Explore highlights
Cuneiform tablet with the Atrahasis Epic

Cuneiform tablet with the Atrahasis Epic

 

Length: 25.000 cm
Width: 19.400 cm

ME 78941

Room 56: Mesopotamia

    Cuneiform tablet with the Atrahasis Epic

    Babylonian, about 17th century BC
    From Sippar, southern Iraq

    A version of the Flood story

    The story outlines the structure of the universe according to Babylonian beliefs. Heaven is ruled by the god Anu, the earth by Enlil and the subterranean sweet water by Enki. The text then explains how the minor gods work in the fields but then rebel. As a result, humans are made from clay, saliva and divine blood to act as servants of the gods.

    This does not prove a perfect solution, as the humans reproduce and their noise disturbs Enlil's sleep. He decides to destroy them with plague, famine, drought and finally a flood. However, each time Enki instructs one of the humans, Atrahasis, to survive the disasters. The god gives Atrahasis seven days warning of the flood, and he builds a boat, loads it with his possessions, animals and birds. He is subsequently saved while the rest of humankind is destroyed. However, the gods are unhappy as they no longer receive the offerings they used to. There is a gap in the text at this point but it does end with Atrahasis making an offering and Enlil accepting the existence and usefulness of humans.

    Copies of this story have survived from the seventeenth to the seventh century BC showing that it was copied and re-copied over the centuries. This is the most complete version. There are clear similarities between this Flood story and others known in Mesopotamian literature, for example, the Epic of Gilgamesh.

    T.C. Mitchell, The Bible in the British Museu (London, The British Museum Press, 1988)

    S. Dalley, Myths from Mesopotamia: Creati (Oxford University Press, 1991)

    W.G. Lambert and A.R. Millard, Atra-hasis: the Babylonian sto (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1969)