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 ...
- Account of Deluge.
- Age of Legends.
- Babylonian cylinders.
- Notices of Izdubar.
- Ark City.
- Twelve tablets.
- Extent of Legends.
- Meeting of Heabani and Izdubar.
- Destruction of tyrant Humbaba.
- Adventures of Ishtar.
- Illness and wanderings of Izdubar.
- Description of Deluge and conclusion.
- First Tablet.
- Kingdom of Nimrod.
- Elamite Conquest.
THESE legends, which I discovered in 1872, are principally of interest from their containing the Chaldean account of the Deluge. I have published the most perfect portions in various forms since, the most complete account being in my "Assyrian Discoveries." These legends have also been commented upon by M. Lenormant in his " Les Premieres Civilizations," and by Mr. Fox Talbot in the " Transactions of the Society of Biblical Archaeology."
The Izdubar legends give, I believe, the history of the Biblical hero Nimrod. They record the adven tures of a famous sovereign of Babylonia whom I provisionally call Izdubar, but whose name cannot at present be phonetically rendered. He appears to me to be the monarch who bears the closest resemblance in his fame and actions to the Nimrod of the Bible.
Since the first discovery of his history, very little light has been thrown on the age and exploits of Izdubar. Among all the references and allusions there is nothing exact or satisfactory to fix his place in the scheme of Babylonian history. The age of the legends of Izdubar in their present form is unknown, but may fairly be placed about B.C. 2000, As these stories were traditions in the country be fore they were committed to writing, their antiquity as traditions is probably much greater than that.
The earliest evidence we have of these traditions is in the carvings on early Babylonian cylindrical seals. Among the earliest known devices on these seals we have scenes from the legends of Izdubar, and from the story of the Creation. These seals belong to the age of the kings of Akkad and of Ur, and some of them may be older than B.C. 2000. The principal incidents represented on these seals are the struggles of Izdubar and his companion Heabani with the lion and the bull, the journey of Izdubar in search of Hasisadra, Noah or Hasisadra in his ark, and the war between Tiamat the sea-dragon and the god Merodach. There is a fragment of one document in the British Museum which claims to be copied from an omen tablet belonging to the time of Izdubar himself, but it is probably not earlier than B.C. 1600, when many similar tablets were written.
There is an incidental notice of Izdubar and his ship, in allusion to the story of his wanderings, in the tablet printed in "Cuneiform Inscriptions," vol. ii. p. 46. This tablet, which contains lists of wooden objects, was written in the time of Assurbanipal, but is copied from an original, which must have been written at least eighteen hundred years before the Christian era. The geographical notices on this tablet suit the period between B.C. 2000 and 1800, long before the rise of Babylon. In this tablet Surippak is called the ship or ark city, this name forming another reference to the Flood legends. Izdubar is also mentioned in a series of tablets relating to witchcraft, and on a tablet containing prayers to him as a god ; this last showing that he was deified, an honour also given to several other Babylonian kings.
The legends of Izdubar are inscribed on twelve tablets, of which there are remains of at least four editions. All the tablets are in fragments, and none of them are complete ; but it is a fortunate circumstance that the most perfect tablet is the eleventh, which describes the Deluge, this being the most important of the series. In chapter i. I have described the successive steps in the discovery of these legends, and may now pass on to the descrip tion and translation of the various fragments. All the fragments .of our present copies belong, as I have before stated, to the reign of Assurbanipal, king of Assyria, in the seventh century B.C. From the mutilated condition of many of them it is impossible at present to gain an accurate idea of the whole scope of the legends, and many parts which are lost have to be supplied by conjecture, the order even of some of the tablets cannot be determined, and it is uncertain if we have fragments of the whole twelve tablets; in my present account, however, I have conjecturally divided the fragments into groups corresponding roughly with the subjects of the tablets. Each tablet when complete contained six columns of writing, and each column had generally from forty to fifty lines of writing, there being in all about 3,000 lines of cuneiform text. The divisions I have adopted will be seen by the following summary, which exhibits my present knowledge of the fragments.
Part I. Introduction.
