Origin/Historian/Author: Berossus
Source: The Sacred Books and Literature of the East, By Prof. Charles F. Horne, Ph.D.
The Sacred Books and Literature of the East Translations conducted by:
Morris Jastrow, Jr., LL.D., Rev. A.H. Sayce, LL.D., Robert W. Rogers, LL.D., George A. Barton, LL.D., Leonard W. King, F.S.A., Stephen Langdon, PH.D., Arno Poebel, PH.D., and other scholars.

Through the preserved fragments from the Hellenistic Era historians we present the Greek Legend OF THE CREATION AND CAUSES OF THE DELUGE (Syncellus), originally authored by Berossus. Berossus was a Priest of Bel, 250 B.C. These accounts of the Babylonian beliefs pertaining to the origin of the world and mankind are remarkably similar to the accounts in the cuneiform texts. Berossus’ account of the primeval abyss, out of which everything came, and the slaying of the Goddess Omoroca (reminiscent of the slaying of Tiamat), are both familiar concepts we encounter repeatedly throughout antiquity. In this passage we will explore the birth of mankind, those of sovereign rule, and the lush and fruitful Babylon known as a great resort destination of various nations. We find the intriguing Oannes who is an animal endowed with reason, Therianthropic lifeforms, and high ranking gods such as Belus and Cronus.

Full Text Below

Berosus, in his first book concerning the history of Babylonia, informs us that he lived in the time of Alexander, the son of Philip. And he mentions that there were written accounts preserved at Babylon with the greatest care, comprehending a term of fifteen myriads of years. These writings contained a history of the heavens and the sea; of the birth of mankind; also of those who had sovereign rule; and of the actions achieved by them.

And, in the first place, he describes Babylonia as a country which lay between the Tigris and Euphrates. He mentions that it abounded with wheat, barley, ocrus, sesamum; and in the lakes were found the roots called gongse, which were good to be eaten, and were, in respect to nutriment, like barley. There were also palm-trees and apples, and most kinds of fruits; fish, too, and birds; both those which are merely of flight, and those which take to the . element of water. The part of Babylonia which bordered upon Arabia was barren, and without water; but that which lay on the other side had hills, and was fruitful. At Babylon there was in these times a great resort of people of various nations, who inhabited Chaldea, and lived without rule and order, like the beasts of the field.

In the first year there made its appearance, from a part of the Erythraean sea (1) which bordered upon Babylonia, an animal endowed with reason, who was called Oannes. According to the account of Apollodorus the whole body of the animal was like that of a fish; and had under a fish’s head another head, and also feet below, similar to those of a man, subjoined to the fish’s tail. His voice, too, and language were articulate and human; and a representation of him is preserved even to this day.

This being, in the daytime, used to converse with men; but took no food at that season; and he gave them an insight into letters, and sciences, and every kind of art. He taught them to construct houses, to found temples, to compile laws, and explained to them the principles of geometrical knowledge. He made them distinguish the seeds of the earth, and showed them how to collect fruits. In short, he instructed them in everything which could tend to soften manners and humanize mankind. From that time, so universal were his instructions, nothing material has been added by way of improvement. When the sun set it was the custom of this being to plunge again into the sea, and abide all night in the deep; for he was amphibious.

After this there appeared other animals, like Oannes, of which Berosus promises to give an account when he comes to the history of the kings. Moreover, Oannes wrote concerning the generation of mankind; of their different ways of life, and of their civil polity; and the following is the purport of what he said :
” There was a time in which there was nothing but darkness and an abyss of waters, (2) wherein resided most hideous beings, which were produced of a two-fold principle. Men appeared with two wings, some with four wings, and two faces. They had one body, but two heads the one of a man, the other of a woman. They were 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; others had the limbs of a horse behind, but before were fashioned like men, resembling hippocentaurs. Bulls, likewise, bred there with the heads of men; and dogs, with fourfold bodies, and the tails of fishes. Also horses, 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 with the limbs of every species of animals. Add to these fishes, reptiles, serpents, with other wonderful animals, which assumed each other’s shape and countenance. Of all these were preserved delineations in the temple of Belus at Babylon.

” The person who was supposed to have presided over them was a woman named Omoroca; (3) which in the Chaldee language is Thalatth; which in Greek is interpreted Thalassa, the sea; but, according to the most true computation, it is equivalent to Selene, the moon. All things being in this situation, Belus came, and cut the woman asunder; and, out of one half of her, he formed the earth, and of the other half the heavens; and at the same time he destroyed the animals in the abyss. All this, he says, was an allegorical description of nature. For the whole universe consisting of moisture, and animals being continually generated therein; the deity (Belus), above-mentioned, cut off his own head; upon which the other gods mixed the blood, as it gushed out, with the earth; and from thence men were formed. On this account it is that men are rational and partake of divine knowledge. This Belus, whom men call Dis, or Pluto, divided the darkness, and separated the heavens from the earth, and reduced the universe to order. But the animals so recently created, not being able to bear the prevalence of light, died.

