name of the Flood
hero, so perhaps the earliest of the names known to us. The Great Flood was recounted in Akkadian
versions as happening to Utnapishtim
, in Hebrew as the Noah
legend, and in Greek as the Deucalion
See under Utnapishtim for a summary of the story, and Epic of Gilgamesh for the full text (until it gets removed as a copyright violation).
Ziusudra was a legendary king of the city of Shuruppak in Sumer, the son of either Ubar-Tutu or an eponymous Shuruppak. To the extent that a historical basis can be postulated for characters in the Sumerian king-lists, he might have reigned in the Jemdat Nasr period, around 2900 BCE. There was a great flood then in several cities, such as Uruk and Shuruppak, which was badly affected. But at no time has there ever been a single flood that affected all of the Mesopotamian plain at once.
In the third century BCE a Babylonian priest Berossus wrote a book in Greek on Mesopotamian history. He records the Flood hero as Xisuthros.
The element sudra means 'distant', and corresponds to the Akkadian rûqu, which was used as an epithet for Utnapishtim or Ut-na'ishtim. It is under this name that the Akkado-Babylonian versions of the Epic of Gilgamesh know him, when Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh how he survived the Flood.
Another version of the Semitic myth calls him Atrahasis, meaning 'very wise'.
Although the Noah legend can be explained as borrowing from much earlier Mesopotamian ones, the existence of the Flood legend so far and wide may hark back to an event long before history: interest has recently focused on a sudden catastrophic breach of the Bosphorus to link the Mediterranean to the Black Sea.