Adapa of the Southwind Myth as a Fish-man, 
Healer of Wind-borne Disease, and 
a Prototype of Genesis' Adam and Jesus ('the second Adam')

                                      Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld y de la Torre, M. A. Ed.

                                                                   08 October 2006  
                                                            Revisions through 24 May 2009

I understand that Adapa is one of several mythic prototypes of Genesis' Adam. My research suggests that Adapa appears in Mesopotamian artforms as a fish-man (mer-man). The men (below) appearing dressed in fish-robes or garments _I suspect_ are probably intended to represent Adapa in his role of apkallu or "Sage" who knows powerful spells, curses, incantations that can overpower wind-demons who spread disease. Thus the scenes of bed-ridden individuals attended by men in fish-garments are of priests emulating Adapa who was an Apkallu (The 'seven Apkallu' are also called paradu fish and are associated with Eridu). For more details on Adapa being  a prototype of Adam please click here.

Leick understands that Berossus' fish-man, Oannes, who imparted "wisdom and knowledge" to mankind (rather like Adam imparts knowledge of good and evil to mankind), is Sumerian U-an, Adapa's Sumerian name:

"...Adapa, one of the Seven Sages...They often appear in magic texts and incantations as the abgal (Akkadian apkallu), fish-like creatures under the command of Enki/Ea. The masks worn by some priests represented on seals and a number of Assyrian reliefs are connected with the power of the Apkallu to ward off evil. They were personified as traditionally seven 'culture heroes', sent by Ea to teach mankind the arts of civilization. In the late Babylonian compositon known as the Erra epic. they are called 'the seven sages' of the Apsu, the pure paradu fish, who, just as their lord Ea, have been endowed with sublime wisdom. They were the councilors of the antediluvian kings, also seven in number, and responsible for the invention and the building of cities. The city is therefore the product of divine intelligence. For some reason the Apkallu also stand for hubris. A bilingual text from Nineveh records how each one managed to annoy an important god so that they were banished to the Apsu for ever. Just as in the other Eridu cosmologies referred to earlier, the creative potential and the wisdom of the Apsu and its creatures are seen as dangerous and subversive...A Babylonian priest of Marduk, who lived during the reign of the Seleucid king Antiochus I (third century B.C.E.), was the author of a volume called Babyloniaca. He wrote it in Greek, under the name Berossus...One of the fragments concerns the fish-like monsters that Ea sent after the flood to teach mankind. One of them is called Oannes, the Greek form of Adapa's Sumerian name 
U-an." (pp. 25-26. "Eridu Stories." Gwendolyn Leick. Mesopotamia, The Invention of the City. London. Penguin Books. 2001. paperback)

Professor George on Adapa being a fish-man (sent by Ea, Sumerian: Enki) of Eridu who rose from the sea to introduce civilization to mankind:

"The civilization of mankind, according to Babylonian mythology, was the work of the gods...especially of the god Ea, who dispatched the Seven Sages to Eridu, and other early cities, and with them all the arts and crafts of city life. These were the beings who, according to the epic's prologue, founded Uruk with its wall: 'Did the Seven Sages not lay its foundations?' Foremost among these Sages was the fish-man Oannes-Adapa, who rose from the sea." 

(p. xli. "Introduction." Andrew George. The Epic of Gilgamesh: The Babylonian Poem and Other Texts in Akkadian and Sumerian. London. Penguin Books. 1999, 2003)

Dalley on Adapa being Uan or Oannes the fish-man:

"Adapa -son of Ea, priest in Eridu. Also known as Uan (Oannes), the first of the Seven Sages, who brought the arts and skills of civilization to mankind."

(p. 317. "Glossary of Deities...Adapa." Stephanie DalleyMyths From Mesopotamia: Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh, And Others. New York & Oxford. Oxford University Press. 1991)

Professor Walton (1989) noted that Professor Lambert (1962) identified Berossus' Oannes with Adapa:

"W. G. Lambert has identified the name Adapa as an epithet belonging to Oannes (=ummanu), the first antediluvian sage."