- Tablet I. Number of lines uncertain, probably about 240. First column initial line preserved, second column lost, third column twenty-six lines preserved, fourth column doubtful fragment inserted, fifth and sixth columns lost.
Probable subjects : conquest of Babylonia by the Elamites, birth and parentage of Izdubar.
Part II. Meeting of Heabani and Izdubar.
- Tablet II. Number of lines uncertain, probably about 240. First and second columns lost, third and fourth columns about half preserved, fifth and sixth columns lost.
- Tablet III. Number of lines about 270. First column fourteen lines preserved, second, third, fourth and fifth columns nearly perfect, sixth column a fragment.
Probable subjects: dream of Izdubar, Heabani invited comes to Erech, and explains the dream.
Part III. Destruction of the tyrant Humbaba.
- Tablet IV. Number of lines probably about 260. About one-third of first, second, and third columns, doubtful fragments of fourth, fifth, and sixth columns.
- Tablet V. Number of lines about 260. Most of first column, and part of second column preserved, third, fourth, and fifth columns lost, fragment of sixth column.
Probable subjects: contests with wild animals, Izdubar and Heabani slay the tyrant Humbaba.
Part IV. Adventures of Ishtar.
- Tablet VI. Number of lines about 210. Most of first column preserved, second column nearly perfect, third and fourth columns partly preserved, fifth and sixth columns nearly perfect.
- Tablet VII. Number of lines probably about 240. First line of first column preserved, second column lost, third and fourth column partly preserved, fifth and sixth columns conjecturally restored from tablet of descent of Ishtar into Hades.
Probable subjects: Ishtar loves Izdubar, her amours, her ascent to heaven, destruction of her bull, her descent to hell.
Part V. Illness and wanderings of Izdubar.
- Tablet VIII. Number of lines probably about 270. Conjectured fragments of first, second, and third columns, fourth and fifth columns lost, con jectured fragments of sixth column.
- Tablet IX. Number of lines about 190. Portions of all six columns preserved.
- Tablet X. Number of lines about 270. Portions of all six columns preserved.
Probable subjects : discourse to trees, dreams, ill ness of Izdubar, death of Heabani, wanderings of Izdubar in search of the hero of the Deluge.
Part VI. Description of Deluge, and conclusion.
- Tablet XI. Number of lines 294. All six columns nearly perfect.
- Tablet XII. Number of lines about 200. Portions of first four columns preserved, two lines of fifth column, sixth column perfect.
Probable subjects : description of Deluge, cure of Izdubar, his lamentation over Heabani.
In this chapter I give under the head of the first tablet an account of my latest conclusions on the subject of the personality of Nimrod, and his identity with the Izdubar of these legends.
The opening words of the first tablet are preserved, they happen as usual to form the title of the series, but the expressions in the title are obscure, from want of any context to explain them. There are two principal or key words, naqbi and kugar ; the meaning of kugar is quite unknown, and naqbi is ambiguous, having several meanings, one being " channel" or " water-course," which I have before conceived to be its meaning here ; but it has another meaning, which I now think better fits the character of the legends, this meaning is "curse" or "mis fortune." Taking this meaning, the opening line will read as the title of the legends, " Of the mis fortune seen to happen to Izdubar." This makes the legends the story of a curse or misfortune which befell the great Babylonian king Izdubar ; and, now that the fragments are put together and arranged in order, it appears that this is a correct description of the contents of these curious tablets.
After the heading and opening line there is a considerable blank in the story, two columns of writing being entirely lost. It is probable that this part contained the account of the parentage and previous history of Izdubar, forming the introduction to the story. In the subsequent portions of the history there is very little information to supply the loss of this part of the inscription; but it appears that the mother of Izdubar was named Dannat, which is only a title meaning "lady" or u wife of the chief." His father is not named in any of our present fragments, but he is referred to in the third tablet. He is most probably represented to be a god, and the most likely deity is Samas, who is supposed to interfere very much in his behalf. It was a common idea of antiquity, that men who distinguished themselves very much, although born of earthly mothers, had. divine fathers. Izdubar, whose parentage, like that of so many heroes of antiquity, is thus doubtful, appears as a mighty leader, a man strong in war and hunting, a giant who gained dominion in Babylonia. The whole of the Euphrates valley was at this time divided into petty kingdoms, and Izdubar by his prowess established a dominion over many of these, making thus the first empire in Asia.
