Crash course notes on the Enuma Elish, the Epic of Creation

The Enuma Elish, the Babylonian Epic of Creation, consists of seven tablets which contain a lot of repetition as they are not all distinct portions of the tale.
Also, the tablets are damaged and fragmentary so in that which follows the bracketed and parenthetical statements are by the translator as are most ellipses.

The first tablet begins “When in the height heaven was not named, and the earth beneath did not yet bear a name.”

It refers to “the primeval Apsû, who begat them” and to “chaos, Tiamat, the mother of them both.” And with that, I am already confused: Apsû, begat them and/but Tiamat mothered them both so, does this mean that Apsû and Tiamat mated and produced the height heaven and earth?
We are also told of “Tiamat, the glistening one.”

Then, “Their waters were mingled together” but whose/what waters: Apsû’s and Tiamat’s or the height heaven’s and the earth’s?

Of “the gods” we are told “none had been called into being” as of yet so, “Then were created the gods in the midst of [heaven].”

These gods are listed as Lahmu and Lahamu, Anshar and Kishar, their son Anu, and Nudimmud.

At some point, “T[iamat and Âpsû] were (still)” but still from what/when? “in confusion […], they were troubled and […] in disorder(?) … […] and Tiamat roared […] Apsû was not diminished in might […] she smote, and their deeds […] their way was evil … […] … then Apsû, the begetter of the great gods, cried unto Mummu, his minister” we know not how/why this came about nor against what the concept of “evil” is being judged to be such.

We know not whence came Mummu, Apsû’s minister but he/it was told, “‘Come, unto Tiamat let us [go]!’ So they went and before Tiamat they lay down, they consulted on a plan with regard to the gods [their sons]. Apsû opened his mouth [and spake], and unto Tiamat, the glistening one, he addressed [the word]…‘By day I cannot rest, by night [I cannot lie down (in peace)]. But I will destroy their way” so that they will be able to say “let us lie down (again in peace).”

Pagan gods seemed very keen on getting some good shut-eye and considered lesser gods and humans to be much too noisy—what a bunch of big babies!
BTW: whenever someone says, “I slept like a baby” I reply, “What?! You cried and wet yourself!?”

“Tiamat…raged and cried aloud…grievously…uttered a curse…‘Let their way be made difficult, and let us [lie down (again) in peace].’ Mummu answered, and gave counsel unto Apsû, […] and hostile (to the gods) was the counsel Mu[mmu gave]:…‘their way is strong, but thou shalt destroy [it]; Then by day shalt thou have rest, by night shalt thou lie down (in peace).’”

“Apsû [hearkened unto] him and his countenance grew bright, [since] he (i.e. Mummu) planned evil against the gods his sons […] he was afraid […], his knees [became weak(?)], they gave way beneath him, [because of the evil] which their first-born had planned.”

Seems rather passive aggressive: Apsû was pleased with the plan but also afraid.

We are then told of a certain “Ea, who knoweth all that [is]” who “went up and he beheld their muttering” and of “the god Anu.” This comes from such a fragmented portion that, at least at time point, we know not much more about them.

“[And Tiamat hearkened unto] the word of the bright god, (and said):…‘[…] shalt thou entrust! let us wage [war]!’” and something about “the gods did she create” which is stated in the midst of missing text.

We are told of “[Ummu-Hubu]r, who formed all things” but, apparently, “all” does not mean “all” since we had learned that Apsû begat and Tiamat mothered the height heaven and earth.

In any case:

“[Ummu-Hubu]r, who formed all things,
[Made in addition] weapons invincible, she spawned monster-serpents,
[Sharp of] tooth, and merciless of fang;
[With poison instead of] blood she filled [their] bodies.
Fierce [monster-vipers] she clothed with terror,
[With splendour] she decked them, [she made them] of lofty stature.
[Whoever beheld] them, terror overcame him,
Their bodies reared up and none could withstand [their attack].
[She set] up vipers, and dragons, and the (monster) [Lahamu],
[And hurricanes], and raging hounds, and scorpion-men,
And mighty [tempests], and fish-men, and[rams];
[They bore] cruel weapons, without fear of [the fight].
Her commands [were mighty], [none] could resist them;
After this fashion, huge of stature, [she made] eleven (monsters).
Among the gods who were her sons…”

Ummu-Hubur “exalted” a certain “Kingu” and noted, “in the assembly of the gods I have raised thee to power. The dominion over all the gods…Be thou exalted, thou my chosen spouse…Kingu, (thus) exalted, having received [the power of Anu], [decreed] the fate among the gods his sons.”

