One of the oldest and most venerated cities in Sumer was Eridu,
which lies buried to-day under the mound Abu-Shahrain; a thorough
excavation of this significant site would in all probability immensely
enrich our knowledge of Sumerian culture and civilization, especially in
their more spiritual aspects. According to one Sumerian tradition, it
was the oldest city in Sumer, the first of the five cities founded
before the flood; our myth, on the other hand, implies that the city
Nippur preceded it in age.
In this city, which in ancient times must have been situated on the
Persian Gulf, the water-god Enki, also known as Nudimmud,
builds his "sea-house":
After the water of
creation had been decreed,
After the name hegal (abundance), born in heaven,
Like plant and herb had clothed the land,
The lord of the abyss, the king Enki,
Enki, the lord who decrees the fates,
Built his house of silver and lapis lazuli;
Its silver and lapis lazuli, like sparkling light,
The father fashioned fittingly in the abyss.
The (creatures of) bright countenance and wise,
coming forth from
Stood all about the lord Nudimmud;
The pure house be built, he adorned it with lapis lazuli,
He ornamented it greatly with gold,
In Eridu he built the house of the water-bank,
Its brickwork, word-uttering, advice-giving,
Its... like an ox roaring,
The house of Enki, the oracles uttering.
Follows a long passage in which Isimud, the messenger of Enki, sings the
praises of the "sea-house." Then Enki raises the city Eridu from the
abyss and makes it float over the water like a lofty mountain. Its green
fruit-bearing gardens he fills with birds; fishes, too, be makes
abundant. Enki is now ready to proceed by boat to Nippur to obtain
Enlil's blessing for his newly-built city and temple.
He therefore rises from the abyss:
When Enki rises, the
The abyss stands in wonder,
In the sea joy enters,
Fear comes over the deep,
Terror holds the exalted river,
The Euphrates, the South Wind lifts it in waves.
And so Enki seats himself in his boat and first arrives in Eridu itself;
here he slaughters many oxen and sheep. He then proceeds to Nippur where
immediately upon his arrival he prepares all kinds of drinks for the
gods and especially for Enlil.
Enki in the shrine
Gives his father Enlil bread to eat,
In the first place he seated An (the heaven-god),
Next to An he seated Enlil,
Nintu he seated at the "big side,"
The Anunnaki seated themselves one after the other.
And so the gods feast and banquet until their hearts become "good" and
Enlil is ready to pronounce his blessing:
Enlil says to the
"Ye great gods who are standing about,
My son has built a house, the king Enki;
Eridu, like a mountain, he has raised up from the earth,
In a good place he has built it.
Eridu, the clean place, where none may enter,
The house built of silver, adorned with lapis lazuli,
The house directed by the seven "lyre-songs," given over to
With pure songs . . . ,
The abyss, the shrine of the goodness of Enki, befitting the
Eridu, the pure house having been built,
O Enki, praise!"