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Encyclopedia of Religion entry for

Adapa Legend

A legend in the Babylonian-Assyrian religion. It was found on the El-Amarna tablets (15th cent., B.C.). Adapa, a fisherman, son of Ea, is fishing in " the sea," when a storm arises. Though only a mortal, swept into the waters by the South Wind, he subdues the element, since it is under the control of his father, and breaks the wings of the storm-bird. Anu, God of Heaven, surprised at the disappearance of the south wind, asks the god Ilabrat, his messenger, the reason. He is informed, and thereupon requests Ea to send Adapa to him for trial. He does so, but advises his son to seek the protection of Tammuz and Gishzida, gods who guard the approach to the gate of heaven. Accordingly Adapa goes in mourning, explaining that he does so because " two gods have disappeared from the earth." This conciliates the two gods. They are prepared to plead his cause before Anu. The godís wrath is appeased. He is alarmed, however, that Adapa should have penetrated to heaven and seen its secrets. The only thing to do now is for the gods to make him one of themselves. He is therefore offered the food of life to eat and the waters of life to drink. But Ea had warned him not to eat or drink. He therefore refuses them and returns to earth. The lesson conveyed by the story seems to be that it is not good for man to live forever. Ea, in his wisdom, prevents it. The legend is based upon " the nature-myth of the annual light of the sun with the violent elements of nature." Gishzida and Tammuz are both solar deities, and Adapa seems to be identical with Marduk, a third solar deity. But the story has become more than a nature-myth. It is now a legend containing a moral or lesson. See Morris Jastrow, Rel.

citations: Encyc. of Rel., Canney


article created 2006-04-12 , last updated 2006-04-12

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