Mesopotamian myths

Tablet V of the Epic of Gilgamesh from the Old-Babylonian Period, 2003-1595 BCE

Mesopotamian mythology refers to the myths, religious texts, and other literature that comes from the region of ancient Mesopotamia in modern-day West Asia. In particular the societies of Sumer, Akkad, and Assyria, all of which existed shortly after 3000 BCE and were mostly gone by 400 CE.[1] These works were primarily preserved on stone or clay tablets and were written in cuneiform by scribes. Several lengthy pieces have survived, some of which are considered the oldest stories in the world, and have given historians insight into Mesopotamian ideology and cosmology.

Creation myths

There are many different accounts of the creation of the earth from the Mesopotamian region. This is because of the many different cultures in the area and the shifts in narratives that are common in ancient cultures due to their reliance on word of mouth to transmit stories. These myths can share related themes, but the chronology of events vary based on when or where the story was written down.

Atra-Hasis

See main article: Atra-Hasis

Atra-Hasis refers both to one of the Mesopotamian myths focusing on the earth’s creation, and also the main character of that myth.[2] The myth possibly has Assyrian roots, as a fragmented version may have been found in the library of Ashusbanipal, though translations remain unsure. Its most complete surviving version was recorded in Akkadian. The myth begins with humans being created by the mother goddess Mami to lighten the gods' workload. She made them out of a mixture of clay, flesh, and blood from a slain god. Later in the story though, the god Enlil attempts to control overpopulation of humans through various methods, including famine, drought, and finally, a great flood. Humankind is saved by Atrahasis, who was warned of the flood by the god Enki and built a boat to escape the waters, eventually placating the gods with sacrifices.[2]

Eridu Gensis

See main article: Sumerian Creation Myth

Eridu Gensis has a similar plot to that of the Akkadian myth, Atra-Hasis, though it is harder to tell what happens exactly in Eridu Gensis because the tablet upon which it was recorded is badly damaged. The two stories share the flood as the major event however, although the hero who survives in Eridu Gensis is called Zi-ud-sura instead of Artahasis. Eridu Gensis was recorded around the same time as Atra-Hasis, however the fragmented tablet that held it was found in Nippur, located in modern-day east Iraq, while the version of Atra-hasis that came from the same time was found in the library of Ashurbanipal, in modern-day north Iraq.[1]

Enuma Elis

See main article: Enuma Elis

Enuma Elis (also spelled Enuma Elish) is a Babylonian creation myth with an unclear composition, though it possibly dates back to the Bronze Age. This piece was thought to be recited in a ritual celebration of the Babylonian new year. It chronicles the birth of the gods, the world, and man, whose purpose was to serve the gods and lighten their work load.[2] The focus of the narrative is on praising Marduk, the patron god of Babylon, who creates the world, the calendar, and humanity.

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