and the Protestant Ethic
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All of the old cultures have in common the legend of a great flood. In the stories there usually are only a few survivors. The Biblical flood story is copied from the Babylonian Gilgamesh epos, of its 11th tablet. This in turn is a copy of the Sumerian Atrahasis legend. The epos was already known at the time of Hammurabi, 1800 BC. The Atrahasis legend was many centuries older. However, there are many variations from the epos and in fact it is composed of several legends. If the epos really tells of the deeds of the real Gilgamesh, who ruled about 2600 BC, its oldest parts must have lived long separately. When was the flood story added, is not known. As we know from the Greek sagas, there were many floods or tsunamies. Which one was the great one, the one behind of this story, 3100BC, 2345BC, 2200BC or some other, we don't know.
But it seems that this flood may only have added some characters to the story. The Sumerian King list gives some credence to the oldest of these dates. And some of the legends are so old that they must have originated already at the time of Early Dynasties. In fact eight kings reigned in total five cities for 402 years (one and also my interpretation). If the Flood occurred for example 3114 BC, then the first king began his reign 3516 BC in Eridu.
Some researchers link the Flood to the 2345-2344 BC incidence. This time period has been backed by some biblical researchers as well as non-biblical scholars.
Legends suggest that some global cataclysm happened around 3100 BC, stories from Mediterranean and evidence from allover the Earth suppose another global cataclysm around 2200 BC, and there is some geological evidence of an Anatolian or possibly an even larger cataclysm around 2345 BC. If we suppose that all these cataclysms caused floods, we can make a scenario that the original Sumerian Flood occurred possibly 3114 BC and the two later ones merged with this oldest story so that at the time of Hammurabi the Atrahasis legend was one story ready to join the Gilgamesh epic.
Before the Flood the kingship "ascended from heaven" and the founder kings established five cities, from which the fourth, Sippar (Sefarvaim in Bible) is probably the mostly renown. They occupied a 300 kilometer long area along the Euphrates River. After the Flood civilization had to be brought to Sumer a second time. The first city that was established as the main center of the dynasty, was Kish, from which Sumer was reigned 408 or 409 years. The reign began anywhere between 3050 to 2950 BC, so it lasted to somewhere between 2650 and 2550 BC. Gihon was the second river from Eden according to Genesis. It winded through the land of Kassites/Kosseans/Kush/Kish. It was probably a tributary of Tigris, long since gone. After that the kingship was moved to Ur, where one of its kings was the famous Gilgamesh.
This multi-flood theory has a clear parallel in Plato, where the priest of Sais says that the floods and fires are recurring phenomena. The people loose their ability to read and write (and in worst case the whole cultural heritage is lost). They must learn these skills anew. The priest of Sais speaks especially of the Greeks (Athenians). But the demise of the Old Kingdom of Egypt and the following First Intermediate period are also similar cases. The Sumerians view the break caused by the Flood as some kind of necessity or destiny.
The Sumerian flood story reveals an interesting characteristic in the Sumerians' way of thinking. Behind everything are the gods, both good and bad. In "Gilgamesh" the gods make an ultimate decision: they decide to eliminate the whole of mankind (except themselves). Here we notice how differently the Sumerians see the god(s) compared to others, for example the later Christians. I don't mean the polytheism: one god is always at the head of the others. The other gods have power over men only in their specialized area. This is the point: the gods are part of the administration: there is the prime minister and other ministers. The gods rule, the rulers are gods. This began abstractly but as time went on it became more and more concrete. In Greek the gods already only were there but could not be seen.
What purpose did this system serve? Was it essential for the coherence of the whole culture?
In any case, the gods had succeeded only partly: there were a large number of survivors from the flood, even though almost every flood story has it that there was only one or a few survivors. The Guanchis at the Canary islands were surprised to see the Spanish invaders, because they thought themselves to be the only survivors. The Mayans were caught by surprise when the promise made by previous men from the Ocean was fulfilled when the Spanish arrived there. The Sumerians also had their Noah, named Ziusudra.
Ziusudra became a hero, because he had survived. Even the gods praised him, as they regretted their deed when they saw all of its consequences. Inanna even wept. As a "reward" the gods made Ziusudra their like (as men were made in Genesis). Even Noah did not get this kind of honour, he had to be satisfied with only a covenant. Now it's easy to understand what mean the words in
"And the Lord God said,
The man is become as one of us."
