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excesses of the supply of water, the annual under consideration is the eleventh of a. floods of the Euphrates, and especially of series of twelve. Each of these answers the Tigris, must always be attended with to a month, and to the corresponding sign risk, and often prove harmful.
of the Zodiac. The Assyrian year began There are other peculiarities of the with the spring equinox; consequently, Euphrates valley which may occasionally the eleventh month, called “the rainy, tend to exacerbate the evils attendant on answers to our January-February, and to the inundations. It is very subject to the sign which corresponds with our Aquaseismic disturbances ; and the ordinary rius. The aquatic adventure of Hasisadra, consequences of a sharp earthquake shock therefore, is not inappropriately placed. might be seriously complicated by its It is curious, however, that the season thus effects on a broad sheet of water. More- indirectly assigned to the flood is not that over, the Indian Ocean Jies within the re- of the present highest level of the rivers. gion of typhoons ; and if, at the height of It is too late for the winter rise and too an inundation, a hurricane from the south- early for the spring floods. east swept up the Persian Gulf, driving its I think it must be admitted that, so shallow waters upon the delta and damming far, the physical cross-examination to back the outflow, perhaps for hundreds which Hasisadra has been subjected does of miles up-stream, a diluvial catastrophe, not break down his story. On the confairly up to the mark of Hasisadra's, trary, he proves to have kept it in all esmight easily result. *
sential respects* within the bounds of Thus there seems to be no valid reason probability or possibility. However, we for rejecting Hasisadra's story on physical have not yet done with him. For the grounds. I do not gather from The nar- conditions which obtained in the Euphrarative that the mountains of Nizir” were tes valley, four or five thousand years ago, supposed to be submerged, but merely that may have differed to such an extent from they came into view above the distant hori- those which now exist that we should be zon of the waters, as the vessel drove in able to convict him of having made up his their direction. Certainly the ship is not tale. But here again everything is in supposed to ground on any of their higher favor of his credibility. Indeed, he may summits, for Hasisadra has to ascend a claim very powerful support, for it does peak in order to offer his sacrifice. The not lie in the mouths of those who accept country of Nizir lay on the northeastern side the authority of the Pentateuch to deny of the Euphrates valley, about the courses that the Euphrates valley was what it is, of the two rivers Zab, which enter the even six thousand years back. According Tigris where it traverses the plain of to the book of Genesis, Phrat and HidAssyria some eight or nine hundred feet dekel—the Euphrates and the Tigris—are above the sea ; and, so far as I can judge coeval with Paradise. An edition of the from mapst and other sources of informa- Scriptures, recently published under high tion, it is possible, under the circumstances authority, with an elaborate apparatus of supposed, th t such a ship as Hasisadra's “ Helps" for the use of students—and might drive before a southerly gale, over therefore, as I am bound to suppose, purged a continuously flooded country, until it of all statements that could by any possi. grounded on some of the low hills between bility mislead the young—assigns the year which both the lower and the upper Zab B.C. 4004 as the date of Adam's too brief enter upon the Assyrian plain.
residence in that locality. The tablet which contains the story But I am far from depending on this
authority for the age of the Mesopotamian * See the instructive chapter on Hasisadra's plain. On the contrary, I venture to rely, flood in Suess, Das Antlitz der Erde, Abth. I. with much more confidence, on another Only fifteen years ago a cyclone in the Bay of kind of evidence, which tends to show Bengal gave rise to a flood which covered that the age of the great rivers must be 3000 square miles of the delta of the Ganges, 3 to 45 feet deep, destroying 100,000 people,
carried back to a date far earlier than that innumerable cattle, houses, and trees. It broke inland, on the rising ground of Tipperah, * I have not cited the dimensions given to and may have swept a vessel from the sea that the ship in most translations of the story, befar, though I do not know that it did.