“Belus upon this, seeing a vast space quite uninhabited, though by nature very fruitful, ordered one of the gods to take off his head; and when it was taken off, they were to mix the blood with the soil of the earth, and from thence to form other men and animals, which would be capable of bearing the light. Belus also formed the stars, and the sun and the moon, together with the five planets.”

In the second book was the history of the ten kings of the Chaldeans, and the periods of each reign, which consisted collectively of one hundred and twenty sari, or 432,000 years, reaching to the time of the Flood. For Alexander, surnamed Polyhistor, as from the writings of the Chaldeans, enumerating the kings from the ninth, Ardates, to Xisuthrus, who is called by them the tenth, proceeds in this manner.

After the death of Ardates, his son, Xisuthrus, succeeded, and reigned eighteen sari. In his time happened the great deluge; the history of which is given in this manner. The deity, Kronus, appeared to him in a vision, and gave him notice that, upon the fifteenth day of the month Dæsia, (4) there would be a flood, by which mankind would be destroyed. He therefore enjoined him to commit to writing a history of the beginning, progress, and final conclusion of all things, down to the present term; and to bury these accounts securely in the city of the Sun at Sippara; and to build a vessel, and to take with him into it his friends and relations; and to convey on board everything necessary to sustain life, and to take in also all species of animals that either fly or rove upon the earth; and trust himself to the deep. Having asked the deity whither he was to sail, he was answered, ” To the gods “; upon which he offered up a prayer for the good of mankind. And he obeyed the divine admonition; and built a vessel five stadia in length, and in breadth two. Into this he put everything which he had got ready; and last of all conveyed into it his wife, children, and friends. After the flood had been upon the earth, and was in time abated, Xisuthrus sent out some birds (5) from the vessel, which, not finding any food, nor any place to rest their feet, returned to him again. After an interval of some days he sent them forth a second time, and they now returned with their feet tinged with mud. He made a trial a third time with these birds, but they returned to him no more; from whence he formed a judgment that the surface of the earth was now above the waters. Having, therefore, made an opening in the vessel, and finding, upon looking out, that the vessel was driven to the side of a mountain, he immediately quitted it, being attended by his wife, his daughter, and the pilot. Xisuthrus immediately paid his adoration to the earth, and, having constructed an altar, offered sacrifices (6) to the gods.

These things being duly performed, both Xisuthrus and those who came out of the vessel with him disappeared. They who remained in the vessel, finding that the others did not return, came out, with many lamentations, and called continually on the name of Xisuthrus. They saw him no more, but could distinguish his voice in the air, and could hear him admonish them to pay due regard to the gods. He likewise informed them that it was upon account of his piety that he was translated (7) to live with the gods; that his wife and daughter, with the pilot, had obtained the same honor. To this he added that he would have them make the best of their way to Babylonia, and search for the writings at Sippara, which were to be made known to all mankind; and that the place where they then were was the land of Armenia. (8) The remainder, having heard these words, offered sacrifices to the gods; and, taking a circuit, journeyed toward Babylonia.

The vessel, being thus stranded in Armenia, some part of it yet remains in the Gordysean (9) mountains in Armenia; and the people scrape off the bitumen, (10) with which it had been outwardly coated, and make use of it by way of an alexipharmic (11) and amulet. In this manner they returned to Babylon; and having found the writings at Sippara, they set about building cities and erecting temples; and Babylon was thus inhabited again.

— Syncellus’s Chronicon.

(1) The Persian Gulf.
(2) Compare with Genesis i. 2.
(3) This is a Greek corruption of the Aramaic word, ‘Amqia, i.e., ” the deep”; “the ocean.”
(4) The fifth month of the Macedonian year, answering to May and June.
(5) Compare with Genesis viii. 7-12.
(6) See Genesis viii. 20.
(7) Compare with this the translation of Enoch, Genesis v. 23, 24.
(8) Compare with Genesis viii. 4. Ararat is the Hebrew name of Armenia. (See 2 Kings xix. 37.)
(9) The mountains of Kurdistan.
(10) Or mineral pitch. (See Genesis vi. 14.)
(11) I.e., an antidote to poison, and an amulet, or charm, against the evil eye.