Babylonian Creation Myth


(Babylon was a city state in what is now Iraq, its history goes back at least five thousand years)

In the beginning there was Apsu, the Primordial and Tiamat, the Chaos. Apsu was the father ancestor, identified with the land. Tiamat was the mother ancestor, identified with the sea. At that time the land and sea were not separate but mixed together. There was no solid ground for anything to grow on apart from Apsu and Tiamat, nothing existed…

Apsu and Tiamat begat Lakhmu and Lakhamu; much time passed although time could not be measured in years or seasons because none existed. More gods were born, Anshar and Kishar, and they begat Ea, Anu and Bel. With so many gods in existence they decided they required some order to things, and they decided to separate land from water, and the rivers from the sea, and they gave names to things. More land than water was created, and Tiamat was angry that her realm, the sea, had been reduced in size. She developed a hatred for the other gods, and with her husband, Apsu, she plotted a way to destroy her offspring.

Tiamat created the Ancient Monsters to destroy the other gods. These monsters were giants with a frightful appearance. When they moved the whole world shook, and the other gods trembled in their sight. Anshar told his son, Anu, that he must go to Tiamat and appease her. He must plead with her that she should have mercy on those she gave birth to.  Anu travelled to Tiamat’s realm. When he saw the monsters that she had created, her courage deserted him, and he turned round and hurried back to his father’s dwelling place.

Then Anshar called on Ea to appease Tiamat. Ea travelled to Tiamat’s realm. He too saw the monsters. They towered over him, with their sharp teeth and giant claws. Ea too was scared off, and turned around and hurried back to his father’s dwelling place. The other gods got frightened just looking at the expression on his face. None of them could understand what they had done to arouse such hatred in their mother, Tiamat. Then one of the younger gods, a giant by the name of Marduk, stood up and said: “I, Marduk will be the champion of the Gods! If I defeat Tiamat’s Ancient Monsters you must all agree to be my subordinates. I will rule as the supreme God, and my word and my word alone will be the law!” Everybody agreed that Marduk would be the undisputed chief of all the gods if he succeeded and the pledged all their powers to help him in his quest.

They prepared weapons for him: bow and arrows, a might axe and a spear. They gave him thunder and lightning. They gave him a chariot drawn by four ferocious horses. On Marduk’s instructions they prepared a great net.

Tiamat saw the preparations for battle that the gods were engaged in. She raged in terror, and made her own preparations. Among her monsters were the viper and the dragon. She gave them invincible weapons. She gave them poison instead of blood in their veins. She gave them fire for breath. As she gave her battle orders, and her monsters took up their places, the whole frightened world shook and trembled.

Marduk’s progress was fleet, aided by the seven winds, amongst them the whirlwind, the storm, the hurricane and the evil wind. He crossed the bridge that separated the land of the gods from the sea, and before long he reached the area where Tiamat’s monsters were waiting for him. The other gods followed Marduk at a distance. Now it was the monsters’ turn to be frightened. The sight of Marduk on his chariot, throwing thunder and lightning at them, made them retreat. But Tiamat alone was fearless in her hatred.  Marduk channelled the evil wind, and threw it at Tiamat. It entered her mouth and filled up her stomach. The force of it stopped her in her tracks. She was unable to speak so she could give no more battle orders to her monsters. Marduk took the opportunity to pierce her heart with his spear. As she fell down, he took his axe and cut off her head. Then he took out his great net and threw it all over the Ancient Monsters, who filled the earth with their howling for the loss of their creator and mistress. Marduk cut channels for Tiamat’s blood to flow away to distant unreachable places. When all the blood had flowed out of her body, he cut what was left of it in two. One half he used as a cover for the heavens, so as to prevent heavenly floods from coming down onto the world. Of the other half he made the earth. He then proceeded to divide what he had created between the other gods. The heavens to Anu, earth to Bel and the abyss to Ea. He gave places in the heavens to all the stars. To the Sun God he gave day, and to the Moon God he gave night.

Then, before retiring, he told the other gods that they should have servants on the earth, and he took of his own flesh and blood to create man. That is how man came to be on earth.