THE COMMENTARY GAZETTE
Elder Spirits of the Primordial Deep
In the beginning the whole universe was a sea. Heaven on high had not been named, nor the earth beneath. Their begetter was Apsu, the father of the primordial Deep, and their mother was Tiamat, the spirit of Chaos. No plain was yet formed, no marsh could be seen; the gods had no existence, nor had their fates been determined. Then there was a movement in the waters, and the deities issued forth. The first who had being were the god Lachmu and the goddess Lachamu. Long ages wentpast. Then were created the god Anshar and the goddess Kishar. When the days of these deities had increased and extended, they were followed by Anu, god of the sky, whose consort was Anatu; and Ea, most wise and all-powerful, who was without an equal. Now Ea, god of the deep, was also Enki, “lord of earth“, and his eternal spouse, Damkina, was Gashan-ki, “lady of earth”. The son of Ea and Damkina was Bel, the lord, who in time created mankind (The elder Bel was Enlil of Nippur and the younger Merodach of Babylon.) Thus were the high gods established in power and in glory.
Apsu and the Tiamat Dragon
Now Apsu and Tiamat remained amidst confusion in the deeps of chaos. They were troubled because their offspring, the high gods, aspired to control the universe and set it in order. (This is the inference drawn from fragmentary texts) Apsu was still powerful and fierce, and Tiamat snarled and raised tempests, smiting herself. Their purpose was to work evil amidst eternal confusion.
Then Apsu called upon Mummu, his counsellor, the son who shared his desires, and said, “O Mummu, thou who art pleasing unto me, let us go forth together unto Tiamat and speak with her.”
So the two went forth and prostrated themselves before the Chaos Mother to consult with her as to what should be done to prevent the accomplishment of the purpose of the high gods.
Plot to Destroy the Beneficent Gods
Apsu opened his mouth and spake, saying, “O Tiamat, thou gleaming one, the purpose of the gods troubles me. I cannot rest by day nor can I repose by night. I will thwart them and destroy their purpose. I will bring sorrow and mourning so that we may lie down undisturbed by them.”
Tiamat heard these words and snarled. She raised angry and roaringtempests; in her furious grief she uttered a curse, and then spake to Apsu, saying, “What shall we do so that their purpose may be thwarted and we may lie down undisturbed again?”
Mummu, the counsellor, addressing Apsu, made answer, and said,”Although the gods are powerful, thou canst overcome them; although their purpose is strong, thou canst thwart it. Then thou shalt haverest by day and peace by night to lie down.”
The face of Apsu grew bright when he heard these words spoken by Mummu, yet he trembled to think of the purpose of the high gods, to whom he was hostile. With Tiamat he lamented because the gods had changed all things; the plans of the gods filled their hearts with dread; they sorrowed and spake with Mummu, plotting evil.
Ea overcomes Apsu and Muminu
Then Ea, who knoweth all, drew near; he beheld the evil ones conspiring and muttering together. He uttered a pure incantation and accomplished the downfall of Apsu and Mummu, who were taken captive.
Kingu, who shared the desires of Tiamat, spake unto her words of counsel, saying, “Apsu and Mummu have been overcome and we cannot repose. Thou shalt be their Avenger, O Tempestuous One.”
Tiamat heard the words of this bright and evil god, and made answer,saying, “On my strength thou canst trust. So let war be waged.”
The Vengeful Preparations of the Dragon
Then were the hosts of chaos and the deep gathered together. By day and by night they plotted against the high gods, raging furiously, making ready for battle, fuming and storming and taking no rest.
Mother Chuber, (A title of Tiamat) the creator of all, provided irresistible weapons. She also brought into being eleven kinds of fierce monsters-giant serpents, sharp of tooth with unsparing fangs, whose bodies were filled with poison instead of blood; snarling dragons, clad with terror, and of such lofty stature that whoever saw them was overwhelmed with fear, nor could any escape their attack when they lifted themselves up; vipers and pythons, and the Lachamu, hurricane monsters, raging hounds, scorpion men, tempest furies, fish men, and mountain rams. These she armed with fierce weapons and they had no fear of war.
