The Atrahasis Deciphered

An Atrahasis Retell as Understood, Retold and Questioned by Steven Q




Enlil Initiates a Famine & Atrahasis Calls on Enki

Everything was fine for a while, though once again, after another 1,200 years or so had passed, the amount of people had increased again to even more than the last time.  The city and surrounding lands were again noisy and crowded and once again it came to the point where Enlil started complaining about how the racket was disturbing him.  “This is getting ridiculous, there are even more of them than the last time and I’m still being kept awake due to their noise”, Enlil said to the great gods while they were in meeting.  Enlil continued, “Okay, cut off the food supplies to the people and let there be a shortage of edible vegetation.  Order the god, Adad who’s in charge of the rains to stop them, so the plants die and food doesn’t grow. (1)  I also want Adad to make the sun and wind scorch the lands and the clouds not to gather so it doesn’t rain or shade the area.  In addition to this, the wells shall be emptied and access to water from the streams and dams prevented”.  Adad did as ordered and slowly a drought took hold of the land.

After a few years, having depleted all the food stores, famine hit the land and the people were starving and in pain.  The whole situation was horrible, with some of the people resorting to cannibalism to survive.  Atrahasis, king and ruler of the people again needed help from his Lord Enki.  This time however, Enki had been forbidden by oath to speak to Atrahasis by Enlil and the council.  In addition to this, Enki was also far away deep in the underworld of the Abzu.  Knowing this and that there was no way he could contact his lord, he walked out of the city each day and wept, but still brought offerings to the gods with the hope that they may change their decision and end the famine.  After time, Atrahasis thought of a method to contact Enki and attempted to communicate with him through his dreams. (2)  He positioned his bed near the river’s edge and through a dreaming process approached Enki, pleading for his lord’s help with the terrible situation.  In the dreaming state Atrahasis inquired, ”Lord Enki, why has Adad done this?  Why again have the gods made us suffer like this?  All the people are starving and dying and some people are even eating each other, no one feels safe.  This isn’t the happy city it used to be”.

  1. Adad seemed to be in charge of the advanced weather modification technology that was used by the gods. I’d assume that it would be something similar to the geoengineering technology we use today. 
  2. Atrahasis used some type of dream communication, possibly a form of telepathy.  While this area is missing from the original Atrahasis tablet due to damage, other cuneiform texts that contain sections of the story helped bridge the gaps of the missing sections.  These sections of text seemed to indicate that the positioning of his bed next to the water’s edge somehow enhanced his ability to contact Enki with the river seeming to aid with the telepathic transmission signal strength.  There may be a clue for us here.  Someday, we may possibly develop a reliable ESP or telepathic communication technology in the future based on this


Enki Responds to Atrahasis’ Dream Request

Through his dreams Enki listened (1) to what Atrahasis had communicated and was horrified.  As he was not able to contact his trusty servant in person due to his oath, Enki instructed a couple of the hairy hero-men (2) of the Abzu to contact Atrahasis directly and relay his return message.  Like before, Enki suggested the same method be used as when Namtar had sent the plagues over the land and made the people sick with disease.  So once again, the elders were gathered in Atrahasis’ home and again the same plan was deployed.  The elders of the lands organised the erection of a temple to Adad in the city and again the people stopped respecting, making offerings and praying to their gods.  Adad was the only god to be treated with respect by the people and they made him food offerings of baked breads and other flour based foods from the very little they had.  The people also made a concerted effort to be quiet in the city and the chaotic noise that Enlil was constantly complaining about subsided.

The plan worked, Adad felt extremely ashamed and sorry with what he had been doing and then one morning he arranged for the rains to return.  To also help speed up the healing of the people, Enki had organised for the hairy hero-men to collapse one of the god’s food storage dams, letting a flood of fish wash over the city and help feed the people. (3)  Over time, vegetation again grew, the fields were in abundance with crops and the famine had left the people.

