Sumer, or the land of civilized kings , flourished in Mesopotamia, now modern-day Iraq, around 4500 BC.
Sumerians created an advanced civilization with its own system of elaborate language and writing, architecture and arts, astronomy and mathematics. Their religious system was a complex one comprised of hundreds of gods. According to the ancient texts, each Sumerian city was guarded by its own god; and while humans and gods used to live together, the humans were servants to the godsThe Sumerian creation myth can be found on a tablet in Nippur, an ancient Mesopotamian city founded in approximately 5000 BC.
The creation of Earth (Enuma Elish) according to the Sumerian tablets begins like this:
When in the height heaven was not named,
And the earth beneath did not yet bear a name,
And the primeval Apsu, who begat them,
And chaos, Tiamut, the mother of them both
Their waters were mingled together,
And no field was formed, no marsh was to be seen;
When of the gods none had been called into being,
And none bore a name, and no destinies were ordained;
Then were created the gods in the midst of heaven,
Lahmu and Lahamu were called into being…
Sumerian mythology claims that, in the beginning, human-like gods ruled over Earth. When they came to the Earth, there was much work to be done and these gods toiled the soil, digging to make it habitable and mining its minerals.
The texts mention that at some point the gods mutinied against their labour.
When the gods like men
Bore the work and suffered the toll
The toil of the gods was great,
The work was heavy, the distress was much.
Anu, the god of gods, agreed that their labour was too great. His son Enki, or Ea, proposed to create man to bear the labour, and so, with the help of his half-sister Ninki, he did. A god was put to death, and his body and blood was mixed with clay. From that material the first human being was created, in likeness to the gods.
You have slaughtered a god together
With his personality
I have removed your heavy work
I have imposed your toil on man.
In the clay, god and man
Shall be bound,
To a unity brought together;
So that to the end of days
The Flesh and the Soul
Which in a god have ripened â€“
That soul in a blood-kinship be bound.
This first man was created in Eden, a Sumerian word which means â€˜flat terrainâ€. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, Eden is mentioned as the garden of the gods and is located somewhere in Mesopotamia between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
Sumerian tablet depicting Enki in the creation myth. (world-myth.com)
Initially human beings were unable to reproduce on their own, but were later modified with the help of Enki and Ninki. Thus, Adapa was created as a fully functional and independent human being. This â€˜modificationâ€ was done without the approval of Enkiâ€s brother, Enlil, and a conflict between the gods began. Enlil became the adversary of man, and the Sumerian tablet mentions that men served gods and went through much hardship and suffering.
Adapa, with the help of Enki, ascended to Anu where he failed to answer a question about â€˜the bread and water of lifeâ€. Opinions vary on the similarities between this creation story and the biblical story of Adam and Eve in Eden.
So let us compare the 4500 BC version to ~~modern Roman~~~~Jesuit version ~~
As with many other polytheistic religions, the Sumerian pantheon consists of a number of gods who are all related to one another.
It is easiest to describe the shape of this family tree by starting with Anu. Anu is also known as â€œAn,â€ the Great Father of the Sky. He is the original supreme deity in the pantheon, lord of all the other gods. He loses this position as the Sumerian tale unfolds, passing it off to Enlil and then (in Babylonian lore) to Marduk.
You will notice that Anu is not the first god in the family tree.
His parents are two primordial gods, Anshar and Kishar. If you happen to be versed in Greek mythology, you can think of these primordial gods as being a little bit like the titans who preceded the ancient Greek gods. After the Greek gods overthrew the titans, the importance of the titans took a backseat to the significance of the gods (in general).
The same is true hereâ€”the primordial gods factor into the creation myth of the Sumerians, but are less important later on.
Returning to Anu, Anuâ€s two consorts are Antu, Great Mother of the Sky, and Ki, the Earth Mother. Both gave him children.
Ki gave birth to Enlil, Lord of the Air and Earth, Guardian of the Tablet of Destinies (to start), and Nin-khursag, Lady of the Mountain.
Antuâ€s child was Enki, Lord of the Earth and Waters, known also as â€œEa.â€
As you can see, Enlil and Enki are half-brothers. Following his birth, Enlil cleaved the earth from heaven. At this point, he and Ki took command of the earth, while Anu continued to reign in heaven.
What is the Tablet of Destinies?
Just now I mentioned Enlil as the â€œGuardian of the Tablet of Destinies.â€ This is a mythological object of supreme importance. It is quite literally supposed to be a clay tablet engraved with cuneiform. Whichever god possessed it was considered the ruler of the universe.
Note that â€œTablet of Destiniesâ€ is the proper name for this object. People often get it wrong. You may see it incorrectly referred to as the â€œTablets of Destiny.â€ It is a singular object. I have also seen it called the â€œTable of Destiny.â€ I have no idea what is up with that.
