The Chaldean account of Genesis

by George Smith | 1876 | 63,564 words

The Chaldean account of Genesis, containing the description of the creation, the fall of man, the deluge, the tower of Babel, the times of the patriarchs, and Nimrod; Babylonian fables, and legends of the gods; from the cuneiform inscriptions Author: Smith, George, 1840-1876 Subject: Bible; Mythology, Assyro-Babylonian; Creation Publisher: London ...

Chapter VII - The Sin of the God Zu

Zu Header

  • God Zu.
  • Obscurity of legend.
  • Translation.
  • Sin of Zu.
  • Anger of the gods.
  • Speeches of Anu to Vul.
  • Vul's answer.
  • Speech of Anu to Nebo.
  • Answer of Nebo.
  • Sarturda.
  • Changes to a bird.
  • The Zu bird.
  • Bird of prey.
  • Sarturda lord of Amarda.

Zu FlAMONG the legends of the gods, companion stories to the accounts of the Creation and Deluge, one of the most curious is the legend of the sin committed by the god Zu.

This legend stands alone among the stories, its incidents and its principal actor being otherwise almost unknown from cuneiform sources. I have at present only detected one copy of the story, and this is in so mutilated a condition that it cannot be connected with any other of the legends. From some similarity in style, I conjecture that it may form the first tablet of the series which I have termed the "Wars of the Gods." I have, however, no sufficient evidence to connect the two, and for this reason

i give it here a separate place, preceding the tablets of the " Wars of the Gods."

The principal actor in the legend is a being named Zu, the name being found in all three cases of an Assyrian noun Zu, Za and Zi. Preceding the name is the determinative of divinity, from which I judge Zu to have been ranked among the gods.

The story of the sin of Zu has sometimes reminded me of the outrage of Ham on his father Noah, and the mutilation of Ouranus by his son Saturn, but there is not sufficient evidence to connect the stories, and there are in the Assyrian account several very difficult words. One of these is particularly obscure, and I only transcribe it here by the ordinary phonetic values of the characters um~sim-i, it may possibly mean some talisman or oracle in the possession of Bel, which was robbed from him by Zu. There are besides the two difficult words parzi and tereti, which I have preferred merely transcribing in my translation. It must be added that the inscription is seriously mutilated in some parts, giving additional difficulty in the trans lation.

The tablet containing the account of the sin of Zu, K 3454, in the Museum collection, originally contained four columns of text, each column having about sixty lines of writing. The first and fourth column are almost entirely lost, there not being enough anywhere to translate from.

The single fragment preserved, belonging to the  first column, mentions some being who was the seed or firstborn of Plu or Bel, with a number of titles, such as " warrior, soldier of the temple of Hamsi," and the name of the god Zu occurs, but not so as to prove these titles to be his.

The following is a partial translation of the remains of this tablet :

K. 3454.

COLUMN I. lost.

COLUMN II.

  1. the fate? going .... of the gods all of them he sent.
  2. Zu grew old and
  3. Zu? like .... Bel .... him
  4. three? streams? of water in front and
  5. the work Bel finished? he slept in it.
  6. The crown of his majesty, the clothing of his divinity,
  7. his umsimi, his crown? Zu stripped, and
  8. he stripped also the father of the gods, the venerable of heaven and earth.
  9. The desire? of majesty he conceived in his heart,
  10. Zu stripped also the father of the gods, the venerable of heaven and earth.
  11. The desire? of majesty he conceived in his heart :
  12. Let me carry away the umsimi of the gods,
  13. and the tereti of all the gods may it burn,
  14. may my throne be established, may I possess the parzi,
  15. may I govern the whole of the seed of the angels.
  16. And he hardened his heart to make war,
  17. in the vicinity of the house where he slept, he waited until the head of the day.
  18. When Bel poured out the beautiful waters
  19. spread out on the seat his crown? was placed,
  20. the u-msimi he took in his hand,
  21. the majesty he carried off, he cast away the parzi,
  22. Zu fled away and in his country concealed himself.
  23. Then spread darkness, and made a commotion,
  24. the father, their king, the ruler Bel.
  25. he sent the glory of the gods
  26. divinity was destroyed in ....
  27. Anu his mouth opened, and spake
  28. and said to the gods his sons :
  29. Whoever will, let him slay Zu,
  30. in all the countries may his name be renowned.
  31. To Yul the powerful light the son of Anu
  32. a speech he made to him, also and spake to him.
  33. To Vul the powerful light the son of Anu
  34. a speech he made to him, also and spake to him :
  35. Hero Vul let there not be opposition in thee
  36. slay Zu with thy weapon.
  37. May thy name be renowned in the assembly of the gods,
  38. in the midst of thy brothers, first set up,
  39. .... made also fragrant with spices,
  40. in the four regions they shall fix thy city.
  41. May thy city be exalted like the temple,
  42. they shall cry in the presence of the gods and praise thy name.
  43. Yul answered the speech,
  44. to his father Ami word he spake ;
  45. Father to a desert country do thou consign him.
  46. Let Zu not come among the gods thy sons,
  47. for the umsimi he took in his hand,
  48. the majesty he carried off, he cast away the parzi,
  49. and Zu fled away and in his country concealed himself.
  50. opening his mouth like the venerable of heaven and earth
  51. like mud
  52. was, the gods swept away
  53. I will not go he said.

