Theogonies ca. 1700 to 700 BC


(1) First study the follow short epics of creation, Sumerian and Hittite.

'Theogony of Dunnu' (adapted from Dalley 1989)

This odd composition from the Mesopotamian town of Dunnu (early 2nd m) shows how widely the creation story may have differed from region to region (and how clumsily it could be adapted).

Here the primal creators are Plow and Earth, and they are succeeded by a series of other agricultural and pastoral figures.

At the very beginning (?) [Plough married Earth] And they [established] ... dominion.

"We shall break up the virgin soil of the land into clods."

In the clods of their virgin soil (?) they created Sea (=irrigation?).

The Furrows spontaneously engendered the Cattle God.

Together (these 3?) built Dunnu for ever ... Plough held absolute power in Dunnu.

(But) then Earth raised her face to the Cattle God, Plough's son,

And said to him, "Come and let me love you!"

So Cattle God took his mother Earth to wife

And killed his father Plough, Laid him to rest in his beloved Dunnu.

Cattle God took over his father's dominion.

(But then) he married Sea, his older sister (and their son was Flocks God).

Flocks God, son of Cattle God, came and killed his father in Dunnu,

Laid him to rest in the tomb of his father. He then married his mother Sea.

Then Sea slew her mother Earth.

[The continuation gives specific dates of the sacred calendar which we will omit]

...the son of Flocks God married River, his own sister,

And then killed his father, the Flocks God, and (killed) Sea his mother,

And laid them to rest in the tomb...(thus the son) seized rule for himself.

The Herdsman God, son of the Flocks God, (then) married his sister

Pasture-and-Poplar (or MeadowForest) And made earth's verdure abundant,

Supported sheepfold and pen... (sufficient to feed?) forefathers (of Dunnu)

...Haharnum, son of Herdsman God, married his sister Belet-seri

And killed the Herdsman God and Pasture-and-Poplar his mother,

And made them dwell in the tomb. (And thus) won dominion ...

[Another ruler succeeds "At the New Year" marrying his sister, sparing the father but imprisoning him].


Hittite Kingship in Heaven

The Hittites were an Indo-European people dominant in north central Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) ca. 1600-1200. The following story is the centerpiece of their Creation.

In years gone by, Alalush was king in heaven. Alalush sits there on his throne.

And strong Anush [=Anu], first of the gods, is his servant. He bows to him at his feet.

He always gives him great cups to drink into his hand.

For nine years of rule, Alalush was king in heaven.

After nine year, Anush made war against Alalush.

He defeated Alalush who fled under the dark earth. Anush sat upon the throne.

Anush is there on his throne and strong Kumarbi always gives him food to eat

and always bows at his feet and always gives him great cups into his hand.

For nine years Anush ruled as king in heaven.

In the ninth year Anush made war with Kumarbi.

The eyes of Kumarbi he could not defeat. He slipped from Kumarbi's hand and fled.

Anush the eagle flew in the sky and Kumarbi closed in behind him,

grabbed his feet and pulled him down from the sky.

[Kumarbi] bit off the genitals [of Anush]. His sperm entered Kumarbi's belly.

He swallowed Anush's sperm and was happy and he laughed.

But Anush turned back to him and said to Kumarbi:

"Gloat all you want at your stomach that swallowed my sperm.

You will live to regret it. I have put an affliction in your innards.

First, I have made you pregnant with the Storm God,

second, with the river Aranzakh (=Tigris); third, with Tasmishu (storm demon).

I put that burden , the terrible gods, in your belly!

You will perish, hitting your head on the mountain Tashshu!"

When Anush finished his speech, he disappeared.

Then Kumarbi went high into the heavens. He spat from his mouth.

The stricken king spat from his mouth upwards [into heaven]...

The conclusion is fragmentary, but it is clear that the Storm God, Teshub ultimately emerges from the "good place" (?) battles with Kumarbi and overthrows him to become king in heaven.

The struggle for succession continues as Kumarbi plots revenge and engenders a volcanic demon in the earth by copulating with a great stone "five times ... and ten." The offspring is a great stone serpent, rising up to heaven, called Ullikummi. This creature climbs upon the shoulders of Ubelluri (horizon goddess? who holds the heavens like Atlas).

Teshub is temporarily defeated but marshals his allies and somehow topples Ullikummi.


(2) For discussion: Compare the 'Succession theme' in Babylonian Enuma Elish, (Sumerian) Theogony of Dunnu,and Hittite Kingship in Heaven.

How are they similar (in social structure, motives, etc.)?

How would you account for their differences?



(3) Now read the Greek Creation, Hesiod's Theogony, as much as 1000 years later than the NE traditions.

Outline the parallel myth of Succession.

Identify the roles of key characters

Heaven (=Ouranos) and Earth (=Gaia);

Cronos and Rhea


Zeus and the Olympians

Prometheus (esp. the 'trick of sacrifice' 535 ff.)

Typhoeus (=Typhon)

Brides of Zeus (esp. Metis)