In any case, according to many texts, Enlil was in possession of the Tablet for a long time, which made him supreme ruler of the universe, surpassing even Anu. There is however a Sumerian poem titled â€œNinurta and the Turtleâ€ which mentions that Enki possessed the Tablet.
The Tablet changes hands a number of times, depending on the text you read. At one point, Tiamat, the Dragon Queen (look for her at the very top of the family tree), possesses it. She gives it to her consort Kingu, who becomes commander of her army. Marduk, Enkiâ€s son, beats Tiamat in single combat, then defeats Kingu, claiming the Tablet and the authority for himself. At that point, Marduk becomes supreme ruler.
Just to complicate matters, this whole tale with Marduk only shows up in the Babylonian version of the myth. In the Sumerian version, Enlil beats Tiamat and reigns supreme.
Genesis of the Flood Myth
Yes, I deliberately titled this section â€œGenesis of the Flood Mythâ€â€”not â€œThe Flood Myth of Genesis.â€ If you have read anything about Anunnaki in the Bible, you likely knew I was going to get around to this. This is where a lot of the stories of the Anunnaki converge. And as you may also have guessed, Enki and Enlil are key players.
The Judeo-Christian Version:
Many people are familiar with the flood myth in the Bible. This is the story of Noahâ€s Ark. The summary version is that Yahweh was getting fed up with the sins of humankind. More specifically, He was upset about the corruption of mankind by beings referred to as the â€œNephilim.â€ Consider this passage from The Book of Jubilees, 7:21-25:
â€œ21 For owing to these three things came the flood upon the earth, namely, owing to the fornication wherein the Watchers against the law of their ordinances went a whoring after the daughters of men, and took themselves wives of all which they chose: and they made the beginning of uncleanness.â€
It is quite easy to equate the â€œWatchersâ€ or â€œNephilimâ€ with the Anunnaki.
I urge you to read up on this topic in detail in my article â€œWho Were the Nephilim?â€ Basically, fallen angels brought science and technology to humanity, but did it to enslave and corrupt them. Interbreeding ensued, leading to a race of demigods.
Yahweh decided to wipe out everyone and start over.
So He told Noah to build a great Ark. Noah loaded up the Ark with two of every animal and put his own family onboard. The flood destroyed all animal and human life outside the Arkâ€”as well as (presumably) the fallen angels and Nephilim. Noahâ€s family were able to repopulate the earth after they disembarked. God put a rainbow in the sky as a promise He would never judge the earth again with another flood.
The Sumerian Version:
Epic of Gilgamesh
Gilgamesh: Palace of Sargon II, Khorsabad, 8th century BC Assyrian.
The Sumerian flood myth is older than the one in Genesis, which is why I asserted with my title that the Sumerian story is the genesis of the Bible flood myth. This belief is shared by many scholars. It is thought that a number of early ancient Hebrews were in fact inhabitants of Mesopotamia.
This would have enabled them to pick up on the Sumerian myths and legends and use them as a basis for their own religion.
There are a number of Sumerian texts which feature a great flood in one form or another. The earliest known example is in the Epic of Ziusudra. Others include the Epic of Atrahasis and the well-known Epic of Gilgamesh.
The Epic of Gilgamesh is the story which bears the strongest resemblance to the later Genesis version featured in the Bible. Interestingly enough, it doesnâ€t seem to have been originally included in the tablets; it was edited into Tablet XI later by someone who was inspired by the Epic of Atrahasis.
I will tell you more about Gilgamesh in a moment, but first I want to briefly talk about the Eridu Genesis.
The Eridu Genesis was discovered on a fragmentary tablet by historian Thorkild Jacobsen. This is how we learned the Sumerian creation myth which I have already shared in part with you.
Because the tablets are fragmentary, bits and pieces of the story are missing. In the beginning, we find that Anu, Enlil, Enki and Nin-khursag have created human beings.
Anu Enlil Enki NinHurSagCities have been founded and life is flourishing.
There is then a missing section. Following that, we find out that a major destructive flood is on its way, and the pantheon has decided not to warn humanity or do anything to save them.
Enki decides he isnâ€t okay with this, so he warns a hero and tells him he should build an Ark. In the Eridu Genesis, this hero is Atra-hasis. In the better-known Epic of Gilgamesh, it is Utnapishtim.
Gilgamesh, a legendary figure and actual historical king of Uruk, Mesopotamia, who lived sometime between 2800 and 2500 BC.
Obviously the stories of Enlil and Enki are woven deeply into the fabric of Sumerian legends. These two played a role in numerous different aspects of the mythos. There are many ways that I could approach this discussion, but I have decided that the simplest way to organize the information would be to write a summary on each. While I could simply tell a detailed chronology of events, I personally find it easier to remember information when it is presented in relation to specific characters.
Enlil: Humanityâ€s Oppressor
Enlilâ€s role in Sumerian mythology can be summed up with reference to humanity in one word: oppressor.
Enlil was actually the god who (according to the Atrahasis-Epos text) originally commissioned the creation of the human race.