Now Udra becomes Zius, and Zius becomes Zeus, the root for Theos. By the way, notice the plural in Genesis: "us".
In their anger the gods had destroyed even their own home and a new paradise had to be reconstructed. Eden was equal to Mesopotamia to Hebrews, but where had the Mesopotamians had their garden? It was in Dilmun, but where was Dilmun? Was Dilmum Indus? I don't think so. I think that it is likely that through the catastrophes Mesopotamia changed so much, from a fertile land to a barren desert, that Dilmun may refer to Sumer itself before the cosmic destruction.
What was the motive of the gods? Why did the gods want to eliminate the people? That was the main dilemma in Sumerian philosophy.
There was also a third theme, besides the flood and the gods, that governed Sumerian thinking: death or more appropriately immortality. The borderline between life and death is as vague as the borderline between men (mortal) and gods (immortal). To have a complete picture: when the gods died (!), they continued to live in Hades.
One of the leading themes in "Gilgamesh" is just this division into immortal gods and mortal men. Gilgamesh himself was partly a god, partly a mortal, and he goes to seek after the secret of immortality. He is just about to achieve it, when he loses it in the beautiful allegory of "life (as well as death) is only a dream". The ur-symbol of the basic mythology, the serpent takes the last hope.
I think that the Serpent here takes in both of its meanings. First, the Serpent as a very special animal, and second the comet, its counterpart in the heaven. Both were able to kill. Allegory has here its deepest meaning.
Before the flood, things were different. The immortal gods lived in a paradise. There were no illnesses. Fruits and plants were so plentiful that the gods had no need to strive to get food. If ever there has been an upper class, we have one here. But the destiny of the immortals was different:
"Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden,
to till the ground from whence he was taken."
AndGenesis 3:17 - 3:19:
"Cursed is the ground for thy sake.This is the basis for the protestant ethic, this is the basis for the sadness Sumerians felt. The joy of life had gone with the flood.
Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee.
In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread."
Here we are: "a dim recollection of the days when all that work wasn't necessary". The paradise of Eden, the golden age, before the present when you must till the ground, work hard. Can we allow ourselves this kind of arrogance? Can we deny the consequences of the flood? The flood myths give us a good picture of the flood as it bothers mankind. "In the J-document, God wins again by a mere word in the form of the curse, but not till after Chaos had had its victory in upsetting the original plan of the man and his wife in the Garden. Later commentators had to avoid this appearance of God suffering even a partial defeat, however small, by making it appear that the Temptation and the Fall were part of God's original plan."
The Fall can be seen as an attempt to explain why the mortals no longer enjoyed the privilege of the delight of the paradise. From here, I think, comes the idealization of the puritan way of life with all its sufferings that has continued to the day. When the Carian country in the Ocean perished in one terrible day and one terrible night, mankind got the karma of the Fall. Not only Carian-Atlantis, but the whole Mediterranean, including Mesopotamia, turned from a paradise to a hell, and during the second millennium BC turned to a society with a protestant ethic.
"The dragons may well have been the dragon of Chaos." The dragon and the feathered serpent have a common root, with the dragon replacing the serpent as the cosmic demon from the Mediterranean to China. The Ishtar gate in Babylon was decorated with large numbers of lions, bulls, and dragons. The ruins of these walls still show them today. The dragon of Chaos or Sirrush "is clearly reptilian, though it is a quadruped like the lions and bulls. Cover up the legs of the sirrush and what is left is a serpent." The Dragon with its fire from heaven was able to cause a terrible catastrophe,Chaos, and it had the roar and strength of a lion or a bull, their earthly counterparts. The heavenly bull is the is the meteoritic roar. But the serpent had to crawl in the mud and dust, without legs.
The salty water that the flood brought with it spoiled the tilled ground and caused a great famine in Sumer. Fortunately the god of waters, Enki ordered the god of sun, Samas to fill up the rivers with freshwater, and so it happened. During three generations eight edible grasses could be recovered. Enki became sick when he tested what is edible, but he recovered.
