MESOPOTAMIAN CREATION STORIES
Ira Spar of the Metropolitan Museum of Art wrote: “Stories describing creation are prominent in many cultures of the world. In Mesopotamia, the surviving evidence from the third millennium to the end of the first millennium B.C. indicates that although many of the gods were associated with natural forces, no single myth addressed issues of initial creation. It was simply assumed that the gods existed before the world was formed. [Source: Spar, Ira, Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, "Epic of Creation (Mesopotamia)", Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, New York:, April 2009, metmuseum.org \^/] \^/
“Unfortunately, very little survives of Sumerian literature from the third millennium B.C. Several fragmentary tablets contain references to a time before the pantheon of the gods, when only the Earth (Sumerian: ki) and Heavens (Sumerian: an) existed. All was dark, there existed neither sunlight nor moonlight; however, the earth was green and water was in the ground, although there was no vegetation. More is known from Sumerian poems that date to the beginning centuries of the second millennium B.C. \^/
“In Mesopotamia, the surviving evidence from the third millennium to the end of the first millennium B.C. indicates that although many of the gods were associated with natural forces, no single myth addressed issues of initial creation. "The Creation of Humankind" is a bilingual Sumerian-Akkadian story also referred to in scholarly literature as KAR 4. This account begins after heaven was separated from earth, and features of the earth such as the Tigris, Euphrates, and canals established. At that time, the god Enlil addressed the gods asking what should next be accomplished. The answer was to create humans by killing Alla-gods and creating humans from their blood. Their purpose will be to labor for the gods, maintaining the fields and irrigation works in order to create bountiful harvests, celebrate the gods' rites, and attain wisdom through study.” \^/
Books: Black, J. A., G. Cunningham, E. Flückiger-Hawker, E. Robson, and G. Zólyomi, trans. The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature.. Oxford: , 1998–2006. Foster, Benjamin R. Before the Muses: An Anthology of Akkadian Literature. 3d ed.. Bethesda, Md.: CDL Press, 2005. Jacobsen, Thorkild The Treasures of Darkness: A History of Mesopotamian Religion. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976. Jacobsen, Thorkild, trans. and ed. The Harps That Once . . . : Sumerian Poetry in Translation. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987. Lambert, W. G. "Mesopotamian Creation Stories." In Imagining Creation, edited by Markham J. Geller and Mineke Schipper, pp. 17–59. IJS Studies in Judaica 5.. Leiden: Brill, 2008. Lambert, W. G., and Alan R. Millard. Atra-Hasis: The Babylonian Story of the Flood. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969.
Website: The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature
Websites and Resources on Mesopotamia: Ancient History Encyclopedia ancient.eu.com/Mesopotamia ; Mesopotamia University of Chicago site mesopotamia.lib.uchicago.edu; British Museum mesopotamia.co.uk ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Mesopotamia sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Louvre louvre.fr/llv/oeuvres/detail_periode.jsp ; Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org/toah ; University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology penn.museum/sites/iraq ; Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago uchicago.edu/museum/highlights/meso ; Iraq Museum Database oi.uchicago.edu/OI/IRAQ/dbfiles/Iraqdatabasehome ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; ABZU etana.org/abzubib; Oriental Institute Virtual Museum oi.uchicago.edu/virtualtour ; Treasures from the Royal Tombs of Ur oi.uchicago.edu/museum-exhibits ; Ancient Near Eastern Art Metropolitan Museum of Art www.metmuseum.org
Archaeology News and Resources: Anthropology.net anthropology.net : serves the online community interested in anthropology and archaeology; archaeologica.org archaeologica.org is good source for archaeological news and information. Archaeology in Europe archeurope.com features educational resources, original material on many archaeological subjects and has information on archaeological events, study tours, field trips and archaeological courses, links to web sites and articles; Archaeology magazine archaeology.org has archaeology news and articles and is a publication of the Archaeological Institute of America; Archaeology News Network archaeologynewsnetwork is a non-profit, online open access, pro- community news website on archaeology; British Archaeology magazine british-archaeology-magazine is an excellent source published by the Council for British Archaeology; Current Archaeology magazine archaeology.co.uk is produced by the UK’s leading archaeology magazine; HeritageDaily heritagedaily.com is an online heritage and archaeology magazine, highlighting the latest news and new discoveries; Livescience livescience.com/ : general science website with plenty of archaeological content and news. Past Horizons : online magazine site covering archaeology and heritage news as well as news on other science fields; The Archaeology Channel archaeologychannel.org explores archaeology and cultural heritage through streaming media; Ancient History Encyclopedia ancient.eu : is put out by a non-profit organization and includes articles on pre-history; Best of History Websites besthistorysites.net is a good source for links to other sites; Essential Humanities essential-humanities.net: provides information on History and Art History, including sections Prehistory
Sumerian Creation Stories
Ira Spar of the Metropolitan Museum of Art wrote: “A Sumerian myth known today as "Gilgamesh and the Netherworld" opens with a mythological prologue. It assumes that the gods and the universe already exist and that once a long time ago the heavens and earth were united, only later to be split apart. Later, humankind was created and the great gods divided up the job of managing and keeping control over heavens, earth, and the Netherworld.[Source: Spar, Ira, Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, April 2009, metmuseum.org \^/]
“The origins of humans are described in another early second-millennium Sumerian poem, "The Song of the Hoe." In this myth, as in many other Sumerian stories, the god Enlil is described as the deity who separates heavens and earth and creates humankind. Humanity is formed to provide for the gods, a common theme in Mesopotamian literature. \^/
