You should really try to negate this if you want to pretend that you have completely destroyed the ancient alien theory. You can try to attack the Ancient Aliens series, but as long as you don’t go for the best evidence, like the Oannes story, and you do it on a scientific level, you kind of like, you argue why Carl Sagan thought this was interesting, why other scientists thought this was interesting, then you can make a documentary and pretend that you have completely destroyed the possibility that we were ever visited in the past by ancient aliens, but you haven’t.
The story of Oannes is told only by Berossus, a late Babylonian priest who related the tale in his Babylonian History, which does not survive. Summaries were made by Apollodorus, Abydenus, and Alexander Polyhistor, but of course none of these survive either. Extracts from these Greek summaries were recorded in Late Antiquity by Eusebius of Caesaria and in the Middle Ages by George Syncellus, whose books are the sole surviving record of Berossus’ work. We know Berossus existed because he is mentioned by other writers, such as Pliny, whose work survives. (Unrelated fragments of Berossus’ astronomical works were also preserved by Seneca.)
But this isn’t the end of the story. The Greek fragments of Berossus are known to modern readers in the form given them in the early 1800s by I. P. Cory, whose Ancient Fragments (an edition of which I recently edited) freely ran together material from Eusebius and Syncellus while excising the presumed contributions of the Greek authors to produce relatively linear narratives. (I have made this text available online here.) These fragments were further adapted by Robert Temple, who published them in the appendix to his Sirius Mystery from Richard Hodge’s 1876 revision of Cory’s Fragments. This is the form of Berossus’ work ancient astronaut hypothesizers know.
Now, Berossus is generally an accurate writer, but the form of his work that comes down to us does not perfectly match cuneiform records where such records exist. For example, the Greek summarizers make Berossus state that Belus (Marduk) “cut off his own head, upon which the other gods mixed the blood, as it gushed out, with the earth; and from thence men were formed.” However, the Babylonian creation epic, the Enuma Elish, differs on this detail in the cuneiform text. In tablet six, Marduk decrees that the god Kingu must be beheaded and his blood used by Ea to create man. Now, had the work of Berossus—a priest of Marduk—come down to us perfectly, it is very unlikely we should see such a profound mischaracterization of a sacred act of the god himself. As a result of such mistakes, we simply cannot be certain that the Oannes passage is uncorrupted.
Nevertheless, reading the passage on Berossus as it currently stands gives us no confidence that it describes an extraterrestrial. In fact, it says nothing about outer space at all:
At Babylon there was (in these times) a great resort of people of various nations, who inhabited Chaldæa, and lived in a lawless manner like the beasts of the field. In the first year there appeared, from that part of the Erythræan sea which borders upon Babylonia, an animal destitute of reason, by name Oannes, whose whole body (according to the account of Apollodorus) was that of a fish; that under the fish's head he had another head, with feet also below, similar to those of a man, subjoined to the fish's tail. His voice too, and language, was articulate and human; and a representation of him is preserved even to this day.
This Being was accustomed to pass the day among men; but took no food at that season; and he gave them an insight into letters and sciences, and arts of every kind. He taught them to construct cities, to found temples, to compile laws, and explained to them the principles of geometrical knowledge. He made them distinguish the seeds of the earth, and shewed them how to collect the fruits; in short, he instructed them in every thing which could tend to soften manners and humanize their lives. From that time, nothing material has been added by way of improvement to his instructions. And when the sun had set, this Being Oannes, retired again into the sea, and passed the night in the deep; for he was amphibious. After this there appeared other animals like Oannes, of which Berossus proposes to give an account when he comes to the history of the kings.
Note that contra Coppens, Berossus clearly states that this event happened at Babylon (not Sumer), which was only founded in 1894 BCE, many centuries after the arts and sciences the creature claimed to bring with him were already in use at Sumer, Eridu, and Ur. (You can claim Berossus is wrong here, but if so, why trust anything else?) Note, too, that Oannes is described as a fish-man (and depicted in “literal” ancient art as a man in a giant fish suit) who lives in and returns to the sea. This is not outer space, and the only reason anyone ever thought it had anything to do with space is because at one particular moment in history—the 1960s and ’70s, when Sagan and Temple wrote—spacecraft routinely “splashed down” in the ocean, thus leading to an erroneous—and artificial—assumption of a connection between space and water.