Now the question is: Is this story based on myths, just an allegory, or does it ground itself on some historical, or if you like, prehistorical events that really happened? Was there a catastrophe that almost drowned the mankind, were there fires as the priest of Sais told, or severe earthquakes all around? Was there a big famine? Now it seems that the legend is more true than has ever been foreseen. How total was the revenge of the gods! The lamentations and depression of the Sumerians is not to be wondered. The sky fell on them, literally.
After the flood had settled there remained much water to cover the fields and gardens. Tigris had no "good" water. "The famine was severe, nothing was produced. ... The fields were not irrigated, irrigation canals were not being dug. There was no corn in the whole country, only weeds grew up." (The deeds and conquests of the god Ninurta.) In the end Ninurta takes the reigns in his hands. The salty waters were banked up by building a great "wall", a dam to the front of Sumer. Ninurta gathered the remains of the water and led them to the Tigris. There was a large irrigation system in use in Sumer.
The most probably date for this legend is 2200-2100 BC.
We westerners are the children of Hebrew and Greek culture only in that sense that they are intermediary cultures between Sumer and us. The agony and anxiety that are so typical for Western societies comes from Sumer. Job and Jeremiah were the children of the same influence.
However, there is also one basic difference. The Assyrians later stressed morality and norms. (This began with Hammurabi). We can't say that the Sumerians were without morals or even amoral. They had their laws and punishments, but they were still part of the deterministic god government, which one should notice was not a theocracy however.
The Sumerians thought that it simply was insane to stand against the gods, in the same way that we understand that it is insane to resist the laws of nature, which the gods represented for the Sumerians. Such a course would only lead to self-destruction. The Sumerians were simply pragmatic,very pragmatic. You can see the same idea in Tao: the principle of Wu Wei. The Esseans shared this view.
After the Sumerian culture perished around 2200 BC, to re-emerge as Assyrian or Babylonian in 1800 BC, the Third Dynasty of Ur between about 2100-2000 BC having no success, as the damage and chaos still reigned all over the Mediterranean, there was a need for a very firm discipline in the society. And a half millennium later this was seen in the new empire of Khan An (the Kingdom of Heaven) or Isis-Ra-El(ohim).
When Gilgamesh goes to the cedar forest, in the Babylonian version, he consults the council of the city of Erech (babylonian/hebrew), but in the original Sumerian version he doesn't consult Uruk (sumerian). In the Babylonian version he goes only with his friend Enkidu; in the Sumerian version he takes with him 50 men from Uruk. The Sumerians loved realism.
Sumerologists insist that Sumerian historians did not achieve a definitive and generalized description of their culture because they didn't have the necessary view of its evolution. In other words, Sumerian historians thought that their culture and history was rather revolutionary than evolutionary. Culture was brought to them ready and full-fledged, because "gods had planned them ahead and just brought it to them". What does science have to say about this conception?
Extracts from a history of writing
Based on Schmandt-Besserat: "Before Writing.
From Counting to Cuneiform.
"It is now generally agreed that writing was invented in Mesopotamia, present-day Iraq, in the late fourth millennium BC and spread from there to Egypt, Elam, and the Indus Valley. ... The immediate precursor of the cuneiform script was a system of tokens, small clay counters of many shapes."
"The oldest and most casual account of the invention of writing is perhaps that of the Sumerian epic "Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta"." According to it an emissary was sent back and forth between Uruk and Aratta, but because the messages were difficult to memorize, the lord of Kulaba promptly invented writing. "In a second Sumerian poem, "Inanna and Enki, the Transfer of the Arts of Civilization from Eridu to Erech, writing is conceived as one of a hundred basic elements of civilization held by Enki, the lord of wisdom. ... Inanna loaded writing and the other divine decrees on the Boat of Heaven and started an eventful journey back to Uruk."
Token is a small artifact, generally modeled in clay of sixteen types (cones, spheres, disks, cylinders, tetrahedrons etc.). Plain tokens were used from 8000 BC to 4300 BC and again a short period from 3100 to 3000 BC. Complex tokens or tokens with linear and/or punctuated markings were used from 4300 BC to 3100 BC. Why there was a return to the plain tokens in 3100 BC is not known. But there were many things that changed or took their beginning at that time: the Mayan calendar, Stonehenge I, Megaliths, the burst-out of the great cultures of Sumer, Egypt, and Indus, and, a little later, the Pyramids of Giza.