“In the Sumerian poem "The Debate between Grain and Sheep," the earth first appeared barren, without grain, sheep, or goats. People went naked. They ate grass for nourishment and drank water from ditches. Later, the gods created sheep and grain and gave them to humankind as sustenance. According to "The Debate between Bird and Fish," water for human consumption did not exist until Enki, lord of wisdom, created the Tigris and Euphrates and caused water to flow into them from the mountains. He also created the smaller streams and watercourses, established sheepfolds, marshes, and reedbeds, and filled them with fish and birds. He founded cities and established kingship and rule over foreign countries. In "The Debate between Winter and Summer," an unknown Sumerian author explains that summer and winter, abundance, spring floods, and fertility are the result of Enlil's copulation with the hills of the earth. \^/
“Another early second-millennium Sumerian myth, "Enki and the World Order," provides an explanation as to why the world appears organized. Enki decided that the world had to be well managed to avoid chaos. Various gods were thus assigned management responsibilities that included overseeing the waters, crops, building activities, control of wildlife, and herding of domestic animals, as well as oversight of the heavens and earth and the activities of women. \^/
“According to the Sumerian story "Enki and Ninmah," the lesser gods, burdened with the toil of creating the earth, complained to Namma, the primeval mother, about their hard work. She in turn roused her son Enki, the god of wisdom, and urged him to create a substitute to free the gods from their toil. Namma then kneaded some clay, placed it in her womb, and gave birth to the first humans.” \^/
Babylonian Creation Stories
Ira Spar of the Metropolitan Museum of Art wrote:“Babylonian poets, like their Sumerian counterparts, had no single explanation for creation. Diverse stories regarding creation were incorporated into other types of texts. Most prominently, the Babylonian myth "Enuma Elish" is a theological legitimization of the rise of Marduk as the supreme god in Babylon, replacing Enlil, the former head of the pantheon. The poem was most likely compiled during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar I in the later twelfth century B.C., or possibly a short time afterward. At this time, Babylon, after many centuries of rule by the foreign Kassite dynasty, achieved political and cultural independence. The poem celebrates the ascendancy of the city and acts as a political tractate explaining how Babylon came to succeed the older city of Nippur as the center of religious festivals. [Source: Spar, Ira, Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, April 2009, metmuseum.org \^/]
“The short tale "Marduk, Creator of the World" is another Babylonian narrative that opens with the existence of the sea before any act of creation. First to be created are the cities, Eridu and Babylon, and the temple Esagil is founded. Then the earth is created by heaping dirt upon a raft in the primeval waters. Humankind, wild animals, the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the marshlands and canebrake, vegetation, and domesticated animals follow. Finally, palm groves and forests appear. Just before the composition becomes fragmentary and breaks off, Marduk is said to create the city of Nippur and its temple, the Ekur, and the city of Uruk, with its temple Eanna.” \^/
Creation of the Pickax
The Myth of the Creation of the Pickax or Hoe adds some details to the creation of mankind: Enlil removed heaven from earth in order to make room for seeds to come up. After he created the hoe he used it to break the hard crust of earth in Uzumua (the flesh-grower), a place in the Temple of Inanna in Nippur. Here, out of the hole made by Enlil's hoe, man grew forth. [Source: Kenneth Sublett, piney.com]
The Creation of the Pickax by Enlil (the Babylonian Holy Spirit) goes:
The lord did verily produce the normal order,
The lord whose decisions cannot be altered,
Enlil quickly removed heaven from earth
So that the seed, from which the nation grew, could sprout up from the field;
He quickly brought the earth out from under the heaven as a separate entity
And bound up for the earth the gash in the "bond of heaven and earth"
So that the earth could grow humankind.;
He created the pickax when daylight was shining forth,
He organized the tasks, the pickman's way of life;
Stretching out his arm straight toward the pickax and the basket,
Enlil sang the praises of his pickax.
He drove his pickax into the earth.
In the hole which he had made was humankind.
While the people of the land were breaking through the ground,
He eyed his black-headed ones in steadfast fashion.
The pickax and the basket build cities,
The steadfast house of the pickax builds, the steadfast house of the pickax establishes,
The steadfast house it causes to prosper.
The house which rebels against the king,
The house which is not submissive to its king,
The pickax makes it submissive to the kingÉ
The pickax, its fate is decreed by father Enlil,
The pickax is exalted.
Babylonian Version of a Sumerian Creation Myth
This myth was written in the 12th century B.C., but the myths on which it was based date back to ancient Sumer. The most complete text was found on seven clay tablets. Below is a translation from Tablet IV which tells of the great battle between the sky god Marduk and the earth goddess Tiamat. [Source: Then Again]
Tablet IV: “They set up a throne for Marduk and he sat down facing his forefathers to receive the government. 'One god is greater than all great gods, a fairer fame, the word of command, the word from heaven, O Marduk, greater than all great gods, the honor and the fame, the will of Anu, great command, unaltering and eternal word! Where there is action the first to act, where there is government the first to govern; to glorify some, to humiliate some, that is the gift of the god, Truth absolute, unbounded will; which god dares question it? In their beautiful places a place is kept for you, Marduk, our avenger. 'We have called you here to receive the scepter, to make you king of the whole universe. When you sit down in the Synod you are the arbiter; in the battle your weapon crushes the enemy. 'Lord, save the life of any god who turns to you; but as for the one who grasped evil, from that one let his life drain out.' They conjured then a kind of apparition and made it appear in front of him, and they said to Marduk, the first-born son, 'Lord, your word among the gods arbitrates, destroys, creates: then speak and this apparition will disappear. Speak again, again it will appear.' He spoke and the apparition disappeared. Again he spoke and it appeared again. When the gods had proved his word they blessed him and cried, 'MARDUK IS KING!'
