Gaston Camille Charles Maspero.

History of Egypt, Chaldæa, Syria, Babylonia, and Assyria, Volume 3 (of 12) online

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Online LibraryGaston Camille Charles MasperoHistory of Egypt, Chaldæa, Syria, Babylonia, and Assyria, Volume 3 (of 12) → online text (page 1 of 23)
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Produced by David Widger


Honorable Doctor of Civil Laws, and Fellow of Queen's College, Oxford;
Member of the Institute and Professor at the College of France.

Edited by A. H. SAYCE,
Professor of Assyriology, Oxford.

Translated by M. L. McCLURE,
Member of the Committee of the Egypt Exploration Fund


Volume III.




[Illustration: 001.jpg El Hammam (The Bath)]


Drawn by Boudier, after J. Dieulafoy. The vignette, which is
by Faucher-Gudin, is reproduced from an intaglio in the
Cabinet des Médailles.


The Creation, the Deluge, the history of the gods - The country, its
cities its inhabitants, its early dynasties.

[Illustration: 002a.jpg]

"In the time when nothing which was called heaven existed above, and when
nothing below had as yet received the name of earth,* Apsu, the Ocean,
who first was their father, and Chaos-Tiâmat, who gave birth to them
all, mingled their waters in one, reeds which were not united, rushes
which bore no fruit."** Life germinated slowly in this inert mass, in
which the elements of our world lay still in confusion: when at length
it did spring up, it was but feebly, and at rare intervals, through
the hatching of divine couples devoid of personality and almost without
form. "In the time when the gods were not created, not one as yet, when
they had neither been called by their names, nor had their destinies
been assigned to them by fate, gods manifested themselves. Lakhmu and
Lakhamu were the first to appear, and waxed great for ages; then Anshar
and Kishar were produced after them. Days were added to days, and years
were heaped upon years: Anu, Inlil, and Ea were born in their turn, for
Anshar and Kishar had given them birth." As the generations emanated one
from the other, their vitality increased, and the personality of each
became more clearly defined; the last generation included none but
beings of an original character and clearly marked individuality. Anu,
the sunlit sky by day, the starlit firmament by night; Inlil-Bel,
the king of the earth; Ea, the sovereign of the waters and the
personification of wisdom.*** Each of them duplicated himself, Anu into
Anat, Bel into Belit, Ea into Damkina, and united himself to the spouse
whom he had deduced from himself. Other divinities sprang from these
fruitful pairs, and the impulse once given, the world was rapidly
peopled by their descendants. Sin, Shamash, and Kamman, who presided
respectively over the moon, the sun, and the air, were all three of
equal rank; next came the lords of the planets, Ninib, Merodach, Nergal,
the warrior-goddess Ishtar, and Nebo; then a whole army of lesser
deities, who ranged themselves around Anu as round a supreme master.
Tiâmat, finding her domain becoming more and more restricted owing
to the activity of the others, desired to raise battalion against
battalion, and set herself to create unceasingly; but her offspring,
made in her own image, appeared like those incongruous phantoms which
men see in dreams, and which are made up of members borrowed from a
score of different animals. They appeared in the form of bulls with
human heads, of horses with the snouts of dogs, of dogs with quadruple
bodies springing from a single fish-like tail. Some of them had the beak
of an eagle or a hawk; others, four wings and two faces; others, the
legs and horns of a goat; others, again, the hind quarters of a horse
and the whole body of a man. Tiâmat furnished them with terrible
weapons, placed them under the command of her husband Kingu, and set out
to war against the gods.

* In Chaldæa, as in Egypt, nothing was supposed to have a
real existence until it had received its name: the sentence
quoted in the text means practically, that at that time
there was neither heaven nor earth.

** Apsu has been transliterated kiracruv [in Greek], by the
author an extract from whose works has been preserved by
Damascius. He gives a different version of the tradition,
according to which the amorphous goddess Mummu-Tiâmat
consisted of two persons. The first, Tauthé, was the wife of
Apasôn; the second, Moymis, was the son of Apasôn and of
Tauthé. The last part of the sentence is very obscure in the
Assyrian text, and has been translated in a variety of
different ways. It seems to contain a comparison between
Apsû and Mummu-Tiâmat on the one hand, and the reeds and
clumps of rushes so common in Chaldæa on the other; the two
divinities remain inert and unfruitful, like water-plants
which have not yet manifested their exuberant growth.

