Thursday, August 06, 2020
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Man's golden age


A Study of Spiritual and Literary Achievement in the Third Millennium B.C.



University of Pennsylvania PressPhiladelphia[1944, revised 1961]



This tablet (29.16.422 in the Nippur collection of the University Museum) is one of the unpublished pieces belonging to the Sumerian epic poem 1 whose hero Enmerkar ruled in the city of Erech sometime during the fourth millennium B. C. The passage enclosed by the black line describes the blissful and unrivalled state of man in an era of universal peace before he had learned to know fear and before the "confusion of tongues"; its contents, which are very reminiscent of Genesis XI:1, read as follows:

1. u4-ba mu-nu-g-la- g nu-g-la-[ka nu-g-la-]
2. ur-maḫ nu-g-la- ur-zir(?) ur-bar-ra nu-g-la-am
3. nte-gsu-zi-zi-i nu-g-la-
4. llu6gaba-u-gar nu-um-tuku-
5. u4-ba kur-ubur ki-ḫme-zi
6. eme-ḫa-mun ki-en-gi kur-gal-me-nam-nun-na-kam
7. ki-uri kur-me-te-g-la
8. kur-mar-tu-sal-la-na
9. an-ki-nigin-na uku-sag-sga
10. den-l-ra eme-a-, he-en-na-da-[si(?)-el(?)]

In those days there was no snake, there was no scorpion, there was no hyena,
There was no lion, there was no wild dog, no wolf,
There was no fear, no terror,
Man had no rival.

In those days the land Shubur (East), the place of plenty, of righteous decrees,
Harmony-tonguedSumer (South), the great land of the "decrees of princeship,"
Uri (North), the land having all that is needful,
The land Martu (West), resting in security,
The whole universe, the people in unison,
To Enlil in one tongue gave praise.


1 . The extant text of this poem, which we may entitle "The Epic of Enmerkar," is reconstructed from the following tablets and fragments: CBS29.13.194, 29.16.422; PBS V8; PBS XIII8; SEM14, 16; SRT34. The following pieces may also belong to this composition: BE XXXI44 (cf. Kramer, JAOS60.250); CBS2291, 7859; HAV9. "The Epic of Enmerkar" is to be kept distinct from another epic tale concerned with the same Enmerkar, which we may entitle "Enmerkar and Enmushkeshdanna." The extant text of the latter poem is reconstructed from the following tablets and fragments: Ni 2283; PBS V9, 10; SEM13, 18, 19. The following pieces also probably belong to it: CBS29.16.450; HAV17; SEM17. In SL320 I assumed that we had but one epic composition dealing with the exploits of Enmerkar in the course of subjugating Aratta to Erech. It now seems more likely that we actually have two such epic tales. The first, described in SLas the "larger portion," corresponds to the poem designated above as "The Epic of Enmerkar"; the second, described in SLas the "smaller portion," corresponds to the one designated "Enmerkar and Enmushkeshdanna." Note also that the number of pieces identified as belonging to these two poems is 20, not 25, as stated in SL320.


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