1st Edition

Ea’s Duplicity in the Gilgamesh Flood Story

By Martin Worthington Copyright 2020
    524 Pages
    by Routledge

    522 Pages
    by Routledge

    This volume opens up new perspectives on Babylonian and Assyrian literature, through the lens of a pivotal passage in the Gilgamesh Flood story. It shows how, using a nine-line message where not all was as it seemed, the god Ea inveigled humans into building the Ark.  

    The volume argues that Ea used a ‘bitextual’ message: one which can be understood in different ways that sound the same.  His message thus emerges as an ambivalent oracle in the tradition of ‘folktale prophecy’. The argument is supported by interlocking investigations of lexicography, divination, diet, figurines, social history, and religion. There are also extended discussions of Babylonian word play and ancient literary interpretation. Besides arguing for Ea’s duplicity, the book explores its implications – for narrative sophistication in Gilgamesh, for audiences and performance of the poem, and for the relation of the Gilgamesh Flood story to the versions in Atra-hasīs, the Hellenistic historian Berossos, and the Biblical Book of Genesis.

    Ea’s Duplicity in the Gilgamesh Flood Story will interest Assyriologists, Hebrew Bible scholars and Classicists, but also students and researchers in all areas concerned with Gilgamesh, word-play, oracles, and traditions about the Flood.




    PART 1 – Preliminaries

    1 Introduction

    1.1 Bitextuality

    1.2 The Gilgameš Flood story

    1.3 Other Mesopotamian Flood stories

    1.4 Ea’s message

    1.4.1 The manuscripts

    1.4.2 Synoptic transliteration

    1.4.3 Composite text and translation

    1.5 The problems

    1.6 Previous studies

    1.6.1 Recovering (most of) the text: George Smith (1872) to Paul Haupt (1883)

    1.6.2 An "infamous lie"? Peter Jensen (1890) and dissenters

    1.6.3 Glimmers of puns: Ungnad (1911) etc.

    1.6.4 The ‘bitextual’ pun of Frank (1925)

    1.6.5 Early reception of Frank’s idea

    1.6.6 Thompson (1930)’s reading ina še-er

    1.6.7 The golden age of Frank’s bitextual pun

    1.6.8 Exit puns: Von Soden (1955) to Millard (1987)

    1.6.9 Re-enter puns: Dalley (1989) and others

    1.6.10 Re-exit puns: George (2010) to the present

    1.6.11 Summary

    1.7 Outline of the argument

    1.7.1 Angles not pursued

    1.8 Audiences, internal and external

    2 ‘Interrogating’ Babylonian narrative poetry

    2.1 Is ‘interrogation’ appropriate?

    2.1.1 Is the poem too ‘naïve’?

    2.1.2 Is ‘interrogation’ precluded by accretion?

    2.2 Modelling ancient interpretations

    2.2.1 The elusiveness of native meta-discussions

    2.2.2 Did they simply ‘know it all’?

    2.2.3 Differences between ancient and modern interests

    2.2.4 Glimpses of ancient interpretation Commentaries on narrative poems Commentaries mentioning narrative poems Other commentaries The ‘Marduk Ordeal’ Colophons Self-reflexive comments within poems Adaptation The ‘Catalogue of Texts and Authors’ A personal response to the Flood story?

