The first thing you should understand about the Enûma Eliš is that the existing written editions of the story were created many centuries after the original composition. Sir Austen Henry Layard discovered the earliest copy of the Enuma Eliš in 1849 within the ruins of the library of the Assyrian King Ashurbanipal (r.625 BC) in the ruined city of Nineveh (nr the modern city of Mosul) in northern Mesopotamia. (A copy of the Epic of Gilgamesh was also discovered in the ruins of the library.) While the text here dates to the early Babylonian period (c.2000 BC), it is generally accepted that the Enuma Eliš was originally composed during the time of the Sumerians (c.3500 BC) and rewritten by the Babylonians. The epic is one of the most important texts for understanding Babylonian cosmogony and outlook on life.
Questions to consider:
- How does the story of the EE help explain the origin of things from the perspective of Sumer?
- What Sumerian assumptions about the Sumerians
- Why is man created? What is his place or function in the universe according to the Babylonians?
- What should you infer about Babylon from the EE?
The First Tablet
When in the height heaven was not named, And the earth beneath did not yet bear a name, And the primeval Apsu, who created them both, moved over all, with chaos, Tiamut, the mother of them both. Their waters were mingled together, And no field was formed, no marsh was to be seen; As such none of the gods had been called into being, And none bore a name, and no destinies were ordained.
Then were created the gods in the midst of heaven, Lahmu and Lahamu were called into being. The ages increased. Then Ansar and Kisar were created. Long were the days, then there came forth Anu, their son, [who begot the lesser gods, the Anunnaki]. And the god Enki, abounding in all wisdom, was made lord of the deep waters by his fathers. At this time Anu was exceeding strong and he had no rival. Thus were established the great gods.
But Tiamat and Apsu lived in confusion. They were troubled and in disorder. Apsu, all powerful, did not hold back his might. And Tiamat roared and smote in chaos, and their deeds and ways were evil. Then Apsu, the creator of the great gods, cried unto Mummu, his minister, and said unto him: “O Mummu, thou minister that makes happy my spirit, come, let us go unto Tiamat ! So they went and before Tiamat lay down, They consulted on a plan with regard to the gods, their sons.
Apsu opened his mouth and spake, and unto Tiamat, the glistening one, he spoke: “By day I can not rest, by night I can not lie down in peace. I will destroy their way. Let there be lamentation, and let us lie down again in peace.”
When Tiamat heard these words, She raged and cried aloud. She uttered a curse, and unto Apsu she spake: “What then shall we do? Make their way difficult, and let us lie down again in peace.” Mummu answered, and gave counsel unto Apsu, and the counsel Mummu gave was hostile to the gods: “Come, their way is strong, but thou shalt destroy it; Then by day shalt thou have rest, by night shalt thou lie down in peace.” Apsu listened to him and his countenance grew bright, since he planned evil against the gods his sons.
[The god Enki overhears Apsu and Tiamat planning to destroy all the lesser gods.]
Enki was afraid; his knees became weak; they gave way beneath him, Because of the evil which Mummu had planned. Then Enki, who knows all that is, went up and he beheld them muttering…
[Enki kills Apsu. Tiamat goes to her son, Kingu, and speaks to him.]
“Thy father has been killed and Enki has conquered.” Kingu wept and sat in despair and fear. “We shall not lie down in peace again. Apsu is laid waste and Mummu was taken captive.”
[Kingu urges Tiamat to seek vengeance for the death of her husband.]
And Tiamat listened to the word of the bright god, and said: “Let us wage war!” And she raised arms against the gods she had created. They banded themselves together and at the side of Tiamat they advanced; They were furious; they devised mischief without resting night and day. They prepared for battle, fuming and raging; They joined their forces and made war with Tiamat who formed all things, and who 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 splendor she decked them, she made them of great size. Whoever beheld them was overcome with terror. Their bodies reared up and none could withstand their attack. She set up vipers and dragons, and the sea monster, 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;
Among the gods who were her sons, because he had given her support, Kingu she exalted. In their midst she raised him to power to march before the forces, to lead the host, to give the battle-signal, to advance to the attack, to direct the battle, to control the fight. Unto him she gave authority; in costly raiment she made him sit, saying: “I have uttered thy spell, in the assembly of the gods I have raised thee to power. The dominion over all the gods have I entrusted unto you. Be thou exalted, you my chosen spouse. May they magnify thy name over all of the Anunnaki.”