(Sixteen lines lost here, part on this column, part on Column III.)

COLUMN III.

  1. and Zu fled away and in his country concealed himself.
  2. opening his mouth like the venerable
  3. of heaven and earth
  4. like mud
  5. was, the gods swept away
  6. I will not go he said.
  7. To NeBo the powerful .... the child of Ishtar,
  8. a speech he made to him also and spake to him :
  9. Hero Nebo let there not be opposition in thee,
  10. slay Zu with thy weapon.
  11. May thy name be renowned in the assembly of the gods,
  12. made also fragrant with spices,
  13. in the four regions they shall fix thy city.
  14. May thy city be exalted like the temple,
  15. they shall cry in the presence of the gods and praise thy name.
  16. Nebo answered the speech,
  17. to his father Anu word he spake :
  18. Father to a desert country do thou consign him.
  19. Let Zu not come among the gods thy sons,
  20. for the umsimi he took in his hand,
  21. the majesty he carried off he cast away the parzi,
  22. and Zu fled away and in his country con cealed himself.
  23. opening his mouth like the venerable of heaven and earth

About ten lines lost here.

  1. And thus the god ....
  2. I also ....
  3. and thus ....
  4. He heard also ....
  5. he turned ....
  6. The god of noble face ....
  7. to Ami ....

COLUMN IV. lost.

Such are the fragments of the story so far as they can be translated at present. The divine Zu here mentioned whose sin is spoken of is never counted among the gods, and there would be no clue to his nature were it not for a curious tablet printed in " Cuneiform Inscriptions," vol. iv. p. 14, from which it appears that he was in the likeness of a bird of prey. This tablet gives the following curious relation :

  1. The god Sarturda (the lesser king) to a country a place remote [went],
  2. in the land of Sabu [he dwelt].
  3. His mother had not placed him and had not ....
  4. his father had not placed him and with him did not [go],
  5. the strength of his knowledge ....
  6. From the will of his heart j a resolution he did not ....
  7. In his own heart a resolution he made,
  8. to the likeness of a bird he changed,
  9. to the likeness of the divine storni bird (or Zu bird) he changed,
  10. his wife forcibly he associated with,
  11. the wife of the divine Zu bird, the son of the divine Zu bird,
  12. in companionship he made sit.
  13. The goddess Enna, the lady of Tigenna,
  14. in the mountain he loved,
  15. a female fashioned? of her mother in her likeness,
  16. the goddess of perfumes a female fashioned? of her mother in her likeness
  17. Her appearance was like bright ukni stone,
  18. her girdle was adorned with silver and gold,
  19. brightness was fixed in ....
  20. brightness was set in ....

Many lines lost here, the story recommences on reverse.

  1. the crown he placed on his head
  2. from the nest of the divine Zu bird he came.

This Zu bird I suppose to be the same as the god Zu of the inscriptions, his nature is shown by a passage in the annals of Assurnazirpal ( u Cuneiform Inscriptions," vol. i. p. 22, col. ii. 1. 107), where he says his warriors " like the divine zu bird upon them darted." This bird is called the cloud or storm bird, the flesh eating bird, the lion or giant bird, the bird of prey, the bird with sharp beak, and it evidently indicates some ravenous bird which was deified by the Babylonians. Some excellent remarks on the nature of this bird are given by Delitzsch in his " Assyrische studien," pp. 96, 116.

In the legend of Sarturda it is said that he changed into a Zu bird. Sarturda which may be explained "the young king" was lord of the city of Amarda or Marad, and he is said to have been the deity worshipped by Izdubar.

The Zu of the legend, who offends against Bel, I suppose to be the same as the divine bird of prey mentioned in the other inscriptions, otherwise we have no mention in any other inscription of this per sonage.

In the story of the offence of Zu there is another instance of the variations which constantly occur in the Assyrian inscriptions with respect to the relation ship of the gods. Nebo is usually called son of Merodach, but in this inscription he is called son of Anu.

In my translation of the legend on K 3454, the sin of Zu is very obscure, and I am quite unable to see through the allusions in the text; but it is quite evident that his sin was considered to be great, as it raises the anger of Bel, and causes Anu to call on his sons in succession to slay Zu ; while the sons of the god Anu request that he may be expelled from the company of the gods.

The second legend, in which the god Sarturda changes into a Zu bird, is as obscure as the first, there being also in this doubtful words and mutilated passages. Sarturda, although a celebrated god in early times, is seldom mentioned in the later inscriptions, and there is no information anywhere as to the females or goddesses mentioned in the legend. The idea of the gods sometimes changing themselves into animals was not uncommon in early times.

The explanation of these legends must be left until the meanings of several words in them are better known.

Zu Footer

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: