ERRA AND ISHUM
Source: Fosterīs (B.) From Distant Days: myths, tales and poetry from Ancient Mesopotamia, CDL Press, 1995
Narrator invokes Marduk, chief deity of Babylon, and Ishum, vanguard and companion of Erra. Erra is restless and breaks into a soliloquy. He is anxious to fight and campaign, but hesitates through natural inertia. Speaking of himself in the third person, Erra says that what he needs to stir him to action is Ishumīs encouragementO king of all inhabited lands, creator of the world, O Hendursagga (1), first born of Enlil [ ] Holder of the sublime scepter (2), herdsman of the black-headed folk, shepherd of mankind, O Ishum, zealous slaughterer (3), whose hands are suited tp brandish fierce weapons, And to make his sharp spear flash, Erra, warrior of the gods, was resteless in his dwelling, His heart urged him to do battle! Says he to his weapons. "Smear yourselves with deadly venom!" To the Seven, warriors unrivalled, "Let your weapons be girded!" He even says to you: "You are the torch, they will see your light (4) "You are the vanguard, the gods will [ ] "You are the stanchion, [zealous] slaughterer! "(So) up, Erra, from laying waste the land "How cheerful your mood will be and joyful your heart! "Erraīs limbs are sluggish, like those of a mortal lacking sleep, "He says to himself, 'Shall I get up or go to sleep?' "He says to his weapons, 'Stay in the corners!' "To the Seven, warriors unrivalled, 'Go back to your dwellings!' "Until you rouse him, he will sleep in his bedrooms, "He will dally with Mami, his mate".
(With a second invocation, now of Ishum, the narrator introduces the terrible Seven, who stand ready to massacre the "black-headed folk" or Mesopotamians)O Engidudu, who patrols at night, ever guiding the noble, Who ever guides young men and women in safety, making light as day, The Seven, warriors unrivalled, their divine nature is different, Their origins are strange, they are terrifying, Whoever sees them is numbed with fear. Their breath of life is death, People are too frightened to appproach it! Yet Ishum is the door, bolted before them. When Anu, the king of the gods, sowed his seed in the earth, She bore him seven gods, he called them the Seven. They stood before him, that he ordain their destinies, He summoned the first to give his instructions, "Wherever you go and spread terror, have no equal." He said to the second, "Burn like fire, scorch like flame". He commanded the third, "Look like a lion, let him who sees you be paralysed with fear". He said to the fourth,"Let a mountain collapse when you present your fierce arms". He said to the fifth, "Blast like the wind, scan the circumference of the earth". He said to the sixth."Go out everywhere (like the deluge) and spare no one". The seveth he charged with viperous venom," Slay whatever lives". After Anu had ordained destinies for all of the Seven, He gave those very ones to Erra, warrior of the gods, saying: "Let them go beside you, when the clamor of human habitations becomes noisome to you, "And you resolve to wreak destruction, "To massacre the black-headed folk and fell the livestock, "Let these be your fierce weaponry, let them go beside you".
The Seven offer the encouragement that Erra needs. . In a rousing call to arms, they extol the heroic excitement of the campaign, the honor, prestige and gratification it brings. The Seven claim vaguely that they are not respected enough, that others are growing more important than they. They bring up the old charge that men make too much noise for the gods to sleep, although this was not the cause Erra had given for his lown lack of sleep. The Seven claim further that there are too many wild animals on the loose. Their final claim no doubt the most important one, is that they are bored and out of training.These are the ones who are in a fury, holding their weapons aloft, They are saying to Erra, "Up, do your duty! "Why have you been sitting in the city like a feeble old man, "Why sitting at home like a helpless child? "Shall we eat woman food, like non-combatants? Have we turned timorous and trembling, as if we canīt fight? "Going to the field for the young and vigorous is like to a very feast, "But the noble who stays in the city can never eat enough. "His people will hold him inlow esteem, he will command no respect, "How could he threaten a campaigner? "However well developed is the strength of the city dweller, "How could he possibly best a campaigner? "However toothsome city bread, it holds nothing to the campfire loaf, "However sweet fine beer, it holds nothing to water from a skin, "The terraced palace holds nothing to the wayside sleeping spot! "Be off to the field, warrior Erra, make your weapons clatter, "Make loud your battle cry that all around they quake, "Let the Igigi-gods hear and extol your name, "Let the Anunna-gods hear and flinch at the mention of your, "Let all the gods hear and bend for your yoke, "Let sovereigns hear and fall prostrate before you, "Let countries hear and bring you their tribute, "Let the lowly hear and perish of their own accord, "Let the mighty hear and his strength diminish, "Let lofty mountains hear and their peaks crumble, "Let the surging sea hear and convulse, wiping out her increase! "Let the stalk be yanked from the tough thicket, "Let reeds of the impenetrable morass be shorn off, "Let men turn cowards and their clamor subside, "Let beasts tremble and return to clay, "Let the gods your ancestors see and praise your valor! "Warrior Erra, why do you neglect the field for the city? "The very beats and cretures hold us in