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What Is the Babylonian Creation Myth?

Babylonians lived in what is now Iraq.
Some historians believe that there are many similarities between the Babylonian creation myth and the Bible.
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  • Written By: Marlene Garcia
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 12 October 2014
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The Babylonian creation myth, also called Enuma Elish, is a legend in mythology told using symbolism and metaphors to explain the creation of the earth and mankind. Written in the form of a poem, the Babylonian creation myth was etched onto seven stone tablets, and tells a story of chaos and revenge by gods and goddesses. The theme of the myth revolves around Marduk, the deity who created the calendar, rain, and man.

Many versions of the Babylonian creation myth exist, with different words used to describe the gods. In the Assyrian version, Marduk is called Assur. The earliest Sumerian version was written in the 12th century BC, but was not discovered until the 19th century AD. The legend was first published in 1876 as The Chaldean Genesis.

Some religious historians believe there are many similarities between the Bible and the Babylonian creation myth. Others believe the Sumerian version was written first, perhaps hundreds of years before the Bible. The debate among scholars centers on several translations and interpretations of the myth, which makes it difficult to determine if the Babylonian creation myth was copied from the Bible, or whether the Bible was based on the myth.

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The Babylonian creation myth begins with the god of water and fertility, referred to as Apsu, who married Tiamat, the goddess of the sea and the representation of chaos. Their two offspring became gods of the sky and earth, or horizon; their descendant is Marduk, the main character in the myth. The offspring of Apsu and Tiamat and their children became so disruptive that Apsu plotted to kill them, but his great-grandson learned of the plan and destroyed Apsu first. Tiamat sought revenge for her husband's death.

She unleashed 11 destructive gods in a rampage of vengeance. Marduk, who became king of Babylon, used the winds of destruction and a storm of chariots formed from clouds to capture Tiamat in a net before driving an arrow through her heart. He then split her in half and used one part to create the earth and the other part to fashion the sky. Marduk killed Tiamat's new husband, and with his blood and bones created mankind.

Marduk built homes for the remaining gods. He also created days, months, and years based on stars and planets in early astrology, using phases of the moon to represent monthly cycles. Using Tiamat's saliva, Marduk created rain.

As king, Marduk was rewarded with a new house, followed by a huge feast. The final tablet urges followers to honor Marduk for destroying Tiamat and creating the earth and man. The people are instructed to give praise to him for his actions that brought calm to chaos.

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