“They robed him in robes of a king, the scepter and the throne they gave him, and matchless war-weapons as a shield against the adversary. 'Be off. Slit life from Tiamat, and may the winds carry her blood to the world's secret ends.'The old gods had assigned to Bel what he would be and what he should do, always conquering, always succeeding; Then Marduk made a bow and strung it to be his own weapon, he set the arrow against the bow-string, in his right hand he grasped the mace and lifted it up, bow and quiver hung at his side, lightnings played in front of him, he was altogether an incandescence. He netted a net, a snare for Tiamat; the winds from their quarters held it, south wind, north, east wind, west, and no part of Tiamat could escape.
“With the net, the gift of Anu, held close to his side, he himself raised up IMHULLU the atrocious wind, the tempest, the whirlwind, the hurricane, the wind of four and the wind of seven, the tumid wind worst of all. All seven winds were created and released to savage the guts of Tiamat, they towered behind him. Then the tornado ABUBA his last great ally, the signal for assault, he lifted up. He mounted the storm, his terrible chariot, reins hitched to the side, yoked four in hand the appalling team, sharp poisoned teeth, the Killer, the Pitiless, Trampler, Haste, they knew arts of plunder, skills of murder. He posted on his right the Batterer, best in the mêlée; on his left the Battle-fury that blasts the bravest, lapped in this armor, a leaping terror, a ghastly aureole; with a magic word clenched between his lips, a healing plant pressed in his palm, this lord struck out.
“He took his route towards the rising sound of Tiamat's rage, and all the gods besides, the fathers of the gods pressed in around him, and the lord approached Tiamat. He surveyed her scanning the Deep, he sounded the plan of Kingu her consort; but so soon as Kingu sees him he falters, flusters, and the friendly gods who filled the ranks beside him- when they saw the brave hero, their eyes suddenly blurred.
“But Tiamat without turning her neck roared, spitting defiance from bitter lips, 'Upstart, do you think yourself too great? Are they scurrying now from their holes to yours?' Then the lord raised the hurricane, the great weapon he flung his words at the termagant fury, 'Why are you rising, your pride vaulting, your heart set on faction, so that sons reject fathers? Mother of all, why did you have to mother war? 'You made that bungler your husband, Kingu! You gave him the rank, not his by right, of Anu. You have abused the gods my ancestors, in bitter malevolence you threaten Anshar, the king of all the gods. 'You have marshaled forces for battle, prepared the war-tackle. Stand up alone and we will fight it you, you and I alone in battle.'
“When Tiamat heard him her wits scattered, she was possessed and shrieked aloud, her legs shook from the crotch down, she gabbled spells, muttered maledictions, while the gods of war sharpened their weapons. Then they met: Marduk, that cleverest of gods, and Tiamat grappled alone in singled fight. The lord shot his net to entangle Tiamat, and the pursuing tumid wind, Imhullu, came from behind and beat in her face. When the mouth gaped open to suck him down he drove Imhullu in, so that the mouth would not shut but wind raged through her belly; her carcass blown up, tumescent.
“She gaped- And now he shot the arrow that split the belly, that pierced the gut and cut the womb. Now that the Lord had conquered Tiamat he ended her life, he flung her down and straddled the carcass; the leader was killed, Tiamat was dead, her rout was shattered, her band dispersed.
“Those gods who had marched beside her now quaked in terror, and to save their own lives, if they could, they turned their backs on danger But they were surrounded, held in a tight circle, and there was no way out. He smashed their weapons and tossed them into the net; they found themselves inside the snare, they wept in holes and hid in corners suffering the wrath of god. When they resisted he put in chains the eleven monsters, Tiamat's unholy brood, and all their murderous armament. The demoniac band that has marched in front of her he trampled in the ground.
“But Kingu the usurper, he chief of them, he bound and made death's god. He took the Tables of Fate, usurped without right, and sealed them with his seal to wear on his own breast. When it was accomplished, the adversary vanquished, the haughty enemy humiliated; when the triumph of Anshar was accomplished on the enemy, and the will of Nudimmud was fulfilled, then brave Marduk tightened the ropes of the prisoners. He turned back to where Tiamat lay bound, he straddled the legs and smashed her skull (for the mace was merciless), he severed the arteries and the blood streamed down the north wind to the unknown ends of the world.
“When the gods saw all this they laughed out loud, and they sent him presents. They sent him their thankful tributes. The lord rested; he gazed at the huge body, pondering how to use it, what to create from the dead carcass. He split it apart like a cockle-shell; with the upper half he constructed the arc of sky, he pulled down the bar and set a watch on the waters, so they should never escape. He crossed the sky to survey the infinite distance; he station himself above apsu, that apsu built by Nudimmud over the old abyss which now he surveyed, measuring out and marking in. He stretched the immensity of the firmament, he made Esharra, the Great Palace, to be its earthly image, and Anu and Enlil and Ea had each their right stations.
Enuma Elish (The Babylonian Creation Story), c. 2000 B.C.