*** The first fragments of the Chaldæan account of the
Creation were discovered by G. Smith, who described them in
the _Daily Telegraph_ (of March 4, 1875), and published them
in the _Transactions of the Society of Biblical Archæology_,
and translated in his Chaldæan account of Genesis all the
fragments with which he was acquainted; other fragments have
since been collected, but unfortunately not enough to enable
us to entirely reconstitute the legend. It covered at least
six tablets, possibly more. Portions of it have been
translated after Smith, by Talbot, by Oppert, by Lenormant,
by Schrader, by Sayce, by Jensen, by Winckler, by Zimmern,
and lastly by Delîtzsch. Since G. Smith wrote _The Chaldæan
Account_, a fragment of a different version has been
considered to be a part of the dogma of the Creation, as it
was put forth at Kutha.

[Illustration: 006.jpg ONE OF THE EAGLE-HEADED GENII.]

Drawn by Faucher-Gudin from an Assyrian bas-relief from

At first they knew not whom to send against her. Anshar despatched his
son Anu; but Anu was afraid, and made no attempt to oppose her. He sent
Ea; but Ea, like Anu, grew pale with fear, and did not venture to attack
her. Merodach, the son of Ea, was the only one who believed himself
strong enough to conquer her. The gods, summoned to a solemn banquet in
the palace of Anshar, unanimously chose him to be their champion, and
proclaimed him king. "Thou, thou art glorious among the great gods, thy
will is second to none, thy bidding is Anu; Marduk (Merodach), thou art
glorious among the great gods, thy will is second to none,* thy bidding
is Anu.** From this day, that which thou orderest may not be changed,
the power to raise or to abase shall be in thy hand, the word of thy
mouth shall endure, and thy commandment shall not meet with opposition.
None of the gods shall transgress thy law; but wheresoever a sanctuary
of the gods is decorated, the place where they shall give their oracles
shall be thy place.*** Marduk, it is thou who art our avenger! We bestow
on thee the attributes of a king; the whole of all that exists, thou
hast it, and everywhere thy word shall be exalted. Thy weapons shall not
be turned aside, they shall strike thy enemy. O master, who trusts in
thee, spare thou, his life; but the god who hath done evil, put out
his life like water. They clad their champion in a garment, and thus
addressed him: 'Thy will, master, shall be that of the gods. Speak the
word, 'Let it be so,' it shall be so. Thus open thy mouth, this garment
shall disappear; say unto it, 'Return,' and the garment shall be there."
He spoke with his lips, the garment disappeared; he said unto it,
"Return," and the garment was restored.

* The Assyrian runs, "thy destiny is second to none." This
refers not to the _destiny_ of the god himself, but to the
fate which he allots to others. I have substituted, here and
elsewhere, for the word "destiny," the special meaning of
which would not have been understood, the word "will,"
which, though it does not exactly reproduce the Assyrian
expression, avoids the necessity for paraphrases or formulas
calculated to puzzle the modern reader.

** Or, to put it less concisely, "When thou commandest, it
is Anu himself who commands," and the same blind obedience
must be paid to thee as to Anu.

*** The meaning is uncertain. The sentence seems to convey
that henceforth Merodach would be at home in all temples
that were constructed in honour of the other gods.

