The Mediterranean: A Religious History

Prompt: As we can see from the travels of Wenamun and the travails of Ramses III, the Mediterranean was already marked by human mobility in the second millenium BCE. Written after these earlier sources, the creation account in Genesis 1-3 displays it own literary connections with other ancient creation accounts. What are some of the ways that the Genesis story plays with other contemporary creation accounts and how might we talk about the circulation of ideas in ways that are similar to the circulation of travelers, trade goods, and merchant ships? Please include answers to the all questions in the prompt. Readings are NECESSARY to answer the prompt. I’m attaching them here: 1. Travels of Wenamun story and the travails of Ramses III story 2. 2. Genesis Chapter 1-3 only: 3. Enuma Elish (all) 4. Horden Purcell (Chapter 2 Only, pg27-49) Try to get an information from these two books to help with an answer. (Summaries are available online, try to focus on very early chapters) 1. David Abulafia, “The Great Sea” 2. Miriame Cooke, Erdağ Göknar, and Grant Parker, eds., “Mediterranean Passages” I’m attaching a sample essay for this prompt (utilize this sample as an example, please don’t copy any ideas, but use as an information only!) “However different the book of Genesis is to other contemporary creation myth, it is my understanding after reading the Enuma Elish, the Babylonian creation myth, that the book of Genesis, without doubt, has a discernable connection to the Enuma Elish. Based on historical knowledge of the time period concerning the creation of both myths, similarities from both books may have arisen due to the similar lifestyle of the peoples in that era. By my reckoning, it is clear that from both the creation myth and from other historical accounts, the sea had a significant influence in the ancient Mediterranean when both texts were written. Before delving into the main theme, the sea, it appears that both books of Genesis and the Enuma Elish resemble each other in many ways. First and foremost, the sequence of creation is similar in that the creation process in both texts start off from chaos. “In the beginning…the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep.” (Genesis 1:1) “When heavens did not exist, and Earth beneath had not come into being…” (Enuma Elish Tablet I:1,2) Soon after the God, or the Gods (in Enuma Elish) proceed to construct the universe, both texts include division of waters, land and the sky followed by the creation of life and humanity. Specifically, the characteristics of the division of waters, land and the sky were coherent in both texts as both texts incorporate the dome shape model of the universe. Kim 2 “So God made the dome that separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome…. God called the dome sky.” (Genesis 1:6) “He split her into two…One half of her he set up and stretched out as the heavens. He stretched the skin and appointed a watch with the instruction not to let her waters escape.” (Enuma Elish Table IV: 137-140) The sea as the primal environment in both religious texts can be further investigated as we look into the ancient historical findings of the letters between two states, Ugarit and Alashiya. It is notable from these letters that the sea played an imperative role in the ancient Mediterranean, which in result granted sea a special contextual meaning to both the creation accounts. In the letters between the king of Ugarit and the king of Alashiya, it describes the invasion and the instability within the Mediterranean caused by the “sea peoples.” “Enemy ships were observed at seal! – if it is true that ships have been sighted, then make yourself very strong!” (Letter from the king of Alashiya to ammurapi of Ugarit 1200 B.C.E) “Say to the king of Alashiya, my father: … My father now the ships of the enemy have been coming. They have been setting fire to my cities and have done harm to the land.” (Letter from the king of Ugarit to the king of Alashiya, 1200 B.C.E) According to writers of the Mediterranean Passage, the invasion of foreign people or the rise of the “sea peoples” as the text puts it, instigated fray within the Mediterranean region, leading to the fall of Bronze Age states such as Ugarit. (Cooke et al. 2008) However, as one can assume, history tells us that the fall of a civilization is almost always followed by the dawn of a new civilization, giving the sea a special significance. While for the people of the fallen civilization, the sea carries a sense of death and instability, for the “sea peoples”, the sea symbolizes creation and life. Based upon this logic, one can assume that the writers of the book of Genesis and Enuma Elish incorporated sea as a primal environment, which precedes all Kim 3 creative acts since, in the ancient Mediterranean, it was fundamentally the sea, which allowed the “sea peoples” to create a sustainable lifestyle. Moreover, based on historical knowledge, it is easily presumable that the Mediterranean was not only an environment of invasion, but also a place of vibrant movement of both material goods, and the intangibles such as language, literature, and religion. Thus, regardless of the intentions of tradesmen, their sea travels allowed diverse ideas and cultures to circulate within the region ultimately, enriching the cultural environment and further adding to the diversity of the Mediterranean. As a result, it is not a mere coincidence that the content of the book of Genesis exhibit fair amount of resemblance to the content of the ancient Babylonian myth. It seems inevitable that the movement of ideas within the Mediterranean fundamentally created a common cultural ground which congregated the Mediterranean as a whole. As time passed and a new civilization was built, people often modified their own ideas based on others’. Perhaps, the writers of the book of Genesis were greatly influenced by the ancient Babylonian myth, Enuma Elish.”