The centre of the empire of Izdubar appears to have laid in the region of Shiriar, at Babylon, Akkad, Erech, and Nipur, and agrees with the site of the kingdom of Nimrod, according to Genesis x. 8, 9, 10, where we read: "And Gush begat Nimrod : he began to be a mighty one in the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord : wherefore it is said, even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord. And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar." All these cities were ultimately within the dominion of Izdubar, whose character as hunter, leader, and king corresponds with that of Nimrod, and the name of Shamas, or Samas the sungod, who is most probably represented as his father, may read Kusu, the same name as that of the father of Nimrod.
The next passage in Genesis after the one de scribing Nimrod s dominion also in my opinion refers to Nimrod, and relates the extension of his kingdom into Assyria. Our version makes Assur the moving party here, but I prefer to read with the margin, " Out of that land he went forth to Assyria," instead of " Out of that land went forth Assur." These verses will then read (Genesis, x. 11, 12) : " Out of that land he went forth to Assyria, and builded Nineveh, and Rehobothair, and Calah, and Resen, between Nineveh and Calah : the same is a great city."
As iny indemnification of Izdubar with Nimrod has met with some objection, I think it will be useful to notice the various accounts of this hero, and the different hypotheses propounded with respect to his identification.
The two passages already quoted from Genesis afford the only reliable information with respect to Nimrod outside the cuneiform inscriptions. According to Genesis Nimrod was a " son of Gush," that is a Cushite, or Ethiopian, and he distinguished himself as a mighty hunter, his prowess being so great that his name passed into a proverb. He afterwards became king, commencing his reign in Shinar or Babylonia, and still later extended his empire into Assyria, where he laid the foundations of that state by the foundation of the four leading cities, Nineveh, Calah, Rehobothair, and Resen. The fame of Nimrod is again alluded to in the Bible, where Assyria is called the land of Nimrod.
After the date of the later books of the Old Testament we know nothing of Nirnrod for some time ; it is probable that he was fully mentioned by Berosus in his history, but his account of the giant hunter has been lost. The reason of this appears to be, that a false idea had grown up among early Christian writers that the Biblical Niinrod was the first king of Babylonia after the Flood, and looking at the list of Berosus they found that after the Flood according to him Evechous first reigned in Babylonia, and they at once assumed that the Evechous of Berosus was the Nimrod of the Bible, and as Evechous has given to him the extravagant reign of four ners or 2,400 years, and his son and successor, Chomasbelus, four ners and five sosses, or 2,700 years, this identification gives little hope of finding an historical Nimrod.
It is most probable that this false identification of Nimrod with Evechous, made by the early chronologists, has caused them to overlook his name and true epoch in the list of Berosus, and has thus lost to us his position in the series of Babylonian sovereigns.
Belonging to the first centuries of the Christian era are the works of various Jewish and Christian writers, who have made us familiar with a number of later traditions of Nimrod. Josephus declares that he was a prime mover in building the Tower of Babel, an enemy of God, and that he reigned at Babylon during the dispersion.
Later writers make him contemporary with Abraham, the inventor of idol worship, an,d a furious worshipper of fire. At the city of Orfa, in Syria, he is said to have cast Abraham into a burning fiery furnace because he would not bow down to his idols.
These traditions have been taken up by the Arabs, and although his history has been lost and replaced by absurd and worthless stories Nimrod still remains the most prominent name in the traditions of the country; everything good or evil is attributed to him, and the most important ruins are even now called after his name.
From the time of the early Christian writers down to to-day, men have been busy framing systems of general chronology, and as Nimrod was always known as a famous sovereign it was necessary to find a definite place for him in any chronological scheme. Africanus and Eusebius held that he was the Evechous of Berosus, and reigned first after the Flood.
Moses of Khorene identified him with Bel, the great god of Babylon; and he is said to have extended his dominions to the foot of the Armenian mountains, falling in battle there when attempting to enforce his authority over Haic, king of Armenia.