Merodach having been once convinced by this evidence that he had the
power of doing everything and of undoing everything at his pleasure, the
gods handed to him the sceptre, the throne, the crown, the insignia of
supreme rule, and greeted him with their acclamations: "Be King! - Go!
Cut short the life of Tiâmat, and let the wind carry her blood to the
hidden extremities of the universe."* He equipped himself carefully for
the struggle. "He made a bow and placed his mark upon it;"** he had a
spear brought to him and fitted a point to it; the god lifted the lance,
brandished it in his right hand, then hung the bow and quiver at
his side. He placed a thunderbolt before him, filled his body with a
devouring flame, then made a net in which to catch the anarchic Tiâmat;
he placed the four winds in such a way that she could not escape, south
and north, east and west, and with his own hand he brought them the net,
the gift of his father Anu. "He created the hurricane, the evil wind, the
storm, the tempest, the four winds, the seven winds, the waterspout, the
wind that is second to none; then he let loose the winds he had created,
all seven of them, in order to bewilder the anarchic Tiâmat by charging
behind her. And the master of the waterspout raised his mighty weapon,
he mounted his chariot, a work without its equal, formidable; he
installed himself therein, tied the four reins to the side, and darted
forth, pitiless, torrent-like, swift."

* Sayce was the first, I believe, to cite, in connection
with this mysterious order, the passage in which Berossus
tells how the gods created men from a little clay, moistened
with the blood of the god Bêlos. Here there seems to be a
fear lest the blood of Tiâmat, mingling with the mud, should
produce a crop of monsters similar to those which the
goddess had already created; the blood, if carried to the
north, into the domain of the night, would there lose its
creative power, or the monsters who might spring from it
would at any rate remain strangers to the world of gods and

** "Literally, he made his weapon known; "perhaps it would
be better to interpret it, "and he made it known that the
bow would henceforth be his distinctive weapon."


Drawn by Faucher-Gudin from the bas-relief from Nimrûd
preserved in the British Museum.

He passed through the serried ranks of the monsters and penetrated as
far as Tiâmat, and provoked her with his cries. "'Thou hast rebelled
against the sovereignty of the gods, thou hast plotted evil against
them, and hast desired that my fathers should taste of thy malevolence;
therefore thy host shall be reduced to slavery, thy weapons shall be
torn from thee. Come, then, thou and I must give battle to one another!'
Tiâmat, when she heard him, flew into a fury, she became mad with rage;
then Tiâmat howled, she raised herself savagely to her full height, and
planted her feet firmly on the earth. She pronounced an incantation,
recited her formula, and called to her aid the gods of the combat,
both them and their weapons. They drew near one to another, Tiâmat and
Marduk, wisest of the gods: They flung themselves into the combat, they
met one another in the struggle. Then the master unfolded his net and
seized her; he caused the hurricane which waited behind him to pass
in front of him, and, when Tiâmat opened her mouth to swallow him, he
thrust the hurricane into it so that the monster could not close her
jaws again. The mighty wind filled her paunch, her breast swelled, her
maw was split. Marduk gave a straight thrust with his lance, burst
open the paunch, pierced the interior, tore the breast, then bound the
monster and deprived her of life. When he had vanquished Tiâmat, who had
been their leader, her army was disbanded, her host was scattered, and
the gods, her allies, who had marched beside her, trembled, were scared,
and fled." He seized hold of them, and of Kingu their chief, and brought
them bound in chains before the throne of his father.

He had saved the gods from ruin, but this was the least part of
his task; he had still to sweep out of space the huge carcase which
encumbered it, and to separate its ill-assorted elements, and arrange
them afresh for the benefit of the conquerors. He returned to Tiâmat
whom he had bound in chains. He placed his foot upon her, with his
unerring knife he cut into the upper part of her; then he cut the
blood-vessels, and caused the blood to be carried by the north wind to
the hidden places. And the gods saw his face, they rejoiced, they gave
themselves up to gladness, and sent him a present, a tribute of peace;
then he recovered his calm, he contemplated the corpse, raised it and
wrought marvels.


Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a bas-relief at Koyunjik.
Behind the _kufa_ may be seen a fisherman seated astride on
an inflated skin with his fish-basket attached to his neck.

He split it in two as one does a fish for drying; then he hung up one of
the halves on high, which became the heavens; the other half he spread
out under his feet to form the earth, and made the universe such as
men have since known it. As in Egypt, the world was a kind of enclosed
chamber balanced on the bosom of the eternal waters.* The earth, which
forms the lower part of it, or floor, is something like an overturned
boat in appearance, and hollow underneath, not like one of the narrow
skiffs in use among other races, but a kufa, or kind of semicircular
boat such as the tribes of the Lower Euphrates have made use of from
earliest antiquity down to our own times.

