The Great Flood Myth from Mythical and Legendary

Flood myth image

The world's myths and legends abound with tales of catastrophic floods that annihilate humanity, followed by stories of renewal.

From Noah's Ark in the Bible to the incarnation of Lord Vishnu as Matsya in Hindu mythology, from Deucalion in Greek mythology to Utnapishtim in the Epic of Gilgamesh, each culture has preserved its own interpretation of the memory of great floods.

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Cultural Diversity and Unique Interpretations

Across myths and legends worldwide, a common theme emerges the catastrophic floods that annihilate humanity and the subsequent rebirth.

However, each culture expresses and develops this universal theme through unique interpretations.

The Bible

Noah's Ark in the Bible symbolizes faith saved by divine grace and holds significant importance for Christians.

  1. God, incensed by humanity's corruption and violence, decides to wipe them out with a deluge.
  2. Yet Noah, faithful to God, constructs an ark to save his family and animals.
  3. After the flood, Noah's family nurtures a new life in a fresh world, building a society based on faith.

This narrative portrays both the universal themes of divine wrath and human sin and the hope of redemption through faith.

Noah's Ark conveys a message of overcoming adversity and constructing a new world through God's grace and the power of faith.

Hindu Mythology

The incarnation of Matsya in Hindu mythology represents Lord Vishnu's compassion and protection, holding significance for Hindus.

  1. To maintain cosmic order and destroy wicked Asuras, Lord Vishnu incarnates as Matsya, causing the flood.
  2. Matsya saves the Brahmin, ensuring the prosperity of new life in the post-flood world.

This story reframes the great flood not as divine wrath but as a merciful act to uphold cosmic order.

Matsya's incarnation is depicted as a force that annihilates evil, preserves goodness, and brings prosperity to new life.

Greek Mythology

Deucalion and Pyrrha in Greek mythology symbolize human frailty and new beginnings.

  1. Zeus, angered by humanity's theft of fire, unleashes a flood.
  2. Deucalion and Pyrrha, the sole survivors, become ancestors of a new human race in the post-flood world.

This narrative emphasizes both human fallibility and the birth of a new civilization.

Despite their vulnerability, Deucalion and Pyrrha nurture new life and construct a civilization.

The Epic of Gilgamesh

Utnapishtim in the Epic of Gilgamesh symbolizes the quest for immortality and eternal human challenges.

  1. Gilgamesh seeks the secret of immortality from Utnapishtim, who survived the flood.
  2. Utnapishtim reveals that immortality is unattainable but emphasizes cherishing finite life.

This story grapples with the inevitability of death and poses questions about true happiness.

Utnapishtim, despite surviving the flood, warns Gilgamesh about seeking immortality and underscores the importance of valuing our finite human existence.

Diverse Expressions and Individual Development

Thus, each culture interprets and enriches the universal theme of the great flood with its distinct perspectives:

  • The Bible: Faith and salvation
  • Hindu Mythology: Cosmic order and compassion
  • Greek Mythology: Human frailty and new beginnings
  • The Epic of Gilgamesh: Quest for immortality and eternal questions

These narratives are more than mere myths or legends; they reflect the values, beliefs, and worldviews unique to each culture.

The legend of the great flood weaves a profound tale, shaped by universal themes and diverse interpretations, playing a crucial role in understanding human history and culture.

Common Themes

Across global myths and legends, certain themes recur divine wrath, human sin, and rebirth.

Divine Wrath and Human Sin

In most cases, great floods are triggered by the anger of the gods:

  • The Bible: God, incensed by humanity's corruption and violence, decides to wipe them out with a deluge.
  • Hindu Mythology: Lord Vishnu causes a flood to destroy the wicked Asuras and maintain cosmic order.
  • Greek Mythology: Zeus unleashes a flood as punishment for Prometheus stealing fire from the gods.

In all instances, the great flood serves as a symbol of humanity's transgressions and divine judgment. The god's exact severe retribution for the decline of human ethics and disrespect toward nature.

Rebirth and Hope

Simultaneously, the Great Flood is a story of humanity's rebirth:

  • Noah's Ark: Noah, his family, and animals survive the flood on the ark, nurturing new life in a fresh world.
  • Matsya: The Brahmin saved by Matsya goes on to build a new civilization in the post-flood world.
  • Deucalion and Pyrrha: Deucalion and Pyrrha become the ancestors of a new human race after the flood.
  • Utnapishtim: Utnapishtim imparts knowledge and civilization to humanity, contributing to their prosperity after the flood.

The great flood represents both a trial for humanity and a beacon of hope for a better future.

Those who survive reflect on past mistakes and work toward constructing a renewed society.

Glacial Eustatic Sea Level Changes

The worldwide motif of the great flood, common in myths and legends, is not mere fantasy.

Scientific research confirms that after the last ice age, extensive glacial melting caused sea levels to rise by over 100 meters.

During this time, coastal plains were submerged, forming the present continental shelves, and this memory likely influenced myths and legends across the globe.

Impact of Glacial Eustatic Sea Level Changes

  1. Coastal Flooding: Rising sea levels submerged many coastal regions. The former alluvial plains sank beneath the sea, giving rise to today's continental shelves.
  2. Ecological Shifts: The rising sea levels significantly altered coastal ecosystems. Changes in habitat and species distribution may have led to extinctions.
  3. Human Impact: Ancient humans likely faced the consequences of rising sea levels, including floods and coastal erosion.

Connection to Great Flood Legends

The environmental changes caused by these glacial eustatic sea-level fluctuations profoundly impacted people worldwide, leaving lasting impressions in their memories.

These memories likely influenced subsequent myths and legends.

Specific Example

The Great Flood depicted in the Epic of Gilgamesh is believed to be based on an actual flood disaster that occurred in the Mesopotamian civilization around 3000 BCE.

Archaeological evidence supports the occurrence of a massive flood in the Mesopotamian plain during that period, which likely inspired the epic's flood narrative.

  1. Archaeological Evidence: Remnants of this ancient flood have been found in the Mesopotamian plain, suggesting a large-scale flood event.
  2. Similarities with the Epic: The flood description in the Epic of Gilgamesh aligns with the archaeological evidence. Elements such as the flood's magnitude, construction of an ark, and post-flood renewal are common to both.

In summary, the Great Flood legends likely emerged as narratives to help ancient people comprehend and remember natural disasters.

The environmental impact of glacial eustatic sea level changes left an indelible mark on human history, influencing myths and legends worldwide.


The legend of the great flood is a universal theme for humanity, yet each culture enriches it with unique interpretations.

By understanding the common threads of divine wrath, human sin, and rebirth, we can delve deeper into the flood narratives, appreciating the distinct perspectives and expressions that each culture brings to this enduring tale.

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