Ira Spar of the Metropolitan Museum of Art wrote:“The Babylonian myth "Enuma Elish" is a theological legitimization of the rise of Marduk as the supreme god in Babylon, replacing Enlil, the former head of the pantheon. The poem was most likely compiled during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar I in the later twelfth century B.C., or possibly a short time afterward. At this time, Babylon, after many centuries of rule by the foreign Kassite dynasty, achieved political and cultural independence. The poem celebrates the ascendancy of the city and acts as a political tractate explaining how Babylon came to succeed the older city of Nippur as the center of religious festivals. The myth itself has 1,091 lines written on seven tablets.[Source: Spar, Ira, Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, April 2009, metmuseum.org \^/]
Mircea Elaide of the University of Chicago wrote: “The long Babylonian creation epic 'Enuma elish' ('When on High'), so called from the first two words of the poem, narrates a chain of events beginning with the very first separation of order out of chaos and culminating in the creation of the specific cosmos known to the ancient Babylonians. As the gods are born within the commingled waters of their primeval parents, Apsu and Tiamat, their restlessness disturbs Apsu. Over Tiamat's protests, he plans to kill them; but the clever Ea learns of his plan and kills Apsu instead. Now Tiamat is furious, she produces an army of monsters to avenge her husband and to wrest lordship from the younger generation. The terrified gods turn to Ea's son Marduk for help. Marduk agrees to face Tiamat, but demands supremacy over them as compensation. They promptly assemble, declare him king, and send him forth, armed with his winds and storms. The battle is short; the- winds inflate Tiamat's body like a balloon and Marduk sends an arrow through her gaping mouth into her heart. He then splits her body, forming heaven and earth with the two halves. After putting the heavens in order, he turns to Ea for help in creating, out of the blood of Tiamat's demon-commander Kingu, the black-haired men of Mesopotamia. The poem concludes as the gods build a temple for Marduk and gather in it to celebrate his mighty deeds. Enuma elish was probably composed in the early part of the second millennium B.C. [Source: Eliade Site]
Outline of the Enuma Elish Story
Ira Spar of the Metropolitan Museum of Art wrote: Enuma Elish “opens with a theogony, the descent of the gods, set in a time frame prior to creation of the heavens and earth. At that time, the ocean waters, called Tiamat, and her husband, the freshwater Apsu, mingled, with the result that several gods emerged in pairs. Like boisterous children, the gods produced so much noise that Apsu decided to do away with them. Tiamat, more indulgent than her spouse, urged patience, but Apsu, stirred to action by his vizier, was unmoved. The gods, stunned by the prospect of death, called on the resourceful god Ea to save them. Ea recited a spell that made Apsu sleep. He then killed Apsu and captured Mummu, his vizier. Ea and his wife Damkina then gave birth to the hero Marduk, the tallest and mightiest of the gods. Marduk, given control of the four winds by the sky god Anu, is told to let the winds whirl. Picking up dust, the winds create storms that upset and confound Tiamat. [Source: Spar, Ira, Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, April 2009, metmuseum.org \^/]
“Other gods suddenly appear and complain that they, too, cannot sleep because of the hurricane winds. They urge Tiamat to do battle against Marduk so that they can rest. Tiamat agrees and decides to confront Marduk. She prepares for battle by having the mother goddess create eleven monsters. Tiamat places the monsters in charge of her new spouse, Qingu, who she elevates to rule over all the gods. When Ea hears of the preparations for battle, he seeks advice from his father, Anshar, king of the junior gods. Anshar urges Ea and afterward his brother Anu to appease the goddess with incantations. Both return frightened and demoralized by their failure. The young warrior god Marduk then volunteers his strength in return for a promise that, if victorious, he will become king of the gods. The gods agree, a battle ensues, and Marduk vanquishes Tiamat and Qingu, her host. Marduk then uses Tiamat's carcass for the purpose of creation. He splits her in half, "like a dried fish," and places one part on high to become the heavens, the other half to be the earth. As sky is now a watery mass, Marduk stretches her skin to the heavens to prevent the waters from escaping, a motif that explains why there is so little rainfall in southern Iraq. With the sky now in place, Marduk organizes the constellations of the stars. He lays out the calendar by assigning three stars to each month, creates his own planet, makes the moon appear, and establishes the sun, day, and night. From various parts of Tiamat's body, he creates the clouds, winds, mists, mountains, and earth. The myth continues as the gods swear allegiance to the mighty king and create Babylon and his temple, the Esagila, a home where the gods can rest during their sojourn upon the earth. The myth conveniently ignores Nippur, the holy city esteemed by both the Sumerians and the rulers of Kassite Babylonia. Babylon has replaced Nippur as the dwelling place of the gods. \^/
“Meanwhile, Marduk fulfills an earlier promise to provide provisions for the junior gods if he gains victory as their supreme leader. He then creates humans from the blood of Qingu, the slain and rebellious consort of Tiamat. He does this for two reasons: first, in order to release the gods from their burdensome menial labors, and second, to provide a continuous source of food and drink to temples. \^/
“The gods then celebrate and pronounce Marduk's fifty names, each an aspect of his character and powers. The composition ends by stating that this story and its message (presumably the importance of kingship to the maintenance of order) should be preserved for future generations and pondered by those who are wise and knowledgeable. It should also be used by parents and teachers to instruct so that the land may flourish and its inhabitants prosper.” \^/
Enuma Elish: In the Beginning
Enuma Elish (The Babylonian Creation Story), c. 2000 B.C., begins:
“When on high the heaven had not been named,
Firm ground below had not been called by name,
Naught but primordial Apsu [God of subterranean waters], their begetter,
(And) Mummu [epithet of Tiamat] Tiamat [water-deity], she who bore them all,
Their waters commingling as a single body;
No reed hut had been matted, no marsh land had appeared,
When no gods whatever had been brought into being,
Uncalled by name, their destinies undetermined-
Then it was that the gods were formed within them.
Lahmu and Lahamu [The first generation of gods] were brought forth, by name they were called. [Source: Translation by E. A. Speiser, in Ancient Near Eastern Texts (Princeton, 1950), pp. 60-72, as reprinted in Isaac Mendelsohn (ed.), Religions of the Ancient Near East, Library of Religion, paperbook series (New York, 1955), pp. 19-46, Eliade Site]
For aeons they grew in age and stature.
