Site hosted by Build your free website today!
The Flood Story in the Epic of Gilgamesh

The Story Behind the Story:

In this story, the hero Gilgamesh wants to become immortal, so he searches out the god, Utnapishtim. He then asks him how the once human god became immortal. Utnapishtim then tells him the following story.

The Story

Shurippak -a city which thou knowest,

(And) which on Euphrates' banks is set-

That city was ancient, (as were) the gods within it,

When their heart led the great gods to produce the flood.

There were Anu, their father,

Valiant Enlil, their counselor,

Ninurta, their herald,

Ennuge, their irrigator.

Ninigiku-Ea was also present with them;

Their words he repeats to the reed-hut:

'Reed-hut, reed-hut! Wall! Wall!

Reed-hut, hearken! Wall, reflect!

Man of Shuruppak,  son of Ubar-Tutu,

Tear down (this) house, build a ship!

Give up possessions, seek thou life.

Despise property and keep the soul alive.

Aboard the ship take thou the seed of all living things.

The ship that thou shalt build,

Her dimensions shall be to measure.

Equal shall be her width and her length.

Like the Apsu  thou shalt ceil her.'

I understood, and I said to Ea, my lord:

'Behold, my lord, what thou hast thus ordered,

I shall be honoured to carry out.

But what shall I answer the city, the people and elders?'

Ea opened his mouth to speak,

Saying to me, his servant:

'Thou shalt then thus speak unto them:

"I have learned that Enlil is hostile to me,

So that I cannot reside in your city,

Nor set my foot in Enlil's territory.

To the Deep I will therefore go down,

To dwell with my lord Ea.

But upon you he will shower down abundance,

The choicest birds, the rarest fishes.

The land shall have its fill of harvest riches.

He who at dusk orders the hush-greens,

Will shower down upon you a rain of wheat.

With the first glow of dawn,

The land was gathered about me.

(too fragmentary for translation]

The little ones carried bitumen,

While the grown ones brought all else that was needful.

On the fifth day I laid her framework.

One (whole) acre was her floor space,

Ten dozen cubits the height of each of her walls,

Ten dozen cubits each edge of the square deck.

I laid out the shape of her sides and joined her together.

I provided her with six decks,

Dividing her (thus) into seven parts.

Her floor plan I divided into nine parts.

I hammered water-plugs into her.

I saw to the punting-poles and laid in supplies.

Six 'sar' (measures),  of bitumen I poured into the furnace,

Three sar of asphalt I also poured inside.

Three sar of the basket-bearers transferred,

Aside from the one sar of oil which the calking consumed,

And the two sar of oil which the boatman stowed away.

Bullocks I slaughtered for the people,

And I killed sheep every day.

Must, red wine, oil, and white wine

I gave the workmen to drink, as though river water,

That they might feast as on New Year's Day. . . .

On the seventh day the ship was completed.

The launching was very difficult,

So that they had to shift the floor planks above and below,

Until two-thirds of the structure had gone into the water.

Whatever I had I laded upon her.

Whatever I had of silver I laded upon her,

Whatever I had of gold I laded upon her,

Whatever I had of all the living beings I laded upon her.

All my family and kin I made go aboard the ship.

The beasts of the field, the wild creatures of the field,

All the craftsmen I made go aboard.

Shamash had set for me a stated time:

'When he who orders unease at night

Will shower down a rain of blight,

Board thou the ship and batten up the gate!'

That stated time had arrived:

'He who orders unease at night showers down a rain of blight.'

I watched the appearance of the weather.

The weather was awesome to behold.

I boarded the ship and battened up the gate.

To batten up the (whole) ship, to Puzar-Amurri, the boatman,

I handed over the structure together with its contents.

With the first glow of dawn,

A black cloud rose up from the horizon.

Inside it Adad  thunders,

While Shallat and Hanish  go in front,

Moving as heralds over hill and plain.

Erragal  tears out the posts; 

Forth comes Ninurta and causes the dikes to follow.

The Anunnaki lift up the torches,

Setting the land ablaze with their glare.

Consternation over Adad reaches to the heavens,

Turning to blackness all that had been light.

The wide land was shattered like a pot!

For one day the south-storm blew,

Gathering speed as it blew, submerging the mountains,

Overtaking the people like a battle.

