Myths and Legends of Babylonia and Assyria
Page: 48Of course it would seem natural to the Babylonians to regard the Persian Gulf as the great abyss whence all things emanated. As Jastrow very justly remarks: "In the word of Ea, of a character more spiritual than that of En-lil, he commands, and what he plans comes into existence—a wholly beneficent power he blesses the fields and heals mankind. His most striking trait is his love of humanity. In conflicts between the gods and mankind, he is invariably on the side of the latter. When the gods, at the instance of En-lil as the 'god of storms,' decide to bring on a deluge to sweep away mankind, it is Ea who reveals the secret to his favourite, Ut-Napishtim (Noah), who saves himself, his family,[Pg 116] and his belongings on a ship that he is instructed to build." The waters personified by him are not those of the turbulent and treacherous ocean, but those of irrigating streams and commerce-carrying canals. He is thus very different from the god En-lil, the 'lord of heaven' who possesses so many attributes of destruction. Ea in his benevolent way thwarts the purpose of the riotous god of tempest, which greatly enrages En-lil, and it has been thought that this myth suggests the rivalry which perhaps at one time existed between the two religious centres of Eridu and Nippur, cities of Ea and En-lil respectively. In an eloquent manner Ea implores En-lil not to precipitate another deluge, and begs that instead of such wholesale destruction man may be punished by sending lions and jackals, or by famines or pestilences. En-lil hearkens to his speech, his heart is touched, and he blesses Utnapishtim and his wife. If this myth is a piece of priestcraft, it argues better relations between the ecclesiastical authorities at Eridu and Nippur. Ea had many other names, the chief of which, Nin-a-gal, meaning 'god of great strength,' alluded to his patronage of the smith's art. He was also called En-ki, which describes him as 'lord of the earth' through which his waters meandered. In such a country as Babylonia earth and water are closely associated, as under that soil water is always to be found at a distance of a few feet: thus the interior of the earth is the domain of Ea.
Here is the story of Adapa, the son of Ea, who, but for his obedience to his father's command, might have attained deification and immortality.
One day when Adapa was out in his boat fishing the South Wind blew with sudden and malicious violence, upsetting the boat and flinging the fisherman into the sea. When he succeeded in reaching the shore Adapa vowed vengeance against the South Wind, which had used him so cruelly.
"Shutu, thou demon," he cried, "I will stretch forth my hand and break thy wings. Thou shalt not go unpunished for this outrage!"
The hideous monster laughed as she soared in the air above him, flapping her huge wings about her ungainly body. Adapa in his fury leapt at her, seized her wings, and broke them, so that she was no longer able to fly over the broad earth. Then he went his way, and related to his father what he had done.