She gave him the Tablets of Destiny and she laid them on his chest , saying: “Thy command shall not be without avail, and the word of thy mouth shall be established.” Now Kingu, thus exalted, having received the power of Anu, Decreed the fate among the gods his sons, saying: “Let the opening of your mouth quench the Fire-god; Whoso is exalted in the battle, let him display his might!”
The Second Tablet
Tiamat made weighty her handiwork, Evil she wrought against the gods her children. To avenge Apsu, Tiamat planned evil, But how she had collected her forces, a god unto Enki divulged. Enki listened to this thing, was grievously afflicted, and he sat in sorrow.
The days went by, and his anger was appeased, And to the place of Ansar his father he made his way. He went and, standing before Ansar, the father who begat him, he told all that Tiamat had plotted, saying, “Tiamat our mother hath conceived a hatred for us, With all her force she rages, full of wrath. All the gods have turned to her, With those, whom you created, they go at her side. They are banded together and at the side of Tiamat they advance; They are furious, they devise mischief without resting night and day. They prepare for battle, fuming and raging; They have joined their forces and are making war. Tiamat, who formed all things, Hath made in addition weapons invincible; she hath spawned monster-serpents, Sharp of tooth, and merciless of fang. With poison, instead of blood, she hath filled their bodies. Fierce monster-vipers she hath clothed with terror, With splendor she hath decked them; she hath made them of great size. Whoever looks upon them is overcome by terror, Their bodies rear up and none can withstand their attack. She hath set up vipers, and dragons, and the sea monster, And hurricanes and raging hounds, and scorpion-men, and mighty tempests, and fish-men and rams; They bear cruel weapons, without fear of the fight.
Her commands are mighty; none can resist them; After this fashion, huge of stature, hath she made eleven monsters. Among the gods who are her sons, she hath exalted Kingu; in their midst she hath raised him to power. She hath given him the Tablets of Destiny, on his chest she laid them, saying: ‘My command shall not be without avail, and the word of thy mouth shall be established.’
Now Kingu, thus exalted, having received the power of Anu, Decreed the fate for the gods, her sons, saying: ‘Let the opening of your mouth quench the Fire-god; Whoso is exalted in the battle, let him display his might!’”
When Ansar heard how Tiamat was mightily in revolt, He bit his lips, his mind was not at peace, and he made a bitter lamentation:
[As Tiamat prepares for war, the other gods deliberate. Ansar then addresses Anu.]
“Anu, mighty hero, Whose strength is great and whose onslaught can not be withstood, Go and stand before Tiamat, That her spirit may be appeased, that her heart may be merciful. But if she will not harken unto thy word, Our word shalt you speak unto her, that she may be pacified.”
Anu heard the word of his father Anshar And he directed his path to her, toward her he took the way. When Anu drew close, he beheld the muttering of Tiamat, But he could not withstand her, and he turned back.
[Enki, at the counsel of the gods, suggests that Marduk should fight Tiamat. Marduk accepts the challenge. Enki speaks:]
“You are my son, who makes merciful his heart, to the battle shall you go. He that shall behold thee shall have peace.”
And the lord Marduk rejoiced at the word of his father, And he went and stood before Anshar. Anshar beheld him and his heart was filled with joy, He kissed him and his fear departed.
The neck of Tiamat shalt thou swiftly trample under foot. …rejoice and be glad; The neck of Tiamat shalt thou swiftly trample under foot. O my son, who knows all wisdom. Pacify Tiamat with thy pure incantation. Speedily set out upon thy way; your blood shall not be poured out; you shall return again.”
The lord Marduk rejoiced at the word of his father, His heart exulted, and unto his father he spoke: “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 Upsukkinaku seat yourself 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.”
The Third Tablet
Ansar opened his mouth, and Unto Gaga, his minister, spoke the word.“O Gaga, thou minister that delights my spirit, … let the gods, all of them,Make ready for a feast, at a banquet let them sit. Let them eat bread, let them mix wine,Go, Gaga, stand before them, And all that I tell thee, repeat unto them, and say:‘Ansar hath sent me, The purpose of his heart he hath made known unto me.He says that Tiamat our mother hath conceived a hatred for us, With all her force she rages, full of wrath.