We then learn of Tiamat, that “[Evil] she wrought against the gods her children. [to avenge] Apsû, Tiamat planned evil, but how she had collected her [forces, the god …] unto Ea divulged.”

Thus, “Ea…was [grievous]ly afflicted and he sat in sorrow…standing before Anshar, the father who begat him, [all that] Tiamat had plotted he repeated unto him.”

It is noted, “the gods…those, whom ye created, they go at her side.”

It is repeated that “Ummu-Hubur, who formed all things, hath…spawned monster-serpents…Fierce monster-vipers…made them of lofty stature…vipers, and dragons…scorpion-men…fish-men and rams…huge of stature” with, of course, “lofty” and “huge of stature” being subjective terms.

Again, Ummu-Hubur “exalted Kingu; in their midst she hath raised him to power…in the assembly of the gods I have raised thee to power…Kingu…having received the power of Anu” and Ummu-Hubur, “Decreed the fate [for the gods, her sons], (saying): ‘Let [the opening of your mouth] quench the Fire-god’” whoever that is, “Anshar heard how Tiamat] was mightily in revolt…he made a bitter lamentation…‘[Mummu and] Apsû thou hast smitten…[But Tiamat hath exalted Kin]gu, and where is one who can oppose her?’”

After circa a dozen lines of missing text we learn “[Anshar unto] his son addressed…my mighty hero…[go] and stand before Tiamat, [that] her spirit [may be appeased], that her heart may be merciful. [But if] she will not hearken unto thy word, our [word] shalt thou speak unto her, that she may be pacified.’”

Then “Anu…beheld the muttering of Tiamat…[but he could not withstand her], and he turned back.”

More than twenty missing lines later, “the lord” whoever that is, “stood before Anshar. Anshar beheld him and his heart was filled with joy.”

A plan is formed beginning with a reference to “Tiamat, who is a woman” and that “The neck of Tiamat shalt thou swiftly trample under foot…O my [son], who knoweth all wisdom, pacify [Tiama]t with thy pure incantation.”


“The lord…unto his father he spake:
O Lord of the gods, Destiny of the great gods, if I, your avenger, conquer Tiamat and give you life, appoint an assembly, make my fate preeminent and proclaim it.
In Upshukkinaku seat yourselves joyfully together, with my word in place of you will I decree fate.
May whatsoever I do remain unaltered, may the word of my lips never be changed nor made of no avail.

The third tablet begins with a reference to Anshar who “[Unto Gaga], his [minister], spake the word, ‘[Unto Lahmu and Lah]amu will I send thee…thou shalt cause to be brought before thee [… let] the gods, all of them…[That for Marduk], their avenger, they may decree the fate.’”

Whoever Gaga is (radio or Lady?) did “repeat unto them…Tia]mat our mother hath conceived a hatred for us, [with all] her force she rageth, full of wrath. All the gods have turned to her, with those, whom ye created, they go at her side…they devise mischief without resting night and day. They prepare for battle, fuming and raging…making war.”

So the plans were set in order and the battle is about to begin.

It is repeated here that “Ummu-Hubur…formed all things…monster-serpents…monster-vipers…made them of lofty stature…vipers, and dragons, and the (monster) Lahamu…scorpion-men…fish-men…huge of stature…eleven (monsters).”

Now these seem to be anthropomorphisms for natural phenomena: especially of the sort that ancient people, and even modern ones, view as overwhelmingly chaotic and dangerous.
For example, “She hath set up…hurricanes, and raging hounds, and scorpion-men, and mighty tempests, and fish-men, and rams” so that the threats are natural catastrophes and wild animals: some of which are combined in terms of what is known as composite beings, such as scorpion-men and fish-men which would denote deadly warriors some of which travel by ships/boats.

Now, “She…exalted Kingu” to have “dominion over all the gods…She hath given him the Tablets of Destiny”: these were supposed to grant the holder “power over the Universe as controller of the fates of all” (Donald A. MacKenzie, Myths of Babylonia and Assyria (1915, chap IV).

Thus, she says, “Let the opening of your mouth quench the Fire-god” as we have already seen, “Anu…could not withstand her…Nudimmud was afraid and turned back…Marduk…the director of the gods…set out against Tiamat…He…spake unto me…‘If I…conquer Tiamat and give you life, appoint an assembly, make my fate preeminent and proclaim it.’”