Some other writers identified Nimrod with Ninus, the mythical founder of the city of Nineveh. These remained the principal identifications before modern research took up the matter ; but so wide a door was open to conjecture, that one writer actually identified Nimrod with the Alorus of Berosus, the first king of Babylonia before the Flood.
One of the most curious theories about Nimrod, suggested in modern times, was grounded on the u Book of Nabatean Agriculture." This work is a comparatively modern forgery, pretending to be a literary production of the early Chaldean period. What grounds there may be for any of its statements I do not know ; but it is possible that some of the book may be compiled from traditions now lost.
In this work, Nimrod heads a list of Babylonian kings called Canaanite, and a writer, whose name is unknown to me, argued with considerable force in favour of these Canaanites being the Arabs of Berosus, who reigned about B.C. 1550 to 1300.
Part of Arabia was certainly Cushite, and, as Nimrod is called a Cushite in Genesis, there was a great temptation to identify him with the leader of the Aral) dynasty. This idea, however, gained little favour, and has not, I think, been held by any section of inquirers as fixing the position of Nimrod. The discovery of the cuneiform inscriptions threw a new light on the subject of Babylonian history, and soon after the decipherment of the inscriptions attention was directed to the question of the identity and age of Nimrod.
Sir Henry Kawlinson, the father of Assyrian discovery, first seriously attempted to fix the name of Nimrod in the cuneiform inscriptions, and he endeavoured to find the n^me in that of the second god of the great Chaldean triad. (See Rawlinson s u Ancient Monarchies," vol. i. p. 117.)
The names of this deity are really Enu, Elu, Kaptu, and Bel, and he was evidently worshipped at the dawn of Babylonian history, in fact he is represented as one of the creators of the world ; beside which, time has shown that the cuneiform characters on which the identification was grounded do. not bear the phonetic values then supposed.
Sir Henry Rawlinson also suggested ("Ancient Monarchies," p. 136) that the god Nergal was a deification of Nimrod. Sir Henry rightly explains Ner-gal as meaning "great man," and his character as a warrior and hunter-god is similar to that of Nimrod, but even if Mmrod was deified under the name of Nergal this does not explain his position or epoch.
Canon Eawlinson, brother of Sir Henry, in the first volume of his " Ancient Monarchies," p. 153, and following, makes some judicious remarks on the chronological position of Nimrocl, and suggests that he may have reigned a century or two before B.C. 2286; he also recognizes the historical character of his reign, and supposes him to have founded the Babylonian monarchy, but he does not himself iden tify him with any king known from the inscriptions. At the time when this was written (1871), the conclusions of Canon Rawlinson were the most satisfactory that had been advanced since the discovery of the cuneiform inscriptions. Since this time, however, some new theories have been started, with the idea of identifying Nimrod ; one of these, brought forward by Professor Oppert, makes the word a geographical name, but such an explanation is evidently quite insufficient to account for the traditions attached to the name.
Another theory brought forward by the Rev. A. H. Sayce and Josef Grivel, "Transactions of Society of Biblical Archeology", vol. ii. part 2, p. 243, and vol. iii. part 1, p. 136, identifies Nimrod with Merodach, the god of Babylon; but, beside other objections, we have the fact that Merodach was considered by the Babylonians to have been one of the creators of the world, and therefore they could not have supposed him to be a deified king whose reign was after the Flood.
I have always felt that Nimrod, whose name figures so prominently in Eastern tradition, and whose reign is clearly stated in Genesis, ought to be found somewhere in the cuneiform text, but I first inclined to the mistaken idea that he might be Ham murabi, the first Arab king of Berosus, as this line of kings appeared to be connected with the Cosseans.
This identification failing, I was entirely in the dark until I discovered the Deluge tablet in 1872, I then conjectured that the hero whose name I provisionally called Izdubar was the Nimrod of the Bible, a conjecture which I have strengthened by fresh evidence from time to time.
Considering that Nimrod was the most famous of the Babylonian kings in tradition, it is evident that no his tory of the country can be complete without some notice of him. His absence from previous histories, and the unsatisfactory theories which have been propounded to account for it, serve to show the difficulties which surround his identification.