All the gods have turned to her, With those, whom ye created, they go at her side.They are banded together, and at the side of Tiamat they advance;They are furious, they devise mischief without resting night and day.They prepare for battle, fuming and raging; They have joined their forces and are making war.Tiamat, who formed all things, Hath made in addition weapons invincible; she hath spawned monster-serpents,Sharp of tooth and merciless of fang. With poison, instead of blood, she hath filled their bodies.Fierce monster-vipers she hath clothed with terror,With splendor she hath decked them; she hath made them of lofty stature.Whoever beboldeth them, terror overcometh him,Their bodies rear up and none can withstand their attack.She hath set up vipers, and dragons, and the sea monster,And hurricanes, and raging bounds, and scorpion-men….
[repetition of same lines above continues. Then Ansar speaks.]
I sent Anu, but he could not withstand her; Ea was afraid and turned back.Now Marduk has set out, the director of the gods, your son; set out against Tiamat.
Marduk opened his mouth and spoke unto me, saying: “If I, your avenger, conquer Tiamat and give you life, Appoint an assembly, make my fate preeminent and proclaim it. In Upsukkinaku seat yourself 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.”’
Hasten, therefore, and swiftly decree for him the fate which you bestow,That he may go and fight your strong enemy.”Gaga went, went his way and humbly before Lahmu and Lahamu, the gods, his parents,made obeisance, and he kissed the ground at their feet.He humbled himself; then he stood up and spoke to them saying:“Ansar, your son, hath sent me, The purpose of his heart he hath made known unto me.
He saith that Tiamat 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 you created, they go at her side. They are banded together and at the side of Tiamat they advance;They are furious, they devise mischief without resting night and day. They prepare for battle, fuming and raging;They have joined their forces and are making war. River-Mother, who formed all things,Hath made in addition weapons invincible; she hath spawned monster-serpents, sharp of tooth and merciless of fang.With poison, instead of blood, she hath filled their bodies. Fierce monster-vipers she hath clothed with terror,With splendor she hath decked them, she hath made them of lofty stature.Whoever beboldeth them, terror overcometh him,Their bodies rear up and none can withstand their attack. She hath set up vipers, and dragons, and the monsters, And hurricanes, and raging hounds, and scorpion-men….
[repitition continues as above]
“I sent Anu, but he could not withstand her; Ea was afraid and turned back.But Marduk has set out, the director of the gods, your son, set out against Tiamat.
He opened his mouth and spoke unto me, saying: ‘If I, your avenger, conquer Tiamat and give you life,Appoint an assembly, make my fate preeminent and proclaim it. In Upsukkinaku 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.’ Hasten, therefore, and swiftly decree for him the fate which you bestow, That he may go and fight your strong enemy!”
Lahmu and Lahamu heard and cried aloud. All of the Igigi [the younger gods] wailed bitterly, saying:“What has been altered so that the gods should be in disorder? We do not understand the deed of Tiamat!”Then did they collect and go, The great gods, all of them, who decree fate.
They entered in before Ansar, they filled the hall, They kissed one another, in the assemblyThey made ready for the feast, at the banquet they sat; They ate bread, they mixed sesame-wine.The sweet drink, the mead, confused their thoughts; They were drunk with drinking, their bodies were filled.They were wholly at ease, their spirit was made happy; Then for Marduk, their avenger, did they decree the fate.
ENUMA ELIS: The Fourth Tablet
They prepared for him a lordly chamber, Before his fathers as prince he took his place.“Thou are the most honored of the great gods, Thy decree is unequaled, thy command is Anu!O Marduk, you are the most honored of the great gods, Thy decree is unequaled, thy word is Anu! Henceforth your pronouncement shall be unchangeable, In thy power it is to raise or bring low. Established shall be the word of thy mouth, Irresistible shall be thy command, None among the gods shall transgress thy bounds! Abundance, the desire of the shrines of the gods, shall be established in thy sanctuary, even though they lack offerings. O Marduk, thou art our avenger! We give thee sovereignty over the whole world. Sit thou down in might; be exalted in thy command. Thy weapon shall never lose its power; it shall crush thy foe. O Lord, spare the life of him that trusts thee, But as for the god who began the rebellion, pour out his life.”
Then they placed in their midst a piece of cloth, And addressed Marduk: “Lord, truly the decree is first among the gods. To destroy and to create, only speak the word, and thy command shall be fulfilled. Command now and let the cloth vanish; And speak the word again and let the cloth reappear!” Then he spoke with his mouth, and the cloth vanished; Again he spoke it, and the cloth reappeared.
When the gods, his fathers, beheld the fulfillment of his word, they rejoiced, and they did homage unto him, saying, “Marduk is king!”