No one can see his fellow,

Nor can the people be recognized from heaven.

The gods were frightened by the deluge,

And, shrinking back, they ascended to the heaven of Anu.

The gods cowered like dogs

Crouched against the outer wall.

Ishtar cried out like a woman in travail,

The sweet-voiced mistress of the gods moans aloud:

'The olden days are alas turned to clay,

Because I bespoke evil in the Assembly of the gods,

How could I bespeak evil in the Assembly of the gods,

Ordering battle for the destruction of my people,

When it is I myself who give birth to my people!

Like the spawn of the fishes they fill the sea!'

The Anunnaki gods weep with her,

The gods, all humbled, sit and weep,

Their lips drawn tight. . . . one and all.

Six days and six nights

Blows the flood wind, as the south-storm sweeps the land.

When the seventh day arrived,

The flood (-carrying) south-storm subsided in the battle,

Which it had fought like an army.

The sea-grew quiet, the tempest was still, the flood ceased.

I looked at the weather. stillness had set in,

And all of mankind had returned to clay.

The landscape was as level as a flat roof.

I opened a hatch, and light fell on my face.

Bowing low, I sat and wept,

Tears running down my face.

I looked about for coast lines in the expanse of the sea:

In each of fourteen (regions)

There emerged a region (-mountain).

On Mount Nisir the ship came to a halt.

Mount Nisir held the ship fast,

Allowing -no motion.


[For six days the ship is held fast by Mount Nisir.]

When the seventh day arrived,

I sent forth and set free a dove.

The dove went forth, but came back;

There was no resting-place for it and she turned round.

Then I sent forth and set free a swallow.

The swallow went forth, but came back,

There was no resting-place for it and she turned round.

Then I sent forth and set free a raven.

The raven went forth and, seeing that the waters had diminished,
He eats, circles, caws, and turns not round.

Then I let out (all) to the four winds

And offered a sacrifice.

I poured out a libation on the top of the mountain.

Seven and seven cult-vessels I set up,
Upon their plate-stands I heaped cane, cedarwood, and myrtle.

The gods smelled the savour,

The gods smelled the sweet savour,
The gods crowded like flies about the sacrificer.

As soon as the great goddess  arrived,

She lifted up the great jewels which Anu had fashioned to her liking:

'Ye gods here, as surely as this lapis

Upon my neck I shall -not forget,

I shall be mindful of these days, forgetting (them) never.

Let the gods come to the offering:

(But) let not Enlil come to the offering,
For he, unreasoning, brought on the deluge
And my people consigned to destruction.'
As soon as Enlil arrived,
And saw the ship, Enlil was wroth,
He was filled with wrath against the Igigi gods:

'Has some living soul escaped?

No man was to survive the destruction!'

Ninurta opened his mouth to speak,

Saying to valiant Enlil:

'Who other than Ea can devise plans?

It is Ea alone who knows every matter.'

Ea opened his mouth to speak,

Saying to valiant Enlil:

'Thou wisest of the gods, thou hero,

How couldst thou, unreasoning, bring on the deluge?

On the sinner impose his sin,

On the transgressor impose his transgression!

(Yet) be lenient, lest he be cut off, Be patient,

lest he be dislodged

Instead of thy bringing on the deluge,

Would that a lion had risen up to diminish mankind!

Instead of thy brining on the deluge,

Would that a wolf had risen up to diminish mankind!

Instead of thy bringing on the deluge,

Would that a famine had risen up to lay low mankind!

Instead of thy bringing on the deluge,

Would that pestilence had risen up to smite down mankind!

It was not I who disclosed the secret of the great gods.

I let Atrahasis [Utnapishtim] see a dream,

And he perceived the secret of the gods.

Now then take counsel in regard to him!'

Thereupon Enlil went aboard the ship.

Holding me by the hand, he took me aboard.

He took my wife aboard and made (her) kneel by my side.

Standing between us, he touched our foreheads to bless us:

'Hitherto Utnapishtim has been but human.

Henceforth Utnapishtim and his wife shall be like unto us gods.

Utnapishtim shall reside far away, at the mouth of the rivers!'

Thus they took me and made me reside far away,

At the mouth of the rivers.

Back to the Flood Page                                                             Return to the Main Page