Enuma Elish

Enuma Elish was the creation myth of the people of Babylonia, a civilization of the ancient Near East. Written in the form of an epic, Enuma Elish gives the Babylonian account of the origin of the world. The myth is similar to the biblical story of creation in the book of Genesis.

The poem, inscribed on seven tablets, probably dates from around 1100 B . C ., although earlier, unrecorded versions of it may have existed long before that time. Its title, meaning "When on high," comes from the first line of the epic, which begins: "When on high the heaven had not been named/Firm ground below had not been called by name."

Enuma Elish tells how the Babylonian deities were born from a primeval goddess named Tiamat, a vast ocean of formless chaos, sometimes described as a dragon. Marduk, the patron god of the city of Babylon, defeated Tiamat and her army of monsters. He then divided her corpse into two parts, one of which became heaven and one earth. He also killed Tiamat's ally, Kingu, and created human beings from Kingu's blood to serve the gods. Marduk's victory brought order to the universe.

epic long poem about legendary or historical heroes, written in a grand style

deity god or goddess

primeval from the earliest times

chaos great disorder or confusion

patron special guardian, protector, or supporter

Enuma Elish had political as well as religious meaning for the Babylonians. By identifying the heroic creator god as Marduk of Babylon, the myth justified the city's dominance over the region. For hundreds of years, celebrations to mark the beginning of the new year in Babylon included a recital of Enuma Elish in many of the city's main temples.

See also Creation Stories ; Marduk ; Tiamat .

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