Last updated

Ziusudra (Sumerian : 𒍣𒌓𒋤𒁺ZI.UD.SUD.RA2Ziudsuřa(k) "life of long days"; Greek : Ξίσουθρος, translit.  Xisuthros) or Zin-Suddu (Sumerian : 𒍣𒅔𒋤𒁺ZI.IN.SUD.DU) of Shuruppak (c. 2900 BC) is listed in the WB-62 Sumerian king list recension as the last king of Sumer prior to the Great Flood. He is subsequently recorded as the hero of the Sumerian creation myth and appears in the writings of Berossus as Xisuthros.[ citation needed ]


Ziusudra is one of several mythic characters who are protagonists of Near Eastern flood myths, including Atrahasis, Utnapishtim and the biblical Noah. Although each story displays its own distinctive features, many key story elements are common to two, three, or all four versions.[ citation needed ]

Literary and archaeological evidence

King Ziusudra of Shuruppak

In the WB-62 Sumerian king list recension, Ziusudra, or Zin-Suddu of Shuruppak, is listed as son of the last king of Sumer before a great flood. [1] He is recorded as having reigned as both king and gudug priest for ten sars (periods of three thousand six hundred years), [2] although this figure is probably a copyist error for ten years. [3] In this version, Ziusudra inherited rulership from his father [Ubur-tu-tu of Shuruppak|Šuruppak] [4] | (written SU.KUR.LAM), who ruled for ten sars. [5]

The lines following the mention of Ziusudra read:

Then the flood swept over.After the flood swept over, kingship descended from heaven; the kingship was in Kish.[ citation needed ]

The city of Kish flourished in the Early Dynastic period soon after a river flood archaeologically attested by sedimentary strata at Shuruppak (modern Tell Fara), Uruk, Kish, and other sites, all of which have been radiocarbon dated to ca. 2900 BC. [6] Polychrome pottery from the Jemdet Nasr period (ca. 30th century BC), which immediately preceded the Early Dynastic I period, was discovered directly below the Shuruppak flood stratum. [6] [7] The appearance of Ziusudra's name on the WB-62 king list therefore links the flood mentioned in the three surviving Babylonian deluge epics—the Eridu Genesis , the Epic of Gilgamesh , and the Epic of Atra-Hasis —to these river flood sediments.[ citation needed ] Max Mallowan wrote that "we know from the Weld Blundell prism that at the time of the Flood, Ziusudra, the Sumerian Noah, was King of the city of Shuruppak where he received warning of the impending disaster. His role as a saviour agrees with that assigned to his counterpart Utnapishtim in the Gilgamesh Epic... both epigraphical and archaeological discovery give good grounds for believing that Ziusudra was a prehistoric ruler of a well-known historic city the site of which has been identified." [8]

That Ziusudra was a king from Shuruppak is supported by the Gilgamesh XI tablet, which makes reference to Utnapishtim (the Akkadian translation of the Sumerian name Ziusudra) with the epithet "man of Shuruppak" at line 23.[ citation needed ]

Sumerian flood myth

The tale of Ziusudra is known from a single fragmentary tablet written in Sumerian, datable by its script to the 17th century BC (Old Babylonian Empire), and published in 1914 by Arno Poebel. [9] The first part deals with the creation of man and the animals and the founding of the first cities Eridu, Bad-tibira, Larak, Sippar, and Shuruppak. After a missing section in the tablet, we learn that the gods have decided to send a flood to destroy mankind. The god Enki (lord of the underworld sea of fresh water and Sumerian equivalent of Babylonian god Ea) warns Ziusudra, the ruler of Shuruppak, to build a large boat; the passage describing the directions for the boat is also lost. When the tablet resumes, it is describing the flood. A terrible storm raged for seven days, "the huge boat had been tossed about on the great waters," then Utu (Sun) appears and Ziusudra opens a window, prostrates himself, and sacrifices an ox and a sheep. After another break, the text resumes, the flood is apparently over, and Ziusudra is prostrating himself before An (Sky) and Enlil (Lordbreath), who give him "breath eternal" and take him to dwell in Dilmun. The remainder of the poem is lost. [10] [ failed verification ]

The Epic of Ziusudra adds an element at lines 258–261 not found in other versions, that after the river flood [11] "king Ziusudra ... they caused to dwell in the land of the country of Dilmun, the place where the sun rises". In this version of the story, Ziusudra's boat floats down the Euphrates river into the Persian Gulf (rather than up onto a mountain, or up-stream to Kish). [12] The Sumerian word KUR in line 140 of the Gilgamesh flood myth was interpreted to mean "mountain" in Akkadian, although in Sumerian, KUR often meant "land", especially a foreign country.

