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Ante-Diluvian History

The history of Babylonia, like that of most great nations, begins with myth. Eight [or ten] kings reigned over the country before the Deluge, their reigns lasting for 241,200 years [or for 120 sari, that is, 432,000 years]. According to the ancient Sumerian King List, preserved on the Weld-Blundell prism, eight antediluvian rulers reigned over the lower Mesopotamian cities of Eridu, Badtibira, Larak, Sippar and Shuruppak for such a phenomenally long time (the shortest reign is 18,600 years, the longest 43,200) that the period of their combined rule totals 241,200 years. Berossus, a Babylonian priest writing much later (third century B. C.), gives ten names in all, instead of eight, and further exaggerates the length of their reigns.

The chronology as well as the number of reigns has a purely astronomical origin: the origin of the names has yet to be discovered. The first of these antediluvian kings was Aloros of Babylon, which indicates the Babylonian parentage of the whole story. Aloros took the title of " shepherd," a title which was assumed by the early Chaldean princes, and which, as with of Homer, proves the pastoral habits of the people before they became civilized citizens. The second successor of Aloros, Amelon, came from Pantibibla or Booktown, possibly Sippara, as did also Daonus, the Dun, or " mighty one," of the inscriptions. Otiartes was the ninth of the line, and belonged to Larankha, the Surippak of the texts. His son and successor was Xisuthros, the hero of the Deluge.

The antediluvian portion of the King List does not include the Sumerian first man nor the Flood hero. If Adam and Noah are dropped from the biblical list, the number of people in the two lists is then the same-eight. Walton has also noticed that the total of the durations of the kingdoms and the total of the ages of the patriarchs are numerically related and are equivalent if the number base of the Sumerian list is changed from sexagesimal to decimal.

The Babylonians, according to Berossus, supposed that there were ten antediluvian kings, who they declared had reigned for the portentous period of 432,000 years: 432,000 years. The Hebrew Bible counts ten patriarchs, Adam through Noah, from the Creation to the Flood. However, it has been ingeniously pointed out by Oppert {pott. Gel. Nachrichten, 1877, p. 205 ff.) = 86,400 lustra, while 1656 years (the Hebrew date of the Flood after the Creation) = 86,400 weeks (1656 = 72 X 23; and 23 years being = 8395 days + 5 intercalary days = 8400 days= 1200 weeks); and hence the inference has been drawn that the two periods have in some way been developed from a common basis, the Hebrews taking as their unit a week, where the Babylonians took a lustrum of 5 years.

With the Deluge the mythical history of Babylonia takes a new departure. From this event to the Persian conquest was a period of 36,000 years, or an astronomical cycle called saros. Xisuthros, with his family and friends, alone survived the waters which drowned the rest of mankind on account of their sins. He had been ordered by the gods to build a ship, to pitch it within and without, and to stock it with animals of every species. Xisuthros sent out first a dove, then a swallow, and lastly a raven, to discover whether the earth was dry; the dove and the swallow returned to the ship, and it was only when the raven flew away that the rescued hero ventured to leave his ark. He found that he had been stranded on the peak of the mountain of Nizir, "the mountain of the world," whose name signifies "protection," or "salvation." On its peak Xisuthros offered sacrifices, placing calamus, cedar wood, and incense in seven large bowls, and the gods, attracted by the sweet odor, gathered about the sacrificer.

Immediately afterward Xisuthros and his wife, like the biblical Enoch, were translated to the regions of the blessed beyond the river of death, and his people made their way westward to Sippara. Here they disinterred the books buried by their late ruler before the Deluge had taken place, and reestablished themselves in their old country under the government first of Evekhoos, and then of his son Khomasbolos. Meanwhile other colonists had arrived in the plain of Sumer, and here, under the leadership of the giant Etana, called Titan by the Greek writers, they built a city of brick, and essayed to erect a tower by means of which they might scale the sky, and so win for themselves the immortality granted to Xisuthros. The spot where the tower was raised was the mound at Babylon, now known as the Amram, where stood the temple of Ami, the palace of the kings, and the hanging gardens of Nebuchadrezzar, and the season they chose for building it was the autumnal equinox. But the tower was overthrown in the night by the winds, and Bel frustrated their purpose by confounding their language, and scattering them on the mound. Hence the place was called "the gate of God," though a later punning etymology connected it with balal, "to confound."

Now happened the war waged by Etana, Bel, Prometheus, and Ogygos, against Kronos or Ea, and the adventures of the giant Ner, who, along with Etana, finally found a seat among the crowned heads in the underworld of Hades. Now, too, the goddess Ishtar descended from heaven to woo the sons of men; Alala, the wild eagle, the lion-son of Silele; Isullanu, the woodsman; and above all, Tammuz, the young and beautiful Sun-god, the Adonis of Semitic and Greek story. Slain by the boar's tusk of winter, Tammuz sank to the under-world, whither he was followed by Ishtar, and not released till he had drunk of the waters of life.

More famous even than Tammuz, however, was the solar hero, Gilgamesh, who has been identified with the biblical Nimrod. Gilgamesh was the prototype of the Melkarth of Tyre and the Herakles of Greece; and the twelve labors of Herakles may be traced back to the adventures of Gilgamesh, as recorded in the twelve books of the great Epic of early Chaldea. The Epic, whose authorship was ascribed to one Sin-liki-unnini, was preserved in the library of Erech, a city with which Gilgamesh was specially associated, though his birthplace was supposed to be Marada, the city of " solar glory." Its date may be roughly ascribed to about 2000 BC, so that it belongs to the period when the Semitic race had been long in possession of the land.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:48:25 ZULU