Although the complex tokens were taken into use in 4400-4300 BC in Uruk, only in 3750 BC (Uruk X) did they begin to form series of counters of the same shape with a variable number of lines or punctuations. By 3500 BC (Uruk VI) the complex tokens "had spread to sites of northern Mesopotamia, Susiana, and Syria, where the southern Mesopotamian bureaucracy was involved." From that time on until 3100 BC there emerged "tablets displaying impressed markings in the shape of tokens". Then there was the 100-year revolution simultaneously backwards and forwards. The complex tokens were replaced at the same time with plain tokens and "pictographic script with a stylus on clay tablets (which) marked the true takeoff of writing" (Uruk IVa). In 3000 BC the tokens dwindled. Pictographic clay tablets took their place.
"From then on, writing could become phonetic and develop into the versatile tool that it is today. ... The invention of abstract numerals was the beginning of mathematics, and it was also the beginning of writing." Here are the roots for cuneiform, hieroglyphic, and Indus writing.
So it seems that the gods were their own priests and the culture was brought from Uruk.
What happened to this civilized Sumer? It existed from 4500 BC to 2000 BC with two interruptions. The first one was from about 3100 BC to 3000 BC, and the second one from about 2200 BC to 2100 BC. The first interruption changed a paradise to a full-fledged agriculture society that demanded hard work. The Akkadian Sumer beginning with Sargon around 2350 BC was very successful, but not so the 3rd dynasty of Ur about 2100-2000 BC.
Something dramatic happened around 2200 BC, as had also happened around 3100 BC. The earlier intermediary period created a sad and melancholic society, albeit one with an element of vitality, inventiveness, and effectiveness. But the Third Dynasty of Ur was old and tired, it was prospectless, it had lost its vitality and its energy. In 1800 BC Babylonia grew from its ruins, with Hammurabi who brought law and order, badly needed at the time. And there is a direct line from Hammurabi to Moses.
This same period (3000 BC to 2200 BC) covered the blossoming of Egypt from the Early Dynastic Period to the beginning of the First Intermediate period. What caused these two contemporaneous blossomings and fadings? Was it a cosmic catastrophe? The myths tell it was. Today's astronomy tells us that this kind of possibility hangs above us all the time as the sword of Damokles.
It is easy to see that the hypocrisy, puritanism, and cynicism of the Western world have their roots already in Sumer. The desolation of the Sumerians, and their lamentations, which preceded those of Job and Jeremiah, are easy to see in their poems.
The more we read the poems of the Sumer the more we understand that they had some traumatic experiences. The greatest of them was called Flood. It had its symbol, the serpent, which later became the dragon.
There are attempts to explain the destiny of man. Some call it the Fall, some call it karma.
"... And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters."
The word "spirit" is the translation of the Hebrew word "ruakh", which means "breath". The phrase " Spirit of God" is therefore "the breath of God". In today's scientific language this could be translated as "the wind blew over the waters". "That is all that is left of the cosmic battle between the principles of Order and Chaos" as Asimov has formulated it.
In the Sumerian cosmogony the universe was led by gods, who kept an eye on everything that happened. The gods looked like men, but were not like them. In fact it was vice versa:
"And God said,In two respects gods differed from men: they were superior in their knowledge and their skills, and besides that they were immortal. But that was before the Flood. After about 3000 BC the gods became more like administrative priests. They became a little less superior and their immortality was being questioned.
Let us make man in our image,
After our likeness..."
The Gods organized some kind of a government, which was headed by a king and membered by seven higher gods, whose task it was to decree the destinies of men. The parliament consisted of fifty lower grade gods. They were called Anunnaki (the sons of An) according to some sumerologists. Other sources reserve that name only for the seven prime gods. At any rate, the seven primary gods had the ability to create with only by giving a word, a command. This command-type creation is easily seen in the creation myth of
"And God said,
Let there be light:
And there was light"
As in Genesis 3:22: "... the man is become as one of us ...", in Genesis 1:26 we also have the plural "us". In the old Sumerian J-document, on which the Genesis 1-11 is partly based, this is all right. The explanation of "us" then emanates from the seven primary gods. The other part of the 11 first chapters of Genesis are based on the much later P-document, which was gathered in the Babylonian captivity. The two documents were combined only by the time the Jews returned to Jerusalem from Babylonian exile, 500 BC. The contradiction between polytheism and monotheism is seen here. The word Elohim, gods, was not changed to the singular El, but the meaning of the word Elohim itself changed from the plural "gods" to the singular "God", actually YHVH (Adonai) Elohim. The Egyptian gods Isis and Ra also became one, so we have IsisRaEl, not Elohim here.