A Sumerian document known as the Instructions of Shuruppak dated by Kramer to about 2600 BC, refers in a later version to Ziusudra. Kramer stated "Ziusudra had become a venerable figure in literary tradition by the middle of the third millennium B.C.". [13]


Xisuthros (Ξισουθρος) is a Hellenization of the Sumerian Ziusudra, known from the writings of Berossus, a priest of Bel in Babylon, on whom Alexander Polyhistor relied heavily for information on Mesopotamia. Among the interesting features of this version of the flood myth, are the identification, through interpretatio graeca , of the Sumerian god Enki with the Greek god Cronus, the father of Zeus; and the assertion that the reed boat constructed by Xisuthros survived, at least until Berossus' day, in the "Corcyrean Mountains" of Armenia. Xisuthros was listed as a king, the son of one Ardates, and to have reigned 18 saroi. One saros (shar in Akkadian) stands for 3600 and hence 18 saroi was translated as 64,800 years. R. M. Best argued this was a mistranslation; the archaic U4 sign meaning year was confused with the sar sign which both have a 4-sided diamond shape and that Xisuthros actually reigned 18 years. [14]

Other sources

Ziusudra is also mentioned in other ancient literature, including The Death of Gilgamesh [15] and The Poem of Early Rulers, [16] and a late version of The Instructions of Shuruppak . [17]

See also


  1. Jacobsen, Thorkild (1939), The Sumerian King List, University of Chicago Press, pp. 75 and 76, footnotes 32 and 34
  2. Langdon 1923, pp. 251-259.
  3. Best 1999, pp. 118-119.
  4. tablet XI23.
  5. Langdon 1923, p.258, note 5..
  6. 1 2 Crawford 1991, p. 19.
  7. Schmidt, Erik (1931), "Excavations at Fara", The Museum Journal, University of Pennsylvania's, 22 (2): 193–217
  8. Mallowan, M.E.L. (1964), "Noah's Flood Reconsidered", Iraq, 26 (2): 62–82, doi:10.2307/4199766, JSTOR   4199766
  9. Lambert & Millard 1999, p. 138.
  10. text of Ziusudra epic)
  11. Lambert & Millard 1999, p. 97.
  12. Best 1999, pp. 30–31.
  13. Kramer 1967, p.16, col.2.
  14. Best 1999, p. 118.
  15. "ETCSLtranslation : t. The death of Gilgameš", ETCSL
  16. "ETCSLtranslation : t.5.2.5 The poem of early rulers", ETCSL
  17. "ETCSLtranslation : t.5.6.1 The instructions of Šuruppag", ETCSL

Related Research Articles

Enlil Ancient Mesopotamian god

Enlil, later known as Elil, is an ancient Mesopotamian god associated with wind, air, earth, and storms. He is first attested as the chief deity of the Sumerian pantheon, but he was later worshipped by the Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians, and Hurrians. Enlil's primary center of worship was the Ekur temple in the city of Nippur, which was believed to have been built by Enlil himself and was regarded as the "mooring-rope" of heaven and earth. He is also sometimes referred to in Sumerian texts as Nunamnir. According to one Sumerian hymn, Enlil himself was so holy that not even the other gods could look upon him. Enlil rose to prominence during the twenty-fourth century BC with the rise of Nippur. His cult fell into decline after Nippur was sacked by the Elamites in 1230 BC and he was eventually supplanted as the chief god of the Mesopotamian pantheon by the Babylonian national god Marduk. The Babylonian god Bel was a syncretic deity of Enlil, Marduk, and the dying-and-rising/resurrection deity Dumuzid.

Enki god in Sumerian mythology

Enki is the Sumerian god of water, knowledge (gestú), mischief, crafts (gašam), and creation (nudimmud), and one of the Anunnaki. He was later known as Ea in Akkadian and Babylonian mythology. He was originally patron god of the city of Eridu, but later the influence of his cult spread throughout Mesopotamia and to the Canaanites, Hittites and Hurrians. He was associated with the southern band of constellations called stars of Ea, but also with the constellation AŠ-IKU, the Field. Beginning around the second millennium BCE, he was sometimes referred to in writing by the numeric ideogram for "40", occasionally referred to as his "sacred number". The planet Mercury, associated with Babylonian Nabu was, in Sumerian times, identified with Enki.

