Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 56

vestal (priestess), my father an alien, whose brother inhabited the
mountain.... When my mother had conceived me, she bare
me in a hidden place. She laid me in a vessel of rushes, stopped
the door thereof with pitch, and cast me adrift on the river....
The river floated me to Akki, the water drawer, who, in drawing
water, drew me forth. Akki, the water drawer, educated me as
his son, and made me his gardener. As a gardener, I was beloved
by the goddess Ishtar."

It is unlikely that this story was invented by Sargon. Like the many variants of it found in other countries, it was probably founded on a form of the Tammuz-Adonis myth. Indeed, a new myth would not have suited Sargon's purpose so well as the adaptation of an old one, which was more likely to make popular appeal when connected with his name. The references to the goddess Ishtar, and Sargon's early life as a gardener, suggest that the king desired to be remembered as an agricultural Patriarch, if not of divine, at any rate of semi-divine origin.

What appears to be an early form of the widespread Tammuz myth is the Teutonic legend regarding the mysterious child who came over the sea to inaugurate a new era of civilization and instruct the people how to grow corn and become great warriors. The Northern peoples, as archaeological evidence suggests, derived their knowledge of agriculture, and therefore their agricultural myths, from the Neolithic representatives of the Mediterranean race with whom they came into contact. There can be no doubt but that the Teutonic legend refers to the introduction of agriculture. The child is called "Scef" or "Sceaf", which signifies "Sheaf", or "Scyld, the son of Sceaf". Scyld is the patriarch of the Scyldings, the Danes, a people of mixed origin. In the Anglo-Saxon Beowulf poem, the reference is to "Scyld", but Ethelweard, William of Malmesbury, and others adhered to "Sceaf" as the name of the Patriarch of the Western Saxons.

The legend runs that one day a boat was seen approaching the shore; it was not propelled by oars or sail. In it lay a child fast asleep, his head pillowed upon a sheaf of grain. He was surrounded by armour, treasure, and various implements, including the fire-borer. The child was reared by the people who found him, and he became a great instructor and warrior and ruled over the tribe as king. In Beowulf Scyld is the father of the elder Beowulf, whose grandson Hrothgar built the famous Hall. The poem opens with a reference to the patriarch "Scyld of the Sheaf". When he died, his body, according to the request he had made, was laid in a ship which was set adrift: