An ancient story of never-sold-out psychos

THE BABYLONIAN GENESIS

The Story of Creation

ALEXANDER HEIDEL, 1942 / Second Edition 1951 [?]

A SUMMARY OF THE STORY

* Roughly review: 31 MAR 2019, and
underlined-then-commented in color.
* * A nice quality PDF-format ebook.

    The epic opens with a brief reference to the time when nothing except the divine parents, Apsû and Tiɔâmat, and their son Mummu existed.  Apsû was the primeval sweet-water ocean, and Tiɔâmat the salt-water ocean, while Mummu probably represented the mist rising from the two bodies of water and hovering over them, particularly since in Tablet VII: 86 he is brought in direct relation with the clouds.  These three types of water were mingled in one, (In primal status there’s no distinction between ruler and be-ruled) forming an immense, undefined mass in which were contained all the elements of which afterward the universe was made. (All disturbances occured from human nature.)  As yet, there was neither heaven nor earth, not even a reed marsh was to be seen. (Anything that, in rulers’ view, can be called as “order” not yet exist.)  In time, Apsû and Tiɔâmat brought forth the brother and sister pair Laḫmu and Laḫâmu.  While these two were growing up, another brother and sister pair came into being, Anshar and Kishar, who surpassed the older children in stature. (The most strong rules.)  The nature of these two divine pairs is still a matter for conjecture. (If that’s my conjecture.)

    After many years, a son was born to Anshar and Kishar.  They named him Anu, probably in allusion to the fact that he was the likeness of his father, Anshar.  Anu was the sky-god.  He, in turn, begot Nudimmud, his likeness.  Nudimmud, also known as Enki and Ea, was a god of exceptional wisdom and strength; he became the god of the subterranean sweet waters, the god of magic, and the mastermind of the Mesopotamian divinities.  He had no rival among his fellow-gods; in fact, because of the advantages with which he was endowed, he was the master even of his fathers. (If no competition, where will be winners coming out from? Concerning something called power, it is sometimes the creator, sometimes the destroyer, of “order” or ethics.)

    The younger gods, being full of life and vitality, naturally enjoyed noisy, hilarious gatherings.  These, however, caused serious distress to their old, inactive, and rest-loving parents and grandparents, Apsû and Tiɔâmat.  Peaceful means were tried to diminish the disturbing clamor, but without success. (Original sin, inability in preventing evil-seed to sprout.)  Finally, Apsû, in utter exasperation, resolved on a drastic course of action. (Acting blindly is also original sin.)  Accompanied by Mummu, his son and vizier, he went before Tiɔâmat and submitted a plan to her which made her motherly heart cry out in painful rage: “Why should we destroy that which we ourselves have brought forth?  Their way is indeed painful, but let us take it good-naturedly!” (Lack of the sight to discern who’s the friend who’s the enemy. Again, original sin.)  But Apsû, supported by his vizier, adhered to his expressed purpose with adamant tenacity: “I will destroy (them) and put an end to their way, that silence be established, and then let us sleep!”

    At the break of the news, the gods were filled with consternation and ran about aimlessly. (Well, they have to say so.)  Finally, they quieted down and sat in silent gloom, without anyone being able to suggest a way of deliverance.  Fortunately, in that dark hour there was found one who was master even of Apsû; it was Ea, “the one of supreme understanding, the skilful, (and) wise,” the god of magic.  He made a magic circle of some kind around the gods, as a protection against attack, and then composed an overpowering, holy incantation. (Operation propaganda?)  He recited it and caused it to descend, as a soporific force, upon Apsû.  As Ea recited his incantation, Apsû succumbed to the power of the spell and sank into a profound sleep. (Sure, propaganda can done this.)  And as Apsû was lying there, suffused with sleep, Ea removed his royal tiara and his supernatural radiance and clothed himself therewith. (Victor says.)  After he had thus come into possession of Apsû’s might and splendor, he slew the father of all the gods and imprisoned his vizier, gaining his victory chiefly through the application of authority or power inherent in the spoken word, (Agree or not, human-slaves are influenced and ruled by masters’ words.) the magic of the spell.  Tiɔâmat remained unmolested, since she had not been in sympathy with Apsû’s designs. (Be preserved as a useful idiot for the making of next victory.)  Upon the slain Apsû, Ea subsequently established a spacious abode.  He named it “Apsû” and appointed it for shrines for himself and for other deities. (Your misery the basis of their honor.)  There he and his wife, Damkina, dwelt in splendor.