They bestowed upon him the scepter, and the throne, and the ring. They give him an invincible weaponry to overwhelm the foe. “Go, and cut off the life of Tiamat, And let the wind carry her blood into secret places.” After the gods his fathers had decreed for the lord his fate, they caused him to set out on a path of prosperity and success. He constructed a bow, marked it as his weapon, and fixed its bow-cord. He slung a spear upon him and fastened it. He raised the club, in his right hand he grasped it, The bow and the quiver he hung at his side. He set the lightning in front of him, With burning flame he filled his body. He made a net to catch Tiamat, The four winds he stationed so that nothing of her might escape; The South wind and the North wind and the East wind and the West wind. He held close to his side the net, the gift of his father Anu. He created the evil wind, and the tempest, and the hurricane, And the fourfold wind, and the sevenfold wind, And the cylone, and the wind which has no equal; Then he sent forth the winds which he had created, the seven of them; To stir up inside of Tiamat, they followed after him.
Then the lord raised the flood-storm, his mighty weapon; He mounted the storm-chariot, unequaled in terror, He harnessed and yoked unto it four horses: Killer, Relentless, Trampler, and Swift. Sharp were their teeth, flecked with poisoned foam; They were skilled in war and trained for destruction. He was clothed in the armor of terror. With overpowering brightness his head was crowned. Then he set out and made his way, toward the raging Tiamat he set his face. On his lips he held incantation, A thunderbolt he grasped in his hand.
Then the gods beheld him, The gods his fathers beheld him, the gods beheld him. And when the lord approached Tiamat to gaze upon her inward parts, he perceived the muttering of Kingu, her spouse. As Kingu looked on, he was troubled in his gait, his will was destroyed and his motions ceased. And when the gods, his helpers, who marched by his side, beheld their leader’s silence, their sight blurred.
But Tiamat, turning not her neck, with lips that failed not she uttered a cry of savage defiance: “cursed be thy coming as lord of the gods!”
Then the lord Marduk raised the flood-storm, his mighty weapon, and against enraged Tiamat, he sent the word: “You have become haughty, and exalted yourself, and your heart has stirred up conflict. Sons reject fathers. You have appointed Kingu as your spouse, and conferred upon him the rank of Anu, not rightfully his.
Thou hast followed after evil, and against the gods my fathers you have contrived your wicked plan. Let then thy host be equipped, let thy weapons be girded on! Stand! And let us join battle!” 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, While the gods of the battle cried out for their weapons. Then advanced Tiamat and Marduk, wisest of the gods, and strove in combat, locked in battle. The lord spread out his net and caught her, And the evil wind that was behind him he let loose in her face.
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 released an arrow and burst her belly, He cur through her insides, slitting her heart. Having thus subdued her, he extinguished her life; He cast down her body and stood upon it. When he had slain Tiamat, the leader, her band was broken and her host scattered. And 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 smashed their weapons; In the net they were caught, ensnared. The entirety of the world they filled with cries of grief. As punishment from him, they were imprisoned. And on the eleven creatures which she had filled with the power of striking terror, and upon the troop of demons, who marched at her side, he brought affliction, destroyed their strength, and he trampled them under his feet.
Moreover, Kingu, who had been made chief over them, he bound and delivered to Nergal, Lord of Death. He took from him the Tablets of Destiny that were not rightfully his, sealed them with a seal and fastened them on his chest. Now after the hero Marduk had conquered and cast down his enemies, and fully established Anshar’s triumph over the enemy and had attained the desire of Ea, he strengthened his hold over the captive godsAnd returned to Tiamat, whom he had conquered.
And the lord stood upon Tiamat’s legs, And with his merciless club he smashed her skull. He severed the arteries of her blood, And he made the North wind bear it away into secret places. His fathers saw this, and they rejoiced and were glad; Presents and gifts they brought unto him.
Then the lord rested, gazing upon her dead body, and devised a cunning plan. He split her up like a flat fish into two halves; One half of her he established as sky. He fixed a bolt, he stationed a watchman, And bade them not to let her waters come forth. He crossed the heavens and surveyed the regions, measured the dimensions of the Deep Water, Ea’s abode, and he set Tiamat over it.
And he founded Ešarra, a great mansion like unto it. The mansion Ešarra he created as heaven, and he made Anu, Enlil,and Ea take their places therein.
The Fifth Tablet
He [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. After he had fixed the days of the year … and arranged in images, He founded the stations To determine their bounds; That none might err or go astray, He set the station of Enlil and Enki along with him. He opened great gates on both sides, He made strong the bolt on the left and on the right.