  1. I wondered here why Enki didn’t respond to Atrahasis in the dream state. It may have been that no communication type was allowed with Enki’s oath.  This would mean that the other gods (and possibly the humans) were aware of the dreaming communication as well and maybe also used it.  Another thought is that he also needed to dispatch the hairy hero-men to participate in the releasing of the fish to feed the people, so used them to also relay his message to Atrahasis.
  2. Hairy hero-men of the Abzu? This one had me baffled, however, that’s what it says.  Speculatively you may assume a Neanderthal race or trained great apes, however, these hairy hero-men could apparently speak to relay Enki’s message.  Primates don’t have the vocal systems of humans to communicate, so, I’d assume it was a type of hairy human, possibly a strong worker type that was used in the Abzu.
  3. It seems that the gods had their own food storage dams where fish were stored for their own consumption. Obviously, the starving people were prevented from getting near to them, or these dams would have long been raided.  Now knowing that the gods stored their fish in dedicated dams, I’d also assume the same went for cattle and other livestock which was reserved for the gods.

When Enlil heard of this he was furious and immediately called a meeting of the gods.  Annoyed, insulted and upset he addressed the assembly saying, “We the great Anunna gods all agreed together with the plan.  Our father Anu and Adad were to be in charge and the guardians (1) of the skies from heaven and the upper regions, while I was to be in charge and guard the earth below.  Enki was meant to be in charge of the waters and the happenings in the lower lands of the Abzu and also exercise balance (2) in our council.  However, he’s not only been the creator of mankind, but he’s also taught and educated these humans, teaching them our secrets of the heavens. (3) In doing so, he has corrupted mankind”.  Still fuming, Enlil turned to Nusku his high official and said, “Go and fetch Enki, I want him here right away!”

  1. The texts indicate that Adad and Anu watched the skies and upper Earth as guardians. Guardians of what?  Would this mean that there were other gods out there that had an interest in Earth and Adad and Anu were merely just the gate keepers?  Assuming this, it would also be fair to assume that firstly, Earth was worth guarding and secondly that there were other “gods” that had an interest in the planet.
  2. It would appear that Enki played an important part in the gods’ decisions as he brought “balance” to the gods’ meetings. I’d assume that he shared a position similar to a high judge with Enlil and Nintu.  The balance Enlil spoke of, was probably given to Enki due to Anu knowing that Enlil might have resorted to bullying tactics on the other Anunnaki gods in council and make erratic and emotionally driven choices that could be detrimental.
  3. Enlil seemed annoyed that Enki was passing on “secrets of the heavens” to the humans. From an “Ancient Aliens” standpoint, I’d assume that the technologies of the gods were slowly being leaked to the humans.  With extended longevity in ancient times and the rapid acquirement of knowledge and wisdom due to this, Enlil probably envisaged the growing population of humans as a pending threat.  The corrupting of mankind that Enlil referred to was probably due to Enki’s persistence in not keeping the humans ignorant.  Enlil obviously felt more relaxed when he saw humans as ignorant animal slaves that doted on the gods.  Being able to reproduce without any help from the gods and being able to educate and improve with time was obviously a problem for Enlil, and in the council there were obviously others who agreed with him and felt the same way.

Enki was summoned and made to wait in the assembly room with the other gods.  He sat there worried about what his brother Enlil was about to say. (1)  Enlil again addressed the assembly of the gods including his brother Enki, saying, “We the Anunna gods had agreed to our positions.  Our father, King Anu and Adad were to guard the heavens, I was to be in charge of the lands and you Enki were supposed to bring balance to council and control the waters and the lower lands”.  Enlil continued, “Instead, you have overstepped your boundaries brother and defied my orders and given wisdom and knowledge to the people.  You’ve also shamed the gods and made them defy my commands by teaching man to disrespect the gods and their positions”. (2)

