Noise, Silence and the Gods in Near Eastern and Early Greek Narrative

(Dr Bernardo Ballesteros Petrella, University of Oxford)

This talk aims to touch on three aspects relating to noise and silence among the gods of ancient near eastern and early Greek narrative poetry. Occasions in which the gods fall silent in the divine assembly will be examined first, as an introduction to the adopted comparative methodology. Next, I will discuss the cosmogonic role of noise in two major Akkadian poems—Atra-ḫasīs, or the poem of the Flood, and Enūma eliš, also known as the Babylonian Epic of Creation—and see whether this can shed light on early Greek cosmogonies. As a conclusion, I will put forward a hypothesis about the cultic background of literary divine silence, to which passages from the Hebrew Bible will be relevant. The attached readings are meant as a complement (rather than a background) to the talk and as a stimulus to further comparative discussion.