on 2 July 2012
This is an excellent addition for anybody interested in old myths and stories from the ancient Mesopotamia. What interested me in the first place, was the inclusion of the "Epic of Atrahasis", which personally I find fascinating and mesmerizing: Sumerian gods, creation of man to carry a "heavy work" for them, Enlil's decision to destroy humankind with a Flood - as there were too many "noisy" people, and obviously the original Flood story that was later adapted in the Epic of Gilgamesh.
Reading that first epic story you can actually find the answer to a question of why the "man" was created in the first place -> as at that time (among other things), the Annunaki were improving the courses of Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Some of them were not happy about hard work that they were doing - as apparently they did it for a long time - and they complained about it. To make the long story short, Ea (Enki) suggested creating a "man" and letting him bear the hard work -> and the rest in history. The myth of creating a "man" is also fascinating because the first human beings remained alive for centuries, and only later "gods" decided to institute death as a normal end to human life (the "gods" also decided to prevent some people breeding and to institute infant and child mortality - as Enki and Enlil agree on other means for controlling the human population).
The "Epic of Atrahasis" also tells a bit different story regarding our "Flood hero" - as he was simply slightly drunk at a banquet/feast at that time: "Wild animals of open country he put on board. He invited his people to a feast. He put his family on board. They were eating, they were drinking. But he (Atrahasis) went in and out. Could not stay still or rest on his haunches. His heart was breaking and he was vomiting bile" (Atrahasis III ii, page 31 in the book). To put it simply, the guy was obviously partying, just before the Flood started (can't really blame him though). No wonder something like that was not included in any other ancient Near East flood story (the other explanation of course is that he was... afraid and scared, that's why he acted like that).
Anyway, the book has slightly over 300 pages that include the following myths/stories: Atrahasis, Epic of Gilgamesh (a great quest for immortality there), The Descent of Ishtar to the Underworld, Nergal and Ereshkigal, Adapa (the first of the antediluvian seven sages who were send by Ea to bring the arts of civilization to mankind), Etana, Anzu, The Epic of Creation (must read), Theogony of Dunnu, Erra and Ishum. Each chapter starts with a short introduction to the story, and ends with the "Notes" section - both of which give you a lot of background information about myth itself and the translation process.
Bear in mind that the book doesn't have any photos or drawing, and this is not a book about history of Mesopotamia or history of Mesopotamian myths (if you want that you will have to find a different book). I would also say that to truly appreciate this book, you already have to know a bit about Sumerian civilization and it's culture. At the end you have an excellent "Notes" and "Bibliography" sections, and also a glossary of Deities, places and key terms (quite useful I must say). Recommended to anybody interested in history of human civilization (and our - as humanity - beginnings).
"History Begins at Sumer: Thirty-nine Firsts in Recorded History" - by Samuel Noah Kramer
on 30 March 2014
It blew my mind to see that many stories from genesis are here in earlier and more detailed forms. For example, Atrahasis is basically Noah, in more detail with massive differences. There's very little in this book to imply the Anunaki were aliens though. The blanks are kept in (the book explains the tablets were damaged, which isn't surprising as they are about 6000 years old) , so if you want to fill the blanks with aliens and flying saucers you are free to do so ;)
I like how the blanks have stayed, and she hasn't made guesses to fill them in.
on 8 March 2010
I am doing some research for an author who wishes to relate the story to actual historical events/timeline and in a seemless manner, and have been looking into the various myths, legends, fairytales of ancient times and the historical significance of these when I decided on aquiering this book.
I have read some of these stories before such as the epic of Gilgamesh and the descent of Ishtar, and have to say that this translation is a great starting point for anyone interested in the ancient tradition of storytelling and oratory history of old. Though a lot is lost in translation it gives you enough to see the beautiful allegorical usage and also gives you a pleasurable reading experience.
It is a must read for anyone interested in the ancient times and gives you a great selection for further reading if the stories speak to you (be it for their language, content or historical refrences) or you'r just plain curious of the origins of modern civilization.
I would also recomend that one reads the complete stories of 1001 nights and those wonderful stories of the ancient Egyptian mythologies for comparison.
on 30 August 2011
This includes the Epic of Gilgamesh but also several other and lesser known stories, like the Epic of Creation. There is a short general introduction as well as shorter introductions to each story, as well as extensive notes. The stories themselves are a delight to read. The introduction and the notes are useful. Having read Gilgamesh before, I wasn't entirely convinced this was the best possible translation (which is why I gave only four stars).
on 13 March 2011
Having read the negative comments about Zechariah Sitchin I wanted to read the original stories on their own with a good translation. This book is brilliant although not the easiest to read as it doesn't smooth over gaps. I prefer this as it let's me make up my own mind how to fill them. The idea of extra terrestrials having visited the earth can be easily deducted from these texts, one only needs to read the first story "Atrahasis" to get the idea "When Anu had gone up to the sky, [And the gods of] the Apsu had gone below, The Anunnaki of the sky Made the Igigi bear the workload."
These gods are not portrayed in a way we like to think of gods as kind of heavenly beings but remind us of greek gods, real people but from a different place, another planet. These gods are as human as we are, they are sleeping in houses, grumble over hard work, complain and start rebellions. And like us humans, who want to ease the work-burden and use workers/slaves, so did they, they created mankind to do the work for them.
They " ... clear channels, the lifelines of the land, ... They were counting the years of loads, For 3,600 years they bore the excess, Hard work, night and day. They groaned and blamed each other, Grumbled over the masses of excavated soil"
The stories are all very human, have even a modern feel to it sometimes. They really make you think and wonder, who are these Anunnaki, are they really gods in a sense of how we understand gods, supernatural beings, or are they simply a kind of human from a different planet who created workers in their own image but a shorter life span. Even the process of creation as described in these stories do remind one of modern genetic engineering. After reading these stories, I believe that Sitchin might really have a point, there really might have been people from another planet who visited this planet and created us.
Of course there are always other interpretations possible, but considering the style these stories are written in and how there are so many other cultures with similar stories and artefacts that still puzzle science and historians today, I think we should keep an open mind. This book is a good start to get a more 'un-biased' view about ancient cultures like the Sumerian. Let the stories speak for themselves.