You might think that would be a good thing, but the only reason he wanted human beings was so that he would have a race he could enslave to do his bidding.
In fact, this was itself a bid for power among the gods. In the Sumerian myth (not the Babylonian one, which involves Marduk, as discussed earlier), a number of the gods are on strike because they are tired of maintaining creation.
Enlil proposes that he will solve the issue of the strike if he is named supreme ruler of the gods. In this version of the story, it is he (not Marduk) who subdues Tiamat.
Later on, Enlil becomes tired of humanityâ€s â€œnoise,â€ and as a result, decides to kill them all with the great flood. As the god of weather, this was easy for him to do.
This then brings us full circle back to the story of Utnapishtim from the Epic of Gilgamesh, who was saved by Enki and corresponds to Noah in the Judeo-Christian version of the myth.
Amusingly enough, Enlil eventually gets over his anger after the flood and decides to make Utnapishtim immortal.
Enki: Humanityâ€s Champion
Enki stands with the Gods
Now letâ€s talk about Enki, Enlilâ€s half-brother. Enkiâ€s role can be summed up as humanityâ€s creator and champion.
While Enlil is battling with Tiamat, Enki is missing the whole thing, because he is asleep. Thankfully, his mother Antu, also known as â€œNammu,â€ is able to communicate with him. She says:
Oh my son, arise from thy bed, from thy (slumber), work what is wise, Fashion servants for the Gods, may they produce their (bread?).
Enki wakes up and suggests the creation of a slave raceâ€”humanity. Now, you might think this made it his idea, but in truth, it was Enlilâ€s. Enlil was the one who spoke to Nammu, who then suggested the idea to Enki.
The Creation Of Man From Clay
The Creation Of Man From Clay
Enki himself creates human beings out of a mixture of clay and the blood of the slain god Kingu.
If you are knowledgeable about Greek mythology, this probably will ring a bellâ€”Prometheus, the ancient titan, created humanity out of clay. The two function as very similar figures. Like Prometheus, Enki tends to stand up for the human race in conflict with the gods.
Coming back around to the flood story, Enki wasnâ€t too pleased when he discovered Enlil planned to wipe out the race heâ€d created.
So he took it upon himself to warn Utnapishtim. He told Utnapishtim to construct an Ark.
Like Noah, Utnapishtim was commanded to load the Ark up with animals. Together with his wife, he preserved life on earth when the flood was unleashed.
After the waters began to recede, he released the animals to repopulate the planet. As I mentioned previously, Enlil eventually got over his outrage and granted immortality to Utnapishtim and his wife.
The Extraterrestrial Version of the Flood Myth:
You now know the Sumerian and Judeo-Christian versions of the creation and flood myths.
The modern extraterrestrial version was popularized by author Zecharia Sitchin in volumes such as The Lost Book of Enki.
The idea is this: the Anunnaki werenâ€t gods, or werenâ€t just godsâ€”they were alien visitors from outer space. You have probably heard Arthur C. Clarkeâ€s famous quotation, â€œAny sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.â€ This is the underlying assumption in equating the Anunnaki with aliens.
If ancient humans encountered beings from another world, they would describe them in a language which made sense to them at the time. As they did not have the word â€œaliens,â€ they would simply go with â€œgods.â€
There are numerous parallels and arguments which Sitchin and other Anunnaki alien theorists draw across the texts. There is no way to sum it all up here (I suggest checking out the rest of the articles on our site), but here are a few key pointers:
The Anunnaki come from the planet Nibiru.
They came to earth to mine gold, which they require to power their civilization. They created and enslaved humanity to do the hard work for them.
All the familiar players from Sumerian mythologyâ€”Enlil, Enki, Anu, Marduk and the restâ€”were actually alien administrators.
Nibiru is in a long orbit around the sun. The last time it came close to Earth, it upset the tides, causing the great flood.
Eventually Nibiru will return, causing another cataclysm.
Those in the mainstream view Sitchinâ€s work with some disdainâ€”but I would argue that it helps to view the extraterrestrial story as modern mythology. Think about it for a moment. Even the Sumerian and Babylonian texts conflict over whatever seed of truth may have inspired them. So yes, there are some inconsistencies involving Sitchinâ€s alien theoryâ€”but there are inconsistencies between the ancient texts as well.
So I want to wrap this up on the same note I usually come back to with our research. I hope that you now have a much stronger understanding of both Enki and Enlil and their roles in Sumerian mythology and the Anunnaki alien mythos. You also should have a pretty good idea how this all ties into Judeo-Christian lore.
But I really hope that your main takeaway is this: Every version of every story is interpretive. The truth behind the stories is unknown. By piecing together what we learn from a range of different mythologiesâ€”both ancient and modernâ€”we can start to imagine what the completed puzzle might look like.
All of these pieces have value, and all have something to tell us about our collective journey as humankind. This is why it pays to keep an open mind!