(p. 65. John H. Walton. Ancient Israelite Literature in its Cultural Context. A Survey of Parallels between Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Texts. Grand Rapids, Michigan. Zondervan Publishing House. 1989. Second printing with corrections and additions 1990)

Earlier scholars thought that Oannes the fish-man was the god Ea of Eridu:

Smith (1876) noted that some scholars had suggested that Ea was Berosus' Oannes:

"A companion deity with Anu is Hea, who is the god of the sea...he is lord of the sea or abyss; he is the lord of generation and of all human beings, he bears the titles lord of wisdom...It has been supposed that... he was the Oannes of Berosus..." 

(p. 57. George Smith. The Chaldean Account of Genesis. London. 1876. Reprinted 1977, 1994 by Wizards Bookshelf, San Diego, California)

Professor Sayce (1887), following earlier scholars, suggested Oannes and Ea were the same person:

" is certain that Oannes and Ea are one and the same...Ea was, moreover, like Oannes, represented as partly man and partly fish. Sometimes the fish's skin is thrown over the man's back, the head of the fish appearing behind that of the man; sometimes the body of the man is made to terminate in the tail of a fish. A gem in the British Museum, on which the deity is depicted in the latter fashion, bears the inscription stating that the figure is that of "the god of pure life." Now "the god of pure life," as we are expressly informed by a rubical gloss to a hymn in honour of the demiurge Ea, was one of the names of Ea."

(p.133. Archibald H. Sayce. The Hibbert Lectures, 1887. Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion as illustrated by the Religion of the Ancient Babylonians. London. Wiliams & Norgate. 1897) 

Langdon (1931) apparently influenced by Sayce (?) understood that Oannes the fish-man was Ea (Enki) and he describes seven devils (wind demons?) and fish-garbed priests healing a sick man (cf. below, figure 44 on p. 85):

"Priests often clothed themselves in a garment in the form of a fish, when officiating in rituals of purification, symbolic of the power of the Water deity Enki of Eridu, god of lustration. In the third register of figure 44 a man possessed of one of the seven devils, who appear in the the second register, lies on a bed, a priest, robed to represent the Fish-god Enki, stands at his head, another at his feet...Enki of Eridu...Ea...(Oannes) in Berossus..."

(pp. 84, 103. Stephen Herbert Langdon. The Mythology of All Races, Semitic. Volume 5. Boston. Archaeology Institute of America. Marshall Jones Company. 1931)

Below, sun-dried clay figures. Upper: a goat-fish (Greek: Capricorn) emblem of the god Enki (Ea) of Eridu. Lower: a fishman. Placed in a building to ward off evil in the Assyrian period (p. 92. figure 70. "goat-fish." Jeremy Black and Anthony Green. Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia, An Illustrated Dictionary. London, British Museum, in association with the University of Texas Press. Austin. 1992. ISBn 0-292-70794-0. paperback). Note: I understand that Ea (Enki) who gave his servant Adapa wisdom or knowledge but denied him immortality has been recast as Yahweh in the Garden of Eden. Please click here for the details.
Below, fish-men figurines, the so-called "seven sages" 
(apkallu), sun-dried clay, from the foundations of a priest's house in Asshur ca. 721-705 BCE (p. 18. Jeremy Black and Anthony Green. Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia, An Illustrated Dictionary. London, British Museum, in association with the University of Texas Press. Austin. 1992. ISBN 0-292-70794-0. paperback).
Fish-garbed priest bas-relief on temple of the god Ninurta at Kalhu (biblical Calah), ca. 883-859 BCE Assurnasirpal II (p. 83. fig. 65. "fish-garbed figure."
Anthony Green. Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia, An Illustrated Dictionary. London, British Museum, in association with the University of Texas Press. Austin. 1992. ISBN 0-292-70794-0. paperback).
Below, p. 131. fig. 108. "merman and mermaid." Jeremy Black and Anthony Green. Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia, An Illustrated DictionaryLondon, British Museum, in association with the University of Texas Press. Austin. 1992. ISBN 0-292-70794-0. paperback). 