Then Tiamat, whose commands are unchangeable and mighty, exalted Kingu, who had come to her aid, above all the evil gods; she made him the leader to direct the army in battle, to go in front, to open the attack. Robing Kingu in splendour, she seated him on high and spoke, saying: “I have established thy command over all the gods. Thou shalt rule over them. Be mighty, thou my chosen husband, and let thy name be exalted over all the spirits of heaven and spirits of earth.”
Unto Kingu did Tiamat deliver the tablets of fate; she laid them in his bosom, and said, “Thy commands cannot be changed; thy words shall remain firm.” Thus was Kingu exalted; he was vested with the divine power of Anu to decree the fate of the gods, saying, “Let thy mouth open to thwart the fire god; be mighty in battle nor brook resistance.”
Then had Ea knowledge of Tiamat’s doings, how she had gathered her forces together, and how she had prepared to work evil against the high gods with purpose to avenge Apsu. The wise god was stricken with grief, and he moaned for many days. Thereafter he went and stood before his father, Anshar, and spake, saying, “Our mother, Tiamat, hath turned against us in her wrath. She hath gathered the gods about her, and those thou didst create are with her also.”
Anshar’s Appeal to Merodach
When Anshar heard all that Ea revealed regarding the preparations made by Tiamat, he smote his loins and clenched his teeth, and was ill at ease. In sorrow and anger he spoke and said, “Thou didst go forth aforetime to battle; thou didst bind Mummu and smite Apsu. Now Kingu is exalted, and there is none who can oppose Tiamat.”
Anshar called his son, Anu, before him, and spoke, saying: “O mighty one without fear, whose attack is irresistible, go now before Tiamat and speak so that her anger may subside and her heart be made merciful. But if she will not hearken unto thee, speak thou for me, so that she may be reconciled.”
Anu was obedient to the commands of Anshar. He departed, and descended by the path of Tiamat until he beheld her fuming and snarling, but he feared to approach her, and turned back. Then Ea was sent forth, but he was stricken with terror and turned back also.
Anshar then called upon Merodach, son of Ea, and addressed him, saying, “My son, who softeneth my heart, thou shalt go forth to battle and none shall stand against thee.”
The heart of Merodach was made glad at these words. He stood before Anshar, who kissed him, because that he banished fear. Merodach spake, saying: “O lord of the gods, withdraw not thy words; let me go forth to do as is thy desire. What man hath challenged thee to battle?”
Anshar made answer and said: “No man hath challenged me. It is Tiamat, the woman, who hath resolved to wage war against us. But fear not and make merry, for thou shalt bruise the head of Tiamat. O wise god, thou shalt overcome her with thy pure incantation. Tarry not but hasten forth; she cannot wound thee; thou shalt come back again.” The words of Anshar delighted the heart of Merodach, who spake, saying: “O lord of the gods, O fate of the high gods, if I, the avenger, am to subdue Tiamat and save all, then proclaim my greatness among the gods. Let all the high gods gather together joyfully in Upshukinaku (the Council Hall), so that my words like thine may remain unchanged, and what I do may never be altered. Instead of thee I will decree the fates of the gods.”
Then Anshar called unto his counsellor, Gaga, and addressing him, said: “O thou who dost share my desires, thou who dost understand the purpose of my heart, go unto Lachmu and Lachamu and summon all the high gods to come before me to eat bread and drink wine. Repeat to them all I tell you of Tiamat’s preparations for war, of my commands to Anu and Ea, who turned back, fearing the dragon, of my choice of Merodach to be our avenger, and his desire to be equipped with my power to decree fate, so that he may be made strong to combat against our enemy.”
As Anshar commanded so did Gaga do. He went unto Lachmu and Lachamu and prostrated himself humbly before them. Then he rose and delivered the message of Anshar, their son, adding: “Hasten and speedily decide for Merodach your fate. Permit him to depart to meet your powerful foe.”
When Lachmu and Lachamu heard all that Gaga revealed unto them they uttered lamentations, while the Igigi (heavenly spirits) sorrowed bitterly, and said: “What change hath happened that Tiamat hath become hostile to her own offspring? We cannot understand her deeds.”
All the high gods then arose and went unto Anshar, They filled his council chamber and kissed one another. Then they sat down to eat bread and drink sesame wine. And when they were made drunk and were merry and at their ease, they decreed the fate for Merodach.
Merodach exalted as Ruler of the Universe
In the chamber of Anshar they honored the Avenger. He was exalted as a prince over them all, and they said: “Among the high gods thou art the highest; thy command is the command of Anu. Henceforth thou wilt have power to raise up and to cast down. None of the gods will dispute thy authority. O Merodach, our avenger, we give thee sovereignty over the entire Universe. Thy weapon will ever be irresistible. Smite down the gods who have raised revolt, but spare the lives of those who repose their trust in thee.”
Then the gods laid down a garment before Merodach, saying: “Open thy mouth and speak words of command, so that the garment may be destroyed; speak again and it will be brought back.” Merodach spake with his mouth and the garment vanished; he spake again and the garment was reproduced. All the gods rejoiced, and they prostrated themselves and cried out, “Merodach is King!”
Thereafter they gave him the scepter and the throne and the insignia of royalty, and also an irresistible weapon with which to overcome his enemies, saying: “Now, O Merodach, hasten and slay Tiamat. Let the winds carry her blood to hidden places.”
So was the fate of Merodach decreed by the gods; so was a path of prosperity and peace prepared for him. He made ready for battle; he strung his bow and hung his quiver; he slung a dart over his shoulder, and he grasped a club in his right hand; before him he set lightning, and with flaming fire he filled his body. Anu gave unto him a great net with which to snare his enemies and prevent their escape. Then Merodach created seven winds–the wind of evil, the uncontrollable wind, the sandstorm, and the whirlwind, the fourfold wind, the sevenfold wind, and the wind that has no equal–and they went after him. Next he seized his mighty weapon, the thunderstone, and leapt into his storm chariot, to which were yoked four rushing and destructive steeds of rapid flight, with foam-flecked mouths and teeth full of venom, trained for battle, to overthrow enemies and trample them underfoot. A light burned on the head of Merodach, and he was clad in a robe of terror. He drove forth, and the gods, his fathers, followed after him: the high gods clustered around and followed him, hastening to battle.
Dragon slain and Host taken captive
Merodach drove on, and at length he drew nigh to the secret lair of Tiamat, and he beheld her muttering with Kingu, her consort. For a moment he faltered, and when the gods who followed him beheld this, their eyes were troubled. Tiamat neither snarled nor turned her head. She uttered curses, and said: “O Merodach, I fear not thy advance as chief of the gods. My allies are assembled here, and are more powerful than thou art.” Merodach uplifted his arm, grasping the dreaded thunderstone, and spake unto Tiamat, the rebellious one, saying: “Thou hast exalted thyself, and with wrathful heart hath prepared for war against the high gods and their fathers, whom thou dost hate in thy heart of evil. Unto Kingu thou hast given the power of Anu to decree fate, because thou art hostile to what is good and loveth what is sinful. Gather thy forces together, and arm thyself and come forth to battle.”
When Tiamat heard these mighty words she raved and cried aloud like one who is possessed; all her limbs shook, and she muttered a spell. The gods seized their weapons. Tiamat and Merodach advanced to combat against one another. They made ready for battle. The lord of the high gods spread out the net which Anu had given him. He snared the dragon and she could not escape. Tiamat opened her mouth which was seven miles wide, and Merodach called upon the evil wind to smite her; he caused the wind to keep her mouth agape so that she could not close it. All the tempests and the hurricanes entered in, filling her body, and her heart grew weak; she gasped, overpowered. Then the lord of the high gods seized his dart and cast it through the lower part of her body; it tore her inward parts and severed her heart. So was Tiamat slain.