The Sumerian way of thinking was pragmatic rational. A good example of this pragmatism is the replacement of the primary god, which happened twice. Before the Flood the head of gods was the sun god Utu, but he was so much criticized because of the Flood, that he was replaced by the god of heaven, An. Utu belonged to the council that had decided to exterminate the whole mankind.
In about 3000 BC the god An had to leave his position to Enlil. Enlil was also disgraced by the Flood, because he was the god of storms. But in the milder climate it was easy to forgive him. Enlil became so important that he stayed outside Sumer, in Dilmun, regardless of whether Dilmun was a distant place or a sacred kremlin center, holy garden, or forbidden city, and there he made his plans in a general level. The dirty work, the practical government, was led by Enki, the god of land and freshwater. How modern thus this sound: seven gods, seven ministers: Enlil, Enki, An, Ninhursag (the mother goddess), Nanna (the moon god), Utu and last but not least Inanna (the god of love). The Babylonians inherited the three last ones by the names Sin, Samas (god of sun) and Ishtar (Astarte). The fifty Anunnaki were at the same time the parliament and the main officials.
"As the birds began to sing at the coming of the second dawn,
Inanna called to her brother Gilgamesh, saying:
'O Gilgamesh, in the days when the fates were decreed,
When abundance overflowed in Sumer,
When the Sky God had taken the heavens
And the Air God (had taken) the earth,
When Ereshkigal was given the Great Below for her domain,
The God of Wisdom, Father Enki, set sail for the underworld,
"... At that time a tree, a single tree, a huluppu-tree
Was planted by the banks of the Euphrates.
The South Wind pulled at its roots
and ripped at its branches
until the waters of Euphrates carried it away.
I plucked the tree from the river;
I brought it to my holy garden.
I tended the tree, waiting for my shining throne and bed.
Then a serpent who could not be charmed
Made its nest in the roots of the tree,
... I wept. How I wept! ...'
Gilgamesh the valiant warrior,
Gilgamesh, the hero of Uruk,
Stood by Inanna ...
He lifted his bronze ax,
The ax of the road, ...
He entered Inanna's holy garden.
Gilgamesh struck the serpent
Who could not be charmed ...
Gilgamesh then loosened
The roots of the huluppu-tree;
And the Sons of the City,
Who accompanied him, Cut off the branches.
From the trunk of the tree
he carved a throne for his holy sister.
From the trunk of the tree
Gilgamesh carved a bed for Inanna.
From the roots of the tree
She fashioned a pukku for her brother.
From the crown of the tree
Inanna fashioned a mikku for Gilgamesh,
The hero of Uruk."
I think that this poem "Huluppu tree", from which I have here taken only pieces from the end, is the soul of the Sumerians, a key to the understanding of the order in the Universe as they understood it. More than that: its tree symbolism is common to all mythological tree symbolism, not the least to the Hebrew mythology.
The fundamental feature of the poem is dualism, that dominates all the old thinking from Sumer to China. Order and chaos, good and bad, brightness and darkness, man and woman, yan and ying, life and death: as well for the Tao or the story of creation or the Sermon on the Mount as for "Gilgamesh". The tree grows from darkness, from Hades, lives in the kingdom of Enlil, and grows towards the heaven of An, just to die one day back to earth ("unto dust shalt thou return").
The Huluppu tree is the prototype for the dualistically divided pair of trees, the Tree of Life and the Tree of Good and Bad Knowledge. A tree, that in its own self possesses the seed for its revival, is so powerful a tool to make one conscious of the whole existence, that Inanna wants to have it into her garden. When the forests caught fire during the flood catastrophe, it was not just a physical catastrophe for mankind. The psychic trauma that it caused paralyzed mankind, gave birth to three religions (Christian faith, Judaism, and Islam) and created the preconditions for the joylessness of the Protestant ethic.
