In Anatolia two cultures had an identical text, entitled “The Song of Going Forth.” They were the Hittites of the 1200s BCE, just before the Sea Peoples destroyed their empire, and the Hurrians who lived in the same area before the Hittites moved in, which happened about 2500 BCE. The Hittites preserved the names of Hurrian gods in the text. The Hurrian language is classed with that of the kingdom of Urartu, about which I will say more in a week.
Since 1930 CE when “Going Forth” was translated and published, scholars have recognized that it has a similar motif to the war of the gods in Hesiod’s Theogony. But Hittite is an Indo-Iranian language (using the same word for “night” as Avestan and Sanskrit) and Hurrian is an isolate (except for the related Urartian), while Greek is thoroughly Indo-European (using a word for “night” that has cognates in all European languages). There was no publishing company translating material from one language to another for the benefit of the reading public at the time. There’s a good reason for that: there was no reading public at the time. Texts were produced for the benefit of royalty and clergy and accessed by them and maybe their clients. They were written in cuneiform.
What’s more, The Song of Going Forth has an affinity to the war on Tiamat in Enuma Elish. It was part of the cultural phenomenon extending over all of Anatolia, from which these stories were carried into Mesopotamia and the west.
However “Going Forth” is not identical to any of its relatives. It is the first part of the story of a stone giant who assisted Kumarbi in trying to regain rulership of the gods.
At the end of “Going Forth,” Kumarbi is pregnant with five gods. This mirrors Kronos’ situation before Zeus attacks him; he has swallowed all five of his previous children but Rhea has saved and hidden Zeus. But Zeus is the storm god in Greek mythology, while one of the gods Kumarbi is pregnant with is the storm god. This is a natural and normal situation for mythology which I will discuss in detail much later on this blog; it does not invalidate “Going Forth” as a record of a story related to Greek mythology.
And now let’s connect up the edges. In the “song,” Anu is castrated. Castration was a noted feature of Cybele worship and Cybele was the mother goddess where? In Anatolia. What happens to Uranus at the end of the first war of the gods? He is castrated.
Notice that I’m not saying that “Going Forth” was disseminated among the Greeks. That cuneiform thing again. I’m saying the opposite.
This material was current among the ancestors of the Greeks before they were part of the Sea Peoples. So was the flood story. By the time we get to Hesiod and Pindar, the material took a form which might well be accurately represented in Ovid. But it has to go back long before the Hittites took over Anatolia from the Hurrians, before Anatolians brought the war of the gods and the name of Cybele to Mesopotamia, or Sumero-Akkad would never have been ruled by a lady named Kug Bau.
But it gets better; there's a solid association between the Song (and its descendants) and a specific place. And that's next week.
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