Ut-napishtim is a legendary king of Shuruppak in southern Iraq, who survived the Flood by making a boat.

Cuneiform tablet with the Atra-Hasis epic in the British Museum

He is called by different names in different traditions: Ziusudra ("Life of long days", rendered Xisuthros, Ξίσουθρος in Berossus) in the earliest, Sumerian versions, later Shuruppak (after his city), Atra-Hasis ("exceeding wise") in the earliest Akkadian sources, and Uta-napishtim ("he has found life" Akkadian: 𒌓𒍣) in later Akkadian sources such as the Epic of Gilgamesh.[1] His father is the king Ubar-Tutu ("Friend of the god Tutu").

Uta-napishtim is the eighth of the antediluvian kings in Mesopotamian legend, just as Noah is the eighth from Enoch in Genesis.[1] He would have lived around 2900 BC, corresponding to the flood deposit at Shuruppak between the Jemdet Nasr and Early Dynastic levels.[1]

In the Mesopotamian stories he is tasked by the god Enki (Akkadian: Ea) to create a giant ship to be called Preserver of Life in preparation of a giant flood that would wipe out all life. The character appears in the Epic of Gilgamesh.[2] The story of Utnapishtim has drawn scholarly comparisons due to the similarities between it and the storylines about Noah in the Bible.[3]

Story edit

Ut-napishtim is tasked by the god Enki to abandon his worldly possessions and create a giant ship to be called Preserver of Life. In Erra and Išum,[4] Marduk is said to have been the originator of the flood and the Seven Sages.

The Preserver of Life was made of solid timber, so that the rays of Shamash (the sun) would not shine in, and of equal dimensions in length and width. The design of the ship was supposedly drawn on the ground by Enki, and the frame of the ark, which was made in five days, was 200 feet in length, width and height, with a floor-space of one acre.[5] The ark interior had seven floors, each floor divided into 9 sections, finishing the ark fully on the seventh day. The entrance to the ship was sealed once everyone had boarded the ship.

He was also tasked with bringing his wife, family, and relatives along with the craftsmen of his village, baby animals, and grains.[5] The oncoming flood would wipe out all animals and people not on the ship. After twelve days on the water, Utnapishtim opened the hatch of his ship to look around and saw the slopes of Mount Nisir, where he rested his ship for seven days. On the seventh day, he sent a dove out to see if the water had receded, and the dove could find nothing but water, so it returned. Then he sent out a swallow, and just as before, it returned, having found nothing. Finally, Utnapishtim sent out a raven, and the raven saw that the waters had receded, so it circled around, but did not return. Utnapishtim then set all the animals free, and made a sacrifice to the gods.

The gods came, and because he had preserved the seed of man while remaining loyal and trusting of his gods, Utnapishtim and his wife were given immortality, as well as a place among the heavenly gods. Enki (Ea) also claims that he did not tell "Atrahasis" (apparently referring to Utnapishtim) about the flood, but rather that he only made a dream appear to him.[6]

Role in the epic edit

In the epic, overcome with the death of his friend Enkidu, the hero Gilgamesh[7] sets out on a series of journeys to search for his ancestor Utnapishtim (Xisouthros) who lives at the mouth of the rivers and has been given eternal life.

Utnapishtim counsels Gilgamesh to abandon his search for immortality, but gives him a trial to defy sleep if he wishes to obtain immortality. Gilgamesh failing at his trial to defy sleep, Utnapishtim next tells him about a plant that can make him young again. Gilgamesh obtains the plant from the bottom of the sea in Dilmun (often considered to be current-day Kuwait) but a serpent steals it, and Gilgamesh returns home[8] to the city of Uruk, having abandoned hope of either immortality or renewed youth.

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b c William W. Hallo and William Kelly Simpson (1971). The Ancient Near East: A History.
  2. ^ "Epic of Gilgamesh: Tablet XI". www.ancienttexts.org. Archived from the original on 2020-01-12. Retrieved 2020-02-28.
  3. ^ Stookey, Lorena Laura (2004-03-30). Thematic Guide to World Mythology. Bloomsbury Publishing USA. pp. 54–55. ISBN 978-0-313-03937-9. Although their deities call forth the floodwaters for different reasons, Utnapishtim and Noah share a common experience in surviving the deluge. Like Noah, Utnapishtim receives specific instructions as to the dimensions and the design of the ark he must build. Singled out because of their virtues, both Utnapishtim and Noah obey the commands they are given, and both preserve animals and plant seeds by taking them on board. The rains fall, in both Gilgamesh and Genesis, for a specific number of days and nights, and, after they have ceased, both Utnapishtim and Noah release three birds to discover whether dry land has yet emerged. In both accounts the arks bearing the survivors come at last to rest on mountain slopes. When they leave their vessels, both Utnapishtim and Noah immediately build altars and offer their thanks in the form of the burnt offering of animals. In both accounts a rainbow appears in the sky to symbolize the acceptance of the sacrifices. The rainbow in Gilgamesh is Ishtar's jeweled necklace, offered with the promise that she will never forget the flood. In the Hebraic version, the rainbow represents a covenant with Noah and his seed, a promise that the flood will never again recur. Unlike Utnapishtim, Noah is not granted immortality, but his lifespan is nevertheless a long one, at 950 years.
  4. ^ "Erra and Ishum - www.GatewaysToBabylon.com". www.gatewaystobabylon.com. Retrieved 2022-02-18.
  5. ^ a b Rosenberg, Donna (1994). World Mythology: An Anthology of the Great Myths and Epics. Lincolnwood, Chicago: National Textbook Company. pp. 196–200. ISBN 0-8442-5765-6.
  6. ^ Gardner, John; Maier, John (1984). Gilgamesh: translated from the Sin-leqi-unninni version. New York, New York: Random House, Inc. p. 240. ISBN 0-394-74089-0.
  7. ^ The Epic of Gilgamesh | Tales of Earth, retrieved 2020-03-01
  8. ^ "In The Epic of Gilgamesh, what does Gilgamesh gain from his epic quest? Does it change him?". eNotes. Archived from the original on 2020-03-01. Retrieved 2020-03-01.