  1. Enki had reason to worry about what his brother had to say. Other ancient cuneiform texts seem to indicate that through council agreement, even Enki may have been sentenced to death for breaking his oath.  The oaths that the gods took were extremely binding and Enki obviously knowing why his brother summoned him from the Abzu had reason to be nervous.  I’d assume that because Enlil and council’s previous plans of killing the humans could be seen to have been diverted by Enlil’s own off-spring, Enlil chose not to pursue and prosecute the disobedience of these gods.  However, it could also be that most of the humans had been eliminated in those times and he was no longer concerned about their numbers. 
  2. Enlil again seemed to be very concerned with Enki educating the humans and the wisdom that they seemed to be acquiring.  Enlil then continues to say that Enki was teaching the humans to disrespect the gods and their positions.  My assumption here is that due to the longevity of the humans and with an educational process in place, the disrespecting of the gods was already happening as the humans started realizing what the really gods were.  I’ve no doubt that the educated humans slowly starting to see through the gods’ control methods and motives.


Enlil Proposes a Flood to Wipe-out Humanity

Enlil continued further saying, “Enki, you caused Namtar to ignore my command and stop his diseases, allowing mankind to return to health.  In addition to this, you were then the cause for Adad to cease stopping the rains and the famine I arranged was ended.  However, not only did you stop the drought, but you also arranged for a flood of fish to feed the people from Anunnaki stocks.  You took it upon yourself to go against the will of the gods.  The humans that you created were due to the death of an Anunnaki god, you participated in the slaughter of him and the end of his intelligence, (1) due to this and as punishment I will now command you to participate with the destruction of this human creation.”  Enlil proceeded to address Enki, “You Enki, have been supporting the wrong plan and will use your knowledge and control of the diked waters and mooring poles to flood and destroy mankind from the land. (2) In front of the Anunna gods you will swear to do this”.

Annoyed, Enki abruptly stood up and raised his voice responding to Enlil’s vicious command.  Facing the assembly he aggressively answered, “Why would I agree to make such an oath and use my powers against my own people?  What is this flood my brother speaks of?  I don’t know what he’s talking about.”  Having the assembly’s full attention Enki continued, “This type of destruction and murder is my brother Enlil’s type of work and I refuse to participate!  If Enlil wants to cause a flood, let him organise his own people to do it and not me!  His son Ninurta is capable of doing this, so why doesn’t he command him to loosen the mooring poles and make the dikes overflow to flood the city instead of me?”

The assembly listened to Enki and agreed that he shouldn’t have to be directly responsible for the flooding of the city and killing the humans.  They did however decide that even though the flood wasn’t to be done by his hand, he should still be sworn by oath to not repeat the plan to a living soul.  The assembly then agreed to Enlil’s evil deed of the annihilation of mankind.

  1. The fact that it was not just the organised death of an Anunnaki god (remember it was Enlil that called for Geshtu’s execution as an example to the Igigi) but also the end of his intelligence that makes me wonder if this indeed meant that all soul knowledge was lost. Does it mean that the soul would not be recycled as in reincarnation or just that the accumulated knowledge that the young god had acquired in his life existence would be lost?  This would therefore mean that the knowledge acquired by the gods in their lives was either stored somehow or maybe transferred to other god bodies or beings, which was obviously, sadly not the case with poor Geshtu.  I’ve pondered over this “intelligence being lost” statement quite a bit and as this is mentioned a number of times in different places in the Atrahasis text, I’d assume it must be of some importance. 
  2. It’s pretty logical to assume that this was to be a localized flood and not a global one as reported in the case of the Genesis flood with Noah.  My assumption is that the mooring poles and diked waters Enlil refers to were part of the ancient canal systems from the Euphrates River that still partly exists today.  Enki obviously had control of the dammed waters and I assume that they were probably higher up the hill sides, with the Shuruppak city in the valley.  I can just imagine the catastrophe if the huge dam wall were to break flooding the populace in the valley.  The tsunami of water would be immediate, with the strength of the rush of water alone enough to kill everything in its path totally destroying everything on the lower plains and in the valley.


***  END of TABLET 2  ***


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