Skip to main content


Episode 33 - Amorite 2 A Time of Ritual and Law

This week we look at the somewhat obscure 1900's BCE in Isin, where details will be thin on the ground, but that will just give us more time to focus on the Law code of Lipit-Ishtar and the annual ritual of the sacred marriage between Ishtar and the king. Ishtar, or Inanna's sacred marriage to the kings of Mesopotamia was a major religious rite, and Lipit-Ishtar's law code, especially in comparison with the contemporanious law code of Eshnnuna, tell us a great deal about the daily life and values of the middle bronze age.

I haven't really mentioned the chronological difficulties in dating all these events lately. In addition to the usual amount of uncertainty that surrounds really obscure events from four thousand years ago, there is the added bonus of having multiple dating schemes to work around. You see, historians date all these events by determining the dates of specific key points in history, usually based around astronomical observations, then by counting years …
Recent posts

Episode 32 - Amorite 1 Lay of the Land

Today we resume our history with the massive political upheaval which accompanied the collapse of the Ur III dynasty. We are entering a terribly complex period of history, and this episode we are going to do a quick survey of all the major powers of the region circa 2000 BCE. We will be looking at the Amorite kingdoms of Isin, Larsa, Mari, Ebla, and Qatna, the free Akkadian kingdom of Assyria, some of the minor cities of the period, and a brief look at the very fringes of Mesopotamia as far away as India and Egypt.

So, after this episode went live, I was in fact persuaded to start a facebook page, which you can find by searching Oldest Stories in facebook if you would be interested in liking or sharing this show.

Today's show is a bit of an info dump, but I want to have a point of reference for getting started, even though the fact is that while quite a lot starts in 2000 BCE, we don't actually know much about what is going on. As I go through all these places in future episode…

Episode 31 - Wisdom 3 First Men

The legends of Adapa, Enmeduranki, and Etana are the tales of three very early kings, though tales that don't seem to come around until the middle bronze age, and they are in a sense creation myths but most importantly they are moral stories in the broader genre of wisdom literature. They show us how the earth and heaven is ordered in the Mesopotamian world view, and they show us what is good and evil in a person's behavior, though it also seems to show us that sometimes evil doesn't really get punished all that much, if the evil person happens to be useful.

Enmeduranki story:

Episode 30 - Anunnaki 7 The Tablet of Destinies

Ninurta the action hero god returns, this time in an adventure to recover the stolen Tablet of Destinies. In doing this, we will wrestle with Semitic concepts of godhood and destiny, as well as peek under the hood and see some of the things that would come to inspire the invention of the Jewish god.

The first story today, Ninurta and the Tablet of Destinies, doesn't actually come from ETCSL but from Stephanie Dalley's book Myths from Mesopotamia which contains a number of translations from this later periodand is invaluable in bringing stories that are not available online is good quality to the show. The epilogue, Ninurta and the Turtle, is from ETCSL

I should also note that there are fragments of the tablet of destinies story with an unnamed god as the hero, and possibly some with marduk as the hero, so like so many of these stories, I am presenting a single version of a work that shifted from city to city and century to century. Still, the core of the story is more or less …

Episode 29 - Anunnaki 6 The Enuma Elish

The Babylonian creation myth, Enuma Elish, tells the story of the creation of the world and how it was a terrible mistake immediately regretted by its parents. Said parents then attempt a late-term abortion, but the young gods, led by Ea and Marduk, fight a war. Since the universe obviously still exists, you can already guess who wins. In this tale, we learn that Marduk is awesome. Like seriously, totally awesome.

I didn't make it very clear in this story, because it is one of the most perplexing parts of the myth, all the partying and warfare happens within Tiamat's belly, like a pregnant mother. There is a whole world in Tiamat's womb, but also Tiamat herself acts as a character in that world, inside her own womb. It is all quite confused and what exactly the Ammorites meant by it all is unclear to me, so I simply omitted it.

The name Enuma Elish is apparently what the Akkadians would call the story, since it seems they had a habit of titleing works based on the incipit,…

Episode 28 - Interlude 1 The Chamorros of Saipan

Special Episode. This week is a break from normal as we discuss the Chamorro people of the Marianas islands, A four thousand year oral culture in the Pacific ocean. We will look at a few creation legends as well as the history of the islands as told through the legend of Chief Taga.

These are not the oldest stories, but here are some links to Saipan's history in WW2 which may be of interest to some listeners. Link 1, Link 2, Link 3

Fo'na and Pontan are sometimes listed as Fu'una and Puntan, this just seems to be a spelling difference. Also, the name of the Chamorro people is sometimes spelled CHamoru, based on a different writing of the language.

Here is a pic of Fouha Rock, the origin of life on earth. Sadly, I couldn't get to the trail that would lead directly to the rock, it wasn't labelled and I had been warned by a few locals not to go hiking in the jungle without a group or I risk getting lost or snakebit. So my pic is from a bit south down the coast at a sce…

Episode 27 - Misc 1 The Study of Sumer and Ancient Aliens

There were some very important and talented people who have dug up the once lost civilization of Sumer and given their stories new life. Then there are the ancient aliens people. We will pay our respects to the giants of Sumerology, and examine exactly where the ancient aliens theorists go off the rails while enjoying the silliness of their earnestly held beliefs.

My re-telling of the ancient aliens story doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but honestly, that is representative of the fact that the ancient aliens story really doesn't make any sense on any level. His motivating question, why did humanity create civilization in some places but not others, is a very good question to ask, but to answer it with aliens is nothing short of farcical.

So today I mentioned Samuel Noah Kramer's book, Benjamin Foster's Age of Agade, The Etcsl, and a fellow who calls himself Sumerian Shakespeare

Also, History of Persia podcast is still excellent and still deserves a shout out. Check …