Gilgamesh Sumerian ruler and protagonist of the Epic of Gilgamesh

Gilgamesh was a historical king of the Sumerian city-state of Uruk, a major hero in ancient Mesopotamian mythology, and the protagonist of the Epic of Gilgamesh, an epic poem written in Akkadian during the late second millennium BC. He probably ruled sometime between 2800 and 2500 BC and was posthumously deified. He became a major figure in Sumerian legends during the Third Dynasty of Ur. Tales of Gilgamesh's legendary exploits are narrated in five surviving Sumerian poems. The earliest of these is probably Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Netherworld, in which Gilgamesh comes to the aid of the goddess Inanna and drives away the creatures infesting her huluppu tree. She gives him two unknown objects called a mikku and a pikku, which he loses. After Enkidu's death, his shade tells Gilgamesh about the bleak conditions in the Underworld. The poem Gilgamesh and Agga describes Gilgamesh's revolt against his overlord King Agga. Other Sumerian poems relate Gilgamesh's defeat of the ogre Huwawa and the Bull of Heaven and a fifth, poorly preserved one apparently describes his death and funeral.

Sumerian King List Cuneiform list of Sumerian kings

The Sumerian King List is an ancient text in the Sumerian language, listing kings of Sumer from Sumerian and neighboring dynasties, their supposed reign lengths, and the locations of the kingship. This text is preserved in several recensions. The list of kings is sequential, although modern research indicates many were contemporaries, reflecting the belief that kingship was handed down by the gods and could be transferred from one city to another, asserting to a hegemony in the region.

History of Sumer Wikimedia list article

The history of Sumer, taken to include the prehistoric Ubaid and Uruk periods, spans the 5th to 3rd millennia BCE, ending with the downfall of the Third Dynasty of Ur around 2004 BCE, followed by a transitional period of Amorite states before the rise of Babylonia in the 18th century BCE.

<i>Epic of Gilgamesh</i> Epic poem from Mesopotamia

The Epic of Gilgamesh is an epic poem from ancient Mesopotamia that is often regarded as the earliest surviving great work of literature and the second oldest religious text, after the Pyramid Texts. The literary history of Gilgamesh begins with five Sumerian poems about Bilgamesh, king of Uruk, dating from the Third Dynasty of Ur. These independent stories were later used as source material for a combined epic in Akkadian. The first surviving version of this combined epic, known as the "Old Babylonian" version dates to the 18th century BC and is titled after its incipit, Shūtur eli sharrī. Only a few tablets of it have survived. The later "standard" version compiled by Sîn-lēqi-unninni dates from the 13th to the 10th centuries BC and bears the incipitSha naqba īmuru. Approximately two thirds of this longer, twelve-tablet version have been recovered. Some of the best copies were discovered in the library ruins of the 7th-century BC Assyrian king Ashurbanipal.

Flood myth narrative in which a great flood destroys a civilization, commonly as divine retribution

A flood myth or deluge myth is a narrative in which a great flood, usually sent by a deity or deities, destroys civilization, often in an act of divine retribution. Parallels are often drawn between the flood waters of these myths and the primaeval waters found in certain creation myths, as the flood waters are described as a measure for the cleansing of humanity, in preparation for rebirth. Most flood myths also contain a culture hero, who "represents the human craving for life".


Atra-Hasis is the title of an 18th-century BC Akkadian epic recorded in various versions on clay tablets. It is named for its protagonist, Atrahasis, whose name means "exceedingly wise". The Atra-Hasis tablets include both a creation myth and a flood account, which is one of three surviving Babylonian deluge stories. The name "Atra-Hasis" also appears on one of the Sumerian king lists as king of Shuruppak in the times before a flood.

Shuruppak Place

Shuruppak, modern Tell Fara, was an ancient Sumerian city situated about 55 kilometres south of Nippur on the banks of the Euphrates in Iraq's Al-Qādisiyyah Governorate. Shuruppak was dedicated to Ninlil, also called Sud, the goddess of grain and the air.

Mount Nisir, mentioned in the ancient Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, is supposedly the mountain known today as Pir Omar Gudrun, near the city Sulaymaniyah in Iraqi Kurdistan. The name may mean "Mount of Salvation".

