Babylonian Mythology: How the world was created
The Babylonian creation myth is primarily found in the “Enuma Elish,” an ancient Babylonian epic that describes the creation of the universe and the establishment of Marduk, the patron god of Babylon, as the supreme deity.
The name “Enuma Elish” is derived from the epic’s opening words, which mean “When on high.” The epic is written in Akkadian and is composed of seven tablets.
Below, WHE provides a summary of the Enumah Elish (Enūma Eliš) and the ancient Babylonian account of how the universe was created:
The Primordial World and Deities
In the beginning, there were two primeval waters: Apsu (freshwater) and Tiamat (saltwater). These waters merged and produced several generations of deities, who in turn gave birth to further gods.
Conflict with the Younger Gods
The younger gods were noisy, disturbing Apsu. In his frustration, Apsu planned to destroy them. However, the god Ea learned of the plan and killed Apsu, establishing his temple over Apsu’s corpse.
Rise of Tiamat
Tiamat, upset about the death of Apsu and the disruptive behaviors of the younger gods, created an army of monsters led by her new consort, Kingu. She sought revenge on those who had disrespected her and the cosmic order.
Selection of Marduk
The younger gods were afraid of Tiamat’s wrath. Marduk, a powerful deity and the son of Ea, offered to fight Tiamat if he was made the leader of the gods. The gods agreed, and Marduk was granted supreme power.
Battle between Marduk and Tiamat
Marduk fought Tiamat in a fierce battle. Using the winds, he captured her and then killed her with an arrow. From Tiamat’s divided body, Marduk created the heavens and the earth.
Creation of Humankind
To relieve the gods from their work, Marduk decided to create humans. Ea and the birth goddess Ninhursag created humans from the blood of Kingu, Tiamat’s former consort. Humans were tasked with serving the gods.
Establishment of Marduk’s Supremacy
In gratitude for his victory over Tiamat, the gods built a magnificent temple for Marduk in Babylon, called Esagila. The Enuma Elish concludes with praises for Marduk and his divine reign.
The “Enuma Elish” is more than just a creation story; it reflects the political realities of its time. By establishing Marduk as the supreme deity, it mirrored and legitimized Babylon’s rising political power in the ancient Near East. Over time, as different cities and their respective gods gained prominence, variations of the story evolved to elevate those local deities to a similar status of supremacy.