    2.2.5 Summary: modelling ancient interpretations

    2.3 Summary: ‘interrogating’ Babylonian narrative poetry

    3 ‘Identifying’ puns

    3.1 Are they ‘really there’? – author intention vs audience reception

    3.2 Disadvantages of the exclusive focus on authorial intention

    3.2.1 Cases where authorial intention is clear

    3.2.2 Obstacles to identifying authorial intention

    3.2.3 Rigidity

    3.3 Alternatives to the emphasis on authorial intention

    3.3.1 ‘Ironclad’ vs ‘potential’ puns

    3.3.2 A ‘high-potential’ bitextual pun in OB Atra–hasis

    3.4 Puns and pronunciation

    3.5 Summary

    4 The high concentration of puns in the Gilgameš Flood story

    PART 2 – Dissecting Ea’s message

    5 The lines about the Flood hero

    6 Raining ‘plenty’: ušaznanakkunuši nuhšam-ma

    6.1 The positive sense

    6.2 The negative sense

    6.3 The subject of ušaznanakkunuši

    6.3.1 Enlil as instigator of the Flood

    6.3.2 Exit Šamaš

    7 The birds: [hi¿ib] i¿¿urati

    7.1 The restoration ‘hi-¿ib’

    7.2 The positive sense

    7.3 The negative sense

    7.3.1 The verb vs the noun

    7.3.2 ‘Cutting off’, literal and metaphorical

    7.3.3 The spheres of use attested for ha¿abu

    7.4 An Ur–Namma passage

    7.5 Summary

    8 The fish: puzur nuni

    8.1 What is puzur?

    8.2 The positive sense

    8.2.1 The associations of ‘covering’

    8.2.2 Fish as comestibles

    8.3 The negative sense

    8.3.1 Fish-like sages, Assyrian vs Babylonian

    8.4 Summary

    9 The harvest: [...] mešrâ eburam-ma

    9.1 The positive sense

    9.2 The negative sense

    9.3 Summary

    10 ‘Cakes at dawn’: ina šer(-)kukki

    10.1 The positive sense

    10.1.1 kukku ‘bread, cake’

    10.2 The negative sense involving darkness

    10.2.1 kukkû ‘darkness’

    10.2.2 The relevance of darkness to Ea’s message

    10.3 The negative sense involving incantations

    10.3.1 The morphological problem Case endings on manuscript W Case endings on manuscript c Why is the genitive ending absent?

    10.3.2 šerkukku as a by-form of šerkugû

    10.3.3 The meanings of šerkugû / šerkukku

    10.4 Summary

    11 ‘In the evening’: ina lilâti

    11.1 The positive sense

    11.2 The negative sense involving darkness

    11.3 The negative sense involving líl-demonesses

    11.4 Summary

    12 The ‘rain of wheat’: šamût kibati

    12.1 An incantation-like rhyme?

    12.2 The positive sense

    12.3 The negative sense of ‘a wheat-like rain’

    12.4 Negative senses involving death

    12.4.1 Killing wheat

    12.4.2 Wheat stalks symbolising human lives

    12.5 Summary

    13 Recapitulation

    13.1 The message’s various senses

    13.2 How alike were the different versions pronounced?

    13.3 Why multiple negative meanings?

    13.4 The change of meaning with repetition

    13.4.1 Did a rain of wheat actually happen?

    13.4.2 Who utters 87-88 and 91?

    13.4.3 How ‘fairly’ were the people of Šuruppak tricked?

    14 Issues of textual history

    14.1 When was the bitextual message created?

    14.1.1 An Assyrian creation?

    14.2 Questions of circulation and diffusion

    14.3 How easily would readers have realised the ambiguity?

    14.4 Questions of stability

    15 Meaning and performance

    PART 3 – Conspicuous silences in the Gilgameš Flood story

    16 Outlining the problems

    17 Does Atra–hasis ‘fill in the gaps’?

    17.1 Epistemic competition

    17.2 What does Gilgameš know about the Flood?

    17.2.1 From the outset to Tablet IX

    17.2.2 Tablet X

    17.2.3 Tablet XI

    17.3 Summary: does Atra–hasis ‘fill in the gaps’?

    18 Communications between Ea and the Flood hero

    18.1 The command to build the Ark

    18.1.1 Text of the command

    18.1.2 How did Ea choose the Flood Hero?

    18.1.3 The puzzle of multiple addressees

    18.1.4 Why demolish the house?

    18.1.5 A link to a Sumerian poem

    18.1.6 Summary

    18.2 The Flood hero’s reply

    18.2.1 What is he concerned about?

    18.2.2 Who are ‘the city, the ummanu and the elders’? The alu The ummanu (or ummânu) The šibutu Mesopotamian ‘city assemblies’ The third millennium The first half of the second millennium The later second millennium The first millennium The Assyrian ‘City Hall’ Summary: ki lupul alu ummanu u šibutu

