Noise and silence in Enuma Elish: preliminary conjectures

Jens Kongsted – University of Copenhagen

The problem of noise and silence in Babylonian literature has now been debated for the better part of a century, though mainly with regard to the story of Atrahasis and the justification for the flood. Interpretations range from what one may call a biblicist view, which invokes the foreign concept of sin, and therefore argues that the noise of mankind is the noise of their rebellion against the gods. And so, the gods are justified in putting them down like cattle. Interpretations closer to the text would rather have it that noise is a byproduct of a design flaw made by the gods. Noise in this sense being the result of mankind multiplying, in turn leading to overpopulation since natural death has not yet been established.  Motifs of noise and silence also appear in Enuma Elish but these have received substantially less attention. My paper will present work in progress of my master thesis entitled Noise and Silence in Enuma Elish, hence the subtitle which the reader is not supposed to take literally. It will focus on words for noise and silence, and on how one may understand the words in their context. It will also consider the importance of these motifs for moving the plot forward and justifying as well as limiting and provoking the actions of its characters.