cause there appears to be a doubt about † See Cernik's maps in Petermann's Mittheil. them. Haupt (Keilinschriflliche Sindfiuth. ungen, Ergänzungshefte 44 and 45, 1875-76. Bericht, p. 13) says that the figures are illegible.
at which our ingenuous youth is instructed carefully explored and determined to be that the earth came into existence. For, all that remains of that once great and the alluvial deposit having been brought flourishing city, “Erech the lofty.” Supdown by the rivers, they must needs be posing that the two hundred miles of alluolder than the plain it forins, as navvies vial country, which separates them from must needs antecede the embankment pain the head of the Persian Gulf at present, fully built up by the contents of their have been deposited at the very high rate wheelbarrows. For thousands of years, of four miles in a century, it will follow heat and cold, rain, snow, and frost, the that 4000 years ago, or about the year scrubbing of glaciers, and the scouring of 2100 B.O., the city of Erech still lay forty torrents laden with sand and gravel, have miles inland. Indeed, the city might have been wearing down the rocks of the upper been built nearly a thousand years earlier. basins of the rivers, over an area of many Moreover, there is plenty of independent thousand square miles ; and these materials, archeological and other evidence that in ground to fine powder in the course of the whole thousand years, 2000 to 3000 their long journey, have slowly subsided, B.C., the alluvial plain was inhabited by a as the water which carried them spread numerous people, among whom industry, out and lost its velocity in the sea. It is art, and literature had attained a very conbecause this process is still going on that siderable development. And it can be the shore of the delta constantly encroaches shown that the physical conditions and the on the head of the gulf* into which the climate of the Euphrates valley, at that two rivers are constantly throwing the waste time, must have been extremely similar to of Armenia and of Kurdistan. Hence, as what they are now. might be expected, fluviatile and marine Thus, once more, we reach the conclu. shells are common in the alluvial deposit ; sion that, as a question of physical proband Loftus found strata containing sub- ability, there is no ground for objecting to fossil marine shells of species now living in the reality of Hasisadra's adventure. It the Persian gulf, at Warka, two hundred would be unreasonable to doubt that such iniles in a straight line from the shore of a flood might have happened, and that the delta.f It follows that, if a trust- such a person might have escaped in the worthy estimate of the average rate of way described, any time during the last growth of the alluvial deposit can be 5000 years. And if the postulate of loose förmed, the lowest limit (by no means thinkers in search of scientific the bighest limit) of age of the rivers can firmations” of questionable parratives, be determined. All such estimates are proof that an event may have happened is beset with sources of error of very various evidence that it did happen—is to be ackinds ; and the best of them can only be cepted, surely Hasisadra's story is “ regarded as approximations to the truth. firmed by modern scientific investigation” But I think it will be quite safe to assume beyond all cavil. However, it may be well a maximum rate of growth of four miles to pause before adopting this conclusion, in a century for the lower half of the allu- because the original story, of which I have vial plain.
set forth only the broad outlines, contains Now, the cycle of narratives of which
a great many statements which rest upon Hasisadra's adventure forms a part contains just the same foundation as those cited, allusions not only to Surippak, the exact and yet are hardly likely to meet with genposition of which is doubtful, but to other eral acceptance. The account of the circities, such as Erech. The vast ruins at cumstances which led up to the flood, of the present village of Warka have been those under which Hasisadra's adventure
was made known to his descendant, of cer* It is probable that a slow movement of ele. tain remarkable incidents before and after vation of the land at one time contributed to the flood, are inseparably bound up with the result-perhaps does so still.