Inanna, the Eve, needs dualistically Gilgamesh, the Adam, because the serpent "that could not be charmed", made its nest in the roots of the tree. The symbol of serpent is common to Egypt, Israel, Sumer, and the Mayan empire. In its cometary resemblance and in its always recreating itself in the process of moult, thus being immortal, the dangerous serpent, which could not be charmed, mirrors concretely the whole fright of the mankind. The heaven will fall down, and the Sumerians knew that it sometimes did. Without the neurosis caused by this fright perhaps mankind might have been able to create a new paradise to replace the lost one. Because of this neurosis Western people have the burden of sin, a voluntary burden. They could not live without it. There would be nothing to apologize for without it. Without this heroic martyrdom the Western societies would not survive. Even with it, they seem to be having difficulties.
In the Poem of the Huluppu tree, there are mentioned mikku and pukku, words whose meaning the sumerologists have not been able to translate. Kramer suggests that they are musical instruments, which sounds a bit odd, because the tree was holy. (Of course music can be holy, but that's a different thing.) I think that pukku symbolizes the earthly administration, and mikku the heavenly one.
The fight between the secular men and the holy priests has one of its finest descriptions in the Flood story of the Gilgamesh. After having described the menace, the poet cites Inanna crying in despair:
"How could I do this!
Am I so stupid,
That I give life
Only to take it away,
So that people fill the sea like fishes?"
The gods themselves were afraid when they saw how tremendous the disaster was. They laid on the walls of Uruk "like dogs" and wept in despair.
Gerrit Verschuur has in his book "Impact!" (Oxford, 1996) painted a vivid picture of how the ancient flood and catastrophe legends can be interpreted. Edith and Alexander Tollman have done the same thing. Also in the legendary "Cosmic Winter" Victor Clube and Bill Napier (Oxford, 1990) have interpreted legends in this style.
"Based on what [Tollmanns] claim to have found in the historical record, and comparing that with modern calculations of the consequence of a major collision, they conjure up the following picture of events. Immediately following a series of impacts, there was a great heat pulse produced by the fireballs. As a result of flood and fire, much of the world was left in ruins. Many of the ancient stories also tell of earthquakes of enormous magnitude. "The crust moved, according to these traditions, like the running high waves of the tempestuous sea, hurtled people on their faces, uprooted trees, crushed rocks, broke down mountain crests and raised them elsewhere, changed the landscape and submerged many islands in the Atlantic and in the Indian Ocean."
"Wildfires are reported in tales from Indians in California, and similar stories from the Near East around the Euphrates. This then makes contact with what Clube and Napier have claimed."
"the earth burst into flame,
the highest parts first,
and split into deep cracks,
and its moisture all dried up.
The meadows are burned to white ashes;
the trees are consumed,
green leaves and all,
and the ripe grain
furnishes fuel for its own destruction ...
Great cities perish with their walls,
and the vast conflagration reduces whole nations to ashes."
"Apart from the description of processes which appear to have considerable relevance to events at the close of the Bronze Age, the reference to horses and ashes is doubly interesting because it is strangely reminiscent of that story of a wooden horse which on some later accounts, specifically caused the downfall of Troy during the Mycenean decline. This particular course of events was never alluded to in Homer's Iliad and the story [Phaethon and his father's chariot] is generally seen as a post-Iliadic addition designed to reveal Odysseus as an unscrupulous strategist. It remains conceivable however that the story is cosmological symbolism with a basis in fact. The connection between wood and ash is obvious, as are the cosmic connotations of the Phaethon tale. The brightly flowing trails of fireballs, and the trails of great comets, have been associated since antiquity with the manes of horses. Such visions in the dark sky are known to have always had terrifying associations, a distant reminder of which lingers on in our modern word 'nightmare'. In Arcadia, Poseidon was worshipped as the master of horses and was widely regarded as the instigator of earthquakes as well as being the brother of Zeus."
"After the fire came the floods triggered by tsunamis that lashed coasts, a result of the seven fragments falling into the oceans and seas around the world. This is inferred from the content of oral traditions that tell of water washing over a large fraction of the earth's surface. Only the highest mountain ranges and central and northern Asia were spared of the floods. "According to some stories, the flood wave surmounted the Cordillera of North America and penetrated deep into the continents."
"Those parts of the continents spared from floods were deluged with torrential rains that brought mud and soot and acid, which in places turned the rain to a bloody color. "Countless myths report with horror that the evil wolf (Edda) or a pernicious demon devoured the sun, the moon and the stars."