Anshar and Kishar [gods] were formed, surpassing the others.
They prolonged the days, added on the years.
Anu [The sky-god] was their son, of his fathers the rival;
Yea, Anshar's first-born, Anu, was his equal.
Anu begot in his image Nudimmud [Ea, the earth and water-god].
This Nudimmud was of his fathers the master,
Of broad wisdom, understanding, mighty in strength,
Mightier by far than his grandfather, Anshar.
He had no rival among the gods, his brothers.
“The divine brothers banded together,
They disturbed Tiamat as they surged back and forth,
Yea, they troubled the mood of Tiamat
By their hilarity in the Abode of Heaven.
Apsu could not lessen their clamour
And Tiamat was speechless at their ways.
Their doings were loathsome unto [ . . . ].
Unsavoury were their ways; they were overbearing.
Then Apsu, the begetter of the great gods,
Cried out, addressing Mummu, his vizier:
'O Mummu, my vizier, who rejoicest my spirit,
Come hither and let us go to Tiamat!'
They went and sat down before Tiamat,
Exchanging counsel about the gods, their first-born.
Apsu, opening his mouth,
Said unto resplendent Tiamat:
'Their ways are verity loathsome unto me.
By day I find no relief, nor repose by night.
I will destroy, I will wreck their ways,
That quiet may be restored. Let us have rest!'
Enuma Elish: Tiamat Gets Pissed Off
“As soon as Tiamat heard this,
She was wroth and called out to her husband.
She cried out aggrieved, as she raged all alone,
Injecting woe into her mood:
What? Should we destroy that which we have built?
Their ways are indeed troublesome, but let us attend kindly!'
Then answered Mummu, giving counsel to Apsu;
III-wishing and ungracious was Mummu's advice:
'Do destroy, my father, the mutinous ways.
Then shalt thou have relief by day and rest by night!'
When Apsu heard this, his face grew radiant
Because of the evil he planned against the gods, his sons.
As for Mummu, by the neck he embraced him
As (that one) sat down on his knees to kiss him.
(Now) whatever they had plotted between them
Was repeated unto the gods, their first born.
“When the gods heard (this), they were astir,
(Then) lapsed into silence and remained speechless.
Surpassing in wisdom, accomplished, resourceful,
Ea (earth- and water-god), the all-wise, saw through their scheme.
A master design against it he devised and set up,
Made artful his spell against it, surpassing and holy.
He recited it and made is subsist in the deep,
As he poured sleep upon him. Sound asleep he lay.
When Apsu he had made prone, drenched with sleep,
Mummu, the adviser, was impotent to move.
He loosened his band, tore off his tiara,
Removed his halo (and) put it on himself.
Having fettered Apsu, he slew him.
Mummu he bound and left behind lock.
“Having thus upon Apsu established his dwelling,
He laid hold on Mummu, holding him by the nose-rope.
After he had vanquished and trodden down his foes,
Ea, his triumph over his enemies secured,
In his sacred chamber in profound peace he rested.
He named it 'Apsu' for shrines he assigned (it).
In that same place his cult hut he founded.
Ea and Damkina, his wife, dwelled (there) in splendour.
In the chamber of fates, the abode of destinies,
A god was engendered, most potent and wisest of gods.
In the heart of Apsu was Marduk created,
In the heart of holy Apsu was Marduk created.
He who begot him was Ea, his father,
She who conceived him was Damkina, his mother.
The breast of goddesses did she suck.
The nurse that nursed him filled him with awesomeness.
Alluring was his figure, sparkling the lift in his eyes.
Lordly was his gait, commanding from of old.
“When Ea saw him, the father who begot him,
He exulted and glowed, his heart filled with gladness.
He rendered him perfect and endowed him with a double godhead.
Greatly exalted was he above them, exceeding throughout.
Perfect were his members beyond comprehension,
Unsuited for understanding, difficult to perceive.
Four were his eyes, four were his ears,
When he moved his lips, fire blazed forth.
Large were all hearing organs,
And the eyes, in like number, scanned all things.
He was the loftiest of the gods, surpassing was his stature;
His members were enormous, he was exceeding tall.
,My little son, any little son!'
My son, the Sun of Sun of the heavens!'
Clothed with the halo of ten gods, he was strong to the utmost,
As their awesome flashes were heaped upon him.
Disturbed was Tiamat, astir night and day.
The gods, in malice, contributed to the storm.
Their insides having plotted evil,
To Tiamat these brothers said:
'When they slew Apsu, thy consort,
Thou didst not aid him but remaindest still.
Although he fashioned the awesome Saw [weapon of the sun-god],
Thy insides are diluted and so we can have no rest.
Let Apsu, thy consort, be in thy mind
And Mummu, who has been vanquished! Thou art left alone
Enuma Elish: Gods Incite Tiamat to Avenge Apsu
“[Several of the preceding lines are fragmentary. The gods incite Tiamat to avenge Apsu and Mummu. She is pleased and proposes to do battle against the offending gods. But first she bears a horrible brood of helpers-eleven monsters, 'Sharp of tooth, unsparing of fang. With venom for blood she has filled their bodies.']
“From among the gods [gods who joined Tiamat in her war], her first-born, who formed her Assembly,
She elevated Kingu, made him chief among them.
The leading of the ranks, command of the Assembly,
The raising weapons for the encounter, advancing to combat,
In battle the command-in-chief-
These to his hand she entrusted as she seated him in the Council:
'I have cast for thee the spell, exalting thee in the Assembly of the gods.
To counsel all the gods I have given thee full power.
Verily, thou art supreme, my only consort art thou!
Thy utterance shall prevail over all the Anunnaki! [Here a collective name of the nether world gods]
She gave him the Tablets of Fate, fastened on his breast:
'As for thee, thy command shall be unchangeable, Thy word shall
As soon as Kingu was elevated, possessed of the rank of Anu,
For the gods, her sons, they decreed the fate:
'Your word shall make the fire subside,
Shall humble the 'Power-Weapon,' so potent in (its) sweep!'
“[Ea again learns of the plot, but this time he has no ready response for it. He goes to his grandfather Anshar and repeats the entire story of Tiamat's fury and her preparations for battle. Anshar is profoundly disturbed. Finally he dispatches Anu, saying, 'Go and stand thou up to Tiamat,/ that her mood be calmed, that her heart expand.' But when Anu sees the hosts of Tiamat, he loses his nerve and returns to Anshar.]
“He came abjectly to his father, Anshar.
As though he were Tiamat thus he addressed him:
'My hand suffices not for me to subdue thee.'
Speechless was Anshar as he stared at the ground,
Frowning and shaking his head at Ea.
All the Anunnaki gathered at that place;
Their lips closed tight, they sat in silence.
'No god' (thought they) 'can go to battle and,
Facing Tiamat, escape with his life.'
Lord Anshar, father of the gods, rose up in grandeur,
And having pondered in his heart, he said to the Anunnaki:
'He whose strength is potent shall be our avenger,
He who is keen in battle, Marduk, the hero!'
Enuma Elish: Ea Warns Marduk of Anshar’s Plan
“[ Ea warns Marduk of Anshar's plan and advises him to go before Anshar boldly. Marduk obeys and Anshar, seeing the hero, is instantly calmed.]
'Anshar, be not muted; open wide thy lips.
I will go and attain thy heart's desire. . . .
What male is it who has pressed his fight against thee?
It is but Tiamat, a woman, that opposes thee with weapons!
0 my father-creator, be glad and rejoice;
The neck of Tiamat thou shalt soon tread upon!
My son, (thou) who knowest all wisdom, [Source: Translation by E. A. Speiser, in Ancient Near Eastern Texts (Princeton, 1950), pp. 60-72, as reprinted in Isaac Mendelsohn (ed.), Religions of the Ancient Near East, Library of Religion, paperbook series (New York, 1955), pp. 19-46, Eliade Site]
“Calm Tiamat with thy holy spell.
On the storm-chariot proceed with all speed.
From her presence they shall not drive (thee)! Turn them back!'
The lord rejoiced at the word of his father.
His heart exulting, he said to his father:
'Creator of the gods, destiny of the great gods, If I indeed, as your avenger,
Am to vanquish Tiamat and save your lives,
Set up the Assembly, proclaim supreme my destiny!
When jointly in Ubshukinna [assembly hall of the gods] you have sat down rejoicing,
Let my word, instead of you, determine the fates.
Unalterable shall be what I may bring into being;
Neither recalled nor changed shall be the command of my lips.'
[ Anshar is prepared to accept Marduk's terms. He sends his vizier Gaga to a still older generation of gods, Lahtnu and Lahamu. Gaga is instructed to repeat the entire story to them, and to invite the gods to assemble at a banquet for fixing Marduk's decrees.]
“When Lahtnu and Lahainu heard this, they cried out aloud,
All the Igigi [collective name of the heaven gods] wailed in distress:
'How strange that they should have made this decision!
We cannot fathom the doings of Tiamat!'
They made ready to leave on their journey,
All the great gods who decree the fates.
They entered before Anshar, filling Ubshuhinna.
They kissed one another in the Assembly.
They held converse as they sat down to the banquet.
They ate festive bread, partook of the wine,
They wetted their drinking tubes with sweet intoxicant.
As they drank the strong drink their bodies swelled.
They became very languid as their spirits rose.
For Marduk, their avenger, they fixed the decrees.
They erected for him a princely throne.
Facing his fathers, he sat down, presiding.
'Thou art the most honoured of the great gods,
Thy decree is unrivaled, thy command is Anu
“Thou, Marduk, art the most honoured of the great gods.
We have granted thee Kingship over the universe entire.
When in the Assembly thou sittest, thy word shall be supreme.
Thy weapons shall not fail; they shall smash thy foesl
0 lord, spare the life of him who trusts thee,
But pour out the life of the god who seized evil.'
Having placed in their midst a piece of cloth,
They addressed themselves to Marduk, their first-born:
'Lord, truly thy decree is first among gods.
Say but to wreck or create; it shall be.
open thy mouth: the cloth will vanish!
Speak again, and the cloth shall be whole!'
At the word of his mouth the cloth vanished.
He spoke again, and the cloth was restored.
When the gods, his fathers, saw the fruit of his word,
Joyfully they did him homage: 'Marduk is king!'
They conferred on him sceptre, throne, and palu;
They gave him matchless weapons that ward off the foes:
Enuma Elish: Trying to Catch Tiamat
“Bel's destiny thus fixed, the gods, his fathers,
Caused him to go the way of success and attainment.
He constructed a bow, marked it as his weapon,
Attached thereto the arrow, fixed its bow-cord.
He raised the mace, made his right hand grasp it;
Bow and quiver he hung at his side.
In front of him he set the lightning,
With a blazing flame he filled his body.
He then made a net to enfold Tiamat therein.
The four winds he stationed that nothing of her might escape,
The South Wind, the North Wind, the East Wind, the West Wind.
“Close to his side he held the net, the gift of his father, Anu.
He brought forth Imhullu, 'the Evil Wind,' the Whirlwind, the
The Fourfold Wind, the Sevenfold Wind, the Cyclone, the Matchless
Then he sent forth the winds he had brought forth, the seven of them.
To stir up the inside of Tiamat they rose up behind him.
Then the lord raised up the flood-storm, his mighty weapon.
He mounted the storm-chariot irresistible and terrifying.
He harnessed (and) yoked to it a team-of-four,
The Killer, the Relentless, the Trampler, the Swift.
Sharp were their teeth, bearing poison.
They were versed in ravage, in destruction skilled. [Source: Translation by E. A. Speiser, in Ancient Near Eastern Texts (Princeton, 1950), pp. 60-72, as reprinted in Isaac Mendelsohn (ed.), Religions of the Ancient Near East, Library of Religion, paperbook series (New York, 1955), pp. 19-46, Eliade Site]
“With his fearsome halo his head was turbaned,
The lord went forth and followed his course,
Towards the raging Tiamat he set his face.
In his lips he held [a . . . ] of red paste;
A plant to put out poison was grasped in his hand.
Then they milled about him, the gods milled about him.
The lord approached to scan the inside of Tiamat,
(And) of Kingu, her consort, the scheme to perceive.
As he looks on, his course becomes upset,
His will is distracted and his doings are confused.
And when the gods, his helpers, who marched at his side,
Saw the valiant hero, blurred became their vision.
“Tiamat uttered a cry, without turning her neck,
Framing savage defiance in her lips:
'Too important art thou for the lord of the gods to rise up against thee!
Is it in their place that they have gathered, (or) in thy place?'
Thereupon the lord having raised the flood-storm, his mighty weapon,
To enraged Tiamat he sent word as follows:
'Mightily art thou risen, art haughtily exalted;
Thou hast charged thine own heart to stir up conflict,
So that sons reject their own fathers,
And thou who hast borne them, dost hate
Thou hast aggrandized Kingu to be (thy) consort;
A rule, -not rightfully his, thou hast substituted for the rule of Anu.
Against Anshar, king of the gods, thou seekest evil;
Against the gods, my fathers, thou hast confirmed thy wickedness.
Though drawn up be thy forces, girded on thy weapons,
Stand thou up, that I and thou meet in single combat!'
When Tiamat heard this,
She was like one possessed; she took leave of her senses.
“In fury Tiamat cried out aloud.
To the roots her legs shook both together.
She recited a charm, keeps casting her spell,
While the gods of battle sharpen their weapons.
Then joined issue Tiamat and Marduk, wisest of gods,
They swayed in single combat, locked in battle.
The lord spread out his net to enfold her,
The Evil Wind, which followed behind, he let loose in her face.
When Tiamat opened her mouth to consume him,
He drove in the Evil Wind that she close not her lips.
As the fierce winds charged her belly,
Her body was distended and her mouth was wide open.
He released the arrow, it tore her belly,
It cut through her insides, splitting the heart.
Having thus subdued her, he extinguished her life.
He cast down her carcass to stand upon it.
After he had slain Tiamat, the leader,
Her band was shattered, her troupe broken up.
Enuma Elish: Marduk Destroys Tiamat
[ Tiamat's helpers panic and run, but Marduk captures and fetters all of them.]
And Kingu, who had been made chief among them,
He bound and accounted him to Uggae [God of death].
He took from him the Tablets of Fate, not rightfully his,
Sealed (them) with a seal and fastened (them) on his breast. [By this action Marduk legalized his ownership of the Tablets of Fate]
When he had vanquished and subdued his adversaries, [Source: Translation by E. A. Speiser, in Ancient Near Eastern Texts (Princeton, 1950), pp. 60-72, as reprinted in Isaac Mendelsohn (ed.), Religions of the Ancient Near East, Library of Religion, paperbook series (New York, 1955), pp. 19-46, Eliade Site]
And turned back to Tiamat whom he had bound.
The lord trod on the legs of Tiamat
With his unsparing mace he crushed her skull.
When the arteries of her blood he had severed,
The North Wind bore (it) to places undisclosed.
On seeing this, his fathers were joyful and jubilant,
They brought gifts of homage, they to him.
Then the lord paused to view her dead body,
That he might divide the monster and do artful works.
“He split her like a shellfish into two parts:
Half of her he set up and ceiled as sky,
Pulled down the bar and posted guards.
He bade them to allow not her waters to escape.
He crossed the heavens and surveyed (its) regions.
He squared Apsu's quarter, the abode of Nudimmud,
As the lord measured the dimensions of Apsu.
The Great Abode, its likeness, he fixed as Esharra,
The Great Abode, Esharra, which he made as the firmament.
Anu, Enlil, and Ea he made occupy their places.
Enuma Elish: Marduk Puts the Heavens in Order
[Much of Tablet V is broken. Marduk puts the heavens in order,
establishing the zodiac and telling the moon how to shine.]
When Marduk hears the words of the gods,
His heart prompts (him) to fashion artful works.
Opening his mouth, he addresses Ea
To impart the plan he addresses Ea
To impart the plan he had conceived in his heart:
'Blood I will mass and cause bones to be.
I will establish a savage, "man" shall be his name.
Verily, savage-man I will create.
He shall be charged with the service of the gods
That they might be at ease!
The ways of the gods I will artfully alter.
Though alike revered, into two (groups) they shall be divided.'
Ea answered him, speaking a word to him,
To relate to him a scheme for the relief of the gods:
'Let but one of their brothers be handed over,
He alone shall perish that mankind may be fashioned.
Let the great gods be here in Assembly,
Let the guilty be handed over that they may endure.'