the details already given. And I am un7 At a comparatively recent period, the lit. toral margin of the Persian Gulf extended cer- able to discover any justification for tainly 250 miles further to the northwest than arbitrarily picking out some of these and the present embouchure of the Shatt-el Arab, dubbing them historical verities, while reSociety, 1853, p. 251.) The actual extent of jecting the rest as legendary fictions. the marine deposit inland cannot be detined, They stand or fall together. as it is covered by later fluviatile deposits. Before proceeding to the consideration
of these less satisfactory details, it is need- Pantheon, the god of justice and of pracful to remark that Hasisadra's adventure is tical wisdom, was also the god of the sea ; a mere episode in a cycle of stories of and, yielding to the temptation to do a which a personage, whose name is pro- friend a good turn, irresistible to kindly visionally read “ Izdubar," is the centre. seafaring folk of all ranks, he warned The nature of Izdubar hovers vaguely be- Hasisadra of what was coming. When tween the heroic and the divine ; some- Bel subsequently reproached him for this times he seems a mere man, sometimes ap. breach of confidence, Ea defended himself proaches so closely to the divinities of fire by declaring that he did not tell Basisadra and of the sun as to be hardly distinguish- anything; he only sent him a dream. able from them. As I have already men- This was undoubtedly sailing very near the tioned, the tablet which sets forth Hasisa- wind ; but the attribution of a little benerdra's perils is one of twelve ; and, since olent obliquity of conduct to one of the each of these represents a month and bears highest of the gods is a trifle compared a story appropriate to the corresponding with the truly Homeric anthropomorphism sign of the Zodiac, great weight must be which characterizes other parts of the epos. attached to Sir Henry Rawlinson's sugges. The Chaldæan deities are, in truth, extion that the epos of Izdubar is a poetical treinely human; and, occasionally, the embodiment of solar mythology.
narrator does not scruple to represent them In the earlier books of the epos, the in a manner which is not only inconsistent hero, not content with rejecting the prof- with our idea of reverence, but is somefered love of the Chaldæan Aphrodite, times distinctly humorous. * When the Istar, freely expresses his very low estimate storm is at its height, he exhibits them of her character ; and it is interesting to flying in a state of panic to Anu, the god observe that, even in this early stage of of heaven, and crouching before his portal human experience, men had reached a con- like frightened dogs. As the smoke of ception of that law of nature which ex- Hasisadra's sacrifice arises, the gods, atpresses the inevitable consequences of an tracted by the sweet savor, are compared imperfect appreciation of feminine charms. to swarms of flies. I have already reThe injured goddess makes Izdubar's life marked that the lady Istar's reputation is a burden to him, until at last, sick in torn to shreds ; while she and Ea scold body and sorry in mind, he is driven to Bel handsomely for his ferocity and injus seek aid and comfort from his forbears in tice in destroying the innocent along with the world of spirits. So this antitype of the guilty. One is reminded of Here hung Odysseus journeys to the shore of the up with weighted heels ; of misleading waters of death, and there takes ship with dreams sent by Zeus ; of Ares howling as a Chaldæan Charon, who carries him within he flies from the Trojan battlefield ; and hail of his ancestor Hasisadra. That ven- of the very questionable dealings of erable personage not only gives Izdubar Aphrodite with Helen and Paris. instructions how to regain his health, but But to return to the story. Bel was, at tells him, somewhat à propos des bottes first, excluded from the sacrifice as the (after the manner of venerable personages), author of all the mischief, which really was the long story of his perilous adventure ; somewhat hard upon bim, since the other and how it befell that he, his wife, and gods agreed to his proposal. But eventhis steersman came to dwell among the ually a reconciliation takes place ; the blessed gods, without passing through the great bow of Anu is displayed in the portals of death like ordinary mortals. heavens ; Bel agrees that he will be satis
According to the full story, the sins of fied with what war, pestilence, famine, mankind had becoine grievous ; and, at a and wild beasts can do in the way of decouncil of the gods, it was resolved to ex- stroying men ; and that, henceforward, he tirpate the whole race by a great flood. will not have recourse to extraordinary And, once more, let us note the uni
Finally, it is Bel himself who, formity of human experience. It would by way of making amends, transports appear that, four thousand years ago, the Hasisadra, his wife, and the faithful Nesobligations of confidential intercourse Hea to the abode of the gods. about matters of state were sometimes vio
* Tiele (Babylonisch-Assyrische Geschichte, lated-of course from the best of motives.
pp. 572-73) has some very just remarks on this Ea, one of the three chiefs of the Chaldæan aspect of the epos.
