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Myths and Legends of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 47

The Writings of Oannes

"Moreover," says Polyhistor, "Oannes wrote concerning the generation of mankind; of their different ways of life, and of civil polity; and the following is the purport of what he said: 'There was nothing but darkness, and an abyss of water, wherein resided most hideous beings, which were produced of a twofold principle. Men appeared with two wings, some with four, and with two faces. They had one body, but two heads; the one of a man, the other of a woman. They were likewise in their several organs both male and female. Other human figures were to be seen with the legs and horns of goats. Some had horses' feet: others had the limbs of a horse behind; but before were fashioned like men, resembling hippocentaurs. Bulls likewise bred there with the heads of men; and dogs with fourfold bodies, and the tails of fishes. Also horses with the heads of dogs: men too, and other animals, with the heads and bodies of horses, and the tails of fishes. In short, there were creatures[Pg 114] with the limbs of every species of animals. Add to these, fishes, reptiles, serpents, with other wonderful animals; which assumed each other's shape and countenance. Of all these were preserved delineations in the temple of Belus at Babylon. The person, who was supposed to have presided over them, had the name of Omorca. This in the Chaldaic language is Thalath; which the Greeks express thalassa, the sea: but according to the most probable theory, it is equivalent to selene, the moon. All things being in this situation, Belus came, and cut the woman-creature asunder: and out of one half of her he formed the earth, and of the other half the heavens. At the same time he destroyed the animals in the abyss. All this, Berossus said,[4] was an allegorical description of nature. For the whole universe consisting of moisture, and, animals being continually generated therein, the Deity (Belus) above-mentioned cut off his own head, upon which the other gods mixed the blood, as it gushed out, with the earth, and from this men were formed. On this account it is, that they are rational, and partake of divine knowledge. This Belus, whom men call Dis, divided the darkness, and separated the heavens from the earth; and reduced the universe to order. But the animals so lately created, not being able to bear the prevalence of light, died. Belus upon this, seeing a vast space quite uninhabited, though by nature very fruitful, ordered one of the gods to take off his head; and when it was taken off, they were to mix the blood with the soil of the earth; and from thence to form other men and animals, which should be capable[Pg 115] of bearing the light. Belus also formed the stars, and the sun, and moon, together with the five planets.'"

This myth, related by Ea or Oannes regarding the creation of the world, bears a very close relation to that of Merodach and Tiawath, told in Chapter II. It is not often that one finds a fish-god acting as a culture hero, although we find in Mexican myth a certain deity alluded to as the "old fish-god of our flesh." Allegorical mythology would have seen in Ea a hero arriving from another clime in a wave-tossed vessel, who had landed on the shores of the Persian Gulf, and had instructed the rude inhabitants thereof in the culture of a higher civilization. There is very little doubt that Ea has a close connexion in some manner with the Noah legend of the deluge. For example, a Sumerian text exists in which it would seem as if the ship of Ea was described, as the timbers of which its various parts were constructed are mentioned, and the refugees it saved consisted of Ea himself, Dawkina his wife, Merodach, and Inesh, the pilot of Eridu, along with Nin-igi-nagir-sir.


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