The Great Flood: Berossus

The Great Flood: mythological story about a great destruction that once befell the earth. There are several variants; the Biblical version is the most famous. The possibility that there is a historical event behind the story (a local flood in southern Babylonia in the twenty-eighth century BCE) cannot be excluded.

On this page, you will find Fragment 4 of Berossus' Babylonian History, which was published in 278 BCE, in the translation by G.P Verbrugghe and J.M. Wickersham (with some minor modifications).The text itself is lost, but was quoted by a Byzantine author named George Syncellus, who lived in the early ninth century.

Syncellus, Chronological Excerpts 53-56

[53] In the second book, Berossus records the ten kings and the length of their reigns, 120 saroi or 432,000 years until the Great Flood. [...]

[54] Cronusnote appeared to Xisuthrus in a dream and revealed that on the fifteenth of the month Daisiosnote mankind would be destroyed by a great flood. He then ordered him to bury together all the tablets, the first, the middle, and the last, and hide them in Sippar, the city of the sun.note Then he was to build a boat and board it with his family and best friends. He was to provision it with food and drink and also to take on board wild animals and birds an all four-footed animals.

Then when all was prepared, he was to make ready to sail. If asked where he was going, he was to reply, "to the gods, to pray that all good things will come to man".noteHe did not stop working until the ship was built. Its length was five stades (one kilometer) and its breadth two (400 m). He boarded the finished ship, equipped for everything as he had been commanded, with his wife, children, and closest friends.

After the waters of the Great Flood had come and quickly left, Xisuthrus freed several birds. They found neither food nor a place to rest, and they returned to the ship. After a few days, he again set free some other birds, and they too came back to the they ship, but they returned with claws covered with mud. Then later for a third time he set free some other birds, but they did not return to the ship.

[55] Then Xisuthrus knew that the earth had once again appeared.

He broke open a seam on a side of the ship and saw that the ship had come to rest on a mountain. He disembarked, accompanied by his wife and his daughter together with the steersman. He prostrated himself in worship to the earth and set up an altar and sacrificed to the gods.

After this, he disappeared together with those who had left the ship with him. Those who remained on the ship and had not gone out with Xisuthrus, when he and those with him had disembarked, searched for him and called out for him by name all about. But Xisuthrus from then on was seen no more, and then the sound of voice that came from the air gave the instruction that it was their duty to honor the gods and that Xisuthrus, because of the great honor he had shown the gods, had gone to the dwelling place of the gods and that his wife and daughter and the steersman had enjoyed the same honor.

The voice then instructed them to return to Babylonia to go to the city of Sippar, as it was fated for them to do, to dig up the tablets that were buried there and to turn them over to mankind. The place where they had come to rest was the land of Armenia.note After they understood all this, they sacrificed to the gods there and went on foot to Babylonia.

To this day a small part of the ship that came to rest in Armenia remains in the Gordyenian Mountains in Armenia and some people go there and scrape off pieces of pitch to keep them as good luck charms.note

[56] And those who had arrived in Babylonia dug up the tablets in the city of Sippar and brought them out. They built many cities and erected temples to the gods and again renewed Babylonia.