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Oannès – Adapa from Odilon Redon in the Kröller-Müller Museum

Adapa was a Mesopotamian mythical figure who unknowingly refused the gift of immortality. The story, commonly known as "Adapa and the South Wind", is known from fragmentary tablets from Tell el-Amarna in Egypt (~14th century BC), and from finds from the Library of Ashurbanipal, Assyria (~7th century BC).

Adapa was an important figure in Mesopotamian religion - his name would be used to invoke power in exorcism rituals; he also became an archetype for a wise ruler - in that context his name would be invoked to evoke favorable comparisons.

Some scholars conflate Adapa and the Apkallu known as Uanna - there is some evidence in favor of this connection, though the name "adapa" may have also been used as an epithet, meaning "wise".


Adapa's story was initially known from a find at Amarna in Egypt from the archives of the egyptian king Amenophis IV (1377-1361 BC). By 1912 three finds from the Library of Ashurbanipal (668-626 BC) had been interpretative and found to contain parts of the story. As of 2001 five fragments from the library are known - there are differences in several of the known versions of the text.[1][2]

Based on a catalogue of texts, a possible original title, an incipit, may have been Adapa into heaven..[3]

A modern analysis of the development of the main Adapa tale is by Millstein 2016


Summary based on translations in (Rogers 1912), (Izre'el 2001), (Pritchard 1969)

Adapa was a mortal man, a sage or priest of temple of Ea in the city of Eridu. He had been given the gift of great wisdom by the god Ea,[a] but not eternal life. Whilst carrying out his duties he was fishing the Persian Gulf.

Whilst fishing, the sea became rough due to strong wind - his boat was capsized. Angry, Adapa "broke the wings of the south wind" preventing it from blowing for seven days. The god Anu calls Adapa to account for his action, but the god Ea aids him - he instructs Adapa to gain the sympathy of Tammuz and Gishzida[b] who guard the gates of heaven, and not to eat or drink whilst in heaven, as such food might kill him, but that when offered garments and oil he should put them on and anoint himself.

Adapa puts on mourning garments, and when he meets Tammuz and Gishzida he claims to be in mourning because they have disappeared from the land. Adapa is then offered the "food of life" and "water of life" but he will not eat or drink, then garments and oil are offered and he puts them on and anoints himself. He is then brought before Anu who asks why he will not eat or drink - Adapa replies that Ea advised him not to.

Anu laughs at Ea's actions, and passes judgment on Adapa - he states rhetorically "what ill has he [Adapa] brought on mankind", adding that men will suffer disease as a consequence, which Ninkarrak (Nintinugga) may ally. Adapa is then sent back down to earth.

(The ending of the text is missing)

Other myths[edit]

Adapa is also associated with the king Enmerkar - the known text is very fragmentary - in the portions that are known Adapa and Enmerkar descend into the earth (nine cubits down), and are involved in breaking into an ancient tomb - what happens in not clear, but the outcome is that they leave and reseal the tomb.[4]


The name of Adapa became pervasive in some rituals of the Mesopotamian religion. According to (Sanders 2017) exorcists would state "I am Adapa!" in their rituals.[5] Rituals from Nippur dating to as early as ~1800 BC, use Adapa's name in their incantations.[6] - derivatives of this text remained in use until at least the 1st C. AD.[7]

During the Neo-Assyrian period comparisons to Adapa would be used in reference to the king, and as such were used to legitimize that king - for example, it was written in Sennacherib's Annals : "Ea [..] endowed me with vast knowledge equivalent to that of the Sage Adapa".[8]

Interpretation and Misconceptions[edit]

As Uanna/Oannes[edit]

The name Adapa has also been used for the first Apkallu sometimes known as Uanna (in the Greek work by Berossus called Oannes) - the myths of the two are different, furthermore (Uanna) the Apkallu is half-fish.., whilst Adapa is fisherman; though there may be a connection. One potential explanation for the occurrence of the two names together is that the cuneiform for 'adapa' was also used as an appellative for "wise" (the Apkallu being wisdom giving beings).

Alternative viewpoints exist as to whether 'adapa' should be considered an epithet for 'uanna', or the other way round where both occur together in compound as the name of the first apkullu.[9]

If identified as first Apkallu, Adapa would have been adviser to the mythical first (antediluvian) king of Eridu, Alulim - this connection is found in some texts, with the king Alulu (Ref STT 176+185, lines 14-15).[10] Elsewhere he is associated with the much later king Enmerkar.[4]

As Adam[edit]

When the story of Adapa was first rediscovered some scholars saw a resemblance with the story of the biblical Adam,[9] such as Albert Tobias Clay.[11] Later scholars such as Alexander Heidel (""The Adapa legend and the Biblical story (of Adam) are fundamentally as far apart as antipodes") rejected this connection; however potential connections are still (1981) considered worthy of analysis - possible parallels and connections include : similarity in names, including the possible connection of both the same word root; and both myths include a test including the eating of food - the eating of which may cause death; both are summoned before god to answer for their transgressions.[9]


  1. ^ In some interpretations of the story he is said to be the son of Ea
  2. ^ See Ningishzida


  1. ^ Rogers 1912, pp. 67-75.
  2. ^ Izre'el 2001, pp. 5-6.
  3. ^ Izre'el 2001, p. 6.
  4. ^ a b Sanders 2017, p. 61-62.
  5. ^ Sanders 2017, p. 38.
  6. ^ Sanders 2017, p. 39.
  7. ^ Sanders 2017, p. 40.
  8. ^ Sanders 2017, p. 44.
  9. ^ a b c Andreasen, Niels-Erik (1981), "Adam and Adapa : Two Anthropological Characters" (PDF), Andrews University Seminary Studies (Autumn 1981), pp. 179–194 
  10. ^ Sanders 2017, p. 52.
  11. ^ Clay, Albert Tobias (1923), The Origin of Biblical Traditions, pp. 109, 132 


  • Rogers, Robert William (1912), Cuneiform Parallels to the Old Testament 
  • Izre'el, Shlomo (2001), Adapa and the South Wind: Language Has the Power of Life and Death 
  • Sanders, Seth L. (2017), "From Adapa to Enoch: Scribal Culture and Religious Vision in Judea and Babylonia", Texts ad Studies in Ancient Judaism, Mohr Siebeck (167) 
  • Pritchard, James B., ed. (1969), Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (3rd ed.) 
  • Millstein, Sara J. (2016), Tracking the Master Scribe: Revision Through Introduction in Biblical and Mesopotamian Literature, OUP