Then, “Gaga went…humbly before Lahmu and Lahamu, the gods…and spake unto them, (saying): ‘Anshar, your son, hath sent me…Tiamat our mother hath conceived a hatred for us…she rageth, full of wrath. All the gods have turned to her, with those, whom ye created, they go at her side.”

We are then introduced to what is something to the like of some sort of host(s) of heaven, “All of the Igigi wailed bitterly, (saying): ‘What has been altered so that they should … […] We do not understand the d[eed] of Tiamat!’
Then did they collect and go, the great gods…entered in before Anshar…made ready for the feast.”
I also found out that Igigi is a company that makes, “plus-size designs accentuate and celebrate the beauty of the curvy female figure” so, there’s that.

The fourth tablet begins with that “They,” the Igigi?, “repared for him a lordly chamber” and he, Marduk, was told, “Thou art chiefest among the great gods, thy fate is unequalled, thy word is Anu! O Marduk, thou art chiefest among the great gods, thy fate is unequalled, thy word is Anu!”

So that “irresistible shall be thy command; ‘None among the gods shall transgress thy boundary…Marduk…our avenger! We give thee sovereignty over the whole world…as for the god who began the rebellion, pour out his life.’”

Then of “Marduk their first-born” it is stated, “May thy fate, O lord, be supreme among the gods, to destroy and to create; speak thou the word, and (thy command) shall be fulfilled.”
Part of what is done is, “set they in their midst a garment” about which it is said, “Command now and let the garment vanish; and speak the word again and let the garment reappear!” so “he spake with his mouth, and the garment vanished; again he commanded it, and the garment reappeared” which seems like some low level magician-illusionist stuff, coming from gods—unsure why that was so impressive.

Yet, “They rejoiced, and they did homage (unto him, saying), ‘Marduk is king!’ They bestowed upon him the sceptre, and the throne, and the ring, they give him an invincible weapon, which overwhelmeth the foe. ‘Go, and cut off the life of Tiamat, and let the wind carry her blood into secret places.’”

To prepare for the deed, “With burning flame he filled his body. He made a net to enclose the inward parts of Tiamat…evil wind, and the tempest, and the hurricane…fourfold wind, and the sevenfold wind, and the whirlwind…He sent forth the winds which he had created, the seven of them; to disturb the inward parts of Tiamat” which sounds like a bad case of gastric disturbances.

Thus, “With overpowering brightness his head was crowned” and “Tiamat…With lips that failed not she uttered rebellious words” so “the lord [raised] the thunderbolt, his mighty weapon” and said to Tiamat, “[Thou] art become great, thou hast exalted thyself on high, and thy [heart hath prompted] thee to call to battle…And [against] the gods my fathers thou hast contrived thy wicked plan.”

So that “When Tiamat heard these words, she was like one possessed, she lost her reason. Tiamat uttered wild, piercing cries, she trembled and shook to her very foundations. She recited an incantation, she pronounced her spell, and the gods of the battle cried out for their weapons.”

Finally, it’s on like Donkey Kong playing ping pong with King Kong in Hong Kong, “Then advanced Tiamat and Marduk, the counsellor of the gods” he “spread out his net and caught her, and the evil wind that was behind (him) he let loose in her face” wow, that is some unholy flatulence right there!

Worse still:

“As Tiamat opened her mouth to its full extent, he drove in the evil wind, while as yet she had not shut her lips.
The terrible winds filled her belly, and her courage was taken from her, and her mouth she opened wide.
He seized the spear and burst her belly, he severed her inward parts, he pierced (her) heart.
He overcame her and cut off her life; he cast down her body and stood upon it.
When he had slain Tiamat, the leader, her might was broken, her host was scattered…the gods her helpers, who marched by her side, trembled, and were afraid, and turned back.
They took to flight to save their lives; but they were surrounded, so that they could not escape.
He took them captive, he broke their weapons; in the net they were caught…the eleven creatures which she had filled with the power of striking terror, upon the troop of devils, who marched at her […], he brought affliction…”

Then, “Kingu, who had been exalted over them, he conquered, and with the god Dug-ga he counted him. He took from him the Tablets of Destiny that were not rightly his, he sealed them with a seal and in his own breast he laid them.”

“Marduk…conquered…had fully established Anshar’s triumph…had attained the purpose of Nudimmud, over the captive gods he strengthened his durance…unto Tiamat…he returned…And with his merciless club he smashed her skull. He cut through the channels of her blood, and he made the North wind bear it away into secret places…he divided the flesh…and devised a cunning plan.”