In the midst thereof he fixed the zenith; The Moon-god [Nanna] he caused to shine forth, the night he entrusted to him. He appointed him, a being of the night, to determine the days; Every month without ceasing with the crown he covered him, saying: “At the beginning of the month, when you shine upon the land, You command the horns to determine six days,
And on the seventh day to divide the crown.… unto the path of the Sun-god [Shamash] shall you cause to draw near, And on the … day thou shalt stand opposite, and the Sun-god [Shamash] shall…to traverse her way.… thou shalt cause to draw near, and thou shalt judge the right.”
[Nearly fifty lines are here lost.]
The gods, his fathers, beheld the net which he had made, They beheld the bow and how its work was accomplished. They praised the work which he had done… Then Anu raised the weapon … in the assembly of the gods. He kissed the bow, saying, “It is…!” And thus he named the names of the bow, saying, “‘Long-wood’ shall be one name, and the second name shall be …, And its third name shall be the Bow-star, in heaven shall it shine…!” Then he fixed a station for it…
[The remainder of this tablet is missing.]
The Sixth Tablet
When Marduk heard the word of the gods, His heart prompted him and he devised a cunning plan. He opened his mouth and unto Enki he spoke that which he had conceived in his heart he imparted unto him: “My blood will I take and bone will I fashion I will make man, that man may serve us. I will create man, who shall inhabit the earth, That the service of the gods may be established, And that their shrines may be built. 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 refrain …”
And Enki answered him and spoke the word: “the paths of the gods I have changed…strife among us shall be destroyed and men will I create… and the gods …”
[The rest of the text is lacking, with the exception of the last few lines of the tablet, which read as follows.]
They rejoiced…In Upsukkinnaku they set their dwelling. They praised the heroic son, their avenger. They seated themselves and in the assembly they named him…, They all cried aloud, they exalted him…
The Seventh Tablet
O Asari [Marduk], “Bestower of planting,” “Founder of sowing,” “Creator of grain and plants,” “who caused the green herb to spring up!” O bringer-of-light, [Marduk] “who is revered in the house of counsel,” “who aboundeth in counsel,” The gods paid homage, fear took hold upon them!
O Asaru-alim-nuna, [Marduk] “the Mighty One,” “the Light of the father who begat him, “Who directeth the decrees of Anu, Bel, and Enki!” He was their patron, be ordained their stations…; He, whose provision is abundance, goes forth… Tutu [Marduk] is “He who created them anew”; Should their wants be pure, then are they satisfied; Should he make an incantation, then are the gods appeased; Should they attack him in anger, he withstandeth their onslaught!
Let him therefore be exalted, and in the assembly of the gods let him be exulted. None among the gods can rival him! Tutu [Marduk] is Zi-ukkina, “the Life of the host of the gods,” Who established for the gods the bright heavens. He set them on their way, and ordained their path;
Never shall his deeds be forgotten among men. “The God of the Favoring Breeze,” “the Lord of Hearing and Mercy,” “The Creator of Fullness and Abundance,” ” the Founder of Plenteousness,” “Who increaseth all that is small.”
In sore distress we felt his favoring breeze,” Let them say, let them pay reverence, let them bow in humility before him! Tutu as Aga-azag may mankind fourthly magnify! “The Lord of the Pure Incantation, who makes the Dead living, Who had mercy upon the captive gods, Who removed the yoke from upon the gods his enemies, and to appease them did he create mankind,”
The Merciful One, with whom it is to bestow life! May his deeds endure, may they never be forgotten, In the mouth of mankind whom his hands have made!
For the stars of heaven he upheld the paths, He shepherded all the gods like sheep! He conquered Tiamat, he troubled and ended her life.
In the future of mankind, when the days grow old, may this be heard without ceasing; may it hold sway forever! Since he created the realm of heaven and fashioned the firm earth,
He whose name his fathers have made glorious, Shall be even as I, his name shall be Enki! The binding of all my decrees shall he control, All my commands shall he make known!” By the name of “Fifty” did the great gods proclaim his fifty names, they, made his path preeminent.
Let them [i.e. the 50 names of Marduk] be held in remembrances and let the first man proclaim them;
Let the wise and the understanding consider them together!
Let the father repeat them and teach them to his son;
Let them be in the ears of the pastor and the shepherd!
Let a man rejoice in Marduk, the Lord of the gods,
That be may cause his land to be fruitful, and that he himself may have prosperity!
Translated by E.A.Spieser and edited by J.B. Pritchard.
Edited by R.M. Shurmer