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The great Flood: the story by Berossus


Modern reconstruction of Noah's Ark. Schagen (Holland). Photo Jona Lendering.
 Modern reconstruction of Noah's Ark
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) can not be excluded.

Bible Sumer Babylonia Greece Archaeology
Full text Eridu Genesis Atrahasis Ovid
Reconstruction
Gilgameš Hyginus
Quran
Berossus Apollodorus

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).

Syncellus, Chronological Excerpts 53-56

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. [...]

Cronus [1] appeared to Xisuthrus in a dream and revealed that on the fifteenth of the month Daisios [2] 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.[3] 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".[4] He 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. 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 an 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.[5] 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.[6]

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.


Note 1:
Enki is meant.

Note 2:
Greek name of the Babylonian month named Ajaru.

Note 3:
These tablets were a library of human knowledge. They are also mentioned in the Flood accounts of the Jewish Book of Julilees and 1 Enoch.

Note 4:
This scene is found more extensively in the Epic of Gilgameš, 11, 36ff.

Note 5:
The Babylonian word for Armenia was Urartu, from which the Biblical name Ararat is derived.

Note 6:
This piece of information is also found in Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 1.93. He also says that the Armenian mountain was called Baris, and was opposite Minyas.
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Eridu Genesis Atrahasis Gilgameš Bible Berossus Greece Quran
Date 3d millennium BCE c.1640 BCE c.1100 BCE c.1000-500 BCE 278 BCE c.700 BCE? c.600 CE
Revolt ? lesser gods ? giants? monsters? giants -
Hero Ziusudra Atrahasis Ut-napištim Noah Xisuthrus Deucalion Nuh
Country Šuruppuk Šuruppak Šuruppak - Sippar Thessaly -
Destroyer Enlil Enlil Enlil YHWH Enlil Zeus Allah
Warning Vision Dream Indirect order Direct order Dream ? Direct order
Reason Noise? Noise ? Sin, giants ? Sin, giants Sin
Cause Stormflood Rain Stormflood Rain, fountains - Rain, waves "from the valley"
Savior Enki Enki Enki YHWH Enki Prometheus Allah
Period 7 days 7 days 7 days 150/40 days "quickly" 9 days ?
Birds ? ? raven, dove, swallow doves/raven "several" none -
Destination ? - Nimuš Ararat Gordyene Parnassus Al-Gudi
Fate Eternal life Eternal life Eternal life Three sons Eternal life Three grandsons -


Online 2007
Revision: 2 March 2013
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