* The description of the Egyptian world will be found in
vol. i. p. 21 of the present work. So far the only
systematic attempt to reconstruct the Chaldæan world, since
Lenormant, has been made by Jensen, who, after examining all
the elements which went to compose it, one after another,
sums up in a few pages, and reproduces in a plate, the
principal results of his inquiry. It will be seen at a
glance how much I have taken from his work, and in what
respects the drawing here reproduced differs from his.


The earth rises gradually from the extremities to the centre, like a
great mountain, of which the snow-region, where the Euphrates finds its
source, approximately marks the summit. It was at first supposed to be
divided into seven zones, placed one on the top of the other along its
sides, like the stories of a temple; later on it was divided into four
"houses," each of which, like the "houses" of Egypt, corresponded with
one of the four cardinal points, and was under the rule of particular
gods. Near the foot of the mountain, the edges of the so-called boat
curve abruptly outwards, and surround the earth with a continuous wall
of uniform height having no opening. The waters accumulated in the
hollow thus formed, as in a ditch; it was a narrow and mysterious sea,
an ocean stream, which no living man might cross save with permission
from on high, and whose waves rigorously separated the domain of men
from the regions reserved to the gods. The heavens rose above the
"mountain of the world" like a boldly formed dome, the circumference
of which rested on the top of the wall in the same way as the upper
structures of a house rest on its foundations. Merodach wrought it out
of a hard resisting metal which shone brilliantly during the day in
the rays of the sun, and at night appeared only as a dark blue surface,
strewn irregularly with luminous stars. He left it quite solid in the
southern regions, but tunnelled it in the north, by contriving within
it a huge cavern which communicated with external space by means of two
doors placed at the east and the west.* The sun came forth each morning
by the first of these doors; he mounted to the zenith, following the
internal base of the cupola from east to south; then he slowly descended
again to the western door, and re-entered the tunnel in the firmament,
where he spent the night,** Merodach regulated the course of the whole
universe on the movements of the sun. He instituted the year and divided
it into twelve months. To each month he assigned three decans, each of
whom exercised his influence successively for a period of ten days; he
then placed the procession of the days under the authority of Nibiru,
in order that none of them should wander from his track and be lost. "He
lighted the moon that she might rule the night, and made her a star of
night that she might indicate the days:*** 'From month to month, without
ceasing, shape thy disk,**** and at the beginning of the month kindle
thyself in the evening, lighting up thy horns so as to make the heavens
distinguishable; on the seventh day, show to me thy disk; and on the
fifteenth, let thy two halves be full from month to month.'" He cleared
a path for the planets, and four of them he entrusted to four gods; the
fifth, our Jupiter, he reserved for himself, and appointed him to be
shepherd of this celestial flock; in order that all the gods might have
their image visible in the sky, he mapped out on the vault of heaven
groups of stars which he allotted to them, and which seemed to men like
representations of real or fabulous beings, fishes with the heads of
rams, lions, bulls, goats and scorpions.

* Jensen has made a collection of the texts which speak of
the interior of the heavens (Kirib shami) and of their
aspect. The expressions which have induced many
Assyriologists to conclude that the heavens were divided
into different parts subject to different gods may be
explained without necessarily having recourse to this
hypothesis; the "heaven of Ami," for instance, is an
expression which merely affirms Anu's sovereignty in the
heavens, and is only a more elegant way of designating the
heavens by the name of the god who rules them. The gates of
heaven are mentioned in the account of the Creation.

** It is generally admitted that the Chaldæans believed that
the sun passed over the world in the daytime, and underneath
it during the night. The general resemblance of their theory
of the universe to the Egyptian theory leads me to believe
that they, no less than the Egyptians (cf. vol. i. pp. 24,
25, of the present work), for along time believed that the
sun and moon revolved round the earth in a horizontal plane.

*** This obscure phrase seems to be explained, if we
remember that the Chaldæan, like the Egyptian day, dated
from the rising of one moon to the rising of the following
moon; for instance, from six o'clock one evening to about
six o'clock the next evening. The moon, the star of night,
thus marks the appearance of each day and "indicates the

**** The word here translated by "disk" is literally the
royal cap, decorated with horns, "Agu," which Sin, the moon-
god, wears on his head.