The supposition that Nimrod was an ethnic or geographical name, which was slightly favoured by Sir Henry Rawlinson, and has since been urged by Professor Oppert, is quite untenable, for it would be impossible on this theory to account for the traditions which spread abroad with regard to Nimrod.
The idea that Nimrod was Bel, or Elu, the second god in the great Babylonian triad, was equally impossible for the same reason, and because the worship of Bel was, as I have already stated, much more ancient, he being considered one of the creators of the universe and the father of the gods. Bel was the deification of the powers of nature on earth, just as Anu was a deification of the powers of nature in heaven. Similar objections apply to the supposition that Nimrod was Merodach, the god of Babylon, and to his identification with Nergal, who was the man-headed lion. Of course Nimrod was deified like several other celebrated kings, but in no case was a deified king invested as one of the supreme gods and represented as a creator ; such a process could only come if a nation entirely forgot its history, and lost its original mythology.
My own opinion that he was the hero I have hitherto called Izdubar was first founded on the discovery that he formed the centre of the national historical poetry, and was the hero of Babylonian cuneiform history, just as Nimrod is stated to have been in the later traditions.
I subsequently found that he agreed exactly in character with Nimrod; he was a giant hunter, according to the cuneiform legends, who contended with and destroyed the lion, tiger, leopard, and wild bull or buffalo, animals the most formidable in the chase in any country. He ruled first in Babylonia over the region which from other sources we know to have been the centre of Nimrod s kingdom. He extended his dominion to the Armenian mountains, the boundary of his late conquests according to tradition, and one principal scene of his exploits and triumphs was the city of Erech, which, according to Genesis, was the second capital of Nimrod.
There remains the fact that the cuneiform name of this hero is undeciphered, the name Izdubar, which I applied to him, being, as I have always stated, a makeshift, only adhered to because some scholars were reluctant to believe he was Nimrod, and I thought it better to continue the use of a name which did not prejudice the question of his identity, arid could consequently be used by all irrespective of their opinions.
My own conviction is, however, that when the phonetic reading of the characters is found it will turn out to correspond with the name Nimrod. I have already evidence for applying this reading to the characters, but it is im possible to give the proofs in a popular work like the present. I believe that the translations and notes given in this book will lead to the general admission of the identity of the hero I call Izdubar with the traditional Nimrod, and when this result is established I shall myself abandon the provisional name Izdubar, which cannot possibly be correct.
At the time of the opening of this story, the great city of the south of Babylonia, and the capital of this part of the country, was Uruk or Aruk, called, in the Genesis account of Mnirod, Erech. Erech was devoted to the worship of Anu, god of heaven, and his wife, the goddess Anatu, and was ruled at this time by a queen named Istar or Ishtar, who was supposed to be daughter of Anu and Anatu. Istar had been the wife of the chief of Erech, Dumuzi (the Tammuz of the Greeks), who like her was after wards deified. On the death of Dumuzi, Ishtar had ruled at Erech, and according to the accounts had indulged in a dissolute course of life, which was the scandal of the whole country.
Here I provisionally place the first fragment of the Izdubar legends, K 3200. This fragment consists of part of the third column of a tablet, I believe of the first tablet ; and it gives an account of a conquest of Erech by some enemy, which happened during the time of Istar and Izdubar. This fragment reads :
- his he left
- his went down to the river,
- in the river his ships were placed.
- ..... were .... and wept bitterly
- ..... placed, the city of Ganganna was power less.
- ..... their .... she asses
- ..... their .... great.
- Like animals the people feared,
- like doves the slaves mourned.
- The gods of Erech Suburi
- turned to flies and fled away in drove?.
- The spirits of Erech Suburi
- turned to Sikkim and went out in companies.
- For three years the city of Erech could not resist the enemy,
- the great gates were thrown down and trampled upon,
- the goddess Istar before her enemies could not lift her head.
- Bel his mouth opened and spake,
- to Ishtar the queen a speech he made :
- ..... in the midst of Nipur my hands have placed,
- ..... my country? Babylon the house of my delight,
- and my people? my hands have given.
- ..... he looked at the sanctuaries
- ..... in the day
- ..... the great gods.
