This version of the great flood myth, I have found, is unique because it does not appear as if the gods started it or caused it. Just that they knew of it and didn't warn or try to save the humans.

...we learn that the gods have decided not to save mankind from an impending flood.

Quoted from here.

What started the flood if the gods were not the reason?

  • 3
    I had to downvote because you do not cite the source of the quote "...we learn that the gods have decided not to save mankind from an impending flood." Add the citation and I will change my vote.
    – DukeZhou
    Commented May 14, 2018 at 18:26
  • Related: What caused the Deluge?
    – Rodia
    Commented May 15, 2018 at 0:18
  • 2
    Re: Gibet's comment -- that's why I was mentioning the importance of citation, even if the sentence comes from the wiki. (Otherwise, this question is unreliable.)
    – DukeZhou
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 19:49

1 Answer 1


It is not known because the relevant part of the Sumerian version of the myth is missing, but in later versions the cause is the god Enlil.

From an article in Livius.org: The Great Flood: Sumerian version.

The story survives on a cuneiform tablet from the seventeenth century BCE, of which only the lower third survives. However, this is sufficient to establish that the pattern described above was already present. However, there are small differences. The Eridu Genesis must have begun with the Creation of Man, but continues with the establishment of kingship and a list of cities. Then comes the list of antediluvian rulers, which confirms the pattern again, and the supreme god Enlil's decision to destroy mankind. The reason was recorded on a missing part of the text, but may have been the noise men created, as it is in the later, Babylonian texts.

From the Wikipedia article about Enlil:

Enlil plays a vital role in the Sumerian creation myth; he separates An (heaven) from Ki (earth), thus making the world habitable for humans. In the Sumerian Flood myth, Enlil rewards Ziusudra with immortality for having survived the flood and, in the Babylonian flood myth, Enlil is the cause of the flood himself, having sent the flood to exterminate the human race, who made too much noise and prevented him from sleeping.

In the same Wikipedia article, under the Flood Myth section:

In the Sumerian version of the flood story, the causes of the flood are unclear because the portion of the tablet recording the beginning of the story has been destroyed. Somehow, a mortal known as Ziusudra manages to survive the flood, likely through the help of the god Enki. The tablet begins in the middle of the description of the flood. The flood lasts for seven days and seven nights before it subsides. Then, Utu, the god of the Sun, emerges. Ziusudra opens a window in the side of the boat and falls down prostrate before the god. Next, he sacrifices an ox and a sheep in honor of Utu. At this point, the text breaks off again. When it picks back up, Enlil and An are in the midst of declaring Ziusudra immortal as an honor for having managed to survive the flood. The remaining portion of the tablet after this point is destroyed.

In the later Akkadian version of the flood story, recorded in the Epic of Gilgamesh, Enlil actually causes the flood, seeking to annihilate every living thing on earth because the humans, who are vastly overpopulated, make too much noise and prevent him from sleeping. In this version of the story, the hero is Utnapishtim, who is warned ahead of time by Ea, the Babylonian equivalent of Enki, that the flood is coming. The flood lasts for seven days; when it ends, Ishtar, who had mourned the destruction of humanity, promises Utnapishtim that Enlil will never cause a flood again. When Enlil sees that Utnapishtim and his family have survived, he is outraged, but his son Ninurta speaks up in favor of humanity, arguing that, instead of causing floods, Enlil should simply ensure that humans never become overpopulated by reducing their numbers using wild animals and famines. Enlil goes into the boat; Utnapishtim and his wife bow before him. Enlil, now appeased, grants Utnapishtim immortality as a reward for his loyalty to the gods.

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