    There also it was that Marduk, “the wisest of the gods,” was born, the one who was destined some day to deliver the gods from an even more dreadful foe and to become the head of the vast Babylonian pantheon. “He who begot him was Ea, his father.  Damki[na], his mother, was she who bore him.  He sucked the breasts of goddesses” and thus imbibed additional divine power and qualities.  Marduk was an imposing figure, endowed with flashing eye and awe-inspiring majesty.  When his father beheld him, “he rejoiced, he beamed, his heart was filled with joy.”  Evidently by means of magic, Ea then conferred upon his son double equality with the gods, which manifested itself in the two faces of Marduk and the doubled dimensions of his members, so that “he was exalted among the gods.” (Idolatry propaganda.)

    In the meantime, Tiɔâmat was disturbed, doubtless because of the violent death of her husband.  Day and night, she restlessly moved about.  Her restlessness mounted as some of the gods, led by Kingu (cf. Tablet VI: 23-30), (An army of suckers.) in their wickedness instigated her to avenge the death of her spouse.  Tiɔâmat yielded and decided on war against the gods who were either responsible for or in sympathy with the murder of her husband.

    The rebel gods now publicly seceded and went over to the side of Tiɔâmat; they raged and plotted, not resting day or night; “they held a meeting and planned the conflict.”  Tiɔâmat, on her part, gave birth to eleven kinds of monster serpents and ferocious dragons for the impending contest; she exalted Kingu to be her new spouse, she intrusted him with the high command of the battle, gave him dominion over all the gods, and presented him with the coveted tablet of destinies with all its magic powers.  A formidable demonic host had suddenly sprung into existence. (Terrible disorderly crowd.)

    It was not until Tiɔâmat was almost ready for the assault that someone informed Ea of the imminent peril.  When Ea, the wise and skilful, the hero who had vanquished Apsû, heard of the impending danger, he was benumbed with fear and dismay. (Again, they have to say so.)  When he had thought the matter over and had regained his composure, he went to Anshar, his grandfather, and “communicated to him all that Tiɔâmat had planned” and the preparations she had made, repeating word for word the report which he himself had received.  Anshar was moved to expressions of deepest grief and grave concern and appealed to Ea to proceed against the foe.  Ea obeyed the voice of his grandfather, but the venture, though undertaken by him who had achieved such a decisive victory over Apsû, ended in failure. (It’s unwise to win at the first strike.)  Anshar then turned to his son Anu, urging him to try peaceful measures, saying: “[Go a]nd stand thou before Tiɔâmat, [that] her spirit [become quiet and] her heart calm down.  [If] she does not hearken to thy word, speak our [word(?)] to her, that she may be quieted.”  Anu went, armed with his own authority and that of the leader of the gods.  But, unlike Apsû, Tiɔâmat could not be overcome by any amount of mere authority or any degree of mere magic power; she had to be conquered through the application of physical force. (Of course, in their theory, mob is irrational, only deserve to be suppressed. Ironically, their theory seems correct.)  Anu returned in terror, asking to be relieved of the task.  Anshar lapsed into silence, looking upon the ground and shaking his head. “All the Anunnaki were assembled at the place.  Their lips were closed, [they sat in] silence.”  Never before had the gods been in such a plight. (Again, this is their story.)  The picture is painted in extremely dark and somber colors to make the greatness of the subsequent victory all the more evident. (See ?)

