Flood Myths in Ancient Mythology

In ancient mythology, it seems as though God or a number of gods and human beings have ever changing relationships. In the creation myths, humans were the last part of creation and were created as servants to the gods. With creation completed, each subsequent myth seems to offer a different relationship between humans and the gods they worship. A prime example of the evolving nature of this relationship would be the flood myths in which the gods aim to end human life on earth. While the take on the flood is different in each respective culture, each myth allows us a clear look into the relationship that humans and their gods share.

In Mesopotamian mythology the flood myth of Atrahasis shows the relationship that the gods and humans held at the time of the flood. While the poem gives a scattered account of the actual flood, it does reflect the relationship in question. In the beginning of the poem, the gods are working on earth digging what is now the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The work was tedious and back breaking so the gods decided that they must confront the warrior god Ellil. Shortly after the confrontation, Ea proclaims, “let the womb-goddess create, and let man bear the load of the gods (Dalley: Atrahasis 15)! Enki provides clay to the womb-goddess Mami and she mixes the clay with the blood of a sacrificed god. After reciting an encantation she pinches off fourteen pieces of clay, seven men, seven women. The humans were created to relieve the gods of their work and duties on earth. This clearly shows that humans were created originally only as servants to the gods and help little more importance. Six hundred years forward, the humans are becoming much too loud and restless. This restlessness becomes far too much for Ellil and he decides that he must end human life on earth.

While Ellil attempts many other remedies, they do not accomplish his goal and he decides that he must send a flood to kill off the humans. This willingness to destroy life shows that the gods were not overly attached to their creation. It also illustrates further that the humans were seen as simple vessels to carry out the work of the gods and nothing more. Before the flood, Enki warns Atrahasis and tells the man that he must build a boat to preserve himself, his wife, and animal life. The flood comes and wipes out everyone except for Atrahasis and his passengers.

When the flooding has subsided, Atrahasis makes an offering to the gods and they take in the fragrance, “feasting” on it. After the offering, Ellil sees Atrahasis boat and becomes infuriated with Enki for warning Atrahasis of the flood. Enki then quickly offers a solution to problem that they had faced with the humans. Enki proposes that Nintu set a mortality rate and lifespan for humans so that they cannot live long enough to displease Ellil again. The ending of Atrahasis is where we see a glimmer of compassion for humans from the gods.

While harsher gods such as Ellil care little for the humans, other, more compassionate gods such as Nintu care greatly for their creations. Humans were created simply to work in submission to the gods; the gods whom helped to create them seem to care for them. The biblical story of Noah and the flood also gives an account of the flood and the subsequent relationship between man and God. In this story, God becomes displease with the actions of man on earth and decides he must do something to cleanse the earth.

So the Lord said, “I will blout out man whom I have created from the face of the ground, man and beast and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry I have made them (Thury and Devinney 114). ” However, God does see one man as righteous and decides that he must live and carry on. He forewarns Noah of this flood and tells him that he must build an ark and board it during the flood. Obeying his Lord, “Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him (Thury and Devinney 114). ” God also allows Noah to bring his family as well as a number of animals, those of which God wants to save.

This alone shows that with the world drowning in sin, God saw fit to save the only man whom he knew was righteous and whom also walked with the Lord. Even with his great disappointment in humanity, God chose to allow the righteous to live. This shows that all those whom live in the way of the Lord will saved both mortally and spiritually. The flood came and wiped the earth clean of all the Lord had been displeased with. Remembering Noah, the Lord made the flooding subside and blessed Noah and told him that he and his family must be fruitful and multiply the earth.

Noah made offerings to the Lord and the Lord proclaimed, “while the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease (Thury and Devinney 116). ” This story shows us that the relationship between God and human does not always have to be tense. While the Lord punished those who were living in sin, he saved the man whom he thou ght was righteous. After the flood, the Lord determined that Noah would continue his righteousness and he would not have to wipe the flesh from the earth again. The Lord saw that Noah walked in his faith and so with all his ower he decided that he must be saved. In this story the relationship between man and God comes down to whether or not that man lives a righteous life. In Ovid’s Metamorphoses the timeline and geography of the myth do not closely correlate with the other two flood myths, but it does give an account of the flood and the relationship between man and the gods. Jupiter, a powerful god, grows tired of the evil ways of human kind. Unlike the previous myths, Jupiter does not warn anyone of this oncoming disaster. Jupiter and Neptune send a universal flood to destroy life on earth.

However, two pious and just individuals, Deucalion and his wife, Pyrrha survive the flood on a small skiff. “One could not point to any better man, a man with deeper love for justice than, Deucalion; and of all women, none matched Pyrrha in devotion to the gods (Thury and Devinney 124). ” The two were not chosen to live through the flood, and it was an accident that they survived. After praying to the gods, Deucalion and Pyrrha were told to throw stones over their shoulders. This created human life, men and women. This just shows that the gods did not hold a large role in the recreation of human life.

In this myth we see that while humans hold the higher gods in great regard, they feel as though the lesser gods will be more likely to bestow blessings upon them. While some chose to explain an act of God or gods through a myth, each culture has a different account of these universal floods. We can draw many conclusions from the result of each respective flood and the subsequent rebirth of human kind. Each myth is a way of explaining one event, but it is explained through each culture and their belief systems. While each myth differs from one another, each culture’s flood myth gives a clear view of the relationship between man and his gods.

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