Merodach overturned the body of the dead dragon and stood upon it. All the evil gods who had followed her were stricken with terror and broke into flight. But they were unable to escape. Merodach caught them in his great net, and they stumbled and fell uttering cries of distress, and the whole world resounded with their wailing and lamentations. The lord of the high gods broke the weapons of the evil gods and put them in bondage. Then he fell upon the monsters which Tiamat had created; he subdued them, divested them of their powers, and trampled them under his feet. Kingu he seized with the others. From this god great Merodach took the tablets of fate, and impressing upon them his own seal, placed them in his bosom.
So were the enemies of the high gods overthrown by the Avenger. Ansar’s commands were fulfilled and the desires of Ea fully accomplished.
Death of the Dragon Tiamat and Formation of the Earth
Merodach strengthened the bonds which he had laid upon the evil gods and then returned to Tiamat. He leapt upon the dragon’s body; he clove her skull with his great club; he opened the channels of her blood which streamed forth, and caused the north to carry her blood to hidden places. The high gods, his fathers, clustered around; they raised shouts of triumph and made merry. Then they brought gifts and offerings to the great Avenger.
Merodach rested a while, gazing upon the dead body of the dragon. He divided the flesh of Ku-pu, and devised a cunning plan. Then the lord of the high gods split the body of the dragon like that of a mashde fish into two halves. With one half he enveloped the firmament; he fixed it there and set a watchman to prevent the waters falling down. With the other half he made the earth. Then he made the abode of Ea in the deep, and the abode of Anu in high heaven. The abode of Enlil was in the air.
Merodach set all the great gods in their several stations. He also created their images, the stars of the Zodiac, and fixed them all. He measured the year and divided it into months; for twelve months he made three stars each. After he had given starry images of the gods separate control of each day of the year, he founded the station of Nibiru (Jupiter), his own star, to determine the limits of all stars, so that none might err or go astray. He placed beside his own the stations of Enlil and Ea, and on each side he opened mighty gates, fixing bolts on the left and on the right. He set the zenith in the center. Merodach decreed that the moon god should rule the night and measure the days, and each month he was given a crown. Its various phases the great lord determined, and he commanded that on the evening of its fullest brilliancy it should stand opposite the sun. He placed his bow in heaven (as a constellation) and his net also.
Creation of Man
We have now reached the sixth tablet, which begins with a reference to words spoken to Merodach by the gods. Apparently Ea had conceived in his heart that mankind should be created. The lord of the gods read his thoughts and said: “I will shed my blood and fashion bone… I will create man to dwell on the earth so that the gods may be worshipped and shrines erected for them. I will change the pathways of the gods….”
The rest of the text is fragmentary, and many lines are missing. Berosus states, however, that Belus (Bel Merodach) severed his head from his shoulders. His blood flowed forth, and the gods mixed it with earth and formed the first man and various animals.
In another version of the creation of man, it is related that Merodach “laid a reed upon the face of the waters; he formed dust, and poured it out beside the reed…. That he might cause the gods to dwell in the habitation of their heart’s desire, he formed mankind.” The goddess Aruru, a deity of Sippar, and one of the forms of “the lady of the gods “, is associated with Merodach as the creatrix of the seed of mankind. “The beasts of the field and living creatures in the field he formed.” He also created the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, grass, reeds, herbs and trees, lands, marshes and swamps, cows, goats, etc.