    18.2.3 Was a dream involved?

    18.3 Ea’s message – from Ea to the Flood hero

    19 Communication between the Flood hero and the people of Šuruppak

    19.1 How and to whom did the Flood hero relay Ea’s message?

    19.2 How did the people of Šuruppak react to Ea’s message?

    19.2.1 Cross-checking divinatory information

    19.2.2 Scepticism about diviners

    19.2.3 Summary: how did the people of Šuruppak react to Ea’s message?

    19.3 What about the other gods?

    19.4 How easily might the people have realised the message’s ambivalence?

    19.5 What if they had understood?

    19.6 Summary: the ‘chain of communications

    20 Ea’s elusiveness

    20.1 Ea’s long shadow over Gilgameš’s adventure

    20.2 Ea and the other gods

    20.2.1 Altruism or self-interest?

    20.2.2 Ninurta’s accusation and Ea’s defence

    20.2.3 The missing dream

    20.2.4 Was the defence viable?

    20.3 Ea and the people of Šuruppak

    20.3.1 Why use a duplicitous message?

    20.3.2 Did Ea intend for the message to be misunderstood?

    20.3.3 Does a hard-to-spot message argue for a deliberate trick?

    20.3.4 A trick to crown them all?

    20.3.5 ‘Golden ages’ in Cuneiform

    20.4 Summary: Ea’s elusiveness

    21 The enigma of Uta–napišti

    21.1 What was his status in Šuruppak?

    21.1.1 According to other versions of the Babylonian Flood story

    21.1.2 According to Gilgameš XI

    21.2 How honest was he to Gilgameš?

    21.3 Did he realise the message’s true import?

    21.4 Tricking the boatman?

    21.5 Summary: the enigma of Uta–napišti

    22 Why the ‘gaps’?

    22.1 Significant silences and performance

    22.2 Reasons for silences on the part of Uta–napišti

    22.3 Reasons for silences on the part of the Poet(s)

    PART 4 – Other interconnections

    23 Ea’s duplicity and Babylonian/Assyrian divination

    23.1 Which forms of divine communication feature in the story?

    23.2 Dreams and the importance of gender roles

    23.3 The kukku in divination

    23.3.1 In Šumma Izbu (malformed birth omens)

    23.3.2 In extispicy (liver omens)

    23.4 The gods, omens, and deceit

    23.4.1 The oracle trompant

    23.4.2 Characterisations of gods as mendacious

    23.4.3 Characterisations of omens as ‘false’, etc.

    23.4.4 Omens which are ambivalent or deceptive

    23.4.5 Summary: Ea’s message and divine deceit

    23.5 Summary: Ea’s duplicity and Babylonian divination

    24 Beyond Cuneiform

    24.1 Genesis

    24.1.1 Issues of textual history

    24.1.2 The question of influence

    24.1.3 Beyond influence Miscellaneous differences Morality

    24.2 Berossus

    25 Conclusions




    Martin Worthington is Associate Professor in Middle Eastern Studies in the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Studies, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland.

    "Worthington’s Ea’s Duplicity in the Gilgamesh Flood Story is an outstanding book. It is extraordinarily well researched, superbly written, and thought provoking. The new approach brought forth by Worthington has tremendous potential for furthering the study of Mesopotamian literature. I cannot emphasize enough how engaging Worthington’s prose is, something which we do not see often in studies on the ancient Near East." - Alhena Gadotti, Journal of Near Eastern Studies

    "Ea’s Duplicity is surely the most detailed, intense, penetrating, interesting, erudite, and imaginative critical engagement with a swatch of cuneiform literature thus far offered, so cast as to be accessible to any willing reader, even one straying in from outside the narrow pale of Assyriology. It will amply repay that reader’s no less intense engagement with the author’s steady flow of questions, compelling logic and exposition, and his vast treasury of information and association. No one who savors the arguments put forth so elegantly in this book will read the Flood Story again without thinking about what Worthington has to say about it." - Benjamin Foster, Journal of the American Oriental Society

    "Worthington’s Ea’s Duplicity in the Gilgamesh Flood Story certainly considers nine lines from tablet XI of the best known epic from Mesopotamia, this passage forms the microcosmic core of a macrocosmic exploration of a world of Assyrian and Babylonian literature, prophecy, historiography, and ancient wisdom. Worthington unfurls new and hidden meanings in his passage from tablet XI, but to do so he takes a winding road, inviting the reader on a dizzying journey involving storm-demons, competing translations, species of ancient grains, and much more." - Review of Biblical Literature

    "Worthington offers profitable insights into the Gilgamesh Flood Story[...] The complexities of his research will challenge and divide Assyriologists just as, as he claims, Uta-napishti may have been divisive to ancient audiences!" - Alan Millard, Strata

    "[this book] is of primary use to scholars in Assyriology and Classical studies, and it will also be of interest to those studying the flood story in the Hebrew Bible ... meticulous... the author is to be commended for his mastery of Akkadian, Arabic, Hebrew, French, German and Italian." - Rebecca Huskey, Classical Journal 

    "In Martin Worthington’s study of Gilgamesh, the delight is in the details... [He] makes a compelling case that ancient scholars could and did produce interpretations that were as complex, detail-oriented, and individually varied as those of modern scholars... The book proceeds as a sequence of tightly reasoned, clearly formulated arguments, but its theme is the ultimate elusiveness of Ea, the god of wisdom and water; and as we are reminded in the book’s epigraph, a quotation from Thorkild Jacobsen: “the ways of water are devious”. It is this productive tension between form and content, between the solid and the fluid, that make Ea’s Duplicity such a delightful contribution to the scholarship on Gilgamesh." - Sophus Helle, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies