Tiamat, the Babylonian creation goddess.

Enuma Elish 2

The Babylonian Creation Myth

2 The continued story

The Enuma Elish story continues: Tiamat bears with the noise, but her spouse Apsu is aggravated and together with his vizier Mummu plots to kill the gods. The gods hear about it, and one of them, Ea (also called Nudimmud), kills Apsu and ties up Mummu. The verb ‘tie’ is the same as that for ‘conquer’. In the epic, both meanings of the word are used.

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       Marduk, Ea’s and Damkina’s son, is created within Apsu’s corpse. Marduk is given power over the winds, by which he makes a flood-wave that stirs up Tiamat. Some of the gods – unclear which ones – complain to Tiamat:

Because they slew Apsu your lover and
You did not go to his side but sat mute,
He has created the four, fearful winds
To stir up your belly on purpose, and we simply cannot sleep!

       They insist that she should do battle with the gods guilty of Apsu’s death and the continued unrest.

       The division of gods into those loyal or not to Tiamat may have been that of Anunna and Igigi, the two groups that the Babylonian gods were normally divided into. It is unclear what criteria was used for this division, and it might have changed through the times. Dalley has the Anunna connected to the underworld, and the Igigi to the sky.

       Tiamat is convinced by the complaining gods, and prepares for battle against “the gods inside him (Apsu).” Snakes with bodies filled of venom are created, and terrible dragons. The monsters are created by ‘Mother Hubur’, another name for Tiamat. All in all, she creates eleven kinds of monsters, of which nine are named: a horned serpent, a mushussu-dragon, a lahmu-hero, an ugallu-demon, a rabid dog, a scorpion man, aggressive umu-demons, a fish-man, and a bull-man.

       Dalley’s Enuma Elish version has eleven monsters in addition to the ones mentioned. Wikander’s Enuma Elish version has it to be eleven monsters, all in all. King’s Enuma Elish version implies eleven kinds of monsters, all in all, which is also how he expressly interprets it. If so, the snakes and dragons mentioned before the list of nine additional monsters must be included in the group of eleven. The Enuma Elish text is often translated so that it implies plural on some of the monsters, but it may very well point to singular.

       Tiamat also promotes her lover Qingu to head her army, and gives him the Tablet of Destinies. Qingu (previously spelled Kingu) is little known outside Enuma Elish. The meaning of the name is unknown.

       Ea learns about this, and reports it to his grandfather Anshar, who blames him for it and demands of him to soothe Tiamat’s uprising. When Ea fails, his son Marduk volunteers to battle Tiamat and her monsters, but demands in return to be given supreme power over the gods:

My own utterance shall fix fate instead of you!
Whatever I create shall never be altered!
The decree of my lips shall never be revoked, never changed!

       The gods agree, and they found a princely shrine for him. He is given several powers – such as that of having constellations disappear and reappear. Marduk makes himself a mighty bow and arrow, a mace, and a net to encircle Tiamat. A net is an odd tool by which to capture a water creature. He would do better with his winds only. In the Enuma Elish text, Marduk encircles Tiamat with the net, and forces open her mouth with his wind. He resists her spells, imprisons her with seven winds, and then uses his bow:

He shot an arrow which pierced her belly,
Split her down the middle and slit her heart,
Vanquished her and extinguished her life.

Marduk chases Tiamat.
Marduk chases Tiamat.

       Marduk fixes the monsters with nose-ropes and ties their arms. He defeats Qingu and takes the Table of Destinies, seals it with his own seal and presses it to his breast. Out of Tiamat’s corpse, he creates the world:

He sliced her in half like a fish for drying:
Half of her he put up to roof the sky,
Drew a bolt across and made a guard hold it.
Her waters he arranged so that they could not escape.

       One wonders how her waters were arranged, not to escape. Perhaps an ordering of them into seas and rivers is implied. He also arranges the constellations in the sky, designates the year and the months, appointing three stars for each of the twelve months, and sets the moon’s phases. From parts of Tiamat he creates rivers and landscape. He makes “a house to be a luxurious dwelling for myself,” a cult center that will also serve as a resting place for the gods.

I hereby name it Babylon, home of the great gods.

       The word used in the Enuma Elish text is written phonetically, ba-ab-i-li, contrary to tradition, maybe to allow for the etymological explanation of the name as the ‘gate of the gods’.

       Then Marduk decides to create man, to serve the gods with offerings, so that they can be at leisure. The word used in Enuma Elish for man is lullu, meaning a first, primitive man. The same word is used about the savage Enkidu in the Gilgamesh epic. Since Qingu is found guilty of the war between the gods, his blood is used to create mankind. Here, it is unclear if Marduk or Ea creates mankind. Later in the Enuma Elish text, Ea is specified as the creator of man. Finally, the gods praise Marduk, and give him fifty names that represent different aspects of his powers and sovereignty.

       The Enuma Elish text ends with instructions on how it should be passed on from generation to generation, and the command to worship Marduk, king of the gods.


3   Enuma Elish: The Source

Enuma Elish

The Babylonian Creation Myth
  1. Enuma Elish: The Creation

  2. Enuma Elish: The Continued Story

  3. Enuma Elish: The Source

  4. Enuma Elish: Theories

  5. Enuma Elish: Separation of purposes

  6. Enuma Elish: Mode of creation

This article about the Enuma Elish Babylonian Creation Myth was originally written in the year 2007 for a seminar at the Department of History of Ideas, Lund University, as a part of my dissertation in progress on Creation Myths and their patterns of thought. Transforming the text to webpages, I have excluded footnotes, or edited them into the text.

© Stefan Stenudd 2007

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