"Terrible winds were also reported in various legends. There were tales of birth defects whose nature might be blamed on the noxious acidic rains, the expected increases in ultraviolet radiation following the removal of the ozone layer, and the suspension of heavy metals in the water following the rains."
"There have been and will be many and diverse destructions of mankind,
Of which the greatest are by fire and water,
and lesser ones by countless other means.
"For in truth, the story that is told
In your country as well as ours,
How once upon a time
Phaethon, Son of Helios,
Yoked his Father's chariot,
And because he was unable to drive it
along the course taken by his father
Burnt up all that was upon the Earth,
And himself perished by a thunderbolt
That story, as it is told,
has the fashion of a legend.
"But the truth of it lies
In the occurrence of a shifting of the bodies in the heavens,
Which move around the Earth,
And a destruction of the things on the Earth by fierce fire,
Which recurs at long intervals.
(This could have been a notion by one of today's
"At such timesExtract from Eberhard Zanger's translation of Plato's Timaeus,
All they that dwell on the mountains and in high places
Suffer destruction more than those who dwell near the sea.
And in our case,
The Nile, our savior in other ways,
Saves us also from this calamity by rising high.
And when on the other hand,
the Gods purge the Earth with a flood of waters,
All the herdsmen and shepherds that are in the mountains are saved,
But those in the cities of your land are swept into the sea by the streams.
Wheras in our country,
Neither then, nor at any other time,
Does the water pour down over our fields from above;
On the contrary,
It all tends naturally to well up from below.
Hence it is for these reasons,
That what is preserved here is reckoned to be the most ancient.
...And if any event has occurred,
That is noble or great or in any way conspicuous,
Whether it be in your country or in ours,
Or in some other place of which we know by report,
All such events are recorded from old
And preserved here in our temples.
Wheras your people and the others
Are but newly equipped, every time,
with letters and all such arts as civilized states require.
After the usual interval of years,
Like a plague,
The Flood of Heaven comes sweeping down anew upon your people,
It leaves none of you but the unlettered and uncultured,
So that you become young as ever,
with no knowledge of all that happened in old times,
in this land or in your own."
This is clearly a scenario of a vast and global devastation or of several of them. It includes both global fires and/or global floods.
The first question we have to ask is, Is this kind of a scenario possible? The answer is yes. If the Earth is hit, or rather every time the Earth is hit by an asteroid or a comet big enough, there will be both global fires and global floods.
The fires are caused by the tremendous energy that is released in fractions of second when the cosmic debris hits the Earth.
The waters or floods are caused immediately (within several hours) by huge tsunamis, which can be several hundred meters high, and during a longer time (from weeks to months), when all the water vapour (if the debris hits water) released into the atmosphere slowly rains back, causing all great river mouths to flood.
As the Priest of Sais pointed out to Solon, the Greek myth of Phaethon, the son of Helios, tells the same story: everything burns up when the heavenly chariots crash on the earth. Not as poemly as Gilgamesh, but the same anyway.
Ovid: "The earth caught fire, starting with the highest parts. With all its moisture dried up, it split and cracked in gaping fissures. The meadows turned ashy grey; trees, leaves and all, were consumed in a general blaze, and the withered crops provided fuel for their own destruction. But these are trifles to complain of, compared with the rest. Great cities perished, their walls burned to the ground, and whole nations with all their different communities were reduced to ashes. The woods on the mountains were blazing, Athos was on fire..."
In his book the Theogony, which sets out the descent of the gods, the Greek poet Hesiod recorded an account of a battle between Zeus and the Titans which appears to be a record of an impact event. Not surprisingly, the battle takes place in Tartarus, in the Atlantic. (I specially thank E.P. Grondine for bringing this material to my attention. - TN)
"The boundless sea rang terribly around,
And the earth crashed loudly:
Wide Heaven was shaken and groaned,
And high Olympus reeled from its foundation
Under the charge of the undying gods,
And a heavy quaking reached dim Tartarus
And the deep sound of their feet in the fearful onset
And of their hard missiles.
So, then, they launched their grievous shafts upon one another,
And the cry of both armies as they shouted
Reached to starry heaven;
And they met together with a great battle-cry.