Gilgamesh flood myth deluge myth

The Gilgamesh flood myth is a flood myth in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Many scholars believe that the flood myth was added to Tablet XI in the "standard version" of the Gilgamesh Epic by an editor who used the flood story from the Epic of Atrahasis. A short reference to the flood myth is also present in the much older Sumerian Gilgamesh poems, from which the later Babylonian versions drew much of their inspiration and subject matter.

Utnapishtim fictional human

Utnapishtim or Utanapishtim is a character in the Epic of Gilgamesh who is tasked by Enki (Ea) to abandon his worldly possessions and create a giant ship to be called Preserver of Life. He was also tasked with bringing his wife, family, and relatives along with the craftsmen of his village, baby animals, and grains. The oncoming flood would wipe out all animals and people not on the ship, a concept later used in the biblical story of Noah's Ark. 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" about the flood, but rather that he only made a dream appear to him, a claim which contradicts the earlier narrative of the poem and reveals an alternative telling.

Ubara-tutu of Shuruppak was the last antediluvian king of Sumer. He was said to have reigned for 18,600 years. He was the son of En-men-dur-ana, a Sumerian mythological figure often compared to Enoch, as he entered heaven without dying. Ubara-Tutu was the king of Sumer until a flood swept over his land, like Emperor Yao and Methuselah.

The earliest record of a Sumerian creation myth, called The Eridu Genesis by historian Thorkild Jacobsen, is found on a single fragmentary tablet excavated in Nippur by the Expedition of the University of Pennsylvania in 1893, and first recognized by Arno Poebel in 1912. It is written in the Sumerian language and dated to around 1600 BCE. Other Sumerian creation myths from around this date are called the Barton Cylinder, the Debate between sheep and grain and the Debate between Winter and Summer, also found at Nippur.

<i>Instructions of Shuruppak</i> example of sumerian wisdom literature

The Instructions of Shuruppak are a significant example of Sumerian wisdom literature. Wisdom literature, intended to teach proper piety, inculcate virtue, and preserve community standards, was common throughout the ancient Near East. The text is set in great antiquity by its incipit: "In those days, in those far remote times, in those nights, in those faraway nights, in those years, in those far remote years." The precepts are placed in the mouth of a king Šuruppak (SU.KUR.RUki), son of Ubara-Tutu. Ubara-Tutu is recorded in most extant copies of the Sumerian king list as being the final king of Sumer prior to the deluge. Ubara-tutu is briefly mentioned in tablet XI of the Epic of Gilgamesh. He is identified as the father of Utnapishtim, a character who is instructed by the god Ea to build a boat in order to survive the coming flood. Grouped with the other cuneiform tablets from Abu Salabikh, the Instructions date to the early third millennium BCE, being among the oldest surviving literature.

Sumerian religion first religion of Mesopotamia region which is tangible by writing

Sumerian religion was the religion practiced and adhered to by the people of Sumer, the first literate civilization of ancient Mesopotamia. The Sumerians regarded their divinities as responsible for all matters pertaining to the natural and social orders.

Garden of the gods (Sumerian paradise)

The concept of a Garden of the gods or a divine paradise might be of Sumerian origin, or so it is argued by Samuel Noah Kramer. The concept of this home of the immortals was later handed down to the Babylonians who conquered Sumer.

Tu (cuneiform) cuneiform sign

The cuneiform sign tu, and for TU-(the sumerogram, capital letter, in the Hittite language and other cuneiform texts, is a common-use syllabic sign for "tu", and also with a syllabic use for "t", or "u". It is not a multi-use sign, with other alphabetic sub-varieties.

Mesopotamian myths

Mesopotamian mythology refers to the myths, religious texts, and other literature that comes from the region of ancient Mesopotamia in modern-day West Asia. In particular the societies of Sumer, Akkad, and Assyria, all of which existed shortly after 3000 BCE and were mostly gone by 400 CE. These works were primarily preserved on stone or clay tablets and were written in cuneiform by scribes. Several lengthy pieces have survived, some of which are considered the oldest stories in the world, and have given historians insight into Mesopotamian ideology and cosmology.


Preceded by
Ubara-Tutu of Shuruppak
King of Sumer
c. legendary or 2900 BC
Succeeded by
Jushur of Kish
Ensi of Shuruppak
c. legendary or 2900 BC
City flooded according to legend