Here we have a graphic account of the condition of Erech, when the enemy overran the country, and the first question which occurs is, who were these conquerors?
My original idea was that they were a tribe who held Erech for a short time, and were driven out by Izdubar, whose exploit and subsequent assumption of the crown of Erech were related in the remainder of the first tablet (see "Assyrian Discoveries", p. 169), but this conjecture has not been confirmed by my subsequent investigations; in fact it appears that Izdubar did not assume the crown until long after the events recorded on this tablet, It appears that Izdubar did not become king until after he had slain the tyrant Humbaba, and this leads directly to the conclusion that it was Humbaba, or at least the race to which he belonged, that conquered and tyrannized over Erech and probably over the whole of Babylonia.
The name of Humbaba, or Hubaba, as it is occa sionally written, is evidently Elamite and composed of two elements, " Humba," the name of a celebrated Elamite god, and "ba," a verb, usually a contraction for ban, bana, and bani, meaning u to make," the whole name meaning u Humbaba has made [me].
Many other Elamite names compounded with Humba are mentioned in the inscriptions: Humba-sidir, an early chief; Humba-undasa, an Elamite general opposed to Sennacherib; Humba-nigas, an Elamite monarch opposed to Sargon ; Tul-humba, an Elamite city, &c.
The notice of foreign dominion, and particularly of Elamite supremacy at this time, may, I think, form a clue from which to ascertain the approximate age of Izdubar ; but I would first guard against the impression that the Elamites of this age were the same race as the Elamites known in later times. It is probable that new waves of conquest and colonization passed over all these regions between the time of Izdubar and the Assyrian period, although the same deities continued to be adored in the countries.
Looking at the fragments of Berosus and the notices of Greek and Koman authors, the question now arises, is there any epoch of conquest and foreign dominion which can approximately be fixed upon as the era of Izdubar ? I think there is.
The earlier part of the list of Berosus gives the following dynasties or, more properly, periods from the Flood downwards:
- 86 Chaldean kings reigned from the Flood down to the Median conquest, 34,080 or 33,091 years.
- 8 Median kings who conquered and held Babylon, 234, or 224, or 190 years.
- 11 other kings, race and duration unknown.
- 49 Chaldean kings, 458 years.
The last of these dynasties, the 49 kings, reigned, as I have already pointed out in p. 25, from about B.C. 2000 to 1550, and throughout their time the Izdubar legends were known, and allusions to them are found. The tims of Izdubar must therefore be before their period, and, as he headed a native rule after a period of conquest, the only possible place for him, according to our present knowledge, is at the head of the 11 kings, and succeeding the Medes of Berosus.
This position for Izdubar or Nimrod, if it should turn out correct, will guide us to several valuable conclusions as to Babylonian history. So far as the dynasty is concerned, which Berosus calls Median, it is most probable that these kings were Elaniites ; certainly we have no knowledge of the Arian Medes being on the Assyrian frontier until several centuries later, and it is generally conceded that Berosus, in calling them Medes, has only expressed their Eastern orioin. Allowing them to be Elaniites, or inhabit ants of Elam, there remains the question, to what race did they belong ?
The later Elaniites are believed to have been either Turanians or Arians ; but we are by no means certain that no new race had come into the country since the time of Izdubar. There was a constant stream of immigration from the east and north, which gradually but surely altered the character of several of the races of Western Asia.
In Babylonia itself it is believed that a change of this sort took place in early times, the original Turanian population having been conquered and enslaved by Semitic tribes, and there has always been a difficulty as to where the Semitic peoples originated.
The Semitic race was already dominant in Babylonia two thousand years before the Christian era, and before this time there is only one conquest recorded that of Babylonia by the Medes or Elaniites, and I think it is most likely that from Elam the Semites first came. The usual theory is that the Semitic race came from Arabia ; but this is quite unlikely, as there is no known conquest of Babylonia from this direction previous to the sixteenth century before the Christian era.
Migration of Eastern Tribe; From early Babylonian Cylinder.