I doubt that the beardless figure is a mer-woman or mermaid. Why? There are no female breasts! I suspect this is a young beardless male youth instead. When Gilgamesh dives into the depths of the sea near Dilmun he seeks a plant which makes an aged man young again. Perpaps the two fishmen represent this rejuvenation motif (fishes feed off plants on the bottom of the sea)? The bearded man after feeding off the plant before him is transformed back into beardless, youthful fishman? The Fishman priest's extended hand toward the plant might be an invite to the fishman to partake of the plant of youthful rejuvenation?

Note: The 'seven sages' are associated with Eridu, where in other myths, Enki or Ea planted two wonderous trees called a mesu tree associated with "long-life" (Gudaea a king of of Lagash requests of his patron god a long life for himself like a mesu tree) and a giskanu tree whose roots were in the abyss (apsu) and whose branches were in the heavens, earlier scholarship mentioned an oracle-tree at Eridu and suggested this oracle-tree might be what is behind Genesis' Tree of Knowledge, as oracles do impart "knowledge" of future events. The fish-men imparted "knowledge" of civilization to man the naked beast of edin according to Berossus. So this tree might be what is behind the Tree of Knowledge, the oracle-tree of knowledge associated with fish-men who imparted knowledge to mankind.

Hastings (1906) on the giskanu tree at Eridu possibly being behind Genesis' Tree of Knowledge:

"Bur-Sin 'restored the giskanu tree of Eridu,' Eri-Aku calls himself 'the restorer of the oracle of the giskanu tree of Eridu,' while Sin-idinnam describes it as the oracle of the giskanu tree of the spirits of earth.' It corresponds, therefore with the tree of knowledge rather than the tree of life..."

(p. 471. Vol. 10. James Hastings. Editor. The Expository Times. Edinburgh,Scotland. T. & T. Clark. 1906)

Sayce (1908) on the kiskanu:

"The tree of knowledge was called kiskanu by the Babylonians, from Sumerian gis-kin, 'the tree of the oracle.' "

(p. 471. Vol. 19. A. H. Sayce. "The Archaeology of the Book of Genesis." pp. 470-472 in James Hastings, Editor. 
The Expository Times. Edinburgh, Scotland. Oct. 1907-Sept. 1908)

Sayce (1907) on the 'tree of life' being possibly the gis ges-tin:

"...the Sumerian gis ges-tin 'the tree of the drink of life,' usually signified 'the vine,' ges-tin being 'grape wine,' but it may have primarily denoted 'palm wine.' "

(p. 471. Vol. 19. A. H. Sayce. "The Archaeology of the Book of Genesis." pp. 470-472 in James Hastings, Editor. 
The Expository Times. Edinburgh, Scotland. Oct. 1907-Sept. 1908)

My notes: Neo-Assyrian bas reliefs show a sacred tree which appears to be highly stylized date palm enveloped by vine tendrils and marsh Arabs in Iraq did drape grape vines about their date palms according to European travelers of the late 19th century A.D. Were the gis gestin and gis-kin (kiskanu), similarly sounding names via homophone confusion, combined into one tree in Neo-Assyrian art (Grape and Date wine became a tree with two different features portrayed: vine tendrils of grapes and date palm branches)?

