Sunday, July 13, 2014

The great deluge - a pre-Abrahamic version of the flood as told by the people of Samothrace

Today we're going to talk about another flood story, not widely known to the public. Most of you probably know there are about 200 flood stories out there including Noah, Gilgamesh, Manu, Deucalion and so on. This one is different for a number of reasons. Let us explain:

  • It claims it predates the other floods that hit other people.
  • The flood is not initiated by some god for punishing humanity, instead the victims are asking the help of their gods.
  • It narrates more or less the flood known among geologists as the Black Sea deluge.
  • It mentions an unknown pre-historic language.

So, who tells us about it? It is the people of the island of Samothrace, through the narrations of Diodorus Siculus

Greek English (by C. Oldfather)
Περὶ δὲ τῶν κατὰ τὴν Ἑλλάδα καὶ τὸ Αἰγαῖον πέλαγος κειμένων νῦν διέξιμεν, τὴν ἀρχὴν ἀπὸ τῆς Σαμοθρᾴκης ποιησάμενοι.

ταύτην γὰρ τὴν νῆσον ἔνιοι μέν φασι τὸ παλαιὸν Σάμον ὀνομασθῆναι, τῆς δὲ νῦν Σάμου κτισθείσης διὰ τὴν ὁμωνυμίαν ἀπὸ τῆς παρακειμένης τῇ παλαιᾷ Σάμῳ Θρᾴκης Σαμοθρᾴκην ὀνομασθῆναι.

ᾤκησαν δ´ αὐτὴν αὐτόχθονες ἄνθρωποι· διὸ καὶ περὶ τῶν πρώτων γενομένων παρ´ αὐτοῖς ἀνθρώπων καὶ ἡγεμόνων οὐδεὶς παραδέδοται λόγος.

ἔνιοι δέ φασι τὸ παλαιὸν Σαόννησον καλουμένην διὰ τοὺς ἀποικισθέντας ἔκ τε Σάμου καὶ Θρᾴκης Σαμοθρᾴκην ὀνομασθῆναι.

ἐσχήκασι δὲ παλαιὰν ἰδίαν διάλεκτον οἱ αὐτόχθονες, ἧς πολλὰ ἐν ταῖς θυσίαις μέχρι τοῦ νῦν τηρεῖται.

οἱ δὲ Σαμόθρᾳκες ἱστοροῦσι πρὸ τῶν παρὰ τοῖς ἄλλοις γενομένων κατακλυσμῶν ἕτερον ἐκεῖ μέγαν γενέσθαι, τὸ μὲν πρῶτον τοῦ περὶ τὰς Κυανέας στόματος ῥαγέντος, μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα τοῦ Ἑλλησπόντου.

τὸ γὰρ ἐν τῷ Πόντῳ πέλαγος λίμνης ἔχον τάξιν μέχρι τοσούτου πεπληρῶσθαι διὰ τῶν εἰσρεόντων ποταμῶν, μέχρι ὅτου διὰ τὸ πλῆθος παρεκχυθὲν τὸ ῥεῦμα λάβρως ἐξέπεσεν εἰς τὸν Ἑλλήσποντον καὶ πολλὴν μὲν τῆς Ἀσίας τῆς παρὰ θάλατταν ἐπέκλυσεν, οὐκ ὀλίγην δὲ καὶ τῆς ἐπιπέδου γῆς ἐν τῇ Σαμοθρᾴκῃ θάλατταν ἐποίησε·

καὶ διὰ τοῦτ´ ἐν τοῖς μεταγενεστέροις καιροῖς ἐνίους τῶν ἁλιέων ἀνεσπακέναι τοῖς δικτύοις λίθινα κιονόκρανα, ὡς καὶ πόλεων κατακεκλυσμένων.

τοὺς δὲ περιληφθέντας προσαναδραμεῖν εἰς τοὺς ὑψηλοτέρους τῆς νήσου τόπους· τῆς δὲ θαλάττης ἀναβαινούσης ἀεὶ μᾶλλον, εὔξασθαι τοῖς θεοῖς τοὺς ἐγχωρίους, καὶ διασωθέντας κύκλῳ περὶ ὅλην τὴν νῆσον ὅρους θέσθαι τῆς σωτηρίας, καὶ βωμοὺς ἱδρύσασθαι, ἐφ´ ὧν μέχρι τοῦ νῦν θύειν· ὥστ´ εἶναι φανερὸν ὅτι πρὸ τοῦ κατακλυσμοῦ κατῴκουν τὴν Σαμοθρᾴκην.
We shall now give an account of the islands which lie in the neighbourhood of Greece and in the Aegean Sea, beginning with Samothrace.

This island, according to some, was called Samos in ancient times, but when the island now known as Samos came to be settled, because the names were the same, the ancient Samos came to be called Samothrace from the land of Thrace which lies opposite it.

It was settled by men who were sprung from the soil itself; consequently no tradition has been handed down regarding who were the first men and leaders on the island.

But some say that in ancient days it was called Saonnesus and that it received the name of Samothrace because of the settlers who emigrated to it from both Samos and Thrace.

The first and original inhabitants used an ancient language which was peculiar to them and of which many words are preserved to this day in the ritual of their sacrifices.

And the Samothracians have a story that, before the floods which befell other peoples, a great one took place among them, in the course of which the outlet at the Cyanean Rocks was first rent asunder and then the Hellespont.

For the Pontus, which had at the time the form of a lake, was so swollen by the rivers which flow into it, that, because of the great flood which had poured into it, its waters burst forth violently into the Hellespont and flooded a large part of the coast of Asia and made no small amount of the level part of the island of Samothrace into a sea;

and this is the reason, we are told, why in later times fishermen have now and then brought up in their nets the stone capitals of columns, since even cities were covered by the inundation.

The inhabitants who had been caught by the flood, the account continues, ran up to the higher regions of the island; and when the sea kept rising higher and higher, they prayed to the native gods, and since their lives were spared, to commemorate their rescue they set up boundary stones about the entire circuit of the island and dedicated altars upon which they offer sacrifices even to the present day. For these reasons it is patent that they inhabited Samothrace before the flood.

Note that Pontus refers to the Black sea. Another interesting detail is the pre-Greek/pre-Thracian language of the island, whose words apparently partially survived until Diodorus time. We don't get any information about them, but it is worth to mention that one of their gods was called Kasmilos, a name that bears a striking similarity with the Anatolian (Hattic specifically) god  Ḫasammil. Beekes (2004) dedicates a whole article on the Kabeiroi making the following statements in his abstract.

R.S.P Beekes -  ‟The origin of the Kabeiroiˮ, 2004 Leiden
It is argued that Kadmilos, one of the Kabeiroi, has a typical (non-IE) Anatolian name. And further that the name Kabeiroi itself is a variant of Kabarn-oi. New insight in Pre-Greek shows that this word is a typical Pre-Greek name, and that the original form is *Kabar(y)-. This shows that the old connection with Semitic (kabìr- ‘great’) must be definitely given up.'

Of course, the Kabeiroi might have been gods that were imported by the Anatolian farmers, who in turn started to move because of this flood. We can't really know.

Now, in case you wonder when this event took place, geologists date it around 7500 B.P or 5500 B.C. The hypothesis on this event was first published on New York Times, the 17th of December 1996. You can read the article here:

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