Water-Men, Terrible and Bad, continued

By David Reigle on March 13, 2016 at 10:51 pm

Although our history books do not tell us of any such beings as water-men, a history book from long ago does. This is the lost history book by the Babylonian priest Berossos (Berossus, Berosos, Berosus), which was quoted by later Greek writers. Berossos lived circa 300 B.C.E., and as a Babylonian priest he was heir to a long tradition of Babylonian knowledge. Berossos lived just after the conquest of Babylonia by Alexander the Great, so he learned the Greek language and wrote in Greek. Part of his history book was quoted or recounted by the Greek writer Alexander Polyhistor, who introduces it as follows:

“Berossus, in the first book of his history of Babylonia, informs us that he lived in the age of Alexander the son of Philip. And he mentions that there were written accounts, preserved at Babylon with the greatest care, comprehending a period of above fifteen myriads [150,000] of years: and that these writings contained histories of the heaven and of the sea; of the birth of mankind; and of the kings, and of the memorable actions which they had achieved.”

(Isaac Preston Cory, Ancient Fragments of the Phoenician, Chaldaean, Egyptian, Tyrian, Carthaginian, Indian, Persian, and Other Writers, 2nd edition, London: 1832, p. 21; also in new and enlarged edition, revised by E. Richmond Hodges, London: 1876, p. 56)

Alexander Polyhistor then recounts from the history book by Berossos the beginnings of Babylonia. Babylonia was originally a lawless country. There appeared from the sea a being named Oannes, who had the body of a fish. He taught the people all the arts and sciences. He gave them laws, writing, mathematics, building, agriculture, etc. Oannes thus brought civilization to the country. As part of the knowledge that Oannes brought, he wrote an account of the generation of humanity. The purport of what Oannes wrote is given by Berossos via Alexander Polyhistor as follows:

“There was a time in which there existed nothing but darkness and an abyss of waters, wherein resided most hideous beings, which were produced of a twofold principle. There appeared men, some of whom were furnished with two wings, others with four, and with two faces. They had one body but two heads: the one that of a man, the other of a woman: and likewise in their several organs both male and female. Other human figures were to be seen with the legs and horns of goats: some had horses’ feet: while others united the hind quarters of a horse with the body of a man, resembling in shape the hippocentaurs. Bulls likewise were bred there with the heads of men; and dogs with fourfold bodies, terminated in their extremities with the tails of fishes: horses also with the heads of dogs: men too and other animals, with the heads and bodies of horses and the tails of fishes. In short, there were creatures in which were combined the limbs of every species of animals. In addition to these, fishes, reptiles, serpents, with other monstrous animals, which assumed each other’s shape and countenance. Of all which were preserved delineations in the temple of Belus at Babylon.”

(Cory, Ancient Fragments, 1832, pp. 23-24; rev. ed., 1876, pp. 58-59)

The accuracy of the account given by Berossos as truly representing Babylonian tradition was confirmed by more ancient cuneiform tablets or inscriptions. One of these is a tablet discovered at Cutha (or Kutha). It was described by George Smith and A. H. Sayce in the book, The Chaldean Account of Genesis, as follows:

“This is a very obscure inscription, the first column, however, forms part of a relation similar to that of Berosus in his history of the Creation; the beings who were killed by the light, and those with men’s heads and bird’s bodies, and bird’s heads and men’s bodies, agree with the composite monsters of Berosus, while the goddess of chaos, Tiamtu, who is over them, is the same as the Thalatth of the Greek writer. It may be remarked that the doctrine of the Greek philosopher, Anaximander, that man has developed out of creatures of various shape, and once like the fish was an inhabitant of the water, is but a reminiscence of the old Babylonian legend.”

(The Chaldean Account of Genesis, by George Smith, new edition, revised by A. H. Sayce, London: 1880, p. 97; corresponding to the 1876 edition, pp. 106-107, but with the addition of the last sentence)

These are the sources that Blavatsky was referring to when commenting on Book of Dzyan, stanza 2, verses 5 and 6 (The Secret Doctrine, vol. 2, pp. 52-56). She took for granted that the reader had this information when making some of her comments. Since then, newer translations of this material have been published, the latest of which is: Berossos and Manetho: Native Traditions in Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, Introduced and Translated by Gerald P. Verbrugghe and John M. Wickersham, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996.

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