Maat - To know the history to create the future







The poem of Atrahasis or of the Great Sage was written in Akkadian in XVII century B.C., but dates back in many parts to Sumerian texts and traditions. It is enough to mention the Sumerian history of the deluge with Ziusudra in the place of Atrahasis.

In the poem are dealt the topics of the creation of the man (a mixture of clay with flesh and blood of an immolated god), of his task in the universe (to continue the work of the inferior gods) and of the problem of overpopulation (epidemics, famines and universal deluge).

Source: Poem of Atrahasis or of the Great Sage

Original text: Discovered in the Library of Assurbanipal (668-627 B.C.)

Locality: Mesopotamia - Babylon

Age: Composed in the period 1646-1626 B.C. - during the reign of Ammisaduqa, fourth successor of Hammurabi - on the base of ancient texts and Sumerian and Akkadian traditions.



Gods that work and gods that direct the works

Before the creation of the man gods worked. Gods were divided in two groups the Anunnaku, the gods more important that supervised the works, and the Igigu, that carried out the works.

Partition of the domination of the universe

There was a king of gods, Anu, who was assisted in the government by a group of mighty ones: Enlil, Enki, Ninurta, etc. The king and the mighty ones had drawn lots the domination of the universe: Anu the sky, Enlil the earth, Enki the sea.

Digging and maintenance of the channels

The gods workers dug water courses and the channels for the irrigation of the soil (Mesopotamia was practically lacking in rains and the only way to grow the vegetation was to carry the water of Tigris and Euphrates by means of the channels to the fields to cultivate).

The revolt of gods workers begins

After some millennium of continuous work the gods workers began to complain themselves, then burnt their tools, the hoes and the hampers for the transport of the soil. They assembled and decided to go to Enlil, their head, in order to ask him to be exempt from the work.

Attack to the palace of Enlil

At night, suddenly, the gods workers encircled the palace of Enlil. The guardian of the palace succeeded to close in time the doors. Enlil armed himself and gave the order to all his collaborators to do the same thing. Enlil, who had become green in face from the fear, sent to ask aid to Anu and Enki.

The negotiation

The gods masters assembled in council. Enlil, filled with indignation for the insult made to his person, was inclined to engage the combat immediately. Anu, instead, proposed to begin some negotiations. A messenger was sent to speak to the crowd in order to understand the reasons of the revolt. The spokesman of the workers made present the hard work to which they had been subjected by Enlil.

The solution: to create the mankind

Enlil, still more filled with indignation, proposed to put the spokesman of the workers to death in order to break down the revolt. Anu opposed himself asserting that they knew since some time the situation of uneasiness of the workers and that a solution had to be found. Anu called the goddess Belet-ili and ordered to her to manufacture a man prototype. The man would have assumed on himself the labour and the hard work of the Igigu.

Divine flesh and blood mixed with clay

The goddess said that she alone was not able to make the man prototype, but that with the aid of Enki she would have succeeded. Enki then decided that a god would have been immolated and that his flesh and his blood would have been mixed by the goddess with the clay. In such a way the god and the man would have been tied, in the man would penetrate a " spirit " who would have maintained him alive also after the death.

Seven males and seven females

The god was immolated. Belet-ili mixed his flesh and blood with the clay. The gods Anunnaki and the gods Igigu, they to become greate gods, spat on the clay. Fourteen clay breads where done. Seven breads produced males and the others seven females. Then males and females coupled two by two.

The men at work

New picks and new hoes were constructed. The men began their activity building up large dams of irrigation in order to supply food for the men and for the gods, in order to continue the great work of the gods Igigu.

Overpopulation: the epidemic begins

The population multiplied. The inhabited territory was widened, but an excess of population took place at the same time. Then Enlil called the other gods and said that he was disturbed in the sleep by the hubbub of the men: they were too many. The gods decided to send one epidemic between the men.

End of the epidemic

A man, called Great Sage, as suggested by Enki, organized the countermeasures. It was necessary not to carry more offers to the temples. It was necessary to honor the God Namtar, the bearer of the epidemic, who, satisfied, would have suspended his evil action. And that happened. The men prospered anew.

The drought arrives

The population grew and Enlil newly complained with the other gods: the hubbub of the men did not make him sleep. The gods agreed to send the groudded. No rain, no flood of the rivers, warm wind, dark sky. The men resort to the same stratagem and Adad, god of the rain, in the morning made to drizzle secretly and the night condensed the dew.


The mankind resumed to encrease and to multiply. Enlil, always sleepless, decided to resort again to the scourge of the drought/famine, but this time he places a strict control on the situation: Anu and Adad will be the gruardians of the sky and he himself will control the earth. The meadows dried up, the plain was covered by saltpetre, the supplies ended, the granaries emptied.

Enki does not bear the situation and takes part to raise the conditions of mankind again, violating the agreement of the gods Annunaku.

Assembly of gods: it is decided the deluge

Then Enlil convenes a new assembly in order to resolve once and for all the controversy and begins his participation remembering as its orders have been sneered at by Adad and Enki. Enki bursts to laugh. Enlil, always sleepless, resumes a thousand times his accusations towards Enki and the makind. Then he announces the universal deluge in order to exterminate all the population.

Enki opposes to the deluge: for which reason the men must be exterminated, as they were created in order to raise the gods from their work, and made with the flesh and blood of an immolated god?

But the opinion of Enlil prevails. The assembly decides the deluge, that will be executed by Enlil himself, god of the sky. The others gods are bound by an oath not to take part in favor of the men.

A huge boat is constructed

The Great Sage, devout to Enki, has a dream during which he receives by Enki the order to construct one huge boat very strong and to abandon his house and his property in order to save his life.

The Great Sage invents an excuse in order to justify his strange behavior with the elders of the city where he lives. He announces that he wants to abandon the city in order to leave the territory of Enlil, hostile to Enki, to whom he is devout.

The Deluge

On the boat were loaded: gold, silver, animals of every kind, the relatives of the Great Sage. Then the wheater changed, and so the Great Sage closed the hatch with bitumen, an impetuous wind rose and the moorings were broken. The Deluge had had its beginning.

The sun disappeared, the wind was howling, the storm hit the earth, people died. The rumble terrified the gods too.

Enki was upset seeing his sons swept up. Belet-ili herself was in sobs, she moaned and cried. And with her the others gods cried, their lips dry for the anguish.

The boat strands

The deluge continued for seven days. Then it finished. The boat stranded on the top of a mount. The Great Sage freed some birds in order to see if could disembark, then he came down to earth and made a meal for the gods, who smelt the good odour and assembled around to the banquet like flies.

Immortality for the Great Sage

When Enlil saw the boat got very much angry and accused the other gods of having betrayed the oath. Enki was immediately suspected. He confessed and assumed every responsibility . He explained the reasons of his behavior and convinced the other gods who decided also to grant immortality to the Great Sage, survived to the deluge.

Measures in order to avoid overpopulation

Enki in order to avoid the overpopulation took the following measures: not all the women would be fecund, the children would have been subjected to a high mortality, consecrated women could not have had sons.


Bibliographical references:

Bottéro J. - Kramer S. N.

Uomini e dei della Mesopotamia

Pettinato G.

I sumeri


D'Agostino F.

Gilgamesh alla conquista della immortalità