Dynasty of Dunnum

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The Dynasty of Dunnum, sometimes called the Theogony of Dunnum or Dunnu or the Harab Myth,[1] is an ancient Mesopotamian mythical tale of successive generations of gods who take power through parricide and live incestuously with their mothers and/or sisters, until, according to a reconstruction of the broken text, more acceptable behavior prevailed with the last generation of gods,[2] Enlil and his twin sons Nušku and Ninurta, who share rule amicably.[3] It is extant in a sole-surviving late Babylonian copy[4] excavated from the site of the ancient city of Sippar by Hormuzd Rassam in the 19th century.[5]


It chronicles the conflict of generations of the gods who represent aspects of fertility, agriculture and the seasonal cycle:[6] heaven, earth, sea, river, plough, wild and domesticated animals, herdsman, pasture, fruit-tree and vine.[4]

It begins, according to a restoration:

In the beginning, [Harab married earth.] Family and lord[ship he founded. Saying: “A]rable land we will carve out (of) the ploughed land of the country. [With the p]loughing of their harbu-ploughs they cause the creation of the sea. [The lands ploughed with the mayaru-pl]ow by themselves gave birth to Sumuqan. His str[onghold,] Dunnu, the eternal city, they created, both of them.[7]

— Translated by William W. Hallo, The world's oldest literature: studies in Sumerian belles-lettres

Then Sumuqan kills his father Harab (plough), marries his mother Ki (earth) and his sister and the cycle of carnage begins. The city of Dunnum was a synonymous toponym, with many places so named, such as one in the vicinity of Isin[7] and another lying of the right bank of the Euphrates in what is now northern Syria.[8] A dunnu is a fortified settlement, but the word can also be translated as strength or violence.[9]


The tale spread across to Phoenicia and over the Aegean, where its influence can be felt in the Ugarit myth Ba’al and Yam from the Ba’al cycle (ca. 1600-1200 BC),[2] the Hittite myth Song of Kumarbi (14th or 13th century BC)[1] and the Greek poet Hesiod’s Theogony (ca. 800-700 BC).[10]


  1. ^ a b Ewa Wasilewska (2001). Creation stories of the Middle East. Jessica Kingsley Pub. p. 90. 
  2. ^ a b Thorkild Jacobsen (1978). The treasures of darkness: a history of Mesopotamian religion. Yale University Press. pp. 167–168, 231. 
  3. ^ Frank Moore Cross (1997). Canaanite myth and Hebrew epic: essays in the history of the religion of Israel. Harvard University Press. p. 41. 
  4. ^ a b William W. Hallo (2000). "Founding Myths of Cities in the Ancient Near East: Mesopotamia and Israel". In Pedro Azara; Ricardo Mar; Eduard Riu; Eva Subías. La fundación de la ciudad: mitos y ritos en el mundo antiguo. Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona. pp. 31–32. 
  5. ^ Tablet BM 74329 at the British Museum.
  6. ^ Patrick D. Miller, Jr. (1994). "Eridu, Dunno and Babel: A Study in Comparative Mythology". In Richard S. Hess; David Toshio Tsumura. I Studied Inscriptions from Before the Flood: Ancient Near Eastern, Literary, and Linguistic Approaches to Genesis 1-11. Eisenbrauns. p. 152. 
  7. ^ a b William W. Hallo (2010). The world's oldest literature: studies in Sumerian belles-lettres. Koninklijke Brill N.V. p. 427. 
  8. ^ Michael C. Astour (June 1, 1992). "History of Ebla". In Cyrus Herzl Gordon; Gary Rendsburg; Nathan H. Winter. Eblaitica: essays on the Ebla archives and Eblaite language, Volume 3. Eisenbrauns. p. 36. 
  9. ^ I. J. Gelb T. Jacobsen, B. Landsberger, A. Leo Oppenheim, eds. (1959). The Assyrian Dictionary: Volume 3, D. Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. pp. 184–185. 
  10. ^ W. G. Lambert & Peter Walcot (1965). "A New Babylonian Theogony and Hesiod". Kadmos. 4 (1): 64–72. doi:10.1515/kadm.1965.4.1.64.