In the Book of Genesis Elam is counted as the first son of Shem or Semitic nation, and I think this may indicate a knowledge, at the time that book was written, that the Semitic race came from this direction ; they were probably driven westward by the advance of the Arians, and these latter in their progress may have obliterated nearly all the traces of the Semites whom they dispossessed.
The next question which strikes an observer is as to the date of these events. Some years back I published a curious inscription, of which I gave the texts and translations in my " History of Assurbanipal," pp. 234 to 251, referring to the goddess Nana, the Ishtar of Erech, also called Uzur-amat-sa. In these inscriptions a period of 1635 is mentioned as ending at the capture of Shushan, the capital of Elam, by the Assyrians, about B.C. 645, thus making the initial date B.C. 2280. At that time an image of Nana was carried into captivity from Erech by the Elamite king, Kudur-nanhundi, who, according to these inscriptions, appears to have then ruled over and oppressed the land of Babylonia. It is possible that the ravaging of the city of Erech, mentioned in the fragment of the first tablet of the Izdubar legends, recounts the very event alluded to by Assurbanipal. This date and the circumstances of the Elamite conquest form, I think, a clue to the age of Izdubar. Kudur-nan hundi, who plundered Erech, was probably one of the later kings of this dynasty, and Hurnba-ba was the last. A fragment which refers to this period in " Cuneiform Inscriptions," vol. iii. p. 38, relates the destruction wrought in the country by the Elamites, and gives Kudur-nanhundi as following one of the other monarchs of this line, and as exceeding his predecessors in the injury he did to the country.
Putting together the detached notices of this period, I conjecture the following to be somewhere about the chronology, the dates being understood as round numbers.
- B.C. 2450, Elamites overrun Babylonia.
- B.C. 2280, Kudur-nanhundi, king of Elam, ravages Erech.
- B.C. 2250, Izdubar or Nimrod slays Humba-ba, and restores the Chaldean power.
There is one serious objection to this idea. Although the date B.C. 2280 appears to be given in the inscription of Assurbanipal for the ravages of Kudurnanhundi, yet the other mutilated notices of this Elamite monarch are combined with names of Babylonian monarchs who do not appear to be anything like so ancient. One of these, said in the inscription, " Cuneiform Inscriptions," vol. iii. p. 38, No. 2, to be contemporary with Kudur-nanhundi, is Bel-zakir-uzur. No name compounded in this form has yet been found earlier than B.C. 1500.
Although the dates transmitted through ancient authors are as a rule vague and doubtful, there are many independent notices which seem to point to somewhere about the twenty-third century before the Christian era for the foundation of the Babylonian and Assyrian power. Several of these dates are connected either directly or by implication with Nimrod, who first formed a united empire over these regions.
The following are some of these notices :
Simplicius relates that Callisthenis, the friend of Alexander, sent to Aristotle from Babylon a series of stellar observations reaching back 1,903 years before the taking of Babylon by Alexander. This would make 1903 + 331 = B.C. 2234.
Philo-biblius, according to Stephen, made the foundation of Babylon 1,002 years before Semiramis and the Trojan war, as these later were supposed to have been in the thirteenth century B.C. This comes to about the same date.
Berosus and Critodemus are said by Pliny to have made the inscribed stellar observations reach to 480 years before the era of Phoroneus; the latter date was supposed to be about the middle of the eighteenth century B.C., 480 years before it, comes also to about the same date.
These three instances are given in Bawlinson's "Ancient Monarchies," p. 149.
- Diodorus makes the Assyrian empire commence a thousand years or more before the Trojan war.
- Ctesius and Cephalion make its foundation early in the twenty-second century B.C.
- Auctor Barbarus makes it in the twenty-third century B.C.
These and other notices probably point to about the same period, the time when Nimrod united Babylonia into one monarchy, and founded Nineveh in Assyria.
Before parting with the consideration of the first tablet, I will give a small fragment, which I provision ally insert here for want of a better place.
- ..... to thee
- Bel thy father sent me ....
- thus .... heard ....
- When in the midst of those forests ....
- he rejoiced at its fragrance and ....
- at first . .
- Go and thou shalt take ....
- Mayest thou rejoice ....
Of the latter part of the first tablet we have as yet no knowledge.