The Sumerians were a non-Semitic, non-Indo-European people who lived in southern Babylonia from 4000-3000 B.C.E. They invented cuneiform writing, and their spiritual beliefs influenced all successive Near Eastern religions, including Judaism, Christianity and Islam. They produced an extensive body of literature, among the oldest in the world. Samuel Noah Kramer spent most of his life studying this literature, by piecing together clay tablets in far-flung museums. This short work gives translations or summaries of the most important Sumerian myths.
MAN'S GOLDEN AGE
This tablet (29.16.422 in the Nippur collection of the University Museum) is one of the unpublished pieces belonging to the Sumerian epic poem 1) whose hero Enmerkar ruled in the city of Erech sometime during the fourth millennium B. C. The passage enclosed by the black line describes the blissful and unrivalled state of man in an era of universal peace before he had learned to know fear and before the "confusion of tongues"; its contents, 2) which are very reminiscent of Genesis XI:1, read as follows:
In those days there was no snake, there was no scorpion, there was no hyena,
There was no lion, there was no wild dog, no wolf,
There was no fear, no terror,
Man had no rival.
In those days the land Shubur (East), the place of plenty, of righteous decrees,
Harmony-tongued Sumer (South), the great land of the "decrees of princeship,"
Uri (North), the land having all that is needful,
The land Martu (West), resting in security,
The whole universe, the people in unison,
To Enlil in one tongue gave praise.
A Study of Spiritual and Literary Achievement in the Third Millennium B.C.
SAMUEL NOAH KRAMER
University of Pennsylvania Press
[1944, revised 1961]
Scanned at sacred-texts.com, October 2004. John Bruno Hare, redactor. This text is in the public domain in the US because it was not renewed in a timely fashion at the US Copyright Office as required by law at the time. These files can be used for any non-commercial purpose, provided this notice of attribution is left intact.