There is another "surprise" here. Adapa the apkallu or "Sage" as noted earlier, was a fisherman at Eridu as well as a priest who baked bread for Enki (Ea). I have identified Adapa as an Adamic prototype, as in Mesopotamian myths it is he who looses out on a chance to obtain immortality for himself and mankind by not eating the bread of life and drinking the water of life presented him by Anu, Ningishzida and Dumuzi, just as Adam failed to eat the fruit of the Tree of Life. The "surprise" is that the New Testament identifies Jesus Christ as an Adamaic type, as all mankind dies because of Adam's sin so all man can attain immortality via Christ's sacrifice (1 Co 15:22, 45). Christ is sometimes alluded to as "the fisherman," in later Christian traditions as he fishes for men's souls. His follower Peter, another fisherman, is told he will be a fisherman of men's souls too and the fish, Greek: ichthys, becomes a code word for Jesus Christ himself as well as a symbol of the early Christians during the Roman persecutions. The drawing of a fish was another "code" image for Christians and appears in the Catacombs of Rome. The ancient Mesopotamian myth of man's (Adapa the fisherman's) lost chance at immortality has come full-circle with the Christian myths of an "ichthys" Jesus Christ, who like Adapa, is a dispenser of knowledge, a healer, and involved with the motif of man's attainment of immortality as well.

How did Adapa come to be in later ages transformed into a fish-man? In the Adapa and the Southwind myth he is in his boat fishing when the Southwind overturns his boat, tossing him into the sea. He curses the Southwind, breaking its wing, causing it stop blowing. Thompson's (1903) translation (cf. above) reveals it is a creature in service to Anu who dwells in heaven, who calls Adapa to appear before him and explain how and why he has overpowered this demonic creature in the Adapa and the South Wind Myth. I thus propose that Adapa's "dip in the sea" made him into a fish-man (he is a fisher-man, who prepares fish daily for his god Ea's table in Eridu and he is famed for his wisdom given him by Ea). His return to Eridu from the "sea-dip" perhaps became in later ages, a "fish-man" (?) instead of a "fisherman" arising from the sea to give knowledge to mankind on healing arts (curses and spells over disease-carrying demons like the South Wind).

There is another surprise. I understand that Genesis' Adam is not only incorporating Adapa motifs but also motifs associated with Enkidu in the Epic of Gilgamesh. For pictures of Adam as Enkidu please click here.

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Below, a cylinder seal showing "fishmen" holding pine cones (?) and pollen-buckets (?), adoring a sacred tree. Above the tree is the sun-god with eagle wings and tail (perhaps Utu, Shamash or Asshur?). This tree appears in other Neo-Assyrian art forms as a highly stylized Date-palm with a vine lattice and leaves, sometimes bearing fruits such as grapes (?). To this day, Arabs in Lower Mesopotamia drape grapevines about Date-palms in their gardens. Could the Neo-Assyrian highly stylized grapevine tendril motif associated with the Date-palm be what is represented in this art form? In the Epic of Gilgamesh, a plant of rejuvenation lies at the bottom of the sea, could this be the plant the Fishmen are adoring? Or are they adoring the Mesu tree or Kiskanu tree at Eridu where Adapa and the apkallu served? (For the below picture cf. p. 15. figure 7. "Fish Gods at the Tree pf Life; Assyria, c. 700 BC." Joseph Campbell. The Masks of God: Creative Mythology. New York. Viking Penguin. 1968. Reprinted 1976)
Below, a line-drawing of a Christian lamp. Campbell understands that a "Christian Neophyte" is being depicted in the mouth of the fish. I disagree. I understand that this is Christ in the persona of "Jonah and the whale." The New Testament portrays Christ telling his Jewish audience that the "sign they seek" to verify he is the Messiah, is that as Jonah lie three days and nights in the belly of a great fish, so Christ will lie three days and nights in the bowels of the earth and then arise in a resurrection back from death. The New Testament claims that Christ accomplished this sign. Early Christian art of the 3rd century AD frequently portrays Christ as without moustache and without beard. Sometimes his hair is closely cropped and does not reach his shoulders. Please click here for more pictures of Christ without moustache beard with closely cropped hair. I thus understand that the below image is Christ as Jonah rising from the belly of the fish accomplishing his "sign" for the non-believers. (For the below drawing cf. p. 14. figure 6. "Christian Neophyte in Fish Garb; early Christian lamp." Joseph Campbell. The Masks of God: Creative Mythology. New York. Viking Penguin. 1968. Reprinted 1976). Early Christians used the iconography of a fish to identify themselves as being Christians, the Greek word ichtyhus being an alleged code-word for for being a Christian. Even today in the 21st century A.D. the fish is still a symbol for Christ and Christians (the fish being found as a decal or emblem afixed to the rear trunks or bumpers of automobiles driven by some Christians in the U.S.A.)