Marduk summoned the great gods to Assembly;
Presiding graciously, he issued instructions.
To his utterance the gods pay heed.
The king addresses a word to the Anunnaki:
'if your former statement was true,
Do (now) the truth on oath by me declare!
Who was it that contrived the uprising,
And made Tiamat rebel, and joined battle?
Let him be handed over who contrived the uprising.
His guilt I will make him bear that you may dwell in peace!'
The Igigi, the great gods, replied to him,
To Lugaidimmerankia, 30 counselor of the gods, their lord:
'It was Kingu who contrived the uprising,
And made Tiamat rebel, and joined battle.'
They bound him, holding him before Ea.
They imposed on him his guilt and severed his blood (vessels).
Out of his blood they fashioned mankind.
He [Ea] imposed the service and let free the gods.
Enuma Elish: Marduk Divides the Anunnaki
[After the creation of mankind, Marduk divides the Anunnaki and assigns them to their proper stations, three hundred in heaven, three hundred on the earth.]
“After he had ordered all the instructions,
To the Anunnaki of heaven and earth had allotted their portions,
The Anunnaki opened their mouths
And said to Marduk, their lord:
'Now, 0 lord, thou who hast caused our deliverance,
What shall be our homage to thee?
Let us build a shrine to thee whose name shall be called
'Lo, a chamber for our nightly rest'; let us repose in it!
Let us build a shrine, a recess for his abode!
On the day that we arrive we shall repose in it.'
“When Marduk heard this,
Brightly glowed his features, like the day:
'Like that of lofty Babylon, whose building you have requested,
Let its brickwork be fashioned. You shall name it "The Sanctuary."'
The Anunnaki applied the implement;
For one whole year they moulded bricks.
When the second year arrived,
They raised high the head of Esagila [temple of Marduk in Babylon] equaling Apsu. 34
Having built a stage-tower as high as Apsu,
They set up in it an abode for Marduk, Enlil, (and) Ea. In their presence he adorned (it) in grandeur.
To the base of Esharra its horns took down.
After they had achieved the building of Esagila,
“The Anunnaki themselves erected their shrines.
all of them gathered,
they had built as his dwelling.
The gods, his fathers, at his banquet he seated:
'This is Babylon, the place that is your home!
Make merry in its precincts, occupy its broad places.'
The great gods took their seats,
They set up festive drink, sat down to a banquet.
After they had made merry within it,
In Esagila, the splendid, had performed their rites,
The norms had been fixed (and) all their portents,
All the gods apportioned the stations of heaven and earth.
The fifty great gods took their seats.
The seven gods of destiny set up the three hundred in heaven.
Enlil raised the bow, his weapon, and laid (it) before them.
The gods, his fathers, saw the net he had made.
When they beheld the bow, how skillful its shape,
His fathers praised the work he had wrought.
Raising (it), Anu spoke up in the Assembly of the gods,
As he kissed the bow:
[The remainder of the epic is a long hymn of praise to Marduk It culminates in a recitation of his fifty names, attributes reflecting his power and mighty deeds.]
Creation Account From Ashur
Creation Account From Ashur:
“A holy house, a house of the gods, in a holy place had not been made;
No reed had spring up, no tree had been created.
No brick had been made, no foundation had been built,
No house had been constructed, no city had been built;
No city had been built, thrones had not been established:
Nippur had not been constructed, Ekur had not been built;
Erech had not been constructed, Eanna had not been built;
The deep had not been formed, Eridu had not been built; [Source: George Barton, “Archaeology and the Bible”, 7th Edition, p. 303-305, Kenneth Sublett, piney.com]
“The holy house, the house of the gods, the dwelling had not been made,--
All lands were sea,--
Then in the midst of the sea was a water-course;
In those days Eridu was constructed, Esagila was built,
Esagila where, in the midst of the deep, the god Lugal-dul-azaga abode,
(Babylon was made, Esagila was completed_.
The gods and the Anunaki he made at one time.
(The holy city, the dwelling of their hearts' desire, they named as first),
Marduk bound a structure of reeds upon the face of the waters,
He formed dust, he poured it out beside the reed-structure.
To cause the gods to dwell in the habitation of their heart's desire
“He formed mankind.
the goddess Aruru with him created mankind,
Cattle of the field, in whom is breath of life, he created.
He formed the Tigris and Euphrates and set them in their places,
Their names he did well declare.
The grass, marsh-grass, the reed and brushwood he created,
The green grass of the field he created,
The land, the marshes, and the swamps;
The wild cow and her young, the wild calf; the ewe and her yhoung, the lamb of the fold;
Gardens and forests;
The wild goat, the mountain goat, (who) care for himself .
The lord Marduk filled a terrace by the seaside,
.......a marsh, reeds he set,
...........he caused to exist.
[Reeds he creat]ed; trees he created;
In their.....in their place he made;
[Bricks he laid, a founda]tion he constructed;
[Houses he made], a city he built;
[A city he built, a throne] he established;
[Nippur he constructed], Ekur he built;
[Erech he constructed], Eanna he built.
The godess Aruru, when she heard this,
A man like Anu she formed in her heart.
Aruru washed her hands;
Clay she pinched off and spat upon it;
Eabani, a hero she created,
An exalted offspring, with the might of Ninib.
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Mesopotamia sourcebooks.fordham.edu , National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, especially Merle Severy, National Geographic, May 1991 and Marion Steinmann, Smithsonian, December 1988, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, BBC, Encyclopædia Britannica, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, World Religions edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); History of Warfare by John Keegan (Vintage Books); History of Art by H.W. Janson Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Last updated September 2018