This volume opens up new perspectives on Babylonian and Assyrian literature, through the lens of a pivotal passage in the Gilgamesh Flood story. It shows how, using a nine-line message where not all was as it seemed, the god Ea inveigled humans into building the Ark.  

The volume argues that Ea used a ‘bitextual’ message: one which can be understood in different ways that sound the same.  His message thus emerges as an ambivalent oracle in the tradition of ‘folktale prophecy’. The argument is supported by interlocking investigations of lexicography, divination, diet, figurines, social history, and religion. There are also extended discussions of Babylonian word play and ancient literary interpretation. Besides arguing for Ea’s duplicity, the book explores its implications – for narrative sophistication in Gilgamesh, for audiences and performance of the poem, and for the relation of the Gilgamesh Flood story to the versions in Atra-hasīs, the Hellenistic historian Berossos, and the Biblical Book of Genesis.

Ea’s Duplicity in the Gilgamesh Flood Story will interest Assyriologists, Hebrew Bible scholars and Classicists, but also students and researchers in all areas concerned with Gilgamesh, word-play, oracles, and traditions about the Flood.

part I|155 pages


chapter 1|97 pages


chapter 3|13 pages

‘Identifying’ puns

part II|96 pages

Dissecting Ea’s message

chapter 5|2 pages

The lines about the Flood hero

chapter 6|12 pages

Raining ‘plenty’

ušaznanakkunūši nuhšam-ma

chapter 7|11 pages

The birds

[hiṣib] iṣṣūrāti

chapter 8|14 pages

The fish

Puzur nūnī

chapter 9|4 pages

The harvest

[…] mešrâ ebūram-ma

chapter 10|21 pages

‘Cakes at dawn’

ina šēr(-)kukkī

chapter 11|5 pages

‘In the evening’

ina līlâti

chapter 12|6 pages

The ‘rain of wheat’

šamût kibāti

chapter 13|9 pages


chapter 14|7 pages

Issues of textual history

chapter 15|3 pages

Meaning and performance

part III|116 pages

Conspicuous silences in the Gilgameš Flood story

chapter 16|2 pages

Outlining the problems

chapter 17|10 pages

Does Atra–hasīs ‘fill in the gaps’?

chapter 18|35 pages

Communications between Ea and the Flood hero

chapter 20|29 pages

Ea’s elusiveness

chapter 21|18 pages

The enigma of Uta–napišti

chapter 22|4 pages

Why the ‘gaps’?

part IV|52 pages

Other interconnections

chapter 24|17 pages

Beyond Cuneiform

chapter 25|5 pages