It is as indubitable as it is incompre- ashamed to share David Hume's want of hensible to most of us, that, for thousands ' ability to discover that polytheism is, in of years, a great people, quite as intelli- itself, altogether absurd. "If we are bound, gent as we are, and living in as high a or permitted, to judge the government of state of civilization as that which had been the world by human standards, it appears attained in the greater part of Europe a to me that directorates are proved by few centuries ago, entertained not the familiar experience to conduct the largest slightest doubt that Anu, Bel, Ea, Istar, and the most complicated concerns quite and the rest, were real personages, pos- as well as solitary despots. I have never sessed of boundless powers for good and been able to see why the hypothesis of a evil. The sincerity of the monarchs whose divine syndicate should be found guilty of inscriptions gratefully attribute their vic- innate absurdity. Those Assyrians, in tories to Merodach, or to Assur, is as little particular, who held Assur to be the one to be questioned as that of the authors of supreme and creative deity, to whom all the hymns and penitential psalms which the other supernal powers were subgive full expression to the heights and ordinate, might fairly ask that the essential depths of religious devotion. An “in- difference between their system and that fidel” bold enough to deny the existence, which obtains among the great majority or to doubt the influence, of these deities of their modern theological critics should probably did not exist in all Mesopotamia ; be demonstrated. In my apprehension, and even constructive rebellion against it is not the quantity, but the quality, of their authority was apt to end in the dep- the persons, among whom the attributes rivation, not merely of the good name, of divinity are distributed, which is the but of the skin of the offender. The ad- serious matter. If the divine might is herents of modern theological systems dis- associated with no bigher ethical attributes miss these objects of the love and fear of than those which obtain among ordinary a hundred generations of their equals, men ; if the divine intelligence is supposed offhand, as gods of the heathen," mere to be so imperfect that it cannot foresee creations of a wicked and idolatrous imag- the consequences of its own contrivances ; ination ; and, along with them, they dis- if the supernal powers can become furiown, as senseless, the crude theology, with ously angry with the creatures of their its gross anthropomorphism and its low omnipotence, and in their senseless wrath ethical conception of the divinity, which destroy the innocent along with the guilty ; satisfied the pious souls of Chaldæa. or if they can show themselves to be as
I imagine, though I do not presume to easily placated by presents and gross flatbe sure, that any endeavor to save the in- tery as any oriental or occidental despot ; tellectual and moral credit of Chaldæan if, in short, they are only stronger than religion, by suggesting the application to mortal men and no better, as it must be it of that universal solvent of absurdities, admitted Hasisadra's deities proved themthe allegorical method, would be scouted ; selves to be ; then, surely, it is time for I will not even suggest that any ingenuity us to look somewhat closely into their cre. can be equal to discovery of the antitypes dentials, and to accept none but conclusive of the personifications effected by the re- evidence of their existence. ligious inagination of later ages, in the To the majority of my respected contriad Anu, Ea, and Bel, still less in Istar. temporaries this reasoning will doubtless Therefore, unless some plausible recon- appear feeble, if not worse. However, to ciliatory scheme should be propounded my mind, such are the only arguments by by a Neo-Chaldæan devotee (and, with which the Chaldæan theology can be satNeo-Buddhists to the fore, this supposi- isfactorily upset. So far from there being tion is not so wild as it looks), I suppose any ground for the belief that Ea, Anu, the moderns will continue to smile, in a and Bel are, or ever were, real entities, it superior way, at the grievous absurdity of seems to me quite infinitely more probable the polytheistic idolatry of these ancient that they are products of the religious impeople.
agination, such as are to be found everyIt is probably a congenital absence of where and in all ages, so long as that imsome faculty which I ought to possess agination riots uncontrolled by scientific which withholds me from adopting this criticism. summary procedure.
