The chief god of the Babylonians*, Marduk created an ordered world out of the original state of chaos. His exploits are described in the Babylonian creation epic known as the Enuma Elish.
Before the birth of Marduk, there were two primeval gods: Apsu, god of the sweet waters; and his wife, Tiamat, goddess of the salt waters. This pair produced children, who in turn gave birth to Marduk and other deities. In time, a great conflict arose between the young gods and the primeval gods. Tiamat created an army of demons to attack and destroy the young gods. After giving her son Kingu the tablets of destiny, which allowed him to command the gods in her service, Tiamat placed him in charge of the army. The young gods chose Marduk as their champion to do battle with Tiamat. He accepted on the condition that he be named the leader of all the gods.
Armed with a net, a bow, a mace, and the four winds, Marduk went out to face Tiamat. She appeared in the form of a dragon. Marduk caught Tiamat in his net, but she opened her mouth to swallow him. At that point, Marduk drove fierce winds into her mouth, causing her body to blow up like a balloon. He then shot an arrow at Tiamat's heart and killed her. After splitting her body into two pieces, he set one piece in the sky to create the heavens and the other at his feet to form the earth.
chaos great disorder or confusion
epic long poem about legendary or historical heroes, written in a grand style
primeval from the earliest times
deity god or goddess
Marduk took the tablets of destiny from Kingu and placed them on his own chest to proclaim his power over the gods. Then he created time by establishing the first calendar. Finally, he killed Kingu and used his blood to create humans as servants of the gods. In recognition of his power, the other gods built a great temple to Marduk in the city of Babylon.
* See Names and Places at the end of this volume for further information.