contempt! "O warrior Erra, we will tell you, thought that we say be offensive to you! "Ere the whole land outgrows us, "You must surely hear our words! "Do a kindly deed for the gods of hell, who delight in deadly stillness, "The Anunna-gods cannot fall asleep for the clamor of humankind, Beasts are overrunning the meadows, life of the land, "The farmer sobs bitterly for his field, "Lion and wolf are felling the livestock, "The shepherd, who cannot sleep day and night for the sake of his flocks, is calling upon you, "We too, who know the mountain passes,have forgotten how to go, "Cobwebs are spun over our field gear, "Our fine bow resists and is too strong for us, "The tip of our sharp arrow is bent out of true, "Our blade is corroded for want of a slaughter!" The warrior Erra heard them, What the Seven said pleased him like finest oil. He made ready to speak and said to Ishum: "Why, having heard, did you sit by silent? "Lead the way, let me begin my campaign! "[ ] the Seven, warriors without rival, Make my fierce weapons (the Seven) march by my side, But you be the vanguard and rear guard". When Ishum heard what he said, he felt pity and said ot the warrior Erra: "O Lord Erra, why have you plotted evil against the gods? "To lay waste the lands and decimate the people". Erra made ready to speak and said to Ishum, his vanguard: "Keep quiet, Ishum, listen to what I say, as concerns the people of the inhabited world, whom you would spare. "O vanguard of the gods, wise Ishum, whose counsel is always for the best, "I am the wild bull in heaven, I am the lion on earth, "I am king in the land, I am the fiercest among the gods, "I am warrior among the Igigi-gods, mighty one among the Anunna-gods! "I am the smitter of wild beasts, battering ram against the mountain, "I am the blaze in the reed thicket, the broad blade against the rushes, "I am banner for the march, I blast like the wind, I thunder like the storm, "Like the sun, I scan the circumference of the world, "I am the wild ram striding forth in the steppe, "I invade the range and take up my dwelling in the fold, "All the gods are afraid of a fight, so the black-headed folk are contemptuous! "As for me, since they did not fear my name, and I have disregarded Mardukīs command, so he may act according to his wishes "I will make Marduk angry, stir him from his dwelling, and lay waste the people!" The warrior Erra set out for Babylon, city of the king of the gods. He entered Esagila, palace of heaven and earth and stood before him. He made ready to speak, saying to the king of the gods: "Why has your precious image, symbol of your lordship, lost its brilliance? "Your lordly diadem, which made the inner sanctum shine like the outside tower, why is it dimmed?" The king of the gods made ready to speak, saying to Erra, these words, "O warrior Erra, concerning that deed you said you would do, "Once, long ago indeed I grew angry, indeed I left my dwelling and caused the deluge! "When I left my dwelling, the regulation of heaven and earth disintegrated: "The shaking of heaven meant: the positions of the heavenly bodies changed, nor did I restore them, "The quaking of netherworld meant: the yield of the furrow diminished, being thereafter difficult to exploit. "The regulations of heaven and earth disintegrating meant: underground water diminished, high water receded. When I looked again, it was struggle to get enough. "Productivity of living offspring declined, nor did I renew it, "Such that were I a plowman, I could hold all seed in my hand. "I built another house and settled therein (5) "As to my precious image, which had been struck by the deluge that its appearance was sullied, "I commanded fire to make my features shine and cleanse my apparel. "When it had shined my precious image and completed the task, "I donned my lordly diadem and returned. "Haughty were my features, terrifying my glare! "The survivors of the deluge saw what was done, "Shall I raise my weapon and destroy the rest? "I sent those craftsmen down to the depths, I ordered them not to come up, "I removed the wood and gemstone and showed no one where, "Now then, warrior Erra, as concerns that deed you said you would do, "Where is the wood, flesh of the gods, suitable for the lord of the universe, "The sacred tree, splendid stripling, perfect for lordship, "Whose roots thrust down an hundred leagues through the waters of the vast ocean to the depths of hell, "Whose crown brushed Anuīs heaven on high? "Where is the clear gemstone that I reserved for [ ]? "Where is Ninildum, great carpenter of my supreme divinity, "Wielder of the glittering hatchet, who knows that tool, "Who makes it shine like the day and puts it in subjection at my feet? "Where is Kunig-banda, fashioner of god and man, whose hands are sacred? "Where is Ninagal, wielder of the upper and lower millstone "Who grinds up hard copper like hide and who forges tools? "Where are the choice stones, created by the vast sea, to ornament my diadem? "Where are the seven sages of the depths, those sacred fish, who, like Ea their lord, are perfect in sublime wisdom, the ones who cleansed my person? The warrior Erra heard him..... [ ] He made ready to speak, saying to noble Marduk, "[ craftsmen ], "[ tree ], "Clear gemstone [from] its place will I bring up."
When Marduk heard this, he made ready to speak, saying t the warrior Erra:
"(When) I rise from my dwelling, the regulation of heaven and earth will disintegrate,
"The waters will rise and sweep over the land,
"Bright day will turn to darkness, whirlwind will rise and the stars of heaven will be...
