A Sumerian Gentleman




King Ur-Nammu
A Sumerian


WHEN on high the Heavens had not been named,
Firm ground below had not been called by name,
Nothing but ‘Primordial Apsu’ the Begetter, [Fresh Water]
and ‘Mummu Tiamat’, She Who Bore them All, [Salt Water]
–their waters commingling as a single body–

No reed hut had been matted, no marsh land had appeared,
Uncalled by name, their destinies undetermined–

THEN it was that the Gods were formed within Them.

Lahmu [‘mud’] and Lahamu [‘Mrs. Mud’] were brought forth,
by name they were called
Before they had grown in age and stature.

Anshar [‘Upper Firmament’] and Kishar [‘Lower Firmament’] were
surpassing the others.
They prolonged the days, added on the years.

Anu was their heir, the rival of his fathers;
Yes, Anu, Anshar’s first-born, was his equal.

He begot in his image Nudimmud [ Ea ].
This Nudimmud was the master of his fathers;
Of broad wisdom, understanding, mighty in strength,
Mightier by far than his grandfather Anshar.
He had no rival among the gods, his brothers.

The divine brothers banded together,
They disturbed Tiamat as the surged back and forth,
Yes, they troubled the mood of Tiamat
By their hilarity in the Abode of Heaven.
Apsu could not lessen their clamor
And Tiamat was speechless at their ways.
Their doings were loathsome to [   ].
Unsavory were their ways; they were overbearing.

Then Apsu, the Begetter of the Great Gods,
Cried out, addressing Mummu his Vizier:
"O Mummu, my Vizier, who makes my spirit rejoice,
Come hither and let us go to Tiamat!"
They went and sat down before Tiamat,
Exchanging counsel about the gods, their children.
Apsu, opening his mouth, said to Resplendent Tiamat:
"Their ways are truly loathsome to me,
By day I find no relief, nor sleep at night.
I will destroy, I will wreck their ways,
So that quiet may be restored. Let us have rest!"
As soon as Tiamat heard this,
She was angry and called out to her husband;
she cried out aggrieved as she raged all alone,
Injecting woe into her mood:
"What? Should we destroy that which we have built?
Their ways indeed are most troublesome, but let us attend kindly!"
Then answered Mummu, giving counsel to Apsu;
Ill-wishing and ungracious was Mummu’s advice:

"Do destroy, my father, the mutinous ways.
Then you will have relief by day and rest at night!"
When Apsu heard this, his face grew radiant
Because of the evil he planned against the gods his sons.
As for Mummu, he embraced him by the neck
As he sat down on his knees to kiss him.
Now all that they had planned between them was
repeated to the Gods, their children.
When the Gods heard, they were upset,
then they lapsed into silence and remained speechless.
Ea-Nuddimud, surpassing in wisdom, accomplished, resourceful,
Ea the All-Wise, saw through their scheme.
A master design against it he devised and set up,
Made artful his spell against it...
...–Having fettered Apsu he slew him...

[Tiamat appoints Kingu to be her champion to avenge Apsu and
conquer the Younger Gods. The Younger Gods respond by
deciding to seek their own leader and Champion.]...


..All the Anunnaki gathered;
their lips closed tight they sat in silence,
"No god (they thought) can go to battle and
Facing Tiamat, escape with his life."
Lord Anshar, Father of the Gods, arose in grandeur,
And, having pondered in his heart, said to the Anunnaki:
"He whose strength is potent shall be our Avenger,
He who is keen in battle, Marduk, the Hero!"..

[Marduk replies to the invitation:]

..."Creator of the Gods, destiny of the Great Gods,
If I indeed, as your Avenger,
Am to vanquish Tiamat and save your lives,
Set up the Assembly, proclaim supreme my destiny!
When you have sat down together rejoicing in Ubshukinna
Let my word, instead of you, determine the fates.
Unalterable shall be what I may bring into being;
Neither recalled nor changed shall be the command of my lips."


...They made ready to leave on their journey,
All the Great Gods who dtermine the fates.
They entered before Anshar, filling Ubshukinna.
They kissed one another in the Assembly.
They ate festive bread, poured the wine,
They wetted their drinking tubes with sweet intoxicant.
As they drank the strong drink, their bodies swelled.
They became very languid as their spirits rose.
For Marduk the Avenger they fixed the decrees.
They erected for him a princely throne.
Facing his fathers, he sat down, presiding....

January 28, 2010 11:34 AM

John Paul Adams, CSUN

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