But I am not It is on these grounds that I venture, at the risk of being called an atheist by the month on which the flood began. The ghosts of all the principals of all the col- dimensions of the ship are stated with leges of Babylonia, or by their living suc- Munchausenian precision at five stadia by cessors among the Neo-Chaldæans, if that two-say, half by one-fifth of an English sect should arise, to express my utter dis- mile. The ship runs aground among the belief in the gods of Hasisadra. Hence, “ Gordæan mountains” to the south of it follows, that I find Hasisadra's account Lake Van, in Armenia, beyond the limits of their share in his adventure incredible ; of any imaginable real inundation of the and, as the physical details of the flood Euphrates valley; and, by way of climax, are inseparable from its theophanic accom- we have the assertion, worthy of the sailor paniments, and are guaranteed by the same who said that he had brought up one of authority, I must let them go with the Pharaoh's chariot wheels on the fluke of rest. The consistency of such details with his anchor in the Red Sea, that pilgrims probability counts for nothing. The in- visited the locality and made amulets of habitants of Chaldæa must always have the bitumen which they scraped off from been familiar with inundations ; probably the still extant remains of the mighty ship no generation failed to witness an inunda- of Xisuthros. tion which rose unusually higb, or was ren- Suppose that some later polyhistor, as dered serious by coincident atmospheric, devoid of critical faculty as most of his or other, disturbances. And the memory tribe, had found the version of Berosus, of the general features of any exceptionally as well as another much nearer the original severe and devastating flood, would be story ; that, having too much respect for preserved by popular tradition for long his authorities to make up a tertium quid ages. What, then, could be more natural of his own, out of the materials offered, than that a Chaldæan poet should seek for be followed a practice, common enough the incidents of a great catastrophe among among ancient and, particularly, among such phenomena? In what other way Semitic historians, of dividing both into than by such an appeal to their experience fragments and piecing them together, withcould he so surely awaken in his audience out troubling himself very much about the the tragic pity and terror? What possi- resulting repetitions and inconsistencies ; ble ground is there for insisting that he the product of such a primitive editorial opmust have had some individual flood in eration would be a narrative analogous to view, and that his story is historical, in that which treats of the Noachian deluge the sense that the account of the effects of in the book of Genesis. For the Penta. a hurricane in the Bay of Bengal, in the teuchal story is indubitably a patchwork, year 1875, is historical ?
composed of fragments of at least two,
different and partly discrepant, narratives, More than three centuries after the time quilted together in such an inartistic fashion of Assurbanipal, Berosus of Babylon, born that the seams remain conspicuous. And, in the reign of Alexander the Great, wrote in the matter of circumstantial exaggeraan account of the history of his country in tion, it in some respects excels even the Greek. The work of Berosus has van- second-hand legend of Berosus. ished ; but extracts from it-how far faith- There is a certain practicality about the ful is uncertain—have been preserved by notion of taking refuge from floods and later writers. Among these occurs the storms in a ship provided with a steerswell-known story of the Deluge of man ; but, surely, no one who had ever Sisuthros, which is evidently built upon seen inore water than he could wade the same foundation as that of Hasisadra. through would dream of facing even a The incidents of the divine warning, the moderate breeze, in a huge three-storied building of the ship, the sending out of coffer, or box, three hundred cubits long, birds, the ascension of the hero, betray fifty wide and thirty high, left to drift their common origin. But stories, like without rudder or pilot.* Not content Madeira, acquire a heightened flavor with time and travel ; and the version of * In the second volume of the History of the Berusus is characterized by those circum- Euphrates Expedition, p. 637, Col. Chesney stantial improbabilities which habitually gives a very interesting account of the simple gather round the legend of a legend. The
Tekrit and in the marshes of Lemlum con. later narrator knows the exact day of the struct large barges, and make them watertight