The Eagle and the Snake, or anzû and bašmu? Another Mythological Dimension in the Epic of Etana

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Jonathan Valk



Much of the surviving text of the Epic of Etana tells the story of an eagle and a snake. The eagle and snake are extraordinary creatures, and their story abounds with mythological subtext. This paper argues that the Neo-Assyrian recension of Etana was amended to include explicit references to the eagle and the snake by the names of their mythological counterparts, anzû and bašmu. These references occur in two analogous contexts and serve the same narrative purpose: to dehumanize the other when the eagle and the snake seek to do each other harm. The deliberate character of these changes and their symmetry suggest that they are the product of a conscientious scribe with a developed literary sensibility .

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