The Epic of Erra and Išum

The Erra epic runs to approximately 660 lines, covering 5 Tablets. It is an exceptional Akkadian composition, in its style and especially its content. Its main theme is violence, and disasters engendered by the arrival of chaos.

Unfortunately, despite the many surviving copies, some passages of the composition remain fragmentary and thus enigmatic. In many ways, the poem of Erra and Išum is close to Enūma Eliš but seems to reverse its main topics. The god Marduk, for instance, plays an important part in the story and is clearly portrayed as a wise ruler, essential for maintaining order, but who fails to thwart Erra's machinations.

Thanks to this ending, the composition acquires protective value. Indeed, some versions were written on amulets and they were probably used to protect their owners from violence and ruin.

There are only two manuscripts of this epic in the CAMS/GKAB corpus, both from Huzirina. STT 1, 17 [/cams/gkab/P338334/] is a short and fragmentary manuscript of Tablet 2. Nabu-šum-iškun PGP , who was most probably a scribal apprentice, copied the Huzirina manuscript STT 1, 16 [/cams/gkab/P338333/] of Tablet 1 of Erra and Išum.

Further reading

Marie-Françoise Besnier

Marie-Françoise Besnier, 'The Epic of Erra and Išum', The Geography of Knowledge, The GKAB Project, 2019 []

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