The heavens having been put in order,* he set about peopling the earth,
and the gods, who had so far passively and perhaps powerlessly watched
him at his work, at length made up their minds to assist him. They
covered the soil with verdure, and all collectively "made living beings
of many kinds. The cattle of the fields, the wild beasts of the fields,
the reptiles of the fields, they fashioned them and made of them
creatures of life."** According to one legend, these first animals
had hardly left the hands of their creators, when, not being able to
withstand the glare of the light, they fell dead one after the other.
Then Merodach, seeing that the earth was again becoming desolate, and
that its fertility was of no use to any one, begged his father Ea to cut
off his head and mix clay with the blood which welled from the trunk,
then from this clay to fashion new beasts and men, to whom the virtues
of this divine blood would give the necessary strength to enable them
to resist the air and light. At first they led a somewhat wretched
existence, and "lived without rule after the manner of beasts. But,
in the first year, appeared a monster endowed with human reason named
Oannes, who rose from out of the Erythraean sea, at the point where it
borders Babylonia. He had the whole body of a fish, but above his fish's
head he had another head which was that of a man, and human feet emerged
from beneath his fish's tail; he had a human voice, and his image is
preserved to this day. He passed the day in the midst of men without
taking any food; he taught them the use of letters, sciences and arts of
all kinds, the rules for the founding of cities, and the construction of
temples, the principles of law and of surveying; he showed them how to
sow and reap; he gave them all that contributes to the comforts of life.
Since that time nothing excellent has been invented. At sunset this
monster Oannes plunged back into the sea, and remained all night beneath
the waves, for he was amphibious. He wrote a book on the origin of
things and of civilization, which he gave to men." These are a few of
the fables which were current among the races of the Lower Euphrates
with regard to the first beginnings of the universe. That they possessed
many other legends of which we now know nothing is certain, but either
they have perished for ever, or the works in which they were recorded
still await discovery, it may be under the ruins of a palace or in the
cupboards of some museum.

* The arrangement of the heavens by Merodach is described at the end
of the fourth and beginning of the fifth tablets. The text, originally
somewhat obscure, is so mutilated in places that it is not always
possible to make out the sense with certainty.

** The creation of the animals and then of man is related on the seventh
tablet, and on a tablet the place of which, in the series, is still
undetermined. I have been obliged to translate the text rather freely,
so as to make the meaning clear to the modern reader.

[Illustration: 017.jpg A GOD-FISH]

Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from an Assyrian bas-relief from

They do not seem to have conceived the possibility of an absolute
creation, by means of which the gods, or one of them, should have
evolved out of nothing all that exists: the creation was for them merely
the setting in motion of pre-existing elements, and the creator only an
organizer of the various materials floating in chaos. Popular fancy
in different towns varied the names of the creators and the methods
employed by them; as centuries passed on, a pile of vague, confused, and
contradictory traditions were amassed, no one of which was held to be
quite satisfactory, though all found partisans to support them. Just as
in Egypt, the theologians of local priesthoods endeavoured to classify
them and bring them into a kind of harmony: many they rejected and
others they recast in order to better reconcile their statements: they
arranged them in systems, from which they undertook to unravel, under
inspiration from on high, the true history of the universe. That which I
have tried to set forth above is very ancient, if, as is said to be the
case, it was in existence two or even three thousand years before our
era; but the versions of it which we possess were drawn up much later,
perhaps not till about the VIIth century B.C.* It had been accepted by
the inhabitants of Babylon because it flattered their religious vanity
by attributing the credit of having evolved order out of chaos to
Merodach, the protector of their city.** He it was whom the Assyrian
scribes had raised to a position of honour at the court of the last
kings of Nineveh:*** it was Merodach's name which Berossus inscribed at
the beginning of his book, when he set about relating to the Greeks

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Online LibraryGaston Camille Charles MasperoHistory of Egypt, Chaldæa, Syria, Babylonia, and Assyria, Volume 3 (of 12) → online text (page 1 of 23)