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 XIII - Destruction of the Tyrant Humbaba

Humbaba Header

  • Elamite dominion.
  • Forest region.
  • Humbaba.
  • Conversation.
  • Petition to Shamas.
  • Journey to forest.
  • Dwelling of Humbaba.
  • Entrance to forest.
  • Meeting with Humbaba.
  • Death of Humbaba.
  • Izdubar king.

Humbaba FlI HAVE had considerable difficulty in writing this chapter; in fact I have arranged the matter now three times, and such is the wretched broken condition of the fragments that I am even now quite uncertain if I have the correct order. The various detached fragments belong to the fourth and fifth tablets in the series, and relate the contest between Izdubar and Humbaba.

I have already stated my opinion that Humbaba was an Elamite, and that he was the last of the dynasty which, according to Berosus, conquered and held Babylonia for about two centuries, between B.C. 2450 and 2250. Humbaba held his court in the midst of a region of erini trees, where there were also trees of the specie called Survan; these two words are very vaguely used in the inscriptions, and appear to refer rather to the quality and appearance of the trees than to the exact species. Erini is used for a tall fine tree : it is used for the pine, cedar, and ash. I have here translated the word " pine," and survan I have translated " cedar." In one inscrip tion Lebanon is said to be the country of survan, in allusion to its cedar trees.

This section of the Izdubar legends was undoubtedly of great importance, for, although it was disfigured by the poetical adornments deemed necessary to give interest to the narrative, yet of itself, as it described the overthrow of a dynasty and the accession of Izdubar to the throne, it has interest for us in spite of its mutilated condition. When I pub lished my " Assyrian Discoveries " none of these fragments were in condition for publication, but I have since joined arid restored some of them,- and the new fragments have given sufficient aid to enable me now to present them in some sort, but it is quite possible that any further accession of new fragments would alter the arrangement I have here given.

I at first placed in this division a fragment of the story made up from three parts of a tablet, and containing a discourse of Heabani to some trees, but sub sequent investigation has caused me to withdraw this fragment and place it in the space of the eighth tablet.

In the case of the fourth tablet I think I have fragments of all six columns, but some of these fragments are useless until we have further fragments to complete them.

TABLET IV.

COLUMN I.

  1. .....mu .....
  2. ..... thy ....
  3. ..... me, return
  4. ..... the birds shall rend him
  5. ..... in thy presence
  6. ..... of the forest of pine trees
  7. ..... all the battle
  8. ..... may the birds of prey surround him
  9. ..... that, his carcass may they destroy
  10. ..... to me and we will appoint thee king,
  11. ..... thou shalt direct after the manner of a king
  12. [Izdubar] opened his mouth and spake,
  13. and said to Heabani:
  14. ..... he goes to the great palace
  15. ..... the breast of the great queen
  16. ..... knowledge, everything he knows
  17. ..... establish to our feet
  18. ..... his hand
  19. ..... I to the great palace
  20. ..... the great queen

(Probably over twenty lines lost here.)

It was this fragment, which gives part of the conversation between Heabani and Izdubar previous to the attack on Hunibaba, which led me to the opinion that Izdubar was not yet king of Babylonia, for Heabani promises (lines 10 and 11) that they will make Izdubar king when they have slain Humbaba and given his corpse to the vultures (lines 4, 8, and 9).

COLUMN II.

  1. ..... enter
  2. ..... he raised
  3. ..... the ornaments of her ....
  4. ..... the ornaments of her breast
  5. ..... and her crown I divided
  6. ..... of the earth he opened
  7. he ... .he ascended to the city
  8. he went up to the presence of Shamas he made a sacrifice?
  9. he built an altar. In the presence of Shamas he lifted his hands :
  10. Why hast thou established Izdubar, in thy heart thou hast given him protection,
  11. when the son .... and he goes
  12. on the remote path to Humbaba,
  13. A battle he knows not he will confront,
  14. an expedition he knows not he will ride to,
  15. for long he will go and will return,
  16. to take the course to the forest of pine trees,
  17. to Humbaba of [whom his city may] he destroy,
  18. and every one who is evil whom thou hatest . . .
  19. In the day of the year he will ....
  20. May she not return at all, may she not . . .
  21. him to fix . . . .

(About ten lines lost here.)

Here we see that Izdubar, impressed with the magnitude of the task he had undertaken, makes a prayer and sacrifice to Shamas to aid him in his task. The next fragment appears also to belong to this column, and may refer to preliminaries for sacrificing to Ishtar, with a view also to gain her aid in the enterprise.

This fragment of Column II. reads

  1. ..... neighbourhood of Erech ....
  2. ..... strong and . . .
  3. he burst open the road ....
  4. and that city ....
  5. and the collection ....
  6. placed the people together ....
  7. the people were ended ....
  8. like of a king ....
  9. which for a long time had been made ....
  10. to the goddess Ishtar the bed ....
  11. to Izdubar like the god Sakim ....
  12. Heabani opened the great gate of the house of assembly ....
  13. for Izdubar to enter ....
  14. ..... in the gate of the house ....