In the seventh tablet Merodach is praised by the gods-the Igigi (spirits of heaven). As he has absorbed all their attributes, he is addressed by his fifty-one names; henceforth each deity is a form of Merodach. Bel Enlil, for instance, is Merodach of lordship and domination; Sin, the moon god, is Merodach as ruler of night; Shamash is Merodach as god of law and holiness; Nergal is Merodach of war; and so on. The tendency to monotheism appears to have been most marked among the priestly theorists of Babylon.
Merodach is hailed to begin with as Asari, the introducer of agriculture and horticulture, the creator of grain and plants. He also directs the decrees of Anu, Bel, and Ea; but having rescued the gods from destruction at the hands of Kingu and Tiamat, he was greater than his “fathers”, the elder gods. He set the Universe in order, and created all things anew. He is therefore Tutu, “the creator”, a merciful and beneficent god. The following are renderings of lines 25 to 32:
Tutu: Aga-azaga (the glorious crown) may he make the crowns glorious-
The lord of the glorious incantation bringing the dead to life;
He who had mercy on the gods who had been overpowered;
Made heavy the yoke which he had laid on the gods who were his enemies,
(And) to redeem (?) them created mankind.
“The merciful one”, “he with whom is salvation”,
May his word be established, and not forgotten,
In the mouth of the black-headed ones whom his hands have made.
Tutu as Aga-azag may mankind fourthly magnify!
“The Lord of the Pure Incantation”, “the Quickener of the Dead “,
“Who had mercy upon the captive gods”,
“Who removed the yoke from upon the gods his enemies”.
“For their forgiveness 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.
Apparently the Babylonian doctrine set forth that mankind was created not only to worship the gods, but also to bring about the redemption of the fallen gods who followed Tiamat.
Those rebel angels (ili gods) He prohibited return; He stopped their service; He removed them unto the gods (ili) who were His enemies. In their room he created mankind.
TITLE Myths of Babylonia and Assyria
BY: Donald A Mackenzie
A few words, however, may be added upon the subject of the Chaldaean cosmogony. Although the only knowledge that we possess on this point is derived from Berosus, and therefore we cannot be sure that we have really the belief of the ancient people, yet, judging from internal evidence of character, we may safely pronounce Berosus’ account not only archaic, but in its groundwork and essence a primeval tradition, more ancient probably than most of the gods whom we have been considering.
“In the beginning,” says this ancient legend, “all was darkness and water, and therein were generated monstrous animals of strange and peculiar forms. There were men with two wings, and some even with four, and with two faces; and others with two heads, a man’s and a woman’s on one body; and there were men with the heads and horns of goats, and men with hoofs like horses, and some with the upper parts of a man joined to the lower parts of a horse, like centaurs; and there were bulls with human heads, dogs with four bodies and with fishes’ tails, men and horses with dogs’ heads, creatures with the heads and bodies of horses, but with the tails of fish, and other animals mixing the forms of various beasts. Moreover there were monstrous fish and reptiles and serpents, and divers other creatures, which had borrowed something from each other’s shapes; of all which the likenesses are still preserved in the temple of Belus.
A woman ruleth them all, by name Omorka, which is in Chaldee Thalatth, and in Greek Thalassa (or “the sea“). Then Belus appeared, and split the woman in twain; and of the one half of her he made the heaven, and of the other half the earth; and the beasts that were in her he caused to perish. And he split the darkness, and divided the heaven and the earth asunder, and put the world in order; and the animals that could not bear the light perished. Belus, upon this, seeing that the earth was desolate, yet teeming with productive power, commanded one of the gods to cut off his head, and to mix the blood which flowed forth with earth, and form men therewith, and beasts that could bear the light. So man was made, and was intelligent, being a partaker of the divine wisdom. Likewise Belus made the stars, and the sun and moon, and the five planets.”
It has been generally seen that this cosmogony bears a remarkable resemblance to the history of Creation contained in the opening chapters of the book of Genesis. Some have gone so far as to argue that the Mosaic account was derived from it.
From: Greatest Monarchs of the Ancient World
BY: George Rawlinson
CONTRIBUTOR: Cade Pomeraan