the mighty god Zeus, subsequently making the decision to destroy the world. The hero Deucalion is warned directly by his father, Prometheus who is also a god. He is told to build a vessel and embark along with his wife, Phyrra. After surviving the flood the couple came to rest on the summit of Mount Parnassus, they visit the oracle of Delphi and learn how to recreate humankind, by throwing stones behind their backs, from which people were born. Therefore, granted with descendants.
The great flood: The Story from the Quran, is told for the purpose of religion, with emphasis on worshiping he truly divine Allah. Due to mankind’s abandonment of Allah in favor of worshiping other gods, Allah calls for their destruction, and sends Nuh to warn his people, but his people do not listen, Allah is forced to send a flood to destroy mankind, because of their wrongdoings they are drowned. Then they were forced to enter fire so that they were forced to seek no one but Allah.
Lastly the version of Gun-Yu and the Chinese Flood Myth this account of the great flood is very unique, as flooding is not brought to mankind for destruction, It is told for the purpose of explaining leadership and succession passed down through the bloodline of the first established and oldest family dynasty of China. Although there are many versions and accounts of flood stories documented by many cultures around the world, one can only come to the conclusion that a great flood did in fact occur.

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