“The Great Flood” – Fact or Fiction?

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“The Great Flood” – You may remember this term from your Sunday school rather than your history class.  However, whether or not you are a Christian and believe in the Biblical story of the flood, including Noah, the ark and two of every creature, there is additional proof, surviving in other forms of literature from other non-Christian cultures that the “great flood” was indeed a historical event. 

“In those days the world teemed, the people multiplied, the world bellowed like a wild bull, and the great god was aroused by the clamor…So the gods agreed to exterminate mankind.”  Reading this passage in the tale Gilgamesh, one of the first recorded works of literature surviving from the early city Mesopotamia, one is reminded of a very similar tale that is told in the old testament of the bible. “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth…And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth”.

In both the Biblical and Mesopotamian stories, the God or Gods recommend that one good man build a ship large enough to accommodate, “the beast of the field both wild and tame”.  In both tales, when the storm ceases, the man releases a dove to search for land.  This dove, due to the symbolism it gathered in the bible is currently recognized as a sign of hope. 

An epic is a type of story, which stretches over many years and often involves travel through many lands.  Epics are famous for involving explanations of natural phenomena and smaller tales of encouragement, hope and peace, which influence the main characters decisions and actions.  The journey related in an epic is often broken down into many smaller lessons.   The main character can be used as a tool to teach morals, as well as about decision-making strategies, effects, and consequences.  These two similar tales similarly hold great potential to be strong tools of this nature as well as clues helpful in unlocking interesting historical background.

Many scholars argue that the occurrence of such similar tales in such ancient texts credits the story with a strong element of truth.  Is it simply ‘irony’ that such strong similarities exist in literature written in such varied proximities and eras?  Despite the non-fiction nature of these first recorded tales, they still serve to be a valuable clue as to the fact that some natural disaster had to have affected both of these ancient civilizations.


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