"Then Zeus no longer held back his might;
But straight his heart was filled with fury
And he showed forth all his strength.
From Heaven and from Olympus he came forthwith,
Hurling his lightning:
The bold flew thick and fast
From his strong hand
Together with thunder and lightning,
Whirling an awesome flame.
The life-giving earth crashed around in burning,
And the vast wood crackled loud with fire all about.
All the land seethed,
And Ocean's streams
And the unfruitful sea.
The hot vapour lapped round the earthborn Titans:
Flame unspeakable rose to the bright upper air:
The flashing glare of the thunder-stone and lightning
Blinded their eyes for all that there were strong.
Astounding heat seized Chaos:
And to see with eyes and to hear the sound with ears
It seemed even as if Earth and wide Heaven above came together;
For such a mighty crash would have arisen
If Earth were being hurled to ruin,
And Heaven from on high were hurling her down;
So great a crash was there
While the gods were meeting together in strife.
Also the winds brought rumbling earthquake and duststorm,
Thunder and lightning and the lurid thunderbolt,
Which are the shafts of great Zeus,
And carried the clangour and the warcry
Into the midst of the two hosts.
An horrible uproar of terrible strife arose:
Mighty deeds were shown and the battle inclined.
But until then,
They kept at one another
And fought continually in cruel war.
And amongst the foremost Cottus and Briareos
And Gyes insatiate for war raised fierce fighting:
Three hundred rocks,
One upon another,
They launched from their strong hands
And overshadowed the Titans with their missiles,
And buried them beneath the wide-pathed earth,
And bound them in bitter chains
When they had conquered them by their strength
For all their great spirit,
As far beneath the earth to Tartarus.
For a brazen anvil
Falling down from heaven nine nights and days
Would reach the earth upon the tenth:
A brazen anvil
Falling from earth nine nights and days
Would reach Tartarus upon the tenth.
Round it runs a fence of bronze,
And night spreads in triple line all about it like a neck-circlet,
While above grow the roots of the earth and unfruitful sea.
There by the counsel of Zeus who drives the clouds
The Titan gods are hidden under misty gloom,
In a dank place where are the ends of the huge earth.
Extract from Hugh G. Evelyn-White's translation of Hesiod's Theogony,
Available from The Berkeley Online Medieval and Classical Library
Now there is a very interesting coincidence. There exists one very old Frisian manuscript named the Oera Linda book. It's forewords were written in AD 1256, although its main section was a diary kept about 2000 years, which was put together 560-558 BC. However the scientific community condemned it as a forgery in 1871. We can ask if that was too hasty a conclusion. The most interesting data we have from it is that Atland was destroyed 3449 years before the forewords were written, that means 2194 BC.
Is the Frisian Atland the same as Plato's Atlantis? If so there is a discrepancy of 7400 years. But on what grounds does Plato, (or rather the priest of Sais, who told Solon the story, who in turn took it to Athens) count his 9000 years? Did the diary-keeper know better than Plato? The year 2194 BC is a remarkable coincidence indeed. A story like Plato's, a name for the sunken island like Plato's, and the date same as that counted for the destruction of Mesopotamia.
The arguments against Atlantis are traditionally, first, that there are no specifically Atlantean cultures seen anywhere; second, that Atlantis cannot disappear in the way Plato described; and third, that such high culture could not have existed 9000 years before Plato. Counterarguments can now be made: First, we cannot say that there is no Atlantean impact anywhere, for example, the Minoan culture could be its heir, how could we know? The Greeks had wars with Atlanteans, why not trade also? Second, a cosmic impact is mighty enough to destroy an island in the Atlantic. Third, Plato has erred in determining both the age and the size. In fact, Plato has only second-hand information, and admits himself that his information may be inaccurate. While this is not an argument that Atlantis existed, this is an argument that it is a real possibility.Finally, we have the modern astronomical view that the Earth is from time to time hit by cosmic debris. That happened to Jupiter in 1994. And we have three or four cases of great impacts of several kilotons of TNT on Earth in the 20th century the most remarkable impact happening in Tunguska, Siberia in 1908. An about 60-meter size asteroid or comet detonated in an altitude of estimated 6-8 km leveling and burning a forest of an area of 2100 km2. Whatever a great city would have been below the explosion, the whole city with its buildings and inhabitants would have been destroyed.
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