    In this moment of supreme crisis, a happy thought occurred to Anshar; he remembered the prowess of valiant Marduk, who in some way had already proved his valor (cf. Tablet II:95) and who certainly would not fail.  Marduk was summoned into the presence of Ea, to be instructed by his father, and then appeared before Anshar.  When Anshar saw the young Marduk, abounding in strength and radiating confidence, “his heart was filled with joy; he kissed his lips, his fear was removed,” while Marduk assured him: “[Anshar], be not silent, (but) open thy lips; I will go and accomplish all that is in thy heart! [My father, c]reator, be glad and rejoice; soon thou shalt trample upon the neck of Tiɔâmat!”  There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Marduk, despite his youth, could save the gods from their powerful enemy.  Moreover, Marduk was ready to go to battle and deliver the gods from disaster.  But he demanded a high price—supreme and undisputed authority among the gods.  Anshar agreed to the terms (cf. Tablet III:65-66), but the decision had to be confirmed by the gods in their assembly. (Idolatry propaganda.)

    Anshar therefore dispatched Kaka, his vizier, to Laḫmu and Laḫâmu and all the other gods who were living at a great distance and, consequently, had as yet no knowledge of the impending struggle.  Kaka was to inform the gods of the gravity of the situation and to summon them into the presence of Anshar.  After a few prefatory remarks, Anshar gave Kaka a verbatim repetition of the account of Tiɔâmat’s hostile activities and charged him to repeat the message word for word to Laḫmu and Laḫâmu.  Kaka went and repeated Anshar’s speech in every detail. 1(Deceiving?)  Upon learning of the sudden and unparalleled crisis, the gods were perplexed and horrified, they cried aloud and wailed painfully. (Maybe they’re crying for their reluctance and have no way to refuse participation.)  They departed and entered into the presence of Anshar, filling the Court of Assembly.  They kissed one another as they met, and then sat down to a banquet, which Anshar had prepared to put the gods in the right frame of mind. “The sweet wine dispelled their fears; [their] bod[ies] swelled as they drank the strong drink.  Exceedingly carefree were they, their spirit was exalted; for Marduk, their avenger, they decreed the destiny.” (Conspiring.)

1.  The constant verbatim repetition of the description of Tiɔâmat’s preparations for war is fully consonant with the style of the Babylonian poets, as we can discern from the Gilgamesh Epic and other literary productions.  The same stylistic feature is observable in the epical literature of Ras Shamra (see H. L. Ginsberg in the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 84 [1941], pp. 12-13).

    After the feast, the gods erected a lordly throne-dais for Marduk, and the young god sat down before his fathers to receive sovereignty.  In a solemn speech, the gods conferred upon him the powers of the supreme position in the pantheon and gave him “kingship over the totality of the whole universe.”  To determine whether Marduk actually had this power, the gods made a test.  They placed a garment in their midst.  At his command, the garment was destroyed; again at his command, the garment was restored to its former condition.  When the gods beheld the efficacy of his word, they rejoiced and paid homage, acclaiming Marduk king of the gods.  They invested him with the royal insignia, the scepter, the throne, and the royal robe(?), adding thereto “an irresistible weapon smiting the enemy,” with the plea: “Go and cut off the life of Tiɔâmat!”

    Marduk departed to prepare for the fray.  He made a bow, put an arrowhead on the arrow, and grasped a club in his right hand; the bow and quiver he hung at his side; like the storm-god, he caused lightning to precede him; he filled his body with a blazing flame; he made a net and had the four winds, the gift of Anu, carry it for him; as a further aid, he created seven winds of his own; he raised the rain-flood and mounted his irresistible, terrible storm chariot, drawn by four frightful mythological creatures.  Clad in a terrifying coat of mail, with an overpowering brightness about his head, and supplied with various apotropaic means, Marduk then set out to meet the seemingly invincible Tiɔâmat, the gods milling around him.

