Myths and Legends of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 50

Then Tammuz and Gishzida, the deities whose favour Adapa had won at the gates of heaven, stepped forth and knelt at the feet of their king.

"Be merciful, O Anu! Adapa hath been sorely tried, and now is he truly humble and repentant. Let his treatment of Shutu be forgotten."

Anu listened to the words of Tammuz and Gishzida, and his wrath was turned away.

"Rise, Adapa," he said kindly; "thy looks please me well. Thou hast seen the interior of this our kingdom, and now must thou remain in heaven for ever, and we will make thee a god like unto us. What sayest thou, son of Ea?"

Adapa bowed low before the king of the gods and thanked him for his pardon and for his promise of godhead.

Anu therefore commanded that a feast be made, and that the 'Meat of Life' and the 'Water of Life' be placed before Adapa, for only by eating and drinking of these could he attain immortality.

But when the feast was spread Adapa refused to partake of the repast, for he remembered his father's injunctions on this point. So he sat in silence at the table of the gods, whereupon Anu exclaimed:

[Pg 120]

"What now, Adapa? Why dost thou not eat or drink? Except thou taste of the food and water set before thee thou canst not hope to live for ever."

Adapa perceived that he had offended his divine host, so he hastened to explain. "Be not wroth, most mighty Anu. It is because my lord Ea hath so commanded that I break not bread nor drink water at thy table. Turn not thy countenance from me, I beseech thee."

Anu frowned. "Is it that Ea feared I should seek thy life by offering thee deadly food? Truly he that knoweth so much, and hath schooled thee in so many different arts, is for once put to shame!"

Adapa would have spoken, but the lord of heaven silenced him.

"Peace!" he said; then to his attendants—"Bring forth a garment that he may clothe himself, and oil bring also to anoint his head."

When the King's command had been carried out Adapa robed himself in the heavenly garment and anointed his head with the oil. Then he addressed Anu thus:

"O Anu, I salute thee! The privilege of godhead must I indeed forego, but never shall I forget the honour that thou wouldst have conferred upon me. Ever in my heart shall I keep the words thou hast spoken, and the memory of thy kindness shall I ever retain. Blame me not exceedingly, I pray thee. My lord Ea awaiteth my return."

"Truly," said Anu, "I censure not thy decision. Be it even as thou wilt. Go, my son, and peace go with thee!"

And thus Adapa returned to the abode of Ea,[Pg 121] lord of the dead, and there for many years he lived in peace and happiness.


Along with En-lil and Ea, Anu makes up the universal triad. He is called the 'father of the gods,' but appears to be descended from still older deities. His name is seldom discovered in the inscriptions prior to the time of Khammurabi, but such notices as occur of him seem to have already fixed his position as a ruler of the sky. His cult was specially associated with the city of Erech. It is probable that in the earliest days he had been the original Sumerian sky-father, as his name is merely a form of the Sumerian word for 'heaven.' This idea is assisted by the manner in which his name is originally written in the inscriptions, as the symbol signifying it is usually that employed for 'heaven.' It is plain, therefore, that Anu was once regarded as the expanse of heaven itself, just as are the 'sky-fathers' of numerous primitive peoples. Several writers who deal with Anu appear to be of the opinion that a god of the heavens is an 'abstraction.' "Popular fancy," says Jastrow, "deals with realities and with personified powers whose workings are seen and felt. It would as little, therefore, have evolved the idea that there was a power to be identified with the heavens as a whole, of which the azure sky is a symbol, as it would personify the earth as a whole, or the bodies of waters as a whole. It is only necessary to state the implications involved to recognize that the conception of a triad of gods corresponding to three theoretical divisions of the universe is a bit of learned speculation. It smacks of the school. The conception of a god of heaven[Pg 122] fits in moreover with the comparatively advanced period when the seats of the gods were placed in the skies and the gods identified with the stars."[6] A merely superficial acquaintance with the nature of animism and the sky-myths of primitive and barbarian peoples would lead us to the conclusion that the opposite is the case. In Egyptian, Polynesian, and North American Indian myth the sky itself is directly personalized. Egyptian mythological illustration depicts the sky in female form, for in Egyptian myth the sky is the mother and the earth the father of everything. Lang has shown that the sky-father is frequently personalized as a "magnified non-natural man" among races which possess no theological schools. We do not say that the arrangement of Anu, Ea, and En-lil into a triad is not "a bit of learned speculation," but to state that early animism did not first personalize the sky and the earth and the sea is rash in the extreme. When Deucalion and Pyrrha in the Greek myth asked the gods how they might best replenish the earth with the human race, they were instructed to cast "the bones of their mother" behind them, and these bones they interpreted as the stones and rocks and acted accordingly. So would primitive man all the world over have interpreted this advice, for universally he believes the very soil upon which he walks to be the great mother which produced his ancestors, out of whose dust or clay they were formed, and who still nourishes and preserves him.