Why is it that the gods used flooding to kill humans? Why not fire or a plague?

  • 1
    Not all deluge myths are about wiping out humans; did you have a specific one in in mind? Pragmatically speaking it's because they observed or postulated a flood and then had to come up with a reason, so this was an obvious contender.
    – Semaphore
    Dec 17 '18 at 7:15
  • 1
    there were quite a few plagues in the Old Testament, IIRC, and in Norse mythology the end of the world comes in ice. Not every extinction-level myth uses flooding either. Dec 17 '18 at 11:11
  • 1
    Hi, Xandra. You should specify what mythology you have in mind, because there are a lot of deluge myths (link to a great answer by.Ken Graham). As it is now, the question is too broad.
    – Rodia
    Dec 18 '18 at 4:29
  • Flood myths such as the Babylonian Gilgamesh, Biblical Noah, and Greek Atlantis, are a remnant of the aftermath of the last ice age, still lingering in the collective consciousness.
    – Lucian
    Sep 27 '19 at 16:25
  • I have often wondered whether flood myths have basis in amniotic fluid. Each of us is born in a flood, after swimming and marinating in the stuff nine months or so. Jul 19 at 11:58

Wikipedia has an article dedicated to floods in mythology.

From what I understand of the "Claims of historicity" section in the article, there were many great floods in the wake of the last glacial period which would naturally be associated the wrath of the gods.

Plague and large fires would be rarer in the past, with epidemics not occurring very often until larger communities evolved

There are several changes that may occur in an infectious agent that may trigger an epidemic. These include:

  • Increased virulence
  • Introduction into a novel setting
  • Changes in host susceptibility to the infectious agent

with bad waste management causing pollution, leading to this:

The conditions which govern the outbreak of epidemics include infected food supplies such as contaminated drinking water and the migration of populations of certain animals, such as rats or mosquitoes, which can act as disease vectors. Certain epidemics occur at certain seasons.

(both citations from Epidemic, Wikipedia)

Fires rarely used to spread very far due to geographical features and regular wildfires, as talked about in this TEDx talk, making them less threatening than floods.

I hope this answers your question at least from a scientific point of view.


Let's take a philosophical look at the Ancient Greek flood myth. When human being angered Zeus because of the filth they had in their hearts, he had to clean the Earth from such filth. Now when was the last time you cleaned something using fire or plague? The flood, a Cataclysm, was a disasterous but also cleansing. I think that is the point. Is this true only for Deukalion?

Same goes in my opinion with Noah's myth. Noah, the pure human, along with his wife, get in the ark and God causes the Cataclysm to cleanse the Earth from all the filthy in heart people.

It is symbolic. People create myths they can understand. People clean themselves and their clothes using water.

A flood can clean. Wrath of God, that caused the flood, derives from the filth of human hearts. That is my opinion on the question asked, I hope I helped.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.