Enuma Elish

The Babylonian myth of creation.

Note: On this website, we chose to tell the stories of the Mesopotamian pantheon from a Sumerian perspective. This is done to prevent any confusion as the Sumerian, Akkadian and Babylonian cultures shared many of their gods but used different names for them. Changing the narrative perspective could therefore easily lead to confusion. However, the Enuma Elish is a Babylonian story that does not appear in the Sumerian and Akkadian cultures. Therefore, we felt like we had no choice but to tell the Enuma Elish from a Babylonian perspective with the correct Babylonian names for the gods and creatures that appear in this story. To prevent too much confusion, we placed the names of the Sumerian gods in brackets after their Babylonian equivalents.

Noisy youngsters

In the beginning, there was only water. The sweet waters were ruled by the god Apsu while the goddess Tiamat (Nammu) reigned over the salt waters. Since Apsu and Tiamat (Nammu) were alone, there was little choice when selecting a lover. They mingled their waters, which led to the creation of several generations of younger gods.

The younger gods loved to throw wild parties which, obviously, involved quite a lot of noise. In fact, they got so loud that Apsu and Tiamat (Nammu) were not able to work nor rest. Tiamat (Nammu) sugar-coated the debauchery of her offspring. Apsu, however, was determined to regain his rest. Since he was unable to solve the problem himself, he called upon his vizier Mummu for counsel. Apparently, Mummu was a strong supporter of a hard upbringing. He advised Apsu to kill his children.

Problem youth

Okay, so maybe Mummu did not like children at all. For some unknown reason, Apsu saw the wisdom in informing Tiamat (Nammu) about his plan to kill their offspring. Not surprisingly, Tiamat (Nammu) disliked the idea of Apsu killing their children. Since she was unable to change Apsu’s mind, she decided to inform Enki, her oldest son, about Apsu’s plan. Enki came up with a straightforward idea to prevent Apsu from killing him and his siblings. He simply had to murder him first. Enki brought Apsu into a deep slumber and killed him once he was defenseless. After killing him, he built his home on Apsu’s corpse and moved in together with his wife Damkina (Ninhursag). It was in this house that Marduk (Ninurta) was born.

When Tiamat (Nammu) learned that Enki had killed her lover, she was enraged. She consulted with the god Quingu on how to react. As seems to be a common policy in this story, Quingu advises Tiamat (Nammu) to make war on her children and kill them all. For this advice, Quingu was rewarded with the Tablet of Destiny. This tablet legitimized the rule of a god and his or her control over fate. Apparently, paperwork was already important long before the dawn of man.

A mother’s wrath

To destroy her offspring, Tiamat (Nammu) conjured eleven monstrous creatures including scorpion-man, a hydra, a dragon, and a great demon. Her army of monsters was led into battle by Quingu who wore the Tablet of Destiny as his breastplate. When confronted with Tiamat’s (Nammu’s) host, the younger gods despaired. None of them was able to face her and all hope seemed to be lost.

It was then that Enki’s son, Marduk (Ninurta), rose to greatness. He offered to confront Tiamat (Nammu) and her creatures. But this wasn’t a selfless act. Marduk (Ninurta) demanded that he would be proclaimed king of the gods if he proved to be successful in his fight against Tiamat (Nammu) and her creatures. Impressed with Marduk’s (Ninurta’s) might and bravery, the other gods agreed to his demands. Given their inability to cope with the enraged Tiamat (Nammu), they also had little choice.

Laying grandma to rest

Marduk (Ninurta) started preparations for the epic battle with Tiamat (Nammu). He crafted a bow and net, and he took a club that was presented to him by the other gods. He filled his body with tongues of flame and created the seven winds to aid him in his battle. When his preparations were finished, he rode off in his storm chariot to face Tiamat (Nammu).

When arriving on the battlefield, Marduk (Ninurta) was confronted by Quingu. However, Quingu lost his nerve when glanced upon by Marduk (Ninurta). After neutralizing the enemy commander, Marduk (Ninurta) approached Tiamat (Nammu) and provoked her. An epic battle commenced. In this battle, Marduk (Ninurta) enmeshed Tiamat (Nammu) with his net and kept her in place with help of the seven winds. He then shot an arrow in her belly and ended her life by slitting her open.

Making use of the previous generation

When life had left Tiamat (Nammu), Marduk (Ninurta) stood on her corpse in victory. He then proceeded to kill the members of her army who were fleeing in fear. He took the Tablet of Destiny from Quingu and strapped it to his own chest. After defeating the enemy forces, Marduk (Ninurta) returned to Tiamat (Nammu)’s corpse for a particularly sinister ritual. He split open her skull with his club and severed her arteries. He then used the North wind to carry the blood of Tiamat (Nammu) to the other gods as a message of his victory. They were overjoyed and praised Marduk (Ninurta) and brought him presents.

Marduk (Ninurta) proved to be a very progressive mind and decided to recycle Tiamat (Nammu)’s corpse. He tore her in half and used one part to create the heavens. He fashioned the constellations and created heavenly stations for the other gods. From the other half of Tiamat (Nammu)’s body, he created the earth and he used the water in her eyes to let the Euphrates and Tigris flow. He continued his work on the heavens and the earth until all parts of Tiamat (Nammu)’s body received a new purpose.

Long live Marduk

The other gods saw his work and were entranced. They named Marduk (Ninurta) “Victorious King” and fully subjected themselves to his reign. Marduk (Ninurta) once again showed to be quite progressive for his time. Rather than installing a dictatorship, he granted the other gods a say in big decisions. Being the great king he was, he built a house in which the gods could gather whenever assembled. He called this house ‘Babylon’ which means “Homes of the great gods”.

The creation of mankind

After the battle with Tiamat (Nammu), and the creation of the world, Marduk (Ninurta) decided that the gods deserved some rest. It was at this time, that he decided to create the first man; Lullû. This man was to take upon him the toil of the gods so that they could rest. Marduk (Ninurta) consulted with Enki on how this man should be created. He advised Marduk (Ninurta) to sacrifice a god and create man from the blood of this unlucky individual. Enki also had some advice on which particular god should be killed…

Following Enki’s advice, Marduk (Ninurta) assembled all the gods. He asked them who was to be blamed for the treason of Tiamat (Nammu) and the war she started. The gods were unanimous in their answer. Quingu, the advisor of Tiamat (Nammu), was the one who instigated the war. He was the one who should be punished. And so it was that Quingu was bound and brought before Enki who inflicted the punishment on him. Enki collected the godly blood that dripped from Quingu’s severed arteries. From this blood, Enki created humankind whom he bound in servitude to the gods. The gods could finally rest.

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