    The mere appearance of Marduk, arrayed in all his terrifying might and dazzling splendor, threw Kingu and his helpers into confusion.  Tiɔâmat alone remained unperturbed, greeting Marduk with awful taunts and apparently a loud roar to frighten the youthful god.  But Marduk was of tougher fiber than his father Ea and his grandfather Anu.  Without being in the least disturbed, he denounced Tiɔâmat in trenchant terms for her wicked measures and challenged her to a duel! “When Tiɔâmat heard this, she became like one in a frenzy (and) lost her reason.  She cried out loud (and) furiously,” shaking to her very foundations! But she accepted the challenge, and the two pressed on to single combat.  Marduk spread out his net and enmeshed her. “When Tiɔâmat opened her mouth to devour him, he drove in the evil wind, in order that (she should) not (be able) to close her lips.”  As the raging winds distended her body, Marduk shot an arrow through her open mouth; it struck her heart and destroyed her life.  Having thus killed Tiɔâmat, he cast down her carcass and victoriously stood upon it.  When her followers saw that their leader was dead, they dispersed and tried to flee.  But none escaped.

    The enemy gods were imprisoned and deprived of their weapons.  Marduk took from Kingu the tablet of destinies, sealed it with his own seal, to prove his ownership and to legalize his claim to it, and fastened it on his breast.  After having strengthened his hold upon the captive gods, he returned to Tiɔâmat, split her skull with his unsparing club, cut her arteries, and caused the north wind to carry her blood southward to out-of-the-way places.  Finally, he divided the colossal body of Tiɔâmat into two parts to create the universe.  With one half of her corpse he formed the sky, with the other he fashioned the earth, and then established Anu, Enlil, and Ea in their respective domains.

    Next, he created stations in the sky for the great gods; he organized the calendar, by setting up stellar constellations to determine, by their rising and setting, the year, the months, and the days; he built gates in the east and in the west for the sun to enter and to depart; in the very center of the sky he fixed the zenith; he caused the moon to shine forth and intrusted the night to her.  After some detailed orders to the moon, the tablet dealing with the creation and organization of the heavenly bodies breaks off.

    The imprisoned gods, who had joined the ranks of Tiɔâmat, were made the servants of the victors, for whose sustenance they had to provide.  However, their menial task proved so burdensome that they asked Marduk for relief.  As Marduk listened to the words of the captive gods, he resolved to create man and to impose on him the service which the defeated deities had to render.  In consultation with Ea, it was then decided to kill the ringleader of the rebels, to create mankind with his blood, and to set the captive gods free. (Useful in other way.)  In a solemn court Kingu was indicted. (As solemn as farce?)  He it was who “created the strife,” who “caused Tiɔâmat to revolt and prepare for battle.” (Really?)  Accordingly, Kingu was bound and brought before Ea.  With the aid of certain gods, Ea severed his arteries and created mankind with his blood, acting on the ingenious plans of Marduk.  Man now had to take over the work of the defeated army of gods and feed the host of Babylonian divinities.

    Next, Marduk divided the totality of the Anunnaki, a name which in the early period seems to have been a general designation for all the gods of heaven and earth.  Marduk set three hundred of them in the heavens, and three hundred he assigned to the earth, allotting to each group their appropriate tasks.  As a token of gratitude for their deliverance at the hands of Marduk, the Anunnaki built the city of Babylon and Marduk’s great temple Esagila with its stagetower.  Then the gods, after a joyful banquet, in solemn assembly, recited the fifty names of Marduk.  As the gods had previously met in the Court of Assembly to invest Marduk with supreme regal power and authority before he set out against Tiɔâmat, so they were gathered again in the same place to confer upon him fifty titles with all the attributes and abilities of the various gods of the pantheon, thus making “his way pre-eminent,” in further appreciation of all that Marduk had done.

    The poem closes with an epilogue urging the people to study these names, to hold them in remembrance, and to rejoice in Marduk, that it may be well with them. 2

2.  This summary has benefited to some degree from Thorkild Jacobsen’s observations in Frankfort, Wilson, Jacobsen, and Irwin, The Intellectual Adventure of Ancient Man (Chicago, 1947), pp. 170-83.

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