But he was not done yet:

“He split her…into two halves; One half of her he stablished as a covering for heaven.
He fixed a bolt, he stationed a watchman, and bade them not to let her waters come forth.
He passed through the heavens, he surveyed the regions (thereof), and over against the Deep he set the dwelling of Nudimmud.
And the lord measured the structure of the Deep, and he founded E-shara, a mansion like unto it.
The mansion E-shara which he created as heaven, he caused Anu, Bêl, and Ea in their districts to inhabit.”

This too is the stuff of anthropomorphisms to the effect of “What are the heavens Pagan daddy?” “Well child, they are half of Tiamat’s gorily slaughtered mutilated corpse —at least the covering for heaven is.”

There is also a styled form of Platonic forms in that “he founded E-shara, a mansion like unto it” so that the dwelling place was fashioned after a heavenly pattern, in a manner of speaking.

The fifth tablet relates:

“He (i.e. Marduk) made the stations for the great gods; the stars, their images, as the stars of the Zodiac, he fixed.
He ordained the year and into sections he divided it; for the twelve months he fixed three stars…He founded the station of Nibir…the station of Bêl and Ea…The Moon-god he caused to shine forth…the Sun-god…”

And we go from this table’s line 26 to “The following twenty-two lines are taken from K. 3,449a, and probably form part of the Fifth Tablet” and the translation then jumps to line 66.

We find that “The gods [his fathers] beheld the net which he had made…praised the work which he had done…Anu raised [the …] in the assembly of the gods. He kissed the bow…he named the names of the bow…Long-wood…second name [shall be …]” a name that has not been preserved, and “third name shall be the Bow-star, in heaven” for whatever reason they are fixated on a bow: perhaps it had to do with a celestial object or objects in terms for a constellation.

Line 87 reads, “[…] … […],” we are then told, “The following traces of the last thirteen lines of the Fifth Tablet are taken from the reverse of K. 11,641 and from the reverse of K. 8,526” and the translation jumps to line
128 which reads, “[…] him […]” and it is just like that, one or two words preserved per line, until it ends at line 140 which reads, “[…] we […]!”

A footnote has it that, at some point (for 85:1, actually), “it may be conjectured that the gods complained that, although Marduk had endowed the heavens with splendour and had caused plants to live upon the earth, yet there were no shrines built in honour of the gods, and there were no worshippers devoted to their service.”

The sixth tablet has it that Marduk said, “My blood will I take and bone will I [fashion]” and “will make…create man…That the service of the gods may be established, and that [their] shrines…But I will alter the ways of the gods, and I will change [their paths]; together shall they be oppressed, and unto evil shall [they …]” something, something not preserved.

A footnote notes, “The sense seems to be that Marduk, by the creation of man, will establish the worship of the gods, but at the same time will punish the gods for their complaints.”

The seventh tablet references, “Asari…Bestower of planting…Creator of grain and plants…Asaru-alim-nuna, ‘the mighty one,’ ‘the Light of [the father who begat him],’ who directeth the decrees of Anu, Bel, [and Ea]!”

“Tutu is Zi-ukkina, ‘the Life of the host [of the gods],’ who established for the gods the bright heavens…Tutu as Aga-azag…the Quickener of the Dead…For their forgiveness did he create mankind…”
Since it is “Tutu is Zi-ukkina” and “Tutu as Aga-azag” I am unsure if there is a typo here, such as that they were both supposed to read “is” or both “as.”

“Nibiru, ‘the Seizer of the Midst’!…He shepherded all the gods like sheep! He conquered Tiamat…he created the realm (of heaven) and fashioned the firm earth…‘The Lord of the World,’ the father Bêl hath called his name.
(This) title, which all the Spirits of Heaven proclaimed, did Ea hear, and his spirit was rejoiced, (and he said):
He whose name his fathers have made glorious, shall be even as I, his name shall be Ea!…By the name of ‘Fifty’ did the great gods. Proclaim his fifty names, they made his path pre-eminent.”

A footnote points out, “The title Tutu is there explained as ba-a-nu, ‘creator.’”

Also noted is that a fragment (“S. 2,013”) “refers to Ti-amat e-li-ti and Ti-amat shap-li-ti, ‘The Ocean (Tiamat) which is above’ and ‘The Ocean (Tiamat) which is beneath,’ a close parallel to ‘the waters which were above the firmament’ and ‘the waters which were under the firmament’ of Gen. i, 7.”


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