COLUMN III.

  1. the corpse of ....
  2. to ....
  3. to the rising of ...
  4. the angels ....
  5. may she not return ....
  6. him to fix ....
  7. the expedition which he knows not . . .
  8. may he destroy also ....
  9. of which he knows ....
  10. the road ....

Five more mutilated lines, the rest of the column being lost.

This fragment shows Izdubar still invoking the gods for his coming expedition. Under the next column I have placed a fragment, the position and meaning of which are quite unknown.

COLUMN IV. UNCERTAIN FRAGMENT.

  1. he was heavy ....
  2. Heabani was ....
  3. Heabani strong not rising ....
  4. When ....
  5. with thy song? ....
  6. the sister of the gods faithful ....
  7. wandering he fixed to . ...
  8. the sister of the gods lifted ....
  9. and the daughters of the gods grew ....
  10. I Heabani .... he lifted to ....

Somewhere here should be the story, now lost, of the starting of Izdubar on his expedition accompanied by his friend Heabani. The sequel shows they arrive at the palace or residence of Heabani, which is surrounded by a forest of pine and cedar, the whole being enclosed by some barrier or wall, with a gate for entrance. Heabani and Izdubar open this gate where the story reopens on the fifth column.

COLUMN V.

  1. the sharp weapon
  2. to make men fear him ....
  3. Humbaba poured a tempest out of his mouth.
  4. he heard the gate of the forest [open]
  5. the sharp weapon to make men fear him [he took]
  6. and in the path of his forest he stood and [waited]
  7. Izdubar to him also [said to Heabani]

Here we see Humbaba waiting for the intruders, but the rest of the column is lost ; it appears to have principally consisted of speeches by Izdubar and Heabani on the magnificent trees they saw, and the work before them. A single fragment of Column VI., containing fragments of six lines, shows them still at the gate, and when the next tablet, No. V., opens, they had not yet entered.

TABLET V.

The fifth tablet is more certain than the last; it appears to refer to the conquest of Humbaba or Hubaba. I have only discovered fragments of this tablet, which opens with a description of the retreat of Humbaba.

COLUMN I.

  1. He stood and surveyed the forest
  2. of pine trees, he perceived its height,
  3. of the forest he perceived its approach,
  4. in the place where Humbaba went his step was placed,
  5. on a straight road and a good path.
  6. He saw the land of the pine trees, the seat of the gods, the sanctuary of the angels,
  7. in front ? of the seed the pine tree carried its fruit,
  8. good was its shadow, full of pleasure,
  9. an excellent tree, the choice of the forest, 10 the pine heaped ....
  10. ..... for one kaspu (7 miles) . . .
  11. ..... cedar two-thirds of it . . .
  12. ..... grown ....
  13. ..... like it ,

(About 10 lines lost here.)

  1. ..... he looked ....
  2. ..... he made and he ....
  3. ..... drove to ....
  4. ..... he opened and ....
  5. Izdubar opened his mouth and spake, and said to [Heabani] :
  6. My friend ....
  7. ..... with their slaughter ....
  8. ..... he did not speak before her, he made with him ....
  9. ..... knowledge of war who made fighting,
  10. in entering to the house thou shalt not fear,
  11. ..... and like I take her also they ....
  12. to an end may they seat ....
  13. ..... thy hand ....
  14. ..... took my friend first ....
  15. ..... his heart prepared for war, that year and day also
  16. ..... on his falling appoint the people
  17. ..... slay him, his corpse may the birds of prey surround
  18. ..... of them he shall make
  19. ..... going he took the weight
  20. they performed it, their will they established
  21. ..... they entered into the forest

COLUMN II.

(Five lines mutilated.)

  1. they passed through the forest ....
  2. Humbaba ....
  3. he did not come ....
  4. he did not ....

(Seven lines lost.)

  1. heavy ....
  2. Heabani opened his mouth ....
  3. ..... Humbaba in ....
  4. ..... one by one and ....

(Many other broken lines.)

There are a few fragments of Columns III., IV., and V. and a small portion of Column VI. which reads :

  1. ..... cedar to ....
  2. ..... he placed and ....
  3. ..... 120 .... Heabani ....
  4. ..... the head of Humbaba ....
  5. ..... his weapon he sharpened ....
  6. ..... tablet of the story of fate of ....

It appears from the various mutilated fragments of this tablet that Izdubar and Heabani conquer and slay Humbaba and take his goods, but much is wanted to connect the fragments.

The conclusion of this stage of the story and triumph of Izdubar are given at the commencement of the sixth tablet. It appears, when the matter is stripped of the marvellous incidents with which the poets have surrounded it, that Izdubar and his friend went privately to the palace of Humbaba, killed the monarch and carried off his regalia, the death of the oppressor being the signal for the proclamation of Babylonian freedom and the reign of Izdubar.

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