VII. 1. And all the others together with them took unto themselves wives, and each chose for himself one, and they began to go in unto them and to defile themselves with them, and they taught them charms and enchantments, and the cutting of roots, and made them acquainted with plants. 2. And they became pregnant, and they bare great giants, whose height was three thousand ells: 3. Who consumed all the acquisitions of men. And when men could no longer sustain them, 4. the giants turned against them and devoured mankind. 5. And they began to sin against birds, and beasts, and reptiles, and fish, and to devour one another's flesh, and drink the blood. 6. Then the earth laid accusation against the lawless ones.
VIII. 1. And Azâzêl taught men to make swords, and knives, and shields, and breastplates, and made known to them the metals of the earth and the art of working them, and bracelets, and ornaments, and the use of antimony, and the beautifying of the eyelids, and all kinds of costly stones, and all colouring tinctures. 2. And there arose much godlessness, and they committed fornication, and they were led astray, and became corrupt in all their ways. Semjâzâ taught enchantments, and root-cuttings, Armârôs the resolving of enchantments, Barâqîjâl, (taught) astrology, Kôkabêl the constellations, Ezêqêêl the knowledge of the clouds, Araqiêl the signs of the earth, Shamsiêl the signs of the sun, and Sariêl the course of the moon. And as men perished, they cried, and their cry went up to heaven . . . (trans. R. H. Charles)
Nor is 1 Enoch the only parallel. Osiris, in his role as civilizer of Egypt, did exactly the same thing, as recorded in Plutarch, On Isis and Osiris 13.1:
One of the first acts related of Osiris in his reign was to deliver the Egyptians from their destitute and brutish manner of living. This he did by showing them the fruits of cultivation, by giving them laws, and by teaching them to honour the gods. Later he travelled over the whole earth civilizing it without the slightest need of arms, but most of the peoples he won over to his way by the charm of his persuasive discourse combined with song and all manner of music. Hence the Greeks came to identify him with Dionysus. (trans. Frank Cole Babbitt)
Now, if we might like some facts about Oannes—which, of course, spoil the fun—we can begin by noting that Oannes isn’t his real name. This is a Greek rendering of Uanna, a name found in the cuneiform Library of Ashurbanipal as an alternate name for the better-known hero Adapa, whose oldest reference dates from 1335 BCE at Amarna in Egypt, in cuneiform materials supplied to Akhenaten. This figure was held to be the (human) son of Ea (Sumerian: Enki), the man who brought civilization to Eridu and who broke the wings of the wind when it overturned his boat. He later was tricked out of immortality but took his place among the Seven Sages. “Ea,” the tablets state, “anointed Adapa … to fish for his temple in Eridu.”
The word used for “sage” comes from the Sumerian for “Great Water,” thus associating Adapa-Oannes with the sea, as Berossus seems to have confusedly remembered, an association strengthened by the memory that Eridu had been located at the head of the Persian Gulf, where Oannes supposedly operated. In the Erra and Ishum, the Seven Sages are banished to the underground sea, the Apsu, the home of Adapa’s father Ea, because they angered the gods (cf. Fallen Angels). From this watery abyss, whose entrance was believed to be beneath Ea’s temple at Eridu, they became described as “pure puradu-fish,” a type of carp still held sacred in the region, thus yielding the literalized description of Oannes as a hybrid fish-man, when hero and symbol became identified. (This is like the way Jesus is sometimes depicted as the Lamb of God, or Moses with ram’s horns.)
In short, Berossus’ description (as related by the Greeks) is a very late, somewhat confused synthesis of the earlier myths of a human hero who was banished to the underground sea (which of course does not actually exist), took a fish as his symbol, and returned from the sea to teach wisdom. It’s worth noting that Adapa is paired in myth with Tammuz, another who ended up in the underworld (this time the realm of the dead) and returned.
Since we can trace in historical texts and iconography the evolution of Adapa from human figure in the ancient Library of Ashurbanipal (as well as at Akhenaten’s city of Amarna!) to fish-man much, much later in Berossus, and from banished sage to risen denizen of the waters, we have no warrant for assuming the final, jumbled Greek summaries of Berossus are in any way historical. If the Babylonians failed to tell Akhenaten that Adapa was an alien from space in 1335 BCE, or their own king in the 600s BCE, why should we trust a demonstrably corrupt Greek summary of a text written centuries later?
This is the “best evidence” of ancient astronauts?