Babylon Connection   Leave a comment

Babylon Jupiter Tablet

Credit: Trustees of the British Museum/Mathieu Ossendrijver; NASA (both as shown in the New York Times)

Today I read in the New York Times an article about ancient Babylonians tracking the movement of Jupiter. It’s a remarkable discovery because the tablets dating from 350 BC to 50 BC (above is an example) revealed sophisticated mathematical equations comparing the motion of Jupiter across the sky. Cuneiform pressed into clay tablets detailed a graph which calculated the velocity of Jupiter’s travels in a given time. It was originally thought that this sort of calculus was first used in the Middle Ages.

Marduk

Babylonians called Jupiter Marduk, the god of water, vegetation, judgement and magic. If you think about it, all four of those things might have been intensely important to a city-state. The fortunes of any population depend upon its ability to feed itself, and during dry times Marduk’s powers might have been called upon ensure the Tigris and the Euphrates kept flowing. Otherwise, without growing crops, it might have taken a bit of magic to keep the peace, and judgement must have come swiftly if Babylon’s citizens acted in a way not befitting of its patron god.

Marduk, I’ll have you know, didn’t come by his godship easily. It’s a bit obscure how he came into being as a mythological entity and it seems he went by 50 other names. During a civil war between the gods, Marduk, as a young god, offered his services to the Anunnaki gods, telling them he’d defeat the other warring gods and bring order. In return, they’d make Marduk the head god. Arming himself with all the elements and forces of nature, Marduk emerged victorious and took his rightful place as the one all others showed deference.

Somewhere in here’s a great story waiting to be written. No, not the trope where the ancient tablet is picked up by some unsuspecting archeologist or museum security guard and all hell (literally) breaks loose. Here’s my idea:

These hunks of clay talk to people via an ancient language known only to a few. An elderly professor, trying to prove he’s still relevant, goes into a collection and uncovers a cuneiform tablet no larger than a slice of stale bread. He’s seen it thousands of times, but realizes it’s been misinterpreted. A chip off of a corner, missing for years, turns up and changes the entire meaning of the message. It’s a message from Marduk himself, who foresees a wonderful vision that will only arise under exact circumstances. The elderly professor tries to show his revelation to the department dean, who dismisses him and accuses him of dementia-related hallucinations. Another professor, also getting along in years, is the only person who believes him. Trouble is, this person is on the other side of the globe and speaks another language. The two can only communicate, it turns out, in cuneiform symbol script. Both have age-related illnesses and it’s only a matter of time the two of them work together to solve the problem and bring the prophecy to life.

Will they?

 

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