Friday, October 23, 2015

Fact-Checking the Torah -- the Ionian flood story

Clergymen used to have to study Greek and Latin in college so that they could read primary documents of Christianity.  They might also read Pindar, Apollonius Rhodius, Pausanias, Pseudo-Apollodorus, and Ovid (in Latin), all of whom say something about a flood.  The only one of these that has a complete flood story is Ovid.
The provenance of Ovid is 8 CE; the story is in his Metamorphoses.  Pindar wrote in the 400s BCE; Apollonius in the 300s; Pausanias in the 100s CE, and the same for Pseudo-Apollodorus.  Pindar implies that Deucalion and Pyrrha were the only survivors of the flood, by saying that they started a new human race which arose from stones.  Pausanias refers to the flood when describing Attica.
We don’t know where Ovid got his story.  We don’t know how much of it reflects a story handed down from antiquity and how much he invented.  What we do know is that all of these references come two millennia after the Shuruppak flood and over a millennium after the twelve-tablet version of Gilgamesh.
Until the discovery of Gilgamesh in 1932 and its translation in 1936, westerners might marvel that two cultures, seemingly so different as Judaism and Hellenism, and so often at odds in their histories, would both have a flood story.  The discovery of Gilgamesh seemed to support ideas popular at the time, that all culture disperses from a center, but the center seemed to be Mesopotamia, a revolutionary idea, because up to then all the men at the universities thought Greece was the font of culture. 
What the scholars of Gilgamesh ignored, however, is that each of the stories had its own localized landing site: Omar Gudrun in the Zagros for Utnapishtim and a mountain in Anatolia for Noach.  Greek stories give various places as the landing site for Deucalion and Pyrrha: Mount Parnassus above the shrine of Delphi, sacred to Apollo; Mount Etna in Sicily; Mount Athos in Chalkidiki in the northeast of modern Greece and just across the Aegean sea from Wilusa; and Mount Othrys in Thessaly, slightly southwest of Chalkidiki.  Mount Othrys was traditionally the site of the battle of the gods recorded in Hesiod’s Theogony.  Parnassus is south of Thessaly and was also sacred to Dionysius.
Deucalion was grandson of the Titan Iapetos.  Deucalion’s grandson was Ion, eponymous ancestor of the Ionians, who lived in Achaia in the Peloponnese for a while, and then by the 800s BCE migrated to the west coast of Anatolia, south of Wilusa, where the Iliad developed in an Ionian dialect.  The Iliad says Hector attacked Iaones while fighting among the Achaian camp (Book XIII, line 686); the context differentiates them from Locrians and Boeotians. 
The Ionians are mentioned in a Linear B tablet in Mykenae from the 1400s BCE as Iawones.  And remember that Agamemnon, one leader of the Achaean forces against Troy, came from Mykenae while his colleague, Diomedes, was Cretan.
Iapetos has one more association with Anatolia besides his mythological relationship to the Ionians.  That’s for next week.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

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