"Ill winds will blow and the eyesight of living creatures will be darkened,
"Demons will riase up and seize [ ],
"They will .... the unarmed one who confronts them!
"The gods of hell will rise up and smite down living creatures,
"Who will keep htem at bay till I gird on my weaponry once more?
When Erra heard this, he made himself ready to speak, saying to noble Marduk:
"O noble Marduk, while you enter the house, fire cleanses your apparel and you return to your palace,
"For that time I will govern and keep strong the regulation of heaven and earth,
"I will go up to heaven and issue instructions to the Igigi gods,
"I will go down to the depths and keep the Anunna gods in order.
"I will despatch the wild demons to the netherworld,
"I will brandish my fierce weaponry against them,
"I will truss the wings of the ill wind like a birdīs.
"At that house you shall enter, O noble Marduk,
"I will station Anu and Enlil to the right and left, like bulls."
Noble Marduk heard him, the words which Erra spoke pleased him.
He arose from his dwelling, an inaccessible place,
He set out for the dwelling of the Anunna-gods.
He entered that house and stood before them.
Shamash looked upon him and let his protective radiance fall...
Sin looked everywhere, and did not leave the Netherworld,
Ill winds rose and the bright daylight was turned to gloom,
The clamor of the peoples throughout the land was stilled,
The Igigi gods were terrified and went up to heaven,
The Anunna gods were frightened and went down to the pit of hell,
[ ] the entire circumference [ ]
[ ] in the dust
[ ] let us see".
[ ] its doors.
[ ] like the stars of heaven.
The gods convene to discuss the situation. Ea, intent upon restoring Marduk to his place, reasons that, even though the original sublime craftsmen cannot return, Marduk authorized reproduction of them to be made that are endowed with wondrous powers by Ea at Mardukīs command. The repairs are proceeding well. Erra, while standing guard at the hour where the work is being done lest harm approach, is taking the opportunity to usurp Mardukīs power by keeping everyone away from him. So vainglorious is Erraīs shouting that Ea resolves to see him humbled.
"The diadem [ ]
"His heart [ ]
"The governorīs [ ]
"The awe-inspiring radiance of his divine splendor [ ] his days [ ],
"[ ] like rain,
"Let Ea in the depths [ ] his springs,
"Let Shamash see .... [ ] and let the people [ ]
"Let Sin behold, and at his sign, let him [ ] to the land.
"Concerning that work, Ea [ ] is expert".
"The warrior Erra became very angry,
"Why, because of foam ont he waters, the .... of mankind,
"Which I myself created to bring offerings ot he Anunna gods,
"Did noble Marduk give up, not at the appointed time?
"He plotted to lay waste the alnds and destroy their people!"
Ea the king considered and said these words,
"Even now that noble Marduk has arisen from his dwelling, he did not
command those craftsmen to come up.
"How can images of them, which I made among mankind,
"Approach his sublime divinity, where no god has access?
"He himself gave thsoe same human craftsmen great discretion and authority,
"He gave them wisdom and perfect dexterity,
"They have made his precious image radiant, even finer than before,
"Warrior Erra has stationed himself before him, night and day without ceasing,
"Besetting the house for making radiant the precious image for the sovereignty of the king and saying,
' Donīt come near the work!
' [He who draws] near it -
I will cut short his life and prolong his death agony.'
"[ ] let him hasten at the work,
"[ ] has no equal.
"[ ] Erra was speaking like a mortal,
"[ ] was trying to rival the noble one,
"[ ] may he be humbled."
The images of the craftsmen made his precious image radiant,
[ ] .....
They set the.... at his door,
[ ] king Shamash girds it on,
[ ] he reoccupied his dwelling,
[ ] brilliance was reestablished,
[All the gods....] were gathered,
Erra [ noble] Marduk,
"Noble Marduk,[ ]
"Godlike, you [ ]
"Small to great [ ]
[ ] Erra....
[ ] ... his uproar was terrifying,
"[ ] ... the image,
"[ ] of your lordship are raised up and established".
The king of the gods made ready to speak and said,
"[ ] and went up to heaven."
[ ] he commanded,"Return to your dwellings!"
[ ] ... his sign,
"[ ] upon your face,
"[ ] their peoples.
"[ ] you did not turn your back."
He heard him, ... said to the king of the gods,
"The word of Marduk [ ] of the day".
He said to him [ ]
"Come now, [ ]
"To destroy the lands [ why did you plot?]?
Erra heard him [ ]
He entered [ ].
Anu heard in heaven [ ],
He bowed his lofty head [ ],
Antu, mother of the gods, was aghast [ ],
She entered her chamber,
Enlilīs [ ]
[ ] father of the gods [ ]
[ ] Enlil [ ]
Among the beasts, all of them [ ]
Erra among all the gods [ ]
Among the stars of heaven the Fox Star [ ]
Was shining bright and its radiance [ ] for him,
The stars of all the gods were dazzling [ ],
Because they were angry with each other, and noble Marduk [ ] put [ ],
"The star of Erra is shining bright and its radiant.... of warfare.
"His awe-inspiring brilliance will..... and all people will perish.