Ziusudra, whose name means "life of distant days", is the epic hero in the Sumerian version of the flood myth.

In a later Akkadian poem about the creation of humankind, he is called Atra-hasis (exceedingly wise). In the Epic of Gilgamesh, Ziusudra is known as Uta-napishti, which means "I found life". The story of Noah in the biblical version of the flood myth contains many similarities to stories about Ziusudra.

In a Sumerian composition called The Instructions of Shuruppak, a wise mythological father named Shuruppak, son of Ubar-Tutu, described a Sumerian view of proper conduct to his son, Ziusudra. According to another composition, known as the Sumerian king list, Ubar-Tutu was ruler of the city of Shuruppak, which was the scene of the great flood.


The story of Ziusudra and his father is set in days long past. Shuruppak gave Ziusudra instructions that defined the ideals of proper duty and conduct for a respected landowning citizen of Sumer.

Shuruppak’s precepts contained proverbs regarding daily life and rules that were presented in an absolute, imperative manner—"do not steal", "do not break into a house", and "do not murder" were some of his directives.

The text described a society in which the canny individual maintained a low profile. Self-restraint and levelheadedness were right, and hotheadedness, arrogance, impulsive action, and laziness were wrong.

Shuruppak warned, "My son, do not sit [alone] in a chamber with someone’s wife". On the subject of violence, he said, "Do not throw down a man", and "Do not commit rape upon a man’s daughter".

Shuruppak also explained to Ziusudra that one should strive to make rational decisions, pay attention to the words of one’s king, abide by the law, and listen to one’s parents. A wise individual also should not be fooled by appearances.

A man should not choose a wife at a festival, but should seek lasting values rather than superficial qualities that a woman might affect in public. Finally, one should always worship the gods, for "words of prayer bring abundance".

wise individual
wise individual

Much of the story of Ziusudra as hero has been lost. This text of advice that was given to him by his father may be the advice that made Ziusudra a hero.
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