Ichthys consists of five letters from the Greek alphabet: I-ch-th-y-s. When these five letters are used as initials for five words, we obtain this Christian Declaration: Iesous Christos Theou Yios Soter. This is an acrostic for 'Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior.'

Below, a fish-man in a sea from a bas-relief in the palace of the Assyrian king Sargon II, ca. 721-705 BCE at Dur-Sharken, modern Khorsabad. (p. 131. fig. 107. "merman and mermaid." Jeremy Black and Anthony Green. Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia, An Illustrated Dictionary. London, British Museum, in association with the University of Texas Press. Austin. 1992. ISBn 0-292-70794-0. paperback)
Langdon (1931) noted that Adapa's failure to consume the bread and water of life offered him in Anu's heavenly abode in the Adapa and the Southwind myth resulted in makind being cursed with diseases and eventual death. The myths ends with a priest making an incantation over a sick person, invoking Adapa as responsible for the afflicted's disease. Adapa's ability to curse the South wind demon who overturned his fishing boat may (?) have made him a "healer" or physician of sorts because the South wind demon in _other myths_ had the power to bring disease and death to man. In seeking out Adapa's practioners dressed in fish garments, the Mesopotamians may have (?) seen Adapa "the fisherman/fishman" as not only responsible for man's disease and affliction (because he failed to eat the bread and water of life), but he also having the ability to overpower with curses wind-demons (like the South wind) who brought disease.

Thompson (1903) on the South Wind being an evil demonic wind (emphasis mine in capitals):

"Raging storms, evil gods are they
RUTHLESS DEMONS, who in heaven's vault were created, are they,
They lift up the head to evil, every day to evil
Destruction to work.
Of these seven the first is the SOUTH WIND...
The second is a dragon, whose mouth is opened...
That none can measure.
The third is a grim leopard, which carries off the young ...
The fourth is a terrible Shibbu ...
The fifth is a furious Wolf, who knoweth not to flee,
The sixth is a rampant ... which marches against god and king.
The seventh is a storm, an evil wind, which takes vengeance,
Seven are they, messengers to King Anu are they,
From city to city darkness work they,
A hurricane, which mightily hunts in the heavens, are they
Thick clouds, that bring darkness in heaven, are they,
GUSTS OF WIND rising, which cast gloom over the bright day, ARE THEY,
With the Imkhullu [2] the evil wind, forcing their way, are they,
The overflowing of Adad [3] mighty destroyers, are they,
At the right of Adad stalking, are they,
In the height of heaven, like lightning flashing, are they,
To wreak destruction forward go they ,
In the broad heaven, the home of Anu, the King, evilly do they arise, and none to oppose..."

(R.C. Thompson. The Devils and Evil Spirits of Babylonia. Vol. 1. London. 1903)

Below, a drawing from a bronze figurine of the "South-west wind Demon." Perhaps this the Southwind who's wing was broken via a curse by Adapa? (cf. p. 253. Georges Contenau. Everyday Life In Babylon And AssyriaNew York. St. Martin's Press. 1954)

Below a picture of a fisherman (?) with four fish from the the so-called "Standard of Ur "(circa 2600-2400 B.C.). 
As Ur is near Eridu (12 miles north of Eridu) perhaps Adapa the fisherman looked "somewhat" like this individual?